now listening
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Thursday, August 31, 2006 
news bits
here are some stories in convenient bullet-point format, because i don't have more than a paragraph's worth to say about any of them:
  • you might have heard that warren jeffs, "prophet" and leader of the fundamentalist church of jesus christ of latter day saints—a breakaway sect of mormon polygamists—was recently arrested during a traffic stop. (conveniently for hbo, which debuted a series about polygamists earlier this year.) but were you aware of the epidemic of a rare genetic disorder called fumarase deficiency within the FLDS, brought on by the sect's inbreeding? (hat tip boingboing)
  • ken tomlinson is back in the news: known to many as the former commissioner of CPB who tried to turn PBS into a republican mouthpiece, and who was forced to resign from CPB after his numerous improprieties came to light, has once again been caught abusing his appointed power at his new job, chairman of the broadcasting board of governors. (think voice of america.) fortunately, it appears that the senate foreign relations committee refuses to confirm his reappointment... though bush could always make another of his recess appointments. (hat tip tpm muckraker)
  • last summer, indiana DNR director kyle hupfer announced he was doing away with canned hunts in indiana—the barbaric practice of placing wild animals in a small, enclosed areas so that hunter/poseurs can kill them at close range and have a trophy buck to hang on the wall. via tdw, we see that hupfer is being pressured into accepting a lame compromise that "allows the controversial activity to continue for at least a decade".
  • and i have to mention the latest yes men prank.

flat daddies and little jackie paper
when i read this dkos post about the maine national guard's flat daddies program, i couldn't help but be reminded of puff the magic dragon (the '70s cartoon, not the original song by peter, paul, and mary):

Welcome to the "Flat Daddy" and "Flat Mommy" phenomenon, in which life-size cutouts of deployed service members are given by the Maine National Guard to spouses, children, and relatives back home.

The Flat Daddies ride in cars, sit at the dinner table, visit the dentist, and even are brought to confession, according to their significant others on the home front.

"I prop him up in a chair, or sometimes put him on the couch and cover him up with a blanket," said Kay Judkins of Caribou, whose husband, Jim, is a minesweeper mechanic in Afghanistan. "The cat will curl up on the blanket, and it looks kind of weird. I've tricked several people by that. They think he's home again."

it's an odd sentiment: we've sent your loved one off to war, but here's a cardboard cutout you can talk to.

the puff the magic dragon cartoon (watch it on youtube: part 1, part 2, part 3) begins with a troubled young boy named jackie draper, who has shut himself off from reality. exactly what's wrong with jackie is never made clear—is he autistic? severely traumatized? by what? as a child, it never occurred to me to ask.

anyway, jackie is sitting around being catatonic one day, when puff the magic dragon shows up, wanting to take jackie to puff's magical home kingdom, honnah lee. but jackie can't take his physical body with him, so puff creates a fascimile of the boy, who he calls "jackie paper", and proceeds to remove "the living thing" (i.e. jackie's consciousness, soul, or ghost, which is apparently found inside the left ear) from jackie draper's body and plants it into jackie paper. this imbues jackie paper with life—he can now speak and move around and stuff, which he couldn't (or wouldn't) in his natural body. the now-soulless husk of jackie draper presumably just sits there motionless as it always did, and apparently nobody notices the difference.

on its surface, the puff cartoon is a simple allegory about a child overcoming his fears, with some of the usual stuff about imagination thrown in, but it could just as easily be read as something darker. puff's arrival, for example, could be read as a full psychotic break, more akin to the fantasy sequences in brazil than the neverending story. this would explain the cartoon's abject paranoia: jackie's terror at facing the pirate chef, the surprisingly creepy ocean scene when a dying star falls from the sky and puff declares there is no chance of saving it, and the utter despondency puff displays when he learns that his homeland has been overrun by living sneezes.

anyway, that's what i thought of when i read that military families were being given cardboard replicas of service members who've gone off to war... i thought of little jackie paper, and how creepy it would be to have a lifeless lookalike of your loved one lying around in your home, constantly reminding you that the real person is out there on a dangerous mission somewhere. because in the real world, jackie paper is the one who stays at home while jackie draper is out there risking his life.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 
when there's a ninja challenge, we must accept it

round three, originally uploaded by stallio.

photoshop kungfu is a flickr "battle" group, where users face off in image-editing showdowns, editing & re-editing photos into drastic new versions. the battles often get silly, or gory, or even naughty. (for a tamer, non-competitive batte group, try photoshop tennis.)

group founder this_is_not_a_name had been itching for a glitch art battle for some time, but had no takers... until i joined the group, that is.

the battle thread is here. this photo is my third-round entry. most battles last three rounds. after TINAN posts his reply, group members will vote on the winner. i think my chances of winning are pretty good, but these things are subjective.

update: i'm currently ahead by one vote. it's still anyone's race.

it appears you must be a member of the group to see the battle thread, so for those who aren't ready, willing, or able to join: here's the original photo. i went first, so here's my round 1 entry. here's TINAN's response. here's my round 2. here's TINAN's round 2. and here's TINAN's round 3.


Monday, August 28, 2006 
they get comments
local blogger torpor indy has received a big bump in traffic after being linked by michelle malkin. if you've somehow been fortunate enough never to have heard of michelle malkin, she resides on the distant shores of far-right-blogistan, so far out there that she can see armageddon from her house (or at least she thinks she can). malkin is perhaps best known for being an avid proponent of the japanese internment during WWII, which some people find particularly bizarre because malkin is second-generation asian-american. but there is lots of bizarre stuff about malkin.

the issue at hand: back in february, torpor wrote a post about ann coulter. the subject line of the post suggested that ann coulter is a "horseface".

then last week, peter hartlaub, writing in the san francisco chronicle's culture blog, wrote about a horse at the SF zoo named coulter "who bears a not-so-subtle resemblance" to ann. hartlaub linked to torpor's post as evidence that hartlaub wasn't the first person to think coulter's features were a bit equine.

enter malkin, infuriated as always. without irony, she accused hartlaub of authoring an "an astonishingly ugly, ad hominem attack" and "then sit[ting] back and wait[ing] for ... blog commenters to pile on". she also linked to torpor and a couple other blogs hartlaub had mentioned. then, she sat back and waited... nay, demanded that her blog commenters "pile on", urging her readers to write to the chronicle and voice their anger.

of course, like many right-wing blogs, malkin does not allow comments herself, so those who would comment at her blog are forced to go elsewhere. they eagerly swarmed to torporindy, where they promptly called torpor a "fag". lovely.

and while i'm meta-blogging about comments, i'd be remiss if i didn't point out the silliness going on in the comments over at advance indiana. i've given gary a lot of flak lately, so i'll spare him here (though i don't think he's offered a smidgen of evidence for any of his claims in his latest screed about matt tully).

if you're not from around these parts, none of this might mean anything to you, but gary wrote a post blasting the commentators on the tv show indiana week in review. the crux of gary's argument seems to be that the commentators should be fired because the show isn't discussing gary's pet issue, but i said i'd go easy on gary so let's ignore that for now.

the fun really started with this mildly crazy comment, immediately followed by full-blown craziness four minutes later. it's hard to know where to begin pointing all the insanity here, so many outrageously absurd claims are made in quick succession. even if all of it were somehow true, only the most intimate insider could possibly know all these things, and the author voice makes it clear that the poster is not and never was on friendly terms with the people being libeled.

since i'm anything but a democratic party insider (i'm not even on tdw's blogroll), i can't even begin to refute these claims using actual evidence; i can only refute them by noting their insanity. and maybe that's the point: the accusations are so completely nutty that they're impossible to refute. for example, how can one disprove allegations of ballot switching from 10 years ago?

Kip Tew was the Democratic Party's Chairman when they illegally elected Carl Drummer to office in the 1996 special election.

It was the same election where Wilson Allen and Tony Duncan switched the ballots and ballot boxes to insure Drummer's victory against Jocelyn-Tandy Adande.

She sued the Democratic Party in Circuit Court January 2, 1996 over the election.

in response, wilson allen, who's been hitting the rounds on hoosier blogs lately as wilson46201, observed that this commenter was probably jocelyn-tandy herself. and then jocelyn-tandy came out of hiding, stopped posting anonymously (for a few minutes), and posted twice under her handle, queen916. the silliness continues in the comments to gary's anti-tully post.

but who is jocelyn-tandy adande? if that name threw up red flags in your mind—enormous, galaxy-sized flags that eclipsed your entire field of vision and possibly induced seizure—then good for you: you're tapped in to hoosier politics.

jocelyn-tandy adande has run for election a bunch of times, but as far as i know she's never been able to win a primary. in 1999, she ran for mayor and was utterly crushed by bart peterson in the primary. her stint as bob kern's campaign manager didn't end much better, though at least kern won the primary:

If Bill Clinton Gets to Stay in the White House, Why Can't a Convicted Felon and Occasional Female Impersonator With an Assumed Name Run As the Democratic Nominee for Congress?

Bob Kern was allowed to stay on the ballot as the Democratic candidate in the 6th Congressional District of Indiana, despite the fact that state party chair Joe Andrew sued to force election authorities to toss Kern off the ballot. Democrats said Kern deceived voters in the primary by not using his given name - Bobby Scott Hidalgo.

As the panel voted to allow Kern to remain on the ballot, he was reported to have "teared up, hugged his campaign manager Jocelyn-Tandy Adande and proclaimed: 'Praise the Lord.'"

Kern received 31,472 votes (17 percent) in the general election against incumbent Cong. Dan Burton (R).

(did you catch the part about kern/hidalgo being a convicted felon? good.)

i know her name primarily from her time blogging at INtouch, which is easily the worst of the indy star's blogs. (even fresh thoughts, which is written entirely by high schoolers and college kids, is better than INtouch. don't get me wrong; there are several reasonable people who blog at INtouch, and several others who have left [more on that in a minute], but the bad apples spoil the whole blog.)

for some reason, jocelyn-tandy no longer writes at INtouch. if you go to INtouch now, you won't see her name in the list of contributors. i'm not sure why; i'd like to think it's because she is utterly insane and the ed board just couldn't take it anymore... but that doesn't explain why john sorg is still there.

like all the star's blogs, INtouch is a bit hard to navigate. there's no archive listing, and posts aren't individually linked, so the only way to browse the archives is to go one post at a time. it's tedious, but if you take the time to go looking for jocelyn-tandy's old posts, you'll discover that she didn't just leave INtouch. she's been excised. her posts still seem to be there (if you can find them), but her name and picture no longer appear. instead, she gets a ghost byline: posted by [blank]. furthermore, her posts don't appear in the next/previous links, either. the only way to find her posts is to go through, post by post, looking at the post numbers. for instance, the official blog skips from 1854 to 1856 to 1881. but three or four of the "missing" posts are still there, if you type in the urls manually. they're just by people who've left the blog.

what's up with that? presumably this is just a bug in the blogging software; removing a contributor's posting rights shouldn't remove that contributor's byline from old posts. and it's not personal: jocelyn-tandy isn't the only person who's been "deleted" from the blog. for just one example, this deleted post about bagels is by chris douglas.

this old INtouch post is one of the few results you get when you google JT's name, and only because she got a lot of attention for that post (if you google her name, most of the hits you get are from bloggers tearing it apart). the post is classic jocelyn-tandy: she blasts the city-county council for passing the human rights ordinance that barred discrimination based on sexual identity, ending her post with, "Passage of the ordinance was a mistake. To compare the plight of homosexuals to that of African Americans is an insult to my race."

here are some other deleted hits from JT's time at INtouch:
  • more bitching about the HRO. lots more JT in the comments, like:
    • "Fornication, adultry, incest, pedophilia, homosexuality are all sex sins. These are not the only sins, but they are relevant to this debate."
    • " To settle your debate on these issues, please support your beliefs and lifestyle with scripture from The Holy Bible. If you are a non-believer that Jesus Christ is the Son of God Almighty, and the only Savior who can redeem all of us for the remission of our sins, then my views have fallen on deaf ears."
  • here JT advocates reparations for slavery, which doesn't go over well with the commenters who usually love her for her gay-bashing
  • here's a deleted chris douglas post where the first comment is from JT: " Exactly what is normal sexual orientation? Pedophilia, bestiality, homosexuality, or heterosexuality?"
  • here's a post titled Taking Christ out of Xmas. you can imagine the rhetoric here:
    • she begins with "Christians, beware! The anti-Christ movement has emerged in every facet of society."
    • in the comments, she shares "Personally, I pity those individuals who have chosen not to believe in God Almighty and Jesus the Christ."
  • curiously, this innocuous post still has a byline and photo (though it's still not in the official archives), but this post with the same title and a similar message has been ghosted

that's just a sampling. i'm sure there's lots more JT nuttiness in the archives to marvel at, but finding the posts is so time-consuming that i'm going to stop looking. if you have any JT links to share, please do!

i'm also curious what other former INtouch contributors think about their old blog entries being pseudo-deleted, in such a way that they're still online, but hard to find and stripped of attribution. i know if i left a group blog, i would either want my posts kept up as-is or taken down entirely.

they get letters

do_not_bend12, originally uploaded by stallio.

original photo by jima
like jima's mail carrier, i couldn't resist the temptation to bend this envelope.

view the whole set.

Friday, August 25, 2006 
a dinosaur's p***s is erect because he is a dinosaur
as seen on boingboing, an amusing letter to the editor from fallbrook, CA (near san diego):

On Tuesday, August 8, I took my family out to Daniel's for groceries. I have a 6-year-old daughter who learned how to read from the Barney and Friends book series. As we stepped out of the family van, she was very excited to see a Barney movie being advertised on the Daniel's Market lit sign. She said, "Look, Daddy, a Barney movie!" I couldn’t see it, so she guided my eyes to the vulgar obscenity arranged there on the sign. "Look! Up there! Barney's p***s!" I was shocked when I saw the words arranged on the sign. I quickly averted her eyes and escorted her into the store.

Since then, she has not stopped mentioning Barney's p***s. This has shaken the bedrock of our family. I made an emergency call to our church's pastor about this bombshell in my daughter's life and he is unsure how it will affect her future.

This sort of sick joke is typical of unlawful teenagers across the country, but I just didn't think the little town of Fallbrook was home to such hoodlums. I am frightened for my daughter's future; she won't stop bringing up this horrible movie title! I would like Daniel's Market to apologize for traumatizing my daughter, and I would like the pranksters to know just how vile their criminal act was.

the thing is, it doesn't sound like his daughter was traumatized. rather, she sounds really excited about the idea of seeing barney's p***s.

fun with flickr badges
maybe you've seen 'em on other sites. or maybe you've only just noticed the new one on my blog, and it's the first you've ever seen. it's a little box, usually a sidebar element, often titled something like "my latest photos". inside it are automatically generated thumbnails of the latest photos from that blogger's flickr photostream. in flickr terminology this is called a badge.

for users who don't know a lick of html, flickr has a tool that will generate code for you to paste into your website or blog template. but if you know html, css, and ideally javascript, you can customize them quite a bit.

there are two types of flickr badges: static html badges, like the one that i currently have in my sidebar, and flash badges, which are animated and fancier. eliot swan documented the html badge API here. using eliot's documentation, i had no trouble setting up the badge in my sidebar, stripping out all of flickr's css and writing my own so that my thumbnails are two across rather than purely horizontal or vertical. (i've also set the number of thumbnails to 6, which is not an option in the flickr badge creator.)

update!!!! the following does not appear to be a viable solution, as some of the values (like magisterLudi) change daily. this might be fun to play around with, but it's not a good way to implement a flickr badge.

but dj empirical emailed me about getting a flickr badge for his myspace page. unfortunately, the default flickr badges don't work on myspace. this is because the badge code depends on javascript, and apparently myspace now blocks javascript. fortunately, there is a solution, as discovered by user gothcandy.

gothcandy looked at the code for the flash badge and located the url for the iframe, which will have a format like this (with no spaces): zg_bg_color=000000&zg_person_id=12978266%40N00

zq_person_id will be your flickr user id number. your "friendly name" will not work here. if you enter this url into the address bar, hit enter, and the view your source—and if you can read javascript syntax—you can piece together your own custom code to embed a flickr flash badge onto your myspace (or other page) without using javascript. and even better, you can customize it quite a bit more than you can using the flickr badge creator.

note: the original javascript includes a section that checks the user's operating system and browser version, and if the browser is too old to support flash, the flash code will not be sent to the browser. obviously, if we don't use the script, this browser-checking won't happen. this could result in people who are using super-old browsers getting a bunch of ugly code or other weirdness when they view your myspace page. if you're a "serious" web designer, you probably care about such things, but for the sake of this post, screw those people with old browsers. they should upgrade.

after you pick apart the pieces of the script, the format for the url for the SWF file goes something like this (of course, it should all be on one line, with no spaces or breaks):
&bg_color=ffffff [this is a hex value. don't use a #. this is not the color of the line in between thumbnails; this is the background color outside of that. if you do your math right, you won't even see this color... unless you want to. this can be safely left out.]
&cols=3 [this is the number of columns.]
&rows=4 [this is the number of rows.]
&wh=37 [this is both the width and height settings for the thumbnails, in pixels. thumbnails are square. i don't know if these can be set independently.]
&swapInterv=3 [swap interval. this sets how frequently thumbnails are replaced. default is 3. a setting like 0 or 1 is very fast.]
&loadInterv=120 [load interval. i haven't figured out what this does.]
&transition=bigThenSmall [default is bigThenSmall, so you would thinkg smallThenBig would also work, but it doesn't seem to do anything. beyond that, who knows if there are any other values?]
&nsid=stallio [if you want the thumbnails pulled from your photos (rather than from a group, or from everyone), put your user id here. your "friendly name" will work here, if you have one. ]
&scope=0 [not sure what this does.]
&favorites=0 [not sure what this does.]
&tags=databending [if you want your badge to only display photos using a certain tag, that goes here. i'm using my databending tag here. if you don't want to use this feature, you can safely leave this part out.]
&tag_mode=any [if you use the previous feature, this will be any. if not, it will be all. but if you're not using it, you can actually leave it out.]
&group_id=52241691728@N01 [if you want your badge to show photos from one of your groups, the group id goes here. if not, you can leave this out. the group's "friendly name" will not work here. the group id here is for the glitch art pool.]
&text= [i don't know what this is for. it is blank by default, and can be safely left out. but if you put something here, maybe something would happen.]
&set_id= [if you want your badge to only show thumbnails from one of your sets, the set id goes here.]
&context=in/pool-glitches/ [you'll need to use this setting if you're pulling photos from a group. replace the in/pool- name as necessary. again, this value is for the glitch art pool.]
&v=1.13 [no idea. this can be safely left out, but since i'm not sure what it does, you should probably leave it in.]
&magisterLudi=xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [this is a 32-bit hex value. i don't know what it means, but its value seems to expire every 24 hours. i've x'ed out the value here. i've you're savvy enough to use this information, you can retrieve this value yourself... but you'll have to fix this value often to get much use out of this.]
&auth_token= [for some reason, this has no value. but don't take it out or the code will break. it's important.]
&auth_hash=xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [another 32-bit hex value. this can be safely left out.]
&flickr_secret=xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [a 16-bit hex value. this too can be safely left out.]

knowing all this, let's have some fun. i haven't had time to play around with the intervals or transitions. but we do know how to change the layout: columns, rows, and the width/height of the thumbnails. there is a 1px margin in between photos, so the width of the box will be [(wh+1)*cols]-1 and height will be [(wh+1)*rows]-1.

here's a 5x5 badge of 100px thumbnails from the glitch art pool. overall width/height is 504px.

kind of blurry at that size, but you get the idea.

here is a 10x4 badge (50px each) of my photos tagged databending. swap interval has been set to 1, and load interval to 20:

and just to get really silly, here is a 20x6 block of 20px thumbnails of all public photos tagged with the tag dada (swap interval 5, load interval 180):

if you decipher any of the properties here that i haven't explained, please leave a comment for the edification of any future readers.

final note: of course, once you have a properly formed url for the swf file, you still need to embed that swf into something. but if you're savvy enough to understand the above, you can probably do this on your own. on myspace i used use <param> and <embed> tags, but here on my blog i used iframes, because those params mess up my blog design.

update: the bottom two badges don't seem to work in IE. i'm not sure why... it could be something related to all those hex values. i don't know at this point. all i know is at the time of this writing (5am!), all three work in firefox, but only the top one works in IE. i'm going to bed. maybe i'll figure it out tomorrow. these now work in IE. the problem was that i had a # in the bg_color field.

update: these had seemingly stopped working by 11pm. i've entered a new value for magisterLudi, which fixed them. it could be a coincidence, just bad timing. or it could be a sign that these magisterLudi keys expire quickly. so i don't know how quickly they expire, but if they expire daily (or even weekly/monthly), then this isn't a very viable solution.

update: yet again, these were dead by 10pm. it seems magisterLudi values expire within 24 hours or so, which means that the knowledge here isn't particularly useful in itself (unless you feel like fixing your code everyday). shucks. though perhaps someone with more knowledge than me could find a workaround.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 

jumbled-4, originally uploaded by stallio.

once more for paul. after this one, i'll probably use someone else's photos for my next bending project (my own, or someone else's on flickr... someone with a CC license), but i i absolutely loved the texture of this photo by paul goyette of a pile of scrap metal. it has a real tetsuo: the iron man feel to it, and i knew it would look fabulous if i resaved it as a PSD file and edited it in sound forge.

i tried for hours in vain to get the file to bend, but it broke with every edit. soon i discovered the problem: when i interpreted the file as a 16-bit wav, any edits i made broke the file, but interpreting it as 8-bit worked just fine.

view the whole set here (4 photos). these are probably best viewed large.

the revolution must not be televised
a new york man has been arrested for broadcasting "hizbollah tv":

U.S. authorities have arrested a New York man for broadcasting Hizbollah television station al-Manar, which has been designated a terrorist entity by the U.S. Treasury Department, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Javed Iqbal, 42, was arrested on Wednesday because his Brooklyn-based company HDTV Ltd. was providing New York-area customers with the Hizbollah-operated channel, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

It did not say how long Iqbal's company had been providing satellite broadcasts of al-Manar, which the U.S. Treasury Department in March had designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity, making it a crime to conduct business with al-Manar.

Iqbal has been charged with conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the statement said. Federal authorities searched HDTV's Brooklyn office and Iqbal's Staten Island home, where Iqbal was suspected of maintaining satellite dishes, the statement said.

The U.S. Treasury Department froze U.S. assets of al-Manar in March, saying it supported fund-raising and recruitment activities of Hizbollah, a Shiite Muslim group backed by Syria and Iran that has been at war with Israel in southern Lebanon.

this strikes me as a tricky first amendment issue. after reading on wikipedia about the kinds of material al manar broadcasts, i can't say i approve of the content. it's one thing to be pro-palestinian; it's another to publicly fantasize about killing ariel sharon.

some people will probably laud this action as a justified attempt to shut down terrorist propaganda; others will decry it as censorship of the pro-lebanese, pro-palestinian point of view. both groups will probably be right to some extent. but where do free speech rights end?

while it could be argued that al manar has no first amendment rights because it is broadcast out of lebanon (and thus US law doesn't apply), what about javen iqbar's rights as a tv service provider? the IEEPA prevents people and companies in the US from doing business with organizations that have been branded "terrorist organizations". but re-broadcasting a tv signal is not necessary "doing business" (at least not if no money is exchanged and no contract signed; if iqbal signed a contract with hizbollah, it's no longer a free speech issue).

in the struggle to preserve first amendment freedoms, potentially offensive material is the most important to defend. the first amendment gives us the right to piss people off or upset them with our speech, and that right must be vigorously defended. but there is some content that "crosses the line"—child pornography is one example, because its very production harms the children it features. is the content on al manar really so awful that the government's interest in shutting it down outweighs the first amendment issues involved with banning with an entire network? maybe it is, but americans will not be able to make that choice for themselves, because they are not allowed to view the broadcasts.

pluto gets voted out of the solar system
so long, planet pluto. we hardly knew ya:

Astronomers agreed today to rewrite science books across the world by dropping Pluto from a list of planets in the solar system 76 years after it was discovered.

Pluto, the furthest of nine planets from the sun, was reduced to the status of "dwarf" from a fully-fledged planet by the International Astronomical Union in Prague.

Ceres, the largest asteroid in a belt of thousands that lies between Mars and Jupiter, and 2003 UB313, an object about the size of Pluto discovered in January 2005, were also added to the new dwarf class. More dwarf planets "are expected to by announced in the coming months and years," the union said.

poor pluto, stripped of its title, is now in a sense illegitimate... a bastard planet.

just last week, astronomers were debating a proposal that not only would have let pluto keep its title as a major planet, but would have promoted ceres, ub313 (aka xena the warrior pluton), and pluto's "moon" charon to full planethood as well. instead, all four get the shaft, but it must be hardest on pluto.

bending without bending

2dwelcome-gimp3, originally uploaded by stallio.

i noticed last summer that the gimp rendered bent images differently than photoshop does. but after my hard drive crashed, i'd never bothered to reinstall the gimp... until now.

i was really curious how my most recent bends of paul's photo of this cardboard woman. so i re-downloaded and -installed the gimp, loaded the file, and sure enough the results were strikingly different. i like these new bends more than the previous versions.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006 
derivative works

2dwelcome-6, originally uploaded by stallio.

my first flickr-based bending! and my first databent stuff since i stopped doing friday cat bending after leland passed away in january.

the original photo is by my old friend paul goyette.

i've been "bending" photoshop PSD files for some time now, and i'd always meant to do some more experimenting with layers, but never got around to it until now.

i took paul's original photograph and opened it in photoshop. using the magnetic lasso, i cut out the cardboard lady and pasted it onto a separate layer (actually, four copies on four separate layers, so that i could make multiple changes in the same editing session).

then i opened up copies of the PSD file in my audio software and introduced errors, trying not to edit the background layer, and only edit the layers with the cardboard woman on them.

the results are pretty much as i'd hoped they'd be.

view the whole set.


gary welsh lets me down again
i was starting to think that advance indiana's gary welsh was taking his meds again and had regained his sanity. after his inane shenanigans earlier this month, when he said a win for ned lamont would be a win for the terrorists and chastised connecticut voters for being "extremist", even going so far as to accuse steph mineart of being an extremist (and then asking her not to "take it personally"), i lost a bit of respect for gary, who i'd never imagined would engage in that sort of "you're with us or you're with the terrorists" mumbo-jumbo.

but it soon became apparent that the "extremist liberals" were right. gary had criticized liberal bloggers for suspecting political motives behind the timing of the recent UK arrests, and it turned out that the US had pressured the UK to act, even though the terrorists didn't even have passports. gary never had anything to say about this or other revelations that showed that the thwarted attacks were nowhere close to imminent, but i somewhat hoped that he had realized his error and was simply shutting up about the subject rather than have to admit his mistake or apologize to those he'd tried to defame. anyway, he had moved on to other subjects, and while still being clearly partisan (he seems a bit too concerned about scandals involving the name "julie carson" but completely indifferent to scandals surrounding her opponent, eric dickerson), his posts had regained some sense of sanity, so i had my fingers crossed that he'd put the whole "extremist" thing behind him.

gary let me down again today. today he has a new post titled london terror threat for real, where he beats the holy hell out of a strawman:

While many bloggers opposed to President Bush's policies for fighting the war on terror scoffed at initial reports that Islamic terrorists were planning to bring down U.S. airplanes headed from London to the U.S. this month, the ongoing investigation in Great Britain demonstrates just how real the threat really was.

take that, strawman! gary links to a washington post article full of juicy details like how much hydrogen peroxide the alleged terrorists had collected. (did they plan to bleach their hair? or maybe the peroxide was to disinfect any wounds they incurred during the upcoming holy war?)

but the problem with gary's post is that liberals never doubted that this was a real threat. steph sure didn't, and neither did any of the other "extremists" gary linked to. these bloggers all assumed that the alleged terrorists did in fact hope to attack someday. what these bloggers didn't do was buy into the hysteria. they pointed out facts, like that the arrestees had been under surveillance for many months, or that actually assembling liquid explosives on a plane would be damn near impossible, which suggested that the threat, while real, was not imminent.

liberal bloggers were concerned that the threat was being over-hyped, that the restrictions against bringing liquids onto planes were absurd and unhelpful, and that the fear-mongering would cause more incidents like this story from last week, when british airline passengers "staged an unprecedented mutiny - refusing to allow their flight to take off" until two men "were forcibly removed" from the flight. the men's crime? looking "asian" and daring to speak a language other than english (which the crazed passengers thought sounded like "arabic", but could have been any eastern language).

but liberal bloggers never doubted that the threat was real. and so gary's post is nothing but flailing against the wind, fighting back against liberal extremists who don't actually exist. it's kind of sad, really. let's hope that gary abandons all this malarkey and sticks to what he's good at: digging up insider info about local politics. there are plenty other republican bloggers who can toss around ad hominem attacks and fight the good fight against strawmen without gary's help.


fireworks31, originally uploaded by stallio.

testing out my custom template so i can post photos directly from flickr.

when the going gets weird, the weird go pro
i knew it was inevitable. it was only a question of when. and now it's happened: i've upgraded my flickr account to "pro".

i spent much of the night in front of the computer copy editing—because i didn't have time to do it in the afternoon, as i'd planned—but during work breaks, i've been uploading photos. so far, most of the stuff i've uploaded has been databent stuff that was already available here on, but i have created a photoset of fireworks pics from this fourth of july, which includes 20 new photos i never posted here.
check it out.

and now, i present my first flickr photo to be posted to the blog:

the first of many?

Monday, August 21, 2006 
diamonds in the sky
i've been ridiculously busy over the past several days. in addition to receiving my first freelance editing work (technically my second assignmment; i got my first assignment a month ago, though due to various problems, including a death in the author's family, i have yet to receive any turnover for that book), virago is moving to a new apartment, and there's a lot of furniture moving going on at my parents' house as well. but last night, virago & i took some time to go to the state fair (our second visit this year) to see kanye west.

historically, the big concerts at the state fair have all been hillbilly: big n rich, travis tritt, garth brooks... all country acts with the occasional washed-up rock band. this year, the state fair wanted to improve its image a bit by booking more diverse shows. for one thing, they booked the american idol tour (a sure hit, yet not at all country), and then to really show they were serious, they booked grammy-winning hip-hopper kanye west. from what i understand, nobody expected the kanye west show to be a huge seller (and it wasn't); booking the show was as much a symbolic statement that the fair, which hadn't had a hip-hop show since big daddy kane played in 1990, was trying to be more hip.

none of the promotional materials for the show said anything about an opening act, so we weren't sure there would be one, but luckily there was: rhymefest, who lives in indy but is originally from chicago, started off the night with a short set. i'd been hoping rhymefest would appear—he and kanye go way back, and rhymefest won a grammy for co-writing "jesus walks". i suspect that a significant portion of the crowd didn't realize who he was at first, but when he began to play the song "stick", which has gotten some airplay on 96.3, the crowd picked up in intensity. another highlight of the set was when rhymefest offered a freestyle, jumping into the crowd for inspiration, before ending up back onstage and concluding with the line "i'll give 'em my right foot". he emphasized this line with a dramatic kick, and humorously, his shoe flew off into the audience. but fest took it in stride, removing his other shoe, signing it, and tossing it as well into the crowd.

kanye west's live entourage featured two backup singers (one male, one female), a 7-piece string section, and the obligatory dj. the dj, dj reflex, as dave lindquist notes, was not kanye's usual dj and made several noticeable mistakes. david searle has a less-than-flattering description of the dj difficulties in his review on imn:

[dj reflex was...] a DJ whose job seemed to consist of hitting the play button on his iTunes.

Apparently, hitting play was a little too much responsibility for the DJ. Kanye cut off several miscued songs prematurely and even went as far as to ask the audience if there was a DJ in the house.

in fairness to dj reflex, i'm believe he was using a setup like final scratch, where the music is played off a computer, but the dj is able to remix it live and add scratching via turntables that are attached to the computer. there were definitely turntables on stage (next to the mac laptop), and i'm pretty sure i saw him scratching at one point during the show.

technical difficulties aside, kanye put on a strong show. he exuded confidence and stage presence, and his between-song banter was witty and charming. the crowd wasn't as large as promoters had hoped, but the people who were there were rocked hard.

one unusual aspect of the show was that kanye seemed reluctant to perform entire songs. most songs would be cut off by the end of the second verse if not the first 16–32 bars. these endings felt natural enough, but it was obvious even to us casual fans that the songs were not being performed to their original conclusion. perhaps this was so kanye didn't need to bring many guest rappers with him, or maybe it was so he could squeeze in as many tracks as possible. indeed, one portion of the show was little more than kanye showing off some of the tracks he'd produced for other artists: "i bet you didn't know i produced this!" he'd say, and then perform 16 bars from the hook of something like "stand up" by ludacris. whatever the reason, this approach seemed to work.

i didn't remember to bring my camera, but the indy star has an embarrassingly unprofessional photo gallery attached to its review of the show. danese kenon's photographs themselves are pretty good: the composition, color, and all that stuff is well done. but whoever processed these photos and posted them online did a horrible job, overcompressing them by a huge margin so that the photos are marred by compression artifacts. seriously: photo #1 isn't too bad, but look at the rest. this one (#4/10) is particularly bad. ugly ugly ugly.

overall, it was a little weird, and tickets were probably overpriced—cheaper tickets could have resulted in better attendance. but it was a good show and the crowd really enjoyed it. i only hope it was successful enough for the state fair to continue being adventurous when booking concerts for next year.

Friday, August 18, 2006 
friday youtube fun
here's some random stuff for you to watch.

if you only watch one daler mehndi video, it should be tunak tunak tun.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 
a judge has ruled that the president must obey the law. get out your umbrellas and ponchos, because once bush's rabid apologists find out, it's going to be raining spittle.

A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the U.S. government's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered it ended immediately.

In a 44-page memorandum and order, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, -- who is based in Detroit, Michigan --struck down the National Security Agency's program, which she said violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

Taylor's ruling stems from a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. According to The Associated Press, Taylor is the first judge to rule the eavesdropping program unconstitutional. (Read the complete ruling -- PDF)

The defendants "are permanently enjoined from directly or indirectly utilizing the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) in any way, including, but not limited to, conducting warrantless wiretaps of telephone and Internet communications, in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Title III," she wrote.

She further declared that the program "violates the separation of powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth amendments to the United States Constitution, the FISA and Title III."

She went on to say that "The president of the United States ... has undisputedly violated the Fourth in failing to procure judicial orders."

glenn greenwald has the in-depth analysis.

(You're the only person who has used "databending" as a tag.)
spurred in part by paul's recent post, i've finally gotten around to signing up with flickr. i have tentative plans to start doing more visual databending in the near future, and when i do, i plan to post the bent photos to flickr rather than host them here (and go through all the hand-coding necessary to create those nice bent galleries).

moreover, i hope to take advantage of the creative commons content on flickr for this new wave of bending, taking CC-licensed photos from flickr, creating derivative works (bends) of them, and posting those back on flickr. think of it as a way of rewarding people for posting their photos with a CC license. perhaps some of the people whose photos i bend won't like what i've done, but i'm hoping some will get a kick out of it. after all, the point of a CC license is allowing others to use your work, so what better reward than to have others use your work? i get free content, with no concerns of being sued, and they get the joy of having people remix their stuff in cool ways.

i won't get around to this project right away. i have paying work to do. (the current plan is to do my first new batch of bending in september.) so for the time being, i had to upload something, and i thought it was fitting for my first uploads to be from the final edition of friday cat bending: cat bending #8: in memoriam. (see the flickr set.)

after uploading, i went about adding tags, ensuring they all had CC licenses, etc. as i was playing with the tags, i clicked one of my "databending" tags and was treated to this disappointing message: (You're the only person who has used "databending" as a tag.) i got the same result for databent.

it's not that there isn't databent stuff on flickr. there is. lots of it. sometimes flickr itself creates the bends. hell, there are whole photo pools devoted to glitch art. (in other words, i should've started uploading my shiz there months ago.) but the term databending has never been used there before.

i really like the term. i didn't coin it (i assume whoever started the databenders list coined it, but i have no idea), but i've been using it for years, and everyone in my circle uses it. so i was surprised that nobody on flickr had ever used the tag before. had nobody else from the databenders list joined flickr? is the term passé, replaced by "glitch art" in the same way that "alternative rock" became "indie rock"?

(technically—allow me to geek out here for a moment—databending is more broad than glitch art. glitch art is a type of visual art. databending can be done in any medium; the term is most often used to refer to audio work. or more precisely, we could say that databending is a process that can be used to create glitch art, glitch music, and other forms of glitchy/bent media. [not all glitch art is databent, either.] maybe someday i'll write up definitions of databending and glitch art for wikipedia, but not tonight.)

now that i'm on flickr, i hope to spread the word there (literally, i hope to spread the word "databending", though i'd like to spread its ideals as well). maybe i can even get some other benders to sign up (syntax? anyone?) and post their own works.

but maybe i'm the one who needs to get with the times, ditch the D-word, and start proclaiming the wonders of "glitch art".


Monday, August 14, 2006 
dubious county
doug caught this glorious typo in letter that the governor sent today to USDOT (emphasis doug's):

Daviess, Dubious [sic], Knox, Martin, and Pike Counties in Southwest Indiana belong in the Eastern Standard [sic] time zone.

this is my favorite kind of typo: one where the misspelling becomes a different word, with unintended humorous connotations. my professional intuition tells me that this error was most likely caused by an overzealous spell-check: msword suggested "Dubious" instead of the correct "Dubois" and some flack mistakenly clicked "replace". but that doesn't make it any less entertaining.

"dubious county" would be a fantastic slur against dubois county, though i'm not sure what would be dubious about it. i'm sure dubois haters could come up with something. (maybe one of those anti-french slurs the right illogically clings to.)

personally, i have a passing familiarity with dubois county, as my mother got her master's degree at st meinrad in nearby spencer county, so i've been to jasper a few times, and dubois struck me as a perfectly nice rural county. so i'm not hating on dubois, though if i were, i would have some awesome new ammunition.

doug pointed out this typo in the middle of a longer post about the governor's letter, supporting six counties in their bids to switch to eastern time after having been put on central earlier this year. doug's post has some excellent analysis of the letter, examining the governor's disingenuous arguments and false claims. if you're not bored to tears with time zone talk, you should read his post: i won't do it the injustice of rehashing all his points here.

but doug merely highlights the typo with a subtle [sic]. he says nothing more about it, and definitely doesn't point out its poetic beauty. nor do any of his commenters so far. i couldn't let that pass; i couldn't allow such a wonderful error to go unappreciated.

dr octagon at the vogue
i've been a huge fan of kool keith ever since i first saw the video for dr octagon's "blue flowers" on mtv's amp back in the day, so when i learned that "dr octagon" was scheduled to play the vogue as part of this year's MMS, i knew i had to attend.

virago & i started the evening off at bazbeaux in broad ripple, where we had some pizza with an incan-sounding name that i can neither pronounce or remember. it wasn't bad, but i've had tastier pizzas at bazbeaux.

after dinner, we walked to the vogue and arrived shortly before the twilight sentinels went onstage. we had cheked out their myspace page beforehand and been underwhelmed by the mp3s there, but we were already at the vogue, and were parked a couple blocks away, so we just bought some $4 woodchucks and settled in, finding a place to sit.

the twilight sentinels put on a serviceable performance, playing some stuff that sounded harder and more uptempo than what i'd heard on myspace, but their set was marred by something that affected the whole night: muddy sound. perhaps this was merely an artifact of where we were sitting, and the sound would have been crisper if we'd been front and center, but from our seats at least, it was sometimes difficult to make out what the mcs were saying, and the backing music sounded somewhat washed out. the sound wasn't terrible—i've definitely heard worse—but the effect was like listening to the radio from across a large room; there was some mean reverb in there.

next up came the seminal indy hip-hop group the mudkids. now here was a group i had definitely wanted to see, and they put on a strong show. russ sported a t-shirt bearing the image of beloved local photojournalist mpozi tolbert, who died suddenly earlier this summer, exhorting us to make some noise in mpozi's honor. (the crowd happily obliged, though i'm sure a sizable chunk of the crowd was not tuned-in enough to the local hip-hop scene or the indiana blogosphere and had no idea what he was talking about.)

dr octagon was scheduled to take the stage at 9:15pm, so around 9:20 or 9:25, kutmasta kurt took the stage. i'd been wondering who would accompany keith during this show, as i doubted it would be the european production team one watt sun (website still down!), who produced the latest dr octagon album. kutmasta kurt was a good choice: though he wasn't heavily involved with either of the "dr octagon" records (he produced two tracks for octagonecologyst), he is a talented dj and producer who produced several of kool keith's best records, including sex style, dr dooom's first come, first served, and the recent diesel truckers release. unfortunately, with the muddy sound in the vogue, i didn't actually catch on to the fact that this dj was kutmasta kurt until sometime later.

kool keith wasn't ready to take the stage yet, so kurt warmed up the crowd by doing scratch routines for 15–20 minutes. the scratching was excellent, but again it didn't sound as good as it should've due to the muddy-sounding PA. i was growing a little impatient waiting for keith to come onstage, but then he did, in a striped shirt and blue kangol hat.

keith and company began the set with some songs that i didn't recognize, but i imagine they were from keith's days in the ultramagnetic mc's. very little of the material performed that night was actual "dr octagon" material, but the crowd seemed happy to overlook this technicality, as, to the best of my knowledge, this was kool keith's first appearance in indianapolis. (the last time he was supposed to be here was at lollapalloza '97, when keith famously disappeared before he could begin the tour; according to legend, he blew most of his advance on pornography.)

a few songs into the set, keith asked to be cast in blue light only. the crowd got excited, and then keith & his crew performed "blue flowers", easily dr octagon's biggest hit and possibly kool keith's biggest hit as well. they immediately followed this up with kutmasta kurt's remix of "blue flowers", so keith recited all the same lyrics again over a different beat. but it was cool.

after this, the white light returned, and keith invited about a dozen ladies from the crowd to join him onstage and dance around as he serenaded them with "girl let me touch you". he then began encouraging them, in increasingly less subtle ways, to take off their clothes and get jiggy. he performed the song "take off your clothes". then he asked if any of the girls onstage were "freaks" before segueing into the song "freaks get naked". when this didn't work, he asked if any of them had ever fantasized about becoming a stipper. at least one raised her hand, and keith told her, "this is your chance!" but none of the ladies flashed so much as an inch of areola. at one point, the one black woman onstage (it was predominantly white crowd) did bend over in front of keith and shake her booty in a fashion not unlike that described in the lyrics to li'l jon's "get low", but her clothes stayed on, and that was as freaky as any of the women onstage ever got. i guess it wasn't that kind of crowd.

this left me wondering: how often does this work for kool keith? i've never been able to get the ladies to strip during my performances, but then i'm usually not playing to a crowd of hundreds of excited hip-hop fans. i have attended shows where the girls have eagerly gotten onstage and gone wild—yes, even here in indianapolis—but it wasn't meant to be saturday night at the vogue. assuming keith regularly invites the ladies of the crowd onstage and encourages them to remove their clothes, what percentage of the time do they acquiesce? i might be way off-base here, but i have a hard time believing that keith usually has this much difficulty getting the women at his shows to show some skin. there's no real way to test this, other than to follow him around on his next tour, though i plan to browse the live kool keith vids on youtube. but assuming i'm right, what was different about this crowd? my theory is that the relatively early showtime was a factor: the vogue has a popular saturday night dance night, and wasn't willing to give that up even for kool keith. if dr octagon had gone onstage closer to midnight, the crowd might've been drunker and more willing to get naughty. there was an after-party at the jazz kitchen, which we didn't attend, and for all i know, the honeys got totally wild there.

anyway, the ladies remained onstage, fully clothed and dancing in the background, for the rest of the show. keith and crew performed several other songs from keith's large discography, engaging the crowd in call-and-response and generally rocking the house. but the dance night crowd was building up outside, and it was time for the show to end. i don't remember what song they played for the finale. afterward, kutmasta kurt sold cds from the stage for the discount price of $10. i had $10 left in my wallet, so i went up front to get a peek at what he was selling, knowing that i probably owned most of it. i ended up with a copy of overproof by substance abuse, which only has a brief appearance by kool keith on one track, but is exec produced by kutmasta kurt and also has appearances by mf doom, motion man, and others.

overall, it was a good show, but it suffered from unsatisfactory sound quality. i don't know what went wrong there, as i've been to the vogue several times and don't remember having issues with the sound quality before. also, it would be nice to see kool keith play at a venue where he's allowed to play for longer than an hour, and where the crowd isn't being shuffled off to an after-party at another venue. i understand that tease is a lucrative dance night for the vogue, but the effect of trying to squeeze two events into the same night only hurts both events: the concert ends up feeling rushed, whereas the dance night patrons are stuck waiting outside long after the doors would have normally opened. pick one event and commit to it!

Sunday, August 13, 2006 
the truth seeps out
remember that "conspiracy theory" that the bush administration had politicized this week's terror arrests in london? well, it turns out there are some extremist liberal lamont supporters in the british government:

NBC News has learned that U.S. and British authorities had a significant disagreement over when to move in on the suspects in the alleged plot to bring down trans-Atlantic airliners bound for the United States.

A senior British official knowledgeable about the case said British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

In contrast to previous reports, the official suggested an attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports.

The source did say, however, that police believe one U.K.-based suspect was ready to conduct a "dry run." British authorities had wanted to let him go forward with part of the plan, but the Americans balked.

why was bush so eager to act if the attack was not yet imminent?

At the White House, a top aide to President Bush denied the account.

Another U.S. official, however, acknowledges there was disagreement over timing. Analysts say that in recent years, American security officials have become edgier than the British in such cases because of missed opportunities leading up to 9/11.

Aside from the timing issue, there was excellent cooperation between the British and the Americans, officials told NBC.

The British official said the Americans also argued over the timing of the arrest of suspected ringleader Rashid Rauf in Pakistan, warning that if he was not taken into custody immediately, the U.S. would "render" him or pressure the Pakistani government to arrest him.

British security was concerned that Rauf be taken into custody "in circumstances where there was due process," according to the official, so that he could be tried in British courts. Ultimately, this official says, Rauf was arrested over the objections of the British.

it sounds like the brits had this investigation under control, but the bush administration just wasn't willing to wait. why was bush in such a hurry?

Friday, August 11, 2006 
we're all theists now
tdw links to an indy star article about indiana's new "in god we trust" license plates. a lot of christians seem excited by the new plates, but some people argue (and i'm inclined to agree) that the plates violate the separation of church and state. what's more offensive is that, unlike the dozens of other kinds of specialty license plates indiana offers, the "in god we trust" plates will be offered free of charge.

woody burton isn't convinced there's a problem (emphasis mine):

"With all due respect, I think this is a much better license plate than the ones we've had for so long," said state Rep. Woody Burton, R-Greenwood, who authored the legislation passed in the last session that created the plate.

The plate stirred questions about the separation of church and state, but Burton discounted those concerns.

"This is just a symbol to give people their free right to express their opinion," he said. "There are always going to be people who don't like it.

"In some way or another, we all worship one God, but we may use different names," Burton added. "This was not for one particular religious group."

"we all worship one god"? i guess that's true for theists: christians, jews, muslims, and followers of the great spaghetti monster all only worship one god. but what about buddhists? atheists? hindus? wiccans? freethinkers? subgenii? discordians?

it is glaringly obvious that these plates are intended for one particular religious group: theists. theists happen to be a large majority in indiana, but there are lots of non-theists in the state as well... tens if not hundreds of thousands of them. i'm not a theist, and i know lots of other non-theist hoosiers.

woody burton is full of it. and while i agree that the plate itself doesn't look too shabby (especially compared to previous indiana plates), i don't like it. however, if the state decides to also start offering plates that say "there is no god", i'll stop complaining. (i don't know if i'd get one, though; it'd probably get me assaulted if i drove in the wrong areas.)

stAllio! - angina music video
growing a bit tired of all the posts about ned lamont, gary welsh, liberal extremism, and all that mess? to be honest, i am a bit, too... this is an indiana blog, after all, so why are we still talking about the connecticut senate race?

it's been a couple weeks since i uploaded any videos to youtube, so for a change of pace, here's the video for my track "angina" from dissonance is bliss:

this was the second music video i made when i finally got a video camera in 1999. (the first video i made was "requcnice".) like my other early videos, it was edited primitively using only a video camera, a vcr, and their respective pause buttons. but unlike "requcnice", where i basically ran around the house filming eyeball benders, this time i tried to get more sophisticated.

the video begins with a study of an oscillating fan, but the footage is randomly edited so that the fan's motions are impossibly spastic. then it moves on to some fireworks, some footage of a little white doll, and even a sequence of faux–stop-motion animation involving a stool and various found items. it's not my best work, and the audio is a bit off in parts, but considering the tools used and the budget ($0), i think it stands up pretty well.

this was also one of the few videos i've made where i had actual assistance from someone else (the only other one being "telemetry", which was co-directed by murkbox). my then-roommate steven aided with some of the filming, and the doll featured in the video is his, as well as the hand that can be seen holding it in a couple shots. but the guy in the ponytail wearing the dead kennedys t-shirt who can be seen early in the video is yours truly. i can also be seen for a brief moment later in the video, wearing a ween t-shirt.

we now return you to your regularly scheduled liberal extremism.

this just in: steph mineart is an extremist liberal
advance indiana's gary welsh, perhaps still stinging from the scoldings he received from me and others this week, has struck back against the extremist liberals that he believes lost the war on terrorism by voting for ned lamont instead of joe lieberman.

in his latest post, gary quotes from americablog, dailykos, josh marshall, talk left, and—to add some local flavor—steph mineart (who is a reader of both this blog and AI, and who gary surely knows will read his post), and concludes:

Now do people have a little bit better idea of why I concluded that Ned Lamont and his supporters were extremists on the issue of fighting the war on terrorism?

this is an indirect reference to doug masson, who challenged gary in a comment to back up gary's allegation that lamont was an "extremist liberal" and who never got a satisfactory response. gary was then and is still unable to explain how lamont is "extreme" using lamont's actual beliefs—because lamont's views on the issues are totally mainstream—so he resorts to guilt by association. lamont associates with alleged anti-semites, therefore lamont is anti-semitic. some of lamont's supporters hold far-left views, therefore lamont is an extremist. it makes no logical sense, but then again neither did his previous posts on the subject.

the new post revolves around the recent uk terror arrests. jaded by a string of "massive terror busts" that turned out to be over-hyped, some liberal bloggers were understandably skeptical about the significance of this morning's arrests, as well as the new heightened security measures that bar passengers from bringing any sort of liquid onto an airplane. for example, bloggers at boingboing were alarmed by photographs of TSA officers pouring out bottles on liquid into trash cans. if we're really concerned about liquid explosives, why would we want to do the terrorists' job for them by mixing their explosives in a crowded, public place like the garbage bin right next to the massive crowd waiting to get through the security checkpoint?

so when liberal bloggers discovered that president bush has known about the impending arrests since at least sunday, they were suspicious. why was the terror alert level not raised until after the bust? isn't the terror alert supposed to warn us of pending danger rather than congratulate us on recent arrests? same goes for the liquid restrictions: why wait to restrict liquids on planes until after the people planning to use liquid explosives had already been arrested?

some bloggers had another thought: republicans and the white house have been telling us all week that a vote for ned lamont was a vote for the terrorists. tony snow and dick cheney said as much yesterday. if bush knew about the upcoming uk arrests on sunday, it seems likely he would have shared this information with cheney, which suggests that cheney knew full well when he criticized lamont voters for being weak on terror that the following day, the news would be flooded with reports of the uk arrests.

could it be that the whole "terrorists love lamont" meme that republicans pushed all week was orchestrated by the white house because it knew that terrorism would be back in the news later this week? is it possible that gary had simply fallen for the white house spin? that's a possibility gary can't accept, so he went on the offensive against those crazy liberals who think the bush administration might want to spin thwarted terror attacks for political gain.

gary doesn't do much to actually refute what the bloggers he quotes are saying. he expects you to find them self-evidently nutty. he does link to this time article, which he cites as evidence "that the U.S. picked up the suspects' chatter and shared it with British authorities" to counter hunter at dailykos's "conclusion that the British alone thwarted the plot". unfortunately, hunter never actually says that the brits did it alone, though hunter does poke fun at "[t]he rather less serious and competent U.S. response," which "seems to be to reduced to making sure that from now on, nobody can take bottled water onto airplanes."

to be fair, gary's point here would still be valid if it turned out that the US played an integral role in busting these terrorists. so let's look at that time article. here's what it has to say about this "sharing of intelligence information" we're supposed to be so happy about:

Britain's MI-5 intelligence service and Scotland Yard had been tracking the plot for several months, but only in the past two weeks had the plotters' planning begun to crystallize, senior U.S. officials tell TIME. In the two or three days before the arrests, the cell was going operational, and authorities were pressed into action. MI5 and Scotland Yard agents tracked the plotters from the ground, while a knowledgeable American official says U.S. intelligence provided London authorities with intercepts of the group's communications.

so MI5 (is is MI-5 or MI5? time spells it both ways in the same paragraph) had been tracking these guys for "several months". in the past two or three days, the US intercepted some of their communications and shared them with scotland yard. now, i think it's great that MI5 was able to go to homeland security and say "hey, these guys are about to you have any sigint on them?" but let's face it: that was the extent of US involvement in these arrests. uk officials found these guys, tracked them, and arrested them. the british did almost all the work, and only came to the US for intercepts once "the cell was going operational". maybe the arrests wouldn't have been as successful if not for those intercepts, but it's likely they would have anyway—MI5 had been tracking them for months and was tracking them on the ground. and we only know about these intercepts because of "a knowledgable american official"—an anonymous administration source who could be cheney himself for all we know. this isn't confirmed information; this is just one comment from one anonymous source.

other than the time article, gary doesn't give much evidence for why the bloggers he quotes are such extremists. steph mineart is apparently so crazy that he doesn't need to respond to anything she says. the mere act of quoting her is itself a refutation of her extreme views, i guess. when steph writes, "I think they're making a mountain out of a molehill, and that we're not really in any danger", gary does not deign to give us any evidence as to why this latest threat hasn't been exaggerated. when steph suggests that bush is grandstanding on the issue because of lieberman's loss, gary does not tell us why this is not so. he doesn't think he has to. he doesn't think he needs to; to him, the very idea that president bush would exaggerate and politicize terror arrests is so laughable that it doesn't just discredit steph, it discredits the entire ned lamont movement.

what i think, though, is that if gary welsh is looking for "extremists on the issue of fighting the war on terrorism", he should take a look in the proverbial mirror.

update: steph objects to gary's characterization, both in a comment and on her own blog. (on her blog she also links to a funny comic strip.) in response, gary issues a non-apology: "Steph--Please don't take it personally. You were the only local blogger at the time I did the post who had written on the subject. I wanted to add a little local flavor to it." so gary doesn't actually back down from his claim that steph and others like her are liberal "extremists on the issue of fighting the war on terrorism", but he doesn't want her to take it personally. he would've been happy to quote some other hoosier extremist instead, but he just couldn't find one... and he had to insult somebody! we are at war, after all.

indiana invades the daily show
on tonight's (er, last night's?) episode of the daily show, dan bakkedahl did a segment on the large number of terrorist targets in indiana. (bloggers were all over this story a month ago, literally, but i guess it takes time to film & edit these video segments.) in the segment, bakkedahl interviews NY senator charles schumer, who is quoted dismissively saying, "i doubt that the director of emergency services of indiana has much of an idea what a terrorist target is." (perhaps it was new york that screwed up by reporting too few potential targets?) then, bakkedahl journeys "into the heart of darkness itself, rural indiana", stopping by the gas city petting zoo, the shelbyville travel stop, and the fort wayne roller dome, where's he's treated to some good old-fashioned hoosier hospitality. the segment ends—natch—to the tune of "pink houses".

then, if that wasn't enough for you, later in the show, jon stewart interviews dale earnhardt, jr (who was in indy just last weekend for brickyard, where he came in 6th). is this a coincidence, or a blatant ploy for hoosier viewers? okay, it's a coincidence, but that's a lot of indiana-related content in one show.

the colbert graphic was created by the on notice generator, which is way cooler than the threatdown generator that started making the rounds a couple weeks back. bad taste for life.

update: the bakkedahl sketch is now on youtube.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 
it's official... now we wait
the media is projecting that lieberman lost:

Three-term Sen. Joe Lieberman fell to anti-war challenger Ned Lamont in Connecticut's Democratic primary Tuesday, a race seen as a harbinger of sentiment over a conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 2,500 U.S. troops.

now that lieberman has lost, i'm taking bets on when exactly the terrorists will win, as gary welsh predicted. my money is on december 21, 2012.

(in his latest post, gary tells us that ned lamont is an "extremist liberal" and that by choosing him, "Connecticut voters were embracing extremism". gary is so repulsed by lamont's extremism that he links, with seeming approval, to the wall street journal's latest "scary, evil bloggers" column. it seems strange to me that a blogger would link approvingly to columns about how much bloggers suck, but doing so lets gary insinuate that lamont is down with anti-semitism, so gary's not throwing his fellow bloggers to the wolves for nothing. [atrios has a fascinating insight into the WSJ piece.])

Unbowed, Lieberman immediately announced he would enter the fall campaign as an independent. Only six years ago, Lieberman was the Democrats' choice for vice president.

joe wants to have it both ways. he wants a do-over. he had his shot, and he had the power of incumbency in his favor, but he flubbed it and he's demanding a mulligan. running as an independent is a slap in the face to the voters of connecticut, who turned out en masse.

most of all, it's bad form, and bad party politics. proper electoral etiquette is to always support the winner of the primary. after all the democratic party has done for joe lieberman (including giving him an undeserved VP nomination in 2000), joe wants to take his ball and go home. but that's not how the game is played. joe had some prominent democratic endorsements going into the primary, but those will all dry up now:

That decision was met with squeamishness among many within the party establishment who had signaled that they would not support an independent bid by Lieberman. Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh -- who, like Lieberman, has close ties to moderates within the party but is considering a 2008 presidential bid -- quickly announced he would support Lamont.

"Senator Bayh supported Senator Lieberman in the primary because of his respect for Senator Lieberman's service and their long friendship," said Bayh spokesman Dan Pfeiffer. "The Democratic voters of Connecticut have spoken, and Senator Bayh respects their choice and will support their nominee."

Expect many more announcements like Bayh's over the next day or two. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) will speak about the race tomorrow.

bayh wasted no time turning his back on lieberman, and joe's other friends in the party will stop returning his calls soon enough.

lieberman could continue to receive prominent endorsements, and even funding, from republicans, however. after all, the republican candidate for that seat, alan schlesinger, has a history of serious gambling problems, so republicans might feel better taking their chances with the socially conservative lieberman rather than endorse a gambling addict.

it promises to be an interesting race to watch.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006 
if lieberman loses, the terrorists win!!!!~11
today is primary day in three states. one of those states is connecticut, and today's most-closely-watched race is CT senator joe lieberman's attempt to defend himself against primary challenger ned lamont.

lieberman has always been at the "conservative" end of the democratic party, and recently he's only drifted further to the right. not only did liberman cheerlead enthusiastically for an invasion of iraq, he continued to adamantly support the war well into last week, even issuing orwellian-sounding edicts like

It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war, we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation's peril.

in other words, democrats should stop worrying and learn to love the bomb. more importantly, they should STFU already.

but the problem isn't just his support for the war. lieberman has become a virtual caricature of himself: the go-to guy whenever republicans need a democrat who's willing to publicly talk trash about other democrats. liberal bloggers'd had enough of lieberman's shenanigans and threw their weight in behind lamont. as atrios recently explained:

No matter what happens on Tuesday, the fact is that this should have never been a race. As big a wanker as Lieberman has been, he should have been able to easily swat away a primary challenge.

I had to think pretty hard about encouraging people to give money to Lamont. I probably thought his chances of winning were about 5% back when this began and I had to consider whether asking people to donate their time and energy for a long shot of a cause was really worthwhile. Ultimately I decided that it was, but I still never saw it as anything but a tremendous long shot.

atrios then quotes from digby:

All Lieberman had to do in the early going was ignore the sniping, distance himself that schmuck in the white house and it would have been very difficult for Lamont to get enough traction to get this far. Perhaps it would have happened anyway, but I have my doubts. In fact I sincerely believed when this whole thing began to bubble to the surface that the point of this challenge was to get Joe to distance himselof from that schmuck in the white house and keep him on the reservation. I never dreamed he'd be so stubborn about something so obvious.

yes, lieberman's campaign has made so many missteps it would take a whole blog—not a blog entry, but an entire blog—to document them all. now he's fighting for his livelihood against lamont in a race he should have been able to easily win. this is understandably freaking some people out. but what's telling is how many of lieberman's most vocal supporters are republicans.

here's e.j. dionne, in today's syndicated column:

Some events are so important that the battle to interpret their meaning begins even before they actually happen. So it is with today's Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut.

Most of the commentary is premised on the idea that antiwar businessman Ned Lamont will defeat Lieberman, one of Congress' strongest supporters of the Iraq war. This speculation may be premature for reasons we'll get to. But the two lines of argument hardening into place tell us a great deal about the course of this fall's election campaign.

Republican supporters of President Bush and the war are claiming that a Lamont victory would signal a dovish takeover of the Democratic party by activists organized by anti-Bush bloggers -- and would show that there is no room left in Democratic ranks for moderates.

The most over-the-top version of this argument came from William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard. "What drives so many Democrats crazy about Lieberman is not simply his support for the Iraq war," Kristol wrote. "It's that he's unashamedly pro-American."

personally, the most over-the-top version of this argument that i've seen was made by gary welsh at advance indiana, but your mileage may vary.

i've been a regular reader of advance indiana for months because the content is usually strong. gary is a proud republican, but his posts are often well-thought-out and he generally doesn't fall into the traps of neoconservatism, bush idolatry, or war-mongering that are so common in right blogistan. maybe this is because gary's perspective as an openly gay republican gives him a different view than many straight republicans; i don't know. every couple weeks or so, there will be an odd rant about bill clinton or bart peterson that'll make me scratch my head, but they tend to be easy enough to ignore.

however, i was taken aback by gary's sunday post titled "lieberman loss would be loss for america". i was shocked not because gary clearly doesn't understand the roots of the anti-lierberman movement (which was not a surprise, because gary is a republican, after all), but because of the shocking "you're either with us or the terrorists" rhetoric that i would never have expected from gary, who i had thought to be relatively rational and intelligent, and especially not now, in 2006.

bruce parker was disturbed enough by the post and its subsequent comment thread that he started his own post on bilerico. in contrast, everyone's favorite blowhard from the star ed board, rishawn biddle, linked approvingly to the post, writing:

Advance Indiana stirs a hornet's nest of sorts with a post explaining why U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman's possible loss of his senate seat is no boon for America's fight against terrorism. Plenty of left-leaners take the moderate site and its proprietor to task, with one calling the arguments "disingenuous" and debating whether any of the examples cited are related to each other. He smartly counters their deconstruction.

here's a quote from gary stirring the hornet's nest:

While it is easy to stand up and say you are against the war, it is tougher to think of the consequences of doing nothing. Lieberman understands that the very survival of Israel is at stake, as well as our country. Radical Muslims are devoted not only to rubbing out Isreal, but also America.

in gary's view, there are only two options. option A: bomb the hell out of the middle east, thereby destroying radical islam. (exactly how all this bombing and killing will wipe out radical islam is TBD at a later time. insert "underpants gnome" joke here.) option B: sit around on our asses and let the terrorists take over the world. in gary's view, beyond those two options, as the weatherman would say, there is absolutely no other possibility.

so either you support the war against radical islam or you're a liberal. but wait, that's not all! gary continues (emphasis mine):

I don't like the war in Iraq. I don't like Israel's war against Hezbullah. But when I look at the consequences of doing nothing in the face of an opposition that is committed to the annihalation of everything I treasure, I choose the lesser of the two evils. If Joe Lieberman loses because Democrats don't think he's anti-war enough, then all of America loses in our battle against our real enemy. Democrat activists need to wake up and accept the reality of who our real enemy is. Any freedom-loving person should have no problem comprehending this reality.

as bruce said, "It seems like AI is saying to us that if Lieberman loses the terrorists win." but there's no "seems" about it; that is literally what gary is saying. gary doesn't mince words here. he uses the "if...then" construction so there's no doubt what he means. if lieberman loses (p), the terrorists win (q). converted into symbolic notation, that's p→q. this is basic stuff, symbolic logic 101.

so when readers took gary to task for this bizarrely binary worldview, here is how he "smartly counters their deconstruction":

American liberals are completely discarding the American tradition of a bipartisan foreign policy. The fact is that American liberals don't want to fight radical Islam, even though they are committed to our destruction.

this is news to me, since i was pretty sure that liberals were the ones who were protesting the taliban, the US alliance with iraq, and so on back in the '80s and '90s, when reagan and poppy bush were still friends with those regimes. still, while this is misguided and wrong, it didn't prepare me for the bruises i would develop after my jaw dropped to the floor when i read this (referring to bil browning and jerame davis of bilerico; emphasis mine):

I know the two of you, Bil & Jerame, reject any concept of a bipartisan foreign policy. The two of you also despise Sen. Evan Bayh for this very reason.

Did the U.S. error in its past support of Iraq's Hussein? Did the U.S. err in its past support of the Shah prior to his overthrow in Iran? The case can be made that we erred badly in both instances, but what's done is done. You can't simply bury your head in the sand and pretend these problems will go away.

My problem with people like you, is that you can only see the bad in what America does. You never can see the good we do. In so doing, you give comfort to our enemies.

It's pretty easy from where the two of you sit to criticize our military's actions. I thank God for the men and women in uniform who have fought to preserve freedom here and elsewhere. You think you can negotiate with terrorists; you cannot.

"people like you...give comfort to our enemies." in 2004, it was "if bush loses the presidency, the terrorists win!" now that's evolved to "if lieberman loses the connecticut senate primary, the terrorists win!" but the "giving comfort to our enemies" chestnut hasn't changed at all. and rishawn biddle—who i must emphasize again is on the indy star editorial board—reads this stale propaganda and declares that gary "smartly counters their deconstruction"?

the thread goes on from there, with gary dredging up a bunch of stereotypes about liberals without realizing that he himself has devolved into the ultimate stereotype of a right-wing blogger: insisting that the terrorists will take over if (insert pet issue here) and impugning the patriotism of those who disagree.

i never imagined gary would sink so low, and i'm left disillusioned by the whole thing, wondering whether i had misjudged him all along.

Monday, August 07, 2006 
today i'm dog- and house-sitting for my parents, who still subscribe to the print edition of the indy star, so i took a few minutes to browse through the paper and was struck by this truncated AP article:

Crass lyrics affect teens' sex lives, study says
Research shows songs with explicit references are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior

wow, that's some headline! could the people who wanted to ban chubby checker have been right? does "that damn noise" kids these days are listening to actually transform teens into whores? quick, light the torches! i want the angry mob ready to march by the time i've finished the article!

CHICAGO -- Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found.

okay, teens who listen to lots of sexy music end up having sex. so far, i'm with you.

Whether it's hip-hop, rap, pop or rock, much of popular music aimed at teens contains sexual overtones. Its influence on their behavior appears to depend on how the sex is portrayed, researchers found.

Songs depicting men as "sex-driven studs" and women as sex objects and songs with explicit references to sex acts are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior than those where sexual references are more veiled and relationships appear more committed, the study found.

Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

this is where i start to have problems: the article is full of words like "influence" and "trigger", clearly meant to imply an if...then relationship between raunchy music and early sexual activity. the message being sent to parents is if your kids listen to this stuff, they will turn into little sluts within two years. does this sound familiar to anyone?

the passage about "sex-driven studs" is a bit cryptic; what it means is that the study is only about booty music and misogynistic rap. chubby checker is off the hook (and not in the way they mean when they say that phrase on the hip-hop station). so the stuff our parents said was trash and would rot our brains turns out to be fine after all, but what our kids are listening to actually will damage them permanently. a scientific study proved it!

"We think that really lowers kids' inhibitions and makes them less thoughtful" about sexual decisions, said lead author Steven Martino, a researcher for Rand Corp. in Pittsburgh.

The study, based on telephone interviews with 1,461 participants age 12 to 17, appears in the August issue of Pediatrics.

Martino said the researchers tried to account for other factors that could affect teens' sexual behavior, including parental permissiveness, and still found explicit lyrics had a strong influence.

i don't have a copy of pediatrics in front of me, and likely never will, so i can't read the study to analyze its methodology or anything like that. so let's assume for sake of argument that the underlying data is sound—martino and his team have established a significant correlation between early sexual behavior and listening to booty music. if so, that's a notable discovery, and worth writing a paper. bully for martino.

however, it's one thing to demonstrate a correlation between two factors. but it's another thing altogether to prove a cause and effect relationship. this is doubly true when you're dealing with complex sociological subjects like human sexuality.

it's naïve to assume that simply because event A precedes event B, A must have caused B. this line of thinking can be tempting, but it's actually a logical fallacy known to logicians as post hoc ergo propter hoc (translation: "after this, therefore because of this"). the real world is complex, and events can be interrelated in all sorts of complex ways other than causal relationships.

even assuming it's true that teens who listen to booty music start having sex earlier, it does not follow that booty music causes kids to have sex. for just one counter-hypothesis, isn't it possible that teens who are predisposed to having sex early are more likely to seek out sexually explicit music? in other words, the horniest teens are the ones who will be most attracted to booty music, and likewise the most interested in losing their virginity ASAP?

granted, while this article is edited in such a way to push the idea (and push it hard) that raunchy rap turns kids into sluts, the star's editors didn't insert that idea entirely on their own. martino, and presumably his coauthors, clearly do hypothesize a causal relationship of some sort. but the star article doesn't express much doubt that the study could be wrong, or its authors misguided, either.

let's look at a longer version of the same article that appeared in the ottawa citizen:

The authors analysed the music of 16 top artists and categorized as degrading any lyrics that "depicted sexually insatiable men pursuing women valued only as sex objects." They then assessed the sexual behaviour and music tastes of 1,461 U.S. adolescent participants, tracked through a series of telephone interviews over three years.

"Adolescents who listen to a lot of music containing these objectifying and limiting characterizations of sexuality progress more quickly in their sexual behaviour, regardless of their race or gender," the study concluded, emphasizing that there was no correlation found between behaviour and sexualized lyrics that were not degrading in tone.

this is way more clear than what appeared in the star.

"There is good reason to believe that music may have an important influence on adolescents' sexual behaviour," the study says, noting that American teens between the ages of 15 and 18 listen to 1.5 to 2.5 hours of music a day, with a quarter of them listening to more than three hours.

this passage shows that the study's authors understand that what they're suggesting is only a hypothesis. this understanding seems to be missing from the star version.

The study mentioned the boy band 98 Degrees as a group whose lyrics are sexual but not degrading, while Ja Rule's Livin it Up was cited as an example of a song filled with four-letter words and derogatory references to women. No other artists were specifically identified, but researchers categorized them according to musical genre and assessed what percentage of each song catalogue contained sexually degrading lyrics. Four acts categorized as "teen pop" and two labelled "country" contained no degrading lyrics at all, while 70 per cent of one rap artist's songs and 59 per cent of another's contained sexually degrading lyrics.

no word on whether teens who listen to r kelly are more likely to experiment with watersports.

i thought this passage was pretty telling, also:

The authors state clearly that in their view "early activity is a significant problem in the United States." They note a recent survey that suggested most sexually experienced teens regretted they had not waited longer.

i know a lot of people believe this, but is early activity really a "significant problem"? kids these days might be gettin' it on earlier than their parents or grandparents did, but historically speaking, today's teens aren't becoming sexually active any younger than they were in shakespeare's day, for example. (remember: romeo & juliet were supposed to be around 14 or 15, and once upon a time it was common for children to be married off at 12. this was long before the ying-yang twins.)

oh, and here's one other thing that was missing from the article as printed in the star: an opposing viewpoint!

However, some urge that music is not the only factor affecting teens' behaviour.

"We caution rushing to judgment that music more than any other factor is a causative factor" for teens initiating sex, said Benjamin Chavis, chief executive officer of the Hip-Hip Summit Action Network.

just a token quote, but at least it's there.

i think the san jose mercury news has my favorite take, though:

Like a study could figure out teens
Mercury News Wire Services
The effects of entertainment on teenagers always make for good debate, and two separate studies released today will have parents either grimly nodding in agreement or laughing off the conclusions:

• Teens who listen to music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs.

• Teens who watch pro wrestling -- especially girls -- are more likely to behave violently than other kids.

this just in: teens who like math are more likely to become evil scientists.

emergency broadcast network
in the early '90s, joshua l pearson's emergency broadcast network (EBN) was one of the hottest collage acts around. sometimes political, sometimes surreal, EBN achieved their 15 minutes of fame when they were commissioned to do all the video work for u2's "zoo tv" tour, when u2 was trying to rebrand themselves as subversive media manipulators rather than the huge corporate sellouts they'd become. (which was ironic considering u2's lawsuit against negativland, just a few years earlier.)

EBN's music often revolves around a "throbbing techno beat" that by today's standards sounds dated at times; musically, it doesn't always stand up as well as collage from that period by negativland, john oswald, or people like us. but listening to EBN on cd (or mp3) is sort of missing the point. where EBN really shone was in their prolific video collage work.

i posted a couple links to EBN videos back in june, knowing there was more there to be seen. i've since gone back and discovered that there is a ton of EBN stuff now on youtube.

collected here are links to a whopping 25 (!) EBN videos, some of which appear to be fairly recent. there's some amazing stuff here. former president george HW bush factors in heavily, as do tom brokaw and CNN's talking heads (from back when CNN was the only 24-hour news channel). attentive viewers will even spot dick cheney and john kerry, in what are almost certainly the earliest collages to incorporate either of these men, long before cheney became VP. this is pioneering stuff.

if you're familiar with EBN, you'll know what a treat this is. if you've never heard of them before, start clicking links. you'll thank me later.


Sunday, August 06, 2006 
clerks ii and the bosphorus istanbul cafe
i had a pleasant, relaxing birthday yesterday. i decided that we should start the day by going up to clearwater crossing to see clerks ii. i saw the original clerks in the theatre twice (back in '94, when the irving was a movie theatre), and have generally liked kevin smith's subsequent work. (jersey girl was a real snoozer, though.)

when we saw superman returns at the amc clearwater crossing earlier this summer, we were surprised when we were charged $8 per ticket for a matinee showing. this is steep in indiana, where movie matinees are usually around 6 bucks. (even at the fancy new landmark theatre, matinees are only $6.50.)

apparently, AMC now charges different matinee prices, depending on when your chosen movie was released. they've always had a "no passes" policy, where customers aren't allowed to use free passes for new releases. now, amc apparently has a "no discounts whatsoever" policy, so if you want to see a movie that just came out, amc will charge you full price even if it's 10 a.m. discount matinees are reserved only for movies that have been out for a few weeks. (and these days, if a movie bombs during its opening weekend, it will likely be pulled from theatres immediately.)

this sounds like a bum deal to me, especially compared to the competition. normally, i wouldn't want to support a business that treats its customers in this fashion. however, clerks ii is already on its way out of theatres, so we had few options. luckily, i realized that i still had two free amc passes in my wallet, which coincidentally i had received from my former employer for my birthday last year, so we got to see the movie for free.

what can i say about clerks ii? the funny bits are as funny as ever. kevin smith has an ear for dialogue, and he knows the hearts of these characters well. unfortunately, the slow bits in between the funny bits are slower and longer than ever. the plot—dante must choose between two women—is so similar to the first that randal comments how unbelievable it is. but, this time around, that storyline is a bit too central to the film, to the point where it feels like a "romantic comedy" rather than a film about a bunch of slackers who happen to have sex. maybe that's because this time around we're supposed to cheer for the "new girl who really gets me" versus the "beautiful fiance who doesn't understand me at all", and we've seen this same angle in countless movies starring the likes of j.lo or julia roberts. for whatever reason, significant chunks of clerks ii fall flat, but along the way are lotsa laughs, including a couple scenes that are simply brilliant. (the "trolls" scene is one i won't soon forget.)

after the movie, we stepped out into the fullness of summer sunlight and i was disoriented for a good 45 seconds or more, but eventually regained my vision enough to drive us back to virago's apartment until dinnertime.

for dinner, virago had suggested we try the bosphorus istanbul cafe, indianapolis's only turkish restaurant, which came highly recommended by one of virago's iupui co-workers. (apparently a recent visitor from the state dept, who has travelled all over the world, declared that bosphorus had the best hummus he'd ever eaten.) i remembered seeing glowing reviews at indy ethnic food, so i was eager to check it out after our last few disappointing attempts to eat middle eastern food in indy. (first we had an inferior meal at the greek islands. then we went to khoury's, whose "magic chicken" i had loved a few years back, but this time it was dry, and the waitress seemed indifferent. then we went to aesop's table, which is a good restaurant but doesn't serve anything you'd expect from a restaurant billed as "greek".)

bosphorus is inside a refurbished house, in between eli lilly headquarters and fountain square. as such, it was easy to find, but the only parking we saw available is streetside. we were facing the wrong way, and i didn't want to park on the opposite side of the busy street, so i tried to find a place to turn around, got stuck on a one-way road, and ended up looping all the way through fountain square and back to downtown. finally, we figured out a way to park and headed inside the bright purple house-aurant for dinner.

i love a good hummus, so after the glowing recommendation from virago's associate, i had to order some. i wasn't disappointed. the flavor was rich and yet mild; the texture was soft and consistent. the accompanying pita was hot and fresh. simply put, it was excellent. it didn't have enough garlic for virago, but i don't think she really cares for "plain" hummus; she once told me she didn't much care for hummus, though i later turned her on to garlic-flavored hummus.

for entrees, i had the beyti kebab, which sort of looks like a burrito covered with tomato sauce. it was pretty tasty, but if i had realized that "wrapped with lavash bread" meant "it looks like a burrito", i might have ordered something else. virago wisely ordered the kofte, which i think was pretty much what i got minus the burrito-like format. she seemed to enjoy it, and i sampled a bite, which tasted pretty good. both meals were served with rice (and it's difficult to mess up rice, but this rice was better than average), green beans (which i didn't eat, so i can't vouch for them), and some kind of cold potato salad (also good).

baklava is one of virago's absolute favorite desserts, so much like we needed to try the hummus, we also had little choice but to try the baklava. after all, this was a birthday celebration, not just any old meal.

most baklava i've had was served cold, or room temperature at the warmest, and very crisp and crunchy. maybe it was a fluke of timing, but the baklava we were served at bosphorus was warm, fresh, and gooey, with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. it was delightful. this was the first time i've ever been wowed by baklava.

after our lovely meal, we headed back to virago's apartment, where we played civ iv: warlords for awhile, handily defeating the "alexander the great" scenario, before settling down to watch chappelle's show on dvd.

virago had bought me chappelle's show: the lost episodes on dvd. this dvd includes all the sketches dave chappelle had filmed before he freaked out & left the show. i'd been a little disappointed with the episodes that comedy central aired. while those episodes had a few really strong sketches, overall you could tell why dave had been uncomforable with the new season: there was a lot of material about dave struggling to adjust to his new stardom and riches, and many of the other sketches just weren't as good as the show was during the peak of the second season. furthermore, this material was filmed in 2004 and 2005, so humor that should be topical was already dated by the time it was aired (it's a bit odd to be watching "dean scream" jokes in summer 2006... even the wingnuts gave up on that months ago). but after watching some of the unaired sketches and deleted scenes from the dvd, i have a more favorable opinion. some of the unaired material was as strong or stronger than the sketches that made the cut. i guess they didn't think they had enough material for four episodes, but had too much for three.

other notable gifts: my parents, in addition to giving me some cash, looked at my amazon wishlist and ordered flow my tears, the policeman said and strangers with candy - the complete series. how cool is that? thank you, amazon, for enabling my parents to buy me subversive comedy without me having to explain to them what it is. (though i think i did mention at the dinner table that we had seen the strangers with candy movie last month.) and thanks to everyone who got me a gift, hasn't gotten me one yet but will, or simply sent their birthday wishes.

Friday, August 04, 2006 
lordy lordy, look who's thirty
tomorrow is my 30th birthday. i don't feel any older. then again, i didn't notice any real difference when i hit 18 or 21 or 25, either.

30 is supposed to be one of those major milestones, but that's just a quirk of the base 10 numeral system. after all, 30 in base 10 is only 1E in hex, or 00011110 in binary. just don't count your age in octal. (in octal, i'm turning 36.)

i'm writing this today because i expect to be too busy celebrating (or just relaxing) tomorrow to spend any time on the blog. virago & i will be going out to dinner, either at bosphorus or asaka. beyond that, i'm not sure if we'll end up going out and doing stuff (maybe seeing a movie, like clerks II) or just sit around and play civ IV: warlords the rest of the day. (no matter what else we do, we'll almost assuredly spend some time playing warlords.)

if you feel compelled to get me a gift for some reason, you can check out my amazon wishlist. but frankly, now that i'm a freelancer, what i really need these days is income. so for my birthday, why not consider buying yourself a gift from the awia shop? i have bunches of records and t-shirts lying around, just waiting for someone like you to buy. it sure would be nice to be able to get rid of some of them. hell, i'll even give you a bulk discount on records or shirts if you buy more than three of either item.

well, that's my birthday sales pitch. i'm off to go grab some dinner with virago and start enjoying my weekend. i might check back in on sunday.

about tonight's show in muncie...
due to scheduling difficulties, "bobby vomit vs stAllio!" will not be performing tonight at village green records. our apologies go out to anyone who was looking forward to seeing us play.

the show itself is still going down, though, and as far as i know, being, pommel, and pocket gallows are still playing. i've seen being play and they're pretty good, so it should be a decent show even without us.

meanwhile, back at the bureau...
i've been a bit slow with the blogging lately, so i didn't get around to mentioning the problems at the indiana bmv until this week—and only because i knew i had to go in to get my driver's license renewed. i wanted to recount my experience, but i wanted my readers to have some background information first, so i went searching for news articles about the bmv's computer woes.

at the time, pickings were slim. there were articles from early july, when the computers first broke. there were the occasional statements there was an indy star editorial demanding accountability for silverman's mistakes. there wasn't much else, so i had to make do with what i had at the time.

if i'd waited a couple days, i would've had a lot more options.

first came mary beth schneider's article in the star detailing some of the lingering problems that arose during the rollout of the bmv's $34 million new computer system:

Accuracy: The state can guarantee the accuracy of official driving records only until June 30, just before the conversion to the new system took place. The BMV expects all records to be accurate by the end of this week.

Police: Police continue to have problems with incomplete or confusingly presented data when they try to check a motorist's driving record, registration or license. Silverman blamed those problems on formatting, and the way the police and BMV systems interact. Both the State Police and the BMV have said the bureau's data are accurate -- but say making it available to police in a usable form should be a high priority.

Suspensions: Reinstatement of suspended driver's licenses can be performed only at three branches statewide -- Indianapolis, Evansville and Fort Wayne. Previously, this could be done at eight locations.

then tdw got her hands on an embarrassing memo to prosecutors explaining that "driver records for the month of July may be incomplete and should not be certified for use in court at this time." so not only are traffic cops unable to do their jobs, but the records aren't fit for the court system, either.

if all that wasn't bad enough, then came the argument over late fees. the bureau's computer problems had caused massive delays for many customers. customers who would normally transact their business online or using self-service kiosks were particularly screwed, as these services have been down quite a bit. some of these inconvenienced customers missed missed deadlines due to bmv errors, and understandably felt that their late fees should be waived. joel silverman, displaying the trademark aversion to customer service that has earned him hate across the state, told these customers, in so many words, to suck it:

Commissioner Joel Silverman on Wednesday said that customers with July 31 registration renewal deadlines should have made their transactions on time.

"Every one of them could have come into a branch and got their business done," Silverman told 6News' Norman Cox. "It's the responsibility of our customers to make sure they get it done on time.

"Just like you've got to file your taxes on April 15, you've got to register your car on July 31 if that's your deadline."

Silverman on Wednesday offered no sympathy for people who couldn't use self-service terminals.

"There's often times throughout the history of self-service terminals since I've been here where they haven't been working, and I think that's just the risk you run," Silverman said.

When Silverman closed some license branches last year, part of his reasoning was that in-person transactions were inefficient and that people should use other means such as the agency's Web site and self-service terminals.

When Cox reminded Silverman that he had urged people to use avenues other than license branches, Silverman responded: "Yeah, but if they're not available, obviously you can't use it."

translation: it's customers' own fault if they missed the deadline, because they should have known our systems are FUBAR.

this proved to be hugely unpopular and the governor had to do damage control the next day, declaring that july late fees would be waived after all, and customers who had already been charged late fees would have their fees refunded... somehow, eventually.

this system might look good on paper, and if they can ever get it working (as silverman keeps insisting it will) it could be pretty cool. but it was clearly not ready for roll-out. someday, this will make a fascinating case study for how not to implement large computer systems. but for now, it's just a nightmare that is not only inconveniencing thousands of hoosiers, but interfering with the state's legal system.

update: the governor is now hinting that he just might fire silverman after all... but not until after the computer problems are fixed:

[F]or the first time, he said the agency's leadership may face repercussions over the fiasco surrounding the installation of a new computer system last month.

Daniels, a former top executive at Eli Lilly and Co., said that if something had gone this badly at Lilly, "there would have been repercussions, and there may well be (at the BMV)."

Silverman, a former executive at the now-defunct Galyans sporting-goods chain, has prided himself on running the agency more like a business.

Thursday, August 03, 2006 
rock the record store
update: this show is still happening, but because of scheduling conflicts, bobby vomit can't make it. as i was only going to improvise with him, i won't be going, either. but the show itself is still happening. being puts on a good show, and the other acts are probably cool, so check it out if you're in muncie. but we won't be there.

update!! i just got an email from bobby vomit saying this show is cancelled. sorry for the inconvenience.

i almost forgot that bobby vomit and i will be playing at village green records in muncie friday night. (the village green website is a myspace page that amusingly has more spam for a show at big car that night than for the show that's happening at village green, a fact which is all the more ironic considering that bobby & i are both scheduled to play an upcoming "electronic music" event at big car that was at one point scheduled for august 4th. but i digress.)

here's the info:

Aug 4th 7 pm @ Village Green Records, 519 N. Martin St. in the village

Pommel Chicago-based thunder and lightning

Pocket Gallows lo/no-wave

Being harsh noise for lovers

Bobby Vomit vs stAllio! some kind of improvised noise

i was unable to locate a website for pocket gallows.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 
an afternoon in purgatory
i arrived at the nora license branch at 11:07 a.m. the sign-in desk is located in the far corner of the branch, and the line to check in stretched from there to the entrance. there were more people sitting or standing around waiting than there were chairs in the lobby, so people collected near the entrance and sat on the windowsills.

the first thing i heard clearly upon entering was a woman on her cell phone explaining to someone that she'd been there for an hour and a half, and expected to be able to leave soon, but had no idea, really. a few seconds later, i listened to a man describing how this was his fifth visit to the bureau in as many weeks; the bmv's downed computers and paperwork snafus had prevented him from completing his registration during his previous four visits. over the course of my visit, i overheard several more such conversations.

at 11:27 a.m. i reached the sign-in desk. the woman there scanned my driver's license and administered my brief vision test ("press your forehead against the bar and read line 5"), which i passed. she then instructed me to sit down and my wait for my name to be called. i took a seat on the windowsill by the entrance.

visiting the indiana bmv in the silverman era is a decidedly kafkaesque experience. i mentioned in my previous post that silverman had all the clocks removed from license branch walls. i guess the idea is that if there are no clocks, customers can't spend all their time staring at them, which is supposed to make visits seem shorter. but it doesn't really work like that. instead, the clockless walls make the branch feel like you're trapped in some kind of timeless limbo. this feeling was augmented by the fact that there were never fewer than 80–100 people in the lobby at any time, many of whom had been there long enough that they started getting chummy with the people around them, developing single-serving friendships and even de facto social groups. the people sitting by the windows became comforting, familiar faces to me over time. one woman left to go eat lunch (the nora bmv is conveniently located in a strip mall in between a subway and china king II), and came back to find all the same people who'd been sitting there when she left some 30 minutes earlier.

another silverman change (i'm pretty sure it's one of silverman's) is that you no longer get a number when you sign in. you just sit down and wait for someone to call your name. the net result is that, from the point of view of the bmv patrons, there is no discernible logic to who gets called when. some people seemed to sit around for hours. others were called multiple times, only to sit back down each time. still others came in much later than i had, only to leave much earlier. (and that doesn't include the many people who turned around and left rather than suffer the long wait. i lost count of how many people i saw do that, but it was at least 20.) however, whoever took down all the clocks didn't think to take down or even turn off the big "now calling" sign, which remained stuck at 21, as though if customer #21 would ever show up, the line would start moving and everyone could go home.

i have to assume that there was some underlying logic determining who was called. after all, the bmv offers a number of services, and it seemed each bmv employee was only taking care of particular services—some people were doing driver's licenses, others were doing registrations, and others were doing titles—but with so many people waiting for so long, and with no way to ascertain when you might be called, it felt like some sort of lottery. who would be the next lucky winner? i started fantasizing about hearing the price is right music whenever another person was called. "stAllio!, come on down!"

around 12:15 or 12:30, i started to wonder whether someone had already called my name and i had simply missed it somehow. i'd been listening intently the whole time, but an hour had passed since i'd checked in, which started to seem unreasonable considering i was waiting for a simple driver's license renewal. this wasn't the first time i'd spent more than an hour in the bmv, but not (i didn't think) for something so routine. occam's razor would suggest that maybe i just didn't hear my name over the background noise of 100 bored patrons chatting with each other. of course, this wasn't the case, but i had to wonder.

finally, at 1:10 p.m. i thought i heard someone say my name. i wasn't positive that i had, or who had said it, but i got up and walked toward the area where i suspected the licenses were being made (near the camera and blue backdrop for id photos). one of the employees there was standing up, and sure enough, it was my turn.

the employee asked whether my address was the same, and i told her it wasn't. i produced a piece of mail featuring my new address (my latest mortgage escrow analysis, which i figured would be official enough), which she photocopied. she then spent a few minutes typing, had me sign a couple things, charged me $21, and told me to sit back down. my license would be ready in a couple minutes.

while near the counter, i noticed the fliers that were taped to the backs of many of the computer monitors. "How long is YOUR wait time?" they asked, proudly proclaiming that your wait time is printed on your receipt, and explaining that "your wait time is the time between when you check in and when you pay" (paraphrase). so your official bmv wait time does not include the time you spent waiting at the sign-in line (20 minutes in my case), nor any time you might spend after you have paid while you wait for your finished license. fortunately, my license was indeed ready in a couple minutes.

i walked out the door at 1:20, new driver's license in hand. my official bmv wait time, as listed on my receipt, was 01:45:46. according to my watch, i was there for around 2 hours and 13 minutes. as i walked out, an attractive asian woman who had also just received her license remarked to me, "well, that was a fun way to spend half an afternoon!"

for the curious, my new driver's license photo is not very good—we're in the middle of a massive heat wave so i was sweaty, and my hair never behaves well in heavy humidity—but it could be worse. i would consider scanning it to post, but i don't have a scanner. (not that i wouldn't love to have one; i just don't have space for one in my work area.)

update: today's indy star has a nice story on the bmv's woes, including many fascinating details i haven't mentioned. check it out.

a time for renewal
my driver's license expires this week, which means i need to go in to the bmv to get a new one. i've been dreading this, as a recent computer "upgrade" at the indiana bmv went horribly awry. even now, three weeks later, bmv customers still face extended waits, with some people waiting for hours only to leave without what they came for.

in fact, the motor bureau systems are now so fouled up that police are running into problems pulling up driver records—driver info is incomplete and often incorrect. people whose licenses should be suspended are walking away with new driver's licenses. so if you want to drive in indiana with a suspended license, now is the time to do it: even if you get pulled over, there's still a chance you'll get away with it.

the computer foul-up has triggered a new rash of anger directed toward bmv commissioner joel silverman, who was already unpopular after closing branches and removing all the clocks from branch walls. (walls without clocks might work in casinos, but they have things to keep visitors distracted, like gambling and cocktail waitresses in skimpy outfits who bring you free booze, neither of which are available at your local license branch.) a new petition demanding that mitch daniels fire silverman currently has more than 1100 signatures, many of which have comments and personal testimonies of nightmare bmv visits, including some that the south bend tribune says "can't be repeated in a family newspaper."

i haven't heard a lot of complaints about people getting driver's licenses renewed—most problems seem to involve license plates and titles—but in typical bureaucratic style, visitors often need to wait in line at the sign-in desk for extended periods of time before progressing to the more advanced stages of waiting. so even if the line for driver's licenses is short, i could potentially be stuck there for hours.

so i'll be heading there in the next couple days, possibly in the morning when i get up. i plan to bring a pen and take notes regarding my progress as well as the general mood inside the place. expect a follow-up post shortly, perhaps tuesday afternoon.

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