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  ' Carrots For Breakfast '

December 2001

Saturday 12-15
Animator Miyazaki finds US tough market to crack -- His new feature film will be titled "Spirited Away" here. (And I thought he was retiring after "Princess Mononoke"?) Also in Japan Today, Yoko Ono happy to be Dragon Lady.

Noam Chomsky -- Saying What Media Don't Want Us To Hear -- Media Beat's Norman Solomon explains Noam and the American media:

For those whose window on the world is mostly confined to mainstream U.S. media, some of Chomsky's statements may seem odd or absolutely wrong. But you can't make an informed judgment based on a few quotes. Read a couple of Chomsky's books and decide for yourself.

Thursday 12-13
The NY Times has an article about the US Botanic Garden -- when I drove past it last month, I wondered why its area on Capitol Hill was all fenced in; turns out I just missed the grand reopening.

Chris Ware interview in the Guardian

The thing that distinguishes [comic strips] from art or writing is the visual language. Films are passive, but in a comic strip you're making it happen. Sometimes I think that's a good state of mind to be in and other times I think it's the worst state of mind to be in, because you're half-looking, half-reading, and the two halves might cancel each other out to a zero.

Wednesday 12-12
Excellent column on the Post's Editorial page, The first line against terrorism:
To our own peril in this interdependent world, we are foolishly squandering our first and strongest line of defense: the imponderable that the venerable World War II secretary of war, Henry L. Stimson, called our reputation for fair play. In this sense Sept. 11 was the ultimate failure of a foreign policy that has systematically sullied our reputation.

Even a "victory" in Afghanistan will do little to protect us from terrorists if we once again become complicit with authoritarian regimes that abuse their own people. We need a smart foreign policy that addresses the underlying grievances that foster suicidal rage. We need to go back as a nation to where we were in 1945 -- before Hiroshima, before we took the road to a permanent national security state.

Tuesday 12-11
The Apostrophe Protection Society states the rules clearly -- obey them, please.
Monday 12-10
On a monitor at the gym this morning I caught my first view of the Segway-Ginger in action, and my reaction? What a stupid toy. Although the technology which makes it possible is amazing, if that's all we'll be allowed to have, it's not just a major ripoff, but symbolic of our culture's disease. You mean, its speed is only that of a rapid walking pace? What's the point? So fat Americans needn't exert themselves? IT probably seems ideal to those people who, when confronted with the moving walkway at the airport, feel the approproiate response is dropping their bags and standing still. (Morons... as Jerry Seinfeld once pointed out, "It's not a ride!") I'm guessing the Segway rider wouldn't want to stand upright if it went any faster than a jogger's speed; a crouch like a motorcyclist's would then be preferred, along with a saddle to perch upon -- hell, just gimme the motorcycle. Or a bicycle. And if the point is locomotion on the sidewalk, well, we already have those powered chairs the handicapped use. I'm reminded of the lazy (grown-up) kid I once knew who, during some whining in the break-room about how the parking lot was always full, said
"I'd drive to my car, if I could."

Ted Rall, reporting from Afghanistan.

Heard the new US poet laureate, Billy Collins, doing a reading on public radio -- he's great, quite amusing in a wry way. Especially liked his Country poem. (I located that page by searching on "little brown druid.")

Marvin Gaye, "What's Goin' On?" -- this fascinating two-page Guardian story about the recording, What Went On, is somehow related to a new book about it. Somehow I missed the tune when it was finally released in 1971, but in the summer of '77 it was my favorite -- still one of the best, that whole album.

Beatle Without Borders is an LA Times article about George's second wife and the Mexican-American family he married in to.

And finally, Saint George is an excellent "Media Life" column by Michael Wolff about the shrub -- please, please let that sniggering begin soon.

Thursday 12-9
Every so often Avram Grumer, who does the Pigs & Fishes weblog, posts pages to his "Natter" section -- he's added one called Rant: I Hate Television which is reasonable enough; but by the end it seems more a slam against his local cable company.

Justin Hall, weary of recharging his portable devices, has written a new article on wireless power for TheFeature which ranges among hand-cranked cell phones, piezoelectric heel-strike shoes, and the visionary work of Nikola Tesla.

Thursday 12-6

Fascinating Free Masons exposé in the Washington Post, which also explains the Shriners off-shoot: Fezzes, Sphinxes and Secret Handshakes -- What do Mozart, George Washington, J. Edgar Hoover and Kramer of 'Seinfeld' have in common?

I'd driven past the House of the Temple countless times and wondered what it was. It sits on 16th Street NW near Dupont Circle, looking like the Embassy of Atlantis or the Supreme Court of Mars. Two-headed stone eagles perch on each corner of the roof and the gigantic metal doors are guarded by two enormous sphinxes, which stare out toward 16th Street, where passing drivers do double takes and mutter, "What is that?"
My own reaction upon sighting it has been "the Temple of Zeus" -- never really knew what it was. Unmentioned in the article is their Washington Masonic Monument, in nearby Alexandria, which I toured once with Geoff, many years ago. Inside, along with some very strange rooms, there's a pair of unique elevators in angled shafts, which are several yards apart on the ground floor, but just a couple feet at the top.

Tuesday 12-4
Kensington is a town in affluent Montgomery County, north of DC. It was in the news this weekend because the town elders decided the Current Situation warrented some changes to their annual Christmas tree lighting -- patriotic songs (instead of carols) and red, white & blue lights -- and due to (two) complaints, they'd decided to omit Santa this year. Furor insued, provoking an impromptu Santa Rampage. Today's Washington Post has a page of mostly indignant letters, in response. One was particulary irritating:
Clearly, Santa is a symbol of Christmas, a Christian holiday.
In my experience, any statement preceded by that condescending "clearly" will at best be confused, and much more commonly be somebody-with-an-agenda's attempt at "spin." Listen -- Santa has nothing to do with Christianity, now or historically -- the jolly fat man dressed in red is an ancient symbol of the pagan year-end solstice celebration, which was merged with celebrations of Jesus' birth by a Pope a thousand years ago. (And gift-giving wasn't associated with His birthday until much more recently.) For the whole story ('tis the season!) check Patrick S. Farley's excellent Saturnalia. (Those keen for a source of the relevant facts should jump directly to page 9.) And check his Electric Sheep top-level -- there's some fresh material available -- excellent, of course.)

Geeks and Spooks -- new Bruce Sterling column on crypto, from a recent lecture, long but worthwhile.

Monday 12-3
The big news today was the unveiling of "Ginger," or "IT," the personal transport invention from Dean Kamen -- its official name is now Segway, and the advanced buzz last January was right, "it" really is something like Gyro Gearloose would create -- an electric, horseless, chariot-scooter that doesn't tip.

The best obit for George Harrison I've read was the one in Slate by Erik Tarloff.

Three articles detailing abuse by airport security personnel:

  • In USA Today, Flight crews report improper searches -- Union accuses screeners of 'illicit touching'
  • In the Freedom Forum, National Guardsman orders reporter to destroy photos at L.A. airport
  • A Yahoo!News reprint from somewhere, The New Roman Arena: Airports
    If the airlines had hired the most expensive consultants in the world to try to figure out a way to make the flying experience even more unpleasant than it was before Sep11, the consultants would have given up in despair. But chalk one up to American ingenuity: The airlines have done it on their own!

    Getting a head start on the holiday season, airport security guards have already begun their Christmas shopping by stealing air travelers' belongings. Unless they pilfer possessions worth more to you than making your plane and avoiding an enormous hassle, there's nothing you can do. And the guards know there's nothing you can do, which adds to the innate charm of security personnel.

Sunday 12-2
Another Wired news article reports on the manned Chinese space program -- they'll call their astronauts "Yuhangyuans," and they have lunar ambitions.
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