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August 2000

Wednesday 8-30
Excellent Feed essay, The Perfect Storm -- Mark Crispin Miller describes and deconstructs the topsy-turvy propaganda generated during the Desert Shield/Desert Storm operations:
Throughout the war (and after), the Bush/Cheney team repeatedly extolled our high-tech weaponry: the F-117A Stealth fighter, the "smart bombs," and the Patriot missile. None worked as advertised. Of the 88,000 tons of bombs dropped on Iraq, only 7% were "smart," and of those, only 60% were said to hit their targets. (Of all those dumb bombs, less than 25% hit home.) The Patriot -- not built for such a job -- created lethal downpours of debris, and seems itself to have posed considerable danger. And the Stealth fighter wasn't very stealthy. Three British destroyers stationed in the Gulf had easily tracked the planes on their own radar. We knew none of this, because the Pentagon showed us only bull's-eyes.

We were also kept in grinning ignorance of what was happening on the battlefield, where untold thousands of Iraqi soldiers were incinerated, buried alive, or shot down while retreating -- soldiers who, in many instances, were forced into the fight by Ba'athist goons. Such atrocious practice was enabled by our overwhelming technological advantage, which made the "operation" not a "war" such as, say, Clausewitz would have recognized, but an old-fashioned imperialist massacre, recalling, say, the British use of Maxim guns to mow down countless Zulus.

Two non-governmental flags:
On the left, the Aboriginal Flag, which you may notice just off-screen during next month's coverage of the Olympics -- more information about this and other flags of Oz at Ausflags. On the right is the Buddhist flag, which was unknown to me until I read up on the self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc -- his protest is depicted in one of the Screenshots -- see below.

Friday 8-25
Screenshots is "a series of drawings from an isometric perspective, in the style of a computer game. The subject of each drawing is the image, or images, that created a popular cultural event."
(Thanks Justin)

Lost America offers tiny reproductions of the work of night photagrapher Troy Paiva, who'd rather you buy his beautiful prints than see them online. Fortunately I don't have to squint at the entire collection since he's currently having a show in the lobby of Mountain View's Center for the Performing Arts. (Click that to see a representational image, larger.)

A site called "Modern Ruins" has a New York World's Fair section among others with photos of the military airplane graveyard in Arizona, plus Ellis and Coney Island, and many more.
(Thanks GMT+9)

Another photo site, great design:
Under New York.
(Thanks Dave)

And speaking of the Apple, here's a good assessment lifted from the Pigs&Fishes guy's natter:

On the spectrum from City to whatever the opposite of City is (Suburb? Country?), New York anchors the City end. There's just nothing Citier in the world, or in all human history.
I think the opposite of City is Wilderness, or maybe a vacuum.

Thursday 8-24
Space Art in Children's Books 1950s-1970s contains a multitude of beautiful images, a great many of them familar from my childhood. Those without the patience to wade through all of it should focus on Clifford Geary, Willy Ley and Chesley Bonestell.
(Thanks PCJM!)
Wednesday 8-23
Recent roller coaster/thrill ride article in Feed, Ride It Like You Just Don't Care -- lots of details, both physical and legislative.
This summer, the record for tallest and fastest continuous coaster was set three times: first by Goliath at Magic Mountain near Los Angeles, then by Millennium Force at Cedar Point in Sanduski, Ohio, [and finally] by Steel Dragon at Japan's Nagashima Spaland. (Figures omitted, check the article if interested.) And Son of Beast at Kings Island near Cincinnati broke multiple records for a traditional wooden structure: a 214 foot initial drop, a top speed of 78 mph, and the first ever wooden loop.
Also in Feed, an interview with Scott McCloud. Among other recent additions, like a whole new Japan section, I've placed a pointer to his excellent online Zot! comic on my links page.
Tuesday 8-22
At the bottom of CNN's obituary to the inventor of the Lava Lite was a pointer to this penultimate list of lava lamp links, which apparently haven't been updated in over a year. Many of them are busted, but a few offer how-to instructions. Since my own attempts all failed, way back when, just after initial exposure, I'm curious -- seems the ingrediants are a blend of alcohols, and mineral oil? I find this difficult to believe, the assumption was always the lava is either wax or some plastic, since it so obviously hardens when the light's turned off. Speculation at Lava Lamp Materials discriminates between the homegrown oil/alcohol imitation and the genuine article, whose lava could be wax mixed with some powder or even a little gasoline.

More on "gravitas" -- it's Latin! How I wish I'd been made to learn this language in school. Couldn't locate a definition in any English, French or Spanish dictionary; but William Whitaker's Words gives the following synonyms:
weight, dignity, gravity, importances, oppressiveness, pregnancy, and sickness.

Excellent Jon Carroll column yesterday, The Very Fine Five Commandments, where he details the disagreements non-Christians have with the rest of them, how some faiths even find certain of the other seven offensive and why that's a problem. Also he describes the hypocrisy surrounding the graven images and that difficult issue of coveting. although he doesn't probe too deeply into the honoring one God thing which I think leaves a lot of Christians skating on really thin ice: many factions emphasize the Holy Trinity with its vaguerly defined "Holy Ghost" (note: 3 != 1), and my impression is the Catholics go way overboard with the Holy Virgin Mary, just as the Islamics do with the Prophet Mohammed -- but evidence of the latter's not so obvious, since they take the ban on images seriously.

The National Capital Trolley Museum site has a 1958 DC Transit Trolley map, with clickable icons. They spawn new windows containing beautiful color photos of the trolleys in operation at the selected points.

The Cyber Toaster Museum is amazing.
(Thanks GMT+9)

Sunday 8-20
Yesterday was a two-movie day, my first since 1988 when I saw "Tucker" at (Grau)Mann's Chinese, and then a preview screening of "Married to the Mob" at the Director's Guild, up on Sunset. Must've attended double features before that, and I know I've sat through Beatle and Clint Eastwood festivals, but that was in an era so long ago I'd now label it pre-history, as far as the cinema goes. That much screen-sitting time in one day is too much, and in both experiences the later film tended to dilute memories of the earlier. First was "The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle" up at the Red Vic, down Haight street from Amoeba, just past the tasty "Escape From New York" pizzeria. Alternating between fascinating and irritating, this was band manager Malcom Mclaren's telling of the Sex Pistols story. Then at the Stanford, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." The charm of this film is elusive -- the large crowd roared when it was 'funny,' but I hardly ever laughed -- yes, Danny Kaye was a nice guy, but his fast-talking schtick does nothing for me, and the story just didn't send me. Loved the technicolor footage of late 1940's Manhatttan, though, and could certainly relate to the program notes' anecdote that Thurber offered Goldwyn $10K not to produce his short story for the big screen.

Friday 8-18
Today's Bleat has photos of the decorative props Lileks' local supermarket hung up for their "48-hour Fresh Fruit Jamboree Blowout" -- Mighty Mister Broc must be a distant relative of Wunderland's own Tirade, and a pair of beshaded bananas resemble Mac Tonight.

Are you morbidly fascinated about the details of how famous (ie show business) people died? Probably not near as much as Scott Michaels, the author of Find-a-Death.com and creator of the Grave Line Tour, who writes with a perfect mix of sarcasm and reverence. The entries include very precise addresses (so useful during those exploratory driving drives around LA) and many photos, mostly snapped by Scott, who sure seems to get around.
(Thanks Pop Culture Junk Mail.)
The cases I found absorbing include Flo Ballard (the Supreme); Humphrey Bogart; Nat King Cole; Peg Entwistle; the Munsters, Adamms Family, Beverly Hillbillies and Gilligan's Island casts; River Phoenix; Ed Wood; and of course, Elvis and Frank.

Nancy Sinatra was foolish enough to admit that the reason she wasn't at Dad's side when the curtain rang down was because she was home watching the final episode of "Seinfeld," adding sadly, "I could have taped it!"
Enjoying the vicarious pleasure of traveling along with my trusted amateur movie critic from North Carolina, Mike Legeros, as he motored home, cross-country from Seattle. A specially interesting detail: his vehicle, in true On the Road style, was a 'driveaway' car.

Thursday 8-17
The Recipezaar page lists a multitude of food item checkboxes -- you select the ones you've got on hand, hit the "Search" button, and links to viable recipes are generated.
(Thanks Bird on a Wire)

Alisa Sanada's realjapan.net -- lots of great information, with a focus on contemporary city life (rather than traditional Japan), and good design -- she's a Japanese-American high school girl from Virginia. Gaming types may want to jump right into her Arcade Mania section, a sequence of pages describing machines unknown in the US.

How does (did? The column fell off my radar screen many years ago) "News of the Weird" group stories like this -- "The Continuing Crisis"?

A once thriving fishing industry off the coast of New York lies ruined, after the mysterious death of 95% of the local lobster population. The prime suspects are pesticides -- which have been sprayed over the surrounding area in a desperate attempt to prevent another outbreak of West Nile virus.

Scientists estimate it will take at least 10 years for the population to recover.

Wednesday 8-16
It's Elvis' Death Day, and Graceland is the place to be, for the candlelight vigil. (Maybe, finally, this is the year He'll come back!) Couldn't find a webcam pointed at the gates (although this brief text page has some relevant statistics) but if you're interested in all that's happening there, this official page details the events you could attend in Memphis during "Elvis Week."
Tuesday 8-15
Sunken U-Boats in the news -- thankfully, something interesting's happened to sweep away the boring coverage from the this week's big Party Convention. CNN provides backgroud on the Squalus rescue and mentions the Thresher and Scorpion disasters; and the LA Times describes how some crew escaped from the WWII-era Tang, which shot itself with their last torpedo -- that article's punctuated with pictures of the Kursk in happier times. Meanwhile, lots of information from Charleston about the raising of the CSA's Hunley.

From the world of Pochacco, Badtz-Maru, and Kerropi, a Hello Kitty Cafe opened in June, in Oahu -- the first if its kind in the USA. (Of course we've had Sanrio stores for a while here, and I actually know my way around their huge two-story affair just off Market Street up in the City.) Daihatsu is now marketing their "Move" automobile in a Kitty-chan edition (as she's known at the source) -- check the options. Walking past the local McDonalds, I noticed posters promoting the new "Hello Kitty Happy Meals" taped to the windows (this Sanrio page has pictures of the prizes) and thought, this stuff is garish, of course; but in an oddly unnatural fashion, out of phase with the Mayor McCheese and the Hamburglar style. Even worse were the adjacent "cheesecake" posters of Britney Spears and N'Sync, a band I recently heard compared to Herman's Hermits, as in: kids these days don't get to have the Beatles, just Herman's Hermits -- but I disagree, they're not comparable. The latter group did in fact have memorable, catchy songs -- even some quality material, if you can move beyond their biggest hit.
(Don't know who I'm talking about? Collins Crapo has a decent, comprehensive page about this band -- and the thorough scrutineer of his site will come across a sample list from my own running-tape tunes, the nature of which he misunderstood -- but I don't mind.)

Sunday 8-13
Franksville: "dedicated to digging the music of Frank Sinatra."
(Thanks GMT+9)
Friday 8-11
Unreal (actually, all too real) -- so far my exposure to "R2K" had just been text, and the only stories I've found compelling were the atrocities visited upon the demonstrators outside. This Purposeful World is Tom Tomorrow's summary of the convention, in "This Modern World" style, depicting what went on inside. More details of his visit to Philadelphia are available on his fascinating, annotated photo pages -- on the last one he quotes (the probably loaded) Dick Armey, when they met: "You guys make me cry! In my kitchen! You really do!" (Find the quote for the context, but I like it taken out of. They were not in a kitchen at the time.)

Hysterical Japanese Engrish samples -- link puts you into the recent discoveries section. (Thanks Lindsay).
Previous sites of this nature I've pointed out before include japan knees engrish and Dan's jenglish but this new one's the most extensive -- and unlike the other two, still being updated.

Giant Robot has upgraded their site's entry interface and added more features, like the "transmissions." The one online article available from their latest issue tackles the difference between Geek and Nerd:

As pure nerds have become rarer, their image has been appropriated by socially slumming impostors. Polyester-wearing hipsters with fake lisps, pale twigs behind turntables, big guys in Hawaiian shirts, and others, all united at the altar of Star Wars, have corrupted the original concept of the lowly nerd.
Reminds me of when Slate detailed the differences between Nerd and Nebbish. That article's etymological discussion claimed that "nerd" was in prominent use by the 50s, but when I recall my own late-60s school days I believe "twerp" was the polite label and "dork" the stronger put-down -- "nerd" didn't become part of the popular vocabulary until the 1980s, in my area.

Good non-specific FAQ.

Thursday 8-10
While searching on the term "mendicant" I came across Nick Arnett's essays. One of them 'revisits' Martin Luther's 95 theses, nailed to the door of the Wittenberg church -- it'll begin his Media Trap, a forthcoming book which, based on these excerpts, I look forward to reading. He's very interested in parallels between the medieval Church and contemporary Big Media.

The IMDb features this beautiful painting of the end of "Planet of the Apes" -- seems to be a component of "PofA - The Evolution," a forthcoming set of six DVDs.

Why do all these strange things happen to Dan Rather, and not Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, or Jim Lehrer?
(Thanks Bird on a wire)

Wednesday 8-9
SCA: The Society for Commercial Archeology -- "the oldest national organization devoted to the buildings, artifacts, structures, signs, and symbols of the 20th-century commercial landscape" -- although not now, in the past I've had a subscription to their high-quality newsletter.

Antique Hollywood Postcards -- Vintage postcards from LA -- a few comics, too. Really weird how frequently the last sentence of a postcard's caption is "Scientologists have now taken over this building."

Good new issue of The Nation -- E. L. Doctorow slams the non-reformation of campaign financing, "...the rampant corruption in Washington, the vast, deep and dangerous mutant character of the present state of things" and Arianna Huffington writes Notes from a Recovering Republican:

The indisputable fact that America has become two nations is brought home every day that politicians celebrate our unprecedented prosperity while one in four children live below the poverty line and people with full-time jobs sleep on buses because of the lack of affordable housing. And it is no less obvious every day the same politicians fail to do, or even say, anything about our disastrous Drug War. (Though it remains hugely popular with helicopter manufacturers and prison contractors...) Yet both parties deny that the drug war has not only failed to stem the tide of drug use but it is also driving America into an ever-tightening state of lockdown--with 2 million behind bars.
I think she's great.

Tuesday 8-7
Facing divorce? Various friends of mine are entering that all-too-common terminal phase of marriage (and others I know who aren't yet really should be, to restore their serenity). The Divorce Center summarizes the details in handy tables, for all fifty states.

Deja Vu's History of the Web features archaic browser emulators. (Requires Netscape 4 or equivalent to work properly.)

Monday 8-7
Beautiful night-time NASA GIF of Europe, North Africa and the area the US military likes to call "SWA." (= South West Asia, a place of happy memories for them -- unlike SEA. We had no business shooting up either theater, IMO.)

Check Sam Smith's Progressive Review under August 3 where (in response to my query) he discusses gravitas, a strange term the media often use in conjunction with the Republican presidential candidate. (He says it's the opposite of "airhead.")

Basically, gravitas is one of those words that serves a Washington correspondent much as "like, you know" serves a teenager. It stalls for time, substitutes for thought, and identifies you as a certified member of the right group.
Had an all-day adventure up in the City yesterday, where I spotted a great bumper sticker. While searching for the slogan (which seems to be one of NOW's, though I find it applicable to all manner of the world's troubles, not just male hegemony) came across Marla's personal credo of lessons learned -- she's lists 39 little of these little chunks of wisdom. Another recent bumper sticker observation (on a car on my street):
The hell does that mean? To Serve Man?

The Irwin Allen News Network is at www.iann.net -- just in case, for example, you need to check a "Time Tunnel" episode guide.

Friday 8-4
Probing around the Life magazine cover archive -- fans of "The Right Stuff" will enjoy these two from September, 1959 (click to zoom).

"Thomas and the Magic Railroad" opens around these parts this weekend, another movie spin-off from a television program. The appeal of the Thomas Tank Engine show is baffling to me (and I love the railroad) -- if the train-faces can change expressions, why don't their lips move when they speak? Weird. Saw the preview, it was quite enough; although the presence of Peter Fonda was mildly intriging, where was Ringo?

Mike points towards the Daytopia Fragments, a project whose obscure intricacy reminds me of the Codex Seraphinianus.

Thursday 8-3
Another CNN roller coaster story says the new Steel Dragon of Nagashima Spaland in Mie Prefecture is the world's biggest, tallest, deepest. Looking at the photos, I wouldn't want to be caught riding it during an earthquake.
Wednesday 8-2
Accident inside Space Mountain Monday -- everything stopped, and they turned on the lights. Wonder if anybody was stuck while their car was at an angle -- last year in Kentucky people were trapped for hours that way, out in the sun, some on a section where the track (and their car) was almost vertical, banked for a curve. A (possibly moribund) site called "World of Coasters" chronicles roller coaster accidents since 1973.

WWWeb Notes:
Attended a seminar at work today about Section 508 -- this is the federal mandate that all governmental web content must be accessible to the disabled. It's still a draft, won't be law until something is signed; but it's imminent and once passed there'll be a six month grace period to comply. I agree with many aspects of this; one in particular is an acknowledgement that people use older browsers -- incredibly, they'll be accomodated (rather than receiving the usual irritating admonishment to upgrade). Therefore expect new authoritarian pressures: for one, resistance to the increasing tendency I'm observing of using the Javascript (or ECMAScript, if you must use a Microsoft browser) "onClick" event handler to link rather than the basic <A HREF> tag. (I often have Javascript, and almost always have Java turned off in my browser of choice: Netscape 3.) An interesting link they mentioned in the seminar was this Lynx Viewer which simulates a page's appearance when viewed with text-only Lynx software.

Tuesday 8-1
Great new Notes and Recommendations from Phil Agre -- in the middle section, more explanations of the rhetorical tricks the media's foisting upon us, how they're making Republicans (even more) irrational.
When Bush won the primary in South Carolina, the press swung violently away from McCain -- the safe conservative choice from their point of view -- to Bush. The before-and-after contrast in coverage is amazing. Bush's evil campaign tactics did not change after South Carolina; what changed is the media's willingness to print the Republicans' attack messages as truth.

Polls show that voters agree with the Democrats on the issues, but they are willing to consider a vote for the party of tobacco, guns, impeachment, and the religious right because of "character" -- because of the slime they hear in the media.

The people who are ambitious enough to succeed in the media are also ambitious enough to see which way the wind is blowing and get on the side that's winning, and they clearly see something that most of us do not.


Speaking of conservatives, Harry Potter. No, I haven't read the books -- no interest since it's too popular a phenomenon. (Like Scott Adams' analysis I once heard in a radio interview -- he said there's people who like new and quirky things... if and when these things move into the mainstream, the appeal vanishes. I'm one of those people.) Of course, the Muggles trend is too big to avoid; my favorite recent reaction is the cover of Harvey's latest American Splendor which pictures him falling asleep, while reading from a Rowling book to his new foster child. Anyway, Chris Mooney documents the varying conservatve reactions to the series. Not all factions are disagreeable.

And speaking of too-popular trends, how about this lame site: the Society for Future Husbands of Britney Spears. My brain!

On the other hand, which is more pathetic: just that I know who Bubbles, Buttercup and Blossom are; or that I can tell which one is which? (And I've never even seen their show, since I live in a cable-free environment.)

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