Wife Power! Clowns vs. the KKK (clowns win)
Posted on May 28th, 2009 at 8:29 am by lulutsg

This article came my way this week. It reminds me of antics I used to employ against the catholic church. Like the time a large group of us dressed up as doctors with gunshot wounds at a catholic parade in downtown Boston to counter the church’s anti-abortion stance. (There was a period about 10 years ago when doctors who provided abortion IN SAFE SETTINGS, LEGALLY, were getting shot, some killed, by radical anti-abortion folk.)

At that time, I also lived across the street from a hospital where one could obtain an abortion, should one choose or need, legally, on Thursday mornings. So every week, a group of tired and washed-up catholic freaks were out there with their disgusting posters of, theoretically, aborted fetuses and signs of damnation. Absurd response was a good way to get under the fanatics’ skin and a fun (for us) way to blow off steam. So the parade was 30,000+ catholics marching for anti-abortion vs. 30 of us doctors with gunshot wounds, clowning around to point out real problems and a very serious matter.

The clowns of Knoxville serve me with fond memories. I’m glad to see clowning around with serious matters lives on. Because, in the face of hyper-insanity (whether it comes in the form of racism, dogmatic/conservative religion and belief systems, or violent vigilantes, clowning around and dressing up the absurdity of self righteousness can be a great answer!

“Unfortunately for [VNN] the 100th ARA (Anti Racist Action) clown block came and handed them their asses by making them appear like the asses they were.”

Clown kickin' some KKK ass

Clowns at KKK rally

Well done, GE!
Posted on May 22nd, 2009 at 2:59 pm by Mutt

An article in today’s NYT details why the “puffers” have been canceled.

Personally, I’m glad to hear it.  I was screened with one once, and it was a strangely invasive experience.

Here’s the article in its  entirety:

An Airport Screening Program Is Killed
Published: May 21, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government is scrapping a post-Sept. 11, 2001, airport screening program because the machines did not operate as intended and cost too much to maintain.

The so-called puffer machines were deployed to airports in 2004 to screen randomly selected passengers for bombs after they cleared the standard metal detectors. The machines take 17 seconds to check a passenger and can analyze particles as small as one-billionth of a gram.

They also break down when exposed to dirt or humidity, theTransportation Security Administration said in a statement Thursday. Since 2005, maintaining the machines has cost the government more than $6 million.

Ninety-four of the machines were deployed to 37 airports in 2004, and the government had planned to deploy 113 more. Because of the performance problems, however, the government decided not to continue the rollout.

Other Links Too Good to Miss
Posted on May 21st, 2009 at 2:19 pm by Steve

I’m not sure I can explain what it is, but Magical Nihilism makes for some fascinating reading.

Graphic novel creator Warren Ellis never fails to amuse, enlighten, or dismay, depending on your tastes.

Tellart Labs in Providence, RI makes physical interfaces for computing devices… they take mashups to the physical plane!

The Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science has an amazing library of works on line, including this article on urban design innovator Kevin Lynch.

I meant to post about this when it was first published back in April: Steve Crocker’s Op-Ed in the New York Times marking the 40th anniversary of the RFC, the process by which Internet protocols are standardized. It makes for some great reading. Also interesting is Crocker’s RFC 1, the initial Request For Comments that described the HOST software requirements for machines connected to the brand-new ARPA Network… which laid the foundations for this vast series of tubes we know today as teh Internetz.

A Few Favorite Music Blogs…
Posted on May 21st, 2009 at 2:10 pm by Steve

I’ve been meaning to tag these music blogs as favorites, rather than just keeping a Firefox window with them open forever (“Why is my computer so slow? Oh, right… Firefox has been running for 27 days!”)

First up is DJ Rupture/Jace’s blog mudd up!. He’s an associate of Professor Wayne Marshall, better known perhaps as Wayne’n’Wax, himself the proprietor of another fine music and theory blog. I believe that both of these cats are alumni of Mass Art; in fact, if I’m not mistaken, Jace was the crepe-maker at the Toneburst Collective’s Sci-Fi Lounge party in 1997 (where he also performed as /rupture). In fact, here’s a photo of him DJing at that very event!:

And here’s a photo that captures part of the Noise Laboratories installation at that same event (note Matt in the foreground, and my long-haired self in the background, making video feedback):

(For those interested, you can browse Toneburst’s photo archives.)

Rupture’s blog is equal parts insight, music, geek, and culture, and is not to be missed. I also want to tag a long-form article of his, all about Auto-Tune and its influence on pop music.

Next up, the fine folks at Dutty Artz, a Brooklyn-based collective of musicians, producers, DJs, etc. Interesting stuff, especially the Jahdan Blakkamore stuff.

Also not to be missed: The Heatwave! This is a London-based crew that makes terrific dance hall-style music, promotes events, and also has a wealth of useful information and links. Particularly good: their Rowdy Bashment 2008 mix. You know you understand Jamaican patois if you start blushing when you listen!

Theories of “Just War” Are Bullshit
Posted on May 21st, 2009 at 1:49 pm by Steve

Every time the American War Machine™ revs up, we are deluged by arguments appearing in the press about whether or not the pending military action qualifies as a “Just War.” Invariably, the answer is, Yes!

The next time someone tries to convince you that a war is “just” by some philosophical, religious, or moral principle, you can trot out this quote, from a discussion of traffic in human slaves:

Papal blessing was given to this traffic in a bull* of 1442, which proclaimed that enslaving Africans fell within the limits of a ‘just war’.

That’s from Slavery and the British Empire, a scholarly work by Kenneth Morgan, published by Oxford University Press.

*Has there ever been a more apt phrase for a religious edict than “Papal Bull”?

Air Traffic Visualizations
Posted on May 21st, 2009 at 12:30 pm by josh-wah

For a certain someone who appreciates data visualization and all things aviation…

Aaron Koblin’s Flight Patterns.

In Case You Have Too Much Free Time…
Posted on May 21st, 2009 at 11:39 am by Steve

Why not visit D.I.Y. Audio Projects? Because, really, you need those Low-Inductance Speaker Cables!

All hail Wolfram Alpha!
Posted on May 20th, 2009 at 1:26 pm by Daniel

My dad just sent me a demo for jaw-dropping “computational knowledge engine,” Wolfram Alpha, which went live this past weekend. You put in a search term, which could be a mathematical formula, two cities, whatever, and it analyzes the term and its context and returns related statistics, plots a curve, gives you a map, shows mortalitiy rates, whatever! Off the hook!

The design reminds me of a suggested contextual search engine design from Tufte I remember reading somewhere…anybody remember?

Check the demo, it’s a must see.

Wolfram Alpha demo

The New York Times: Pravda, but in Color
Posted on May 8th, 2009 at 4:03 pm by Steve

So, the New York Times isn’t willing to commit to using the word “torture.” The Times’s Public Editor, Clark Hoyt, wrote a column on April 25 to explain the paper’s editorial policy:

A linguistic shift took place in this newspaper as it reported the details of how the Central Intelligence Agency was allowed to strip Al Qaeda prisoners naked, bash them against walls, keep them awake for up to 11 straight days, sometimes with their arms chained to the ceiling, confine them in dark boxes and make them feel as if they were drowning.

Until this month, what the Bush administration called “enhanced” interrogation techniques were “harsh” techniques in the news pages of The Times. Increasingly, they are “brutal.”

So… the Times took a brave step forward, and moved from referring to these techniques as merely “harsh” to calling them “brutal!” Washington bureau editor Douglas Jehl explained:

I have resisted using torture without qualification or to describe all the techniques. Exactly what constitutes torture continues to be a matter of debate and hasn’t been resolved by a court. This president and this attorney general say waterboarding is torture, but the previous president and attorney general said it is not. On what basis should a newspaper render its own verdict, short of charges being filed or a legal judgment rendered?

Apparently, though, that editorial reluctance to use the word “torture” isn’t uniform. Today, the Times published an obituary for a U. S. pilot who was held captive by the Chinese military during the Korean War. Here’s the headline:

Harold E. Fischer Jr., an American Flier Tortured in a Chinese Prison, Dies at 83

But before we rush to judgment and condemn the New York Times for shameless promoting U. S. government propaganda, we should examine the behavior that merits the description “torture” in the Times’s news pages:

From April 1953 through May 1955, Colonel Fischer — then an Air Force captain — was held at a prison outside Mukden, Manchuria. For most of that time, he was kept in a dark, damp cell with no bed and no opening except a slot in the door through which a bowl of food could be pushed. Much of the time he was handcuffed. Hour after hour, a high-frequency whistle pierced the air.

So, let’s review: when “we” do it, it’s “harsh;” when “they” do it, it’s torture.

Can it be any clearer?

Finally, a note to all the 24 fantasists out there who insist that sometimes we have to torture, because, dammit, it works:

After a short mock trial in Beijing on May 24, 1955, Captain Fischer and the other pilots — Lt. Col. Edwin L. Heller, First Lt. Lyle W. Cameron and First Lt. Roland W. Parks — were found guilty of violating Chinese territory by flying across the border while on missions over North Korea. Under duress, Captain Fischer had falsely confessed to participating in germ warfare.


[Fischer’s interrogator, Chong] “wanted me to admit that I had been ordered to cross the Manchurian border,” Captain Fischer told Life magazine. “I was grilled day and night, over and over, week in and week out, and in the end, to get Chong and his gang off my back, I confessed to both charges. The charges, of course, were ridiculous. I never participated in germ warfare and neither did anyone else. I was never ordered to cross the Yalu. We had strict Air Force orders not to cross the border.”

“I will regret what I did in that cell the rest of my life,” the captain continued. “But let me say this: it was not really me — not Harold E. Fischer Jr. — who signed that paper. It was a mentality reduced to putty.”

That’s what torture produces: a “mentality reduced to putty” that will confess to absolutely anything, just to make the pain stop.

(h/t: Andrew Sullivan)

Obama Endorses “States’ Rights”
Posted on May 7th, 2009 at 11:05 am by Steve

Governor George Wallace (above, left), on the subject of racial segregation:

Integration is a matter to be decided by each state. The states must determine if they feel it is of benefit to both races.

President Obama (above, right), via spokesman Robert Gibbs, on the subject of marriage equality:

The President believes this is an issue that’s best addressed by the states.

Not that I’m surprised, mind you.

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