May 30, 2002 } --------------------
The End of the Beginning
Workers remove the flag from the top of the last remaining steel beam of the World Trade Center before cutting it down, Tuesday, May 28, 2002, in New York. The beam will be removed from Ground Zero in a separate ceremony Thursday
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 5:01 PM
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May 29, 2002 } --------------------
This isn't really a Dispatch From America, seeing as it's a story from the Guardian about a lawsuit in France, but it's too good to pass up.
Liddle makes an especially cogent point about the distinctions of degree between racism and criticizing religion.
France is a fitting battlefield for this dispute. Voltaire fought for freedom to write the truth about religion, without much success. Let's hope they've learned something useful about freedom of religion and freedom of expression since then.
posted by Alan Chamberlain at 7:37 PM
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The Bad News is "The Galactic Habitable Zone" is Pretty Darned Thin. The Good News is...You live in it.
We've often taken issue with the science fiction blatherati who claim that life, intelligent or othewise, is everywhere in the universe. This is the "Infinite number of monkeys screwing around with an infinite number of stars for eternity" argument. It has never seemed all that convincing to us. It's like the "Coca Cola Chinese Marketing agrument ("There are billions of people in China and if we can ony sell one six pack a month to each of them....). We've always felt that life was either very rare, very special, or very much a fluke.
So we were pleased to read a Space.com article
outlining the reasons why life, unlike shit, does not just happen. Among the most cogent of their reasons is:
Christopher Chyba of the SETI Institute has theorized that only the smart can survive. A civilization must evolve to the point that it can detect and then either detour or destroy threats from space, lest it be rendered extinct or, at best, plunged back into a Dark Ages existence.
"There is a kind of selection effect for long-lived civilizations," Chyba said in comments to a group of reporters during the STScI conference. "If you want to be long lived, you need to become technical because you need to be able to observe the impact environment around you and respond to that environment in some way to mitigate its effects on your planet."
Chyba pointed out that it took 700 million years or so for life to begin on Earth. The planet had to cool down after its initial formation, and then it weathered a barrage of asteroid impacts. The largest objects might well have evaporated the oceans, he said, preventing the origin of life or resetting it if it had already occurred.
Now, if we can just convince India and Pakistan to avoid evaporating the Indian Ocean, we might not have to reset the life button.
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 3:15 PM
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The Utterly Unsurprising Truth About AOL Version 7: "AOL is a very old-fashioned, clumsy interface, and what surprises me is every new revision is harder to use," says Jef Raskin, a design legend who created the Apple Macintosh (AAPL) interface.
Ain't a Free Country When a Man Can't Keep a Hippo: The Any Animals All The Time
American obsession received a setback this week when police in San Diego determined that a 500 pound pygmy hippo didn't meet their definition of house pet. "No one expects to find a giant hippo living in someone's backyard," said a state game warden.
Well, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition either, but you don't see the cops shutting down consenting adults' home dungeons, do you? Or do you?
The Miracle of Glass: In a small gem of online writing, David Weinberger hits just the right notes when he sums up what's to love about "The Great Indoors."
"Let me try to describe it. I'm able to adjust the temperature to one that is comfortable for our species, and the indoors automatically keeps itself at that temperature no matter what type of hissy fit Nature throws. And through the miracle of glass, a sort of hardened air — I'm not making this up! — we are able to see what is going on outside while the animals that would prey on us are kept away. This beats climbing a tree and looking down because some of the nastier animals can fly. And I've had doors installed so that only I and my family can enter our sanctuary without having to ask permission first. Plus I can organize my things exactly as I want and can be confident that when I return, they won't have blown away, gotten wet, or have been gnawed by beasts. "
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 2:29 PM
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May 27, 2002 } --------------------
That We Here Highly Resolve
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 11:07 AM
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A Ring Recovered
Victor Hanson recently received a ring once worn by his namesake who died in the Okinawa campaign at the close of the Second World War. His meditation on the ring and the man who wore it illuminates some of the deeper meanings of Memorial Day.
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 10:35 AM
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The Grave Markers Here All Face West
Remarks by the President at Normandy, Memorial Day, 2002
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 10:20 AM
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PBS: The Final Fantasy Never let reality
stand in the way of reality shows. That seems to be the message over at PBS's "reality
show" about frontier life in America. The viewer will look a long time before he sees a
gun on this version of the American frontier. According the one performer the Clunes of
"Frontier House" had to deal with strange requirements from the producers during
production. One of which was, "We were supposed to give a predator two warnings," Mr.
Clune told the Los Angeles Times. "'Excuse me, Mr. Coyote, please don't eat my chicken.
Excuse me, Mr. Coyote, please don't eat my chicken.' Then, you were supposed to fire a
The King is dead but lawyers are always with us. The Elvis lawsuits it seems are never going to be over until the last ding-dong of doom. "See you in court, honey. Uh, uh."
More Mush from the Wimp:First "Wings" and now this, the final insult.Hey, we like the Beatles as much as anybody, but there should be some limits to what the aging survivors of this group are allowed to do. Ringo, wisely, keeps a low profile. Not so Sir Paul. He's seen fit to inflict the world with a show of his, let's face it, fifth-rate paintings. Shown and sold solely on the basis of his Beatleness. As Paul himself says, "Some will like them and some won't. They're entitled to their opinions but I never read them. I really just do it for my own enjoyment." Great Paul. So could you please keep them where only you can enjoy them. Thank you.
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 9:55 AM
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May 24, 2002 } --------------------
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 5:22 PM
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Welcome to Cyberspace! Now get out.
You can't help but hate them, but those annoying "pop-under" web ads are here to stay. Wired Magazine's Chris Anderson lays down the law.
The thing that pisses me off is that these things take over my browser. They also locate the ad just off the screen so you can't just hit the "Close" button. I've taken to right-clicking on the thing in my Start Menu and closing it from there, sight unseen.
posted by Alan Chamberlain at 3:52 PM
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May 23, 2002 } --------------------
The Emperor's New Friends
For all the orthodox hectoring from the Left reflexively condemning the US and Israel for their principled self-defense, there are occasional glimmers of understanding emerging from the progressive community. Dissent Magazine's Todd Gitlin considers the advantages of imperial power.
While there is much to argue with in Gitlin's assumptions, he nevertheless presents a clear-eyed perspective on the benefits -- and obligations -- of global predominance. It is refreshing to see an observer from the Left responsibly advocating grown-up accountability for real-world hegemony, rather than sloganeering for a world that never will be.
posted by Alan Chamberlain at 2:38 PM
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Okay, okay, we're one but we're not the same.
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 11:58 AM
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Often Wrong But Never In Doubt
As someone who was described by a former boss as "our taller, fatter, older, maler, wronger Esther Dyson", I'm always delighted to see the Martha Stewart of the Internet getting ink. In Fortune Magazine, David Kirkpatrick profiles her latest idée fixe; "The Networked Life" (you can almost hear Rosemary Clooney singing about it, no?) Still, Dyson is no hopelessly neologizing Gildery handwaver; she knows how often new technology best serves its masters by failing.
I've designed, implemented, project-managed and otherwise supported Sales Force Automation, Customer Relationship Management, and Knowledge Engineering systems for over a decade, and I have to applaud Dyson for speaking truth to power. Tom Siebel is one of the most successful and powerful executives in the software industry, because of this unspoken conceit; as long as people are paid for what they know, no matter how elegant you make the platform, no one shares intelligence for free. Online collaboration systems perennially appear on the infoscape (40,000 blogs and counting, e.g.), but most eventually devolve into mediocrity and mendacity, because information wants to be fee.
But Dyson still nurtures a vision of an accelerated knowledge culture, and remains undaunted by the fallout from the dot-bomb of two years ago.
As Madge says, you're soaking in it.
posted by Alan Chamberlain at 11:36 AM
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May 22, 2002 } --------------------
Clinton Ready to End Sex Embargo Against Cuba
Hot on the heels of last week's Jimmy Carter / Fidel Castro blatherthon in Cuba, ex-President Bill "Shameless" Clinton announced he was in heavy training for his own personal mission to end the decades long embargo on Americans renting Cuban girls by the week. "It's crippling the island nation's economy, when we keep the dollar from supporting the large crop of Cuban babes," the unemployed President said.
Speaking from outside a street corner bodega near his offices in Harlem, the portly President was quick to condemn Carter's tactics in travelling to the last bastion of Communism in the Western Hemisphere.
"Hell, Jimmy took his wife along! Can you imagine that? What a waste of a perfectly good chance to tom cat around. Maddy Albright's told me that you can rent young Cuban women for less than $50.00 American a week. And, if you throw in another $20.00 and a case of Bud you can even get a sister or a cousin in the same deal. Room's extra though. But what the hell, I'll stock up on some of those moist Cuban cigars and party like it's 1999 again."
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 4:13 PM
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May 21, 2002 } --------------------
In last Friday's San Diego Union-Tribune, the Director of Technology Studies for The Cato Institute makes a persuasive argument in defense of the Supreme Court's recent ruling regarding The Child Online Protection Act.
The "war on porn" seems intent on producing the same results as the "war on drugs"; by criminalizing appetite.
posted by Alan Chamberlain at 4:02 PM
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If Hope is the Thing with Feathers, There's No Hope Here
If you thought Chicken McNuggets were unappealing, check out what they will be made from in the future.
Nude Bird News Here
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 3:27 PM
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Is Martha's Goose Cooked?
When I live, many years ago, in the bedroom community of Westport, Connecticut, one of the most universally disliked citizens of that town was a then little known author, Martha Stewart. Since then, Martha's remade herself into not just a new woman, but a walking, talking meme. As an icon of the hump-pump-and-dump stock spress of the '90s, Stewart made a virtue and a fortune out of ubiquity. But America is hard on it's stars and sooner or later they all begin to set. The recent book about Stewart may be, as the Boston Phoenix notes, the beginning of Martha's decline. If so, she's doing what any 90s CEO would do. Sell now before the company craters.
On the other hand, the good burghers of Westport had her on the ropes at the beginning of the 90s. They were wrong then. Reports of her impolosion may still be premature
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 12:56 PM
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Continuing Signs of the American Apocalypse
One of our favorite writers on "The System," likes to talk about the weather in her neck of the woods from time to time. Since her neck of the woods is a hamlet down in the swampy outback of Louisiana, her weather is, to say the least, always a bit bizarre. As are her neightbors:
I wonder what the national alert color for The End Times might be. Well, whatever it is I'm sure Martha Stewart will stock it.
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 12:42 PM
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Barbie Broke My Brain Until Jesus Saved My Soul
Barbie, another pure American product still has the capacity to drive people insane. Witnessthis ebay listing.
Absolutely zero animals and only one human were harmed in the production of this listing (I glued my fingers together a couple of times, but should be alright after a couple of martinis). While the doll shown above is a genuine Barbie, not all parts are from the same doll...Barbie suffered severe arm- meltage while having her buttocks baked in the oven and they were replaced with another Barbie-like doll's arms.
To all Barbie Doll Lovers - I did not maliciously deface, bend, fold, spindle or mutilate her...believe it or not, she looks better now than than when I found her! I love Barbie! I have my own collection...please do not send me email calling me Satan spawn. If you are looking for an action figure, this is NOT it - this gal hasn't seen any action in years and between the buttocks addition and the arm melting incident, Barbie has been glued to keep her together.
Clothing has been glued on to give Barbie a little modesty, please do not purchase if you merely want to take off her outfit and sneak a peek at her goodies. Additional dolls, clothing and accessories pictured are not included.
Some dolls identities' have been masked to protect their privacy. All text and pictures are the property of me, please do not use without permission unless you wish to make me cry. Some of the money from this auction will go toward the rehabilitation and restoration of other homeless Barbies, the rest will be used to purchase Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream - if I could fill my bathtub with the stuff, I would dive right in! Thank you for your time, now please BID! SAVE A BARBIE!! What are you waiting for? HURRY! Do it now before you forget!!
posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 12:33 PM
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