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Tuesday, January 31, 2006 
your congress at work
good times with wikipedia. following up on my previous post, here are some examples of what congressional staffers have been doing on wikipedia while they're at work. i'm so glad that wikipedia did most of the work for me and i only need to browse through the RFC to find juiciness.

scott mcclellan is a douche.

tom coburn was voted "most annoying senator" as well as "most likely to get his arse kicked by hill a hill staffer over recess", because he "suck[s] at life."

worst president ever

removing references to the abramoff scandal

perhaps "moderate" david hobson's constituents wouldn't like his support of stem cell research?

mike flaherty, whoever that is, is bald. or maybe not.

phil gramm's staff doesn't want you to know he thinks all poor people are fat

cleansing rick renzi's entry (over and over again)

did bill o'reilly really play college football?

thoroughly scrubbing trent franks's entry

deleting darrel issa's support for hezbollah

replacing bill pascrell's bio with "a carbon copy of the bio on pascrell's site"

kairos = "any act of gayness or homoerotic touching"... watch out for "apple coring"

i guess christmas trees don't look so much like cannabis plants after all

did the ficus get more votes than rodney frelinghuysen?

does the first amendment protect knitting at work? (if only it also protected blogging at work)

does mark green have a close relationship with tom delay?

mary landrieu won't apologize for threatening to punch the prez, but apparently doesn't want it in wikipedia

more hurricane katrina hijinks from bill jefferson

lots more fun with eric cantor (i got the IP address wrong in last night's post)

bill frist fun

scrubbing david dreier's entry (why isn't he majority leader? is it 'cause he's gay?)

boo-berry is not "too jewish" for americans. but it is "the most delicious" of the monster cereals!

a dispute between frat brothers leads to much munching of tool and some "serious hardcore anal"

jim ramstad's staffer noah is "the best ever!"

computer science students at notre dame apparently spend a lot of time mastering "oregon trail"

someone in the congressional offices is obsessed with masturbation (and kaila yu's porn career)

accusations of socialism

fudging the facts on the iraq-al qaeda connection

gary ackerman's entry is replaced with his official bio

nothing too interesting here, but some staffer edited the entry for august 5 (my birthday)

...all that and i only got back as far as july. there were plenty of good edits, too; not everyone using congressional IP addresses is editing in bad faith. bad faith edits tended to favor republicans, but there was some pro-democratic editing too. and virtually all of the bad faith edits listed here have been reverted. still, browsing through how congressional staff try to revise public information resources makes for some interesting reading.

wiki wars
every so often the chattering classes go into a tizzy about wikipedia, and how it allows any john q slanderer to write any old thing without an editor or accountability. of course, the whole point of wikipedia is that anyone can edit it, so anyone who comes across such slander can easily correct it.

turns out some of those slanderers are working from inside the US house of representatives:

The staff of U.S. Rep Marty Meehan wiped out references to his broken term-limits pledge as well as information about his huge campaign war chest in an independent biography of the Lowell Democrat on a Web site that bills itself as the "world's largest encyclopedia," The Sun has learned.

The Meehan alterations on represent just two of more than 1,000 changes made by congressional staffers at the U.S. House of Representatives in the past six month. Wikipedia is a global reference that relies on its Internet users to add credible information to entries on millions of topics.

it's not surprising that congressional staffers would want to replace possibly critical entries about representatives with their official bios, as meehan's staff apparently did here. and they're doing it on government computers, and most likely while "on the clock", which is probably a violation of government computer usage policies. the attempts to delete criticism are troubling, but wikipedia is largely self-correcting, with all previous edits visible, and for high-profile entries like these, these things are likely to get caught.

perhaps more interesting are those who have used house computers for vandalism:

Wikipedia's online honor system has made it ripe for abuse by vandals. Recently, a user wrote in a Wikipedia bio that Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor "smells of cow dung." Another wrote that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is "ineffective." These statements were traced to the House Internet-protocol (IP) address.

In November and December, The Sun has learned, users of the House's IP address were temporarily blocked from changing content because of violations described by the site as a "deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of the encyclopedia."

"I'm not denying it," Jon Brandt, a spokesman for the Committee on House Administration, which oversees the House computer network, said when asked to confirm House ownership of the address.

For security reasons, Brandt declined to say to whom the address is assigned.

the same account that added the "cow dung" comment to cantor's entry also added this to the entry about karl rove: "Strangely enough he often reports to work with the faint scent of cow dung on his breath,six anonymous insiders report." (there are so many edits in the history of bill frist's entry that it's hard to know where to start.)

[update: the account mentioned here is not the right one. i got confused because of the "cow dung" comment (a veiled reference to karl rove's nickname, "turd blossom"), but apparently that's a popular epithet. this is the account referred to in the article. see my follow-up post for lots more info.]

inspired by the story, doug took a look at indiana representative mark souder, but there doesn't seem to be much drama there. more interesting is dan burton's history, which has some vandalism, as well as the history of mike pence's surprisingly short entry (wasn't pence supposed to be a contender for house leadership at some point?), which also has some vandalism. also surprisingly, the history of john hostettler's entry seem to be very civil with no flamewars, despite the fact that hostettler is probably indiana's most controversial congressman.

update: steph links to the wikipedia requests for comment about this story. if you want details, tons and tons of 'em, about what these congressional staffers are doing on wikipedia, here they are. the talk page even has partial lists of edits made with congressional IPs.

Friday, January 27, 2006 
the "revolution" is just another cellphone company
indy residents have likely seen the neon green fliers with the stupid backward R in a circle (what is it with the R in a circle anyway? radio shack's logo is already dangerously close to ®). virago's apartment is near the murat center, and someone totally papered the area tonight with the damn things in hopes of generating buzz at the moe concert.

the fliers just have the logo and ridiculous tagline "the revolution is coming". no policy information is given. no grievances are given. no clues are offered for how this new revolution intends to overcome the military strength of the current administration, etc.

revol is just a cellphone company. that's it, folks. just another silly guerilla marketing campaign for another corporation trying to use "urban" and "revolutionary" iconography to pimp you more consumerism. indy isn't alone: the website ( no link because i don't want to give them the traffic) suggests they're fliering in major cities all over indiana, ohio, and western pennsylvania.

don't waste your time thinking about it or talking about it. unless you're talking about how stupid it is: that's okay with me.

i'm disappointed: not because i thought "the revolution" had any chance of being cool, but because guerilla marketing techniques apparently haven't improved that much in the last 10 years. i saw almost exactly the same campaign in college.

i went to school at southeastern missouri state, in cape girardeau. one day pink fliers started appearing with an arc (sort of like the nike swoosh) and the query "what does it mean?" "what does it mean?" went all over the place. fliers everywhere. kids chalked it on the sidewalks. some kids were even paid to walk around one day wearing "what does it mean?" t-shirts. this went on for weeks before they finally told us what it meant: our local baby bell was changing its name to ameritech. (they've probably since changed their name to SBC, but maybe not.) the sound of the student body simultaneously rolling its eyes was so loud that it blew out the power station, causing a blackout on campus.

this time, they didn't build up the suspense so well. the ameritech campaign of my college days was somewhat effective (if the most anticlimactic part of my college career, and that includes dating) because it built up a sense of mystery, over the course of weeks, regarding wtf it meant. the longer we went without knowing, the more we inevitably discussed it with our friends. the revol street team is still out there fliering, trying to generate buzz about what revol us, but revol already has ads on tv that explain what it is. and the revol website already features a webstore and completely absurd marketing copy about how you can squash the staus quo and stick it to the man by... buying more cellphones. they're so revolutionary and anti-corporate...

oh... wait...

This Agreement (the "Agreement") contains the Terms and Conditions of Service (the "Terms") with Cleveland Unlimited, Inc., doing business as Revol and formerly known as Northcoast PCS...

things to say if someone asks you what revol is:

1. "it's hungarian for vulva."
2. "it's stupid."
3. "it's lover spelled backwards."
4. "i don't know, but i'd like to get inside your revol!"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006 
evil lurks at notre dame
and i'm not talking about the hunchback, or even the phantom of the opera. i'm not even talking about that notre dame. no, this is an evil much closer to home: at the university of notre dame, in south bend, IN.

i first heard about this indy star story from TDW, though TDW seemed to miss the best quotes.

The new University of Notre Dame president questioned Monday whether "The Vagina Monologues" and a Queer Film Festival held on campus the past few years should be sponsored by university departments.

The Rev. John I. Jenkins, who took over as president of the Roman Catholic school on July 1, did not say he would cancel the events, but is scaling back both events. He discussed the matter on Monday during a speech to faculty members and plans to address students on Tuesday. He said also wants to hear from alumni.

He told the faculty he worried that sponsorship by university departments indicated a certain level of acceptance. As an example, he said the school would face questions if it were to sponsor a play that was anti-Semitic.

of course, i'm not sure why anyone would want to host an antisemitic play at a major university, and i can't even think of any antisemitic plays they could put on... well, except maybe the merchant of venice, and i have a feeling that rev'd jenkins wouldn't object to that one.

but sure, you don't want to sponsor things that go against your moral fiber. i personally wouldn't sponsor, say, a showing of birth of a nation, at least not without a discussion afterward about racism and the use of propaganda. and notre dame is a catholic university and therefore should at least pretend to follow the whims of the catholic church. but there's still a big step from non-sponsorship to censorship, yes?

rev'd jenkins continues:
"A reasonable observer would assume that the university is sponsoring an event that, in fact, is clearly and egregiously at odds with its values as a Catholic university," he said.

He said events that are inconsistent with Catholic values should not be allowed at Notre Dame.

and now rev'd jenkins has taken that step, from not sponsoring things he disagrees with to saying that such things "should not be allowed." he's not quite ready to actually ban these events, but he doesn't have a problem with "scaling them back"... to such a point that the "queer film festival" must be renamed, and the vagina monologues cannot sell tickets and must be held in a classroom rather than an actual theatre. so if you've ever wanted to see the vagina monologues but just don't want to pay for it, you might want to schedule a trip to south bend, because i hear their production of the play will be free of charge.

"catholic values" as dictated by the pope are anti-homosexual, anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-extramarital sex, and so on. jenkins thinks that events that are inconsistent with these values—say, films and plays about people who are gay, have sex outside marriage (even, or perhaps especially, if they use condoms), or don't believe in transubstantiation—"should not be allowed" at notre dame. that's a whole lot of impermissible art.

but what about works that are consistent with catholic values? what about a play that depicts homosexuality as "an intrinsic moral evil"? would that be kosher? it would be controversial (very), but it would also be in line with "catholic values".

now it can be revealed, the evil that looms inside many students and faculty at notre dame. an evil so vile that one should not speak its name, lest you be overtaken by its noxious aroma and give in to its slippery slope of sin. yet speak its name i shall: evil, thy name is vagina.

But others praised Jenkins for taking up the issue. Margot O'Brien, who teaches in the accounting department, said plays such as "The Vagina Monologues" had no place at Notre Dame.

"It is a matter of treating something that is evil as good, and that's just wrong," she said.

that's right. the vagina monologues treats "something that is evil" (vaginas) as good, and "that's just plain wrong." the most surprising thing about this comment is that is comes from a woman, margot o'brien, who presumably also thinks her own vagina is evil.

first, a word about the vagina monologues. TVM is a female empowerment play. yes, on one level it is about vaginas. but the vagina is used metaphorically to represent femininity and in particular female self-esteem. it encourages women not to be ashamed of their genitals, but to embrace all facets of their womanhood. it also speaks out powerfully against violence.

from, a post dated just last friday that could be a response to rev'd jenkins, but is actually a response to rev'd brian j shanley of providence college:

Providence College President Reverend Shanley’s claim that "The Vagina Monologues" "reduces women to their vaginas" could not be further from the truth. In openly speaking about the issues that one in three women face, the play has empowered women worldwide. Translated into over 45 languages, the play has been embraced by women for its ability to present women's issues and the issue of violence against women in an artistic way. Reverend Shanley's claim that the play neglects the vagina's "unitive and procreative dimensions diminishes its complexity, its mystery, and its dignity" makes us wonder if he has actually seen the play. In its retelling of real women's stories, the play's message is about women and love, honoring their bodies, and ultimately finding their personal dignity. The last monologue is actually about birth, reflecting on it with amazement and deep appreciation.

While we respect his right to his views and beliefs, Reverend Shanley's desire that we bring back the 'complexity and mystery' around the vagina is dangerous if it leads to continued silence about these issues. In a world where one in three women will be beaten or raped in their lifetime, complexity and mystery are not what we need. What we do need is women understanding their sexuality and being free to speak about it. We need the dialogue and education that works such as "The Vagina Monologues" inspire, and the critical fundraising that the V-Day movement and its dedicated activists provide to shelters and anti-violence programs.

The telling of these stories is cathartic and allows women who hear them to know that they are not alone in their experience, helping them to heal. The play's power is in its ability to reach people emotionally and inspire action. V-Day is about harnessing that emotion and inspiration for action towards ending violence against women.

When faced with reactions like Reverend Shanley's, we need to remember the origins of the monologues. Our role at V-Day is not to judge but to bring these stories center stage, to end the violence that affects one in three women. We are deeply dismayed by a small minority of religious voices that ignore the real world suffering of women and that cannot reconcile their teachings with reality.

the south bend production might raise some awareness of these issues—at least for the small number of attendees who can be crammed into a classroom—but it obviously won't raise much money if tickets can't be sold.

i'm a bit of a moral relativist myself (the pope doesn't like that either). i don't really believe that "evil" exists. i have pretty strong opinions of right and wrong, but evil is a quaint concept, best suited for children's cartoons: the autobots are good, the decepticons evil. for discussions of real modern-day morality, "evil" isn't helpful. it's too binary, too black-and-white.

people do fucked-up things for fucked-up reasons all the time. some people, heads of state and such, even commit real atrocities that kill thousands or even millions of people. if it were ever appropriate to use the word "evil", it would be to describe such deplorable acts as genocide. but nobody commits themselves to evil. there is no "brotherhood of evil" that exalts in evil for evil's sake.

everyone is the hero of their own story. george bush says that osama bin laden is evil. and yes, bin laden has done some horrific things, masterminding attacks that have killed thousands across the globe, and should be brought to justice. but osama does these things not because he is evil, but because he firmly believes that the west is evil... so evil that it must be destroyed. both sides are convinced that they are good and the other side must be vanquished because it is evil. this is precisely why the US can never win "the war on terror" as it is currently being fought: there is no understanding, and can never be so long as bush refers to unfriendly countries as an "axis of evil" and islamists refer to the US as "the great satan". because who really wants to understand evil? other than batman, that is.

there's a similar, but less bloody, conflict going on here. the people behind the vagina monologues want to raise awareness of women's issues and combat injustices like rape and domestic abuse. the catholic church, while hardly a bastion of feminism, is also against rape and domestic abuse. but because the vagina monologues also deals with sex in a frank and potentially offensive manner, it is branded as evil. and that doesn't do anybody any good.

Monday, January 23, 2006 
miss ann presses on despite setback
i mentioned last month that miss ann had filed a motion to move her case, in which the city is trying to shut down her private dominatrix business, into federal court. the city calls her business an "adult entertainment business" and alleges that operating this business out of her meridian-kessler home constitutes a zoning violation. miss ann had hoped that the zoning ordinance the city is using against her would be struck down on first amendment grounds:

6.Plaintiff's complaint alleges violations of the Revised Code of the Consolidated City and County of Marion County, Indiana (hereinafter, "Revised Code"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges Defendant operates a business "in which the Defendant inflicts torture and/or humiliation and/or performs specified sexual activities on patrons of her home occupation" in violation of Section 731-220 of the Revised Code.
"Specified sexual activities" as used in Plaintiff's complaint is defined by Section 732-217(b) in relevant part as "masochism, erotic or sexually oriented torture, beating or the infliction of pain."

7.In the complaint, Plaintiff prays for a fine in the amount of $2,500.00 and that Defendant "be permanently enjoined from causing, suffering, or allowing the conduct of a business at the Real Estate in which torture, humiliation, or specified sexual activities are performed on patrons..."

8.It is Defendant's contention that the above referenced sections of the Revised Code constitute a prior restraint against Defendant's right to free expression in her business, and therefore, constitute a prima facie violation of Defendant's First Amendment rights. Furthermore, defendant contends terms such as "masochism" and "erotic or sexually oriented torture" are so vague and overly broad as to be violative of Defendant's First Amendment rights. Thus, the above captioned matter inherently involves federal questions.

but this was not meant to be. the district court challenged the move on jurisdictional grounds and gave miss ann until jan 20 to demonstrate why the case shouldn't be remanded back to marion county superior court. miss ann and her counsel were apparently unable to do so within the time frame allotted and eventually filed a motion to withdraw submission, moving the case back down to marion county superior court, where it will go forward.

now that the case is moving forward again, miss ann has posted some of the relevant court documents on her website. these include her response to the city's complaint as well as some documents pertaining to the discovery process. of particular interest are the interrogatories, in which she asks the city to define the terms masochism, erotic, sexually oriented, torture, beating, and infliction of pain (and to "state the authority or other source from which [the definition] is obtained"). these terms appear in the code that the city says were violated, but are not defined there.

considering that we're in the middle of a national debate about the definition of torture, to the extent that condolezza rice has been touring the globe trying (and generally failing) to convince the world that "the united states does not torture", i suspect that the city will have some trouble with these questions. if members of the federal government can claim with a straight face that what goes on at abu ghraib or guantanamo bay isn't torture, who's to say that what miss ann's doing is? none of miss ann's clients have ended up dead.

miss ann also held a press conference on friday, but the only news coverage i've found of that is this RTV6 story, which doesn't really have any new information other than that she "went to court to respond to the lawsuit."

update: i came this close to finishing this post with "maybe nuvo will have an article in this week's edition." and sure enough, here it is. yet another paul pogue article on the story, again more useful and informative than RTV6's coverage.

Friday, January 20, 2006 
broken music
just got back from the second muncie noise show in as many months. it's great that all these free noise shows are going on at the tally, but kind of weird because i keep thinking "why isn't indy having very many noise shows?" hell, muncie only has a few music venues in town, and these shows are in the ball state student center, fercrissake.

stream of consciousness review because i don't have time for full thoughts

being: noise suitcase, awash in waves of static
nor mountain man: sweet saxophone, electronics, and delay, much delay
evolve: rhymes + rough beats meets noisy collage, scratchin' for scratchin's sake
bobby vomit: meta-turntablism: what is the sound of a record player with no record?
realicide: guttural growls and oh so much feedback
piasa: sparks fly from a handful of tape measures like a cat of nine tails, broken glass and two metal plates in an old washtub

Thursday, January 19, 2006 
what time is it in indiana?

...damned if i know.

the USDOT has made its final ruling on indiana's new time zone barrier. as always, masson's blog is the place to go for DST analysis. doug also has a thorough roundup of news outlets and blogs discussing the decision. not many people seem to be very happy about it. and oh yeah, i stole doug's map, too.

DOT is relocating the time zone boundary in Indiana to move Starke, Pulaski, Knox, Daviess, Martin, Pike, Dubois, and Perry Counties from the Eastern Time Zone to the Central Time Zone. DOT is not changing the time zone boundary to move St. Joseph, Marshall, Fulton, Benton, White, Carroll, Cass, Vermillion, Sullivan, and Lawrence Counties from the Eastern Time Zone to the Central Time Zone.

here is a review of the story (pre-decision) that i wrote in october; you can look at the old "proposed" map there and compare it to this new "final" version (or if you'd rather, doug has a review here). and here is a follow-up about the massive technical difficulties involved in moving the time zone line.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 
dr octagon part II and other purchases
like i mentioned yesterday, dr. octagon part II was a massive disappointment. kool keith has put out a number of lackluster albums in the past few years, so i didn't have particularly high hopes, especially after seeing the dreadful cover art, which looks like something you would see on a $3 mixtape you might buy out of someone's trunk in the parking lot outside the ludacris concert. but, trepidation aside, i bought the thing because it had the name "dr. octagon" on it. and that's also what makes the album so much more disappointing: it's not just mediocre, but it dishonors the name of one of keith's greatest achievements.

it turns out that it's not even a legit kool keith record. apparently it's a bootleg.

The album has been bootleged by 101 Distribution, in association with Real Talk Records and 33rd Street Records. The album has already been shipped and is in stores as of October 12th. It cannot be recalled. The album features 2 demos, 2 Clayborne Family tracks, and 6 INCOMPLETE tracks from the upcoming 7th Veil album. The cover of the album features Kool Keith standing in front of an Escalade, which he is not even down with. 101 Distribution, Real Talk, and 33rd Street are being sued for this release. According to Jacky Jasper, the official bootlegger is Michael Kinbrew (a.k.a. Scoobie) and his partner Damon Evans. Supposedely, these two have stolen records from Kurrupt and had false negotiation agreements with Kel of "Kenan and Kel" (Nickelodeon). has already recalled the album. Some albums have slipped through the cracks and made it into stores.

more on the dispute at allhiphop.

in a way that's reassuring, as at least keith himself isn't the one denigrating the dr. octagon name. but who can blame me or other fans for thinking this is the real thing, when keith himself said in multiple interviews that he was indeed working on a dr. octagon II? the cover art was crappy and amateurish, but not a far stretch from, say, the cover for matthew. steve "flash" juon at rap reviews summed it up nicely (emphasis mine):

"Dr. Octagon Part II" is decidedly hit or miss. Some tracks like "Take it Off" with Nancy Des Rose are fresh as hell, and "Star Wars" has a pleasant old school Ultramagnetic M.C.'s feel to it. Other songs like "Dr. Octagon 2" and "You Know You Want It" feature Keith trying on different personalities like baseball hats, but using underproduced beats or weak lyrical styles that make them interesting to only his most hardcore fans. Some would say "well that just proves the songs are bootlegs," but the curious thing is there are official albums like Keith's "Spankmaster that are in many ways weaker than this bootleg release. The widely varying quality of the beats doesn't speak to the legitimacy of a Kool Keith album one way or another, since that's often his trademark when he produces his own shit - and the same goes for the rhymes.

Even though this was reportedly culled from three or four different sources, including unfinished freestyles and tracks left off other projects, in the end you can't really tell the difference between this and a real Kool Keith album. The upside of that is that Kool Keith fans will in fact be satisfied if they do choose to cop this album, because they're used to him churning out lackluster albums between the true gems like "Lost in Space" and "Diesel Truckers." The downside of that is that if there's no difference quality-wise between a bootleg of your shit and the real thing, you need to step your game up. Keith is truly the most vexing MC in hip-hop - when he's on he's among the all-time best and when he's off he could qualify for the all-time worst. It's probably that very dichotomy that continues to make him a cult favorite - you never quite know what to expect. And due to his cult status among the underground and his iconic status due to his decades in hip-hop, it's no wonder someone would go after his shit to make a bootleg album in the first place. Stamp a name like "Dr. Octagon Part II" on it and the heads will say, "Crazy-ass Kool Keith has done it again - I gotta check this shit out." You know the score, you know what this really is, but ultimately it won't hurt Keith's career even if he doesn't make a dime on it.

fans can be forgiven for not realizing it's a bootleg and buying it, though like me they might be confused when they listen to the album and realize it has virtually nothing in common with the original octagonecologist, stylistically or thematically, and has no discernable references to the dr. octagon character except in one track title and one tagline on the packaging: "the doctor will feel you now."

in contrast, yesterday i also picked up a (used) copy of live from rome by sole and it's really good. solid. catchy, interesting beats. the rhymes have mad flow and offer thought-provoking insights into various subjects, some of which are very political. i really need to check out more stuff from anticon but for whatever reason i never do.

pablo's story of sampling, which i alluded to yesterday, is, as i surmised, a turntablism record. and it's pretty good, to my relief. the title track sounds at first like a fairly standard hip-hop track... until you realize that the vocals are in fact spliced together from countless different songs by countless mcs. these samples are intricately woven together so that they flow—and even rhyme—perfectly. the effect is much more pronounced on the "acapella" version of the track, and there's an instrumental there too. also included are three other tracks that are also pretty good, though the title track is the real winner here. (there appears to be an audio sample of the track on the label's website.)

kevin blechdom's eat my heart out is, on first listen, much what one would expect from a new kevin blechdom release: bizarre but generally well-produced pop songs with edgy, often very radio-unfriendly lyrics. true to the title, the songs tend to be about relationships and heartbreak (but there's also a song about a gopher and porcupine that she keeps in her pocket, so...). as a bonus, the cd has r-rated packaging, with more of the racy comics that blechdom fans will be familiar with, as well as photos of a topless kevin holding a handful of organs (presumably a heart) against her breasts (yes, kevin blechdom is a woman).

i mentioned i found jason forrest's lady fantasy ep, and of course that's pretty good. i also bought MIA's galang, and i knew that was good too. maybe even played out by this point, but i haven't done a whole lot of record shopping since last summer. (i didn't just buy it because of the honda commercial, i swear!) and that's everything i picked up yesterday: a relatively small haul for me.

update: damon evans of 101 productions emailed me recently to officially deny that 101 had anything to do with this release.

copyrighting the dream
i had a dream of a world where little poor black children and little poor white children could sit together in a classroom and watch rev martin luther king's legendary "i have a dream" speech. then i woke up and read this washington post story (courtesy boingboing):

All of King's speeches and papers are owned by his family, which has gone to court several times since the 1990s to protect its copyright; King obtained rights to his most famous speech a month after he gave it. Now, those who want to hear or use the speech in its entirety must buy a copy sanctioned by the King family, which receives the proceeds.

Joseph Beck, an attorney for the King family and an expert in intellectual property rights, said, "The King family has always supported providing access to the speech and to the video for educational purchases and encourages interested persons to contact the King Center in Atlanta." According to the family's Web site, videotapes and audiotapes of the speech can be purchased for $10, but one copy often is not enough for an entire school, and many schools don't know what materials are available.

Many schools use the text -- often taken in violation of the copyright from the Internet. The King family, however, wants teachers to use the speech and has not pursued legal action against educators, Carson said.

Critics of the King family's decision not to put the speech in the public domain say the poorest children are the most deprived.

"The more elite the institution, the easier it is to pay the mandatory fee," said David J. Garrow, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference" and now a history professor at Cambridge University.

"So, to use a King phrase, 'the least of these,' I'll say that the least of these among schools and students are those who cannot afford the least access to his teachings," he said.

Monday, January 16, 2006 
the curse
there's something about indiana pro sports teams. they get better every year, have superstar players like reggie miller (now retired) and peyton manning, and generate tons of buzz. but they always choke when they get to the playoffs. last year the pacers made it as far as the eastern conference finals before getting shut down (the pacers made it to the nba finals once but have never won the big one since moving to the nba). and this year, the colts were supposed to be the anointed ones, major contenders for the super bowl, but lost in the first round of playoffs.

i was unable to avoid football this weekend and ended up watching parts of three playoff games: first watching the colts' perennial rival, the patriots, get squashed on friday night. then, while i didn't have to watch the humiliating first three quarters of the colts game, i watched the fourth quarter, where the colts finally caught up and had every chance to win, only to blow it all and lose. then i even ended up watching the end of the panthers-bears game while waiting for the first part of the 24 premiere (which was damned exciting... i didn't know how they could live up to their hype about how "the first 10 minutes will change everything" but two major deaths before the first commerical break, including the one character you would've thought could never die? [other than jack. they really should've killed him off a couple seasons ago.] that was a pretty big surprise).

but i had a good weekend despite all the football. virago & i went to a party and tasted exotic cocktails, had a few nice meals, and found silly sounds boohbahs on clearance for $3! at first i tried to resist, but in the end i couldn't resist the charms of the $3 boohbah. we were actually looking for the "1935 first edition" of monopoly, which i saw multiple places before xmas but has seemingly disappeared since. it's supposed to be a replica of the first edition of the game that parker bros put out in 1935, with community chest cards like "we're off the gold standard!" (of course, that wasn't the true first edition, as the game's legendary "inventor" charles darrow didn't invent it at all; rather he took the idea from an older game called the landlord's game and patented it. still, i'd love to see those depression-era cards.)

and then i got today off for martin luther king jr day. that gave me extra time to catch up on battlestar galactica and fullmetal alchemist as well as to go to indy cd & vinyl to spend the $20 gift certificate that virago gave me for xmas. i lucked into finding a copy of jason forrest's lady fantasy ep used for $5.97, got kevin blechdom's eat my heart out, kool keith's dr. octagon II, and a couple other hip-hop things, including taking a chance on something called the story of sampling by someone called pablo. it could be crap, but i just couldn't resist that title.

haven't had time to listen to much of the new stuff, other than dr. octagon II. and it truly does not live up to the dr. octagon name in any way. the first, real dr. octagon was a magical combination of keith, dan the automator, and dj qbert, and was possibly the peak of kool keith's career, no matter what he thinks. but for dr. octagon II, keith thinks he can do it all by himself, producing his own tracks. as a producer he's not awful, but he's nothing special either. and this record has more high points than some of his other recent releases (with the exception of diesel truckers), but calling it "dr. octagon II" (after killing off the dr. octagon character in dr. dooom first come first served) begs comparison to the original. they say the sequel is never as good as the original, and this is definitely true for dr. octagon II. not recommended except for kool keith completists.

Saturday, January 14, 2006 
opinions for sale
yet another right-wing pundit is in trouble for taking corporate money, writing gushingly about the corporate sponsor, and failing to disclose the transaction to readers.

Scripps Howard News Service (SHNS) announced Friday that it severed its relationship with Michael Fumento -- a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute -- for not disclosing he had taken payments in 1999 from agribusiness giant Monsanto. The payments were revealed by BusinessWeek Online, which also broke a similar story revealing columnist Doug Bandow receiving payments. Copley News Service subsequently dropped Bandow.

In a statement released Friday, SHNS Editor and General Manager Peter Copeland said Fumento "did not tell SHNS editors, and therefore we did not tell our readers, that in 1999 Hudson received a $60,000 grant from Monsanto." Copeland added: "Our policy is that he should have disclosed that information. We apologize to our readers."

SHNS sent out an advisory to subscribers last night that read: "The Jan. 5 column by Michael Fumento about new biotechnology products from Monsanto should have included more information. We believe the column should have disclosed a $60,000 grant from Monsanto that Fumento received in 1999 for a book about biotechnology. Fumento's column will no longer be distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, but is available from Michael Fumento at fumento(at) or"

In his Jan. 5 column, Fumento wrote that the St. Louis-based Monsanto has about 30 products in the pipeline that will aid farmers "but also help us all by keeping prices down and allowing more crops to be grown on less land." He said he was only writing about Monsanto "because their annual report was plopped onto my lap while I was hunting for a column idea."

their annual report just happened to plop on my lap... with a big check attached. where do the news services keep finding all these sellout columnists? oh yeah... they find 'em at right-wing think tanks like the hudson institute. well, at least fumento sold out to a biotech giant rather than the bush administration (as far as we know, anyway). though i'm not really sure which is worse.

this is the cue for other right-wingers to try to claim this is a "bipartisan" scandal, just like they ridiculously claimed the abramoff scandal was.

what's funny is that just the other day, i read james wolcott's tremendous take-down of fumento, after fumento had tried to do the same to wolcott on pajamas media (which is perhaps the blogosphere's most famous failure), and today fumento has been fired. there's no actual cause and effect there, but the coincidental timing is funny... i've known who wolcott is for some time, but had probably never even heard of fumento before thursday.

hard work
yesterday my boss called me into her office to mention that she had stopped by my blog and noticed a number of entries that appeared to have been posted during working hours. i guess this is the price i pay for fame: nobody at the office would know about this website or alias if i had not achieved some modest success (and more importantly, press coverage) for my musical and artistic endeavors. so i'm just famous enough to get me into trouble, but not enough to, say, sell many records.

it wouldn't even be an issue, except in the past few months my performance at work has suffered a bit. i've sometimes made more mistakes than i should, and i haven't been quite as productive as the company would like me to be. if i were busting out pages with the quickness and exceeding my goals, nobody would give a damn whether i was blogging during my breaks or downtime, but i'm not, so they do. anyway, she suggested that my blogging during office hours might be one of the factors that is negatively affecting my performance, and recommended that i should curtail that activity—a perfectly fair and reasonable request.

so in the coming months, expect to see fewer, shorter posts during "office hours". it's possible i might occasionally post some short blurb if i find something particularly interesting, but the longer, more detailed posts and analysis will have to wait until i am at home or elsewhere. of course, my evenings are already split between tivo, civilization, hot sex with my girlfriend, and any ongoing musical/artistic projects (and there are always at least two of those), so it's likely that this means i won't be posting quite as much as you are used to. c'est la vie. but i assure you: i will at least try to pop in and post every couple of days.

and don't worry: i'm not about to get fired. i'm still months away from that point. i work for a multinational corporation, after all, and just as it's difficult to get approval to hire new employees, it's not easy to fire people either. so don't cry for me. i'll still be around, and i'll still be employed. i just won't be blogging from the office so much.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 
dvds from the nether regions
unbeknownst to many consumers, whenever you buy a commercial dvd, it comes with something called region encoding. ostensibly an anti-piracy technology, region encoding ensures that a dvd bought in one part of the world will not play in dvd players in other parts of the world. the earth is separated into six regions, and dvd players sold in a region will only play dvds from that region. so if i, living in the US, want to buy a dvd from the UK (for example, the dvds of my current favorite bbc show, look around you), i am basically screwed, unless i own a dvd player that is "region free". some manufacturers do make region-free players, and many other commercial dvd players can be modded to become region-free (mine is, though it is dying and needs to be replaced), but most people don't have those.

the whole thing is a crock and restricts our rights as consumers to buy what we want from whom we want. isn't that what the "free market" is supposed to be about? if i prefer european or japanese dvds, shouldn't i be able to do so? the entertainment industry doesn't think so.

so i got a chuckle out of this guardian story, about how a region encoding error is keeping spielberg's film munich out of the running for the british version of the oscars:

the preview DVD sent to the academy's members is unplayable on machines used in the UK. As a result the majority of Bafta's 5,000 voters will not have seen the film, due to be released in Britain on January 27, and can hardly be expected to recommend it for acclaim.

Sara Keene at Premier PR, the company coordinating Munich's Bafta campaign, blamed the mistake on human error at the laboratory where the DVDs were encrypted. "Someone pushed the wrong button," she said. "It was a case of rotten bad luck." She insisted that the film's distributor, Universal, was not at fault.

The problem, it appears, was partly down to teething troubles with the limited edition DVD players issued last year to Bafta members. Developed by Cinea, a subsidiary of Dolby, the players permit their owners to view encrypted DVD "screeners", but prevent the creation of pirate copies. Munich screeners were encoded for region one, which allows them to be played in the US and Canada, rather than region two, which incorporates most of Europe.

region encoding harms consumers by restricting their freedom to shop. but not just consumers: it harms film lovers everywhere who are unable to watch quality films because they haven't been released in a particular market. that's what DRM does: it doesn't stop piracy, as the true pirates and bootleggers can easily find their way around DRM. all it does is restrict the options of the little guy.

DVD screeners remain a vexed issue for distributors concerned about the potential for piracy. But the evidence suggests that they play a vital role in raising a film's profile among award voters.

"There are over 5,000 Bafta members," Ms Keene explained. "With the best will in the world, they don't all come to the preview screenings. Unless you send them DVDs it is really hard to get a film nominated."

This point was brought home last year when the distributor Entertainment took the decision not to provide Bafta voters with screeners of Million Dollar Baby. Clint Eastwood's boxing drama failed to gain a single nomination at the 2005 awards. One month later it scooped the major honours at the Academy Awards.

god hates haters
today's indy star has more about the possible constitutional problems of indiana's proposed funeral conduct bill:

The church has protested at five military funerals in Indiana and has demonstrated at about 80 funerals in 30 states since June, said Shirley Phelps-Roper, a member of and lawyer for Westboro Baptist.

She has vowed to challenge Steele's bill if it becomes law.

"Since God is punishing this nation by blowing the fruit of America to pieces and sending them home in body bags, our forum of choice must be those funerals, and it doesn't matter what Brent Steele likes," Phelps-Roper said. "He does not get to call our protected right to free speech disorderly conduct. It will never work."

After studying Steele's bill, Robert D. Richards, a First Amendment expert, said that's likely true.

"This is restricting speech because it is offensive," said Richards, a founder of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment at Penn State University. "The law is pretty clear in this country that you cannot punish speech because it's offensive.

"It's almost a paradigm violation of the First Amendment."

i hadn't thought of it that way. what exactly is the state's interest in banning disorderly conduct at funerals? i understand the compelling state interest in doing so at airports: that's for security purposes. (i don't quite agree with limiting freedom in exchange for security, but i understand how disorderly conduct at the airport could be dangerous.) but at a funeral? i don't really see and compelling state interest there: the state just wants to protect mourners' feelings. and unfortunately, the constitution does not promise freedom from getting your feelings hurt, no matter how big an asshole the other guy is.

the story also has a few details about yesterday's protest, and interviews with mourners and families of the GIs whose funerals have been picketed, not all of whom agree with the proposed law:

Even the Doyle family can't agree on the bill.
"My personal opinion is that if we're going to have these kids over there fighting for freedom, then sometimes you have to put up with freedoms you don't really like," said John Doyle, Sandy's husband and Jeremy's father. "I'm the minority in my family on this, for sure."

and if you can find a password you can read this story in the topeka capital-journal about the planned protest of the coal miners' funeral:

West Virginia residents say they are outraged by an announced picket by members of Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church at a memorial service this coming weekend honoring 12 fallen coal miners.

The memorial service, which will take place Sunday afternoon in Buckhannon, W.Va., will honor the 12 men who died in last week's tragedy in a coal mine at Tallmansville, W.Va.

Westboro Baptist Church, which has gained nationwide attention since the early 1990s for its anti-homosexual demonstrations, said it would have 16 members on hand to picket the service.

"It's very insulting, and it's disrespectful," said Tammy O'Bryan, who identified herself as a coal miner's daughter and wife in a phone interview Monday from her home in Crab Orchard, W.Va. "I think your town, your state, owes us an apology."

"We produce energy for your community, and this is the kind of thanks we get?" O'Bryan said. "It's inexcusable."

O'Bryan, whose brother also is a coal miner, said Sunday's protest could bring out the "hillbilly" in West Virginians.

"Send 'em on," O'Bryan said. "Because they won't come back in the same condition."

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a Westboro Baptist Church member, said she had received "dozens" of calls from irate people in West Virginia the past few days.

shirley phelps-roper isn't just a member. she is also fred phelps's daughter. she even admits to the evansville courier-press (another site you'll need a password for) that 80% of the congregation consists of phelps's family. calling these people "fringe" would be an insult to the actual fringe. they aren't fringe; they're in orbit.

"They have gotten word and they are making themselves heard," Phelps-Roper said. "What they say is, 'How could you come here?' "

Phelps-Roper said she replied to callers that the mining community invoked the name of God in thanks after reports surfaced that the 12 miners were alive, only to find out hours later they had died.

"He did not issue you a blessing," Phelps-Roper said she has told West Virginia callers. "He issued you a curse."

i wish i could think of some way to deal with these kinds of people... something that would shame them and shut them up without infringing everyone else's rights or resorting to gross violence. but i'm afraid they have no shame.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 
fred phelps strikes again, and the states strike back
word has it that the reverend fred phelps, who probably considers himself god's favorite gay-basher, was in indiana again for another protest at a military funeral. they became famous long ago for their disgusting protests at the funerals of homosexuals, some of whom had been murdered because of their sexual orientation. now phelps and his family have moved on to protesting at military funerals, claiming that the reason GIs are dying is because the US is too accepting of gays. and according to their website, they even plan to protest the funerals of the west virginia coal miners who died last week! that is going to be ugly.

i posted about this lunacy last time they were in the state, so normally i might not have posted again. these are the sickest, vilest kind of bigots, and they don't deserve the attention.

but those protests really get under people's skin. their disgusting, hateful rhetoric is bad enough when you read it on their website (i refuse to link to it, but it's called "god hates fags" if you've never heard of it); having to deal with it your loved one's funeral is more than anyone should ever have to take.

people nationwide were outraged when they heard the story about phelps's military funeral protests last summer. and now, in direct response to those incidents, at least five states have passed or are considering legislation to outlaw protests at funerals. unsurprisingly, phelps's home state of kansas already has such a law. illinois and indiana are also considering such laws.

from WISH-tv, about indiana's proposed law:

The committee approved Senate Bill No. 5 authored by Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford) that says protesters must be 500 feet from a funeral service or procession as well as making disorderly conduct at a funeral a felony.

"We're not saying that they can't protest. We're not talking about the volume of their protest. We're not talking about any particular group protesting. It could be any group protesting any person's funeral," he said.

the AP story tells it a little differently:

Steele said people could still protest funerals, but not in a "fighting or tumultuous manner" within 500 feet of them, funeral processions, burials or memorial services.

Disorderly conduct is defined by Indiana law as engaging in fighting or tumultuous conduct; making unreasonable noise and continuing to do so after being asked to stop; or disrupting a lawful assembly of people. Under Steele's bill, it would be a Class D felony carrying a maximum three-year prison term and $10,000 fine if committed within 500 feet of funeral activities.

looking at the actual text of the bill, we see that the more nuanced explanation in the AP is the more accurate version. after the bill has passed (and it will), and assuming it withstands challenges to its constitutionality, it will still be legal to peacefully, calmly protest right in front a funeral, but if you're going to be a dick about it, you need to be 500' away.

i'm not entirely sure how to feel about the bill. on its face, it does appear that it might be content-neutral, so it might not be unconstitutional. still, free speech restrictions (especially restrictions on protest) give me pause. and it's not difficult to imagine the law being abused to restrict legitimate speech: peaceful, polite protesters being arrested for "disrupting a lawful assembly", for example (i'm envisioning political funerals here). not to mention that it could potentially be used against actual mourners. we've all heard stories, if not attended the funerals, where people who are drunk and/or half-mad with grief "engage in fighting or in tumultuous conduct" or "make unreasonable noise and continue to do so after being asked to stop" or generally make a scene. presumably, it wouldn't be enforced against the truly grieving, but then that would make it a content-based restriction, and hence unconstitutional.

still, if fred phelps and his kin protested a funeral of one of my loved ones, i would totally freak out.

"annoying" bill really about VoIP
a lot of people have been confused by declan mccullogh's cnet post about an amendment to the law that supposedly makes it illegal to post "annoying" comments online. and i was confused at first too; i admit it. but now i'm convinced that the law doesn't really do that at all: what it does is take the existing prohibition against telephone harrassment and extend that so it also applies to "internet telephony" technologies such as VoIP (voice over IP [internet protocol]).

VoIP is a service that allows you to make phone calls over the internet. when you make a traditional phone call, your voice is converted into signals that are sent over the phone wire to the receiver on the other end. VoIP and internet telephony circumvent this: when you make a phone call using VoIP, your voice is converted into digital data that is sent over the internet. the end result is the same, but the process is different.

i'm not the only one who's figured this out. football fans for truth explains why this update was considered necessary:

The previous law assumed that all phone calls would be made via a "telecommunications service" using a "telecommunications device". The FCC has consistently found that VOIP is an unregulated "information service", thus exempting it from all sorts of fees and services. A VOIP call may be functionally indistinguishable from a landline or cell phone call. Legally, though, it's not a telecommunications service and doesn't require the use of a telecommunications device. Adding the new text to the definition removes a potential loophole and ensures that VOIP calls will be treated just as any other telephone call.

so there was a loophole under the existing law that allowed people to make harrassing phone calls over VoIP when they legally couldn't do so using "real" telephones. the update to the law fixes this loophone, and nothing more.

this is not entirely intuitive if you look at the law, especially the way the law has been selectively quoted. you can make a quote...say anything...with ellipses. so let's take a closer look at the actual language.

while the update does add a short paragraph to the code relating to the internet, that code only applies to "subparagraph (C) of subsection (a)(1)". that section in unedited form said this (emphasis mine): interstate or foreign communications...makes a telephone call or utilizes a telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

the original passage is clearly about phone calls. and the new additions don't delete any of that phone stuff, either.

this section, and only this section, has now been updated thusly:

'(C) in the case of subparagraph (C) of subsection (a)(1), includes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet (as such term is defined in section 1104 of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (47 U.S.C. 151 note)).'.

furthermore, let's scroll up and look at subparagraph (B), which falls immediately before the newly added text:

For purposes of this section...The use of the term "telecommunications device" in this section...does not include an interactive computer service.

"interactive computer service" is defined as

any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or educational institutions.

furthermore, let's look at the other part of the amendment:

(b) Rule of Construction- This section and the amendment made by this section may not be construed to affect the meaning given the term 'telecommunications device' in section 223(h)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934, as in effect before the date of the enactment of this section.

i'm not a lawyer, and maybe all this passage really says is that the amendment isn't retroactive. but as i'm reading it, what this says to me is that the amendment isn't really changing the definition of "telecommunications device". and if the existing definition specifically excluded "interactive computer services", and the amendment doesn't change the definition, then this amendment simply does not apply to the internet.

if i'm misreading the bill, i invite you to correct me. but i'm pretty sure declan mccullogh is the one who's wrong here.

update: a commenter at volokh thinks the term "telecommunications device" includes modems, and points to a supreme court case that suggests it does. to be sure, it's all very confusing, and as the court itself says in that decision, "The resolution of the tension between the scope of "telecommunications device" and the scope of "interactive computer service" ... must await another day."

so while i stand by my statement that the amendment is intended to close a VoIP loophole, it is perhaps possible to read it in such a way that all trolling would be illegal. however, let us not forget that the law says "intent to annoy", not simply annoy, and that intent is extremely difficult to prove.

and—and this is the important part—if the definition of telecommunications device already included modems, then this amendment doesn't do much of anything at all. using a telecommunications device with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass was already illegal. the amendment specifically does not change the definition. ergo, if you interpret the law as meaning that anonymous trolling is illegal, then anonymous trolling was already illegal even before the amendment.

so it's a tempest in a teapot. the amendment absolutely does not 'rewrite... existing telephone harassment law to prohibit anyone from using the Internet "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy"' as declan mccullogh would tell you. depending on your interpretation, either the law does not say that even now, or it already said that even before the amendment.

way to go, declan mccullogh.

Monday, January 09, 2006 
dear anonymous commenters
i have every intention of continuing to allow anonymous, unmoderated, un-word-verified comments on this blog for as long as it remains feasible. the anonymous comments have somewhat died down in the past few weeks, and have been mostly civil. i welcome comments, especially from people other than the regular commenters, and while i'd prefer you put something in the name field, i won't force you.

so anonymous comments here will remain for the forseeable future, even though, as cnet reports, anonymously posting annoying comments is now illegal!

It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.

This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.

"The use of the word 'annoy' is particularly problematic," says Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "What's annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else."

Buried deep in the new law is Sec. 113, an innocuously titled bit called "Preventing Cyberstalking." It rewrites existing telephone harassment law to prohibit anyone from using the Internet "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy."

To grease the rails for this idea, Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, and the section's other sponsors slipped it into an unrelated, must-pass bill to fund the Department of Justice. The plan: to make it politically infeasible for politicians to oppose the measure.

another completely unenforceable law from those in government who repeatedly demonstrate that they have no clue how the net works at all. it would be funny if it were happening somewhere else. i can understand wanting anti-cyberstalking laws, but anti-annoyance? who is the arbiter of annoying?

one thing the article doesn't address (and i suspect the legislation doesn't either) is the distinction between anonymity and pseudonymity. to wit, i do not blog anonymously, even though the name i use on this blog is not the one on my birth certificate and i have not filed a DBA with the IRS under the name "stAllio!"

stAllio! isn't just some handle i picked in order to hide my identity. it is my identity, and outside my personal life and my office, far more people know me as stAllio! than as ben. i've been using some variation of the stAllio! name online for more than 10 years now. everything i've done musically or artisticly since '96 has been under this name. i've done countless live performances as stAllio!, at various venues and radio stations throughout the country. anyone willing to do the research could turn up my "real" name in a matter of minutes.

in short, i am stAllio! and blogging under that name is no more anonymous than if snoop dogg or marilyn manson blogged under those names. but would that count under the statute?

these are complex issues, and passing legislation with vague, over-broad terms like "annoy" isn't going to help anyone. way to go, arlen specter.

update: a couple boingboing readers think cnet's declan mccullogh is full of it:

Maybe you guys should read the text of the bill... this is a wildly inaccurate interpretation of the bill, in which the word "annoy" appears not once. The word "annoy" appears in *existing* legislation (Communications Act of 1934) and it does not include any communication a recipient might find annoying. Furthermore, the identity provision is not specified in the amendment discussed. Your article is, indeed, a joke.

way to go, declan mccullogh.

january doesn't just bring us a new year; it also brings a new season... television season, that is. january is the start of what has traditionally been called the "mid" season, when networks bring in new shows (and even bring back some old ones) to fill in gaps left by all the horrible new shows that have been cancelled. as cable continues to dominate, this is changing, and more networks try out the method of staggering new shows throughout the year. this is smart: i think 24 works much better when it is aired without 2-to-3-week gaps in between episodes, running straight through january to may, as fox did last year and will repeat this year. but it's still mid-season and lineups are changing, so i thought i'd run through some of my favorite shows, and some not-so-favorites.

arrested development. i can't get over just how incredible this show is. it's possibly the best sitcom ever. it's incredibly layered with a fractal-like intricacy, hiding jokes in the subtlest of offhand comments and cross references. and of course, fox treats the show like shit, this year moving it from a prime sunday slot to monday and cutting back from 22 episodes to a measly 13. and when will we get to see the rest of those 13 episodes? maybe never. fox has not officially canceled it, but the way the network treats the show speaks volumes, and rumors have been circulating for some time about its possible demise (although some other network, like showtime, might pick it up). tonight we should see the last episode for awhile (until fox decides to start airing it again, if that ever happens), but fox has also messed that up, with many people confused about whether it will air tonight or be replaced by a rerun of house. i'd better check my tivo when i get home to make sure it records whatever is on at 8pm: it will probably be arrested, but i'm not sure if my tivo knows that.

i recently picked up the first two seasons on dvd, and virago and i have been watching them almost religiously since then. i had missed most of the first season when it aired, and now that i've seen it, the second season is even funnier! i can't even watch the vast majority of sitcoms these days (and i grew up watching sitcoms), but arrested development is my favorite show on tv these days.

battlestar galactica. battlestar has been on break for a couple months, and returned with the first new episode this weekend. and wow! the tension is remarkable. i wasn't really old enough to know the original version of battlestar galactica from the '70s, so i can't compare the two, but the new version is an outstanding character drama with compelling stories and characters. truly great science fiction transcends the spaceships and gimmicks to tell powerful stories about people who just happen to live in space, and make us think about the issues discussed. and this series ranks with some of the best science fiction i've ever seen. i think this is another one i'll have to get on dvd.

the office (US version). simply hilarious: the cast is fabulous and the scripts are hilarious. dunder-mifflin is perhaps more over-the-top than any office in the real world, but white-collar workers will definitely recognize the world portrayed here. i don't understand the people who still deride this show. while the pilot was indeed a somewhat weak adaptation of the pilot from the UK original (using generally the same script, which i think was a mistake as it invited unfavorable comparisons between the two), i think i actually enjoy the US version better, as almost every episode has been wonderful.

ghost in the shell: stand alone complex, 2nd gig. i've always been fascinated by cyborgs and bionics, and the ghost in the shell franchise is the best cyberpunk i've ever seen. the key question of bionics and cyberization is a question of interface (how would people interact with these technologies), and GitS explores this in a very believable fashion. the GitS movies were great, but they were just too short to really explore the GitS world and how it has been changed by cyberization: this is where the tv series picks up, going into a lot more detail about politics, society, and other themes.

my name is earl. this is a great show: very different from most other comedies out there. i happily and faithfully watch every week. i've always liked jason lee, and he is inspired on this show. it's lots of fun. but frankly, i don't like it nearly as much as arrested development or the office.

the boondocks. while not perfect and not entirely consistent (i didn't care for the episode where the white boys held up the convenienve store... what was the point of that?), this show is edgy, intelligent, and generally quite good. it seems to be the only real contender to fill the gap left by the loss of chapelle's show (though this year we will get to see all those sketches that chappelle had filmed before his apparent breakdown).

fullmetal alchemist. at first glance, this might seem like just another cutesy anime series with lots of action and weird ideas. but in reality, the show is extremely dark, with each new revelation more shocking than the last. and while it's set in an alternate world, where alchemy is the preeminent form of science, fullmetal is surprisingly easy to follow. whenever a new episode shows up on my tivo, this is one of the first shows i want to watch.

samurai champloo. samurai with a hip-hop flavor. this is simply a top-notch action series, with lovable (but badass) antiheroes and tons of cool swordplay.

wonder showzen. wonder showzen is like sesame street on crack. and i don't mean that as a metaphor: the format is like a kid's show, with puppets, animated shorts, and little kids talking about weird stuff. but this show is as edgy as they come, and i wouldn't be surprised to see an elmo-like puppet hitting a crack pipe at any moment. if you liked the sketch on chappelle's show about the kid's show that discussed drugs, sex, and venereal disease, you will love wonder showzen, as the whole series is like that. only a handful of episodes have aired, but more are on the way, probably early this year. it's kind of hard to believe that there's something worth watching on mtv, but there is: wonder showzen.

honorable mentions: the simpsons, family guy, the sopranos, six feet under, 24, the daily show, drawn together.

and now, for a few shows i don't like so much.

12 oz mouse. to me, this show really epitomizes the recent decline of adult swim. things were great in the early days: space ghost: coast to coast was fantastic, as were the early episodes of sealab 2021, aqua teen hunger force, and so on. but out of all the new adult swim comedy shows, the only one i really like is the boondocks. perfect hair forever has its moments, and its insanity (or inanity) is explained by the fact that it's an anime parody... therefore it cannot make sense. but 12 oz mouse strikes me as absurdity for absurdity's sake. the animation is crude, but don hertzfeldt it ain't. drbmd said to me once that this show isn't really any worse than, say, the later episodes of sealab, and perhaps that is true, but unlike sealab it has no glory days for us to remember fondly. it started out crappy. and while sealab had that extra edge of appropriation (you always knew in the back of your mind that the characters were taken from a cheesy '60s show, which made their ridiculous antics funnier), all 12 oz mouse has is intentionally shitty animation. and intentionally shitty animation has been done much better.

the war at home. objectively, this show isn't really that bad. it's just mediocre. it's 100% typical sitcom fare with stereotypical characters that telegraphs its jokes (last night, barry & i both predicted a joke, as if in unison). but fox has sandwiched it between two excellent animated shows: the simpsons and family guy, meaning sometimes i get stuck watching it while i wait for family guy to come on. and i don't like that. worse yet, arrested development used to be on sundays, and was pushed to mondays for this crap. blah.

that '70s show. this is one of virago's favorite shows, and she has me record it each week so she won't miss it while she's in class. and i don't have a problem with recording it or even watching it with her. i know how it goes: you get hooked on the characters and want to see what happens to them. i have the same problem with comics: even when i no longer enjoy them, i'm reluctant to stop reading. i almost feel bad mentioning it here. but let's face it: if this show was ever very good, it's not anymore. nowadays, it's just another mediocre sitcom. and i still don't understand why all those kids continue to hang out at the forman house even after their son eric no longer lives there.

dishonorable mentions: joey, freddy, american idol, just about any network reality show.

Friday, January 06, 2006 
got team spirit? you'd better pay for it
colts fever usually sweeps indiana around this time each year, as die hard fans get die harder and fair weather fans come out, pretending to have cared all along. this year it's even more intense, as the colts seem to have a real chance of making the super bowl instead of getting shut down by the new england patriots as has happened the past few years. colts fever doesn't affect me much, as i don't really care about sports even when local teams are doing well. but today's star has a story that's more up my alley. (colts ice cream photo taken from junk food blog.) it's about how the colts organization combats those who abuse its trademarks by... cheering them on?

"Go Colts," say signs and banners in office buildings around the region. Neon Colts signs light up windows in local bars, a lure to fans in search of a place to watch the game.

Any Colts spirit, though, quickly can evaporate for businesses that the team deems to be using team logos or trademarks without proper authorization. Offenders face the threat of a nasty hit, not from a linebacker, but from a lawyer.

The legal teams for the Colts and the National Football League say they are aggressively defending their trademark turf. The offender could be a store without a sponsorship deal saying "Go Colts" in an advertisement or giving away tickets as part of a promotion.

i posted ever so briefly about trademark dilution last month and while i think it's yet another absurd aspect of our "permission" culture where corporations try to own and control everything, at least those examples made a bit of sense. obviously it's not in johnson & johnson's best interest for people to use the term "band-aid" to refer to other brands of bandages. but there's no real dilution here: when these businesses refer to the colts, they're talking about... the colts. not just talking, but cheering! they're saying "GO COLTS!" and the colts are saying "go fuck yourselves!"

all right, maybe it's not quite that bad, as the colts assure us that they are "pretty gentle" on their first warning.

The hunt for violators, he said, is important given how much some businesses are spending to associate themselves with the Colts.

The Colts won't say how much they're ringing up in sponsorship income, but they said the team has roughly 170 deals worth anywhere from $25,000 to more than $1 million apiece.

The arrangements include sports-sponsorship mainstays like Budweiser, the official beer, and Gatorade, the official sports drink.

you can cheer on the colts for free once. after that, it'll cost you $25k or more.

But any company can cheer on the team without buying a sponsorship. They are allowed to hang banners, such as "Go Colts," in windows or marquee signs. But they are prohibited from using the team's name or logos in any advertising or promotions. "They need to keep it on the premises," Souers said.

Last month the team's general counsel, Bose McKinney & Evans lawyer Daniel Emerson, sent letters to hundreds of media outlets across the state warning against any "temptations to inappropriately" use the team's logos or trademarks. Common violations, Emerson said, include using Colts names in advertisements or tickets for promotional giveaways.

Common violators include retailers putting the Colts logos in newspaper advertisements or on Web sites, he said. A warning letter is sent once a violation is spotted. "If they don't stop they will face litigation," said Emerson, adding that no disputes in recent years have made it to court. He said he has sent about 20 cease-and-desist letters this season.

so i can't actually buy tickets and give them away for free without paying the colts extra? aren't the tickets expensive enough on their own?

The businesses that pay for the right to associate themselves with the Colts have a variety of motivations.

For Uncle Bill's, which competes with national chains such as PetSmart, buying a Colts sponsorship is a chance to emphasize its local ties as a family business, said owner Lori Wilson, whose grandfather started the pet center.

Uncle Bill's gets to sell official Colts gear such as bowls, collars, leashes and bandanas. The Colts includes the pet company's winning photo from the company's pet-of-the-game contest in the game program and shows it on the screen at the RCA Dome. Uncle Bill's also uses those images in its advertisements.

"People get excited because they're passionate about the Colts and they're passionate about their animals," said Wilson, a Colts season ticker holder. "It's been a good fit for us."

clearly uncle bill's gets some real value out of that deal: cross-promotion, for one thing. and companies that license the right to make colts-themed merchandise (like colts ice cream, which i can only assume is pigskin flavored) probably get their money's worth too.

but i'm a little curious about just how much a company like lucas oil products benefits from providing the "official oil products" for the colts. it's not like the colts actually use oil products in the game. (then again, dogs and cats aren't used in the game either, though if you want a doggie sweater with a blue horseshoe on it, you can probably get one at uncle bill's.) it reminds me of how absurd i always thought it was for brands like snicker's and mcdonald's to sponsor the olympics (warning: if you eat a lot of snicker's bars or mcdonald's, you probably won't be in good enough shape to make the olympic team).

i'm probably being a bit hard on the colts for something that is endemic to all major-league sports. but all this totalitarianism about trademark use by people and businesses that are trying to show their support (even if doing so disingenuously to make capital off the colts name) is downright silly.

Thursday, January 05, 2006 
dan burton gives it back
it turns out that dan burton apparently has at least a shred of decency (or wants us to think so). the indy star is now reporting that burton is going to take all that dirty money he received from jack abramoff and pals and donate it to charity:

"After hearing yesterday's guilty plea and statement by former lobbyist Mr. Jack Abramoff, I have immediately decided to do what is right and best," the Indianapolis Republican said in a statement.

Burton received $7,059 from Abramoff and his wife and $12,000 from Indian tribes, according to his office. Abramoff had several casino tribes as clients. Although Burton's office said it could not verify whether the contributions to Burton from the tribes were connected to Abramoff, Burton is donating them as well.

The money will be divided among three charities: the Autism Society of America, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the Eisenhower Medical Center.
Burton's wife died of breast cancer, and his grandson has autism.

this might be the only time you ever see this phrase on this blog, so here goes: kudos to dan burton for doing good.

spies, and the spying spiers who spy on them
i've briefly mentioned the NSA scandal that erupted during my vacation: the NSA has been secretly spying on americans without a warrant, which is technically illegal, not to mention unethical and downright scary. when asked about it, bush's excuse was that he didn't need an excuse: his executive privelege gives him the power to do just about anything that he finds necessary. but did you realize that the NSA started this practice even before bush ordered it?

scary stuff. but just who is the govt spying on? people it suspects of having ties to al qaeda, sure. we also know that the FBI has spied on peace activists and other dangerous liberal organizations like indianapolis's own vegan community project. so would it be much of a surprise if the government were also spying on american journalists?

yesterday, americablog's john noticed an unusual question in andrea mitchell's interview with james risen. risen broke the NSA wiretap story in a new book (the release of which allegedly prompted the nytimes to finally report on this story, which it knew about for at least a year). here is the excerpt from the transcript john quoted, emphasis john's:

Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that

Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?

Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.

john thought the specific mention of christiane amanpour was a bit suspicious. did andrea mitchell just pull amanpour's name out of her ass as a random example of a journalist the government might want to spy on? or, perhaps, does she know something we don't? does mitchell have specific evidence of the US spying on christiane amanpour?

it was just a bit of speculation based on one sentence in an interview. curious, yes, but the idea would've died down naturally if something else hadn't happened. i noticed this next part myself when i went to read the article: the question about amanpour had been removed from the transcript. i looked and looked, but it just wasn't there.

atrios noticed the same thing. NBC news had edited the transcript to remove the potentially most interesting bit. suddenly there was an apparent coverup, and the idea that mitchell was onto something seemed much more likely. then NBC issued a statement, which only made things even more suspicious:

Unfortunately this transcript was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting, and it was not broadcast on 'NBC Nightly News' nor on any other NBC News program. We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry.

it's a bit vague and doesn't really say anything at all. but the most obvious way to read this statement is that NBC is indeed investigating whether the government is spying on amanpour, and that it didn't want mitchell leaking its scoop just yet.

maybe there's nothing to this at all, and it's just sloppy work by andrea mitchell and NBC. but there's a lot to be concerned about if the US is truly spying on christiane amanpour and other journalists. we already know the govt will spy on people who are clearly no threat (vegans? the catholic workers? come on!), so why wouldn't they want to spy on a reporter who has written about al qaeda and whose husband worked for the kerry campaign?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006 
dan burton ♥ jack abramoff
superlobbyist jack abramoff is going down, and he'll be taking a number of prominent republicans down with him?

think progress has an extensive list of congressmembers and others who are implicated in the massive scandal or who have hustled to return money donated by abramoff and his crew.

but as impressively long as the list is, it's hardly comprehensive. syntax notes that his representative, charles taylor (NC), has ties to abramoff. but taylor isn't on the list. and nobody from indiana is on the list, but at least one prominent hoosier was riding the abramoff gravy train as well.

who could it be? well, i sort of spoiled the surprise by putting the name "dan burton" in my post title, but those who know indiana politics would likely have chosen burton anyway, as he's a major player in the house as well as a notorious GOP blowhard.

from the indy star:

U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., is the only member of Indiana's congressional delegation who has received campaign contributions from lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to several felonies.

Neither Burton nor any other Indiana lawmaker has been linked to Abramoff's illegal acts.

yeah, i know, it says burton hasn't been "linked to Abramoff's illegal acts". but that could easily change as more info comes in; this is still a relatively fresh story. and even if burton himself never did anything illegal to get that money, the money is still dirty. the ethical thing to do (or, let's be honest, the thing that would most give the appearance of being ethical) would be to return that money. and we don't even need to get into how good the name "jack abramoff" will look when it appears on anti-burton campaign ads in the coming months.

In 1995, Abramoff was a lobbyist for Zaire when he worked with Burton's office on a speech for then-President Mobutu Sese Seko to deliver, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1997. Burton, who serves on the House International Relations Committee, used the speech to unsuccessfully argue to the State Department that Mobutu should be given a visa to enter the United States.

In the 1980s, Abramoff helped operate the International Freedom Foundation, a supposedly independent group fighting for democracy in South Africa that later was revealed to have been funded by the former apartheid government.

Burton, who opposed U.S. sanctions against the apartheid government, participated in programs sponsored by the International Freedom Foundation. A Burton aide later told the Times that Burton did not know about the funding.

oh, well that doesn't look very good. burton didn't just accept dirty money; he worked on multiple abramoff projects, including one which is now known to have been a front organization. not only that, but dan also got a taste of that indian casino money, which abramoff famously solicited from indian tribes and then used to actually lobby against the tribes that donated:

Burton has received $1,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff six times since 1996 and $1,000 from Abramoff's wife in 2002, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions. Also in 2002, Burton's political action committee received $1,000 from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and $1,000 from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, both tribes that had hired Abramoff.

Abramoff -- and the tribes and casinos he worked for -- gave $4.4 million to more than 300 lawmakers and political party committees since 1999, according to the center.

here is what the washington post had to say about abramoff's dealings with the choctaw back in june:

Abramoff, who is also at the center of a corruption investigation by the Justice Department, laundered tribal money by directing the Indians to donate to tax-exempt groups that the lobbyist later used for his own purposes, the Senate committee said. One project involved Abramoff's effort to arrange for military equipment, including night-vision goggles and a "jeep," for the sniper training conducted by a high school friend.

Aaron Stetter, a former Scanlon employee, testified that Scanlon and Abramoff sought to whip up opposition to casinos proposed by rival tribes by setting up bogus Christian phone banks. He said callers would identify themselves as members of groups such as the Christian Research Network or Global Christian Outreach Network and urge voters to contact their representatives.

The Choctaws, the richest and most successful gambling tribe in the country, initially defended Abramoff when his activities first drew scrutiny over a year ago. But they began cooperating with government investigators last summer after being told by Greenberg Traurig that its internal investigation had found fraud in the lobbyist's work for the tribe.

Yesterday, McCain said the committee had found that Abramoff and Scanlon had pocketed $6.5 million of the $7.7 million in consulting fees they received from the Choctaws. McCain said that Abramoff had directed the Choctaws to hire Scanlon for consulting work, but never revealed to the tribe that they had a secret partnership, which they called "gimme five," according to the e-mails.

Whenever Scanlon pitched his services to a client, Abramoff would remind him of their extra profits. On Aug. 16, 2001, Abramoff wrote to Scanlon, "Don't forget the gimme five aspects." On Oct. 17, 2001, Abramoff wrote, "So there is more gimme five coming on all these as well, right?"

Said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.): " 'Gimme five' means 'I'll take a cut of this.' " "I'm past anger and bitterness," Rogers, the Choctaw official who had worked most closely with Abramoff, told the committee. "It is an extraordinary story of betrayal."

dirty money, no question. the only question is whether dan burton will do the honorable thing and return the money. if i were more of a gambling man, i'd rush to the nearest indian casino and bet a bunch of money on "no", but then i'm a cynic. and besides, we only have riverboat casinos around here; all the indians were driven out of indiana some time ago.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006 
jack abramoff pleads guilty
today is the fist business day of the new year, and if today's hottest story signals a trend, 2006 will be one hell of a year.

jack abramoff, who was a very big cog in the massive gop financial machine, is pleading guilty to multiple felonies, and has apparently been cooperating with prosecutors for many months:

Mr. Abramoff, 46, is pleading guilty to fraud, public corruption and tax evasion, setting the stage for prosecutors to begin using him as a cooperating witness against his former business and political colleagues. In exchange, Mr. Abramoff faces a maximum of about 10 years in prison in the Washington case.

After entering his guilty plea in United States District Court in Washington, Mr. Abramoff will also announce a plea agreement in a related Florida case, in which he was indicted last year. In that case, he is pleading guilty to fraud and conspiracy in connection with his purchase of the SunCruz casino boat line, and will face a maximum of about seven years' prison time.

Mr. Abramoff has been talking to investigators in the corruption case for many months, said participants in the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. They said he had provided a full picture of what evidence he could offer against other suspects.

His participation in Washington has taken place mostly below the radar, as prosecutors made the Miami case the focus of their public work and as Mr. Abramoff and his associates claimed they were preparing to stand trial, facing up to as many as 30 years in prison.

Mr. Abramoff will enter separate pleas in each location. But the deal reached with the Justice Department is all-encompassing, reducing the severe penalties Mr. Abramoff could have faced in either investigation, in exchange for his inside knowledge of certain lobbying work and legislative actions. One element of the deal is that he can serve prison time in the two cases concurrently, although the sentencing will not take place until much further along in the investigation.

as redhedd explains, this means that abramoff's punishment will be predicated on how well he helps the prosecution. if he flips hard and testifies against a bunch of his washington cronies, he'll get a relative slap on the wrist. if he goes weak-kneed, the prosecution will throw the book at him.

last year seemed to be the year of the republican scandal, but abramoff is the motherlode. he had his fingers in almost every pie the GOP made. if jack starts to bring people down with him, expect a lot of high-profile republicans (many of them congressmen) to fall.

"no space left on device"
when i first tried to publish my brokeback mountain post, i got a strange new error: 001 No space left on device

i was a little concerned. i'm supposed to have two or three gigabytes of storage space: was it really full? i imagined it was possible, but if true, it meant i wouldn't be able to post again until i deleted some old content. and i couldn't do that until i got home, because SFTP access is blocked on the network.

after some investigation, i determined that it was a blogger error. furthermore, after a trip to bloggerforum i discovered that it seemed to be a browser-dependent problem. firefox was giving this error but IE was not. and sure enough, when i opened IE and published from there, my post went up with no trouble.

so watch out blogger users. most blogger errors are resolved in a matter of hours, but if you get a strange "no space left" error, try a different browser.

brokeback mountain
first off, let me say that the film is excellent and worthy of all the hype. this isn't just some movie about gay cowboys; it's an epic, tragic love story that really makes you empathize with its characters—not just ennis delmar and jack twist, but their families, whose lies are also torn apart by the lies that ennis and jack must tell. the performances are great and after this, nobody will be talking about ang lee's previous film, the horrible misstep that was the hulk.

and the theatre was sold out! it's a great sign that a movie like this would do so well, even in relatively backward markets like indianapolis. we arrived at 4pm for the 4:15 showing, only to see a long line in front. almost immediately, the general manager announced that the 4:15 showing was sold out, but we stayed in line and bought tickets for th 5pm showing. virago noted that there seemed to be a lot of cutting in line, more than she'd ever seen. i posited that this was a result of the theatre's snooty northside location: the people who shop at the fashion mall are not used to doing plebian things like standing in line.

by 4:10 we had our tickets, then grabbed some refreshments and queued up in the next line, waiting to be admitted into the actual theatre itself. we probably waited 40 minutes, as the place was packed with people wanting to see brokeback mountain, and we wanted to get good seats. eventually we were admitted, and the theatre filled up. at first i was afraid that the people around us wouldn't shut up, but they did, and at 5pm the trailers began, a welcome reprieve from the banal "indie guy" shorts that were playing before the movie began.

most of the way through the film, right before 7pm, something strange happened. the screen went black and an alarm began to sound. for a brief moment i thought this might actually be part of the movie, but of course it wasn't. an automated voice came over the loudspeaker and announced that an emergency had taken place in the building; that emergency personnel should go do their thing and the rest of us should evacuate.

just like the flock of sheep that jack and ennis tended that summer on the mountain, we moviegoers herded ourselves out of the theatre and back into the halls of the mall. the alarm was still loud and the blue lights still flashed, but nobody really seemed to be evacuating. rather upset by the interruption in the middle of a good movie, virago & i hung around nearby and eventually went back, where we were waved back into our theatre. many of the other moviegoers were making their way back too, though some surely left, angered by the experience.

the weather had been stormy (yes, good old midwestern weather: thunderstorms in january), so i had wondered if the storms could be the cause for alarm, but it didn't seem to be that rainy. i told virago that i would be surprised if we got an explanation. soon someone showed up to tell us that as soon as the alarm was shut off, the movie would resume right where we'd left off. after 10-15 minutes total, the alarm was off and the movie did resume, though not quite at the same place. i don't know how much we missed—probably just a minute or two, but it was a bit confusing and i'm still not totally sure what was going on during that scene. i don't think we missed too much, though.

at most another 10 minutes later, the alarm went off again and the screen went black once more. this time, we knew not to go anywhere. quickly someone came around to tell us that we would get to see the rest of the movie, and we would also be compensated for the inconvenience. this elicited applause from the crowd, who were justifiably upset but also very understanding. we were also given what i thought we would not: an explanation. apparently one of the popcorn machines was setting off the fire alarm. i was impressed that they actually told us what was going on (or, at least, a believable story in which the theatre was at fault... now that's good public relations). a couple minutes later the general manager showed up and profusely apologized for the inconvenience, asking whether we wanted to finish watching the movie or just get free passes to come back some other time. everyone wanted to see the last of the movie, though we were a little concerned that they would try to back out of their earlier promise to compensate us in addition to seeing it all.

soon enough, the lights dimmed and we watched the last 15 minutes or so of the movie. this time, it even started in the right place. and right as the movie ended, theatre employees were there handing out "cancelled show passes", little pink tickets that will give us free admission to a future movie (except when advertised as a "special" or "no-pass" engagement).

so all in all, it was my worst moviegoing experience in years. but the film was great, and the staff of the landmark theatre reacted to the crisis about as well as we could've hoped. we got to see 98-99% of a great film and got free passes to come back. so despite the bad experience, i don't harbor any ill will toward landmark theatres and will be perfectly happy to go back there in the coming months to go see something else.

and you should go see brokeback mountain. it's really good.

Sunday, January 01, 2006 
first post of the new year! my vacation is almost over. i go back to work on tuesday and will probably start getting more productive shortly thereafter. virago goes back to classes real soon, too. happy new year greetings to everyone and all that.

last night we trekked over to big car for their bohemian new year festivities, which doubled as a fundraiser for the gallery. it was $20 for a couple, including food and beer/wine (we got 3 drink tickets per admission).

first we caught a performance by actuel, a local who does some kind of rhtymic idm. it was pretty decent. i commented to virago that actuel looks like he works in a record store, but i wasn't certain whether it's because i've actually seen him working at a record store (indy cd?) or whether he just has that "record store employee" look.

a bit later, shiny black shirt performed, doing a live soundtrack to an old cutup gene autry film. jim walker (exec director of the gallery) explained it was some sort of cowboy meets space aliens movie. lots of cheesy footage, including a great shot of a man on fire lying in the grass. the soundtrack was pretty entertaining as well.

immediately after shiny black shirt came the breakdancers. they were the finalists of the recent breakdancing competition at united states of mind. there were 5 or 6 of them and they popped & locked for several minutes, with lots of headstands and, near the end, bunches of windmills. it was entertaining and definitely not yor standard new year fare.

by this point it was about 11:30 and our drink tickets were all used up. rather than stick around until midnight, we opted to come back to apartment early and watched the ball drop on tv, flipping between the broadcast networks. dick clark was back, but man, he sounded sick. but i guess he was at least well enough to broadcast, which is better than the alternative.

now 2006 is upon us. tomorrow maybe we'll take advantage of the last day of my vacation and go see brokeback mountain, which is now playing at the landmark (it wasn't supposed to start until jan 13, but has been doing so well in other cities that they moved it up to last wednesday, 12/28).

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