Tuesday, January 31, 2006

For Those of You Who Didn't Make it To Burning Man

Last year, or the year before... Neil Guy has photographed the good parts for you. Via Boingboing.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Literature Wiki, Maybe

A new little site, DebbiesIdea.com, promises to be a wiki-style guide to literature. So far, there is almost nothing on the site, but the notion is that the site will recommend where to start with an unfamiliar author--say you want to get started with Rushdie, for example. The site will tell you Midnight's Children fkn rocks and The Moor's Last Sigh is almost as good, but Shalimar The Clown is a butt-muncher.

The human element of these recommendations will, we think, easily beat Amazon's suggestions. However, LibraryThing, where people enter their libraries and tag their books, del.icio.us-style, generates recommendations that blow Amazon out of the water, based on what people have in their libraries alongside the book in question as well as what tags two books share. For example, on the page of any Harry Potter book, Amazon wants you to buy all the other Harry Potters. LibraryThing branches out to suggest Philip Pullman, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Madeline L'Engle. So Debbie may not be that novel after all and will obviously require lots of work to become useful. Keep an eye on her for us and let us know how she's doing, though, okay?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday Happy Hour

In Nebraska, it is illegal to mix beer and hard liquor. Drinks such as the Irish Car Bomb (take a pint of Guinness, drink an Irish-sized swallow, then fill the space in the glass with Baileys and whiskey and enjoy at your leisure) are therefore the order of the day.

In a nod to the Midwest, may we suggest a Boilermaker: Whiskey, in a glass, plus beer, in a glass. Drink one, then the other. Or, depth-charge the shot of whiskey into the pint, which gives the drink a sloppy frat party feel as the shotglass in your pint falls into your face as you gulp down your extra-strong beer. That is actually the part of the drink that makes it illegal in Nebraska, so do it at least once for liberty's sake. As far as specific ingredients, nobody really cares, although we believe the whiskey and the beer should be the same color. That is to say, cheap on both counts.

We did a little research for you, dear reader, to see if we could figure out how the name Boilermaker got associated with such a simple drink. According to David Wondrich at Esquire's Drinking Database, "boilermaker" is slang for any industrial metal worker and may have been linked to the drink from the phrase, "a boilermaker and his helper." The drink does represent a crude-but-does-the-job mentality: You can't screw it up, and it gets you drunk. Fast. Another name for the drink is "Block and Fall," referring to the fact that after two of them, you'll walk about a block and fall.

Happy Birthday, Mozart

Today Mozart would have turned 250, if he hadn't died of debauchery in his 30s. NPR has been making a big deal out of this anniversary, so die-hard Mozart fans should just go there. We think a lot of Mozart's music is pretty without substance, like a stale wedding cake decked out in a ton of frosting. His dark, brooding Requiem, featured in Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, is good stuff, though. So we are going to make the macabre suggestion that to celebrate Mozart's birth, skip the cake and listen to his death mass.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Strong Work.

AP Photo/Dharapak

When AG Gonzales spoke Tuesday at Georgetown University's Law School, a dozen or so students stood up and turned their backs to him when he tried to tell them that spying on American citizens without a warrant is Constitutional. A few others held up this beautiful banner. Take that, Michael Kinsley!

The Holy Sacrament of Marriage

If a soldier is married, he or she can live off-base, get an extra $1000 a month for living expenses, and extend healthcare benefits to his or her spouse. Which is to say, if you marry a soldier, you get to split an extra $1000 bucks a month of spending money and you get free healthcare. And why would a soldier marry you? To live off-base and get a piece of that $1000 bucks a month. Every body wins. Youth Radio has the story of one such couple who married for the money--the soldier is the wife's roommate's little brother and the closest they have come to actually consummating the union was a tongue kiss at the Las Vegas wedding chapel--who have been easily collecting their benefits for a couple years now, just like everyone else in the soldier's platoon. Although the wife does get a quizzical look from her doctor when requesting birth control refills, given that her husband is in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

Epicure's Paradise

Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks went to the Winter Fancy Food convention/show in San Francisco and brought back pictures of all the goodies we'll be able to overpay for at Whole Foods in the coming year. Wildly overpriced wild honey in test tubes, hibiscus flower sorbet from Mexico that sounds AWESOME, and gratuitous flavored organic peanut butter.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

As Seen in the NYTimes

Science Blogs, a collection of nerds blogging about evolutionary biology and anthropology, genetics, the culture wars, physics--all the nerdy stuff. According to the Times, this is just a ploy by the parent mag, Seed: Science is Culture, to drum up more advertising revenue. THAT is more honest than Digital Universe, where BU is lurking in the shadows to make money off a project that is ostensibly working to make the world a better place by educating everyone out of the goodness of their hearts. Anyway, we're giving the RSS feeds a try.

How to Write a Best-Seller

It is all in the title.

Go to Lulu.com's Titlescorer and play around with different combinations of your pet's name and the street you grew up on, and before you know it, you just might have a best seller on your hands. Lulu says A Million Little Pieces has a 63% chance of best-seller stardom and Midnight's Children a 69% chance.

Do not confuse Lulu.com with the true lulu, which is a wonderful strawberry-and-pancake brunch food done best at Brooklyn's Grand Cafe.

Shout out to Coffee Geeks

In the weeks following 9/11, Mark Price's web design company lost all of its contracts. The business had enough cash on hand to pay everyone until things picked up, so devised CoffeeGeek.com as make-work to tide everyone over. The site is now a hit, with pictorial guides on how to do everything you can imagine with your beans, including Turkish coffee and lots of reviews of coffee and espresso machines, grinders, beans, cups, everything. These guys are serious about their coffee!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday Happy Hour

We're trying to make a weekly theme of a shot or two of booze, but we're really too lazy. Gubbins helps out this week with pom-flavored vodka from Pearl.

Food trivia: The original marriage of pomegranates and schnapps was of course grenadine. Back in the days before Rose's, which we suspect is nothing but food coloring and corn syrup, grenadine was made by pouring boiling honey over crushed pomegranates. How's that for food imagery, Ezra?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Raising the Level of Discourse

A UCLA alumni group, the Bruin Republicans, has come up with a McCarthy-style list of the university's 30 "most radical" profs and is offering students $100 to record their lectures for the purpose of "outing" them for using the professorial bully pulpit to criticize Bush. According to the Bruin group's website, they are "are concerned solely with indoctrination, one-sided presentation of ideological controversies and unprofessional classroom behavior," adding, "We're just trying to get people back on a professional level of things." Yeah, because what they are doing is so professional.

Professionalism aside, we think it un-American to spy on your neighbors, professors, and friends. On the other hand, the Chinese endorse the practice; the Shanghai police have rigged up a cutesy little "big brother" and "big sister" icon (right) that shows up on every page hosted in their precinct. If you see, horror of horrors, anything objectionable on the web page you're surfing, click the cutie and report it. What's more, they are presumably logging what you surf, so later, if they find that you surfed something "radical" without reporting it, well, don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Only 23% of Pharmacists Feel Obligated to Fill Legal Prescriptions

That's right: 4 out of 5 pharmacists feel totally comfortable with refusing to fill a prescription from your doctor for a legal drug.

In related news, President Bush feels obligated to uphold 23% of the Constitution.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Rise of the News Anchorwoman

This weekend the Boston Globe got its panties all in a wad when Suzanne Ryan found out that only 42.8% of news anchors are men. Seems that in the near future, the news will be spoken in alto and treble tones, not the authoritative tenor of Walter Cronkite. Yeah, so what.

But Ryan's article was ridiculously stupid, with quotes like,

"A lot of young men are encouraged to go into law and medicine, engineering and math," says Coleen Marren, WCVB's news director, who has noticed the trend.
Actually, at our conservative-leaning medical school, 55% of the students are women, and men are a minority at our law school across town, too. And we've been told that more engineers than ever are women. Mathematics seems like such a small career field that it can't possibly influence the number of people going into any other field, can it? How many people, men or women, said they wanted to be mathematicians when they were kids? Raise your hands. Thought so.

Another gem:
"In the era of 'Good Night, and Good Luck,' newscasters were macho and fiery. Now they have to be so neutral and unbiased that . . . it doesn't seem manly."
Because as anyone who has ever argued politics with a woman knows, women are tame, unopinionated wet rags. ESPECIALLY the red-headed ones.

Anyway, we could continue mocking this drivel, but Shakespeare's Sister has done a damn fine job already.

We think this is the natural result of more women than men going to college. And we also think that all those women and those few guys sitting at the news desk better be looking for other work, because we don't know anyone who watches the news, anyway. Ooh, look Suzanne, there goes the bigger issue!

Homer Sexual Won't Be Going to Pluto

A rocket ship called New Horizons will be launching for Pluto in the next few days and onboard is a list of nearly half a million names to introduce the people of Earth to anyone who might care out there in Pluto-land. The list is available online and apparently contains more than a few jokes--all of Bart Simpson's prank calls to Moe's are on there save for Homer Sexual, which the censors apparently screened out. Yes, we are the people of Earth: Mike Rotch and his buddy Jacques Strap, Hugh Jass, and party boy Al Coholic. Beautiful.

Coincidentally, the ship is powered by some 24 pounds of plutonium. A rocket to Pluto that runs off plutonium. Nice.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The 1906 Atlanta Race Riots

Happened 100 years ago, but it's news to us. They taught us the name of Lee's horse in Georgia history classes (Traveler) but they sure didn't mention this 4-day race war:

On a humid Saturday night in 1906, an Atlanta newsboy named Mendel Romm went downtown to pick up papers for delivery. He talked about what he saw for the rest of his life.

"When he got to Five Points, they were having a race riot," says his son, 77-year-old Mendel Romm Jr. of Buckhead. "They were pulling people off the streetcars and lynching them right there. My father was so scared he ran all the way home."

The 1906 Atlanta Race Riot is the closest thing to a race war that has ever happened in this city.

For four days that September, white mobs attacked black people in a fit of hysteria over exaggerated and erroneous reports of sex crimes against white women. Then blacks started fighting back. When the dust settled, at least two dozen people were dead, and Atlanta's reputation as a paragon of New South moderation had taken a beating in the eyes of the world.

Now a group of Atlantans wants to commemorate the riot — and try to learn from it — on the occasion of its centennial.

The Coalition to Remember the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot first met a year and a half ago in the fellowship hall of old Ebenezer Baptist, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s church. This weekend, as the nation celebrates the King holiday, the coalition is beginning a series of public events leading up to an exhibition at the King National Historic Site in May and a symposium at Georgia State University's Rialto Center for the Performing Arts in September.

The coroner only listed 12 deaths in Atlanta during those four days despite witnesses reporting at least two dozen men were lynched in the streets during the riots, indicating that he and his good ol' boys didn't even bother with looking over the bodies of the slain. We hope that they get not only the respect they deserve, if belated, but also more time in future Georgia classrooms than Lee's horse.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Rumsfeld Entertains a Geisha

The First Post has this BEAUTIFUL candid shot of a young Donald Rumsfeld acting like a monkey to get a geisha's attention during President Ford's visit to Japan in 1974. Wow. Just wow.

"Irish" Pubs in Arlington

Here in Arlington we have made a couple attempts at the neighborhood pub. Ireland's Four Courts was a near-perfect neighborhood spot until it diluted its atmosphere by expanding into the neighboring storefront to add a second bar and more dining tables; the live music and main bar remain in the original space, making you feel like uninvited, out-of-town company if you should get seated in the annex, where the bar is dead quiet and the music piped in. We don't recall ever having seen an Irish waitress in the place, but the fish and chips are reliably good and they've always got Guinness, so we'd rate the place an adequate pub.

Kitty O'Sheas is a little dive run by a handful of guys who've been in Arlington since god-knows-when and are obviously very unhappy that anyone else lives in the neighborhood. We went in one day when they were advertising a crabcake special and the barkeep barked, "Can I he'p ewe boy?" in the meanest redneck twang that told us right away we were welcome to come in and slap down $20 for the crabcake and a Bud Light but he'd pull his shotgun on us if we asked for anything more in the way of creature comforts. We could forgive a shotgun-wielding bartender if at least there had been Guinness. Or anything other than Bud Light, for that matter.

Now we understand that Arlington is about to get a Ri-Ra, a fancied-up Irish looking pub chain, in the old Virginia Hardware store that used to be run by the guys who own the wonderful Mexicali Blues on the same block. We can't seem to find out if this Ri-Ra is linked to the Boston pub and club alternately called Ri-Ra and An Tua Nua, but then, any connection to that place isn't exactly something most people would own up to. So we'll wait and see how the place measures up.

Mozart's Diary

If Mozart were alive, he'd be celebrating his 250th birthday this year, with all kinds of 18th century-style debauchery: wine, women in frilly dresses who aren't afraid to show some ankle, and classical music played really loud. In commemoration, the British Library has scanned in Wolfie's diary at their website, along with audio clips of many of his works. The site also has scans of Jane Austen manuscripts, 16th century Mercator maps, and Leonardo's sketch books available. Go check it out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

ABS and Traction Control Make You Lazy

Of course, old timers said the same thing about automatic transmissions... The Times (UK) took 30 drivers out on a closed course like the ones used to show off new cars in the commercials and found that most of them are so spoiled by the anti-lock brakes and traction control systems on their late model Volvos and Subarus that they couldn't keep control of a "vintage" 1991 BMW 3-car, which relies solely on Sir Isaac Newton to hug the road, on rough and loose road surfaces.

FYI, ABS is an air hammer to quickly pump and release the brakes when braking suddenly; in the vintage car, you have to do this yourself if the brakes lock. And traction control brakes the power wheels when it senses the wheels are spinning faster than the speedometer is accelerating; shifting to a lower gear on the transmission works, or you can just left off the accelerator and then accelerate slowly on the second try. The "heading into 360 spins" the article mentions is prevented by stability (yaw) control in modern braking systems; turning into the yaw curve as you back off the accelerator and then reapplying the accelerator acheives the same thing. Nothing a human driver can't do with training.

Or buy the "ultimate geek car," which you just power on and gently steer toward your destination according to Mercedes-Benz.

Dumbass Design Infecting California, Too

So-called Intelligent Design--we love the rechristening by BoingBoing's Xeni Jardin, btw--is spreading like the avian flu [good old reliable InstaTesticle's paranoia about the subject insures that there will always be a post about it near the top of his page]. Despite Judge Jones's definitive statement of the obvious last month, the LA Times reports on a California county where they have designed a philosophy class for the sole purpose of attacking evolution.

They didn't teach philosophy in our public high schools. In fact, they had a hard enough time getting us Georgia rednecks to learn to make change of a $20 and pump gas without spilling ("career ed," they called it). But let's give the Lebec Schools the benefit of the doubt, since a philosophy class isn't a bad idea. Starting with Plato and Aristotle, they could gloss over all the world's philosophies in a year long course, which we think would leave about 2 minutes to discuss the footnote that is American Christian Fundamentalism.

Fight Telemarketing

There is a beautiful moment in Seinfeld where he picks up the phone, listens to a telemarketer's introduction, then says it's not a good time to talk but could he have the telemarketer's number to call him back later. No. "Oh, I guess because you don't want strangers calling you at home," Seinfeld shouts as he hangs up the phone.

EGBG has a script to use the next time a telemarketer calls you that directs you to question them about their life's details, with instructions for how to handle people who aren't interested in revealing much about themselves to you, such as, "I appreciate your concern, Mr/Mrs So and So, but didn't you call me?" As you question them, you complete the survey form, then rate the telemarketer's enthusiasm, wordchoice, etc, and send it to them. Or to EGBG for laughs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

50 Free Songs at eMusic

emusic.com, a music site that casts itself as the indie alternative to iTMS and normally sells mp3s for 25 cents each, is running a special to get new users: Sign up for a free two week trial and download up to 50 songs, which you can apparently keep forever. You can then pay the subscription fee if you want to download more, or you can take the 50 mp3s and run. We're trying it out now--we'll let you know if there are any DRM issues to worry about.

In the Eye of the Gadget Storm

The Consumer Electronics Show has wound down and rumors of Apple's latest, greatest iThing are cresting like so much storm surge before we little people wait to learn what Steve has in store for us. In the middle of this orgy of science fiction come to life, these scans of old Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazine covers seem strangely appropriate, with their retro futuristic imagination.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Did you hear? It is now illegal to be annoying

No joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity...

Consider this civil disobedience, then.

UPDATE: Once again, Caesar and the boys over at ars technica have shown us the way with all things technomalogical. The law is essentially a paraphrase of crank-call laws already on the books: Thou shalt not email that which would be damnable if spoken over the telephone.

Ovid's Metamorphoses, Chicago-Style

Mirabile dictu! Chicago jazz pianist and singer Patricia Barber has created a series based on myths from Ovid. If you can't get to Chicago, watch for the CD from venerable Blue Note this summer.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Best of What You're Missing

Finally, a good idea for a Best of 2005 list: Underrated CDs. npr polled a handful of music critic-types, including Alexandra Patsavas, who may have the best job in the world, namely Music Supervisor to nearly every TV show of the 00s and the genius behind the Music from The O.C. (Judging by her pic at npr, she is as easy on the eyes as her taste is on the ears.) We discovered The O.C. mixes almost by accident, since we don't watch the show (we've already watched the same material, thank you): the Garden State soundtrack CD couldn't use Alexi Murdoch's Orange Sky since The O.C. had already licensed the song, so we had to track down that first mix.

Patsavas's taste runs to indie music, which means that she will find the cheapest music licenses possible for your prime time soap opera, and she truly does have a golden gut. We suggest you listen to Callas's Collisions like the woman says. That is all.

UPDATE: Seems Slate's Jody Rosen did a similar list of overlooked CDs of 2005 last week as well.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Friday Tipple

Maker's Mark, the official Bourbon of NO. Add vermouth for the official Manhattan.

Tribute to New Orleans

Allen Toussaint, Charlie Miller, and other NOLA musicians have put together a tribute CD to benefit Habitat for Humanity's efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast. Check out that page at npr for Miller's "Prayer for New Orleans," and then tell us you can resist picking up the whole CD. The album is also at iTunes Music Store, where all the reviewers are rebutting an earlier, apparently deleted review that indicated anyone who buys music to help rebuild New Orleans is going against God's will.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Did Jesus Exist?

'Cause if he didn't, the Catholic Church may be guilty of impersonation and conning people by exploiting a popular belief. So the Italian courts are considering this important question as we speak... Frankly, we're not sure what to say about this.

2006 Bloggies

From now until January 10 you are all invited to nomiate us for Fairvue Central's 2006 Bloggies, in any or all categories. Of course, plenty others are more deserving than we. We'll be nominating the usual suspects--Madpercolator for great writing, Gubbins for food, and Shandy for, well, he has to fit some category--but we will not be nominating any of Nick Denton's blog whores this year. We suggest you do the same and nominate only real bloggers.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Parallels: Awesome Photoblogging

Parallels is a collection of Zen-like photos of nature that simply rock. If the current cathedral of the forrest pic doesn't grab you, you are dead inside. Other favorites are There Is A Shadow Under This Red Rock, It Paints My Simple Spirit, and the eerie Death Is Like An Insect. Browse the whole collection, though--we know you're not doing anything productive at work, anyway.

Letterman to O'Reilly: 60% of What You Say Is Crap

The other night O'Reilly was on Letterman, where they talked about why O'Reilly wants us all to be "very careful of what we say at this important time in America's history [or else]" and Letterman told him he was an ass for not having boundless sympathy for people like Cindy Sheehan. They went back and forth about the intelligence that got us to Iraq, then Letterman hit a homer:

Letterman: “I’m not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling, I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap. [audience laughter] But I don’t know that for a fact. [more audience applause]

Paul Shafer: “60 percent.”

Letterman: “60 percent. I’m just spit-balling here.”
Go straight for the video clip at the bottom of the post.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Why Japan Doesn't Fear Robots

Awesome article at The Economist explaining why the rest of us will be slaves to Japanese robots in another 20 years. Link from Shandy.

UPDATE: See also The 50 Best Robots Ever from Wired. Okay, okay, so some are fictional characters, like HAL 2000 and the Terminator. But the top of the list are all real, functional robots. And they are almost all Japanese, naturally.

Gypsy Musyc

When The Gipsy Kings were recommended to us this weekend, we were skeptical. But we found some of their stuff, which Wikipedia describes as "Rumba Catalana, a pop-oriented version of traditional flamenco music," and it is good stuff. They were, unbeknownst to us, top of the Billboard charts in the late 80s... We are always looking to branch out in our musical tastes, and world music is a huge ocean we know next to nothing about, but the Putumayo crap (which is to world music what mall food court fare is to ethnic food) peddled in so many places had almost soured us on it.

And on the topic of world music, we'd like to plug Heitor Villa-Lobos, the Brazilian composer who found that a handful of Brazilian folk songs have identical chord progressions to Bach's cello suites, meaning that the folk songs can be sung with Bach as the accompaniment. The resulting Bachianas-Brasileiras are fkn incredible music. Go have a listen.

More On Christian Fundie Education

Christine Rosen grew up in a Bible-belt fundie school where the faculty bragged that students didn't have to lug around heavy science books and staged a boycott of the local 7-Eleven because the place stocked Playboy. (When we stopped in a 7-Eleven for a Diet Coke and a Moonpie during a recent drive through the Carolinas, the Playboys were piled up in front of the fountain machine, so we understand how the innocent school teachers came to know of Playboy's whereabouts.) Thankfully, she survived, and, somewhere along the way--despite the best efforts of her teachers, we suspect--learned to write so that she could tell us the tale. Salon has the review, which indicates the book is in fact aimed at the Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker crowd:

"My Fundamentalist Education" promises a glimpse into a world we soy latte addicts don't understand but can no longer dismiss. Controversy about evolution, Christian blockbusters in Hollywood, a president who speaks in biblical code: Christianity is hot, and Rosen's background is, suddenly, marketable. With her intelligence and tongue-in-cheek tone, she comes across as the ideal liaison: a former insider who will explain fundamentalism while allowing us to chuckle at it.
At any rate, we chuckled when we learned that Christine's mother discliplined her by telling her, "Well, if I get raptured and you don't, there is nothing I'll be able to do about it."