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Doctor recommended for optimal cerebral hygiene 

From the Dust Bin

Friday, August 27, 2004

Introducing a new recurring feature here at transcendentalfloss, From the Dust Bin will present reviews of recorded stuff currently collecting dust in boxes, both literal and figurative, in the forgotten corners of the literal/figurative closet or basement or attic. The concept developed upon discovery of a shoe box of analog cassette tapes that had been stored away, discarded like so much unappreciated trash, after the arrival of the compact disc and DVD.

So, without further ado, the first installment of From the Dust Bin.

Sticky Fingers

by The Rolling Stones - 1971

Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields,
Sold in a market down in New Orleans.
Scarred old slaver know he's doin' alright.
Hear him whip the women just around midnight.

Brown Sugar how come you taste so good
Brown Sugar, just like a young girl should

Jagger-Richards, Brown Sugar

Chilling, huh? Disturbing? Insensitve? All for you to decide. One thing is for sure, it is classic Rolling Stones, all in-your-face, no-holds barred, telling-it-like-it-is audacity.

While they may be disturbing, the lyrics are actually brutally honest; Jagger exposing to the world the harsh realities of his white, European, slave-trading heritage that most would like to hide away forever.

It's a risky business as a singer/songwriter, having the narrator of a song say such nasty things. Sure, it was fun writing it, creating characters, so to speak, and trying to get in their shoes, to put words in mouths that would actually be used, to be accurate. Yet when, as the singer, you step up to the microphone, you are bound to feel uncomfortable speaking those lines, knowing that everyone who listens to the record or watches you on stage will think first that they are your own thoughts or beliefs, and that some listeners may never delve deeper to explore what the intention was. Brown Sugar has been greatly misinterpreted as glorifying or trivializing the events described therein.

The Stones are definitely not known for profound lyrics, with most of their catalogue filled with standard R&B/Rock&Roll fare, tales of love and betrayal, sex and drugs, money won and lost, life on the road. But, with Brown Sugar, Jagger crafts one his greatest songs, painfully vivid, full of images one would rather not think about. Racism and the oppression of women are still very real problems that many would rather not think about, so to have them thrust in our faces in this way is important.

Sticky Fingers was released in 1971, sandwiched between the classics, 1969's Let It Bleed and 1972's Exile On Main Street, making these three consecutive albums one of the greatest runs of all time. It was the first record on the band's own label, Rolling Stones Records, and the first album after the death of Brian Jones, with new full-time guitarist Mick Taylor now a full-fledged member of the band. While the Stones always mined American R&B for source material, out from under Jones' British Pop sensibilities they were able to, starting with some of the tunes on Let It Bleed, really connect with the deep roots of the blues, while at the same time perfecting their own signature Rock&Roll sound. To join the Stones, Taylor left John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, a veritable training ground for traditional blues, the same band that produced Eric Clapton. Add to the mix the increasing amount of time the Stones were spending with party buddy Gram Parsons, whose "Cosmic American Music" influence is heard all over Wild Horses and Dead Flowers, and Sticky Fingers starts to make a lot of sense.

On the surface, musically, Brown Sugar seems to contradict this, and perhaps it is a farewell of sorts to Brian Jones. The opening guitar riffs sound more like Jumpin' Jack Flash than Tumbling Dice. However, a closer listen reveals a subtle honky tonk piano banging away in the background, and a horn section straight out of a Chicago blues club.

Followed up by the second track, Sway, it was clear that the band had moved on and were in new territory. Sway is probably the most overlooked rock anthem in history - it's that majestic.

From the rare extended jam on Can't You Hear Me Knocking, and Jagger's soulful crooning on I Got The Blues (which would make Otis Redding proud), to the erie drug melodrama Sister Morphine, and finally, perhaps their most beautiful song, Moonlight Mile, this is one for the ages.

Walking the Dog

Thursday, August 26, 2004

A lot of interesting things happen when I walk my dog. A lot of interesting people come up to him. But last night takes the cake in recent memory. My Alaskan Malamute stopped to relieve himself, no. 1 style. A gringo* joined him. I kid you not. A gregarious Spanish-speaking Mexican fella walked up beside him, whipped it out, and aimed at the same spot -- all while my dog was still peeing! -- to dispense processed cerveza, I imagine.

*Well. The. Hell. Something new is learned every day. It was brought to my attention that my usage of gringo was contradicting the additional context. That is true.

Here I thought gringo was the Mexican equivalent for outlaw or cowboy. I was somewhat close but definitely not close enough. Had no idea it is a disparaging term let alone that a white feller is supposed to consider being called it disparaging. That's what I get for watching old westerns with my head in a bowl of popcorn. That and an awful ear for speech makes me often oblivious to linguistic stereotyping. My mistake. 6:30 pm

Bush Olympics Revisited

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Yesterday I posted a link to and excerpts from an article in The Guardian about the Bush campaign appropriating the return of Afghanistan and Iraq to the Olympics for political gain in a new advert, as the Brits like to call it.

Well, I'm happy to report that Mr. Donegan got one thing wrong.

He said:
In America this means that the Olympics belong to the US Olympic Committee - a fact that body's officials pointed out when asked to comment on the advert. Or at least they did until they realised that sticking up for themselves would land them in a fight with an administration which has a history of vindictiveness towards those who stand up to it (as the vicious attacks on John Kerry's war record amply illustrate). Now the committee says it will not make any further comment until its lawyers review the tape of the advert.

It doesn't take a Harvard law degree to work out that the [U.S. Olympic Committee] will do or say whatever it takes to avoid a confrontation, although it will take a few days to draft a face-saving excuse to back off.

What a pleasant surprise, then, to fire up the iMac this morning and see this nugget:
USOC asks Bush to pull campaign ad
Officials, athletes upset about president's spot mentioning Olympics

The Associated Press
Updated: 10:31 a.m. ET Aug. 26, 2004

ATHENS, Greece - The U.S. Olympic Committee has asked President Bush’s re-election campaign to pull a television ad that mentions the Olympics.

The USOC is awaiting a response from the re-election campaign, committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said Thursday.

And, in classic Republican form, making false statements insisting that they are true and hoping that no one will notice:
Campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said last week there were no plans to pull the ad.

“We are on firm legal ground to mention the Olympics and make a factual point in a political advertisement,” Stanzel said.

Sorry, Scott, but there's this inconvenient political body, maybe you've heard of it, it's called Congress, and they say otherwise:
The International Olympic Committee and the USOC have the authority to regulate the use of anything involving the Olympics.

An act of Congress, last revised in 1999, grants the USOC exclusive rights to such terms as “Olympic,” derivatives such as “Olympiad” and the five interlocking rings. It also specifically says the organization “shall be nonpolitical and may not promote the candidacy of an individual seeking public office.”

Three cheers for the USOC. Let's hope that they stand their ground and hold the the chronically unaccountable accountable. Too bad that the advert has already aired. Like the libelous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads, the damage is done before anyone can complain about it.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Dave Matthews Band's Big Stink
(E! Online, 08/25/2004 12:30 PM)

By Josh Grossberg

This probably wasn't what Dave had in mind when he wrote "Don't Drink the Water."

The state of Illinois has filed a lawsuit against the Dave Matthews Band for allegedly dumping up to 800 pounds of liquid human waste from its tour bus into the Chicago River earlier this month.

The suit, filed on Tuesday by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, claims that a bus rented by the usually eco-friendly group was traveling cross town to the band's hotel on Aug. 8 when it pulled up alongside a metal grating on the Kinzie Street Bridge. That's when, the suit claims, bus driver Stefan A. Wohl emptied the contents of the vehicle's septic tank into the river.

And that was bad news for Chicago's First Lady, a passing tour boat filled with 100 people on an architecture sightseeing cruise that was doused by the falling excrement.

While it's tempting to whip out the old chestnut - You can't make this stuff up - if someone was to tell me that this story is entirely fictional, from some sleazy tabloid, I'd believe them.

What? It's E! Online? Not a tabloid? Oh. Yeah. Silly me, I forgot for a moment that I always read stuff like this...
DMB's spokesman, John Vlautin, says this isn't the kind of jam the band is used to and says any pollution was not intentional.

...in the New York Times.

Anyway, the article reminds me of an apocryphal story I read once about a man caught wearing full scuba gear under a women's out-house at a campground somewhere. (I'll wait while you gag or quietly curse my name for spreading such grotesquery and leaving you with a horrendous image in your head. Ok now? Sorry.)

Go, Iraq!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

With my 40th birthday on the horizon (August 28th), it is with no small degree of urgency that I visit the gym everyday on my lunch hour. My sense is that, in order to be the kind of active person I desire to be in my latter years, I must enter my 5th decade with a lot of momentum, working out regularly, participating in my favorite physical activities (listed here in no order of preference purely for entertainment's sake: cycling, hiking, paddling, softball, sex), and eating a balanced diet. My Father-in-law is a great role model for me. He's in his late 60's and plays golf, softball, and volleyball regularly. In fact, if you factor in his age, he basically kicked my ass for hours playing volleyball recently. He wasn't better than me necessarily, but he was no more exhausted than I was when we were through, and he was playing on a knee that was already scheduled for arthroscopic surgery.

As of late, however, my inspiration has come from the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. At the gym there are numerous TV monitors and I've really been enjoying watching the games for the first time in many years. There's something so satisfying about working up a serious sweat while watching the world's best athletes compete on such a world stage. Call it living vicariously, I don't really give a damn. Very few things compare to watching these young men and women who have trained so hard, dedicated themselves so thoroughly to the pursuit of excellence, reaching the moment of truth and their turn in the spotlight. And, nothing compares to watching the Iraqi football team - yes, that's 'football' instead of 'soccer'.

This is why it REALLY PISSES ME OFF to read shit like this:
For the past week the campaign to re-elect George W. Bush has been running a television advert in America seeking to attach the US administration's "war on terrorism" with the participation of Iraq and Afghanistan in Athens. "Freedom is spreading through the world like a sunrise," intones a portentous narrator as the flags of both countries flutter. "At this Olympics there will be two more free nations and two less terrorist regimes."

Cue stirring music, followed by the hard sell: Vote Bush-Cheney.

Fortunately, Lawrence Donegan of The Guardian follows that up with:

The first temptation is to reach for the TV remote with one hand and the sick bag with the other...

Rather than meekly accepting their designated role in Bush's re-election campaign - plucky foreigners saved by political colossus - members of the team reacted furiously when they were told their success had been appropriated by a man whom one player described as a mass-murderer. The team's coach Adnan Hamad yesterday told reporters: "We do not have freedom in Iraq, we have an occupying force. This is one of our most miserable times. Freedom is just a word for the media."
After the Iraqi victory over the Australians on Saturday, an American broadcaster casually said something to the effect of, "Tears of joy for a change for the Iraqis." I watched the footage of fans cheering in the Pyramid of Egypt Cafe in Athens, Iraqi expatriates who fled to Greece from their perennially war-torn country. I watched the players on the field giving it their all, knowing full well that they otherwise might be fighting for their lives back home. May peace come soon to the people of Iraq.

It was sad to watch the Iraqi's lose to Paraguay Tuesday, but at least they have a shot at the bronze when they face Italy on Friday, and at the very least they have made it farther in these 2004 games than they have ever made it before. Also, if they were going to lose, at least it was to Paraguay, whose win was well deserved, assuring them of their first ever Olympic medal.

winner and champion

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

who would win, t-rex or george washington? which wins, rock, paper or hurricane? what about rock, paper, lava?

i don't know the answers to these all-important questions. i don't even know why they're important. but there they are, out there, demanding answers.

the temptation is to provide a non sequiter response, consistent with the question. but the reality is that such disinformation is remembered, with disdain, long after the question is forgotten.

what to do, what to do...?

more importantly, how did i get myself into this moral quagmire? oh, yes. i agreed to become a parent.

like any long slide into lifelong dependency, this one began innocuously. with a pair of kittens. "mikey," my wife trilled sweetly. "we have to have the kittens." i didn't see the harm. cats are low-maintenance. sure, let's have the kittens.

before long it was my sole responsibility to clean out the litter box. and still i did not see.

the next escalation came a few years later. enough time had gone by that, again, i hardly noticed. "mikey, we have to have the dogs." not one, two. golden retrievers. famously good with children.

me, blindly agreeable.

a few more years, and our symmetry was still intact. two cats, two dogs, two married people. then, one blissful day, it came...

"mikey, we have to have the children."

this time i noticed. and i saw the perfection, the patience, the persistence of the plan.

the slow start. the ramping up. the enduring commitment.

the seismic drop of the hammer.

my awareness came too late. i was invested in the cats and the dogs, not to mention my wife. dominoes fell, events transpired, births ensued. all led inexorably to the question: who would win, t-rex or george washington?

the answer is neither. the winner would be my wife, victorious without ever firing a shot.

smoke you

Monday, August 23, 2004

smoke. smoking. smokers.

i don't like any of them.

smoking-related diseases kill 425,000 americans every year. that's a lot of damn americans. that's like filling up safeco field and killing everybody in the stands...ten times a year.

but you know what? smokers know what they're getting into. which must be why they're all such aggressively antisocial deathmongers.

smokers will strap a child into a carseat, then fill up the car with smoke. they'll sit in a nonsmoking section and light up. they'll blow smoke in the direction of me and my family (at which point i'll sometimes volunteer to help expedite their statistic-hood).

and every smoker who has ever driven a car will throw their cigarettes onto the road.

i really hate that.

so recently i spent a few days collecting roadside cigarette butts. i filled bag after bag with stinking, soggy filters. i loaded up my garage with the bags, and then waited for the right opportunity.

it came yesterday.

after a day of rain, followed by clearing skies, a guy driving a little convertible flicked his cig back over his shoulder, right in front of me. further up he pulled into a parking spot, and i pulled in behind him.

as reasonably and sweetly as you can imagine, i mentioned that he seemed to have lost something on the road. i held up a cigarette butt for his benefit (actually, it was one of the butts i'd collected earlier, but i didn't think he'd notice the difference).

he got a shocked look on his face, and said something rude. composed and pleasant, i told him about the tons of waste thrown by smokers onto our roadways each year, and couldn't he please be more careful in the future?

he got ruder still. in fact, no matter how i tried to reason with him, he just got more and more vile-tempered and ill-mannered. eventually he picked up yet another cigarette butt off the sidewalk and flicked it at me. triumphant, he turned and strode into a nearby building.

and i watched him go.

then i went back to my car and hauled a huge, butt-filled trash bag (one of those heavy-duty black bags) out onto the sidewalk. i dragged it over to the side of his nice little convertible and dead-lifted it up over the side.

gosh, it was heavy. and soggy.

that was my observation as i dumped the bag into his nice little car. just filled it up, over the seats and into every nook and cupholder. filled it up as a reminder to this particular smoker that his cigarette butts really add up over time.

i'm sure he'll understand and appreciate the message. if not, i have several more bags in my garage.


Sunday, August 22, 2004

at this point i lose all composure and break down in tears. given the fact that i never cry, naturally people rush up and clamor about me.

they don't know how close they were to clamoring about me, instead, at my funeral.

before i go on, it's important that you know that i'm not prone to fits of drama-queenishness. i'm more prone to stoicnicity and stiff-upper-lipicity.

so when a come-apart happens, it's generally genuine.

i had planned to begin posting to this blog weeks ago. but a cross-country move and two cross-country drives intervened, and my priorities were rearranged.

while on the second cross-country trip, driving my car from north carolina to seattle, i encountered a rogue thunderstorm in eastern colorado. mid-storm my car hydroplaned from the fast lane to the ditch.

i went from 70-to-zero with freakish quickness. in the process i crossed three lanes, two medians and a barb-wire fence. my car and i performed two complete 360s. i had enough chances to roll/flip/invert for a lengthy x-treme driving highlight package.

dale earnhardt died in a car-related event that seemed innocuous by comparison. the young woman who stopped to check on me said, "it looked like you were flying."

and yet.

my car and i did not flip. we were not broadsided by oncoming traffic. we did not smash into a guard rail.

instead, we nestled into a field of tall, lush weeds, which acted as a crash stunt cushion. the car was bruised, but not seriously. and i was completely unscathed. not so much as a heart murmer.

within an hour or so ford roadside assistance sent a truck to pull me back onto the road. after a brief period of uncertainty, the auto proved completely mobile.

and while my driving was temporarily more conservative, i've since resumed my regular road demeanor.

fact is, the crying jag mentioned above never actually happened. but it seems like it should have, doesn't it? better people than i have died or been maimed with far less provocation. my illusion of control was nonchalantly snatched away, shredded, and returned to me. any or all of these disconcerting events would warrant some introspective wailing and metaphorical wringing of hands, don'tcha think?

apparently not.

carry on.

Greener Grass Department

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Have you ever noticed how gorgeous Canadian money is? The reasons for me to not emigrate to Canada are getting fewer and fewer. I still can't stop laughing when Canadians say "Ay" a lot, or when they end every sentence they speak like they are asking a question. But, at least it's an internal laugh, more a smile of the mind, and I'm not really laughing at them in a condescending way. I really do find it endearing.

Back to the money. It's just absolutely beautiful.

Take a look at this!

Posted by Hello

Finally, the U.S. Treasury is introducing more color to our paper money, but even so, there's no escaping the stuffy wealthy white men and the cold D.C. monuments. I've traveled a little, and U.S. money really is terribly ugly in comparison. Check out Israel's 20 Sheqalim note. Now, here's Egypt's 50 Piastres. When I was in Israel and Egypt, I thoroughly enjoyed spending that money.

For a country with such pride, a country prone to macho one-upsmanship (the space race being the prime example), for U.S. money to be so bland is almost impossible to understand.

Check out Afghanistan's 50 Afghanis, and Iraq's 50 Dinars. It just doesn't make any sense!

(Ok, I can't resist, do ya think that's a WMD factory on the 50 Dinar bill?)

The website hosting these images - World Paper Money - doesn't even include U.S. money in their extensive collection.

Now, don't even get me started on coins.

The Insipid MSNBC

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

When MSNBC first arrived on the scene in 1997 (?), I loved it (okay, loved Soledad O'Brien). I watched her entire shift as I worked from home as a freelancer. I got over my three-month crush quickly when I took a job where TVs weren't ideal. The news wasn't any better than CNN but did have a fresh look, which appealed to my twentysomething eyes, and went on to become the staple look for movie sets requiring high tech information bunkers.

Seven years later I find myself "watching" MSNBC again. I can't tell you anything about the news anchors or the set. I use TV more as radio these days since news radio seems to have abandoned the airwaves. My watching lately is due to NBC's Olympic coverage bouncing around six or seven channels. However, with MSNBC I have noticed I don't turn it off when they abandoned Olympic coverage. So, I watched attentively for five minutes. Then either turned on CBC for their fine Olympic coverage or turned off the TV.

Today, I set my alarm for 8:30 to remind myself to turn on MSNBC for the U.S. women's soccer game against the Matildas, as Australia's womens team is called. Problem no. 1 was that the game started at 8 am. Thanks MSNBC partner, NBC, for the faulty info.

The game was uneventful and was a 1-1 final after the U.S. gave up a late goal in the 75th minute.

Immediately following the game, the newsbreak from MSNBC leads with "Unmanned Predator spydrone crashed in Iraq" and finishes with "No further news."

God damn it, George Bush. This war is costing us hardware. Oh, the mechanicality!

Nothing like creating news. Where is Soledad O'Brien these days? I'd have excused her. ;)

[ed. Nothing like burying your lede.]

The Opthalmologist or the Song and Dance Man...

Monday, August 16, 2004

Who will you listen to?

N.Y. Candidate Seeks Springsteen Boycott

(AP, 08/16/2004 3:57 PM)

By Marc Humbert

Upset with Bruce Springsteen 's effort to oust President Bush from the White House, the New York Conservative Party's candidate for the U.S. Senate is launching a "Boycott the Boss" television commercial.

"He thinks making millions with a song-and-dance routine allows him to tell you how to vote," Marilyn O'Grady says in the 30-second spot. "Here's my vote: Boycott the Boss. If you don't buy his politics, don't buy his music."

A spokesman for O'Grady, Howard Lim, would not say how much the Long Island's ophthalmologist's campaign was spending on the commercial, in which she says, "I stand with President Bush and it's time to tame the liberal elite."

Somehow I don't see Bruce saying, "She thinks being an opthalmologist allows her to tell you how to vote. Here's my vote: Boycott the Opthalmologist. If you don't buy her politics, don't let her mess with your vision."

Headline of the day

Friday, August 13, 2004

By far the best headline I've seen in days:

Late Cooking Diva Julia Child Loved Red Meat, Gin

Sounds straight out of a Grateful Dead song. I bet Julia also played a mean game of poker.

Wake up, guys!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I have a new favorite website. The British newspaper The Guardian calls their site Guardian Unlimited, which contains content beyond what they print on paper. Noteable for their news coverage from outside the American corporate media machine, but just as appealing for their British take on all things cultural, it's a great place to browse for information and entertainment.

The inspiration for this post came from reading two articles online today.

Barred painter's open air nude show

Naked women, cars and sports help doubles sales of mens mags

The irony, when these two pieces are juxtaposed, is so thick and delicious you can cut it with a knife and relish in licking the bowl.

Yet, what came to me when I read the second article is a much more serious issue - men being manipulated, mostly by other men. It never ceases to amaze me how transparent it all is. Dare watching commercial television for even a short while and you will be flooded with promises aimed at men that they will have more sex and more fun if they buy certain products or participate in certain activities.

Guys, wake up! Don't you see what's going on here? You are not that stupid. You are not Pavlovian dogs! Shouldn't you feel insulted, used, stereotyped? Doesn't it bother you that it's mostly men who are selling these products, trying to exploit for their own personal gain you, their fellow men and the fact that you have been conditioned to reflexively respond to images of scantily clad women, flashy cars, rich sports celebrities, etc.? Do you think they should be raking in the dough, living a life of luxury, while you shell out your hard earned cash on items you might not purchase if you thoroughly thought about the options available.

As an example and proof that I am in no way preaching a puritan lifestyle, let's look at beer.

Question: Why in the world would anyone mindlessly choose Budweiser, Miller, or Coors when they can be enjoying Boundary Bay, Pike, or Fish Tail?

Answer: Boundary Bay, Pike, and Fish Tail will not use sexual or other manipulative imagery to sell their products. Oh yeah...and they actually taste good too.

(While some would argue that another main reason for choosing Bud, Miller, and Coors is that they are cheaper, I would respond that men could easily afford the more expensive brews if they weren't blowing so much money on all the other stuff they've been manipulated into buying.)

So, my fellow male Homo sapiens, rise above your caveman roots and join me in a toast, over a pint of Boundary Bay's Imperial Oatmeal Stout: To the liberation of all men from the Sirens-in-drag of modern advertising!

Gulp. Ahhhhh! Damn, that's good!

Illiteracy Can Save America

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Seriously, has it come to this?
Last night, on a whim, I looked up the NJ and NY phone numbers for the ACLU and put them in my phone.

This morning, they're doing bag searches again to get on the ferry. And the guy doing the searches pulls me aside and says, "Sir, I feel that I need to confiscate this book."

Continued at Sea and Sky and Land

Better coffee through chemistry

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

On Sunday, I used the last of the beans in my apartment. On Monday, I made due with a cola. On Tuesday, I usually skip my coffee fix altogether, so I had forgotten to include beans in my day's errands. On Wednesday, today, right now! I am without coffee beans. Oh, the madness. Gives me a good excuse to walk the mile to the store before Seattle does yet another rendition of Miami with its too-hot-for-the-natives weather. Although, yes, I am not a native of Seattle, I do come from a 'colder' place, so I can play the trump card here, okay?! So, get off my back. I haven't had my coffee yet!
SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- Brazil has announced the creation of a coffee DNA data bank, which will help the country improve the quality and size of its coffee crop.

The announcement was made Tuesday by Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues during a ceremony at Embrapa, country's agricultural research agency.

Over the past two years and at a cost of 6 million reals ($2 million), Embrapa and the Sao Paulo State Research Foundation worked on the Coffee Genome Project, which mapped 200,000 coffee DNA sequences, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement posted on its Web site.

Well, thank gawd for that. Amongst the thirty beans or so that I use for my French press, there is always one or two beans that simply do not get with the program. Yay! No more hand sifting.

Oh, sure, I'll have to wait a few years and those coffee suppliers will still have to do a better job of keeping the medium roast beans far, far away from my dark roast, but I'll wait. But I need some -- rgxxxkckxsggrrrz -- coffee of the Mr. Hyde or Dr. Jekyll variety, I don't care, right freaking now!

It doesn't get much funnier

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

A special thanks to BuzzFlash for helping me start my day with a good laugh.

Bush campaign holds rally in Va.; Dems sense weakness

Bush criticized Kerry's plan to eliminate the tax cuts for those making more than $200,000 a year, saying that "the rich in America happen to be the small business owners" who put people to work.

Bush also said high taxes on the rich are a failed strategy because "the really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway."


Monday, August 09, 2004

Lombard's race is run
By Brendan Mooney

CATHAL LOMBARD has admitted to taking the performance enhancing drug Erythropoietin (EPO).

The 28-year-old Corkman will not contest the findings.

"I didn't set out to try and win medals or to make money. I just wanted to be as competitive as I could and have an equal chance with everyone else.

"I am not trying to justify what I did in any way; I am just saying this was the case, this is what I did and, hands up, I did it."

Lombard, whose honesty is a historic first, expressed his sorrow and apologised to everyone in advance of the pending statement from the Athletics Association of Ireland.

"I got a letter faxed to me on Friday from the Irish Sports Council informing me of a possible breach of the Irish anti-doping rules," he said.

Irish Examiner - registration required, so see New Zealand Herald

Ever since the line went beyond blurry to full-on, open use of professionals, the Olympics has been on a downward spiral. Now I do not care much if athletes use drugs or not, but if the rules forbid usage, then admit it. Come clean when caught. Of course, if judgment of rules abuse by the IOC is handled like the NCAA handles its issues, then many athletes are unfairly punished when taking something as simple as aspirin or cough medicine. Still, I gotta admire this Irish lad for his admission of guilt. Granted, he only deserves admiration because many, many athletes have long been denying their use of illegal substances.

Cathal, my next Guinness or Harp will be toasted your way. Sláinte!

It's just a state of mind

Friday, August 06, 2004

When the rain comes
They run and hide their heads.
They might as well be dead,
When the rain comes, When the rain comes.
When the sun shines
They slip into the shade,
And sip their lemonade,
When the sun shines, when the sun shines.
Rain, I don't mind,
Shine, the weather's fine.
I can show you
That when it starts to rain,
Everything's the same,
I can show you, I can show you.
Rain, I don't mind,
Shine, the weather's fine.
Can you hear me?
That when it rains and shines,
It's just a state of mind,
Can you hear me? Can you hear me?

- Lennon/McCartney (Oh, let's cut the crap! It's a Lennon song!)

It's that time of year again - Summerstart, Western Washington University's orientation program for incoming fresh(wo)men. Let me tell you something, these kids are...well...kids. Yikes! Most of them were born when I was a sophomore at Rutgers. It doesn't make me feel old so much as it makes me cringe to think about my early years in college, how I almost failed out, how lost and clueless I was.

A walk across campus is rather amusing. There are all these triads walking around, parents and their kids, they all look different in terms of their physical appearance, but behaviorally they are identical. Name tags prominently displayed, Mom and Dad anxiously study the bundle of printed materials they are awkwardly shuffling through as they walk, the hands not carrying the paperwork are pointing to and fro, and all the while they lecture their kid, who looks about as excited to be here as they would be visiting the dentist, about what they should major in.

Yet, what really entertains me more than anything is the rain. I can practically plan my summer around the dependable information that it will rain the week of Summerstart.

While most of Western's students come from the west side of the Cascade Mountains, where a lot of rain is a given (Heck, we have temperate rain forests here for crying out loud!), an increasing number of students are coming from dryer climes. We know, too, that one of the only lingering doubts these kids have in terms of their choice to attend Western is whether or not they will be able to deal with all the rain we get. So, these incoming freshmen come to town for orientation, and as if it were part of their itinerary planned by the orientation staff, along with learning what classes are available and how to register, they get a real introduction to the regional rain conditions they can expect to experience throughout the academic year, despite the fact that for weeks prior and weeks to follow we have day after day of typical summer in Bellingham sunshine.

All I can offer to them as solace is: It's just a state of mind.

A step in the right direction

Friday, August 06, 2004

The key to moving towards energy independence is to anticipate the knee-jerk reaction that the very powerful energy industry will have to any proposals that suggest a change to the status quo. Listen, closely, you can almost hear them saying it now, "This policy will put thousands and thousands of Americans out of work!"

No, actually, your pathetic, short-sighted management of your companies, not planning for the inevitable need to develop new energy resources to position your companies for success in the future, will put thousands and thousands out of work.

Ever have that argument with a free market capitalist who says that there is nothing wrong with "big box" chain stores like The Home Depot coming to town and putting "Mom & Pop" hardware stores out of business? What's their biggest argument? "If Mom & Pop can't get creative and figure out how to compete, then it's survival of the fittest."

Any chance that this same free market capitalist would apply that same theory to, let's say, oil companies who claim that they will be put out of business by competing energy companies?

I didn't think so.

The truth is, regardless of how much environmentalists and anti-corporation activists despise the current energy industry, it makes no sense to propose policies that threaten these corporate giants. If there is one thing that these companies are good at it's producing and distributing products to millions of consumers spread all over the globe. Yes, production and distribution has been extremely destructive to the environment, but that is more a function of the toxic nature of the product than their business practices.

Kerry's plan, based on the scanty information available thus far, seems to understand the value of making the development of sustainable energy an attractive, money-making proposition for the energy industry. Why reinvent the wheel when we can just make it a better wheel?

Will the energy companies still cry foul? Yes, particularly because they are so financially and politically entangled in the Middle East. However, given how badly it is going over there, while a U.S. President from an oil family presided over record-breaking gas prices, they may not have a leg to stand on.

web standards

Thursday, August 05, 2004

So, I've finally come up for air. I'm taking too many breaths. I've got so much to do. So much to say. See in the last month -- off and on when not becoming a born again digital virgin (that's right, the technological kid has come in from the analog storm (storms are good every now and again)) -- I've been swimming through content management systems, blogware (again and sticking with WordPress) and web standards.

Before posting a lot about which you may have no interest in reading (then please skim!), know that this is all gonna see the light of day (sorta) at t-floss when its appearance starts to shift. Brand identity, baby! (If anybody knows the title of the book Tom Peters co-authored about branding, published circa 1980, please let me know. It was a fantastic book that doesn't contain all the awful self-help language he employs these days. The dark side of success. And branding. Everyone copies you and the parody makes the original laughable. Sorta. Anyway...)

There is a lot to web standards and accessibility. No more do web developers have to write six different pages for six different browsers. Mainly, they need to focus on 5% of the web's users who use standards-compliant browsers and then do some minimal hacking to accommodate the other 95%. Cough, Redmond, cough. Please make IE7 the best browser. :pray:

Anyway, thank gawd that the browser wars are (mostly) over. (Now, could we do something about our two-party political process! I'm all about the lack of standards when the two opposing parties are basically the same. Um, where was I?) That's right, back in the halcyon days of early 2001 when I took to the road, I tried to redesign my website from my car while doing 85 mph. Zogging while others thought zagging was cooler than zigging. Well, I quickly learned that my poor HTML 3 skills were not going to cut it out on the open road. That Adobe GoLive could only do so much and too much (bloated code). Too many of my friends were having difficulty browsing my site or even downloading it (not to mention uploading it from a 14k wireless modem). Well, the downloading/uploading problem was easily solved but the browser issues were another matter. I threw my hands in the air and awaited the web world people to get their act together.

The saddest bit about all of this is that the tools to obtain web standards, CSS (loosely: design) and XHTML (loosely: structure)*, were finally accepted in prime time when I eschewed my web presence back in late-Spring of 2001. I've lost three years! Had I been patient or not been so taken by, um, well her name is unimportant...
*Content can be achieved by a variety of means as can XHTML but it is all circular and above the reach of this post.

So, if you are interested in standards, I suggest stopping by the sites A List Apart and Asterisk*, the latter seems to be the most focused blog on web design issues regarding standards.

Of course, I am only now crawling out from the waters of theory (read: I was reading books) and onto the land of practice (read: plowing through websites for quick tips as I quickly relaunch my personal website), so there is probably a lot more out there concerned with my standards interests (both arguments for and against) that I've not had enough time to read. Oh, but here's one funny, funny piece, Gurus v. Bloggers 2 (part one), for those interested in the contradictions of 'practice what you preach'. Both these Design by Fire (DxF) articles have plenty of great websites listed.

More than just munchies

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

You know how it is. It's 2 a.m. on a Saturday night. Last call has come and gone. Yes, there've been many identical nights like this one, out with friends sharing libations and that simple pleasure of camaraderie in our friendly neighborhood tavern. Yet, to call these evenings ordinary was to overlook the priceless value they brought - the hours together, leaning on each other through the trials and tribulations of young adulthood, trying to make sense of all the pressures we felt from a world of parents and professors demanding a commitment to discipline, only sure about a few things - we liked each other, Rock & Roll music, cold beer in a cozy bar, and talking, as long as we could stay awake, about all our dreams.

Last call always came as a temporary let down until one of us casually said the inevitable, "Who's hungry?"

There's a new film coming out called Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, described as a late night road movie, the adventures of two guys from New Jersey who get the munchies and are compelled to get to a White Castle restaurant at all cost. Being from New Jersey and having actually spent a few late nights in college making my way to and from White Castle, I couldn't hold off the rush of memories that came to me, though the more I read about the movie it is clear that, the similarities to my experiences notwithstanding, the film really has nothing to do with me and my friends. Beyond the obvious, that the two protagonists are from Indian and Pakistani heritages respectively, while we were all white, middle class, mostly Jewish suburbanites, perhaps the clearest difference lies in the real reason for finding a late night eating establishment after closing down the bar. It never was about the food.

A film that comes closer to what I remember would be Barry Levinson's Diner. A summary of Diner from that website goes like this:
Set in 1959, Diner shows how five young men resist their adulthood and seek refuge in their beloved Diner. The mundane, childish, and titillating details of their lives are shared. But the golden moments pass, and the men shoulder their responsibilities, leaving the Diner behind.

In preparing this post, I emailed some of my old friends, asking them to share their memories of our precious late night gab sessions over food. They'll hate this, but perhaps the years have caught up with them because their responses, more accurately a pathetic lack of responses, initially made me question my own rose-colored-glasses look backward. One friend who still lives in New Jersey wrote that he remembers waking up in the morning feeling terrible from having eaten at a greasy spoon called The White Rose System, popular for it's artery-hardening burgers and for being open 24 hours. It's true that we always blamed the burgers for how awful we felt the next day, in total denial that alcohol might have had anything to do with it.

Still I hadn't gleaned what I hoped from the old gang, so I had to rely on my own recollections. Fortunately, there are many fond moments and places to choose from - burger joints and pizza parlors after the bars, diners and Denny's after concerts in the city, dives from New Brunswick to Manhattan just shootin' the shit. Perhaps the reason why I didn't get a better response from my friends has something to do with geographical distance. Whereas we used to all live either together or within minutes of each other, we are now spread across the country, in New Jersey, Arizona, California, and Washington State.

Yeah, something tells me that if we were all together, sitting around a pizza pie and pitchers of beer, the stories would flood the place. That's what it was always about.

Bootstraps Revisited

Monday, August 02, 2004

A month ago I posted some commentary on Bill Cosby's recent rants. The Cos has been raising hell about how his fellow African-Americans, namely those living in poverty, are increasingly responsible for their lack of upward mobility.

As a follow-up, I highly recommend this excellent column by none other than Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in the New York Times. Gates draws on the Cosby comments as well as the now famous DNC speech of Barack Obama.

Here's a teaser:
Go into any inner-city neighborhood," Barack Obama said in his keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, "and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white." In a speech filled with rousing applause lines, it was a line that many black Democratic delegates found especially galvanizing. Not just because they agreed, but because it was a home truth they'd seldom heard a politician say out loud.

Why has it been so difficult for black leaders to say such things in public, without being pilloried for "blaming the victim"? Why the huge flap over Bill Cosby's insistence that black teenagers do their homework, stay in school, master standard English and stop having babies? Any black person who frequents a barbershop or beauty parlor in the inner city knows that Mr. Cosby was only echoing sentiments widely shared in the black community.

(p.s. May this post serve as a not-so-subtle plug for the New York Times Online. Yes it requires registration, but if there is any single publication worth going through the hassle of filling out and submitting a free registration form its this one. If you don't like registering because you are worried about getting junk email, get a throwaway free Hotmail or Yahoo email account if you have to, but don't block yourself out of the Times for that reason alone.)

And I thought I was smart

Monday, August 02, 2004

A recent dialogue with my 6.75-year old son:

son: Dad, my friend said that it's illegal to light fireworks on a day that's not the 4th of July on Vashon Island.

hjm: Well, your friend's just a little off there. It is illegal here in Bellingham, but not everywhere. I think your friend's just acting like he knows everything.

son: Yeah.

hjm: Don't you think it would be boring to know everything? There would be no mystery to life.

son: Yeah, but it could be useful.

(pause, holding back a chuckle, followed by immense pride and adoration)

hjm: True. Still, I think it would get boring.

son: Yeah, like for detectives. They wouldn't have any mysteries to solve.