Saturday, January 30, 2010

There's a blog for that.

For some reason, I’d never watched the actual “gotcha” video created by James O’Keefe III, when he stung the folks at ACORN. He captured ACORN staffers on tape giving unethical and possibly illegal advice. Shortly after these videos were released, Congress cut ACORN's federal funding.

I still haven’t seen that footage, but in the wake of Mr. O’Keefe’s arrest for attempting to do something or other with the phones in Senator Mary Landrieu’s office, I have seen stills of Mr. O’Keefe in his pimp outfit.

Now, at the time of the ACORN sting, I found myself irritated by the whole thing. I wondered if this is what conservatism had come to: rich white brats badgering overeager and underpaid grass roots organizers. Don’t frat boys have anything better to do, like haze freshmen, or beat up townies?

But having seen Mr. O’Keefe’s pimp outfit, I’m starting to question whether anybody was actually convinced by his schtick, or if folks were just playing along with the crazy white boy. After all, despite all the brouhaha, no ACORN action was taken on the “pimp” and “whore”’s request for help in filing taxes, buying a home, and turning it into a brothel.

In any event, to be frank, he is not an convincing pimp. The guy was born in 1984, and went to Rutgers, so I suppose it’s understandable that he hasn’t had a lot of contact with prostitutes and those who run them. But you’d think you’d do a little more research than just watching STARSKY AND HUTCH reruns.

Why was anybody taken in? In this latest “sting,” he wasn’t even convincing as a telephone repairman. Clearly, if he’s opting for the MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE lifestyle, he might want to acquire some rudimentary acting skills. Maybe he can take some classes in prison, or – if he’s lucky - at his Mom’s house. Hopefully, the ankle bracelet won’t be too much of an impediment.

RIP JD Salinger
I’m a little mystified when Salinger is called “reclusive.” He wasn’t a hermit, was he? He went to the store, probably, had friends over for dinner. He even had an affair, if Joyce Maynard can be believed. Maybe more. Okay, he didn’t like strangers coming around. Who does?

He decided not to publish his own work. That’s what made him weird. What kind of writer is that?

Well, a writer who can afford the luxury of not-publishing. He was lucky. Most writers are not published at the whims of publishers, not their own.

If you enter the numerals ” 241543903” in your Google search engine, you will get a bunch of photographs of people sticking their heads in freezers. I’m not recommending you do this, I’m just saying.

The economy might be continuing to go to hell, but it’s nice to know there are still folks out there with time on their hands.

Scientologists in Haiti!
Sylvie, a Parisian Church of Church of Scientology ‘volunteer minister’ told the AFP: "We…use a process called 'assist' to follow the nervous system to reconnect the main points, to bring back communication. When you get a sudden shock to a part of your body the energy gets stuck, so we re-establish communication within the body by touching people through their clothes, and asking people to feel the touch."

AFP: “One US doctor, who asked not to be named, snorted: ‘I didn't know touching could heal gangrene.’”

“Slightly more than 1,000 pedestrians visited emergency rooms in 2008 because they got distracted and tripped, fell or ran into something while using a cellphone to talk or text. That was twice the number from 2007, which had nearly doubled from 2006, according to a study conducted by Ohio State University, which says it is the first to estimate such accidents.”

NYT Again!
“’If the First Amendment has any force,’ Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority, which included the four members of the court’s conservative wing, ‘it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.’”

If a corporation is a person, can it be killed?

Jaron Lanier Q and A on Amazon. YOU ARE NOT A GADGET is his interesting book.
The original turn of phrase was "Information wants to be free." And the problem with that is that it anthropomorphizes information. Information doesn’t deserve to be free. It is an abstract tool; a useful fantasy, a nothing. It is nonexistent until and unless a person experiences it in a useful way. What we have done in the last decade is give information more rights than are given to people. If you express yourself on the internet, what you say will be copied, mashed up, anonymized, analyzed, and turned into bricks in someone else’s fortress to support an advertising scheme. However, the information, the abstraction, that represents you is protected within that fortress and is absolutely sacrosanct, the new holy of holies. You never see it and are not allowed to touch it. This is exactly the wrong set of values.

The idea that information is alive in its own right is a metaphysical claim made by people who hope to become immortal by being uploaded into a computer someday. It is part of what should be understood as a new religion. That might sound like an extreme claim, but go visit any computer science lab and you’ll find books about "the Singularity," which is the supposed future event when the blessed uploading is to take place. A weird cult in the world of technology has done damage to culture at large.

Terrorists Trials
For God's sake America, grow up! Put these people on trial and get it over with! You can do it at my house, if you want to. No doubt it will be a propaganda heyday for Those Allied Against Us, but I can live with that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bloggers can't be choosers....

Pandora’s box?
From some damn forum:

“I've read on this thread and various other sources on the web about Avatar fans feeling heightened sense of mood changes along the lines of despair and depression from the realization that Pandora and all of it's inhabitants are not tangible. I have also read about fleeting thoughts of suicide, self induced coma, and prolonged sleep from members of this website and other websites as possible ways to physically and metaphysically connect with Pandora and its inhabitants. For that matter, this website exists as an extension to the world of Avatar, a place where we all can commune, connect, freely express our love and passion for the world that James Cameron has created.”

It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie. Repeat.

Accept all phone calls from mice!
From Medical Device Link:

“In mice, cell phone radiation can prevent Alzheimer's disease. Researchers tested 96 mice, most of them genetically altered to develop the rodent equivalent of Alzheimer's disease. Those exposed to the cell phone radiation did better on tasks requiring memory than those not exposed, said lead researcher Gary Arendash of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Already impaired old mice regained memory after the treatment, Arendash said. Younger mice never developed the impairment. The study was published this week in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.”

I remember feeling symptoms of withdrawal after the first time I saw THE SECRET OF NIMH. I still have dreams about me and Mrs. Brisby doing... things... unspeakable... things....

Yemen: Land of Enchantment! Soon to Feature Drones!
Op-Ed in NYT, from Edmund J. Hull, former US ambassador to Yemen:

“In my experience, there is no deep-seeded affinity between Yemeni tribes and the Qaeda movement. Tribes tend to be opportunistic, not ideological, so the risk is that Al Qaeda will successfully exploit opportunities created by government neglect. There are also family affinities — cousins, linked to uncles, linked to brothers. These do matter. But what matters most is the ‘mujahedeen fraternity’ — Yemenis with jihadist experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. Finally, what would matter — and significantly — would be innocent casualties resulting from counterterrorism operations, which could well set off a tribal response.”

Here’s what gets me. Some guy sets fire to his pants on an airplane, and suddenly we’re going to invade Yemen. Whatever, as the young people say.

Forget Yemen! Scan this!
Michael Chertoff, former secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, wrote an editorial for the Washington Post on January 1, urging the installation and use of full body scanners at airports.

The bio at the end of his piece says that Mr. Chertoff is “…co-founder of the Chertoff Group, a security and risk-management firm whose clients include a manufacturer of body-imaging screening machines.”

In other science news…
From Good Morning Silicon Valley:

“[Inventor Douglas]…Hines started his work on artificial personalities thinking there might be a market in creating home health care aides for the elderly. ‘But there was tremendous regulatory and bureaucratic paperwork to get through. We were stuck,’ Hines said. ‘So I looked at other markets.’”

This turned out to be the sex industry market.

"Thus was born Roxxxy, who made her debut … in Las Vegas at the Adult Entertainment Expo, just one of several new innovations showing up at the intersection of sex and technology. Roxxxy still can't move without assistance, but she offers what Trudy lacked and customers apparently wanted — conversational skills. ‘Sex only goes so far — then you want to be able to talk to the person,’ Hines said. Equipped with sensors and an attached laptop, ‘she's a companion,’ he said. ‘She has a personality. She hears you. She listens to you. She speaks. She feels your touch. She goes to sleep. We are trying to replicate a personality of a person.’”

“Roxxxy will retail for between $7,000 and $9,000, plus a subscription fee for online updates and enhancements.”

But it might take your mind off Pandora for a few minutes. Priceless!

Mental Health News!
From a very interesting feature in the Sunday New York Times, by Ethan Watters: THE AMERICANIZATION OF MENTAL ILLNESS

“No one would suggest that we withhold our medical advances from other countries, but it’s perhaps past time to admit that even our most remarkable scientific leaps in understanding the brain haven’t yet created the sorts of cultural stories from which humans take comfort and meaning. When these scientific advances are translated into popular belief and cultural stories, they are often stripped of the complexity of the science and become comically insubstantial narratives. Take for instance this Web site text advertising the antidepressant Paxil: ‘Just as a cake recipe requires you to use flour, sugar and baking powder in the right amounts, your brain needs a fine chemical balance in order to perform at its best.’ The Western mind, endlessly analyzed by generations of theorists and researchers, has now been reduced to a batter of chemicals we carry around in the mixing bowl of our skulls.”

Bruce Sterling, from his annual State of the World forum on The Well:

"Time’s most recent average weekly circulation is somewhere around 3.4 million …. That’s down 17% from 5 years ago but is still an impressive number. Plus, as Time Inc.’s media kits are at pains to remind you, a general interest publication like this also has a substantial amount of ‘pass-on’ readership (think of all those doctor’s office waiting rooms, for example).

"So who’s advertising? Turns out that the #1 type of space being bought, by far, isn’t really advertising at all. It’s prescription drug legal disclosures. Yup: 21% of Time’s Person of the Year ad pages was taken up by those comforting warnings about ‘suicidal thoughts or tendencies’ or ‘increased risk of heart attack or stroke’. On average, there were 1.4 pages of text disclosures for each page of health ads that contained a photograph.

"All-told, health advertising comprised 40% of total ad pages for 14 prescription drugs and 3 OTC ones. The biggest spender was AstraZeneca, whose Seroquel medication for bipolar depression contained a whopping 5 pages of disclaimers to accompany the one color photo of a very sad-looking lady sitting on a concrete step. …”

But think of the mice. For God’s sake, man, think of the mice. And the sex dolls, of course. They have feelings too, you know. Or will. Very soon.

From a Slate article about Jason Lanier:

“What Samuel Johnson said about his hometown holds true for the Internet: ‘No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’”

I’m kind of tired of the Internet now. Does that mean I don’t live anywhere?