Saturday, January 16, 2010

Week, Weaker, Weakest

Give Me The Willies

Palin Comparison

Go To Hell

Go Directly To Hell

One Man Band

Renowned guitarist Pat Metheny is not the only musician who wanted to make a solo album, but he is among the few to do it all by himself. Among modern musical forms, jazz is the most collaborative. So to forsake that support and create an orchestra totally out of 21st century technology seems heretical... But it is technically possible.

Pat's “Orchestrion” uses instructions performed intially on his guitar, recorded on computers and played back on a collection of musical instruments, both coventional and improvised.

The BBC’s Andrew Purcell got a brief tour.

Host: Robin Young,
Reporter: Andrew Purcell

Bundle This!

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The current Administration has recycled a lot of economic advisers from the last Democratic presidency. A notable exception: Nobel laureate and Columbia University economics professor Joseph Stiglitz who served on and later chaired President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers. He was also chief economist at the World Bank.

Stiglitz gives the government's efforts to deal with the worst financial crisis in generations generally bad grades with the exception of the barely passable stimulus bill, which he finds an anemic and insufficient response to the recession.

Audio: NPR's All Things Considered, Host: Robert Siegel.

Mighty Mouse

Be Kind, Rewind

Spotted on KPAO!

Friday, January 15, 2010

No More Turning Away

Do what you can. It's time.

Look Under The Tarp

And Re-making Markets

Train Drain

A Tale of Two Cities

Santa's helper looked lonely standing on what should have been a bustling Times Square subway platform only a few shopping days before Christmas.

But it wasn't the greatest shopping season and "People don't commute when they're unemployed," said New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. His report Thursday found New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority carried 75 million fewer riders in the first 10 months of 2009 as employers cut jobs, costing the agency over $100 million of revenue.

It is still the nation's biggest mass transit agency, responsible for the city's buses, subways, commuter railroads and several major bridges and tunnels. But the city lost 110,000 jobs between October 2008 and October 2009, symptomatic of the national recession.

In Vegas, there's a privately owned monorail route that connects six hotel-casino stops with the city's public convention center.

It's more of a toy than serious transportation, and although there was no discernable benefit to the general public other than some projected very limited traffic mitigation on the nearby "strip," the state of Nevada allowed the company to organize and sell bonds as a non-profit.

Non-profit? No kidding!

The line has never met a single publicly announced ridership projection, and since 2004, used proceeds from the initial financing and debt service reserves to keep operating, but has now depleted those resources. According to its bankruptcy petition, Las Vegas Monorail has between $10 million and $50 million of assets, and between $500 million and $1 billion of debts... They can't get those figures right, either.

Nor their story, telling the court: "The decline in the monorail's operations is tied directly to the decrease in gaming revenues in Nevada, and particularly along the Las Vegas Strip." While it's true that gambling tourism and convention attendance has sharply declined in recent years, even causing airlines serving the city to reduce flights and available seating capacity by more than 30%, the court shouldn't buy that line, any claim it's related to the collapse of the area's real estate bubble, or the company's request to dismiss Las Vegas Monorail's Chapter 11 petition and re-file its case under Chapter 9, a part of the bankruptcy code that applies to cities.

It was and is a billion dollar boondoggle which has never been honest with anybody, has no legitimate claim to being a government agency, and was built with such limited utility it couldn't fill its cars if the ride was totally free.

Literary Lies

18th century poet Thomas Chatterton, modern-day pseudo-memoirist James Frey, even Mark Twain have all perpetrated some type of literary deception on an unsuspecting public... Some playful, others with malicious motives.

Hear the scams from Melissa Katsoulis, author of “Literary Hoaxes: An Eye-Opening History of Famous Frauds.”

Audio: BBC, PRI & WBUR's Here & Now. Host: Robin Young.

It's All Fake

Go Ahead... Make an Ass of Yourself

Food For Thought

The circumferentially challenged in the UK are working up a sweat over Cadbury House, a health club, urging people to lose weight—or risk looking appetizing to hungry aliens when the invasion happens.

Remember: "To Serve Man" is a Cookbook

Thursday, January 14, 2010

First Responders

"Now what?" The neighbor wondered aloud.

When he'd last seen Ladder 3 in the neighborhood, it had been part of a full battalion responding to Monday night's cloud of dark acrid smoke.

The origin was three separate points of ignition within a single room of the supposedly empty building, a recently closed weekly residence motel.

When the first company breached the main entrance they found a single elderly squatter inside. And whether it was age, drink or something he could blame on smoke inhalation, the old man told his rescuers there could be as many as 20 fellow residents in the building. Then again it might have been true earlier that evening, since stenciled no trespassing warnings don't deter the cty's homeless who number over 14,000 by last year's count... Like a separate transient town of the unwanted centered within a few blocks of the city's own center of power.

Inside, teams of flashlights moved room to room as outside teams with rotary saws removed all the security bars around the ground floor. Another chief, from a nearby city providing mutual aid, arrived on scene and changed into his full turnout gear, alarming neighbors watching from across the street despite the billowing black.

There were units standing ready at nearby hydrants to string lines at the first sign of open flame beyond the room where it started. The department's public information unit rolled up in case the TV stations did, too. But as the crews circled the building breaking out the glass, widespread flames never came... Nor did the cameras.

The supression strategy worked, smoke disapated and it never made the TV news. Arson blazes destroying new condos routinely do. But $35,000 damage to an unused building amidst the sea of boarded up and torn down to bare ground at the edge of downtown don't.

Neither would Ladder 3's solo midday Wednesday outing... A brief training excercise on how to deploy their massive telescoping apparatus to reach multi-story targets with a minimal adjustment.

"Now what?" He had asked.

An ISO class 1 fire department... Ready for more action. And a block of abandoned buildings certain to bring them back sooner or later to a neighborhood that's no stranger to sirens.

Banks Alot!

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Bank CEOs faced off against skeptical commissioners as they testified before the panel of idependent experts investigating causes of the financial crisis. Wall Street Journal columnist David Weidner says, unlike typical politicians, these questioners know what to ask and how to rattle the witnesses.
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Who's Doing You

It's He Said/She Said as former contestant Rozlyn Papa takes on show host Chris Harrison over the alleged "inappropriate relationship" with a show producer which got her booted and him fired from "The Bachelor" despite having already won a rose in a major WTF moment from week 2 of season 14...

No footage of any "inappropriate behavior" aired on the show.

Badass Bike

The NightShadow is a custom bike with a 1200cc V-twin engine at the heart of a wild ride astride your choice of Leaping Jaguar or Charging Bull chasis.

By Massow Concept Cycles of London ($567,000).

Ad Placement

What The Duck?

The phobia is real, the ad placement is an unreal coincidence... Or very cruel.

Compound Fracture

This Was Terrible

But the ad by Google to "Date Jewish Singles" robo-placed immediately below in the blog's RSS feed made it worse.

Is anyone paying attention?

I don't know where HealthBase gets its information, but I'd be distrustful. However I do know why not to commercialize my blog.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Midnight Sun Fun

This is what a week looks like in time lapse at high latitudes near that hemisphere's summer solstice. The number of days per year with potential midnight sun increases the farther poleward one goes. The opposite phenomenon, polar night, occurs in winter when the sun stays below the horizon throughout the day.

Unconventional Invention

A Step Closer To Stepford

Engineer-inventor Douglas Hines adjusts Roxxxy's head at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas. She's being billed as the first life-size robotic girlfriend complete with "artificial intelligence."

She's an anatomically, if not politically, correct 5'7" 120 pound robot whose sensors can tell when she's being touched and responds to simple conversation through an internal speaker... Which makes her sound a lot like Stephen Hawking mouthing simple suggestive prerecorded phrases. Only $7,000 to $9,000.

Photo by Robyn Beck, who sounds like a real woman as she laughs hysterically.

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Google Phone Makes News

Dealing With Double Agents

The Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven high-ranking CIA officers and a Jordanian intelligence official in Afghanistan last month was a "double agent."

Peter Earnest, explains why foreign agents are still so valuable to intelligence agencies and the hazards of double agents. Before becoming executive director of the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, Earnest worked for the CIA for 36 years... And helped uncover one double agent, but was fooled by another.

Audio: BBC, PRI & WBUR's Here & Now. Host: Robin Young.

Holy Crap!

Good Book Meets Flip Book

Spotted on Like Cool.

Kentucky Fried Hydrant

Sponsoring Public Works

"Upgraded" hydrants in Brazil, IN were among the stops on the Colonel's photo op/inspection schedule of cash-strapped cities who licked their lips at the prospect.

KFC offered to improve hydrants, fire extinguishers and smoke alarms to help promote its new "fiery" chicken wings.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mudslide Harry

Local pundits in Las Vegas mockingly call him "Landslide Harry" because he's no stranger to being behind in the polls or narrow margins of victory... But whether getting elected as a Democrat in a Red State which has only recently moved into swing state status, or cobbling together a winning margin on health care, he gets it done. So despite the latest dust-up, political pros in the only state that counts are betting he survives.

Shuffle Up and Deal

Failing Upward

Fox's New Friend

Wrong Number

Contributor Ken Morgan wondered if anything like this ever played out a Tiger's.

Infomercial Innuendo

From Funny or Die

Photo Magic: Hogwarts Style

Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) for Burberry

Baby, baby, baby... Where did your leg go?

Monday, January 11, 2010

CES Rearview Reviews

Deadly Assignment

Cartoons of Doom

To many devout Muslims, the idea of any physical depiction of their Prophet is abhorrent. The idea that a newspaper would commission a dozen renderings by editorial cartoonists unthinkable blasphemy.

Yet on September 30, 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten did just that, announcing that publication was a contribution to the debate regarding criticism of Islam and self-censorship.

Criticism of Islam didn't prove to be something Europe's Muslim minorities were willing to accept, laugh off, forgive or forget. And it was less popular among majority Muslim countries who erupted in riots which burned the Danish Embassies in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, plus desecration of the Danish, Dutch, Norwegian and German flags in Gaza City and were supressed at a cost of many lives... Which leads back to the cartoon at the center top:

Whatever one thought of a man wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse, Muslims didn't help themselves any by exploding ino violence, witnessed by the western world which generalizes the extremes of what's portrayed on the daily news into stereotypes.

Those who accepted the Jyllands-Posten assignment to draw a picture of the prophet "as you see him" are still feeling the effects. Kurt Westergaard, who drew the turban bomb, is now in hiding after being attacked by an axe-wielding man on New Year's Day 2010.

Audio: NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, January 10. Host: Liane Hansen.

Rock 'n' Roll Suicide Attempt

A Fan's Analysis by YouTube's Soulgotha

Humor and Tragedy: the fraternal twins within a life on the edge.

The Neverending Story

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz

A Wormhole Kind of Guy

Think Mass, Not GigaWatts

Physicist David Goldberg says time travel is within the realm of how the universe works, and he has a time machine in mind. Goldberg teaches physics at Drexel University and is the author of "A User's Guide to the Universe."

Audio: PRI & WNYC's program Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.

Moments of Reflection

Yosemite's Half Dome seen in Mirror Lake from Garry Hayes

Vietnam Reflections by Lee Teter

Playa Reflection by Alain Briot

White Wine Reflection 2 by Eirik Solheim

Pregnant Reflections 6 by Michael Autumn

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Census Sense

Controversy True To Form

Joe's yarmulke is a visual clue. That he likes to be called Yosi (shortened from Yosef) is another. And loud lunchroom cell phone conversations with his Israeli wife and associates leave no doubt.

I kidded him about needing to be more discreet when contacting his Mossad handlers.

Although he was born in Morocco, it's his Chicago accent that gets in the way of understanding his attempts at conversational Hebrew.

Keisha, from California, is a single mom with a teenage daughter who's sometimes trouble. And she'd worry about that.

One day to cheer her up, I told her I'd always pictured her leaving work and stepping into the starring role of a glamorous hip hop video... No thugz, just bling.

And for a moment she smiled at the thought of being cast as Mariah Carey, and laughed at the thought of it all. Her parents had given her a middle initial that matched her first and last... Imagine KKK on BET!

Fiona's family story may have something to do with a career in real estate. As a child of British nobility, born in Rhodesia, she knows what it's like to lose what you thought you owned.

Robert Mugabe's rule in the emergent Zimbabwe brought "land reform" that mainly consisted of stripping away property rights acquired during colonial days.

Although her siblings also came to America, her parents chose to remain in the troubled country... At home.

Taban means shining or resplendent in Arabic. It seems especially appropriate when you see his brilliant smile.

I attended his wedding to Regina and the baptism of their son Jacob. Taban had gotten a good rhythm going when renouncing the devil and all his works and missed his cue to respond differently when the topic turned to accepting Jesus... So he renounced him, too.

In their native Sudan the baptism itself would have been a problem as ethnic Arabs professing Islam pursued a campaign of genocide.

Yosi, Keisha, Fiona and Taban. Four friends of different color, experience and background... All with legitimate claims to being African Americans on the 2010 census.
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Homo Extinctus

Serendipity & Sapiens

Of the many varieties of humans who've walked the Earth, only one survives - us, all Africans.

Evolutionary ecologist Clive Finlayson says the Neanderthals were another kind of human, and their culture was not so very different from that of our own ancestors. In this book, he presents a wider view of the events that led to the migration of the moderns into Europe, what might have happened during the contact of the two populations, and what finally drove the Neanderthals to extinction. He considers climate, culture, ecology, plus migrations of populations and their interactions.

Audio: CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks, Host: Bob McDonald.

Walk Away Renée

Strategic Default Initiative

Too Big To Jail

David Corn and colleague Kevin Drum appeared as guests on Bill Moyers Journal, Friday January 8. Together, with economist Joseph Stieglitz, contributed to Mother Jones "Too Big To Jail" issue.

Low Budget Life

American Radio Works Economics Correspondent Chris Farrell talks about his new book - The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More and Live Better. Is the era of "Buy Now, Pay Later" over?

Audio: APM's American Radio Works, Host: Stephen Smith.

Tastes Like Teen Spirit

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Disappearing Acts

Monika, an LA filmmaker, is among those who noticed the striking visuals in ads for AstraZeneca's antidepressant SeroquelXR.

It suggests you need the pill if depression has made you feel as if you're disappearing into the background... As Monika wrote, "Depression sucks... Depression commercials, on the other hand, are awesome. As silly as they may seem to folks who have never suffered from depression, they usually get it right."

Help, however, is not available in the juice aisle.

AstraZeneca may be unique in using the technique in TV advertising, but not in still photos.

Chinese artist Liu Bolin's camouflaged self portraits arose as protest against the government that shut down his studio... He now paints himself so as not to stand out at all amidst photographed scenes.

Article and Gallery.

And among the techniques used by Australia's Emma Hack are painted patterns on canvas that are replicated on models... Adding a different dimension to her art.