When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

30 March 2008

A certain chutzpah

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson plans Monday to call for sweeping structural changes in the way the government monitors financial markets, capping a broad review aimed at revamping a system of regulatory oversight built piecemeal since the Civil War.

If even only some of the changes get made, they would represent a major reworking of the U.S. regulatory system for finance. Such an outcome would likely take years and would also require major compromises from an increasingly partisan Congress.

Opposition is already emerging from critics who feel the document nods too far toward deregulation. The revamp process began early last year before the credit crunch and was initially aimed at improving American competitiveness. As such, it's a hybrid that both adds new rules to deal with recent financial woes but also simplifies old structures in a way that favors some in the finance industry.

"It takes a certain chutzpah to say the appropriate response to a financial crisis is to loosen regulation," said Barbara Roper of the Consumer Federation of America, a consumer advocacy group. "Wall Street generally looks to me like they didn't get hit with anything they don't want."

The proposal will also trigger messy feuds over turf at a time when confidence in government supervision is low. On Friday -- hours before the Treasury document became public --John Reich, head of the Office of Thrift Supervision, which regulates federal savings and loans, or thrifts, sent a memo to employees stating: "Many of you might be wondering whether financial services restructuring is an idea whose time has finally come. I don't think so." Under the plan, OTS would be merged out of existence. (See an internal memo from the OTS director.)

Sweeping Changes in Paulson Plan (Wall Street Journal, 30 March 2008)

29 March 2008

The UN model comes with simultaneous translation

The comments on this post have me thinking (not particularly original thoughts) about advertising.

As my age cohort has now entered what are alleged to be our peak earning years, I've gotten used to advertisements that have a strange resonance with me. :-) Advertisers have been taking dead aim at us fortysomethings for a while now.

The best example I've seen recently: Pontiac's commercial for the new G8; it's an extended homage to the 80s arcade game "Spy Hunter," which I fed plenty of quarters into back in the day.
Left unexplained, of course: why anyone would want to drive a sports car named after an international political and economic forum for the governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Next up, the Pontiac IMF and Pontiac UN.

28 March 2008

Hightop Musings

I know that this will sound like a bad parody of Stuff White People Like, but so be it.

An annual rite of spring for me--for twentysome years now--is buying (these days, ordering) a new pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star Hi-Tops.

I have reached that awkward age where the daily sneaker of choice for year-round wear is something that can be spotted on mall-walkers. (I favor New Balance, myself.)

But since I was a kid, I've worn canvas Converse Chucks during warm weather.

Plain old cloth basketball shoes; in fact, with a well-worn pair of jeans and a baggy T-shirt, that's been my standard summer uniform for all the phases of my adult life so far, from college student to middle-aged Company Man.

Naturally, I took notice of an article in today's Washington Post:

...[B]asketball is not what made Converse what it is. That would instead be irony, iconoclasm, a permanent customer base of misfits who all own several pairs of Chucks. Converse owes an enormous debt to rebels, greasers, juvenile delinquents, punk rockers. For all its heritage in hoopsters, the brand subsists on hipsters, which is why the company will soon unveil, without a smidgen of blasphemy, a series of its famous All-Stars and One-Stars with Kurt Cobain's signature and scribbled excerpts from his journals.

Kurt Cobain! Who shot himself 14 years ago and whose lifeless body was partially pictured in a memorable news photograph from the scene of his death, where you can see that he died in his Converse One-Stars. Like every punk rocker on the planet who came before him and after him, the Nirvana frontman almost always wore low-top Chuck Taylor All-Stars or One-Stars or Jack Purcells, and they were always ratty, dirty, holey -- and on him, in the end, holy.

The Cobain shoes will sell for the unpunk price of $50-$65, suggested retail; inside of one of the soles is a Sharpie scrawl that reads, a la Kurt, "Punk rock means freedom." From fans of Nirvana this has elicited only slight dismay -- Courtney Love strikes again, etc. From Converse collectors, there are advance orders. But still, the most impressive reaction is so very like Converse wearers themselves:

Shrug. Whatever.

From Hoops to Hipsters (Washington Post, 28 March 2007)

It's a fascinating article.

Did I succumb to a marketing campaign all those years ago when I started wearing Chucks? Buy a pair in the spring, wear them all summer and discard them (in tatters) in the fall?

Dunno. But it's been part of the rhythm of my life for a long time now.

Ordered some new Chucks today.

27 March 2008

Thought for the day

"The Government of Last Resort is working with the Lender of Last Resort to shore up the housing and credit markets to avoid Great Depression II."

-- Economist Dr. Edward Yardeni, writing to his clients, cited in The Wall Street Journal ("Ten Days That Changed Capitalism," 27 March 2008.)

Rebuttal on college-town record stores

This comment, on the post about the demise of college-town record stores, was so good that it has been promoted to "guest post."

Here's Chap on the suck factor of college-town record stores:
Funnily enough, the record store in which I spent the most money and had the most fun going to, where I would take a special trip to visit?

Tower Records, Shibuya. Ten story behemoth chain store.

I'm torn. I like funky little stores, and the best kind are the stores that specialize in their particular flavor of 1920's Albanian Dubstep or whatever...but here's a little secret I do not wish to admit.

College town record stores tend to suck.

The "curation"? Usually some clod in between gigs who doesn't know jack about what I'd ask about. The records? Upcheck on the local stuff, downcheck on what I'm looking for. Nothing's where I think it is and they'll special order that for me if I want--no thanks and I can go to Amazon too.

I used to enjoy the conversations in such stores, but not as much any more. As a guy who winces at the wrong times at showings of *High Fidelity*, I don't need some twenty year old clerk try to retell the story of Billy (sic) Holiday's recording career as if his erratic knowledge gives him moral superiority. Plus, I've been around enough to realize that the third time I see a Wire ripoff band come around I've seen that before and am not as excited as the clerk!

Because the college town record store has to be essentially Borders Music but smaller and more WXYC-ish, it doesn't get as deep into exciting obscurities and discoveries that weren't recent reissues played on the local radio station this month. Walk into college town X and you get record store Y with almost the same stuff as the last one you visited; it's like going to the Champs Elysée and noting that most of the shops are the exact same luxury retail joints you see on Waikiki's main drag or Orange Road in Singapore. Takes the fun out of it sometimes.

Schoolkids on Franklin wasn't a favorite for me by a long shot--good for typical Chapel Hill ragged looking two hunnert dollar skateboards with disagreeable stickers ridden by aging fancy trust fund socialists in Che shirts pining for Laura from Superchunk to show up or thinking their DKs tattoo was unique, not so good for finding what wasn't the alt.flavor of the month. Poindexter's on Ninth in Durham was much better for my taste, with guys whose bands played there every once in a while, and clerks who knew what they were talking about. Tower (and the remora stores around it which did specialize in a single obscure genre) rocked because it had sections that guided me towards things in which I was interested and--more importantly--didn't know I wanted until I got a taste of the crack they were selling. They were among the first to have headphone sets everywhere to play hundreds of different displayed records that clearly showed someone thinking hard about what was not only going to sell but what was cool and interesting.

Dusty Groove in Chicago, or Jim's in Pittsburgh, though? *Those* are national treasures, I'm telling ya...

Libertarians get on the strangest mailing lists

In my mailbox yesterday -- the real-world USPS box in the lobby of my apartment building, not one of the various e-mail inboxes I maintain -- was a fundraising letter from MAPS.

That would be, y'all, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, "supporting psychedelic & medical marijuana research since 1986."

Far out.

Many years ago, before my drug of choice became French-press coffee, so long ago that the statute of limitations has long since run out, I will admit to carrying out some multidisciplinary research into recreational polypharmacy.

One particular experiment stands out in what's left of my memory: I remember wandering blearily into a Taco Bell in Chapel Hill, NC that kept late hours, slapping a large-denomination bill down on the counter, and inquiring plaintively of the cashier, "How much foooood will this buy?"

(Answer: In the 1980s, almost more than one person can carry, but not more than a dormitory room of fellow right-thinking partners in the spirit of scientific inquiry can consume.)

25 March 2008

College towns won't be quite the same

This is sad:
You need a college, of course, but that's not the only ingredient in a good college town. You need quirky bookstores. Coffee shops - preferably not all chains. A diner. An artsy cinema. A dive bar.

There's one other thing you need, and it's getting harder to find: a local record store. The kind of place with poster-covered walls, tattoo-covered customers, and an indie-rock aficionado at the cash register, somebody in a retro T-shirt who helps you navigate the store's eclectic inventory.

A few years ago on just one block of Chapel Hill's Franklin Street, the main drag in what's been called America's ideal college town, four or five such places catered both to locals and University of North Carolina students.

But with the demise of Schoolkids Records, the last one is gone. Schoolkids had planned to gut it out through March, but couldn't even make through its final week and shut down Saturday. It's just the latest victim in an industry hit by rising college-town rents, big-box retailers, high CD prices, and - most importantly - a new generation of college students for whom music has become an entirely online, intangible hobby they often don't have to pay for.

In college towns across the USA, record stores bite the dust (News and Observer/Associated Press)

The quirky bookstores will be next to go. Similar dynamics are slowly squeezing the life out of independent booksellers, although they may hang on a little longer.

The genius of the independent music store/bookstore is that you have hardcore geeks curating the inventory of items for sale, and you find brilliant little gems in the rough that you likely never would have encountered otherwise.

The foundation of my record collection, and to some extent my musical taste, was formed by purchases made at Schoolkids in Chapel Hill and Raleigh and Poindexter Records in Durham.

I am as guilty as anyone of using Amazon for a lot of my "commodity" book and music purchases. I guess that blogs will, to some extent, fill the gap created by the demise of the independent store owners with eclectic tastes, but it definitely feels like the end of an era.

New York City retains a very few independent bookstores and collector-focused music stores, but I don't know how much longer they can hold on.

24 March 2008

I love this time of year, part XVI

Davidson beats Georgetown (!) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
"I remember being in the huddle. I forget what timeout it was, but we were down 16,” said Jason Richards, who had 20 points for the Wildcats. “And coach is asking us if we’re having fun. We got smiling a little bit and we got our focus off where we were and we came out and got some great stops.

“And this kid [Stephen Curry] started getting on fire again, like he did the other day, and when that happens, it’s tough to stop him.”

23 March 2008

My next question is "just what kind of security do you call that, anyway?"

We received many questions from the press and the public, several on this blog, about the information contained in a person’s passport file. This entry details exactly what information can be found in a passport file.
Your Passport File (U.S. Department of State Official Blog)

Visiting the Land of Make Believe

One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.

Her own campaign acknowledges there is no way that she will finish ahead in pledged delegates. That means the only way she wins is if Democratic superdelegates are ready to risk a backlash of historic proportions from the party’s most reliable constituency.

Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote — which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle — and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory. An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else.

People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet.

As it happens, many people inside Clinton’s campaign live right here on Earth. One important Clinton adviser estimated to Politico privately that she has no more than a 10 percent chance of winning her race against Barack Obama, an appraisal that was echoed by other operatives.

In other words: The notion of the Democratic contest being a dramatic cliffhanger is a game of make-believe.

Story behind the story: The Clinton myth (Politico)

22 March 2008

Church choirs and karaoke?

Last August Deke Sharon, founder of the Contemporary A Cappella Society, created a league for recovering singers, with some 25 groups across the country. “Five thousand collegiate a cappella singers graduate every spring,” he said. “What are their options? Church choirs and karaoke.”
Perfect Tone, In A Key That's Mostly Minor (New York Times, 22 March 2008)

I can neither confirm nor deny that I was once involved with collegiate a cappella singing.

25 years ago in the NCAA Tournament

It is perhaps the most repeated highlight in tournament history: Final seconds counting down, N.C. State guard Dereck Whittenburg hoists a long air ball that is grabbed by Lorenzo Charles, who jams the errant shot through the net before the final tick on the clock. Houston players stand around in disbelief, some collapse and bang the floor in tears. N.C. State coach Jim Valvano searches frantically for someone to hug.

N.C. State 54, Houston 52.

State of shock: 25 years later, NC State miracle lives on (New York Daily News)

The "local angle" that spurs the NYDN's interest: NC State player Dereck Whittenburg is now in his fifth year as local basketball power Fordham University's head coach.


21 March 2008

How to think

When I applied for my faculty job at the MIT Media Lab, I had to write a teaching statement. One of the things I proposed was to teach a class called "How to Think," which would focus on how to be creative, thoughtful, and powerful in a world where problems are extremely complex, targets are continuously moving, and our brains often seem like nodes of enormous networks that constantly reconfigure. In the process of thinking about this, I composed 10 rules, which I sometimes share with students. I've listed them here, followed by some practical advice on implementation.
Great article, well worth reading a time or ten.

Ed Boyden's Blog, MIT Technology Review, "How To Think"

Hat tip: Kottke

Thinking about Microsoft Vista will make you dumber and slower, too

You don’t need to be a Mac owner to be a cutting-edge hipster. Turns out just thinking about Apple can make you more creative.

That’s according to researchers at Duke University and the University of Waterloo, who found that exposing people to a brand’s logo for 30 milliseconds will make them behave in ways associated with that brand. And in Apple’s case that means more creatively, Gavan Fitzsimons, one of the Duke professors who conducted the study, tells the Business Technology Blog. The study will be published in the April issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Think Apple: It boosts creativity (WSJ Business Technology Blog)

20 March 2008

Also, be sure to use fresh thorns for the crown, okay?

The health department has strongly advised penitents to check the condition of the whips they plan to use to lash their backs...

...In the hot and dusty atmosphere, officials warn, using unhygienic whips to make deep cuts in the body could lead to tetanus and other infections.
To say nothing of the nails that they'll use to affix themselves to crosses.

That's right - you're not reading about Shi'a worshipers commemorating the martydom of Husayn ibn Ali, but devout Catholics in the Philippines who celebrate Easter each year in this rather unique way.

Filipinos warned on crucifixions (BBC News, 19 March 2008)

18 March 2008

Something else to be proud of during the NCAA tournament

North Carolina was the only school among the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA men’s tournament to graduate at least 50 percent of its players.

A report released Monday found 86 percent of Tar Heels men’s players earned diplomas during a six-year period. The other top seeds were far worse: 45 percent at Kansas and 40 percent at UCLA and Memphis.

The study was conducted by Richard Lapchick, head of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. It evaluated four different freshman classes for a period beginning in 1997-98 and ending with 2000-01. Though the players evaluated are no longer on campus, the report intends to provide a snapshot of academic trends.

Study: Top schools in tournament aren’t tops in classroom (Associated Press)

17 March 2008

Where y'all from?

enrevanche visitors 30 day trailing 14 march 2008

Top 20 countries of residence, in declining order, of enrevanche readers, per Google Analytics:

1. United States
2. Canada
3. United Kingdom
4. Germany
5. India
6. France
7. Finland
8. Australia
9. Philippines
10. South Korea
11. Ireland
12. Spain
13. Italy
14. Belgium
15. Mexico
16. Norway
17. Netherlands
18. Sweden
19. Switzerland
20. Singapore

15 March 2008

The illegal option

If Governor Spitzer wanted to have sex with a younger woman then instead of hiring a prostitute he could have gotten a divorce and remarried, just like so many other rich and powerful men. Or he could have had an affair. Of these options hiring a prostitute is the least threatening to marriage but it's the only option which is illegal. In contrast, getting a divorce and remarrying a younger woman is so common it doesn't even stop a man from running for President.
Alex Tabarrok, "Trade-Offs," Marginal Revolution

How to read a Communist Chinese newspaper

Every major news organization in the Western world is leading with stories of the unrest in Tibet; some of the best coverage I've personally seen has been at the BBC.

So how does the People's Daily Online (English version, obviously) run the story?
The government of Tibet Autonomous Region said Friday there had been enough evidence to prove that the recent sabotage in Lhasa was "organized, premeditated and masterminded" by the Dalai clique.

The violence, involving beating, smashing, looting and burning, has disrupted the public order and jeopardized people's lives and property, an official with the regional government said.
The trick to gleaning good information from pure propaganda is to read between the lines. Check out the article's kicker, if you want a glimpse of how damaging and pervasive the "sabotage" in Lhasa must have been:
"According to sources, the public order has basically returned normal in downtown Lhasa by press time, with electricity and telecommunication resumed in many areas. "
James Fallows, currently residing in Shanghai, has been following the story closely. He suspects that the real story in Tibet is much bigger than the Chinese-controlled media is admitting to. With the National People's Congress currently underway and the Olympics scheduled to start this summer, discussions of Tibet would be... inconvenient right now:
This is potentially big, big, very consequential news.

It would be out of character for the Chinese regime (which is relaxed about many things, but not at all about "separatism" in any form) and also contrary to fundamental Chinese doctrine for the government not to respond with very great force to whatever is happening in Lhasa. Among other things, this will certainly change the tone of international discussion about the Olympics, in which China has an enormous investment of pride and "face" and which are now less than five months away.

Again, it is too early and facts are too unclear to say much more with confidence. But as you follow the news, be aware that this is something that could matter a great deal in many ways.
(James Fallows, 14 March 2008)

14 March 2008

Oh, now this is tasteful

Local institution Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop responds to the Spitzer scandal.

Man bites, dawg

CNN said it shouldn't have used a former U.S. attorney who quit his job after allegedly biting a stripper as an analyst about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal.

No mention of Kendall Coffey's past was made when anchor Tony Harris interviewed him Tuesday on the legal questions surrounding Spitzer's case. Coffey quit his job in May 1996 after being accused of biting a topless dancer on the arm during a visit to an adult club after losing a big drug case.

Associated Press via Houston Chronicle

Hat tip: Fishbowl LA

Tag dump

Friends and colleagues who know I blog, but don't read enrevanche regularly, sometimes ask me what I write about.

From now on, I'll just point them to this post.

Here's a little bit of found poetry for you - the trailing-18-month enrevanche tag dump.

1968, 2007, 24, 5768, 9/11, acc, ACC basketball, accents, accounting, activism, advertising, advice, affirmative action, Afghanistan, aimee mann, airlines, alcohol, allegories, alternative energy, AM.APMP, american history, Americana, Amy Winehouse, anecdotes, animation, anniversary, another roadside attraction, anti-semitism, apartment renovations, APMP, apple, applecare, applications, architecture, art, art and endeavor, atheism, atlantic coast conference, Austrian economics, authoritarianism, automobiles, autumn, awards shows, away for a few days, bad advice, bad faith, bad weather, Balko, banality, banking security, Barbaro, barbecue, barbecue sauce, barbers, Barnett, bars, baseball, basketball, beaches, bears, beer, beijing, Benazir Bhutto, biology, birthdays, bittorrent, BlackBerry, blacksburg, Blendtec, bloggage, Blogger beta, blogger parochialism, blogging, blogjuice, blognotes, blogroll, blood glucose testing, bloomberg, blowing shit up, bong hits, books, bop, bridges, bubble, Buckley, business, business strategy, business writing, busking, buzzwords, cabdrivers, CAIR, california wildfires, calling in sick, cancer, capitalism, capybaras, cardiovascular fitness, career, carnivals, Carolina, Carrie, cars, Castro, catblogging, CBGB, celebrity culture, cell phones, censorship, change management, changes, Chapomatic, charity, Charles Tyrwhitt, Chevron, china, cholera, Chow Bella, Chow Fun, chowderhead bazoo, chows, Christmas, CIA, cinema, cities, citizenship, civics, civil rights, class issues, classic cartoons, classical languages, cluelessness, co-branding, cobb, coffee, collaboration, collections, collective intelligence, collectors, college basketball, comedy, comic books, computer security, computers, condiments, Congress, conservatives, conspiracy theories, consumer products, contests, context, contracts, contrarian, convergence, cooking, cool stuff, cooperation with tyranny, Cormac McCarthy, corporate life, corruption, country retreats, courage, creative commons, creative destruction, creative expression, creative nonfiction, credit market, criminal law, Cuba, cuisine, cuisine rurale, cultural illiteracy, culture, currency markets, current events, customer service, d00d, Daily Telegraph, damn, damned lies, Darwin, darwinism, david pogue, daylight savings time, Deadwood, debacles, declining standards, demagoguery, Democrats, demographic fiscal suicide, demographics, depravity, derivatives, design, detroit, DHL, digital life, Dinesh D'Souza, disarmament, disaster preparedness, dishonesty, dissent, divorce rates, Diwali, Dizzy Gillespie, dogblogging, don surber, drink, drug policy, drugs, drumming up business, dude--what?, Duke, duke lacrosse, dynamite in small packages, e-learning, e-mail, early adopters, ecclesiastical polity, economic freedom, economics, education, elder care, elections, electoral politics, energy policy, English, environment, environmental policy, eschatology, essay question, estate planning, eternal truths, Etherbeat, etiquette, etymology, eulogies, everlasting godstoppers, evil, evolutionary psychology, excel, exercises in futility, fall, family, family trees, fast food, father's day, feminism, film, finance, firearms, five questions, flameouts, flowers, fontifier, food, foodies, foreign language software, foreign policy, Foreign Policy magazine, fraud, freakonomics, freedom, freedom of speech, freelance, fritter, FUD, fun with Myers-Briggs Personality Types, fundraising, futurism, gadgetry, gag reflex, gambling, games, gapminder, Gary Shivers, gastronomy, Gawker, geekery, geeks, genealogy, Geneva Conventions, Geni, genocide, geopolitics, ghastly overreaching, GI, gift-giving, global warming, gluttony, go bag, God Is Not Great, Gonzalez, Google, Google Maps, GOP, gospel, gourmand, gourmet, grand strategy, GrandCentral, gratitude, graydon, greenwich village, Greenwich Village Idiot, grits, groceries, groucho marx, guns, Guy Clark, GW Bush, H1B, hack yourself, ham, hamburgers, harry potter, haute cuisine, have a blessed day, Hayek, health, healthcare, Heinlein, heroism, hip-hop, history, Hitchens, hobbies, hollywood, home schooling, home-based businesses, homeland security, honesty is the best policy, honor, hoops, housing, housing slump, human rights, humor, hypocrisy, I hate those meeces to pieces, I see naked people, I'm sure I should find this offensive, ibm, ideal for home defense, idiocy, illin', immigration, in memoriam, in the future, in the news, income inequality, incompetence, independent film, indexed, India, inflation, information design, information sharing, information technology, information warfare, informed speculation, infrastructure, innovations, insanity, insomnia, insomnia cookies, insurance, internet, internet companies, internet radio, internet tablet, internet telephony, interruptions, interspecies communication, interviews, investments, iphone, iPod, ipod touch, Iran, Iraq, irony, Islam, israel, IT management, ITSM, IVR, James Brown, James Fallows, japan, jargon, jazz, Jesus, JetBlue, JetBlue blues, job-seeking, John Brown, Joshua Bell, junk science, ketchup, kidblogging, kitsch, knowledge management, knowledge work, Kos, krispy kreme, Krispy Kreme Challenge, La France, labor relations, language, languages, last one out please turn off the lights, late adopters, LDS, Lee Kuan Yew, lemurblogging, lemurs, libertarianism, libertarians, libraries, LibraryThing, lies, lies and the lying liars who tell them, life lessons, lifestyles, liquidity, literate hobos, Live Earth, living will, long war, Looney Tunes, Louis Armstrong, love and marriage, luck, lying, MacBook, macintosh, Madeleine L'Engle, madeleines, magazines, MAKE, managed services, management, management theory, manatees, manbag, manpurse, Mark Steyn, marketing, martial arts, MBA programs, MC5, McCain, mcmaster, mediocrity, meetings, MEGEN, memes, Memorial Day, metafilter, mice, michelin guide, Microsoft, middle east, milestones, Mister Gato, Mister Rogers, modern medicine, moleskines, monetary policy, monopolies, mountain philosopher, mouse brains, movie reviews, movies, Mr. Peanut, Mr. Pink, mres, mules, multitasking, music, music and cats, music reviews, musotik, mustard, My Maps, n800, Nadelmann, nagl, NASCAR, natural antidepressants, ncaa, neosoul, nerdery, nerds, net radio, networked applications, neuroscience, new economy, new media, New York City, New York Times, New Yorker, news, newspaper business, Nobel, nokia, nokia n800, nokia n810, Norah Jones, North Carolina, north korea, nostalgia, notebooks, numbers stations, nutrition, obama, obituaries, office software, office supplies, offshoring, oh dear, oil, one laptop per child, one of these things is not like the other, online business, online dating, online gaming, online learning, online tests, oops I did it again, open source, OpenID, opera, Oprah, outsourcing, overheard in new york, oversharing, pandas, paraphernalia, parody, patent law, PC, peak oil, pedantry, peer training, penal law, personal computers, personalDNA, petroleum, philosophy, phone, photoblogging, photography, physics, plane travel, playlist, pleasure-seeking heroin-addicted flamboyant wasters, plus ca change, podcasting, podcating, poisoning, poker, politics, poor impulse control, pop culture, Pops, portable, Postini, postmodernism, power of attorney, powerpoint, prescriptions, Presidential election, press, primateblogging, primates, primatology, primitives, prior planning preventing piss-poor performance, privacy, product reviews, Project Vote Smart, prophecy, proposal management, prosimians, Proteus, psychology, public health, punk, pyongyang, quechup, racial politics, racism, radio, railroads, raleigh, rankings, rants, rare books, ratings, rats, razors, rcir, Reason magazine, recipes, record collections, relationships, religion, Rem Koolhaas, remote work, Republicans, research skills, restaurant reviews, restaurants, retro architecture, reviews, Rickie Lee Jones, rights of detainees, RINO Sightings, RINOs, Robert Anton Wilson, rock and roll, rodents, roller derby, romance novels, Ron Paul, RootDownFM.com, roundball, Rove, Rudy Giuliani, rugby, satire, Savannah, SBUX, scandal, schadenfreude, schiavo, science, science policy, science-fiction, Scientists and Engineers for America, scotland the brave, Scott, Seattle, security, self improvement, sepia mutiny, serendipity, shoulder bag, shuffle, sic transit gloria mundi, sickness, signage, Simeon Booker, Simpsons, simulations, sin, Singapore, sins of omission, sisu, skydiving, slice o' life, slippery slope, smear campaigns, social bookmarking, social content aggregation, social freedom, social networking, social news aggregation, social sciences, sociology, sockpuppetry, software, Soldiers' Angels, SomaFM, sometimes life sucks, Sopranos, soul, South Carolina, southern, southernness, spam, Spanish, speaking ill of the dead, speech, spending, spinal tap, spring, Spy, Starbucks, statistics, stem cells, stimson, stock market, Stupid browser tricks, subprime mortgages, subway, suffering, sunrocket, surrealistic art, surveillance, survelliance, sushi, swimming directions, tagged, Tap into America, taverns, tax policy, technical support, technology, Ted Haggard, teh cute, telephony, television, Texas, textbooks, thanks, Thanksgiving, the asian century, the bleedin' obvious, The Breck Girl, the brits, The Economist, The Frog and Nightgown, the joys of air travel are without number, The kindness of strangers, The Little Willies, The Onion, The Wire, the worst are full of passionate intensity, theatre, Thelonious Monk, there is a spectre haunting Bergdorf's, they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night, thinking bloggers, third parties, This American Life, this is not good, thought for the day, Tierney, Tog, tonsorial therapy, tools, torture, Tour de France, tourism, tournament, trade policy, trains, travel, travel guides, Triangle, truffles, trust, truth, TV, twitter, unaffiliated, Underground economy, universities, university admissions, urban legends, urban poverty, US elections, US history, us politics, usability, user experience, USS Intrepid, utilities, Valentine's Day, Valour-IT, venezuela, versalink, veterans, video games, videos, vinegar, Vint Cerf, virtual worlds, visualization, voicemail, voip, Vonnegut, Vox, Walter Reed, War on Drugs, war on terror, wave-adaptive modular vessels, waverly inn, Web 2.0, west village, westell, WFB, what he said, what's the plural of faux pas?, what?, whistleblower bill, White Trash, White Trash portfolio, whole foods, wifi, wiki, wikipedia, wild horses, William Gibson, wireless, Wodehouse, word, words to live by, work habits, work styles, workstyles, World AIDS Day, world politics, WRAMC, writers strike, yahoo, yankees, Yelp, Yeltsin, yingling, yoga, you goddamn kids get offa my lawn, YouTube, zagat, zombies

Information overload: it's official

We’ve hit information overload: The amount of data people create now exceeds the amount of space available to store them.

People sent emails, took digital pictures, processed credit cards and generally did things that collectively created 281 exabytes of data by the end 2007, according to the research company IDC. (“Exabyte” sounds made up, but it’s a real term meaning 1,000,000,000,000 megabytes.) IDC also added up all the computer drives, backup tapes, CDs, DVDs, memory sticks and other devices that store data and estimated that their total capacity is only 264 exabtyes.

There aren’t data just drifting in the ether somewhere. A lot of the data that get created—say, an Internet phone call–never get stored. Other data get erased or recorded over. It’s the digital equivalent of a conversation going in one ear and out the other. But for the first time in human history, we couldn’t save all this information if we wanted to, according to IDC.

It's Official: There's Too Much Information (Wall Street Journal Business Technology Blog)

13 March 2008

Oh, just a sudden impulse, I guess

A neckband that translates thought into speech by picking up nerve signals has been used to demonstrate a "voiceless" phone call for the first time.

With careful training a person can send nerve signals to their vocal cords without making a sound. These signals are picked up by the neckband and relayed wirelessly to a computer that converts them into words spoken by a computerised voice.
Nerve-tapping neckband allows 'telepathic' chat (New Scientist, 12 March 2008)

And here's the demo:

H/t: Marc Andreesen

12 March 2008

This is your brain on jazz

It would come as no surprise to the late saxophonist and improvisational master John Coltrane, but when accomplished jazz musicians play free-form, their brain activity suggests a release of self-expression from conscious monitoring and self-censorship.

Such neural activity may lie at the heart of musical improvisation and perhaps other improvisational feats, propose auditory scientist Charles J. Limb of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and neurologist Allen R. Braun of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Md.

"What we think is happening is that when you're telling your own musical story, you're shutting down neural impulses that might impede the flow of novel ideas," says Limb, himself a trained jazz saxophonist.
Riff Riders: Brain scans tune in to jazz improvisers (Science News, 8 March 2008)

Fascinating article. They had to design a foldable, nonmetallic keyboard that would fit into an MRI machine, and then they did live brainscans of musicians as they played improvisationally:
The part of the frontal brain that has been linked to planning and self-censorship saw a marked decline in activity. At the same time, activity spiked in a small frontal structure that has been linked to being able to tell a story about oneself.

I miss quadraphonic stereo, actually

Carrie sends along the article below, along with a note: "At least we now know who's still using AOL."

Tech's Late Adopters Prefer the Tried and True (New York Times, 12 March 2008)


Experts say that late adopters, or technology laggards, are not necessarily Luddites and can play a pivotal role in keeping the beat of innovation.

“Laggards have a bad rap, but they are crucial in pacing the nature of change,” said Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster in Silicon Valley. “Innovation requires the push of early adopters and the pull of laypeople asking whether something really works. If this was a world in which only early adopters got to choose, we’d all be using CB radios and quadraphonic stereo.”

Mr. Saffo said that aspects of the laggard and early adopter co-exist in most people. They may buy the latest digital camera, but end up using only a fraction of its features, or they may proudly tote an iPhone but still pay their bills by check, rather than online.

At 81, Jerry Gropp, an architect in the Seattle area, is a bit of both. He has a high-speed Internet connection through Comcast and Web e-mail accounts with Yahoo and Hotmail. But he still pays AOL for its dial-up service, largely because the desktop e-mail software packaged with it makes it easier to include maps, photographs and notes in the body of messages, rather than as attachments.

“I’ve been on this for about 20 years,” he said about AOL’s service. “In some ways, the old may be the best, combined with the new.”

Electronic health records: not private, not safe

In a recent survey of 307 healthcare information-technology managers, Cisco Systems found that investing in database security is the managers’ biggest priority. As hospitals shift into the digital world with electronic records and wireless devices, protecting data is becoming increasingly important.

But the Business Technology Blog also found something worrisome: The survey reported that 16% of respondents had a security breach at their organization in the last six months; 24% reported a breach in the past 12 months.
Wall Street Journal Business Technology Blog: Electronic Health Records Aren't Safe (12 March 2008)

In other words, assuming that this is an accurate sample, there's at least a one-in-four chance that your private health records have been compromised in the last year.

11 March 2008

The abominable ho-man

Area codes in which Ludacris has ho's. (Strange Maps)

Something Ludacris has in common with Governor Spitzer: area codes 202 and 212 are covered.

Related (lyrics NSFW):

10 March 2008

Shocking betrayal and rank greed

Discovering that the exclusive international ring of prostitutes known as the "Emperor's Club" charged up to $5,500 an hour for their services, New York governor Eliot Spitzer vowed to put an end to this price gouging practice.

Four people alleged to have run the "Emperor's Club" were charged with conspiracy to violate federal prostitution statutes, while two of them were also charged with laundering more than $1 million in illegal proceeds.

"That kind of excessive compensation is simply outrageous. Prostitution is allegedly a victimless crime,” Spitzer said in a press conference that took place only in our imaginations. “But now we see that its customers can become its victims.”

Spitzer added it was especially shameful that one of the most trusted names in prostitution had engaged in this shocking betrayal and rank greed.
Eliot Spitzer Vows To Crack Down On Excess Prostitute Pay (Dealbreaker, 10 March 2008)

I have a very vivid imagination, but even I am having a difficult time imagining just what a call girl is going to do that's worth $5,500 an hour.

09 March 2008

Cuisiner avec les souris

Mister Gato has a strange new respect for authentic Vietnamese food:

There are some very interesting meats available for consumption in Southeast Asia. I’ve seen bugs, ostriches, dogs, snakes, bats, and even cats for sale. While I draw the line at domesticated animals and insects, I’ll pretty much eat everything else, just as long as it was prepared with love, looks appetizing, and smells good.

With the year of the rat in full swing, a group of friends and I recently ventured outside our comfort zones to try a Mekong Delta specialty—mouse.

Eating Mice Can Be Rather Nice (Serious Eats)

The Condiment Packet Gallery

The Condiment Packet Gallery
Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
My name is Chris Harne. I began collecting condiment packets in November of 2003. Initially the purpose of the collection was a more practical one. I came to the conclusion that ketchup was no longer a reasonable thing to spend money on. A handful of packets here and there would do just fine. I began to pick up other condiments as well. I stopped at a variety of locations in order to gather new types of condiments. It was around this time that I discovered how many different condiment packets existed. A collector by nature, the only logical thing for me to do was attempt to get every different packet design I possibly could.

I carefully remove the contents of my packets by slicing open the back along the bottom seam with a sharp blade. I rinse the inside of the packets thoroughly to ensure all traces of sauce are expelled. I then wait until the packets are completely dry before I place them in baseball card cases to preserve them cleanly and safely for many generations.

The Condiment Packet Gallery

(via Serious Eats)

To wake the deaf

Here's one I never thought much about: how do you reliably construct an alarm that will wake up a deaf person?

Alarm clocks for the deaf apparently work on the principle of vibration - you've got a clock hooked up to a disc or pad that slips under your mattress, and it literally shakes you awake when it's time to get up. (I think I'd opt for one of the vibrating wristwatches, myself.)

Japanese researchers have just come up with a possible alternative strategy: smell. In particular, the smell of wasabi.

A new type of fire alarm in Japan has been developed using the pungent smell of horseradish.

The device is drawing attention as a new way to warn people with hearing disabilities.

Medical equipment manufacturers have developed a technology to extract components of the strong odor of horseradish, seal them inside a can and spray them out.

Shiga University of Medical Science Hospital cooperated with the makers and carried out experiments to see if the horseradish smell can wake up people from a deep sleep.

Fourteen people, including those with hearing disabilities, took part in the experiments.

In the experiment, 13 out of the 14 subjects woke up in less than two minutes after the smell reached their noses.

The people with hearing disabilities were particularly quick to wake up, with one person emerging from sleep in just 10 seconds.

News Now Report: Horseradish fire alarm (WCTV Tallahassee, FL)

I wonder if the sleepers awoke craving sushi.

via BoingBoing

08 March 2008

The onset of Madness

Next week, the ACC Men's Basketball Tournament:
There has not been a public sale of ACC Tournament tickets since 1966, and all tournaments since then have sold out in advance.
The week after that, March Madness sets in.

But tonight--in the last scheduled game of the regular ACC season--it's #1 UNC vs. #6 Duke. At Cameron.

I love this time of year.

Digital samizdat

"Самиздат: сам сочиняю, сам редактирую, сам цензурирую, сам издаю, сам распространяю, сам и отсиживаю за него." ("Self-publishing: I myself create it, edit it, censor it, publish it, distribute it, and get imprisoned for it.") - Vladimir Bukovsky

In the bad old days of the Soviet Union, banned books and articles circulated in underground print editions.

Xeroxing was out; the secret police--no kidding--controlled access to copy machines.

So usually these "copies" were transcribed by hand or typed, and duplicated in this means by faithful readers, so that the population of copies in circulation grew as they made their way through their readership.

This practice of making and passing copies on clandestinely became known as samizdat (самиздат)-- literally, "self-published"--and some tremendously important works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry originally circulated in the USSR in this way.

Wikipedia notes
: "With increased proliferation of computer technologies, it became practically impossible for the government to control the copying and distribution of samizdat."

And how. When average citizens own a machine that can be a printing press, a radio station, or a TV station depending on what software you download, control of information becomes impossible.

The only thing you can do, in a world of PCs, is to attempt to ruthlessly control access to the network, and this is what totalitarian states ranging from Saudi Arabia to China have attempted to do.

And, of course, Cuba... where it isn't working either:
A growing underground network of young people armed with computer memory sticks, digital cameras and clandestine Internet hookups has been mounting some challenges to the Cuban government in recent months, spreading news that the official state media try to suppress.

Last month, students at a prestigious computer science university videotaped an ugly confrontation they had with Ricardo Alarcón, the president of the National Assembly.

Mr. Alarcón seemed flummoxed when students grilled him on why they could not travel abroad, stay at hotels, earn better wages or use search engines like Google. The video spread like wildfire through Havana, passed from person to person, and seriously damaged Mr. Alarcón’s reputation in some circles.

Something similar happened in late January when officials tried to impose a tax on the tips and wages of employees of foreign companies. Workers erupted in jeers and shouts when told about the new tax, a moment caught on a cellphone camera and passed along by memory sticks.

“It passes from flash drive to flash drive,” said Ariel, 33, a computer programmer, who, like almost everyone else interviewed for this article, asked that his last name not be used for fear of political persecution. “This is going to get out of the government’s hands because the technology is moving so rapidly.”

Cyber-Rebels in Cuba Defy State's Limits (New York Times, 6 March 2008)

07 March 2008

Nearing his Canadian breaking point

Several years ago, I had the chance to visit a tech-support call center for one of the big computer companies. The technician gave me a second pair of headphones so I could listen in on his conversations with the hapless users.

I learned so much that day. I learned that all computer companies outsource tech support to dedicated call-center companies. I learned that the Users can be outrageously rude to these hapless tech-support reps, taking out their built-up frustration on somebody who had nothing to do with causing the problem.

And I learned that when they say, “Your call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes,” that’s only partly true. They also record your calls so they can pass around recordings of the funniest ones.


A Canadian customer was calling to find out if there was a faster way to trigger menu commands than mousing up to the menus.

Agent: Certainly, sir. There are keyboard shortcuts for many of those commands. For example, suppose you want to trigger the Select All command…

Caller: Yes, I use that one all the time! How do I do it?

Agent: Well, you just press Control-A.

Caller (after a pause): Well, that’s not working for me.

Agent: Do you have a text document open in front of you?

Caller: Yes, I sure do.

Agent: OK, now press Control-A.

Caller: I am, but nothing happens.

Agent: The text isn’t highlighted?

Caller: No, there’s no change at all.

Agent: That’s odd. If you press Control-A, the whole document should be highlighted. Try it again. Press Control-A. Tell me exactly what’s happening.

Caller (nearing his Canadian breaking point): Listen. I’m pressing Control, eh? And nothing’s happening, eh?

David Pogue: Tech Support Gets a Reprieve While Users Take a Hit (6 March 2008)

Hat tip: Greg

America's most enduring policy failure

The writers of The Wire tackle the issue of American drug policy in the pages of Time magazine:

...[T]his [drug] war grinds on, flooding our prisons, devouring resources, turning city neighborhoods into free-fire zones. To what end? State and federal prisons are packed with victims of the drug conflict. A new report by the Pew Center shows that 1 of every 100 adults in the U.S. — and 1 in 15 black men over 18 — is currently incarcerated. That's the world's highest rate of imprisonment.

The drug war has ravaged law enforcement too. In cities where police agencies commit the most resources to arresting their way out of their drug problems, the arrest rates for violent crime — murder, rape, aggravated assault — have declined. In Baltimore, where we set The Wire, drug arrests have skyrocketed over the past three decades, yet in that same span, arrest rates for murder have gone from 80% and 90% to half that. Lost in an unwinnable drug war, a new generation of law officers is no longer capable of investigating crime properly, having learned only to make court pay by grabbing cheap, meaningless drug arrests off the nearest corner.

What the drugs themselves have not destroyed, the warfare against them has. And what once began, perhaps, as a battle against dangerous substances long ago transformed itself into a venal war on our underclass. Since declaring war on drugs nearly 40 years ago, we've been demonizing our most desperate citizens, isolating and incarcerating them and otherwise denying them a role in the American collective. All to no purpose. The prison population doubles and doubles again; the drugs remain.

Our leaders? There aren't any politicians — Democrat or Republican — willing to speak truth on this. Instead, politicians compete to prove themselves more draconian than thou, to embrace America's most profound and enduring policy failure.

The Wire's War on The Drug War (Time, 5 Mar 2008)

They don't wind up advocating decriminalization outright... but, as a first step, they do advocate for jury nullification.

Their article was so good and so short that I was tempted to reproduce it in its entirety. I damn nearly did anyway. Go: read the whole thing.

And once you've read that, go read this:

One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008 (Pew Center Public Safety Performance Project)

...and reflect on that fact that, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we lock up more people (both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of our population) than any other country on the planet:
The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world, including the far more populous nation of China. At the start of the new year, the American penal system held more than 2.3 million adults. China was second, with 1.5 million people behind bars, and Russia was a distant third with 890,000 inmates, according to the latest available figures. Beyond the sheer number of inmates, America also is the global leader in the rate at which it incarcerates its citizenry, outpacing nations like South Africa and Iran. In Germany, 93 people are in prison for every 100,000 adults and children. In the U.S, the rate is roughly eight times that, or 750 per 100,000. (source)
In case you were wondering, the "1 in 100" figure includes people who are locked up in local jails awaiting trial, explaining the 1% incarceration rate vs. the 0.75% rate of imprisonment (people who have been tried and sentenced.)

06 March 2008

Food fight

Food Fight is an abridged history of war, from World War II to present day, told through the foods of the countries in conflict. Watch as traditional comestibles slug it out for world domination in this chronologically re-enacted smorgasbord of aggression.
Hat tip: Popbitch

...but dammit, Chap had this at his place a couple of weeks ago, and I'm just catching up.

03 March 2008

We are reasonably sure that she is, in fact, female, however

In “Love and Consequences,” a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South Central Los Angeles as a foster child who ran drugs for members of the Bloods, an infamous gang. The author’s biography on the back flap says she graduated from the University of Oregon.

The problem is that none of that is true.

Ms. Jones, a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, actually is all white and grew up in Sherman Oaks, in the San Fernando Valley of California, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in North Hollywood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. She is still a few credits short of a diploma from University of Oregon.

Riverhead Books, the unit of Penguin Group USA that published “Love and Consequences,” is recalling all copies of the book and has canceled Ms. Seltzer’s book tour, which was scheduled to start on Monday in Eugene, Ore., where she currently lives.

Author Admits Acclaimed Memoir Is Fantasy (New York Times, 3 March 2008)

See also:

Fawning New York Times book review here (26 Feb 2008)

Fawning profile from Times "House and Home" section here (28 Feb 2008)

You only learn who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out

[Warren] Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders, which was released Friday, has become something of a business institution, with the certainty that he will offer caustic comments and the hope that he will shed light on his investments.

This year, his scorn was aimed at the “financial folly” of lenders who financed the housing boom, since vanished, and at companies that use rosy assumptions of investment success to raise reported profits.

The comments, which were released after the market closed, came as Berkshire reported that fourth-quarter profit fell 18 percent, in part because of falling insurance rates. Net income decreased to $2.95 billion, or $1,904 a share, from $3.58 billion, or $2,323, a year earlier.

Mr. Buffett offered no commentary on Berkshire’s foray into the municipal bond insurance business, and no explanation of why he spent $1.5 billion to buy a 1.3 percent stake in Sanofi-Aventis.

But he was willing to say, in effect, “I told you so,” in recalling his warning a year ago about “weakened lending practices” in the mortgage market.

“Just about all Americans came to believe that house prices would forever rise,” he wrote. “That conviction made a borrower’s income and cash equity seem unimportant to lenders, who shoveled out money, confident that H.P.A. — house price appreciation — would cure all problems. Today, our country is experiencing widespread pain because of that erroneous belief. As house prices fall, a huge amount of financial folly is being exposed. You only learn who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out — and what we are witnessing at some of our largest financial institutions is an ugly sight.”

Buffett's State of the World: There's Folly in Wonderland (New York Times, 1 March 2008)

Related: Warren Buffett's 2007 Letter to Shareholders (BerkshireHathaway.com)

02 March 2008

Thinking Inside The Box

Thinking Inside The Box
Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
"Please explain to me what's so wonderful about thinking outside of the box. I *like* it in this box. The cardboard is nicely shredded, and the old sheets and towels make a lovely, soft bed. Why would anyone want to be outside this box?"

Strange Maps: Barbecue Sauce Styles


Learned discourse from barbecue authority and UNC sociology professor emeritus John Shelton Reed, on the styles of barbecue sauce in use in South Carolina:
* The vinegar and pepper region covers the eastern quarter of the state. This is “a southward extension of eastern North Carolina-style sauce,” states Mr Reed.

* “The tomato region ditto for North Carolina’s Piedmont- or Lexington-style sauce, which is basically the eastern sauce with a little tomato added, still thin and vinegar-flavored.”

* The ketchup region is influenced by what they serve in Georgia “and most of the trans-Appalachian South – or for that matter in grocery stores – a thick, sweet, ketchupy sauce.”

* Unique to South Carolina, though, is “the mustard sauce of central South Carolina, (which) is unique to that state, and (which) gives it more distinct barbecue regions than any other.”
Strange Maps #246: Southern Sauce Sources

Delightfully, a commenter in the thread at Strange Maps made an appropriately-colored Google Maps overlay of the South Carolina Sauce Map.

See here for the North Carolina Google Sauce Map.

And there's much discussion, in the comments, of where the precise dividing lines are.

Barbecue is serious business.

52 stars on the US flag?

Thomas P.M. Barnett thinks he's figured out how the Union will next expand:

- Once Fidel Castro finally croaks and brother Raul gets to run things for a bit on his own, watch the practical brother experiment with markets while allowing some serious infusions of cash from "trusted" sources like China.

- Fast-forward a year or two, and tired Raul is replaced by some national unity committee that reflects the growing splits within the next generation of leaders over how far market reforms should proceed.

Meanwhile, the money seeping in from Miami's Cubans grows to a flood as travel restrictions are radically reduced in response to popular demand.

- Within five years, Cuba holds its first roughly free presidential election, and one or more candidates, with pockets bulging with greenbacks, stump openly for American statehood.

- Once that match gets lit, watch Florida hold every subsequent American presidential candidate hostage to the Cuba-statehood plank.

Once we move into that political territory, the pairing most likely to unfold is Blue State D.C. joining the Union alongside Red State Cuba, and I've got my first two new stars on the flag.

Barnett: The 51st State: Huge Upside-Down Question Mark (2 March 2008)

01 March 2008

"Our worst critics prefer to stay"

The Freakonomics Blog recently held a contest to come up with a new six-word motto for the United States of America.

"Our worst critics prefer to stay" won, with 194 reader votes.


Caution! Experiment in Progress Since 1776 (134)

The Most Gentle Empire So Far (64) votes

You Should See the Other Guy (38)

Just Like Canada, With Better Bacon (18)

Stephen Dubner observes further:

“Our Worst Critics Prefer to Stay” is, while perhaps not outrightly uplifting, a wonderfully concise acknowledgment of the paradox that a capitalist democracy inevitably is: a place that is often well worth complaining about, and which allows you to complain as loudly as you wish.

H/t: Chap

Get your wonk on

DocuTicker offers a hand-picked selection of resources, reports and publications from government agencies, NGOs, think tanks and other public interest organizations.

The crack/EW nexus

“I have upon occasion compared directing a film to dragging a freight train up a muddy hill by a piece of string. Certainly there is a connection there to Fitzcarraldo [1, 2 - bc] —only in my experience whenever I turn around to yell encouragement to those supposedly helping me, I find them all sitting in the cars laughing, smoking crack and reading Entertainment Weekly."
-- Indie filmmaker Tom DiCillo, interviewed by indie filmmaker David Walker, at BadAzzMofo.com (29 Feb 2008)

Related: Black Santa's Revenge, a film by David Walker ("He knows when you've been naughty.")


Written, produced and directed by BadAzz MoFo creator David Walker, BLACK SANTA’S REVENGE is a two-fisted tale of yuletide vengeance reminiscent of the classic blaxploitation and revenge films of the 1970s and 80s—think William Lustig’s Vigilante meets Ivan Dixon’s Trouble Man. Adapted from the short comic book story drawn by Rusty Beach and written by Walker, the film version of BSR is filled with all the classic elements of exploitation cinema—graphic violence, gratuitous nudity, and tons of profanity—all crammed into a 20-minute running time.
Hat tip: Chap