Friday, September 30, 2005

time to cancel my membership?

i've been a member of suicidegirls for a while. not my favorite porn/erotica site; not even my favorite alt-porn site. but i joined and kept my membership, dropping by occasionally to browse because 1: the girls are hot, 2: the photosets are well composed, and 3: they had a good "story".

the sg story was that the site was founded by missy as a place where "punk" and alterna-girls could empower themselves by posing for pinups. the girls weren't just models: they were active, cherished members of the community with their own journals, and they had complete creative control over their sets. it's generally very soft—often too soft for me (no penetration ever and even glimpses of public hair seem somewhat rare), but presumably that was because the girls themselves wanted their sets soft... though i did sometimes wonder whether sg would post a truly hardcore set if that's how the model wanted it. (my conclusion was that they wouldn't, and i longed for a site somewhere in between sg and eroticbpm [formerly known as raverporn.net] that would at least occasionally get a bit more hardcore like ebpm does, but with new content added more frequently, like on sg.)

sg always looked pretty slick for an "alt-porn" site, with high quality (though soft) content, and quickly became the premier alt-porn site, with a bustling community. (i was never particularly interested in the community part.) and recently the sg empire has grown and grown, including a feature on hbo's real sex, a national burleque tour, an affiliation with playboy, and a new dvd that is apparently distributed by epitaph records.

recently i stopped by the site and noticed that they were now posting something like four new photosets a day (an average of one set every six hours, according to the site). this was a marked change from the old format, which was two sets a day: one from a new suicidegirl and one from a "classic" girl. but i didn't think too much of it.

until yesterday, that is, until i happened to be browsing boingboing and i came across this post.

Punk rock pinup site Suicide Girls has been the subject of much internet rumorage recently, on two fronts. First, problems between management and models; second, rumors that an FBI porn squad "cracked down" on SG, ordering the to take down certain images.

wha huh? a mass model exodus? an fbi investigation? as the boingboing post points out, sg wasn't ordered to remove any content; they voluntarily removed it just in case, which sort of damages their image of protecting the artistic vision and expression of their models and photographers:

The language of this post led many to assume the FBI must have contacted SG to order that they take down images. That didn't happen. It would seem unlikely that a still-in-formation antismut force would pick SG as its first target, anyway, given the abundance of far more hardcore sites on the internet -- SG doesn't feature penetration or actual sex acts, just cute goth girls frolicking about in nothing but their tattoos. Despite this, rumors continued to proliferate on blogs and mailing list ("feds shut down suicide girls!!!", "FBI fscks SG!", "Bush bones goth erotica site!").

But today, SG's Missy explains that the image takedown wasn't the result of contact by the FBI or any other authorities -- the site's management chose to pre-emptively remove certain photos. Missy tells Boing Boing:

While we do not believe any of our images are illegal, SG has removed a number of images in order to ensure that we are not targeted by the U.S. Government's new "War on Porn."

We have received no formal government notice to remove these images, however, in the course of our involvement, as witnesses, in a federal criminal prosecution that does not target SG, we have been made aware of the risks posting such content poses the owners of the company.

Given the U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' new war on porn task force and it's intent to bring obscenity charges against their loosely defined "Deviant" imagery, we have removed any images with fake blood and any images we felt could be wrongfully construed as sadist or masochist.

the fake blood and bondage sets were never my favorite, but i know a lot of people who are into that sort of thing. and isn't stuff like that what makes an alt-porn site "alt"? shannon larratt and many others take sg to task for readily taking down their content, without even being asked, when faced with even the slightest suggestion of possible first-amendment troubles.

but what's this about being "witnesses" in a "federal criminal prosecution"? in a follow up, a (male) sg representative explains that sg was simply helping prosecute someone who allegedly "intruded" into sg's computers. the prosecutor wanted a full list of all the nastiest stuff on the site, in case the defense were to bring it up in court in an attempt to discredit sg's testimony. (ad hominem attacks like "they make nasty porno, therefore you can't trust 'em" sometimes work on juries.) sg happily complied, but then thought "hey, now that the feds have that list, they might try to use it against us!" now such a strategy sounds a lot like entrapment, which is illegal. and the feds have much better targets since there are about 50 million sites out there that're more potentially offensive than the raunchiest stuff on sg. but sg claims that the mere existence of the list was enough to frighten them into taking the content down.

still, even taking this version of the story with no salt added, it's hard to accept missy's classification of sg as "witnesses" here. okay, it's a criminal case, so sg isn't the plaintiff. but if someone mugs you and you see their face, that doesn't make you a witness—you're the victim. and if the mugger goes to trial based on your testimony, that still doesn't make you a witness—you're the victim and the accuser.

so what's the case really about? when you take the story with a couple grains of salt, the flavor gets richer. here's what the other side has to say:

DN was conceived in January 2003.

Sean sent an email to the founders of Deviant Nation about 3 months before they actually got served. This email sent in February informed them that SG was in the process of filing a lawsuit against them after zotting them all.
...
Several months later, 2 out of the 4 DN founders were served with a complaint alleging, among many things, that they had hacked SG and stolen their code to create DN. The suit claimed that a SG user cgrant had hacked them with Administrator access in APRIL 2003. So they were suing them for stealing their code in April but notified them of the suit a month before. (Very intelligent by the way). SG's complaint asked the court to award them $500,000 in damages.

A lawsuit is very real and not something you want to deal with. It is no fun and costs lots and lots of money, regardless of how innocent you are. You can't ignore it, you must respond, and if you don't want to get raped, you'll have to hire a very expensive attorney.

That's the point: sue the fledgling (poor) startup so they have no money or time to create their site. In this country, you can just sue your competition into non-existence before a word even gets to a judge.

The 2 founders that were served were forced by SG to sign a non-compete agreement which barred them from creating any websites. They were dropped from the lawsuit immediately. (That seemed too easy.) We want $500k or sign this paper? Why drop the $500k in damages they supposedly had? I'd want my money if I had all those damages - screw the non-compete! Was Deviant Nation that big of a threat that the non-compete agreement was worth more than recovering $500k in supposed damages?

it gets stranger and muddier from there.

but wait... already this post is growing so long and what about all the models abandoning the site?

30 models have left in the past month. 150+ have left in the last year or two. and when you read their thoughts about why they left, the whole sg "story"—the marketing narrative of sg as woman-owned woman-friendly empowerment through nudity—begins to crumble. it crumbles right down to its origin: for starters, they claim that "founder" missy is only a hard-working figurehead, and the site is actually run and founded by a misogynistic, abusive, anti-semitic, neocon man named sean suhl.

this post on this livejournal community has a nice, brief list of some of the allegations. (here's the "read this first" post for the group.) here's an excerpt:

--Some earlier models have debatably invalid contracts.

--DVD models were told different things regarding their compensation and were treated poorly for questioning this.

--Earlier SG debacles included stranding 3 models in NY at the Courtney Love MTV special for several weeks, with dire consequences for one model, who left.

--SG panders to punk rock, when it's views are secretly the farthest thing from the ideology of punk, and they've tried to "punk up" their models in some sets by adding hair dye, chain jewelry, etc... to make the models LOOK MORE PUNK (that's so offensive to me)

--The community that SG supports is a facade. The owner of SG detests his community and has frequently expressed a desire to shut it down and continue to profit from it

--Models have been threatened with having their imagery resold to "sleazy sites" if they decide to leave or speak ill of the site, I've heard from two top models

--SG employs threats and fear to keep their models bound to them

--SG has debatably given models money for drugs to perform onstage

--SG has created different "rules" for different models, having nothing to do with contractual situations, without pre-informing them that they will have different rules to abide by, or risk being removed

--SG has falsified information to support or cover up many of their outrageous acts

--SG attempts to discredit or silence anyone who opposes them, even off of their site

--SG once claimed eventually they would turn the site over to the models when it made money

--SG started by using women who were down on their luck at the grand rate of $100 for 3 sets + 2 videos, in one top models case. Many of their earliest models were homeless, destitute, struggling exotic dancers in Portland, possibly one was underage in sets still showing

--Models' accounts are being closed and sets archived if they pose for another site. (Might I point out that they were told they COULD pose for other sites as long as they didn't submit any pics that had been accepted by SG. At least last I heard.)

--Some models are upset that their sets are being used for promotional purposes without notification or permission.

--Models are unhappy with what compensation they're receiving for sets and tour work.

--SG ownership has been censoring models' journal entries when they say anything negative about the site or go against Sean's right-wing political views.

--Bulresque tour models are uspet with the treatment they recieved during the experience, some of it including verbal abuse from management.

wow. and the list goes on. if you want to read more of what the girls are saying, there is tons of information to wade through in the sites i've linked to. tons. even if only, say 1/4 of it is true, there is something pretty foul going on behind the scenes at suicidegirls.

so for me, i think it's time to cancel my membership. i was never a huge fan anyway (though i must admit i was recently blown away by this photoset, where long-time model amina was finally brave enough to pose for a set in which her prosthetic leg was visible... the leg was airbrushed and done so well that i didn't even realize it was "fake" until i was about halfway through the set). there are lots of wonderful girls on the site and i wish them all well, but i won't miss the site itself after i unsub. instead i should look into godsgirls or one of the alt-porn "alternatives".

and this post might now officially be the longest ever in this blog, so i'll shut up and publish now.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

would you believe...?

[subject line is a tribute to inspector gadget himself, don adams, who passed away recently]

would you believe that my boot problem is back?

after i fixed it last time, it stayed fixed for a good 4-5 weeks or so. but this is a stormy season in the midwest, and we've since had more power flickers. i think some of the damage was actually done during a big storm last week, but only yesterday did it reach the point of spontaneous reboots and boot errors. i should probably go to fry's and buy an uninterruptible power supply so that i don't have to worry about power stability. a basic $40-$50 UPS should be more than sufficient, as i only need it to power my computer for long enough that when we have brownouts or power flickers, my machine won't reboot. a couple minutes of power should be plenty.

so when it crashed last night, i located the windows cd and grabbed a ps/2 keyboard. i booted from the cd and ran the recovery console. i typed in fixmbr and it warned me that my master boot record looked kind of funky; was i sure i wanted to fix it? damn right i did. and i rebooted back into windows, set it to run a scandisk on c:/, and rebooted again. scandisk came up and slowly combed through my c: partition looking for disk errors, bad sectors, and the like.

only when it finally finished, i discovered that i still had my boot problem. and i had already taken the windows cd back downstairs and unhooked/returned the ps/2 keyboard.

last time, when i went into the recovery console to fix it, i performed both fixboot and fixmbr. of those two commands, fixmbr was the only one that told me that my mbr looked like it had some problems. so i assumed that that was the command that worked, and fixboot had been unnecessary. and last night, i didn't even bother to run fixboot.

now i'm thinking that was a mistake. maybe it was the 1-2 punch of fixboot and fixmbr that repaired my computer last time? i guess it's possible that it was never really "fixed" and it just went into some sort of remission for awhile, but the symptoms really did go away until last week, so that strikes me as unlikely.

i guess tonight when i get home i'll run fixboot and see what that does for me. i'm still confident that it should work, but it's annoying to have to go through the whole boot-from-cd process again, even if it is only a 5-minute process. stupid usb keyboards...

in contrast, barry finally got his computer fixed after a year of inoperability. everything would power up but he would get no video signal, so we got him a new video card for xmas last year. that didn't help. then he took it to one of our neighbords (a computer engineer), who told him the problem was that the motherboard was fried. so after much shopping online he managed to locate an old motherboard that supported RDRAM and a socket 478 processor (not an easy task since nobody has used RDRAM in new systems for a couple years now... DDR SDRAM has been the standard for some time). that was $40+S/H; he hooked that up but it didn't work. then he found another socket 478 processor. that was $20: he plugged that baby in, & it didn't work either.

finally, after buying a good half of the parts to build a "new" computer, he finally tracked the problem: it was the power supply. all his other hardware was fine. so now he has a bunch of spare parts lying around... he's halfway to building a "new" computer with all those parts, but who would really want to build a computer now with circa-2001 parts?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

strange things are afoot at the circle k

in my previous post, the article i quoted said that san dimas representative david dreier would take over tom delay's job as majority leader:

House Speaker Dennis Hastert said he will recommend that Representative David Dreier of California to replace DeLay, the Associated Press reported.

josh marshall suggested that dreier was chosen because delay wants to return to the post of majority leader once his case is complete (years from now), and "If DeLay lets someone into the job who actually has the juice to hold it, he might never get it back."

but now it turns out that majority whip roy blunt now has the job:

U.S. Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri was selected by Republican lawmakers to become majority leader, replacing Tom DeLay, who temporarily stepped aside after he was indicted today.

Blunt, 55, the majority whip, was elected to the new post by a vote of the 231-member Republican caucus at a meeting this afternoon in Washington.

so what's up with the sudden cock-block of david dreier? why name him as successor only to give the job to someone else a couple hours later?

could it be that the gop is uncomfortable with the allegations that dreier is a closeted homosexual? (or as john at americablog puts it, a "closeted heterosexual"?)

for example, apparently user geraldy on redstate.org seems to have a problem with it... searching for "dreier" on google news turned up a diary titled On Why Rep. Dreier's Homosexuality is a Concern For Me, which apparently started off with the line "Quite simply, I believe that homosexuality is objectively wrong." no burying the lead there, geraldy. but curiously, clicking the link takes me to an error page stating that i don't have permission to "moderate stories" (which is delightfully ironic if you read "moderate" as an adjective rather than a verb).

naturally, i took a screenshot as evidence that the diary existed, as it no longer seems to be there on redstate. (why was it taken down? because it makes them look like bigots?)

follow the leader

for the past couple days, people had been hearing rumors... and now we know they are true.

tom delay indicted!

U.S. Representative Tom DeLay, the second-highest-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, was indicted by a Texas grand jury on a single count of criminal conspiracy, according to the grand jury clerk.

DeLay, 58, who faces up to two years in prison, will temporarily step aside as House majority leader, he said in a statement. House Speaker Dennis Hastert said he will recommend that Representative David Dreier of California to replace DeLay, the Associated Press reported.

Two former campaign aides, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, were also charged with conspiracy by the grand jury in Austin, Texas, said Linda Estrada, the court clerk.

The indictment stems from a grand jury investigation into alleged use of illegal corporate contributions by DeLay's political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, in the 2002 races for the state House of Representatives.

so he's stepping down as majority leader. good riddance. tom delay is so dirty and was under investigation for so many improprieties that it was just a matter of time before he got indicted for something.

but that could be said for many other prominent officials. for example, we know that the fitzgerald investigation into the plame leak case is wrapping up. that promises to be bad for the bush administration. will karl rove be indicted?

and the multiple investigations surrounding former top GOP lobbyist abramoff are turning up all sorts of salacious scandals, too many to even attempt to reprint here. for that, you'd be better served reading the relevant posts on TPM.

and bill frist, the senate majority leader, is at the center of yet another probe on suspicion of insider trading: he just happened to sell off a bunch of stock right before its market value significantly dropped. and by coincidence all the head honchos at the company were selling their stock at the same time. what serendipity! except that the stock was supposed to be in a "blind trust", meaning that trust-holders are not supposed to know—or have any control—over what stocks are held by the trust.

i've been wondering for a long time when all these scandals would finally catch up to the republicans. now they have, with delay being the first to fall (though he wants to come back). how quickly will the rest fall? i'm afraid we'll have to wait and find out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

how to dehumanize the enemy and get free porn for doing it

soldiers in a warzone are under extreme stress and require serious stress relief. they're surrounded by death and could themselves die at any moment.

one popular stress reliever is pornography. and why not? porn has relieved a lot of my own stress, and it has especially saved me on many a lonely night when my girlfriend lived a couple thousand miles away. that was just the distance between indiana and california... if i were in the middle east, with the threat of death looming over me, i'm sure it'd be that much worse.

one popular form of pornsite is the true amateur site where users contribute their own photographs of their wives, girlfriends, or that flirty girl down the street. on occasion i've been known to visit one such free site (voyeurweb), which i know gets some traffic from soldiers stationed overseas. apparently another such site that's popular with the soldiers (though not free) is called nowthatsfuckedup.com (NTFU).

some soldiers had trouble signing up for NTFU with their credit cards. (so if you want to blame this whole story on the credit card companies, you could make that argument without too much logical contortion.) so the site admin came up with a plan that contributors who could "prove" that they were soldiers stationed overseas would get free access to the porno.

so far, so good. "support the troops" by giving them free porn so they can release a bit of that extra testosterone into the desert sands. i would never disapprove of free porn (assuming that all parties were consenting adults, of course).

but what constitutes "proof" that one is a soldier stationed in iraq or afghanistan? some posted simple snapshots of troops in the desert, near arab-looking landmarks, etc. some posted pics of cute female soldiers... from fully clothed to nude.

and some posted violent pictures of charred bloody corpses.

okay, okay, swapping photos of death for photos of nude hotties is a little... disturbing. the seeming equivalence of sex and violence brings to mind shades of bataille or jg ballard. but couldn't it be said that these guys are like journalists, simply depicting the real truth of war: that people get injured and killed in all sorts of fucked up ways? and in an environment where the pentagon has banned even photographs of coffins, couldn't it be said that these photographs provide a valuable service to the public?

well, maybe, if it happened in a vacuum. but these postings don't exactly show journalistic impartiality (if there even is such a thing). from the east bay express:

At Wilson's Web site, you can see an Arab man's face sliced off and placed in a bowl filled with blood. Another man's head, his face crusted with dried blood and powder burns, lies on a bed of gravel. A man in a leather coat who apparently tried to run a military checkpoint lies slumped in the driver's seat of a car, his head obliterated by gunfire, the flaps of skin from his neck blooming open like rose petals. Six men in beige fatigues, identified as US Marines, laugh and smile for the camera while pointing at a burned, charcoal-black corpse lying at their feet.

The captions that accompany these images, which were apparently written by the soldiers who posted them, laugh and gloat over the bodies. The soldier who posted a picture of a corpse lying in a pool of his own brains and entrails wrote, "What every Iraqi should look like." The photograph of a corpse whose jaw has apparently rotted away, leaving a gaping set of upper teeth, bears the caption "bad day for this dude." One soldier posted three photographs of corpses lying in the street and titled his collection "DIE HAJI DIE." The soldiers take pride, even joy, in displaying the dead.

americablog has more, including several examples (photos are censored, but you can click to see uncensored versions).

these kinds of photos are not a new phenomenon. for as long as soldiers have had access to cameras, they've documented life on the battlefield (and their photos have been hidden from the public). and to be sure, there are sites out there that do perform a public service by posting gory war pics. we are surrounded by media that depicts fetishized violence, and it's good to have a counterpoint to that, demonstrating that the real-life consequences to violence are not as cool and pretty as they look in those jerry bruckheimer movies. but when the photos include soldiers grinning and pointing at the corpses, in poses reminiscent of lyndie england (who was convicted today), the documentary value becomes a little suspect. and when you add captions like DIE HAJI DIE, you're pretty much left with propagandized hate speech. not to mention a violation of the geneva convention.

on one level, it's understandable. these soldiers are constantly surrounded by a level of chaos and carnage that i cannot imagine and hope i never have to see. some nudie pictures are not going to make up for that. when your job is to kill, and you yourself could be killed at any moment, the urge to dehumanize the enemy is only natural (in fact, you could say it's necessary). and it's that much easier when the enemy is of a different race and religion. there's a memorable scene in the movie three kings where the characters discuss which racial slurs are appropriate: "sand n----rs" is not because it is also an indirect slur on african-americans, but "raghead" is deemed okay. of course, once the characters actually meet and interact with some real iraqis, their attitudes change. but that's the point of dehumanization: it's hard to kill a human being, but not so hard to kill a raghead. and if you can convince yourself that they're all terrorists too, it's easier still.

but how do you justify dehumanization on this scale? returning to the east bay express:

One soldier, who would not reveal his name or unit, defended his decision to post pictures of the dead, which he did after returning home. "I had just finished watching the beheading of one of our contractors that was taken hostage over in Iraq," he wrote in an e-mail. "I figured since that was all over the Web, maybe these pictures would make some potential suicide bomber think twice after seeing what happens AFTER you pull the pin.

"What you interpret [as] maliciousness and bravado may be how [soldiers] react to situations where they almost die or they just saw their buddy get killed," he continued. "I will not defend the people who have posted pictures of dead, innocent Iraqis, but in my opinion, the insurgents/terrorists that try to kill us and end up getting killed in return have absolutely no rights once they are dead.

"Obviously these postings do not help our public image at all," the soldier concluded. "However, I believe the US has been far too concerned about our public image as of late. ... We need to take a much harsher stand against these Islamic fundamentalists and stop giving them the royal American treatment. They need to be taught a lesson, a lesson hard enough that they will think twice before waging a jihad against us."

of course, this soldier completely misses the point of why public image matters. after all, this was supposed to be a war of love, not a war of hate, and the whole pretense of the war hinges on the idea that we americans are superior—we "know better" than they do—and that's why we could go in to iraq and try to force democracy on the iraqis. (never mind that the iraqi constitution isn't very democratic at all: it enshrines the koran and denies women the vote, among other things.)

but more fundamentally, he doesn't seem to grasp how "eye for an eye" works either. he says "I figured since [the beheading video] was all over the Web, maybe these pictures would make some potential suicide bomber think twice after seeing what happens AFTER you pull the pin." inspired by the first loss of an eye (the beheading video), he takes an eye of his own (posting photos of dead iraqis). and he seems to think that the cycle will end there. as if the insurgents will be so shocked that they'll say "hey, he plucked my eye out! let's get out of here before anything else bad happens!"

but an eye for an eye = an eye for an eye. if that "potential suicide bomber" were to actually see these photos, he would not be likely to behave like cartman and take his ball and go home. no, he'll want an eye of his own. and when he does go out to commit that suicide bombing, he'll make sure he has a buddy hiding nearby with a camera to document the death and carnage.

Monday, September 26, 2005

why do i keep buying kid606 cds?

why do i keep doing it without previewing the cd beforehand? it seems like every cd the kid puts out is progressively more boring. yet almost every time, when i'm at the record store and i see a new full-length by kid606 i immediately snap it up, just in case it will be good.

i should've learned my lesson, since the last 606 album i really liked was the action packed mentalist brings you the fucking jams (though the split with dälek was worth listening to also). and i've never liked any of his releases as much as i liked the first one i picked up, down with the scene... man, i love those two cds, but most of the rest of them leave me cold.

i don't know. i love lots of stuff that has come out on his label, tigerbeat6, so maybe i keep expecting him to get inspired by one of the many cool artists on his label and do something interesting again.

but i grabbed his new cd, resilience, and so far it hasn't caught my ear at all. and if the write-up on the tb6 site isn't total pr nonsense, i'm a little worried.

Most noticeable will be the undiluted rhythmic strength of the music, derived from the most primal elements of dancehall, dub, house and hip-hop tweaked just enough to not sink into the formulaic complacence which most instrumental electronica suffers from. This record will be a surprise to many familiar with the almost schizophrenic range of Kid606's output over the years, but rest assured this is Kid606 at his most natural and uninhibited element.

for one thing, i must disagree about it being "tweaked just enough to not sink into the formulaic complacence which most instrumental electronica suffers from"... in fact, i think "the formulaic complacence which most instrumental electronica suffers from" is in fact a fairly accurate way to describe the cd. though it's possible my opinion will change after further listens. and are we really supposed to believe that this is kid606 at his most uninhibited?

anyway, i hadn't done any real record shopping in a few months (since buying stuff at bent crayon on memorial day weekend, after rrx), so i was itching to go out and buy some stuff. i thought it would be interesting to check out luna's relatively new downtown location, since i'd never been there.

after going, i decided that i like the northside luna a lot better. the downtown location (chosen because it's super close to virago's apartment) is smaller and has less stuff. the vinyl section was very small. the "electonic/dance" section was a joke... just basic club music and some cds by big-name idm acts like autechre or aphex. all the other interesting cds were filed in the "pop/rock" section.

in the end i did spend close to $150, but only after going through pretty much the entire store inventory, and buying virtually everything that looked promising. luna does have a few decent "exclusives"—releases that are not available in most record stores (like website-only releases, etc). for example, i did pick up shinola by ween and eating's not cheating by mcchris. but i also could've gotten those at the northside luna, and probably found some better electronic stuff while i was at it. (never mind the far superior electronic and avant garde selections at indy cd & vinyl.)

i did find the new venetian snares cd, meathole, which is excellent. it really follows in the footsteps of Rossz Csillag Alatt Sz├╝letett, so if you liked that one, you'll probably like this one, too. it really does fit together nicely as an album, which is something that a lot of his more recent releases haven't done. fantastic.

other new acquisitions: acoustica: alarm will sound performs aphex twin, romances by kaada & patton; suspended animation by fantômas; the books ep by prefuse 73; and 12"s (i forget the titles) by black dice and wolf eyes. not a bad haul, really, but i bet i would've had a much better haul if i'd gone to indy cd, or even the other luna.

in conclusion: downtown luna = okay if you're looking for indie rock, but not so great if you're looking for anything else. kid606 = not good enough to buy without listening first. but venetian snares = i will gladly buy anything with his name on it.

memories... the way we weren't

stupid blogger.

i just wrote a long elaborate post about this story, but blogger lost it. i'm too busy to rewrite the post, so i'll just quote from the article and urge you to read the whole thing:

After five days managing near riots, medical horrors and unspeakable living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Following days of internationally reported murders, rapes and gang violence inside the stadium, the doctor from FEMA — Beron doesn't remember his name — came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalled the doctor saying.

The real total?

Six, Beron said.

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the handoff of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice.
...
That the nation's frontline emergency-management officials believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the news media and even some of the city's top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent.

The vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees — mass murders, rapes and beatings — have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law-enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.

"I think 99 percent of it is [expletive]," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong — bad things happened. But I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything ... 99 percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."

Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state Health and Human Services Department administrator overseeing the body-recovery operation, said his teams were inundated with false reports.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said authorities have only confirmed four murders in the entire city in the aftermath of Katrina — making it a typical week in a city that anticipated more than 200 homicides this year.

"I had the impression that at least 40 or 50 murders had occurred at the two sites," he said. "It's unfortunate we saw these kinds of stories saying crime had taken place on a massive scale when that wasn't the case. And they [national media outlets] have done nothing to follow up on any of these cases; they just accepted what people [on the street] told them. ... It's not consistent with the highest standards of journalism."
...
The picture that emerged was one of the impoverished, overwhelmingly African-American masses of flood victims resorting to utter depravity, randomly attacking each other, as well as the police trying to protect them and the rescue workers trying to save them. The mayor told Winfrey the crowd has descended to an "almost animalistic state."

Four weeks after the storm, few of the widely reported atrocities have been backed with evidence. The piles of murdered bodies never materialized, and soldiers, police officers and rescue personnel on the front lines assert that, while anarchy reigned at times and people suffered indignities, most of the worst crimes reported at the time never happened.

"The information I had at the time, I thought it was credible," Compass said, admitting his earlier statements were false.
Asked the source of the information, Compass said he didn't remember.

i wish blogger hadn't eaten my post, as i was pretty proud of it. so just go read the article.

Friday, September 23, 2005

crown king of the hill

doug (still the best place to follow indiana dst news) points us to today's AP feature on indy's absurdly massive crown hill cemetery. doug links to the usa today version, but it can also be found on cnn and other sites; the sacramento bee version even has a checklist of "notable burials":

Among the more than 190,000 people buried in Crown Hill Cemetery are:

-Erwin G. "Cannonball" Baker (1882-1960), record-setting motorcyclist and race car driver who went on to become NASCAR'S first commissioner.

-James Baskett (1904-1948), first black actor to receive an award from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Baskett received the honorary award in 1947 for his role as Uncle Remus in Disney's "Song of the South."

-Jefferson C. Davis (1828-1879), Civil War general who allegedly killed his own commanding officer but was never formally disciplined.

-John Dillinger (1903-1934), Depression-era bank robber.

-Charles Fairbanks, (1852-1918), U.S. senator from 1897-1904; U.S. vice president from 1905-1909. Fairbanks, Alaska, is named after him.

-Carl Fisher (1874-1934), entrepreneur who helped develop the Lincoln Highway and the Dixie Highway, which connected the Midwest to Miami Beach, where Fisher became a prominent land developer. Fisher also was a founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

-Richard J. Gatling (1818-1903), inventor of the Gatling Gun.

-Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901), U.S. senator from 1880-1887, 23rd president of the United States from 1889-1893.

-Caroline Harrison (1832-1892), first president general of the Daughters of the American Revolution; wife of Benjamin Harrison.

-George Washington Julian (1817-1899), U.S. congressman, 1849-1851 and 1861-1871; appointed by President Grover Cleveland as surveyor general of New Mexico, serving from July 1885 until September 1889.

-Etheridge Knight (1931-1991), prominent poet of the 1970s and 1980s.

-James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916), Indiana poet known for children's poems like "Little Orphant Annie."

-Otto Stark (1858-1926), early Impressionist painter who was part of the "Hoosier Group."

-Booth Tarkington (1869-1946), Pulitzer prize-winning author and playwright.

so of course i knew about benjamin harrison, james whitcomb riley, dillinger, etc... but i didn't know uncle remus was buried there! hell yeah... first black actor to win an oscar: too bad it was for song of the south, a movie that might never be re-released in the US because of the over-the-top racial stereotypes. (though bootleg dvds are around, and there are rumors that disney will release it on dvd next year for the 60th anniversary).

anyway, crown hill is just a few blocks from my house. when teaching us to drive, my parents used to take us there for practice: it was nice because we could slowly drive around all those winding roads with little chance of killing anyone, since most of the people around were already dead.

it's kind of weird seeing stories about a local landmark in papers like the sacramento bee, but i guess they need something to fill up all that empty space on the back of those advertisements.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

music for maniacs

i never did find an online version of that dictionaraoke article, and in desperation i just posted it myself. but that doesn't mean the time i spent searching for it was wasted.

in my searches, i came across an interesting "outsider" mp3 blog called music for maniacs. and i'm not just posting it because mr fab referred to my "nuthin' but a g thang" dictionaraoke as "remarkable"... nope. check out the links to gameboy music, "moog breakbeats", the troggs tapes, the crazy russian cassette jockey (looks like unszene has some competition for use of that term!), and definitely check out this post about the st charles IL high school choir.

browsing through the blog makes me want to add it to my blogroll so i can keep up with it regularly, but it doesn't fit into any of the blogroll categories i've set up. so for the sake or orderly categorization, if i want to blogroll it i should find a couple more worthwhile mp3 blogs to add as well. any suggestions?

obviously i'm not looking for rock stuff (unless it's outsider or laptop rock), but interesting outsider, experimental, noise, anything like that would be terrific. the only mp3 blog i ever really followed was otis fodder's wonderful 365 days (now archived on the fantastic ubuweb site). indeed, i even submitted to that.

it would probably be fun to regularly contribute to an mp3 blog. i guess you could call the now-defunct mp3 of the week an mp3 blog, but i mean one that people will actually want to visit. something outsider and/or experimental. maybe something to highlight interesting collage and sampling. or just whatever we feel like posting. i don't know. i wouldn't have time to do such a thing by myself, so it would need to be a collaborative thing with a couple other bloggers.

anyway, give me your recommendations for mp3 blogs if you've got 'em.

Monday, September 19, 2005

circles

so on saturday, i went down to fountain square (this was during masterpiece in a day, though i wasn't able to stick around and enjoy that event). i was there to pick up any of my unsold artwork from big car, as the collage show was officially ending. as far as i knew, none of my pieces had sold—or at least, the last time i'd been there (only a week earlier on 9/9), none of them had the signature "red dots" that signify that a piece at an art gallery has been sold.

i was in for a bit of a surprise when i arrived, though, as one of my pieces was missing. the other three were right where they had been for the last month. but that fourth piece, "circles", was gone. and the sign underneath it (labeling it) was gone, too.

as MIAD was going on, things were pretty crazy around fountain square, and when i arrived there was only one person inside the big car gallery. he was in fact preparing for the MIAD music contest, wherein contestants are randomly matched with each other and then are to create a 3-minute piece of music to be performed live for the crowd. this guy didn't work at the gallery; the person he'd been randomly coupled with did. it was then 2pm, and the contest deadline was 3pm, so i didn't want to bother those guys too much with piddly little questions like "hey, do you know if my piece is missing because it was sold, or was the person who stole it smart enough to steal the sign, too?" so i grabbed my other three collages and left, assuming that "collages" was missing because it had sold and the other pieces were still there because they had not.

turns out i did not make an ass out of U or ME. according to jim walker, "we sold one of your pieces the night of the MEMS to a Russian guy from California..."

so i sold a collage! my asking price was $30. big car charges a gallery fee of 15% for sold artwork (which i understand is relatively low; i'm definitely not complaining), so i should have a check for $25.50 coming to me. not exactly tons, but probably not bad for an unframed piece.

the only problem is that i never really got any good photos of that collage before it sold. i took a couple snapshots of it as it hung on the gallery wall, but i used a flash and that created glare. (the better of the two photos is posted above right; you can see the other by clicking here.) we meant to go back and take better photos but we never did, so these two are the only record i have that i ever created this piece. oh well; you can make out most of the details.

okay, here's the dictionaraoke article

this is the article i mentioned last week. i have been waiting and waiting, searching and searching, for an online version of this to appear so i could simply link to it instead of having to reprint it in its entirety. after a week of googling, i still haven't found one. so to hell with it, i'm reprinting the article here. if canwest doesn't like it, they can post the damn thing themselves and i'll link to thatt like i originally intended.

snugglers will have already read it (or at least had to opportunity to do so).

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Byline: Misty Harris
Source: CanWest News Service

Although they would never make the cut on Canadian Idol, the computerized voices of Internet dictionaries are this month's hottest - and unlikeliest - rock stars. This thanks to Dictionaraoke.org, a popular website where dozens of musical favourites are "sung" by online pronunciation guides.

Think Merriam-Webster meets William Shatner meets The Girl From Ipanema and you've got the idea.

Few of the people login on for a laugh are likely to realize the mainstream site also functions as a countercultural beacon to those who oppose the recording industry's stance on music sampling.

"There are hidden depths in Dictionaraoke," observes historical musicologist Mary Ingraham, director of liberal studies in the University of Alberta's faculty of extension. "There's certainly a very serious political side to it."

That side is called plunderphonics, a term coined in 1985 by Canadian composer John Oswald. Ingraham says it usually describes any music made by combining existing recordings and altering them to create a new composition, a process many artists in the genre use to protest restrictive copyright laws.

The average listener might struggle to see a subversive statement about audio piracy in a robotic remake of The Macarena. But it's there, Ingraham says, waiting to be discovered. "At its surface, it's entertaining," she says. "If you want to go deeper, there are other layers to it."

According to Jim Allenspach, the Chicago computer programmer who founded Dictionaraoke in 2001, the idea was to provide a commentary on the music industry in a way that would appeal to a mass audience.

Some of the site's guiltiest pleasures include I've Got You Babe in a duet by Merriam-Webster Online and Microsoft Encarta; Take on Me, a catchy reconstruction of the hit A-ha song; and an inspired rap rendition of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham, a tune that achieved cult notoriety on indie radio upon its release.

"It's a very concrete example of fair use in action," says Allenspach, noting that nobody involved with Dictionaraoke is profiting from it.

"We know the music industry is aware of the site, we just haven't received any communication from them. I guess no news is good news."

David Dixon, one of the people who helped get Dictionaraoke off the ground, describes the site as a fun way of demonstrating the difference between derivative composition and outright stealing.

"It's a really great example of how harmless sampling can be," says Dixon, a former physics professor from Milwaukee. "If anything, it promotes the original song."

By wrapping their message in playful, unexpected packaging - he equates it to drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa - it's easier to grab public attention.

"The way to attract people to your site is to make them laugh," explains Dixon. "Then their defences are down and you can burrow into their heads more efficiently."

Michael Slezak, senior writer for Entertainment Weekly online, boosted Dictionaraoke's hipster credentials last week by linking to the already bustling site. But he says it was more to give his readers "a boost at work" than to make a statement about copyright.

"I didn't really think much about subversiveness when I was listening to Oops, I Did It Again," admits Slezak. "Although in some ways, it was almost as enjoyable as hearing Britney Spears sing. And possibly just as human."

we are the pirates

i would be remiss if i didn't at least briefly mention that today is international talk like a pirate day.

of course, the reason i would be remiss if that it's a perfect excuse to remind people of the pirates of the internet. why not download the pirates theme, learn it, and sing along in a swarthy pirate voice?

Friday, September 16, 2005

excellent katrina collage by stephen mcquillen

plunderphonics fans might know stephen mcquillen for his work done under the name "the piss". he does some really interesting hyperedited sound collage, sort of like wayne butane if wayne got really political. but he's started shying away from using that name, as it can get him into trouble for obvious reasons.

he has done a great new collage piece about the hurricane katrina aftermath titled "criminal incompetence". he doesn't have much of a web presence and was distributing the mp3s via yousendit.com, so i offered to host the mp3s for him, as i think the piece deserves better than a yousendit link that will expire in 7 days.

so here they are. there are two versions: a high-quality 192kbps version and a smaller 96kbps version for dial-up users. please distribute widely:

Stephen_McQuillen_-_Criminal_Incompetence_192k.mp3
Stephen_McQuillen_-_Criminal_Incompetence_96k.mp3


(the files are actually hosted on badtaste4life.com, as after repeated tries i was unable to upload them to this site using blogger.)

also, when i asked steve for permission to host the mp3s here, he suggested another track you might also enjoy:

also, Phineas did a good one with Ray Nagen's AM radio plea for Federal action and Harry Connick, Jr.'s cover of "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans":

http://www.nationalcynical.com/sounds/neworleans.mp3

the sincerest form of lawsuit

what kind of world would we live in if celebrities, artists, and (inevitably) massive multinationals could silence anyone who jocked their style, or anyone who sounds kind of like them?

it sounds like a scary world to me. but apparently that's the kind of world tom waits wants to live in.

The 55-year-old singer, whose distinct, gravelly voice has won him two Grammy Awards, filed the civil lawsuit this week with a state court in Frankfurt, listing Adam Opel AG and the advertising firm McCann Erickson as the defendants.

Andreas Schumacher, Waits' German lawyer, said the singer was approached numerous times about doing the ads last year, but declined, citing a policy of not doing commercials. He said the firm then hired a soundalike and the ads aired earlier this year in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway.

on one level, i can sympathize with tom, who simply doesn't want to have his music used in advertisements. i can definitely relate to that:

"Apparently the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad -- ideally naked and purring on the hood of a new car. I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor," Waits said in a statement. "While the court can't make me active in radio, I am asking it to make me radioactive to advertisers."

in the sense of making him "radioactive to advertisers", it might be a smart strategy. if advertisers think they'll be sued anytime they use music that sounds remotely like tom waits, many of them will probably stop trying to use music that sounds like tom waits. so on that one level, taken in a vacuum, it's a good idea. once these associations are made in people's minds, they're impossible to undo: every time i hear bob seger's "like a rock", i think of chevy trucks, just like every time i hear stealers wheel's "stuck in the middle with you", i think of torturing cops and cutting their ears off. i just can't help it.

you can see the ad in question on this site, which also points out that this isn't the first time tom has sued someone for using either his music or a "soundalike" in an ad. but the site doesn't mention the most important information related to that: did he win those cases? did he settle them? did he win some, lose some? for that, we must turn to wikipedia:

The first lawsuit was filed in 1988 against Frito Lay, and resulted in a US$2.6 million judgement in Waits' favor. Frito Lay had approached Waits to use one of his songs in an advertisement. Waits declined the offer, and Frito Lay hired a Waits soundalike to sing a jingle similar to Small Change's "Step Right Up," which is, ironically, a song Waits has called "an indictment of advertising." [4] ("Step Right Up" concludes with the lyric "The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away").

In 1993, Levi's used Screamin' Jay Hawkins's version of Waits's "Heartattack and Vine" in a commercial. Waits sued, and Levi's agreed to cease all use of the song, and offered a full page apology in Billboard Magazine. [5]

In 2000, Waits found himself in a situation similar to his earlier one with Frito-Lay: Audi approached him, asking to use "Innocent When You Dream" (from Frank's Wild Years) for a commercial broadcast in Spain. Waits declined, but the commercial ultimately featured music very similar to Waits' song. Waits undertook legal action, and a Spanish court recognized there had been a violation of Waits' moral rights, in addition to the infringement of copyright [6]. The production company, Tandem Campany Guasch, was ordered to pay compensation to Waits through his Spanish publisher.

okay, so in the levi's case, he clearly had the legal high ground as the songwriter and hence the owner of the copyright. but can you imagine what would happen if every artist acted like tom and indiscriminately sued others for style-jocking?

if david coverdale's career never got off the ground because he sounded too much like robert plant? if n*sync and the backstreet boys had been sued out of existence because they sounded too much like NKOTB? if there were only one band whose vocalist sounded like creed instead of thousands of such bands? okay, those are examples where arguably the world would be a better place. but hip-hop would've died by the mid-'90s, since in that era every MC accused every other MC of either "jockin' my style" or "bitin' my rhymes". and how many thousands of artists completely ripped off the kraftwerk sound?

if even a stylistic resemblance were enough to win a lawsuit (and apparently it is), and if artists took advantage of that with any regularity, our culture would come to a halt. because every artist appropriates something from someone. i use samples, which puts me square in an area of deep gray. but even artists who would never use a sample appropriate, even if they don't realize it. they take a bassline, or a vocal melody, or a playing style, or a singing style. maybe they just take inspiration. but they take it nonetheless.

there's an quote that goes "good artists copy; great artists steal." this quote has been attributed to every artist ever, from picasso to henry rollins. you just aren't a great artist if you haven't stolen that quote and used it as your own. so who has tom waits appropriated from?

i fear a leak

the photo of bush asking for a bathroom break is going all over the place. from that metajournalism publication, editor & publisher:

A source at the Washington Post tells E&P that the paper is considering it for prominent play Friday morning, in the context that, at least in some minds, it raises questions about overall perception of the U.S. at the United Nations, right or wrong. Reuters reports extremely strong interest in the photo today.

The fact is, according to Reuters -- and this has not been widely reported -- President Bush did indeed take a bathroom break after passing the note to Rice.

This apparently raised some eyebrows around the room, because American representatives (among others) have a reputation for suddenly bolting, though normally for a far different reason than this latest one. Fair or not, the European press has already had a field day with the photo, often centering on the notion that Bush had to ask Rice for permission.

The Times of London, for example, ran no less than three separate articles about it on its Web site, one at the top of its front page. (It's a Murdoch paper.) One headline reads: "Excuse me Condi, can I go to the bathroom?" Another story, believe it or not, opens: "The need to relieve oneself diplomatically has on occasion determined the fate of nations." The third discusses the sordid history of the particulatar lavatory in question, and contains this passage: "Medical experts said that the 59-year-old President was wise not to wait any longer."

The headline at the BBC news site suggested that Bush had been "caught short" at the U.N. summit. The Irish Examiner headline? "To Pee or Not to Pee, That is the Question." Der Spiegel in Germany translated a bathroom break" as "eine Toiletten-Pause."

And, of course, it made The Daily Show back in the U.S. late Thursday night.

i went on google and tried to find the stories mentioned in the e&p quote... i couldn't find the second times article, but i did find this editorial calling for mandatory bathroom breaks. and i took my blog title from this clever sun headline.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

garrison keillor sues blogger

weird

the blogger in question was selling a parody shirt that says prairie ho companion. keillor decided to send a cease-and-desist, claiming the old "people might get confused and think we're sponsoring it" excuse.

hello? who would honestly think that keillor would put out a t-shirt with the word ho on it? the man's humor does on occasion get ever-so-subtly ribald, but nothing like that. give me a break.

"the craziest ruling in american history"

so yesterday a judge ruled once again that it is unconstitutional to force a bunch of little kids who don't know any better to recite the pledge of allegiance while it has that silly "under god" bit in there.

basically, making kids say "under god" is forcing them to either pledge their allegiance to the christian god or to embarrass themselves (and possibly risk harrassment if not violence) by refusing to do so in front of the class. the judge had little choice but to affirm this obvious fact once again. there is no real debating this basic fact; the only real debate i've seen on this point is the "who cares? we're a mostly christian nation" argument, which makes no legal sense.

the supreme court already had the chance to settle this once and for all last year, but rather than doing so, to put it crassly and bluntly, they took the pussy way out and tossed out the case because the plaintiff did not have custody over his kid. way to duck the issue and waste years of time, supreme court. so newdow, the plaintiff, simply refiled his case with a couple more (anonymous) plaintiffs, ensuring that the supremes' pussiness could not be repeated.

the article is full of quotes from wingnuts who decry "judicial activism" when what they are actually decrying is judges who are not christian activists. but i was tickled by this quote:

"When the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals delivered the craziest ruling in American history by striking down the Pledge of Allegiance three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and stopped the insanity," said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, a religious liberties group. "The lower courts striking down the pledge again is like a dog returning to its vomit."

the craziest ruling in american history? crazier than dred scott? crazier than all the rulings that reaffirmed slavery, jim crow, separate but equal, etc? you could spend all day thinking up crazier rulings. exponentially crazier rulings.

never mind that it's fundamentally stupid to make kids recite the pledge even if you take out all the christian crap. by the time the average kid is educated enough to even understand what they're saying, they've been reciting it by rote for so long that it has lost all meaning to them. the power of ritual is strong. ritual is one of the foundations of religion for a reason: it can create a sort of trance state that increases suggestibility, for example. but most little kids don't know what words like "allegiance" or "indivisible" mean. hell, most of the kids reciting the pledge don't even know what a "republic" is.

and schwarzenegger, he who claims to be friendly to gays and minorities until it comes time to actually do something about it (like, say, not vetoing groundbreaking civil rights legislation), either doesn't understand what he's talking about or doesn't think anyone else will understand it:

"As an immigrant to America, one of the proudest days of my life was when I became a citizen of the United States," the governor said in a statement to the media. "Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance always reminds me of the history of our nation's founding, the principles of our great democracy and the many sacrifices Americans have made to protect our country."

this doesn't have a damn thing to do with the issue at hand. it's just meaningless polito-drivel. about what you'd expect from a movie-star turned politician. the case isn't about "reciting the pledge" itself: it's about forcing kids, many of which are not christians, to affirm the existance of and pledge obeisance to the christian god.

MMS in trouble

weird that i was just posting about MMS last night... from the indy star:

The Midwest Music Summit, a 5-year-old conference for independent musicians based in Indianapolis, is in dire financial shape.

Josh Baker, the event's lone full-time employee, is seeking $15,000 in donations by Sept. 26 to continue operations this fall.
...
Last December, Baker suspended operations at his recording label, Benchmark, and sought nonprofit status for the Midwest Music Summit. At that time, he said the 2003 and 2004 editions of the summit broke even financially.

The event's nonprofit status is still pending.

Jenny Guimont, deputy director of cultural tourism for the Indianapolis Cultural Development Commission, said fundraising is easier when an organization has nonprofit status.

"Traditionally speaking, you have to have that in place to receive funding from potential grantors," she said.

what i'm curious about is, if they need the money by september 26 (which is only 11 days away), why wait until now to ask for it?

it would be a shame to lose the summit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

best bush photo ever

oh my god. this is a real undoctored photograph of president bush. it's a real reuters photo taken today at the united nations. somehow the photographer got in a position where he could peek over bush's shoulder, so you can make out most of the text in the note bush is writing to condi. what kind of important stuff do they pass notes about?

i thought the photos of him gazing out the window of air force one at the devastation katrina brought were embarrassing. but damn... this is worse.

the funniest part is that i bet the photographer could not read the note when he was actually taking this picture. if he was even looking through his camera at all, he almost certainly was looking through the lens or at a small lcd screen. with a viewing area that small, there is no way he could actually read the note through the camera. he just saw that he could get an over-the-shoulder shot of bush writing a note, and took it. then it turned out to say... well, that.

here is a crisper, more close-up version from yahoo:


courtesy americablog (and they got it from atrios)

too many choices is no choice at all

as nuvo points out, there is way too much shit going on in indy this weekend. why can't event organizers look at the calendar beforehand and say "oh, everything in the whole damn world is already happening that weekend, so maybe i should pick some other time"? honestly, on an average weekend i feel lucky if i can find some event that i'm interested in attending (not that i actually end up going much of the time), so why not space out big events between the other 51 weeks of the year? despite impressions, this town really does have a decent amount of culture, so why have it all occur on the same weekend when nobody could possibly see it all?

the whole first half of september seems to be that way. naturally there was lots of stuff happening on labor day weekend, but there were too many conflicting events last weekend, too. last weekend we had to choose between three "big" events—the midwest electronic music festival, the greek festival at holy trinity greek church, and the penrod art fair at the indianapolis museum of art—and on top of that, virago & i also wanted to see jason webley at the melody inn. because there just wasn't enough time to do all those things even if we had the energy and motivation, we ended up going to MEMS on friday and the greek fest on saturday, skipping penrod and jason webley.

this coming weekend is even more absurdly overbooked: there's masterpiece in a day, oranje, the irish fest, and the french market at st joan of arc (the catholic parish, a brisk walk from my house, where my parents still attend). and that's not all... nuvo also mentions "fiesta" and "tim and avi's salvage fest", two events i've never even heard of, perhaps because there is always way too much shit happening on the second weekend after labor day.

this is complicated by the fact that bobby vomit & i long ago agreed to perform at dj empirical's birthday bash in cincinnati on the 17th, which means we probably won't have time to do any of the indy events except for a brief trip to masterpiece-in-a-day (and the only reason i know we'll be going to that is because i need to pick up my unsold art pieces from big car; i won't have time to join in any of the contests). not that i'm particularly upset about missing any of those other events.

our friends in the cool cleveland band infinite number of sounds will be playing both at dj empirical's party in cincinnati and at oranje in indy. they will play early at the cincy show, then drive here to indy to perform at oranje. even if i wanted to do that, it's not really an option for me: bobby & i will be playing short "transition" sets in between the other acts at dj empirical's party, and even if we don't stay in cincinnati that night (which is yet to be determined), i'd at least like to stick around for some of the "dance party".

i could have submitted to play at oranje this year... hell, i could've submitted to be a visual artist there this year... but i never bothered. i considered it but never too seriously, and when the submission deadline came and went, i just shrugged it off. oh well...

last year, i submitted to both oranje and the midwest music summit. considering that my music is pretty avant-garde, i figured that i would probably be rejected by MMS (the huge corporate event full of music industry people) and accepted for oranje (the "progressive" sponsored-but-"indie" event). after all, the marketing for oranje really pimped how "progressive" the event was going to be and how they were going to select "the most progressive" bands.

of course, what actually happened was that i was chosen for MMS but not for oranje. my oranje rejection could've been for any number of reasons... maybe they just didn't like the fact that i sent them a hand-lettered cdr (though i did design a custom cd cover for their custom cdr; in contrast, i sent vinyl to the MMS people). but when they announced the bands for oranje 2004, i was severely disappointed: a bunch of indie-rock bands, a few club djs, and melk the g6-49. out of something like 12 bands and several djs, melk was the only act on the bill that struck me as even in the same ballpark as "progressive".

now, i understand that terms like "progressive" and "experimental" are very subjective, so if you'd never heard anything weirder than john cougar mellancamp, i can imagine that an indie-rock band or a house dj might seem fairly "progressive" to you. but misleading marketing is a pet peeve of mine, and this left a foul taste in my mouth. in the end i didn't go last year, and didn't even feel like spending the 15 minutes it would've taken to submit this year. although it was probably a good time (lots of art and music all over the place), the overbearing and misleading (in my mind, anyway) marketing really turned me off. possibly for good. maybe i'm just being bitter and selfish because my pride was hurt when such a supposedly "arty" event rejected me in favor of musicians who are much, much more mainstream. but then, i've gone to a lot of "experimental" and "noise" shows, so when someone markets their event as "progressive", my expectations are pretty high.

this year's schedule is possibly a little better... the music seems to range from "somewhat leftfield" to "smack in the center of the field". i'd even like to see a couple of those acts. but i suspect i'll have a better time just staying at dj empirical's birthday bash in cincinnati.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

dictionaraoke is forever

things can move pretty fast on the net. the latest internet fad can spread all over the web in a few days... hours in extreme cases. similarly, thanks to the blogosphere, news stories (as well as lies, rumors, and deliberate misinformation) can spread rapidly and rabidly if they happen to get front-paged by the right site—even if they have been completely ignored by the mainstream media. we've seen this enough times that i shouldn't even have to cite examples (though really i'm just lazy and don't want to take the time to think of any).

but on the internet, objects tend to stay in motion and at rest at the same time. fads circulate quickly, but most of that old content is still out there. yes, sites sometimes die and disappear forever, creating more wasted information for us to mourn. but other sites stick around long after you've forgotten them.

such is the way with all those clearly false, long-ago-debunked urban legends that people forward you or post online sometimes. just yesterday someone on one board i frequent posted that old "target is french and hates veterans" chestnut, which was absurdly unbelievable and obviously false even three years ago when it was first written and disproved (in case you don't feel like clicking, target does support veterans, and is american-owned... as if it would really matter if they were french). a quick trip to snopes will instantly defuse 90% of more of these discussions, but occasionally you run across the extremely stubborn who refuse to acknowledge snopes's authority... that's a good sign that you should get out of the conversation.

but a lot of those old fads are still around too, and continue to get traffic. case in point: the resurgence of dictionaraoke.

dictionaraoke is the phenomenon of online dictionaries singing popular music. it originated long ago on the snuggles list, and a bunch of us eagerly put together more than 100 songs, all available for free download. we did so by finding instrumental and/or midi versions of popular songs, downloading the spoken word samples from dictionary sites like merriam-webster and put them together with often hilarious results.

dictionaraoke is old. older than this blog, and maybe older than animalswithinanimals.com altogether. old enough that the snuggles list had long ago moved on to other things. my two contributions are both under the "animals within animals" name because at the time, i was still trying to do all my collage-based stuff under that name: i hadn't yet done any collage under the stAllio! name... it's that old. but suddenly it's making the rounds again.

a few months ago, someone at lucasarts found the site and circulated the link to her co-workers.

last week, it was posted on metafilter (for at least the second time). if you look through the comments, you'll see several raves about my contributions (closer and nuthin but a g thang) as well as the girl from ipanema, which was done by the lovely virago (under the name mittelschmerz).

then later that day (perhaps coincidentally, though i doubt it), it was posted as entertainment weekly's site of the day (which, as james allensbach pointed out on snuggles, is only three years after the site was mentioned in the actual EW magazine).

and now, jima and d^2 have been interviewed for an article by canwest, canada's largest wire service. so canadians aplenty will be reading about dictionaraoke soon if they haven't already. it's a good article; d^2 posted it to snuggles so i've read it, but i haven't found a linkable online version yet (no hits on google news, for example), but when i find one, i'll post it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

his name is robert paulison

so browneye is out as fema director (though he'd already been replaced as head of the katrina effort), so i wondered about his replacement. after all, the two people who were immediately under brown were also totally unqualified, so i wanted to be sure this wasn't a case of "out with the old, in with the same old same old".

josh marshall links to his biography and points out that this paulison guy, the new appointee, actually has experience working in the field of emergency management! it's almost like clinton came back and started appointing qualified people again.

and his name is robert paulison. okay, he prefers to go by his middle name, david, but i couldn't resist the fight club reference, and i even checked that his first name is indeed robert before posting... what a geek i am; i live for cute cultural references and ironic juxtapositions. i wouldn't have even posted if his name had not been robert paulison.

if only someone like paulison had been appointed years ago...

update: looks like bush didn't even know that browneye had resigned until reporters asked him about it! thinkprogress has the video.

double super secret update: the blogosphere has taken to calling him david "duck tape" paulison, as he was the one who told us to stock up on duct tape and plastic sheeting way back when. so while he does have actual emergency experience, making him loads better than browneye (or "drownie" as some call brown), he's not exactly perfect.

brown and out

the word is that michael brown, head of FEMA, former fired horse show manager, and this year's ultimate example of cronyism, has resigned.

just yesterday, fema updated his bio after bloggers discovered that it was as full of horseshit as the arabian horses he used to work with. (when the blogosphere first started noticing the discrepancies, atrios posted a photo that is hilarious if you're a fan of the uk version of the office but makes no sense if you haven't seen it (though that's not surprising, as much as i love atrios's blog).

practically everyone but the most died-in-the-wool and drunk-on-kool-aid bush apologists have been demanding that brown be fired for weeks now. a few days ago bush announced that he was pulling brown off the job of katrina relief... which was too little, too late, but about as close to a firing as we could've expected from the bush administration, which typically rewards incompetence with promotions.

so even though bush refused to admit it, we pretty much knew that brown was going to "resign" any day now. he had become yet another albatross around bush's neck; the most visible albatross because he was LIFO—last in, first out, as they say—the albatross so big and so new that you can hardly see all the others behind it.

and now that the story has hit the net, it's official.

"I'm turning in my resignation today," Brown said. "I think it's in the best interest of the agency and the best interest of the president to do that and get the media focused on the good things that are going on, instead of me."

never forget the mismanagement

i read the story about the mismanagement of the 9/11 relief fund last night, but it doesn't seem to be getting a lot of attention in the wake of hurricane katrina and the john roberts nomination. or maybe it is, but just not on the sites i've been reading. but today's indystar has an editorial stating that the katrina relief money better not be mishandled in the way that the 9/11 money was. of course, given the bonanza of cronyism and cushy reconstruction contracts that is going on, we know that some of that katrina money will not be very well spent... but we can still hope it isn't spent quite as poorly as the 9/11 moneys.

i'm looking for the version of the article that i read last night; that version actually mentioned that "indianapolis-based union federal" bank was one of the banks that mishandled the relief money. i haven't found it yet, but here is a version of the article from the south bend tribune (emphasis mine):

The government's $5 billion effort to help small businesses recover from the Sept. 11 attacks was so loosely managed that it gave low-interest loans to companies that didn't need terrorism relief -- or even know they were getting it, The Associated Press has found.

And while some at New York's Ground Zero couldn't get assistance they desperately sought, companies far removed from the devastation -- a South Dakota country radio station, a Virgin Islands perfume shop, a Utah dog boutique and more than 100 Dunkin' Donuts and Subway sandwich shops -- had no problem winning the government-guaranteed loans.

"That's scary. Sept. 11 had nothing to do with this," said James Munsey, a Virginia entrepreneur who described himself as "beyond shocked" to learn his nearly $1 million loan to buy a special events company in Richmond was drawn from the 9/11 program.

"It would have been inappropriate for me to take this kind of loan," he said, stating the company he bought suffered no ill effects from Sept. 11

okay... still haven't found the exact version of the article that i was thinking of, but here's one from the washington post with the headline Indiana Companies Benefited From 9/11 Loans:

Indiana withstood the economic hits of Sept. 11, 2001, better than many states.

But 139 Indiana businesses — including trucking companies, photographers, gyms, bars and dental offices — still sought almost $36 million in federal loans from programs created to offset financial damages from the terrorist attacks.

139 businesses in indiana! a utah dog boutique! a south dakota country station! and never forget those poor dunkin donuts and subway restaurants across the nation...

still more from the post:

An AP computer analysis showed fewer than 11 percent of the 19,000 loans approved nationwide for post-Sept. 11 recovery went to companies in New York City and Washington.

Adams said his trucking company barely saw a drop in business after the terrorist attacks. Yet it received a $1.3 million debt-consolidation loan through Union Federal Bank in December 2002 — the second largest lump-sum of any business in the state.

Pat Schubah, first vice president of small business banking at Indianapolis-based Union Federal, said the bank didn't disclose the conditions of the loan, which was paid off in January 2005.

"We don't have any indication there was any communication or provisions we shared with the client that these were funds from the government used to support them from Sept. 11," Schubah said.
...
Indiana's largest loan recipient was a Super 8 motel in Michigan City, which was approved for nearly $1.4 million in July 2002. Owners and managers did not return multiple messages left by The Associated Press.

Other businesses approved for loans included five hair salons, two car washes, three bars, two gyms, two florists, 20 restaurants and chiropractors, dentists, doctors, optometrists and veterinarians.

this is truly disgusting. only 11% of the loan money went to actual businesses in new york and washington dc? sure, i can accept that some businesses elsewhere were harmed by the damage to tourism, etc, so a few loans going out to non-NY/DC business would be okay. but 89%?

and to be sure, union federal bank was not the only bank to misuse the money. not by a longshot. but they sure misused the hell out of a shitload of that money. way to go, jerks.

so if you got a small business loan in the last four years, maybe you should check into whether that money was actually supposed to go to 9/11 victims. you might be profiting from their tragedy and not even know it.

and if you're looking for a small business loan in the future, and you happen to have no ethical standards at all, you can probably get a piece of that hurricane katrina money... even if you run a subway restaurant hundreds of miles away.

eat your heart out, jared!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

looting the rumor mill

following up on the idea that the media might be over-hyping the violence in new orleans and the gulf coast region (taken from locussolus and linked in my previous post), here's an article on reason.com that suggests that the media might not just be overemphasizing the violence, but that many of the reports might merely be false rumors that have worked their way into the record as "fact":

"By Thursday," the Chicago Tribune's Howard Witt reported, "local TV and radio stations in Baton Rouge...were breezily passing along reports of cars being hijacked at gunpoint by New Orleans refugees, riots breaking out in the shelters set up in Baton Rouge to house the displaced, and guns and knives being seized."

The only problem—none of the reports were true. "The police, for example, confiscated a single knife from a refugee in one Baton Rouge shelter," Witt reported. "There were no riots in Baton Rouge. There were no armed hordes." Yet the panic was enough for Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden to impose a curfew on the city's largest shelter, and to warn darkly about "New Orleans thugs."

Even before evacuees could get comfy in Houston's Astrodome, rumors were flying that the refugees had already raped their first victim, just like that seven-year-old in the Superdome, or the babies in the Convention Center who got their throats slit. Not only was the Astrodome rape invented out of whole cloth, so, perhaps was the case reported 'round the globe of at least one pre-pubescent being raped and murdered in New Orleans' iconic sports arena.

"We don't have any substantiated rapes," New Orleans Police superintendent Edwin Compass said yesterday, according to the Guardian. "We will investigate if the individuals come forward." The British paper further pointed out that, "While many claim they happened, no witnesses, survivors or survivors' relatives have come forward. Nor has the source for the story of the murdered babies, or indeed their bodies, been found. And while the floor of the convention centre toilets were indeed covered in excrement, the Guardian found no corpses."

...

And it's entirely possible that, like the chimeric Baton Rouge hordes, exaggerations about New Orleans' criminality affected policy, mostly by delaying rescue operations and the provision of aid. Relief efforts ground to a halt last week after reports circulated of looters shooting at helicopters, yet none of the hundreds of articles I read on the subject contained a single first-hand confirmation from a pilot or eyewitness. The suspension-triggering attack—on a military Chinook attempting to evacuate refugees from the Superdome—was contested by Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown, who told ABC News, "We're controlling every single aircraft in that airspace and none of them reported being fired on." What's more, when asked about the attacks, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff replied: "I haven't actually received a confirmed report of someone firing on a helicopter."

no further comment from me, but the original article is chock full of links, so i made sure to include the original hyperlinks in the sections i quoted here.

murdered by bureaucracy

no blog entries for a week. i'm still fairly busy, and blogging about the katrina aftermath, the disaster recovery that was itself a disaster, has seemed like such a big job that i never knew where to begin. i don't have the time to even begin to collect all the pertinent facts, statistics, and screwups. the full-time war blogs have been doing that better than i ever could. there's so much to keep up with: massive death and devastation, exacerbated by immeasurable incompetence on the part of the government that should've been there to rescue people.

yes, the rescue crews are finally there, finally evacuating people. but it took the govt days to get there. it took them days, when journalists, canadians, and even harry connick jr were able to get down to the gulf in the blink of an eye. FEMA head michael brown (a bush appointee whose qualifications include being fired from his previous job overseeing horse shows) didn't even try to send help until after the storm had hit, despite the fact that the governor of louisiana, for example, had asked bush to declare a state of emergency on aug 26, long before the storm got to the gulf.

unsurprisingly, considering that tens of thousands of people had been left there for days in a place with no food, no clean water, no electricity, no infrastructure at all, everything went to shit. people started looting (or finding). soon they weren't just taking food or water or medicine, which any reasonable person would not object to, and they started taking tvs and other consumer crap. then people started shooting.

that's when it really started getting ugly. not in the gulf region... no, that area was already fucked. but when the media started reporting (or perhaps over-reporting, as it is apt to do) on the violence, that's when the national discourse started to turn ugly.

i wasn't surprised when some of the usual crew of serial apologists came out of the woodwork to explain how none of it was bush's fault. that was to be expected, although many of those usual apologists did wake up and declare their dissatisfaction that while the govt should have been helping people, while people were dying, the president was out playing guitar with some country musician, condi was buying shoes and yukking it up at spamalot, and vp cheney (as far as i know) is still on vacation somewhere.

so i'm not surprised to see that tom delay, for example, is leading the chorus in a rendition of blame the locals, even announcing that the house was cancelling its hearings into who fucked up how badly in the wake of katrina. or dennis hastert's suggestion that maybe new orleans isn't worth rebuilding. or anything that politicapologists say.

but i've been saddened and sickened by the "blame the victims" mentality i've seen on the internet and on message board discussions. a depressing number of people seem incapable of empathizing with the victims, of understanding that most of the people who are still there were simply incapable of getting out (as opposed to the very small percentage of people who stuck around out of foolishness), of comprehending why people go looting.

the entire world has seemingly crashed down around the katrina victims. the system had already failed many of them years ago, leaving them in abject poverty, struggling to keep food on the table each day. then suddenly their homes are destroyed, their jobs are gone, they have no food, no water, no possessions. nothing. and they are told repeatedly that help is on the way, but that help never seems to materialize. in fact, the cops who were supposed to help them often prevented them from getting supplies or getting to safety. they were desperate people pushed over the edge, people with literally nothing to lose. in that situation, with the world seemingly over, with the threat of starving to death before FEMA ever arrives, i would probably go a little apeshit too. i might even grab a gun and start stealing tvs or shooting at "the man" who had kept me down for so long. take that, the man! you'll finally get your comeuppance!

but i've seen a number of disgusting, hateful comments made about the looters and the victims. plenty of comments about how stupid people are to live in new orleans or hurricane country (despite that the national infrastrucure depends heavily on the gulf for shipping, oil refining, etc). plenty of calls to shoot the looters on sight. i even saw a comment from one particularly egregious troll and bush apologist about "degenerates who need killin' bad". yep, it's too bad the hurricane didn't just kill 'em all!

and most of the people making those kinds of comments probably wouldn't survive more than a day if they were actually trapped in the destruction left by katrina, with no food or supplies and no high-speed internet connection so they can mouth off on the internet with impunity.

times are tough. we're all upset when we hear the news or see footage of the destruction. and some of these people who are gladly calling for the murder of the very victims we're supposed to be helping are probably not thinking straight. they too probably feel helpless when confronted with so much death and violence, and vent their frustration the only way they know how: by demonizing the poor and underpriveleged. in the same way that news coverage of the war in iraq brings out people who demand that we "nuke the middle east".

the anguish is understandable. but the comments are destructive, arguably as destructive as the actual looting and shooting.