Thursday, June 30, 2005

A Tower Modeled After Our Version Of Freedom

I've been thinking about the redesign of the Freedom Tower, announced a couple of days ago, and it makes me sad, but it becomes a very apt icon for what's been a very muddled rebuilding.

One major change is the creation of 200 foot "pedestal." The concrete and steel pedestal, meant to be impervious to car and truck bombs, also happens to be windowless.

Let's consider what this looks like from two vantage points. From afar, you'll see a magnificent tower rising out the lower Manhattan skyline to the symbolic 1776 feet. Much like the way folks of the US like to think of their representation of freedom, hope and democracy, it stands tall, glassy and shiny for all to see.

But the pedestal, as much as any symbolic feature of the rebuilding, reflects a closer perspective of our freedom. 200 feet is about 20 stories of windowless concrete and steel, a fortress that, while being inpregnable, is also opaque, aloof and intimidating. So visitors to ground zero may experience what visitors (read immigrants) to US feel coldness, if not fear and reservation when trying to experience this version of freedom.

But it's aptness is how it reflects the culture of fear that responded to 9/11 rather that hope. Fear that leads to humiliating airport check-ins, leads to heavily armed guards in our subways, leads to wholesale arrests and deportment of so called illegal immigrants, leads to the ridiculous colour-coded threat levels, fear that leads to electing a president despite our reservations, if not opposition to the war he falsely started, not to mention the flailing economy he has overseen. Yes this is the perfect symbol of freedom in the United States of America.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Y292,271,023.045K Compliant

Boing Boing had this tip from Kevin Kelly's COOL TOOLS on making your Mac Y10K Compliant. Unfortunately the hack doesn't really work, but the commentary is stellar and much more interesting than the original post.

I didn't check the math but all 64-bit computers should be able to calculate the date for 292 billion years. Mali, can you double check this in finite math? That's peace of mind for you lucky G5-ers, and at least a consolation to the XP-64 crowd (way to go Joe!).

The rest of us need to make sure we have 64-bit machine by 2038 or else the computers will think it's 1970 all over...again...

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

First I Reconnected with Music, Now It's Radio

A while ago I followed my early adopting friend Sully and aquired an iPod. And I feel that my realationship with music got a major shot in the arm after a bit of neglect. I had moved to New York, didn't care to tote a diskman and CD wallet, so left the music for when I was home. But then suddenly I had 100s of albums (well really the best of 100s) with me, and much smaller than a diskman and I reconnected, especially to those songs stranded on otherwise awful albums.

But in this same time, relationship with radio has also steadily declined.... bad reception at work or home, a tendency to listen to my music rather than the radio. I tried to save some radio habits...listening to streams, particularly of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. But many other shows only streamed lived and not archived, and it was tethered to a computer. I thought Audible was a good idea for on the go, but I didn't want to pay to listen to This American Life.. maybe twice. So it really wasn't good to go. But today... today is the release of iTunes 4.9 with it's podcasting support. My first impression is: awesome.

In a few minutes, it was easy to find, subscribe and download podcasts. I'm choosing to listen at my desk. You can easily find and download older shows. If you stop, it bookmarks where you left off. It's brilliantly easy. It looks like new broadcasts will be easy enough to add. So I'm looking forward to the Prairie Home Companion et al. And to think of all the PHC shows we recorded on tape growing up...

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Hey Good Lookin' What's Ya Got Cookin'? ... Oh, It's You...Ewww

A friend of Andy's made the observation that the scent that we associate tastily to food, is really quite horrible when it eminates from a human... pizza, tacos, curry, peanuts, candy and so on. I've been trying to think of exceptions, since so many toiletries are made with yummy scents: mint, citrus, camomile.... but it's true food smells have to come from food, not people. But now I'm scared to associate certain smells with people rather than food. I know I was in violation when I worked as a line cook... smelling of many foods, reeking of grease.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Lets Just Call It The Museums of Propaganda

In an amazing show of aggression to the arts (second only to Rudy Guiliani's attack on the Brooklyn Museum of Art's Sensation exhibit), George Pataki openly threatened the Drawing Center's placement in the Ground Zero cultural center "demanding "an absolute guarantee" that they would not mount exhibitions that could offend 9/11 families and pilgrims"

At the root of his ire is an exhibit that "appears to make light of President Bush's description of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the Axis of Evil" stemming from pressure from so-called victim's families. I say so-called, because these are the people who lost a family member. But in fact those of us who didn't die are also victims by the trauma of that day the loss of our friends.

And what offends us? War mongering, torture, religious war, be it jihad or crusade. How about lying to a nation to take their children into a war they won't come home to? How about frittering time and resources on tax cuts we can't afford and a homeland security department that doesn't make us more secure.

What makes art, unfettered by the constraints of propoganda, healing is that it doesn't really yield an answer to difficult questions. It can acknowledge the hurdles and contradictions by playing the fool's role. It doesn't promise to soothe us, only to prompt a number of thoughts that might bring us closer to coping.

And what exactly is the role of the Freedom Center? It would be nice to believe that the United States has always taken the side of freedom of justice, but it hasn't. The list of miscues is easy: the atom bomb, McCarthyism, The "Patriot" Act, Abu Ghraib. Blindly following the Bush Cheney lead does not necessarily lead to, (and often has distracted from) honoring those victims of 9/11... alive or dead. It's important to recognize those lapses to help us take the side of freedom and justice in the future.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Seeing what you can't see

I often like to ride in the front and rear cars of the subway to look down the tunnels. Last night I was in the back of an L train, which has the newest cars in the MTA system currently, when I noticed something odd about the windows. The windows have a special tinting that only allows one to look straight through, but not at an angle. The paranoia in me thinks it's too make the cars safe from would be hijackers, the geek in me just thinks it neat and makes my tunnel vision kinda dreamy.


Unrelatedly, I used to be a runner, and to this day it pains me to watch some people run. Running seems so relatively easy to do, less a skill and more of a strength, but so many people run painfully. And the stats back up this perception, running related injuries have held steady as shoe technology has advanced. From Nike Air to Nike Shox to the microprocessed Adidas 1, there is a lot of R&D spent on shoes. So it was interesting when I noticed the Nike 5.0 at Paragon earlier this week, and then this article in the Times.

The article is about the grow adoption of barefoot running and how technologically advanced shoes may have really served to weaken our feet thus causing many injuries. But going back to a barefooted method is not so easy, basically people will need to learn how to run all over again. But if it leads to less pain in the long run ( I couldn't resist) it will be worth it.

Promotion in school leads to promotion in work

Last night was my "little's" eighth grade graduation ceremony from PS126. They do quite a job making it resemble commencement.... awards, caps and gowns, a valedictorian and a salutorian.

But gone missing were sentiments about choosing one's own path or knowledge as it's own reward. The two adults spoke of this being the first of many hurdles, going from HS, college, straight into work. The purpose of all these hurdles is to get a good job and make money. If money wasn't the goal, it was marriage and kids.

Now I know that kids need guidance and discipline and that usually comes in the flavor of structured time and respect for elders, but this just makes all their work seem truely bland and simplistic, if not bleak and uninspiring. The message preys on their materialism and starves the more sustaining aspects of self esteem.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Rock Opera

Tuesday night I saw one of the best shows in a long time. I saw the East Village Opera Company at Joe's Pub.

Basically what they do is take an aria and set it to a modern arrangement, in particular drum, guitar and more pop-style vocals. And they play it amped and they play it loud. I've listened to their first CD which is a bit odd but still interesting, but the show knocks the socks of the album. Live, they deliver the corresponding energy, tension and release of these great opera pieces, but in the language of rock music.

One piece went from an Italian aria, to Led Zepplin's Kashmir, to Eminem's Lose Yourself, and back to the aria. It was amazing, irreverent, and well executed. The tenor is a bit American Idol (I imagine) a bit Freddy Mercury, and a bit Ricky Martin. What adds to the experience is that you get that they're really opera geeks at heart, who have found a great way to present to it a modern audience.

They've got another show in July, check it out.

A Final Word on Schiavo

The news is full of the Schiavo autopsy, and how her brain had atrophied to half its normal size, that she was blind, and that should could not swallow on it is own. Democrats feel like it's vindication, and Frist makes no apologies, though unconvincingly denies he made diagnosis from a video tape.

My friend Sully asks the good question "Why is this front page news?" Besides it being as much of a bookend as possible to a circus story, he has a very good point for two reasons I can think of.

First off, that this became a national issue, and thus news, in the first case is rediculous, and I imagine only served to make advocates for intervention all the more bold. Secondly, no autopsy result changes how inappropriate federal intervention was.

But few republicans are going to talk those points up. Tom Delay warned that these judges will pay and now has little to say. There Bush's hypocritical line about choosing life... with blissful disregard to the lives he ended as Texas governor.

But one GOP politician has thought about this more: Mel Martinez, a major advocate for intervention is quoted "I really probably come to the view this has to be more resolved at the state level, seems like the kind of issue the state courts deal with." Indeed, I thought that was the usual GOP take all along.

But I don't see this changing anything. We have had an adminstation and congress that insists that lies are true dispite overwhelming evidence time and time again, the economy, weapons of mass destruction, the environment, campaign finance, judicial nominees. What opposition is there? Well, Democrats don't take it to the brink, they don't push back hard enough, lose elections, and compromise on extreme judges.

I guess this is news since it's another bit of crow to serve, too bad there's so much other folly to feed their egos that they'll hardly blink at this.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

It's Not Pilates

Jason, Joe and I are still going to our men's pilates class on Monday evenings. Except that Jason and Joe read in the Times how men don't really do "classes." So instead we've informed our instructor Mary that we come for our weekly "Warrior Abs"


Friday, June 10, 2005

The Record Effect

Last week in the New Yorker, Alex Ross had a great piece on the effect on music from recording technology. Among the more interesting theories he discusses is vaulting of particular musical styles for their fidelity ability to fit on vinyl; the widespread adoption of vibrato in string performance; and to what extent recording, and particularly studio recording has driven classical music towards so-called perfect execution as opposed to more dynamic performance.

It's a great read and brings to mind a parallel, that with each new technology, there is a new type of distortion or corruption which filters it's way back as nostalgia.

Broadcast radio: Squelching, faded signal, Emergency Broadcast signal
Vinyl: hiss and pop, skipping, scratching, speed manipulation
Tapes: hissing, rough cuts, speed manipulation
Electric ampification: feedback
CDs: skipping, repeats
MP3s: digital distortion

Transparency/Film: so many.... frame, textured film, melting, light strobe
Broadcast Television: Snow, Emergency Broadcast tests, CRT flashes
Video Tape: FF/RW/Pause with lines
Digital: pixel breakups
Computer: blue screen of death, monitor testing
Internet: Page not found (google WMD)

And so on, please help me add to this list!

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Back to the important things in a blog

A couple weeks ago Whitney and I took care of Cyrus, the kitty of our friends Sarah and Andy. For a litter box, Cyrus has the "astrodome." It's a pearl-plastic bowl with a cover. When Cyrus does his business, he generally sticks his head out the opening, creating the effect of the feline tortoise.

Though I like the astrodome, I've often mention in conversation my interest in training a kitty to used a toilet. I really dislike kitty litter and I don't like scooping. Though there are a couple sites to help you train your kitty, Coolhunting describes the CityKitty device to aid you. Thanks Sarah!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Guilt and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

I've now finished Jose Saramago's Gospel According to Jesus Christ (GAJC), and with other peices have triggered some thinking on guilt, penance, salvation and the slaughter of innocents. Please forgive the gaps, but write a comment and I'll respond.

First off is the striking parallelism not only between Passover and Easter (which I think Christians don't consider nearly enough), but really of Christmas and Passover, especially the slaughter of innocent children and the saving intervention of angels. GAJC begins with a strong connection between the slaughter of first borns in Egypt with that in Bethelehem and then ask about the lingering guilt.

In GAJC Joseph is working temporarily on construction of the temple in Jerusalem and overhears Herod's troops discuss the coming slaughter in Bethlehem, prompting him to run back to save Mary and Jesus. On route, he passes other children in Bethlehem, but does not warn their parents of the coming slaughter. The guilt of not warning the other parents stay with him as a nightmare until his own "innocent" death at the hands of Romans, but the nightmare is passed on to Jesus.

Saramago plays with the idea that the sins of our fathers are also the sins of our sons with compounding effect. In its way this becomes a form of original sin. In this tale, not only does Jesus take the burden of Joseph's guilt, but also comes to understand the death toll in his name yet to come, martyrs, crusades and inquisitions. We are preached that Jesus was without sin. But what if Jesus, knowing God's plan, commits to it knowing of the all the death and misery it (the creation of Christianity) will cause, is Jesus still without guilt?

Stephen Adly Guirgus' play, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, throws into Christ's culpability, the damnation of Judas Iscariot. And then there are many ruminations of the necessity of the devil to enhance the goodness of God in both. It's here that Judeo-Christian-Islamic notions of good and evil really fail for me.

One has to choose God over the forces of evil, which really seems to be the forces of our selfishness. But if there were no evil, selfishness, or sin then would there still be God?

I wanted to toss in some obeservations on Star Wars and Passion of the Christ, but ultimately they don't add any value, and water themselves down in reveling in the fall and torture of their leads and avoid what meaning of the gospel, or the meaning of Anikin's salvation really mean. However, I've renewed interest in reading The Last Temptation of Christ, maybe I'll just watch the film.

Lastly, I liked in GAJC how John the Baptist is treated not as an older cousin, but as another eccentric prophetic figure. My friend Jason, who is Jewish, mentioned his dream of having a biblical film that would give equal time to all the messianic figures of the day. In fact GAJC does much to put the gospel in historical context, complete with gender, economics and zealotry that I think most Christians don't give proper heed to. By doing so, I think it becomes clear how we can strip the major religions of their anachronistic trappings, especially gender trappings.