Robot Wisdom WebLog
edited by Jorn Barger

[Moon Cam]

Shorttakes: best net-reading, best surfing-tip, my netnews, sources.
Interact: weblogs newsgroup, anon public feedback, mail me.
Net.Literate: portal fun art media issues net tech science history search shop
Daily fun: Dilbert, Zippy, Doonesbury, Nude. Year of the day: 1210
Next Full Moon: Thursday 3 December 10:20 CST. Contest: Updating "American Pie"
James Dean still hot in S Korea (AP)
Di's secret love diary (Enquirer)
Jane Fonda humiliated by hubby Ted's confession (Enquirer)
Lara Croft nominated as UK ambassador (BBC)
Titanic doomed by bad rivets (AP)
Russia's arsonist Robin Hood (Reuters)
Oil-pipeline sabotage on the increase (AP)
US spy agency confirms secret Princess Diana files (APB)
Chelsea Clinton being edged into spotlight (Guardian)
Absinthe is back in UK (Guardian)
Malcolm X, Ayn Rand to get postage stamps (USPS)
Magnetic survey reveals underground Egyptian city (AFP)
Universal Pictures' string of duds force resignation (AP)
Five Russian children trampled to death in stampede to see "Armageddon" (AFP)
How quickly they 404...! (WPost)
Undertakers offer DNA-archiving service (AP)
Did GM profit from Nazi war machine? (ABC)
Swiss to try Russian mob boss (BBC)

Coming up:
Sometime soonish: Brand new Chomsky talk on CSPAN
Wed. 2 Dec: Gates doesN'T do Rosie O
Wed, Dec 2, 1998

This Day in Joyce History: In 1902, James set off for Paris, supposedly for medical school but really for adventure.

I'm going to start favoring stories on teen violence and media violence, because I think it's becoming a major dilemma:

"Although most of the products on the market can legitimately be called 'games' some of the ultra-violent games might be more accurately called 'kill-for-fun murder simulations' and are inappropriate for children."

(Will the gunfreaks among the religious right defend them, for example? "First they came for our videogames, but I said nothing..." ;^)

Tue, Dec 1, 1998

This Day in History: In 1891, WB Yeats initiated Maud Gonne into the Order of the Golden Dawn.

TV 2nite: Frontline's Whitewater whitewash:

Online classic by one of the faces on the Sgt Pepper's cover: [OLB]

Autobiography of a Yogi is not an ordinary book. It is a spiritual treasure. To read its message of hope to all truthseekers is to begin a great adventure.

[Worm with shell of gold and jewels] Very cool artistic collaboration with a worm: [Spike]

The activities of the caddis worm, as manipulated by Hubert Duprat, are prompted by the "noise" -- beads, pearls and 18-karat gold pieces -- introduced by the artist into the insect's environment.

First, I only provided the larvae with gold spangles, but then I gradually added beads of turquoise, opal, lapis lazuli and coral, as well as rubies, sapphires, diamonds, hemispherical and Baroque pearls, and tiny rods of 18-karat gold. The larva connects the materials with silk thread from inside the tube, using a spiral movement, and then upholsters the inside of the case with a lining also made of silk.

New Onion:

Marc Singer Appointed Beastmaster General

Odd couple: Tony Perkins and Fred Rogers: [Deja URL]

Around this time [mid '50s], Fred Rogers, who hadn't seen Tony since his freshman year at Rollins, ran into him on the street. "Joanne and I were walking down Fifth Avenue, and all of a sudden we saw this person in sneakers on a bicycle. It turned out to be Tony, and I hailed him. He was just thrilled to see us. He got off his bike and said, 'Come on! Let's go to the top of this building.' I don't remember what building it was, but we went to the roof, he made paper airplanes, and we threw them off the top of the building. That was so typical of Tony and his enthusiasm..."

(Ken Starr reminds me of Mr Rogers.)

Goofy idea: I'm starting a contest to write new verses for "American Pie", that cover the history of rock between 1970 and 1998: (draft)

In researching the contest, I found this cutie at the end of an American Pie FAQ:

According to the latest edition of the "American Pie Historical Interpretive Digest" (APHID), noted McLean historian Vincent Vandeman has postulated that cheezy country songs may have played a much more prominent role in the epic composition than had originally been thought. In particular, the "widowed bride," usually supposed to be either Ella Holly or Joan Rivers, may in fact be Billie Jo. According to this radical exegesis, the "pink carnation" of McLean's song is probably what was thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge, and was later found by the lonely, teenaged McLean as he wandered drunkenly on the levee...

A splendid idea in the new Progressive Review:

The Colombian ambassador to the US has suggested that if America gives 50 cows to every Colombian family that grows coca, it will induce them to change their choice of agricultural product.

[Also:] In a case that exposes the disastrous implications of the NAFTA agreement, a Canadian firm has sued for compensation from American taxpayers because of decision against it by a Mississippi jury. The jury had found the Loewen Group, a Canadian funeral home conglomerate, guilty of fraudulent practices. Said the jury foreman, "We decided that they were a bunch of crooks." Now Loewen wants hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation because the jury engaged in what it claims is a discriminatory trade practice...

Turnout in 1998 American winner-take-all elections: 36%
Turnout in 1998 German proportional representation elections: 83%

New Village Voice includes an okay look at spycam chic:

Around the time he shot Outer and Inner Space, Warhol thought he'd make a fortune pitching NBC The Nothing Special, a real-life surveillance show in which "we'd all be waiting for something to happen but nothing ever would." As usual, Warhol's vision was years ahead of the popcult curve.

And 25 favorite books of 1998:

Solibo Magnificent By Patrick Chamoiseau
Bulletproof Buddhists and Other Essays By Frank Chin
The Store of a Million Items By Michelle Cliff
Hell By Kathryn Davis
Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster By Mike Davis
Cyborg Babies: From Techno-Sex to Techno-Tots Edited by Robbie Davis-Floyd and Joseph Dumit
Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace By Jodi Dean
Skating to Antarctica: A Journey to the End of the World By Jenny Diski
Secrets By Nuruddin Farah
Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country By William Finnegan
Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity By Joshua Gamson
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families By Philip Gourevitch
Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art By Lewis Hyde
Thirst By Ken Kalfus
The Poisonwood Bible By Barbara Kingsolver
Forbidden Workers: Illegal Chinese Immigrants and American Labor By Peter Kwong
Kurdistan: In The Shadow of History By Susan Meiselas
Birds of America By Lorrie Moore
Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler By Thylias Moss
Gain By Richard Powers
Special Cases: Natural Anomalies and Historical Monsters By Rosamond Purcell
Charity By Mark Richard
Towards the Blanched Alphabets By Gustaf Sobin
The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures at the Edge of a City By Robert Sullivan
Filth By Irvine Welsh

And an excellent look at NewHoo vs AOL:

But of course, nobody knows quite yet just what will happen once AOL takes a close look at Netscape's open source projects, Mozilla and the ODP. Hard to believe it will continue without some alterations. Imagine a major TV network buying another with a public access channel in tow -- do they really want the baggage?

[Also:] Swatch has newly branded "Internet Time" with a watch to go along. The idea is this: the day is divided up into 1000 "Swatch beats," one for every 1 minute 26.4 seconds.

New "New York" turns up late:

Top Japanese neologisms:

1- "the wizard of Yokohama" [baseball]
2- "the nobody, the soldier and the weirdo" [politics]
3- "I told ya so!" [pop music]

While watching for a new "New York" I found an interesting look from last week at Earthweb's and theglobe's IPOs, by Austin Bunn:

Traditionally, only the most august institutional investors get a crack at IPOs. But when Earthweb went public -- underwritten in part by Wit Capital, a year-old New York company that specializes in online offerings -- the big names steered clear. Seasoned Wall Street pros looked on with horror as small-time stock-watchers (the "retail market") stampeded in. "I feel like nasdaq lost control," says Vincent Slavin, a trader who tracks IPOs for Cantor Fitzgerald. "Investors are beating each other to death."

Missionaries in Hollywood:

Mastermedia offers counseling and support groups and sends out newsletters and tapes, claiming a database of about 2,200 Hollywood types and a mailing list of 36,000 total. It distributes a cassette tape called "Defending Yourself Against Media's Evil Influences," a videotape called "From the Inside Out," and a calendar giving Christians a different media leader to pray for every day. (Recent prayer recipients included pop singer Madonna, author Stephen King and fashion designer Calvin Klein.)

Proof that Jewel is better than her critics: Regis Philbin just tried to read one of her poems and couldn't wipe the smirk off his face. (She also did a totally killer live performance of 'Simple is True'.) Don't be like Regis!

Don't miss: US spies plagiarise Internet concept: [OSRR]

Intelink now runs with a Netscape browser and a variety of commercial search engines, including AltaVista. The searchable universe consists of 440,000 electronic pages...

Martin describes the network as impenetrable to attack by hackers because it runs on dedicated Defense Department networks that have no link to the Internet. This so-called "air gap" is the first line of defense.

Mon, Nov 30, 1998

This Day in Joyce History: In 1896, a Belvedere retreat with Father Cullen started, that's the likeliest source for Portrait's chapter 3. In 1900, Oscar Wilde died.

TV 2nite: Garrison Keillor narrates an American Experience (PBS) on the Wright brothers:

New first chapters at CNN (titles not easy to clip):

The Millennial History reaches Francis of Assisi, and Cambridge University:

Oxford had established itself as an important centre of learning, with some 70 teachers and 200 students from many parts of Europe. Its origins could be traced to the end of the eleventh century. That had given the nascent university quite enough time to acquire a reputation for rowdyism and energetic exchanges of views with the townspeople.

New NY Review of Books includes:

Leon Levy and Jeff Madrick: Hedge Funds: The Power and the Danger
K. Anthony Appiah: Africa: The Hidden History
John Gross: 'A Nice Pleasant Youth' [Hitler]
Louis Menand: William James & the Case of the Epileptic Patient

Plus Nixon's long-since-buried experiment in drug-addiction treatment: [multipage]

By 1973, the total drug budget would reach $420 million, eight times greater than the amount when Nixon had first taken office. Most of that money was put directly into creating drug treatment and methadone replacement programs for heroin users, creating, for the first -- and, as it turned out, the last -- time in American history, treatment on demand for intravenous drug addicts.

For the parents, Massing writes, "the notion of recovery meant that addicts could get well -- a message that, they felt, undermined their warning to young people not to use drugs."

What Pomerleau is suggesting is that for an awful lot of us -- not all of us, of course, but many of us -- cigarettes don't present a powerful lure at all. We don't start smoking because smoking makes us feel sick.

And a forgotten classic 1916 vampire flick: [multipage]

Without buildup or the slightest hint of backstory, it unleashed a succession of perturbing images and inescapable situations, which neither had nor required any justification beyond their own intensity. Severed heads turned up in hatboxes; householders were lassoed out of windows and then rolled down stairways in baskets; motorcars raced on dark errands along deserted country roads; conspirators caroused in low dives; masked assassins slipped across the roofs of Paris; a tack treated with a stupefying drug was hidden in a suede glove; chambermaids submitted to hypnosis; top hats exploded when hurled to the ground.

Les Vampires also shares with Buster Keaton's films a plastic beauty owing nothing to artistic flourishes: we merely have the impression of seeing the world for the first time.

In Les Vampires the camera scarcely budges, and some of the most eventful scenes are enacted in a single theatrically staged long shot. Nonetheless Feuillade's use of the medium is arguably subtler than D.W. Griffith's; he just goes at it differently.

One of the film's most memorable episodes -- the gassing and despoliation of a whole houseful of bejeweled aristocrats -- is almost haiku-like in its brevity.

In Feuillade's world the idea of criminals communicating by means of anagrams seems not altogether out of place.

And Mailer on Wolfe: [multipage, some spoilers]

For example, Atlanta, high society and low, lives in the book as vividly as did New York in The Bonfire of the Vanities. The difference is that Wolfe appreciates the complexities of Atlanta's social issues with a subtlety that was absent from the earlier novel, and one of the surprising virtues of this second novel is how well he has captured the speech and airs and wit and sophistication of the black mayor and the upper-class anxieties of the black lawyer. Indeed, he is so sensitive to the nuances of their situation that it is as if he is making amends for the simple-minded outrage he exhibited against ghetto leaders in the first novel.

Extraordinarily good writing forces one to contemplate the uncomfortable possibility that Tom Wolfe might yet be seen as our best writer. How grateful one can feel then for his failures and his final inability to be great -- his absence of truly large compass. ... The internal monologues of Wolfe's people are surprisingly routine and insist on telling us what we know already. There is almost no signature quality of mind.

She was also in Mike Leigh's Life Is Sweet:

Jane Horrocks' character is an introverted girl who most think is mute -- until they hear her dead-on impersonations of famous singers like Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich. Originally written for the stage, the role is based on Horrocks' long-running personal penchant for imitating legendary singers, and was written especially for her by playwright Jim Cartwright.

Post-1982 pennies are poison:

When a child swallows a penny, it can react with stomach acid to create a toxic mixture as corrosive as car battery acid, leading to severe stomach inflammation and even ulcers, physicians at Duke University Medical Center have discovered.

...those minted after 1982, which are nearly all zinc, with a thin copper plating, began eroding immediately. By the second day, they had holes in them. The researchers found the zinc in the coins reacted with the acid to form hydrogen gas and zinc chloride.

From the Progressive Review:

Insight Magazine reports that some federal investigators and private lawyers view Clinton's legal defense fund solicitations as racketeering-related mail and wire fraud since "the president made specific claims that the Monica Lewinsky allegations were completely false. Clinton and his aides denied in the fund-raising appeals all the Lewinsky-affair charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering." Insight quotes an unnamed Justice Department official: "It's classic wire fraud. The fund-raising appeals were in furtherance of a conspiracy and could easily rise to racketeering."

...the Secret Service says it has no logs or surveillance video showing the arrival or departure of Vince Foster to the White House on his last day of work, July 20, 1993. The SS was replying to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by independent Whitewater investigator Allan J. Favish.


An estimated $20 million in European Union aid that was intended to provide cheap housing for Palestinians has been used to finance luxury apartments for rich supporters of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Yay! NewsHub is UNwedged again after five hours:

This hypermedia poem makes me feel too rushed: [multipage, Flash] [Messy URL]

Suffused with fado and the peculiar vibe that has drawn people for centuries to Evora, Whitehill "took a bite of something and started to cry. It was just incredible. The bar owner knew something was happening and asked us. He said a lot of people come in here and don't really know what's going on."

[Singin' their little hearts out] Cute pic from Irish Times: (detail)

Young singers auditioning for the Dublin production of Les Miserables in Vicar Street centre in Dublin on Saturday.

New Yorker teaser about Hopi cannibalism:

Turner eventually concluded that the Polacca Wash site was a place known in Hopi legend as the Death Mound. Hopi informants had first described the legend to an anthropologist at the end of the nineteenth century. According to the story, sometime in the late sixteen-hundreds a Hopi village called Awatovi had been largely converted to Christianity under the influence of Spanish friars. In addition, the people of Awatovi practiced witchcraft, which the Hopi considered a heinous crime. Eventually, five other Hopi villages decided to purge the tribe of this spiritual stain. An attack was organized by the chief of Awatovi himself, who had become disgusted with his own people...

The term "man corn" is the literal translation of the Nahuatl (Aztec) word tlacatlaolli, which refers to a "sacred meal of sacrificed human meat, cooked with corn."

A fun inventory of web-based tests for personality, IQ, etc etc etc: [multipage]

Attention Deficit Test. How focused or scattered are you? 18 questions.

[Snazzy slim Clio] Very well-chosen but pricey hi-tech gifts:

Mitsubishi HDTV-box $3,499
Rocket eBook $499
Lego Mindstorms $200
Motorola Iridium Phone $3,000
Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live! $199
Cambridge SoundWorks Desktop Theater $280
Moonlight's FoneCam $400
Panasonic L-10 PalmTheater $1,299
Vadem's Clio $999 [Pic source]
Arcade games $350 to $600

Innovative-looking business-sim from an unexpected source: [via Slashdot]

Like other games from Red Storm, will come out simultaneously with a Clancy-esque book of the same name; both should be on store shelves this November.

Using Netscape 4.5 with Javascript on, I still get locked out of this review at MSN's Gaming Zone:;=/asp/content/games/rs/ruth/scoop.asp

We're sorry, but the Zone does not support versions of Netscape before version 4.0. Please upgrade to a current version of Netscape to play on the Zone. You may also download Microsoft Internet Explorer and jump into the action now!

(So screw 'em!!!)

The story isn't much, but I love this headline:,25,29297,00.html?pfv

Egghead reveals new face

November Harper's Index:

Number of Sudanese factories besides the one the U.S. bombed last August that had U.N. approval to export drugs to Iraq : 0
Price a Houston company charges for sending a DNA sample into outer space for possible cloning by aliens : $50
Average number of Americans under the age of 18 killed by their parents or caretakers each day : 5

Drudge scoops Time's MotY:

One camp is behind a Bill and Hillary Clinton "couple" of the year award. Another is arguing in favor of Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Fed for the year-end honor.

Scary as hell: Corporate tax shelters get organised:

Today's shelter hustlers parse the numerous weaknesses in the tax code and devise schemes that can be pitched as "products" to corporate prospects. Then they sell them methodically and aggressively, using a powerful distribution network not unlike the armies of pitchmen who sold cattle and railcar tax shelters to individuals in the 1970s and 1980s. With encouragement from shelter hustlers, a new attitude is spreading: that the corporate tax department is a profit center all its own, and that a high effective tax rate is a sign of weakness.

Says one lawyer: "The IRS misses nine out of ten shelters. On the tenth, the company settles and pays back taxes and the government agrees to no penalties. That's a smart roll of the dice for the company."

Thanks to rampant industry gossip and clever reverse engineering, sellers find it hard to keep products proprietary. To keep them fresh, KPMG is said to require staffers to come up with one new idea per week.

Intel's tax vice-president Robert Perlman says he avoided the notorious step-down preferred: "Our standard is: If what we did and why appeared on the front page of the paper, would Andy Grove be embarrassed?"

Better than green cheese:

Nestle has created nine commemorative bars in their Nestle Crunch candy bar line. For each candy bar there is a space scene engraved into chocolate. The nine scenes are:

- First American In Space, 1961
- Space Walk, 1965
- First Man On The Moon, 1969
- Lunar Rover, 1971
- Space Shuttle Columbia, 1981
- Hubble Space Telescope, 1994
- Mars Pathfinder, 1997
- International Space Station, 1998
- Stardust Mission, 1999

WebLog Archives (by lunar fortnight): Begun 17 December 1997

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