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Showing posts from 2003
O would some god the giftie gie us...
Recently I've gotten some email from word-of-mouth-connection.com. People can register that they have experience with a particular person or business, say something about how well they know said entity and how recent their experience is, and then others who want to find out about said entity can go looking through the database and inquire via email; the contacts are done anonymously.

At the time of writing, there are apparently three people who claim to know me well who have registered that fact, and hence, I suppose, their willingness to tell others about me, and one person looking to find out about me.

I guess that it's good that word-of-mouth-connection.com tells me that this is happening...but to be honest, it creeps me out. That, in turn, probably points out my tendency to assume the worst. For all I know, the three people are happily telling anyone who asks that I'm a heck of a guy, but I would have been happy to continue to not t…
OK, now say "shibboleth"...
Computers are far more widespread than they used to be--which perforce means that most of the people who use them are ignorant of how they work, just as most people couldn't tell you how their TVs, cars, or phones work. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) So, how can you tell the posers from the real deal? One sure mark of someone who doesn't know diddly about computers is this: referring to mass storage space (hard disk, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM) as "memory."

What are some other misstatements that reveal computer ignorance? Someone should compile a list of them--so send your favorites our way, please!
Not the best intro, I guess...

I probably would be more favorably inclined to Joan of Arcadia had I watched it from the beginning, but I started with this evening's episode.

Joan of Arcadia is sort of the mutant offspring of Touched by an Angel and Calvin and Hobbes. Did you ever notice how, if agents of the divine really did all the stuff that the angels on TbaA did, there would be no doubt at all of the existence of a non-denominational Christian God? JoA bypasses that problem by making God an ever-shifting Hobbes to Joan's Calvin. God/Hobbes tells Joan/Calvin what to do, and occasionally gives the stray oblique lecture (apologies to Brian Eno). Joan is supposedly trying to figure out just what God has in mind, but if the producers have any sense, it will never happen; just as the unseen monster is always scarier than the guy in the rubber suit who finally emerges, any supposed divine plan that the writers come up with will necessarily seem lame. (Though come to think of it, …
Verbal Abuse as Entertainment

When I grew up, my parents always told me that there was a sort of person who needed to tear down others to try to salvage his or her nonexistent self-esteem, and that I should not be that sort of person. Judging by radio and TV today, though, such people seem to be doing awfully well.

Verbal abuse is now a popular entertainment form. Weakest Link, American Idol, Cupid... all “reality shows” that showcase and derive their popularity from gratuitous viciousness. David Letterman has made a career of finding people from “flyover country” and interviewing them in such a way that he and his audience can derive their sick jollies from feeling hip and superior. Such interviews and prank calls are a major feature of, for example, Mancow Muller’s syndicated radio show. We’ve already mentioned “Dr. Laura.” One sees the actions of, say, Simon Cowell rationalized as “honesty” or “tough love”—but one can be honest without being vicious or abusive.

So why are these TV a…
Grumble, Grumble...
I have just one thing to say to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for not giving the Best Animated Feature award to Lilo and Stitch:

Meega na la kweesta!
Sic Transit
The Islamic cultures once were important centers of philosophy, science, mathematics, and literature. Just go through a technical dictionary looking for words that start with al- (Arabic for "the"): algebra, algorithm, alcohol, aldehyde... We have them to thank for the Alhambra, Leyli and Majnun (whose influence stretches through Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, and Derek and the Dominoes), and the poetry of Rumi. (Speaking of the Alhambra--the Moors were considerably more tolerant than Los Reyes Católicos, who offered the Jews the choice of conversion or eviction shortly after coming to power.)

So, how on earth could such a culture produce the vile beasts who now rule Iraq, or who make sure schoolgirls dressed "indecently" don't escape burning buildings? Are such people the norm, or are they as reviled in their culture as Nazis and their deluded followers are in the West? I'd like to think the latter.
On Its Way Back...
Anyone who listens to the radio knows that commercial music radio, with very few exceptions, is the "vast wasteland" of Newton Minow's immortal phrase. If you want something out of the ordinary, or even if your tastes just differ from the homogenized focus-group dreck that the large media companies know is best for you, the place to go is to webcasting...and one of the very best webcasters was Luxuria Music.

Luxuria Music featured a wild and varied blend of music. They encouraged feedback, and actually played requests (like the old days!). Alas, in April 2001 it went away, but...if you go to the LM web site today, you'll find that it's coming back on March 1, 2003. This is good news indeed. Until then, you can listen to recordings of old LM shows on a live365.com stream. Check it out.

Update from after their relaunch--they've gone over to making people listen to three minutes of ads before they get to hear the music, and have chosen a Windo…
Buzz Off, Robert Browning...
Grow old along with me,
The best is yet to be!
The last of life, for which the first was made...
Browning is full of it. Aging sucks. Systems break down, and it's not going to get better. To borrow a phrase from Tom Lehrer, you're "sliding down the razor blade of life."
I just hope that Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec are right, or better yet, too conservative, and I can download myself into a Primo 3M+ body.
Not to Be Missed
Just got home from seeing the National Theater of the Deaf's production of Oh, Figaro! based on the Beaumarchais characters that gave rise to Le Nozze di Figaro and The Barber of Seville (which I don't remember the Italian for....). They kicked serious posterior; the show was a hoot. It was signed and spoken, and while I'm sure there was ASL wordplay that sailed right over my head (I'm a rank beginner at the language), I still had a wonderful time. If it comes to your area, don't miss it. If it doesn't come to your area, go to its area.
Experts in Their Field
If political affairs should ever hinge on the proper use of vibrato, I will listen to what Barbra Streisand has to say about it. Should the fate of the homeless depend on proper blocking, I will defer to Mike Farrell...

...but until then, could the entertainment industry collectively take its pontification and rants elsewhere?

I commend this petition to your attention.

The Ubiquity of Kitsch, and Preachiness

It's February, and we're about to see Washington and Lincoln reduced to shilling for car and furniture outlets again. I can't help thinking that is the ultimate fate of rulers everywhere:
Two very good friends once went to Europe, and they brought me back a souvenir—a T-shirt with the standard issue cartoon image of a Viking and the caption "ERIK BLOODAXE RULES OK"I got to go to Japan once. I wound up with a coworker at the re-rebuilt Osaka Castle, still impressive even though it is not as large as the initial structure. Up on the third floor was the souvenir shop, where you could get Hideyoshi Toyotomi knicknacks.Caesar, of course, sells pizzas these days (but who'd buy a pizza with a spear hole through it?)As for King Tut, two words: Steve Martin. (Yes, I realize he was making fun of the marketing of Tutankhamen.) Sturgeon's Law ("90% of everything is crap") seems to apply particularly to Christian music. I think I know part of the reason.

Remem…
Government as God
Bill Clinton several times referred to a "new covenant" between the US government and the American people. You'll recall that the original covenant was that between God and Israel, followed, according to the Christian faith, by a new covenant between God and Christians, mediated by Christ.

Am I alone in being disturbed by such language and the implied equating of government with a god? What a monstrous ego it must take to liken oneself to Moses or Christ, and how different from the point of view of the Founding Fathers, who at least tried to carefully limit the powers of government!

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. —George Washington

Why bring this up when Clinton is, thank goodness, no longer President? Because George W. Bush, while not exalting himself as Clinton did, still uses religious imagery. "Power, power, wonder-working power" belongs in the old hymn t…
Assorted Despicable Things and People, Part Two
Dr. Laura
I actually listened to some of one of her shows (not voluntarily; I was traveling with a friend, and we were scanning the AM band for something to listen to). Callers to her show must either be desperate or masochistic, to put up with her rudeness and verbal abuse, and the fans must have a sadistic streak. Dr. Laura (whose doctorate is in physiology, having nothing to do with how she makes a living these days) is big on family...but a few weeks ago her mother's dead body was discovered in an apartment, apparently having been there unnoticed for months. Dr. Laura tells callers to stop sniveling and "face the day," but check out her behavior on a trip to Dallas to give a talk to the women's division of the Jewish Welfare Federation.
Same Song, Opposite Aisle
These days there are a number of web sites where people mostly post quotations from news articles and/or commentaries on said articles. (The sources of the news articles don't much appreciate the quotation; there's been at least one lawsuit over the matter.)

freerepublic.com is the right-wing flavor. There you'll find a lot of creationism threads--there are either a lot of creationists or a few really vocal ones at freerepublic.com. (OTOH, there are rational people there, too.) You'll find a lot of religious ranting and bashing of homosexuals, and people who dare point out that GWB is pushing big government despite the posturings of the Republican Party are flamed at great length. There's a libertarian contingent that regularly points out the idiocy of the Drug War, and is just as regularly flamed for their troubles, and simultaneously told that (1) they're too few in number to be significant and (2) they're helping the Democrats by…
Assorted Despicable Things and People, Part One
Microsoft
Once upon a time, only technical people knew the details of how Microsoft rose to power. Now, you have to have been comatose or living in the outback not to know. If you don't know, go read Wendy Goldman Rohm's The Microsoft File and you'll find out.
C++
The PL/I of the 90s; a bloated obscenity of poorly thought-out, ill-fitting features and kludged syntax that no one person can keep in his head. These days, people say that the day of programming languages that try to be all things to all men is gone, but nobody bothered to tell Bjarne Stroustrup.
The Clintons
The most loathsome, amoral, corrupt person to ever occupy the White House, and his equally vile and power-hungry wife. To quote Dick Morris, "It’s a good thing those two are sociopaths. Otherwise their consciences might bother them..." Time for a "reality show" parody, if that's not a redundancy.
"Rasputin--LOCK THE DOOR!"

Long ago, radio and TV stations actually had to come up with their own programming a lot of the time. Today, if you scan the radio dial at night, on AM you'll hear many stations broadcasting identical syndicated talk shows; the only difference is which such show they run when. Before, each station would carry a local show, only merging on hour boundaries for network news. On TV, if you scanned the dial at night, you'd find a lot of stations showing movies actually selected individually at each station... and on Saturday nights, chances are those movies would be SF or horror movies with a host who would appear at the beginning and end, and around commercial breaks.

Each station had its own host, who often was a local celebrity of sorts (if only the sort depicted by Roger Miller in his song "Kansas City Star"). Alas, the earliest hosts, such as the incomparable and sultry Vampira, were before my time; my initiiation to late night hor…
My Renaissance Fair Pet Peeve
Here it is: in my experience, Renaissance fairs are not at all the best places to go to hear Renaissance music.
Disclaimer the FirstI enjoy Renaissance fairs. I even sing at them, and the group I currently sing with is just as guilty as the rest. Yes, I know there are exceptions, and I cherish them.
But, That Said...If you go to a Renaissance fair and check out the paid musical acts, what will you typically hear? Sea chanteys (one web site says the golden age of the sea chantey was the early to mid-19th century!). Irish music, from Carolan (late 17th to early 18th century) to songs of the 1916 Easter rebellion. Scottish songs, often dealing with the 18th century Jacobite rebellion, and some by modern composers (e.g. "Queen of Argyle," "Flower of Scotland").

A year or so ago on the alt.fairs.renaissance newsgroup, someone posted a request for suggestions for material for performance. Someone responded, "How about something actually f…