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09-24-2005, 03:26 PM
More Today Than Yesterday
The Spiral Staircase

[Written by Pat Upton]

I don't remember what day it was
I didn't notice what time it was
All I know is that I fell in love with you
And if all my dreams come true
I'll be spending time with you

Every day's a new day in love with you
With each day comes a new way of loving you
Every time I kiss your lips my mind starts to wander
If all my dreams come true
I'll be spending time with you

Oh, I love you more today than yesterday
But not as much as tomorrow
I love you more today than yesterday
But, darling, not as much as tomorrow

Tomorrow's date means springtime's just a day away
Cupid, we don't need ya now, be on your way
I thank the Lord for love like ours that grows ever stronger
And I always will be true
I know you feel the same way too

Oh, I love you more today than yesterday
But not as much as tomorrow
I love you more today than yesterday
But only half as much as tomorrow

Every day's a new day, every time I love ya
Every way's a new way, every time I love ya
Every day's a new day, every time I love ya

(8) (8) (8) (8) ASlthough not posted with anyone in mind, I thought I'd share one of my "stay in the car until it's finished" songs.

(l) (l) 's

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

09-24-2005, 03:32 PM
My favorite rendition and artist:

Goodnight My Love

- Artist: Paul Anka
- peak Billboard position # 27 in 1969
- previously a # 7 hit on the R&B chart for Jesse Belvin in 1956
- previously charted by The McGuire Sisters at #32 in 1957
- previously charted by Ray Peterson at # 64 in 1959
- previously charted by The Fleetwoods at # 32 in 1963
- previously charted by Ben E. King at # 91 in 1966
- Words and Music by George Motola and John Marascalco

Goodnight, my love (wah-ooh)
Pleasant dreams and sleep tight, my love
May tomorrow be sunny and bright
And bring you closer to me

Before you go (wah-ooh)
There's just one thing I'd like to know (wah-ooh)
If you love is still warm for me
Or has it gone cold?

If you should awake in the still of the night
Please have no fear
For I'll be there, darling you know I care
Please give your love to me, dear, only

Goodnight, my love (wah-ooh)
Pleasant dreams and sleep, <SPOKEN> sleep tight, my love (wah-ooh)
May tomorrow be sunny and bright
And bring you closer to me

Goodnight, my love
Pleasant dreams and sleep tight, my love
May tomorrow be sunny and bright
And bring you closer to me

(wah-ooh, wah-ooh)
Goodnight, my love
(wah-ooh, wah-ooh)
Goodnight, my love
(wah-ooh, wah-ooh)
Goodnight, my love
(wah-ooh, wah-ooh)
Sleep tight, my love


(S) (S) ......... (l) (l) (l) (l) (k) (k) ({) (}) 's

Sweet dreams,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

09-26-2005, 04:09 AM
Thank you Sweetlady & Doc for the warm welcome. I'm glad you liked my quote - most people I've met on b-f consider me quite corny 'cause I love the sentimental and romantic flowery stuff, lol, no excuses here, I am corny, and proud of it...hoping to meet a stonebutch who likes a sappy gal like me, lol

I look forward to reading your posts. Have a lovely rest of your weekend. (f) (f)

Kindest Regards,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

09-27-2005, 07:39 AM
Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Matt Taibbi’s New Orleans rescue adventure—co-starring Sean Penn and Douglas Brinkley—begins in a Houston bar:

I’m in the lounge of the Four Seasons with Sean Penn and other assorted media creatures, debating the merits of rescuing animals instead of humans in a disaster area. To my left is the eminent historian Douglas Brinkley, a friendly academic whose careful diction reminds me of Bob Woodward’s. Brinkley is my contact in Houston. He’s friends with Penn, and when he evacuated his home in New Orleans earlier in the week, he left his cats and his maid behind in the flood zone. Now he and Penn are talking about commandeering private jets, helicopters and weapons for a grand mission into hell that begins tomorrow.

Two points of interest here. One: Brinkley has a maid. Two: he left her behind in the flood zone. Remember Penn’s claim that “we were pulling drowning people out of the water” and Brinkley’s description of Penn as an “American hero” for “rescuing up to 40 people”? Here’s Taibbi’s description, direct from Penn’s little boat:

In the end, we spend the whole day out on the water—until sundown, anyway—and bring about nine or ten residents back to shore. One of our passengers is a schizophrenic whom Sean jumped in the water to save when the kick from the rotors of a hovering helicopter forced her underwater.

No word on whether Brinkley’s maid got out. She isn’t mentioned after the second paragraph.

Posted by Tim B. on 09/27/2005 at 02:31 AM


(*) (*) ;) ;) (h) (h)

(k) (k) 's,


09-27-2005, 07:41 AM
WH Pool Report: Gas Guzzling Edition

In this White House pool report, we learn how the President is cutting down on "non-essential travel": To a "farewell dinner" for exiting Joint Chiefs chief Gen. Richard Myers, the motorcade

was marginally shorter in the SUV category - five - than the one that traveled to the Energy Department today, with six SUVs. But it was longer in vans, four tonight, compared with three this morning. Two limos, of course.

Of course.

Full report after the jump.


(*) (*) I'm going to add her blog to my morning list of sites. Wonkette is *good*! Take a look at this one.......(coffee warning)


You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows... ;) ;)

;) ;) 's


09-27-2005, 07:44 AM
I am not the only one who spent almost THREE DAYS working with NYTimesSelect Customer service folks to read my favorite coumnists last week!!!! This blog was highly recommended by the WSJ:

"kausfiles.com - From Mickey Kaus, the most tough-minded liberal we know."

That got my attention and I'm really glad that I checked it out....;-)


Still 'Not Ready for TimesSelect'!

Pinch levels the playing field.

By Mickey Kaus

Updated Monday, Sept. 26, 2005, at 11:15 PM PT


Escape from TimesSelect: The NYT's Tom Friedman, in an exceptionally blowhardish appearance on Meet the Press, laments the effect of massive U.S. borrowing from China:

I think we have--we are now in a position where China has-- they're heading for $1 trillion, OK, of our--in reserves that they're going to be holding, basically. And the leverage that is going to give China over the United States in the coming years, God knows where-- how that's going to play out.

Hmm. If you lend a trillion dollars to someone, does that give you leverage over them or them leverage over you? I'd always thought it was the latter, especially when the debtor is a sovereign nation. (Keynes: "Owe your banker 1000 [pounds] and you are at his mercy; owe him 1 million [pounds] and the position is reversed.") What's China going to do, repossess the United States? ... P.S.: Prison Break! The joint Meet appearance by three NYT columnists seemed like a marketing gimmick. (Next they're going to be given away to audience members on Oprah!) But it may also have been a desperate plea for attention on their part (now that they've been sent down the TimesSelect memory hole on the Web). ... Update: T.M. says they "staged a mass escape, huddling together and pleading for visibility." ... 4:26 A.M.

Put the Moose on the Table: Conservative kf reader D.A. emails to say she has stopped "enjoying the failure of TimesSelect" and now worries that it is failing too quickly--that soon the NYT will pull the plug, restoring the reach and influence of the paper's predominantly liberal columnists. ... D.A. suggests that Republicans and right-wingers should sign up now and pay for it, just so NYT management think it's a success and keep it going.

The conservatives could inspire themselves with the thought that they were in essence paying to erect a barrier between the NYT's would-be opinion-shapers and a public that might all-too-easily have its opinions shaped. ... Once the Times columnists' "status as megapundits" has slowly ebbed away,

[t]hen, and only then, Karl Rove can give the word and everyone will stop subscribing to TimesSelect. It won't matter then if the embargo comes down, because people will have gotten along fine without their daily dose of the NYT's correct enlightened thinking.

P.S.: A few days ago I jokingly called for replacing TimesSelect with "TimesDelete," a service that would allow readers to pay to silence their least favorite columnists. D.A.'s email has made me realize how misdirected this proposal was. TimesSelect doesn't need to be replaced by TimesDelete. TimesSelect is TimesDelete! The Times has taken the columnists people are most willing to pay for and removed them from the public discourse on the Web. In fact, the paper has been quite diligent about suppressing them--contrary to my expectations, Times columns are not regularly turning up on pirate Web sites. Look at John Tabin's Never Pay Retail--the last six NYT columns apparently aren't available anywhere for free. They're gone! Even Paul Krugman's archive of previously published columns may be wiped out. ... Why does China have to spend millions on new repressive opinion-blocking technologies and new complicated anti-speech rules when it could just adopt TimesSelect across the board and accomplish the same thing more efficiently and with less controversy?... The NYT might even lease its proprietary TimesSelect technology to threatened dictatorships around the globe as a turnkey solution to their Internet dissent problems. Worried about subversive pro-democracy agitators? Just make them part of TimesSelect's premium content and they'll never be heard from again! ... It's yet another coveted supplemental revenue stream opened up by Pinch Sulzberger's Web pathfinders. ....

[Why is TimesSelect worth attacking? Don't Web publications have to learn to make money somehow? This is just cheap schadenfreude--ed Not cheap schadenfreude. Civic schadenfreude! Here are three public-spirited reasons to revel in the NYT's suffering: 1) The NYT is characteristically arrogant in assuming that its opinion writers are well read because they're so much smarter and better than the hundreds of thousands of competing opinion writers on the Web, as opposed to because as NYT columnists they are what everyone thinks everyone else reads. It will be a blow for social equality if this near-Herrnsteinian assumption gets punctured; 2) The nation's most important paper, as noted frequently in this space, has become smug and self-confident in its biases under its current publisher, Mr. Sulzberger. He inherited his positon, but it's not impossible for him to lose it (there was talk of that during the Jayson Blair scandal). If he did, maybe the paper would become less smug and self-confident in its biases; 3) Public debate seems to work faster and better when opinion and argument is available freely and universally. Paid content won't kill democracy; it didn't before the Web. But the free content/advertising model for making money--at least when it comes to opinion journalism--is better for democracy.] ... 1:49 P.M. l


(*) (*) LMAO!! ;)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

09-27-2005, 07:47 AM


(*) (*) Bravo, bravo. As a good friend used to advise me regarding clothes shopping: "Dress British, pay Yiddish." ;)

(a) (a)


09-27-2005, 07:53 AM

'Whatever It Takes'

Is Bush's big spending a bridge to nowhere?

Thursday, September 22, 2005 12:01 a.m. WSJ

George W. Bush, after five years in the presidency, does not intend to get sucker-punched by the Democrats over race and poverty. That was the driving force behind his Katrina speech last week. He is not going to play the part of the cranky accountant--"But where's the money going to come from?"--while the Democrats, in the middle of a national tragedy, swan around saying "Republicans don't care about black people," and "They're always tightwads with the poor."

In his Katrina policy the president is telling Democrats, "You can't possibly outspend me. Go ahead, try. By the time this is over Dennis Kucinich will be crying uncle, Bernie Sanders will be screaming about pork."
That's what's behind Mr. Bush's huge, comforting and boondogglish plan to spend $200 billion or $100 billion or whatever--"whatever it takes"--on Katrina's aftermath. And, I suppose, tomorrow's hurricane aftermath.

George W. Bush is a big spender. He has never vetoed a spending bill. When Congress serves up a big slab of fat, crackling pork, Mr. Bush responds with one big question: Got any barbecue sauce? The great Bush spending spree is about an arguably shrewd but ultimately unhelpful reading of history, domestic politics, Iraq and, I believe, vanity.

This, I believe, is the administration's shrewd if unhelpful reading of history: In a 50-50 nation, people expect and accept high spending. They don't like partisan bickering, there's nothing to gain by arguing around the edges, and arguing around the edges of spending bills is all we get to do anymore. The administration believes there's nothing in it for the Republicans to run around whining about cost. We will spend a lot and the Democrats will spend a lot. But the White House is more competent and will not raise taxes, so they believe Republicans win on this one in the long term.

Domestic politics: The administration believes it is time for the Republican Party to prove to the minority groups of the United States, and to those under stress, that the Republicans are their party, and not the enemy. The Democrats talk a good game, but Republicans deliver, and we know the facts. A lot of American families are broken, single mothers bringing up kids without a father come to see the government as the guy who'll help. It's right to help and we don't lose by helping.

Iraq: Mr. Bush decided long ago--I suspect on Sept. 12, 2001--that he would allow no secondary or tertiary issue to get in the way of the national unity needed to forge the war on terror. So no fighting with Congress over who put the pork in the pan. Cook it, eat it, go on to face the world arm in arm.

As for vanity, the president's aides sometimes seem to see themselves as The New Conservatives, a brave band of brothers who care about the poor, unlike those nasty, crabbed, cheapskate conservatives of an older, less enlightened era.

Republicans have grown alarmed at federal spending. It has come to a head not only because of Katrina but because of the huge pork-filled highway bill the president signed last month, which comes with its own poster child for bad behavior, the Bridge to Nowhere. The famous bridge in Alaska that costs $223 million and that connects one little place with two penguins and a bear with another little place with two bears and a penguin. The Bridge to Nowhere sounds, to conservative ears, like a metaphor for where endless careless spending leaves you. From the Bridge to the 21st Century to the Bridge to Nowhere: It doesn't feel like progress.

A lot of Bush supporters assumed the president would get serious about spending in his second term. With the highway bill he showed we misread his intentions.

The administration, in answering charges of profligate spending, has taken, interestingly, to slighting old conservative hero Ronald Reagan. This week it was the e-mail of a high White House aide informing us that Ronald Reagan spent tons of money bailing out the banks in the savings-and-loan scandal. This was startling information to Reaganites who remembered it was a fellow named George H.W. Bush who did that. Last month it was the president who blandly seemed to suggest that Reagan cut and ran after the attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon.
Poor Reagan. If only he'd been strong he could have been a good president.

Before that, Mr. Mehlman was knocking previous generations of Republican leaders who just weren't as progressive as George W. Bush on race relations. I'm sure the administration would think to criticize the leadership of Bill Clinton if they weren't so busy having jolly mind-melds with him on Katrina relief. Mr. Clinton, on the other hand, is using his new closeness with the administration to add an edge of authority to his slams on Bush. That's a pol who knows how to do it.

At any rate, Republican officials start diminishing Ronald Reagan, it is a bad sign about where they are psychologically. In the White House of George H.W. Bush they called the Reagan administration "the pre-Bush era." See where it got them.

Sometimes I think the Bush White House needs to be told: It's good to be a revolutionary. But do you guys really need to be opening up endless new fronts? Do you need--metaphor switch--seven or eight big pots boiling on the stove all at the same time? You think the kitchen and the house might get a little too hot that way?

The Republican (as opposed to conservative) default position when faced with criticism of the Bush administration is: But Kerry would have been worse! The Democrats are worse! All too true. The Democrats right now remind me of what the veteran political strategist David Garth told me about politicians. He was a veteran of many campaigns and many campaigners. I asked him if most or many of the politicians he'd worked with had serious and defining political beliefs. David thought for a moment and then said, "Most of them started with philosophy. But they wound up with hunger." That's how the Democrats seem to me these days: unorganized people who don't know what they stand for but want to win, because winning's pleasurable and profitable.

But saying The Bush administration is a lot better than having Democrats in there is not an answer to criticism, it's a way to squelch it. Which is another Bridge to Nowhere.

Mr. Bush started spending after 9/11. Again, anything to avoid a second level fight that distracts from the primary fight, the war on terror. That is, Mr. Bush had his reasons. They were not foolish. At the time they seemed smart. But four years later it is hard for a conservative not to protest. Some big mistakes have been made.

First and foremost Mr. Bush has abandoned all rhetorical ground. He never even speaks of high spending. He doesn't argue against it, and he doesn't make the moral case against it. When forced to spend, Reagan didn't like it, and he said so. He also tried to cut. Mr. Bush seems to like it and doesn't try to cut. He doesn't warn that endless high spending can leave a nation tapped out and future generations hemmed in. In abandoning this ground Bush has abandoned a great deal--including a primary argument of conservatism and a primary reason for voting Republican. And who will fill this rhetorical vacuum? Hillary Clinton. She knows an opening when she sees one, and knows her base won't believe her when she decries waste.

Second, Mr. Bush seems not to be noticing that once government spending reaches a new high level it is very hard to get it down, even a little, ever. So a decision to raise spending now is in effect a decision to raise spending forever.

Third, Mr. Bush seems not to be operating as if he knows the difficulties--the impossibility, really--of spending wisely from the federal level. Here is a secret we all should know: It is really not possible for a big federal government based in Washington to spend completely wisely, constructively and helpfully, and with a sense of personal responsibility. What is possible is to write the check. After that? In New Jersey they took federal Homeland Security funds and bought garbage trucks. FEMA was a hack-stack.

The one time a Homeland Security Department official spoke to me about that crucial new agency's efforts, she talked mostly about a memoir she was writing about a selfless HS official who tries to balance the demands of motherhood against the needs of a great nation. When she finally asked for advice on homeland security, I told her that her department's Web page is nothing but an advertisement for how great the department is, and since some people might actually turn to the site for help if their city is nuked it might be nice to offer survival hints. She took notes and nodded. It alarmed me that they needed to be told the obvious. But it didn't surprise me.

Of the $100 billion that may be spent on New Orleans, let's be serious. We love Louisiana and feel for Louisiana, but we all know what Louisiana is, a very human state with rather particular flaws. As Huey Long once said, "Some day Louisiana will have honest government, and they won't like it." We all know this, yes? Louisiana has many traditions, and one is a rich and unvaried culture of corruption. How much of the $100 billion coming its way is going to fall off the table? Half? OK, let's not get carried away. More than half.

Town spending tends to be more effective than county spending. County spending tends--tends--to be more efficacious than state spending. State spending tends to be more constructive than federal spending. This is how life works. The area closest to where the buck came from is most likely to be more careful with the buck. This is part of the reason conservatives are so disturbed by the gushing federal spigot.

Money is power. More money for the federal government and used by the federal government is more power for the federal government. Is this good? Is this what energy in the executive is--"Here's a check"? Are the philosophical differences between the two major parties coming down, in terms of spending, to "Who's your daddy? He's not your daddy, I'm your daddy." Do we want this? Do our kids? Is it safe? Is it, in its own way, a national security issue?

At a conservative gathering this summer the talk turned to high spending. An intelligent young journalist observed that we shouldn't be surprised at Mr. Bush's spending, he ran from the beginning as a "compassionate conservative." The journalist noted that he'd never liked that phrase, that most conservatives he knew had disliked it, and I agreed. But conservatives understood Mr. Bush's thinking: they knew he was trying to signal to those voters who did not assume that conservatism held within it sympathy and regard for human beings, in fact springs from that sympathy and regard.

But conservatives also understood "compassionate conservatism" to be a form of the philosophy that is serious about the higher effectiveness of faith-based approaches to healing poverty--you spend prudently not to maintain the status quo, and not to avoid criticism, but to actually make things better. It meant an active and engaged interest in poverty and its pathologies. It meant a new way of doing old business.

I never understood compassionate conservatism to mean, and I don't know anyone who understood it to mean, a return to the pork-laden legislation of the 1970s. We did not understand it to mean never vetoing a spending bill. We did not understand it to mean a historic level of spending. We did not understand it to be a step back toward old ways that were bad ways.

I for one feel we need to go back to conservatism 101. We can start with a quote from Gerald Ford, if he isn't too much of a crabbed and reactionary old Republican to quote. He said, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have."
The administration knows that Republicans are becoming alarmed. Its attitude is: "We're having some trouble with part of the base but"--smile--"we can weather that."

Well, they probably can, short term.

Long term, they've had bad history with weather. It can change.

Here are some questions for conservative and Republicans. In answering them, they will be defining their future party.
If we are going to spend like the romantics and operators of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society;
If we are going to thereby change the very meaning and nature of conservatism;
If we are going to increase spending and the debt every year;
If we are going to become a movement that supports big government and a party whose unspoken motto is "Whatever it takes";

If all these things, shouldn't we perhaps at least discuss it? Shouldn't we be talking about it? Shouldn't our senators, congressmen and governors who wish to lead in the future come forward to take a stand?
And shouldn't the Bush administration seriously address these questions, share more of their thinking, assumptions and philosophy?

It is possible that political history will show, in time, that those who worried about spending in 2005 were dinosaurs. If we are, we are. But we shouldn't become extinct without a roar.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father," forthcoming in November from Penguin, which you can preorder from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.

(*) (*) It's very odd for such a hard-core neocon (neoconservative) columnist to openly critisize da Village Idiot. And I have to wonder why such an intelligent womyn writer would side with such a dumb a**? Does conservative opinions trump IQ? ;) Her upconing book does cound like an interesting one, if only to stay open-minded to the far right (fart for short). ;)

I must be giddy with having a week (that long?) off from school. I'm taking two PhD business courses starting Monday.

Have a beautiful day! (f) (f)

SWeetlady and Doc the Boxer

09-27-2005, 08:57 AM
Hi Sweetlady!!!
*throwing a Milk Bone to Doc the handsome Boxer*

Good to see you. I hope that you are doing better. How is the handsome boy, btw? How is school going? I am sure you are having no trouble maintaining that 4.0. As I have the upmost faith in your abilities.

Still interested in going on that cruise, Sweet?

Lady Di

09-27-2005, 12:09 PM
Hi Sweetlady!!!
*throwing a Milk Bone to Doc the handsome Boxer*

Good to see you. I hope that you are doing better. How is the handsome boy, btw? How is school going? I am sure you are having no trouble maintaining that 4.0. As I have the upmost faith in your abilities.

Still interested in going on that cruise, Sweet?

Lady Di

Hi dear one, thank you very much for your thoughtful posting. Doc has been getting better slowly but surely....I am delighted with both how he's been while undergoing chemo since July 17th as well as since the chemo stopped a couple of weeks ago. Thanks for asking and Doc in his unique way of doggie-speak, thanks you for the "Scoobie snack"!

Well, I have two weeks off in December but Alaska might be a bit chilly then.... ;) Have you thought about Patagonia? It would be early Summer then. And oh, what an adventure that would be.....

Or, perhaps an Olivia Spring 2006 cruise - what are your thoughts on that? Then might be a better time for B-F members and friends to go to warm up from the cold of Winter.

I for one though have become a big fan of Winter since I turned 40 and my hormones went awry. I LOVE when it's really cold - and during the last few months bought Doc about a dozen Fido Fleece coats to keep him warm inside and during very abbreviated outside "Boxer-Bio-business breaks", AKA 4B's. ;)

I'll find out my other course grade from the Summer Quarter soon - hopefully my 16 "A's" out of 16 courses taken. My PhD advisor thinks that my grades reflect a "Stepford Learner".....I laughed and told her that it's 1. Passion for learning all kinds of new things and 2. Relentless pursuit of knowledge through research, critical reflection and through experiences. I'd never be this excited without fast access to the Internet although I do sometimes miss those old college libraries for their peace and quiet. Internet is better especially now that it takes $50. to fill my vehicle tank up with petrol. :|

It was *so* good to "see" you this afternoon. PM me sometime and let me know how you've been and what interesting things you have been doing. (f) (f)

Kindest Regards,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

09-27-2005, 12:15 PM
September 25, 2005

Screech and Tell


We went to Newfoundland for many reasons. For one thing, we had never heard anything much about it, and by "we," I mean me; my 13-year-old daughter, Billie; my stepson, Harper Simon; my friend Kim Painter; and my photographer and friend, Meg Ryan, who took along her assistant, Learka Bosnak, and her photo assistant, Dan Hallman.

We started our trip in St. John's, the provincial capital. Over the summer, St. John's stages several historic re-enactments, including one in which Napoleon surrenders to the English. Yes, I know that it's highly unlikely that Napoleon was even in Newfoundland, much less surrendered to the English there, but like the re-enactment itself, that is another story. In the final analysis, though, a huge part of what drew us there was another absurdity: we were going to Dildo, a two-hour drive away along the scenic route. Yes, I said Dildo, the name of a fishing village in Newfoundland. Unusual, you say? Well, yes, I would have to agree with you, but it is by no means the only village with a strange name. It's just across the bay from Spread Eagle.

We set off from St. John's mid-morning, laden with cameras and overnight bags in case we couldn't find a B & B inviting enough and, more to the point, large enough to accommodate all 6,000 of us. Somehow, we managed to fit into one vehicle, trailed by the owner of the hotel where we'd stayed, the Spa at the Monastery and Suites, in his soon-to-be-vintage BMW, carrying our stuff - at least, I think that's why he was with us. Though, I also think his sudden appearance had to do with Meg Ryan's being in the first car.

The ride from St. John's is a picturesque drive through long stretches of green trees sprinkled with small homes here and there. As the roads smoothed out from rolling to winding, we found ourselves driving along the coast, looking at islands in the flat, gray ocean. And in the van we listened to some trip-appropriate local music that I had discovered online. It was by a Canadian band called the Arrogant Worms. They have one song called "A Night in Dildo," to which we sang along: "From Woody's Point to Come by Chance, to good old Ferryland / Come take a look at Gander, Blackhead's mighty grand / Don't let their names deceive you. Newfoundland's mighty fine / so spend a night in Dildo, if you think you've got the time!"

I admit not all of us knew all the words, but when it came to "so spend the night in Dildo, if you think you've got the time!" we all sang out clear and loud. Well, most of us sang out pretty clear. O.K., mostly I sang out clear and loud, and everyone else laughed at me - everyone but my daughter. She didn't think I was funny that day. She would rather have been in Toronto or Vancouver. "Could you please keep your voice down?" she admonished me, hunching down in her seat, gazing out the window away from me.

We arrive in Dildo in the early afternoon. The nifty little sign with an arrow by the roadside tells us so. We all cheer; even Billie brightens as we clamor out of the vehicle and drape ourselves around the sign for Meg to take a picture.

But I have to say, there really isn't that much of a town. Not grouped together in one place, anyway. There's no Main Street; no city hall. What they do have is a coffee-and-gift shop with a statue of Captain Dildo in front of it and a lot of houses dotting the small hills and set along the winding southeastern edge of Trinity Bay.

In the gift shop, we buy everything that has Dildo's name on it for Christmas presents and stocking stuffers. There are T-shirts with pictures of the dear captain. There are road signs and backpacks and burlap bags and potholders and handkerchiefs. We buy them all. Conversation pieces. And this is everyone in our group. We're juvenile. I'm sorry.

There is also a museum near the waterfront, opposite the coffee-gift shop. The museum's gift shop carries T-shirts imprinted with a big, yellow smiley face and the town's name written beneath it. The museum has a display of fishhooks and ropes, but that's about it, so we head to a small local diner for a late lunch. There, we talk to some ladies about how they tried to change the name of the town because everyone thought it meant "artificial penis." We look appropriately baffled.

Dildo's an all right place, but there's not much to do there. So after some discussion, we move on to Brigus, a grossly undersold town in the Conception Bay area. This place is spectacular. It's like driving into the pages of "Our Town," or being in a Grandma Moses painting. It's a poem, a prayer - a perfectly preserved 19th-century village right on land's end, where you can look down from the cliffs above the town onto the bright blue water of the bay below. With two churches on the hill opposite each other and a path leading to the cemetery, it's a place time forgot. There are no neon signs, no stores; only one soda machine. And then, of course, there is Esther's house, where you can buy pies and sit out on the front porch, waiting for Edith Wharton to come walking up the lane.

I don't know why, but Brigus is essentially empty. Whatever the reason, we are lucky because it is magic, trapped inside the Grandma Moses painting with Esther and her pies, waiting to be screeched in.

Being "screeched in" is a Newfoundland tradition: it's how visitors become honorary Newfoundlanders. If it's done right and proper, the bar where you're "screeched in" has a sense of occasion, which Christian's Bar, in St. John's, certainly has. Basically, the ritual includes kissing the mouth of a frozen cod (or the posterior of a stuffed puffin) and scraping the bottom of a barrel of Screech Rum for the dregs and drinking them while a master of ceremonies chants over you. Our screech master cheers us on, making us recite in rapid fire, "Deed I is, me old cock, long may your big jib draw!" after which Harper, Learka and Kim and I down our foul liquid shot (Kim drinks mine by prearrangement), while Billie watches from the sidelines, amused and embarrassed. Meg takes photos of our graduation into Screechdom. We even get a certificate, signed by our master of ceremonies.

So, finally, we are happy - as happy as any honorary Newfoundlander can be, finding himself winding through this not so very new but exceptional place, with loads and loads of land that these nice, fun people live in.

The morning we leave, we head over to the Napoleon re-enactment. As I said, I doubt that Napoleon ever actually visited Newfoundland, but I think that the port wine that his officers drank during their surrender is the same port wine that they have there in St. John's.

Nevertheless, Napoleon is there that morning. So we wait to get our pictures taken with him, but while we wait, the local paparazzi who shows up to photograph the re-enactment starts photographing Meg photographing the re-enactment. And then I decide to photograph the paparazzi photographing Meg. Wow, man, if we'd been on some sort of hallucinogen, this would have blown our minds, layer upon layer upon layer of people photographing something that never happened.

I have an existential breakdown on the way to the airport.

(*) (*) The NYTimes' Fall Travel Supplement from this past sunday was great! Carrie wrote about another trip last year, but this one made me laugh from deep down. :o :o :| :| ;) ;)

({) (}) 's,

Sweetlady and Doc the napping-in-the-sunshine Boxer

09-27-2005, 12:18 PM
February 25, 2005


A Grand Season at a Cold Canyon


RACING north up Route 180 in Arizona, ahead of a storm moving in from California, I drove through the gray-green Kaibab National Forest and Coconino National Forest. Ponderosa pines stood sentry-like, to the accompaniment of radio warnings of snow - 16 inches in Flagstaff, where I'd come from, and 10 inches where I was headed, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

A family of wild turkeys strutted alongside the road just before the woods gave way to a rolling expanse of scrub country covered with patches of snow. Blue sky alternated with bands of thick, billowy clouds casting a pearly luminescence and concealing the San Francisco Peaks, which normally dominate the eastern horizon. Then, before the snow could catch me, I was there -at the entrance gate of the Grand Canyon National Park. Minutes later, I stood on Mather Point, 7,000 feet in elevation, gaping at the edge of the canyon. No matter what the season, the canyon always takes your breath away.

In winter, a trip to the Grand Canyon is all about weather - cold, foggy and rainy; warm, clear and sunny; frigid and blindingly snowy - not only on the highways and at the airports that provide access to the canyon, but also in the park itself.

At Mather Point that day, the air was crisp and the sun pierced the clouds so that shafts of light illuminated the vivid colors of the rock layers in the canyon walls. Below the rim, where the cliffs and the slopes of the upper canyon descend into the V-shaped inner gorge, snow blanketed the landscape at higher elevations and merely flecked it lower down. At the bottom, roughly a vertical mile below the rim, flowed the sinuous Colorado River. Back up top on Mather Point, tourists piled out of buses and S.U.V.'s, chilly but delighted, busily snapping pictures and exclaiming over the views.

In winter, dramatic and rapid weather changes at the South Rim can make canyon-watching an extreme sport. You can experience four seasons within minutes at Mather Point, going from sunny and mild to a blizzard that obliterates the whole scene and leaves you clutching the overlook railing, enshrouded in a whiteout.

"You can be standing inside a snowstorm with zero visibility when suddenly the storm moves along and you can see all the way to the bottom of the canyon," said Ronald Brown, a ranger in the park. "Sometimes the snow melts as it falls, or the fog will be so thick you can't see the closest rocks. Once in a great while there's an inversion: you'll be standing at the rim with only the tops of the highest rock formations visible. Everything below you is filled with clouds so thick it looks like you could walk right out on top of them."

Still, even in winter, this is sunny Arizona, where that great ball of light in the sky beams down about three of every four days, said Mark Stubblefield, a National Weather Service meteorologist. At the canyon, about half the days in cold months are sunny or partly sunny. A typical pattern is a snowy or foggy day followed by a clear one, as wind from the storm brings in fresh clean air.

Because the hordes thin out once the temperature drops, there is less jostling for space at the overlooks than in summer and there is less need to pass slowpokes on the trails. The National Park Service said that of the 4.67 million people who visited the canyon in 2004, 162,059 arrived in February, compared with 677,633 in July. "The snow makes the canyon look clean and bright," Mr. Brown, the ranger, said. "When clouds and shadows are moving through the canyon and snow is reflecting light off the rocks, it's more breathtaking than usual."

Most of the activities available to canyon visitors in the warm months occur, weather permitting, throughout the winter as well. This includes two-day mule trips down Bright Angel Trail, from Grand Canyon Village, the hub of the South Rim, to Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor, where visitors spend the night. (When severe storms caused a rock slide on Jan. 5, the trail was closed for almost three weeks until it could be cleared. The mule trips resumed on Feb. 7.)

Straight across the canyon from Mather Point is the North Rim, 1,000 feet higher and about 10 air miles away, but more than 200 miles by car and a 21-mile, two-to-three day, cross-canyon hike. From mid-October to mid-May, the North Rim is closed because of snow, but the South Rim remains open year-round (the Park Service keeps the roads clear). Another advantage of visiting the canyon in winter is that fewer travelers mean fewer helicopters and small planes buzzing overhead, spoiling the peace and quiet. During my three-day stay, I saw no aircraft, though they do operate all year.

As I walked the Rim Trail ahead of the storm, I kept tripping over rocks. Instead of looking where I was going, I was riveted by the chasm, which dropped off just inches from my feet. During inclement weather, rangers warn winter hikers to beware of ice, mud, slush and slippery rocks on all of the trails. Hiking poles and instep crampons are recommended for brutally cold days when trails at the high elevations may be icy. (As hikers descend into the canyon, the weather warms up. Average February temperatures are 21 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit on the South Rim and 42 to 62 degrees in the inner gorge. Hikers staying overnight at Phantom Ranch must remember that a mild day by the river can be a snowy one up top.)

Tour buses still come to the canyon in the cold months, but in far fewer numbers, and from December through February visitors can take their own cars onto the Hermit Road, which begins in Grand Canyon Village and dead-ends eight miles to the west. As I drove it, stopping at overlooks, the tempest hit, so I opted to wait it out at Pima Point for that once-in-a-lifetime view of Granite Rapid 5,000 feet below. Post-storm, standing on the narrow promontory that forms Maricopa Point was like being on the prow of a ship that had set sail into a sea of swirling reds, pinks and salmons, the shades of the canyon's epic towers, buttes and pinnacles.

Another 360-degree prospect awaited at Hopi Point, where bands and patterns of color in the cliffs - black bleeding into mustard-yellow, orange melding into coffee-umber-cinnamon-terra-cotta - danced and shimmered in the shifting light. The Grand Canyon, it seems, must be the mother piece of Southwestern pottery, inspiring generations of Indian artists.

At Mohave Point, you can see the Colorado River both coming and going, as it were, from east to west, a skein of muddy-hued water unspooling through the canyon.

I also drove Desert View Drive, which curves along the South Rim for 25 miles from the park's southern entrance to its eastern one. At Lipan Point, windy sheets of freezing rain and snow pelted me, but I hung in there until the ceiling lifted, revealing both a rainbow and the tableland of the Navajo Reservation, ending abruptly at Palisades of the Desert, the sheer bluffs that form the Grand Canyon's eastern wall. Here the Colorado River turns west and enters the black-schist inner gorge. Above, the broad Tonto Platform, consisting mostly of green-gray shale, spreads like a mossy carpet over the canyon.

At every stop I made along both roads, and during my hikes, I encountered people madly trying to record the moment, either by filming the canyon with a camcorder or by taking photographs. But no camera lens is long or wide enough to capture the canyon. After a while, you have to stop looking through the viewfinder and gaze unblinkered at the constantly changing panorama. Only then will you realize that the Grand Canyon is the perfect scale. If it were any deeper or wider, it would be an abyss, and if any smaller, it would lose much of its monumentality. EAGER to see the Colorado River close-up, but not via a boat or a two-day trek on foot, I drove southwest under a bright sun for about 140 miles from the South Rim to Peach Springs, 5,000 feet in elevation and the capital of the Hualapai Reservation, on Historic Route 66. Diamond Creek Road, which requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle even in the best of weather, heads north out of town, dropping 3,000 feet in elevation as it winds 20 miles through Peach Springs Canyon, one of the Grand Canyon's many side canyons, right to the river.

As the only road that runs to the floor of the Grand Canyon, it presents a singular view, especially for those who have seen the canyon only from the South Rim.

Evidence of how green Arizona's desert is - even in winter - surrounded my car as I descended through Peach Springs Canyon. Prickly pear, barrel and spiny cactus, agave and yucca plants, and other desert shrubs climbed far up the canyon walls as they rose all around. The sky was overcast, so the colors were more muted than they had been at the South Rim. Yellow-green willows and cottonwoods appeared as the road crisscrossed Diamond Creek and then, around another bend or two, ended at a beach - mile 226 of the Colorado River's 277-mile course through the Grand Canyon.

The river rushed by, its strong current whooshing over a bed of boulders that ran from the shore to midstream. Its chilly waters, at their winter temperature of 40 degrees, were hardly colder than in summer, when the water temperature through the floor of the canyon rarely rises above 45 degrees.

Since 1964, the release of water from Glen Canyon Dam, 15 miles upstream from the park, has controlled the Colorado's flow through the Grand Canyon. Even so, the river projects its wildness. The Grand Canyon as a whole, in fact, often leaves visitors overwhelmed by its power.

No matter what time of year you go, the canyon stands immutably, despite all the miners and other adventurers who have tried to exploit its resources and failed. It is a place of beauty and rawness that must be appreciated simply for what it is.

South Rim Activities Don't Stop for Winter

VISITORS to Grand Canyon National Park can fly into Flagstaff, Ariz., (80 miles away), Phoenix (230 miles away) or Las Vegas (280 miles away). The Grand Canyon Railway (800-843-8724; www.thetrain.com) runs vintage diesel and steam passenger trains from Williams, Ariz., (65 miles away) to the South Rim.

One of the best hotels on the South Rim is the rambling chalet-style El Tovar, built of logs and native stone in 1905 and exuding a rustic charm. It is being renovated; when it reopens April 13, rates will be $123 to $285. A five-minute walk down the Rim Trail from El Tovar, with equally impressive canyon views, is the 1935 Bright Angel Lodge, which has a history room crammed with memorabilia from the park's early days. Guests stay in small cabins or motel-type rooms. Rates are $49 to $240. Information on both hotels is available at www.grandcanyonlodges.com or by calling (888) 297-2757.

Camping, hiking, biking, mule trips, horseback riding, flight-seeing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ranger programs are all wintertime options, weather permitting. Just about the only activity not available now is Colorado River rafting; the season begins in mid-April. For more information about any of these activities, visit www.nps.gov/grca.

The Grand Canyon Field Institute (866-471-4435; www.grandcanyon.org/fieldinstitute) offers classes ranging from geology to cultural history.

(*) (*) .....<sigh>.......although I have been here nine (9!) times to the South Rim, I never, ever tire of going. It would be nice to someday soon visit the North Rim however it's closed from October to May as it's another thousand feet higher than the south rim at 8,500 feet. The crowds really thin out in the Winter, the smell of pinion pine and other smoke from fireplaces and bundling up....yummy. (l) (l) (l) Okay who's up for this December? ;)

Carpe Diem,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

09-27-2005, 12:23 PM

(*) (*) I love it!

({) (}) 's

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

09-27-2005, 07:34 PM

(*) (*) I think Target's commercials are very entertaining but the stores are way, way too crowded for my taste and I HATE shopping except for when I NEED an outfit for a wedding or funeral and then I always go to Nordstrom's. I must admit that I'd love to shop at a Target during off hours when families and kids are at home.... :o Just not a crowd person I suppose. Or perhaps slightly a hermit..... (a)

This blog is amusing and entertaining although older womyn might find it superflous with the age differences of the two womyn authors. Can't always read "steak" articles and web sites.....some bubble gum or cotton candy web sites balance the chewy articles out, in my view. ;) ;)

Have a lovely mid-week. (f) (f)


Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-01-2005, 05:24 AM
Dada: Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, New York, Paris

June 18/no spamming of other sites/September 11, 2006

Born in the heart of Europe during World War I, the Dada movement displayed a raucous skepticism about accepted values and artistic practices and addressed pressing questions posed by modernity itself. This is the first major museum exhibition in the United States to focus exclusively on Dada, one of the most significant movements of the historical avant-garde.


Pixar's coming December, 2005 through Feb. 2006:


December 14, 2005/no spamming of other sites/February 6, 2006

The Museum of Modern Art presents Pixar, in the most extensive theater and gallery exhibition it has ever devoted to the art of animation. Pixar Animation Studios has had worldwide critical and box office success with its feature films, from Toy Story (1995) to The Incredibles (2004). The exhibition marks the first time Pixar is lending its collection of art and films. In addition to six features and a number of shorts that will be screened in MoMA's Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters, the Yoshiko and Akio Morita Gallery will be devoted to moving-image work created especially by the studio for this exhibition.


(l) (l) (h) (l) (h)

({) (}) 's,

Sweetlady & Doc the Boxer

10-01-2005, 05:27 AM
The Ghost City

By George Friedman

The American political system was founded in Philadelphia, but the American nation was built on the vast farmlands that stretch from the Alleghenies to the Rockies. That farmland produced the wealth that funded American industrialization: it permitted the formation of a class of small landholders who, amazingly, could produce more than they could consume. They could sell their excess crops in the East and in Europe and save that money, which eventually became the founding capital of American industry.

But it was not the extraordinary land or the farmers and ranchers who alone set the process in motion. Rather, it was geography—the extraordinary system of rivers that flowed through the Midwest and allowed them to ship their surplus to the rest of the world. All of the rivers flowed into one —the Mississippi—and the Mississippi flowed to the ports in and around one city: New Orleans. It was in New Orleans that the barges from upstream were unloaded and their cargos stored, sold, and reloaded on oceangoing vessels. Until last Sunday, New Orleans was, in many ways, the pivot of the American economy.

For that reason, the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815 was a key moment in American history. Even though the battle occurred after the War of 1812 was over, had the British taken New Orleans, we suspect they wouldn't have given it back. Without New Orleans, the entire Louisiana Purchase would have been valueless to the United States. Or, to state it more precisely, the British would control the region because the value of the Purchase was the land and the rivers—which all converged on the Mississippi and the ultimate port of New Orleans. The hero of the battle was Andrew Jackson, and when he became president, his obsession with Texas had much to do with keeping the Mexicans away from New Orleans.

During the cold war, a macabre topic of discussion among bored graduate students who studied such things was this: If the Soviets could destroy one city with a large nuclear device, which would it be? The usual answers were Washington or New York. For me, the answer was simple: New Orleans. If the Mississippi River was shut to traffic, then the foundations of the economy would be shattered. The industrial minerals needed in the factories wouldn't come in, and the agricultural wealth wouldn't flow out. Alternative routes really weren't available. The Germans knew it too: a U-boat campaign occurred near the mouth of the Mississippi during World War II. New Orleans was the prize.

On Sunday, August 28, nature took out New Orleans almost as surely as a nuclear strike. Hurricane Katrina's geopolitical effect was not, in many ways, distinguishable from a mushroom cloud. The key exit from North America was closed. The petrochemical industry, which has become an added value to the region since Jackson's days, was at risk. The navigability of the Mississippi south of New Orleans was a question mark. New Orleans as a city and as a port complex had ceased to exist, and it was not clear that it could recover.

The ports of South Louisiana (POSL) and New Orleans, which run north and south of the city, are as important today as at any point during the history of the republic. On its own merit, POSL is the largest port in the United States by tonnage and the fifth-largest in the world. It exports more than 52 million tons a year, of which more than half are agricultural products—corn, soybeans, and so on. A large proportion of US agriculture flows out of the port. Even more cargo, nearly 69 million tons, comes in through the port—including not only crude oil, but chemicals and fertilizers, coal, concrete, and so on.

A simple way to think about the New Orleans port complex is that it is where the bulk commodities of American agriculture go out to the world and the bulk commodities needed for American industrialism come in. The commodity chain of the global food industry starts here, as does that of American industrialism. If these facilities are gone, more than the price of goods shifts: the very physical structure of the global economy would have to be reshaped. Consider the impact on the US auto industry if steel doesn't come up the river, or the effect on global food supplies if US corn and soybeans don't get to the markets.

The problem is that there are no good shipping alternatives. River transport is cheap, and most of the commodities we are discussing have low value-to-weight ratios. The US transport system was built on the assumption that these commodities would travel to and from New Orleans by barge, where they would be loaded on ships or offloaded. Apart from port capacity elsewhere in the United States, there aren't enough trucks or rail cars to handle the long-distance hauling of these enormous quantities —assuming for the moment that the economics could be managed, which they can't be.

The focus in the press and television has been on the oil industry in Louisiana and Mississippi. This is not a trivial question, but in a certain sense it is dwarfed by the shipping issue. First, Louisiana is the source of about 15 percent of US-produced petroleum, much of it from the Gulf. The local refineries are critical to American infrastructure. Were all of these facilities to be lost, the effect on the price of oil worldwide would be extraordinarily painful. If the river itself became unnavigable or if the ports are no longer functioning, however, the impact to the wider economy would be significantly more severe. In a sense, there is more flexibility in oil than in the physical transport of these other commodities.

There is clearly good news as information comes in. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, which services supertankers in the Gulf, suffered minimal damage while Port Fourchon, which serves it, has had no damage that could not readily be repaired. Offshore oil platforms have been damaged but, on the whole, they and the oil transportation network have generally held up.

The news on the river is also far better than might have been expected. The levees on the Mississippi continue to contain the river, which has not changed its course. The levees that broke and allowed water to pour into New Orleans were on the canal side and more weakly constructed. The Mississippi has not silted up and, while the Coast Guard continues to survey the river, it appears to be fully navigable. Even the port facilities, although obviously suffering some damage, are still there. The river as a transport corridor has not been lost.

What has been lost is the city of New Orleans and many of the residential suburbs around it. As I write, most of the population has fled, leaving behind a small number of people in desperate straits. Some are dead, others are dying, and the magnitude of the situation dwarfed the inadequate resources that were made available to relieve the condition of those who were trapped. But it is not the population that is still in and around New Orleans that is of geopolitical significance: it is the population that has left and has nowhere to return to.

The oil fields, pipelines, and ports required a skilled workforce in order to operate. That workforce requires homes. They require stores to buy food and other supplies. Hospitals and doctors. Schools for their children. In other words, in order to operate the facilities critical to the United States, you need a workforce to do it—and that workforce is gone. Unlike in other disasters, that workforce cannot return to the region because they have no place to live. New Orleans is gone, and the metropolitan area surrounding New Orleans is either gone or so badly damaged that most of it will not be habitable for a long time.

It may be possible to jury-rig around this problem for a short time. But the fact is that most of those who have left the area have gone to live with relatives and friends, or are in shelters far from New Orleans. Many also had networks of relationships and resources to manage their exile. But those resources are not infinite—and as it becomes apparent that these people will not be returning to New Orleans anytime soon, they will be enrolling their children in new schools, finding new jobs, finding new accommodations. If they have any insurance money coming, they will collect it. If they have none, then whatever emotional connections they may have to their home, their economic connection to it has been severed. In a very short time, these people will be making decisions that will start to reshape population and workforce patterns in the region.

A city is a complex and ongoing process—one that requires physical infrastructure to support the people who live in it and people to operate that physical infrastructure. I don't simply mean power plants and sewage treatment facilities, although they are critical. Someone has to be able to sell a bottle of milk or a new shirt. Someone has to be able to repair a car or do surgery. And the people who do those things, along with the infrastructure that supports them, are for the most part gone—and they are not coming back anytime soon.

It is in this sense, then, that it seems almost as if a nuclear weapon went off in New Orleans. The people mostly have fled rather than died, but they are gone. Not all of the facilities are destroyed, but most are. It appears to me that New Orleans and its environs have passed the point of recoverability. The area can recover, to be sure, but only with the commitment of huge resources from outside—and those resources would always be at risk to another Katrina.

The displacement of population due to destruction, disease, and pollution is the crisis that New Orleans faces. It is also a national crisis, because the largest port in the United States cannot function without a city around it. The physical and business processes of a port cannot occur in a ghost town, and right now, except for the remaining refugees, that is what New Orleans is. It is not about the facilities, and it is not about the oil. It is about the loss of a city's population and the paralysis of the largest port in the United States.

Let's go back to the beginning. The United States historically has depended on the Mississippi and its tributaries for transport. Barges navigate the river. Ships go on the ocean. The barges must offload to the ships and vice versa. There must be a facility to make this exchange possible. It is also the facility where goods are stored in transit. Without this port, the river can't be used. Protecting that port has been, from the time of the Louisiana Purchase, a fundamental national security issue for the United States.

Katrina and the events following it have taken out the port—not by fatally destroying the facilities, but by rendering the area uninhabited and potentially uninhabitable. That means that even if the Mississippi remains navigable, the absence of a port near the mouth of the river makes the Mississippi enormously less useful than it was. For these reasons, the United States has lost not only its biggest port complex, but also the utility of its river transport system—the foundation of the entire American transport system. There are some substitutes, but none with sufficient capacity to solve the problem.

It follows from this that the port will have to be revived and, one would assume, at least some part of the city as well. The ports around New Orleans are located as far north as they can be while still being accessible to oceangoing vessels. The need for ships to be able to pass each other in the waterways, which narrow to the north, adds to the problem. Besides, the Highway 190 bridge in Baton Rouge blocks the river going north for oceangoing vessels. Barges can pass under the bridge, but cargo must first be transferred to them, and for that a port is needed. New Orleans is where it is for a reason: the United States needs a city right there.

New Orleans is not optional for the United States' commercial infrastructure. Vulnerable to inundation, it is a terrible place for a city to be located, but exactly the place where a city must exist. With that as a given, a city of some kind will return there because the alternatives are too devastating. The harvest is coming, and that means that the port, or part of it, will have to be opened soon. The port area will have to be cleared, by herculean effort if necessary. As in Iraq, premiums will be paid to people prepared to endure the hardships of working in New Orleans. But in the end, the city will return because it has to.

Geopolitics concerns permanent geographical realities and the way they interact with political life. If the logic of geopolitics prevails, it will force the city's resurrection, even if it will be greatly changed, and in the worst imaginable place.

—September 8, 2005


:| :| :o :o

({) (}) 's,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-01-2005, 05:32 AM
September 29, 2005

After the Love Is Gone


I broke up with Bill a long time ago. It's always hard to remember love - years pass and you say to yourself, was I really in love or was I just kidding myself? Was I really in love or was I just pretending he was the man of my dreams? Was I really in love or was I just desperate? But when it came to Bill, I'm pretty sure it was the real deal. I loved the guy.

As for Bill, I have to be honest: he did not love me. In fact, I never even crossed his mind. Not once. But in the beginning that didn't stop me. I loved him, I believed in him, and I didn't even think he was a liar. Of course, I knew he'd lied about his thing with Gennifer, but at the time I believed that lies of that sort didn't count. How stupid was that?

Anyway, I fell out of love with Bill early in the game - over gays in the military. That was in 1993, after he was inaugurated, and at that moment my heart turned to stone. People use that expression and mean it metaphorically, but if your heart can turn to stone and not have it be metaphorical, that's how stony my heart was where Bill was concerned. I'd had faith in him. I'd been positive he'd never back down. How could he? But then he did, he backed down just like that. He turned out to be just like the others. So that was it. Goodbye, big guy. I'm out of here. Don't even think about calling. And by the way, if your phone rings and your wife answers and the caller hangs up, don't think it's me because it's not.

By the time Bill got involved with Monica, you'd have thought I was past being hurt by him. You'd have thought I'd have shrugged and said, I told you so, you can't trust the guy as far as you can spit. But much to my surprise, Bill broke my heart all over again. I couldn't believe how betrayed I felt. He'd had it all, he'd had everything, and he'd thrown it away, and here's the thing: it wasn't his to throw away. It was ours. We'd given it to him, and he'd squandered it.

Years passed. I'd sit around with friends at dinner talking about How We Got Here and Whose Fault Was It? Was it Nader's fault? Or Gore's? Or Scalia's? Even Monica got onto the list, because after all, she delivered the pizza, and that pizza was truly the beginning of the end. Most of my friends had a hard time narrowing it down to a choice, but not me: only one person was at fault, and it was Bill. I drew a straight line from that pizza to the war. The way I saw it, if Bill had behaved, Al would have been elected, and thousands and thousands of people would be alive today who are instead dead.

I bring all this up because I bumped into Bill the other day. I was watching the Sunday news programs, and there he was. I have to say, he looked good. And he was succinct, none of that wordy blah-blah thing that used to drive me nuts. He'd invited a whole bunch of people to a conference in New York and they'd spent the week talking about global warming, and poverty, and all sorts of obscure places he knows a huge amount about.

When Bill described the conference, it was riveting. I could see how much he cared; and of course, I could see how smart he was. It was so refreshing. It was practically moving. To my amazement, I could even see why I'd loved the guy in the first place. It made me sadder than I can say. It's much easier to get over someone if you can delude yourself into thinking you never really cared that much.

Then, later in the week, I was reading about Bill's conference, and I came upon something that made me think, for just a moment, that Bill might even want me back. "I've reached an age now where it doesn't matter whatever happens to me," he said. "I just don't want anyone to die before their time any more." It almost really got to me. But then I came to my senses. And instead I just wanted to pick up the phone and call him and say, if you genuinely believe that, you hypocrite, why don't you stand up and take a position against this war?

But I'm not calling. I haven't called in years and I'm not starting now.

Nora Ephron is a writer and director.

(*) (l) (h) (*) (l) (h)

;) ;)


10-01-2005, 05:39 AM
September 28, 2005

Dancing in the Dark



I can't wait to see what's next.

Dick Cheney carpooling downtown with Brownie? Rummy Rollerblading down the bike path to the Pentagon? Condi huddling by a Watergate fireplace in a gray cardigan?

Maybe now that our hydrocarbon president is the conservation president, he'll downgrade from Air Force One to a solar-powered Piper Cub as he continues to stalk the Gulf Coast towns and oil rigs like Banquo's ghost.

The once disciplined and swaggering Bush administration has descended into slapstick, more comical even than having Clarence Thomas et al. sit in judgment as Anna Nicole Smith attempts to get more of the moolah of her late oil tycoon husband.

We've got the clownish Brownie still on FEMA's payroll, giving advice on cleaning up the mess he made. ( Let's hope the White House is paying him only long enough to buy his good will, not to take any of his bad advice.)

We've got two oilmen in the White House whose administration was built on urging us to consume and buy as much oil and energy as possible. Now they're suddenly urging us to conserve. (Since Mr. Cheney considers conservation a "personal virtue," at least he'll get some virtue.)

The president called on Americans to drive less, and told his staff members to turn off their computers at night, turn down the air-conditioning, form carpools and take the bus.

At the same time, he set a fine example by wasting gazillions of gallons of fuel with all the planes and Secret Service vans and press motorcades and police escorts that follow him around every time he goes on one of his inane photo-ops from the Colorado bunker to what's left of the Mississippi Delta and the Bayou. He did his part by knocking off a few cars from his motorcade on his seventh trip to the gulf yesterday - but if residents had hoped he'd bring them some water, they went thirsty.

"Even so," as The Times's Elisabeth Bumiller wrote, "security dictated that Mr. Bush's still-impressive caravan pick him up at the base of Air Force One in Lake Charles, La. - and drop him off just yards away for a meeting with local officials at an airport terminal."

Noting that the Bush administration has proposed new fuel economy standards that critics say could make huge S.U.V.'s and pickups even more popular, Reuters published some arithmetic about the president's notorious fuel inefficiency.

Air Force One costs $83,200 to fill up and more than $6,000 per hour to fly. Then there's the cost of helicopters and a 2006 Cadillac DTS limo that gets less than 22 miles per gallon.

Karen Hughes, the Bush nanny who knows nothing about the Muslim world and yet is charged with selling the U.S. to it, wasted even more fuel this week flying to Saudi Arabia to tell women covered from head to toe in black how much she likes driving even though they can't.

She knows so little about the Middle East that she looked taken aback when some Saudi women told her that just because they could not vote or drive did not mean that they felt they were treated unfairly.

One thing Saudi women like even less than not having certain rights is to have hypocritical Americans patronize them.

The moment when America should have used its influence to help Saudi women came on Nov. 6, 1990, as U.S. forces gathered in the kingdom to go to war in Iraq the first time. Inspired by the U.S. troops, including female soldiers, 47 women from the Saudi intelligentsia took the wheels from their brothers and husbands and drove until the police stopped them.

They were branded "whores" and "harlots" by Saudi clerics, had their passports revoked, and were ostracized from society for a dozen years. Even their husbands suffered.

The experience made them more angry at the U.S. than at their own rulers. They feel that the Bushes play up the repression of women in the Middle East when it suits their desire to bang the war drums, but do not care what happens to women once the ideological agenda has been achieved.

They feel the administration and the American media have emphasized the repression of Saudi women post-9/11 as a way to demonize Saudi Arabia and paint Saudi men as bullies and terrorists.

When Ms. Hughes goes to Saudi Arabia to introduce herself as "a mom" and to talk about Americans as people of faith, guzzling fuel all the way in a country getting flush selling us oil, I think we can consider it taxpayer money well spent.

W. doesn't really need to worry about turning down the lights in the White House. The place is already totally in the dark.

(*) (*) Among other insights, Maureen really nailed it with, "One thing Saudi women like even less than not having certain rights is to have hypocritical Americans patronize them." (*) (*)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-01-2005, 05:41 AM
21 Variations on "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-haa!"


(*) (*) ;) ;)

(k) (k) 's,


10-01-2005, 05:43 AM
Tomdispatch Interview: Cindy Sheehan, Our Imploding President

Katrina Will Be Bush's Monica
A Tomdispatch Interview with Cindy Sheehan

My brief immersion in the almost unimaginable life of Cindy Sheehan begins on the Friday before the massive antiwar march past the White House. I take a cab to an address somewhere at the edge of Washington DC -- a city I don't know well -- where I'm to have a quiet hour with her. Finding myself on a porch filled with peace signs and vases of roses (assumedly sent for Sheehan), I ring the doorbell, only to be greeted by two barking dogs but no human beings. Checking my cell phone, I discover a message back in New York from someone helping Sheehan out. Good Morning America has just called; plans have changed. Can I make it to Constitution and 15th by five? I rush to the nearest major street and, from a bus stop, fruitlessly attempt to hail a cab. The only empty one passes me by and a young black man next to me offers an apologetic commentary: "I hate to say this, but they probably think you're hailing it for me and they don't want to pick me up." On his recommendation, I board a bus, leaping off (twenty blocks of crawl later) at the sight of a hotel with a cab stand.

A few minutes before five, I'm finally standing under the Washington monument, beneath a cloud-dotted sky, in front of "Camp Casey," a white tent with a blazing red "Bring them home tour" banner. Behind the tent is a display of banged-up, empty soldiers' boots; and then, stretching almost as far as the eye can see or the heart can feel, a lawn of small white crosses, nearly two thousand of them, some with tiny American flags planted in the nearby ground. In front of the serried ranks of crosses is a battered looking metal map of the United States rising off a rusty base. Cut out of it are the letters, "America in Iraq, killed ___, wounded ___." (It's wrenching to note that, on this strange sculpture with eternal letters of air, only the figures of 1,910 dead and 14,700 wounded seem ephemeral, written as they are in white chalk over a smeared chalk background, evidence of numerous erasures.)

This is, at the moment, Ground Zero for the singular movement of Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey, who was killed in Sadr City, Baghdad on April 4, 2004, only a few days after arriving in Iraq. Her movement began in the shadows and on the Internet, but burst out of a roadside ditch in Crawford, Texas, and, right now, actually seems capable of changing the political map of America. When I arrive, Sheehan is a distant figure, walking with a crew from Good Morning America amid the white crosses. I'm told by Jodie, a stalwart of Code Pink, the women's antiwar group, in a flamboyant pink-feathered hat, just to hang in there along with Joan Baez, assorted parents of soldiers, vets, admirers, tourists, press people, and who knows who else.

As Sheehan approaches, she's mobbed. She hugs some of her greeters, poses for photos with others, listens briefly while people tell her they came all the way from California or Colorado just to see her, and accepts the literal T-shirt off the back of a man, possibly a vet, with a bandana around his forehead, who wants to give her "the shirt off my back." She is brief and utterly patient. She offers a word to everyone and anyone. At one point, a man shoves a camera in my hand so that he and his family can have proof of this moment -- as if Cindy Sheehan were already some kind of national monument, which in a way she is.

But, of course, she's also one human being, even if she's on what the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton would call a "survivor mission" for her son. Exhaustion visibly inhabits her face. (Later, she'll say to me, "Most people, if they came with me for a day, would be in a coma by eleven A.M.") She wears a tie-dyed, purple T-shirt with "Veterans for Peace" on the front and "waging peace" on the back. Her size surprises me. She's imposing, far taller than I expected, taller certainly than my modest five-foot, six inches. Perhaps I'm startled only because I'd filed her away -- despite every strong commentary I'd read by her – as a grieving mother and so, somehow, a diminished creature.

And then, suddenly, a few minutes after five, Jodie is hustling me into the backseat of a car with Cindy Sheehan beside me, and Joan Baez beside her. Cindy's sister Dede, who wears an "Anything war can do, peace can do better" T-shirt and says to me later, "I'm the behind-the-scenes one, I'm the quiet one," climbs into the front seat. As soon as the car leaves the curb, Cindy turns to me: "We better get started."

"Now?" I ask, flustered at the thought of interviewing her under such chaotic conditions. She offers a tired nod -- I'm surely the 900th person of this day -- and says, "It's the only way it'll happen." And so, with my notebook (tiny printed questions scattered across several pages) on my knees, clutching my two cheap tape recorders for dear life and shoving them towards her, we begin:

Tomdispatch: You've said that the failed bookends of George Bush's presidency are Iraq and Katrina. And here we are with parts of New Orleans flooded again. Where exactly do you see us today?

Cindy Sheehan: Well, the invasion of Iraq was a serious mistake, and the invasion and occupation have been seriously mismanaged. The troops don't have what they need. The money's being dropped into the pockets of war profiteers and not getting to our soldiers. It's a political war. Not only should we not be there, it's making our country very vulnerable. It's creating enemies for our children's children. Killing innocent Arabic Muslims, who had no animosity towards the United States and meant us no harm, is only creating more problems for us.

Katrina was a natural disaster that nobody could help, but the man-made disaster afterwards was just horrible. I mean, number one, all our resources are in Iraq. Number two, what little resources we did have were deployed far too late. George Bush was golfing and eating birthday cake with John McCain while people were hanging off their houses praying to be rescued. He's so disconnected from this country -- and from reality. I heard a line yesterday that I thought was perfect. This man said he thinks Katrina will be Bush's Monica. Only worse.

TD: It seems logical that the families of dead soldiers should lead an antiwar movement, but historically it's almost unique. I wondered if you had given some thought to why it happened here and now.

CS: That's like people asking me, "Why didn't anybody ever think of going to George Bush's ranch to protest anything?"

TD: I was going to ask you that too…

CS: [Laughs.] I don't know. I just thought of it and went down to do it. It was so serendipitous. I was supposed to go to England for a week in August to do Downing Street [Memo] events with [Congressman] John Conyers. That got cancelled. I was supposed to go to Arkansas for a four-day convention. That got cancelled. So I had my whole month free. I was going to be in Dallas for the Veteran's for Peace convention. The last straw was on Wednesday, August 3 -- the fourteen Marines who were killed and George Bush saying that all of our soldiers had died for a noble cause and we had to honor the sacrifices of the fallen by continuing the mission. I had just had it. That was enough and I had this idea to go to Crawford.

The first day we were there -- this is how unplanned it was -- we were sitting in lawn chairs, about six of us, underneath the stars with one flashlight between us, and we were going to the bathroom in a ten-gallon bucket.

DeDe: Five-gallon…

CS: A Five-gallon bucket, sorry. So that's how well planned this action was. We just planned it as we were going along and, for something so spontaneous, it turned out to be incredibly powerful and successful. It's hard for some people to believe how spontaneous it was.

TD: You've written that George Bush refusing to meet with you was the spark that lit the prairie fire -- and that his not doing so reflected his cowardice. You also said that if he had met you that fatal… fateful day…

Joan Baez: Fatal day…

TD: Fatal -- it was fatal for him -- things might have turned out quite differently.

CS: If he had met with me, I know he would have lied to me. I would have called him on his lies and it wouldn't have been a good meeting, but I would have left Crawford. I would have written about it, probably done a few interviews, but it wouldn't have sparked this exciting, organic, huge peace movement. So he really did the peace movement a favor by not meeting with me.

TD: I thought his fatal blunder was to send out [National Security Advisor Stephen] Hadley and [Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joe] Hagin as if you were the prime minister of Poland. [She laughs.] And it suddenly made you in terms of the media…

CS: …credible.

TD: So what did Hadley and Hagen say to you?

CS: They said, "What do you want to tell the President?" I said, "I want to ask the President, what is the noble cause my son died for?" And they kept telling me: Keep America safe from terrorism for freedom and democracy. Blah-blah-blah… all the excuses I wasn't going to take, except from the President. Then we talked about weapons of mass destruction and the lack thereof, about how they had really believed it. I was: Well, really, Mr. Stephen (Yellowcake Uranium) Hadley… I finally said, "This is a waste of time. I might be a grieving mother, but I'm not stupid. I'm very well informed and I want to meet with the President." And so they said, "Okay, we'll pass on your concerns to the President."

They said at one point, "We didn't come out here thinking we'd change your mind on policy." And I said, "Yes you did." They thought they were going to intimidate me, that they were going to impress me with the high level of administration official they had sent out, and after they explained everything to me, I was going to go [her voice becomes liltingly mocking], "Ohhhh, I really never saw it that way. Okay, let's go guys." You know, that's exactly what they thought they were going to do to me. And I believe it was a move that did backfire because, as you said, it gave me credibility and then, all of a sudden, the White House press corps thought this might be a story worth covering.

TD: What was that like? I had been reading your stuff on the Internet for over a year, but…

CS: I think in progressive circles I was very well known. But all of a sudden I was known all over the world. My daughters were in Europe when my mother had her stroke. My husband and I decided not to tell the girls. We didn't want to ruin their vacation, but they saw it on TV. So it really just spread like wildfire. And not only did it bring wanted attention, it brought unwanted attention from the right-wing media. But that didn't affect me, that didn't harm me at all.

I'd been doing this a long time. I'd been on Wolf Blitzer, Chris Mathews, all those shows. I'd done press conferences. It was just the intensity that spiked up. But my message has always remained the same. I didn't just fall off some pumpkin truck on August 6th and start doing this. The media couldn't believe someone like me could be so articulate and intelligent and have my own message. Number one, I'm a woman; number two, I'm a grieving mother; so they had the urge to marginalize me, to pretend like somebody's pulling my strings. Our President's not even articulate and intelligent. Someone must be pulling his strings, so someone must be pulling Cindy Sheehan's too. That offended me. Oh my gosh, you think someone has to put words into my mouth! [She laughs.] Do some research!

TD: Did you feel they were presenting you without some of your bluntness?

CS: God forbid anybody speak bluntly or tell the truth. Teresa Heinz Kerry, they marginalized her too because she always spoke her mind.

TD: Would you like to speak about your bluntness a little because words you use like "war crimes" aren't ones Americans hear often.

CS: All you have to do is look at the Nuremberg Tribunal or the Geneva Conventions. Clearly they've committed war crimes. Clearly. It's black and white. It's not me coming up with this abstract idea. It's like, well, did you put a bullet in that person's head or didn't you? "Yes I did." Well, that's a crime. It's not shades of grey. They broke every treaty. They broke our own Constitution. They broke Nuremberg. They broke the Geneva Conventions. Everything. And if somebody doesn't say it, does it mean it didn't happen? Somebody has to say it, and I'll say it. I've called George Bush a terrorist. He says a terrorist is somebody who kills innocent people. That's his own definition. So, by George Bush's own definition, he is a terrorist, because there are almost 100,000 innocent Iraqis that have been killed. And innocent Afghanis that have been killed.

And I think a lot of the mainstream opposition is glad I'm saying it, because they don't have to say it. They're not strong enough or brave enough or they think they have something politically at stake. We've had Congress members talk about impeachment and war crimes. I've heard them. But they're the usual suspects. They're marginalized too. They've always been against the war, so we can't listen to them.

You know, I had always admired people like the woman who started Mothers Against Drunk Driving or John Walsh for starting the Adam Walsh Foundation after his son was killed. I thought I could never do anything like that to elevate my suffering or my tragedy, and then, when it happened to me, I found out I did have the strength.

[It's about 5:30 when we pull up at a Hyatt Hotel. Cindy, Dede, and I proceed to the deserted recesses of the hotel's restaurant where Cindy has her first modest meal of the day. The rest of the interview takes place between spoonfuls of soup.]

TD: I've read a lot of articles about you in which your son Casey is identified as an altar boy or an Eagle Scout, but would you be willing to tell me a little more about him?

CS: He was very calm. He never got mad. He never got too wild. One way or the other, he didn't waver much. I have another son and two daughters. He was the oldest one and they just idolized him. He never gave anybody trouble, but he was a procrastinator, the kind of person who, if he had a big project at school, would wait until the day before to do it. But when he had a job -- he worked full time before he went into the Army and he was never late for work or missed a day in two years. I think that's pretty amazing. The reason we talk about him being an altar boy was that church was his number one priority, even when he was away from us in the Army. He helped at the chapel. He never missed Mass. He was an usher. He was a Eucharistic minister. When he was at home, he was heavily involved in my youth ministry.

For eight years I was a youth minister at our parish and for three of those years in high school he was in my youth group; then for three of those years in college he helped me.

TD: Tell me about his decision to join the Army.

CS: A recruiter got hold of him, probably at a vulnerable point in his life, promised him a lot of things, and didn't fulfill one of the promises. It was May of 2000. There was no 9/11. George Bush hadn't even happened. When George Bush became his commander-and-chief, my son's doom was sealed. George Bush wanted to invade Iraq before he was even elected president. While he was still governor of Texas he was talking about: "If I was commander-and-chief, this is what I would do."

Back then, my son was promised a twenty thousand dollar signing bonus. He only got four thousand dollars of that when he finished his advanced training. He was promised a laptop, so he could take classes from wherever he was deployed in the world. He never got that. They promised him he could finish college because he only had one year left when he went in the Army. They would never let him take a class. They promised him he could be a chaplain's assistant which was what he really wanted to do; but, when he got to boot camp, they said that was full and he could be a Humvee mechanic or a cook. So he chose Humvee mechanic. The most awful thing the recruiter promised him was: Even if there was a war, he wouldn't see combat because he scored so high on the ASVAB [Career Exploration] tests. He would only be in war in a support role. He was in Iraq for five days before he was killed in combat.

TD: Did you discuss Iraq with him at all?

CS: Yes we did. He didn't agree with it. Nobody in our family agreed with it. He said, "I wish I didn't have to go, Mom, but I have to. It's my duty and my buddies are going." I believe we as Americans have every right to, and should be willing to, defend our country if we're in danger. But Iraq had nothing to do with keeping America safe. So that's why we disagreed with it. He reenlisted after the invasion of Iraq, because he was told if he didn't, he'd have to go to Iraq anyway -- he'd be stop-lossed -- but if he did, he'd get to choose a new MOS [military specialty] when he got home.

TD: Can you tell me something about your own political background?

CS: I've always been a pretty liberal democrat, but I don't think this issue is partisan. I think it's life and death. Nobody asked Casey what political party he belonged to before they sent him to die in an unjust and immoral war.

TD: You met with Hillary Clinton yesterday, didn't you? What do you think generally of the Democratic... well, whatever it is?

CS: They've been very weak. I think Kerry lost because he didn't come out strong against the war. He came out to be even more of a nightmare than George Bush. You know, we'll put more troops in; I'll hunt down terrorists; I'll kill them! That wasn't the right thing to say. The right thing to say was: This war was wrong; George Bush lied to us; people are dead because of it; they shouldn't be dead; and if I'm elected, I'll do everything to get our troops home as soon as possible. Then, instead of seeing the failure Kerry was with his middle-of-the-road, wishy-washy, cowardly policies, the rest of the Democrats have just kept saying the same things.

Howard Dean came out and said he hopes that the President is successful in Iraq. What's that mean? How can somebody be successful when we have no goals or defined mission or objectives to achieve there? They've been very cowardly and spineless. What we did at Camp Casey was give them some spine. The doors are open to them, Democrats and Republicans alike. As [former Congressman and Win Without War Director] Tom Andrews said, if they won't see the light, they'll feel the heat. And I think they're feeling the heat.

I can see it happening. I can see some Republicans like Chuck Hagel and Walter Jones breaking ranks with the party line. We met with a Republican yesterday -- I don't want to say his name because I don't want to scare him off -- but he seems to be somebody we can work with. Of course, as it gets closer to the congressional elections, we'll be letting his constituents know that he can be worked with.

TD: So you're planning to go into the elections as a force?

CS: It's totally about the war, about their position on the war. If people care about that issue, then that's what they should make it about too. We're starting a "Meet with the Moms" campaign. We're going to target every single congressman and senator to show their constituents exactly where they stand on the war. People in the state of New York, for instance, should look at their senators and say, if you don't come out for bringing our troops home as soon as possible, we're not going to reelect you.

TD: Did Hillary give you any satisfaction at all?

CS: Her position is still to send in more troops and honor the sacrifices of the fallen, which sounds like a Bush position, but the dialogue was open.

TD: Don't you think it's strange, these politicians like [Senator] Joe Biden, for example, who talk about sending in more troops, even though we all know there are no more troops?

CS: Yes... Where you gettin' ‘em? Where you gettin' ‘em? It's crazy. I mean we're going to send more troops in there and leave our country even more vulnerable? Leave us open for attack somewhere else, or to be attacked by natural and man-made disasters again?

TD: You want the troops out now. Bush isn't about to do that, but have you thought about how you would proceed if you could?

CS: When we say now, we don't mean that they can all come home tomorrow. I hope everybody knows that. We have to start by withdrawing our troops from the cities, bringing them to the borders and getting them out. We have to replace our military with something that looks Arabic, something that looks Iraqi, to rebuild their country. You know, they have the technology, they have the skills, but they don't have any jobs right now. How desperate for a job does one have to be to stand in line to apply to the Iraqi National Guard? I mean, they're killed just standing in line! Give the Iraqis as much help and support as they need to rebuild their country which is in chaos. When our military presence leaves, a lot of the violence and insurgency will die. There will be some regional struggles with the different communities in Iraq, but that's happening right now. The British put together a country that should never have been put together. Maybe it should be split into three different countries -- who knows? But that's up to them, not us.

TD: And what do you actually expect? We have three and a half more years of this administration…

CS: No we don't! [She chuckles.] I think Katrina's going to be his Monica. It's not a matter of "if" any more, it's a matter of "when," because clearly… clearly, they're criminals. I mean, look at the people who got the first no-bid contracts to clean-up and rebuild New Orleans. It's Halliburton again. It's crazy. One negative effect of Camp Casey was it took a lot of heat off Karl Rove for his hand in the [Valerie] Plame case. But I hear indictments are coming down soon. So that's one way it's going to come about. George Bush is getting ready to implode. I mean have you seen him lately? He's a man who's out of control.

(*) (*) AMEN.


10-01-2005, 05:47 AM


(*) (*) ;) ;)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-01-2005, 05:51 AM
Whacked Batman:


(*) (*) :o :o TOO FUNNY...... ;)

(k) (k) 's,


10-01-2005, 05:54 AM

(*) (*) (l) (l) ;) ;)

(o) (o) Time to get out and about and it's a gorgeous day.....feels and smells like early Fall. (h)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-06-2005, 02:23 PM
Flying Circus!!


(*) (*) How Cool. (h) (h)

(o) (o) Taking a break from first week (again) of a new quarter. My 18 and 19th graduate courses. The PhD target is Summer, 2007 - not too far away. (h)

({) (}) 's from one tired lady,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-06-2005, 02:27 PM
Okay, every tooth is crowned and was THAT ever expensive! It's been almost two years and I'm still a delighted smiler....... ;) That is, without hand over mouth when I laughed....similar to Geishas...... :o ;)

(with all due respect to geishas especially those lovely silk kimonos.... (l)

Ron Grant, former dental technician and now one of the foremost porcelain artists in the country:


(*) (*) Can you even imagine putting any of these in your mouth??? (6)
Maybe sports' fans.....or maybe I am just not being creative enough here. Let me know which you like?

Not me, at least for now. I like the white, thank you very much. (h)

(k) (k) 's & ({) (}) 's

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-06-2005, 02:31 PM
Coffee warning!


(*) (*) :o :o :o :| :| :| ;) ;) ;)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-06-2005, 02:47 PM
1. http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=2&productId=22006&deptId=38&ensembleId=23147

2. http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=1&productId=24234&deptId=1&ensembleId=26338

3. http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=1&productId=24068&deptId=1&ensembleId=26125

4. http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=1&productId=24068&deptId=1&ensembleId=26125

5. (l) (l) http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=1&productId=23881&deptId=1&ensembleId=25899

6. (l) http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=1&productId=23894&deptId=1&ensembleId=25912

7. http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=1&productId=20074&deptId=1&ensembleId=20616

8. Classy: http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=1&productId=23600&deptId=1&ensembleId=25512

9. I LOVE this! http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=1&productId=23708&deptId=1&ensembleId=25682

10. Retro silk dress: http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=1&productId=24042&deptId=1&ensembleId=26096

11. http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=1&productId=23891&deptId=1&ensembleId=25909

12. Ah, that lovely purple: http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=1&productId=23880&deptId=1&ensembleId=25898

13. Dancing the night away: http://www.coldwatercreek.com/aspx/product.aspx?np=true&channel=1&productId=23108&deptId=1&ensembleId=24826

(l) (l) I didn't buy any.......seriously! I'm thinking about the upcoming conference for PhD learners and the dresses with matching jackets caught my eye - but I have enough in either my closet or still in the boxes they came in a few months back! It's kind of like shopping all over again..... ;)

(o) (o) Time to head back to the virtual stacks AKA google.com.

Have a restful evening.

Love, kisses and hugs,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-06-2005, 02:52 PM
I ordered this recently and can't wait until it arrives:


Boxer Charm Bracelet: These 24kt gold-plate charm bracelets feature beloved breeds and their favorite things. Sumptuously set with genuine Austrian crystals. Bracelets are 7 1/2" in length.

(l) (l) (l) (l) I've been in "I love my Boxer mode" lately! (can ya blame me?)

(k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and her canine Knight, Doc Holliday (l) (l)

10-06-2005, 03:10 PM
Had one, flew one and still can:

1. http://www.stearmanflyin.com/

2. http://www.stearmanworldflight.com/

3. (l) (l) (l) http://www.cavanaughflightmuseum.com/Aircraft/Stearman/Page1.html

4. Even in the Netherlands!! (and I took Dutch in college for some reason): http://www.oldcrow.nl/

5. This is ME!!!!!! http://warbirdalley.com/pt17

6. http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/early_years/ey16.htm

7. Lloyd Stearman was a genious! http://opencockpit.net/stearman.html

(l) (l) (l) (h) (h) (h) Kudos to all aviatrixes!!!! I still use my leather helmet and goggles......sans silk scarf though..... ;) It blocks the view when the wind shifts.

Carpe Diem!!

Sweetlady and Doc Holliday, the handsome Boxer

10-14-2005, 02:25 PM
This is a cool experiment on mouse clicks—or, rather, no mouse clicks. Do we really need to click? Are we just addicted? See if you can work your way through this site without giving in. But if you're itching to click, just try it and see what happens!

It took me about 20 seconds to figure it out and wow! What a cool feature that definitely is more restful for my right hand.....and it would prevent cramping while researching for hours on end like I did today....;-)


(*) (*) (h) (h) (h)

(k) (k) 's


10-14-2005, 02:27 PM
Zigzag into fall on historic railway

OSIER, Colorado (AP) -- Trains on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway start running each year in late May, as soon as snow is cleared from the tracks at Cumbres Pass. But fall -- when the aspen trees are a blaze of gold and the Gambel oaks a brilliant red against the dark green mountains -- is the most popular time for travel on the scenic railroad.

The cinder-spewing steam train, which meanders at 12 mph through the backcountry, is billed as the longest and highest narrow gauge railroad in the country. The 125-year-old railway runs between Antonito, Colorado, and Chama, New Mexico, a 64-mile zigzag back and forth across the state line at elevations reaching 10,000 feet.

The route includes trestles and tunnels, switchbacks and curves, and stunning views of the Toltec Gorge from 600 feet above the river that helped carve it, the Rio de los Pinos.

Everyone has a reserved seat, in coaches or a fancier parlor car. But it's more fun to stand in the open observation car -- swaying, squinting, and trying to dodge the occasional blast of acrid smoke from the coal-fired steam locomotive.

"I see something new every time I come through here," said Jim Ward, an enthusiastic docent aboard the train who has spotted deer, elk, bear and fox during his trips this summer.

The trip takes about six hours -- including a lunch stop. The season ends October 16.

Cattle, sheep, lumber, coal, oil and mail once were hauled over this line, which was built in 1880 and once was part of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad -- as was the Durango-to-Silverton line in Colorado, which now also operates as a scenic railway.

The Cumbres & Toltec is just one of more than 150 tourist trains operating around the nation, according to Dan Ranger, executive director of the Tourist Railway Association, or TRAIN, an information clearinghouse for such railroads.

But he said only about 15 others are narrow gauge -- 3 feet between the rails, good for climbing steep terrain and popular with the lumber and mining industries in the late 1800s.

This year, about 40,000 passengers are expected to ride the Cumbres & Toltec, which is jointly owned by New Mexico and Colorado.

Trains typically leave simultaneously from Chama and Antonito and meet in the middle for a break in the old stagecoach town of Osier -- now a sprinkling of historic structures alongside a cavernous, modern-day dining hall.

Lunch consists of turkey and all the trimmings, meat loaf, soup and salad bar, or mix and match. Desserts include chocolate cake, peach cobbler and buttermilk pie.

Passengers switch trains at Osier if they're going all the way to the end of the line, or re-board the same train if they're just making a round trip to Osier.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, summer monsoon rains that coincided with lunch kept the Antonito train's passengers in the dining hall during the wait for the Chama crowd. The tourists talked, read, poked around in the gift shop, or sprawled on the benches of the long dining tables, backpacks under their heads.

Wanda Burger and her husband, George, a retired firefighter, from Pilot Point, Texas, had four grandchildren in tow: Brittney, 11, Brenden, 10, and Branson and Bryson, both 8.

The train trip "is fantastic for grandparents, because you get to see their enjoyment," Burger said.

Find this article at:

(*) (*) :o :o (h) (h)

({) (}) 's,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-14-2005, 02:31 PM
October 3, 2005

Good Energy


Subject: look at the time! - can't sleep

Date: 10/03/2005 3:24 a.m. eastern daylight time

From: pilateguy@hedgemail.com

To: stillfishing@probono.org

Dear Micki and Stan,

I've decided that we will not be coming to Shelley's wedding in December. (By the way, congratulations again on this wonderful event in your lives. You should be very proud and happy with how terrifically things have turned out.) Unfortunately for us, a wedding in Westport would require non-essential driving and I must honor President Bush's wishes to limit the amount of energy I consume in order to do my part during these difficult and challenging times for our country.

I realize that if all of your guests felt the same way, there would be tremendous consequences for many decent, hard-working people. The tuxedo-rental industry, the caterers, waiters, musicians, florists and table linen people would all lose important income. But when I think of the energy saved in dry cleaning alone, it warms my heart to think I can help make a difference with a personal commitment against wasteful consumption and reckless indulgence in our sick culture.

Needless to say, we'll be with you in spirit and a handsome gift will be sent.

On that note, I've looked at all of Shelley and Michael's bridal registry sites on line and though I think their china pattern is absolutely gorgeous, I'm reluctant to go in that direction because it will involve delivery by one of the nation's leading shipping companies. That kind of non-essential driving is problematic for me at this time, especially given the low gas mileage those trucks undoubtedly get.

I'd appreciate the wiring instructions to the appropriate bank account so I can electronically transfer energy-free funds directly. I'll leave it up to their discretion how to spend, or donate, said monies.

Things are good here, thank God. We had a marvelous summer. The addition finally got finished in Sagaponack. You must plan to come out one weekend. Other than the traffic, it's pure heaven. To think I had the foresight to buy so long before the bubble. And to stay north of the highway, far from any potential beach erosion and the inevitable future storm consequences.

Have to admit I feel a bit guilty heating and cooling a 12,560-square-foot second home, but this winter we're letting Juan and Maria stay in the main house while the gatehouse is being steel-reinforced and rewired for the property's new security system.

To think I was the first person to have a solar pool cover!

Like everyone else, I'm so concerned about the state of the world. I so want to believe the war is important and I think I still do. I'm very worried about the polar ice cap. We didn't get all the way up there on our Alaska cruise but I hear it's melting big-time.

One thing puzzles me the most. Why has no one come out against auto racing? Every weekend in this county, millions of people get in their silly souped-up cars and drive to huge stadiums to watch other people drive around in circles at ridiculously high speeds. There's no way those race cars are fuel-efficient.

Anyway, congratulations again. Let me know if you ever decide to not drive into the city to use your opera subscription.

Much love.

P.S. Did I tell you I'm getting a gun?

Rick Moranis, the creator of rickmoranis.com, has released a country music album, "The Agoraphobic Cowboy."

(*) (*) ;) ;) ;)

(k) (k) 's,


10-16-2005, 03:13 PM
I don't know if this is the right place to put this or not....heck most of you will probably think I lost my mind. I'll be 41 this year, so I'm not quite a youngster.....but growing up, I didn't know any other lesbians, let alone butches.....I didn't have the internet or any kind of social interaction with other lesbians until I left home and joined the Army.

I just watched a documentary called "Lesbian Love, Forbidden Love" and it was basically a history of lesbians in the US and the butch-femme dynamic. Most of the women on here were 50 or older.

I just wanted to say to those of you that fall into that age group and went through those things in the 40s-70s....thank you....from the very bottom of my heart. Everything you did to try and live your life and be happy, made it easier for me to be me.

I wish I had known you folks when I was a kid, but though I didn't have the privilege.....I will always be grateful to you. I hope that some little thing I do in my life will make a difference for the kids that come after me.

Thank You Ladies


10-17-2005, 10:46 AM
I don't know if this is the right place to put this or not....heck most of you will probably think I lost my mind. I'll be 41 this year, so I'm not quite a youngster.....but growing up, I didn't know any other lesbians, let alone butches.....I didn't have the internet or any kind of social interaction with other lesbians until I left home and joined the Army.

I just watched a documentary called "Lesbian Love, Forbidden Love" and it was basically a history of lesbians in the US and the butch-femme dynamic. Most of the women on here were 50 or older.

I just wanted to say to those of you that fall into that age group and went through those things in the 40s-70s....thank you....from the very bottom of my heart. Everything you did to try and live your life and be happy, made it easier for me to be me.

I wish I had known you folks when I was a kid, but though I didn't have the privilege.....I will always be grateful to you. I hope that some little thing I do in my life will make a difference for the kids that come after me.

Thank You Ladies


Hello Wolf,

Thanks for your post......you're welcome to post here anytime and I'm sure that any other B-F web site member would welcome you too.

Have a lovely rest of your week. (f) (f)

Warmest wishes and ({) (}) 's,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-17-2005, 10:47 AM

October 12, 2005 - Has prolific filmmaker Steven Spielberg invented new technology that will define the future of cinema? That's what he told The Hollywood Reporter during a recent chat.

The patent, Spielly says, is pending and he can't give any concrete details, but whatever it is it seems to be something that will give audiences a totally immersive experience.

"A good movie will bring you inside of itself just by the sheer brilliance of the director/writer/production staff," he says. "But in the future, you will physically be inside the experience, which will surround you top, bottom, on all sides. ... I've invented it, but because patent is pending, I can't discuss it right now."

So, all this begs the question: What the hell is it!? Send us your ideas and let's get to the bottom of it. This could be like Dean Kamen's Segway all over again, but let's hope the pay-off is a little better... okay, a lot better.

Maybe it's something similar to the digital 3-D technology that Disney is unveiling with Chicken Little, but it sounds more immersive than that. Maybe it's next-generation "smell-o-vision," or maybe it's a first-generation "holodeck." Let's just hope it's not some virtual reality helmet. That would be so '90s.

Spielberg is known to love working with celluloid, but he's also been a pioneer in the digital age, making films with groundbreaking CG effects like Jurassic Park and cofounding the high-tech gaming/entertainment chain GameWorks.

We'll be keeping our eyes peeled for news on Spielberg's secret project.

**......from a long-time girl-propeller-head: holographic storage, 3D animation and lots of other enabling technologies.....ah, they just get me jazzed....I also love the "old-fashioned" claymation processes that made Wallace and Gromitt possible.

(*) (*) (l) (l) (h) (h) ;)

(k) (k) 's and ({) (}) 's,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-17-2005, 10:48 AM
October 12, 2005

Op-Ed Columnist

To Sir, With Love



W. was the best Harry ever had.

"You are the best Governor ever - deserving of great respect!" gushed Harriet Miers, then the Texas Lottery chief, to George W. Bush in 1997. The belated birthday card she sent her boss had a sheepishly eager puppy poking his head up and a poem that read: "This is the wish/That should have been sent/Before your birthday/Came and went."

According to a cache of mash notes released by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in response to formal requests from The Times and other news organizations, Ms. Miers also told W. that he was "cool" and "the best!"; that he and Laura were "the greatest"; that Texas was "in great hands"; and that the governor should "keep up the great work. Texas is blessed."

Since there is no breathtaking Miers judicial record to pore over, I was eager to read more breathless Miers missives to a president she describes as the most brilliant man she has ever met. How could I get the notes from the White House, given how opposed Mr. Bush is to leaks? I called Scooter and Karl and they sent the secret documents right over.

August 2001 "Thank you so much for letting me bundle up and drag away the brush that you cut down today. And if I might add, Sir, I've never seen a man wield the nippers so judiciously. It was awesome! You are the best brush cutter ever!!"

September 2001 "I found out today that you handed down a decision for the White House mess to offer three different kinds of jelly with its P.B.&J. sandwiches. Sweet!! As you know, I'm the only member of the staff who eats three meals a day in the mess. Now I get to have a different type of jelly at every meal! The mess is blessed to have a president who cares so much. I know I'm probably just flattering myself, but I like to think that you are thinking of me, also. (Smile.)

"P.S. Can you believe Condi cares more about W.M.D.'s than P.B.&J.'s?"

April 2002 "I was worried that it could go unstated in the rush of business around here, but I just wanted to pause and say how amazing it is that, after doing so much for the American people already, you keep showing up for work most days. We have to come, but you choose to. You're the hardest-working president ever!!"

October 2002 "I'm not sure Condi has made the time to thank you herself, so I just wanted to say how much we appreciated the tickets to 'Madame Butterfly' on Saturday night. I wore my long black robe - I mean, opera cape. I just wish it had had that song from 'The Sound of Music' - I know you love it, too - 'Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels. ...' You're one of my favorite things, sir!"

January 2003 "Just a quick note to say how cool it is that you picked Brownie to head FEMA. There's nothing like having someone you know and trust in a top job. Your gut is the best judge ever!!"

April 2004 "There is no other president who would have had the courage to allow torture, dude! (It's only too bad that Abu Ghraib rules out Alberto's chances of getting on the Supreme Court.) You are the best torturer ever!! xo, H."

June 2005 "Make sure you take a good, long vacation this summer! Last year, you only took two weeks. You are pushing yourself way too hard, Sir!!"

August 2005 "I've half a mind to come down there myself and chase that witch, Cindy Sheehan, off your property with an injunction!! Yours, with you in Christ, Harriet."

September 2005 "In all this fuss about that bad-girl buttinsky Katrina, no one else seems to have noticed - not even Karen - that you've achieved your bold vision of losing that seven pounds. That extra week of mountain biking was so much more important than people realize. You're the most chiseled commander in chief ever, and the most rad guitar player ever!!"

October 2005 "How can I thank you, Sir? I never, ever expected the Supreme Court. Phat! I hope Clarence doesn't make me watch 'Debbie Does Dallas' again. That movie is so anti-Texas! I miss you already!!

"But now I will be able to serve your interests - and those of your family - forever and ever. If there's another recount you need help with, count on me. They say I don't have experience, but I've had the experience of polishing the boots of the wisest ruler since Solomon. I may not know stare decisis, but I know when to be starry-eyed. I await your instructions, Master."

(*) (*) (*) I just love her sense of humor.....what WILL we do in 2008 without such hilarious targets? Poor neocons - the religious right conservatives must be "busting a gasket"....LOL! ;) (6) (6)

Carpe Diem!
Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-17-2005, 10:49 AM
October 16, 2005

Meet the Life Hackers


In 2000, Gloria Mark was hired as a professor at the University of California at Irvine. Until then, she was working as a researcher, living a life of comparative peace. She would spend her days in her lab, enjoying the sense of serene focus that comes from immersing yourself for hours at a time in a single project. But when her faculty job began, that all ended. Mark would arrive at her desk in the morning, full of energy and ready to tackle her to-do list - only to suffer an endless stream of interruptions. No sooner had she started one task than a colleague would e-mail her with an urgent request; when she went to work on that, the phone would ring. At the end of the day, she had been so constantly distracted that she would have accomplished only a fraction of what she set out to do. "Madness," she thought. "I'm trying to do 30 things at once."

Lots of people complain that office multitasking drives them nuts. But Mark is a scientist of "human-computer interactions" who studies how high-tech devices affect our behavior, so she was able to do more than complain: she set out to measure precisely how nuts we've all become. Beginning in 2004, she persuaded two West Coast high-tech firms to let her study their cubicle dwellers as they surfed the chaos of modern office life. One of her grad students, Victor Gonzalez, sat looking over the shoulder of various employees all day long, for a total of more than 1,000 hours. He noted how many times the employees were interrupted and how long each employee was able to work on any individual task.

When Mark crunched the data, a picture of 21st-century office work emerged that was, she says, "far worse than I could ever have imagined." Each employee spent only 11 minutes on any given project before being interrupted and whisked off to do something else. What's more, each 11-minute project was itself fragmented into even shorter three-minute tasks, like answering e-mail messages, reading a Web page or working on a spreadsheet. And each time a worker was distracted from a task, it would take, on average, 25 minutes to return to that task. To perform an office job today, it seems, your attention must skip like a stone across water all day long, touching down only periodically.

Yet while interruptions are annoying, Mark's study also revealed their flip side: they are often crucial to office work. Sure, the high-tech workers grumbled and moaned about disruptions, and they all claimed that they preferred to work in long, luxurious stretches. But they grudgingly admitted that many of their daily distractions were essential to their jobs. When someone forwards you an urgent e-mail message, it's often something you really do need to see; if a cellphone call breaks through while you're desperately trying to solve a problem, it might be the call that saves your hide. In the language of computer sociology, our jobs today are "interrupt driven." Distractions are not just a plague on our work - sometimes they are our work. To be cut off from other workers is to be cut off from everything.

For a small cadre of computer engineers and academics, this realization has begun to raise an enticing possibility: perhaps we can find an ideal middle ground. If high-tech work distractions are inevitable, then maybe we can re-engineer them so we receive all of their benefits but few of their downsides. Is there such a thing as a perfect interruption?

Mary Czerwinski first confronted this question while working, oddly enough, in outer space. She is one of the world's leading experts in interruption science, and she was hired in 1989 by Lockheed to help NASA design the information systems for the International Space Station. NASA had a problem: how do you deliver an interruption to a busy astronaut? On the space station, astronauts must attend to dozens of experiments while also monitoring the station's warning systems for potentially fatal mechanical errors. NASA wanted to ensure that its warnings were perfectly tuned to the human attention span: if a warning was too distracting, it could throw off the astronauts and cause them to mess up million-dollar experiments. But if the warnings were too subtle and unobtrusive, they might go unnoticed, which would be even worse. The NASA engineers needed something that would split the difference.

Czerwinski noticed that all the information the astronauts received came to them as plain text and numbers. She began experimenting with different types of interruptions and found that it was the style of delivery that was crucial. Hit an astronaut with a textual interruption, and he was likely to ignore it, because it would simply fade into the text-filled screens he was already staring at. Blast a horn and he would definitely notice it - but at the cost of jangling his nerves. Czerwinski proposed a third way: a visual graphic, like a pentagram whose sides changed color based on the type of problem at hand, a solution different enough from the screens of text to break through the clutter.

The science of interruptions began more than 100 years ago, with the emergence of telegraph operators - the first high-stress, time-sensitive information-technology jobs. Psychologists discovered that if someone spoke to a telegraph operator while he was keying a message, the operator was more likely to make errors; his cognition was scrambled by mentally "switching channels." Later, psychologists determined that whenever workers needed to focus on a job that required the monitoring of data, presentation was all-important. Using this knowledge, cockpits for fighter pilots were meticulously planned so that each dial and meter could be read at a glance.

Still, such issues seemed remote from the lives of everyday workers - even information workers - simply because everyday work did not require parsing screenfuls of information. In the 90's, this began to change, and change quickly. As they became ubiquitous in the workplace, computers, which had until then been little more than glorified word-processors and calculators, began to experience a rapid increase in speed and power. "Multitasking" was born; instead of simply working on one program for hours at a time, a computer user could work on several different ones simultaneously. Corporations seized on this as a way to squeeze more productivity out of each worker, and technology companies like Microsoft obliged them by transforming the computer into a hub for every conceivable office task, and laying on the available information with a trowel. The Internet accelerated this trend even further, since it turned the computer from a sealed box into our primary tool for communication. As a result, office denizens now stare at computer screens of mind-boggling complexity, as they juggle messages, text documents, PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets and Web browsers all at once. In the modern office we are all fighter pilots.

Information is no longer a scarce resource - attention is. David Rose, a Cambridge, Mass.-based expert on computer interfaces, likes to point out that 20 years ago, an office worker had only two types of communication technology: a phone, which required an instant answer, and postal mail, which took days. "Now we have dozens of possibilities between those poles," Rose says. How fast are you supposed to reply to an e-mail message? Or an instant message? Computer-based interruptions fall into a sort of Heisenbergian uncertainty trap: it is difficult to know whether an e-mail message is worth interrupting your work for unless you open and read it - at which point you have, of course, interrupted yourself. Our software tools were essentially designed to compete with one another for our attention, like needy toddlers.

The upshot is something that Linda Stone, a software executive who has worked for both Apple and Microsoft, calls "continuous partial attention": we are so busy keeping tabs on everything that we never focus on anything. This can actually be a positive feeling, inasmuch as the constant pinging makes us feel needed and desired. The reason many interruptions seem impossible to ignore is that they are about relationships - someone, or something, is calling out to us. It is why we have such complex emotions about the chaos of the modern office, feeling alternately drained by its demands and exhilarated when we successfully surf the flood.

"It makes us feel alive," Stone says. "It's what makes us feel important. We just want to connect, connect, connect. But what happens when you take that to the extreme? You get overconnected." Sanity lies on the path down the center - if only there was some way to find it.

It is this middle path that Czerwinski and her generation of computer scientists are now trying to divine. When I first met her in the corridors of Microsoft, she struck me as a strange person to be studying the art of focusing, because she seemed almost attention-deficit disordered herself: a 44-year-old with a pageboy haircut and the electric body language of a teenager. "I'm such a spaz," she said, as we went bounding down the hallways to the cafeteria for a "bio-break." When she ushered me into her office, it was a perfect Exhibit A of the go-go computer-driven life: she had not one but three enormous computer screens, festooned with perhaps 30 open windows - a bunch of e-mail messages, several instant messages and dozens of Web pages. Czerwinski says she regards 20 solid minutes of uninterrupted work as a major triumph; often she'll stay in her office for hours after work, crunching data, since that's the only time her outside distractions wane.

In 1997, Microsoft recruited Czerwinski to join Microsoft Research Labs, a special division of the firm where she and other eggheads would be allowed to conduct basic research into how computers affect human behavior. Czerwinski discovered that the computer industry was still strangely ignorant of how people really used their computers. Microsoft had sold tens of millions of copies of its software but had never closely studied its users' rhythms of work and interruption. How long did they linger on a single document? What interrupted them while they were working, and why?

To figure this out, she took a handful of volunteers and installed software on their computers that would virtually shadow them all day long, recording every mouse click. She discovered that computer users were as restless as hummingbirds. On average, they juggled eight different windows at the same time - a few e-mail messages, maybe a Web page or two and a PowerPoint document. More astonishing, they would spend barely 20 seconds looking at one window before flipping to another.

Why the constant shifting? In part it was because of the basic way that today's computers are laid out. A computer screen offers very little visual real estate. It is like working at a desk so small that you can look at only a single sheet of paper at a time. A Microsoft Word document can cover almost an entire screen. Once you begin multitasking, a computer desktop very quickly becomes buried in detritus.

This is part of the reason that, when someone is interrupted, it takes 25 minutes to cycle back to the original task. Once their work becomes buried beneath a screenful of interruptions, office workers appear to literally forget what task they were originally pursuing. We do not like to think we are this flighty: we might expect that if we are, say, busily filling out some forms and are suddenly distracted by a phone call, we would quickly return to finish the job. But we don't. Researchers find that 40 percent of the time, workers wander off in a new direction when an interruption ends, distracted by the technological equivalent of shiny objects. The central danger of interruptions, Czerwinski realized, is not really the interruption at all. It is the havoc they wreak with our short-term memory: What the heck was I just doing?

When Gloria Mark and Mary Czerwinski, working separately, looked at the desks of the people they were studying, they each noticed the same thing: Post-it notes. Workers would scrawl hieroglyphic reminders of the tasks they were supposed to be working on ("Test PB patch DAN's PC - Waiting for AL," was one that Mark found). Then they would place them directly in their fields of vision, often in a halo around the edge of their computer screens. The Post-it notes were, in essence, a jury-rigged memory device, intended to rescue users from those moments of mental wandering.

For Mark and Czerwinski, these piecemeal efforts at coping pointed to ways that our high-tech tools could be engineered to be less distracting. When Czerwinski walked around the Microsoft campus, she noticed that many people had attached two or three monitors to their computers. They placed their applications on different screens - the e-mail far off on the right side, a Web browser on the left and their main work project right in the middle - so that each application was "glanceable." When the ding on their e-mail program went off, they could quickly peek over at their in-boxes to see what had arrived.

The workers swore that this arrangement made them feel calmer. But did more screen area actually help with cognition? To find out, Czerwinski's team conducted another experiment. The researchers took 15 volunteers, sat each one in front of a regular-size 15-inch monitor and had them complete a variety of tasks designed to challenge their powers of concentration - like a Web search, some cutting and pasting and memorizing a seven-digit phone number. Then the volunteers repeated these same tasks, this time using a computer with a massive 42-inch screen, as big as a plasma TV.

The results? On the bigger screen, people completed the tasks at least 10 percent more quickly - and some as much as 44 percent more quickly. They were also more likely to remember the seven-digit number, which showed that the multitasking was clearly less taxing on their brains. Some of the volunteers were so enthralled with the huge screen that they begged to take it home. In two decades of research, Czerwinski had never seen a single tweak to a computer system so significantly improve a user's productivity. The clearer your screen, she found, the calmer your mind. So her group began devising tools that maximized screen space by grouping documents and programs together - making it possible to easily spy them out of the corner of your eye, ensuring that you would never forget them in the fog of your interruptions. Another experiment created a tiny round window that floats on one side of the screen; moving dots represent information you need to monitor, like the size of your in-box or an approaching meeting. It looks precisely like the radar screen in a military cockpit.

In late 2003, the technology writer Danny O'Brien decided he was fed up with not getting enough done at work. So he sat down and made a list of 70 of the most "sickeningly overprolific" people he knew, most of whom were software engineers of one kind or another. O'Brien wrote a questionnaire asking them to explain how, precisely, they managed such awesome output. Over the next few weeks they e-mailed their replies, and one night O'Brien sat down at his dining-room table to look for clues. He was hoping that the self-described geeks all shared some common tricks.

He was correct. But their suggestions were surprisingly low-tech. None of them used complex technology to manage their to-do lists: no Palm Pilots, no day-planner software. Instead, they all preferred to find one extremely simple application and shove their entire lives into it. Some of O'Brien's correspondents said they opened up a single document in a word-processing program and used it as an extra brain, dumping in everything they needed to remember - addresses, to-do lists, birthdays - and then just searched through that file when they needed a piece of information. Others used e-mail - mailing themselves a reminder of every task, reasoning that their in-boxes were the one thing they were certain to look at all day long.

In essence, the geeks were approaching their frazzled high-tech lives as engineering problems - and they were not waiting for solutions to emerge from on high, from Microsoft or computer firms. Instead they ginned up a multitude of small-bore fixes to reduce the complexities of life, one at a time, in a rather Martha Stewart-esque fashion.

Many of O'Brien's correspondents, it turned out, were also devotees of "Getting Things Done," a system developed by David Allen, a personal-productivity guru who consults with Fortune 500 corporations and whose seminars fill Silicon Valley auditoriums with anxious worker bees. At the core of Allen's system is the very concept of memory that Mark and Czerwinski hit upon: unless the task you're doing is visible right in front of you, you will half-forget about it when you get distracted, and it will nag at you from your subconscious. Thus, as soon as you are interrupted, Allen says, you need either to quickly deal with the interruption or - if it's going to take longer than two minutes - to faithfully add the new task to your constantly updated to-do list. Once the interruption is over, you immediately check your to-do list and go back to whatever is at the top.

"David Allen essentially offers a program that you can run like software in your head and follow automatically," O'Brien explains. "If this happens, then do this. You behave like a robot, which of course really appeals to geeks."

O'Brien summed up his research in a speech called "Life Hacks," which he delivered in February 2004 at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference. Five hundred conference-goers tried to cram into his session, desperate for tips on managing info chaos. When O'Brien repeated the talk the next year, it was mobbed again. By the summer of 2005, the "life hacks" meme had turned into a full-fledged grass-roots movement. Dozens of "life hacking" Web sites now exist, where followers of the movement trade suggestions on how to reduce chaos. The ideas are often quite clever: O'Brien wrote for himself a program that, whenever he's surfing the Web, pops up a message every 10 minutes demanding to know whether he's procrastinating. It turns out that a certain amount of life-hacking is simply cultivating a monklike ability to say no.

"In fairness, I think we bring some of this on ourselves," says Merlin Mann, the founder of the popular life-hacking site 43folders.com. "We'd rather die than be bored for a few minutes, so we just surround ourselves with distractions. We've got 20,000 digital photos instead of 10 we treasure. We have more TV Tivo'd than we'll ever see." In the last year, Mann has embarked on a 12-step-like triage: he canceled his Netflix account, trimmed his instant-messaging "buddy list" so only close friends can contact him and set his e-mail program to bother him only once an hour. ("Unless you're working in a Korean missile silo, you don't need to check e-mail every two minutes," he argues.)

Mann's most famous hack emerged when he decided to ditch his Palm Pilot and embrace a much simpler organizing style. He bought a deck of 3-by-5-inch index cards, clipped them together with a binder clip and dubbed it "The Hipster P.D.A." - an ultra-low-fi organizer, running on the oldest memory technology around: paper.

In the 1920's, the Russian scientist Bluma Zeigarnik performed an experiment that illustrated an intriguing aspect of interruptions. She had several test subjects work on jigsaw puzzles, then interrupted them at various points. She found that the ones least likely to complete the task were those who had been disrupted at the beginning. Because they hadn't had time to become mentally invested in the task, they had trouble recovering from the distraction. In contrast, those who were interrupted toward the end of the task were more likely to stay on track.

Gloria Mark compares this to the way that people work when they are "co-located" - sitting next to each other in cubicles - versus how they work when they are "distributed," each working from different locations and interacting online. She discovered that people in open-cubicle offices suffer more interruptions than those who work remotely. But they have better interruptions, because their co-workers have a social sense of what they are doing. When you work next to other people, they can sense whether you're deeply immersed, panicking or relatively free and ready to talk - and they interrupt you accordingly.

So why don't computers work this way? Instead of pinging us with e-mail and instant messages the second they arrive, our machines could store them up - to be delivered only at an optimum moment, when our brains are mostly relaxed.

One afternoon I drove across the Microsoft campus to visit a man who is trying to achieve precisely that: a computer that can read your mind. His name is Eric Horvitz, and he is one of Czerwinski's closest colleagues in the lab. For the last eight years, he has been building networks equipped with artificial intelligence (A.I.) that carefully observes a computer user's behavior and then tries to predict that sweet spot - the moment when the user will be mentally free and ready to be interrupted.

Horvitz booted the system up to show me how it works. He pointed to a series of bubbles on his screen, each representing one way the machine observes Horvitz's behavior. For example, it measures how long he's been typing or reading e-mail messages; it notices how long he spends in one program before shifting to another. Even more creepily, Horvitz told me, the A.I. program will - a little like HAL from "2001: A Space Odyssey" - eavesdrop on him with a microphone and spy on him using a Webcam, to try and determine how busy he is, and whether he has company in his office. Sure enough, at one point I peeked into the corner of Horvitz's computer screen and there was a little red indicator glowing.

"It's listening to us," Horvitz said with a grin. "The microphone's on."

It is no simple matter for a computer to recognize a user's "busy state," as it turns out, because everyone is busy in his own way. One programmer who works for Horvitz is busiest when he's silent and typing for extended periods, since that means he's furiously coding. But for a manager or executive, sitting quietly might actually be an indication of time being wasted; managers are more likely to be busy when they are talking or if PowerPoint is running.

In the early days of training Horvitz's A.I., you must clarify when you're most and least interruptible, so the machine can begin to pick up your personal patterns. But after a few days, the fun begins - because the machine takes over and, using what you've taught it, tries to predict your future behavior. Horvitz clicked an onscreen icon for "Paul," an employee working on a laptop in a meeting room down the hall. A little chart popped up. Paul, the A.I. program reported, was currently in between tasks - but it predicted that he would begin checking his e-mail within five minutes. Thus, Horvitz explained, right now would be a great time to e-mail him; you'd be likely to get a quick reply. If you wanted to pay him a visit, the program also predicted that - based on his previous patterns - Paul would be back in his office in 30 minutes.

With these sorts of artificial smarts, computer designers could re-engineer our e-mail programs, our messaging and even our phones so that each tool would work like a personal butler - tiptoeing around us when things are hectic and barging in only when our crises have passed. Horvitz's early prototypes offer an impressive glimpse of what's possible. An e-mail program he produced seven years ago, code-named Priorities, analyzes the content of your incoming e-mail messages and ranks them based on the urgency of the message and your relationship with the sender, then weighs that against how busy you are. Superurgent mail is delivered right away; everything else waits in a queue until you're no longer busy. When Czerwinski first tried the program, it gave her as much as three hours of solid work time before nagging her with a message. The software also determined, to the surprise of at least one Microsoft employee, that e-mail missives from Bill Gates were not necessarily urgent, since Gates tends to write long, discursive notes for employees to meditate on.

This raises a possibility both amusing and disturbing: perhaps if we gave artificial brains more control over our schedules, interruptions would actually decline - because A.I. doesn't panic. We humans are Pavlovian; even though we know we're just pumping ourselves full of stress, we can't help frantically checking our e-mail the instant the bell goes ding. But a machine can resist that temptation, because it thinks in statistics. It knows that only an extremely rare message is so important that we must read it right now.

So will Microsoft bring these calming technologies to our real-world computers? "Could Microsoft do it?" asks David Gelernter, a Yale professor and longtime critic of today's computers. "Yeah. But I don't know if they're motivated by the lust for simplicity that you'd need. They're more interested in piling more and more toys on you."

The near-term answer to the question will come when Vista, Microsoft's new operating system, is released in the fall of 2006. Though Czerwinski and Horvitz are reluctant to speculate on which of their innovations will be included in the new system, Horvitz said that the system will "likely" incorporate some way of detecting how busy you are. But he admitted that "a bunch of features may not be shipping with Vista." He says he believes that Microsoft will eventually tame the interruption-driven workplace, even if it takes a while. "I have viewed the task as a 'moon mission' that I believe that Microsoft can pull off," he says.

By a sizable margin, life hackers are devotees not of Microsoft but of Apple, the company's only real rival in the creation of operating systems - and a company that has often seemed to intuit the need for software that reduces the complexity of the desktop. When Apple launched its latest operating system, Tiger, earlier this year, it introduced a feature called Dashboard - a collection of glanceable programs, each of which performs one simple function, like displaying the weather. Tiger also includes a single-key tool that zooms all open windows into a bingo-card-like grid, uncovering any "lost" ones. A superpowered search application speeds up the laborious task of hunting down a missing file. Microsoft is now playing catch-up; Vista promises many of the same tweaks, although it will most likely add a few new ones as well, including, possibly, a 3-D mode for seeing all the windows you have open.

Apple's computers have long been designed specifically to soothe the confusions of the technologically ignorant. For years, that meant producing computer systems that seemed simpler than the ones Microsoft produced, but were less powerful. When computers moved relatively slowly and the Internet was little used, raw productivity - shoving the most data at the user - mattered most, and Microsoft triumphed in the marketplace. But for many users, simplicity now trumps power. Linda Stone, the software executive who has worked alongside the C.E.O.'s of both Microsoft and Apple, argues that we have shifted eras in computing. Now that multitasking is driving us crazy, we treasure technologies that protect us. We love Google not because it brings us the entire Web but because it filters it out, bringing us the one page we really need. In our new age of overload, the winner is the technology that can hold the world at bay.

Yet the truth is that even Apple might not be up to the task of building the ultimately serene computer. After all, even the geekiest life hackers find they need to trick out their Apples with duct-tape-like solutions; and even that sometimes isn't enough. Some experts argue that the basic design of the computer needs to change: so long as computers deliver information primarily through a monitor, they have an inherent bottleneck - forcing us to squeeze the ocean of our lives through a thin straw. David Rose, the Cambridge designer, suspects that computers need to break away from the screen, delivering information through glanceable sources in the world around us, the way wall clocks tell us the time in an instant. For computers to become truly less interruptive, they might have to cease looking like computers. Until then, those Post-it notes on our monitors are probably here to stay.

(*) (*) I LOVED this! (h) (h)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-17-2005, 01:34 PM
Zigzag into fall on historic railway

OSIER, Colorado (AP) -- Trains on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway start running each year in late May, as soon as snow is cleared from the tracks at Cumbres Pass. But fall -- when the aspen trees are a blaze of gold and the Gambel oaks a brilliant red against the dark green mountains -- is the most popular time for travel on the scenic railroad.

The cinder-spewing steam train, which meanders at 12 mph through the backcountry, is billed as the longest and highest narrow gauge railroad in the country. The 125-year-old railway runs between Antonito, Colorado, and Chama, New Mexico, a 64-mile zigzag back and forth across the state line at elevations reaching 10,000 feet.

The route includes trestles and tunnels, switchbacks and curves, and stunning views of the Toltec Gorge from 600 feet above the river that helped carve it, the Rio de los Pinos.

Everyone has a reserved seat, in coaches or a fancier parlor car. But it's more fun to stand in the open observation car -- swaying, squinting, and trying to dodge the occasional blast of acrid smoke from the coal-fired steam locomotive.

"I see something new every time I come through here," said Jim Ward, an enthusiastic docent aboard the train who has spotted deer, elk, bear and fox during his trips this summer.

The trip takes about six hours -- including a lunch stop. The season ends October 16.

Cattle, sheep, lumber, coal, oil and mail once were hauled over this line, which was built in 1880 and once was part of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad -- as was the Durango-to-Silverton line in Colorado, which now also operates as a scenic railway.

The Cumbres & Toltec is just one of more than 150 tourist trains operating around the nation, according to Dan Ranger, executive director of the Tourist Railway Association, or TRAIN, an information clearinghouse for such railroads.

But he said only about 15 others are narrow gauge -- 3 feet between the rails, good for climbing steep terrain and popular with the lumber and mining industries in the late 1800s.

This year, about 40,000 passengers are expected to ride the Cumbres & Toltec, which is jointly owned by New Mexico and Colorado.

Trains typically leave simultaneously from Chama and Antonito and meet in the middle for a break in the old stagecoach town of Osier -- now a sprinkling of historic structures alongside a cavernous, modern-day dining hall.

Lunch consists of turkey and all the trimmings, meat loaf, soup and salad bar, or mix and match. Desserts include chocolate cake, peach cobbler and buttermilk pie.

Passengers switch trains at Osier if they're going all the way to the end of the line, or re-board the same train if they're just making a round trip to Osier.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, summer monsoon rains that coincided with lunch kept the Antonito train's passengers in the dining hall during the wait for the Chama crowd. The tourists talked, read, poked around in the gift shop, or sprawled on the benches of the long dining tables, backpacks under their heads.

Wanda Burger and her husband, George, a retired firefighter, from Pilot Point, Texas, had four grandchildren in tow: Brittney, 11, Brenden, 10, and Branson and Bryson, both 8.

The train trip "is fantastic for grandparents, because you get to see their enjoyment," Burger said.

Find this article at:

(*) (*) :o :o (h) (h)

({) (}) 's,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

oddly enough, I have never done the train ride

but hey, if you ever make it to New Mexico, I will, k?


10-26-2005, 03:34 PM
10/20/05, Doc had an appointment for blood tests and xrays to make sure that he was still in remission from lymphoma.. A young (not at all Doc's older and more experienced) oncologist decided to palpitate, and take a specimen from a lump on Doc's neck.

Last Friday morning, my beloved pet/child's face got to the point of swelling to the point that an emergency visit to a local hospital was required. Poor Doc's face was so swollen that I was concerned that he might need oxygen to breathe. This is a really bad set-back! Thank goodness I knew about Benadryl and after confirming with his primary oncologist, gave him 50 mgs. every four hours Friday and then Sat. morning. He was much, much better and could see :| :| by Saturday afternoon - the swelling went down that much. (too much histamine was released....)

F.Y I: Canine mass cell tumors:

Doc needs surgery and/or radiation..... :( :( Until I take him to "see" his regular vet on Wed. Nov. 2, I don't know what the next steps are despite massive chemotherapy for most of this year.

I'm not attending my first PhD conference scheduled to start this weekend as a result. I'm too worried about leaving Doc by himself in my hotel suite and/or my SUV. Kennels are out of the question anymore since after chemo, pets can't get their booster shots and their immuno-system is compromised. :(

Just wanted to share where in the world Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer have been lately. (well, Doc's mama also started two courses about a month ago and there's LOTS and weekly assigned readings.) I think I can say that I have officially become a night person AKA lady of the evening. ;) :o :[ :[

({) (}) 's and (k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

10-29-2005, 06:27 AM
10/20/05, Doc had an appointment for blood tests and xrays to make sure that he was still in remission from lymphoma.. A young (not at all Doc's older and more experienced) oncologist decided to palpitate, and take a specimen from a lump on Doc's neck.

Last Friday morning, my beloved pet/child's face got to the point of swelling to the point that an emergency visit to a local hospital was required. Poor Doc's face was so swollen that I was concerned that he might need oxygen to breathe. This is a really bad set-back! Thank goodness I knew about Benadryl and after confirming with his primary oncologist, gave him 50 mgs. every four hours Friday and then Sat. morning. He was much, much better and could see :| :| by Saturday afternoon - the swelling went down that much. (too much histamine was released....)

F.Y I: Canine mass cell tumors:

Doc needs surgery and/or radiation..... :( :( Until I take him to "see" his regular vet on Wed. Nov. 2, I don't know what the next steps are despite massive chemotherapy for most of this year.

I'm not attending my first PhD conference scheduled to start this weekend as a result. I'm too worried about leaving Doc by himself in my hotel suite and/or my SUV. Kennels are out of the question anymore since after chemo, pets can't get their booster shots and their immuno-system is compromised. :(

Just wanted to share where in the world Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer have been lately. (well, Doc's mama also started two courses about a month ago and there's LOTS and weekly assigned readings.) I think I can say that I have officially become a night person AKA lady of the evening. ;) :o :[ :[

({) (}) 's and (k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

Oh darlin... that is so not good. So sorry to hear of this.

As you might recall, I did tell you about Brandy. Our 14 year old boxer pup. Well, we had to put her down last week. And I am grieving something fierce. Did not think I was gonna take it this hard, as I knew she was old and her time was definitely up. She had a great life, a good life. And her last moments were tender and good. The whole clan showed up from around the world to be there, but me. My mother spent the whole last night with her, holding her in her arms.

I am am crying just typing this out to you. So just know, I sort of kind of understand a bit of what you must be feelin, darlin. Sweet Lady, there are no words to really say right now. But know I am with you there in spirit, okay?

Offerin Doc some liver I made just for Him. And a cup of your favourite tea for you. An embroidered hankie... And my broad shoulders to lean upon.

Lady Di

11-06-2005, 09:17 PM
Oh darlin... that is so not good. So sorry to hear of this.

As you might recall, I did tell you about Brandy. Our 14 year old boxer pup. Well, we had to put her down last week. And I am grieving something fierce. Did not think I was gonna take it this hard, as I knew she was old and her time was definitely up. She had a great life, a good life. And her last moments were tender and good. The whole clan showed up from around the world to be there, but me. My mother spent the whole last night with her, holding her in her arms.

I am am crying just typing this out to you. So just know, I sort of kind of understand a bit of what you must be feelin, darlin. Sweet Lady, there are no words to really say right now. But know I am with you there in spirit, okay?

Offerin Doc some liver I made just for Him. And a cup of your favourite tea for you. An embroidered hankie... And my broad shoulders to lean upon.

Lady Di

Oh sweetie, I am so sorry to hear about your beloved pet, Brandy. Fourteen years is such a long time. My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family. (l) (l) (l)

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kindness Lady_Di. Doc's appointment this past Wed. was a long one. However the main oncologist was there and although the lymphoma has come back, Doc did not have a mass cell tumor. Both of his neck lymph nodes were enlarged because of the cancer coming back. The young oncologist made a mistake three weeks ago. :| :| Talk about needless worry about Doc requiring surgery and radiation. :(

I'm sticking with Doc's primary and older oncologists - taking him when THEY are there and not let him be seen by anyone else.

So, last Wed. Doc got two chemo drugs via I.V., a prednizone injection and a pepsid injection. One of the reasons that he was getting so sick is that his calcium was very high - which made his stomach upset. He gets prednizone, pepsid and another tummy med twice a day.

I drive him back this Wed. for Vincristine I.V. and may or may not get the four days of Cytoxin pills to bring home to start giving him on thursday.

What I don't understand is why the intense doubled-up chemo that started July 17th didn't get him back in remission.

Oh well. I have been praying so hard and asking others to keep Doc in their prayers as well.

Thank goodness that this past week was break week from school, although I was supposed to attend my first PhD Colloquia - a one-week conference that is required as a yearly "residency". I even had a hotel suite that allowed me to have Doc with me.

Oh well, I can go to two during 2006 or in 2007 as long as it is before I publish my dissertation. I couldn't take Doc and leave him alone. I was just too scared and worried.

You take good care. Again, prayers, good thoughts and ({) (}) 's from this end of the digital tundra.

Peace, love and light,
Sweetlady and Doc the (now sleeping under my desk) Boxer

11-06-2005, 09:21 PM
Exotic Greenland: Iceberg drinks and Arctic vistas

ILULISSAT, Greenland (AP) -- It is one of the most barren and inhospitable places to live on the planet. Yet the Arctic landscape of Greenland attracts thousands of visitors yearly who marvel at the astounding beauty of icebergs, glaciers and a vast ice cap.

The Kangia fjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site outside this western Greenland town, offers one of the most dramatic views of the forces of nature in motion. Enormous blocks of ice break off with a thunderous roar from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier and into the fjord before beginning their silent 25-mile voyage out to the Arctic Sea.

Tourists wrapped in blankets watch the spectacle from cutters, zigzagging between the massive ice blocks, while others swoop down over the glacier in helicopters.

"I have never seen anything like this. The glacier is fantastic," said Javier Gonzales Garcia, 42, of Barcelona, Spain. "These are mountains like we have in Spain but they are of ice and disappear in the ocean. I will tell my grandchildren about this when I get old."

Some 30,000 tourists visit the world's largest island every year, with the bulk going to Ilulissat, which means "icebergs" in Greenlandic, which is spoken by the indigenous Inuits.

More than 80 percent of visitors come from Denmark, which Greenland is part of as a semiautonomous territory. Other Scandinavians, Germans, French and Britons also find their way here -- although it is considered an extreme destination for them, too.

"Greenland is attracting people who want to try something different, really different," said Hans Peter Poulsen of the Greenland Tourism and Business Council. "There is no mass tourism here."

Traveling to and within Greenland is expensive because of its size and remote location. The island stretches 1,655 miles from south to north, and is four times larger than France. The vast ice cap covers 85 percent of the island.

There are no roads connecting towns and settlements, so transportation is by plane, helicopter and dogsled, or by boat during the ice-free summer.

"The infrastructure is a huge problem and a giant challenge," Poulsen said.
Dogsleds, kayaks, culture

Dogsled rides are offered in Sisimiut or Ilulissat, Greenland's third-largest town, where the 4,400 residents are outnumbered by more than 6,000 sled dogs.

Daring visitors paddle in kayaks between icebergs or camp in tents in the Arctic wilderness. Others hike the 10,560-foot-thick ice cap, or join a photo safari, hoping to snap shots of musk oxen and reindeer on land, or whales and seals at sea.

Don't expect to cross paths with any polar bears, though. Most Greenlanders have never seen one, as the animals seldom venture into populated areas from their habitat in the more inaccessible northern parts.

In coastal towns, tourists can board a cutter or fishing boat for a late-night cruise among the icebergs. They steer you so close you can break off a small chunk of ice, frozen for 100,000 years, and slip it into your drink in the midnight sun.

Visitors can get a taste of the local culture in Kulusuk, a village of 230 people on the thinly populated, wind-swept east coast, where locals perform Inuit drum dances. The village has no paved streets, but there is a modern hotel next to a small airfield.

"The tourists who come here are typically Europeans and Americans on a round trip to the Nordic countries," said Patrick M. Abrahamsen of the Hotel Kulusuk. They come via Reykjavik, the capital of neighboring Iceland, "to get a quick feel of Greenland."

Tourists are not the only ones interested in Greenland. Scientists too, are eyeing it -- but with worry. Many scientists believe the thinning of the ice cap that covers the world's largest island is the result of global warming, with dire implications for various aspects of life here, from fishing to local hunters' dogsledding on the ice-covered fjords and inlets.
More than glaciers and icebergs

In Qassiarsuk, a hamlet near Narsarsuaq, southern Greenland, is a replica of what has been called the first Christian church built in North America, to which Greenland geographically belongs.

The Viking Eric the Red -- whose son Leif Ericson is believed to have landed in North America 500 years before Columbus -- built the tiny 10-foot wooden church with a grass roof next to his home.

Ilulissat, too, has more to offer than calving glaciers and icebergs.

At the mouth of the Kangia fjord is the archaeological site of Sermermiut, where the earliest human settlement on the island was established 4,400 years ago.

In the Ilulissat hinterland, where the rocks are covered by soil and moss, more than 300 different species of plants, including crowberries, lousewort, marsh tea and Niviarsiaq -- Greenland's national flower -- can be found.

Every town or larger village has at least one museum.

Ilulissat has a museum for whaling and fishing, and one for explorer Knud Rasmussen, who documented Eskimo culture in the early 20th century. The permanent exhibit sits in a red wooden house in the middle of the town where he was born in 1879.

Nuuk, the capital 372 miles south of Ilulissat, houses Greenland's National Museum, displaying local history, well-preserved mummies of Inuits, kayaks and other artifacts. Sisimiut, on the Arctic Circle, has an archaeological museum dedicated to the Inuits, who arrived here from Siberia more than 4,000 years ago.

Kangerlussuaq, near Sisimiut, and Narsarsuaq are both former U.S. Air Force bases with permanent exhibits on the American presence there.

Find this article at:

(h) (h)


11-06-2005, 09:22 PM
NFL Scores with IBM Deal for Digitized Footage

October 20, 2005

By Chris Marlowe, Reuters, PC Magazine and Carly Mayberry, Reuters, PC Magazine

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter)—IBM will announce Thursday its creation of a new digital media system for the NFL and NFL Films that will streamline and simplify its production flow while making possible future breakthroughs in the viewing experience.
The solution, called the Digital Foundation, features IBM Total Storage SAN File System technology and Linux and will allow a show producer or host to use a PC and quickly search through a detailed catalog of game plays. Producers can then review that footage in real time, send it on to editors and generate content collections to be accessed and viewed by different producers and hosts simultaneously.
Previously, NFL Films producers like Greg Cosell and hosts like Ron Jaworski and others would have to rely on traditional broadcast systems and manually search through printed NFL game books, view reels of videotapes, note plays on paper logs and manually assemble plays to review later by tape.

"We're creating a centralized way for the NFL to take all of the game footage, digitize it, add all the metadata and make it available for all of the producers to access on a PC," said Steve Canepa, vp IBM Global Media & Entertainment Industry. "That kind of flexibility makes you more efficient for traditional programming and paves the way for next-generation applications."

NFL Films can access exclusive NFL coaches' footage, providing a more extensive analysis for NFL Network's "Playbook" and ESPN's "EA Sports NFL Matchup" television shows. Canepa said working with IBM ultimately will allow every offensive, defensive and special teams play to be available on demand internally and poised to be offered at the consumer level at some future time.
He added that this deal was special because of the value of NFL content, and because in general people can easily understand how "NFL content originates in a stadium, finds its way to a broadcast and moves to all kinds of news outlets and promos on the Web."

Canepa said that because IBM is using industry-standard servers running Linux, the NFL was positioning itself for future growth.
"This system can scale and respond to changes in workflow more easily and efficiently than proprietary or analog approaches," Canepa said. "This prepares the NFL for however their business evolves over time to better exploit the value of their the content."


(h) (h)

(k) (k) 's,

11-06-2005, 09:27 PM
October 30, 2005

What's a Modern Girl to Do?


When I entered college in 1969, women were bursting out of their 50's chrysalis, shedding girdles, padded bras and conventions. The Jazz Age spirit flared in the Age of Aquarius. Women were once again imitating men and acting all independent: smoking, drinking, wanting to earn money and thinking they had the right to be sexual, this time protected by the pill. I didn't fit in with the brazen new world of hard-charging feminists. I was more of a fun-loving (if chaste) type who would decades later come to life in Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw. I hated the grubby, unisex jeans and no-makeup look and drugs that zoned you out, and I couldn't understand the appeal of dances that didn't involve touching your partner. In the universe of Eros, I longed for style and wit. I loved the Art Deco glamour of 30's movies. I wanted to dance the Continental like Fred and Ginger in white hotel suites; drink martinis like Myrna Loy and William Powell; live the life of a screwball heroine like Katharine Hepburn, wearing a gold lamé gown cut on the bias, cavorting with Cary Grant, strolling along Fifth Avenue with my pet leopard.

My mom would just shake her head and tell me that my idea of the 30's was wildly romanticized. "We were poor," she'd say. "We didn't dance around in white hotel suites." I took the idealism and passion of the 60's for granted, simply assuming we were sailing toward perfect equality with men, a utopian world at home and at work. I didn't listen to her when she cautioned me about the chimera of equality.

On my 31st birthday, she sent me a bankbook with a modest nest egg she had saved for me. "I always felt that the girls in a family should get a little more than the boys even though all are equally loved," she wrote in a letter. "They need a little cushion to fall back on. Women can stand on the Empire State Building and scream to the heavens that they are equal to men and liberated, but until they have the same anatomy, it's a lie. It's more of a man's world today than ever. Men can eat their cake in unlimited bakeries."

I thought she was just being Old World, like my favorite jade, Dorothy Parker, when she wrote:

By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying -
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

I thought the struggle for egalitarianism was a cinch, so I could leave it to my earnest sisters in black turtlenecks and Birkenstocks. I figured there was plenty of time for me to get serious later, that America would always be full of passionate and full-throated debate about the big stuff - social issues, sexual equality, civil rights. Little did I realize that the feminist revolution would have the unexpected consequence of intensifying the confusion between the sexes, leaving women in a tangle of dependence and independence as they entered the 21st century.

Maybe we should have known that the story of women's progress would be more of a zigzag than a superhighway, that the triumph of feminism would last a nanosecond while the backlash lasted 40 years.

Despite the best efforts of philosophers, politicians, historians, novelists, screenwriters, linguists, therapists, anthropologists and facilitators, men and women are still in a muddle in the boardroom, the bedroom and the Situation Room.


My mom gave me three essential books on the subject of men. The first, when I was 13, was "On Becoming a Woman." The second, when I was 21, was "365 Ways to Cook Hamburger." The third, when I was 25, was "How to Catch and Hold a Man," by Yvonne Antelle. ("Keep thinking of yourself as a soft, mysterious cat.. . .Men are fascinated by bright, shiny objects, by lots of curls, lots of hair on the head . . . by bows, ribbons, ruffles and bright colors.. . .Sarcasm is dangerous. Avoid it altogether.")

Because I received "How to Catch and Hold a Man" at a time when we were entering the Age of Equality, I put it aside as an anachronism. After all, sometime in the 1960's flirting went out of fashion, as did ironing boards, makeup and the idea that men needed to be "trapped" or "landed." The way to approach men, we reasoned, was forthrightly and without games, artifice or frills. Unfortunately, history has shown this to be a misguided notion.

I knew it even before the 1995 publication of "The Rules," a dating bible that encouraged women to return to prefeminist mind games by playing hard to get. ("Don't stay on the phone for more than 10 minutes.. . .Even if you are the head of your own company. . .when you're with a man you like, be quiet and mysterious, act ladylike, cross your legs and smile.. . .Wear black sheer pantyhose and hike up your skirt to entice the opposite sex!")

I knew this before fashion magazines became crowded with crinolines, bows, ruffles, leopard-skin scarves, 50's party dresses and other sartorial equivalents of flirting and with articles like "The Return of Hard to Get." ("I think it behooves us to stop offering each other these pearls of feminism, to stop saying, 'So, why don't you call him?"' a writer lectured in Mademoiselle. "Some men must have the thrill of the chase.")

I knew things were changing because a succession of my single girlfriends had called, sounding sheepish, to ask if they could borrow my out-of-print copy of "How to Catch and Hold a Man."

Decades after the feminist movement promised equality with men, it was becoming increasingly apparent that many women would have to brush up on the venerable tricks of the trade: an absurdly charming little laugh, a pert toss of the head, an air of saucy triumph, dewy eyes and a full knowledge of music, drawing, elegant note writing and geography. It would once more be considered captivating to lie on a chaise longue, pass a lacy handkerchief across the eyelids and complain of a case of springtime giddiness.

Today, women have gone back to hunting their quarry - in person and in cyberspace - with elaborate schemes designed to allow the deluded creatures to think they are the hunters. "Men like hunting, and we shouldn't deprive them of their chance to do their hunting and mating rituals," my 26-year-old friend Julie Bosman, a New York Times reporter, says. "As my mom says, Men don't like to be chased." Or as the Marvelettes sang, "The hunter gets captured by the game."

These days the key to staying cool in the courtship rituals is B. & I., girls say - Busy and Important. "As much as you're waiting for that little envelope to appear on your screen," says Carrie Foster, a 29-year-old publicist in Washington, "you happen to have a lot of stuff to do anyway." If a guy rejects you or turns out to be the essence of evil, you can ratchet up from B. & I. to C.B.B., Can't Be Bothered. In the T.M.I. - Too Much Information - digital age, there can be infinite technological foreplay.

Helen Fisher, a Rutgers anthropologist, concurs with Julie: "What our grandmothers told us about playing hard to get is true. The whole point of the game is to impress and capture. It's not about honesty. Many men and women, when they're playing the courtship game, deceive so they can win. Novelty, excitement and danger drive up dopamine in the brain. And both sexes brag."

Women might dye their hair, apply makeup and spend hours finding a hip-slimming dress, she said, while men may drive a nice car or wear a fancy suit that makes them seem richer than they are. In this retro world, a woman must play hard to get but stay soft as a kitten. And avoid sarcasm. Altogether.


In those faraway, long-ago days of feminism, there was talk about equal pay for equal work. Now there's talk about "girl money."

A friend of mine in her 30's says it is a term she hears bandied about the New York dating scene. She also notes a shift in the type of gifts given at wedding showers around town, a reversion to 50's-style offerings: soup ladles and those frilly little aprons from Anthropologie and vintage stores are being unwrapped along with see-through nighties and push-up bras.

"What I find most disturbing about the 1950's-ification and retrogression of women's lives is that it has seeped into the corporate and social culture, where it can do real damage," she complains. "Otherwise intelligent men, who know women still earn less than men as a rule, say things like: 'I'll get the check. You only have girl money."'

Throughout the long, dark ages of undisputed patriarchy, women connived to trade beauty and sex for affluence and status. In the first flush of feminism, women offered to pay half the check with "woman money" as a way to show that these crass calculations - that a woman's worth in society was determined by her looks, that she was an ornament up for sale to the highest bidder - no longer applied.

Now dating etiquette has reverted. Young women no longer care about using the check to assert their equality. They care about using it to assess their sexuality. Going Dutch is an archaic feminist relic. Young women talk about it with disbelief and disdain. "It's a scuzzy 70's thing, like platform shoes on men," one told me.

"Feminists in the 70's went overboard," Anne Schroeder, a 26-year-old magazine editor in Washington, agrees. "Paying is like opening a car door. It's nice. I appreciate it. But he doesn't have to."

Unless he wants another date.

Women in their 20's think old-school feminists looked for equality in all the wrong places, that instead of fighting battles about whether women should pay for dinner or wear padded bras they should have focused only on big economic issues.

After Googling and Bikramming to get ready for a first dinner date, a modern girl will end the evening with the Offering, an insincere bid to help pay the check. "They make like they are heading into their bag after a meal, but it is a dodge," Marc Santora, a 30-year-old Metro reporter for The Times, says. "They know you will stop them before a credit card can be drawn. If you don't, they hold it against you."

One of my girlfriends, a TV producer in New York, told me much the same thing: "If you offer, and they accept, then it's over."

Jurassic feminists shudder at the retro implication of a quid profiterole. But it doesn't matter if the woman is making as much money as the man, or more, she expects him to pay, both to prove her desirability and as a way of signaling romance - something that's more confusing in a dating culture rife with casual hookups and group activities. (Once beyond the initial testing phase and settled in a relationship, of course, she can pony up more.)

"There are plenty of ways for me to find out if he's going to see me as an equal without disturbing the dating ritual," one young woman says. "Disturbing the dating ritual leads to chaos. Everybody knows that."

When I asked a young man at my gym how he and his lawyer girlfriend were going to divide the costs on a California vacation, he looked askance. "She never offers," he replied. "And I like paying for her." It is, as one guy said, "one of the few remaining ways we can demonstrate our manhood."

Power Dynamics

At a party for the Broadway opening of "Sweet Smell of Success," a top New York producer gave me a lecture on the price of female success that was anything but sweet. He confessed that he had wanted to ask me out on a date when he was between marriages but nixed the idea because my job as a Times columnist made me too intimidating. Men, he explained, prefer women who seem malleable and awed. He predicted that I would never find a mate because if there's one thing men fear, it's a woman who uses her critical faculties. Will she be critical of absolutely everything, even his manhood?

He had hit on a primal fear of single successful women: that the aroma of male power is an aphrodisiac for women, but the perfume of female power is a turnoff for men. It took women a few decades to realize that everything they were doing to advance themselves in the boardroom could be sabotaging their chances in the bedroom, that evolution was lagging behind equality.

A few years ago at a White House correspondents' dinner, I met a very beautiful and successful actress. Within minutes, she blurted out: "I can't believe I'm 46 and not married. Men only want to marry their personal assistants or P.R. women."

I'd been noticing a trend along these lines, as famous and powerful men took up with young women whose job it was was to care for them and nurture them in some way: their secretaries, assistants, nannies, caterers, flight attendants, researchers and fact-checkers.

John Schwartz of The New York Times made the trend official in 2004 when he reported: "Men would rather marry their secretaries than their bosses, and evolution may be to blame." A study by psychology researchers at the University of Michigan, using college undergraduates, suggested that men going for long-term relationships would rather marry women in subordinate jobs than women who are supervisors. Men think that women with important jobs are more likely to cheat on them. There it is, right in the DNA: women get penalized by insecure men for being too independent.

"The hypothesis," Dr. Stephanie Brown, the lead author of the study, theorized, "is that there are evolutionary pressures on males to take steps to minimize the risk of raising offspring that are not their own." Women, by contrast, did not show a marked difference between their attraction to men who might work above them and their attraction to men who might work below them.

So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? Do women get less desirable as they get more successful?

After I first wrote on this subject, a Times reader named Ray Lewis e-mailed me. While we had assumed that making ourselves more professionally accomplished would make us more fascinating, it turned out, as Lewis put it, that smart women were "draining at times."

Or as Bill Maher more crudely but usefully summed it up to Craig Ferguson on the "Late Late Show" on CBS: "Women get in relationships because they want somebody to talk to. Men want women to shut up."

Women moving up still strive to marry up. Men moving up still tend to marry down. The two sexes' going in opposite directions has led to an epidemic of professional women missing out on husbands and kids.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the author of "Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children," a book published in 2002, conducted a survey and found that 55 percent of 35-year-old career women were childless. And among corporate executives who earn $100,000 or more, she said, 49 percent of the women did not have children, compared with only 19 percent of the men.

Hewlett quantified, yet again, that men have an unfair advantage. "Nowadays," she said, "the rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child. For men, the reverse is true."

A 2005 report by researchers at four British universities indicated that a high I.Q. hampers a woman's chance to marry, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise.

On a "60 Minutes" report on the Hewlett book, Lesley Stahl talked to two young women who went to Harvard Business School. They agreed that while they were the perfect age to start families, they didn't find it easy to meet the right mates.

Men, apparently, learn early to protect their eggshell egos from high-achieving women. The girls said they hid the fact that they went to Harvard from guys they met because it was the kiss of death. "The H-bomb," they dubbed it. "As soon as you say Harvard Business School . . . that's the end of the conversation," Ani Vartanian said. "As soon as the guys say, 'Oh, I go to Harvard Business School,' all the girls start falling into them."

Hewlett thinks that the 2005 American workplace is more macho than ever. "It's actually much more difficult now than 10 years ago to have a career and raise a family," she told me. "The trend lines continue that highly educated women in many countries are increasingly dealing with this creeping nonchoice and end up on this path of delaying finding a mate and delaying childbearing. Whether you're looking at Italy, Russia or the U.S., all of that is true." Many women continue to fear that the more they accomplish, the more they may have to sacrifice. They worry that men still veer away from "challenging" women because of a male atavistic desire to be the superior force in a relationship.

"With men and women, it's always all about control issues, isn't it?" says a guy I know, talking about his bitter divorce.

Or, as Craig Bierko, a musical comedy star and actor who played one of Carrie's boyfriends on "Sex and the City," told me, "Deep down, beneath the bluster and machismo, men are simply afraid to say that what they're truly looking for in a woman is an intelligent, confident and dependable partner in life whom they can devote themselves to unconditionally until she's 40."

Ms. Versus Mrs.

"Ms." was supposed to neutralize the stature of women, so they weren't publicly defined by their marital status. When The Times finally agreed to switch to Ms. in its news pages in 1986, after much hectoring by feminists, Gloria Steinem sent flowers to the executive editor, Abe Rosenthal. But nowadays most young brides want to take their husbands' names and brag on the moniker Mrs., a brand that proclaims you belong to him. T-shirts with "MRS." emblazoned in sequins or sparkly beads are popular wedding-shower gifts.

A Harvard economics professor, Claudia Goldin, did a study last year that found that 44 percent of women in the Harvard class of 1980 who married within 10 years of graduation kept their birth names, while in the class of '90 it was down to 32 percent. In 1990, 23 percent of college-educated women kept their own names after marriage, while a decade later the number had fallen to 17 percent.

Time magazine reported that an informal poll in the spring of 2005 by the Knot, a wedding Web site, showed similar results: 81 percent of respondents took their spouse's last name, an increase from 71 percent in 2000. The number of women with hyphenated surnames fell from 21 percent to 8 percent.

"It's a return to romance, a desire to make marriage work," Goldin told one interviewer, adding that young women might feel that by keeping their own names they were aligning themselves with tedious old-fashioned feminists, and this might be a turnoff to them.

The professor, who married in 1979 and kept her name, undertook the study after her niece, a lawyer, changed hers. "She felt that her generation of women didn't have to do the same things mine did, because of what we had already achieved," Goldin told Time.

Many women now do not think of domestic life as a "comfortable concentration camp," as Betty Friedan wrote in "The Feminine Mystique," where they are losing their identities and turning into "anonymous biological robots in a docile mass." Now they want to be Mrs. Anonymous Biological Robot in a Docile Mass. They dream of being rescued - to flirt, to shop, to stay home and be taken care of. They shop for "Stepford Fashions" - matching shoes and ladylike bags and the 50's-style satin, lace and chiffon party dresses featured in InStyle layouts - and spend their days at the gym trying for Wisteria Lane waistlines.

The Times recently ran a front-page article about young women attending Ivy League colleges, women who are being groomed to take their places in the professional and political elite, who are planning to reject careers in favor of playing traditional roles, staying home and raising children.

"My mother always told me you can't be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time," the brainy, accomplished Cynthia Liu told Louise Story, explaining why she hoped to be a stay-at-home mom a few years after she goes to law school. "You always have to choose one over the other."

Kate White, the editor of Cosmopolitan, told me that she sees a distinct shift in what her readers want these days. "Women now don't want to be in the grind," she said. "The baby boomers made the grind seem unappealing."

Cynthia Russett, a professor of American history at Yale, told Story that women today are simply more "realistic," having seen the dashed utopia of those who assumed it wouldn't be so hard to combine full-time work and child rearing.

To the extent that young women are rejecting the old idea of copying men and reshaping the world around their desires, it's exhilarating progress. But to the extent that a pampered class of females is walking away from the problem and just planning to marry rich enough to cosset themselves in a narrow world of dependence on men, it's an irritating setback. If the new ethos is "a woman needs a career like a fish needs a bicycle," it won't be healthy.


In all those Tracy-Hepburn movies more than a half-century ago, it was the snap and crackle of a romance between equals that was so exciting. You still see it onscreen occasionally - the incendiary chemistry of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie playing married assassins aiming for mutually assured orgasms and destruction in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Interestingly, that movie was described as retro because of its salty battle of wits between two peppery lovers. Moviemakers these days are more interested in exploring what Steve Martin, in his novel "Shopgirl," calls the "calm cushion" of romances between unequals.

In James Brooks's movie "Spanglish," Adam Sandler, playing a sensitive Los Angeles chef, falls for his hot Mexican maid, just as in "Maid in Manhattan," Ralph Fiennes, playing a sensitive New York pol, falls for the hot Latino maid at his hotel, played by Jennifer Lopez. Sandler's maid, who cleans up for him without being able to speak English, is presented as the ideal woman, in looks and character. His wife, played by Téa Leoni, is repellent: a jangly, yakking, overachieving, overexercised, unfaithful, shallow she-monster who has just lost her job with a commercial design firm and fears she has lost her identity.

In 2003, we had "Girl With a Pearl Earring," in which Colin Firth's Vermeer erotically paints Scarlett Johansson's Dutch maid, and Richard Curtis's "Love Actually," about the attraction of unequals. The witty and sophisticated British prime minister, played by Hugh Grant, falls for the chubby girl who wheels the tea and scones into his office. A businessman married to the substantial Emma Thompson, the sister of the prime minister, falls for his sultry secretary. A novelist played by Colin Firth falls for his maid, who speaks only Portuguese.

Art is imitating life, turning women who seek equality into selfish narcissists and objects of rejection rather than of affection.

It's funny. I come from a family of Irish domestics - statuesque, 6-foot-tall women who cooked, kept house and acted as nannies for some of America's first families. I was always so proud of achieving more - succeeding in a high-powered career that would have been closed to my great-aunts. How odd, then, to find out now that being a maid would have enhanced my chances with men.

An upstairs maid, of course.

Women's Magazines

Cosmo is still the best-selling magazine on college campuses, as it was when I was in college, and the best-selling monthly magazine on the newsstand. The June 2005 issue, with Jessica Simpson on the cover, her cleavage spilling out of an orange crocheted halter dress, could have been June 1970. The headlines are familiar: "How to turn him on in 10 words or less," "Do You Make Men M-E-L-T? Take our quiz," "Bridal Special," Cosmo's stud search and "Cosmo's Most Famous Sex Tips; the Legendary Tricks That Have Brought Countless Guys to Their Knees." (Sex Trick 4: "Place a glazed doughnut around your man's member, then gently nibble the pastry and lick the icing . . . as well as his manhood." Another favorite Cosmo trick is to yell out during sex which of your girlfriends thinks your man is hot.)

At any newsstand, you'll see the original Cosmo girl's man-crazy, sex-obsessed image endlessly, tiresomely replicated, even for the teen set. On the cover of Elle Girl: "267 Ways to Look Hot."

"There has been lots of copying - look at Glamour," Helen Gurley Brown, Cosmo's founding editor told me and sighed. "I used to have all the sex to myself."

Before it curdled into a collection of stereotypes, feminism had fleetingly held out a promise that there would be some precincts of womanly life that were not all about men. But it never quite materialized.

It took only a few decades to create a brazen new world where the highest ideal is to acknowledge your inner slut. I am woman; see me strip. Instead of peaceful havens of girl things and boy things, we have a society where women of all ages are striving to become self-actualized sex kittens. Hollywood actresses now work out by taking pole-dancing classes.

Female sexuality has been a confusing corkscrew path, not a serene progressive arc. We had decades of Victorian prudery, when women were not supposed to like sex. Then we had the pill and zipless encounters, when women were supposed to have the same animalistic drive as men. Then it was discovered - shock, horror! - that men and women are not alike in their desires. But zipless morphed into hookups, and the more one-night stands the girls on "Sex and the City" had, the grumpier they got.

Oddly enough, Felix Dennis, who created the top-selling Maxim, said he stole his "us against the world" lad-magazine attitude from women's magazines like Cosmo. Just as women didn't mind losing Cosmo's prestigious fiction as the magazine got raunchier, plenty of guys were happy to lose the literary pretensions of venerable men's magazines and embrace simple-minded gender stereotypes, like the Maxim manifesto instructing women, "If we see you in the morning and night, why call us at work?"

Jessica Simpson and Eva Longoria move seamlessly from showing their curves on the covers of Cosmo and Glamour to Maxim, which dubbed Simpson "America's favorite ball and chain!" In the summer of 2005, both British GQ and FHM featured Pamela Anderson busting out of their covers. ("I think of my breasts as props," she told FHM.)

A lot of women now want to be Maxim babes as much as men want Maxim babes. So women have moved from fighting objectification to seeking it. "I have been surprised," Maxim's editor, Ed Needham, confessed to me, "to find that a lot of women would want to be somehow validated as a Maxim girl type, that they'd like to be thought of as hot and would like their boyfriends to take pictures of them or make comments about them that mirror the Maxim representation of a woman, the Pamela Anderson sort of brand. That, to me, is kind of extraordinary."

The luscious babes on the cover of Maxim were supposed to be men's fantasy guilty pleasures, after all, not their real life-affirming girlfriends.


While I never related to the unstyled look of the early feminists and I tangled with boyfriends who did not want me to wear makeup and heels, I always assumed that one positive result of the feminist movement would be a more flexible and capacious notion of female beauty, a release from the tyranny of the girdled, primped ideal of the 50's.

I was wrong. Forty years after the dawn of feminism, the ideal of feminine beauty is more rigid and unnatural than ever.

When Gloria Steinem wrote that "all women are Bunnies," she did not mean it as a compliment; it was a feminist call to arms. Decades later, it's just an aesthetic fact, as more and more women embrace Botox and implants and stretch and protrude to extreme proportions to satisfy male desires. Now that technology is biology, all women can look like inflatable dolls. It's clear that American narcissism has trumped American feminism.

It was naïve and misguided for the early feminists to tendentiously demonize Barbie and Cosmo girl, to disdain such female proclivities as shopping, applying makeup and hunting for sexy shoes and cute boyfriends and to prognosticate a world where men and women dressed alike and worked alike in navy suits and were equal in every way.

But it is equally naïve and misguided for young women now to fritter away all their time shopping for boudoirish clothes and text-messaging about guys while they disdainfully ignore gender politics and the seismic shifts on the Supreme Court that will affect women's rights for a generation.

What I didn't like at the start of the feminist movement was that young women were dressing alike, looking alike and thinking alike. They were supposed to be liberated, but it just seemed like stifling conformity.

What I don't like now is that the young women rejecting the feminist movement are dressing alike, looking alike and thinking alike. The plumage is more colorful, the shapes are more curvy, the look is more plastic, the message is diametrically opposite - before it was don't be a sex object; now it's be a sex object - but the conformity is just as stifling.

And the Future . . .

Having boomeranged once, will women do it again in a couple of decades? If we flash forward to 2030, will we see all those young women who thought trying to Have It All was a pointless slog, now middle-aged and stranded in suburbia, popping Ativan, struggling with rebellious teenagers, deserted by husbands for younger babes, unable to get back into a work force they never tried to be part of?

(k) (k) 's,

11-06-2005, 09:28 PM
November 2, 2005

Jumpy Enough to Chew a Chair? Try DogCatRadio


"Remember, be kind to your mailman," said Jane Harris, a disc jockey. Then she softened her voice until it was a little insinuating: "He only wants to deliver the mail."

It is a message that many of her listeners need to hear. Ms. Harris is a D.J. on DogCatRadio.com, a new Internet radio station for pets. Now dogs, cats, hamsters and parrots can keep the anxiety, the loneliness, the restlessness at bay while their owners are out. It is radio just for them, live 17 hours a day, 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific time, and podcast for the rest of the 24 hours.

Those who listen to DogCatRadio will find that there is generally an animal motif to the playlist, like "Hound Dog": "You ain't nothin' but a hound dogcryin' all the time."

This Elvis song is a frequent request from listeners (presumably the owners), as are the Baha Men, singing: "Who let the dogs out (woof, woof, woof, woof)."

And Dionne Warwick is also popular, especially her soothing song "That's What Friends Are For": "Keep smiling, keep shining,/Knowing you can always count on me."

Since many pets are apparently bilingual, DogCatRadio also has a "Spanish Hour," 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time daily, with Hispanic commentary and music, like Luis Miguel's "No Sé Tú": DogCatRadio.com was started last June by Adrian Martinez, who is also president of Marusa records, an independent record label in Los Angeles. He runs the station out of a customized RV parked in his office lot in the Eagle Rock section of Los Angeles.

Mr. Martinez, 34, who owns six dogs and two cats, said he founded the station because "my cat, Snickers, asked me to do it." One day, Snickers was pacing the floor restlessly and meowing. "I said, 'What do you want?' " Mr. Martinez recalled in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. "I turned up the music, and she was fine." He discovered that Snickers likes 80's rock, particularly the Eddie Money version of the song "Take Me Home Tonight:" "I feel a hunger /It's a hunger that tries to keep a man awake at night."

Mr. Martinez added, "I wanted to do something for the pet community."

The first week that DogCatRadio was broadcast, the local CBS television station showed a feature about it. As a result, so many people tuned in, 130,000 in one day, that the server crashed, Mr. Martinez said. "We had to get a bigger server to accommodate more listeners." Now, he said, "We average close to 8,000 hits a week. We have a meter that tracks it."

"People are just e-mailing us," calling from all over the world, Mr. Martinez said. "I love what you are doing, but please don't forget our equine friends," an e-mail message from Australia said.

When Mr. Martinez gets requests, he springs into action. "We go to Tower Records within the hour," he said. "Since we're conquering the globe, we want to make sure we can accommodate these people."

Sometimes Mr. Martinez broadcasts from the field. DogCatRadio showed a segment on people walking their dogs first thing in the morning outside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena - a very popular early morning route for dog walkers, bikers and joggers - with interviews (with the owners). It reports on animal charity events like "Walk for Paws," recently sponsored by the group "Nuts for Mutts."

Internet radio, which claims about 20 million regular listeners, is still in the early stages of development and has a relatively small number of fans who use their laptops, desktops or hand-held computers to tune in.

Mr. Martinez said he believed he had latched onto something unique with his little station: "With all the news you hear on Iraq, it's something to balance the bad news."

Meanwhile, the broadcast has received some notice. Dr. Larry Family, who has a talk show program, the Pet Vet, on WROW-AM in Albany, recommends DogCatRadio to his patients' owners. "It's of interest to those people whose pets have certain phobias or anxiety issues," he said in a telephone interview from the outskirts of Schenectady, where he has his practice.

"I have recommended it to those whose dogs are having certain problems behaviorwise in the home environment," he said.

"It might be helpful with dogs with separation anxiety issues," Dr. Family went on. "Dogs, especially, are interested in watching TV with their owners and listening to music."

Mr. Martinez said that at the moment, the station has no advertising and is making no money. But, he said, "I'm not in it for the money." He added, "Eventually, I'm sure, people will advertise."

That is not such a leap, since it is estimated that American pet owners will spend $35.9 billion this year on everything from electric toothbrushes for dogs to bird pedicures to self-flushing litter boxes for cats, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.

So far, the six people associated with the station, four of whom act as D.J.'s, are paid only a small stipend to cover expenses. "I'm so involved with the pet community," said Ms. Harris, the D.J. and an owner of five dogs. "I'm looking to this as an avenue to open something up." When Ms. Harris isn't broadcasting on DogCatRadio.com, she works as a market researcher.

"How are all my furry friends doing out there?" Ms. Harris asked her listeners recently. "We hope you're doing great and not chewing on anything but your toys."

(*) (*) (h) ;) ;)

Carpe Diem!
Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

11-06-2005, 09:30 PM
I'd like to write a letter to CNN and tell them I intensely dislike Cooper and won't watch him. I already refuse to watch Paula after her bulldog tactics with 9/11 survivors and then again when a plane crashed about a month later.

And now they boot Aaron Brown? What are they using for demographics?


November 2, 2005

CNN Ousts Aaron Brown and Gives Slot to Anderson Cooper


CNN ousted its longtime prime-time anchor, Aaron Brown, today in favor of Anderson Cooper, who has received extensive media attention in the wake of his widely publicized coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Jonathan Klein, the president of CNN/U.S., said today that he and Mr. Brown had mutually agreed that Mr. Brown would leave the cable news network because the new CNN lineup left "no options" for a program that would include Mr. Brown. "It is, unfortunately, a zero-sum game," Mr. Klein said.

The realigned CNN lineup will place Mr. Cooper's program "360," which had previously run at 7 p.m. Eastern time weeknights, in the 10 p.m. time period that had been occupied for the last four years by Mr. Brown's program, "Newsnight." Mr. Cooper's program will also expand to two hours, from 10 until midnight. CNN has experimented with that two-hour format over the past month, with Mr. Cooper joining Mr. Brown to serve as co-anchor of the program.

The audience levels for that program have increased markedly in the last month, a development that CNN attributed to Mr. Cooper's presence. In the 7 p.m. hour, where Mr. Cooper had previously worked, CNN will insert the final hour of its three-hour-long "Situation Room" program with Wolf Blitzer. That program has been running from 3 to 6 p.m. Eastern time each weekday. Now it will run from 4 to 6 p.m., leading into an hourlong newscast anchored by Lou Dobbs, with Mr. Blitzer coming back at 7 p.m. for one more hour.

Paula Zahn's program will continue to run from 8 to 9 p.m. and Larry King's show will remain from 9 to 10 p.m.

Mr. Klein said the moves were made chiefly to elevate the profiles of the two news figures that he said have been growing in popularity at CNN, Mr. Cooper and Mr. Blitzer.

"We want to expose Anderson and Wolf to more people," Mr. Klein said.

He said that Mr. Cooper, who is 38, had so stood out for his "passion and enthusiasm" - especially during the coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast - that "his name has been on the tip of everyone's tongue."

Mr. Klein also complimented Mr. Brown, who is 56, saying "he is a first-class news talent, no question." But he repeated that CNN simply had no program to offer Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown did not respond to telephone calls and e-mails requesting comment. A CNN spokeswoman said Mr. Cooper was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

(*) (*) (*) See my next post for what I emailed to their President this past week...... ;)

(f) (f) ,
Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

11-06-2005, 09:32 PM
Attn: Jonathan Klein, President, CNN/U.S

Have the executives and demographics' researchers at CNN lost their minds? Replace Aaron Brown with arrogant, un-watchable (I refuse to watch him) Anderson Cooper? Promoting a Gen-Xer because of his hurricane coverage? How weak.

You are also keeping your in-the-9/11-or-other-tragedy's-victim's-face news bulldog, Paula Zahn?? I refuse to watch her since her blatant disrespect for 9/11 victims and those impacted by the plane crash about a month later.

Do you really believe that Baby Boomers are not an extensive, influential market demographic? Do you believe that Baby Boomers like me will follow like sheep and watch Cooper or Zahn? You have got to be kidding. I may even stop watching the only person left that I do respect: Wolf Blitzer.

I had to read of Brown's abrupt departure in today's New York Times and not on CNN's web site?

CNN is becoming more like Fox everyday. That is, they function as the PR ARM of Da Village Idiot and other corrupt Republican neocons.

I can't wait to get the word out to everyone I know and provide them with some overseas URLs which provide wonderfully refreshing alternative views on news including events in the U.S..

CNN has gone to the Republican dogs. Another bad joke media outlet like Fox.


(*) (*) :@ :@ :| :| :| :o :o ;) ;)

(S) (S) Life is just way too short, ya know? (l)

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

11-06-2005, 09:33 PM
Is This You? Early Signal of Alzheimer's

When older people experience an unexplained weight loss, it could be an early signal of Alzheimer's disease, the Associated Press reports of research from Chicago's Rush University Medical Center. The weight loss, which tends to be gradual and not dramatic, typically occurs years before memory lapses happen.

This fascinating new theory is based on an ongoing study of 820 Roman Catholic priests, nuns and brothers with an average age of 75. At the start of the study, the average BMI of the participants, none of whom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, was 27.4, which is considered overweight. During the 10-year study period, 151 of the 820 volunteers developed the disease. Those whose BMI dropped one point each year had a 35 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer's later, compared with those whose BMI remained the same.

Why is weight loss an early symptom of Alzheimer's? It appears the disease first attacks brain regions that are involved in regulating food intake and metabolism, says study co-author Dr. David Bennett, who is the director of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center. While weight loss frequently occurs after an Alzheimer's diagnosis, this has been blamed largely on memory lapses and lifestyle changes. Now Bennett thinks brain changes that begin well before the diagnosis could also be the reason.

Dr. Peter Rabins, an Alzheimer's researcher and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told AP this new research confirms what many doctors now believe: that the abnormalities of Alzheimer's "really are present for at least 10 years before there are any symptoms. The idea that something would start before it became clinically obvious no longer seems that farfetched," Rabins explained.

Still, the early weight loss could be due to behavior changes, such as loss of initiative, instead of brain changes affecting metabolism. The problem is that the weight loss is subtle so it's not necessarily recognized until after the Alzheimer's diagnosis is made.

The study findings were reported in the journal Neurology.


;) ;)


11-06-2005, 09:36 PM
November 6, 2005

Just Googling It Is Striking Fear Into Companies


Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, often intimidates its competitors and suppliers. Makers of goods from diapers to DVD's must cater to its whims. But there is one company that even Wal-Mart eyes warily these days: Google, a seven-year-old business in a seemingly distant industry.

"We watch Google very closely at Wal-Mart," said Jim Breyer, a member of Wal-Mart's board.

In Google, Wal-Mart sees both a technology pioneer and the seed of a threat, said Mr. Breyer, who is also a partner in a venture capital firm. The worry is that by making information available everywhere, Google might soon be able to tell Wal-Mart shoppers if better bargains are available nearby.

Wal-Mart is scarcely alone in its concern. As Google increasingly becomes the starting point for finding information and buying products and services, companies that even a year ago did not see themselves as competing with Google are beginning to view the company with some angst - mixed with admiration.

Google's recent moves have stirred concern in industries from book publishing to telecommunications. Businesses already feeling the Google effect include advertising, software and the news media. Apart from retailing, Google's disruptive presence may soon be felt in real estate and auto sales.

Google, the reigning giant of Web search, could extend its economic reach in the next few years as more people get high-speed Internet service and cellphones become full-fledged search tools, according to analysts. And ever-smarter software, they say, will cull and organize larger and larger digital storehouses of news, images, real estate listings and traffic reports, delivering results that are more like the advice of a trusted human expert.

Such advances, predicts Esther Dyson, a technology consultant, will bring "a huge reduction in inefficiency everywhere." That, in turn, would be an unsettling force for all sorts of industries and workers. But it would also reward consumers with lower prices and open up opportunities for new companies.

Google, then, may turn out to have a more far-reaching impact than earlier Web winners like Amazon and eBay. "Google is the realization of everything that we thought the Internet was going to be about but really wasn't until Google," said David B. Yoffie, a professor at Harvard Business School.

Google, to be sure, is but one company at the forefront of the continuing spread of Internet technology. It has many competitors, and it could stumble. In the search market alone, Google faces formidable rivals like Microsoft and Yahoo.

Microsoft, in particular, is pushing hard to catch Google in Internet search. "This is hyper-competition, make no mistake," said Bill Gates, Microsoft's chief executive. "The magic moment will come when our search is demonstrably better than Google's," he said, suggesting that this could happen in a year or so.

Still, apart from its front-runner status, Google is also remarkable for its pace of innovation and for how broadly it seems to interpret its mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

The company's current lineup of offerings includes: software for searching personal computer files; an e-mail service; maps; satellite images; instant messaging; blogging tools; a service for posting and sharing digital photos; and specialized searches for news, video, shopping and local information. Google's most controversial venture, Google Print, is a project to copy and catalog millions of books; it faces lawsuits by some publishers and authors who say it violates copyright law.

Google, which tends to keep its plans secret, certainly has the wealth to fund ambitious ventures. Its revenues are growing by nearly 100 percent a year, and its profits are rising even faster. Its executives speak of the company's outlook only in broad strokes, but they suggest all but unlimited horizons. "We believe that search networks as industries remain in their nascent stages of growth with great forward potential," Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, told analysts last month.

Among the many projects being developed and debated inside Google is a real estate service, according to a person who has attended meetings on the proposal. The concept, the person said, would be to improve the capabilities of its satellite imaging, maps and local search and combine them with property listings.

The service, this person said, could make house hunting far more efficient, requiring potential buyers to visit fewer real estate agents and houses. If successful, it would be another magnet for the text ads that appear next to search results, the source of most of Google's revenue.

In telecommunications, the company has made a number of moves that have grabbed the attention of industry executives. It has been buying fiber-optic cable capacity in the United States and has invested in a company delivering high-speed Internet access over power lines. And it is participating in an experiment to provide free wireless Internet access in San Francisco.

That has led to speculation that the company wants to build a national free GoogleNet, paid for mostly by advertising. And Google executives seem to delight in dropping tantalizing, if vague, hints. "We focus on access to the information as much as the search itself because you need both," Mr. Schmidt said in an analysts' conference call last month.

Telecommunications executives are skeptical that Google could seriously eat into their business anytime soon. For one thing, they say, it will be difficult and expensive to build a national network. Still, they monitor Google's every move. "Google is certainly a potential competitor," said Bill Smith, the chief technology officer of BellSouth, the Atlanta-based regional phone company.

The No. 1 rival to phone companies in the Internet access business, Mr. Smith noted, is the cable television operators. "But do I discount Google? Absolutely not," he said. "You'd be a fool to do that these days."

In retailing, Google has no interest in stocking and selling merchandise. Its potential impact is more subtle, yet still significant. Every store is a collection of goods, some items more profitable than others. But the less-profitable items may bring people into stores, where they also buy the high-margin offerings - one shelf, in effect, subsidizes another.

Search engines, combined with other technologies, have the potential to drive comparison shopping down to the shelf-by-shelf level. Cellphone makers, for example, are looking at the concept of a "shopping phone" with a camera that can read product bar codes. The phone could connect to databases and search services and, aided by satellite technology, reveal that the flat-screen TV model in front of you is $200 cheaper at a store five miles away.

"We see this huge power moving to the edge - to consumers - in this Google environment," said Lou Steinberg, chief technology officer of Symbol Technologies, which supplies bar-code scanners to retailers.

Such services could lead to lower prices for consumers, but also relentless competition that threatens to break up existing businesses.

A newspaper or a magazine can be seen as a media store - a collection of news, entertainment and advertising delivered in a package. A tool like Google News allows a reader or an advertiser to pick and choose, breaking up the package by splitting the articles from the ads. And Google's ads, tucked to the side of its search-engine results, are often a more efficient sales generator than print ads.

"Google represents a challenge to newspapers, to be sure," said Gary B. Pruitt, chief executive of the McClatchy Company, a chain of 12 newspapers including The Star Tribune in Minneapolis and The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. "Google is attacking the advertising base of newspapers."

At the same time, Google and search technology are becoming crucial to the health of newspapers as more readers migrate to the Web. As one path to the future, Mr. Pruitt speaks of his newspapers prospering by tailoring search for local businesses, but also partnering with search engines to attract readers.

Within industries, the influence of Internet search is often uneven. For example, search engines are being embraced by car companies, yet they pose a challenge to car dealers.

George E. Murphy, senior vice president of global marketing for Chrysler, said Chrysler buys ads on 3,000 keywords a day on the big search sites: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft's MSN and AOL, whose search is supplied by Google. If a person types in one of those keywords, the search results are accompanied by a sponsored link to a Chrysler site.

Chrysler refines its approach based on what search words attract clicks, and studies its site traffic for clues on converting browsers to buyers. "We've got Ph.D.'s working on this," Mr. Murphy said. "The great thing about search is that you can do the math and follow the trail."

After following a link to a Chrysler Web site, a prospective buyer can configure a model, find a dealer and get a preliminary price. Only dealers can make final price quotes. Yet with more information on the Web, the direction of things is clear, in Mr. Murphy's view. "It will fundamentally change what the dealer does, because telling people about the vehicle won't add value for the customer anymore," he said. "If dealers don't change, they'll be dinosaurs."

Mr. Breyer, the Wal-Mart board member, watches Google closely in his job as managing partner of Accel Partners, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. These days, he advises startups to avoid a "collision course" with Google, just as he has long counseled fledgling companies to steer clear of Microsoft's stronghold in desktop software.

Internet search, like personal computing in its heyday, is a disruptive technology, he said, threatening traditional industries and opening the door to new ones. "We think there is plenty of opportunity for innovation in the Google economy," Mr. Breyer said.

***I *still* never shop at a Wal-Mart for love or money.... ;) I *do* however, use google every single day for research. There are other search engines that find the more scholarly (yawn, boring) journal articles for course work.

(o) (o) Have a restful evening and lovely start of your week.


11-06-2005, 09:37 PM
November 6, 2005

Op-Ed Columnist

The Mysterious Death of Pat Tillman


IT would be a compelling story," Patrick Fitzgerald said of the narrative Scooter Libby used to allegedly mislead investigators in the Valerie Wilson leak case, "if only it were true."

"Compelling" is higher praise than any Mr. Libby received for his one work of published fiction, a 1996 novel of "murder, passion and heart-stopping chases through the snow" called "The Apprentice." If you read the indictment, you'll see why he merits the critical upgrade. The intricate tale he told the F.B.I. and the grand jury - with its endlessly clever contradictions of his White House colleagues' testimony - is compelling even without the sex and the snow.

The medium is the message. This administration just loves to beguile us with a rollicking good story, truth be damned. The propagandistic fable exposed by the leak case - the apocalyptic imminence of Saddam's mushroom clouds - was only the first of its genre. Given that potboiler's huge success at selling the war, its authors couldn't resist providing sequels once we were in Iraq. As the American casualty toll surges past 2,000 and Veterans Day approaches, we need to remember and unmask those scenarios as well. Our troops and their families have too often made the ultimate sacrifice for the official fictions that have corrupted every stage of this war.

If there's a tragic example that can serve as representative of the rest, it is surely that of Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals defensive back who famously volunteered for the Army in the spring after 9/11, giving up a $3.6 million N.F.L. contract extension. Tillman wanted to pay something back to his country by pursuing the enemy that actually attacked it, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Instead he was sent to fight a war in Iraq that he didn't see coming when he enlisted because the administration was still hatching it in secret. Only on a second tour of duty was he finally sent into Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan, where, on April 22, 2004, he was killed. On April 30, an official Army press release announcing his Silver Star citation filled in vivid details of his last battle. Tillman, it said, was storming a hill to take out the enemy, even as he "personally provided suppressive fire with an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gun."

It would be a compelling story, if only it were true. Five weeks after Tillman's death, the Army acknowledged abruptly, without providing details, that he had "probably" died from friendly fire. Many months after that, investigative journalists at The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times reported that the Army's initial portrayal of his death had been not only bogus but also possibly a cover-up of something darker. "The records show that Tillman fought bravely and honorably until his last breath," Steve Coll wrote in The Post in December 2004. "They also show that his superiors exaggerated his actions and invented details as they burnished his legend in public, at the same time suppressing details that might tarnish Tillman's commanders."

This fall The San Francisco Chronicle uncovered still more details with the help of Tillman's divorced parents, who have each reluctantly gone public after receiving conflicting and heavily censored official reports on three Army investigations that only added to the mysteries surrounding their son's death. (Yet another inquiry is under way.) "The administration clearly was using this case for its own political reasons," said Patrick Tillman, Pat Tillman's father, who discovered that crucial evidence in the case, including his son's uniform and gear, had been destroyed almost immediately. "This cover-up started within minutes of Pat's death, and it started at high levels."

His accusations are far from wild. The Chronicle found that Gen. John Abizaid, the top American officer in Iraq, and others in his command had learned by April 29, 2004, that friendly fire had killed their star recruit. That was the day before the Army released its fictitious press release of Tillman's hillside firefight and four days before a nationally televised memorial service back home enshrined the fake account of his death. Yet Tillman's parents, his widow, his brother (who served in the same platoon) and politicians like John McCain (who spoke at Tillman's memorial) were not told the truth for another month.

Why? It's here where we find a repeat of the same pattern that drove the Valerie Wilson leak a year earlier. Faced with unwelcome news - from the front, from whistle-blowers, from scandal - this administration will always push back with change-the-subject stunts (like specious terror alerts), fake news or, as with Joseph Wilson, smear campaigns. Much as the White House was out to bring down Mr. Wilson because he threatened to expose its prewar hype of Saddam's supposed nuclear prowess, so the Pentagon might have been out to delay or rewrite a story that could be trouble when public opinion on the war itself was just starting to plummet.

It was an election year besides. Tillman's death came after a month of solid bad news for America and the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign alike: the publication of Richard Clarke's book about pre-9/11 administration counterterrorism fecklessness, the savage stringing up of the remains of American contractors in Falluja, the eruption of Sunni and Shiite insurgencies in six Iraqi cities, the first publication of illicit photos of flag-draped coffins. In the days just after Tillman's death, "60 Minutes II" first broadcast the Abu Ghraib photos, Ted Koppel read the names of the war's fallen on "Nightline," and the Pentagon's No. 2, the Iraqi war architect Paul Wolfowitz, understated by more than 200 the number of American casualties to date (722) in an embarrassing televised appearance before Congress.

Against this backdrop, it would not do to have it known that the most famous volunteer of the war might have been a victim of gross negligence or fratricide. Though Tillman himself was so idealistic that he refused publicity of any kind when in the Army, he was exploited by the war's cheerleaders as a recruitment lure and was needed to continue in that role after his death. (Even though he was adamantly against the Iraq war, according to friends and relatives interviewed by The Chronicle.)

"They blew up their poster boy," Patrick Tillman told The Post; he is convinced that "all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script" the fake narrative (or, as he puts it, "outright lies") that followed. Pat Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, was offended to discover that even President Bush wanted a cameo role in this screenplay: she told The Post that he had offered to tape a memorial to her son for a Cardinals game that would be televised shortly before Election Day. (She said no.)

In an interview with The Arizona Republic, Mary Tillman added: "They could have told us upfront that they were suspicious that it was a fratricide but they didn't. They wanted to use him for their purposes. It was good for the administration. It was before the elections. It was during the prison scandal. They needed something that looked good, and it was appalling that they would use him like that."

Appalling but consistent. The Pentagon has often failed to give the troops what they need to fight the war in Iraq, from proper support in manpower and planning at the invasion's outset to effective armor for battle to adequately financed health care for those who make it home. But when it comes to using troops in the duplicitous manner that Mary Tillman describes, the sky's the limit.

Pat Tillman's case is itself a replay of the fake "Rambo" escapades ascribed to Pfc. Jessica Lynch a year earlier, just when Operation Iraqi Freedom showed the first tentative signs of trouble and the Pentagon needed a feel-good distraction. As if to echo Mary Tillman, Ms. Lynch told Time magazine this year, "I was used as a symbol." But the troops aren't just used as symbols for the commander in chief's political purposes. They are also drafted to serve as photo-op props and extras, whether in an extravaganza like "Mission Accomplished" or a throwaway dog-and-pony show like the recent teleconference in which the president held a "conversation" with soldiers who sounded as spontaneous as the brainwashed G.I.'s in "The Manchurian Candidate."

As Mr. Bush's approval rating crashes into the 30's, he and the vice president are so desperate to wrap themselves in khaki that on the day of the Libby indictment, they took separate day trips to mouth the usual stay-the-course platitudes before military audiences. If this was a ploy to split the focus of cable news networks and the public, it failed. Perhaps Scooter Libby is hoping that a so-called faulty-memory defense will save him from jail, but too many other Americans are now refreshing their memories of what went down in the plotting and execution of the war in Iraq. What they find are harsh truths and buried secrets that even the most compelling administration scenarios can no longer disguise.

(*) (*) GD Dubya & Co. treating this family like that. There oughta be a law. :@


11-06-2005, 09:38 PM
November 5, 2005

Op-Ed Columnist

Fashioning Deadly Fiascos


I've said it before and I'll say it again: Men are simply not biologically suited to hold higher office. The Bush administration has proved that once and for all.

These guys can't be bothered to run the country. They are too obsessed with frivolous stuff, like fashion and whether they look fat. They are catty, sometimes even sabotaging their closest friends. They are deceitful minxes and malicious gossips.

And heaven knows they're bad at math. Otherwise, W. would realize that a 60 percent disapproval rating, or worse, means that most Americans would like some fresh blood in the administration. It's appalling to see ringleaders of the incompetent, mendacious crew who rushed into Iraq but not New Orleans getting big promotions and posh consulting jobs.

Let's first consider the astonishing new cache of Brownie e-mail released by the Congressional panel investigating the heartbreaking Katrina non-response.

Batting away the frantic warnings of death and doom in New Orleans, bubbleheaded Brownie boasted of his style sense, replying to a staffer who told him his outfit looked "fabulous" on TV: "I got it at Nordstrom."

In another e-mail to staffers, he preened: "If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire, you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god."

Brownie had other things on his mind besides managing the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history: restaurants and dog sitters, and marshaling spin for stories about his past management gaffes at the International Arabian Horse Association.

By Sept. 4, with disaster apartheid in full view, Brownie was getting e-mail advice from his press secretary: "You just need to look more hardworking," Sharon Worthy wrote the FEMA Fashionista. "ROLL UP THE SLEEVES!"

It may seem unfathomable that W. has kept Brownie, one of the biggest boobs in U.S. history, on the federal payroll as a $148,000-a-year consultant.

But President Bush may be empathetic to Brownie's concerns about looking good. Obsessed with losing the seven pounds he'd gained around his waist, W. was so focused on getting back his hourglass figure that his staff had to compile an emergency DVD of Katrina news stories before he could be dragged away from biking.

Unless it's some catty attempt to undermine someone you're pretending to like, how to explain the Mean Girls cabal headed by Dick Cheney, Rummy and the Rummy aide Douglas Feith? These hawkish Heathers lured W. into war with hyped intelligence and then clawed out Colin Powell's eyes to take charge of the occupation, only to bollix up the whole thing beyond belief and send the president's ratings cratering.

The former Powell chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who often verbalizes what Mr. Powell does not say because the ex-secretary of state does not want to be in a public catfight with the cabal, charged on NPR that the cabal issued directives that led to the abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It was clear to me," he said, "that there was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office through the secretary of defense down to the commanders in the field that in carefully couched terms - I'll give you that - that to a soldier in the field meant two things: we're not getting enough good intelligence and you need to get that evidence - and, oh, by the way, here's some ways you probably can get it."

Colonel Wilkerson called David Addington, the shadowy Cheney counsel who has been promoted to Scooter's chief of staff job, "a staunch advocate of allowing the president in his capacity as commander in chief to deviate from the Geneva Conventions."

Heathers have their own rules. Having ignored the warnings that an invasion would cause an insurgency, the Vice squad stepped up the torture to try to stop an insurgency born amid the arrogant, incompetent occupation.

The colonel also described how Vice shaped war policy. Mr. Cheney's fiercely ideological staff monitored the National Security Council staff in such Big Brother fashion that some of the N.S.C. staff "quit using e-mails for substantive conversations because they knew the vice president's alternate national security staff was reading their e-mails now."

Colonel Wilkerson said that there was an N.S.C. memo that made a compelling argument for a large number of troops being necessary in Iraq, "and to this day, I don't know whether that memorandum ever got to the president of the United States."

Women are affected by hormones only at times. Vice's hormones rage every day.

(*) (*) AMEN to that, Maureen! Amen!


11-06-2005, 09:40 PM
November 2, 2005

Op-Ed Columnist

Chain, Chain, Chain of Cheney Fools


Scooter used to be Cheney's Cheney.

Now we've got Cheney's Cheney's Cheney.

This is not an improvement.

Once Scooter left, many people, including a lot of alarmed conservatives and moderate Republicans, were hoping that W. and Vice would throw open some White House windows to let the air and sun in, and climb out of that incestuous, secretive, vindictive, hallucinatory dark hole they've been bunkered in for five years.

But they like it in their paranoid paradise. One of the most confounding aspects of W.'s exceedingly confounding presidency is his apparent unwillingness to consider that anyone who ever worked for him - and was in any way responsible for any of the disasters now afflicting his administration - should be jettisoned.

This is not loyalty. This is myopia. Where is a meddling, power-intoxicated first lady when we need one? Maybe the clever Nancy Reagan should have a little talk with Laura Bush tonight at the dinner for Prince Charles and Camilla, and explain to her how to step in and fire overweening officials who are hurting your man.

Vice thumbed his nose yesterday at the notion that he should clean up his creepy laboratory when he promoted two Renfields who are part of the gang that got us into this mess.

Dick Cheney has appointed David Addington as his new chief of staff, an ideologue who is so fanatically secretive, so in love with the shadows, so belligerent and unyielding that he's known around town as the Keyser Soze of the usual suspects. At 48, Mr. Addington is a legend: he's worked his way up the G.O.P. scandal ladder from Iran-contra to Abu Ghraib.

Unlike Scooter, this lone-wolf lawyer doesn't reach out to journalists, even to use them as conduits or covers; he makes his boss look gregarious. He routinely declines to be interviewed or photographed.

Vice also appointed John Hannah as his national security adviser, a title also held by Scooter. Mr. Addington and Mr. Hannah often battled with the C.I.A. and State as the cabal pushed the case that Saddam was a direct threat to America, sabotaging Colin Powell's reputation when it "helped" with his U.N. speech. Mr. Hannah was the contact for Ahmad Chalabi, who went around the C.I.A. to feed Vice's office the baloney intel and rosy scenarios that suckered the U.S. into war.

Mr. Addington has done his best to crown King Cheney. As Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post, Mr. Addington pushed an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that "favors an extraordinarily powerful president." He would go "through every page of the federal budget in search of riders that could restrict executive authority."

"He was a principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects," Mr. Milbank wrote. "He was a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts. Addington also led the fight with Congress and environmentalists over access to information about corporations that advised the White House on energy policy." And he helped stonewall the 9/11 commission.

The National Journal pointed out that Scooter had talked to Mr. Addington and Mr. Hannah about Joseph Wilson and his C.I.A. wife when he was seeking more information to discredit them in the press. Mr. Addington, the story said, "was deeply immersed" in the White House damage-control campaign to deflect criticism about warped W.M.D. intelligence, and attended strategy sessions in 2003 on how to discredit Mr. Wilson.

"Further," the magazine said, "Addington played a leading role in 2004 on behalf of the Bush administration when it refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee documents from Libby's office on the alleged misuse of intelligence information regarding Iraq."

Mr. Addington may as well have turned the documents over for safekeeping to Pat Roberts, because, as it turned out, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee didn't want to investigate anything.

Angry at the Scooter scandal, the Addington appointment and the Roberts stonewalling, Senate Democrats did something remarkable yesterday: they dimmed the lights, stamped their feet and shut down the Senate.

Tired of being in the dark, the Democrats put the Republicans in the dark. Childish, perhaps, but effective. Republicans screamed but grudgingly agreed to take a look at where the investigation stands. But even if the Senate starts investigating again, Mr. Addington, now promoted, will have even more authority not to cooperate.

It's the Cheney chain of command.

(*) (*) (h) (h) (h) ;) ;)

(f) (f) 's,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

11-06-2005, 09:41 PM
November 4, 2005

Questions for . . .Maureen Dowd

Following an essay by Maureen Dowd in The Times Magazine, which was adapted from her new book, "Are Men Necessary: When Sexes Collide," the author and Op-Ed columnist answers reader questions on the past and future of feminism.

Q. I was fortunate, at quite a young age — 23— to marry a man who was rather liberated and we stumbled along, figuring out the money, power, housework, jobs, sex, parenting and family stuff together. Our daughter is in college now, and the boys she meets seem terrified of the strong, opinionated and funny young woman she has become. She is discouraged and worries that she won't be able to secure a relationship like ours. After reading your article on modern relationships, I don't know whether to advise her to hold out for the last liberated guy. Or tell her that she may need to settle for less, and tone down her style a bit, too. And it would break my heart to do that. What would you recommend?
— Deborah Frandsen, Missoula, Mont.

A. I think when you settle for less than you deserve, you get less than you settled for. Your daughter clearly has high standards because she's had remarkable role models in you and your husband, and you've clearly created someone enchanting. She should not tone anything down. She should look for guys who celebrate and appreciate who she is, and not waste a lot of time on guys who don't. Just because a lot of men seem to prefer women who are awed by them, rather than ones who provide snap and crackle, doesn't mean there aren't plenty of men who like the snap and crackle, too. You just have to hunt for them.

Q. Doesn't it seem curious that this resurgence of the girlie girl and sex kitten seems to be running parallel to the great religious and political conservative movement engulfing us today? What are we doing wrong in letting the lessons some of us learned in that period go quietly by? Whether by folklore, story-telling, or by virtue of your upcoming book, shouldn't more be done to show the risky effects of insular dependence on the man in your life?
— Barbara P. Hageman, Brewster, Mass.

A. I recommend reading Ariel Levy's new book, "Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture." It has a lot of interesting material linking the red state surge and the self-actualized sex kitten surge.

In my book, I make the point that we live in a society that is so derangingly sexualized, it's not a sexy society. You can't think about sex clearly if all you're thinking about is sex, whether it's an obsession over celibacy or nymphomania. America has always been conflicted about sex, its puritanical side clashing with its prurient side. But now, with the ascendance of the prudish religious right and the numbing oversexualization of commerce and culture, America seems positively bipolar about sex.

As Amazon.com began selling sex toys, a public radio station in Kentucky briefly canceled the venerable Garrison Keillor's show "The Writer's Almanac" a few months ago because he read a poem with the word "breast" in it. An art dealer in New York captured the schizoid insanity of the moment perfectly, confiding that he gets calls from wealthy private collectors in places like Texas saying that they don't want Rubens or Monet nudes because they have small children at home. They'd rather stick with impressionist landscapes and old Dutch masters. I agree that young women, like the Ivy Leaguers interviewed in a recent front-page story, may correctly assess that it was a grind for baby boomer women trying to have it all. But they seem oblivious to the perils of insular dependence on a man.

Q. Are the problems you describe more about the shallowness of the culture and its immature, narcissistic elements, and less about the role of men and women?
— Norman Chaleff, West Orange, N.J.

A. I would say both. I think baby boomers were a very narcissistic bunch compared to the self-deprecating and not so self-regarding Greatest Generation. And I think narcissism has trumped feminism. But I also think that men and women at the start of the sexual revolution envisioned a lot easier road, and more utopian world of equality, than this world of ours. Relations between the sexes are more muddled than ever.

Q. Do women ever marry down much?
— William G. O'Connell, Minneapolis

A. A lot of high-powered, high-earning women end up with men who put less focus on earning and ambition, and that makes for a happier, alpha-beta balance. But it's harder for women to duplicate the "staff siren" syndrome I write about, where men like to get involved with the young girls who are paid to revolve around them and make their lives easier. I've had fantastically smart and cute young male assistants, but never entertained any notion of marrying them.

Q. At the close of your piece, you imagine a 2030 where all of today's young women who've opted for hearth and home will wake up and find themselves deserted by husbands for younger babes. Is your opinion of men really this jaundiced? Have you not run across any men in your world devoted to their wives and their marriages? Have you ever considered the possibility that just maybe you're traveling in the wrong circles and hanging out with the wrong people? I'm not writing from a farm in the Midwest. I grew up in New York City and married a professional woman I look forward to being married to for the rest of my life.
— Peter McFadden, Cold Spring, N.Y.

A. Yes, all the men in my family are devoted to their strong, professional wives and happily married, and many of my male friends. I was merely speculating on the possible perils for a pampered class of young women who yearn to go back to total economic and emotional dependence on men. It was just a nightmare fantasy of what could happen if women someday boomerang so far away from feminism, that they start totally revolving around men again, and give up all their own independence. A Philip K. Dick scenario.

Q. Why blame feminism for the fact that ignorant men prefer women who aren't as smart and successful? Why not blame the ignorant men? And why perpetuate this sad stereotype of single women waiting passively — and desperately — for men to pay attention to them?
— Ajitha Reddy, Chicago

A. You have to read the whole book. I don't think men who prefer women who aren't smart and successful are ignorant. A lot of men think it works better to hook up with women who want to revolve around them, and I can't argue with that. It's probably easier in many ways. I know plenty of single women who are having a great time.

Q. When your wife renounces books for catalogues, when she begins to idolize Blanche Dubois and starts going to Mass again . . . when your grad-school daughter says her mother is letting her mind go to waste, what is a husband to do? You build a modest career by avoiding the twin pitfalls of being boss and being bossed, then one day you look in the mirror and see Mike Doonesbury. Are we going back to the future or forward to the past?
Chandler Thompson, Las Cruces, N.M.

A. That is my question exactly! I love your e-mail. Please read the whole book and get back to me with your thoughts.

Q. There are women in African countries who risk HIV/AIDS on a daily basis because they HAVE to have sex with their husbands, or else. There are women in Eastern Europe who see their tickets outta there on a train to work in a brothel in the West. And there are women in India who are burned to death in kitchen fires for letting down the in-laws. The point is, these women have still not gone through our 60's — they have not had a wave of feminism which would allow them to claim some very basic rights, much less the right to be C.E.O.

Maybe women in North America are moving on, and back to a place we aren't very comfortable with. But while that happens, from our positions of comfort, I think we owe women in other countries a voice.

Christine McNab, Geneva, Switzerland

A. I agree.

Q. Who would you identify as positive role models today for women looking to stand on the shoulders of our feminist foremothers and build from that place rather than reject it? In other words, if you had your way, who would you like to see on the cover of magazines instead of Jessica Simpson?
Amy Selwyn, London

A. I introduced Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and former U.N. commissioner for human rights, the other night at a Glamour Magazine Awards dinner. She was very impressive. She got 90 percent approval ratings in Ireland and led with moral authority in a country dominated by men, reflecting feminine grace and macho tenacity, always trying to unite society and heal divisions, reaching out to her political rivals, and reaching out to help the poor and suffering, and working for women's legal and reproductive rights. Mrs. Robinson is now running an international organization called Realizing Rights, trying to end extreme poverty and to move women's health to the top of the international agenda, to try to stop the gap between rich and poor, powerless and powerful, from getting bigger. It's fine to have beautiful women on the covers of magazines, but there are many ways to be beautiful, and I worry that America has lost a sense of that. Women used to demand equality; now they just demand Botox.

We need more covers like the Time Persons of the Year in 2002, featuring a trio of brave truthtellers — Sherron Watkins, who blew the whistle on the creeps at Enron; Coleen Rowley, who blew the whistle at the F.B.I. incompetence; and Cynthia Cooper, who blew the whistle on the Worldcom n'er do wells. Three grown-up Nancy Drews with guts.

Q. How hopeful are you that America will be an example of innovation and forward-thinking once again?
Steven Henry, Miami, Fla.

A. We're in a dark ages now, with the government pulling science backward, and suffocating research on stem cells, and encouraging the idea that Intelligent Design is a legitimate alternative to evolution studies. This is a long way from JFK's New Frontier attitude. But I think most Americans like to be on the cutting edge of culture and science, and will want that reflected, sooner or later, in our leaders.

(*) (*) (h) (h) (h)

(f) (f) 's,

11-06-2005, 09:42 PM
Chávez and Maradona Lead Massive Rebuke of Bush


[posted online on November 5, 2005] The Nation

Some aspects of George Bush's travels have become commonplace, including massive protests, sporadic violence and tight security operations. All of these usual elements--notably the imperial-style arrival of the US president with an entourage of 2,000 people and four AWACS surveillance systems--were present at the Fourth Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina.

But the opposition to Bush and his proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), as well as neoconservative economic policies and capitalism in general, took on a creative twist this time, with a massive march that ended in a rally at a sports stadium involving a heterogeneous group of Latin American leaders: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Bolivian socialist leader Evo Morales, Argentine leaders of the unemployed, Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, singers from all over the continent, and, of course, Diego Maradona, legendary soccer hero.

A counter-meeting, the Summit of the People, began in the city on Monday, and concluded on Thursday with recommendations to summarily suspend FTAA talks, combat inequality in the region, and "energetically reject the militarization of the continent promoted by the empire of the north."

At the culminating event of the march against Bush, Chávez called the stadium in which over 25,000 demonstrators had gathered the "gravesite of the FTAA."

He also proposed a Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA, a Spanish acronym meaning "dawn") to replace the controversial FTAA. Regional opponents of Bush's free trade agreement accuse it of fomenting inequality and placing poorer countries at the mercy of wealthier ones. The Bolivarian alternative proposes regional integration with the goal of fighting poverty and social exclusion.

Chávez's speech reflected the diplomatic problems encountered in the writing of the Summit of the Americas final text. Venezuela refused to agree to a note, inserted by US representatives, mentioning "the 96 million people who live in extreme poverty," in Latin America and the Caribbean unless there was also mention of the "37 million poor" living in the United States.

ALBA, according to Chávez "must be built from the bottom...It will not be built up from the elites, but from below, from our roots." He listed examples of ALBA in action, citing the sale of Venezuelan petroleum to fourteen Caribbean countries at a 40 percent discount and with an interest rate of one percent over twenty-five years, with the ability to pay off the debt with goods and services instead of cash.

"It was a turning point in Latin American history," claims Marcelo Langieri, academic secretary of the Sociology faculty at the University of Buenos Aires. Langieri, who was one of 160 cultural and political leaders invited to travel the 400 kilometers from Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata on a train dubbed the ALBA Express, emphasized what he considers a paradigm shift in the dialogue. "Not only was the FTAA questioned, but also the neoconservative economic model and capitalism," and by somebody in a position of power such as Chávez's.

Chávez revealed that he would be presenting an Alliance Against Hunger plan to the Summit leaders. He promised $1 million from Venezuela for the project, which proposes eradicating starvation within the next decade.

Signs carried by the crowd included "Stop Bush" and "Pirate Bush, out of Mar del Plata." Crowd estimates varied, from 25,000 cited in the New York Times to 50,000 people cited by organizers.

The march and rally at the soccer stadium had an important celebrity factor attracting further attention to the cause. The ALBA Express, which included a special VIP car for Maradona, was cheered on by fans along the way to Mar del Plata, and stopped several times in the night to greet people gathered at stations.

Soccer legend Maradona attracted considerable attention to the march by announcing on his Monday night television show that he would be protesting Bush's arrival in Argentina. Maradona, who is not known for his political views, has a close relationship with Cuban president Fidel Castro, built during recent years when he spent time recovering from drug addiction in Cuba. In a press conference on Thursday Maradona referred to Bush as "human garbage." However, he did not actually march, going directly from the train to the stadium.

"Argentina is worthy; Let's kick Bush out," was Maradona's message to the stadium protesters.

Langieri discards the idea of separating Maradona's star power from the anti-Bush cause. For Langieri the importance of the message is expressed by the fact that a national hero such as Maradona would promote it. "Maradona is not a politician. What Diego said is the truth."

Though the march to the stadium and the gathering there were peaceful, a separate demonstration by far-left groups ended in chaos and violence. Reaching the barrier area, a group that spread out over an avenue for over six blocks faced off against police forces. A segment of this group--about 200 people--were prepared for confrontation, masking themselves to avoid recognition and as protection from tear gas. Most of the demonstrators fled when police forces responded to rock-throwing with tear gas, but others turned on storefronts--setting a bank on fire and breaking windows.

The Summit of the Americas ended Saturday in a deadlock: Mexico, the United States and 29 other nations pushed to set an April deadline for more talks on free trade, but that was opposed by Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela, the Associated Press reported. And in the end It is not clear what effect the opposition to Bush will have on regional cooperation. Will the promise of unity demonstrated by the Summit of the People and the peaceful marches lead to real alternatives to US foreign policy? Or is Bush merely the latest rallying point for anti-capitalism leading to riots and vandalism? Regardless, it seems to be that opposition toward Bush and his policies has created a powerful space, one which regional leaders, especially Chávez, are more than willing to take advantage of.

(*) (*) Good for 'em.

(f) (f) 's,

11-06-2005, 09:43 PM
Intolerable Cruelty


[from the November 21, 2005 issue] The Nation

Do we really need to be "cruel, inhuman or degrading" to win the war on terror? Apparently the Bush Administration thinks so. When John McCain proposed an amendment to a military appropriations bill that would comprehensively ban such tactics, the Administration threatened to veto it. Now that ninety senators, including forty-six Republicans, have voted for it, and Colin Powell and the Catholic bishops have all endorsed it, the Administration has shifted to a stealth strategy. It asks only for an exemption for the CIA, or deletion of the provision that the ban applies abroad. But those proposals would effectively gut the amendment, as its principal legal effect is precisely to bind the CIA in its actions overseas. And as Dana Priest's chilling November 2 Washington Post account of secret CIA detention and interrogation centers, known as "black sites," makes clear, this is no abstract debate.

In 1994 the United States ratified the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which prohibits such treatment under all circumstances, specifically including "a state of war." But after 9/11 the Administration argued that the ban does not apply to foreign nationals being held and interrogated abroad. It reasoned that when Congress ratified the treaty, it provided that these terms should be interpreted to prohibit conduct that would violate the Constitution--that is, conduct that "shocks the conscience." Since the Administration contends that the Constitution does not extend to foreign nationals outside our borders, it maintains that neither does the ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

This interpretation runs against the central purpose of the Torture Convention, which is to protect all human beings, regardless of location and nationality. And it transforms what Congress plainly intended as a substantive definition of prohibited treatment into a territorial exception that affords government officials carte blanche to engage in conduct that includes, according to reported US practices, sexual humiliation, use of dogs to terrorize prisoners, sleep deprivation, extended exposure to extreme temperatures, forced nudity, waterboarding and mock burials.

The military is already barred from such conduct by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which prohibits cruelty and maltreatment. The CIA is not governed by the military's rules, however, so the amendment's principal contribution is to impose such limits on nonmilitary interrogators acting abroad. To exempt the CIA, or to limit the statute to domestic interrogations, would not only rob the amendment of virtually all its bite. It would actually make existing law worse by providing Congressional authorization for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in certain circumstances. Right now the authority for such action is a highly dubious executive interpretation; the proposed exemptions would give this questionable interpretation legislative approval.

The CIA does not need this exemption. As Priest reveals, the CIA began operating secret detention centers for illegal interrogations only after 9/11. For 200 years our government has gathered invaluable intelligence without resorting to tactics that treat human beings worse than dogs. And as the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation expressly states, "Use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results."

Even if inhuman treatment might induce a suspect to talk in a specific case, such methods are difficult to control and in the long run ill-advised, as the migration of such abuses from Guantánamo to wider use in Iraq demonstrates. These tactics ultimately undermine our security, as they impair our legitimacy and create ideal recruiting tools for the enemy. It is simply immoral to claim that we can inflict on other countries' nationals cruel and inhuman treatment that would not be tolerated if it were imposed on our own citizens.

If we are to prevail in the war on terror, we must do so by distinguishing ourselves from our enemy. Terrorism is a moral evil because to achieve its ends it brutally disregards the value of human life. Torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are evil for the same reason. As John McCain said, this is not about who they are, "this is about who we are."

(*) (*) I've always liked McCain and would have voted for him had he run.


11-06-2005, 09:44 PM
Sheryl Swoopes: Out of the Closet--and Ignored


[posted online on November 4, 2005]

What's the sound of a good story smothered? Ask Sheryl Swoopes. Swoopes is the most prominent women's basketball player of her generation: a five-time all-star, three-time Olympic gold medalist and the WNBA's only three-time MVP. And in a tribute only corporate America could render, Swoopes is the only female player to have her own basketball shoe: Nike's Air Swoopes.

The 34-year-old Houston Comet veteran just delivered what could be the most significant body blow to homophobia ever weathered by the athletic-industrial complex. She has come out of the closet with pride, defiance and a palpable sense of joy.

But Swoopes's announcement has been met in the sports press with what the Associated Press correctly described as "a shrug of indifference." San Jose Mercury News columnist John Ryan wrote, "Let's face it: On the list of shocking headlines, 'WNBA player is gay' falls somewhere between 'Romo took steroids' and 'Steinbrenner is angry.' "

The muted response to Swoopes's revelation flows from the sexist treatment of women's athletics on sports pages, where the WNBA faces regular derision and the accomplishments of even elite female athletes--from Mia Hamm to Serena Williams--are downplayed or ignored.

The Swoopes story hasn't been ignored so much as reframed. Sports pundits have shifted the conversation toward how "easy" it is for Swoopes to come out compared to a male athlete. Jim Rome, whom no one is about to confuse with Harvey Milk, said on his sports yak-fest Rome Is Burning that Swoopes "is in a fringe professional sports league and is anything but a household name in this country. [Male athletes] have a lot more to lose because they have a lot more at stake. Bigger league. Bigger profile. Bigger dollars. Bigger backlash. Bigger ball. Bigger everything." Ummm... paging Dr. Freud.

Bill Plaschke, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, said on ESPN's Around the Horn, "Sadly, I don't think it's going to make much of an impact because, for whatever reason in this country, lesbians are viewed differently than gay men. There's not the stigma against lesbianism that there is against gays and men. Especially in athletics."

And this is just a sampling.

Swoopes responded to this line of questioning perfectly, saying, "I don't see [a male athlete coming out] any time soon. But you know what? I didn't really see this happening, either--at least not now--and it did."

It should probably go without saying that looking to Around the Horn or Jim Rome for a serious discussion on sports and sexuality is like reading Ann Coulter for a history of Islam. But tragically, many writers and voices that should be celebrating this moment are choosing to be little more than a fun-house reflection of the mainstream sports blather, concentrating on what Swoopes is not: a man.

The most painful expression of this came from someone described on ESPN.com as a "Closeted Division I-A sports administrator." He said, "I and every other gay guy in sports live every day with the fact that it's OK to be a lesbian in sports but not a gay guy. It hurts like hell and is life-altering and causes you to live with fear.... We gotta be in the closet and they don't."

This entire approach accepts the myth that it's somehow "easier" for a woman athlete to come out than a man. It adheres in canine fashion to the sports radio stereotype that somehow, in this homophobic society, female athletes are magically turning women's sports into a rainbow paradise. This is simply untrue. In the WNBA for example, a whopping two other players have declared themselves lesbians.

Of course there is tremendous homophobia in men's sports. But the moment belongs to Swoopes. Especially because, in addition to being the most prominent team athlete to ever come out, Swoopes happens to be African-American. As she said, "You have Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O'Donnell, but you don't have your well-known gay African-American who's come out." If you don't think this took guts, see the sick, homophobic rants against gays and lesbians--against black lesbians in particular--by the Rev. Walter Fauntroy and DC Reverend Willie Wilson. You can also ask Keith Boykin of the National Black Justice Coalition, a prominent civil and gay rights organization, who was denied the opportunity to speak at the Millions More March in October.

For African-American women athletes, especially in the WNBA, the closet can be a cavernous, lonely, chamber of depression. Many come from small Southern towns and communities where homophobia is as thick as the humidity. They then go to college programs where learning to stay in the closet can be as much a part of the coaching drills as lay-up lines and the three-person weave. Swoopes's courageous stance has the potential to begin to move that weight in the other direction. It also has the potential to reach out to young African-American lesbians, made to feel like the twenty-first-century version of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. As Selena Roberts wrote in the New York Times, "There is no diminishing the importance of each female athlete who publicly declares she wants to love freely in a homophobic culture, to live truthfully in a society divided on gay rights. Somewhere, a girl may feel less alone and less of an outcast because someone like Swoopes--an African-American woman--has further diluted the taboo."

We should stop looking for the gay Jackie Robinson. We found her.

(*) (*) Amen. ;)

(k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

11-06-2005, 09:46 PM
(h) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h)

by Katha Pollitt

Madam President, Madam President

[from the November 14, 2005 issue] The Nation

I can't help it. I love Commander in Chief. Sure, it's cheesy and underwritten and not as good as The West Wing. More story lines, please! More characters! More witty banter and moral ambiguity and multiple crises all coming to a head at the same time! But in a TV season in which the major network roles for women over 30 are as desperate housewives in size 0 stretch pants, this feminist fantasy about the first woman President gives me a thrill every Tuesday night at 9. Maybe there's more to life than Wisteria Lane, after all. I love Geena Davis as President Mackenzie "Mac" Allen, so unflappable and warm and confident and kind and clever, to say nothing of gorgeous and six feet tall. But then I've loved Geena Davis ever since she wrote a letter to Newsweek, at the height of the "date rape hype" hysteria, pointing out that speaking out against rape wasn't embracing the role of victim but rejecting it. Commander in Chief makes you realize how rarely on TV you get to see a woman in charge who isn't a dragon or a bundle of nerves--or a likable one who isn't incompetent, clumsy, silly or self-/no spamming of other sites/hating. Imagine, the show's been on since September 27, and Mac hasn't--yet--dissolved into a puddle of tears from the stress of running the free world while raising three kids and foiling the plots of sexist Republican Speaker of the House Nathan Templeton, played with delicious malice by Donald Sutherland.

Even more amazing, her husband, Rod Calloway (Kyle Secor), isn't sulking and acting out, even though one of Mac's first official acts when she moved up from being Vice President was to fire him as her Chief of Staff because otherwise people would assume he was running the show. He takes being First Gentleman with a sense of humor, pitches in equally with the kids and still wants to have sex. More miraculous still, so does Mac. Well, I said it was a fantasy. (Update: Looks like trouble is brewing in paradise. Sigh.)

Pundits wonder out loud if Commander in Chief will pave the way for a real-life woman President, like--oh let's just pick a name out of a hat--Hillary Clinton. Far be it from me to suggest that TV dramas don't affect Americans' real-life attitudes--I'd never even heard of cosmopolitans before Sex and the City and now I drink them all the time. The show may persuade some voters that it would be cool to have a woman President--"Madam President" has a nice ring to it. But it's unlikely to reach the gender-/no spamming of other sites/prejudiced. The substantial minority of voters who, according to polls, wouldn't vote for a woman nominated by their own party probably aren't watching the show, and besides, they're most likely Republicans (20 percent, versus 7 percent of Democrats) who would sooner admit the Earth is more than 10,000 years old than vote for Hillary. Mac Allen, moreover, is so androgynously terrific--even her name is unisex--she's less like a real woman politician than like one of Shakespeare's cross-dressing heroines--Rosalind, or Portia. It's hard to think of a woman within a thousand miles of the White House she doesn't make look frumpy and fussy and old and short.

But then, Mac isn't a politician--she doesn't even belong to a political party. She's an idealistic ex-Congresswoman turned academic who rather improbably accepted the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket, despite being a liberal and understanding that she was there to win women's votes. So little interested is Mac in power that she's all set to heed the President's dying wish and step aside so Templeton can take over--the Speaker of the House is next in line of succession, a fact that must brighten Denny Hastert's life considerably. But then Templeton makes one coarse, woman-hating remark too many and next thing you know, President Allen is sending in the Navy to rescue a Nigerian woman scheduled to be stoned for sex out of wedlock, sending in the Air Force to restore democracy to an unnamed Latin American country by threatening to destroy its coca crop, and using her summit meeting with the arrogant and sexist Russian president to win freedom for imprisoned dissident journalists. Can a woman be tough enough to lead the free world? Take that, misogynists and drug lords and enemies of free speech! In future episodes Mac will capture Osama bin Laden, rewrite the Iraqi Constitution and raise SAT scores by 75 points--all while dealing with a sullen teenage daughter who wishes Pat Buchanan had her mother's job.

There's a lot of paint-by-numbers feel-good feminism here: See Mac cope when her younger daughter spills juice on the presidential blouse just before she addresses the nation; see Mac and the former First Lady bond over the old joke about how if Moses had been a woman she would have asked for directions and been in Israel in a week; see Mac elegantly trump man after man who makes the mistake of talking down to her. I'm not happy about the show's penchant for calling out the troops, but feel-good feminism? I'll take it. In the real world, after all, it's hard to read the paper without coming across a Larry Summers sound-alike. "Women don't make it to the top because they don't deserve to," top British advertising executive Neil French told a posh Toronto audience in October. "They're crap." French went on to call women "wimps" who inevitably "go suckle something." (Interestingly, the New York Times made no mention of the crude language in its report.) French resigned but that didn't stop Brit celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay from announcing that "the girls" these days "can't cook to save their lives." Harriet Miers is ridiculed for her eyeliner, her thank-you notes and her lack of hot dates, and attacked as a mediocrity--which she is, but I don't want to hear about it from people who think Clarence Thomas is a brilliant jurist. New data showing that in Minnesota women now get more academic degrees than men at every level is reported as a problem, not just for men but for women. Whom will they marry, poor overeducated dears? Funny how no one worried about marriage when the numbers went the other way.

As the backlash gets daily more open and absurd, our real-life female politicians seem paralyzed. It's up to television now: Run, Geena, run!

(*) (*) (l) (h) (l) (h) (l) I never miss this show.

(k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

11-06-2005, 09:49 PM
Frontier Injustice


[from the October 31, 2005 issue]

Think of Andrew Jackson as your grandfather who spent his life in the military (old style). Many of his attitudes are absolutely abominable, especially when it comes to race. He believes passionately in democracy and freedom, but his views of who is entitled to those blessings appear to leave out the vast majority of humanity. His wartime anecdotes and views about war and other nations make you shudder. Whenever he fiercely disagrees with a person or a country, he threatens to shoot them down like a dog, and since he spent much of his life shooting people and is a leading member of the NRA this doesn't seem an empty threat. All your educated acquaintances sneer at him. He can't spell. He talks as if he comes from the backwoods of the Carolinas, which happens to be the truth. You don't even share his taste in music.

And yet while you detest his service in Vietnam, you are very grateful that he fought against the Germans and the Japanese. You remember his flashes of great kindness and generosity. He is pathologically loyal to his friends. Though he became a famous man, he retained a touching affection for and loyalty to your grandmother, despite her homeliness and country ways, including smoking a pipe at official dinners. Even at your most pacific, you feel a sneaking admiration for a man who has lead poisoning from the fragments of three separate bullets wandering round his body and yet works harder than most people a third of his age. He is, as they say, as tough as hickory. He carved his way upward--almost literally--from an impoverished, orphaned and desperate youth. He committed his murders face to face, not by giving orders to others from the safety of a Washington desk. Above all, as you grow older and wiser, you understand more that he is part of you, flesh of your flesh. If he hadn't existed, neither would you in any form be recognizable to yourself. You may hate him, but you can't cut him out of you.

Nobody today can claim Jackson as a grandfather, but some readers of The Nation may perhaps have Southern Scots-Irish grandfathers with the above traits (full disclosure: I'm mostly German-Irish, and my grandmother was Scottish, though her family was in the British service).

Jackson was not only an immense personality and historical force. He was also one of the supreme historical representatives of the Scots-Irish frontier and military tradition in America, with its cult of "toughness, maleness and whiteness," in the words of Michael Kazin. In this tradition the admirable and the detestable are inextricably mixed, and without it America would not be what it is today, geographically or culturally.

Andrew Jackson was born in the South Carolina Piedmont in 1767, to Protestant Scots-Irish parents who had emigrated from Ulster two years earlier. The family suffered terribly at British hands during the War of Independence, and hatred and distrust of Britain became a leitmotif of Jackson's life. Orphaned, and a wild youth even by Scots-Irish standards, Jackson moved to Tennessee and rose in local politics thanks in large part to his leadership of militia forces against the Indians. The duels that he fought with rival local figures mostly only enhanced his reputation among his constituency. He became a national hero with his crushing defeat of the British attempt to capture New Orleans in 1815. He also gained enormous popularity for his readiness to defy international law by pursuing Indian enemies into the Spanish territory of Florida and executing two of their British suppliers.

Jackson's victory over President John Quincy Adams in 1828 is usually taken as representing the triumph of mass democracy over the elites who had dominated American politics since independence. Jackson's championing of the common man against the East Coast elites has led to his popularity among liberal scholars like Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who might have been expected to distrust him.

However, this populist, nationalist anti-elitism has returned to bite the liberals with a vengeance in our own time. As for Jackson's economic egalitarianism, it should be noted that this was a specifically Western sense of equality of opportunity--including the free opportunity to seize lands from the Indians. It implied a defense of the common man against unfair suppression by the elites, but it certainly did not imply any kind of guaranteed economic status or state support for the population.

Jackson's victory, and the nature of his support, led to widespread fears that the United States was following France and Mexico into mob rule and military dictatorship. In fact, while Jackson pursued certain anti-elitist policies, most notably in his successful campaign against the Bank of the United States, he generally defended the Constitution. Jackson's facing down of the threat of South Carolina secession preserved the Union for another generation. Jackson was President until 1837; he died in 1845, after living long enough to see his protégé, Sam Houston, achieve one of his greatest ambitions, the incorporation of Texas into the Union and consequent removal of any potential foreign threat to the United States from the Southwest.

Jackson is of perennial interest as a historical figure, but far more important in today's historical climate is that we reckon with the impact of the ideology that bears his name, Jacksonianism, confronting in particular the combination of fanatical belief and extreme narrowness with which its exponents understood the concepts of democracy and freedom. We need to do this because Jacksonian ideas, however transformed over time, continue to shape how a great many Americans see their country and the world. A candid reckoning with Jacksonianism's history raises key questions about the ambiguous nature of democracy itself, and the relationship between democracy and nationalism. It also raises in acute form the point Eric Foner has made so brilliantly about the shifting definition of liberty in American history.

H.W. Brands's biography of Jackson fails completely in its approach to these questions. As an account of Jackson's upbringing, character and life, it is solid and well written. It does not add much of real importance to the 1984 biography by Robert V. Remini (now abridged into one volume), whose judgments it generally echoes. Brands's work also suffers from Remini's greatest failing, an identification with its subject sometimes tending toward hagiography, as in the statement that "Jackson's support indeed was the people" (despite his getting a minority of the popular vote). Still, Jackson's life and character were so amazing that it is always worth reading a new book about him on a plane or in bed--if you don't suffer from airsickness, nightmares or any lingering affection for Britain.

But Brands does not really deal with the deeper issues of Jacksonianism. It is striking that his bibliography contains no mention either of Michael Kazin's critical work The Populist Persuasion, which accords Jacksonianism a leading place, or of Walter Russell Mead's Special Providence, which contains an exceptionally intelligent analysis of the Jacksonian tradition. Nor is there a place for Richard Slotkin's great if problematic trilogy on the role of the frontier and its myths in American culture. As a study of how Jackson's ideas have affected later generations of Americans, Brands's book does not match Andrew Burstein's work of 2003, The Passions of Andrew Jackson.

Indeed, nowhere does Brands seriously analyze the word "democracy." In his version, whatever sins marred Jacksonian democracy, they were a product of his time and have since been redeemed by the forward march of democracy that Jackson helped to further, even to father. Jacksonianism's contribution to democracy is therefore seen as unimpeachably good: "Jackson's devotion to democracy was unsurprising in one born of the people and bred in the school of hard experience.... the Clan of Old Hickory, the tribe of Sharp Knife, was the American people." The book ends with the statement that "Andrew Jackson...devoted his life to making democracy possible."

On this point, unfortunately, Brands's book also reflects the dominant currents in the popular history of this country, as well as the way many Americans view the past, especially their own. To the extent that this sentimental, populist ethos reflects the democratic values of American civic nationalism, it is in principle positive. The problem is that it also encourages an instinctive, uncritical deference to words like "freedom" and "democracy" that can easily lead not only to great political naïveté but also ruthless political exploitation to suppress debate and dissent--as at present by the Bush Administration.

The most bitter and enduring issues that Jackson's memory raises about democracy and the American tradition concern the Cherokee question: Jackson's refusal as President to implement the decision of the Supreme Court under John Marshall in 1831 giving protection to the Cherokee against new measures passed by the State of Georgia making them subject to its law. This, as Jackson was well aware, laid the basis for the Indians' expulsion beyond the Mississippi to make way for white settlers. "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it," he is reported to have said. Whether he uttered them or not, these words faithfully reflected the spirit in which he acted. The US government refused to defend the Cherokee against Georgia, Jackson warned them that they had no choice but to leave and within a few years (though after Jackson himself had left office) they were driven from their ancestral homeland to Oklahoma on the "Trail of Tears," on which a large number died of disease and malnutrition.

Brands tackles this issue head on--in marked contrast to Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who in The Age of Jackson (1945) amazingly evaded the issue altogether, even in a chapter titled "Jacksonian Democracy and the Law." Brands takes the line of Remini and other recent defenders of Jackson in arguing--as indeed Jackson did--that the "attitudes" of Southern white society made it impossible for the Cherokee to remain. As Brands writes:

The Indians must either adopt the ways of the Whites, including the laws of the states in which they lived, or move. To stay where they were, under their old customs, was not an option. Jackson knew the Indians' neighbors [i.e., Southern whites] having lived among such people for most of his life. They wouldn't leave the Indians alone, nor let them keep large tracts of land lightly occupied. The status quo was untenable; for the Indians it risked "utter annihilation."

Realistically, therefore, their only choice was deportation or extermination. Indeed, it was only their removal west of the Mississippi that allowed even a remnant of the Cherokee to survive as a people, rather than following the other eastern tribes into oblivion.

There is a good deal of truth to this argument, but what Brands and others fail to realize is that it is less a defense of Jackson than an indictment of his society. The reason the case of the Cherokee has caused such disquiet throughout the generations is that they were not "wild Indians" like the Comanche or the Kiowa. Given the nomadic and raiding life of the latter, including truly bestial treatment of prisoners, it is hard to imagine how they could have coexisted in peace not only with white Americans but with any settled society. The Cherokee, by contrast, were a settled people who became literate and Christian, and who tried to play by American rules--including the appeal to the Supreme Court. They had also been America's, and Jackson's, allies against other tribes and against the British. Most of the empires of the time, including the French and Spanish, would have protected them as trusted allies.

It is instructive in this regard to contrast their treatment with that of the Maori of New Zealand by the British Crown at around the same time. The British conquered the Maori and seized much of their land. But when they made a treaty with the Maori, they stuck to it. They protected the Maori from the white settlers in New Zealand and guaranteed their possession of enough land to live on--with the result that today, the Maori are a powerful, growing (and perhaps in the future, dominant) section of New Zealand society.

In the case of the US frontier, the alternatives always seemed to be either assimilation, deportation or extermination. Coexistence with indigenous groups has always been especially difficult for the United States, at least as long as those groups retained any autonomous power. The drive either to Americanize or destroy such communities is the flip side of the often admirable American desire to spread democracy and freedom. Or in Andrew Burstein's words, Jackson "expected Indians to be either diabolical or pliant."

The fate of the Southern Indians, however, also illustrates some wider and uncomfortable truths about democracy and "freedom," which Americans would do well to consider before they plunge into any more attempts to democratize countries in the Muslim world. The first is that through most of history and in most societies, from ancient Athens on, ideas of "freedom" have been closely allied to ideas of personal or group "privilege"--just as the whites of the South and of the frontier interpreted their freedom vis-à-vis the Indians and the blacks.

Another point is that people have always been willing to make trade-offs between democracy and the rule of law on the one side and security on the other. In the case of the Cherokee, Jackson and his followers were willing to ignore US law not only because they were greedy for land but also because of the horrible frontier experiences of the previous century, including in many cases personal experience of Indian raids. They saw the Cherokee as a real threat and potential fifth column, if backed by a European power like Britain or France.

The long determination to maintain ruthless suppression of the blacks, by slavery or terror, also owed much to fear--paranoid and hysterical no doubt, but nonetheless real for that. And it is sad but true that while the diminution of this fear in the white South in the twentieth century owed something to the spread of new ideas, it also owed something to the fact that, thanks to massive migration to the Northern cities--driven in part by white Southern terrorism--blacks formed a much smaller proportion of the Southern population in the 1960s than they had in the 1860s.

Above all, Americans should remember that for by far the greater part of American history, if Americans had been told by an outside dominant power that "democracy" meant acknowledging black equality and respecting Indian land, a majority would have unhesitatingly rejected democracy and opted instead for some kind of populist, racially based authoritarianism--something so unthinkable to Brands that he does not even consider it. During Jackson's presidency his enemies, John Quincy Adams among them, accused him of seeking to set up a "military monarchy" along Latin American lines, governing dictatorially though with occasional plebiscitary support from the masses.

This didn't happen, of course, and so the United States today is not Mexico or Brazil. The Yankee, or New England, element in the American tradition, with its historical commitment to the rule of law and to civil society, is not the only reason the Latin American solution did not come to pass. Jackson and his descendants have always been genuinely attached to democracy and the law, though in their own specific understanding of these terms. For most of American history, tendencies toward authoritarianism have taken a communal form, and as with Jackson they have been phrased and even thought of in terms of a defense of the American democratic system, not a revolt against it. However, this adherence to democracy has also involved a conviction that being American means adhering to a national cultural community, one defined by its values, and in the past by race, ethnicity and religion.

Like Jackson, the numerous descendants of this tradition have had a strong sense that this community is threatened by alien and savage "others." They have also had a sense that they constitute in some way the authentic American people, or folk; the backbone of the nation, possessing a form of what German nationalists called the gesunder Volkssinn ("healthy sense of belonging to the people"), embracing correct national forms of religion, social behavior and patriotism. With time, they have come to accept people first of different ethnicities, then of different races, as members of the American community--but only so long as they conform to American norms and become "part of the team."

The freedom of aliens and deviants, who do not share the folk culture, can therefore legitimately be circumscribed by authoritarian and even savage means, as long as this is to defend the community and reflects the will of the sound members of the community. In the words of Walter Russell Mead, which have deep implications for American nationalism abroad as well as at home: "Jacksonian realism is based on the very sharp distinction in popular feeling between the inside of the folk community and the dark world without."

This is the tradition that produced figures like John Ashcroft. Like Jackson's, Ashcroft's adherence to the rule of law is not hypocritical. It is merely qualified by two very large conditions: that in a crisis, written laws can be suspended for the sake of the defense of the community; and that the law in any case applies only to a limited extent to aliens, particularly those who are suspected of being enemies and of having behaved in a "barbaric" manner.

Tragically, the indiscriminate savagery of the attacks on 9/11 was all but destined to reawaken this aspect of the Jacksonian tradition in the United States. Systematically fanned by the Bush Administration, the atrocities have produced a widespread attitude toward the outside world in general and the Muslim world in particular that closely replicates that of Jackson toward the "savage" Indians and their international backers. Leaving aside issues of morality and justice, however, there are some critical differences between the two cases. Say what you like about Jackson and his Scots-Irish frontiersmen, they were superbly effective fighters. They knew their enemies. They knew the land. The contrast with their hapless descendants blundering around Iraq could hardly be more stark. Jackson would doubtless have approved of the spirit behind the Bush Administration's "war on terror." I doubt very much that he would have approved of its execution.

(*) (*) Amazing to me how reading history (which is always an accounting of those who "win" and thus open to interpretation) provides perspective on current events. At least I have found that what my dad told me about how the two relate is more and more true the older I get..... :| ;)


Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

11-06-2005, 09:50 PM
Scamming the States


[from the October 31, 2005 issue] The Nation

In a potential bombshell for the ways states and cities subsidize corporations in the name of jobs, the Supreme Court announced in late September that it will hear the case of DaimlerChrysler v. Cuno. A year ago the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that a huge investment tax credit given by the State of Ohio for a new Jeep plant in Toledo violated the commerce clause of the Constitution. If the Supremes uphold the decision many job subsidies are likely to be invalidated. In the world of "economic development," where states and cities spend at least $50 billion a year, such a ruling would be huge news.

The DaimlerChrysler episode is a classic case of "job blackmail," in which the automaker threatened to move Toledo's longstanding Jeep production, playing Ohio against Michigan. Ohio "won" with a package valued at about $281 million.

Such episodes have become epidemic: state versus state or more commonly suburb versus suburb. Boeing did it to Washington State for the Dreamliner project. Dell did it to North Carolina. Dozens have done it to New York City. Raytheon and Fidelity did it to Massachusetts. Cabela's does it and so does Wal-Mart. The average state now subsidizes jobs in more than thirty ways. Individual deals routinely involve eight or ten giveaways: property tax abatements, corporate income tax credits, tax increment financing, low-interest loans, free land--and just plain cash. Such packages often exceed $100,000 per job.

The trouble is, the system is rigged. State auditors, investigative journalists and tax watchdogs have repeatedly found that companies fail to create or retain as many jobs as they promise. Others are paying poverty wages or failing to provide healthcare. Some don't create any new jobs or actually lay people off. Subsidized companies are even outsourcing jobs offshore. The other promised benefit--higher tax revenue--often proves false or exaggerated as well. That's the great American jobs scam: a system that enables corporations to exact huge taxpayer subsidies by promising a stronger economy--and then lets them fail to deliver.

In the same quarter-century that states and cities have larded on these wasteful giveaways, they have had to cut corners on their budgets, deferring maintenance on infrastructure. New Orleans's shattered levees are a tragic example, but the American Society of Civil Engineers warns of a cumulative physical deficit of $1.6 trillion that threatens everything from water quality and reliable electricity to highway safety and mass transit.

With roots in the Great Depression, this rigged system matured by the 1970s, with secretive site-location consultants (like Fantus), "business climate" experts (like Grant Thornton) and a corporate network orchestrating attacks on state tax codes. Today it includes consultants who help companies avoid leaving money on the table--and even an embryonic industry buying and selling unused economic development tax credits.

Consider Dell's recent deal for a new computer assembly plant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The company secretly negotiated state subsidies worth $200 million to $225 million, which were then presented by Governor Mike Easley to the legislature for one day of debate--up or down, no amendments allowed. Then Dell played three localities against one another and won an additional $37.2 million from Forsyth County and Winston-Salem. All this for a facility that will cost a projected $100 million to $115 million--less than half the value of the subsidies!

Increasingly, however, taxpayers are fighting back. A wide rainbow--including social service advocates, community groups, unions and labor federations, tax and budget watchdogs, and environmentalists--are rewriting jobs policy from the grassroots up. They're winning "disclosure" laws requiring annual, company-specific reporting on costs and benefits (twelve states and counting); "clawbacks," which allow taxpayers to get some or all of their money back if a company falls short on jobs or other promised benefits; and job-quality standards, or wage and healthcare requirements (in forty-three states and forty-six localities).

Coalitions are also demanding budget reforms to make hidden corporate entitlements fully visible when states make tough budget choices. School boards are becoming aware that they deserve more say when property tax abatements hurt public education funding. Activists against sprawl and Wal-Mart are increasingly using the leverage of subsidies in big-box fights.

Of course, the Bush Administration's post-Katrina plans--the Gulf Opportunity Zone, which promises a windfall for oil companies and casinos--are swimming against this tide of progress. But community groups and unions are resisting, informed by New York City watchdogs about the many scams in the $20 billion package for the post-9/11 rebuilding of Lower Manhattan [see David Dyssegaard Kallick, "Building a New Table," October 24].

Against this roaring backdrop--and related lawsuits in North Carolina and Minnesota--DaimlerChrysler v. Cuno goes to the Supreme Court. No matter how the case is decided, the issue can only grow hotter. Money is being wasted on secret corporate giveaways when it is needed to rebuild our infrastructure, and the costs are becoming clearer by the day.

(*) (*) :| :| :o :o

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

11-06-2005, 09:51 PM
Mark Steyn The Australian (Sydney) 11/6/05 The Week

Russia is dying, said Mark Steyn in the Sydney Australian, and Islamists will eat its carcass. This death is not just a metaphor: Russians die young and have few children, so their population is dropping rapidly. And those who are left are sickly. With the world’s fastest-growing rate of HIV infection, Russia can expect to lose a half million people each year to AIDS by 2010. The only regions with growing populations are the Muslim ones, and they are getting increasingly radical. Other parts of the world are coping with similar problems, but they get them one at a time. Africa has AIDS, the Middle East has Islamists, and East Asia has North Korean nukes. Russia is the trifecta: “an African-level AIDS crisis and an Islamist separatist movement sitting on top of the biggest pile of nukes on the planet.” Its nukes, in fact, are some of the only valuable assets Russia has. As it crumbles, it will surely be tempted to sell them. It could easily “bequeath the world several new Muslim nations, a nuclear Middle East, and a stronger China.” Such a future could make the Cold War seem like a golden age.

(*) (*) .........sounds like a really alarming combination in my view. :|


11-06-2005, 09:53 PM
The Humbling of the Bush Administration

With scandal at every turn, many wonder if Bush will restaff.


The George W. Bush presidency is “imploding,” said Reymer Klüver in Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung. The president is suffering disaster after disaster in a Job-like rain of catastrophe. The 2,000th death of a U.S. soldier in Iraq, the forced recall of his Supreme Court pick, and the indictment of his vice president’s top advisor came “all in the same week.” Bush can still salvage his administration, but only by doing what most leaders of other countries would do in such situations: firing a bunch of top officials and putting in untainted people. Yet there’s almost no chance that such a “stubborn” person as Bush will even admit that his administration is broken. He is so “utterly dependent on his tight circle of advisors” that he can’t possibly do without them. Bush will try to ride out the criticism without changing course.

He hasn’t seen the worst of it yet, said Julian Borger in the London Guardian. The trial of Dick Cheney’s aide “Scooter” Libby for lying about the outing of a CIA operative could easily turn into a debate over the justification for the Iraq war. The U.S. has conducted several investigations into the faulty evidence indicating that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but all have “avoided directly tackling the politicization of intelligence.” But tampering with intelligence is at the heart of the Libby indictment. When Ambassador Joe Wilson reported that there was no truth in the claim that Iraq was buying nuclear material from Niger, Libby allegedly tried to discredit Wilson by claiming his CIA-operative wife had organized the trip. Cheney had already been at loggerheads with the CIA over its reluctance to endorse his wild theories about Iraqi WMD.

This scandal could awaken the American people to the truth about the war, said Gérard Dupuy in Paris’ Libération. Plamegate “reveals the power the neocons wield in the Bush administration, their cynical and brutal manipulations, and the adventurism their dogma pushed America into.” A majority of Americans already disapproves of the way the Iraq war has been conducted. The more they learn about the lies on which it was based, the more they will come to join the rest of the world in condemning it. The satisfying sight of the administration under fire restores one’s faith in the American justice system, said Amsterdam’s De Volkskrant in an editorial. Even such a “slick, controlled machine” as the Bush administration can’t escape “the cherished American tradition of independent investigation.”

Don’t write Bush’s political obituary quite yet, said the London Times in an editorial. Bush may be having a bad spell, but that’s normal for presidents in their second terms. The Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Monicagate scandals all came after the presidents involved had just been re-elected. Compared with any of those, Plamegate is not so bad. After all, Bush is not personally involved in the scandal the way Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton were. And he’s got some good news to trumpet: The U.S. economy is growing, and Iraq is making progress on democracy. If Bush can “recapture his authority,” he will still be an effective president.

(*) (*) ....like we Americans don't already know...... :| :|


11-06-2005, 09:54 PM
Changing Their Tune

The Week


To stand on principle, a politician needs the flexibility of a yoga instructor and a short memory. Changing circumstances inevitably create the need for an entirely new position on “the rule of law,” “the will of the people,” or other such noble abstractions. Consider the ongoing debate over the president’s Supreme Court nominations. Not long ago, Republicans insisted that every one of President Bush’s nominees deserved a “straight up-or-down vote” in the Senate. Anything less was a constitutional outrage—a usurpation of power from the executive branch. Then along came Harriet Miers. Many Republicans didn’t think very highly of her ideological bona fides, and clamored for the president to withdraw her nomination. An up-or-down vote was no longer deemed necessary. Meanwhile, the same Democrats who professed shock that conservatives would veto poor Ms. Miers on ideological grounds are now insisting that Judge Samuel Alito’s ideology might warrant his rejection.

And so it goes. Remember when Bill Clinton got caught lying under oath about a sex act? Anguished Democrats cried that the charge was trivial, while grave Republicans intoned that perjury was a serious crime. Now that Dick Cheney’s top aide stands accused of perjury, Democrats are horrified anyone might tell an untruth. Republicans, on the other hand, are griping about prosecuting fine public servants over mere “technicalities.” It’s to be expected, really: Politics is a rugby scrum, not ballet. It’s about ideas some of the time, and self-interest most of the time, but very rarely is politics about principles. Both parties will say and do whatever is necessary to win. We might all be less cynical if the players of this game, now and then, would just admit that.

William Falk
Editor-in-chief The Week

(*) (*) Of course I agree...... ;)

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

11-06-2005, 09:57 PM
Charles Loloma (1921-1991)


Loloma was born on January 7, 1921. His father was a Hopi Indian, Rex of the Sand and Tobacco Clan. His mother, Rachel Loloma was from the Badger Clan. His father was an accomplished waver and moccasin maker and his mother was an excellent basket maker. The Loloma family lived in a traditional Hopi village. Over the years Charles Loloma developed a sense of design, dedication and meticulousness that was considered to be the Hopi way; in which art is not different from daily life. Loloma attended day school as a child. His teachers recognized his talents and he was encouraged to draw and paint. Charles finished high school in 1941. By that time he was an accomplished artist in his community and received many commissions.

As many others, Loloma was drafted into the army in 1941. He became a camouflage expert and was stationed in Missouri. From there he spent his time in the Aleutians as an engineer. In 1942 he married Otellie Pasivaya. Loloma returned to her village, Second Mesa, after he was discharged in 1945. With help of the GI Bill, Charles attended the School of American Craftsman at Alfred University. There he studied design, mechanical drawing, ceramic chemistry and marketing.

Loloma applied for a Whitney Foundation Fellowship. With the grant he studied the clays used by Hopi Indians. Through his experiments he proved that shale clays would turn into a glaze if fired at high temperatures. During his stay at Alfred, Loloma also discovered he wanted to pursue an occupation as an artist. He and his wife set up a shop in the Kiva Craft Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. After several years of working with clay and weaving, Loloma decided to try jewelry making. He continued to make and sell his jewelry in his shop. He was a self-taught silversmith. Loloma did find some help in a book called The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths. Loloma's early work was mainly cast objects designed in a traditional Hopi fashion. Loloma also taught part-time at Arizona State College and in Sedona during summers. He was able to formulate ideas on design and gather information on selling and marketing through these various experiences. Loloma and his wife were the first Native American's to successfully run a pottery shop. Because of this they received attention that inevitably helped their business.

In 1962 the Institute of American Arts was founded. Loloma was appointed head of plastic arts and sales departments. Loloma traveled to Paris in 1963. While in Paris, his jewelry was modeled in fashion shows and exhibited in private shows. After his visit, he returned to the Institute in Santa Fe where he remained until 1965. He then went back to his village in Hoteville. Soon after his return, he divorced his wife and remarried. He built a studio in his home and continued to make jewelry.

Loloma believes his most important contribution to the field was what he called "inner gems". These were hidden stones in his jewelry, once the jewelry was put on; you could no longer see the gems on the inner side of the jewelry. These gems were to indicate inner beauty of the wearer. Usually these gems were more valuable than the gems on the outside of the jewelry.

Loloma received many awards and prizes and is represented in numerous collections nationwide. In 1991, Loloma passed away and his studio no longer produces jewelry.

(*) (*) (*) have several of his pieces..... (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) What an amazing artist with whom I had the priviledge of spending some time at several gallery openings of his work in CA and NM. I also visited his home town of Old Oriabi on the Third Hopi Mesa in Arizona. Such a gifted person with such a generous, kind soul. (l) (l) (l)

Sweetlady and Doc the Boxer

11-06-2005, 09:58 PM
Gore Vidal, Octocontrarian


[from the November 7, 2005 issue] The Nation

Gore Vidal remains one of the more prolific contemporary American writers and certainly one of the most politically outspoken. Shortly after his recent 80th-birthday celebration, Nation contributing editor Marc Cooper interviewed him in his Hollywood home. Herewith, a condensed version of that conversation. . --The Editors

Q:In the introduction to your new book, Imperial America, you begin by saying that the four sweetest words in the American lexicon are "I told you so." What were you gloating about?

A:Oh, everything. The principal bit of wisdom that I had to purvey, which I got from Thomas Jefferson and he got from Montesquieu, is that you cannot maintain a republic and empire simultaneously. The Romans couldn't do it. The Brits could only manage it up to a certain point, but then ended up going broke. The Venetians were an empire, and the United States. And in each case the republics were lost. Starting with our war against Mexico in 1846, which was to acquire California, we've been in a serious, naked grab, grab, grab imperial mood.

Q:In that respect, how different is the Bush Administration? Anything new here, or part of that same historical arc?

A:Well, a lot is different. The machinery is all changed. Nuclear and bacteriological weapons exist. We can kill a lot more people. But there have been things unimaginable to me and most Americans--that we would have a government that is absolutely in your face to every country on earth. We have insulted everybody.

Q:We now see that House majority leader Tom DeLay has been indicted. The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, is under investigation by the SEC. We've seen the debacle around Michael "Brownie" Brown and FEMA. Is this Administration finally collapsing under its own weight?

A:"Under its own lack of weight" [laughing], I think, is the phrase you are searching for.

Q:Sort of the unbearable lightness?

A:Yes, the unbearable lightness. Or here DeLay--gone tomorrow. Yes, I do believe it is breaking up. And the indictment of DeLay would not have happened had there not been two hurricanes, which dramatized to everybody in the United States that we don't have a government. And to the extent we do have one it is not only corrupt but a menace to other countries, to our liberties, to our Bill of Rights.

Q:If, indeed, this Administration is collapsing for lack of weight, what comes after it?

A:Martial law, that's next. Bush is like a plane of glass. You can see all the worms turning around in his head at any moment. The first giveaway of what's on his mind--or the junta's mind.

Q:The junta being...?

A:Cheney, who runs everything, I suspect. And a few other serious operators. Anyway, I first noticed this was on their mind when Bush finally woke up to the fact that the hurricanes were not going to be good PR for him. And he starts to think friends of his are going to be running in '08. So what's the first thing he does? The first thing on the mind of a dictator? He gets the National Guard away from the governors. The Guard is under the governors, but Bush is always saying, Let's turn it over to the military. This is what's on their mind. Under military control.

Q:Are you predicting a coming military dictatorship? And that the American people would stand for that?

A:They'll stand for anything. And they will stand for nothing. I deal with a lot of European journalists who are very well versed in American politics. But they will ask me silly questions like, "So, Kerry didn't turn out very well. So who's the next leader of the opposition who can become President?" I answer, Well, first the New York Times won't interview him. He won't get on prime-time television if he looks like a winner. That's out. Or he will be made a fool of, like they did with Howard Dean when they amplified his famous cry. That was all done at CBS to make him look like a maniac. They are very resourceful! So if you have a media that is completely controlled by corporate America--or whatever phrase you want to use to describe our rulers--no information is getting through that is useful to the public. No White Knight is going to be acknowledged in the press or seen on television. He would have no way of connecting with the people. And this a permanent fact in our situation.... If there could be a viable opposition to the oil and gas junta that has seized power--all three branches of government, I think--it will have to be at the grassroots. Then you will have to find a way of publicizing through the Internet the White Knight--or the Black Knight, whoever comes along to save us.

Q:What are three or four main things the White Knight would have to say to motivate us, in your words, to keep the Republic?

A:First of all, we should be allowed to keep the money we earn. Because most of us are heavily taxed.

Q:That's what the Republicans say.

A:That's what they say, but they don't mean it. What they mean is, "We people who have money, we don't want our children to pay any inheritance tax. We don't want our huge incomes to be taxed. We don't want the profits of our big corporations ever to be taxed." And they've pulled all that off. When you run against them, you have to say the profits on corporations are going to be taxed. As they always were. The people understand this. And if they don't, you can explain it in ten minutes.

Q:What would the White Knight do with the military?

A:Cut its budget in half. That would save us a lot of money. We could rebuild a lot of levees. We don't need it.... We can't win a war anymore. They can't bring back the draft. We are at end times now for this regime. Just keep your fingers crossed we are not at end times for our country....

Q:One area where things seem to have improved in America concerns homophobia. Gay marriage can now be discussed in polite company.

A:I don't know that it much matters as a theme. Talk to anybody in the military and it's just as bad as when I spent three years in the Army during World War II and those suspected of same-sex activities were Section Eighted out or locked up. It was bad then, and it's bad now. An issue like gay marriage just keeps homophobia alive.

Q:So you're not an advocate of it?

A:No. I know to what purposes that issue is put.... You get an issue, like gay marriage, which doesn't concern 99.9 percent of the population, and you go on and on and on about it. Proving that the Democrats are all crazy, if not all queer. Someone wants to get married, fine. What's it to me?

Q:If we pick a point forty years ago, in the middle of the 1960s, when you were half your age, did you think then the United States would take the course it eventually did?

A:I never thought the President would dare to favor pre-emptive war. I never thought it would come to this, a sort of maniac for President who goes around attacking verbally and physically any country he wants. The ownership of this country has usually been pretty shrewd. They knew what they wanted. They don't want to pay taxes, certainly. They don't want people blowing them up in the night like 9/11. And if there ever was great cause for impeachment it would be over 9/11. Never been a case of negligence like that.

Q:You are not possibly suggesting that the Bush Administration allowed this attack to go ahead?

A:No. I'm not saying anything even close to it. If there had been some sort of wicked collusion between elements of our government and the 9/11 team from Saudi Arabia, in a country like ours, by now, at least two of them would have been on television talking to Barbara Walters. That's what kind of country we have. We can't keep secrets. No, it's unthinkable. Whatever was behind 9/11 was well worked out. And there isn't a brain in this Administration that could have worked out something like 9/11. Either to prevent it or to do it.

(*) (*) Well said.

(S) (S) 's

11-06-2005, 10:01 PM
by Alexander Cockburn

Final Days: Only 39 Months to Go

[from the November 14, 2005 issue] The Nation

We have to go back to the early 1970s to find rubble so satisfactorily piled up around our imperial government. In fact, when the bodies are counted, the collapse in Nixon's second term may well pale in comparison to the Götter/no spamming of other sites/dämmerung of the Bush dynasty.

In Nixon's case, top officials and aides forced into resignation, and in many cases prison, included the Vice President, the head of the FBI, two attorneys general and four senior White House staffers.

On March 1, 1974, a grand jury named President Nixon, among others, as an unindicted co-conspirator, for obstructing justice by suppression of evidence such as the White House tapes. In August of that year Nixon resigned.

Yes, it was quite a holocaust at the top executive level. But many imperial institutions sailed through the crisis unimpaired, supposedly ennobled by it. Kissinger's sway over State Department and Empire was enhanced.

The Supreme Court sailed on, led by Nixon's chosen instrument, Warren Burger. Both the Senate and House of Representatives gained a heroic aura as the TV cameras turned Sam Ervin and even Howard Baker into saviors of the Republic. The Democratic Party emerged with credit and huge majorities in November 1974. Most of all, the Fourth Estate was anointed (mostly by itself) as the vanquisher of despotism.

Contrast this to the inferno that now threatens the Imperial Establishment on every front. Since Nixon-time the Republic has had thirty-one years to run to seed--fatter and more corrupt. Already the most powerful politician in Washington, House majority leader Tom DeLay, is under indictment and in consequence stripped of his official position. The future looks grim for Senator Bill Frist, who faces SEC and Justice Department probes for insider trading.

On Capitol Hill there's open warfare among various factions of the Republican Party, focused for now on Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. With midterm elections looming and Bush's approval ratings tumbling, the collapse of discipline will only accelerate amid the general panic.

The Bush high command is in utter disrepute, openly attacked by Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, as a dictatorial "cabal." The Plame scandal has threatened to take out the whole of Vice President Cheney's senior staff and to have the Vice President himself named as unindicted co-conspirator. Bush's deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, is in serious trouble, less and less able to counsel his boss, whose presidency hangs over the precipice of total ruin.

Consider the gloomy vista from Bush the Unlucky's Oval Office, where even the birds in the Rose Garden are omens of yet another national crisis (scheduled to provide another bonanza for the drug companies, which a Senate subcommittee just voted to hold free of any liability if their flu vaccines have the same lethal potential they did in the days of the swine flu).

In Iraq the war is faring disastrously and stateside it's increasingly unpopular. In the Homeland the hurricanes have blown away all remaining public illusions masking the venality of the President and his associates. The economy is rickety and a long-feared end to the housing boom may be upon us. Symbolizing the growing sense that the jig is up, Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan is heading into retirement just before the roof falls in.

Internationally, the United States has rarely been more despised. The armed forces are demoralized and the reserve system, in ruins.

Is there any institution not compromised, not held in popular contempt? This crisis has no Woodward or Bernstein to lend it luster. The journalist's name on every lip is that of Judith Miller, tagged as co-conspirator in the fomentation of a war that has seen the deaths of 2,000 Americans thus far. The New York Times is in a state of civil war, just like the Republican Party.

There's no sign that the Democratic Party is gaining any traction from the Republican collapse. With good reason. Never has a party been offered so many opportunities and taken so little advantage from them. So far as the war is concerned, powerful Democrats like Joseph Biden and Hillary Clinton are calling for more troops.

In 2005 it is impossible to link the Democrats with a single courageous stand or even constructive idea. In October the party's top strategists--mesmerized by the twenty-first century's answer to the Framers, George Lakoff's childish nostrums--were wrangling over two possible slogans: "Together, we can do better" and "Together, America can do better."

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 older Americans lined up in mid-October to file for bankruptcy before the old wipe-the-slate-clean Chapter 7 law expired. Over half of these bankrupts have been ruined by health costs. The new bankruptcy law, written by the banks and credit card companies, made it through Congress only with the help of Democratic votes in the Senate, which were duly forthcoming, as they always are.

If a Democrat, John Kerry, had captured the White House in 2004, would it have made a difference? Yes. The imperial machine would probably be running more smoothly. The war in Iraq would have been given a new infusion of malign energy. You doubt this? Listen to Professor Juan Cole, liberal Democratic guru on Iraq. It's hard to keep up with his somersaults, but Cole says to The Nation Institute's Tom Engelhardt that for the United States to "up and leave" Iraq would be to become an accomplice to genocide. He counsels the heightened use in Iraq of "special forces and air power." In other words, assassinations and saturation bombing. Come home, Rob/no spamming of other sites/ert McNamara, all is--yet again--forgiven.

It's not the role of radicals to call for the election of a more efficient strategist and engineer of a bloodthirsty and rapacious empire, Kerry's only claim on the voters' attention anyone remembers. So let us give thanks that Bush is in the White House, and holding the imperial fleet on a steady course to the rocks.

(*) (*) (*) :| :| :| ;) ;) (h) (h) (h)

(o) (o) .....hmmm......I guess I better make some tea and try to relax soon. Talk about being a night owl. Well, many nights I'm up with Doc if he's sick or needs to go outside or have a drink of water. (l) (l)

(S) (S) Yep, definitely have become a lady of the evening..... ;)

Sweet dreams...... (S) (S)


11-06-2005, 10:03 PM

;) ;)


12-04-2005, 03:39 PM
(l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l)

Long time no hear from me - between Doc being sick and trying to keep up with weekly PhD course work - there just just no time for emails or postings lately.

Just so that you know, after a very stressful past week driving Doc to several places, I took him to be hospitalized Wed. afternoon.

By early Friday evening he was in so much distress breathing and was also in pain. I drove to the Vet Emergency Hospital and was told that there wasn't anything they could do and that the lymphoma was causing fluid build-up around his lungs and heart. I held my beloved Doc Holliday while the vet administered the meds and he passed quickly and peacefully...:-( :-( :(

A devasted and heartbroken Sweetlady (and Doc Holliday R.I.P. Friday, December 2 at 10:00 p.m.) (l) (l)

(l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l)

12-14-2005, 08:12 AM
Dearest Karen...aka sweetlady,

I was stunned and so sorry to hear about Doc. Having recently had to go through the same thing with an aged Newfoundland, I can feel your pain.

There really isn't much one can offer in the way of condolences when a beloved pet is no longer snoring under your feet, but rest easy and be at peace...now Doc is doing just that.

Hang in there Sweet Lady!!!


12-15-2005, 04:37 AM
This should help clear up the differences between Sales, Marketing and
Public Relations.

Several women have asked for me an explanation of Marketing. Perhaps
following analogies will help clear it up:

You see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him and say, "I'm
in bed."
-- That's Direct Marketing.

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy. One
your friends goes up to him and pointing at you says, "She's fantastic
-- That's Advertising.

You see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him and get his
number. The next day you call and say, "Hi, I'm fantastic in bed."
--That's Telemarketing.

You're at a party and see a handsome guy. You get up and straighten
dress. You walk up to him and pour him a drink. You say, "May I," and
up to straighten his tie brushing your breast lightly against his arm,
then say, "By the way, I'm fantastic in bed."
-- That's Public Relations.

You're at a party and see a handsome guy. He walks up to you and says,
hear you're fantastic in bed."
-- That's Brand Recognition.

You're at a party and see a handsome guy. You talk him into going home
your friend.
-- That's a Sales Rep.

Your friend can't satisfy him so he calls you.
-- That's Tech Support.

You're on your way to a party when you realize that there could be
men in all these houses you're passing. So you climb onto the roof of
situated toward the center and shout at the top of your lungs, "I'm
fantastic in bed!"
-- That's Spam.

:| :|

12-15-2005, 04:42 AM

(*) (*) (*) :o :o :o ;) ;) ;) (h) (h) (h)

Sweetlady and oh.........forgot that I don't sign his paw anymore...... :(

12-15-2005, 04:45 AM
November 4, 2005

"One of the marks of John Paul's greatness was his rejection of ideological categories and limitations and his ability to hold complex thoughts together as a result. For him, there was no contradiction between celebrating the vocation of business leaders, as he does so innovatively in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, while upholding and defending the rights and dignity of simple peasants. In his view, both positions flowed, not from some poll he took, but from the intrinsic dignity and eternal destiny of the human person: a being at once unique, unrepeatable and immortal." Fr. Sirico on Pope John Paul II, April 4, 2005.

Brief Summary of John Paul II's Legacy:

25 years as pope - third longest tenure in papal history.
Most-traveled pope in history - visited 118 countries.
Transformed papacy into a public role.
Provided influence and inspiration for the non-violent collapse of communism in Poland in 1989, followed by other Eastern bloc countries.
Granted Vatican diplomatic recognition of Israel and made historic apology to Jews and others.
Named more saints than any other pope.

Leadership Style and Beliefs:

Bold, charismatic leader who likes to be challenged.
Intellectual strongly influenced by his experience under fascism and communism.
Traditionalist who clings to orthodox ideas of clerical celibacy, no woman priests, no contraception, no liberation theology, and tight, centralized Vatican control over bishops.

More about John Paul II: Spoke eight languages rather fluently: Polish, Russian, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

Playwright, poet, author, theologian, and philosopher, as well as pope. Shot by the Turkish assassin Mehmet Ali Agca on May 13, 1981. The Pope later forgave him.

Pope John Pail II may have been the most insightful business management thinker who ever lived. A column devoted to managing for society must pay homage to a spiritual leader and thinker who believed that business and society must always be in creative harmony.

People don’t usually think of the Pope as a business management thinker. Discussions of business management gurus bring to mind the likes of Peter Drucker, Michael Porter, Tom Peters or, more recently, Jack Welch. Yet, the Pope had a knack for expressing many progressive business management ideas without any jargon at all, often anticipating best-selling management writers by several years (Teehankee, 2005).

It would be impossible to give justice to the Pope’s thinking on business management in one unit assignment. His key ideas about economic initiative, the role of profit, the purpose of the firm, worker dignity, human capital, consumerism and sustainability - these ideas can be found in the Pope’s encyclicals entitled Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (1987) and Centesimus Annus (1991).

Entrepreneurship is vital to society (Teehankee, 2005).

Michael Novak, in The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, hailed John Paul II as “the Pope of economic enterprise” because he made personal economic initiative a key idea in his social teaching. The Pope wrote in almost glowing terms about the potential of capitalism, properly understood for promoting the common good. Moreover, he always pushed for the idea that personal economic initiative is a fundamental human right.

Economists like Joseph Schumpeter and Friedrich Hayek have always stressed the vital role of the entrepreneur in society. So did the Pope. In Centesimus Annus he explained that “it is precisely the ability to foresee both the needs of others and the combinations of productive factors most adapted to satisfying those needs that constitutes another important source of wealth in modern society.” In other words, the entrepreneur who acts quickly to meet a real need of those around him is giving an important social service.

This may come as a surprise to many who tend to think that Catholic Social Teaching encourages laziness and excessive dependency—both examples of weakness in character. The opposite is true. The Pope argued that the social role of “initiative and entrepreneurial ability” is decisive.

He linked entrepreneurship to the development of basic virtues important for everyday economic life “such as diligence, industriousness, prudence in undertaking reasonable risks, reliability and fidelity in interpersonal relationships, as well as courage in carrying out decisions which are difficult and painful but necessary, both for the overall working of a business and in meeting possible setbacks.”

Profit is a good thing, but not the only thing.

The Pope favored profit. He saw it as a useful indicator for measuring the results of human innovation. In Centesimus Annus, he wrote: “The Church acknowledges the legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well. When a firm makes a profit, this means that productivity factors have been properly employed and corresponding human needs have been duly satisfied.” Thus, he supported the principle of creating economic value by competitively meeting demand.

He was careful, though, to remind business managers not to be single-minded about profit because a business has a bigger purpose. “In fact,” he explained, “the purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavoring to satisfy their basic needs and who form a particular group at the service of the whole society.”

In Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras found out that many of the great companies which stood the test of time, like Sony and Johnson & Johnson, worked hard for both profit and social contribution. It was never a forced choice. They achieved both.

This is corporate social responsibility without the jargon and the media fanfare that often comes with CSR nowadays. Like the Pope, management thinkers like Charles Handy and Michael Porter emphasize the social responsibility role of business. Not everyone thinks this way. Peter Drucker, the original management guru, is emphatic: “If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities, fire him. Fast.” Sadly, Drucker is required reading in many business schools, while the Pope is not.

Many of Pope John Paul II’s ideas anticipated the human capital craze, why Jack Welch should not be a management role model and the cure for, in the words of Joel Bakan, the psychopathic state many business corporations are in (Teehankee, 2005).

Pope John Paul II as Transformational AND Spiritual Entrepreneur

In his Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II submits "the affluent society" to critique. He argues that it "seeks to defeat Marxism on the level of pure materialism by showing how a freemarket society can achieve a greater satisfaction of material human needs than Communism, while equally excluding spiritual values." In doing so, the affluent society "totally reduces man to the sphere of economics and the satisfaction of material needs".

It seems to some that the two “selves”, material and spiritual must be in opposition, but in fact they are complementary. Material entrepreneurship in fact serves our spiritual self-interest, since, on the one hand, sufficient material prosperity permits the cultivation of spiritual well-being. On the other hand, without the Spirit, the most fabulous wealth turns to ashes in our hands, while the presence of the Spirit transforms even dust-motes and smoke into thousands of myriads of jeweled webs of light. All too often economic freedom corrupts self-interest to the point of contempt for God and neighbor. One then forgets that prosperity belongs to the whole human race and cannot be enjoyed in a proper and lasting way if it is achieved by excluding others from the sources of well-being (Harris, 2005).

Nonetheless, the Pontiff supports the free market for its ability to produce material prosperity. Economic freedom is essential, since it is the autonomous subject of moral decision whose decisions build the social order. Entrepreneurs are the "angels" of the free market. We know what an entrepreneur is: someone who sees a need and uses his or her free initiative to fill the need. Ordinarily, this is done for the sake of making an economic profit. But there is another possibility, one that may perhaps serve to balance the equation weighted down by the single-minded pursuit of material gain. Perhaps what is needed is a reinterpretation of the dedication of energies to what might be called spiritual entrepreneurship. Spiritual entrepreneurship is committed to spiritual well-being, that is, to justice and the common good. Anyone at any time can be a spiritual entrepreneur. Anyone with good will who, like his or her market counterpart, sees an economic need and seeks to fill it becomes a spiritual entrepreneur by injecting a "free gift of self" into the dark and dismal places of poverty and want, into the places where the materialistically oriented "angels of the market" fear to tread. One is a spiritual entrepreneur when hears not only his or her own material demands, but hearkens to the universal existential demand of the human heart for goodness, truth, and life (Harris, 2005).

The spiritual entrepreneur is as necessary to the spiritual wealth of society as the economic entrepreneur is to its material wealth. The notion of development "must not be understood solely in economic terms, but in a way that is fully human." Economic life is, after all, uncertain. It has ups and downs. The advantages of the market, i.e., its non-transparency and hence its ultimate incorruptibility, have an inevitable down-side: unpredictability, which unleashes economic storms that have disastrous consequences for the innocent victims of the market’s necessary changes and adjustments. When, for example, electricity, that mysterious power of heat and of light, ceased to flow through large portions of eastern Canada and the U.S. in the winter of 1998, many thousands of people were without power for many weeks after the storm. Such natural events contain valuable lessons concerning the leveling effect of disasters. Each of us meets the lack of heat, electricity, and hot water with an irredeemable and fundamental equality. Whether rich or poor, well- or poorly-housed, -clothed, and -fed beforehand, such events render each of us equally destitute. Many find themselves living in shelters. Stripped of belongings and even beloved pets by a "random" event, with little or nothing they could do about it--temporarily perhaps, but in such times does anyone really know?--they can but wonder when and indeed if they would return home (Harris, 2005).

Bank accounts and credit cards provide only fragile insulation against the cold that comes with a total loss of income and social status. We are interdependently linked through cash flow as well as through electrical flow. Those who believe themselves well-insulated cannot afford to forget that their cash flow is inextricably linked to the flow that passes through the hands of others (Harris, 2005).

The pope and Solidarity

At the time of the papal election, the conflict between the working class and the ruling Stalinist regime in Poland had escalated dramatically. Since the bloodily repressed workers’ rebellion of 1956, Poland had been wracked by a series of conflicts. In 1970, a strike wave against price increases forced the resignation of the party and government leader Wladyslav Gomulka. His successor, Edward Gierek, had to withdraw the price increases.

In 1976, Gierek sought again to increase prices, resulting in strikes, mass demonstrations and struggles on the barricades. In the ensuing years, the Committee for the Defense of Workers and founding committees of independent trade unions were formed, and in 1980—after a renewed strike wave against price increases—these organizations coalesced to become the trade union Solidarity, which won the following of millions of workers.

The emergence of a powerful workers movement in Poland was followed with great concern by governments East and West. The spread of the Polish movement to the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries would have not only threatened Stalinist rule, but also inspired new militant struggles by workers in the West. A wave of such struggles had been curbed in the mid-1970s by the united efforts of the Social Democratic and trade union bureaucracies.

Characteristically, the German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, a Social Democrat, consistently supported the government of Gierek against the Polish workers. Schmidt even maintained a personal friendship with Gierek.

John Paul II was quite conscious of the danger of violent revolution in Poland and Eastern Europe. He sought to insure that Stalinist rule was overturned from the right, not the left, by supporting a pro-imperialist leadership within the Polish working class. In this effort, he was aided not only by the CIA, but also the various AFL-CIO foreign operations that were allied with the CIA and the US State Department (Heuser and Schwarz, 2005).

The hostility of John Paul II and the Church to Stalinism is equated by the media with devotion to democracy. This is a grotesque distortion. The pope presided over an institution that had been the most intransigent opponent of democracy for over 500 years, going all the way back to the emergence of Protestantism, when the Catholic Church sought to uphold the power and wealth of the clergy as a feudal estate.

The Church’s animus toward Stalinism was not due to the antidemocratic, caste-like rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy as such—all that was perfectly in keeping with the inner operations of the Church itself as an institution. The Church hierarchy itself is a caste, which originated in pre-capitalist society and is now rooted in capitalist social relations.

The Catholic Church is, after all, the largest single property owner in the world. Hence the Church supported bloody Latin American dictatorships, which upheld capitalist property, but opposed Stalinist regimes in the USSR and Eastern Europe that were based on nationalized property.

On this fundamentally reactionary basis, the Catholic Church openly sided with Solidarity. Less than eight months after his appointment, the new pope undertook his first “pilgrim’s journey” to Poland, followed by additional visits in 1983 and 1987. In January 1980, John Paul II granted an audience to a delegation of Solidarity members led by Lech Walesa. Drawing from different sources, the Vatican gathered at least $50 million to support the trade union in the ensuing years (Heuser and Schwarz, 2005).

The aim of the Vatican, however, was not to support the social demands of the workers. Rather, it sought to keep the movement under the influence of reactionary Catholic ideology and Polish nationalism, and ensure that it did not develop into an international challenge to the existing order. The Catholic hierarchy, whose experience in defending authority and order spanned one-and-a-half millennia, was highly aware that a popular movement such as that which had developed in Poland could not be tamed through passive means, but had to be actively influenced and turned in a different direction.

The appointment of a Polish pope already signified a stabilization of Catholicism in Poland. Wojtyla never tired of referring to his Polish roots, flattering Polish nationalism and presenting Poland as the Christian nation. Before a jubilant crowd at Warsaw’s Victory Square in June 1979, he praised the contribution made by “the Polish nation to the development of humanity and mankind,” which could be understood and appreciated, he said, only through Christ. His lecture culminated in the sentence, “There can be no just Europe without an independent Poland on the map of Europe!” (Heuser and Schwarz, 2005).

Without the pope’s intervention in Poland, events would hardly have taken the disastrous course that ultimately led to mass unemployment and bitter poverty for Polish workers. Initially, there existed not only Catholic, but also strong secular and socialistic tendencies in the Solidarity movement. These, however, lacked an effective perspective for opposing the Stalinist regime (Heuser and Schwarz, 2005).

The intervention of the Vatican contributed substantially towards bringing the movement under the control of the Catholic-nationalist wing around Lech Walesa—a man who combined his reputation as a militant workers leader at the Lenin Shipyard with a large dose of bigoted Catholicism. Walesa himself has openly acknowledged the role of the pope. In 1989, he declared: “The existence of the trade union Solidarnosc and myself would have been inconceivable without the figure of this great Pole and great man, John Paul II.” (Heuser and Schwarz, 2005).

While the pope gave political and financial support to Solidarity, he sought to hold it back from an open confrontation with the regime. Time and time again he called for moderation and restraint. As confrontations with the government became more violent, Solidarity increasingly intervened to restrain and control the workers.

Walesa constantly stressed that Solidarity was not striving for power: “We do not want to govern, but rather seek acknowledgment by the government, and we want to check them when they are governing to make sure they do a good job.” Wojciech Jaruzelski, who in December 1981 proclaimed martial law and arrested thousands of workers and Solidarity leaders, later openly acknowledged the restraint shown by the pope. In a television interview on the occasion of the death of the pope, he said: “He refrained from inciting social emotions at that time.”

Later, the pope appeared increasingly worried about the speed with which, after the collapse of the Stalinist regime, Solidarity discredited itself before the working class as its leaders came to power and oversaw the reintroduction of capitalism. John Paul II feared, with some justification, that the influence of the Catholic Church could suffer as a result, and that the new order would be endangered.

In visits to the country in 1991 and 1993, he warned against simply copying Western capitalism. During his last journey to Poland in 2003, he was even more blunt. When one forgets the price that was paid for liberty, he said, one is not far from “anarchy.” He lectured the Solidarity movement to keep out of politics, and pointed to glaring injustices in Poland—wages not paid, small businesses wiped out, workers denied holidays and time with their families.

John Paul II and US policy toward the Soviet Union

The decision by the Catholic Church to name a Polish pope was closely connected with a change of course in American foreign policy towards the Soviet Union. Under President Jimmy Carter and, even more openly, under his successor Ronald Reagan, détente gave way to confrontation.

As archbishop of Krakow, Wojtyla had already maintained an intensive exchange of letters with Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski, who took over as national security advisor during the Carter administration. Brzezinski, who had attended the funeral of Wojtyla’s predecessor as the official American representative, stayed in Rome for the entire period of the 1978 papal election that placed Wojtyla at the head of the Church.

This cooperation was intensified under the presidency of Reagan. The American ambassador to the Vatican at the time, James Nicholson, speaks of a “strategic alliance” between Washington and the Vatican against the Soviet Union. According to information gathered by the journalists Carl Bernstein and Marco Politi, who wrote a book on the secret diplomacy of the Vatican, CIA Director William Casey and Deputy CIA Director Vernon Walters held regular confidential discussions with the pope starting in 1981. The main topic was CIA financial and logistic support for Solidarity (Heuser and Schwarz, 2005).

The ruling bureaucracy in Moscow reacted to the combination of intensified external pressure and growing internal social pressures by initiating the policy of capitalist restoration. The ascendancy of Mikhail Gorbachev to the head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had its origins—as ironic as this may seem—in the same objective changes that brought Wojtyla to the holy seat in Rome. The events in Poland had deeply shaken the Kremlin bureaucracy. In the end, it sought to prevent a similar development in the Soviet Union by creating new bases for its rule through the introduction of capitalist property. This was the essential significance of Gorbachev’s perestroika.

In December 1989, Gorbachev became the first and only secretary general of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to have an audience in the Vatican. Three years later, Gorbachev praised the role of the pope with the words: “Everything that happened in these years in Eastern Europe would have been impossible without the presence of this pope.” (Heuser and Schwarz, 2005).


Allegri, R. (2005). John Paul II: A life of grace. Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press.

Dess, J. (1998). Enterprising nonprofits. Harvard Business Review.

Gartner, W. (1993). Organizing the voluntary association. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice. 17(2), 103-106.

Garud, R., Jain, S., & Kumaraswamy, A. (2002). Institutional entrepreneurship in the sponsorship of common technological standards: The case of Sun Microsystems and Java. Academy of Management Journal, 45, 196-214.

Harris, I. (2005). Spiritual entrepreneurs. Catholic Planet, Retrieved November 4, 2005 from: http://www.catholicplanet.com/articles/article02.htm

Heuser, M. & Schwarz, P. (2005). Pope John Paul II: A political obituary. Retrieved November 4, 2005 from: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2005/apr2005/pope-a06.shtml

McGuire, S., Hardy, C., & Lawrence, T. (2004). Institutional entrepreneurship in emerging fields: HIV/AIDS treatment advocacy in Canada. The Academy of Management Journal, 47 (5), 657-680.

Pantry, S. & Griffiths, P. (2000). Being an intrapreneur and creating a successful information service within your organization. Business Information Review, 17 (4),

Teehankee, B. (2005). Pope John Paul II: A great management thinker. The Manila Times. Retrieved November 3, 2005 from: http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2005/apr/05/yehey/business/20050405bus5.html

12-15-2005, 05:01 AM
November 26, 2005

Business ethics is a concern for everyone. However, many believe that entrepreneurs are given to being more concerned with performance and being first to market or maintaining and increasing market share, than always being as vigilant as they should be regarding the ethics being used. Probe this assumption and provide an opinion with data to support it.

Webster's defines ethics as "a system or set of moral principles; the branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of actions and the goodness and badness of motives and ends."

Ethics play a major role in today's "arm's length" business transactions, and in turn, those transactions play a major role in the lives of all stakeholders. Many entrepreneurs are new or relatively new to the business world and can be somewhat naïve about common business practices that have evolved over time. Questions arise such as, should a business have morality, or is that a human characteristic? Should all executives, managers, and employees answer to the same set of rules for ethical conduct? Are ethical standards the same for a person at work as they are when that person is not at work? Who is guilty if an employee performs an unethical or illegal act while working for a company? What should be done if an employee calls attention to unethical practices that are condoned by the company? Are there any correct answers or do the answers depend on the situation and circumstances? In recent years, major unethical and/or illegal acts have been exposed in many corporations (Boyd, 2004).

Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman boiled down the ethical responsibilities of business to society to this: "There is only one social responsibility of business - to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud." (Barbee, 2005)

Where the ethical boundaries are blurred is where leadership and integrity - or lack of it - emerges. The connection between integrity and profits is not simple and clear. At best, a business that operates with integrity, one that treats its employees fairly and stands behind its products and services, earns loyalty and patronage. The basic character of such a business enables it to prosper (Barbee, 2005).

Ethical behavior relies on more than good character. Although good upbringing may provide a kind of moral compass that can help the individual determine the right direction and then follow through on a decision to do the right thing, it’s not the only factor determining ethical conduct (Papoutsy, 2000).

Past research on business ethics has shown that many entrepreneurs employ personal values within their businesses to a greater extent than do managers. Entrepreneurs appear to be slightly more sensitive to societal expectations and are more critical of their own performance than the general public. These positions are based on a study that surveyed 165 entrepreneurs and 128 managers, which revealed that with a few exceptions, entrepreneurs and managers were in agreement on ethical issues, entrepreneurs consistently placed a greater emphasis on ethical behavior (Hisrich, 2005).

Very little in the business ethics literature captures the passion and commitment that most business professionals and entrepreneurs feel for their life's work. This is a consequence of the "Business ethics is a contradiction in terms" attitude that underlies to some extent all writings in business ethics (Hicks, 2005).

The concept of a social entrepreneur is relatively new in the academic literature. In the past, entrepreneurs were thought of as motivated strictly by economic concerns. Dees, Emerson and Economy (2001) note that Say and Schumpeter present a foundation for entrepreneurial ventures which is based on the redirection of resources to meet a higher economic return. Say refers to a person as an entrepreneur, from the French word “entreprendre,” as one who attempts “to undertake; to pursue opportunities; to fulfill needs and wants through innovation and starting a business” (Burch, 1986 in Naumes, et al., 2002). In Schumpeter’s view, this leads to a form of creative destruction for the economic good of the system as a whole. This Hegelian perspective leads to a constant turmoil in the economic system that provides innovative approaches to current problems. Essentially, entrepreneurs act as change agents in economic society (Naumes, et al., 2002).

Trying to define and directly tie entrepreneurial leadership with ethics would be like nailing Jell-O to a wall (Mills, 2005). Standards, best practices and measurements are ambiguous. For instance, the Opacity Index, developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, provides some measurements of levels of opacity defined as "the lack of clear, accurate, formal, easily discernible, and widely accepted practices." The PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Study of Transparency and Sustainability assembled a team of senior economists, survey professionals, analysts, and distinguished advisors to explore the development of a worldwide Opacity Index. As the world's markets, in the era of "globalization," become more interdependent, it becomes obvious that one country can differ from another in the clarity and consistency of their approaches to managing their economies. Some national economies are relatively transparent, while many others are relatively opaque. The PricewaterhouseCoopers Opacity Index brings a degree of clarity to the subject of costs related to corruption (Papoutsy and Papoutsy, 2005).

Tying ethics to cultural values:

Some social scientists search for common ground between western and non-western values to support ethics research. Other social scientists find a common denominator in the philosophical system that shaped western values and ethics such as the Classical Greek Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle - the Japanese Kyoshi Philosophy of living and working together for the common good - the Hindu Dharma, the fulfillment of inherited duty - the Buddhist Santatthi, the importance of self restraint - the Muslim Zakat, the duty to help the poor - and the western notion of human rights. Other social scientists find a common denominator in the philosophical system that shaped Western values and ethics, namely the Classical Greek Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle (Papoutsy, 2000).

From its founding, the United States has struggled with the difficulty of constructing a powerful government for a diverse population. Consequently, Americans are potentially well equipped to deal with the challenges of developing standards of global conduct for diverse cultures. The key for Americans is a process that shows "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." Despite this promising endowment or perhaps because of it, Americans do not respond well to the kinds of cultural imperatives that in other societies may cause business decision-makers to exercise moral restraint (Berenbeim, 2002).

Some of these inhibitions are:

1. Relationship to and feelings about money.

2. Individualism versus group orientedness.

3. Culture of shame versus culture of sin.

4. Accountability and social responsibility.

5. Influence of different religions.

Cultural elements such as the unfavorable notion of greed, group commitment, shame, sin, accountability, responsibility and religion that may be critical decision-making factors in other societies have less importance in shaping the U.S. view of ethical business conduct (Berenbeim, 2002).

The global corporation must just not seek profit for its stockholders, and big bonuses for its senior management, but must also enhance the opportunities for society where people can contribute in a business environment in a free society for the benefit of global corporations, stockholders, managers, and other stakeholders, labor, and the world community. Global harmony and global eudaimonia must become the ultimate goals. Aristotle’s philosophy of eudaimonia is built on the virtues emphasized by the virtues of his teacher, Plato—wisdom, courage, self-control, and justice (Papoutsy, 2003).

Entrepreneurs must be able to define and analyze the ethical consciousness of the organizations, the process and structure that will enhance ethical activity and the incorporation and implementation of ethical objectives in the daily activities. This defines the three major elements of the ethical objectives: ethical consciousness, ethical process and structure and institutionalization. But the most important element in this should be the entrepreneur himself or herself. The whole ethical objectives will somehow be affected by the entrepreneur’s own set of values and norms. Therefore, the quest for ethics must start from him or her. The entrepreneur must be able to set a good example especially in how he conducts himself, makes decisions, set standards and provide ethical direction to his or her (Feliciano, 2005).


Barbee, B. (2005). Ethics of... entrepreneurship. Baylor Business Review. Retrieved November 23, 2005 from: http://www.baylor.edu/bbr/index.php?id=27171

Berenbeim, R. (2002). What is ethical? An American view. Delivered to the Institut Aspen France Conference Business Ethics and Corporate Governance: Are Cultural Differences Involved in the Perceptions of Approach to These Issues? Lyon, France, April 25, 2002. Retrieved November 26, 2005 from: http://www.helleniccomserve.com/berenbeim.html

Boyd, M. W. (2004). Business ethics for unseasoned entrepreneurs: Trends and concerns for professionals and stakeholders. Proceedings of the Academy of Entrepreneurship. Vol. 10 (1). Retrieved November 25, 2005 from: http://www.sbaer.uca.edu/research/allied/2004/entrepreneurship/pdf/09.pdf

Case studies in business ethics. Inc. Magazine. Retrieved November 26, 2005 from: http://www.inc.com/guides/growth/20806.html

Feliciano, R. R. (2005). Business ethics. University of the Philippines Technology Management Center. Retrieved November 25, 2005 from: http://www.tmc.upd.edu.ph/modules/wfsection/article.php?articleid=22

Hannafey, F. (2003). Entrepreneurship and Ethics: A Literature Review. Journal of Business Ethics, 46 (2), 99-111.

Hicks, S. (2005). Foundations study guide: Business ethics. The Objectivist Center, Rockford College. Retrieved November 24, 2005 from: http://www.objectivistcenter.org/articles/foundations_business-ethics.asp

Hisrich, R. D. (2005). Ethics of business managers vs. entrepreneurs. Retrieved November 25, 2005 from: http://www.riseb.org/eshisrich.html

Morris, M. Schindehutte, M., Walton, J., & Allen, J. (2002). The ethical context of entrepreneurship: Proposing and testing a developmental framework. Journal of Business Ethics, 40 (4), 331-362.

Naumes, M. J., Kammermeyer, J. A. & Naumes, W. (2002). Social Entrepreneurship –

A relevant concept for business schools? Retrieved November 25, 2005 from: http://www.helleniccomserve.com/naumes1.html

Papoutsy, C & Papoutsy, M. (2005). Measuring opacity. Retrieved November 24, from: http://www.helleniccomserve.com/opacity.html

Papoutsy, C. (2003). Entrepreneurship and ethics equals success. Presented at the University of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business and Economics. Retrieved November 23, 2005 from: http://www.helleniccomserve.com/papoutsyspeaksunh.html

Papoutsy, C & Papoutsy, M. (2000). Can business ethics be taught? Retrieved November 23, 2005 from: http://www.helleniccomserve.com/ethics.html

Temple University. Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute. (2005). Entrepreneurship and Ethics Conference Proceedings.

;) (h) ;) (h) ,


12-17-2005, 12:59 PM
December 17, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Hot Monkey Love


As President Bush tries to shake off his dazed look and regain his swagger, he will no doubt dust off his cowboy routine: his gunslinger pose, his squinty-eyed gaze, his dead-or-alive one-liners, his Crawford brush clearing.

But this time, he may want to think twice before strapping on a Texas-shaped belt buckle. W. might inadvertently conjure up images of Bushback Mountain.

The High Plains, one of the few remaining arenas where men were men, may now evoke something more ambiguous, like men with men. After "Brokeback Mountain," pitching that pup tent on the prairie will never seem the same.

Can a culture built on laconic cowboys like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood survive one rough-hewn cowboy crooning to another, as Jake Gyllenhaal's Jack Twist tells Heath Ledger's Ennis Del Mar, "Sometimes I miss you so much, I can hardly stand it," and, "I wish I knew how to quit you"?

The Duke's tough "Pilgrim, you could've gotten somebody killed today and somebody oughta belt you in the mouth" has a different ring than Jake's vulnerable entreaty, "It could be like this, just like this, always."

Hmm. Maybe it's time to take another look at that sway in John Wayne's stride.

Everything will have to be re-evaluated. "High Plains Drifter" now sounds like a guy who might get arrested in a bus station bathroom. And audiences may be ready for "The Good, the Bad and the Bad Hair Day."

For decades, Republicans have had electoral success exploiting the simplistic frontier myth. Ronald Reagan galloped in from the West to rescue Washington. Dick Cheney's aides cast him as the stoic rancher who would blast a shotgun at rustlers if they messed with his cattle.

In 2004, the G.O.P. convention was staged like "The Magnificent Seven," with a gunslinging posse - including Rudy Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McCain - riding in with W. and Vice to save the town from the black hats. Poor John Kerry had to fall back on sailor imagery, skippering a boat into Boston and saluting the crowd with "I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty." At least he managed not to use the Village People's "In the Navy" as his theme song.

A president who hates dissonance, who prefers a world in black and white, is now confronted by confusing gray shades everywhere he looks.

Hollywood is busy sensitizing - and emotionally layering - archetypal macho guys, including our most famous alpha male. He's still strong and decisive. His back's as hairy as ever. But it's just not the same Kong.

This lovable overgrown monkey is more like the brooding, wounded and steadfast romantic heroes Heathcliff and Rick Blaine. Like Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy, Peter Jackson's big ape goes for gals with spunk. He likes babes who juggle more than jiggle.

This gorilla doesn't go around tossing "gorilla dust," as Ross Perot used to call it, just to get into another alpha's space. He doesn't look for a T. rex simply to rip its jaws apart - he only protects his loved ones. He'd rather hang out on his mountain, enjoying the sunset and watching his gal juggle and do pratfalls.

In a way, the new images of alpha archetypes are subversive precisely because the cowboys and the king of the jungle remain macho even as they become more nuanced.

The latest Kong waits for the blonde to come to him. "This time, he really seems to have the qualities of a hero in a woman's romance - he's distant, he's suffering, he's aloof," says Cynthia Erb, a professor and the author of "Tracking King Kong: A Hollywood Icon in World Culture."

As the hairy antihero grows more sensitive with each remake, the Ann Darrow character gets more sexual and aggressive. "She goes from a naïve, innocent, screaming, virginal character in the 30's to a sexually free, liberated feminist woman in the 70's," Ms. Erb notes. "In this one, she has the benefits of feminism and is the one who in some ways initiates the courtship. She actually works to earn his interest." And tries to save him.

For all its dazzling digital spectacle, "King Kong" is not as daring as it could be. Peter Jackson could have made Kong a woman. Or, while he was borrowing "Titanic" imagery for the lovers' parting on the Empire State Building, he could have gone all the way and made "Brokeback Island."

Just picture it: Leonardo DiCaprio, blond, doe-eyed and smitten, curled in the ape's epicene yet hairy grip. Kong, swinging both ways.

(*) (*) (h) (h) ;) ;)


12-17-2005, 01:00 PM
December 14, 2005

Op-Ed Columnist

W. Won't Read This



Never ask a guy who's in a bubble if he's in a bubble. He can't answer.

'Cause he's in a bubble.

But the NBC anchor Brian Williams gamely gave it a shot, showing the president the Newsweek cover picturing him trapped in a bubble.

"This says you're in a bubble," Brian told W. "You have a very small circle of advisers now. Is that true? Do you feel in a bubble?"

"No, I don't feel in a bubble," Bubble Boy replied, unable to see the bubble because he's in it. "I feel like I'm getting really good advice from very capable people and that people from all walks of life have informed me and informed those who advise me." He added, "I'm very aware of what's going on."

He swiftly contradicted himself by admitting that "this is the first time I'm seeing this magazine" - his version of his dad's Newsweek "Wimp Factor" cover - and that he doesn't read newsmagazines.

The anchor and the anchorite spent a few anodyne moments probing the depths of what it's like to be president. "I just talked to the president-elect of Honduras," W. said. "A lot of my job is foreign policy, and I spend an enormous amount of time with leaders from other countries."

Brian struggled to learn whether W. read anything except one-page memos. Talking about his mom, Bubble Boy returned to the idea of the bubble: "If I'm in a bubble, well, if there is such thing as a bubble, she's the one who can penetrate it."

"I'll tell the guys at Newsweek," the anchor said impishly.

"Is that who put the bubble story?" W. asked. First he didn't know about it, and now he's forgotten it already? That's the alluring, memory-cleansing beauty of the bubble.

The idea that W. is getting good advice from very capable people is silly - administration officials have blown it on everything from the occupation and natural disasters to torture. In the bubble, they can torture while saying they don't. They can pretend that Iraqi forces are stronger than they are. They can try to frighten people with talk of Al Qaeda's dream of a new Islamic caliphate - their latest attempt to scare Americans into supporting the war they ginned up.

"Whether or not it needed to happen," the president told the anchor, "I'm still convinced it needed to happen." The Bubble Boy can even contradict himself and not notice.

W.'s contention that he's informed by people from all walks of life is a joke, as is his wacky assertion that he can "reach out" to the public more than Abraham Lincoln because he has Air Force One. Lincoln actually went to the front in his war, with Minié balls whizzing by. No phony turkey for him.

The president may fly over all walks of life in Air Force One or drive by them and hide behind dark-tinted windows. In his bubble, he floats through a comforting world of doting women, respectful military audiences, loyal Republican donors and screened partisan groups - with protesters, Democrats, journalists, critics and coffins of dead soldiers kept at bay.

(He has probably even been shielded from the outrage of John and Stacey Holley, both Army veterans, who were shocked to learn that their only child, Matthew, killed in Iraq, would be arriving in San Diego as freight on a commercial airliner.)

Jack Murtha, a hawkish Democrat close to the Pentagon who supported both wars against Iraq waged by the Bushes, has been braying against the Bush isolation. He told Newsweek that a letter he wrote to the president making suggestions about how to fight the Iraq war was ignored for seven months, then brushed off by a deputy under secretary of defense. Even after he went public, he still did not get a call from the White House.

"If they talked to people," he said, "they wouldn't get these outbursts."

Mr. Murtha told Rolling Stone that the administration's deafness had doomed Iraq: "Everything we did was mishandled. Plans that the military and the State Department had in place - they ignored 'em. The military tells me that when they were planning the invasion, the administration wouldn't let one of the primary three-star generals in the room."

The president's bubble requires constant care. It's not easy to keep out huge tragedies like Katrina, or flawed policies like Iraq. As Newsweek noted, a foreign diplomat "was startled when Secretary of State Rice warned him not to lay bad news on the president. 'Don't upset him,' she said."

Heaven forbid. Don't burst his bubble.

(*) (*) :| :| :| :|

(k) (k) 's,


12-17-2005, 01:04 PM
December 12, 2005

Op-Ed Columnist

Big Box Balderdash


I think I've just seen the worst economic argument of 2005. Given what the Bush administration tried to put over on us during its unsuccessful sales pitch for Social Security privatization, that's saying a lot.

The argument came in the course of the latest exchange between Wal-Mart and its critics. A union-supported group, Wake Up Wal-Mart, has released a TV ad accusing Wal-Mart of violating religious values, backed by a letter from religious leaders attacking the retail giant for paying low wages and offering poor benefits. The letter declares that "Jesus would not embrace Wal-Mart's values of greed and profits at any cost."

You may think that this particular campaign - which has, inevitably, been dubbed "Where would Jesus shop?" - is a bit over the top. But it's clear why those concerned about the state of American workers focus their criticism on Wal-Mart. The company isn't just America's largest private employer. It's also a symbol of the state of our economy, which delivers rising G.D.P. but stagnant or falling living standards for working Americans. For Wal-Mart is a huge and hugely profitable company that pays badly and offers minimal benefits.

Attacks on Wal-Mart have hurt its image, and perhaps even its business. The company has set up a campaign-style war room to devise responses. So how did Wal-Mart respond to this latest critique?

Wal-Mart can claim, with considerable justice, that its business practices make America as a whole richer. The fact is that Wal-Mart sells many products more cheaply than traditional stores, and that its low prices aren't solely or even mainly the result of the low wages it pays. Wal-Mart has been able to reduce prices largely because it has brought genuine technological and organizational innovation to the retail business.

It's harder for Wal-Mart to defend its pay and benefits policies. Still, the company could try to argue that despite its awesome size and market dominance it cannot defy the iron laws of supply and demand, which force it to pay low wages. (I disagree, but that's a subject for another column.)

But instead of resting its case on these honest or at least defensible answers to criticism, Wal-Mart has decided to insult our intelligence by claiming to be, of all things, an engine of job creation. Judging from its press release in response to the religious values campaign, the assertion that Wal-Mart "creates 100,000 jobs a year" is now the core of the company's public relations strategy.

It's true, of course, that the company is getting bigger every year. But adding 100,000 people to Wal-Mart's work force doesn't mean adding 100,000 jobs to the economy. On the contrary, there's every reason to believe that as Wal-Mart expands, it destroys at least as many jobs as it creates, and drives down workers' wages in the process.

Think about what happens when Wal-Mart opens a store in a previously untouched city or county. The new store takes sales away from stores that are already in the area; these stores lay off workers or even go out of business. Because Wal-Mart's big-box stores employ fewer workers per dollar of sales than the smaller stores they replace, overall retail employment surely goes down, not up, when Wal-Mart comes to town. And if the jobs lost come from employers who pay more generously than Wal-Mart does, overall wages will fall when Wal-Mart moves in.

This isn't just speculation on my part. A recent study by David Neumark of the University of California at Irvine and two associates at the Public Policy Institute of California, "The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets," uses sophisticated statistical analysis to estimate the effects on jobs and wages as Wal-Mart spread out from its original center in Arkansas.

The authors find that retail employment did, indeed, fall when Wal-Mart arrived in a new county. It's not clear in their data whether overall employment in a county rose or fell when a Wal-Mart store opened. But it's clear that average wages fell: "residents of local labor markets," the study reports, "earn less following the opening of Wal-Mart stores."

So Wal-Mart has chosen to defend itself with a really poor argument. If that's the best the company can come up with, it's going to keep losing the public relations war with its critics. Maybe it should consider an alternative strategy, such as paying higher wages.

(*) (*) I wonder when more folks will realize that Wal-Mart's value chain is building up China to eclipse the U.S. as the world's next superpower? :| :| :|

(o) (o) Back to the books....last week ends tomorrow.

It will be a long two weeks before Winter Quarter (two more PhD courses however the end is in sight....) starts January 2. It's so quiet without my Doc'meister, the boxer around anymore. I miss him so much my heart feels broken every day. :( :( :( :( :( :(

Have a lovely evening,


12-17-2005, 01:07 PM
Our 25 favorite books of the year—from teen sex diseases and Aztec slaughterhouses to Kiss riffs and juvenile tambourinists

December 13th, 2005 3:37 PM

Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction
By Sue Townsend
Soho, 327 pp., $24

Townsend uses the weight of her 23-year-old literary project to create an expert entertainment that's also a cogent, furious foreign-policy critique. Hypnotized by credit card offers, thirtysomething Adrian sinks hundreds of thousands of pounds into debt; the final calculation is both absurd and chilling, a potent metaphor for the cost of the war effort. His support for Tony Blair crumbles as it becomes clear that his infantryman son faces real danger. "Happy people don't keep a diary," Adrian concludes. Can greedy readers be forgiven for wishing him just a little more misfortune?

Afflicted Powers
By Retort
Verso, 211 pp., $16

It starts with a rebarbative proposition. The events of September 11, 2001, were indeed attacks in a terrain once thought unassailable: the arena of domination known (and misknown) as "the spectacle." "The state's reply to them," the first chapter notes unflinchingly, "has exceeded in its crassness and futility the martyr-pilots' wildest dreams." Elaborating global and local conflicts within a web of strong, weak, and failed states, the book pursues much of what's hauntingly unsatisfying about most "explanations" of recent history. It's similarly enlightening on the troubling development of "Revolutionary Islam," and global oil economics—situating these things, without justification or excuse, within the failed narrative of modernity. Unorthodox, historically informed, and fearless, this volume is desperately necessary for thinking, circa now, about common life without commonplaces.

Atomik Aztex
By Sesshu Foster
City Lights, 203 pp., $15.95

Foster's debut novel flips fearlessly between the creases he's pressed into the wrinkled fabric of reality—from the killing floor of a southeast L.A. slaughterhouse, to a suicide mission in 1940s Stalingrad, to "the frenetic hustle of overcrowded Teknotitlan," mid-20th-century capital of the "Aztek Socialist Imperium." Isaak [sic] Babel makes a brief showing in biker's black leather, and a naked, 400-pound Hermann Goering, emptied of entrails, bounces down the steps of the Great Pyramid. "The world goes on & on," Foster writes. "It will never stop." And until you turn the final page, at least, that sounds like a blessing.

Black Hole
By Charles Burns
Pantheon, 368 pp., $24.95

There's a bug going around, passed through sexual contact, leaving teenagers with peculiar deformities—a tail, or webbed hands, or a small, mumbling mouth at the base of the neck. Is this an AIDS metaphor, or one for the awkward passage into adulthood, or simply a horrific look through a mirror, darkly? By the end of Burns's 10-years-in-the-making opus, dream logic and subtext have danced with each other too closely for us to distinguish between fantastic abstraction and what's really real. Corroborated by his stark, static illustration, the book's final impression is candid and clinical, a portrait of the artist as the man he'll inevitably become.

The Collected Fiction of Kenneth Koch
Edited by Jordan Davis, Karen Koch, and Ron Padgett
Coffee House Press, 387 pp., $18

Koch's fiction strings together impeccable sentences in ways that beat the boundaries of logic and genre. A seven-page Hardy Boys epic nestles next to a Proustian riff off a postcard; novels have a hard time deciding whether they're made up of chapters or stories. Koch wrote about one long work: "All the sentences were like the last sentences of novels or the first sentences of short stories." There's an innocence to all his orderings, and a great relief in not knowing whether we're reading grown-up literature for children ("He really loved the polenta, and so did his friend") or children's literature for grown-ups ("We have had such a good lunch that it makes me sad"). What's certain is a light and loving hand that wasn't afraid to do a little wavering.

Patrik Ourednik
Dalkey Archive, 122 pp., $12.50

Europeana is like Harper's Weekly Review extended across the 20th century: a bunch of neutral sentences that promise via sequentiality to make an endlessly dissolving narrative from "events." Here the facts are weighted: more sentences about WW I than jogging, though both appear, and ghostly power is vested in the magical word and. "And writers and poets endeavored to find ways of expressing it best and in 1916 they invented Dadaism because everything seemed crazy to them. And in Russia they invented a revolution. And the soldiers wore around their neck or wrist a tag . . ." History, or a knifing of the progressive humanist delusion that there's such a thing as history in the first place? Yes, exactly. A tragicomic prose poem to make poets weep with envy, to make everyone weep.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
By Jonathan Safran Foer
Houghton Mifflin, 356 pp., $24.95

Oscar Schell, a nine-year-old tambourinist with a propensity for running his mouth, roams New York searching for the literal key to his father, who died on 9-11 after leaving five gut-wrenching messages on his home answering machine. Oscar wards off panic attacks by busying his brain with pressing questions (what if skyscrapers were built underground? what if anuses could talk?). Never short on invention, Foer's second novel offsets tragedy into moments of sweet and boyish humor. With an array of puzzles and tricks, the book captures "the worst day," as well as the unconquerable loneliness that follows.

Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story
By Chuck Klosterman
Scribner, 245 pp., $23

Please thrill me: Klosterman's best book yet has a Spin-assignment narrative line (he'll drive across the country, visiting the deathplaces of rock stars) that he gradually and gloriously reconfigures to his own omphaloskeptical purposes. The result is a fast-moving meditation on death, girlfriends, and drugs. Not that there isn't music: His riffs are nicely deranged, as when he explains how Kid A predicted 9-11 or correlates his exes with every last member of Kiss—even the "uncredited percussionist on Unmasked." Klosterman concludes, with charming self-loathing, "It is a miracle any woman has ever kissed me."

The Letters of Robert Lowell
Edited by Saskia Hamilton
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 672 pp., $40

Reading letter collections always feels a little larcenous, but Lowell's correspondence is so artfully crafted it demands an audience. Enclosed are reams of apologies to those whose lives his manic depression also, to varying degrees, derailed. In particular, his three writer wives and his great friend Elizabeth Bishop sustained impassioned attempts to cover lapses and explosions. To Bishop he writes, "[M]y state zoomed sky-high and I am glad you didn't see it. It's hard for the controlled man to look back on the moment of chaos and claim. I shan't try, but it was all me, and I am sorry you were touched by it." This is a different kind of confessionalism—one that places Lowell among the ranks of the great epistolists.

Like a Fiery Elephant: The Life of B.S. Johnson
By Jonathan Coe
Continuum, 486 pp., $29.95

Coe's passionate B.S. Johnson bio is a tribute from a famous novelist to an obscure one, a reconstruction of the life and a probing if playful deconstruction of such reconstructions, and an affirmation of Johnson's importance. Johnson could be a comic figure; he was ultimately a tragic one, ending his life at 39 and leaving behind his wife and two children. In its artfully fragmented structure, autobiographical inserts, and circular conceits Like a Fiery Elephant adopts Johnson's own imperatives (all is chaos, you can only write about yourself) even while questioning them.

Love Creeps
By Amanda Filipacchi
St. Martin's, 289 pp., $23.95

After years of unhampered if boring success with men, a New York gallery owner yearns to be humiliated, or at least rejected, so she picks a random guy to pursue and annoy—"for health reasons." (Her own stalker, a chubby dud who calls her "pooky," trails a few paces behind.) With a flair for delightfully silly dialogue, Filipacchi's third novel portrays romance as the tricky, prickly game that it is: Her characters fall in love for all the wrong reasons. Flirting is a complex process, requiring wit, patience, and elaborate displays of disgust.

Lunar Park
By Bret Easton Ellis
Knopf, 320 pp., $24.95

Eyeballing his writing and party careers next to his estranged father's ghost, a son he's ignored for 11 years, disappearing teens, possessed toys, and a serial killer re-enacting American Psycho's murders, Bret Easton Ellis stars as Lunar Park's neurotic and perpetually buzzed, ultimately tender narrator. Like a tell-all, meta–Charlie Kaufman– Revolutionary Road– Poltergeist mash-up, Ellis's fifth novel channels John Cheever, Stephen King, and Philip Roth into the author's own back catalog, creating a cynical, heavily coded, surprisingly scary, often hilarious, totally haunted treasure hunt from 307 Elsinore Lane. Showcasing Ellis's best writing to date, the pyrotechnical finale is one of the year's most sumptuously tear-jerky prose arcs. Watch your back, Michael Cunningham.

Magic for Beginners
By Kelly Link
Small Beer Press, 272 pp., $24

Otherworldly nostalgia creeps close to revolution in Link's collection, where zombies and ghost dogs muddle a sweetly feral domesticity. In "Lull," a cheerleader fated to live life backward thinks (during a spin-the-bottle interlude in a closet with the Devil): "That was what was so nice about being married. Things got better and better until you hardly even knew each other anymore. And then you said goodnight and went out on a date, and after that you were just friends." It's the storyteller's mantra—"It gets better"—come to life and multiplied.

My Life in CIA: A Chronicle of 1973
By Harry Mathews
Dalkey Archive, 249 pp., $13.95

A semi-fictionalized (or perhaps semi-authentic) account of the author's Cold War adventures, My Life in CIA features an American protagonist, Harry Mathews, who's so frequently mistaken for a government operative that he decides to become one. But Mathews the author isn't necessarily Mathews the character, and ultimately nothing about this "novel" should be taken literally, except its desire to provoke ample head-scratching. Mathews leaves subplots unresolved, abruptly writes off supporting characters, and otherwise luxuriates in an inexplicable stasis. Think of a Ludlum thriller bled of all suspense, and then turned inside out.

Never Let Me Go
By Kazuo Ishiguro
Knopf, 288 pp., $24

Like Shakespeare's monster who learns enough to curse learning, Ishiguro's Kathy H. comes to doubt what she's taught at Hailsham, an isolated boarding school where student-clones are raised and trained to donate their organs. Imagine Caliban as an adolescent girl; today the test tube is the witch who gives birth to her. A 1984 for the bioengineering age, the novel is a warning and a glimpse into the future. For Orwell's Winston Smith, war was peace and freedom was slavery. For Kathy, dying after a second or third or fourth donation is known as "completing." By the time a well-meaning guardian finally follows "donate" with "your vital organs," it's too late to object.

99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style
By Matt Madden
Chamberlain Bros., 206 pp., $16.95

99 Ways does the best kind of exercise: There's no padding or heavy machinery, just one elegant body studiously stretching its limbs. Madden takes the model figure of a bare-bones story (man walks into a kitchen), spreads it out over eight panels, and, in 99 one-page permutations, twists and shouts it in every direction. It's the comic book version of Bach's Goldberg Variations—or, to choose a juicier example, a still life from The Aristocrats. The real story turns with the pages in this deep-thinking, quick-moving Queneauvian study of the infinite pleasures of composition.

Other Electricities
By Ander Monson
Sarabande, 167 pp., $14.95

The fragments in Monson's Upper Peninsula epic assume in strange shapes: dream obituaries, annotated temperatures, incantations. The titles here would be at home on a Sufjan Stevens album ("We Are Going to See the Oracle of Apollo in Tapiola, Michigan"), and the two share a gift for oblique illumination. Winter has its own secret history, a frozen litany of vandalism, accident, and rue; "like milk in a bottle," the season's given shape in these pages. Crystallography and The Age of Wire and String are reference points, but Other Electricities locates an odd, exciting wavelength all its own.

By Geraldine Kim
Fence, 128 pp., $14

Kim's centaur debut is a constant notebook, humming with graffiti and gossip, bad jokes, great jokes, bodily functions, lyrics, juvenile glosses, sudden sadnesses. Povel comes equipped with a hilarious, spurious Lyn Hejinian intro, the longest title in the world, and observations on how her writing-workshop cohorts are responding to the text. Kim comments on the spell-checker's comments, Rage Against the Machine, the NYU suicides, Infinite Jest. She's her own A.D.D. Boswell, a self-mythologizing Korean American diva worth a thousand Margaret Chos.

By Vik Muniz
Aperture, 204 pp., $39.95

The most Borgesian of contemporary artists turns out to be a splendidly Borgesian writer himself, and Reflex, his generous, Cheshire cat of a primer, is as profound as it is playful. Injured randomly by a bullet in his native Brazil, he took up the gunman's offer of money and bought a ticket to the U.S., where he developed the "light interrogatory technique" of his art. His wizardly cover versions of famous images use everything from thread to diamonds to chocolate syrup, and Reflex is similarly omnivorous, bursting with double-take reproductions, beard-tugging axioms ("The accidental discovery of anything implies a predisposed need for that thing"), and at least seven if not seventeen types of ambiguity.

Rubble: Unearthing the History of Demolition
By Jeff Byles
Harmony, 353 pp., $24

Voice contributor Byles presents very different chapters in city planning: Haussmann's plans for Paris, the what-were-we-thinking story of Penn Station, the Berlin Wall's demise, the destruction of the twin towers. It's a strange but satisfying amalgam of stories, a primer for anyone who cares about urban histories and how, in ignoring architecture, we actively participate in its destruction. By Rubble's end, the pleasure of ruins no longer seems so irresistible, and analogies to voyeurism and murder are never far.

The Sluts
By Dennis Cooper
Void, 296 pp., $50
(also in paper, $14.95 from Carroll & Graf)

A dizzying pileup of bareback breeding, castration procedures, master-slave mind games, boyband necrophilia fantasies, and consensual snuff sex, The Sluts is—this will sound strange— Cooper's most enjoyable novel to date. Echoing the loose palindromic structure of his George Miles cycle, the book begins and ends on a gay-escort review website, where the focus of masturbatory—and possibly murderous—attention is a barely legal total bottom. Simulating the thrill and fatigue of Web prowling, it's as profound an analysis of the Internet's philosophical dimensions as any fiction writer has produced.

Times Like These
By Rachel Ingalls
Graywolf, 316 pp., $16

A Massachusetts native resident in En-gland for 40 years, Ingalls conjures a calmly demonic America for the stories and novellas in this brutally beautiful collection. Unwanted pregnancies and unnamed wars cast permanent shadows; the reader's skin crawls at the relentless concatenations (shades of Thomas Berger) and Twilight Zone plot-pivots. "Veterans" evokes A History of Violence, and "Somewhere Else" might be the year's most surprising piece of fiction: an unmooring vision of hell that rises just as your defenses go down.

By Mary Gaitskill
Pantheon, 227 pp., $23

Fans long accustomed to a sensibility as blunt as ice had reason to worry that Mary Gaitskill might by circumstance have softened in her second novel. Begun a decade ago, Veronica, whatever its author may have once intended, reaches us at last as a well-crafted dispatch from middle age. No matter, it's a knives-out return, and Gaitskill's sentences spring all the usual traps. Feeling blue one rainy day, Alison, a washed-up model, regrets her past—in particular, Veronica, a loudmouth who made her embarrassed to be her friend. Humility strikes Alison hard.

Wimbledon Green
By Seth
Drawn & Quarterly, 128 pp., $19.95

In this high-spirited, densely packed graphic novel, cartoonist Seth chronicles the exploits of the "greatest comic book collector in the world." Working with a color palette of gold, silver, and bronze (in honor of the three key ages of 20th-century comics), Seth casts his hero as a globe-trotting adventurer with his own dual identity, acknowledging this highly nerdy community's fundamental need to imagine itself as a league of real-life superheroes. Conceived as an exercise in the artist's sketchbook, the whimsical world Seth creates ultimately captures the best and worst of comics, the only place where "infamous flatulence" is actually a selling point.

The Year of Magical Thinking
By Joan Didion
Knopf, 240 pp., $23.95

The writer who famously cut to passages from her psychiatric report here splices in her husband's autopsy and her daughter's CT scan. Didion has always been obsessed with disjunction—narrative breakdown, the erasure of meaning—and is never more lucid than when she realizes the impossibility of clarity. By awful necessity, this memoir sees a further refinement of the Didion style: the incantatory echoes, the tidal italics, the pitch-perfect use of crescendo and staccato. Facts are her talismans, and The Year of Magical Thinking is a survivor's manual that understands all too well the limits of its usefulness.

(*) (*) (*) Thank goodness for many books especially really good fiction that have been piling up between taking care of Doc throughout all of 2005 until he passed two weeks ago last night and my online PhD course work. (*) (*)

Carpe Diem,

12-17-2005, 01:08 PM
The Bush Beat by Ward Harkavy

Saturday, December 17

I don't know what's worse: the New York Times's revelation yesterday that the National Security Agency is illegally spying on Americans or the New York Times's keeping secret in yesterday's revelation that there's a book deal involved.

Go ahead and read the fine coverage of this latest scandal at the formerly great paper by the Washington Post's Paul Farhi ("At the Times, A Scoop Deferred" and Salon's Tim Grieve ("How Long Did the Times Hold Its News?".

But here's something they don't have that you may have forgotten: James Risen, the reporter in the middle of this disgraceful episode, was involved in a similar (and similarly hinky) deal three years ago with another U.S. spy agency, the CIA.

In fact, the CIA's copy desk wound up editing half of Risen's 2002 book The Main Enemy, as Allan Wolper reported nearly three years ago in Editor & Publisher. Wolper led his January 14, 2003, story with questions for the Times back then that are even more relevant today:

What would Americans think if they knew that their best newspaper, the New York Times, had allowed one of its national-security reporters to negotiate a book deal that needed the approval of the CIA?

What would they say if they knew the CIA was editing the book while the country is days or weeks away from a war with Iraq and is counting on the Times to monitor the intelligence agency?

They would be properly horrified.

One of the golden rules of journalism is that you can't let your source control your content. Another is that you must avoid making financial deals with the people you cover. The reasons are obvious. Reporters turn themselves into pretzels to prove their reporting isn't compromised. And their credibility becomes a casualty of their relationships.

Good point then, and good point now. However, it's past time that we withdrew the "best newspaper" tag from the Times. Such labels are meaningless, but if you have to pick an overall best at timely digging under the surface of officialdom's news, you could paste the "best" label on either the Washington Post (except for Bob Woodward) or the Wall Street Journal. The Times is still perhaps the most influential, at least when it comes to the people who run other big-media newsrooms and TV outlets. But it's not the best.

Anyway, this is now, as the Washington Post reports this morning on the Times's long-delayed revelation yesterday of NSA domestic spying:

The Times agreed to remove information that administration officials said could be "useful" to terrorists and delayed publication for a year "to conduct additional reporting."

The paper offered no explanation to its readers about what had changed in the past year to warrant publication. It also did not disclose that the information is included in a forthcoming book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, written by James Risen, the lead reporter on yesterday's story. The book will be published in mid-January, according to its publisher, Simon & Schuster.

Exactly how long was the delay? The Times says "for a year," but is that more or less?

Come off it. It's clear that this story was ready for publication before the November 2004 election — and it could have changed the results.

Too bad the Times didn't delay its Judy Miller WMD stories back in 2002. Those carelessly published pieces of agitprop were rushed into print and fueled the fooling of American pols and public about the "need" to invade Iraq. If all it takes is a book deal to make the Times hold back publication of timely news, I would have scraped together some cash for Miller in '02.

Back to James Risen: To be fair to him, there are indications that he wasn't the one responsible for the delay in the Times's publishing the NSA story. Farhi's Post piece notes:

The decision to withhold the article caused some friction within the Times' Washington bureau, according to people close to the paper. Some reporters and editors in New York and in the bureau, including Risen and co-writer Eric Lichtblau, had pushed for earlier publication, according to these people. One described the story's path to publication as difficult, with much discussion about whether it could have been published earlier.

In a statement yesterday, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller did not mention the book. He wrote that when the Times became aware that the NSA was conducting domestic wiretaps without warrants, "the Administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications and would deprive the government of an effective tool for the protection of the country's security."

"Officials also assured senior editors of the Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions," Keller continued. "As we have done before in rare instances when faced with a convincing national security argument, we agreed not to publish at that time."

Outrageous, especially the crap from Keller.

The paper continues to make the tragic mistake of looking out for the administration's interests instead of guarding the public interest. That's why I derisively refer to the Times as our version of the Soviet-era Pravda — it's our establishment organ. The used-to-be-great paper, which still houses many fine reporters, has a thoroughly cavalier and snobbish attitude toward the public, as my colleague Paul Moses has noted in his exposé of the paper's slimy real-estate deal with New York City officials, and as I've noted in parsing even its purported ombudsman's snooty attitude toward readers.

There is no way that Bill Keller survives this episode. He was a short-termer when the Judy Miller crap really hit the fan a short time ago. Look for him to soon make what will be portrayed as a graceful exit from the Times.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media's mainstream protectors are circling the wagons, as Farhi's story notes, after giving us some more of Keller's bull:

In the ensuing months [while the Times held onto the story], Keller wrote, two things changed the paper's thinking. The paper developed a fuller picture of misgivings about the program by some in the government. And the paper satisfied itself through more reporting that it could write the story without exposing "any intelligence-gathering methods or capabilities that are not already on the public record."

Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said it was conceivable the Times waited to publish its NSA story as the Senate took up renewal of the Patriot Act. "It's not unheard of to wait for a news peg," he said. "It's not unusual to discover the existence of something and not know the context of it until later."

Bullshit, Rosenstiel. We already knew the "context." The "news peg" is the size of the Washington Monument. The Patriot Act, in its various incarnations, has been a bone of contention ever since 9-11 — especially concerning its provisions that allow the government to spy on its own citizens. American citizens who happened to be Muslims had already been swept off the streets by John Ashcroft.

The confirmation hearings nearly a year ago for Alberto Gonzales to replace Ashcroft would have been perfect timing for publication of the NSA spying story. But the Times couldn't have done it then, because there would have been an outcry about why it didn't publish only a few months earlier — before the November 2004 election.

As for the Times's desire not to hamper the U.S. government, the public would be better served if the paper focused instead on the several thousand unanswered questions about the government's downright strange relations with spies and terrorists who aren't American citizens.

One thing I'm referring to is our current CIA director, Porter Goss. On the morning of 9-11, as I pointed out in August 2004 (I didn't break the story), Goss was eating breakfast in D.C. with a Pakistani official who, as it turned out, had been the bag man for 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta.

I haven't seen much of anything about that. Guess we'll just have to wait for the book.

(*) (*) ;) ;) :o :o :| :|

(f) ,

12-17-2005, 01:09 PM

Coffee Abuse

by Nina Lalli The Village Voice

December 16th, 2005 6:32 PM

I've only tasted hazlenut coffee by accident. America's flavored coffee movement, which initially seemed like a fad that would quickly disappear, has really passed me by. I'm starting to feel like one of those kids who grew up without TV, and doesn't understand references to Three's Company or Who's the Boss. Now that the holidays are upon us, the movement is at its annual aggressive peak, with even the burliest of men ordering up Grande Skim Eggnog Chai Lattes and Tall Peppermint Mochas with whipped cream. A horrible thought popped into my head recently. Am I the weird one? Is my "small coffee with milk—no sugar" a sign of my utter party-pooperness?

In an effort to join the rest of society, I decided to sample the seasonal offering at Starbucks, beginning with the extremely popular Gingerbread Latte. At the first store I visited, the girl behind the counter put on a frown-y face when I requested it, saying "Aww, I'm so sorry, we're all out." Then she sighed and said "I'm tired. What time is it?" I moved on to another of the 47 billion locations, which was one block away, and ordered the same. The guy behind the counter nodded with approval. "That's the best one."

The gingerbread latte, like all flavored coffee drinks, is extraordinarily sweet and packs in an absurd number of calories (330 for a "tall" which is a "small", but it is one of the more bearable of the holiday-inspired beverages. That's not to say I enjoyed the actual experience of drinking it, but at least it is clever and had a distinct flavor, aside from "sweet." The peppermint hot chocolate is a reasonable combination, but a peppermint mocha takes it a step too far: Coffee goes with chocolate, and chocolate goes with peppermint, but does peppermint go with coffee?

The eggnog series, though a cute idea, was offensive in execution. An eggnog latte consists of espresso, a lot of eggnog mix from a supermarket carton, and milk. It is the color of a Caucasian baby's knees and the smallest size contains 25 grams of fat. Do people think because it is in some abstract sense "coffee," that it doesn't count? The Pumpkin Spice Latte, which has stuck around since Thanksgiving, had a milder taste. A friend who loves fruity cocktails and hates beer and wine tasted it and said " That's nice." It had the appearance of chicken soup (the whipped cream melted to leave a greasy film on the surface) and tasted like milk and sugar.

But what about the competition? Dunkin' Donuts has come out with endearingly enthusiastic ads for lattes, a little late in the game. And they have an alarming array of flavored coffees as well (Cinnamon! Coconut! Marshmallow! Blueberry?). But their holiday lineup is far less ambitious than Starbucks'. It contains no Christmas-specific references, just two humble seasonal offerings: Mocha Almond and Caramel Creme. But they make up for this lack of range by making these straightforward-sounding flavors unbelievably sweet. The caramel latte has not even a hint of coffee taste to it. When I asked a friend to confirm that this was by far the sweetest drink we had tasted, he said "I'm losing my perspective. What is coffee supposed to taste like?"

(*) (*) :| :| (o) (o) (S) (S)


12-25-2005, 10:44 AM
thinking plain coffee about right now... yes, the perfect Christmas delight

somedays when I splurge, I have half-n-half in it, as long as I can still taste the coffee, I am happy

but for really great cup of coffee, all I want to taste is coffee...

12-26-2005, 02:24 PM
December 24, 2005

Op-Ed Columnist

Hey, W., It's Safe! Read This.



As a Christmas present for our president, who's been going through a rough time lately, I'm not writing the column this Christmas Eve.

In keeping with a holiday tradition I began last year, I'm giving the space to my conservative brother, Kevin, who delights in turning the Gray Lady a vivid shade of red.

I asked Kevin, a salesman and father of three boys who lives in a Maryland suburb of Washington, to write you, dear readers, a letter with his thoughts on the year. You will find his meditation a refreshing, or regrettable, change from me, depending on your perspective. Here it is, unexpurgated:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. Maybe it was the extended absence from the stern Franciscan nuns at Nativity grade school. But more likely it was the decorations, the songs, the movies like "A Christmas Carol" and "Miracle on 34th Street," that filled people with an unbridled joy and an unusual generosity of spirit. Christmas has generally been celebrated as both a secular and religious holiday in this country. Recently, the P.C. police have decided that the word Christ carries an unbearable religious aura, so they are working hard to strike the word entirely for the more generic Holiday. The battle for the soul of Christmas has heated up.

So first, I'd like to give a big thank you to Speaker Hastert for ordering the renamed Holiday tree to revert to its original title of Christmas tree. And why not? We do not decorate the tree for Easter or the Fourth of July. It is a Christmas tree.

We live in a country of 295 million people. Eighty percent of them are affiliated with religions. Ten percent don't believe anything at all. Who the hell does Christmas offend?

Go back two generations and you will find the real diversity that made our country the greatest in the world. Immigrants brought their customs with them and were accepted. We were taught by our parents to respect the customs and religious beliefs of other people. Let's reach around and give P.C. a swat, like an annoying child in the back seat of a long trip, before Santa and St. Patrick are casualties of war.

My mother hated political correctness. "In my day," she'd say, "people respected each other and minded their own business." Still good advice.

To the P.C. Elites: The founding fathers guaranteed Freedom OF Religion, not Freedom FROM Religion. Please go away, you are making my hair hurt.

To Target: You better check the sales and profit numbers that are CHRISTMAS related before you ban the word.

To Michael Moore, Rob Reiner, Barbra Streisand, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Alec Baldwin: When did you get back?

To MSNBC: Susan Estrich, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Lanny Davis.

To Hillary: A hearty welcome to the Republican Party.

To Bill O'Reilly: Thank you for dragging the P.C. crowd into the open. Maybe they will learn that America doesn't want to be de-Godded.

To Maureen: Of course Men are Necessary; who else could write this column?

To Jesse Jackson, Sean Penn, Snoop Dog, Susan and Tim: Tookie Williams KILLED four people. Community service does not seem enough.

To Judge Jones of Pennsylvania: No Intelligent Design? You are going to be hoping for a Big Bang if St. Peter is checking ID's.

To President Bush: Stay the Course. The same people that are calling for troop withdrawal were under their beds on 9/12/01 screaming "Kill the Infidels!" Let's fight them there instead of here and bring our troops home with honor as soon as possible.

To my Mom: Thanks for teaching your children to love Christmas as much as you did.

In the 1950's, my mother used to take Maureen and me to the sloping hill outside the Church of the Nativity. There, workers had assembled a giant stable, complete with figures at least four feet high, on a bed of real straw. Driving north on 13th Street, you could see the floodlit display four blocks away. We stood and admired that display with our Jewish and Protestant neighbors. No one seemed offended. Across the top was an angel, holding a sign that said, "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men." Let's save that.

So, my friends, let me wish all of you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Blessed Kwanzaa, Feliz Navidad and to all the rest of you: Have a nice day!

(*) (*) :o


12-26-2005, 02:26 PM
December 25, 2005


December 25

You don't really have to be in the mood for the Fourth of July. No one ever talks about having that Memorial Day spirit. Even Thanksgiving can be distilled, without too much disrespect. But Christmas is something different. Feeling is the point of it, somewhere under all that shopping. To think of Scrooge is to think of his conversion, the cartwheeling of his emotions after his long night of the soul. But the more interesting part of the story is his dogged resistance to feeling the way everyone thinks he's supposed to feel - about death, about charity, about prize turkeys hanging at the poulterer's.

Most of us know how we want to feel this time of year, whatever holiday we are celebrating. We want to feel safe, loving and well loved, well fed, openhanded, and able to be moved by the powerful but very humble stories that gather in this season. We would like to feel that there is a kind of innocence, not in our hearts, since our hearts are such complicated places, but in the very gestures and rituals of late December. We would like to feel that we are returning to something unchanged, some still spot in a spinning world. Whether you believe with an absolute literalism or with a more analogic faith, whether you believe at all, whether you are Christian or Jewish or Muslim or merely human, the word we would like to feel most profoundly now is Peace.

It's easy enough to be cynical about the things we would like to feel here at the dark end of the year, to dismiss them out of hand as if they were only the battery-powered, sugar-coated, marzipan dreams of a child's holiday. Life is too tough, too embattled for such sentimentality. That is Scrooge's point exactly: no use pretending the world isn't exactly the way it is. One of the reasons we love to hear the story of an old crank like Scrooge is that he seems to embody this cracked old world, made whole in one night by regret and repentance.

One night will not do it, nor will one day. Peace does not simply appear in the sky overhead or lie embodied one morning in a manger. We come into this season knowing how we want it to make us feel, and we are usually disappointed because humans never cease to be human. But we are right to remember how we would like to feel. We are right to long for peace and good will.

(*) (*) A very merry and healthy and happy New Year!! (*) (*)

(f) (f) ,

12-29-2005, 04:42 AM
December 25, 2005

Fiddling with Formats While DVD's Burn


The war for control of the next-generation DVD is approaching a critical juncture: next week in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show, companies championing the two competing high-definition DVD standards - Blu-ray and HD DVD - will unveil their lineups of new players and movie titles.

There are growing signs, though, that the battle for supremacy in this multibillion-dollar market may yield a hollow victory. As electronics makers, technology companies and Hollywood studios haggle over the fine points of their formats, consumers are quickly finding alternatives to buying and renting packaged DVD's, high-definition or otherwise.

"While they fight, Rome is burning," said Robert Heiblim, an independent consultant to electronics companies. "High-definition video-on-demand and digital video recorders are compelling, and people will say, 'why do I need it?' " when considering whether to buy a high-definition player.

The fight between the Blu-ray and HD DVD groups is based on different views of what consumers want. The HD DVD camp, led by Toshiba, assumes that consumers will buy high-definition DVD's and players, but only at the right price. So it is improving existing DVD technology, which can be made cheaply and quickly.

The Blu-ray group figures that something brand new is needed to get consumers interested, so it is developing discs with enough capacity to allow for innovative features in the future.

Both sides agree, however, that now is the time to introduce high-definition DVD discs and players. Sales of high-definition televisions, with their sleek design and superior picture and sound quality, are soaring, and the major networks are broadcasting more programs in high-definition.

Game makers like Sony see high-definition video games as a way to boost console sales, and Hollywood hopes that high-definition discs will offset slumping sales of current-generation DVD's in the $19 billion prepackaged disc market.

Yet the alternatives to these new players and DVD's are growing by the day. The most promising is the on-demand programming, both standard and high-definition, being offered by cable companies. The percentage of cable customers who watch television on-demand has doubled in the past year, to 23 percent, according to the Leichtman Research Group.

With thousands of free movies available at any time, consumers have fewer reasons to rent a DVD at Blockbuster or buy a new one at Best Buy. They are also likely to think twice before spending $1,000 or more for a new high-definition DVD player, or $25 or so to own a disc of a movie they might already have in standard definition. Of course, these newfangled ways of watching video are still a small piece of the overall video market, and industry executives and analysts say they expect most consumers to continue buying prerecorded DVD's for years to come. They also say they believe that high-definition programs - and the televisions to watch them on - are the way of the future. The question is how consumers will get that programming.

Even without these alternatives, high-definition DVD's face a dicey start. The inability of the Blu-ray group and HD-DVD camp to agree on a single standard means that consumers must consider two sets of machines in the stores.

Except for avid technophiles, consumers are likely to wait out the standards battle, lest they get stuck with a player that becomes obsolete if the other format wins.

Machines will also be expensive - $1,000 or more - and consumers will need a television capable of playing high-definition programs, which can easily cost several thousand dollars more. The list of movies available in the formats will be skimpy at first.

Sony, which leads the Blu-ray group, has said that its new video game consoles due out this spring will play Blu-ray DVD's. But few industry analysts expect consumers to buy the game machine just to watch movies.

In the meantime, other companies are making it easier to watch and copy high-definition movies. Scientific-Atlanta has a new set-top box with a digital video recorder and DVD recorder built in, so cable subscribers can use a single machine to record programming and burn it onto blank discs.

"Consumers are getting hooked on video-on-demand and the flexibility of moving content around the home," said Ted Schadler, an industry analyst at Forrester. "Once you open that Pandora's box, you can't close it. The battle over the format is silly. For the product to grow, they have to promote the benefits of HD, not battle each other."

Yet the two sides are digging in their heels, not shaking hands. Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and other backers of the Blu-ray format expect to flood stores next year with high-definition DVD players, and half a dozen studios will make movies for their machines.

Not to be outdone, the HD DVD camp led by Toshiba has won endorsements from Microsoft and Intel. Hewlett-Packard, a member of the Blu-ray group, agreed last week to work with the HD DVD camp as well.

These allies say that the wall between computers and consumer electronics is blurring and that the new formats should let users move movies and other content among various devices seamlessly. Not surprisingly, they see computers at the main conduit, not standalone electronic devices.

"If PC's don't adopt these technologies, it will be a ho-hum 2006" for next-generation DVD's, said Maureen Weber, the general manager of the personal storage group at Hewlett-Packard. "It all boils down to Microsoft and Sony wanting to dominate the connected home. It's a showdown between consumer electronics and personal computers over convergence."

Ms. Weber, like many other executives, acknowledges that the longer the format battle continues, the higher the likelihood that consumers will find other solutions, including video-on-demand.

Comcast, the country's largest cable provider, already gives its 20 million subscribers access to 3,800 movies and television shows. The 44 percent of Comcast's subscribers who have the set-top box needed to see on-demand programs have watched more than 1 billion of them so far this year.

There are signs that rising on-demand viewing is denting DVD sales and rentals, a worrying sign for Hollywood executives who increasingly rely on disc sales to offset the rising cost of producing movies. Since consumer electronics makers and Hollywood studios earn much of their profit on sales margins, they will feel the pinch if these new viewing options grab even 5 or 10 percent of video market.

A poll by the Starz Entertainment Group this month showed that 60 percent of those who watch on-demand video buy fewer DVD's, while 72 percent of those surveyed are renting fewer movies.

Starz has also broadened the definition of on-demand with Starz Ticket, which lets users download movies to their laptops or other devices for $12.95 a month. The service includes a rotation of 300 movies that can be watched multiple times and, like a digital video recorder, paused, rewound and fast-forwarded. Like store-bought DVD's, they also include directors' cuts, foreign language versions and other bonus material.

"We're on the verge of another major shift in terms of how consumers receive video," said Tom Southwick, a spokesman for the Starz Entertainment Group. "What's happening in the video arena is just like what is happening in the MP3 market. Over time, there's going to be so much available with cable on-demand and the Internet that having a library of tapes that you buy or borrow will become inconvenient."

For now, none of the Starz Ticket movies are in high-definition because typical broadband connections are too slow to make downloads feasible. The current generation of discs hold up to 8.5 gigabytes of memory, not enough for a full-length movie in high-definition.

Consumer habits also die hard.

"You can change technology all you want, but you can't change people," said Andy Parsons, a Blu-ray group spokesman who noted that the vast majority of music fans still buy CD's. "Average folks still want to watch the movie and buy it. It's presuming a lot to think that they will replace the model they've used for decades."

(h) (h)


12-29-2005, 04:43 AM
October 5, 2005

Darknets: Virtual Parties With a Select Group of Invitees


DESPITE all the openness of the Internet, there are still places you cannot saunter into on the Web. You must be invited.

These are "darknets": exclusive peer-to-peer networks in which membership is based on circles of trust, whose activities are veiled from the general public. And though people who are adept at configuring servers and comfortable with File Transfer Protocol have used such systems for years, a spate of new online services aimed at everyday users is sure to draw new attention to under-the-radar file sharing.

Darknets, like their peer-to-peer predecessors Napster, Kazaa and Gnutella, allow users to browse and download digital files like movies and music from other people's computers. But while Napster and its ilk have allowed unrestricted access to files on any of the millions of connected computers, darknets are more discriminating. In a darknet, users get access only through established relationships - and only when they have been invited to join. This selectivity promises greater privacy, regardless of whether the networks are used for sharing personal or pirated media.

File sharers may be enthusiastic about the possibilities such services provide, but there are questions as to whether any new service facilitating file swapping can avoid the legal scrutiny that has hampered open-access file-sharing systems.

Grouper, among the largest of the new services, hosts more than 100,000 private groups. Users can build their own darknets or request admission to thousands of publicly listed clubs whose members can browse through group folders, download files and communicate by instant messaging or group blogs.

A Bible group on Grouper, Deepthings, shares e-books and audio tapes. Needles and Pins offers sewing patterns; Skater Paradise posts skateboarding videos.

Grouper is currently a free service, and contextual ads in its group directory help generate revenue; soon the company will include video ads and the option to buy photo prints or CD's. The people behind Grouper say they hope to eventually offer a premium service stripped of ads and the ability to control a PC from afar.

Although unauthorized versions of copyrighted material do sometimes drift across the network, the company says it makes great effort to distance itself from illegal activity.

"Our intent is not to circumvent the copyright world," said Josh Felser, a co-founder of Grouper. "This is about personally generated content."

Mr. Felser and other advocates of commercial darknets think they are fulfilling consumer demand for what might best be called personal distribution, a medium whose potential content expands with every video-equipped cellphone and pocket-size digital camera bought.

"The big play for us is personal video," Mr. Felser said last month, as he toyed with a moviemaking digital camera in his office in Mill Valley, Calif. "Personal video is everywhere, and people are wanting to share video that they create."

To prevent piracy, Grouper limits the file-sharing capacities on its network. Instead of letting members download music, for example, users are allowed to listen only to others' MP3's in real time through FM-quality streams. Grouper also limits groups to 50 people, and adds a whistleblower feature so members can call out illegal activity.

But their methods are not foolproof; conspiring group members can change music file extensions or compress album folders to allow downloading, as does the group Only Zipped Music, and there is no means to block pirated software and crack codes, which are circulated in groups like Krakk'd, Warez and Xbox Gamez.

Mr. Felser and his partner, Dave Samuel, say they feel that their self-regulating efforts allow them to continue courting the media industry. "We want a company that gives us the ability to partner with other media companies, and eventually, an exit strategy," said Mr. Felser, who sold their previous enterprise, an Internet radio broadcaster called Spinner.com, to America Online for $320 million.

Qnext, another private peer-to-peer network, also tries to distance itself from illegal users in the hope of building a successful business without setting off legal battles. The company packages its service as an all-in-one communications tool with instant messaging, video conferencing and Internet telephone service, as well as file sharing and an application that operates a PC remotely.

The Qnext software does not assist the development of groups of strangers, however, making it more difficult to disseminate copyrighted entertainment widely. A company spokesman, Simon Plashkes, said this limitation rendered Qnext useless as a piracy tool. "If someone was sharing a movie, it would be hard to send that to more than five people," Mr. Plashkes said. "The technical design is not the best piracy platform." Even in more public forums, like virtual communities, users increasingly want to share files as well as photos; administrators have responded by developing safeguards against misuse.

Imeem, a social networking group that connects users with common interests, encourages members to share files like videos and recordings among friends. But the company's owners say that by publishing the relationships among members and listing the membership of its groups, they are creating a deterrent to illegal trading.

"If you're letting people into your trust network, you're implicating them as well," said Dalton Caldwell, one of the service's co-founders. "It recreates in the digital world the kind of pressure that exists in the real world."

It remains unclear whether these efforts will be enough to ward off a litigious entertainment industry.

"The protections are good, but unfortunately, that kind of argument is no longer as strong as it was prior to the Grokster case," said Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford University law professor, referring to a recent United States Supreme Court ruling that allows companies to sue peer-to-peer networks for copyright infringement if they are shown to encourage illegal downloading.

"If I were an investor, I'd think strongly about whether to invest in a company that could facilitate this sharing," he said.

Copyright owners make it clear that they are prepared to defend their turf. "We don't take issue with the technology," said Kori Bernards, a spokeswoman for the Motion Picture Association of America. "It's when it's for illegal uses. When they promote or facilitate this, they should be aware that they are accountable."

Ms. Bernards said that in the wake of the Grokster decision, the association had been approached by some file-sharing companies that wanted to learn if their operations were likely to attract copyright-infringement lawsuits.

Nor is Professor Lessig alone in suggesting that the entertainment industry's vested interests may lead to efforts that will stifle technological innovation.

"The more Hollywood clamps down, the further underground the activity is driven, and the more difficult it's going to be to find out what's going on," said J. D. Lasica, author of "Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation."

Signs that file-sharing networks are becoming more stealthy already exist.

Ian Clarke, founder of Freenet, a peer-to-peer network meant to circumvent government efforts to censor material on the Internet, says he will soon unveil a version of his program that will coordinate private groups. Mr. Clarke said he viewed the spread of pared-down commercial darknets as a setback, that they gave up too much ground to copyright holders and limit what could otherwise be powerful software.

"These guys are deliberately holding back, and that's what happens when lawyers dictate software development," Mr. Clarke said. "Software people enable people. Lawyers disable people."

(*) (*) :o

(f) ,

12-29-2005, 04:44 AM
December 25, 2005

The Best Films of the Year

Rome in Six Hours and Four Decades


THIS list is intended neither as prophecy nor as summing up. It is impossible to predict which of the many fine movies released in 2005 will still claim our attention 10 years - or even 10 weeks - from now. Nor do the titles below represent, as far as I can see, any important trends in world cinema. Many of them belong to the year just ending by sheer happenstance, having been shown at festivals long before their (often brief) runs in American theaters. What they have in common is only that I loved them, that each one caused me, temporarily, to let go of my critical preoccupations and experience the absorption and surprise that made me want to be a critic in the first place.

No movie did that quite as powerfully or completely as "The Best of Youth," Marco Tullio Giordana's six-hour chronicle of recent Italian history told through the lives of an ordinary Roman family. Originally made as a mini-series for Italian television, this film gestures back toward the tradition of politically astute historical filmmaking exemplified by masters like Luchino Visconti and Bernardo Bertolucci. It is an intellectual as well as an emotional feast, with dozens of superb performances, especially from Luigi Lo Cascio and Alessio Boni playing two brothers caught up in the social and political turmoil of the 1960's and 70's. Mr. Giordana has made a movie so full of life that even after six hours of screen time and four decades of history, you wish it would go on.

I'm not sure I would wish for more of "The Aristocrats," Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette's scholarly inquiry into the world's filthiest joke. On the other hand, the point of this documentary is that filth knows no limits, and that exploring the far boundaries of taste and propriety demands fortitude, hard work and a commitment to craft. The craft in question is stand-up comedy, and the battalion of performers and writers gathered together here - Sarah Silverman, George Carlin, Paul Reiser and Bob Saget among them - offer a fascinating glimpse at the lore and tradition that sustains them.

In (yet another) year of excellent documentaries - as well as too many that take easy routes to sentimental uplift or political indignation - Hubert Sauper's "Darwin's Nightmare" stands out. An unflinching, rigorous examination of the ecological and human effects of globalization on the African nation of Tanzania, Mr. Sauper's film is not always easy to watch. But it peers so deeply at one of the central and largely invisible crises of our time that the conventions of cinéma vérité acquire an almost visionary intensity, as if William Blake were behind the camera.

In her second feature, "The Holy Girl," the 39-year-old Argentine director Lucrecia Martel shows herself to be one of the most original and insightful younger filmmakers working today. With self-confidence that more than matches her formal daring, she turns the story of a young girl's sexual and religious awakening into a lyrical, psychologically charged puzzle. María Alche's performance in the title role is at haunted and haunting, sensuous and otherworldly. Her character, Amalia, is a perfectly ordinary teenager who lives with her divorced mother in a provincial hotel, and her collisions with the adult world are at once comical, creepy and numinous. The film is oblique, sometimes to the point of obscurity, but in its astonishing final scenes it reveals a deep, almost shocking coherence.

It was a shock of the most pleasant kind to discover, in Woody Allen's "Match Point," that one of our most maddeningly prolific (and recently underachieving) filmmakers was back in top form. Revisiting some of the themes of his earlier work - most obviously "Crimes and Misdemeanors" - Mr. Allen reminds his long-suffering admirers what a skilled and disciplined writer he can be. Trading Manhattan for London and working with an excellent, youthful cast (with outstanding performances from Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Emily Mortimer and Scarlett Johansson), he mixes high artifice with acute insight, and presents an entertainment that is so glittery and diverting that you almost miss the cruel, chilly darkness at its heart.

Perhaps the purest dose of pleasure on movie screens this year was provided by Nick Park and his comrades at Aardman Animations, makers of "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit." Bringing their jug-eared English inventor and his loyal pooch to the big screen after three short adventures, the Aardmanites staked out a place of honor for old-fashioned stop-motion animation in a world dominated by digital technology. It is good to know that such solid virtues as loyalty, hands-on ingenuity, absolute silliness and the love of cheese still have a place in modern cinema. Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter lend their voices to this noble cause.

American independent cinema is full of stories of young men coming of age, which is fitting enough given that young men still dominate the Sundance/art-house nexus. One of the best recent examples of the genre - which is to say a picture that transcends the genre entirely - was Gregg Araki's "Mysterious Skin." Mr. Araki, once the wild child of the New Queer Cinema, remains fearless, but this adaptation of Scott Heim's novel is also tender and beautiful. Two terrific young actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet, play two boys growing up in Kansas in the 1980's, linked by a childhood trauma they share without knowing it. The story is painful, but Mr. Araki's way of telling it is funny, humane and unpretentious.

Another coming-of-age story, "The Squid and the Whale," hit me where I live, and not only because it was filmed a few blocks from where I really do live. Noah Baumbach's scathing, heartbreaking comedy of bad manners and failed romance traces the unraveling of a Brooklyn literary family. In tracing the shifting alliances between two brothers and their separating parents, Mr. Baumbach lays bare the vanity and cruelty of people who fancy themselves creatures of superior refinement and taste. And yet it is impossible not to feel a tug of sympathy for all of them. Jeff Daniels, as the pompous, narcissistic dad, gives one of the best performances of the year, and Mr. Baumbach's sharp, quick scenes give his movie the texture and economy of a first-rate novel.

Movies about aimless young people have hardly been scarce in the indie world, but Andrew Bujalski's "Funny Ha Ha" rises above the slacker pack. Mr. Bujalski made this super-low-budget feature with a bunch of friends (notably Kate Dollenmayer, who may be the thinking nerd's Parker Posey) in Boston, and he turns the affectlessness and indecision of overeducated 20-somethings into a genuine style. Unassuming to the point of diffidence, this film turns out on closer examination to be formally bold and slyly insightful. It's both a (whispered, half-swallowed) generational statement and the announcement of a formidable talent.

Steven Spielberg's "Munich" was no sooner hailed on the cover of Time as a "secret masterpiece" than it was subjected to a pre-emptive backlash, mainly from pundits accusing Mr. Spielberg of moral relativism and manipulation. The initial praise may have been overdone, but the attacks have more to do with the need certain ideologues have for fresh hobbyhorses to ride than with anything the movie is actually doing or saying. "Munich" is complicated, even to the point of confusion, but it is also ethically serious in a way that few large-scale commercial films dare to be. It is fundamentally about the challenge that fighting terrorism poses for liberal societies, but it is hardly a brief for defeatism or evenhandedness. Doing the right thing has costs, which are sometimes terrible. Once again, Mr. Spielberg displays a command of filmmaking technique that has, at the moment, no equal.

That makes 10, but why stop there? Those are the movies that had, for one reason or another, the deepest personal impact on me. But there were plenty more - more than usual, it seems - that I found reasons to admire. 2005 was a very good year for good movies, and I can't let it end without mentioning some more of them, in no special order and without comment. To accompany the 10-best list above, then, here are the 20 second-best movies of 2005: "Capote," "Good Night, and Good Luck," "Good Morning, Night," "Syriana," "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," "A History of Violence," "Schizo," "Brokeback Mountain," "Nobody Knows," "Look at Me," "Shopgirl," "40 Shades of Blue," "Kings and Queen," "Howl's Moving Castle," "My Summer of Love," "Gunner Palace," "Broken Flowers," "Head-On," "Casanova" and "King Kong."

(*) (*) hmm.....seems like the time of year for lots of lists like this one... :|


12-29-2005, 04:46 AM
The language of hope - whether, when and how to invoke it - has become an excruciatingly difficult issue in the modern relationship between doctor and patient.

For centuries, doctors followed Hippocrates' injunction to hold out hope to patients, even when it meant withholding the truth. But that canon has been blasted apart by modern patients' demands for honesty and more involvement in their care. Now, patients may be told more than they need or want to know. Yet they still also need and want hope.

In response, some doctors are beginning to think about hope in new ways. In certain cases, that means tempering a too-bleak prognosis. In others, it means resisting the allure of cutting-edge treatments with questionable benefits.

Already vulnerable when they learn they have a life-threatening disease or chronic illness, patients can feel bewildered, trapped between reality and possibility. They, as well as doctors, are discovering that in the modern medical world, hope itself cannot be monolithic. It can be defined in many ways, depending on the patient's medical condition and station in life. A dying woman can find hope by selecting wedding gifts for her toddlers. An infertile couple moves on toward adoption.

The power of a doctor's pronouncements is profound. When a doctor takes a blunt-is-best approach, enumerating side effects and dim statistics, in essence offering a hopeless prognosis, patients experience despair.


December 24, 2005
Being a Patient
Doctors' Delicate Balance in Keeping Hope Alive

Dr. Joseph Sacco's young patient lay gasping for breath; she had advanced AIDS and now she was failing.

Assessing her, Dr. Sacco knew her medical options amounted to a question of the lesser of two evils: either the more aggressive ventilator, on which she would probably die, or the more passive morphine, from which she would probably slip into death. But there was also a slender chance that either treatment might help her rally.

He also knew that how he presented her options would affect her decision, the feather that would tip the balance of her hope scale.

As Dr. Sacco, a palliative care specialist at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, spoke to the woman on that chilly morning earlier this month, her eyes widened with terror: no intubation. He ordered morphine.

He agonized about his approach. "She's only 23," he said later that day. "Maybe I was too grim. Maybe I was conveying false hopelessness to her. Maybe I just should have said, 'Let's put you on the ventilator.' I may have spun it wrong."

The language of hope - whether, when and how to invoke it - has become an excruciatingly difficult issue in the modern relationship between doctor and patient.

For centuries, doctors followed Hippocrates' injunction to hold out hope to patients, even when it meant withholding the truth. But that canon has been blasted apart by modern patients' demands for honesty and more involvement in their care. Now, patients may be told more than they need or want to know. Yet they still also need and want hope.

In response, some doctors are beginning to think about hope in new ways. In certain cases, that means tempering a too-bleak prognosis. In others, it means resisting the allure of cutting-edge treatments with questionable benefits.

Already vulnerable when they learn they have a life-threatening disease or chronic illness, patients can feel bewildered, trapped between reality and possibility. They, as well as doctors, are discovering that in the modern medical world, hope itself cannot be monolithic. It can be defined in many ways, depending on the patient's medical condition and station in life. A dying woman can find hope by selecting wedding gifts for her toddlers. An infertile couple moves on toward adoption.

The power of a doctor's pronouncements is profound. When a doctor takes a blunt-is-best approach, enumerating side effects and dim statistics, in essence offering a hopeless prognosis, patients experience despair.

A radiation oncologist told Minna Immerman's husband, who had brain cancer, that he had less than two years to live. "That information was paralyzing," Mrs. Immerman said. "It wasn't helpful."

But when a doctor suggests that an exhausted patient try yet another therapy, in the hope that it may extend survival by weeks, the cost is also considerable - financially, physically and emotionally.

"We have to find a less toxic way to manage their hope," said Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, an internist and Harvard professor who is writing a textbook about prognosis.

Efforts are being made across the medical community to grapple with the language and ethics of hope. Some medical schools pair students with end-stage disease patients so students can learn about anguish and compassion.

Numerous studies have examined what doctors say versus what patients hear and the role of optimism in the care of the critically ill. Patient advocates have been teaching doctors how patients can be devastated or braced by a turn of phrase.

A consensus is emerging that all patients need hope, and that doctors are obligated to offer it, in some form.

To Dr. Sacco's boundless relief, his patient rallied. He began counseling her to take her AIDS medications, to find an apartment, a job.

He wrote in an e-mail message: "We prognosticate because people ask us to and trust our judgment. They do not know the depth of our uncertainty or that no matter how good or experienced we are, we are often wrong. That is why choosing where to put the feather is so damn hard."

False Hopelessness

Robert Immerman, a 56-year-old Manhattan architect, knew that his brain cancer - a glioblastoma, Grade 4 - meant terrible news. After the tumor was removed, he asked the radiation oncologist his prognosis.

"The doctor was pleasant," Minna Immerman recalled, "as if he was telling you that hamburger was $2.99 a pound. He just said the likely survival rate with this tumor was, on the outside, 18 months.

"Bob purposely forgot it," she said. "I couldn't."

After radiation, Mr. Immerman began chemotherapy. But after one treatment, his white blood cell count dropped so precipitously that it was no longer an option.

"The medical oncologist said, 'The chances of survival with or without chemo are very, very slight,' " said Mrs. Immerman, a special-education teacher. "I think she was trying to make us feel better. What I heard was: 'With or without chemo, this won't end well, so don't feel so bad.' "

Mr. Immerman got scans every two months. Mrs. Immerman watched the calendar obsessively. Twelve months left. Six months. "As time passed, instead of feeling better, I felt like it was a death sentence and it was winding down," she said.

She sweated the small stuff: should they renew their opera subscription?

Mr. Immerman turned out to be one of those rare people who reside at the lucky tail end of a statistical curve. In February, it will be 10 years since he learned his prognosis. He is well. For years, Mrs. Immerman was shadowed by fear and depression about his illness, before she finally allowed herself to breathe out with gratitude.

Candid exchanges about diagnosis and prognosis, especially when the answers are grim, are a relatively recent phenomenon. Hippocrates taught that physicians should "comfort with solicitude and attention, revealing nothing of the patient's present or future condition." A dose of reality, doctors believed, could poison a patient's hope, the will to live.

Until the 1960's, that approach was largely embraced by physicians. Dr. Eric Cassell, who lectured about hope in November to doctors in the Boston area, recalled the days when a woman would wake from surgery, asking if she had cancer:

" 'No,' we'd say, 'you had suspicious cells so we took the breast, so you wouldn't get cancer.' We were all liars." Treatments were very limited. "Now when we're truthful," Dr. Cassell added, "it's in an era in which we believe we can do something."

Doctors in many third world countries and modernized nations, including Italy and Japan, still believe in withholding a bad prognosis. But the United States, Britain and other countries were revolutionized in the late 60's by the patients' rights movement, which established that patients had a legal right to be fully informed about their medical condition and treatment options.

Now, whether a patient comes in complaining of a backache, a rash or a lump in the armpit, many doctors interpret informed consent as the obligation to rattle off all possibilities, from best-case to worst-case situations. Honesty is imperative. But what benefit is served by Dr. Dour?

"There are doctors who paint a bleaker picture than necessary so they can turn out to be heroes if things turn out well," said Dr. David Spiegel, a psychiatrist at Stanford medical school, "and it also relieves doctors of responsibility if bad things happen."

The fear of malpractice litigation after a bad outcome, he said, also drives doctors to be stunningly explicit from the outset.

The medical community has nicknames for this bluntness: truth-dumping, terminal candor, hanging crepe. But some social workers call it false hopelessness.

Given a time-tied prognosis, many patients become withdrawn and depressed, said Roz Kleban, a supervising social worker with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "Telling someone they have two years to live isn't useful knowledge," she said. "It's noise. Whether or not that prediction is true, they lose their ability to live well in the present."

Health care providers debate the wisdom of giving patients a precise prognosis: "There's an ethical obligation to tell people their prognosis," said Dr. Barron Lerner, an internist and bioethicist at Columbia University medical school, "but no reason to pound it into their heads."

Others say that doctors should make sure they can explain the numbers in context, with the pluses and minuses of treatment options, including the implications of choosing not to have treatment.

Though many patients ask how long they have to live, thinking that amid the chaos of bad news, a number offers something concrete, studies show that they do not understand statistical nuances and tend to misconstrue them. Moreover, though statistics may be indicative, they are inherently imperfect.

Many doctors prefer not to give a prognosis. And, studies show, their prognoses are often wrong, one way or the other.

Where does this leave the frightened patient?

Meg Gaines, director of the Center for Patient Partnerships, a patient advocacy program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, thinks false hopelessness is more debilitating than false hope.

"I tell people to ask the doctor, 'Have you ever known anyone with this disease who has gotten better?' If the answer is yes, just say, 'So let's quit talking about death and talk about what we can try!' "

Some patients do triumph against grotesque statistical odds; others succumb even when the odds are piled in their favor.

But willful ignorance, she cautioned, can be dangerous.

"People should know about prognosis to the extent that it's necessary to make good decisions about monitoring your health care," she said. "You can't be an ostrich in the sand. When the stampeding rhinoceri are coming, you have to be able to get out of the way."

False Hope

Perhaps just as harmful as false hopelessness, many experts believe, is false hope. "If one patient in a thousand will live with pancreatic cancer for 10 years," said Dr. Christakis of Harvard, and doctors hold out that patient as a realistic example, "we have harmed 999 patients." False hopelessness, in the name of reality, dwells on the dark view of a patient's condition, prematurely foreclosing possibility and a spirited fight. False hope sidesteps reality, leaving patients and family members unprepared for tragedy.

When Anna Kyle was in labor, the umbilical cord dropped ahead of the baby, who was deprived of oxygen for critical moments. Mrs. Kyle had an emergency Caesarean section. The baby had to be resuscitated.

The nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit told Mrs. Kyle, of Lonoke, Ark., that her son was a "good baby," because he didn't cry or fuss. Later, when he had developmental delays, her hopes were at war with her nagging fears. But doctors kept saying the child might outgrow them.

Her son, now 5, received a formal diagnosis last year. "Nobody wanted to say, 'Your kid has autism, your kid is mentally retarded, your kid will be in diapers most of his life,' " said Mrs. Kyle, whose husband earns $10 an hour as a truck driver. "It hurts, it's nasty, ugly stuff, but it has to be said, so kids can get the therapy they need as early as possible."

Because patients hunger for good news, experts say that doctors should choose their words carefully: "If you get into the language of hope, you run the risk of over-promising things," said Dr. Lerner of Columbia.

The more useful discussion for patients, he added, is, "what hopeful things can I do?"

In his November lecture on hope, Dr. Cassell said that patients do not need "false hope that is personified in useless therapy with nontherapeutic effect."

False hope is both a hangover from the centuries-old belief that doctors should withhold bad news, and a practice newly infused by the explosion of so many medical treatments and the tenuous promise held out by clinical trials.

Consider the cost of false hope, experts note: not only the physical and emotional agony of dying patients who try last-ditch, occasionally unproven treatments, but also the depletion, financially and psychologically, of the patients' survivors.

"The battle cry of our culture is, 'Don't just stand there - do something!' " said Dr. Richard Deyo, a Seattle internist and professor at the University of Washington who writes about the high cost of false hope.

He added, "Physicians have a natural bias for action, whereas it may be more honest to say, 'Whether I do something or not, the result is likely to be the same.' "

A 1994 study showed that Americans have greater faith in medical advances than people in many other countries. Thirty-four percent of Americans believed that modern medicine "can cure almost any illness for people who have access to the most advanced technology and treatment." By contrast, only 11 percent of Germans held the same belief.

Accompanying the medical advances, however, are an increasing number of physician subspecialties. One downside is that patients hear from a variety of voices, and they can become inadvertently misled.

Pat Murphy, a nurse and grief counselor who heads the family support team at University Hospital in Newark, said that, for example, when a patient has a critical stroke, a cardiologist, among others, will be called in for an evaluation: "The doctor might say, 'This is a strong heart' and then he leaves," she said. "The patient will probably never regain consciousness. But the 'parts people' talk to the family out of context, and the family thinks they're hearing good news."

Another result of this medical renaissance is thousands of clinical trials. Phase 1 trials often try out doses of an unapproved drug; perhaps only 5 percent of volunteers may derive any benefit. "Most people think they don't want to be an experiment," said George J. Annas, author of "The Rights of Patients." But, he said, when desperately ill patients learn about a trial, "all of a sudden there's no difference in their minds between research and treatment."

A 2003 study of advanced-stage cancer patients who volunteered for Phase I trials showed that at least three-quarters of them were convinced they had a 50 percent chance or greater of being helped by the drug.

Because patients listen selectively, it can be difficult to tease out who owns responsibility for false hope:

Patricia Mendell, a New York psychotherapist who works with fertility patients, noted: "A doctor can tell a patient she has a 95 percent chance of an I.V.F. cycle not working. But the patient will feel it's her right to try for that 5 percent. "

Indeed, false hope can represent a complex entwining between terrified patient and well-intended doctor: both want the best outcome, sometimes so intensely that what emerges is a collective denial about the patient's condition.


Elissa J. Levy was a winter sports jock, with a buoyant social circle and a power job on Wall Street. But in January 2002, she received a diagnosis of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, a less common version of the disease, for which there are few treatments and no known cures.

Soon, Ms. Levy needed a cane, and could scarcely walk a block. Pain and fatigue dogged her. Her quick brain grew foggy, her right hand floppy. She cut back her new job as a deputy director of a Bronx charter school to three days a week. In the mornings, her mother had to help dress her.

But though her body sagged, her neurologist helped prop up her spirits. "Often I would come in crying," Ms. Levy said, "and he would hold my hand and say, 'We'll figure this out together.' Or 'We can hope that this treatment works.' "

Given the gravity of her disease, was it appropriate for the doctor to stoke her hope?

"Hope," wrote Emily Dickinson, "is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul."

Imprecise and evanescent, hope is almost universally considered essential to the business of being human.

Few can define hope: Self-delusion? Optimism? Expectation? Faith?

And that, say experts from across a wide spectrum, is the point: hope means different things to different people. When someone's medical condition changes, that person's definition of hope changes. A hope for a cure can morph into a hope that a relationship can be mended. Or that one's organs will be eligible for donation.

For so many, hope and faith are inextricably linked. "Truly spiritual people are amazing, " said Ms. Murphy of University Hospital. "Until the moment of death, families pray for a miracle and then at the moment of the death, they say, 'This is God's will' and 'God will get us through this.' "

As health care providers struggle with whether, how and when doctors should speak of hope, a consensus is building on at least two fronts: that what fundamentally matters is that a doctor tells the truth with kindness, and that a doctor should never just say, "I have nothing more to offer you."

More doctors are embracing palliative care specialists as partners who work with critically ill patients and their families to help them redefine their hopes, from the improbable to the possible. Many doctors, whose specialties range from neurosurgery to infertility, retain therapists to counsel patients.

"Hope lives inside a patient and the physician's behavior can either bring it out or suppress it," said Dr. Susan D. Block, a palliative care leader at Harvard. "When a patient has goals, it's impossible to be hopeless. And when a physician can help a patient define them, you feel like a healer, even when the patient is dying."

Dr. Spiegel, the Stanford psychiatrist, recalled a woman who knew her death from cancer was imminent: "She had 15-minute appointments scheduled all day with relatives, to set them straight on how to live their lives. Then she was going to die. This was a hopeful woman."

Harvard's medical school matches first-year students with critically ill patients - in essence, the patients become the teachers. One patient, Dr. Block recalled, was a high school teacher dying from lymphoma, who agreed with alacrity to participate. When her husband came into her room, the patient said, with tears in her eyes, "Honey, I have one last teaching gig."

Last April, Ms. Levy's doctor started her on a drug that is still in clinical trials, but has long been available in Europe. Shortly after she began taking the daily pill, she went for a checkup and lay down on his examining table.

He asked her to lift her leg.

Normally, Ms. Levy struggled to budge her leg. But having taken the drug, she flung her leg into a 90-degree angle. She gasped.

Usually, when her doctor pressed one finger against her leg, it collapsed. Now he pushed with his open hand. She held steady. Both she and her doctor grew teary-eyed.

Finally, she walked down the hall without her cane. Both patient and doctor wept openly.

The drug does not cure her disease; it treats symptoms. But Ms. Levy, 37, now walks 20 blocks at a clip, works four days a week, goes to the gym. She is dating. A recent test showed that her disease has not progressed.

In a sense, Ms. Levy's relationship with her doctor combined the best of the old and new worlds. He was hopeful but also candid. And he could offer her promising treatments, including one that, at least temporarily, seems to help.

"And if I start feeling bad again?" Ms. Levy said. "I have hope that I'll feel good again."

(*) (*) (w) (w) :( :(


12-29-2005, 04:47 AM
December 25, 2005

The Best Films of the Year

Under a Big Sky, Amorous Cowhands and Hungry Bears


ANXIETY that shades into dread and dread that curdles into paranoia; the past hammering on the door of the present like a vengeful ghost: As ominous portents leaked into the movies in 2005, it sometimes felt as though the hurricanes that decimated the Gulf Coast and Florida had torn away the roof separating the movies from reality and let in an acid rain.

A loaded parable for the age of identity theft, "A History of Violence," punctured the American dream of self-reinvention by suggesting that a vicious past inevitably catches up with the peaceable present. In "Caché" a culture's colonialist history rises up to haunt it like a guilty nightmare from which there is no waking.

"Munich" focuses on the endless chain of revenge in the Middle East. "Syriana" and "The Constant Gardener" imagine corrupt, worldwide networks of corporate and governmental collusion. "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "Crash" examine political and racial paranoia in American life. Even personal stories like "Brokeback Mountain" and "Junebug," are laced with secrecy, fear, xenophobia.

Below are this critic's Top 10 movies for 2005, and 10 runners-up (listed alphabetically by title).

'BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN' Ang Lee's faithful adaptation of Annie Proulx's story of two ranch hands (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) who fall in love while tending sheep one summer in the high plains of Wyoming is a cinematic landmark that lays bare the homoerotic subtext in countless westerns and buddy movies. Beautifully written (by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana), visually majestic, discreet and heartbreaking, it evokes the same lonesome chill lodged in the soul of Big Sky country that infused the classic "The Last Picture Show." Mr. Ledger's portrayal of the taciturn, tormented Ennis Del Mar, who marries and sires two daughters while carrying on a secret homosexual affair, delivers the kind of devastating performance James Dean might have given had he lived long enough.

'CACHÉ' In Michael Haneke's icy, almost unbearably suspenseful drama, the privileged comfort zone of a Parisian television host (Daniel Auteuil) and his wife (Juliette Binoche), a book editor, is shattered when the couple, who have a 12-year-old son, begin receiving anonymous surveillance tapes of their home, followed by scrawled drawings of a child spewing blood. The husband's desperate quest to track down their tormenter leads to the revelation of a shameful family secret connected to the French-Algerian war decades earlier. Mr. Haneke, an Austrian filmmaker who works in France, is a pitiless cultural surgeon who likes to operate without anesthetic as he uncovers the darkest fears of a complacent bourgeois society.

'NINE LIVES' Rodrigo García's suite of vignettes that revolve around nine different female characters has the richness and subtlety of Chekhov. Though some of the stories are interconnected and others not, collectively they add up to a sweeping contemplation of modern life and its complexity. Love, marriage, parenthood, illness, death and memory are evoked in tales that all unfold in real time and lack conventional narrative closure. The acting by a cast that includes Robin Wright Penn, Sissy Spacek, Holly Hunter, Glenn Close and Kathy Baker, is extraordinary. "Nine Lives," which slipped in and out of theaters with little notice, is a sad, quiet masterpiece waiting to be discovered on DVD.

'A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE' The Canadian director David Cronenberg has a creepy understanding of where horror intersects with desire, and violence with catharsis and a Canadian's view of the United States as a place where violence is an infection genetically sown into its culture and passed down from generation to generation. Here he builds that idea into a scary cinematic thrill ride that tests viewers' complicity. Viggo Mortensen is the owner of a diner who lives with his family in a picture-perfect Indiana town whose placidity is disturbed when menacing big-city thugs, convinced he is a Philadelphia mobster who betrayed them years earlier, slide into town in a big black car. Was he in another life the vicious killer they claim to recognize? Or is it a case of mistaken identity?

'GRIZZLY MAN' Werner Herzog's documentary portrait of Timothy Treadwell, who spent 13 years living with grizzly bears in the Alaskan wilderness, where he became their self-appointed protector, takes a hard look at the disconnect between human life and the natural world. Treadwell, a failed actor, grew increasingly messianic while living in the wild, where he gave the beasts pet names and imagined himself their friend until he and his girlfriend were attacked and eaten by a grizzly. Much of the film consists of Treadwell's self-aggrandizing home movies of himself and the beasts. The documentary is a useful antidote to "March of the Penguins," the sentimental anthropomorphic documentary that became the year's biggest surprise hit.

'DOWNFALL' Oliver Hirschbiegel's epic film about Hitler's final days in the Berlin bunker where he committed suicide is one of the most powerful war movies ever made. Based on Joachim Fest's book, "Inside Hitler's Bunker," and on the memoirs of Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge, the movie feels authentic, from its gruesome battles (filmed on the streets of St. Petersburg, Russia) to its portrait of the deluded, raving dictator. Bruno Ganz's astonishing portrait of Hitler is by turns grandiose, paranoid and abject, a monster, but a recognizably human one. His performance is matched in power by Corinna Harfouch's Magda Goebbels, who poisons her own children so they won't face the shame of growing up in a world without Nazism.

'LOOK AT ME' The French director Agnès Jaoui's film captures the narcissistic, careerist, sycophantic world of the Parisian intelligentsia, although it could just as easily be the literary salons of New York. Jean-Pierre Bacri is a famous writer, on his second marriage, who is too self-centered to care about his lonely, overweight, 20-year-old daughter, Lolita (Marilou Berry), who desperately seeks his approval. Alternately poignant and acidic, the comedy of contemporary urban manners is perfectly observed.

'JUNEBUG' A sophisticated Chicago art dealer (Embeth Davidtz) newly married to a Southern golden boy (Alessandro Nivola) who has fled the family coop, returns with him to visit his churchgoing family in rural North Carolina and meets a polite but suspicious reception. In a home where family values reign, festering sibling rivalry, maternal possessiveness and a stifling clannishness make the confrontation between cosmopolitan and provincial America wary. Amy Adams, as the dealer's young, childlike sister-in-law, gives an incandescent portrayal of the only family member with a truly open heart.

'SARABAND' In Ingmar Bergman's sequel to his 1973 masterpiece, "Scenes From a Marriage," the embattled couple, Marianne (Liv Ullmann) and Johan (Erland Josephson) meet 30 years later when she impulsively visits his summer home in the middle of a forest. There she witnesses a brutal power struggle between Johan and his failure of a son, Henrik, to control Henrik's daughter, a beautiful, talented cellist. Ms. Ullmann and Mr. Josephson are as magnificent as ever. The bone-deep Nordic chill of Mr. Bergman's Freudian vision hasn't softened one whit.

'THE SQUID AND THE WHALE' Divorce, Brooklyn style in the mid-1980's, is the subject of Noah Baumbach's acutely observed, semi-autobiographical exploration of the exploding marriage between an egotistical writer and teacher (Jeff Daniels) and his wife (Laura Linney), an aspiring writer whose career is blossoming. As witnessed by their bright, troubled 16-year-old son, the older of two boys, the emotionally gory family dynamics are so squirm-inducing they make the domestic strife in Woody Allen seem almost benign by comparison.


"The Beat That My Heart Skipped"


"The Constant Gardener"


"Good Night, and Good Luck"

"The Intruder"


"Mysterious Skin"


"The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"

(*) (*) I have added a number of newly released films to my netflix queue.

(f) ,

12-29-2005, 04:49 AM
TV: Screen Gems

Tivo alerts, anchors aweigh: Favorite moments from the year when TV went topsy-turvy

by Joy Press Village Voice

December 20th, 2005 4:15 PM

TV used to be the most dependable thing in our American lives. Series debuted in the fall, summer meant reruns, old ladies could set the clock by "their shows," a comforting cast of daddy-anchors led us through the nightly news, and families all over the country settled in for prime-time servings of harmless sitcom happiness. All that reassuring predictability is now dissolving—2005 may soon be looked on as the year when TV went topsy-turvy.

The industry is scrambling to figure out how it'll spin a profit in a world where new distribution methods (iPod, DVR, DVD, and on demand, to name a few) challenge the status quo. Pending congressional legislation would have cable companies sell channels à la carte or offer "family friendly" packages to subscribers—a move that could decimate the more artsy or niche channels (or else force them to shill for mainstream customers). Meanwhile, the television news landscape literally changed face this year, as a whole generation—Rather, Brokaw, Jennings, and Koppel—fell from their paternalistic perches, leaving behind a gap most likely to be filled by, well, filler passing for hard news. Yet in some ways TV was the same as it ever was in 2005—a garbage heap with just enough hidden gems to make sifting worth the effort.

The exploding number of cable channels and industry confusion makes it ever harder to find the good stuff, which is often tucked away on lesser-known cable channels or thwarted by shifting scheduling. WEEDS and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT are two of the best shows around, but hardly anyone I know watches them. Weeds boasts deliciously prickly comedy writing and a superb cast headed by the wonderfully deadpan Mary-Louise Parker as a widowed soccer mom dealing pot to maintain her family's lifestyle. A wry slice of suburban anomie and hypocrisy, Weeds is the potential critical-and-audience smash Showtime has been searching for. But it's yet to reach the tipping point, since viewers are hesitant to shell out the extra bucks for another premium channel. That might change if, as rumored, Showtime picks up Arrested Development, that other critically lauded comedy about a twisted family business. Finally dropped by Fox, it's been on deathwatch for all three of its seasons, partly because of time-slot adjustments as inept as Gob Bluth's magic tricks, but also because its peculiar blend of dark kookiness is an acquired taste.

I originally pegged FX's THE SHIELD as a second-rate version of The Wire but eventually grew to love it. Which is an incongruously cuddly thing to say, considering the brutal, ragged nature of the show. A rogue cop now trying to play by the rules, Michael Chiklis maintains his focal role as a clot of malevolent energy at the heart of the LAPD, but this season he found a perfect foil in a female captain played by Glenn Close. Denis Leary brought his own special brand of pent-up fury to RESCUE ME (also on FX), playing a recovering alcoholic firefighter. Nearly every episode this season had some homophobic subplot, but in some ways this just makes Leary's portrait of embattled blue-collar masculinity all the more intriguing. The corrosively funny scripts and splendid supporting cast don't hurt either.

If American audiences weren't so insular, they'd notice that the best international TV shows outclass the middling homegrown programming we settle for. Take KATH AND KIM, a campy Australian sitcom—imagine Absolutely Fabulous with a dash of The Office thrown in for good measure—currently being aired on Sundance. There's something lovably grotesque about this mother and daughter who speak thick (but, once you get the hang of it, deliriously crude) slang. Watching them and their hapless spouses pursue spiritually depleted, taste-free, consumerism-crazed lives has been one of the year's highlights, along with the BBC America miniseries GREEN WING. Set in a British hospital, it uses innovative camerawork (lots of speeding up and slowing down) to lend a hallucinatory, cartoon-surreal feel to its workplace comedy of rivalry and romance, bureaucracy and bad attitude.

So few recent shows retained their initial momentum that it's a relief two of last year's brightest, VERONICA MARS and LOST, have swerved past second-season slumps and kept their quirky spark. Both work loosely with genres, loosening corset-strap constraints by having wicked fun with expectations and mixing up moods. Veronica Mars keeps its teen-noir plots tight but doesn't settle for, or into, detective shtick; Lost continues to experiment with narrative, slyly teasing us with clues as it slips between time frames, characters, and maybe even dimensions.

HBO kept its reputation as TV's edgiest channel not by looking forward but by looking back. Unfortunately, teachers can't use DEADWOOD or ROME as classroom material, since their unstinting attention to historical realism means characters spout the most lewd swearwords on the small screen ("he is fucking cunt-struck," "now close the arse flaps"). Despite fine-tuned acting and labyrinthine plots of intrigue and revenge, Rome never quite scales the dizzy altitudes of Deadwood, where even the most repellent characters engage your sympathy and the language has a rapturous ripeness verging on the Shakespearean. This is TV that haunts your memory long after you've clicked the "off" button.

(*) (*) (*) and Deadwood's second season certainly was absolutely my favorite!! Too bad it's third season is pushd out from March to summer, 2006. (l) (l) (l) (l)

BTW - The L Word's third season starts Jan. 8th....... (h) (h) (h)

(k) 's

12-29-2005, 04:50 AM
Dictionary of Republicanisms


[from the December 12, 2005 issue] The Nation

Over the past few decades, the radical right has engaged in a well-funded, self-conscious program of Orwellian doublespeak, transforming the American political discourse to suit its ends. Think tanks like the Cato Institute routinely market phrases for their political resonance, like "personal" vs. "private" accounts. Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, lexicographer and MSNBC pundit who combines Madison Avenue techniques with K Street connections, sends out regular missives informing Republican operatives and politicians on how to spin conservative policy proposals. (He was on The Daily Show demonstrating his talents, defining "manipulation" as "explanation and education.") Paul Wolfowitz admitted to Vanity Fair that "weapons of mass destruction" was agreed upon as the reason to go to war with Iraq because it was the most salable rationale. And we all know how that turned out.

Before we can win the great battle of ideas, we must debunk the right's political discourse, a veritable code of encrypted language that twists common usage to deceive the public for the Republicans' purposes. The key to their linguistic strategy is to use words that sound moderate to us but mean something completely different to them. Their tactics range from the childish use of antonyms ("clean" = "dirty") to the pseudo-academic use of prefixes ("neo" is a favorite) to the pernicious and very expensive rebranding of traditional labels ("liberal" as an insult).

We decided we needed to break the code by building a Republican dictionary. Skewer their deceptions with the fine-tipped sword of satire. Lies melt away in the face of mockery.

Unlike Republicans, who rely on rich old cranks and intellectuals-for-hire to do their dirty work, we opened up the process to the people. For six months, thenation.com accepted suggestions from everyone who wanted to participate. The result was an overwhelming grassroots groundswell of hilarious submissions from citizens who are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore. Thousands of definitions were entered from all over the country, forty-four states in all, along with Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. (We even received a few from outraged Canadians, Australians and Brits.)

As momentum for the project grew, friends and allies joined the effort. TomDispatch.com asked its readers and writers to submit their own definitions. Reviewing the submissions from our website, we found that certain trends became apparent. "Compassionate conservative" and "ownership society" were the most popular targets. "No Child Left Behind" was the most common riff. The disaster in Iraq was the subject of the most outrage. The results have been compiled in a new book, Dictionary of Republicanisms (Nation Books). Here are some of my favorites. I hope they inspire you to action, to take back this great nation from those who are doing it such harm.

abstinence-only sex education n. Ignorance-only sex education [Wayne Martorelli, Lawrenceville, NJ].

alternative energy sources n. New locations to drill for gas and oil [Peter Scholz, Fort Collins, Colo.].

bankruptcy n. A punishable crime when committed by poor people but not corporations [Beth Thielen, Studio City, Calif.].

"burning bush" n. A biblical allusion to the response of the President of the United States when asked a question by a journalist who has not been paid to inquire [Bill Moyers, New York, NY].

Cheney, Dick n. The greater of two evils [Jacob McCullar, Austin, Tex.].

China n. See Wal-Mart [Rebecca Solnit, San Francisco, Calif.].

class warfare n. Any attempt to raise the minimum wage [Don Zweir, Grayslake, Ill.].

climate change n. The blessed day when the blue states are swallowed by the oceans [Ann Klopp, Princeton, NJ].

compassionate conservatism n. Poignant concern for the very wealthy [Lawrence Sandek, Twin Peaks, Calif.].

creationism n. Pseudoscience that claims George W. Bush's resemblance to a chimpanzee is totally coincidental [Brian Sweeney, Providence, RI].

DeLay, Tom n. 1. Past tense of De Lie [Rick Rodstrom, Los Angeles, Calif.]. 2. Patronage saint [Andrew Magni, Nonatum, Mass.].

democracy n. A product so extensively exported that the domestic supply is depleted [Michael Schwartz, unknown].

dittohead n. An Oxy(contin)moron [Zydeco Boudreaux, Gretna, La.].

energy independence n. The caribou witness relocation program [Justin Rezzonico, Keene, Ohio].

extraordinary rendition n. Outsourcing torture [Milton Feldon, Laguna Woods, Calif.].

faith n. The stubborn belief that God approves of Republican moral values despite the preponderance of textual evidence to the contrary [Matthew Polly, Topeka, Kans.].

Fox News fict. Faux news [Justin Rezzonico, Keene, Ohio].

free markets n. Halliburton no-bid contracts at taxpayer expense [Sean O'Brian, Chicago, Ill.].

girly men n. Males who do not grope women inappropriately [Nick Gill, Newton, Mass.].

God n. Senior presidential adviser [Martin Richard, Belgrade, Mont.].

growth n. 1. The justification for tax cuts for the rich. 2. What happens to the national debt when Republicans cut taxes on the rich [Matthew Polly, Topeka, Kans.].

habeas corpus n. Archaic. (Lat.) Legal term no longer in use (See Patriot Act) [Josh Wanstreet, Nutter Fort, WV].

healthy forest n. No tree left behind [Dan McWilliams, Santa Barbara, Calif.].

homelandism n. A neologism for love of the Homeland Security State, as in "My Homeland, 'tis of thee, sweet security state of liberty..." [Tom Engelhardt, New York, NY].

honesty n. Lies told in simple declarative sentences--e.g., "Freedom is on the march" [Katrina vanden Heuvel, New York, NY].

House of Representatives n. Exclusive club; entry fee $1 million to $5 million (See Senate) [Adam Hochschild, San Francisco, Calif.].

laziness n. When the poor are not working [Justin Rezzonico, Keene, Ohio].

leisure time n. When the wealthy are not working [Justin Rezzonico, Keene, Ohio].

liberal(s) n. Followers of the Antichrist [Ann Wegher, Montello, Wisc.].

Miller, Zell n. The man who shot and killed Alexander Hamilton after a particularly tough interview on Hardball [Drew Dillion, Arlington, Va.].

neoconservatives n. Nerds with Napoleonic complexes [Matthew Polly, Topeka, Kans.].

9/11 n. Tragedy used to justify any administrative policy, especially if unrelated (See Deficit, Iraq War) [Dan Mason, Durham, NH].

No Child Left Behind riff. 1. v. There are always jobs in the military [Ann Klopp, Princeton, NJ]. 2. n. The rapture [Samantha Hess, Cottonwood, Ariz.].

ownership society n. A civilization where 1 percent of the population controls 90 percent of the wealth [Michael Albert, Piscataway, NJ].

Patriot Act n. 1. The pre-emptive strike on American freedoms to prevent the terrorists from destroying them first. 2. The elimination of one of the reasons why they hate us [Michael Thomas, Socorro, NM].

pro-life adj. Valuing human life up until birth [Kevin Weaver, San Francisco, Calif.].

Senate n. Exclusive club; entry fee $10 million to $30 million [Adam Hochschild, San Francisco, Calif.].

simplify v. To cut the taxes of Republican donors [Katrina vanden Heuvel, New York, NY].

staying the course interj. Slang. Saying and doing the same stupid thing over and over, regardless of the result [Suzanne Smith, Ann Arbor, Mich.].

stuff happens interj. Slang. Donald Rumsfeld as master historian [Sheila and Chalmers Johnson, San Diego, Calif.].

voter fraud n. A significant minority turnout [Sue Bazy, Philadelphia, Pa.].

Wal-Mart n. The nation-state, future tense [Rebecca Solnit, San Francisco, Calif.].

water n. Arsenic storage device [Joy Losee, Gainesville, Ga.].

woman n. 1. Person who can be trusted to bear a child but can't be trusted to decide whether or not she wishes to have thechild. 2. Person who must have all decisions regarding herreproductive functions made by men with whom she wouldn't want to have sex in the first place [Denise Clay, Philadelphia, Pa.].

(*) (*) .. :o ...... ;)

(f) ,

12-29-2005, 04:51 AM
Nancy Has Two Mommies


[from the December 19, 2005 issue] The Nation

Since 1930 Nancy Drew has installed herself in the wayward hearts of young girls, heedless of the Depression, four wars (not counting the present one), civil rights, feminism, Gerald Ford and drugs, sex and rock and roll. Preternaturally bold, she takes action without suffering consequences: no mean feat to devoted girl readers sneaking, late at night, a few minutes more with the blue-eyed snoop. Journalist and poet Melanie Rehak was one of these girls, as she tells us in the opening pages of her jaunty Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her. Pretending to be afraid of the dark so her parents would keep the hall light burning, Rehak gobbled page after page of Nancy's travails. And she was not alone. Andrea Dworkin once said she feasted on Nancy Drew, and Rehak delivers encomiums from Beverly Sills, Barbara Walters and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Nancy, declares Rehak, is "as much a part of the idea of American girlhood as slumber parties, homework, and bubble gum."

As a girl, I was lukewarm about Nancy--though I liked her roadster--and so I asked around. "I adored Nancy Drew," said novelist Lily Tuck, "and I remember my English teacher telling me in fifth grade that if I read another Nancy Drew mystery instead of--what? I don't remember--Shakespeare, there would be another murder and no mystery to solve." Biographer Benita Eisler recalled that Nancy's appeal was that any white, vaguely middle-class girl could identify with her not impossible brilliance--that, and the fact that she had no mother to thwart her (her mother had died when Nancy was 3). "The 'crimes' she solved were never threatening--neither violent nor sexual--always of a 'white-collar' character--fraud, financial chicanery--nothing really dangerous," said Eisler, whose daughter also read the series.

The central mystery of Nancy Drew isn't any of her capers: It's her enduring popularity. In 2002 150,000 copies of The Secret of the Old Clock, her debut, flew off shelves, and Simon & Schuster is celebrating her seventy-fifth birthday this year by launching all-new stories with an updated, cell phone-toting Nancy, the fifteenth of which is due out in January. As many as thirty years ago novelist Bobbie Ann Mason, another Drew enthusiast, undertook her own investigation into Nancy's allure in the delightful Girl Sleuth: A Feminist Guide (still in print). Mason argued that Nancy represents a fading aristocracy whose property she defends but whose values she shrugs off. Rebellious adolescent and social maven, she is a paradox: "The girl sleuth is in pursuit of the very world--the happy ending, the mystery solved, the symbolic wedding--she seeks to escape." If Nancy were to grow up, says Mason, she would have to turn into Mrs. Bobbsey, a dull woman, as reliable as plumbing.

Perhaps so. But Rehak is far less concerned with Nancy as cultural symbol than with Nancy as commodity created by the modern women who molded her in their image. For Nancy Drew had two mommies--and one inseminator. The latter, Edward Stratemeyer, was the powerhouse behind what became known as the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which produced beloved series such as Tom Swift. Born in 1862, the son of a middle-class German immigrant, Stratemeyer had been a scribbler since boyhood. He was working in his father's tobacco store and selling Horatio Alger-inspired tales to the penny dreadfuls until his "Victor Horton's Idea" was bought by Golden Days, a respectable boys' magazine, when he was 26. He then went to work for Street & Smith, a New York publisher that churned out dime novels and formula fiction (under pseudonyms); according to Rehak, Stratemeyer produced as many as forty-two dime novels in less than two years.

In 1899 Stratemeyer unveiled his Rover Boys Series for Young Americans: tales of the middle-class Dick, Tom and Sam at a military academy. Though today it sounds rather unpromising, a reporter of the time claimed that "The Rover Boys broke out upon the country like measles." Stratemeyer followed his Rover Boys with his bouncy Bobbsey Twins, launched under the pen name Laura Lee Hope. Hugely successful and bubbling with ideas, he decided it would be more efficient--and more lucrative--to provide outlines for his various series to a growing stable of authors who would write them under pre-established, trademarked pseudonyms. "We do not ask for what is commonly called 'fine writing,' (usually another name for what is tedious and cumbersome)," Stratemeyer told a prospective employee, "but want something full of 'ginger' and action." He also mandated no deaths and no kissing--and what children wanted most: no finger-wagging. The Stratemeyer Syndicate was thus born in 1905, the literary equivalent, as Rehak points out, of Ford's assembly line.

Paid a flat fee for each manuscript (circa $75 to $150), ghostwriters relinquished "right, title and interest" both to the books and their pen names. Anonymity was crucial to the Syndicate: One writer could replace another in midsentence without spoiling a given series. If children wrote their favorite author a letter, the Syndicate would, under the cover of other pseudonyms, reply as the famous author's "secretary." Yet despite the Stratemeyer books' popularity, libraries refused to stock them. No problem. As Twain said on learning Huck Finn was banned in Concord: Good, that will sell more copies.

Between 1900 and 1910, Rehak notes, publishers, having discovered a new demographic, introduced forty-six girls' series. Stratemeyer concocted the Motor Girls, a spinoff of the profitable Motor Boys, about young Cora Kimball, whose wealthy mother buys her an automobile. As Rehak astutely observes, Cora and company "differed enormously from the heroines of girls' books in the previous century, most of whom were locked in some kind of domestic drama involving death or hardship."

It was after the amazing success of the Hardy Boys mysteries in 1927 that Stratemeyer envisioned more "bright, vigorous stories for older girls having to do with the solving of several mysteries." With his principal publisher, Grosset & Dunlap, on board, he sent a three-and-a-half-page outline of The Secret of the Old Clock, featuring a lone girl detective, to one of his writers, Mildred Augustine Wirt, a 25-year-old University of Iowa graduate and the first woman to complete its journalism school program. Given the pen name Carolyn Keene, Wirt dressed 16-year-old Nancy Drew for success: tweed suits, blue frocks, sparkling eyes (they matched that sporty roadster), and enough moxie to get the job--any job--done.

Released in a "breeder" set (three at once: another Stratemeyer innovation), the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories were a hit. Smart, daring, curious, even a crack shot (yes, at least on one occasion she toted a revolver), Nancy lived in River Heights, somewhere in the Midwest, in a comfortable home with an unobtrusively patrician and doting father. Evidently she finished high school, but having no discernible ambition and no need for money, she never sought paid employment or even mentioned college. She had two loyal female sidekicks, the traditionally feminine Bess and the tomboy George; a dim but dependable boyfriend (Nancy is largely asexual); and a matronly housekeeper who cooked and cleaned. Naturally, Nancy was a cut above them all, for only she could right wrongs, restore order, pour tea and play golf, all for 50 cents a book.

The stock market crash, the death of Edward Stratemeyer, even the Depression did not dampen her spirits, which doubtless increased her appeal. When Stratemeyer's daughters, Harriet Adams and Edna Stratemeyer, took over the Syndicate, they cut costs by moving its offices to New Jersey, canceling several titles and reducing the writers' fees. Not surprisingly, they lost several authors, among them the prolific Mildred Wirt. But not Carolyn Keene.

Even pluckier than Nancy, Wirt was a married woman with a daughter who could turn out half a dozen non-Syndicate books in a year, including the Mildred A. Wirt Mystery Stories, written under her own name for a change. These heroines were firm, frank and far more independent. But pinched by the Depression, Wirt soon returned to the fold--without, that is, giving up her other work. In 1944 she held positions as publicity writer for the Toledo Community Chest and as City Hall reporter at the Toledo Times. (Eventually, she went on to earn her pilot's license, and by the late 1960s she was writing an aviation column called "Happy Landings.")

In the meantime Adams, who was running the Syndicate almost single-handedly, had grown so fond of Nancy Drew--as a character and an asset--that her outlines and suggestions grew longer and more didactic. She smoothed Nancy's edges and kept her insulated from the world at large: during the war, scarcely mentioned, when women were entering the workplace in huge numbers, Nancy fretted over dances and dates. Soon Adams went so far as to assign Syndicate books to an in-house staff, which she could better control, and Mildred Wirt was summarily dropped.

In her evenhanded, sympathetic account of both Wirt and Adams, Rehak suggests that while each modeled Nancy Drew after herself, Adams, the female CEO, and Wirt, the tireless author, together produced a female character ultimately impervious to the progressive trends each woman embodied. After the war, for instance, the conservative backlash against Rosie the Riveter made for a tamer Nancy, and even though sales declined in the 1960s, Mademoiselle magazine gave her a twelve-page spread in 1964. Feminism too was good for Nancy. With women, as Rehak puts it, "on the move at last," more than 30 million copies of Nancy Drew Mystery Stories were in circulation in 1969. And though Nancy was wearing loafers (no more high heels), spouting Shakespeare and driving a convertible (no more roadster), she managed to inhabit a world without hippies, protest, pregnancy or marijuana. "Nancy had successfully made the transition from the Atomic Age to the Age of Aquarius," Rehak quips, "and she had done it her way." Well, Harriet's way.

What of Carolyn Keene? With Mildred Wirt banished and her identity the kind of dark secret only Nancy Drew could divine, Harriet Adams, nearing 80, took full credit for creating the popular detective. But when she signed a more lucrative contract with Simon & Schuster and Grosset & Dunlap filed suit, Wirt reappeared, dryly remarking, "I am the only remaining ghost still alive." Going on the record for the first time, Wirt testified that she had written twenty-three of the first thirty Nancy Drews. Yet when Adams died in 1982, her obituaries claimed it was she who created the teen detective, and in a way that is true, too.

As for Nancy Drew, still popular, her continuing appeal is heartwarming and a little scary. Rehak exuberantly concludes that Nancy today still teaches readers "how to think for ourselves, how to jump eagerly into adventure and then get out of the scrapes it inevitably involves, how to get to the truth...how to dress properly for the events at hand, to make tea sandwiches and carry on polite conversation." This suggests, of course, that the cultural shifts documented by Rehak amount to nothing more significant than the changing length of one's hem. Tea sandwiches prevail. Rehak may be too stalwart a Nancy fan to trace the implications of her own argument: that Nancy Drew is Huck Finn in white-gloved drag. Never sad or wrinkled or fatally misunderstood, she "solves" our anxieties about womanhood by dodging them. And since she, unlike us, stays perpetually young, we tend to romanticize her maverick freedom, which otherwise might seem, alas, a quaint thing of the past, never realized, never real.

(*) (*) (l) (h) (h)


12-29-2005, 04:53 AM
President Thelma


[from the December 5, 2005 issue] The Nation

Men won't watch what women enjoy: That's been the golden rule of television for decades. But lately things have begun to loosen up. Female characters are being integrated into traditionally male formats, such as forensic dramas and policiers, without alienating the men in the audience. Guys will tolerate a hard-nosed woman, even if she's in charge, as long as her major task is dealing with the rambunctious stags around her. But Commander in Chief is doing very well among viewers of both sexes, even though its female protagonist isn't just another boss. She's the President.

In a desultory fall season, this show has garnered much attention, especially among right-wing bloggers and pundits. Ostensibly their ire is up because they think President Mackenzie Allen is a stalking horse for a certain ambitious senator from New York. Commander in Chief is "softening up the country" for Hillary Clinton, frets conservative pundit John Fund, echoing a remark by Florida Representative Katherine Harris. That may well be its intention, since several Clintonistas (including disgraced ex-National Security Adviser Sandy Berger) are on the payroll. But it's not why millions of men are tuning in. That has less to do with Hillary than with the erotics of subverting the sexual order.

Many women and gay men find role-reversal stimulating, and always have. Now, it seems, straight guys can enjoy this process without turning it into a kitten-and-whip fantasy. That's a shift with social implications. In drama, unlike real life, once you change the sex of the alpha everything changes. Each exchange is loaded with new complexities, and the gender hierarchy is exposed. When President Allen (a&k&a "Mack") makes a decision and her aides snap, "Yes, ma'am," there's a frisson in the air. When she walks past important men with a faintly flirtatious saunter, the sizzle is palpable. It lingers under the banal dialogue like a caffeinated buzz.

The producers of this show have done everything possible to keep this high on the down-low. As a result, Commander in Chief hews to the rules of the female TV narrative. Its hero is a woman struggling to balance the demands of career and family. Her ascendancy is an accident (she takes over after a conservative President has a fatal stroke) and her politics are even more unlikely. She's neither Democrat nor Republican: She's an Independent, hawkish but ethical. That's a combination we've yet to see in the White House. But then, President Allen is a latter-day Athena, except in one respect. There are moments in every episode when her composure cracks, and doubts about her capacity to lead crease her brow. In the end she always gets it together, usually with the help of her husband, who's a good head taller (naturally).

Though politics is the linchpin of this show, at least as much attention is paid to the domestic drama. There's hubby's pain that he can't be baseball commissioner, the teen son's shame that his dad is officially called the First Gentleman, and two daughters' yearning for their mom's undivided attention. These problems wouldn't wrack a real female leader to anywhere near the extent that they burden Mack. But it's her reaction, when official duty beckons, that counts: Watch as her pained expression changes to a presidential impassivity. Despite all the strategies of deflection, this rejection of the maternal imperative is a very potent moment.

Indeed, the President's body language is the real tension in this show. Her lips are lushly lipsticked, but she keeps them closed, signifying the combination of sexuality and power that most female politicians feel compelled to deny. President Allen doesn't girdle her erotic energy; she uses it to heighten her charisma, just as a male leader would. That may not be entirely realistic, but it's credible, thanks to Geena Davis's artful performance. She plays Mack as a woman who can't get over the feeling that she's steering through uncharted waters even as she loves the waves.

There's a link between this character and the one Davis portrayed in Thelma and Louise (1991), the formative, if schematic, feminist road movie that made her a star. Thelma is a woman of repressed desire and curiosity, astonished by her self-assertion. When she acts up, her ambivalence explodes in an ungainly cackle. In the course of the film, as she grows willing to accept the violent consequences of claiming her agency, the giggling stops. Back in 1991 murder was a desperate but plausible response to the viciousness of male power, and suicide a heroic alternative to defeat. Thelma and Louise was a tragedy; Commander in Chief is what Variety would call an inspirational. But what was true then still is: Davis's face is a map of women's changing status.

Pop culture often serves as a trial run for social change. It's an arena where new ways can be tried on for size. Still, enjoying a fantasy is not the same thing as acting on it. The success of Commander in Chief doesn't necessarily mean that Americans are ready to elect a woman President. But the heat this show generates suggests that men have calmed down enough to contemplate the pleasures of female power. The Republicans may no longer be able to play the male-resentment card, their ace in recent elections. So, be afraid, John Fund. Be very afraid.

(*) (*) ......I LOVED this!!! (l) (l) (h) (h)


12-29-2005, 04:55 AM
Art, Truth and Politics


[posted online on December 8, 2005]

Editor's Note: The following is the full text of Harold Pinter's Nobel lecture, which the ailing playwright delivered by video from London December 7 to the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.

In 1958 I wrote the following:

"There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false."

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is "What have you done with the scissors?" The first line of Old Times is "Dark."

In each case I had no further information.

In the first case someone was obviously looking for a pair of scissors and was demanding their whereabouts of someone else he suspected had probably stolen them. But I somehow knew that the person addressed didn't give a damn about the scissors or about the questioner either, for that matter.

"Dark" I took to be a description of someone's hair, the hair of a woman, and was the answer to a question. In each case I found myself compelled to pursue the matter. This happened visually, a very slow fade, through shadow into light.

I always start a play by calling the characters A, B and C.

In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), "Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don't you buy a dog? You're a dog cook. Honest. You think you're cooking for a lot of dogs." So since B calls A "Dad" it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn't know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends.

"Dark." A large window. Evening sky. A man, A (later to become Deeley), and a woman, B (later to become Kate), sitting with drinks. "Fat or thin?" the man asks. Who are they talking about? But I then see, standing at the window, a woman, C (later to become Anna), in another condition of light, her back to them, her hair dark.

It's a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence. What follows is fitful, uncertain, even hallucinatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche. The author's position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can't dictate to them. To a certain extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man's buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work. And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function.

In my play The Birthday Party I think I allow a whole range of options to operate in a dense forest of possibility before finally focussing on an act of subjugation.

Mountain Language pretends to no such range of operation. It remains brutal, short and ugly. But the soldiers in the play do get some fun out of it. One sometimes forgets that torturers become easily bored. They need a bit of a laugh to keep their spirits up. This has been confirmed of course by the events at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. Mountain Language lasts only twenty minutes, but it could go on for hour after hour, on and on and on, the same pattern repeated over and over again, on and on, hour after hour.

Ashes to Ashes, on the other hand, seems to me to be taking place under water. A drowning woman, her hand reaching up through the waves, dropping down out of sight, reaching for others, but finding nobody there, either above or under the water, finding only shadows, reflections, floating; the woman a lost figure in a drowning landscape, a woman unable to escape the doom that seemed to belong only to others.

But as they died, she must die too.

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in forty-five minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11, 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States' actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as "low intensity conflict." Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued--or beaten to death, the same thing--and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America's view of its role in the world, both then and now.

I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s.

The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: "Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health center, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural center. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity."

Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. "Father," he said, "let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer." There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.

Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

Finally somebody said: "But in this case 'innocent people' were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?"

Seitz was imperturbable. "I don't agree that the facts as presented support your assertions," he said.

As we were leaving the Embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: "The contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers."

The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over forty years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas, overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.

The Sandinistas weren't perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.

I spoke earlier about "a tapestry of lies" which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a "totalitarian dungeon." This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. "Democracy" had prevailed.

But this "policy" was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American Presidents on television say the words, "the American people," as in the sentence, "I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their President in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people."

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words "the American people" provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days - conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guántanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the "international community." This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be "the leader of the free world."

Do we think about the inhabitants of Guántanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally--a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: To criticize our conduct in Guantánamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading--as a last resort, all other justifications having failed to justify themselves--as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it "bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East."

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. "We don't do body counts," said the American general Tommy Franks.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. "A grateful child," said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another 4-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. '"When do I get my arms back?" he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.

Here is an extract from a poem by Pablo Neruda, "I'm Explaining a Few Things":

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessingsv came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate.

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives.

see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you will ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land.

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!*

Let me make it quite clear that in quoting from Neruda's poem I am in no way comparing Republican Spain to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. I quote Neruda because nowhere in contemporary poetry have I read such a powerful visceral description of the bombing of civilians.

I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as "full spectrum dominance." That is not my term, it is theirs. "Full spectrum dominance" means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don't quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with fifteen minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity--the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons--is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force-- yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

"God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it."

A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection--unless you lie--in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall now quote a poem of my own called "Death."

Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror--for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us--the dignity of man.

* Extract from "I'm Explaining a Few Things" translated by Nathaniel Tarn, from Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems, published by Jonathan Cape, London 1970. Used by permission of The Random House Group Limited.

(*) (*) (f) (f)

I need to make a fresh pot of java....coffee (c)

Carpe Diem,


12-29-2005, 04:57 AM
The Look of Truth


[from the December 26, 2005 issue] The Nation

We're prone to ask serious art to do the impossible--to be beautiful, original, profound, informative and relevant to our everyday lives, all at the same time. With photography, we up the ante to include something called "truth." That is, while painters create their images stroke by stroke, photographers select a chunk of the visible world and document it via a machine whose capacity for objectivity far surpasses the painter's hand. With almost any photograph, the operative assumption is that what we're seeing did, in fact, exist in front of the lens at the moment the shutter was snapped. (That's why pornographic or courtroom photographs are so much more galvanizing than drawings of sexual couplings or murder trials.)

Edward Weston said that a photograph is "not an interpretation, a biased opinion of what nature should be, but a revelation--an absolute, impersonal recognition of the significance of facts." Bill Brandt went even further, arguing that photographic portraits should contain, he thought, "a profound likeness, which physically and morally predicts the subject's entire future." To Brandt, photography's power to tell the truth is apparently so great it can in social effect overturn Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which says that we cannot know both the position and velocity of subatomic particles and therefore cannot predict the future nanomillisecond's "snapshot" of it.

Not long after the invention of photography circa 1835 (the exact date and individual inventor credit are still up for grabs), Gustave Le Gray printed one photograph from two negatives--the second taken at a different exposure to make the sky look better. About a century later O. Winston Link tweaked his famous plane-train-and-automobiles drive-in-movie photograph by using a separate negative of the same scene to get a sufficiently clear image of an airplane onto the drive-in's screen. In the intervening years, an untold number of photographers created an untold number of deliberately untruthful photographs, via multiple negatives, darkroom high jinks and retouching. Today, digital cameras forgo continuous-tone film and produce their pictures directly in electronic dots called pixels. (Indeed, every photograph you see in a newspaper, magazine or book has been translated into an array of tiny ink dots very similar to pixels.) Since readily available computer programs such as Photoshop manipulate pixels with the same license for fiction enjoyed by painters, photography's claim to any inherent "truth" has just about flown the coop.

But the fictive possibilities of photography have been present from the birth of the medium. Distortions of truth occur not only mechanically (in lens, shutter speed and aperture) and in printing (choice of chemicals and paper, time in the "bath" and the photographer's taste for darkness and fuzziness) but are integral to the very idea of photographers being stylistically different from one another. In other words, you can't have artistically original photographers without giving up, to some extent, the idea that photographs tell the truth. Dorothea Lange asserted that every photograph is a self-portrait of the photographer. Her photograph of a Dust Bowl émigré to California is better than yours or mine would have been--even if we'd taken it at the same instant, with the same camera and film, from the same position--because her "self-portrait" as a photographer is a hell of a lot richer than ours. Even when a photographer's work exudes a "this is simply the way it is" quality, it still exudes biography. To take an example all the more relevant for its being offered in jest, "[William] Eggleston's photographs look like they were taken by a Martian who lost the ticket for his flight home and ended up working at a gun shop in a small town near Memphis."

That observation about Eggleston comes from The Ongoing Moment, Geoff Dyer's contribution to what I'd call "musing" books about photography. It's a genre that blends history, biography, pictorial analysis, connoisseurship and a lot of chin-stroking; its best-known exemplars are Susan Sontag's On Photography and Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida. Dyer is a 47-year-old British polymath who, The New Yorker has said, would be "Slacker Laureate" were he not so prolific--ten books of fiction, travel writing and criticism since 1986. Here he ruminates on the nature of photography by following two intertwining paths: particular photographers (dealt with roughly chronologically) and particular photographic subjects. While gliding smoothly from Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz to Walker Evans and Edward Weston, and then on to contemporary war photographer James Nachtwey, Dyer simultaneously moves from (I've reordered them slightly here) doors to stairs, unmade beds to windows, open roads to signs, people lost in thought to hats and finally to barbershops. Such subjects seem to lend themselves to photography the way that guys stranded on desert islands or flying, 86-ed, out of bars lend themselves to gag cartoons.

Dyer's book is "writerly" in a generally good sense--cleverly fluid without being showy--and some of his paragraphs are concise marvels of observation. After pondering Lange's picture of homeless men sleeping on the pavement in San Francisco's skid row in 1934, and just before a disquisition on her 1937 photograph of an Oklahoma sheriff kickin' back on a sidewalk chair, Dyer writes:

The kerb is the lowest form of step which, in turn, is a rudimentary kind of chair--and all chairs bend over backwards to become rocking chairs. The rocking chair is the throne of the Republic, symbol of leisure (whether achieved or inherited), of what John Berger, in another context, terms "sedentary power."

From stairs to chairs, and on to leisure and class consciousness, with an erudite tip o' the hat to a great social art critic--all in fifty-three words. At times, Dyer's insights are truly profound:

In the work for which they are best known Strand, Evans, [Robert] Frank, [Henri] Cartier-Bresson, Lange and Weston saw and photographed the world in black-and-white. In their different ways each took a dim view of photographers who saw the world in black-and-white but photographed it in colour (in Strand's terms, dyed it). Then came people like Eggleston, [Joel] Meyerowitz and [Stephen] Shore who saw the world and photographed it in colour. [Jack] Leigh, on the other hand, is that rare phenomenon: a photographer who sees the world in colour but records his vision in black-and-white.

Of course, Dyer doesn't explain exactly what he means by presumably noncolorblind photographers "seeing" in black and white. We can assume, I think, that it's something like an elevated version of a pickpocket's "seeing" people in terms of potential victims. The pickpocket willingly blinds himself to extraneous phenomena until he spots an accessible wallet. The photographer searches similarly for the makings of a nice black-and-white photograph.

Dyer's flair for transitions, which rhetorically propel his book, is also remarkable. The sentence "The American windshield has been thoroughly Anglicized and turned into a windscreen" takes him from photographs of the open road to pictures of drive-in movies, and then to that contemporary Japanese photographer of blank American movie screens, Hiroshi Sugimoto ("Walker Evans [perceives] 'the cruel radiance of what is.' Sugimoto perceives the soothing radiance of what is not"). At this point, Dyer equates Sugimoto's empty cinema screens with the empty white skies infesting mid-nineteenth-century long-exposure photographs and segues nicely into the story of Le Gray's two-negative solution to that problem.

The Ongoing Moment has its share of problems, however. Take Georgia O'Keeffe's pussy. I'm not kidding: "her pubic hair [in a particular print of a 1921 Stieglitz photograph of his lover] looks like pubic hair, not shadow, and in the midst of it we can just make out the impression of her pussy." Now, I don't object to the P-word in principle (I've been known to use the related, only marginally less chauvinist term "wuss" in conversation), and I can see the Hobson's choice of using "vagina" or "labia" or the totally unacceptable "cunt." (Yes, it's horribly unfair that the designators of male equipment--"cock," "dick" and even "penis"--all have an automatic whiff of the heroic about them.) But Dyer and his editors should have figured out a better way to treat our most prominent twentieth-century American woman painter in a book that's going to hang around library shelves a lot longer than this review.

Dyer's questionable taste crops up in more than his writing about sex--although The Ongoing Moment provides you with more than you probably care to know about Stieglitz's horny pictures of O'Keeffe, his subsequent squeeze Dorothy Norman and Paul Strand's unchaperoned wife, Rebecca, not to mention Weston's photographs of his innamorata Charis. There's a fair gap in quality between the textbook-sanctioned icons (Strand, Stieglitz, Evans, Weston, et al.) to whom Dyer devotes most of his book and the more contemporary photographers he includes. Perhaps their work makes better grist for his essayist's mill, but it is remarkable that The Ongoing Moment includes no Mary Ellen Mark, Leland Rice, William Klein, Susan Meiselas, Richard Billingham or Craigie Horsfield--to name just a few relevant but omitted Americans and Brits.

In fact, Dyer's lack of visual (as opposed to forensic or psychological) acuity occasionally abuts philistinism. Ben Shahn, he says, "took at least three pictures of the [blind] accordionist (all more effective than the rather childish painting he derived from them almost twenty years later)." Childish? Say what you want about Shahn's Cubism lite in the service of Popular Front politics--his painting is anything but "childish." What Dyer substitutes for a genuinely good eye is a minor ability to spot possible attribution difficulties owing to crossovers of style: "Were it not for the fact that it was actually taken by Lange this picture could have easily found a place in [Robert Frank's] The Americans." Or he notices that several photographers--quelle surprise!--avail themselves of a similar standard subject: "A quick glance in the rear-view: Lange takes a picture of the open road; Frank takes an almost identical picture at night; Winogrand takes several through the windshield of his car.... In an undated photograph, [Michael] Ormerod peers at the road through a rain-spotted windshield in twilight." OK, but so what?

For me, things come to a philosophical head with Dyer's discussion of Evans's photograph "The Breakfast Room, Belle Grove Plantation, White Chapel, Louisiana," taken in 1935:

The room is quite empty, as if the picture had been taken with an exposure so long that everything except the building itself--not just people, but chairs, furnishings, carpets--had been disappeared. What was said of Sugimoto also holds good for Evans: time passes through his camera. This is why it seems almost inconceivable that a picture like this could ever be taken with a digital camera. The house took a long time to get into this state and, as far as possible, a photograph of it needs to partake of a similar process and duration.

On the plus side, here we have an apt example of one of the several meanings of Dyer's take on the nature of photography. An ongoing process of post-Civil War neglect, weathering and decay had brought this once proud house to its moment in front of Evans's camera. The moment of its being photographed, of course, had its own duration--a few seconds, maybe half a second, perhaps just a tenth--as well as the subsequent hours of darkroom labor required to release the image from the film and fix it on paper. Finally, the photographed moment lives on (i.e., endures, is "ongoing") in the photographer's flat files, on the gallery wall, in the museum's vault and on the pages of books like Dyer's.

But why, suddenly, this inveighing against the digital camera? Awhile back, I asked New York photographer Jeff Sturges--who also takes precise, fairly long-exposure photographs of architecture (albeit Alphaville-like office buildings instead of moldering plantations)--if a digital camera could yield large, gallery-quality prints as good as he got from film. "Sure," he said, "but the camera would cost me about $30,000." (He noted that the ferocious price wouldn't be prohibitive to a busy commercial photographer, who'd otherwise likely go through that much worth of film in six months.) It is, in fact, entirely conceivable that such a picture could "ever be taken" ("ever" supposedly gainsaying permanently any adequate technological advance) with a digital camera. Dyer's observation reflects little more than a fetish for film similar to an audiophile's for the "warm" sound allegedly obtainable only with vacuum tubes and a turntable.

Even more risible is his contention that the duration of the house's descent from mint condition necessitates a parallel slow shutter speed. Suppose the passive abuse of Belle Grove lasted seventy years and Evans's shutter speed was five seconds. Does that mean a photograph of the Pyramids should require a five-minute exposure, or one of the Grand Canyon--how long did it take the Colorado River to groove that baby, anyway?--five months? Yes, I'm being literal to the point of absurdity, but only to indicate what Mandingo-like romanticism Dyer is peddling about an Old South gone, alas, forever. He says that "a photograph of it needs to partake of a similar process and duration," as if something crucial would be lost without it, as if we're supposed to ignore the fact that his own Exhibit A on page 228 of The Ongoing Moment has, in fact, been translated into the halftone-printing equivalent of pixels.

The final photograph reproduced in Dyer's book is by Regina Fleming (whose name unaccountably fails to appear in the appendix, "Chronological list of photographers whose work is discussed in the text"). It's a three-quarter-length portrait of a black man named (his shirt tells us) Monty, who works (the shirt again) for a company called Reliance. Monty fills most of the frame. The leftover space contains a bit of blurry urban background--tall buildings, a passing SUV or truck, a few people on a street corner. Monty holds a paper coffee cup in his right hand. Around his neck hangs a homemade sign, a circle about a foot in diameter, reading AFTER DEATH WHAT?? The photograph, the caption tells us, was taken in New York on September 11, 2001. A little less than halfway into the book, Dyer writes, "The value of a life cannot be assessed chronologically, sequentially. If that were the case then the only bit that matters--like the closing instants of a race--would be how you felt in the seconds before your death. (This is one of the questions posed by photographer Joel Sternfeld--'Is what we are at the end ultimately what we are?'--in his book On This Site.)"

I get the connection already, I get it. But even with my modest artist's education, I know that Dyer's entire-life versus coda-only question has other, much older and stronger precedents than Sternfeld's coming up with the question. (I've been told that the ancient Greeks and the Catholic church wrestled with this very puzzlement.) And even without my modest artist's education, I know that death does indeed throw a monkey wrench into the whole "ongoing" versus "moment" business. It's just another one of those matters where photographs are perhaps the last things you should rely on for truth.

(*) (*) (i)(i)(i)(i)



12-29-2005, 05:00 AM
The Real McCain


[from the December 12, 2005 issue] The Nation

Over the Senate's August recess, John McCain returned to Arizona to quash a brewing conservative insurgency in his home state. The Arizona Republican Assembly, a grassroots right-wing group, had recently censured McCain for "ignoring the opinions of his constituents expressed in numerous polls and personal pleas." The anti-immigrant Minuteman vigilantes had rallied on the Arizona-Mexico border in protest of his progressive immigration policy. Discord gripped the state GOP leadership. So the man who in 2000 dubbed himself "Luke Skywalker fighting his way out of the Death Star" headed straight into enemy territory, organizing a town hall meeting with rank-and-file conservatives in the desert town of Mesa. "Many of those in the crowd Thursday wore stickers with a circle and a slash--the symbol for 'no'--across the words 'McCain 2008,'" the local East Valley Tribune reported.

But the senator they saw projected a far more conciliatory image than the trash-talking maverick portrayed in the national media. Before the event he had endorsed teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution in public schools, and he had expressed support for a rigid state ban on gay marriage that denies government benefits to any unmarried couple. After brief opening remarks, McCain took questions for more than two hours, referring to Reagan as "my hero," invoking the support of other conservatives on issues such as stem-cell research and immigration, and strenuously defending President Bush's Iraq policy.

The détente with conservatives that began with his vigorous embrace of Bush during the 2004 campaign has become a full-on charm offensive. "If he decides to run for President, the friendship has to be re-established," says McCain political consultant Max Fose. "There haven't always been town halls. There hasn't always been a dialogue." McCain isn't just reaching out on the home front. His office holds regular meetings with conservative leaders in South Carolina, where his approval rating sits at 65 percent. He has met with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whom he denounced as one of the religious right's "peddlers of intolerance" after the 2000 South Carolina primary. After the antitax Club for Growth began running ads against McCain in New Hampshire, a state he won in 2000, he reversed positions and supported a procedural repeal of the estate tax. He has endorsed conservative Republican Ken Blackwell for Ohio governor. At the suggestion of conservative activist and longtime nemesis Grover Norquist, he campaigned for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed referendum initiatives in California, particularly the "paycheck protection" provision targeting unions' political activities. McCain's likely to be the most requested Republican campaigner in 2006 races. "He's the closest thing to a rock star in the Republican Party today," says Michigan Republican Party chair Saul Anuzis.

Unfortunately, most campaigns are a battle between who a politician is and who he needs to be to win. There have always been two sides to McCain: the conservative loyalist and the unpredictable maverick so often featured in the media. In preparation for 2008, McCain has largely chosen to unveil and market the conservative side. Many conservatives are warming to his routine; some are even beginning to like and trust him. It's fair to assume, though, that the more orthodox conservatives agree with McCain, the more he risks alienating moderates and forfeiting the independence that makes him unique and suggests he could become a great President. It's an uncomfortable predicament for a pragmatic problem solver with sky-high approval ratings and crossover appeal. "He'll have to decide whether he wants to be CBS's favorite senator or the Republican nominee," says Norquist. "He can't do both."

In late September, as Bush's presidency tailspinned, McCain headlined a dinner of conservative intellectuals sponsored by The American Spectator magazine. "Campaigning with George W. Bush was one of the proudest moments of my life," McCain declared. He downplayed his differences with Bush over immigration. (Both support a temporary-guest-worker program, but Bush wants illegals to return to their host countries after six years, while McCain advocates a "path to citizenship.") He railed against government spending and urged a hard line on Iran and North Korea. "McCain spoke fervently and with obvious sincerity about how much he admires Bush and the job he has been doing," wrote Michael Barone of US News & World Report.

"He thinks, not necessarily incorrectly, that he can pick off a few of us," says David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which rates conservative lawmakers. "It adds up to making him acceptable. He doesn't need 65 percent of the party to adore him, but he needs to defang their hostility." In this effort, McCain has been criticizing Republicans mostly from the right, shrewdly bolstering both his anti-establishment and conservative credentials--largely through appeals to what he calls "one of the bases of the Republican Party, a very important one, that believes in fiscal restraint and fiscal discipline." McCain has signed a "No Pork Pledge," fought against wasteful bridges in Alaska and urged deep cuts to nondefense and non-homeland-security-related spending--cuts that Democratic Senate minority leader Harry Reid dubs "immoral." At a recent appearance before the ultraconservative Heritage Foundation, McCain described himself as a "Barry Goldwater Republican" who "revere[s] Ronald Reagan and his stand of limited government." The routine has won him praise from the likes of National Review editor Rich Lowry, who recently wrote: "For the first time in years, conservatives have listened to McCain talk about a high-profile domestic issue and have nodded their heads vigorously."

In fact, McCain has always been far more conservative than either his supporters or detractors acknowledge. In 2004 he earned a perfect 100 percent rating from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum and a 0 percent from NARAL. Citizens Against Government Waste dubs him a "taxpayer hero." He has opposed extension of the assault-weapons ban, federal hate crimes legislation and the International Criminal Court. He has supported school vouchers, a missile defense shield and private accounts for Social Security. Well before 9/11 McCain advocated a new Reagan Doctrine of "rogue-state rollback."

"He's a foreign policy hawk, a social conservative and a fiscal conservative who believes in tax cuts but not at the expense of the deficit," says Marshall Wittmann, a former McCain staffer and conservative activist who now works at the Democratic Leadership Council. McCain's ideology resembles an exotic cocktail of Teddy Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan--a conservative before conservatism was bankrupted by fundamentalism and corporatism. His centrist reputation simply proves how far right the center has shifted in Republican politics. "The median stance for Senate Republicans in the early 1970s was significantly to the left of current GOP maverick John McCain," write political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson in their book Off-Center. "By the early 2000s, however, the median Senate Republican was essentially twice as conservative--just shy of the ultraconservative position of Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania."

Much of the moderates' love affair with McCain, and much of the conservatives' distrust of him, stems from 2000, when The Weekly Standard dubbed his reformist campaign an "insurrection." After the religious right smeared him during the South Carolina primary, McCain condemned Bush as "a Pat Robertson Republican" in Robertson's hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Following Bush's election, McCain continued to stump relentlessly for campaign-finance reform, opposed Bush's tax cuts, became the Democrats' favorite co-sponsor on issues like global warming and a patients' bill of rights and fought government corruption harder than anyone in Congress. By 2004 he was flirting with the idea of becoming John Kerry's running mate.

The turning point came when McCain not only endorsed Bush for re-election but made more than twenty campaign appearances with the President and defended his Iraq policy at the Republican National Convention. Relationships with the Bush team have thawed considerably; when McCain now bucks the White House on, say, uniform Army restrictions on torture, it isn't viewed as a personal betrayal. McCain campaigned with Bush on his push for Social Security privatization last spring. And after leading a gang of fourteen senators who brokered a compromise on judicial nominees and the filibuster, McCain strongly supported all three of Bush's Supreme Court picks. Asked recently by Fox News how he gets along with the White House, McCain responded, "Very well. Very well."

"Do I want to be President? Sure," McCain told the Wall Street Journal in October. "Do I want to run for President? That's the question." Yet it's one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington that McCain is running, so long as his health holds up (he'll be 72 in August 2008, and he bears a deep scar along his swollen left cheek from melanoma treatments). The obvious question then becomes, Can he win?

McCain's staff and supporters believe he can reach "mainstream conservatives"--who value low taxes, less government and an assertive foreign policy more than social concerns--without alienating the middle. Another key, says Greg Stevens, McCain's media adviser from 2000, will be electability. According to one recent national poll, McCain runs neck and neck with Rudy Giuliani and bests Hillary Clinton 52 percent to 39 percent. "The party is pretty heavy with Bush people right now, and they will want to win again," says Stevens. "Many are very interested in John because they think he's got the best chance." Bush's media adviser in 2000 and 2004, Mark McKinnon, has reportedly already signed on with the McCain campaign. McCain's aides even told The New Yorker last May that Bush brain Karl Rove might lend a helping hand. If electability doesn't work, there's always McCain's heroic life story--the Vietnam card. "He was in Hanoi for five years, two spent hanging from one arm," says Stevens. "I'm happy to run that footage." Of course, an overreliance on war-hero machismo could backfire--just ask Kerry.

Even with such a mainstream conservative message, who makes up McCain's base? "It's not the far right but conservative, practical thinkers in the Republican Party," says Fose. And how many of those currently exist? "Enough," he chuckles.

But right-wing Republicans like Norquist still hold McCain's occasional moderation and rebel style in deep suspicion. Many observers believe they will rally around a more ideologically pure candidate like Senator George Allen of Virginia or Sam Brownback of Kansas. "The politicized, active part of the Republican base has been stepped on by McCain," says Norquist, citing McCain's opposition to Bush's tax cuts as well as his support for greenhouse gas reductions and his pioneering of contemporary campaign-finance reform. "It'd be hard to imagine we'd be supporting Senator McCain," agrees former Congressman Pat Toomey, president of the Club for Growth.

Some of that criticism can be chalked up to McCain's testy relationship with parts of the GOP's Beltway establishment. Toomey's Club for Growth is being sued by the Federal Election Commission for violating a section of the campaign-finance laws that McCain wrote. Norquist is implicated in McCain's current investigation of how über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed milked millions in casino money from unsuspecting Indian tribes. But among social conservatives, McCain's standing is unquestionably precarious. Though he has always voted with the right on abortion, McCain opposed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage (on states' rights grounds). He supports expanding federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, and he helped preserve the filibuster by stalling the "nuclear option" for judicial nominees in the Senate.

Throughout his career, McCain has rarely talked about social issues or paid lip service to the religious right--prompting activists to question his devotion. "Some point to his record on pro-life issues and other questions and they say he really is acceptable," says evangelical leader Paul Weyrich, an influential founder of the modern conservative movement. "Others point to his reaction after the South Carolina primary and feel that underneath he is hostile." The bottom line? "I could not support him for President." Weyrich estimates that 60 percent of social conservative leaders feel the same way. "Social conservatives are the majority of the boots on the ground," says the Rev. Richard Land, a close Bush ally and director of the evangelical Southern Baptist Convention. "If fiscal conservatives and neocons and libertarians want to test that theory, they're in for an electoral debacle."

Recent history, however, isn't nearly that clear. Many religious-right leaders supported fringe candidates like John Ashcroft, Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes before rallying around Bush in 2000. McCain even won the endorsement of evangelical leader Gary Bauer after he promised to appoint only antiabortion judges. "I admire the religious right for the dedication and zeal they put into the political process," McCain told Larry King recently. If he's not making an outright play for the social conservative vote, McCain is certainly trying to blunt their dislike of him--hence his recent positions on intelligent design and gay marriage in Arizona, and his sit-down with Falwell. "McCain doesn't need to get majority support of the social conservatives, just a portion," says John Pitney, a government expert at Claremont McKenna College. "Bush 41 was not a favorite of social conservatives in 1988, but he had enough support to get through."

Over the next year, we're bound to see both sides of McCain. He'll continue to push for noteworthy reforms in the Senate--on torture, lobbying, defense procurement, immigration and other issues--while quietly and not-so-quietly courting elements of the conservative base. Right now, he's offering Republican activists a firm handshake. If it ever becomes a bear hug, akin to his embrace of Bush on the campaign trail in 2004, the John McCain of '08 may look quite different to moderates and independents from the John McCain they think they know now. If the heir to Barry Goldwater emerges as the new face of conservatism, it'll be clear that even straight talkers know how to spin.

(*) (*) .....I definitely agree that we'll all see his dychonomy in 2006 - especially when the mid-term political races start. (Oh no! Not all of those mud-slinging political TV ads so soon! ;) ;) )



12-29-2005, 05:02 AM
by Katha Pollitt

The World According to Dowd

[from the November 28, 2005 issue] The Nation

Maureen Dowd doesn't read my column. I know this because in her new book, Are Men Necessary?, she uncritically cites virtually every fear-mongering, backlash-promoting study, survey, article and book I've debunked in this space. She falls for that 1986 Harvard-Yale study comparing women's chances of marrying after 40 to the likelihood of being killed by a terrorist, and for the half-baked theories of Sylvia Ann Hewlett (ambitious women stay single or childless), Lisa Belkin (mothers give up their careers), Louise Story (even undergraduates understand this now) and other purveyors of the view that achievement and romance/family are incompatible for women. To be fair, Dowd apparently doesn't read Susan Faludi or Susan Douglas either, or The American Prospect, Slate, Salon or even The New Republic, home of her friend Leon Wieseltier, much thanked for editorial help in her introduction--all of which have published persuasive critiques of these and other contributions to backlash lit. Still, it hurts. I read her, after all. We all do.

Are Men Necessary? is a Feminism Is Dead polemic, put through a Dowdian styleblender. Like her New York Times column, it's funny and free-associative and not afraid of self-contradiction, full of one-liners and puns: Women who let men grab the check are "fem-freeloading" a "quid profiterole" (ouch). Like her column, too, it's heavy on media fluff: silly trend stories, women's magazine features and interviews with editors of same, dubious gender-difference studies. It's annoying to read pronouncements about feminism based mostly on chats with her friends in the media about men, clothes, TV shows and Botox. Why not call up some people who actually do feminist work?

Dowd sees young women dashing back to the 1950s as fast as their Manolos will carry them: making a bestseller of The Rules, changing their names when they marry, obsessing about their looks. There were moments when I felt Dowd and I live on different planets--is pay inequity really now dismissively referred to as "girl money"? Are young women in search of boyfriends really "cultivating the venerable tricks of the trade: an absurdly charming little laugh, a pert toss of the head, an air of saucy triumph"? The young women I know--most of whom, contrary to stereotype, have no problem calling themselves feminists--are so far ahead of where I was at their age, so much more confident and multicompetent and worldly-wise, I only wish I could hire one to renegotiate my girl-money salary for me.

But glamorous gams, trademark dyed red hair and all, Dowd at least gets it that the problem today isn't that old-school feminists once frowned on Barbie. She doesn't applaud today's retro/raunch gender politics as the return of sanity and fun. And it's hard to deny that there's a reality out there of which she gives a slapdash, cartoon, Style-section version. There is some truth to Dowd's horrified depiction of the hypersexualized culture of "hotness" vividly described in Ariel Levy's much-discussed polemic Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. (Dowd mentions a piece by Levy in her book; Levy's lovestruck profile of Dowd--it mentions that red hair nine times!--made the cover of New York.) Eating disorders, breast implants, stripper chic, Queen for a Day weddings, the resurgence of "girl" and "chick"--it's not a happy story.

But these troubling cultural trends aren't the whole story either. How many young women flash their breasts for the camera or flog themselves academically all the way to the Ivy League merely to snag a rich husband? More than minor in women's studies, volunteer for rape-crisis hotlines, have black belts in karate or PhDs in physics or raise Macedonian sheepdogs? Do we know that more women want the man to pay the bill than want to share it or, if that's too mechanical, work out some other arrangement that feels equal? It's a myth that my generation and Dowd's were a unified band of sisters, forging ahead in our sneakers and power suits. By many measures young women today are far more independent than we were--more likely to finish college and have advanced degrees, to work in formerly all-male occupations, to have (or acknowledge having) lesbian sex, to refuse to suffer in silence rape, harassment, abuse. If we're going by anecdotal evidence from our circles of friends, I know young women who've made the finals in the Intel science contest and worked on newspapers in Africa, who've had sperm-bank babies alone or with other women, who play rugby, make movies, write feminist/political/literary blogs, organize unions, raise money for poor women's abortions.

"You're always so glass-half-full in public," my editor says at this point. "But in private you're as down as Dowd." Well, not quite that down. But yes, I thought we'd be further along by now. I feel for young women today--somehow, between the irony and the knowingness and the 24/7 bath in pop celebrity culture and its repulsive values, it can be harder for them than it was for us to call a sexist spade a spade. They've been bombarded from birth with consumerism and Republicanism and hyperindividualism, and told in every possible way that feminism is deeply uncool and unhot. Dowd is such a credulous audience for backlash propaganda it doesn't occur to her that she is promoting, not reporting, the problem she describes. I'm amazed, actually, that feminism is still around, given the press it gets.

Dowd, for example, thinks feminism may be a "cruel hoax" because it keeps women single--men are scared of spunky, successful women. (In interviews Dowd denies she's attributing her own unmated state to her fame and fabulousness, but that's how she's been read.) Well, some men definitely want the young compliant type. But--anecdotal evidence again--most women in my circle are paired, and we are all feminists and really, really great. Men hold a lot of cards in the mating game, but fewer than they used to, and women hold more than before. There has never been a better time in all world history to be a 53-year-old single woman looking for romance. Besides, as ferocious young Jessica Valenti put it over at Feministing.com, "Feminism isn't a f***ing dating service." Out of the mouths of babes.

(*) (*) ;) ;)


12-29-2005, 05:03 AM
by Katha Pollitt

It Wasn't All Bad

[from the January 9, 2006 issue] The Nation

All year long it's been one piece of bad news after another, but now it's time to put on the rose-colored glasses and list some of the good things that happened in 2005. I had to e-mail about fifty people to come up with these items, but that's OK. Keeping you cheerful is part of my job. I mean, the war could be wrong, but the Iraqi elections could still be good. So fill that glass half full with whatever and...and...well, just drink it.

1.The Bush Administration is on the defensive. The President's poll numbers rival Nixon's at his nadir, most voters say they don't believe him on Iraq, he's had to admit that the prewar intelligence was wrong, Plamegate stalks the White House. Social Security reform is off the table. Hurricane Katrina proved the grown-ups were definitely not in charge--"You're doing a heckuva job" enters the lexicon as Bushese for "You have screwed up totally but I don't care."

2.The Republican Party is mired in corruption and cronyism. DeLay's on trial, Randy Cunningham's going to jail, Frist's AIDS charity ladled nearly half a million to his friends, Jack Abramoff seems to have the whole party on his payroll. The Supreme Court is looking into that mid-Census redistricting in Texas that gave them five new seats in 2004. David Brooks openly wonders why working-class people should vote for the GOP. Good question!

3.The media are waking up. In The New Yorker, Jane Mayer revealed the shocking role of doctors and psychologists in torturous goings-on at Guantánamo and the CIA's role in the killing of a detainee at Abu Ghraib. In the Washington Post Dana Priest exposed the existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. The LA Times's Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi reported that the Pentagon paid the Iraqi press to publish pro-US stories. The New York Times finally got rid of Judith Miller and just this December revealed that Bush authorized the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens without a warrant. Too bad the Times didn't break the story when they got it, before the 2004 election.

4.The Christian Taliban is going too far. Terri Schiavo, pharmacists denying women birth control and emergency contraception, creationism in the public schools--oh, excuse me, "intelligent design," just bounced from the Dover, Pennsylvania, school system by federal court Judge John Jones III as, well, creationism. When your claim to be victims of secularism rests on Wal-Mart greeters wishing shoppers Happy Holidays, you are clearly a bunch of great big babies.

5.Civil liberties are making a comeback. ACLU membership is at an all-time high of more than a half-million. The Senate failed to reauthorize the Patriot Act, at least for now. The House banned "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of detainees (but it also voted to deprive them of habeas corpus).

6.The world is becoming more gay-friendly. Really! Gay marriage was legalized in Spain, South Africa and Canada (it's already legal in Belgium and the Netherlands), and Britain and Connecticut now permit civil unions, joining Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Iceland, Luxembourg and Sweden. Capote and Brokeback Mountain, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger as lovelorn gay cowboys, are huge successes. Basketball star Sheryl Swoopes came out and kept her Nike contract. Gay studies classes have started up in China.

7.The left is alive in Latin America. Evo Morales has just been elected president of Bolivia on a platform of Indian and poor people's rights, opposition to US-backed privatization schemes and support for coca farming (well, it's their country). Socialist candidate Michelle Bachelet--pediatric surgeon, single mother, agnostic, feminist, former political prisoner--is the frontrunner in Chile's presidential runoff. Just to show he doesn't hold it against Americans that Bush tried to overthrow him and Pat Robertson wanted to kill him, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez is sending cheap home heating oil to the poor in Massachusetts and the Bronx.

8.DNA evidence exonerated twelve death-row inmates (that makes 168 so far). Little by little, support for the death penalty is declining.

9.Heroes and whistleblowers spoke truth to power. Cindy Sheehan put a family face on the antiwar movement. Dr. Susan Wood quit the FDA over its anti-scientific refusal to sell emergency contraception over the counter. Bunnatine Greenhouse blew the whistle on Halliburton's no-bid Army contracts in Iraq.

10.Third World women are on the move. War-weary Liberian women elected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Africa's first female president. Malalai Joya, the fiery young feminist who excoriated the warlords at the 2003 loya jirga, won a seat in Afghanistan's Parliament. In Pakistan three sisters refused to be forcibly married to settle a dispute with another family; their father supported them.

11.Harvard president Larry Summers said women might not have the genes for science and caused such an outcry he's been atoning ever since with tenure offers, study commissions, millions in recruitment funds. Advertising biggie Neil French said women didn't have the moxie to be creative directors and lost his job. That leaves opinion journalism as the single remaining field in which conventional wisdom says women just can't cut the mustard--and women believe it.

12.Arnold Schwarzenegger's ballot initiatives went down in flames, along with a parental-notification abortion referendum he supported. With his failure to commute the death sentence of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, they don't even like him in Austria anymore.

13.The Women's Review of Books is starting up again, with work by Dorothy Allison, Linda Gordon, Alicia Ostriker and other wonderful writers--this time, subscribe! And while you're at it, treat yourself to a copy of The Solitude of Self, Vivian Gornick's deep and moving meditation on Elizabeth Cady Stanton, which reveals Stanton as a heroine for our times.

14.Hardly anyone believes that global warming isn't happening. The bad news: It's happening. But we'll talk about that next year.

(*) (*) Pollitt is really good - I read her weekly column in The Nation when it arrives on Fridays. (h)


12-29-2005, 05:05 AM
1. Can you guess the movies?
Take 8 images from popular movies, remove any actual people (leaving their clothes). Can you identify the film? This very clever weekly quiz is a must for any film buff, or anyone who wants a challenge!


2. Because no two are alike...
Can you recognize different forms of snowflakes? Did you even know snowflakes came in forms? This site peels away the mystery behind the physics of snowflakes and suggests a number of unique snow and ice activities. Don't miss the photo gallery!


3. Keeping your connection secure
A wireless home network lets you share one high-speed Internet connection on multiple home computers—or lets you move your laptop around (or even outside) the house without losing your connection. Here are a few tips to help you ensure that only people you know and trust can use your wireless connection.


4. Can you save the fairies?
For some reason, there are a bunch of fairies trapped in jars. You need to save them by clicking on groups of three or more. What!! It's another "click on 3 things in a row and clear the board" game? Yup. But with fairies, cool graphics, and new age music.


5. Can you stump it?
This is a very silly, fun, little "mind-reading" flash game. How long will it take you to figure out the trick? Or is there a trick at all? Is it in fact…READING YOUR MIND???


6. Bad Astronomy
Debunking urban legends of science
There's a lot of crazy talk out there: killer clouds coming to destroy Earth, faked moon landings, you name it. This site sets the record straight. It also delves into the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of science as portrayed in film and television. Dive in and learn something new today!


(*) (*) ;) (h)


12-29-2005, 05:06 AM
And I'll thank you to keep your grubby little fingers away from my analog hole


A suggestion: If Hollywood really wants to put an end to piracy, it will simply continue on its present course pumping millions of dollars into vacuous films whose sole entertainment value lies in the small enjoyment one takes in deriding their preposterous plot lines and the jejune performances that fill them. After all, the best form of copy protection is lousy content, is it not? Sadly, the industry continues its wrongheaded pursuit of technical "solutions" that do more damage to legal users than the bad guys.

On Friday, Hollywood sock puppets Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., introduced The Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005, legislation that would plug "the analog hole," requiring all devices capable of turning an analog video signal into a digital video signal recognize and enforce two forms of content protection: a watermarking system called VEIL and a rights system called CGMS-A. Together these technologies will control how many times (if at all) the analog video signal may be copied. Essentially, they wrest control of personal recording from the consumer and place it firmly in the hands of Hollywood. Reps. Sensenbrenner and Conyers claim measures like these are necessary to protect the entertainment industry's livelihood, which is under assault by new technologies that make redistribution of content a simple matter. "As one of our most successful industries, it is important that we protect the content community from unfettered piracy," Conyers said in a statement. "One aspect of that fight is making sure that digital media do not lose their content protection simply because of lapses in technology. This bill will help ensure that technology keeps pace with content delivery."

What a poor, poor justification for a bill that will gut our fair use rights once and for all and leave us at the mercy of a content cartel intent on charging us not only for the product it peddles, but for the ways we choose to use it. As Ars Technica's Ken "Caesar" Fisher aptly noted earlier this year, measures like The Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005 are not so much about preventing piracy as they are about hamstringing fair use to boost the entertainment cartel's bottom line. "Someday, if the MPAA gets its way, you are going to pay for the right to timeshift (or for the right to placeshift)," Fisher wrote. "You are going to pay for the right to move videos to your iPod or to your PSP. No one cares if you spent US$20 on that Blu-ray disc. In 5 years, you'll be lucky if you can even play stuff you've purchased without relicensing it. Look at ringtones. Here we're talking about a related industry that wants to scare people into paying for ringtones, even if they already have an album with the song they want on it. Ringtones! Are you kidding me?"




(*) (*) ;) (h)


12-29-2005, 05:07 AM
You know, you could have just called those last three Mac IE users ... Microsoft is doing to Internet Explorer 5 for Mac what I imagine most of the Mac faithful did to it years ago: abandoning it. This morning Redmond announced that it will officially end support for IE 5 for Mac at the end of this year. "In June 2003, the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit announced that Internet Explorer for Mac would undergo no further development, and support would cease in 2005," the company said in a statement. "In accordance with published support lifecycle policies, Microsoft will end support for Internet Explorer for Mac on December 31st, 2005, and will provide no further security or performance updates." With more secure and feature-filled alternatives like Firefox, Camino, Opera and Safari, I can't imagine that anyone really cares about IE 5's demise. The company hasn't upgraded the browser in three years, so it's hopelessly out of date. And even with all vendor patches installed and all vendor workarounds applied it's still affected by a number of unpatched "moderately critical" vulnerabilities. It's not the best choice of browsers for the Mac OS, nor was it ever. So for the Mac faithful browsing with Firefox or Safari, Microsoft's move is something of an afterthought, and for those few still wedded to IE 5, a favor.



:( :( ..... :| .... ;)


12-29-2005, 05:09 AM
HP Ray" joke met with uncomfortable silence:

Hewlett-Packard has made good on its threat to embraced HD DVD, the next-generation DVD format it's been opposing for the past few years. This morning the company said it will support the Toshiba-backed HD DVD format in addition to the rival Blu-ray format. "Because HP wants to deliver the most user-friendly and cost-effective solution to our customers, we have decided to support both formats," said Maureen Weber, general manager of HP's personal storage division, in a statement. "By joining the HD DVD Promotions Group and continuing work with the Blu-ray Disc Association, HP will be in a better position to assess true development costs and, ultimately, provide the best and most affordable solution for consumers." The announcement follows the Blu-ray Disc Association's refusal to include two technologies HP had demanded it add to the Blu-ray system (see "HP conducts search for its missing clout," "A 64K next-generation DVD should be enough for anyone," and "Hey, if even Microsoft thinks it's anti-consumer, who are we to argue?"). Though expected, the move is still a blow to Blu-ray, which had benefitted from HP's exclusive backing






(*) (*) ........HP backing both formats? Hmmm......:D......I don't think so.

Have a lovely day,


12-29-2005, 05:10 AM
1. http://www.robert.to/reports/wozland.html

2. http://wozlandrenovation.com/ (Flash)

(*) (*) .....cool I think. (h)


12-29-2005, 05:11 AM

....... ;) ;)


12-29-2005, 05:13 AM
The Real Reason Our Faces Age

Why do we get wrinkles, jowls and that droopy appearance as we age? You can blame it on one surprising factor: Your bones.

It's more than gravity. According to research by Dr. David Kahn, a plastic surgeon in Palo Alto, Calif., we get droopy as we age because our facial bones shrink. The bones in the face actually lose volume and recede a little bit as we get older, all of which plays a surprisingly important role in the appearance of wrinkles and jowls, report Reuters and HealthDay News.

"When we think of aging of the face, we typically just think that the soft tissue--the skin and the fat--deteriorates and becomes looser or bigger, and we typically just lift everything back up and take out some skin to tighten it back up," Kahn explained to Reuters. "We don't usually think of the shrinking of the bones or manage this in terms of aging. I think we need to look at a way to combine a traditional facelift with something that adds volume to the face, like with fat injections."

The study: To look for age-related changes in the bony elements of the face, three-dimensional CAT scans were taken of the faces of 30 men and 30 women in this study. They were equally divided into three age groups: 25 to 44 years old; 45 to 64 years old; and older than 65 years. All were white and none had broken bones or other medical problems that could affect the results.

The results: By comparing the CAT scans of the younger and older participants, Kahn determined there were statistically significant changes in the angles of the bones of the facial skeleton, especially in the mid-face area and the lower part of the orbits around the nose.

The facial bones dissolve, shrink and leave empty spaces as we age, creating a loss of volume. Meanwhile, our skin loses elasticity, and it can't tighten around those empty spaces. What's left? Drooping and wrinkles. Women lose facial bone volume at a younger age than men do, causing them to see the signs of aging earlier.

The takeaway: "As we age, not only do we lose fat in our faces, but also our bones actually change in contour, often making us look older than we feel," Kahn told HealthDay News. It's more than gravity that creates wrinkles and older looking skin. In addition, loss of volume in the face and very real changes in the facial bone structure cause us to look older. Kahn speculates that future facial rejuvenation techniques will include fillers to add back volume caused by shrinking bone, as well as the traditional lifting of the skin.

The findings were presented at a conference of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in Chicago.


The 5 Ways Our Faces Age:

Aging and Wrinkles: Can We Turn Back the Clock?

What Your Face Says About You

Protect Your Age-Prone Zones

How Do Women Really Feel About Aging?

(*) (*) At the end of the day? It's what's inside that matters to me.

(f) ,

12-29-2005, 05:16 AM
New Hampshire is Nation's Most Livable State

Mississippi once again at the bottom of the rankings

For the second consecutive year, New Hampshire was named the nation’s Most Livable State by Morgan Quitno Press, which determined its 15th annual award from its just released reference book "State Rankings 2005." At the opposite end, state statistics placed Mississippi at No. 50 for the seventh year in a row.

“Last year, New Hampshire eked past seven-time winner Minnesota, earning the Most Livable State title by a fraction of a point,” said Scott Morgan, President of Morgan Quitno Press. “But this year, New Hampshire has widened its margin of victory and indisputably wins the award. The state performs well across the board, boasting low unemployment, low crime and a well educated population.”

For 15 years, Morgan Quitno Press has issued its Livable State Award. Based on 44 factors selected from updated editions of its annual reference book, State Rankings, the Most Livable State Award recognizes a state for its high quality of life. The just-released 2005 edition of State Rankings compares states in more than 550 categories.

New Hampshire is Nation's Most Livable State
Mississippi once again at the bottom of the rankings

For the second consecutive year, New Hampshire was named the nation’s Most Livable State by Morgan Quitno Press, which determined its 15th annual award from its just released reference book "State Rankings 2005." At the opposite end, state statistics placed Mississippi at No. 50 for the seventh year in a row.

“Last year, New Hampshire eked past seven-time winner Minnesota, earning the Most Livable State title by a fraction of a point,” said Scott Morgan, President of Morgan Quitno Press. “But this year, New Hampshire has widened its margin of victory and indisputably wins the award. The state performs well across the board, boasting low unemployment, low crime and a well educated population.”

For 15 years, Morgan Quitno Press has issued its Livable State Award. Based on 44 factors selected from updated editions of its annual reference book, State Rankings, the Most Livable State Award recognizes a state for its high quality of life. The just-released 2005 edition of State Rankings compares states in more than 550 categories.

“Our award is unique because it takes into account a broad range of economic, educational, health-oriented, public safety and environmental statistics,” Morgan said. “The Most Livable State Award tells an interesting story about life and government in the 50 United States.”

Rounding out the top five spots with New Hampshire are (in descending order) Minnesota, Vermont, Wyoming and Virginia. Bringing up the opposite end of the rankings scale with Mississippi are Louisiana in 49th, Arkansas in 48th, Tennessee in 47th and West Virginia in 46th place.

To determine a state's "Livability Rating," Morgan Quitno averaged each state's rankings for 44 categories. Those categories included both positive and negative factors, such as unemployment rates, job growth, sunny days, teenage birthrates, homeownership, books in public libraries per capita, and highway fatality rates, among other criteria.

Data used are for the most recent year in which comparable numbers are available from most states. All factors were given equal weight. States with no data available for a given category were ranked based only on the remaining factors.

Most Livable States in Descending Order
1 New Hampshire 26 Hawaii
2 Minnesota 27 Alaska
3 Vermont 28 Michigan
4 Wyoming 29 Nevada
5 Virginia 30 New York
6 Iowa 31 Illinois
7 Massachusetts 32 Ohio (tie)
8 New Jersey 32 Pennsylvania (tie)
9 South Dakota 34 Oregon
10 Nebraska 35 California
11 North Dakota 36 Arizona
12 Maryland 37 Florida
13 Wisconsin 38 Georgia
14 Connecticut 39 Alabama
15 Maine 40 North Carolina
16 Colorado 41 Kentucky
17 Delaware 42 New Mexico
18 Idaho 43 Oklahoma
19 Utah 44 South Carolina
20 Kansas 45 Texas
21 Indiana 46 West Virginia
22 Missouri 47 Tennessee
23 Rhode Island 48 Arkansas
24 Montana 49 Louisiana
25 Washington 50 Mississippi

Source: Morgan Quitno Press


(*) (*) .....having moved more than a few times including a couple of times to the left coast........seems to me that I take myself with me - regardless. ;)


12-29-2005, 05:18 AM

(*) (*) (*) cool Flash animations of many athletes.......that's about as close as I will get to Italy for the upcoming Olympics. Winter quarter starts this coming Monday. The end is in sight though. (o)

(k) (k) 's,


12-29-2005, 05:19 AM

(~) (~) (~) (~) (~)



12-29-2005, 05:21 AM
December 29, 2005

David Pogue New York Times

10 Greatest Gadget Ideas of the Year

ON New Year's Eve, don't be surprised to witness more heartfelt celebrating than usual; 2005 was not a year noted for its tidings of good cheer, and plenty of people will be happy to see it go.

Still, there were inspiring and gratifying success stories if you knew where to look - and the high-tech industry was one of them. Google Earth redefined how we think of our planet, the Razr phone proved that people do care about beauty, and the iPod - well, you know all about the iPod.

But some of the year's greatest joys weren't new products, but aspects of new products. Here and there, you could find tiny touches of brilliance: clever steps forward and new spins on old features that somehow made it through committee, past the bean counters and under the radar of marketing departments.

Here they are, the 10 best gadget ideas of 2005:

THE FOLDING MEMORY CARD After taking a few digital photos, the next step, for most people, is getting them onto the computer. That usually involves a U.S.B. cable, which is one more thing to carry and avoid misplacing.

SanDisk's better idea is to take the memory card out of the camera and stick it directly into your computer's U.S.B. port.

That's possible with the SanDisk Ultra II SD Plus card. It looks just like any other SD memory card, except that it folds on tiny hinges. When you fold it back on itself, you reveal a set of metal contacts that slide directly into the U.S.B. jack of your Mac or PC. The computer sees the card as an external drive, and you can download the photos as you always do - except that you've eliminated the need to carry around a cable.

THE VOICE MAIL VCR Voice mail is a delightful invention. But trying to remember which keys to press - for replay, skip, delete and so on - is not so delightful, especially if you have more than one voice mail system to learn. Thanks to Palm, then, for adding VCR-style buttons on the touch screen of its coming Treo 700W cellphone. You just tap Skip, Play, Delete, or whatever. The phone remembers which touch tones to play so you don't have to.

THE FRONT-SIDE TV CONNECTOR The home-theater explosion is all well and good, but one less exciting aspect never appears in the photos: the rat's nest of cables. Depending on how permanently your TV has been built into your cabinetry, getting behind it to plug or unplug something is either a royal pain or a full-blown construction project.

Hewlett-Packard's latest microdisplay (rear projection) TV sets solve the problem sweetly and simply: everything plugs into the front. A broad tunnel lets you hand each cable to yourself from the back, an illuminated connection panel makes it easy to see what you're doing at the front, and an attractive door hides the whole ingenious system.

THE BIGGER-THAN-TV MOVIE Most digital still cameras today can also capture video big enough to fill a standard TV screen (640 by 480 pixels) and smooth enough to simulate standard TV motion (30 frames a second). But Canon's PowerShot S80 model goes one step further: it can capture videos at even higher resolution (1024 x 768 pixels).

Why on earth would you need a video picture of higher resolution than the TV itself? Three reasons. First, your videos will look better on high-definition sets. Second, the videos fill much more of your computer screen when played there. And finally, that's so much resolution, you can isolate a single frame and grab it as a still photograph.

TV à LA CARTE It's always seemed crazy that TV companies would spend $1 million an episode writing and producing a program that is shown only once. Yet the obvious solution - making past shows available for purchase on the Internet - gave TV executives nightmares of teenage download pirates run amok.

It took Apple to persuade them to dip a little toe into the Internet waters. ABC took the first plunge, offering iPod owners five shows' worth of archives for a perfectly pitched price of $2 each - and no commercials. NBC came next with a broader menu of shows. The concept was a hit, the floodgates have opened, and the era of downloadable, reasonably priced, lightly copy-protected TV episodes is finally upon us.

THE OUTER-BUTTON FLIP PHONE First came the cellphone with a hinge (the flip phone). Then came the flip phone with an external screen, so you could see who was calling. Problem was, this arrangement deprived you of the option to dismiss the call or send it to voice mail. If you opened the flip phone to get to the Ignore button, you'd answer the call - unless you'd turned off the "opening phone answers the call" feature, in which case you lost one great convenience of having a flip phone to begin with.

The solution? Add buttons on the outside of the phone. When a call comes in to the LG VX8100, for example, its external screen identifies the caller - and the small buttons just below it are labeled Ignore (let it ring until voice mail picks up) or Dismiss (send it directly and immediately to voice mail). You get the best of all cellular worlds, without ever having to open the phone.

THE FREE DOMAIN NAME A domain name is what comes before the ".com" in a Web address - like NYTimes.com, verizonwireless.com or MarryMeBritney.com. Getting your own personal dot-com name has its privileges - for example, your e-mail address can be You@YourNameHere.com - but it costs money and requires some expertise.

It took Microsoft, of all companies, to make getting your own dot-com name free. Its new Office Live online software suite for small businesses, now in testing, will offer a domain name, Web site and e-mail accounts free. Yes, you'll see ads on the screen (unless you pay for the adless version) - but plenty of people won't mind viewing them in exchange for a free, professional-looking Web presence.

THE MODULAR DVD SCREEN If you tallied up the amount of money you've spent on L.C.D. screens, you'd probably go white-haired in horror. One on your laptop, one on your digital camera, plus screens on your Game Boy, camcorder, portable DVD player, car dashboard and so on.

Audiovox has taken a small step toward reducing that redundancy with its Shuttle DVD player. It's a portable, battery-powered DVD player (available in three screen sizes) that hangs from the driver's-side headrest, for the benefit of the young audience in the back seat of the car. But the beauty of the Shuttle is that you can also buy docking stations for it: a car-ceiling mount, for a more permanent and central position; an under-cabinet mount, complete with AM-FM radio, for the kitchen; a cable-ready tabletop stand, with stereo speakers, for the home; and so on. The player and screen move with you from place to place, so your investment isn't sitting wasted every time you leave the minivan.

THE FAMILY-PORTRAIT BURST MODE If you've ever tried to take a family portrait, you know about Ansel's Law: the odds of somebody's eyes being closed increases geometrically with the number of people in the group.

That's why Casio digital cameras, in self-timer mode, automatically shoot three consecutive snaps, a fraction of a second apart. You've just tripled your odds of getting one decent shot.

THE HYBRID HIGH-DEFINITION TAPE JVC and Sony developed the first camcorders capable of recording in spectacular wide-screen high definition. This would have been a perfect opportunity for them to introduce yet another type of videocassette - some expensive, proprietary new format that wouldn't fit any other camcorder (and would generate millions in sales).

But they didn't. Instead, these HDTV camcorders record on everyday $4 drugstore MiniDV tapes, the same kind used in regular camcorders. In fact, you can mix and match high-def and standard video on the same tape. It took a lot of engineering to cram so much more video data onto the same amount of tape, but for home-movie buffs, it was a surprising, generous, kind-hearted move.

And there you have it: 10 of the year's best small, sweet improvements in our electronic lives. Come New Year's Eve, raise one tiny toast to the anonymous engineers whose eccentricities or idealism brought these sparkling developments to life.

(*) (*) Pogue's rocks in my opionion. And God/dess only knows that I have more than a few strong views.... ;)

Have a healthy, relaxing and very, very happy New Year!!

({) (}) 's,


01-05-2006, 01:27 PM

F*ck Big Media: Rolling Your Own Network

Mark Pesce

Lecturer, Interactive Media, AFTRS


The worldwide consolidation of media industries has led to a consequent closure of the public airwaves with respect to matters of public interest. As control of this public resource becomes more centralized, the messages transmitted by global media purveyors become progressively less relevant, less diverse, and less reflective of ground truth.

At present, individuals and organizations work to break the stranglehold of these anti-market-media-mega-corporations through the application of the courts and the law. However, because of the inherent monopoly that anti-market media maintain on the public mindset, legislators have been understandably reluctant to make moves toward media diversification. We are thus confronted with a situation where many people have interesting things to say, but there are progressively fewer outlets where these views can be shared.

The public airwaves, because they are a limited resource, are managed by public bodies for the public interest. While honorable, the net effect of this philosophy of resource management has been negative: a public resource has become the equivalent of a beachfront property, its sale generating enormous license revenues, but its transfer to the private domain denying the community access to the sea of ideas.

If a well-informed public is the necessary prerequisite to the democratic process, then we must frankly admit that any private ownership of public airwaves represents a potential threat to the free exchange of ideas. Now that private property has mostly collectivized the electromagnetic spectrum, and with little hope that this will soon change, we must look elsewhere to find a common ground for the public discourse.

We are fortunate that such ground already exists.
Part One: Refugee Status

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever." - George Orwell, 1984

I'm not from around here. You can probably hear it in my voice, that I'm North American. Not only North American but from the United States, not only from the United States but from California, not only from California but from Los Angeles, not only from Los Angeles, but from Hollywood, and not only from Hollywood, but from Laurel Canyon, the cozy bush-in-the-city neighborhood that played host to the likes of Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa and Joni Mitchell - 30 years ago.

Those days are over. For the last twenty years, ever since the military industrial complex fled Los Angeles for cheaper digs in the American South, Los Angeles has been a company town, home to an ever-dwindling number of media megacorporations. These corporations produce 92% of what Australians see on the movie screen, at least 50% of what you watch on the telly, and about 80% of the music that you hear. These megacorps have an ever-growing array of subdivisions invading every area of the mediasphere.

But we'll come to that in a moment.

Let me talk about myself. I'm pissed off. Very pissed off. And desperate. That's a dangerous combination, because it means anything can happen. And, if I do my job well here today, anything could.

I'm a guest in your country - and because I am constantly asked, let me answer the question some of you are thinking: I like Australia a great deal, and am growing to love it. No, it's not the center of the world, no it's not the most exciting place in the world, and yes, it's a bit provincial. But here's a little-known secret: the most provincial place on Earth is New York City. If any of you have ever lived there, you'll understand what I'm talking about. Everywhere is provincial, and it's up to you to choose your province. I've chosen Australia.

I chose Australia for two reasons: first, I've been invited to transform AFTRS, your national film school, into a 21st century institution, one which will move away from the artist/auteur model which seems to have infected all Australian filmmaking. That project is underway but we won't see results for a few years.

The second reason is this: I've fled my homeland. I imagine that all of you know why. I am left-wing - liberal to libertarian (anarcho-syndicalist) in the American sense of these words - and for the past four years we've been living under a civil coup d'etats, confirmed by our Supreme Court and reinforced in the continuous state of emergency which followed September 11. Last year I was invited to Sydney to give some lectures, and the moment I got off the plane it felt as though a cloud had lifted. I was out from under the cloud of fear which is slowly strangling American liberties, and for the first time in years I felt as though I could breath freely. When I flew back home a few weeks later, and spied the photographic totem of Bush/Cheney/Ashcroft at the Immigration station, I uttered a loud, derisive laugh - and immediately began to plan my exit. I was lucky enough to get an offer from AFTRS just a few weeks later, and here I am.

I have just returned from a holiday in the USA, to make sure I was registered to vote in the upcoming election, and visit with family and friends. My friends are starting to lose it. People I've known for years are so - beaten down - that they're starting to fray at the edges. There's a big question whether Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry will win the election, whether we will be able to wrest control of our country back by democratic means. In the pit of our stomachs we know that if Kerry loses this election there won't be another election, at least not one that matters. There will be more terrorist attacks, and a constant state of emergency which turns my nation into an armed camp where everyone is a suspect. Think Brazil (the film, not the nation), and you've got it precisely: fascism with a globalist face.

Why has this happened? Part of it is the post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by September 11 - but even this should be wearing off after three years, and would be, only we have something new to deal with - the collectivized mediasphere. The fact that the Bush administration hasn't been called to account for its nearly constant failures - in foreign affairs, domestic policy, you name it - is due, in large part, to the anti-market consolidation of media.

I use the word "anti-market" in a very specific sense. Being a very good American, I am a capitalist at heart, but in the model described by Thomas Jefferson - which allows for a very wide array of small businesses competing fairly in a market which uses government as a tool to prevent fraud and force. It's an ideal which America was able to adhere to - at least with respect to media - until about 20 years ago. One of the long-term effects of the Reagan/Bush 41 era was the deregulation of media ownership, culminating in an accumulation of capital around entities so large that they exert their own gravitational forces - economic, political, and most importantly, social. These megacorporations have become, quite simply, too big to fuck with. When that happens, when the power of the market is used to prevent the free and fair exercise of market forces, a market becomes an anti-market. You can call it a cabal, or a cartel, or a conspiracy - but if you want to describe it by its function, you'd have to say that an anti-market exists to prevent free exercise of market forces.

In the United States we have seven media megacorps which control access to the global mediasphere. They are Disney, Viacom, Sony, General Electric, Clear Channel, TimeWarner and News Corp. There are others, but these are the titans which set the rules by which all others play. The last three of these have particular influence over the body politic through their broadcast outlets. Clear Channel owns a near majority of radio stations in the USA, TimeWarner owns CNN, and News Corp. - well, let me just say thank you from the bottom of my American heart for that little gift from Australia.

Who would have thought that a newspaper publisher from Adelaide would become the greatest threat to democracy since Leni Riefenstahl? That he would build a media empire which would extend its reach through print, radio and television? That he would become the beacon of far-right wing values, and, in so doing, completely pollute the collective mind of my nation? If only we'd known, we never would have given him US citizenship - he'd have been stuck in Australia, vexing all of you, but he'd have left us alone.

Here's the honest truth, as surveyed by the Pew Charitable Trust in the United States: Americans who get their news from FOX outlets (and, in particular, FOX NEWS) actually know less about what's going on in the world than those who watch PBS. That's right, watching FOX makes you stupid. Or more stupid.

But FOX NEWS has so much power - particularly because it is the propaganda organ of the Republican Party in the United States - that it can not be challenged. Robert Greenwald can produce Outfoxed, and try to get the truth out there, but because of the enormous economic power of News Corp, because of its unprecedented political power, because of its popular influence, it can't be challenged directly - at least not successfully. FOX NEWS could choose to hide behind America's coveted First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press - and they'd be right to do so. But because they are part of the anti-market which prevents free expression, it's a false defense.

So here's what I have to say: FUCK BIG MEDIA. You won't be able to change them, not when they have this unholy alliance of capital and political power - and you know Australia with its PBL and News Corp and Clear Channel Broadcasting is in precisely the same boat - so just ignore them as the corrupt and corrupting influences they are. These media megacorps are quite literally poison - for the mind.

So now that we've established the horror of the situation, let's entertain some ideas on what to do about it.
Part Two: Transmission Errors

The Internet views censorship as a network failure, and routes around it. - John Gilmore

Despite everything I've said, there is hope, because the seeds have been sown for an amazing transformation in media. The means of production and distribution are being wrested away from the powers-that-be, by people who are willing to do the hard work of creating a real discourse of ideas.

Let me draw your attention to an example which occurred just a few weeks ago. CBS News in the USA got some memos which purported to show how Bush 43 was given his safe berth in the Texas Air National Guard. Nothing new there, actually, except the documents were fakes, and it took a legion of self-appointed authorities working in the blogsphere to bring this to light, and force a retraction from CBS.

We all know that the World Wide Web has revolutionized the distribution of the printed word. One individual, working from anywhere on Earth, can effectively reach everyone else on the planet. Everyone is now a publisher. This means that there are no longer any marginalized voices, provided one has access to Web publishing resources - which are not substantial for anyone in a relatively prosperous region of the world.

This has been an enormous boon for free speech; without the Web, Outfoxed would have languished in a remainder bin - instead it sold 150,000 copies in its first month of release. The Web was the beginning of an opportunity to move away from the collectivized mediasphere, but it isn't nearly enough. We all know well enough that no one reads anymore. I'm actually encouraged by how much Australians read - newspapers, magazines, even books - but Americans only occasionally use these media. They prefer television above all else to learn about the world around them, and television is tightly controlled by the media megacorps.

Or rather, it was. You see, back in June we crossed something of a watershed: for the first time the volume of video traffic surpassed the volume of audio traffic on the Internet. In practical terms this means more bits were transmitted in violation of the copyrights of movie studios and television production companies than record companies. But it also means that a sea-change is afoot - people are starting to understand that broadband internet access represents an alternative for the distribution of audiovisual materials - an alternative to television.

One of the biggest media organizations around - the BBC - is getting in front of this trend with something they're calling "Flexible TV". It's a PC-based application which gives residents of the UK access to the BBC programming schedule, within a two week window: a week before the present moment, and a week after. Viewers make their selections from the program schedule, and the programs are downloaded to the users' hard disks. The BBC is testing Flexible TV with a thousand users, but expect it to be rolled out across the UK by the end of the year.

This doesn't seem that novel an idea, does it? After all the Internet has been around in its present form for a decade - so why hasn't anyone done anything like this? It has to do with the difference between broadcasting over the air and netcasting over the internet. A broadcaster spends the same amount of money whether 10 people or 10 million are watching a broadcast, because the broadcast tower reaches all who want to tune into it. The economics for netcasting are quite different. Anyone can set up a server to send out ten simultaneous program streams - but it requires a million times the infrastructure and bandwidth to serve the same program to 10 million people.

Or it used to.

The BBC doesn't have the bandwidth to netcast its programming to all 66 million of its viewers. Fortunately it doesn't that kind of capability, because the BBC has cleverly designed the Flexible TV application to act as a node in a Peer-to-Peer network. Anyone using Flexible TV has access to the programs which have been downloaded by any other Flexible TV client, and can get those programs directly from them. All BBC need do is provide a single copy of a program into the network of P2P clients, and they handle the work themselves. More than this, because of the P2P technology used by the BBC (more on this in a moment) a Flexible TV user can get a little bit of the program from any number of other peers; rather than going through the process of downloading an entire program from one other peer, the Flexible TV client can ask a hundred other clients for small sections of the program, and download these hundred sections simultaneously. Not only does this decrease the amount of traffic that any clients has to handle, it also means that it produces a virtuous cycle: the more popular a program is, the more copies of it will exist in the network of peers, and therefore the more easily a peer can download it.

In other words, the BBC has cracked the big problem which has prevented netcasting from taking off. In this system of "peercasting" the network is actually more efficient than a broadcast network, because more than one program can be provided simultaneously, and failure in any one point in the network doesn't bring the network down. In other words, this network can't be hacked, can't suffer from a power outage (unless it spans the whole network, which is very unlikely) and achieves unheard-of efficiencies in the distribution of audiovisual programming.

How is this bit of technological magic achieved? Through the use of a new technology known as BitTorrent - something some of you may have already used. BitTorrent is a P2P filesharing system specifically designed to prohibit one of the biggest social ills which plague P2P networks - a phenomenon known as "leeching". A leech grabs files from a P2P network without providing anything in return. With BitTorrent your download speed - how fast you receive your data - is determined by how much data you're sharing. This means that a torrent starts slowly - because you haven't much to share - and then increases nearly exponentially; as you have more of the file, you have more to share, so your bandwidth increases, until the file is fully downloaded.

BitTorrent was also designed to avoid one of the biggest technical issues which affect P2P networks - the fact that peers come and go at will. BitTorrent creates a "tracker" - a list of all peers which have the file you're downloading - and gives you access to all of those peers. The file itself is divided into smaller sections, and each of these sections can be downloaded from any peer, in any order. If a peer goes off-line while transmitting a section of the file, BitTorrent simply requests that section from another peer. Whenever there's more than 2 or 3 peers, this is sufficient to guarantee a hassle-free download. When there are tens or hundreds of peers - which is often the case - file transfers can happen very quickly and efficiently.

Now we all know that P2P networks are havens for those among us who show no regard for copyright. I myself have used BitTorrent to watch all of the 4th season episodes of Six Feet Under (currently airing in Australia) just so I could keep up with my friends in the USA. But BitTorrent has legitimate uses as well. Open Source software projects, such as Redhat Fedora LINUX are distributed via BitTorrent. Robert Greenwald, bless his heart, has just released all of the interviews from Outfoxed as a 500 MB MPEG file, suitable for editing and remixing, and that, too, was released via BitTorrent. (That was a popular file - it only took me about 30 minutes to download.) Watchdog groups in the USA have begun to release the video recordings of Congressional hearings on BitTorrent. And on and on and on. BitTorrent is the future, and it's the thing that's going to wreck commercial TV as we know it.

What makes me say that?

We all know that we're in the midst of a transition to digital TV - I myself have a card for my home PC which allows me to receive the five free-to-air networks via digital transmission. The most interesting thing about the DVB signal - the standard for transmission of digital TV in Australia - is that it uses MPEG2 format for audiovisual data, in a format which is very close to the standard used on DVDs. In fact it is very easy for me to record an off-the-air broadcast and burn it to DVD. I've done that with season 5 of The Sopranos, which aired on Nine Network. My digital TV card also includes software which allows me to record the broadcasts to my hard disk, so I can watch them later on - just as if I had a VCR.

I have broadband coming into my home, and a fairly sophisticated home network - as you might imagine - so my web server can see the areas of my PCs hard disk where I keep the recordings made by my digital TV. That means that I can access my website anywhere in the world and check out what programs I've got recorded. I can even choose to download them from my website to whatever machine I'm using. This means that wherever I am in the world, I can watch the programs I've recorded. And, if I give someone else the URL for this website, so can they.

Ok, just a minute here? Doesn't this mean that I've become a television broadcaster? I mean really, what's the difference between someone getting the bits for an episode of The Sopranos from Nine Digital or from my website? Bits are bits are bits, and because of that, they'll be the same bits, whether they come from Nine or from me. So why would anyone willingly watch Nine at the time that the Nine programmer has decided to air The Sopranos when they can watch it whenever they want just by downloading the bits from my website?

Once the TV producers figure this out, it's all over for the networks. After all, wouldn't TimeWarner (which owns HBO) rather have you pay them directly to watch an episode of The Sopranos? They'd make more money than they would from Nine Network. Now truthfully piracy would be rampant in that environment, but it's rampant in the current environment - it takes about four hours between when an episode of The Sopranos premieres on HBO and when it premieres on BitTorrent. Which is just about long enough to convert the broadcast from a fat MPEG2 file to a slimmed down DivX recording.

Piracy is the price a producer pays for living in the digital age. We've heard the record companies and the movie studios bitch and moan about the money lost to piracy - even as they declare ever-greater profits. They want all the benefits of digital distribution, without paying any of the associated prices. Well, fuck them. They can't have it both ways.

Within a decade - and perhaps a lot sooner - the television networks will have been deprived of nearly all their pre-produced programming. Television will become a live medium - as it was in its beginning, so it will be in its old age. Sports, news and event programming (terror attacks and awards shows) will be the staples for broadcasting in the 21st century. Advertisers will love live television - because it's where the people are - but never again will a television broadcaster be able to dictate to you what you can watch and when you can watch it. Those days are already past - at the price of a small crime of copyright violation.

All this means that as the Internet rises, broadcast television falls. That means cable as well as free-to-air broadcasters, because cable will also be competing against this Internet-based television. As more and more material becomes more consistently available to the TV viewer, the trend will be away from the circumscribed choices offered by the TV channel (five or five hundred channels, neither are very alluring when compared to the near-infinity of programming available over the Internet already) and toward the Internet.

Which gives all of this triumph of the media megacorps the flavor of a Greek Tragedy: when they reached their zenith of power, at that moment the seeds of their downfall were sewn.

Now let's take a look at some techniques to accelerate the inevitable collapse of the media megacorps.
Part Three: New Day Rising

The Chinese Taoist laughs at civilization and goes elsewhere. The Babylonian Chaoist sets termites to the foundations. - Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson, Illuminatus!

Over the last few weeks, as I've been working on this presentation, friends and colleagues have been guiding me to various websites with some relevance to the main idea I want to advance today: that it is possible to build an alternative news network, one which will be pervasively available to the public - as pervasive any of the networks of the media megacorps. There have been a number of attempts in the US: Guerilla Network News, BuzzFlash, Democracy Now!, TruthOut, CommonDreams, and AirAmerica. In Australia you've got Stephen Mayne's crikey.com.au and IndiMedia. Of these, only AirAmerica uses broadcasting to get its programming to the public - hence, it's the most successful of all.

Independent news organizations tend to overlook broadcasting as a distribution channel because of its tightly regulated nature. The airwaves are held in trust by our governments for the common good of the people. Or so we are told. The truth, as we all know, is that they're held by the government for the profit of the anti-market forces which have become entrenched and enriched by these resources. The public airwaves were saved from the "tragedy of the commons" by government regulation, which only produced a worse "catastrophe of the commons," creating a media plutocracy in place of an anarchic free-for-all.

I think most of us would prefer anarchy to plutocracy. And in this spirit, let's examine the ways in which we can open some gaps in the functioning of these powers, gaps wide enough to transmit a signal.

The AM radio band is a little bit different in Australia than in the USA. In the US it goes from 540 Khz to 1710 Khz, while in Australia it only extends up to 1620 Khz. This means there are at least 50 khz of spectrum that are quasi-unregulated. They are regulated by the ACA but not by the ABA - and hence not subject to the normal rules of broadcast regulation. What's interesting is that most (perhaps all) of the AM receivers sold in Australia actually provide access to the band as defined in the US, so at the top end of the dial, there's nothing but empty space.

Now you can't just plop a transmitter into that range and start broadcasting 50,000 Watts of power - the government shut you down immediately, or perhaps just demand hundreds of millions of dollars in license fees. But it is possible, and at least marginally legal to use so-called "micropower" AM radio transmitters in this band. A micropower transmitter generally has a transmitter power of 100 milliwatts or less - not much, you might think, unless you consider that most of WiFi communications use even less power than that. With that kind of signal strength you can get up to about a 500 meter transmission radius - if you're antenna is located on a nice, high point. That's not very much, although in the urban areas where most Australians live, that would still reach a fair number of homes.

But so what? You could all have your own little micropower AM stations, each saying your own little things, making your own little reports, but really who cares? A network isn't a thousand stations saying a thousand different things; a network is a thousand stations speaking with one voice. That's what Clear Channel is - here and in the United States. So how do you turn these little stations into a network?

Well, there are two answers to this question. The first is fairly obvious: you put the transmitters close enough together that each station is a paired receiver/transmitter, and in so doing you create a mesh network of transmitters. The receiver picks up the signal and passes it along to the transmitter, which rebroadcasts it on the same frequency. This is somewhat analogous to how mobile networks work - you move from cell to cell and the signal follows you seamlessly - and is very well suited to densely populated urban districts, college campuses, public events, and so forth.

The costs for each node in such a system are very low - probably less than fifty dollars for both the AM receiver and the transmitter. And because it's low power, it can all be run off of batteries which are automatically recharged via solar cells. It should be possible, with only just a touch of design and engineering, to produce a tiny all in one receiver-transmitter-charger unit that could be dropped almost anywhere - say on the rooftop of every tall building in your suburb - and voila! - you've got yourself a network.

(For technical details google "micropower radio" and peruse some of the links.)

Now it isn't possible to blanket an sparsely populated entire country - like Australia or the USA - with a micropower radio signal. There are places where the transmitters would be more than 500 m apart, and the signal chain would be broken. In situations like this, Internet streaming comes to the rescue. Any signal which can be delivered via AM radio can also be delivered via the internet at dial-up speeds. The streaming signal output can put plugged into the AM transmitter, and, once again, you've got your network. In this way you can cover both the densely populated areas and the spaces in between them with one network.

Now both of these proposals are more than just idle ideas - they're the heart of a new network - RADIO RHIZOME - which launched in Los Angeles a week ago today. RADIO RHIZOME has hijacked frequency 1680 on the AM dial to bring a continuous loop of programming to the city which the media megacorps call home. And they can't do anything about it. Jeff Cain, the artist/creator of RADIO RHIZOME describes it in these words - "I took a look at the telecommunications law, and squirted myself in between all of its forms, like foam, filling up all the space they'd left empty." In the US this means micropower AM radio, with a mixture of repeaters and Internet streaming to cover what could potentially be the entire planet with a single broadcast network.

If we had some sort of networking in this building we could tune into RADIO RHIZOME right now; if we had a few micropower transmitters, we could set up a mesh network that ran all the way through this festival. And that's the point: anywhere you go, you could be setting up your own mesh-style radio networks. Radio networks aren't meant to be permanent - even if that's what the media megacorps want you to believe. Put them up, get the message out, take them down again, move on. Mobility is more important and more useful than permanence; flexibility trumps sheer size every time.

............see Part 2 next posting........

(*) (*) :| :| (h) (h) ;) ;)

(u)(u), (over DTB's passing DEcember 2, 2005)


01-05-2006, 01:29 PM
Now one thing that RADIO RHIZOME has - one thing that every network has - is a "head end" - the point from which programming is distributed through the network. This is an architecture that is quite literally built into the design of the network. Thus, true power lies at the head end, at the top of the hierarchy of transmitters. This is what people are going to fight over - the right to control the distribution of content. It won't be a big issue when the mesh is small, but as the mesh extends to cover the nation - and this isn't very hard to imagine happening - people will begin to have very serious disagreements about what goes onto the network. In the beginning you'll be hard pressed to find enough content to put over the airwaves, but as you reach an inflection point, you'll find yourselves swamped with programming choices. And you, like every radio and TV programmer who has gone before you, will have to decide who gets to decide who gets to the airwaves. That's a lousy choice, because it basically means you will recapitulate the gatekeeper strategies which are the hallmark of the media megacorps.

Or is there another way? This is the challenge I'm presenting to you - here and now - a challenge that needs to be solved. In some space between the community access-for-all methodology and the strictly constrained gatekeeper methodology there must be a middle path which allows for an equality of opportunity but also allows for a response to taste and quality. In the age of computers and the Web, it shouldn't be all that hard - but it's a problem of social engineering, not technology. I look forward to learning about your own solutions to this problem.

What we need is a single tool to wrap it all up in a nice, easy to use form. We need a tool which makes publishing content into this media stream no more difficult than selecting a audiovisual file. We need a tool which makes finding the programming you're looking for as easy and straightforward as Google. And we need all of this to be one single tool, so that we can forever erase the false distinction between producer and audience, between professional and amateur which has kept most voices silenced as a few have used their positions as professional producers to push a pack of lies down our throats.

When we get that, it's game over. The networks will no longer matter, they will no longer determine our diet of pre-digested truths. The truth will return to its natural state: crazy, anarchic, contradictory, subjective and as wildly mercurial as a manic depressive who's gone off his meds. In place of a few well-controlled voices, we'll have hundreds, then thousands, then millions of competing points of view, and our job will be to figure out how to find some signal in the midst of all that noise.

That won't be as hard as you might think, because we already do this every day as citizens situated within an incredibly over-mediated environment. We rely on our natural filters - our social networks - to help us locate the quality, the signal in the noise. We already listen to our friends for their thoughts about what tracks to listen to, what movies to watch, which events to attend. Every one of us is a potent filter for our friends, and we'll be able to use our communications technologies to reinforce and automate a lot of that work. You'll be able to automatically share your "moments of quality" with your friends, if that's what you want to do, and they'll be able to do the same thing for you. You and your mob will become something like a media superorganism, capable of digesting an enormous amount of information, winnowing through the chaff to find the grain.

At least, that's what I'm hoping.

All of this is contingent upon one very crucial relationship - you've got to make friends with your geek peers. Those folks are already on the cutting edge of all this tech, they've already mastered it, and they're sitting around wondering what it's good for - besides downloading the latest porno or techno tracks. They already live in a liminal world where freedom of expression has been gobsmacked by copyright law. They understand the true function of the media megacorps - to preserve and protect their profits. And they have skills you need.

I have been very lucky in my own career, because I've been able to sit in the gap between the community of creative producers - people like you - and the community of technological wizards. You each have a lot to offer the other, and you can both change the world. But you're going to have to do it together. One without the other would be a bit like the old maxim: "Revolution with revelation is tyranny. Revelation without revolution is slavery." You folks hold the keys of revelation, but you're going to have to go and seek out the folks who have the keys to the revolution, and seduce them - convince them that this is their opportunity to make a difference, to do something insanely great, and change the world.

You will encounter resistance. Already the US Senate is attempting to make P2P technology illegal, even technologies such as BitTorrent, which have demonstrably non-infringing uses. They say it's because they want to stop the huge amount of copyright theft going on. DON'T BELIEVE THEM. They can see what's happening. They know they're about to lose control of the global mediasphere, that the media megacorps which have helped them become entrenched powers won't mean a good god-damn in a decade. And they're scared. So they're trying to make all of this illegal, trying to close the gaps in the functioning of their power.

Every generation gets a battle worth fighting. I'm perhaps a bit older than most of you; my battle began back in the 1980s, when I realized that hypertext systems were incredible ways for human beings to get a handle on information. Because of that work, I was savvy to the Web from nearly the moment it was launched. I knew what it meant and did what I could to get it in front of other people - influential sorts who, once they'd seen it, would spread the word. And so the world changed.

The world is changing again. What happened to print a decade ago is about to happen to television. And television is far more potent than print. This time the revolution will be televised - and it will make the Web era look like a tempest in a teacup. They'll call you criminals, revolutionaries, thieves and saboteurs. And they'll be right. But fuck them. Fuck big media. You're the asteroid, just about to break the atmosphere, and wipe out those fucking dinosaurs.

Good luck.


(k) (k) 's,


01-05-2006, 01:31 PM
January 1, 2006


For DVD Watchers, High-Def Disarray


THIS week, more than 200,000 people will descend on Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Most of them will be talking about the war. Not the one in Iraq, but the Great DVD Format War of '06.

DVD movies look just fine on TV. But if you've recently bought a high-definition screen, you may be surprised to discover that current DVD movies don't actually play in high definition. The spectacular resolution of your screen is being wasted.

So Sony came up with a DVD format called Blu-Ray. Buy a Blu-Ray player and movies in the Blu-Ray format, and you'll be in high-def heaven.

But Toshiba and NEC also devised a high-definition DVD format, called HD-DVD. And the two formats are incompatible.

Sony persuaded many electronics giants and movie studios to endorse Blu-Ray: Apple, Panasonic and 20th Century Fox among them. But the HD-DVD faction has arrayed an army of its own, including Microsoft, Sanyo and Warner Brothers.

Analysts are predicting that the impending format war will make the VHS-Betamax war of the mid-1970's look like a warm-up act. The obvious solution would be for the two camps to get together and compromise.

Each format has some advantages - Blu-Ray discs hold more video, for example, but HD-DVD discs are cheaper to produce. (Both types of players will be able to play conventional DVD's.) These minor differences aren't insurmountable, but with so much money at stake, after more than a year of negotiations, neither side will budge.

The obvious losers are movie fans. They risk buying a $1,000 player that can play only half of available movies. Worse, when one format finally wins, some customers would have bet on the wrong horse.

That's such a frightening scenario that movie fans may not buy anything at all in 2006. They'll hunker down with their current DVD's, or switch to increasingly popular alternatives like on-demand cable programming, until the war is over.

In that case, 2006 might not just be remembered for its DVD format war. It will also be the year that the high-definition DVD arrived - and landed with a thud.

(*) (*) :| :| :| :| :|


01-05-2006, 01:33 PM
States Ranked: Smart to Dumb

The smartest state is Vermont. The dumbest is Arizona.

These are the 2005-2006 findings of the Education State Rankings, a survey by Morgan Quitno Press of hundreds of public school systems in all 50 states. States were graded on 21 factors, including student achievement and attendance, positive outcomes, strong student-teacher relationships and school district efficiency. Other factors are the number of high school graduates, reading, writing and math proficiency, percent of school-age kids in public schools, high school drop out rates, student-teacher ratios and class size.

"The Smartest State Award recognizes those states that are committed to students and teachers, emphasize excellence in the classroom and ensure that public elementary and secondary schools are efficiently-run," said Scott Morgan, president of Morgan Quitno Press. "Vermont shines in many key areas of education. A high percentage of its students excel in reading, writing and math. In addition, schools in Vermont have smaller class sizes and lower pupil-teacher ratios than in most other states."

They're doing something right in New England. Massachusetts was designated the smartest state by Morgan Quitno Press the previous two years, and New England states dominate four of the five top slots this year.

The losers are Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, California, Louisiana, Alaska, Alabama, Hawaii and Tennessee.

How does YOUR state rank?

1. Vermont
2. Connecticut
3. Massachusetts
4. New Jersey
5. Maine
6. Minnesota
7. Virginia
8. Wisconsin
9. Montana
10. New York

11. Pennsylvania
12. Nebraska
13. Kansas
14. Iowa
15. New Hampshire
16. Rhode Island
17. Wyoming
18. South Dakota
19. Maryland
20. North Dakota

21. Missouri
22. North Carolina
23. Colorado
24. Texas
25. Delaware
26. Indiana
27. Michigan
28. Idaho
29. South Carolina
30. Washington

31. Ohio
32. Illinois
33. Utah
34. West Virginia
35. Kentucky
36. Florida
37. Arkansas
38. Oregon
39. Oklahoma
40. Georgia

41. Tennessee
42. Hawaii
43. Alabama
44. Alaska
45. Louisiana
46. California
47. Nevada
48. New Mexico
49. Mississippi
50. Arizona

***from CNN

(*) (*) .....taken all this a grain of salt for sure.... ;)


01-05-2006, 01:34 PM
The Scotsman Sat 31 Dec 2005

Prying in the chapel...how Rosslyn coped with Da Vinci

CRAIG BROWN www.thescotsman.com

FOR the congregation and staff of the ancient Rosslyn Chapel it has been, by any standard, an extraordinary year. Thanks to the publishing sensation that is Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, the 15th century chapel, which sits along a rough track beside the small Midlothian village of Roslin, has become a place of literary pilgrimage. Devotees of the multi-million selling historical thriller have flocked to the chapel, which plays a relatively brief, but key part in the controversial novel.

To step inside Rosslyn Chapel is to leave behind all notions of dramatic fantasy. The low-vaulted interior is laden with meaning and significance, virtually every surface redolent with imagery that eludes a single interpretation. This is a place that has survived dark, dark times - it was locked up for almost 150 years as a result of the Reformation - so it can cope with a surge in the number of visitors (which broke the 100,000 mark this year, drawing Rosslyn into the league of same visitor attractions as Edinburgh Castle) and Hollywood stars. Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, as The Da Vinci Code's main characters, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu, arrived in Roslin in September to film the adaptation of the novel, along with the predictable media circus.

It was then that the trust which runs the chapel - and its regular congregation - knew things would never be the same. Iain Grimston, Rosslyn Chapel Trust's visitor service manager, says the interest has been crazy.

"Our visitor numbers are double for the whole of 1995, that's the kind of change that's happened here," he says. "There was an underlying trend as interest in the chapel rose, but The Da Vinci Code has had a huge effect, and will for years to come, more so than any of the books on the esoterica of the chapel, such as Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. It has really been a mad year.

"We do get people asking to see the features mentioned [in Brown's book] but many just aren't there, such as the star on the floor - it's a work of fiction, but the research done on it is sloppy. Those who come in with the book leave with the reality, and are better informed."

The reality includes the faces of more than 100 Green Men - a symbol from pagan times - peering out from behind countless angels and gargoyles, while supporting the base of the fabled Apprentice Pillar are eight dragons, thought to be an allusion to Yggdrasil, a great ash tree that in Norse mythology connected heaven, earth and hell - whose base was also bounded by dragons. There are also symbols said to have resonance in Freemasonry and for the Knights Templar. All of this is grist to the mills of those who believe the chapel is key to the understanding of the search for the Holy Grail - and its supposedly devastating revelations about the life of Christ and his relationship with Mary Magdalene.

But whatever the reason for visitors to come, their swelling number has forced the trust to consider the impact on the building very carefully. For the moment, things can only get worse - the film is released in the UK in May.

The church is already in the middle of being "dried out" after catastrophic conservation work sealed the building's surface and trapped moisture inside. Grimston explains: "There are issues and concerns over the effect from the humidity of having so many people in the building, there is also the potential damage caused by people carrying their backpacks around it. But these are going to be addressed. We realise we are going to get huge numbers on the back of the film and we have to be prepared for that." The visitors are not a curse, though, as they bring much-needed funds to continue the conservation and upkeep of the chapel's fabric. Although The Da Vinci Code whirl may have set the tills ringing in the gift shop, at the heart of Rosslyn there is still an active church. It has a growing congregation under the leadership of the Rev Michael Fass, with an increasing number of baptisms and a busy social life well beyond the Sunday services.

Richard Broadhurst, a member of the church's vestry - which has striven to accommodate Rosslyn's rediscovery by the public with its central role as a place of worship - put the place of The Da Vinci Code in the church's history in context: "The church was founded in 1446. Now, if Dan Brown is the phenomenon, will we still be talking about him in 2563?

"Obviously, it's a novel - which some people don't remember - and a fantastic one, as it introduces some things that aren't there. So some people are looking in desperate hope of seeing something and are slightly disappointed, but I think most people are just intrigued. Once they've got here, the reason might have been Dan Brown's book, but I think some are visibly touched. They are attracted by stories, but when they get here, their chins hit the floor because they see the beauty that was produced when 40 stonemasons were brought from the continent - it would be like bringing them back from the Moon now - to carry out 50 years of building.

"They are often intrigued when noon prayers start, and come up to thank you for the small amount of peace that you've given them; that touches a lot of people.

"It is a magical place and very few people aren't touched in some way by the spirit of the place. Certainly, if it's full of people worshipping or noon prayers, it's an amazing place. It brings it to life and gives it an authenticity which would otherwise be lacking if you were viewing it only as a visitor attraction."

Indeed, to visit Rosslyn for noon prayers, even on a bracing day in December, is to understand that the attraction sits somewhere far beyond the arcane riddles of its stones. When it comes to the myths and "new age" beliefs - there are those who believe that ley lines intersect in the church - Fass gives them short shrift. In series of sermons on the church, titled Faith and Place, he writes: "I am passionate that the promotion of this place should not be based upon mystery, paganism, Masonic or Templar secrets; such an approach is, I believe, profoundly misguided." Elsewhere, he adds: "I am passionate that this should be a place not of unhealed or false memories, not of secrets and sensational speculation or 'esoteric' inquiry - for there are no secrets here - and not of the new-age search for personal satisfaction, but rather it should be a place of healing, reconciliation and prayer."

Listening to Broadhurst interlacing prayers left by visitors from around the world with a poem by Dennis O'Driscoll - on the absence of God in the everyday - while pointing to significant details within the chapel, the half-dozen or so tourists who had been milling about recording the church with their digital cameras and camcorders sit down and instead experience what both he and the congregation would rather it be known as: an extremely beautiful, still and spiritual place.

Peace and quiet, in the truest sense, is something Broadhurst believes is in short supply nowadays: "I think many people find it very helpful to be given ten minutes in which they don't have to rush; when they can sit down and think more and give thanks for the amazing place we live in."

It doesn't require any great depth of religious belief or spirituality to sense that Rosslyn is special; only the hardest cynic could walk away untouched from here.

But it is little wonder that those who know and love Rosslyn view The Da Vinci Code palaver as but a fleeting moment in the chapel's multifaceted history.

Its walls have seen the rise and fall of empires and weathered the storms of the Reformation during the 16th century, when the chapel was locked up and left unused for 144 years.

"I think most people feel two things about the recent activity: one is that their own worship, their way of life in making use of the chapel has changed, and some of them feel that, on occasion, there's a little intrusion," says Broadhurst. "But I think most people realise that the building doesn't belong to them in that sense, it's everybody's to share - and I think many, especially those involved in leading prayers, look upon it as a marvellous opportunity.

"The chapel has a reach very few churches have for being able to catch these people as they pass by. We have to make sure we retain the appropriate atmosphere in which to make the best of noon prayers. We've discussed this with the guides and the volunteers leading prayers to make sure we get the most out of the place for the benefit of visitors and members of the congregation."

It is not hard to understand why, over six centuries, so many people have tried to pin some sort of deep meaning to Rosslyn's beauty. Perhaps it is difficult for some to comprehend that a building as intricate and as special has withstood the centuries. Is that why they look for "secrets" in its stones and carvings?

One thing is sure: Rosslyn Chapel has survived for almost six centuries and it will still be standing long after The Da Vinci Code is forgotten.


• IN THE nearly three years since it was first published, more than 25 million copies of The Da Vinci Code have been printed worldwide (3.65 million in the UK alone) and it has been translated into 44 languages.

• It has inspired dozens of parodies and critiques, and increased interest in religious thrillers, art history and speculation about the lives of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.

• Dan Brown, above, is reported to have earned $200 million (£116 million) from the book, including a $6 million (£3.48 million) deal for the film.

• The movie, starring Tom Hanks as symbologist Robert Langdon and Audrey Tautou as his French sidekick, Sophie Neveu, will be released in the UK in May.

• The book caused controversy among Catholics because of its fictionalised account of the history of the Holy Grail. In the novel, the main characters find evidence that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child, facts which the Catholic Church had supposedly suppressed, in a conspiracy lasting almost 2,000 years.

• Opus Dei objected to its negative portrayal in the book as an extremist religious sect. The central villain in the book is a fanatical member of Opus Dei who flays himself.

• Trinity College Dublin will offer a six-week course of classes devoted to unravelling the fact from fiction in the book's treatment of the Holy Grail myth from January 2006.

• More than ten works have been written trying to discredit the historical and theological content of Brown's novel.

• Eurostar says the book accounted for a 15 per cent increase in passengers on its London-Paris route over the past 12 months, as the story begins - and ends - at the Louvre.

• Brown attended Yale university and tried to become a Hollywood musician before deciding to study art history in Seville. He returned to teaching in 1993.

(*) (*) ...Okay, who is ready to head for Scotland?



01-05-2006, 01:41 PM
January 1, 2006


In London, Sating a Hunger for Bargains and Good Food


SIPPING a chilled glass of Sancerre at the Sea Grill counter at Harrods, I watched patiently as the wild bass I had just chosen from the nearby fresh fish counter was expertly sliced open by the chef. Twenty minutes later, having made friends with the elegant Burberry-clad woman from Barcelona seated next to me, I was happy I had taken the waiter's advice to have it grilled, rather than steamed or pan-fried. My fish arrived lightly crisp on the outside and beautifully flaky on the inside, stuffed with lemon slices and thyme.

"Whenever I come to London this is always my first stop," said my Spanish neighbor, savoring a taste of her bouillabaisse. "And then ... I shop!"

Unlikely as it may seem, Harrods and a handful of other large department stores in London have made eating as important a part of one's retail experience as bargain-hunting. Once a haven for women of a certain age taking a chicken salad break before heading back to the dressing rooms, these store restaurants and food halls have now become destinations themselves. They are particularly popular during the January sales, when a respite is needed from the crowds taking full advantage of the deep discounts.

One such restaurant, the Fifth Floor, on the top level of Harvey Nichols, has even earned a solid review in Zagat's London guide as a place "where a chic crowd can always count on a good modern British meal." It now attracts a healthy crowd of business executives, who during sale time can't resist checking out the prices on the Paul Smith suits downstairs.

Here are some of the hottest department-store dining spots in London right now:


With 28 bars, cafes and restaurants spread over roughly a million square feet of store space, Harrods makes it hard to decide where to eat. A good place to start is the elegant Food Halls on the ground floor, a gastronomic haven with 12 specialty areas, including sushi, oyster and cheese bars.

Though not inexpensive, it is a treat to sit on a stool at any of the counters and watch as Knightsbridge's finest residents (and their maids) shop for that evening's dinner party. One favorite is the Rotisserie, where you can tuck into a flame-roasted half chicken, piece of duck or herb-crusted lamb and marvel at the Royal Doulton tiles that line the walls of the meat and fish hall.

Those seeking a more elegant lunch should head to the top of the store and secure a table at the Georgian Restaurant, where the focal points are an Art Nouveau skylight and the all-you-can-eat carvery - roasts with all the trimmings, salads and an array of decadent deserts. An à la carte menu is also available. At afternoon tea, the presence of a piano player only adds to the traditional ambience. A three-course lunch for two with wine costs roughly £100.

Serious shoppers can get ahead of the crowds by having a croissant and café crème at Ladurée or a panettone and cappuccino at the Pizzeria, both open from 8 a.m. (noon on Sunday). Position yourself well at an elevator and you might beat the other competitive shoppers to the ladies' shoe department on the first floor - the most cut-throat spot during discount time.

Harrods is at 87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge; (44-207) 730-1234;



To see London's fashionista crowd in full parade, simply ride the escalator through Harvey Nicks (as locals call it), where posy men and women can be seen checking out each others' Prada bags, Gucci sunglasses and Juicy Couture jeans as they glide through the store. Everyone who is anyone in trendy London regularly lunches at the cafe on the top floor, adjacent to the sushi bar and extensive food market.

Lunch in the cafe, with its industrial ceiling of metal and glass, and its outdoor terrace in good weather, can be quick (Caesar salad with teriyaki salmon or char-grilled chicken) or more leisurely (spicy braised lamb tagine with saffron rice). Under each menu selection is a suggested glass of wine.

Next door to the cafe, set off from the rest of the top floor, is the Fifth Floor Restaurant and Bar, which is open not only for lunch, but also for dinner after the rest of the store has closed. The walls and ceiling of the oval restaurant are covered in glass tubes with fiber-optic lighting that change color from day to evening, creating a dramatic effect for diners.

Starters include terrine of wood pigeon, and a tart of wild mushrooms. Hearty main dishes like Welsh lamb are available, as well as organic salmon and a crab risotto. An à la carte meal for two with wine runs about £100, but the daily market menu offers two courses.

The newest shopping treat at Harvey Nicks is the recently opened circular Fragrance Bar on the fourth floor. With more than 50 fragrances and small dipsticks, you can create your own scent by mixing a bit of vanilla and musk.


With its big glass escalator that zooms shoppers up the middle of the store with lively background pop music, Selfridges offers the most exciting shopping experience on Oxford Street. With 22 bars and restaurants, one never has to go far to find lunch.

For a quick meal head to the ground-floor food hall. The Oyster Bar offers diners a half-dozen Scottish oysters and a glass of wine.

Nearby is the Brass Rail, the most popular restaurant in the entire store. Local business workers flock here for their famous ox tongue, pastrami, and salt beef sandwiches, which can be ordered in different sizes, depending on your appetite. Lunch for two with a bottle of beer or glass of wine.

Upstairs off the women's wear department, which stocks such trendy brands as DKNY, Miu Miu and Paul & Joe, is the Lab Cafe, where you can create your own salad or opt for the daily special or a basket of dim sum.

For a more formal meal, climb the spiral staircase from the designer accessories department on the ground floor to the Gallery, next to the Moët Champagne Bar. English-food fans can dine on calves liver and a dark chocolate tart with malt whiskey cream. This is the perfect place during sale time to watch the most serious shoppers fight below over Channel, Gucci, Mulberry and Marc Jacobs' merchandise. Lunch for two with wine, £50.

Design fans should not leave the store without visiting the White Room, in the basement. There, one finds a big selection of art, design and lifestyle books.


By far the most traditional of the London department stores, Peter Jones has recently undergone a major renovation, with its six-story center atrium making this previously sedate-looking store startlingly cutting edge.

Anyone shopping with young children will feel particularly comfortable at the Top Floor cafeteria, the post-errand spot for London's Yummy Mummies and their offspring, who congregate here most mornings for a coffee and scone or croissant stuffed with eggs and salmon. By noon, however, most of the Bugaboo set has left and the restaurant becomes a great place to enjoy a quick salad or hot meal and take in the spectacular view, which includes the Victoria & Albert museum, the London Oratory and Royal Albert Hall, among many other monuments all cleverly identified for tourists on a large map that spans a nearby wall. Lunch for two with wine is in the £20 range.

For an adult-only environment, there's the Brasserie on the second floor, which does not "encourage" children. Just off the women's designer section, next to Jaeger and Paul Costelloe, it provides a modern setting (blood-red leather chairs and black granite tables) overlooking Tiffany's just below in Sloane Square.

The most popular item on the menu is the Chelsea salad - apricots, Italian blue cheese and pine nuts on a bed of gem lettuce, with an orange juice and olive oil dressing. Hungrier shoppers prefer the confit of duck or the classically English dish of braised pigs trotter. The adjoining bar is often stocked with men waiting for their wives in the nearby dressing rooms. Lunch for two with wine runs about £60.

Fabric lovers take note - the soft furnishings department on the ground floor is one of the best in all of London and a mecca for interior designers during sale time. Here you will find roll after roll of the store's own fabrics, and examples from Nina Campbell, Osborne & Little, Jane Churchill, Liberty and Designers Guild fabrics.

(*) (*) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) I love Harrods....been there many times during business trips and do they ever have the food just like they describe in this article!! Last time I tried sushi of course and it was delightful! (l) (l) (l)

I also love taking the escalators so that I can take in all of the Egyptian artwork and facades......Dodi's pop owns Harrods - which explains all of the Egyptian artwork to enjoy while on an escalator, of all things!

Have a lovely rest of your week and weekend everyone.



01-13-2006, 08:12 PM
January 11, 2006

Op-Ed Columnist

Doing the Alito Shuffle



You've got to like a man who knows how to juggle.

Samuel Alito picked up the skill on a summer vacation a decade ago, and his juggling talent was on full display yesterday as he tried to balance the old Sam, who was eager to impress Reagan revolutionaries with his zeal, with the new Sam, who is eager to impress a bipartisan Senate panel with his open-mindedness.

It was a tale of two Sams.

Is he the old Sam, who devised ways to upend Roe v. Wade and crimp abortion rights? Or the new Sam, who has great respect for precedent and an "open mind" about abortion cases?

Is he the old Sam, who plotted ways to tip the balance of power to the executive branch? Or the new Sam, who states that "no person in this country is above the law, and that includes the president"?

Is he the old Sam, who said Robert Bork "was one of the most outstanding nominees of this century" and "a man of unequaled ability"? Or the new Sam, who shrugged off that statement as the dutiful support of one Reagan appointee for another?

Is he the old Sam, who cited membership in a Princeton alumni club that resisted the admission of women and minorities when he was seeking a promotion in the very white Reagan old boys' club? Or the new Sam, who has "no specific recollection of that organization," unless, of course, he innocently joined it to support R.O.T.C. on campus, and who says he's been shaped partly by his hopes for his 17-year-old daughter, Laura, and by his sister's experiences "as a trial lawyer in a profession that has traditionally been dominated by men"?

Is he the old Sam, who thoughtlessly blew off a pledge to recuse himself from cases involving Vanguard, where he has a six-figure mutual fund? Or the new Sam, who admits that the problem was not "a computer glitch," as he had suggested, and humbly says, "If I had to do it over again, there are things that I would have done differently"?

The judge didn't deign to say what he thought of illegal wiretaps - which you'd think would be an easy one.

About the judge's memory lapses, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, drolly noted, "And I hope you'll understand if any of us come before a court and we can't remember Abramoff, you'll tend to believe us."

Some of his answers, Senator Joe Biden complained to Chris Matthews, did not "ring a chord of sincerity." (The National Review Web site says the voluble Biden got in 3,673 words and held Judge Alito to 1,013.)

You don't have to know the difference between horizontal and vertical stare decisis, or between emanations and penumbras, to see that the man who could take Sandra Day O'Connor's seat and yank back women's rights was, in a word, shifty.

Or in three words, shifty, sapless and sighing.

To offset his reputation on women's rights, he even played the henpecked husband. When Republican senators used the expression "When did you stop beating your wife?" about Democratic questions, Judge Alito riposted, "I wasn't asked whether she had stopped beating me."

His basic defense to Democrats boiled down to: "I was just saying what my boss wanted to hear at the time." Haven't we had enough yes-men mangling government for the last five years? Heck of a job, Sammy.

I understand why the president is drawn to the judge. Mr. Alito is dubbed "Scalito" - a conservative senator, John Cornyn, accidentally blurted out the nickname - because he's so much like Antonin Scalia. And W. loves Nino.

Judge Alito has supported imperial powers for the presidency, not strong checks and balances; he approved the strip search of a 10-year-old girl but is not probing too deeply into what the executive branch is doing. That's W.'s philosophy, too - a pre-emptive right to secretly do everything from war to torture to snooping.

Like the president, the judge loves baseball. Mr. Alito once vacationed at a fantasy baseball camp (O.K. fielder, hopeless hitter), wearing the red and white Phillies uniform. W. has spent five years in fantasyland on Iraq, on occasion donning military costumes.

His fingers in his ears, W. didn't want to hear that we had too few troops in Iraq - ignoring advice from Viceroy Paul Bremer and Gen. Eric Shinseki - or that the troops didn't have enough armor. But the president continues to fling blame outward. In a speech yesterday before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he warned the Democrats that they should take care not to bring "comfort to our adversaries."

Judge Alito was evasive, disingenuous and deferential. He fits the Bush era like a baseball glove.

(*) (*) ;) ;) (h) (h) (h)

(k) (k) 's

01-13-2006, 08:13 PM
January 13, 2006
36 Hours
Silver City, N.M.

PEOPLE who live in Silver City like to say that their town of 10,000 offers "the real New Mexico experience." Perched on the edge of the Gila National Forest in a high-desert wonderland of ponderosas, deep gorges and red-rock mesas, Silver City is a bit rough around the edges, especially compared with places like Santa Fe and Taos - but that's the way the locals like it. The town was founded after silver ore was discovered in 1870, and soon transplanted Yankees built the large Victorian houses that still loom over newer structures in the historic downtown. The silver industry crashed in 1893, but the town was becoming a haven for tuberculosis patients - including Billy the Kid's mother - because of the desert air and healing hot springs. (Billy himself passed some of his youth in Silver City.) By the 1900's, TB patients started going there en masse. After 1910, large-scale copper mining began, and that continues to be the basis of the economy, making Silver City a place where miners, artists, ranchers and extreme sports types mix easily.


5 p.m.
1) Fruits of the Desert

The tradition of New Mexico viticulture is said to date back more than 350 years to Spanish monks who established a small vineyard to make sacramental wine. Today, some wine bars in New Mexico sell only those wines made in the state, and the Twisted Vine (108 East Broadway, 505-388-2828) specializes further by serving only vintages made south of Tularosa. Those turn out to be a wide range of varietals, with many running toward the sweet end of the spectrum. For something drier, try the hearty syrah from D. H. Lescombes ($6) or the oaky Luna Rossa red zinfandel ($5). Sit back and enjoy the scene. "We see a lot of cowboys dragged in here by their girlfriends," the bartender explained. "Initially they're reluctant, but they usually find something they like."

8 p.m.
2) Taste of the Old West

The Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House is seven miles north of Silver City in Pinos Altos (32 Main Street, 505-538-9911). The original saloon, built in 1865, is now a dark and smoky restaurant with roaring fireplaces and sparkling chandeliers. As you tuck into a filet mignon ($29.95) or porterhouse ($26.95) cut from local beef and sip a local Mademoiselle pinot noir (bottle $16.95), you might feel as if you're dining in a brothel from the frontier days - and, according to the manager, Karen Campbell, that is, in fact, what you are doing. Reservations are recommended on weekdays and required on weekends. It's a bar after 8 p.m., so if you're with children, plan on finishing by then. The Opera House next door, built in 1969 in the Old West style, plays host to melodramas much of the year and to occasional events in the winter.


8 a.m.
3) Silver's Spoon

Make your way to Nancy's Silver Café (514 North Bullard Street, 505-388-3480) on Silver City's main drag for a breakfast of huevos rancheros ($6). The dish of fried eggs over corn tortillas covered with green chili sauce and chunks of beef is reason alone to visit this town. For another spicy option, try huevos con chorizo ($6).

10 a.m.
4) Gallery Stroll

Walk the streets of the old town and duck into the brightly painted adobe galleries along Yankie and Texas Streets, above. One nearby highlight: the StudioSpace and Gallery (109 North Bullard Street, 505-535-4548), which exhibits photography and is also the home of the Bakshi School of Animation. The school is associated with Ralph Bakshi, the animator known for his ribald 1970's features "Fritz the Cat" and "Heavy Traffic." Continue on to the Silver City Museum (312 West Broadway, 505-538-5921) to learn about the town's past, and then to the Western New Mexico University Museum (west end of West 10th Street, 505-538-6386) to learn about Mimbres pottery, Navajo rugs and prehistoric Southwest artifacts.

1 p.m.
5) They'll Always Have Chili

The Jalisco Cafe (103 South Bullard Street, 505-388-2060) is a bright, airy restaurant serving Mexican specialties like chicken tortilla soup ($3.59) and minicrab tostadas ($4.09). If you just can't get enough of this region's smoky green chiles, try the chile relleno plate ($8.09) for a cheese-filled but surprisingly light entrée.

3 p.m.
6) The Health-Seekers' Way

The owners of the Elemental Day Spa (406 North Black Street, 505-534-1811), Laurie Larson and Mari King, run their friendly and elegant place in a hands-on manner, so to speak, as they also work directly with clients. Hydrate with the Desert Relief Body Wrap ($85): your skin is exfoliated, then a Sedona-mud-and-paraffin mixture is applied over a layer of moisturizing cream. Once your skin is silky smooth, try the Swedish-based Elemental Signature Massage ($50 for 60 minutes; $75 for 90 minutes).

5:30 p.m.
7) Dome of Stars

Astronomy and stargazing programs have proliferated in New Mexico since 1999, when the state government started regulating outdoor lighting to protect views of the night sky. City of Rocks State Park (505-536-2800, www.nmparks.com), off Highway 61 about 25 miles southeast of Silver City, holds star parties and other stargazing activities as part of the National Public Observatory's Stars-N-Parks program. Often, star parties are accompanied with talks about how the desert sky informed the cosmology of Southwestern Indians, or by traditional tales told round the campfire by native storytellers.

8 p.m.
8) A Fistful of Pasta

Walk to Spaghetti Western (106 North Texas Street, 505-534-4999) to warm up from the cold desert night with a hearty meal. The restaurant does not serve alcohol, so get right to the antipasto platter of Italian meats and cheeses with fire-roasted red peppers, olives and grilled eggplant brushed with white truffle oil ($7.95). You can't go wrong with the lasagna classico ($11.50) or the pasta puttanesca ($10.95) for entrees.

10 p.m.
9) Buffalo Stance

Sidestep the big dogs tied up out front and don't knock over the motorcycles on your way in to the Buffalo Bar in the center of town (211 North Bullard Street, 505-538-3201). This is a beer (Santa Fe Wheat from the Santa Fe Brewing Company, $3) or boilermaker ($5.50) kind of place. On Thursday nights, college students come to dance to D.J.'s spinning Tejano and Country and Western music. Open until 2 a.m. Monday to Saturday and until midnight on Sundays.


9 a.m.
10) Birding and Breakfast

Head north on Highway 15 to the Gila National Forest and follow the winding mountain road through switchbacks and stunning vistas until it intersects with Highway 35. There, at the Grey Feathers Lodge (505-536-3206, www.greyfeathers.com), you can enjoy a breakfast of eggs scrambled with shredded roast beef and green chilis in a Machaca burrito ($4.25) while you watch a flock of dark-eyed juncos feed from the many bird feeders surrounding the restaurant. In the summer, thousands of hummingbirds gather here.

11) Ancient Dwellings

Follow a short trail through a shady canyon and up to the rocky crags of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (505-536-9461, www.nps.gov/gicl; $3 for adults, directions to the visitor center and trailhead are available online or by phone). There, in the 1280's, people of the Mogollon culture occupied caves, which may have been used as ceremonial centers, work areas, communal kitchens or prayer kivas. The site today is eerie and beautiful: brick barriers and catwalks are still intact; sunlight plays dramatically off rock walls; the sound of the stream running through the canyon below echoes gently like murmurs in a cathedral. The mystery of why these people chose to live in these cliffs is eclipsed only by the mystery of why they appear to have abruptly left after about 25 years.

The Basics

There is a small airport near Silver City with daily flights from Albuquerque, but most visitors arrive by car via Interstate 10, which runs south of Silver City and connects it with El Paso and Tucson. It is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from El Paso, five hours from Phoenix and four and a half hours from Albuquerque.

The Inn on Broadway (411 West Broadway, 866-207-7075; www.innonbroadwayweb.com), run by a retired couple from Massachusettes, is a nicely renovated house built in 1883 in downtown Silver City. Some rooms include a whirlpool tub and are stocked with locally made bath salts and hand creams. Breakfast is included. Its four rooms range from $85 to $125 a night.

The Bear Mountain Lodge (877-620-2327; www.bearmountainlodge.com), a bed-and-breakfast that is run by the Nature Conservancy, is a renovated hacienda from the 1920's three miles north of Silver City, adjacent to the Gila National Forest. Packages include birding and native art and archeology weekends. Rooms and cottages range from $115 to $185 a night.

At the Casitas de Gila Guesthouses (50 Casita Flats Road, Gila; 877-923-4827; www.casitasdegila.com), each Southwest-style house has a full kitchen and a wood-burning fireplace and comes with high-powered binoculars to spot bighorn sheep. Rates are $95 to $185.

(*) (*) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) ....EeeHaaaa! (h) (h)

(k) (k) 's


01-13-2006, 08:14 PM
January 13, 2006

Post-Salad-Days Women Agree: They Want 'What She's Having'


In Alice McDermott's short story, "Enough," the grown children of an older woman are shocked to discover that she still is a passionately sexual person. When Bing Crosby sings "Kiss me once and kiss me twice," on a record they have given her, she says, "If you don't turn this off, I'm going to have to find a place to be alone with your father." Later, when her husband lies dying in the hospital, she unbuttons her blouse and places his hand on her breast. "Now, really," her daughter cries.

Until recently, Mrs. Robinson notwithstanding, sex and the older woman was not a subject much talked about, and Ms. McDermott's characters aren't the only ones who'd rather not think about their parents' sex lives.

But attitudes have been shifting. The generation of women liberated by feminism and the Pill in the 1960's aren't slipping quietly into postmenopausal celibacy; and books and movies are reflecting the change.

There is a raft of new books with the message that women over 50 can be sexually attractive and can have great sex, including Gail Sheehy's "Sex and the Seasoned Woman," an anecdote-filled compendium of women living what Ms. Sheehy calls "fully and passionately," coming out this month from Random House. Also arriving this month, from Seal Press, will be "Better Than I Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty," by Joan Price, who spices the book up with her own experiences. ("I rub moisturizing lotion gently into Robert's skin," she writes. "I love seeing him standing naked before me.") Jane Juska's "Unaccompanied Women: Late-Life Adventures in Love, Sex and Real Estate," will be published in May by Villard; the book is a sequel to "A Round-Heeled Woman," which described her experiences at age 66 when she placed an ad for sex in The New York Review of Books, preferably with a man who liked Trollope.

There is also "Younger Next Year for Women: Live Like You're 50 - Strong, Fit, Sexy - Until You're 80 and Beyond," by two men, Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry S. Lodge. Meanwhile, Avery, a division of Penguin Group USA, has bought "Still Doing It," about older women and sex, by Diana Holtzberg and Deirdre Fishel, based on their 2004 documentary, which is available on DVD. Depictions of sexually vibrant older women have been turning up in movies - Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give" (2003), Charlotte Rampling in "The Swimming Pool" (also 2003), Barbra Streisand as a sexual healer for elderly couples in "Meet the Fockers" (2004) - and on television, most recently on Oxygen, which just began a new series, "Campus Ladies," about middle-aged women as college students cavorting with male undergraduates. As usual, culture is following the numbers. By the end of this year, the United States census projects, 1.5 million female baby boomers will have turned 60. And the percentage of Americans over 65 is rapidly increasing.

"It began with movies that featured romantic scenes with older women, like 'Something's Gotta Give,' and 'Under the Sand' with Charlotte Rampling," said Carol Schneider, executive publicity director of the Random House Publishing Group, which is bringing out Ms. Sheehy and Ms. Juska's books. "That paved the way for people writing about the sex lives of older women. This is ground that has not been covered extensively before. We put these books out because there is a market for them."

Then there are the pharmaceutical advances. "Men are now taking Viagra," said Carol Groneman, a professor of history at City University and the author of "Nymphomania." "All of a sudden he wants to have more sex."

The new books are intended for a generation of women who were inculcated early on with the idea that sexual pleasure was their right. And those women are not about to go gentle into that good night, said Katha Pollitt, a poet who writes a column on politics and feminism for The Nation. "Feminism has taught women that your sexuality is something you should take charge of," Ms. Pollitt said. Moreover, she said: "We live in a very highly sexualized culture. Sex is how we understand happiness and why we are here."

Ms. Sheehy, who interviewed close to 400 women ages 23 to 98 for her book, said: "There is the baby boomer's generational credo of pursuing the passionate life. It absolutely resonates with this age group."

Ms. Sheehy, who is 68, offers perceptions that are bound to be received enthusiastically by her audience. "A seasoned woman is spicy," she writes. "She has been marinated in life experience. Like complex wine, she can be alternately sweet, tart, sparkling, mellow." Typical of the subjects is a woman she calls Janet whose husband left her for a younger woman. She was 53 when she met a man 20 years younger. "I experienced sex that night in ways that I did not know were possible," she told Ms. Sheehy.

Then there is 74-year-old "Regina," arthritic, who finds sexual bliss with an 80-year-old man. "They became impassioned lovers," Ms. Sheehy writes. "She made her last visit to the psychiatrist and told him, 'Not only is my depression gone, my arthritic pains have disappeared.' "

By and large, the books carry an optimistic message - that despite age, menopause and wrinkles, women can continue to enjoy sex. "We are having hot, fabulous sex after sixty," Ms. Price writes. "Society's view of aging women as sexless is wrong, wrong, wrong." Her book includes advice on fitness and remedies for those who can't achieve orgasm.

Yet the truth is that women tend to live longer than men, and finding a partner is often difficult. Of all the books, Ms. Juska's is the darkest, especially as she describes her romance at 71, with Graham, 36, with whom she fell deeply in love. But Graham eventually married a woman closer to his own age. "I am moved to tears with longing and love for this man," Ms. Juska writes, "with despair and regret for what cannot be."

Indeed, in a telephone interview from Berkeley, Calif., Ms. Juska said that since the publication of "A Round-Heeled Woman," in her conversations with older women, "the strongest sense I came away with was yearning."

"At some point in a relationship you come face to face with aloneness," Ms. Juska said. "The loneliest I have ever been was when I was married."

There are some who view the new celebrations of older women's sexual potential with skepticism. "These are wonderful aspirations, but they may not be so easy to get to," said Linda Gordon, a historian at New York University, who writes about women's experience. With the decline of estrogen, some women lose libido and have body changes that make sex less pleasurable. But maybe the loss of desire and even sexual attractiveness is part of the natural order of things. "There are a lot of physicians who will say human bodies are not designed to last this long," Ms. Gordon said.

For years, hormone replacement therapy held the promise of eternal sexual youth - until it was found to have potentially dangerous side effects, including an increased risk of breast cancer. In the books are the stories of women who have tried H.R.T., as it is sometimes called, or substitutes like testosterone and herbal remedies to increase libido.

And what about older women who really don't want to have a lot of sex? "Sex's importance is constructed," said Leonore Tiefer, a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. "It can be very important or not so important. The trouble for me is when the answer for that is uniform. That's an oppressive message."

Maybe what older women need is a boyfriend like Ovid. "A young woman delights me," he wrote, "an older woman enthralls me.

"The one has the beauty of her body, the other experience and richness of mind."

(*) (*) ....INDEED!! (h) (h) (h) (h) (h)

(S) (S)


01-13-2006, 08:16 PM

(*) (*) (h) (h) (h)

(k) ,


01-13-2006, 08:17 PM
Poached Scrambled Eggs

4 large eggs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper.

1. Crack each egg into a medium-mesh sieve (or narrow-slotted spoon), letting the thin white drain away. Transfer the remaining yolk and white to a small bowl. Beat the eggs vigorously with a fork for 20 seconds.

2. Set a medium saucepan filled with 4 inches of water over moderate heat. Put a strainer in the sink. When the water is at a low boil, add a few large pinches of salt, then stir in a clockwise direction to create a whirlpool. Pour the eggs into the moving water, cover the pot and count to 20.

3. Turn off the heat and uncover the pot. The eggs should be floating on the surface in ribbons. While holding back the eggs with a spoon, pour off most of the water over the strainer. Gently slide the eggs into the strainer and press them lightly to expel any excess liquid.

4. Scoop the eggs into bowls, drizzle with olive oil if desired and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (Variations: Serve with butter; smoked paprika; piment d'Espelette; or a spoonful of crème fraîche and a dollop of caviar.) Serves 2.

Adapted from Daniel Patterson. New York Times

(*) (*) ;) ;)


01-13-2006, 08:18 PM
January 7, 2006

Op-Ed Columnist

Reach Out and Touch No One


Doing the math, you've got to figure that the 12 wise men and one wise woman had about 30 seconds apiece to say their piece to the president about Iraq, where vicious assaults this week have killed almost 200 and raised U.S. troop fatalities to at least 2,189.

It must have been like a performance by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, which boils down the great plays and books to their essence. Proust is "I like cookies." Othello raps that he left Desdemona "all alona, didn't telephona." "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" condense into "The Idiodity." "Henry V" is "A king's gotta do what a king's gotta do," and "Antony and Cleopatra" is "Never get involved in Middle Eastern affairs."

Beyond taking a class picture ringed around Mr. Bush's bizarrely empty desk - a mesmerizing blend of "Sunset Boulevard," "The Last Supper" and a "Sopranos" ad - the former secretaries of state and defense had to make the most of their brief colloquy with W.

The spectral Robert McNamara might have enlightened on Vietnam: "Didn't understand the culture. Misjudged the opposition. Didn't know when to get out." If he was a fast talker, he could have added: "It's the dominoes. If Iraq falls, then Syria falls, then Lebanon falls, and before you know it, all of Southeast Asia - I mean, the Middle East - will fall."

Melvin Laird only needed to add: "Ditto."

Al Haig's summation would have been a cinch: "I resign. I'm in charge here. I resign - again."

Instead of his good-soldier silence, Colin Powell could have redeemed himself with four words: "I should have resigned."

Madeleine Albright might have succinctly imparted some wisdom from Somalia and Rwanda: "Didn't understand the culture. Misjudged the threat. Didn't know when to get in."

James Baker, Svengali and Sphinx, must have been thinking: "I told your dad not to let you in here. I could tell you how to get of Iraq in 10 minutes, but you're too under the sway of that nutball Cheney to listen."

George Shultz only needed to say: "I have a tiger tattooed on my fanny," and Lawrence Eagleburger could have abridged his thoughts to "I need a smoke. Bad."

It may seem disturbing at first, that with several hundreds of years' worth of foreign policy at his elbows, and a bloody, thorny mess in Iraq, Mr. Bush would devote mere moments to letting some fresh air into his House of Pain.

Sure, he has A.D.D. But he just spent six straight days mountain-biking and brush clearing in Crawford. He couldn't devote 60 minutes to getting our kids home rather than just a few for a "Message: I Care" photo-op faking sincerity?

"We all went into the bubble and came out," one of the wise men noted.

Mr. Eagleburger explained their role as props, saying it was hard to volubly express yourself with a president. "There was some criticism, but it was basically 'You haven't talked to the American people enough.' " Lighting a cigarette on the way out - he'd thrown one in the bushes on the way in - he added the world-weary coda: "We're all has-beens anyway."

Mr. Eagleburger knows the truth. If W. had wanted to really reach out, rather than just pretend to reach out so that his poll numbers would go up, he would have sought advice outside his warped inner circle long ago - including from his own father.

Because W.'s mind is so closed to anybody except yes-men who tell him his policies and wars are slam-dunks, uneasy seasoned mandarins are forced to make a noisy stink. Brent Scowcroft, one of Bush Senior's closest friends, had to resort to the pages of The New Yorker to voice his objections. He ominously said Dick Cheney, his old colleague, was someone he no longer recognized.

You wonder whether the other contemporaries of Cheney and Rummy from Ford, Reagan and Bush I days were thinking the same thing at Thursday's meeting: Why have these guys gone so kooky?

W. is drunk on Cheney Kool-Aid. So he got testy when Ms. Albright pointed out that North Korea and Iran were going nuclear while the U.S. was bogged down in Baghdad. Then, after a quick photo in the Oval, he shooed the old-timers out, letting anyone who wanted to stay talk to the security factotum Stephen Hadley.

Still busy spreading fog over the war, W., Cheney, Rummy and Condi had no time to hear McNamara expound on the fog of war. In the picture, as Ms. Albright cringes, Mr. McNamara looks haunted, unable to escape second-guessing over Vietnam.

The only thing that would have made the photo even more utterly phony was the presence of that vintage warmonger, Henry the K.

(*) (*) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h)

Sweetlady ;)

01-16-2006, 07:29 AM
January 8, 2006

Media Frenzy

Linking a Device to a Gadget That's Wired to a Gizmo


THE average American household now owns some 25 consumer electronics products - televisions and stereos and high-tech gimcracks of every imaginable flavor. That statistic brings that industry's annual convention in Las Vegas last week into stark relief. Some 130,000 people moved around a noisy, pulsing display space, with thousands of products covering a land mass that seemed roughly equivalent to Norway's.

If a company wants its products to be among that 25, it is going to have to hustle.

And, face it, even getting an order from the retailers' buyers trawling the floor is far from a guarantee of success in stores. Notably absent from the party, as always, is the iPod purveyor Apple Computer. It holds its exclusive annual gathering for the faithful, Macworld, beginning Monday in San Francisco.

Which is why it was striking that of the five keynote speeches at the Las Vegas conference - the ones where visionary chief executives tell you where the industry is headed - only one was delivered by an executive who could argue that his company's main business is good old consumer gizmos. That was Sir Howard Stringer of Sony, and more on him in a moment.

Bill Gates of Microsoft, Paul Otelini of Intel, Terry Semel of Yahoo and Larry Page of Google rounded out the list, underscoring that a gadget is only as good as what you can do with it. And all five of these titans are pursuing a singular goal of media domination: to be all things to all people, in a world where the people have all the control over how they communicate and consume media.

That battleground for things like who makes the biggest flat-screen TV with the highest-definition picture was, of course, in full force at the show. But it is now only one of two battlegrounds. The other - call it branded ubiquity - is about who controls the interaction between the consumer and that gadget and, more and more, all the other gadgets in the house as they become interconnected.

Increasingly, multiple gizmos live in a single box. Just as iPods can show videos and photographs, new generations of mobile telephones can store hundreds of songs but also take a heck of a photo or get access to a video and Web content. And there are, of course, Microsoft's Windows Media Centers and other "digital lifestyle" devices that will be powered by its software, or Intel's new Viiv technology platform.

Now there are also nascent efforts by Google and Yahoo to extend their pole positions as gatekeepers to the Internet onto any kind of screen - mobile phones and televisions in particular - where they want to be for video what they are already for text, images and audio.

Victory on this branded-ubiquity battlefield can be far more subtle than having the year's top-selling cellphone. For example, one of last week's endless announcements concerned a deal between Panasonic and Comcast for a new set-top box that will be included by Panasonic with purchases of its new line of TV's by Comcast customers. The box will come with Comcast's on-screen programming guide already built in and ready to go. The big difference between this and past cable guides, Comcast's chief executive, Brian Roberts, explained to me, is that the Comcast-Panasonic viewer will be able to switch to any device or service hooked up to the TV through the Comcast guide - even things like DVD players or access to the Internet that may have nothing to do with Comcast.

The point is that after decades of push-and-pull between consumer electronics makers and distributors like cable companies, progress is being made around the notion that giving consumers a smooth way to navigate their media and reduce the number of remote controls and set-top boxes might help sell more TV's and cable service. "Finally, there is détente," Mr. Roberts said.

When it came time to snap some photos beside the mesmerizing 103-inch plasma screen that Panasonic was introducing, Mr. Roberts hopped up on stage and made sure that the images included the most breathtaking one he knows: Comcast's interactive guide.

AMID the growing drumbeat of digital upheaval, Sir Howard Stringer had what was really his coming-out party after being put in charge last March of turning around a slumping Sony. In a presentation that included some of the razzle-dazzle he honed in his days running the CBS television network, Sir Howard had some stars (the actor Tom Hanks, the "Da Vinci Code" author Dan Brown) onstage with him, along with the latest products he hopes will be Sony's stars (Bravia flat-screen TV's, PlayStation Portables, Blu-Ray DVD players).

But most notable was Sir Howard's confident effort to show that Sony's vast product line, as well as its media assets, including Sony Pictures and the Sony/BMG music joint venture, have a unifying logic.

To that end, not only has Sir Howard appointed the company's first chief marketing officer, but last month he quietly poached a senior executive from Apple Computer, Tim Schaaff, to be Sony's first companywide software chief. This week in Hawaii, Sir Howard is gathering the company's 120 top software engineers to talk about ways to coordinate efforts among the variety of media players the company has, including the PSP, a new Sony Reader for electronic books, and the next iteration of the Walkman due out later this year - its latest attempt to take back some of the thunder the iPod has stolen.

Mr. Stringer argued that Sony's content assets uniquely position it to drive new digital products and content, but he has also learned that the pursuit of branded ubiquity can be a double-edged sword. When Sony-BMG had to recall 5.7 million CD's loaded with a flawed anti-piracy technology, Mr. Stringer said he was worried that other divisions would suffer. "We took quite a beating," he said, adding that the whole point of the effort was to protect artists' rights, not to limit consumers'. "We'll just have to tread very, very carefully," he said. "We have to walk the line at Sony between the needs of technology and the consumer, and the rights of the artist, which we feel very strongly about."

Sony was right to move swiftly to limit potential harm from the episode: if there was one thing abundantly clear amid all the techno-wizardry of the consumer electronics show, it is that the way people choose to organize and tap into their media is becoming as important as - and will have a bearing on - the machines they buy.
January 8, 2006

Media Frenzy

Linking a Device to a Gadget That's Wired to a Gizmo


THE average American household now owns some 25 consumer electronics products - televisions and stereos and high-tech gimcracks of every imaginable flavor. That statistic brings that industry's annual convention in Las Vegas last week into stark relief. Some 130,000 people moved around a noisy, pulsing display space, with thousands of products covering a land mass that seemed roughly equivalent to Norway's.

If a company wants its products to be among that 25, it is going to have to hustle.

And, face it, even getting an order from the retailers' buyers trawling the floor is far from a guarantee of success in stores. Notably absent from the party, as always, is the iPod purveyor Apple Computer. It holds its exclusive annual gathering for the faithful, Macworld, beginning Monday in San Francisco.

Which is why it was striking that of the five keynote speeches at the Las Vegas conference - the ones where visionary chief executives tell you where the industry is headed - only one was delivered by an executive who could argue that his company's main business is good old consumer gizmos. That was Sir Howard Stringer of Sony, and more on him in a moment.

Bill Gates of Microsoft, Paul Otelini of Intel, Terry Semel of Yahoo and Larry Page of Google rounded out the list, underscoring that a gadget is only as good as what you can do with it. And all five of these titans are pursuing a singular goal of media domination: to be all things to all people, in a world where the people have all the control over how they communicate and consume media.

That battleground for things like who makes the biggest flat-screen TV with the highest-definition picture was, of course, in full force at the show. But it is now only one of two battlegrounds. The other - call it branded ubiquity - is about who controls the interaction between the consumer and that gadget and, more and more, all the other gadgets in the house as they become interconnected.

Increasingly, multiple gizmos live in a single box. Just as iPods can show videos and photographs, new generations of mobile telephones can store hundreds of songs but also take a heck of a photo or get access to a video and Web content. And there are, of course, Microsoft's Windows Media Centers and other "digital lifestyle" devices that will be powered by its software, or Intel's new Viiv technology platform.

Now there are also nascent efforts by Google and Yahoo to extend their pole positions as gatekeepers to the Internet onto any kind of screen - mobile phones and televisions in particular - where they want to be for video what they are already for text, images and audio.

Victory on this branded-ubiquity battlefield can be far more subtle than having the year's top-selling cellphone. For example, one of last week's endless announcements concerned a deal between Panasonic and Comcast for a new set-top box that will be included by Panasonic with purchases of its new line of TV's by Comcast customers. The box will come with Comcast's on-screen programming guide already built in and ready to go. The big difference between this and past cable guides, Comcast's chief executive, Brian Roberts, explained to me, is that the Comcast-Panasonic viewer will be able to switch to any device or service hooked up to the TV through the Comcast guide - even things like DVD players or access to the Internet that may have nothing to do with Comcast.

The point is that after decades of push-and-pull between consumer electronics makers and distributors like cable companies, progress is being made around the notion that giving consumers a smooth way to navigate their media and reduce the number of remote controls and set-top boxes might help sell more TV's and cable service. "Finally, there is détente," Mr. Roberts said.

When it came time to snap some photos beside the mesmerizing 103-inch plasma screen that Panasonic was introducing, Mr. Roberts hopped up on stage and made sure that the images included the most breathtaking one he knows: Comcast's interactive guide.

AMID the growing drumbeat of digital upheaval, Sir Howard Stringer had what was really his coming-out party after being put in charge last March of turning around a slumping Sony. In a presentation that included some of the razzle-dazzle he honed in his days running the CBS television network, Sir Howard had some stars (the actor Tom Hanks, the "Da Vinci Code" author Dan Brown) onstage with him, along with the latest products he hopes will be Sony's stars (Bravia flat-screen TV's, PlayStation Portables, Blu-Ray DVD players).

But most notable was Sir Howard's confident effort to show that Sony's vast product line, as well as its media assets, including Sony Pictures and the Sony/BMG music joint venture, have a unifying logic.

To that end, not only has Sir Howard appointed the company's first chief marketing officer, but last month he quietly poached a senior executive from Apple Computer, Tim Schaaff, to be Sony's first companywide software chief. This week in Hawaii, Sir Howard is gathering the company's 120 top software engineers to talk about ways to coordinate efforts among the variety of media players the company has, including the PSP, a new Sony Reader for electronic books, and the next iteration of the Walkman due out later this year - its latest attempt to take back some of the thunder the iPod has stolen.

Mr. Stringer argued that Sony's content assets uniquely position it to drive new digital products and content, but he has also learned that the pursuit of branded ubiquity can be a double-edged sword. When Sony-BMG had to recall 5.7 million CD's loaded with a flawed anti-piracy technology, Mr. Stringer said he was worried that other divisions would suffer. "We took quite a beating," he said, adding that the whole point of the effort was to protect artists' rights, not to limit consumers'. "We'll just have to tread very, very carefully," he said. "We have to walk the line at Sony between the needs of technology and the consumer, and the rights of the artist, which we feel very strongly about."

Sony was right to move swiftly to limit potential harm from the episode: if there was one thing abundantly clear amid all the techno-wizardry of the consumer electronics show, it is that the way people choose to organize and tap into their media is becoming as important as - and will have a bearing on - the machines they buy.

(*) (*) :| :| (h) (h) ;)

(f) (f) 's

01-16-2006, 07:32 AM
January 8, 2006

The Secret History of 2 Columbus Circle


"FOURTH floor! Men's lingerie!"

So Henry Geldzahler, the great art curator, was heard to exclaim on emerging from the elevator at the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art in 1964. What a caution! There was a time when people thought better than to say such things in art museums. Talking of Michelangelo was more the rule. But the gallery was not regarded as a serious museum.

Created by Huntington Hartford, the publisher, show-business impresario and heir to the A.&P. supermarket fortune, the Gallery looked like the adventure in vanity that it actually was. It was conceived to house Mr. Hartford's personal collection of figurative art, and its design bore the personal imprint of his taste. His taste was swanky. From the sleek wood paneling to the dark brass fixtures, the building at 2 Columbus Circle could have passed for the East Coast outpost of a private casino from the land of Mr. Lucky.

Mr. Hartford probably never wore a tie tack, but you sensed he would have traded all his money to be reborn as Bobby Darin. His museum even had a penthouse lounge. Attached to the museum's restaurant, the Gauguin Room, it featured leather banquettes, paneledwalls adorned with tapestry versions of Gauguin paintings, and a spectacularview of Central Park. The restaurant downstairs served Polynesian delicacies in a white tablecloth atmosphere that suggested a finishing-school graduate of Trader Vic's. Satay chicken came garnished with a ring of spiced apple. The bar poured the swingin'est Singapore sling in town. Waiter!

HENRY GELDZAHLER, LACY UNDERWEAR, SWANKY TASTE, Singapore slings. These are a few of the memories that didn't get to be recollected at the public hearings that weren't held to debate the value of 2 Columbus Circle, the white marble bonbon of a building that was not designated an official New York City landmark.

And even if the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission had consented to hold hearings on the matter, many of the memories that might have weighed in favor of designation would still have gone unspoken. They were stored up by a generation of gay men who arrived in New York in the 1960's and contributed substantially to those shifts in taste. And that generation, lost to AIDS, is no longer here to talk about them.

Two Columbus Circle has been called a queer building many times over the years. Odd and weird, too. These terms have not been misplaced. But their meaning need not be wholly pejorative. No other building more fully embodied the emerging value of queerness in the New York of its day. If the Landmarks Commission could miss this significance, then it is reasonable to conclude that many dots in that chapter of the city's social history have yet to be connected. The task will grow no easier with the passing of time.

MORE THAN 80,000 NEW YORKERS have died of AIDS so far, according to city figures. That number represents more memory than a city can afford to lose. It stands for the collective memory of an audience - the seasoned gay audience, perhaps the most culturally receptive group any city has ever seen.

Early on in the AIDS crisis, the city registered the cultural impact caused by the loss of gay artists. The effect produced by the loss of the gay audience is more insidious, however. An audience retains the memory of a performance. What happens to that memory when the audience is gone?

Imagine the World Series without veteran sports fans. You could still fill the stadium. The crowd would still roar. But a certain resonance would have vanished, the vibrations of a social instrument devised for the precise purpose of detecting a historically outstanding performance. How could this instrument function without a data base of past scores?

Now imagine that the game is a great city. What happens to a city when it loses reliable points of comparison with exceptional moments in its past? A void occurs, and before long, the vacuum starts to fill up with myths of dubious worth. The fantasy that Rudolph W. Giuliani "saved" New York becomes conventional wisdom. The corollary fable that the 1960's and 70's were the nadir of New York's existence. Yeah, wasn't it awful! The worst!

The public hearings that weren't held might have offered a forum for sorting out that era's facts from fiction. Indeed, the landmarks agency can't conduct its business until it has properly reckoned with the period. And because the agency is itself a product of that era (it was founded a year after 2 Columbus Circle opened its doors), that would naturally have to include a reconsideration of its purpose.

You might even say that the building and the agency have had this date with destiny from the beginning: Edward Durell Stone's design for 2 Columbus Circle, a stylized version of Venetian Gothic architecture, was among the first to break the modernist taboo against explicit reference to period styles. The Landmarks Commission was established to resist modernity's brutal assault on New York's architectural history. Clearly, these two artifacts of the 60's had a lot to talk about.

Of course, the public doesn't need official permission to hear itself talk. We ought to take the microphone more often. We could start a new round of unofficial hearings by thinking back to the time before there was a Landmarks Commission. What was it that made some people believe that such an agency was worth having? What can we learn from those beliefs today, now that they are part of urban history themselves?

I HATE TO BE THE ONE TO TELL YOU THIS, but the old, relentlessly mourned Pennsylvania Station was a dismal piece of architecture. A late arrival in the City Beautiful movement, the building tried to augment meager conviction with extreme colonnades. Walking into its cold, cavernous spaces was like arriving in Philadelphia two hours before you had to.

But so what if Penn Station wasn't Grand Central? It was a crime to tear down a building that had become so deeply impregnated with New York's emotional life. The yawning interiors had a distinctive atmosphere. Like a vast sponge for intense expectations, the station soaked up the psychic energy of arrival, departure, separation, reunion and waiting that had accumulated over the years along with the soot, water damage and flimsy commercial intrusions. The station met the new arrival with a dare: can you make the big city know that you're alive? There's nothing like debased Beaux-Arts design for throwing out a frigid welcome.

A building does not have to be an important work of architecture to become a first-rate landmark. Landmarks are not created by architects. They are fashioned by those who encounter them after they are built. The essential feature of a landmark is not its design, but the place it holds in a city's memory. Compared to the place it occupies in social history, a landmark's artistic qualities are incidental.

AN AUDIENCE is more than a group of passive consumers. It can be a productive unit as well. It produces atmospheres, memories, arguments, textures of thought, a climate of receptivity and the stage on which performances occur. In the 60's, when freeways, shopping centers and expanding suburbs were leaving the future of the urban center open to serious doubt, an audience produced an extraordinary burst of energy about the idea of New York. Architectural preservation was part of that energy, and so was 2 Columbus Circle. Both were expressions of protest, and both were aimed at the same target: the exclusivity of High Modern taste in postwar New York.

In an era substantially defined by protests, these two - along with Pop Art, underground movies, the Belgium Pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, Huntington Hartford's short-lived Show magazine and others - ran counter to the prevailing standards of High Modern taste with which the city asserted its postwar hegemony in the arts.

What these phenomena had in common was audience appeal - an appeal to the varieties of desire and conflict, to show biz, to memory, and above all to the open-ended heterogeneity of city life. You didn't see that in the perpetual reiteration of abstract paintings and glass towers.

These counter-positions to modernism's restrictive codes needed a stage, and a stage requires an audience attuned to the creative logic behind seemingly wanton events and who seizes the opportunity to help shape its own moment in time. That is where gay men came in.

WE WERE THE CHILDREN of white flight, the first generation to grow up in postwar American suburbs. By the time the 60's rolled around, many of us, the gay ones especially, were eager to make a U-turn and fly back the other way. Whether or not the city was obsolete, we couldn't imagine our personal futures in any other form. The street and the skyline signified to us what the lawn and the highway signified to our parents: a place to breathe free.

We must have resembled those scary blond children from "Village of the Damned." The moment Audrey Hepburn stepped out of the cab in the opening scene of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," our eyes started to glow. With the Hepburn character, Holly Golightly, we saw our defenses against the pain of isolation transformed into a glamorous style of independence.

The Glow was often provoked by gay-themed books. Sartre's "Saint Genet," John Rechy's "City of Night," James Baldwin's "Another Country," William S. Burroughs's "Naked Lunch": as each of these titles appeared, a dollop of queerness splashed down into the cultural mainstream. Each was a stage in the formation of what Herbert Gans calls a "taste culture," a social group bound together by the aesthetic preferences of its individual members. But the gay children of suburbia had yet to meet one another. We hadn't yet converged.

There was another side to the gay taste culture, a set of preferences formed long before these splashes occurred. Ronald Firbank novels, Aubrey Beardsley engravings, Victorian bric-a-brac, Art Nouveau and Art Deco ornaments, Fortuny fabrics, faded Hollywood stars: these artifacts were signs in a code, adopted before openness about homosexuality was possible. The love that dared not speak its name had learned to scream through décor.

This set of preferences also swirled into the mainstream: by 1967 every campus had a store that sold peacock feathers, Art Nouveau posters and paper versions of Tiffany lamps. "Notes on Camp," Susan Sontag's 1964 essay, was a turning point in this development. When the essay first appeared, it anatomized the code of a few. But the notice it attracted in magazines like Time expanded the audience to the many.

This shift represented something more than mainstream curiosity about recherché taste. It also signified that those who shared that taste were overcoming their isolation and discovering their identity as a social group. By 1969, when the Stonewall uprising sparked the emergence of a political movement for gay rights, the cultural revolution had already occurred. We were already out as an audience, and after that, there was never any possibility that we would go quietly back to a closet we had come here to get out of.

By the standards of Eisenhower's America, gay taste was perverse. In hindsight, it seems more like a corrective to the far greater perversity of postwar "progress." What kind of normality was it to imagine that abandoning American cities was a good thing to do?

Goodbye, cities! Adiós, civilization! Good riddance to the repository of cultural memory, the incubator of ideas, the heartbeat of humankind.

Quel norm.

MEMBERS OF MINORITY groups have always had to shift between alternate realities, that of the mainstream and that of the particular cultures to which they belong. This ability generates a kind of reality in its own right, a perceptual environment of fluctuating contour. Almost involuntarily, we shift the lens this way and that and examine things from multiple angles. We learn to live with the doubts, uncertainties and incentives to curiosity that result from playing more than one part in the script.

This is the reality that unfolded for a visitor like myself, a member of the gay audience, as I made my way through the Gallery of Modern Art in 1966. Of course I could see the features that displeased the critics. But to me, the matter wasn't so simple.

The swanky motif of the Gauguin Room continued in the galleries below. Mellow lighting came from artificial sources overhead, and from the vertical strips of small round windows that bordered the rooms. As at the Guggenheim, the galleries were arranged in a vertical spiral, though of square rather than curving geometry, and in place of an atrium, the building's core was given over to elevators and stairs. The galleries unfolded gracefully in an alternating sequence of larger and smaller areas with varied ceiling heights. In the basement was a small auditorium where daily pipe organ recitals were held: shades of the eccentric Dr. Albert C. Barnes and the music he insisted on playing for visitors at his museum outside Philadelphia.

MR. HARTFORD'S TASTE IN ART struck some as a demonstration of style rather than substance. An amalgamation of Pre-Raphaelite, Post-Impressionist and Surrealist painting, the collection denied the existence of abstract art and the qualities then associated with it: sincerity, difficulty and historical inevitability. Hence it invited association with the qualities abstract painters had defined themselves against: illustration, decoration, aristocratic caprice. Mr. Hartford's collection was a poodle, in short.

And the aura of poodleness extended to Stone's design for the building's exterior. The homage to Venetian Gothic inevitably recalled Fenway Court, the Boston palazzo of Isabella Stewart Gardner. It rolled back time to the world of the Victorians, to the ethos of John Ruskin, Walter Pater and the Aesthetic Movement, to a time before the Modern Movement's anxious energies came crashing through modern minds.

This was not acceptable. New York had staked its postwar claim to be the capital of the 20th century on its capacity to translate those energies into buildings, paintings, literature, dance. Even the decorative arts had a part to play in sustaining this image. The modernist dictates of Good Design meant that chairs, graphics and table settings tended toward formal abstraction. So who did this swanky playboy think he was, anyhow, coming in here with his Pre-Raphaelites and his Surrealists - those window dressers, fairy-tale illustrators, perfume bottle designers - and his building that looked like a gift spray flacon of My Sin blown up to the scale of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day float? How dare he call this poodle Modern Art!

IF YOU WERE PART OF THE GAY AUDIENCE, however, the criticisms aimed at Mr. Hartford's museum might have sounded oddly familiar. If you had sharp ears, you would have recognized the whirring of wheels, the creaking of old gears. The mechanisms for producing stigma were at work, an apparatus designed to give prejudices the appearance of ideas. And if you had been a target of this prejudice, you were less likely to discount the Gallery of Modern Art for any number of the aesthetic transgressions of which it stood accused.

Sexual ambiguity was integral to swank, for example. A prelude to the recent phenomenon of the metrosexual, the swanky guy adorned himself to a degree more commonly associated with feminine fashion. The taste culture of swank was socially ambiguous, too. Swank came out of the ghettos - Italian, Jewish, African-American and Hispanic. It was a pop vernacular for those seeking to transcend their exclusion from the WASP establishment. (Sammy Davis Jr. once affirmed that he never wore the same undershirt twice.) There was even room in it for gay WASP's, though by the mid-60's they were more likely to prefer the Rolling Stones to the Everly Brothers for fashion inspiration. Pop, in every form, had emerged by then as a paradoxical code for difference, a sign of independence from establishments of all kinds.

Mr. Hartford's collection, too, held a different set of meanings for the gay audience. An entire gallery was devoted to the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones. No stranger to us, Burne-Jones was part of the Victorian repertory. Still, I doubt it occurred to anybody since Ruskin's time to think of his work as "modern art." Rather, it illustrated some generalized idea of 19th-century decadence. Vuillard, another artist represented in depth, spoke for Mr. Hartford's support for work that was often belittled at the time as "merely" decorative.

It was the Surrealist work, however, that aroused the greatest discrepancy between gay and straight perspectives. By 1950, conventional wisdom had consigned Surrealism to the dustbin. Abstract Expressionism was the flower of New York's pre-eminence as the world's artistic center. As a home-grown movement, it was also suitable to represent American prestige after World War II. Surrealism, by contrast, stood for a Europe in decline, for empty theatrics, adolescent stunts and commercial corruption.

The gay audience didn't quite see it that way; or, if we did, we were not put off. Decadence was our family tree, weirdness our ancestral home, pathology our stock in trade. Theatrics went with the territory. And the dominance of Abstract Expressionism over Surrealism looked a lot like the dynamic between high school jocks and the fairies they'd tortured.

And, as some of us would later learn, if we didn't know already, sexual preference did play a part in the politics of the New York art world. New York Surrealists like Pavel Tchelitchew and Eugène Berman belonged to a gay subculture that had found greater acceptance in the uptown worlds of ballet and fashion than in the downtown Cedar Tavern scene populated by Pollock, Rothko and company. Ballet queens were not an ideal choice to carry the artistic standard for American supremacy in the 50's.

In any case, Modernism had become integral to our identity even before we'd left the suburbs. High Modern New York represented the antithesis of the nostalgic village appearance dictated by suburban developers. But the homogeneity of the International Style buildings revealed that city architecture, too, had become subject to a strict aesthetic code. Formalist functionalism.

The code wasn't the problem. The problem was that there weren't more of them. Why couldn't you revere Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building and yet wish that the architects Oscar Niemeyer and Luis Barragán had been given the opportunity to add a splash of Surrealism to the skyline? And why should American painting be governed by a winner-takes-all mentality? Why did we have to go on demanding that all comers be measured by a single yardstick? Isn't that the defining tactic of a closed mind? Why leave so much out, especially the unknown?

EDWARD DURELL STONE HAD ONCE ABIDED by the code. In fact, he'd helped to set it. In 1939, with Philip L. Goodwin, he had built the Museum of Modern Art, the temple where the codes were kept. In the postwar years, however, Stone abandoned modern orthodoxy for a more frankly decorative approach that featured the use of perforated ornamental screens. In his United States Embassy building for India, he perfected what you might call First Lady architecture, a lacy, soft power look to screen the harsh realities of the Cold War. By the mid-60's, the screen motif had been adopted by architects of institutional buildings nationwide.

For the Huntington Hartford Gallery, established to expand and reconsider the history of modern art, Venetian Gothic was a logical inspiration. The style had long been associated with Ruskin, the first British critic to pay serious attention to the work of living artists such as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was a natural source for a building where Burne-Jones would be restored to public view.

Modern architects in the 20th century had no use for Ruskin. A critic who contended that ornament was the principal part of architecture held little appeal for designers whose aesthetic was based on engineering and the manipulation of abstract geometric form. But for Stone, who had broken with that aesthetic, Ruskin offered the welcome authority of historical precedent.

Venetian Gothic provided a similar authority for Stone's screens. A composite of Oriental and European influences, a Venetian Gothic building deploys screens in abundance. Talk about lingerie: with rows of delicate, filigreed arches, rosettes and quatrefoils arranged in colonnades and window banks, even the lowliest Grand Canal palazzo could set a young man's heart a-flutter.

It helped to have an aptitude for Victoriana to appreciate the design's references. No special knowledge was required, however, to see that the building departed from the modern norm. What the building exposed was how philosophically hollow that norm had become.

"ARCHITECTURE IS THE WILL OF AN EPOCH translated into space," Mies declared. And who dares to disobey the will of an epoch? As Karl Popper recognized, such prescriptive formulas are relics of historicism, the 19th-century's linear view of the past as a sequence of distinct epochs, each with its own distinctive style of art. Since the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Florentines each had produced a great style, we would be a lesser people if we did not do likewise.

Historicism had fallen out of favor some time before the International Style skyscrapers started marching up Park Avenue, however, and the ideology of the Modern Movement's universal progress could not be sustained indefinitely without it.

As the philosopher Allan Megill has argued, historicism was a secular religion to the Victorians, a source of authority for stable meanings and values at a time of disorienting change. The founding academy of Modernism was supposed to refute this. Instead, it simply made the present yet another historical period. In place of tradition, the Bauhaus preached the idea of progress. But the premise was exactly the same.

An International Style steel-and-glass tower might look all shiny and new, in other words, but its heart belonged to Queen Victoria. On what basis, then, could we exclude Ruskin, or Stone's homage to him, at 2 Columbus Circle? Its heart belongs to Victoria's Secret.

The quarrel in the 60's was not with modern art but with the politics that came attached to it, the politics that mistook artistic preferences and dogmas for universal standards, that devoted itself to enforcing taboos and stigmatizing those who challenged them. But the gay audience knew from personal experience that one way to resist is to inventory those taboos and put them in a new frame of reference.

The pioneer modernists had done just that in getting their movement off the ground. As we saw it, we were closer to them in spirit than were those who inherited the movement, who failed to see how unyielding it had become. We were constructing a new framework from the stuff left behind by the mainstream even as we were entering the mainstream ourselves.

Not the least of Mr. Hartford's gifts to us were the negative responses his museum aroused. They revealed how much had been left outside the modern framework. Especially delicious was Alfred Frankfurter's observation that the Gauguin Room "looks all too much as if strip-teasers, already conveniently reduced to grass skirts, were about to do a Polynesian floor show."

Let the hula begin.

THE GAY AUDIENCE IS A STEREOTYPE: all those silly boys clapping their hands to a pulp whenever Judy hit a high note or Marlene got both sides of her mouth working at more or less the same time. We love you, Maria! Any Maria. But our enthusiasm was not confined to broken-down divas. We also had a thing for broken-down buildings. We can give ourselves a lot of credit for the emergence of architectural preservation as a major force in contemporary urban life.

Will Fellows does. His book "A Passion to Preserve," published in 2004 by the University of Wisconsin Press, explores the history of the preservation movement. Subtitled "Gay Men as Keepers of Culture," the book asserts that a cater-cornered coalition between gay men and straight women has been the movement's spine. It also unpacks the psychological motivation that has driven some of these good folks to reclaim artifacts from modernity's trash. Paraphrasing no less an authority than Liberace, Mr. Fellows calls it "the thrill of redemption." Now there's a crowd-pleaser.

The gay audience, excluded by society, has an organic relationship to artifacts that have been rejected by society's taste-makers. Pluck a discarded ornament out of the town dump, take it home, polish it up and put it on a pedestal: it's a way of refusing to abide by rules designed to shut you out. Somebody once loved that old lamp, that old building, that old street, that old neighborhood, that city that progress left behind.

It's now intellectually fashionable to place the 60's and 70's in the Dumpster. Like that old lamp. Oh, the horror. Ah, the humanity! Remember "planned shrinkage"? That was the concept of managed belt-tightening devised in the 70's for a New York of diminished expectations, a city buffeted by crime rates, abandoned buildings, the departure of corporate headquarters, the loss of manufacturing jobs, and the fiscal crisis that exposed our woes to the world's sarcastic gaze.

But some people just loved that dirty old lamp. And if we were to give those years the once-over with a damp cloth, we might better appreciate that the love we felt for the city then is still feeding into the city of today.

MR. HARTFORD SHUT DOWN THE GALLERY of Modern Art in 1969. The collection was dispersed, the property transferred to Fairleigh Dickinson University. Renamed the New York Cultural Center, the venue presented temporary shows of distinction: it was the city's first bona-fide kunsthalle. A nightclub, Cabaret in the Sky, was installed in the penthouse restaurant. Presenting night life as a kind of performance art, it featured acts by Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, Cherry Vanilla and other downtown superstars, habitués of Mickey Ruskin's legendary restaurant Max's Kansas City. Showtime!

By then, alternative histories of modernism were becoming common. Writings by Francis Haskell, Robert Rosenblum and other art historians were exploring the critical role played by rediscovery and revision in times of cultural change. These writings became part of the new framework that was emerging out of the formerly excluded. So did the re-examination of pop culture conducted by scholars as well as by popular authors like Tom Wolfe.

Female impersonators like Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Wayne County and the Hot Peaches were also part of it. They were an alternative modernism, too. Just as the Bauhaus designers dealt with the conventions of industrial production, the transvestites of those years were exploring the conventions of gender production by the image-making industries that were then coming into their own. Goodbye, Henry Ford. Hello, Estée Lauder.

Performers like Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn mattered for a more important reason: they were a phenomenon of the audience, of the city's new frame of cultural reference. There's no such thing as a bad drag act. There are only bad drag-act audiences. A female impersonator functions chiefly as a stand-in for the deranged mosaic of theatrical stereotypes that spectators have stored up in their heads. As mistresses of ceremony for this synthetic work in progress, these two personified the shift that concluded the final days of High Modern New York. They signaled the erosion of trust in top-down cultural pronouncements and the commencement of a period when the relationship between High and Low would be extensively reconsidered.

(*) (*) (f) (f) (f)


01-16-2006, 07:33 AM
The audience was the critical factor in this process. But audience didn't mean popularity. It stood for a quality, not merely the quantity, of people in attendance. It represented the trait of receptivity, of paying attention to events occurring within the mind as well as those outside it. This trait is fundamental to the construction of memories and to the uses we make of them.

CHANGE PARTNERS, ONE MORE TIME. In 1980, 2 Columbus Circle acquired a third tenant when Gulf and Western, which had purchased the property in the mid-70's, donated it to the city for use by the new Department of Cultural Affairs. Geldzahler, the curator of 20th-century art at the Metropolitan Museum, was back, this time as host: in 1977, Mayor Edward I. Koch had appointed him the department's commissioner after it was separated from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. Geldzahler held the position until 1982.

Some people I knew who worked for him complained bitterly about 2 Columbus Circle. The early 80's were a golden age of complaining. But I can remember thinking that the building had finally come into its own. With its white marble exterior, its curving facade, its flagpoles jutting out at a jaunty angle and its associations with Stone's government work, the building had always projected a quasi-official image. Now you could drop the quasi.

When he got the job, Geldzahler quipped that he felt as if he'd been made wheat commissioner of Kansas. But the larger gain was the city's. It felt like a wish fulfillment to gaze at the building from Central Park West - the contrast of the white exterior against the dingy Midtown backdrop was always one of its best features - and know that New York had conferred this symbolic recognition on its cultural workers. Knowing that Geldzahler was the city's first openly gay commissioner added to the sense of pride some of us felt. It wasn't a big deal, and yet it was.

The audience was Geldzahler's wheat. His department did not produce plays, paintings, books or ballets. It supported the museums, dance companies, libraries and other institutions that enabled larger audiences to gain access to these experiences. In the process, the city gained access to itself in a new way. The idea of the audience began to displace the idea of the public as a measure of civic reality.

Because the audience supplied the meaning. Andy Warhol's multimedia show "The Exploding Plastic Inevitable"; Robert Rauschenberg's ventures into performance with Billy Kluver's Experiments in Art and Technology; the art opening without pictures; Cheetah (a nightclub without performers); the new girl in town; lights, cameras, reaction: the events of the 60's helped to catalyze the emergence of the active audience, the productive audience, the spontaneous organization of individuals around the act of paying attention.

Today the audience is largely identified with consumerism. That was far less the case 40 years ago. For us, the audience was a medium of discovery. It allowed the emotions of individuals to flow into a public setting. When emotions have been bottled up, as they were with us, the effect of releasing them is overwhelming. In the 60's, the space of the audience expanded from the theater to the city at large. The energy that flowed into that setting was driven by adolescent hormones. We were eager to attach ourselves not only to one another but to the streets.

Geldzahler's coming-out moment occurred when he was presenting an award to Allen Ginsberg at the National Arts Club. He had planned to thank the poet for making it possible for gay men to live with pride. At the last moment, he inserted the words "like me." The disclosure earned a small notice in the newspaper the following day. (Ginsberg's reply was and is not for your ears.)

But what would Mayor Koch say? Randall Bourscheidt, Geldzahler's deputy, recalls that his boss was at home when the phone rang at 8 the next morning: "Henry? It's Ed. Have you called your mother?"

CHAPTER 4 IN THE BUILDING'S HISTORY was the date that never materialized. It got under way in 1996, when the Landmarks Commission first turned down an application to hold a public hearing on 2 Columbus Circle. Despite protests from preservationists, the commission refused to reconsider that position. It has refused to expand the definition of history to include the lives and times of living people, especially still-suspect ones. This action showed that the commission could deflate cultural artifacts as well as inflate them when it was convenient to do so. An agency established to enlarge our awareness of history was now in the business of condoning its erasure.

A vibrant city is perpetually recreated from the emotional depths, and from our socialized capacity to empathize with the memories of others. A landmarks commission embodies this capacity in administrative form. It should be the agency's business to know when somebody's memory is being stepped on.

Today, 2 Columbus Circle is being transformed into the new home of the Museum of Arts and Design. (The city sold the building to the museum in October.) Brad Cloepfil's design for the remodeling of Stone's exterior, now under way, isn't bad enough to get worked up about. It should bring cheer to those who don't mind seeing New York recast in the image of an office park for Swiss pharmaceutical companies.

I have fond memories of modern architecture, too. Didn't the Seagram Building look fantastic in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"? What a smart background for Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, with Henry Mancini's music playing. It looked terrific in "The Best of Everything," too. Diane Baker, Joan Crawford. Contrary to the propaganda later put out by the postmodernists, there was a time when people really loved those big glass boxes. Many of us still do.

But times change. Though it's often overlooked, artists like Piero della Francesca, Botticelli and Vermeer were lost and forgotten before they were rediscovered as the immortals they are usually taken for today. Their example gives me hope that one day New Yorkers will rediscover the Landmarks Preservation Commission and bring it back from the inconsequence to which the politicians have consigned it. Somebody loved that old lamp. Perhaps it was you.

(*) (*) (l) (f) (l) (f)

(k) (k) 's

01-16-2006, 07:37 AM
Details to follow......

(o) (o) I can't wait - although I'm still grieving Doc the boxer's passing.

(u)(u)(u).........(l) (l) (l)


01-30-2006, 05:41 PM
Give this a try...


(*) (*) ;) ;) (h) (h) (h)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady and new little boy pup

01-30-2006, 05:44 PM

(*) ...... ;) (h) (h)

Sweetlady and WTB

02-04-2006, 01:30 PM
The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue.

Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.
-Ann Landers

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.
-Will Rogers

There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.
-Ben Williams

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves
-Josh Billings

The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.
-Andy Rooney

We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made.
-M. Acklam

Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.
-Sigmund Freud

I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.
-Rita Rudner

A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three
times before lying down.
-Robert Benchley

Anybody who doesn't know what soap tastes like never washed a dog.
-Franklin P. Jones

If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have
known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.
-James Thurber

If your dog is fat, you aren't getting enough exercise.

Ever consider what our dogs must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul -- chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth!
-Anne Tyler

Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.
-Robert A. Heinlein

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man..
-Mark Twain

You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, 'Wow, you're right! I never would've thought of that!'
- Dave Barry

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.
-Roger Caras

If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your
pocket and then give him only two of them.
-Phil Pastoret

My goal in life is to be as good of a person as my dog already thinks I am.

(*) (*) (l) (l) (l)

Sweetlady and WTB

02-04-2006, 01:32 PM
1. Blaming your farts on me.. not funny... not funny at all !!!

2. Yelling at me for barking.. I'M A FRIGGIN' DOG, YOU IDIOT!

3. Taking me for a walk, then not letting me check stuff out. Exactly
whose walk is this anyway?

4. Any trick that involves balancing food on my nose... stop it!

5. Any haircut that involves bows or ribbons. Now you know why we chew
your stuff up when you're not home.

6. The sleight of hand, fake fetch throw. You fooled a dog! Whoooo
Hoooooooo what a proud moment for the top of the food chain.

7. Taking me to the vet for "the big snip", then acting surprised when I
freak out every time we go back!

8. Getting upset when I sniff the crotches of your guests. Sorry, but I
haven't quite mastered that handshake thing yet.

9.Dog sweaters. Hello ???, Haven't you noticed the fur?

10. How you act disgusted when I lick myself. Look, we both know the
truth, you're just jealous.

Now lay off me on some of these thing's, We both know who's boss here!!!
You don't see me picking up your poop do you ???

(*) (*) ;) ;)

SL and WTB

02-04-2006, 01:34 PM
Bozeman touted as retirement destination

By CAMDEN EASTERLING, Chronicle Staff Writer

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Bozeman as a place to retire is, in one word, "fabulous," according to new book out in stores this month.

And local retirees couldn't agree more.

Bozeman snagged a spot in Arthur and Mary Griffith's book "50 Fabulous Places to Retire in America." The book profiles, but does not rank, different cities across the country.

Bozeman-area retiree Donna Hunt, 62, said she hopes the book doesn't cause an influx of goldenagers because she likes the city's small-town feel.

But she has to admit the Griffiths' description is accurate.

"The minute I set foot here, I said, 'This is it,'" she said of arriving in Montana when she and husband Jack, 67, were considering retirement spots.

The Hunts relocated to Bozeman from Laguna Beach, Calif., six years ago because the city fit their requirements, such as being near a university and places to fly fish for Jack.

"We've never looked back," Donna Hunt said.

Fly fishing was a draw for Jan and Dick Young, too, although the couple first visited Bozeman when their son attended Montana State University.

The Youngs, both 64, also liked that Bozeman had fewer people than their then-hometown of Broomfield, Colo., which seemed to be more and more crowded all the time, Dick Young said.

"The population was probably the major reason we left," he said.

Bozeman also offers the same kinds of recreation the couple enjoyed in Colorado, he added.

Recreation was part of the Griffiths' reason for putting Bozeman in the book (Career Press, $24.99). They also cited cultural events and proximity to a university as selling points.

"I really think it would be a super place for people who are active and fond of the arts," Mary Griffith, 65, said.

The Griffiths, who live in Alaska, have never visited Bozeman. A friend whose daughter attends MSU recommended the city and the Griffiths liked what they learned about Bozeman from research.

Another point in Bozeman's favor, Griffith said, was that it is in Montana, which she knows to be a friendly place.

Jan Young agrees with that characterization.

"What we've found and hope will continue, is a small-town atmosphere with people who seem to want to meet new people," she said.

Jim Smith, who moved here from Washington, D.C. , with wife Camie, said he, too, has found people in the area to be welcoming.

But Bozeman does have its drawbacks, local retirees say.

Donna Hunt, who lives off Huffine Lane, misses having the fast Internet connections that were available in California.

And Smith, 68, and Hunt both noted the cost of living in Bozeman isn't exactly the bargain some people might imagine when they hear "Montana."

"One thing I would caution people against is it's not cheap to live here," Smith said.

Even compared to Washington, D.C., Bozeman is pricey, he said.

The median home price in Gallatin County was $270,500 in December 2005, according to the Gallatin Association of Realtors. That number fluctuates each month depending on what sells.

The Griffith's book puts that figure around $213,000. Data change constantly, so the authors used the figure they found while working on the book.

"I know that things go up ... so this is a ballpark thing," Mary Griffith said.

The authors considered numerous aspects of cities, such as cost of homes and availability of medical services, when choosing their 50 spots. Each city profiled includes information about utility rates, taxes, weather and crime rates.

The book covers a range of places, from urban to rural. Some states have no fabulous spots, others have a few. The only other Montana city to make the list was Missoula.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11158856/

Carpe Diem!


02-04-2006, 01:36 PM

(k) (k) 's,


02-04-2006, 01:41 PM
turn your speakers up:

Brokeback to the Future:


(*) (*) :o :o ;) ;) ;)

({) (}) 's,


02-04-2006, 01:46 PM
The United States is the 19th ranked nation in household broadband connectivity rate, just ahead of Slovenia. Want to know why? Because, contends telecom analyst Bruce Kushnick, the Bell Companies never delivered symmetrical fiber-optic connectivity to millions of Americans though they were paid more than $200 billion to do it. According to Kushnick's book, "$200 Billion Broadband Scandal", during the buildup to the 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act, the major U.S. telcos promised to deliver fiber to 86 million households by 2006 (we're talking about fiber to the home, here). They asked for, and were given, some $200 billion in tax cuts and other incentives to pay for it. But the Bells didn't spend that money on fiber upgrades -- they spent it on long distance, wireless and inferior DSL services. Some headlines from Kushnick's work:

By 2006, 86 million households should have been rewired with a fiber optic wire, capable of 45 Mbps, in both directions.

The public subsidies for infrastructure were pocketed. The phone companies collected over $200 billion in higher phone rates and tax perks, about $2000 per household.

The World is Laughing at US. Korea and Japan have 100 Mbps services as standard, and America could have been Number One had the phone companies actually delivered. Instead, we are 16th in broadband and falling in technology dominance.

A damning list of indictments, and one that puts the telcos' demands for a two-tiered Internet in harsh perspective (see " 'Course what we'd really like to do is 'prioritize' some of these services right out of business ..." and "Interesting approach, Bill; why don't you try it on your phone network first?"). We paid an estimated $2000 per household for fiber to the home and instead got DSL over the old copper wiring. As Kushnick notes, that's like ordering a Ferrari and getting a bicycle. The Bells should be ashamed.






(*) (*) :| :| :o :o ;) ;) ;) (h) (h) (h)

(k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and Wyatt the Baby Boxer (l) (l)

02-04-2006, 01:48 PM

(*) (*) :| :| :| :| ;)


02-04-2006, 01:52 PM
"I once sent a dozen of my friends a telegram saying 'flee at once - all is discovered.' They all left town immediately."

-- Mark Twain

After 155 years in the business, Western Union has cabled its final telegram, shelving the innovation that arguably kicked off the information revolution. The company, which once sent transcontinental messages during the Civil War, is now primarily a financial services provider and saw little need to retain its telegraphy business in a communications world of cheap long-distance telephone service, faxes and e-mail. And who could blame them? In this day of VoIP and video chat, the telegraph seems decidedly ... Victorian. "The telegram was the last remaining bit of our telecommunications heritage and doesn't really fit with where we are moving forward, as a financial services company to the world," Western Union spokesman Victor Chayet said.



(*) (*) The shark on Saturday Night Live and skits like "Candygram" won't make sense to future generations...... :s ;)

(f) ,

Sweetlady and Wyatt the Baby Boxer (sleeping on my lap...) (l) (l)

02-04-2006, 01:55 PM

(*) (*) (l) (l)


02-04-2006, 01:57 PM
Power to the People
Erika Brown, 02.13.06

Venture capital is reaping great riches backing the latest consumer technologies Some say the trend could wear thin.
Michael Moritz is a rich man, and for that he can thank the free-spending digital consumer. The ranking partner at Sequoia Capital thrived on Yahoo and PayPal. His $12 million investment in a cute search engine called Google turned into shares now worth $11 billion, propelling him to the number one spot on the annual FORBES Midas list of best tech dealmakers.

In the past handful of years Moritz has put an estimated $100 million of Sequoia's money into ten consumer ventures, including GameFly (online videogame rentals), Plaxo (online address books), RedEnvelope and Zappos (e-tailing), plus a Web site for planning trips like rafting down the Colorado River (Kayak.com) and a way to play fantasy football on your cell phone (Digital Chocolate).

Many of his venture-capital peers are just as high on the growing global demand for consumer electronics and online commerce. It seems every VC is pitching, or getting pitched by, upstarts that hope to become the next Google, Skype, Baidu, Alibaba or MySpace--all big wealth creators in 2005. (A gatefold of the top 25 Midas listers starts on page 71. The full list of 100 names and expanded content is online at www.forbes.com/midas.)

And that is one reason Moritz lately has soured on the sector. Consumer-tech businesses, he says, are a pit of "muck and mire." They have low margins, require massive marketing budgets, compete with monster retailers' house brands and face Asian copycats. Though he has helped fuel the consumer craze, he laments the rise of handheld gadgetry: "The march of consumer technology will spell an end to tranquility," he says. "Most of the venture money going into consumer-related companies will be squandered, and the rest will be lost. It will be brutal."

These days Moritz is focused on less flashy investments such as newfangled batteries (via an outfit called A123), training software (Saba) and 24/7 Customer, a tech outsourcing shop in India. "Ihave no idea about the skills that define a successful venture capitalist.A plausible manner and an open pair of eyes are probably all that's needed,"says Moritz, 51. He earned an M.A. in history from the University of Oxford and an M.B.A. from Wharton, then ran Time's San Francisco bureau in the early 1980s before joining Sequoia in 1986.

Moritz is busy investing Sequoia's most recent, $395 million, early-stage fund, yet he argues that many venture investors, especially those backing the latest fads, are on a fool's errand. Most pension funds that put money into VC firms are better off in broad stock-index funds rather than "chasing the prospect of a mischievously marketed, unrealistic return."

His cautious take aside, big money is back in venture capital--and so's the swagger. Last year the firms that bankroll fledgling technologies stockpiled $25 billion in new commitments, the most raised since a $38 billion inflow in 2001. This torrent of fresh funds follows a year of delirious returns. Some 350 U.S. companies sold themselves for an aggregate $27 billion, the busiest year for tech since 2000, when vultures spent $98 billion on postcrash prey.

"There is a frenzy out there to do good deals because of this new capital infusion," says Michael Orsak of Worldview Technology Partners (99 on the Midas list), which invested $10 million alongside Mayfield Partners in PodBridge, a startup that helps companies advertise on blogs. In May James Breyer (20) of Accel Partners put $13 million into Facebook, an ad-funded community Web site for college students. In August PodShow, a site for sharing homemade radio programs, fetched $9 million from John Doerr (2), Ram Shriram (3) and Sequoia Capital.

"People don't care about the latest networking systems anymore," says Kenneth Lawler, a partner at Battery Ventures and number 41 on the Midas list. "The driver of tech innovation has moved drastically from the enterprise to the consumer. It's all about enabling the digital lifestyle."

And doing so globally. Accel and IDG raised a $290 million fund for China plays. Promod Haque (62) of Norwest Venture Partners is targeting India (see FORBES, Sept. 5), hooking up with big local partners to form Yatra Online. Yatra ("journey" in Hindi) will handle, by phone, Internet and cell, travel to and across India.

David Chao (10)and Dixon Doll (24) were among the first U.S. VCs to woo middle-class shoppers in Asia. This year they took five firms public in Asia, including JCI, a wireless provider. Says Chao:"If there is any one engine that is going to drive the next bubble--good and bad--it will be those billion handheld devices that will be sold in 2007."


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02-04-2006, 02:00 PM
Brett Nelson, 02.01.06, 7:33 AM ET

For busy entrepreneurs who missed President George W. Bush's State of the Union speech last night, rest easy: You didn't miss much.

Tally it up and the ratings-challenged president spent something like 1 out of the 51 minutes at the podium explicitly addressing small-business issues. Little surprise: With topics like war, terrorism, energy costs, Social Security and education to tackle--not to mention the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices and a changing of the guard at the Fed--who has time for the concerns of 23 million small fries?

The president spent the first 30 minutes or so on Iraq and terrorism before moving on to the economy. He wagged a finger at shortsighted trade protectionists, stressing that one of every five factory jobs in the U.S. is related to global trade, and also lauded the $880 million in tax cuts over the last five years. Some of that largesse, he pointed out, ended up in the hands small-business owners.

The empathic rhetoric waned, though, on the topic of healthcare--an issue topping nearly every poll that asks entrepreneurs what keeps them up at night. The president hinted that Health Savings Accounts--designed to help workers save for healthcare services on a tax-free basis--will help small companies compete with big ones. Exactly how was not discussed.

The president next braved the issue of high energy costs, but he didn‘t join in on bashing big oil companies such as Exxon Mobil (nyse: XOM - news - people ), Chevron (nyse: CVX - news - people ) and ConocoPhillips (nyse: COP - news - people ). One rather aggressive prediction: Ethanol-based fuel for cars will be competitively priced within six years. Note to entrepreneurial engineers and the venture capitalists who will back them: Get to work.

Speaking of engineers, the president went on to declare: "We must continue to lead the world in talent and creativity." On this point he offered a tad more specificity by announcing a new “competitiveness initiative” to improve education in math and science; he also grazed the notion of expanding research tax credits, a potential boost to tech startups.

And that was about it.

The left side of the aisle didn't add much value, either. Following the address, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia delivered the Democrats' response--his tagline: "There is a better way"--but he too barely flicked at small-business issues, or what that "better way" might be.

Whatever small-business agenda the president might have put forth would most likely have had little chance of thawing the icy partisanship in the room. To wit: When Bush lamented having difficulty with pushing through Social Security legislation, dour Democrats, who spent much of the speech in their seats, jumped up and nearly gave each other high fives.

Entrepreneurs can be forgiven for hoping that issues affecting such a wide and vital swath of the economy might inspire action and galvanize leadership. After all, blinding optimism--for better or worse--is their hallmark.


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02-04-2006, 02:10 PM

(l) (l) ,

SL & WTBB (l) (l)

02-11-2006, 04:02 PM
February 11, 2006

The TV Watch

In Couric's Absence, a Cold Telecast


Where in the center of the world was Katie Couric?

No skating rink collapse, judging scandal or childhood triumph over adversity could compete with the melodrama broiling inside NBC as it launched its coverage of the 2006 Winter Games.

The agita — set off by rumors that Couric might defect to anchor the "CBS Evening News" — cut right through the network's opening ceremony extravaganza.

Bob Costas was once again the NBC host, but he had a new partner at his side, the anchorman Brian Williams, stiffly dignified even though he wore a navy sweater over his shirt and tie. Neither man mentioned Couric, who played host to the last three opening ceremonies with Costas. Couric, star of "The Today Show," was also in Turin, but banished to network purdah.

And yesterday morning, she seemed to allude to her iffy status on "Today." Wishing the figure skater Michelle Kwan luck at the end of their interview, Couric added with a wistful smile, "I hope I'll be there, cheering you on."

NBC officials said Couric could not anchor the opening ceremony because she had missed rehearsals so she could file "Today" reports from Rome, Florence and Milan. These were not high-priority assignments. Mostly she said "Buon giorno" and sampled a lot of coffee. More likely, NBC was sending its star a warning.

And Couric certainly spent a chastening week, performing a series of silly stunts that peaked on Wednesday, when she stood in an alarmingly fuzzy pink-and-white Dolce & Gabbana coat in a Turin square, covered with live, fluttering pigeons. Couric, who giggled and asked for more crumbs to lure a bird to sit on her head, seemed the one in a feeding frenzy. Her mood emboldened her usually deferential co-star Ann Curry, alone in the New York studio, to say, "You know, Katie, I think you should put your hands down, put the feed down, go sit down and have a cappuccino, girlfriend."

NBC's internal strife provided a more suspenseful spectacle than the ceremony itself, which NBC showed with a six-hour time delay — and then delayed an hour longer to show features on the three best-known American athletes, Michelle Kwan, Shaun White and Bode Miller, who have already been so heavily promoted that viewers could easily assume the games were already over. Miller also appeared in an elliptical Nike ad in which he defied viewers to go to his Web site, www.joinbode.com, "or not." (We opted for not.)

Once it began, however, the pageant was enjoyably hokey, particularly when dozens of in-line skaters dressed in flame-red bodysuits swarmed into the shape of a giant heart to symbolize passion. From overhead, they looked like a Busby Berkeley rendition of a myocardial infarction.

Turin, in northern Italy, is not known for ardor or emotionalism; Southern Italians view residents of Turin as practically crypto-Swiss.

Costas handled most of the Olympic trivia and fun facts. Williams held forth on gloomier current events. When the Italian fashion model Carla Bruni handed the Italian flag to an honor guard of carabinieri, Williams explained that Italy is "the No. 3 largest coalition partner fighting side by side" with Americans in Iraq. Up to a point: Last month, Italy's defense minister announced that Italy would withdraw its approximately 3,000 troops from Iraq by the end of this year.

Williams was smooth and assured in his new role as sportscaster, but he seemed intent on reminding viewers that he is first and foremost a serious newsman. When Costas began describing the aspirations of the Canadian hockey team, Williams tugged the conversation back to a harder news story, recalling the scandal over the controversial scoring decision against Canadian figure skaters in 2002.

"At Nightly News we never thought we'd be covering figure skating," he recalled, still sounding a little incredulous. "It was a global news story."

(Oddly, he didn't mention a more recent Olympic news story, the four cross-country skiers who were suspended and the world's top-ranked skeleton racer, the American Zach Lund, who was barred from the Winter Games on Friday.)

NBC long ago perfected the art of pumping every Olympic moment with glycerin tears and swelling music, bringing Lifetime bathos to the world's most intense sporting competition. Costas, however, has a caustic, almost cerebral take on the Games, and Williams's Sgt. Joe Friday commentary did not provide much of a contrast.

The opening ceremony, a cornucopia of nationalist kitsch, Felliniesque pageantry and 80's disco music, could have used a bit more pizazz in its coverage.

NBC may have exiled Couric a moment too soon.

:o :o Who knew??

Sweetlady and Wyatt the handsome baby boxer

02-11-2006, 04:03 PM
February 11, 2006

Want to Rally the Troops? Try Candor


INC. magazine's cover article this month is an excerpt from a new book by its best-known writer, Bo Burlingham. The book is entitled "Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big," and it aims to do for small private companies what "In Search of Excellence" did two decades ago for big public companies: shine a light on a handful of business practices the author admires, and which he believes are the reason some companies consistently do better than others.

Mr. Burlingham, 59, joined Inc. in 1983, just after its fourth birthday, and in many ways "Small Giants" is a distillation of the knowledge he and the magazine have acquired over the years. Mr. Burlingham believes that the entrepreneurs who run the companies he profiles — CitiStorage in New York, Anchor Brewing in San Francisco and 12 others — have a set of values that go well beyond making a profit. They are incredibly passionate about what they're doing. They have relationships with customers and suppliers that go far beyond the norm. They believe strongly in creating a working environment that addresses employees' "creative, emotional, spiritual, and social needs as well as economic ones." And many of them use something called open book management— a term Inc. coined in 1990.

Open book management refers to the practice of making a private company's financial information available to all employees. This is anathema to many small-business owners, but its proponents believe it can unlock a company's potential like nothing else. By sharing information with everyone, up and down the ranks — and by educating employees about what the information means, and what their role is in helping the company improve — open book management "can change people's lives forever," said Jack Stack, the chief executive of SRC Holdings, a manufacturing company that has been using it for over two decades. "They go from entitlement to entrepreneurial," he added.

Although Mr. Burlingham was not the Inc. writer who coined the phrase, he is the journalist most closely associated with open book management, writing two books with Mr. Stack, and helping him set up a conference division to spread the open book gospel. He has also written numerous articles in Inc. promoting its benefits. According to a survey Inc. conducted last year, 40 percent of the companies in the Inc. 500 — the magazine's annual list of the fastest-growing private company in the United States — use some form of open book management.

And now, add one more: Mansueto Ventures, a new private company that owns two magazines, and which lost over $10 million last year on revenue of about $40 million. One of the company's magazines is Fast Company. The other is Inc. Which means that Bo Burlingham — and everyone else at Inc. — will finally be practicing what they've been preaching all these years.

INC. has been to hell and back since the end of the dot-com boom. Founded by a Boston entrepreneur named Bernard Goldhirsh, the magazine had a prosperous first two decades of life. At the exact moment entrepreneurship was finally getting its due in America, Inc. spoke directly to the entrepreneurial class. "Think of the companies we covered back then," said George Gendron, who edited Inc. from 1980 to 2002. "Timberland, Patagonia, Oracle. We were all growing up and discovering business together."

Mr. Goldhirsh was hardly the open book type. "Bernie was always worried that open book would limit him in some way," Mr. Burlingham said. According to Mr. Gendron, the founder eventually lost much of his passion for the business, which was humming along nicely without his day-to-day involvement.

Then, two things happened. In 2000, Mr. Goldhirsh learned he had brain cancer. The news caused him to sell Inc., for the astounding price of $200 million, to Gruner & Jahr, the magazine division of the German media giant Bertelsmann. A short time later, G. &J. paid an even more astounding $350 million to purchase Fast Company, a seven-year-old magazine that had had an instant and dizzying success. (Mr. Goldhirsh died in 2003.)

The second thing that happened, of course, was that business magazines fell off a cliff. Practically from the moment G. &J. bought Fast Company, the magazine began hemorrhaging money, as the dot-com ads that had made it fat and profitable disappeared. Inc. wasn't doing as poorly, but its ad pages were in steep decline as well. G. &J. made a bad situation worse by dictating strategic shifts for magazines it didn't understand. The lowest moment was probably when the company told all its United States magazines to reorganize themselves to replicate Child magazine, because it was the most frugally run of the company's properties.

Finally, in May 2005, G. &J. gave up, and put Fast Company and Inc. on the block. The executives of the two magazines took matters into their own hands and found a buyer in Joe Mansueto, an entrepreneur who had started Morningstar, the hugely successful mutual fund monitoring and research company. He paid $32.5 million for the two properties.

Inc.'s editor during most of the dark days was John Koten, 51, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who signed on in 2002, after a 10-year stint editing Worth, the personal finance magazine. Mr. Koten spent at least as much time trying to keep the ship afloat as editing a magazine: fending off the German owners as best he could, managing cutbacks to minimize the damage, and trying to maintain some semblance of morale in the midst of the turmoil.

He also led the effort to find a buyer when the magazines were put up for sale. The process of trying to save Inc. made Mr. Koten realize that he had become extraordinarily passionate about the magazine and the subject it covered. "Entrepreneurs," he told me, "are the ones adding jobs and changing the economy. But they are an untold story because most business journalists only cover big companies." When Mr. Mansueto was searching for a chief executive for Mansueto Ventures, he concluded that Mr. Koten's passion made him the logical candidate.

One way Mr. Koten kept the place together during the G. &J. era was by lifting the veil of secrecy. "He was straightforward with both good news and bad," said Loren Feldman, Inc.'s deputy editor. Employees appreciated it; Mr. Koten proudly points out that not a single Inc. editorial employee left during the bad days. But he also admits that he took the open approach mainly because "it was what felt most comfortable to me."

Then, after the deal with Mr. Mansueto was struck, Mr. Koten assigned Mr. Burlingham to write a lengthy account of the sale. Although the article's publication was resisted by much of the staff, Mr. Koten views its publication as a turning point, the first step toward an open book approach. "Telling our own story was a gesture of the kind of company I wanted us to become," he said.

He began a series of discussions with Mr. Burlingham about formally instituting open book management at Mansueto Ventures. Mr. Burlingham was predictably enthusiastic. The two men traveled to Missouri and spent several days visiting Jack Stack's operation at SRC. For all the many articles Inc. has published about open book management, Mr. Koten still found the visit eye-opening. "We sat in on a big open book meeting where all the employees were gathered," he recalled. "People would get up and ask why the costs were so high in this area or that. You never see that at a big company. Employees never get to connect what they do all day with the overall success of the business."

After he returned to New York, Mr. Koten sent out a survey to the staff, using questions modeled on the surveys Mr. Stack uses at SRC. In early January, Mr. Koten took the next step toward open book, writing a long memo to the staff about the survey results. "Your trust in the senior management here is higher than I expected," he wrote. "The reason that surprised me is that I think that I and the rest of the senior management team still have a lot to prove to you about our ability to steer this company." He told the staff that the company was probably going to lose more than $10 million in 2005, and that its goal was to cut that deficit in half this year.

"One of the things I've learned about open book is that it is hard," said John Case, a former Inc. writer (and the man who did coin the phrase). "It takes a passionate leader. It takes sustained commitment. It involves a lot of training, and a lot of work. There is a lot more involved than just opening the books." Mr. Koten held his first big all-employee open book meeting yesterday. The process has begun.

"We have a big job ahead of us," Mr. Burlingham said. Then he smiled. "And now, everybody here knows just how big a job it is."

Many readers chided me for writing last week that if you send an iPod to Apple to have the battery replaced you lose all your data. They noted, correctly, that so long as your music is stored in iTunes, you can easily download it onto the new iPod Apple sends you. When I wrote that line I was thinking of situations — which happen more often than you'd imagine — where your computer has crashed, and the iPod is the only place your music is stored. But when I pointed this out to a few of my correspondents, their rejoinder was swift: you should always back up the data on your computer. In the modern age, a computer crash is as inevitable as death and taxes.

(c) (c) (c) .......

(k) (k) 's,


02-11-2006, 04:05 PM
February 11, 2006

Op-Ed Columnist

Smoking Dutch Cleanser


Vice President Dick Cheney bitterly complains that national security leaks are endangering America. Unless, of course, he's doing the leaking, tapping Scooter Libby to reveal national security information to punish a political critic.

President Bush says he will not talk about specific security threats to America. Unless, of course, he needs to talk about a specific threat to Los Angeles to confuse the public and gain some cheap political advantage.

The White House says it has done everything possible to protect the homeland. Unless, of course, it hasn't. Then it can lie to hide the callous portrait of Incurious George in Crawford as New Orleans drowned.

The attorney general can claim that torture and warrantless wiretapping are legal, and can mislead Congress. Unless, of course, enough Republicans stand up and say, as Arlen Specter told The Washington Post, that if that lickspittle lawyer thinks all this is legal, "he's smoking Dutch Cleanser."

The president doesn't know the Indian Taker Jack Abramoff. Unless, of course, W. has met with him a dozen times, invited him to Crawford and joked with him about his kids.

The Bushies can continue to claim that the invasion of Iraq was justified because Saddam was a threat to our security. Unless, of course, he wasn't, and the Cheney cabal was simply abusing the trust of Americans to push a wild-eyed political scheme.

At the Bush White House, the mere evocation of the word "terror" justifies breaking any law, contravening any convention, despoiling any ideal, electing any Republican and brushing off any failure to govern.

Asked yesterday by Senator Susan Collins why the administration had reacted in slo-mo on Katrina, with "people dying, people waiting to be rescued," Michael Brown replied that if FEMA had declared that a terrorist had blown up the 17th Street Canal levee, "then everybody would have jumped all over that and been trying to do everything they could."

Instead of just going after the 9/11 fiends, as W. promised with his bullhorn, the president and Vice President Strangelove have cynically played the terror card to accrue power and sidestep blame. They have twisted our values, mismanaged crises, fueled fundamentalist successes and violence around the world, and magnified a clash of civilizations.

It used to take an Israeli incursion to inflame the Arab world. Now all it takes is a cartoon in Denmark.

W. and Vice have wasted hundreds of billions of dollars, turning Iraq into a terrorist training ground, leaving the 9/11 villains at large, and letting cronies and losers botch the job of homeland security.

Brownie, one of the biggest boneheads in U.S. history, considered the homeland security chief, Michael Chertoff, so useless that he deliberately didn't call him right away about the suffering in New Orleans.

"The culture was such that I didn't think that would have been effective and would have exacerbated the problem, quite frankly," Brownie told the Republican senator Bob Bennett, who called the statement "staggering." A telephone call to his boss, Brownie said, "would have wasted my time."

The doofus who frittered away lives e-mailing colleagues about being a "fashion god" and wondering how he looked on television may have just been engaged in self-protective spin. Or has the Homeland Security Department simply created another set of paralyzing turf battles?

The most dysfunctional man in government is calling the government dysfunctional.

W.'s sophomoric "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" line makes even Brownie cringe. "Unfortunately," the former FEMA chief complained, "he called me 'Brownie' at the wrong time. Thanks a lot, sir."

In the new Foreign Affairs, Paul Pillar, who was a senior C.I.A. official overseeing Middle East intelligence assessments until October, says the obvious conclusion that should have been drawn from the intelligence on Iraq was that war was unnecessary. He says the White House "went to war without requesting — and evidently without being influenced by — any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq."

He calls the relationship between the intelligence community and the policy makers — you guessed it — politicized, damaged by bureaucratic rivalries and dysfunctional.

A final absurd junction of dysfunction was reached on Wednesday, when Republican Party leaders awarded Tom DeLay with a seat on the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is investigating Jack Abramoff, including his connections to Tom DeLay.


(*) (*) :| :| ;) ;) ;) :) :) :) :) :) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h)

Sweetlady and Wyatt, my baby boxer pup

02-11-2006, 04:06 PM
Fri 10 Feb 2006

Movie planned for Diana murder book

A book which claims Diana, Princess of Wales was murdered by the security services is to be made into a film, it has been reported.

A UK production company has bought the rights to Princess Diana: The Hidden Evidence by Jon King and John Beveridge, according to Screendaily.com.

The book claims Diana was killed in an assassination plot by MI6 and the CIA.

The low-budget film, billed as a thriller, will be called Hidden Truth and begins shooting later this year.

Production company Vision In Production, based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, acquired the rights.

William P Cartlidge, whose previous films include Educating Rita and The Spy Who Loved Me, is the producer and Simon Fellows will direct.

"We plan to start shooting as soon as casting and finance arrangements are completed," executive producer Len Evans told Screendaily.

© Copyright Press Association Ltd 2006, All Rights Reserved.

This article: http://news.scotsman.com/latest_entertainment.cfm?id=214012006

Last updated: 11-Feb-06 13:33 GMT

(*) (*) :| :| (l) (f) (l) (f) (k) (l) (k) (k)


02-11-2006, 04:08 PM

Geez, I must be paying too little attention, or I'm just having a blonde moment.....lol!

(y) (y) (y) (o) (o) ;)

Sweetlady and Wyatt the tiny boxer puppy

02-11-2006, 04:09 PM
Mohammed Cartoons

Europe stands its ground.

We reprinted the Mohammed cartoons out of solidarity with our Danish colleagues, said Barcelona’s El Periódico de Catalunya in an editorial. The Danish paper Jyllands-Posten commissioned 12 caricatures of Islam’s founder specifically to make a point about free speech, after a Danish author complained that no artist would illustrate his children’s book about Mohammed. Islam does not allow representations of the Prophet, and cartoonists feared that imams would target them with the same kind of death fatwa that sent author Salman Rushdie into hiding during the 1990s. Turns out their fears were justified: After the newspaper ran the images, Muslims across the world hurled death threats and burned Danish embassies. Muslims have every right to be upset—some of the caricatures are offensive in that they equate Islam with terrorism. “But they’ve no right to try to suppress criticism abroad, or threaten those who have bad taste in satire.”

The protests themselves look like a satirical sendup of Arab outrage, said Milan Vodicka in Prague’s Mlada Fronta Dnes. Yemenis boycotting Legos? Armed Palestinians shouting, “Death to Danes”? The Muslims who claim that Islam has been mocked “are making a mockery of themselves.” Too bad it isn’t funny. The violent demonstrations across the Muslim world are yet another manifestation of spreading paranoia and self-pity. “Since the war in Iraq, the feeling that everything the West does is part of a big plan for weakening the Muslims has become stronger.” Arab governments are encouraging this sense of victimhood because they don’t want to seem less outraged than their Islamist oppositions. Many of the demonstrations, in fact, are obviously the “orchestrated” kind that we often see in unfree societies. The West needn’t be overly concerned. “Things will calm down.”

We might take these Muslim protests more seriously, said Roger Köppel in Hamburg’s Die Welt, “if they weren’t so hypocritical.” Arab newspapers routinely print cartoons of Jews—sometimes generic rabbis, sometimes recognizable politicians—as “ravenous cannibals” with the blood of Arab babies dripping from their fangs. Evidently perpetrating the old blood libel is all in good fun. How many imams raised even mild criticism when Arab television stations ran a series based on the anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”? Freedom of expression is “a core value of the West.” We will not allow Muslim mobs to dictate what European newspapers can and can’t print.

Of course not, said the London Guardian in an editorial, but that doesn’t mean every paper must self-righteously repeat the insult to Muslims. “There has to be a very good reason for giving gratuitous offense of this kind.” Asserting the right to free speech simply doesn’t cut it—after all, nobody is proposing that Europe enact laws banning drawings of Mohammed. No major British newspaper has reprinted the cartoons. Such “restraint” is certainly “the wiser course.”


(l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l)

Sweetlady and Wyatt the baby Boxer pup

02-11-2006, 04:11 PM
heater Review

One Is Just Enough

In Bridge & Tunnel, Sarah Jones avoids the solo-show death trap by brilliantly conveying more than multitudes.

By Jeremy McCarter

No form of theater scares me more than the solo play. The dread you feel upon noticing that your seatmate on the red-eye looks both talkative and dull is the dread I experience every time I open a Playbill, look at the cast page, and see only one face looking back. Solo plays have proliferated lately, in woeful disregard of the fact that almost no actors have the talent and charisma to hold our interest for two hours by themselves.

I nurture my aversion despite some compelling evidence to the contrary, from Jefferson Mays’s epochal shape-shifting in I Am My Own Wife to Jack Holmes’s inspiring turn in the still-running RFK. And now I have to concede that in Bridge & Tunnel, Sarah Jones is onto something.

The one-person play often exists to celebrate difference—specifically, how many different characters an actor can portray—and Jones is admirably adept. She sets her play at a poetry reading at the Bridge & Tunnel Café in “beautiful South Queens,” where all sorts of immigrants have met to share their verse. The host, Mohammed Ali, is a Republican from Pakistan. There’s also a Mexican who lost his girlfriend while crossing the border, a quick-talking rapper, a taciturn Russian, and so on.

Jones swaps accents and accessories to suit each character, but the real change is physical. Even when a Jordanian woman’s accent wanders into Belfast, or an Australian begins to sound like no human I’ve ever encountered, the actress is remarkably convincing at changing her body, from her posture to her pupils. Her fine transformations are just as evident on Broadway as they were during the show’s more intimate downtown run, and just as impressive. To play a sixth-grader from the Bronx, she appears to grow dimples.

Jones’s dexterity is rare, but what ultimately separates her play from the genre isn’t the way it seeks out differences; it’s the way she celebrates similarities. Reconciliation is her theme, the search by many different people for happiness and security among many other different people. Jones notes that the struggle has been going on for generations in America, and continues to unfold within individual families as well. (A highlight is a Chinese woman who describes her struggle to accept her gay daughter.)

This is where the show’s solo nature proves so crucial to its appeal. Watching Jones demands a kind of triple vision: We’re aware of her as a performer, the character she’s playing, and, most important, all the other characters that have come before. By allowing so much difference to share the same space—the same body—she comes to personify her theme of peaceful coexistence. Many solo plays demonstrate that we all contain Whitmanesque multitudes; Jones makes the point national, evoking, in her writing and acting, the principle of the melting pot.

That may sound pretty earnest, and the evening does contain a few such moments—for instance, a whiff of Up With People in the closing poet’s tribute to every immigrant group under the sun. But again and again, Jones wins you over with spiky humor. A bubbe from Long Island calls America “the best country in the world” because we can decide what happens here, and even “decide what happens in other people’s countries” too. Somebody else announces that the Pilgrims were “the first illegal aliens.”

Even the sharpest humor can get wearying, and Jones, who wastes no movements as a performer, sometimes lacks concision as a writer. Still, she has acquitted herself well enough in both departments that I hope her show sticks around. For here is the final way in which Jones does credit to the solo genre: As long as Bridge & Tunnel runs, Broadway will feature at least one play written by, and one play starring, a young black woman—and a show that draws a young, diverse crowd. One of her characters calls America “this colorful nation”; it’s past time Broadway started looking that way too, even if it means moving one solo at a time.

Bridge & Tunnel. Written and performed by Sarah Jones. Helen Hayes Theatre. Through march 12.

Find this article at:

(y) (y) (y) (y) (l) (l) (l) (l) Anyone inerested in going????

(l) (l) (l) (l) (l)


02-11-2006, 04:12 PM
January 27, 2006


The Voices Inside the Border but Outside the Margins


The voices may leave a pleasurable tickle in your ears for a few days, possibly because most of us have never studied them closely before. They're the quiet murmurs of the city that usually form a dimly perceived backdrop for our own daily dramas.

The lyrical sound of the woman in the subway that leaves you wondering about her background. The anxious tone radiating from that fellow — Indian or Pakistani? — who brushed past you on the street, imploring someone on a cellphone. The stream of hot gossip bubbling from the Latino girl at the post office, a comic aria courtesy of the Bronx.

Now, here they are before us, those strangers who pique our interest and pass by. They're singing their souls from the stage, drawing us out of our own circumscribed worlds and into theirs. And all inhabit the remarkable person of Sarah Jones, the gifted author and sole star of "Bridge & Tunnel," which opened last night at the Helen Hayes Theater, bringing a refreshing taste of the outer boroughs to the heart of Broadway.

A substantial downtown hit two seasons ago, "Bridge & Tunnel" is Ms. Jones's sweet-spirited valentine to New York City, its polyglot citizens and the larger notion of an all-inclusive America, that ideal place where concepts like liberty, equality and opportunity have concrete meaning and are not just boilerplate phrases slapped around in stump speeches and news conferences.

In 90 minutes of acutely observed portraiture gently tinted with humor, Ms. Jones plays more than a dozen men and women participating in an open-mike evening of poetry for immigrants, held at a friendly dive in "beautiful South Queens," a step up from the Starbucks, where the sound of the espresso machine created irksome acoustical problems.

Ms. Jones is Mohammed Ali (he's heard all the jokes), the genial host who is hopelessly proud of his awful sense of humor, antsy and eager in his ill-fitting jacket. She is Lorraine Levine, of Long Island, stooped with age into an S shape, eyes big as moons behind those magnifying lenses, proud to share her contribution, a brief lyric titled "No, Really, Please, Don't Get Up." She is the Vietnamese-American Bao Viet Dinh, voice husky with attitude that's a few sizes too large, spitting out terse lines of verse that scorn stereotype: "This is not an ode to Bruce Lee!"

Ms. Jones, who was born in Baltimore, is an astonishing mimic with an uncanny ability to alter the texture, color and volume of her voice and even the shape of her body. Close your eyes and you would never imagine that the breathy chirp of that nervous but exhilarated 11-year-old girl could come from the same larynx unleashing those guttural expectorations from the old Russian guy. Open them again, and wonder at how this lanky actress seems to lose six inches when she slips into the persona of the cocky young African-American rapper, who looks like a giant tangerine in his oversize orange parka.

These are technical skills that invite gasps of admiration, and deserve them. Admire, please. Gasp and applaud to your heart's content.

Just don't downgrade Ms. Jones's talent to a mere gift for impressions, an actor's stunt. A natural affinity for precise impersonation can only be developed into a tool of artistic expression through hard work enriched with empathy for the complicated souls behind the colorful sounds. Proof that Ms. Jones has put her actorly gifts in service to something larger than self-display is found in her writing for these fully imagined characters, which is lively, compassionate, mildly sardonic and smart.

Inevitably, some portraits are more freshly conceived than others, and delivered with more conviction. The performance-art parody from a Jamaican woman feels rote, for instance, and the Russian doesn't bring much to the party other than his status as the lone white guy. But the production, which has been smoothly directed by Tony Taccone, has gained in consistency since its Off Broadway run.

It also seems more steeped in unease about the current state of the Union than it was downtown. Mohammed's cellphone conversations with his wife about an impending and mysterious interview with the feds — he immigrated from Pakistan in 1985 — feel tenser and more pointed, the bad jokes taking on an air of desperation. "Amina, please, why would they care about a poetry reading?," he asks. "What, I am now hiding the limericks of mass destruction?"

Mrs. Levine, a Polish-German-Lithuanian-American Jew, provides some perspective about today's climate of simmering anxiety about immigration. "Listen, when my family came here — from Eastern Europe — they were saying the same thing about us immigrants that they say now about you." But she's a staunch booster of the American way of life, after a fashion. "Here in America we have freedom to say what we want, be what we want, to decide what happens in our country," she says, adding, "We even get to decide what happens in other people's countries."

Was that a cellphone, or did I just hear someone's PC alarm going off? Also among Ms. Jones's entertainingly odd men and women out are a Chinese-American mother of a lesbian daughter anguished at having to part with a girlfriend who lacks permanent residency, and a wheelchair-bound Mexican man who tells of his arduous journey north in search of economic advantages.

In short, if multiculturalism is a dirty word to you, "Bridge & Tunnel" will probably give you hives. But Ms. Jones has closely studied the way all sorts of people order their thoughts, express their hopes and fears and tentatively try to fit the whole of their personalities into an inadequate new vocabulary. The stories of their struggles and anxieties have the uneven rhythms and shaggy shape of experience clumsily but feelingly put into unfamiliar words; they are never just anecdotes cut and trimmed to form political paper airplanes aimed at the audience.

And in focusing on the immigrant experience, Ms. Jones is honoring anew, and embodying in theatrical form, the durable dream that keeps drawing immigrants to America, even in today's more fractious political climate and uncertain economy. It's a concept even the staunchest supporter of a strict immigration policy wouldn't dare to disavow, because it happens to be the subject of that popular performance piece that has been playing in New York Harbor for more than a century now.

That one is also a solo show, starring a big green dame with a torch. Ms. Jones's "Bridge & Tunnel" is naturally somewhat smaller in scale, but it's a worthy sequel. A lot funnier, too.

Bridge & Tunnel

Written and performed by Sarah Jones; directed by Tony Taccone; sets by David Korins; lighting by Howell Binkley; sound by Christopher Cronin; assistant director, Steve Colman; production stage manager, Laurie Goldfeder; technical supervision, Aurora Productions; general management, Richards/Climan Inc. Presented by Eric Falkenstein, Michael Alden and Boyett Ostar Productions. At the Helen Hayes Theater, 240 West 44th Street; (212) 239-6200. Through March 12. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

(k) (k) (k) (k) 's,


02-11-2006, 04:13 PM

(l) (k) (k) (l) (k) (l) (k)


02-11-2006, 04:15 PM
Wed 8 Feb 2006

The children's author who ignited a worldwide protest


KARE Bluitgen has just received a death threat. "Wanted: dead or alive" said the placards showing the Dane's face borne by crowds in Thailand in the latest protest against the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The news will not have come as a shock for Bluitgen, a children's author, who is well aware that he started the storm. It was his failed attempt to find artists to illustrate a book about the Prophet that prompted the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten to invite 12 illustrators to draw the Prophet as they saw him.

The cartoons accompanied an article on censorship in September and have since been published in papers across Europe.

Five months on, Bluitgen shakes his head at what he describes as the "absurdity" of recent events. Not only has his face been hoisted on placards in the streets of Bangkok. An imam from Denmark has appeared on al-Jazeera TV holding a copy of his new book, claiming it misrepresents Islam. And two Saudi Arabian newspapers have run articles criticising the author and his book, which they claim is an attack on Islam.

Bluitgen's role in the saga has set alarm bells ringing for him.

"The imam on television mistranslated my book and clearly got his facts wrong," Bluitgen says. "Not only does it show how this has spun out of all control; it also shows to what lengths some people will go to further their own agenda. These people have the will to cause havoc on the streets and spread misinformation. Yet all along I've attempted to represent the Prophet as accurately as possible from this flat in Copenhagen.

"I don't feel responsible for what has happened - this was out of my control as soon as the Danish newspaper decided to publish its cartoons. I realise it was originally my idea that has set the wheels in motion, but it's not about religion any more - it's about politics. The people behind the protests are extremists who want to further their cause. They don't know anything about me, the book or the drawings."

Like some other organisations and individuals embroiled in this saga, which has seen demonstrations across the world, Bluitgen feels he is being grossly misunderstood. His new book, The Koran and the Life of the Prophet Muhammad, published in late January, was intended to create understanding between Danes and immigrants. By telling the life story of one the Muslim world's most significant figures, Bluitgen hoped Danish children would be in a better position to understand their Muslim counterparts.

Instead, the former school-teacher has become a target for protests about the cartoons published by Jyllands-Posten, which are not the same as the illustrations in his book.

While informed onlookers can easily spot the difference between the illustrations in the paper and those in the book - neutral, simple and devoid of associations with terror groups - it is clear from the protests in Thailand and the media coverage in the Middle East that not everyone makes the distinction.

A short stroll outside Bluitgen's flat provides evidence enough that the author lives right in the thick of things as far as integration goes in Denmark.

He lives in Norrebro, the area of Copenhagen with the highest concentration of immigrants. Between 80 and 90 per cent of schoolchildren are from immigrant or second-generation families, making Bluitgen's daughter, 13, and son, 17, in a minority in school. Bluitgen's mantra is clear: more understanding of different cultures from an early age is vital if integration has any chance of success.

While Bluitgen refers to the situation in his back yard, he says it shows a failure to address integration across Europe.

"If we don't meet each other in primary school, when can we?" he says. "I think it's hugely important we learn each other's culture in school. The riots in France recently show that you need to intervene early on. If you only meet people like yourself, you will become narrow-minded. And that's the optimistic scenario."

Reviews of Bluitgen's book have been noticeably cautious, a signal, perhaps, that the Danish press did not want to inflame the cartoon row further. Most publications have chosen religious experts to judge the book, which Bluitgen says is based entirely on Muslim sources.

Critics gave the thumbs-up to the book's faithful use of historic sources, praising the storyline and speech, but were not so congratulatory about his portrayal of Muhammad. Indeed, Bluitgen's Prophet is a violent warlord, intent on spreading the Islamic faith through the Arabic world. Also included are gruesome descriptions of war scenes and the Prophet's marriage to a nine-year-old girl, which some critics say portrays Muhammad as a paedophile.

"It's important to portray the reality. I've cut out some gruesome details, but needed to include some because Muhammad was, after all, a big strategist and leader," he says.

"I don't agree with critics who say I've portrayed him to be a paedophile. You were allowed to marry a nine-year-old at that time. Muslims are very proud today that he married her - she ends up being his favourite wife and she is still the most well- known Muslim woman today.

"We have to be careful not to condemn historical people with our western eyes. By using the word 'paedophile', you've already put a negative label on it. But from a historical viewpoint, there wasn't anything wrong with the marriage."

Controversy is an old friend to Bluitgen, known for doggedly standing by his ideals. In 1998 he published a schoolbook entitled New Danes, the term used in Denmark today to describe the immigrant population. With 14 jokes about different sections of society, including homosexuals and immigrants, it used satire in a similar way to the cartoons published by Jyllands-Posten. Bluitgen hoped children would begin talking about prejudices and cultural differences. For six months the book was used in almost every school in Denmark without a complaint from a teacher, pupil or parent. Then, Bluitgen says, a group of imams got hold of it and began protesting. Despite the row, Bluitgen says the book remains a vital tool in Danish schools today.

"Bringing these topics out in the open is the only way forward. Nothing should be so self-important that you can't make fun of it. That would be an awful society, if someone could put a fence around themselves and say: I am so superior to you all that you can't make fun of me," he says. "Some people said it was offensive. I think that only when we can make fun of each other can we have a closer relationship."

The debate about self-censorship was already in Bluitgen's mind three years ago when he published a book entitled For the Benefit of the Blacks, the colour referring to extreme political movements. Accusing the left-wing parties of "burying their heads in the sand", he urged them to bring integration issues to the fore of debate - otherwise they would risk pandering to extremist religious groups. Bluitgen believes his book helped. Politicians have become more willing to discuss integration problems, he says, but he admits the ordinary Dane still struggles to debate integration for fear of being dubbed anti-Muslim.

Known for being a loner and a man of principles, Bluitgen is standing by his ideals. But at what cost? Several people have died in protests against the cartoons and more are likely to follow. Is defending freedom of speech worth the loss of life that we've been seeing?

"Undoubtedly, yes. The regimes that control freedom of speech are much more violent and claim many more lives than the democratic governments. That's my belief. We shouldn't forget that historically it's cost many lives to win freedom of speech," he says.

"You have to be able to say out loud: 80 per cent of crimes in Denmark are committed by immigrants, which make up 12 per cent of the population. Because then you can ask: how do we go forward? Some people say it's racist to say such things. But unless you do, you will never solve the problem."

Last updated: 08-Feb-06 10:27 GMT

(o) (o) (o)

sweetlady and Wyatt the baby Boxer

02-12-2006, 04:47 AM
Vatican may have found Pope John Paul's "miracle"

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, Jan 30 (Reuters) - The Vatican may have found the "miracle" they need to put the late Pope John Paul one step closer to sainthood -- the medically inexplicable healing of a French nun with the same Parkinson's disease that afflicted him.

Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Catholic Church official in charge of promoting the cause to declare the late Pope a saint of the Church, told Reuters on Monday that an investigation into the healing had cleared an initial probe by doctors.

Oder said the "relatively young" nun, whom he said he could not identify for now, was inexplicably cured of Parkinson's after praying to John Paul after his death last April 2.

"I was moved," Oder said in a telephone interview. "To think that this was the same illness that destroyed the Holy Father and it also kept this poor nun from carrying out her work."

John Paul suffered from Parkinson's Disease during the last decade of his life. His body trembled violently and he could not pronounce his words or control his facial muscles.

"To me, this is another sign of God's creativity," he said, adding that the nun worked with children.

He said Church investigators would now start a more formal and detailed probe of the suspected miracle cure.

The process that could lead to sainthood for John Paul began in May when Rome archdiocese published an edict asking Catholics to come forward with evidence "in favor or against" John Paul's reputation of holiness.

One proven miracle is required after John Paul's death for the cause to lead to beatification.

It must be the result of prayers asking the dead Pope to intercede with God. Miracles are usually a physical healing that doctors are at a loss to explain.

Another miracle would be necessary between beatification and eventual sainthood.

Oder said his office had received many messages from faithful around the world claiming that they had got what they wanted after having prayed to John Paul after he died.


He said his office had also received many letters and e-mails from people claiming they had been miraculously cured or otherwise helped with a serious problem after praying to the Pope even while he was alive.

But under Church rules, only those "miracles" which occurred after the Pope's death can be investigated and eventually used as proof of holiness.

The month after John Paul died, Pope Benedict dispensed with Church rules and put him on the fast track to sainthood.

Benedict waived rules that impose a five-year waiting period after a candidate's death before the procedure that leads to sainthood can start.

The quick start means John Paul could be beatified and so declared a "blessed of the Church" within a few years if a miracle can be attributed to his intercession with God.

The crowds at John Paul's funeral on April 8 chanted "Santo Subito" (Make him a saint now!).

Oder said he and other members of the investigating team were convinced that John Paul "is already a saint" but he could not say how long the bureaucratic procedure could take.

In past centuries, the saint-making procedure has often been long and expensive but many Catholics believe that John Paul's life of suffering and service was clear to all.

Many of the people who knew or worked with John Paul are alive. This could speed up the case significantly because witnesses would be readily available to testify.

(l) (l) (l) (f) (f) (f) I knew that His Holiness answered prayers.......I have had a couple of requests answered.(f) (f)

(c) (c) Ah, snowed in, probably til tomorrow.......:)

Sweetlady and Wyatt Earp, the baby boxer

02-12-2006, 04:53 AM
Trapped Like a Rat
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 09 February 2006

The funeral for civil rights leader Coretta Scott King on Tuesday was quite a sight to see. The depth of sadness in the room could not be overcome by the happiness that came with the celebration of her life and accomplishments. It was the measure of Mrs. King's impact upon our society that four presidents - Carter, Bush, Clinton and Bush - sat before her flower-draped casket and spoke of her life.

And then, of course, the foolishness began. The nattering nabobs of network nonsense blithered into their cable news studios to deplore all the political statements that were served up before the appreciative crowd in that church. It was the Wellstone funeral all over again.

Let's be clear. The life of Coretta Scott King was one that involved politics from every angle. Any lifelong struggle against poverty, racism and war is going to be a life immersed in politics. That is simply the way it is; because so many politicians and political ideologies center around statements and legislation that directly add to the burdens of the poor and minorities, any person choosing to fight poverty and racism is going to wind up dealing in politics.

Gandhi was elected to no office in his entire lifetime, but every action he took involved politics. The same can be said for Martin Luther King Jr., who won no elections but changed politics in America forever. Coretta Scott King held no office, but her work affected the politics of this country in every way. Ask Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan, who received a warm telephone call from Mrs. King while standing vigil outside George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford last August. If this was not a political act, then political acts do not exist.

Politics belonged in that church on Tuesday. Period.

A good deal of the humbug arising from the political statements at the funeral are based upon the fact that George W. Bush changed his schedule to appear at the event. Because he did this, the thinking goes, he should be above the pointed criticism he absorbed up on that stage. Smart money says he came to the funeral only to avoid the criticism he would have received had he not shown up with those three other presidents. Smart money likewise says he came to try and shore up his poll numbers with African Americans; his support among this constituency stands in the low single digits, well within the margin of error in any poll, suggesting his actual support among this group is zero. This is, however, an issue for another day.

The central tenet of the civil rights movement has, is and will always be one simple truth: one must speak truth to power in order to affect change. This was the maxim by which Coretta Scott King lived her life, and the maxim by which her husband lived and ultimately died by. Had her funeral not involved speaking truth to power, the ceremony would have been incomplete. George W. Bush heard on Tuesday some hard truths that his fanatical insulation has to date spared him from. It may have been the healthiest moment this republic has absorbed in years.

President Jimmy Carter, who has come to be one of the harshest critics of Mr. Bush, hurled fire across the stage over the deplorable administration response to Hurricane Katrina. "This commemorative ceremony this morning and this afternoon is not only to acknowledge the great contributions of Coretta and Martin, but to remind us that the struggle for equal rights is not over," said Carter. "We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, those who were most devastated by Katrina, to know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans."

Carter also took a moment to drop a brick over the recent revelations that the NSA has been spying on Americans, without court approval or warrants, at the behest of Mr. Bush. "It was difficult for them personally," said Carter, "with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretapping, other surveillance, and as you know, harassment from the FBI."

By far, the harshest criticism came from Rev. Joseph Lowery, a King protégé, who spoke of Mrs. King's staunch opposition to the occupation of Iraq. "She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar," said Lowery. "We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew, and we knew, that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor."

Would Coretta Scott King have approved of this? One can be certain that the woman who said "If American women would increase their voting turnout by ten percent, I think we would see an end to all of the budget cuts in programs benefiting women and children" would have certainly approved.
This was a day for speaking truth to power, but it was more than that. Mr. Bush and his people have worked incredibly hard to keep this president from hearing anything that rubs against what he believes to be true. He speaks before hand-picked crowds of adoring supporters, never once seeing the face of someone who thinks he is running the nation into the ground. Millions upon millions of protesters have followed his every move, and yet it is almost certain he has never laid eyes upon a single one of them.

On Tuesday, by his own design. George W. Bush was trapped like a rat on that stage. He was forced to listen to eloquent denunciations of his politics and his policies, perhaps for the first time since he took office. The effect upon him was clear; during the speeches delivered by Rev. Lowery and president Carter, Bush looked as if he was sucking on a particularly bitter lemon.

When one speaks truth to power, especially arrogant power, that is usually the effect. Coretta Scott King would have approved.


(y) (y) (y) President Carter's remarks were PRICELESS!:) :) :)

(c) (c)

.....Hoping that CBS' Sunday Morning will be broadcast with all local TV stations covering the "big snow storm".....sheesh. Enough of the snow already...;)


02-17-2006, 11:45 AM
A man wakes up one morning to find a bear on his roof. So he looks in the
yellow pages and sure enough, there's an ad for "Bear Removers." He calls
the number, and the bear remover says he'll be over in 30 minutes.

The bear remover arrives, and gets out of his van. He's got a ladder, a
baseball bat, a shotgun and a mean old pit bull.

"What are you going to do," the homeowner asks?

"I'm going to put this ladder up against the roof, then I'm going to go up
there and knock the bear off the roof with this baseball bat. When the
bear falls off, the pit bull is trained to grab his testicles and not let
go. The bear will then be subdued enough for me to put him in the cage in
the back of the van."

He hands the shotgun to the homeowner.

"What's the shotgun for?" asks the homeowner.

"If the bear knocks me off the roof, shoot the dog."

:o :o :o :| :| ;)

SL & WTBB (Wyatt the Baby Boxer)

02-17-2006, 11:47 AM

(l) (l) ....When I was visiting Tombstone a few years back,, I visited a gun shop and learned from a pro there about how those "long-neck" gun barrels couldn't shoot straight....:| ....:)

(f) (f) ,

Sweetlady & Wyatt the baby Boxer

02-17-2006, 11:48 AM
From the 1993 film, "Tombstone":

Doc Holliday: In Vino Veritas.
[In wine is truth. - Meaning - "When I'm drinking, I speak my mind."]

Johnny Ringo: Age Quod Agis.
[Do what you do. - Meaning - "Do what you do best."]

Doc Holliday: Credat Judaeus Apella, Non Ego. The Jew Apella may believe it, not I.
[Meaning, "Oh I don't believe drinking is what I do best."]

Johnny Ringo: Eventus Stultorum Magister.
[Events are the teachers of fools. - Meaning - "Fools have to learn by experience."]

Doc Holliday: In Pace Requiescat.
[Rest In Peace - Meaning - "It's Your Funeral!"]

(l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l)

(h) (h)


02-17-2006, 11:50 AM

(l) (h) (l) (h) (l) (h) (l) (h) (l)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady & WTBB

02-17-2006, 11:53 AM
Thelma's father thinks a bit, then says "No, I don't think God
would get mad. Who do you want to give a valentine to?"

"Osama Bin Laden," she says.

"Why Osama Bin Laden," her father asks in shock?

"Well," she says, "I thought that if a little American Jewish girl
could have enough love to give Osama a valentine, he might start
to think that maybe we're not all bad, and maybe start loving people
a little bit, and if other kids saw what I did and then they sent
Valentines to Osama, he'd love everyone a lot. And then he'd start
going all over the place tell everyone how much he loved them and
how he didn't hate anyone anymore."

Her father's heart swells and he looks at his daughter with
new-found pride. "Thelma, that's the most wonderful thing I've
ever heard."

"I know," Thelma says, "and once that gets him out in the open,
the Marines could blow the shit out of him."

(*) (*) ;) ;)


02-17-2006, 11:54 AM
February 14, 2006

Op-Ed Columnist

The Kiss of Life



SINCE it's Valentine's Day, let's dwell for a moment on the profoundly bizarre activity of kissing. Is there a more expressive gesture in the human repertoire?

When parents kiss their children it means one thing, but when they kiss each other it means something entirely different. People will greet a total stranger with a kiss on the cheek, and then use an identical gesture to express their most intimate feelings to a lover. The mob kingpin gives the kiss of death, Catholics give the "kiss of peace," Jews kiss the Torah, nervous flyers kiss the ground, and the enraged sometimes demand that a kiss be applied to their hindquarters. Judas kissed Jesus, Madonna kissed Britney, a gambler kisses the dice for luck. Someone once even kissed a car for 54 hours straight.

Taxonomists of the kiss have long labored to make sense of its many meanings. The Romans distinguished among the friendly oscula, the loving basia and the passionate suavia. The 17th-century polymath Martin von Kempe wrote a thousand-page encyclopedia of kissing that recognized 20 different varieties, including "the kiss bestowed by superiors on inferiors" and "the hypocritical kiss." The German language has words for 30 different kinds of kisses, including nachküssen, which is defined as a kiss "making up for kisses that have been omitted." (The Germans are also said to have coined the inexplicable phrase "A kiss without a beard is like an egg without salt.") How did a single act become a medium for so many messages?

There are two possibilities: Either the kiss is a human universal, one of the constellation of innate traits, including language and laughter, that unites us as a species, or it is an invention, like fire or wearing clothes, an idea so good that it was bound to metastasize across the globe.

Scientists have found evidence for both hypotheses. Other species engage in behavior that looks an awful lot like the smooch (though without its erotic overtones), which implies that kissing might be just as animalistic an impulse as it sometimes feels. Snails caress each other with their antennae, birds touch beaks, and many mammals lick each other's snouts. Chimpanzees even give platonic pecks on the lips. But only humans and our lascivious primate cousins the bonobos engage in full-fledged tongue-on-tongue tonsil-hockey.

Even though all of this might suggest that kissing is in our genes, not all human cultures do it. Charles Darwin was one of the first to point this out. In his book "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals," he noted that kissing "is replaced in various parts of the world by the rubbing of noses." Early explorers of the Arctic dubbed this the Eskimo kiss. (Actually, it turns out the Inuit were not merely rubbing noses, they were smelling each other's cheeks).

All across Africa, the Pacific and the Americas, we find cultures that didn't know about mouth kissing until their first contact with European explorers. And the attraction was not always immediately apparent. Most considered the act of exchanging saliva revolting. Among the Lapps of northern Finland, both sexes would bathe together in a state of complete nudity, but kissing was regarded as beyond the pale.

To this day, public kissing is still seen as indecent in many parts of the world. In 1990, the Beijing-based Workers' Daily advised its readers that "the invasive Europeans brought the kissing custom to China, but it is regarded as a vulgar practice which is all too suggestive of cannibalism."

If kissing is not universal, then someone must have invented it. Vaughn Bryant, an anthropologist at Texas A&M, has traced the first recorded kiss back to India, somewhere around 1500 B.C., when early Vedic scriptures start to mention people "sniffing" with their mouths, and later texts describe lovers "setting mouth to mouth." From there, he hypothesizes, the kiss spread westward when Alexander the Great conquered the Punjab in 326 B.C.

The Romans were inveterate kissers, and along with Latin, the kiss became one of their chief exports. Not long after, early Christians invented the notion of the ritualistic "holy kiss" and incorporated it into the Eucharist ceremony. According to some cultural historians, it is only within the last 800 years, with the advent of effective dentistry and the triumph over halitosis, that the lips were freed to become an erogenous zone.

For Freud, kissing was a subconscious return to suckling at the mother's breast. Other commentators have noted that the lips bear a striking resemblance to the labia, and that women across the world go to great lengths to make their lips look bigger and redder than they really are to simulate the appearance of sexual arousal, like animals in heat.

A few anthropologists have suggested that mouth kissing is a "relic gesture," with evolutionary origins in the mouth-to-mouth feeding that occurred between mother and baby in an age before Gerber and still takes place in a few parts of the world today. It can hardly be a coincidence, they note, that in several languages the word for kissing is synonymous with pre-mastication, or that "sweet" is the epithet most commonly applied to kisses.

But kissing may be more closely linked to our sense of smell than taste. Almost everyone has a distinct scent that is all one's own. Some people can even recognize their relatives in a dark room simply by their body odor (some relatives more than others). Kissing could have begun as a way of sniffing out who's who. From a whiff to a kiss was just a short trip across the face.

Whatever its origins, kissing seems to be advantageous. A study conducted during the 1980's found that men who kiss their wives before leaving for work live longer, get into fewer car accidents, and have a higher income than married men who don't. So put down this newspaper and pucker up. It does a body good.

Joshua Foer is working on a book about the science of memory.

(*) (*) (*) (*) :o :o :o :| :| :|

;) ,


02-17-2006, 11:59 AM
February 13, 2006

Op-Ed Contributor

Dogs Like Us


Kelly, Wyo.

THE 130th Westminster Dog Show comes to New York today, with its thousands of contestants, ranging in size from two-pound Chihuahuas to 120-pound Great Danes. As the highly groomed dogs prance down the runways of Madison Square Garden — the floor-length coats of the Afghan hounds swaying, the teased coiffures of the poodles bouncing — it's hard not to think of a fashion show.

In the case of dog shows, a given breed's parent club sets the standard for the breed's look or style. These standards describe an ideal specimen and are supposed to relate a dog's form to the original function it performed. But given that dogs are the most plastic of species, and people are inventive, some remarkable varieties of dogs have been created to serve our notions of beauty, novelty, companionship and service.

Unfortunately, in some breeds, form has trumped function. The Pekingese and the bulldog, whose flattened faces make breathing difficult, are two examples. Such design flaws — often perpetuated by breeders trying to produce a dog with a unique look — have enduring consequences for individual dogs, their progeny and the people who love them.

Of the 180 breeds listed on one popular Web site for choosing purebred puppies, 42 percent have chronic health problems: skin diseases, stomach disorders, a high incidence of cancers, the inability to bear young without Caesareans, shortened life spans. The list is as disturbing as it is long, and poses a question: dazzled by the uniqueness of many of the breeds we've created, have we — the dog-owning public — turned a blind eye to the development of a host of dysfunctional animals?

Fifteen years ago, I was just such a starry-eyed dog buyer, poring over dog magazines and litters of pups registered with the American Kennel Club. Fate intervened. While kayaking on the San Juan River in Utah, I met a 10-month-old pup roaming free and making his own living in the desert. He wore no collar and looked to be a cross between a yellow Lab and who knew what — a golden retriever, a redbone coonhound, a Rhodesian ridgeback — a dog who seemed to shape-shift before my eyes. It was love at first sight.

He jumped into my truck at the end of the trip, and I brought him home to Wyoming, named him Merle and gave him his own dog door so he could come and go as he wished. His mixed genes and native intelligence took care of the rest. Merle would never have won a dog show, but his vigor and steadiness demonstrated what good genes can do, whether under the influence of a skillful human breeder or that oldest breeder of all — chance and natural selection.

On the other hand, buying a purebred dog from a reputable breeder is no guarantee of a healthy dog, since the existing guidelines for purebred dogs are highly subjective. Consider the German shepherd. Current American Kennel Club show standards favor those with extremely low-slung back ends. But photographs of German shepherds from earlier in the 20th century show a dog with a high rear end, one that even a lay person would call a normal-looking dog. The makeover was done to create a German shepherd that certain breeders believed would have strong forward propulsion while being aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately, as many experts have noted, such low-slung dogs have nagging balance problems and look crippled. Dog buyers who want a shepherd — or many other Kennel Club-recognized breeds — must sort through such biomechanical and stylistic disagreements among breeders.

So if the pageantry of Westminster moves you to bring a new pup into the household, here's a few tips that can save you some heartache and vet bills, particularly if the dog you have in mind is purebred. Investigate the track records of breeders. Meet both parents of the prospective pup. Talk with people who have bought from the breeder. And learn about the idiosyncrasies of one's chosen breed.

If every dog buyer did such research, it would also help shut down the 5,000 puppy mills that, according to the Humane Society, provide most of the half-million purebred dogs sold through pet stores and the Internet. Poorly regulated, unsanitary factories in which females are imprisoned their entire lives, puppy mills survive because people get charmed by that puppy in the window.

Unlike the wrong computer or an automobile, however, faulty dogs can't be readily exchanged or resold. They can be "given up" to an animal shelter, and they are, at the rate of about four million dogs each year, this soothing phrase disguising the end of 50 percent of them — a gas chamber or a lethal injection.

We owe our dogs more than this. After all, it is we who have shaped them. Even when we err, they continue to put their trust and their lives in our hands.

Ted Kerasote is the author of the forthcoming "Merle's Door: How Dogs Might Live if They Were Free."

(*) (*) If only more people knew about this kind of information and refused to buy pets at pet stores. If more people bought directly from a well-known, reputable breeder or from locally through animal protection facilities - this kind of terrible thing would happen less.......hopefully not at all.:@ :@ :( :(

(l) (l)(l) (l) (&) (&) (&) (&) (&) (l) (l) (l) (l)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady and (&) Wyatt the baby Boxer

02-17-2006, 12:05 PM
The day broke overcast and cold here today, so it wasn't surprising to see small groups of techies huddled around copies of the latest report from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group for comfort. The group's third annual CEO Business Climate Survey predicts a distinct warming trend in hiring, to wit:

• The number of CEOs who said their companies added jobs in 2005 in Silicon Valley rose to 55 percent from 41 percent in 2004.

• About 74 percent of those hiring in 2005 added between 1 and 100 employees.

• The number of companies cutting jobs fell from 24 percent in 2004 to 13 percent last year.

• Looking ahead, the number of CEOs who expect hiring to be better in 2006 climbed to 56 percent from 37 percent in 2005.

"Fundamentally, the valley's economy is healthy and robust," said Kim Polese, CEO of the open-source infrastructure company SpikeSource. "New companies are starting left and right. This remains the center of gravity when it comes to high-tech opportunity." The upbeat sentiment in the report comes on the heels of two other recent surveys that showed marked increases in both business and consumer confidence in the Silicon Valley economy. In addition, federal job statistics released last month showed that Santa Clara County added jobs in 2005, the first such increase in four years. The biggest worry of the polled CEOs? Housing costs, by almost unanimous selection, with the latest figures showing that despite some cooling in the market, the median price for a home in Santa Clara County rose to $705,000 in January.




(*) (*) (*) (*) ...."the median price for a home in Santa Clara County rose to $705,000 in January. "

:| :| :| :| :|

(*) I'll take the out of the way places so far from city lights that the stars make my jaw drop with amazement and awe.......(S) (S) (S)

(k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and Wyatt the napping-in-my-lap baby Boxer

02-17-2006, 12:09 PM

"Your karma check for today:

There once was a user that whined
his existing OS was so blind
he'd do better to pirate
an OS that ran great
but found his hardware declined.

Please don't steal Mac OS!
Really, that's way uncool.

© Apple Computer, Inc.''


Posted on Thu, Feb. 16, 2006 San Jose Mercury News

Apple hackers encounter a poetic warningSAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Apple Computer Inc. has resorted to a poetic broadside in the inevitable cat-and-mouse game between hackers and high-tech companies.

The maker of Macintosh computers had anticipated that hackers would try to crack its new OS X operating system built to work on Intel Corp.'s chips and run pirated versions on non-Apple computers. So, Apple developers embedded a warning deep in the software -- in the form of a poem.

Indeed, a hacker encountered the poem recently, and a copy of it has been circulating on Mac-user Web sites this week.

Apple confirmed Thursday it has included such a warning in its Intel-based computers since it started selling them in January.

The embedded poem reads: ``Your karma check for today: There once was a user that whined/his existing OS was so blind/he'd do better to pirate/an OS that ran great/but found his hardware declined./Please don't steal Mac OS!/Really, that's way uncool./© Apple Computer, Inc.''

Apple also put in a separate hidden message, ``Don't Steal Mac OS X.kext,'' in another spot for would-be hackers.

``We can confirm that this text is built into our products,'' Apple issued in a statement. ``Hopefully it, and many other legal warnings, will remind people that they should not steal Mac OS X.''

The hacking endeavors are, for now, relegated to a small, technically savvy set, but it underscores a risk Apple faces if a pirated, functional version eventually becomes as accessible and straightforward as installing other software on a computer.

It's a risk that became apparent after Apple decided to make a historic transition to Intel-based chips, the same type that its rivals use in predominant Windows-based PCs. Apple previously relied on Power PC chips from IBM Corp. and Freescale Semiconductor Inc., but this year began switching its computers to the Intel platform.

Various analysts have since hypothesized a worst-case situation in which Apple would lose control of its proprietary Macintosh environment: how its reputedly easy-to-use and elegant operating system would no longer be locked to its computers, a critical revenue pipeline for Apple.

Such scenarios have raised a debate among Apple observers about whether the company should just license its operating system to run on other machines, similar to Microsoft Corp.

But Apple has repeatedly said it will not do that.

Meanwhile, security experts on Thursday identified a new computer worm that specifically targets Mac computers running OS X -- a rarity since most worms target the broader base of PCs with Microsoft's Windows. Experts, however, consider the threat low.

(y) (y) (y) (y) (y) ........(h) (h) (h) (h) (h) ........(i) (i) (i) (i)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady and Wyatt the snoring baby Boxer

02-17-2006, 12:13 PM


http://elkit.blogs.com/filing/WeAreSinking.swf (LMAO!!)

(f) Have a lovely weekend.......(f)

(k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and Wyatt the baby Boxer puppy (l) (l) (&) (l) (l)

02-17-2006, 12:17 PM

;) ;)

Sweetlady & Wyatt the Boxer puppy (l) (l) (l) (&) (l) (l) (l)

02-17-2006, 12:19 PM

(k) (k) 's,


02-17-2006, 12:21 PM

:| :| :| :o :o :o (g) (g) (g)

(k) (k) 's & ({) (}) 's

Sweetlady and Wyatt the Boxer puppy

02-17-2006, 12:30 PM

Dana gets the results of her biopsy and hears the "c word;" Alice meets Uta, a lesbian vampire at "Bisexual Speed-Dating; Bette accidentally discovers something disturbing in Tina's online chat room; ex-flame Cherie drops into WAX and Shane's chair; Jenny gets word that a publisher is interested in her work and tries to be supportive with Moira's transition to Max.

Guest stars: Alan Cumming, Rosanna Arquette


(l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l) (l)

Episode 4: Light my Fire

Light My Fire

Jenny freaks out after Moira disappears all night; Bette takes on Capitol Hill; Carmen spins for Russell Simmons; Billie Jean King interviews Dana at a tennis match; Kit wonders if she's made the right choice with Billie as The Planet's new charge des affaires; and Helena falls for a documentary filmmaker.

Guest stars: Alan Cumming, Russell Simmons, Billie Jean King, Dana Delany


(*) (*) Dana Delany (she played Josephine Marcus in 1993 "Tombstone") was hot as she tried to seduce Bette. Wow, were the two scenes between high-IQ Femmes ever steamy! (k) (k) (k) (k) 's(*)

Oh my......(k)(h)


;) ;) 's

Sweetlady & Wyatt the Boxer puppy

02-17-2006, 12:40 PM










(l) (l) (k) (k) Eye-candy indeed.......;)

:) ...Smiling as I get little boxer kisses on my face....it's Wyatt the Boxer puppy wanting to get up and do something, anything for entertainment. His naps tend to be short....(l)

(o) (o) Got to run!

(k) (k) 's,


02-22-2006, 04:38 PM
February 20, 2006

A First-Time Oscar Host in Search of That Fine Line


Five years ago, when the staff of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" gathered for the first time to watch the Academy Awards together, the writers spent three hours shouting jokes at the television and lampooning the self-congratulation on display, all in the service of feeding their own show the next day.

Virtually the only person they spared was the host, Steve Martin, who had impressed them with one-liners "that had some teeth to them but didn't necessarily make him an unwelcome guest at the party," recalled Ben Karlin, then Mr. Stewart's head writer.

In two weeks, like a gadfly who rails against City Hall for years, only to wake up and find himself elected mayor, Mr. Stewart will stand where Mr. Martin was that night, armed with punch lines drafted in consultation with Mr. Karlin and six other "Daily Show" writers, among others.

The assignment, which includes writing and delivering a monologue, is among the most daunting in show business, even in a good year for Hollywood. But while Mr. Martin had blockbusters like "Gladiator" and "Erin Brockovich" as fodder in 2001, Mr. Stewart and his rookie Oscar-writing staff have been laboring to extract humor from somber, little-seen films like "Munich," "Crash" and "Capote." Not to mention sifting for something fresh and funny to say about "Brokeback Mountain" that hasn't already been done on "Saturday Night Live."

"To not talk about 'Brokeback Mountain' at the Oscars would be like going to the White House correspondents' dinner and not talking about the president," said Mr. Karlin, who also hinted that he was sharpening a few presidential — and, perhaps, vice presidential — barbs. "We're doing it. Same goes for 'Herbie: Fully Loaded.' "

Asked if any particular celebrity should fear the wrath of Mr. Stewart's tongue, Mr. Karlin warned: "Meryl Streep has gotten a free ride for too long. She's going down."

For Mr. Stewart and his "Daily Show" staff, landing the March 5 Oscar gig is by far the most high-profile assignment in a meteoric, 18-month stretch that began with a ratings surge in the lead-up to the 2004 presidential election and has continued with a spinoff ("The Colbert Report") and a best-selling parody of a social studies textbook, "America: (The Book)."

But while those efforts have largely been fueled by poking gentle fun at the establishment (especially the government and the news media), Mr. Stewart has, at least for one night, signed on to lead the establishment's ultimate talent show, transforming himself from class clown to head of the class, and from Hollywood outsider to A-list insider.

In that vein, the selection of Mr. Stewart brings with it some risks — for him and for the producers who chose him, and not least for ABC, the television network that is trying to reverse a slide in Oscar viewership. Somehow, Mr. Stewart and his writers must be arch enough to bring along the 1.4 million viewers who lap up "The Daily Show" each night on Comedy Central, while being broad enough to win over perhaps 40 million other people who typically watch the Oscars but may never have seen "This Week in God," a sendup of religion that is a "Daily Show" staple.

"We're hoping to disappoint fans of 'The Daily Show' and similarly disappoint new fans who had no idea who Jon was," Mr. Karlin, now executive producer of both the Stewart and Colbert shows, said in an interview.

Turning serious, Mr. Karlin, who previously worked as an editor of a satirical newspaper, The Onion, said, "When you step outside the process and think about it, you realize that the thing you're working on is going to be seen by more people than anything you've ever done."

"That's a great motivator," he added. "I would put that second to fear."

If Mr. Stewart is feeling any preshow jitters, he did not betray them in an interview last week.

"So you give up a home run in the All-Star Game," he responded when asked if he feared bombing in front of tens of millions, to say nothing of Jack Nicholson and Tom Hanks. "You're not risking anything. This is a reward. If I made my living hosting awards shows, then this would be a perilous track, I guess."

Mr. Stewart and his team of writers (including four others hired in Hollywood) are responsible for perhaps 15 minutes of a show that often exceeds three hours: an opening that will be assembled in advance, the monologue, and a handful of bits that will be inserted throughout the evening.

And yet, perhaps even more than the performances that win some awards, Mr. Stewart's work that night is what could be remembered for years to come. Billy Crystal's medley of phony best-picture themes ("It's a Wonderful Night for Oscar, Oscar, Oscar") has become ingrained in the collective memory, as has David Letterman's infamous attempt to introduce "Oprah" and "Uma" from the stage in 1995 — a bit that actually got a big laugh, at least the first time he said it, for its forgotten punch line ("Have you kids met Keanu?").

"It's really live television, the way God meant it to be," said Bruce Vilanch, a writer on 15 previous Oscar broadcasts who is returning this year, after a two-year hiatus, mostly to write introductions in various award categories.

He added, more ominously, "A joke you could throw away on 'The Daily Show' will resonate for the rest of your life."

So as not to spoil the suspense, Mr. Stewart and his team — including David Javerbaum, another Onion veteran who is head writer of "The Daily Show" — were understandably reluctant to give away much of their game plan. But they did offer some clues.

They are working closely on their opening with Troy Miller, the veteran producer who helped Mr. Crystal, an eight-time host, create those technologically seamless openings in which he appeared as a character in various movie scenes.

As for Mr. Stewart's Oscar sensibility, the writers said they were trying to replicate the tone set by Mr. Martin in that first year they watched him, when he somehow told fresh jokes about the stars' obsession with plastic surgery and giveaways, but also zinged a few actors sitting only a few feet away.

"Ellen Burstyn did something not many actresses would do for a role in a movie," Mr. Martin said that night. "She made herself look 30 pounds heavier and 20 years older."

"And," he added, after a pause, "Russell Crowe still hit on her."

From the audience, the camera showed Mr. Crowe glaring menacingly.

However much he seeks to poke fun at black-tie Hollywood, Mr. Stewart is expected to pull up well short of the line trampled by last year's host, Chris Rock. He told the crowd in his opening that "there's only four real stars" and the remainder of them were "just popular people."

In terms of political satire, Gil Cates, who is producing his 13th Oscar telecast, said his host was welcome to take on the Washington establishment, "as long as it's evenhanded."

Mr. Cates said he selected Mr. Stewart, 43, in consultation with the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Asked to synthesize Mr. Stewart's appeal, Mr. Cates, 71, said, "He's hip, he's with-it, he's 'today.' "

As a fringe benefit, Mr. Cates said he hoped that Mr. Stewart — whose show attracts a viewer whose average age is just over 41 , according to Nielsen Media Research — might attract younger people to the Oscars, whose typical viewer last year was 47.

Because he has not had much of a movie career — beyond small roles in comedies like "Death to Smoochy" and "Big Daddy" — the selection of Mr. Stewart had surprised some in Hollywood. Asked if he had approached other potential hosts, Mr. Cates declined to comment, citing a longtime policy of reticence on such matters.

"I can tell you," he said, not so cryptically, "that I did know that Billy Crystal was doing '700 Sundays' and was not available."

Asked if he feared being rejected as an outsider by the nominees arrayed in the first few rows at the Kodak Theater, Mr. Stewart said he was at peace with his relative station in Hollywood.

"If I had the kind of movie career they had, I'd be sitting in the audience," he said. "I wouldn't be the jerk onstage directing traffic."

"They need a tummler," he said. "They need a social director."

(l) (l) I like the "Daily Show" with Jon Stewart when he has a guest that I'm keenly interested in. Jon's bursting the Dubya Press pin balloons and other antics are hilarious in my opinion.(y) (y)

(k) (k) 's,
Sweetlady and WTBBP (&) (l) (l)

02-22-2006, 04:43 PM
February 21, 2006

To: Professor@University.edu Subject: Why It's All About Me


One student skipped class and then sent the professor an e-mail message asking for copies of her teaching notes. Another did not like her grade, and wrote a petulant message to the professor. Another explained that she was late for a Monday class because she was recovering from drinking too much at a wild weekend party.

Jennifer Schultens, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of California, Davis, received this e-mail message last September from a student in her calculus course: "Should I buy a binder or a subject notebook? Since I'm a freshman, I'm not sure how to shop for school supplies. Would you let me know your recommendations? Thank you!"

At colleges and universities nationwide, e-mail has made professors much more approachable. But many say it has made them too accessible, erasing boundaries that traditionally kept students at a healthy distance.

These days, they say, students seem to view them as available around the clock, sending a steady stream of e-mail messages — from 10 a week to 10 after every class — that are too informal or downright inappropriate.

"The tone that they would take in e-mail was pretty astounding," said Michael J. Kessler, an assistant dean and a lecturer in theology at Georgetown University. " 'I need to know this and you need to tell me right now,' with a familiarity that can sometimes border on imperative."

He added: "It's a real fine balance to accommodate what they need and at the same time maintain a level of legitimacy as an instructor and someone who is institutionally authorized to make demands on them, and not the other way round."

While once professors may have expected deference, their expertise seems to have become just another service that students, as consumers, are buying. So students may have no fear of giving offense, imposing on the professor's time or even of asking a question that may reflect badly on their own judgment.

For junior faculty members, the barrage of e-mail has brought new tension into their work lives, some say, as they struggle with how to respond. Their tenure prospects, they realize, may rest in part on student evaluations of their accessibility.

The stakes are different for professors today than they were even a decade ago, said Patricia Ewick, chairwoman of the sociology department at Clark University in Massachusetts, explaining that "students are constantly asked to fill out evaluations of individual faculty." Students also frequently post their own evaluations on Web sites like rateyourprofessor.com and describe their impressions of their professors on blogs.

Last fall, undergraduate students at Syracuse University set up a group in Facebook.com, an online network for students, and dedicated it to maligning one particular instructor. The students were reprimanded.

Professor Ewick said 10 students in one class e-mailed her drafts of their papers days before they were due, seeking comments. "It's all different levels of presumption," she said. "One is that I'll be able to drop everything and read 250 pages two days before I'm going to get 50 of these."

Kathleen E. Jenkins, a sociology professor at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, said she had even received e-mail requests from students who missed class and wanted copies of her teaching notes.

Alexandra Lahav, an associate professor of law at the University of Connecticut, said she felt pressured by the e-mail messages. "I feel sort of responsible, as if I ought to be on call all the time," she said.

Many professors said they were often uncertain how to react. Professor Schultens, who was asked about buying the notebook, said she debated whether to tell the student that this was not a query that should be directed to her, but worried that "such a message could be pretty scary."

"I decided not to respond at all," she said.

Christopher J. Dede, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who has studied technology in education, said these e-mail messages showed how students no longer deferred to their professors, perhaps because they realized that professors' expertise could rapidly become outdated.

"The deference was probably driven more by the notion that professors were infallible sources of deep knowledge," Professor Dede said, and that notion has weakened.

Meanwhile, students seem unaware that what they write in e-mail could adversely affect them, Professor Lahav said. She recalled an e-mail message from a student saying that he planned to miss class so he could play with his son. Professor Lahav did not respond.

"It's graduate school, he's an adult human being, he's obviously a parent, and it's not my place to tell him how to run his life," she said.

But such e-mail messages can have consequences, she added. "Students don't understand that what they say in e-mail can make them seem very unprofessional, and could result in a bad recommendation."

Still, every professor interviewed emphasized that instant feedback could be invaluable. A question about a lecture or discussion "is for me an indication of a blind spot, that the student didn't get it," said Austin D. Sarat, a professor of political science at Amherst College.

College students say that e-mail makes it easier to ask questions and helps them to learn. "If the only way I could communicate with my professors was by going to their office or calling them, there would be some sort of ranking or prioritization taking place," said Cory Merrill, 19, a sophomore at Amherst. "Is this question worth going over to the office?"

But student e-mail can go too far, said Robert B. Ahdieh, an associate professor at Emory Law School in Atlanta. He paraphrased some of the comments he had received: "I think you're covering the material too fast, or I don't think we're using the reading as much as we could in class, or I think it would be helpful if you would summarize what we've covered at the end of class in case we missed anything."

Students also use e-mail to criticize one another, Professor Ahdieh said. He paraphrased this comment: "You're spending too much time with my moron classmates and you ought to be focusing on those of us who are getting the material."

Michael Greenstone, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he once received an e-mail message late one evening from a student who had recently come to the realization that he was gay and was struggling to cope.

Professor Greenstone said he eventually helped the student get an appointment with a counselor. "I don't think we would have had the opportunity to discuss his realization and accompanying feelings without e-mail as an icebreaker," he said.

A few professors said they had rules for e-mail and told their students how quickly they would respond, how messages should be drafted and what types of messages they would answer.

Meg Worley, an assistant professor of English at Pomona College in California, said she told students that they must say thank you after receiving a professor's response to an e-mail message.

"One of the rules that I teach my students is, the less powerful person always has to write back," Professor Worley said.

(*) (*) Oh yea, and I have the patience to put up with these types of students? Although to defend some older adult on-line learners - there are many older adults in their seventies who are afraid of the computer......and might email an instructor to make sure they were "doing things right".

(n) (n) With young people like in this NYTimes article? I think it's just plain laziness! I would not reply to some of the dumber and lazy emails for sure.......;) :)

(8) (8)

Sweetlady and Wyatt Earp the baby Boxer puppy (l) (l) (&) (l) (l)

02-22-2006, 04:46 PM
February 21, 2006

My Concierge Will Call Your Concierge


When you call Chez Escargot to plead for a reservation, do they laugh and say they have no table for you? Are you down in the dumps because an old college pal said his people would get in touch with your people, and you had to admit you didn't have any people?

Does it sometimes feel as if the whole world is a V.I.P. list and your name is not on it?

If so, you have stumbled across the rationale for one of this country's fastest growing small businesses: the personal concierge. Like a hotel concierge, the personal version makes life easier, more efficient and more exhilarating for clients. Nowadays, though, personal concierges are more and more invisible yet are taking on many new tasks.

These concierges may come with your credit card, your office lease or your new home. The button on the side of those stylish Vertu cellphones that sell for $4,900 to $31,850 connects you to a dedicated Vertu concierge. On some new cars, your personal concierge may be built-in. "We will get you into that restaurant, we'll get you past the lines at a club, we'll be your people," said Mary Naylor, the founder of VIPdesk, which provides concierge service for OnStar, the General Motors Corporation's satellite-based security, communications and convenience system for cars.

The services that a personal concierge provides can vary widely. Some pick up your laundry, walk your dog or wait for the cable guy. Others don't show up in person but can arrange hotel and airline reservations, schedule business meetings and plan special events like corporate outings or weddings. A few possess the clout that a Manhattan A-lister may envy.

"We really don't like to talk about it, but we do hold some tables in reserve for some personal concierges," said Georgette Farkas, director of public relations for the restaurant Daniel on the Upper East Side. "We have to. They send us so many customers."

Even more rarefied experiences await the patrons of Circles, one of the largest concierge services in the United States. Besides garden-variety perks like Super Bowl or World Series tickets, Circles can arrange for celebrities to show up at your cocktail party, get you a flight in a jet fighter or even land you a bit part on a prime-time TV show like "CSI: Miami."

There was a time when Americans took pride in doing things for themselves, but that was before "I'm swamped" became a national mantra. "Two things happened more or less simultaneously in the mid-1990's that launched the personal concierge industry," said Janet Kraus, Circles's chief executive. "The loss of personal time and the advent of the Internet, which allowed us to capture the resources necessary to offer services worldwide."

Ms. Kraus underestimated the potential — and the challenges — of the concierge business when, in 1997, she and her business partner, Kathy Sherbrooke, founded Circles with $27,000 from their savings and credit cards. Their original plan was to provide everyday services — dog walkers, house painters, errand runners — to consumers, but they soon gravitated to corporations, which offered many more opportunities. Instead of marketing their services to individual consumers, they now have companies paying the fees and promoting Circles's services to their customers and employees.

"It's relationship marketing," Ms. Kraus said. "To a corporate employee, we become a benefit of employment. To a company's customer, we become a reward for loyalty."

Yet there was a problem. Their original capitalization was not large enough to help them grow. So they sought more money, which came in four stages over four years: first they raised $500,000 from friends and family in 1997, then $1 million from private investors. Venture capitalists invested $15 million in 1999 and $10 million more in 2001. "Our biggest expenditures were for technology," Ms. Kraus said. "We invested in call-center technology, Internet infrastructure to develop databases, security to handle large clients, and staffing and training." After nine years in business, the company employs more than 500 staff members, with phone banks in Boston and the Toronto region serving 250,000 individual users with fees paid by corporate customers like Merrill Lynch and Aramark. "We're growing at a double-digit rate and expect that to continue for the foreseeable future," Ms. Kraus said.

Circles has moved so far beyond errand running that it now dreams up "needs" for consumers. Who, for instance, wouldn't jump at the chance to attend a party in a private box at the World Series, getting to meet the players? These events are paid for by Circles's corporate clients and offered to their customers or executives. Circles also offers more exotic experiences, like taking private golf lessons from a touring pro. "We never lose sight of the fact that we're here to make you feel special," Ms. Kraus said.

Another concierge service that has grown far beyond its humble beginnings is VIPdesk. The company was formed in 1997; the founder, Mary Naylor, was already a veteran of the field. She started her first company, Capitol Concierge, in 1987. "I borrowed $2,000 from my mother and moved into the basement," she said.

Capitol was based largely on the traditional hotel model, placing concierges in lobbies of office buildings in the Washington area and dealing mostly with consumers face to face. After 10 years, with concierges in 80 office buildings, Ms. Naylor decided to create VIPdesk to offer a national model to customers like Citibank and MasterCard, through a central call center. In 1999, she rethought this model and, with an eye toward lowering overhead and reducing turnover, raised $12 million for the technology that would allow her concierges to telecommute.

"It takes a very high skill set to meet our clients' expectations, and our 130 concierges are much happier working from their homes," she said.

VIPdesk receives 40,000 requests each month, and Ms. Naylor projects more than $20 million in revenue by 2007. "The fee structures are different depending on the client," she said. "If a corporate client has a million users, their fee is calculated on an actuarial basis with no cost to the user."

The biggest customer is OnStar, whose Luxury and Leisure option costs $69.95 a month for unlimited access to a concierge. "The OnStar customer can be sitting in traffic while his virtual staff is shopping for a Valentine's Day present or setting up a business meeting for him," Ms. Naylor said. "We got tickets to 'Harry Potter' for one man who called while he was driving to the theater." For another OnStar customer, VIPdesk bought a dress just like one that Julia Roberts wore in "Ocean's Eleven."

"Once they push that little blue button that links them to their concierge, they'll use it over and over again," Ms. Naylor said.

(*) (*) ............Talk about setting up yet another layer in the communications' buffering process.......(h) (h)


(k) (k) 's.

Sweetlady and her handsome Wyatt, the Boxer puppy...(l) (&) (l)

02-22-2006, 04:49 PM
The Worst Breakfast You Can Eat

It may be fast and convenient to stop at McDonald's for breakfast on your way to work, but this may make you think twice: Eat two McMuffins and two hash browns for breakfast and your arteries will remain inflamed until lunchtime, HealthDayNews reports of a new study from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Why worry about inflammation of the arteries? This is a direct pathway to atherosclerosis and heart disease.

The specific breakfast cited by the SUNY Buffalo researchers is a McDonald's Egg McMuffin, a Sausage McMuffin, and two orders of hash browns. Total calories: 930. (It was supersized to reflect the typical amount of calories in a fast food meal.) Eat this and within an hour, it will trigger inflammation, says study co-author Dr. Paresh Dandona. What's more that inflammation continues for three or four hours longer.

Most of us are well aware that high-fat, high-carbohydrate meals raise our cholesterol levels and send our blood sugar rates soaring. That puts us at greater risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But now nutritionists are aware there is a third danger: inflammation of the blood vessels. The fats and carbohydrate sugars appear to release "free radical" molecules within the blood cells, which in turn trigger the inflammation, reports HealthDayNews.

When nine healthy young adults ate this 930-calorie McMuffin/hash brown breakfast after an overnight fast, their blood showed a definite change compared to individuals who ate no breakfast. Those who ate the McDonald's breakfast displayed "evidence of free radical generation by the circulating white blood cells, which would cause inflammation within the white blood cells," Dandona said.

The primary culprits of the McDonald's breakfast are the hash browns, cooking oil, and muffins--not the egg or sausage. The SUNY Buffalo team is now studying the effects of 300-calorie and 1,800-calorie breakfasts. Note that McDonald's isn't the only breakfast that can stress your arteries. Sit-down restaurants and even home-cooked meals can do the same thing.

The study findings were published in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


:| :| :|



02-22-2006, 04:51 PM
February 17, 2006

Critic's Notebook

Five Oscar Nominees: Foreign, Not Alien


NOW that Michael Moore and penguins have given documentaries some cachet, the title of Most Boring Category You're Supposed to Care About at the Oscars probably goes to best foreign-language film. (Awards to humanitarians and techno-geeks don't count.) But the current surprisingly topical crop of nominees reveals the silliness of that idea. In this year of politically themed best-picture contenders like "Munich" and "Good Night, and Good Luck," the foreign films have a similar urgency.

A Palestinian about to carry out a suicide bombing in "Paradise Now" asks his partner, "Are we doing the right thing?" The film raises some of the same questions "Munich" does, but from the opposite side of the Middle East divide: what is the personal cost, and the effectiveness, of political assassination?

Early in the South African film "Tsotsi," a member of a street gang stabs a stranger in a crowded subway, in a scene whose chilling vision of urban crime might resonate in New York, Los Angeles or any other city in the world.

One of those films is considered likely to win, but the other three nominees also demonstrate that while they may be foreign, they are not alien. The French "Joyeux Noël" (Merry Christmas) is set during World War I but carries a relevant if sugar-coated antiwar message. The Italian "Don't Tell" deals with an issue all too familiar from dozens of American talk shows, recovered memories of childhood abuse. And the German drama about a real-life heroine who resisted the Nazis, "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" [Review, Page 1], focuses on the ever-present issue of resistance rather than on historical details.

This topical emphasis doesn't necessarily suggest tunnel vision at the Academy. Just as last year's foreign film winner, "The Sea Inside" (from Spain), and the best picture winner, "Million Dollar Baby," both dealt with euthanasia, this year's films are simply embracing common issues that are volatile around the world.

And this year, perhaps more easily than ever before, the foreign film nominees are available to see. All five will have arrived in New York and Los Angeles by the end of next month, gradually opening around the country soon after. Even if they don't turn up at the local mall, they will become available on DVD.

The themes of war and of blighted childhoods are fraught with the risk of preachiness, but the best of the nominated films, "Paradise Now" and "Tsotsi," thoughtfully consider these issues instead of bashing viewers with didactic answers. "Paradise Now" never names the political group that the suicide bombers are part of, but their mission in Tel Aviv is to avenge the killing of one of its heroes. The Israelis in "Munich" are also engaged in retaliation, for the assassination of their Olympic athletes by Palestinians. The two films together may say more about the cycle of Middle East violence than either does alone.

There is even some dispute about what to call the provenance of "Paradise Now." Leaping into treacherous political waters, the Academy's official Web site says the film is from Palestine, which has resulted in complaints that no such country exists; now the Academy is reconsidering its terminology. Bruce Davis, the executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said in a phone interview that while a decision had not been made, "I suspect that on Oscar night you'll be hearing the words 'Palestinian territories' " when the nominations are read.

Whatever is decided, the dispute shouldn't distract from the film. With grippingly realistic, no-frills moviemaking, "Paradise Now" doesn't glorify the bombers; it turns on the question of whether they'll go through with the mission. Tackling a crucial subject from a perspective rarely seen in the United States, the movie is first of all suspenseful.

It is also still running in New York and Los Angeles almost four months after opening. "Tsotsi" may have a similar potential to reach an audience that sees it simply as a movie, not some foreign object. When a petty criminal raised on the streets, called Tsotsi — a nickname that means thug — carjacks a BMW, he finds a baby in the backseat. For days, Tsotsi tries to care for the child, carrying him around in a shopping bag. Poignant though that image is, the film eventually takes some unsentimental turns.

Based on a novel by Athol Fugard and updated from the 1950's to post-apartheid South Africa, the film becomes more about class than race. Tsotsi kidnaps the child from a well-off black couple living in an alarmed and gated house. Like "City of God," set in the slums of Brazil, "Tsotsi" has the flavor of its native country yet depicts social problems that are recognizable everywhere.

Like this year's American best-picture nominees, the foreign film contenders are not exactly cheerful. What does it tell you when the most upbeat film is a World War I movie? "Joyeux Noël" dramatizes a familiar historical event: the Christmas truce called by French, German and British soldiers on the front line. The film's true subject is not World War I, though. Its message is that ordinary soldiers on all sides become pawns of their political leaders.

Like "Joyeux Noël," which has some dialogue in English and German as well as in French, many of the nominees reach across more than one country. In "Don't Tell," the young woman in Rome who is disturbed by the gaps in her childhood memories travels to Charlottesville, Va., to talk to her older brother. This increasingly global landscape — with many foreign films co-produced by more than one country — reflects a world linked by instant communications, in which issues like childhood abuse and its psychological scars are without national borders.

The least surprising choice among the nominees may be the earnest "Sophie Scholl." But then the Oscar nominees have never represented the best foreign films out there, just the best that have made it through the Academy's maze of regulations. Each country gets to submit one film, and if a country chooses not to — Spain didn't submit two recent Pedro Almodóvar films that are among his best, "Talk to Her" and "Bad Education" — there is nothing anyone can do about it.

One of this year's strongest foreign films, "Caché" (Hidden), was disqualified. Its director, Michael Haneke, is Austrian, and Austria submitted it. But this haunting story of a Parisian family stalked by someone videotaping them is in French; the rules say the film has to be predominantly in the language of the country that submits it.

Fifty-four countries submitted films this year, and from that list an Academy committee of about 400 members selected the nominees. What could those people have been thinking when they passed over the Belgian submission, the extraordinary "L'Enfant" (The Child), by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne? This depiction of a callous young man who lives on the streets and suddenly finds himself a father — and what happens to the child — is among the Dardenne brothers' most eloquent works, stirring and immediate, with unexpected sympathy for the hapless father. Tougher than most of the nominees and without a trace of sentimentality (maybe that's what bothered the committee), it would deserve to win if only it were in the race.

But then second-guessing the Oscars is part of the fun in any category, and it makes sense to add foreign films to the mix. We all read news crawls while watching television; why not subtitles?

(*) (*) I always make it a point to watch the subtitled version of a film, rather
than the overdubbed version.

(~) (~) The lack of lip-sync in the overdub is, for me, more distracting than
subtitles. Besides, when you hear the actual dialog, even if you don't
understand the words, you get the nuance and the emotion from the way the
words are spoken in a way that never comes through in an overdubbed

(l) (l) (l) I *love foreign films! (~) (~)

(k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and WTBBP (l) (&) (l)

02-22-2006, 05:00 PM

(h) .;)

(k) (k) 's

SL & WTBBP (l) (&) (l)

02-22-2006, 05:02 PM

:| :| :| ......;)

(k) (k) 's,

SL & WTBBP (l) (&) (l)

02-22-2006, 05:05 PM
Some days you're the hammer and some days you're the nail. And on Tuesday, Google got nailed when a federal judge ruled that while the search sovereign cannot be held liable for indexing sites that display images stolen from the porn site Perfect 10, its display of Perfect 10 thumbnail images "likely" amounts to copyright infringement (see "Idiot: Google stole my porn"). In a 48-page opinion (PDF), U.S. District Court Judge A. Howard Matz said the miniature skin shots do not fall within the fair-use exemption because they could be considered a replacement for the images the site licenses for handhelds and phones through U.K. outfit Fonestarz. Google, after all, does offer an image search for mobile phones. Why pay a fee for a bit of portable prurience when you can have it for free? "Although the court is reluctant to issue a ruling that might impede the advance of Internet technology, and although it is appropriate for courts to consider the immense value to the public of such technologies, existing judicial precedents do not allow such considerations to trump a reasoned analysis of … fair use," Matz wrote. "Google's thumbnail images are essentially the same size and of the same quality as the reduced-size images that (Perfect 10) licenses to Fonestarz." Matz's decision is only a preliminary one and will almost certainly be appealed. If upheld, it will narrow the concept of fair use for search engines and perhaps force them to rethink the way the present some copyrighted material.





:| :| :| :| ........this one is surely one to watch how it develops.......:| (p) (p)

(k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and Wyatt the baby Boxer puppy (l) (&) (l)

02-22-2006, 05:07 PM

"Google argues that P10's works are not creative because P10 'emphasizes the objects of the photographs (nude women) and [P10] assumes that persons seeking Perfect 10's photos are searching for the models and for sexual gratification.' Google contends this 'implies a factual nature of the photographs.'

"The Court rejects this argument. The P10 photographs consistently reflect professional, skillful, and sometimes tasteful artistry. That they are of scantily-clad or nude women is of no consequence; such images have been popular subjects for artists since before the time of 'Venus de Milo.' "

-- U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz, apparently after lengthy personal research, rules that Google should get its mind out of the gutter.:P :P ;) :| :|


SL & WTBBP (l) (&) (l)

02-22-2006, 05:14 PM
So if you're going to sit there in your cubicle, ears full of earbuds, insulated from the world as you cruise along to your private soundtrack, isolated from office dynamics and serendipitous overheard conversations, you might as well have a player that visually entertains passing co-workers. TechEBlog offers some suggestions for some attention-catchers, including a Pez dispenser, one that purports to supplement your music with soothing alpha waves, and a batch of scented (bleah!) players.

Meanwhile, a new gadget niche is emerging under the heading "it's an iPod crossed with a ...." Today's exhibits are an iPod crossed with a Tamagotchi and the Viliv P1, which, depending on what site you read, is either "the bastard child of a Sony PSP and an iPod" or "the bastard child of Jessica Rabbit and an iPod Video."

And while we're in the vicinity of the subject, what's the earbud etiquette at your office?

Eighty percent of technical and creative employees -- programmers, engineers and graphics designers, for instance -- listen to music more than 20 percent of their working hours, said Tom Nolle of CIMI, a New Jersey-based research and consulting firm. "It's almost like you're in an office and you have a closed door or an open door. There are new sensibilities around when you can interrupt and when you can't,'' said David Ormesher, CEO of the 35-person Chicago firm Closerlook. Rather than isolating co-workers, music offers common ground, he added, "they share playlists on the office network and everyone winds up playing each other's music -- jazz, classical, hip-hop, world music. You learn a lot about each other just by checking out playlists.'' But does collaboration suffer as a result? "If you essentially put yourself in an auditory cave, you're going to miss opportunities to learn by observing what others are doing, by overhearing," said Franklin Becker, a social and environmental psychologist who directs Cornell University's International Workplace Studies Program. How's it work where you are?

(*) Top 10 Strangest MP3 Players:







Personal music players changing office dynamics:


(*) (*) ....I wish there was a happy face with a beanie and a propeller.......for this grrl-propeller-head......(k) (h) ;)

(k) (k) 's

Sweetlady and Wyatt the napping puppy........(l) (&) (l)

02-22-2006, 05:21 PM
for a live view of the Grand Canyon through the Grand Canyon webcam camera looking west from Yavapai Point. It is updated every 30 minutes.


(*) (*) ....:( ..:( ....:( ......:'(

(k) (k) 's,


02-22-2006, 05:23 PM

(c) (c) .......settling in for a spelll....this list is worth the look-see!(p) (p)

(S) (S)

Relaxed sleep and dreams tonight.

(k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and Wyatt the Baby Boxer Puppy (l) (&) (l)

02-23-2006, 11:12 AM
We see the action... God sees the Motive.

Charles Schindoll, Improving Your Serve

02-26-2006, 12:16 PM
"The difference between a hero and a coward is one step sideways."

- Gene Hackman

Luck? I don't know anything about luck. I've never banked on it, and I'm afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: hard work - and realizing what is opportunity and what isn't."

- Lucille Ball


Courage is not limited to the battlefield or the Indianapolis 500 or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are the inner tests, like remaining faithful when nobody is looking, like enduring pain when the room is empty, like standing alone when you're misunderstood."

- Don Herold


"What we call evil is simply ignorance bumping its head in the dark."

- Henry Ford

(l) (l) (l) (l) (l) .....Stay warm and cuddly on this chilling sunday afternoon.........(c)(8)

Carpe diem,

Sweetrlady and Wyatt (l) (&) (l)

02-26-2006, 12:21 PM

"Dusk": Jim's second solo piano album Dusk has a presence and feeling all of its own. Warm, deep and moving; these are beautiful piano songs that you can listen to over and over again. Featured is the poignant track Gone, one of Jim's most popular pieces to date, considered by many to be a classic.

"Gone" is one of those pieces of music that never fails to touch all of the chords of love that has passed away yet stays eternal in my heart:



Tender Ritual: "Few artists are able to crystallize an emotion in a melody the way Chappell can. His music is written for the heart's ear." With Tender Ritual, Jim gives each piece its individual subject and emotional message. This is solo piano at its best.

I used to listen to this and some other of Jim's CD's while driving the two-hour drive to Silicon Valley from my home near Walnut Creek, CA. "Blue Racer" and "Tender Ritual" are wonderful!


Living the Northern Summer: "The inspiration for this collection of songs is the variety of experiences I had during the summers I spent growing up in a northern part of the United States - Michigan. Each song is unique with its own distinctive melody." --- Jim Chappell

"Living the Northern Summer" reminded me so much of living in northern CA - where I was living at the time - as well as "Embrace of a Lifetime", again brought to mind those who I had lost in my life.


"Nightsongs and Lullabies" : Nightsongs and Lullabies is a gift of music for adults and children alike... to listen to during your favorite part of the day. Whether you share these melodies with your loved one or with your child, or keep them all to yourself, this is the music for the quiet times, from a very special artist... Jim Chappell.

"Lullaby" is superbly exquisite as is "Storytime". I guess I love just about all of his songs.


Laughter at Dawn: Fifteen songs capture the enchanting, romantic melodies reminiscent of his beloved Tender Ritual and Dusk. If you like the solo piano music of Jim Chappell, you'll love waking up to Laughter at Dawn.

"First Kiss" is quietly tender and reminds me of early dawn. ""Heart on the Rise" always reminded me of the start of a new relationship and those first feelings of new love. (l) And it has been years.! I definitely do not mind though..........;) Solitude can be a state of grace too.


Try "Winter Tears" on his latest CD:


I have to get this one soon.


(f) (f) Enjoy!

(k) (k) 's,


02-26-2006, 12:25 PM

Jim transports his concert audiences on a cinematic “melodic journey” enhanced by his performance videos: evocative multimedia montages coordinated with the music, projected behind him as he plays. In the course of an evening Jim weaves his musical themes around breathtaking visions of Ireland’s Cliffs of Mohr, the majesty of the California redwoods, and enchanting moonlit visions of late-night Paris. Click below to see streaming video of Jim performing "California" (from A Place In My Heart) in concert.

Samples in MP3 format:




March 11
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

With Stephen Bishop, opening for The Moody Blues (h) (h) (h) (h) (h)

http://www.jimwilson.net/schedule.html (List of 2006 and 2007 Concerts...)


Billboard Magazine ranking! http://www.jimwilson.net/press.html

(l) (8) (l) (8) (l) (8)

(8) (8) :)


02-26-2006, 12:39 PM
1. Buffalo Girls (1995)

This colorful made-for-TV biopic follows maverick cowgirl Calamity Jane (Anjelica Huston) through the closing days of the Wild West -- from her stint as a mule skinner for General Custer to her romantic fling with Wild Bill Hickock (Sam Elliott) to her close friendship with brothel madam Dora DuFran (Melanie Griffith). The star-packed cast also includes country music powerhouse Reba McEntire as Annie Oakley and Peter Coyote as Buffalo Bill Cody.

Starring: Anjelica Huston, Melanie Griffith, Gabriel Byrne, Peter Coyote, Tracey Walter, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Jack Palance, Charlayne Woodard, John Diehl, Liev Schreiber, Reba McEntire, Sam Elliott

Director: Rod Hardy

(~) The movie has a bit of an "Indie" feel to it. It depicts the end of the line of some of America's favorite Wild West heroes. Houston is pleasantly surprising as the oft troubled Calamity Jane and Griffith does an admirable job as her best friend and Madame, Dora DuFran. Elliot is always strong and is so here as Jane's friend and lover, Bill Hickock. Jack Palance steals every scene he's in. We see some of these characters as troubled and confused as the "progress" of the twentieth century is upon them. Good Saturday afternoon viewing for the whole family. (~)

I gave it 5 (*) 's because of my love of good westerns especially with a cast like this one.(*)


2. Proof (2004)

A devoted daughter (Gwyneth Paltrow) comes to terms with the death of her father (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant mathematician whose genius was crippled by mental instability. Along the way, she's forced to face her own dark fears. But she has help from one of her father's former students (Jake Gyllenhaal), who searches through the dead man's notebooks in hopes of discovering the key to his brilliance. John Madden directs.

Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hope Davis, Danny McCarthy, Tobiasz Daszkiewicz, Gary Houston, Anne Wittman, Leigh Zimmerman, Colin Stinton

Director: John Madden

(~) This is the best film that I have seen to date about the effect of mental illness on family relationships. The film is also about the way the strange world of math genius ambiguates mental illness. Hopkins and Paltrow are magic together, someone should write a film just for those two to work together.

(~) Gwyneth Paltrow plays Catherine, a young woman whose father has recently died, leaving behind both a monumental mathematical legacy to the world and a more personal, tragic legacy of mental illness. Catherine, who has cared for her father in the worst of his illness for five years, finds herself at the end of her own rope; she's angry and confused about her place in the world and feels the welling up of stress she has suffered as a caregiver. And she's worried she may have inherited her father's illness along with his gifts. Her older sister Claire, played by Hope Davis, wants to make it up to Catherine for leaving her alone for so long — which includes taking care of Catherine the same way she took care of her father. Into this family drama, Jake Gyllenhall's Harold Dobbs inserts himself. He's an ambitious mathematics doctoral student who falls for Catherine. "Proof" really begins when Catherine lets Harold discover a mathematical proof she says she has written. her sister and Harold doubt her. How can she prove she's the author? How can Harold prove he cares for her? How can Claire prove herself a good sister to Catherine and how can Catherine prove she isn't crazy to Claire? The authorship of the proof drives the narrative, but the script shows that there isn't always evidence for the things we take for granted, whether it is prime numbers or how much we treasure, trust, and worry about, our loved ones. Gyllenhall and Paltrow feel miscast here, and the transition from play to movie is made awkwardly. Still, this movie respects its audience and has a respectful treatment of mental illness.(~)

I gave it 4 (*) 's.


3. Off the Map (2003)

A coming-of-age tale about an 11-year-old girl, Bo (Valentina d'Angelis), who spends the summer of 1974 watching her father (Sam Elliott) battle a bout of depression that proves to be crippling. Bo's parents (Joan Allen plays her mother) moved to New Mexico to escape the stresses of the big city (as part of a 1960s-'70s exodus that saw similar moves across the country) and now find they're being investigated by the government for tax evasion.

Starring: Amy Brenneman, Valentina de Angelis, Joan Allen, Sam Elliott, J.K. Simmons, Boots Southern, J.D. Garfield, Jim True-Frost, Matthew E. Montoya, Kathy Griego, William Hart McNicholas, Timothy Martinez, J.D. Hawkins

Director: Campbell Scott

(~) (~) Whimsical, touching story of a young girl coming of age and dealing with her family's idiosycrasies. Amazingly beautiful scenery set in the remote mountains of northern New Mexico, with wonderful performances by Sam Elliot and Joan Allen, with Valentina de Angelis giving a warm and funny portrayal as their daughter. This movie was shown in film festivals in 2003, where it won many awards, but has not yet been released in theatres. (The distributor has indicated it could be out in mid-2005.) Go see this movie if you have the opportunity!

(~) (~) This movie is to New Mexico as Fargo is to the Dakotas. It takes the time to explore the depths of just a few characters, who are as rich and unusual as the backdrop. The slow pace reflects the chosen lifestyle of the family who separate themselves from all that is familiar to most of us, and the longing of a young girl to grow up and experience more of the world. There are no high action scenes, no heart-thumping drama. But the story and its depiction reveal the spritual draw of the desert and a simple self-sufficient lifestyle. (~) (~)

I gave this film 4 (*) 's.

(k) (k) 's

Sweetlady and WTBBP (l) (&) (l)

02-26-2006, 07:22 PM
I definitely missed it. (meaning when it first was introduced here.....)

Who on the B-F web site defines the "Rep Power"??

I have *so* been out of the "cool loop" when it comes to newer definitions. I appreicate the number however..........

Not that I mind having a 21 but still........:)

(S) (S) and with much gratitude and respect,

Back to Wyatt the baby Boxer,

Sweetlady and her (l) (&) (l)

02-27-2006, 03:18 AM
When Osama bin Laden died, George Washington met him at the Pearly Gates.
He slapped him across the face and yelled, "How dare you try to destroy
the nation I helped conceive!"

Patrick Henry approached, punched him in the nose and shouted, "You wanted
to end our liberties but you failed!"

James Madison followed, kicked him in the groin and said, "This is why I
allowed our government to provide for the common defense!"

Thomas Jefferson was next, beat Osama with a long cane and snarled, "It
was evil men like you who inspired me to write the Declaration of

The beatings and thrashings continued as George Mason, James Monroe and 66
other early Americans unleashed their anger on the terrorist leader.

As Osama lay bleeding and in pain, an Angel appeared. Bin Laden wept and
said, "This is not what you promised me."

The Angel replied, "I told you there would be 72 Virginians waiting for
you in Heaven. What did you think I said?"

(y) (y) (y) :D :D :D :D (y) (y) (y)

Have a lovely week, all.

Sweetlady and Wyatt the Boxer pup (l) (&) (l)

03-05-2006, 09:13 AM
March 1, 2006

Online Colleges Receive a Boost From Congress


It took just a few paragraphs in a budget bill for Congress to open a new frontier in education: Colleges will no longer be required to deliver at least half their courses on a campus instead of online to qualify for federal student aid.

That change is expected to be of enormous value to the commercial education industry. Although both for-profit colleges and traditional ones have expanded their Internet and online offerings in recent years, only a few dozen universities are fully Internet-based, and most of them are for-profit ones.

The provision is just one sign of how an industry that once had a dubious reputation has gained new influence, with well-connected friends in the government and many Congressional Republicans sympathetic to their entrepreneurial ethic.

The Bush administration supported lifting the restriction on online education as a way to reach nontraditional students. Nonprofit universities and colleges opposed such a broad change, with some academics saying there was no proof that online education was effective. But for-profit colleges sought the rollback avidly.

"The power of the for-profits has grown tremendously," said Representative Michael N. Castle, Republican of Delaware, a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee who has expressed concerns about continuing reports of fraud. "They have a full-blown lobbying effort and give lots of money to campaigns. In 10 years, the power of this interest group has spiked as much as any you'll find."

Sally L. Stroup, the assistant secretary of education who is the top regulator overseeing higher education, is a former lobbyist for the University of Phoenix, the nation's largest for-profit college, with some 300,000 students.

Two of the industry's closest allies in Congress are Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, who just became House majority leader, and Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California, who is replacing Mr. Boehner as chairman of the House education committee.

And the industry has hired well-connected lobbyists like A. Bradford Card, the brother of the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr.

The elimination of the restriction on online education, included in a $39.5 billion budget-cutting package, is a case study in the new climate. Known as the 50 percent rule, the restriction was one of several enacted by Congress in 1992 after investigations showed that some for-profit trade schools were little more than diploma mills intended to harvest federal student loans.

Since then, the industry has grown enormously, with enrollment at such colleges outpacing that at traditional ones. In 2003, the last year for which statistics were available, 703,000 of the 16.9 million students at all degree-granting institutions were attending for-profit colleges.

These colleges offer a wide range of courses, including marketing, accounting, cooking and carpentry. Many attract students who have had limited success at other schools. Some offer certificates, while others issue associates, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. About 2,500 for-profit schools are accredited to offer federal student aid.

Yet commercial higher education continues to have a checkered record, particularly for aggressive recruitment and marketing. The Department of Education's inspector general, John P. Higgins Jr., testified in May that 74 percent of his fraud cases involved for-profit schools.

But commercial colleges found a sympathetic ear in the administration and Congress in their quest to remove the 50 percent rule. Representatives Boehner and McKeon sponsored the measure.

Laura Palmer Noone, president of the University of Phoenix, said the growth of Internet-based learning had shown it to be effective, especially for rural, military and working students.

Kevin Smith, a spokesman, said Mr. Boehner "views this as removing an unnecessary barrier to distance education." He added, "While continuing to ensure that there are strong antifraud protections in place, he believes we need to break down more barriers to education for low-income, first-generation and nontraditional students."

Some academics say the nation is rushing to expand online higher education because it is profitable, without serious studies of effectiveness.

"This is a growth industry and you get rich not by being skeptical, but by being enthusiastic," said Henry M. Levin, director of Columbia University's National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education.

"People at the academic conferences will say they did a survey about Internet-based education, but there are a lot of phantom statistics," he said, "and its all very promotional. We have not found a single rigorous study comparing online with conventional forms of instruction."

How fast the college landscape will change is uncertain. Sean Gallagher, a senior analyst at Eduventures, a Boston research firm, predicted that the proportion of students taking all their classes online could rise over the next 10 years or so to 25 percent from the current 7 percent.

To test online learning, Congress established a demonstration program in 1998 that allowed a few dozen colleges with online programs to request waivers from the 50 percent rule. The Department of Education reported last year that enrollment at eight of the colleges shot up 700 percent over six years.

Ms. Stroup has overseen the program since becoming an assistant secretary of education in 2002.

Several opponents of lifting the 50 percent rule said Ms. Stroup had been fair in policy evaluations. But in a 2004 audit, the Education Department's inspector general said a 2003 report she provided to Congress on the program "contained unsupported, incomplete and inaccurate statements."

Most were assertions that online education was working as well or better than traditional methods, with little risk. The inspector general, citing the collapse of one participant in the program, the Masters Institute in California, chided the Education Department for reporting that it had found "no evidence" that the rule change could pose hazards.

Ms. Stroup formally disagreed with the inspector general. In an interview, she said a subordinate had written the report, although she had signed off on it. In a later report to Congress, the department acknowledged "several possible risk factors."

Ms. Stroup, in the interview, said she had withdrawn from all decisions directly affecting the University of Phoenix. "I don't see myself as representing any one sector," she said. "We try to help all students."

Traditional colleges, in fighting repeal of the rule, cited the Masters Institute, whose online enrollment surged after it gained access to federal money. The institute collapsed in 2001 during a fraud investigation.

"What we opposed was that federal aid should go to these virtual universities that disguise themselves as colleges, where it's just something on the Internet with no resources behind it," said Sarah Flanagan, a vice president at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which represents nearly 1,000 nonprofit institutions.

The Department of Education estimated the change would cost the government $697 million over 10 years.

Representatives Boehner and McKeon have also pushed through committee other changes sought by the for-profit industry, and lobbyists and lawmakers gave them good chances of passage this year.

Unlike all but a few traditional universities, the for-profits have formed political action committees to channel campaign donations, especially to members of the House and Senate education committees.

While the $1.8 million that executives of the largest chains of proprietary colleges and their political action committees have donated to federal candidates since 2000 is not huge by Washington standards, the money is strategically donated.

About a fifth — $313,000 — went to Mr. Boehner and McKeon and political action committees they control, according to figures provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors campaign finances.

Mr. Smith said there was "zero" connection between the donations and Mr. Boehner's policy decisions. James Geoffrey, a spokesman for Mr. McKeon, said the donations had no bearing on his choices, either.

Some lobbyists for the traditional universities said that because few of them form political action committees, they are at a disadvantage.

"If I seek an appointment with a member of Congress, I get a staff member, if anybody," said David Hawkins, a lobbyist for the National Association of College Admissions Counsellors, which as a nonprofit group is barred from making campaign donations.

A. Bradford Card, who represents some commercial colleges in New York, said lawmakers were responding to commercial colleges' educational contributions. He said he had spoken several times with Mr. Boehner about his clients' agenda. Mr. Card said he never lobbied his brother, Mr. Bush's chief of staff.

"These are not fly-by-night schools," Mr. Card said "Members of Congress are really taking a look at this industry because they recognize that proprietary colleges are helping people get into the work force, pay taxes and become the best they can be."

(y) (y) (y) (y) (y) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h) (y) (y) (y) (y) (y)


Swetlady and Wyatt the Boxer pup (l) (&) (l)

03-05-2006, 09:16 AM
BBC: Cocoa 'cuts heart disease risk'

Cocoa 'cuts heart disease risk'

Scientists have produced more compelling evidence that cocoa is good for your heart.

Dutch scientists found elderly men who consumed cocoa had lower blood pressure levels, and were less likely to die from cardiovascular problems.

They say cocoa contains ingredients which may keep the circulatory system healthy in different ways.

But UK experts warned the Archives of Internal Medicine study was not an excuse to gorge on cocoa products.

"There are much better ways of improving your heart health"
- Cathy Ross

Cocoa has been linked to cardiovascular health benefits since at least the 18th century, but researchers are just beginning to collect scientific evidence for these claims.

The Dutch team, from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven, focused on 470 men aged 65 to 84 years.

The men underwent physical examinations and were interviewed about their dietary intake when they enrolled in the study in 1985 and at follow-up visits in 1990 and 1995.

Fewer deaths

Over the next 15 years, men who consumed cocoa regularly had significantly lower blood pressure than those who did not.

Over the course of the study, 314 men died, 152 due to cardiovascular diseases.

Men in the group with the highest cocoa consumption were half as likely as the others to die from cardiovascular disease.

Their risk remained lower even when other factors, such as weight, smoking habits, physical activity levels, calorie intake and alcohol consumption were taken into account.

The men who consumed more cocoa were also less likely to die of any cause.

However, the researchers said there was no evidence of a direct link between low blood pressure and a lower risk of fatal cardiovascular disease.

Cocoa contains chemicals called flavan-3-oils, which have been linked to lower blood pressure and improved function of the cells lining the blood vessels.

But the Dutch team believes the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease may be down to the fact that cocoa is also a rich source of antioxidants.

These substances are able to limit the tissue damage caused by highly reactive chemicals called free radicals, which are released by the body's energy-producing processes.

Tread carefully

Cathy Ross, medical spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation, said: "There is some evidence that when eaten in small quantities, dark chocolate might have some beneficial effects on blood vessels and lowering blood pressure, but as yet no study has investigated the long-terms clinical effects.

"This small study from Holland reinforces the fact that more still needs to be done to determine how eating cocoa affects coronary heart disease in the long term."

She stressed that consuming cocoa was more often part of the problem than the solution.

"Cocoa is rarely tolerable in large amounts in its raw state and therefore to consume the suggested therapeutic amount you would have to have 100g of dark chocolate per day.

"This would mean an average intake of 500 calories per 100g and an average 30% of fat. Eating less did not produce the same effect.

"We are certainly not suggesting people never eat chocolate - everyone can enjoy a treat from time to time.

"But there are much better ways of improving your heart health."

Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2006/02/28 02:10:44 GMT

(*) (*) :) (l) :)

(k) (k) 's.

Sweetlady and Wyatt the Boxer Pup

03-05-2006, 09:19 AM
Blu-ray to Shine In May

Sony’s high-definition discs and players will be on shelves May 23.

February 28, 2006

Sony plans to release the first batch of high-definition movies on its Blu-ray format in retail stores on May 23, meaning the rival HD-DVD format will have a head start of about two months when it launches in late March.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s movie title releases will coincide with the introduction of the first Blu-ray disc player from Samsung, the company said late Monday. Soon after, Blu-ray disc players will be released by Sony and Pioneer. Sony will also release a Blu-ray compatible personal computer.

Toshiba, which backs the HD-DVD standard, is scheduled to start selling the first HD-DVD players at end of March along with about 40 movie titles.

With the $40-billion worldwide DVD market at stake, the format war between Sony and Toshiba has been raging for more than three years.

Both Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats are implementing blue laser technology that provides better picture and sound quality, more interactive features, and a larger amounts of storage.

The first titles will be released by Sony Pictures and MGM Home Entertainment and will include 50 First Dates, The Fifth Element, Hitch, House of Flying Daggers, A Knight’s Tale, and XXX. The second batch of movies will come out June 13 and will include Legends of the Fall, Robocop, Stealth, SWAT, and Terminator.

Independent film studio Lions Gate also announced that it will release 10 movie titles on May 23 that will include Crash and Lord of War, priced at $39.99, and The Punisher, Saw, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day at $29.99. The next batch of releases will in either June or July, the studio said.

Studio Backing

While Blu-ray has the edge when it comes to support from major Hollywood studios—five out six back Blu-ray—HD-DVD will have the advantage with regards to timing. However, the lead has shrunken to only two months; earlier, HD-DVD was expected to release its technology by the 2005 holiday season (see HD-DVD Delayed Until 2006).

Pricing is also an advantage for the HD-DVD group. While the first Blu-ray players by Samsung are expected to cost about $1,000, Toshiba’s players will cost $500 to $800 a piece. Meanwhile Pioneer’s player, again Blu-ray enabled, will have an over-the-top price of $1,800 (see Hi-Def Formats Duel at CES).

Blu-ray also recently released the wholesale prices of its high-definition discs that will be sold in retail outlets such as Best Buy and Circuit City. While new releases on the Blu-ray discs will have a wholesale price of $23.45, older titles will cost $17.95. These prices are much higher than the current retail DVD prices that sell for about $14.99 and $9.99 respectively on BestBuy.com (see Blu-ray Discs Won’t Be Cheap).


(*) (*) .....Here we "go" with format compatibilities again.....as in making sure that these new players are backward-compatible with the DVD's that have been sold for the past few years.....(~) :o :| (~)

(i) (i) Sounds like a great opportunity for some really smart folks to make the megas.(h) (~)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady and WTBP (l) (&) (l)

03-05-2006, 09:21 AM
February 27, 2006

Op-Ed Columnist

Ike Saw It Coming


Early in the documentary film "Why We Fight," Wilton Sekzer, a retired New York City police officer whose son was killed in the World Trade Center attack, describes his personal feelings in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11.

"Somebody had to pay for this," he says. "Somebody had to pay for 9/11. ... I wanna see their bodies stacked up for what they did. For taking my son."

Lost in the agony of his grief, Mr. Sekzer wanted revenge. He wanted the government to go after the bad guys, and when the government said the bad guys were in Iraq, he didn't argue.

For most of his life Mr. Sekzer was a patriot straight out of central casting. His view was always "If the bugle calls, you go." When he was 21 he was a gunner on a helicopter in Vietnam. He didn't question his country's motives. He was more than willing to place his trust in the leadership of the nation he loved.

"Why We Fight," a thoughtful, first-rate movie directed by Eugene Jarecki, is largely about how misplaced that trust has become. The central figure in the film is not Mr. Jarecki, but Dwight Eisenhower, the Republican president who had been the supreme Allied commander in Europe in World War II, and who famously warned us at the end of his second term about the profound danger inherent in the rise of the military-industrial complex.

Ike warned us, but we didn't listen. That's the theme the movie explores.

Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to a national television and radio audience in January 1961. "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience," he said. He recognized that this development was essential to the defense of the nation. But he warned that "we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications."

"The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist," he said. "We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes." It was as if this president, who understood war as well or better than any American who ever lived, were somehow able to peer into the future and see the tail of the military-industrial complex wagging the dog of American life, with inevitably disastrous consequences.

The endless billions to be reaped from the horrors of war are a perennial incentive to invest in the war machine and to keep those wars a-coming. "His words have unfortunately come true," says Senator John McCain in the film. "He was worried that priorities are set by what benefits corporations as opposed to what benefits the country."

The way you keep the wars coming is to keep the populace in a state of perpetual fear. That allows you to continue the insane feeding of the military-industrial complex at the expense of the rest of the nation's needs. "Before long," said Mr. Jarecki in an interview, "the military ends up so overempowered that the rest of your national life has been allowed to atrophy."

In one of the great deceptive maneuvers in U.S. history, the military-industrial complex (with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as chairman and C.E.O., respectively) took its eye off the real enemy in Afghanistan and launched the pointless but far more remunerative war in Iraq.

If you want to get a chill, just consider the tragic chaos in present-day Iraq (seven G.I.'s were killed on the day I went to see "Why We Fight") and then listen to Susan Eisenhower in the film recalling a quotation attributed to her grandfather: "God help this country when somebody sits at this desk who doesn't know as much about the military as I do."

The military-industrial complex has become so pervasive that it is now, as one of the figures in the movie notes, all but invisible. Its missions and priorities are poorly understood by most Americans, and frequently counter to their interests.

Near the end of the movie, Mr. Sekzer, the New York cop who lost his son on Sept. 11, describes his reaction to President Bush's belated acknowledgment that "we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved" in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"What the hell did we go in there for?" Mr. Sekzer asks.

Unable to hide his bitterness, he says: "The government exploited my feelings of patriotism, of a deep desire for revenge for what happened to my son. But I was so insane with wanting to get even, I was willing to believe anything."

(*) :| :| :| :o (*)

({) (}) 's,

SL & WTBP (l) (&) (l)

03-05-2006, 09:26 AM
February 28, 2006

Scientist at Work | Andrew Hamilton

A Thrill Ride to 'the Other Side of Infinity'


DENVER, Feb. 27 — Video game technology and Einstein's work on relativity may at first seem as unlikely a couple as Oscar and Felix.

One bobs in the froth of commercial culture, dodging the scornful radar of educators and parents who wish students were off doing something else like, say, studying Einstein. The other is as highbrow as science gets in its lofty waltz of theoretical physics, where time and space warp in otherworldly ways that have given brain aches to generations of physics students.

But to Andrew J. S. Hamilton, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Colorado, they are perfect together.

What gamer programs do with increasing speed, sophistication and computational muscle, Dr. Hamilton said, is visualize things that have never been seen in the real world. And what Einstein described, especially in his theory of general relativity, are forces of time and space literally outside the real world we know, or can know.

"What if you could take people through a wormhole the way Einstein's equations said it would be?" he said in interview in his office on the Boulder campus. "And what if you could bring art and science together in a way that compromised neither?"

That is where black holes come in. Dr. Hamilton's marriage of video game software and relativity, which he has fashioned into a "Black Hole Flight Simulator," is at the heart of a new show at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science that takes viewers on a 23-minute thrill ride to what the program notes call "the other side of infinity."

The show is built on the crunching of numbers that even a black hole might envy: some segments produced by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois required 90 hours of supercomputer calculation for each second on screen.

The central goal, Dr. Hamilton said, is both simple and mind-bendingly paradoxical: to visualize what cannot be seen.

Because not even light can escape the gravitational pull of a black hole, the interior of a hole is perhaps the ultimate terra incognita. The absence of light coming out means an absence of all information. Most of what science knows about these objects is thus entirely inferential — from gravitational effects on other objects like nearby stars.

The simulator, to be featured this year in a "Nova" program on PBS about black holes, seeks to lift the veil. Using Einstein's equations and a graphics language called Open GL, developed by Silicon Graphics, Dr. Hamilton told the computer to show how individual vectors of light should behave at the no-man's frontier of the black hole, called the event horizon, and inside the hole itself.

That meant not only creating a visual representation of Einstein's work, but also in a real sense creating from scratch a world that cannot be known. "When I started this, I had no idea what would emerge from the equations," Mr. Hamilton said. Part of the thrill was the exploration. The computer would go where the human mind by itself could not.

That the study of black holes could make for a popular planetarium show is a fairly new frontier. Not too many years ago, black holes were thought to be fairly rare, freaks of the cosmos that were born just under extreme circumstances.

A ho-hum star like the sun, for example, has no chance at black hole celebrity. It may flame out and explode at the end of its life billions of years from now, but it will shrivel only back to a point of déclassé afterlife as a dwarf star.

If a star is large enough, more than about 25 of our suns, the inward collapse becomes unstoppable, a cascade of matter and light that falls forever inward toward a bizarre and unimaginable point of singularity.

And it turns out that in the cosmos, bizarre is pretty common. In many galaxies, including our own, scientists now believe that black holes are the workhorse pivot wheels at the galactic center, massive enough to demand gravitational allegiance from hundreds of millions of stars.

But what happens inside a black hole, and especially what such a place might look like, is another question entirely; no such consensus exists on that one. Dr. Hamilton said what his program predicted, especially in the inner event horizon, was simply where Einstein and his equations led.

"There were times when the director Tom Lucas said, 'It doesn't look right,' and my answer became, 'Deal with it,' " said Dr. Hamilton, who is 54 and has been at the university since 1986. "I can't change the visualization to adjust for a conflict with what we expect. It was very important for me to get the science correct."

What the equations produced was very much like a waterfall, except that instead of water, space itself falls into the abyss. But the waterfall analogy went further still. Water that hits the bottom of a waterfall bounces back up to collide with the water falling down to create a maelstrom.

Same thing in a black hole, the equations said. Matter and energy propelled outward by the centrifugal force of the black hole would collide with falling matter to produce a chaotic churn of light.

But Einstein also suggested another outcome, one that science fiction fans are happily aware of as a plot device, the wormhole leading from a black hole to another universe. And Dr. Hamilton shows that part of the journey, as well, as the waterfall-black hole turbulence ends and the audience is flung out and beyond to somewhere even stranger.

"Most people who do computational work stop at the edge," said Lynn R. Cominsky, the chairwoman of the departments of physics, astronomy and chemistry at Sonoma State University and, with Dr. Hamilton, a director of the planetarium show. "As physicists, we stop at the edge at things we can see.

"Andrew Hamilton has gone beyond that and followed the material all the way through the event horizon and made predictions about what should happen inside."

In some ways, Dr. Hamilton's career has been a flight, he said, toward the concrete and visual. Born in Dorset in the West Country of England, he studied mathematics at Oxford. Astrophysics became his home at the University of Virginia, where he received his Ph.D., when felt he wanted more "connection to the real universe."

Now, he says, the connection of gamer gear and science is the frontier. The visualization software that allows players to live and die in cyberworlds like Call of Duty 2, he said, is destined to be the future chalkboard of science.

Hard science is meanwhile galloping ahead just as fast and needs game technology as a tool if students are to master all that must be learned and if members of the public are to glimpse the basics of high-concept science at all.

The world of art, he says, is where all the roads will one day meet, as entertainment technology and science find common ground. He fantasizes real science creeping into Hollywood special effects, as computer geeks in the movie industry realize that the real cosmos as defined by Einstein's legacy is far more mind blowing than fiction.

"I would love to see a 'Star Wars'-type battle take place in the proximity of a black hole, with the physics intact," Dr. Hamilton said.

Hollywood, he added, "simply doesn't realize the richness of nature." Science fiction movies, for example, show light moving in boring straight lines, not twisted into the pretzels that real physics would create.

In fact, the producers of the Denver museum program worried that viewers numbed by movie special effects would not appreciate the depth of science that went into the production. Indeed, Dr. Hamilton said, some members of focus groups who viewed earlier versions of the program "thought they were watching Hollywood."

So the script, read by Liam Neeson, the actor, was tweaked to convey the depth of the research.

Still, Dr. Hamilton concedes that it can be a strange trip following Einstein's math wherever it may lead. Truly a leap in the dark.

Even worse, though, he said, would be not to go at all.

"Is it legitimate science to think we can imagine the inside of a black hole even though it's veiled?" he asked. "Yes. I think so. To make a declaration that it can't be known is to be a defeatist."

And no, he doesn't play video games. Doesn't have the time.

(*) (*) (i) (h) (i) (h) Astrophysics and related physics' fields are SUCH a turn-on!!!! :)(6) :

(k) (k) 's,

SL & WTBP (l) (&) (l)

03-05-2006, 09:39 AM
February 27, 2006

Growing Old Together, in New Kind of Commune


DAVIS, Calif., Feb. 23 — They are unlikely revolutionaries. Bearing walkers and canes, a veritable Merck Manual of ailments among them, the 12 old friends — average age 80 — looked as though they should have been sitting down to a game of Scrabble, not pioneering a new kind of commune.

Opting for old age on their own terms, they were starting a new chapter in their lives as residents of Glacier Circle, the country's first self-planned housing development for the elderly — a community they had conceived and designed themselves, right down to its purple gutters.

Over the past five years, the residents of Glacier Circle have found and bought land together, hired an architect together, ironed out insurance together, lobbied for a zoning change together and existentially probed togetherness together.

"Here you get to pick your family instead of being born into it," said Peggy Northup-Dawson, 79, a retired family therapist and mother of six who is legally blind. "We recognized that when you're physically closer to each other, you pay more attention, look in on each other. The idea was to share care."

The four couples, two widows and two who are now living solo live in eight individual town houses, grouped around an inner courtyard. Still under construction is the "common house" with a living room and a large kitchen and dining room for communal dinners; upstairs is a studio apartment they will rent at below market value to a skilled nurse who will provide additional care. It is their own self-styled, potluck utopia.

"It's an acknowledgment that intimacy doesn't happen by chance," said John Jungerman, 84, a retired nuclear physicist and one of several Ph.D.'s in the group, who is perpetually clad in purple socks and sandals.

"At first John said, 'I'm not old enough,' " his wife, Nancy, said of the commune. "I said, 'You're 80 years old. How old do you have to be?' "

There are about a dozen co-operative housing developments for the elderly in development, from Santa Fe, N.M., to St. Petersburg, Fla., a fledgling movement to communally address "the challenge of aging non-institutionally," said Charles Durett, an architect in Nevada City, Calif., who imported the concept he named co-housing — people buying homes in a community they plan and run together — from Denmark in the late 1960's.

Though communal housing for the elderly is new, intergenerational communities have been around since 1991, when the first opened in this politically progressive university town. There are now 82 across the country.

In Abingdon, Va., residents are beginning to move into ElderSpirit, a development founded by a 76-year-old former nun, Dene Peterson. The community of 37, 10 years in the making, includes a "spirit house" for ecumenical prayer and meditation.

Video: The elderly residents of Glacier Circle explain their motivation for starting a new community. (Produced by Brent McDonald.)

"I just thought there had to be a better way for older people to live," said Ms. Peterson, who formed a nonprofit development corporation with three other former Glenmary sisters, a Catholic order, and knit together a variety of private and governmental funds (16 of the 29 units are subsidized affordable housing).

Ms. Peterson says she was haunted and inspired by her work with elderly public housing residents in Chicago in the 1960's.

"The elderly were dying," she recalled, "and they were anonymous."

With millions of baby boomers moving toward retirement, gerontologists and developers are looking to communal housing for the elderly with growing interest, building on a generation's mythology that already includes communes and college dormitories.

In co-operative housing, said Janice Blanchard, a gerontologist and housing consultant in Denver, "the social consciousness of the 1960's can get re-expressed." Baby boomers, she predicted, "are going to want to recreate the peak experience of their lives. Whether a commune or a college dorm, the common denominator was community."

Rich Morrison, 79, a retired psychologist from Sacramento State University and the sole single man at Glacier Circle, only recently gave up his hobby, swimming the major rapids of the Colorado River. "Emotionally, there's no reason why I can't continue to grow until I'm 100, if I'm lucky," he said.

Mr. Morrison is once widowed and twice divorced. Like others in the group who have struggled through every loss, from a child's suicide to the death of a spouse, he speaks about now being able to make "heart choices," hard won.

"I've been lonely," said Lois Grau, 87, whose husband died three years ago. "Little things go wrong that he would have fixed."

Mrs. Grau and her friends have known each other for nearly 40 years, raising children in the same neighborhood. Many residents met through the local Unitarian Universalist Church, and they still begin weekly meetings by pledging to "listen deeply and thoughtfully" to each other. Davis is known for its involved citizenry who dash off to their book groups at 7 p.m. The Glacier Circle 12 even partake of what they call a "dream group," in which they discuss their dreams.

Their talents and resources are by no means typical. They are all accomplished professionals, and the market value of their homes allowed them to purchase land and build their dream at a cost of $3.2 million, or about $400,000 each, plus $350 a month in dues. They expect to collect $850 a month in rental income. Individuals own their own homes but share expenses of common areas.

Stan Dawson, 75, a resident who has a doctorate from the Harvard School of Public Health, retired as chief of air pollution standards for the State of California to navigate the project full time through bureaucratic hurdles.

"It was a wonderful thing my dad played golf every day," he said of his father's retirement. "But I wanted to further my life in old age."

The design-by-democracy may not work for everyone.

The architect, Julie Haney, 49, said tension broke out over the color of gutters and trim on their bungalow-style homes. As Ms. Haney explained, "Ann likes blue, Stan wanted brown, Ann hates brown, everyone liked purple."

Ms. Haney, whose own elderly parents died as the design was nearing completion, said the residents forgot things more often than her younger clients did but made up for it with perspective. "I asked, 'Do you want a 20-year roof or a 40-year roof?" she recalled. "They said, 'If it lasts five years, we'll be happy.' "

To be sure, the challenges are daunting. Sue Saum, 74, for instance, moved in with her husband Jim, 84, a retired professor who, during the course of planning the community, was told he had Alzheimer's disease. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Saum was operated on for breast cancer, and recently she had back surgery. At some point, she acknowledges, her husband may need care beyond their friends' abilities.

"It's one of those day-at-a-time, figure-it-out-as-you-go things," she said. "But creating a community like this, you learn a lot about the strength of the human spirit."

Twelve friends' buying land at age 80 requires a certain leap of faith. By its nature Glacier Circle will change over time. A homeowners association, consisting of one resident from each unit, has the right of first refusal to buy any home when a vacancy arises, for whatever reason, or what Dr. Jungerman nonchalantly calls a visit from "the great father in the sky."

Glacier Circle is too small to legally mandate age restrictions, but Ray Coppock, 83, a retired editor, thinks that will take care of itself. "They'll take one look at us," he said. "That should reduce the potential buyer situation."

At ElderSpirit in Virginia, which will be fully occupied in late spring, spirituality is the major draw. Ms. Peterson defined spirituality as "people finding meaning in their lives, acknowledging ways to give up the ego and grow the soul."

Six more ElderSpirit communities, in St. Petersburg, Fla., Wichita, Kan., and elsewhere, are in planning stages, with some financing from the Chicago-based Retirement Research Foundation.

Not surprisingly, a streamlined form of community housing may be in the wind, as efforts spring up around the country to speed up the planning process, which normally takes two and a half to three and a half years.

Unlike intergenerational co-operative housing, a niche market of about 5,000 people, communal housing for the elderly has "far more market potential," said Jim Leach, president of the Wonderland Hill Development Company in Denver, which is building Silver Sage, a communal housing development for the elderly scheduled to open in Boulder next year.

Dr. William Thomas, who developed the "Eden Alternative," a widely publicized effort to make nursing homes less institutional, is developing Eldershire in Sherburne, N.Y., south of Syracuse, a hybrid between co-operative housing and a traditional development. The idea is to build first and then attract residents who will run it themselves.

Dr. Thomas compares co-operative housing, and its time-consuming community planning, with "homemade bread — people get together, mix the ingredients, let the dough rise." He's trying to adapt the concept for broader consumption — "100 million people," he says, "buy bread at the store."

Even revolutionaries need to be flexible. At Glacier Circle, where the first tulips of spring are popping up, the group had approved special wall insulation for Mr. Morrison, who has a penchant for playing Mahler's Ninth Symphony at 3 a.m. When the bass and timpani pulse through his subwoofer, his neighbor Dorie Datel, a youthful 80-year-old, just lets it slide. For Ms. Datel, whose husband left her for "the other woman" he met at Elderhostel, this group's wisdom and resolve are embedded in the square footage.

"We've all lived through the Depression and war and the big stuff, so we know that things don't always stay the same," Ms. Datel said. "All of us are interested in living."

Glacier Circle and ElderSpirit are self-developed cohousing communities. The Elder Cohousing Network, founded four years ago, offers for-profit how-to workshops. General information is available through a national non-profit, www.cohousing.org.

(*) (*) I loved:

(l) "Here you get to pick your family instead of being born into it."

(l) "They are all accomplished professionals, and the market value of their homes allowed them to purchase land and build their dream at a cost of $3.2 million, or about $400,000 each, plus $350 a month in dues."

(l) "defined spirituality as "people finding meaning in their lives, acknowledging ways to give up the ego and grow the soul."

(*) (*) Three required ingredients: 1) choices; 2) living with and/or near smart, financially independent, like-minded liberals and 3) people of varying ages/generations who are spiritual.

(h) Terrific "trinity" of characterisitics, in my view.;) What an amazing variety of templates for founding a community. Yea, baby!(i) :)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady and Wyatt the Boxer Pup (l) (&) (l)

03-05-2006, 09:43 AM

** My favorite quote? "I decided to give myself a one-second burst just for the heck of it. I touched the prongs to my naked thigh, pushed the button, and HOLY MOTHER, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION@!@$@$%!@*!!! I'm pretty sure Jessie Ventura ran in through the side door, picked me up in the recliner, then body slammed us both on the carpet, over and over and over again."

:| :| :| :| :|


SL & WTBP (l) (&) (l)

03-05-2006, 09:47 AM
Puzzle alarm clock


(*) ;) :)

(k) (k) 's,


03-05-2006, 09:50 AM

(*) (*) Pretty cool web site.....(h)

Off to the great outdoors! Okay a local park will suffice for a short walk with Wyatt.

(f) (f) 's,

Sweetlady and Wyatt the Boxer Pup(l) (&) (l)

03-05-2006, 09:55 AM
Sheep get their groove

(notice the Harvard in the URL.....)


(*) (*) Way, way cool!! (h) (h) (h)

(c) (c) Time for a fresh cup and get out for the day...........(o) :)

({) (}) 's and (k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and Wyatt the Boxer Pup (l) (&) (l)

03-08-2006, 07:00 PM
Of course, that's one reason why I love Aussies and Brits - being direct!;)

Oscar raises his highbrows as actors get serious

The Academy's taste for serious movies is welcome, but the box office is the real test, writes James Christopher

March 08, 2006

THE Oscars have a duty to surprise. But Crash? Best film? How the hell did that happen? Brokeback Mountain was long the pink-hot favourite. Ang Lee won best director. The top film honour seemed a simple nab. But Paul Haggis's loose bag of LA stories, most central of which is a racist cop who sexually abuses a traffic accident victim (Thandie Newton), crushed the competition.

Why? The script is clever and the editing sublime. But, more importantly, it touches issues close to home. The racial theme is worthy of 60 Minutes. The film fondles America's most insular fears.

In short, Crash won the Academy's most precious award partly because it is a local hero - so many of the Academy's voters are LA-based, after all - but also because after so many years of Hollywood playing at being the Dream Factory, it is choosing to deal with real issues, real people. The remarkable feature about the awards this year is the height of the nominees' brow. There are no popcorn sellers, and no clean sweeps.

Most of the films have almost too much to say. Brokeback Mountain taps sexual hypocrisy and blue-collar lies. Reese Witherspoon (best actress for Walk the Line) takes a musical legend to task. Philip Seymour Hoffman's exquisite performance as Capote won best actor for a lauded author who is exposed as a bastard. Rachel Weisz plucked the best supporting actress Oscar for playing an activist in The Constant Gardener. And George Clooney won the male equivalent for the political thriller Syriana.

None of these films will ever mint commercial gold. But I'm inspired rather than alarmed. Film audiences are clearly growing up. Even Nick Park, who scooped the animation Oscar for Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, admitted that he would rather his films pitched for the big prizes (best film) than win an endless crop of ghetto awards.

The cutting edge of film is becoming increasingly public, and stars are starting to pick and choose subjects as carefully as directors. It's simply not enough to face up a multimillion-dollar franchise. If you want the serious prizes and respect, you have to sacrifice the perks or do projects under your own steam.

Clooney is the most fascinating example this year. He gambled all his chips on films that are fiendishly political and he's managed to drag fans and Academy voters into the cinema. Despite his success with Syriana and his increasingly statesmanlike demeanour, I feel desperately sorry that he failed to pick up an award for Good Night, and Good Luck, a gripping account of media solidarity during American senator Joseph McCarthy's communist witch-hunts.

The interesting detail is how his film commitments have mirrored a wider change of taste. Clooney has no qualms about tackling the status quo, and no fear about the size of his opponent. However, the big test of Oscar's creeping appetite for real issues will come at the box office: how big will the audiences be?

What also worries me is how long anyone can sustain a political or artistic agenda amid all the fuss and glamour. People - thinkers, I should say - like Clooney are rare. These strange films need events such as the Oscars. But they are flirting with shrinking audiences. The television figures are falling by millions, year on year. There is little patience for three-hour ceremonies.

After numbing hours of reality TV, viewers think they have a right to vote. They can't understand why they can't vote for the best actor by simply pushing a button.

The Times


(y) (y) (y)

(k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and Wyatt the Boxer Pup (l) (&) (l)

03-08-2006, 07:02 PM

(l) (l) (h) (h) (y) (y)

({) (}) 's & (k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and WTBP (l) (&) (l)

03-08-2006, 07:06 PM
NBC’s expansion of its online video coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics provided a rare opportunity to compare and contrast the characteristics of on-air and online video delivery of this premier sporting event.

3/7/2006 - By Geoff Daily Streaming Media

With NBC’s decision to expand its online video coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics, the opportunity to compare and contrast the characteristics of on-air and online video delivery has rarely been as ripe as it was last month.

By all accounts, NBCOlympics.com was a resounding success for NBC, serving up a reported 9.1 million video streams, or more than 125,000 hours of video streamed, over the two weeks of the Olympic Games. NBC’s on-air coverage, on the other hand, while still responsible for drawing 184 million viewers—nearly two-thirds of all Americans—suffered embarrassing defeats on a nightly basis to shows like American Idol and even Dancing with the Stars.

This article takes a look into the success of NBC’s online coverage, factors that may have contributed to the somewhat underwhelming response to their on-air broadcast, and how online video offers even more potential for success as NBC prepares for the 2008 Summer Games.

Getting Better All the Time
2006 wasn’t the first year that NBC offered online video as part of its Olympics coverage, but it was the first time they offered footage of actual events in such a way that allowed viewers easy and open access to that content.

In 2004, NBC’s online presence only included supplementary video content like interviews and some highlight reels, but none of the unadulterated footage of the events themselves. Additionally, NBC severely limited its online reach, as it only allowed access to its library of video clips to those users with Visa credit cards who were willing to provide their full names and the first six digits of their card numbers (Visa was the sponsor of the online video at the time).

In 2006, NBC took a major step towards realizing the full potential of Internet video. This time around, anyone could navigate to NBCOlympics.com and begin watching video immediately without registering at all. Plus, there was a selection, albeit a limited one, of footage from individual events.

NBCOlympic.com’s video player offered a 300Kbps Windows Media-encoded stream that delivered a very high-quality video experience, with more than adequate resolution and little-to-no jittering or artifacting.

Each video was preceded by a pre-roll video ad, and NBC wisely chose to keep those ads in the 10- to 16-second range. Trying to force users to watch the broadcast-standard 30-second ad prior to an online clip can often dissuade users from sitting there long enough to watch their video of choice. NBC also employed dynamic ad insertion so that users weren’t forced to watch the same ad over and over again.

The content discovery interface in NBCOlympic.com’s video player grouped clips by Sports, Athletes, and a mix of other categories, such as Top Video. Interestingly, despite NBC’s decision to include more videos of individual events, the vast majority of clips in the Top Video section were recaps or montages of multiple events spliced together. The only events to have a significant presence were the two surprise men’s gold winners in speed skating and what is traditionally the premier event of the Winter Olympics, women’s figure skating.

The Weaknesses of Broadcast TV

Back in 2004, NBC’s primary reason for not pushing forward with more streaming coverage of the Olympics was a desire to protect their on-air broadcasts from unnecessary competition. But watching 2006’s on-air coverage revealed the limitations of the broadcast medium.

To accommodate even the relatively small percentage of total Olympic events aired on TV, NBC’s coverage had to be spread across a half dozen channels, including MSNBC and USA. But it wasn’t as if all these channels aired their Olympics coverage simultaneously, so casual fans of the Olympics who may not be interested enough in a single sport to wade through the channels and schedules could easily be left in the dark, not realizing that their favorite event was, indeed, televised, just not on NBC itself.

The need for a more centralized location to find Olympics coverage became especially apparent on the first Sunday, when NBC preempted its Olympics coverage in order to air the Daytona 500. And the decision of when to broadcast the games on NBC seemed somewhat surreal when, on the first Saturday at noon, viewers were treated to an hour-long infomercial instead of Olympic coverage.

NBC’s on-air coverage also suffered from the demands of trying to accommodate what is essentially a collection of niche audiences through the use of the mass-market broadcast medium. Its efforts to do this resulted in odd collections of primetime coverage that bounced from events that draw younger audiences, like snowboard cross, to those that skew older, like figure skating.

Additionally, the huge delay in on-air coverage from when the event actually happened was only made more obvious by the instantaneous nature of the Internet. This was never more apparent than during the women’s figure skating finals when, on Feb. 23 between 4 and 5 p.m. EST, NBCOlympics.com brought in 5.5 million viewers as surfers sought updates on the competition as it was happening in Italy. Yet, NBC’s on-air viewers weren’t able to witness that event until after 11 p.m., EST that night.

Improving and Expanding for Tomorrow
While NBCOlympics.com only included coverage of the most popular individual events, NBC’s online coverage achieved a significant milestone by offering a live stream of the gold medal men’s hockey game on Sunday, Feb. 26. Since it aired at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, it’s unlikely that event drew an audience on the scale of say Live8 this past summer, but it does speak to a welcome shift in NBC’s attitude towards online video. (NBC hasn’t released viewership numbers for the game.)

The hope is that with the success of this year’s online Olympics portal, NBC will continue to expand its online coverage of the Olympics for the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Even if it doesn’t choose to offer all of its on-air footage online in order to protect its more established asset, there are still thousands of hours of competition that never make it on-air but which often have fiercely loyal audiences starving for a way to watch their favorite sports.

The opportunity exists for NBC to monetize that unused footage and drive significant revenue through its online portal. With the sharp increase in online ad dollars over the last year, streaming has now entered a place where the more you stream, the more you earn, assuming a successful ad model is in place. At the same time, with an event like the Olympics, there are myriad possibilities for offering pay-per-view or subscription content that takes advantage of niche audiences and the relative dearth of available content online. The question shouldn’t be “Is online stealing dollars from on-air?” It should be, “How do we take full advantage of everything online has to offer in order to generate additional revenue that’s not even possible or available through on-air broadcasting? “

With this year’s online coverage of the Olympics, NBC seems to be beginning to see the light, slowly but surely. It’ll be interesting to see how far they’re willing to push the envelope the next time around when the Summer Games begin in 2008.

(y) (y) (h) (h) ;) ;)

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady & Wyatt the Boxer Pup (l) (&) (l)

03-08-2006, 07:12 PM
If you've ever spent significant time in online discussion groups, and particularly if you had a chance to watch the devolution of Usenet, you owe it to yourself to visit Mike Reed's Flame Warriors site. Reed has created an updated version of his handsomely illustrated catalog of the stock characters who accrete around forums and message boards. As veterans will recognize and newbies should note, the profiles are dead-on descriptions of posters you've known and loathed: Blowhard with his credentials; Tireless Rebutter, who can't let go; Bliss Ninny, who just wants everyone to get along; and the unshakeable Ferrous Cranus. A fun trip down memory lane for those who once found this form of entropy in action entertaining, and a must-read for anyone entering the "social" Web.







;) ;) ..Which type are you?? ;) :) :)

Lovely rest of your evening.......(S) (S)

(k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady & Wyatt (l) (&) (l)

03-12-2006, 06:29 AM

(8) (8) (8) ....walk like an Egyptian........(8) (8) (8)

LOUD thunderstorms this morning. Thanl goodness it was "only" pouring rain when I ran Wyatt for his morning constitutional....;)

(k) (k) 's.

Sweetlady & Wyatt the Boxer Pup (l) (&) (l)

03-12-2006, 06:41 AM
Mountains of memories: Aching for the "Brokeback" experience

by Aefa Mulholland with Ed Salvato

The galloping success of E. Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain" has spurred a stampede of phone inquiries to Wyoming Travel & Tourism. Callers are eager to learn where they can find the rugged, brooding mountains where two rugged, brooding cowboys found each other.

Those hoping to pin down the exact location of Brokeback Mountain's lingering Wyoming charms will find plenty of lonesome ridges to behold and clear creeks to fish, but they won't find the actual Brokeback. The movie's eponymous mountain is a fictional peak. However, Proulx was inspired by the Big Horns, and director Ang Lee was inspired by Wyoming's Wind River Valley. Lee simply moved mountains across the border.

To visit actual movie sites, saddle up and mosey up the Rockies to Canada. Along with Heath and Jake, the other major star of the soul-stirring cowboy romance is the province of Alberta. Wyoming's picture-perfect stand-in captures the longing that suffuses Lee's cinematic wonder. Whether doing a brooding Wyoming 1963 or a brash Texas 1983, southern Alberta offers an amazing array of identities. Concentrated around Kananaskis County, with town scenes filmed in Fort Macleod, Crossfield and Blackie, "Brokeback's" locales are easily found.

Whether your dream adventures feature tarps and beans or an upscale urban address and gourmet eats, we present a herd of well-scouted locations for your own Rockies romance.

Kananaskis and Three Sisters, Alberta

For bleak grandeur, the moody peaks around Canmore can't be beaten. Numerous images of Brokeback Mountain were shots of the Three Sisters, a jagged backdrop that frames the town of 11,000.


Choose from rustic camping or sample a soup&#231;on of life on the trail before trotting back to a luxurious address. Stay where the "Brokeback" crew stayed, Calgary's Fairmont Palliser or the boutique Kensington Riverside Inn (1126 Memorial Drive N.W.; 403/228-4442; www.kensingtonriversideinn.com. Those willing to tough it out should head out to Kananaskis County, near Banff. To replay "Brokeback's" key campground scenes, pitch camp at Upper Kananaskis Lake, Elbow Falls or Canyon Creek.


Trot in the tracks of the cast and try Calgary's Bungalow and Living Room, or tuck into the tasty treats at Canmore's The Grizzly Paw. Gay-flavored fun is in plentiful supply at Calgary's BackLot and Calgary Eagle>.

In the saddle

Hike along Kananaskis County's Galatea Trail to the bridge where Ennis picks up supplies and to King Creek, where he encounters the black bear. To encounter Bonkers, the bear star, for real, visit Doug's Zoo in nearby Innisfail. Shop for shirts at Divine Decadence; you'll treasure them as much as Ennis did.


Travel Alberta www.travelalberta.com
Kananaskis County www.kananaskisvalley.com/Banff
Tourism Calgary www.tourismcalgary.com
Tourism Canmore www.tourismcanmore.com

Grand Teton and Big Horn mountains, Wyoming

The long sightlines of Wyoming provided the inspiration for the short story "Brokeback Mountain," which appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1997. Director Ang Lee toured Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains, and the Grand Tetons in eastern Wyoming, to get a feel for his film.


Rustic cabins await at Signal Mountain Lodge in the Wind River range. To capture the Grand Tetons' splendor from amid them, get your tent up early at Grand Teton National Park (www.nps.gov/grte/pphtml/camping.html).


Jackson Hole is in the sole Wyoming county that W. didn't carry in 2004, and is popular with gay and lesbian visitors. Mangy Moose is mainstream but gay-friendly. For some cowboy-chic and hip restaurants, bars and shops, try nearby Jackson.

In the saddle

Canter in Ang Lee's footsteps and tour the Wind River range, near Dubois. Fancy a splash, but think those creeks look too icy? Hike through Hot Springs State park's flower meadows, then soak at Thermopolis's hot springs (wyoparks.state.wy.us/hsslide.htm).


Wyoming Tourism www.wyomingtourism.com
Wyoming Dude Ranching Association www.wyomingdra.com
Riverton, Thermopolis and Wind River Country www.windrivercountry.com

Beartooth Mountains, Montana

Deer, elk, coyotes, bears, eagles, wolves and plenty of cowboys and cowgirls call the area around Red Lodge home. Near Montana's highest point, Granite Peak, the Stillwater River meanders through a one-sided canyon.


Weeklong ranch vacations at the Lazy El Ranch are a great way to play cowhand. After long days on the trail, tuck into hearty fare and then hunker down at the Summer Cabin. Book via gay-owned OutWest Adventures, which provides perfect vacations for gay would-be cowgirls and cowboys. The Lazy El is the family home of an OutWest founder, and three gay/lesbian exclusive weeks are conducted each year. ****Sounds great!!!*****


In Roscoe, the Grizzly Bar and Restaurant is a prime stop for some Montana beef. Gay cowpokes should boot up and scoot to The Loft, Billings' gay bar.

In the saddle

At the Lazy El, wranglers teach riding, grooming and saddling steeds before leading trail rides on 12,000 acres. Cattle drives and white-water rafting are often scheduled.


Montana Tourism www.visitmt.com
Billings www.billingscvb.visitmt.com

Rocky Mountain Front Range, Colorado

When many think of the Rockies, it's Colorado's lofty peaks that come to mind. Spectacular spots festoon Rocky Mountain National Park and the Roosevelt National Forest surrounding the village of Estes Park.


Lesbian-owned (and everyone-welcoming) Mountain Sage Inn (553 W. Elkhorn Ave.; 970/586-2833; www.mountainsageinn.com offers 20 basic, nonsmoking rooms.

Alternatively, stake space at a national park campground (www.nps.gov/room/visit/park/campgrounds.html)


Cozy up by the moss-rock fireplace at the rustic log-built Twin Owls Steakhouse or pick up a pizza at Poppy's Pizza and Grill). Denver's many bars -- gay and straight -- are only 90 minutes' drive away.

In the saddle

Saunter miles of hiking trails or cruise scenic Trail Ridge Road over the Continental Divide. Alternatively, choose a local stable and make like Jake and Heath and steer for the summit (www.nps.gov/room/visit/park/concession.html).

Colorado Tourism www.colorado.com
Rocky Mountain National Park www.nps.gov/romo/
Estes Park www.estes-park.com


The Wyoming-based Dude Ranchers' Association (www.duderanch.org) is a great resource for those seeking their own cowboy experience. Wanna-be cowboys can safely ride, rope and take in breathtaking scenery on dude ranches. Member ranches, where ranchers have completed the association's Horse Safety Certification Program, place up to 4,208 riders in the saddle each day. Another great online resource is www.ranchweb.com, where ranch expert Gene Kilgore rounds up the good, the better and the best of the ranching world. To really get your Jack Twist on, the International Gay Rodeo Association (www.igra.com) features upcoming gay and lesbian rodeos. ****YAY.......EeeeeHaaaa!***

(*) (*) Since I have already traveled to other ranches for several days and was on my own traveling to and from - any of these destinations - or ALL of them! - sound wonderful to me. Since Wyatt can be kenneled in another couple of months when he has all of the required shots to keep him nice and healthy, his mama (Sweetlady, of course) is taking this list of URLs this rainy Sunday afternnoon and researching on-line and calling some of these places to ask about reservation availabilities.

(l) Traveling alone, having time to not-think, let the analytical left brain slow itself down and more importantly, let my spirit catch up with me - ah, now that's peacefully, quiet solitude. Plus - getting to go where "Brokback Mountain" was shot and chatting with the locals? Priceless! ;) (a)

Of course, if there is a butch reading this (f) who can stand me and the above places sound as wonderful to you as they do to me - drop me a PM. I promise to reply.

If not, continuous happy virtual trails, all.

Carpe Diem!

Sweetlady & Wyatt the Boxer Pup (l) (&) (l)

03-12-2006, 06:50 AM

Biography: http://www.muldowney.com/bio1.html

Awards: http://www.muldowney.com/awards.html

In 2004: Shirley Muldowney was:

Inducted into the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame.

Named to Indy's 50th Anniversary Memorable Moment's No. 2: 1982, Top Fuel final: Shirley Muldowney's victory over former crew chief Connie Kalitta.

Named to World Finals 40th Anniversary Memorable Moment's No. 5: 1980, Muldowney wins four-way Top Fuel title fight.

Photo Gallery: http://www.muldowney.com/gallery.php

Car Specs (Top Fuel Specification): http://www.muldowney.com/specs.html

(l) (l) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h) (h) Shirley's (2005) biography was on the Biography Channel on COMCAST this past week for those interested in her and her world-class, record-breaking career.(y) (y)

(k) (k) 's,

Sweetlady and Wyatt the Boxer Pup (l) (&) (l)

03-12-2006, 06:58 AM
http://www.noor.gov.jo/index.htm (Official Web Site)


Queen Noor's Blind Spots: A review of Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor (Miramax Books, March 2003) http://www.adl.org/israel/queen_noor.asp


Then and Now: CNN, Augist 22, 2005:


(*) (*) Again, the Biography Channel had a program on Her Majesty this past week, although clearly it was made back in 1999 or earlier. Still, it reminded me of a grand lady of influence. She even was asked to take over the late Princess Diana's work on eradicating landmines.

Another heroine on my list with Amelia Earhart at the top........(h) (p)

Off for fresh (c) .

Chow baby!

Sweetladt & Wyatt the Boxer Pup (l) (&) (l)

03-12-2006, 07:41 AM

It's *still* hilarious!:)

(k) (k) 's & ({) (}) 's,

Sweetlady & Wyatt the Boxer Pup (l) (&) (l)