'This American Life Completes Documentation Of Liberal, Upper-Middle-Class Existence' - The Onion

"At first, we were getting a lot of stories from recovered drug addicts and East African refugees living in the States, which had their compelling elements but came off a bit cloying," Blumberg said. "But then we realized that if we had overeducated people with voices rather unsuitable for radio narrate the stories with clever analogies and accessible morals, the whole thing would come off far less depressing."

Blumberg said that the turning point came in 1997, when producers discovered a group of inner-city schoolchildren inadvertently teaching an important lesson to their attractive, suburban-raised teacher about what makes us human.

Also aiding the study were the many contributors to This American Life, who took time from their best-selling essay-writing careers to donate personal anecdotes about dropping out of prestigious art schools, taking harrowing but poignant childhood vacations to the Grand Canyon, and the unique challenges of growing up in families supportive of their homosexuality. [link]

Jack Valenti is dead.

How will you cover it old media?

Mostly, filmmakers complain that they must work against muddled or moving boundaries. And parents’ groups grouse about “ratings creep,” a perceived tendency for a category like PG-13 to permit ever more violence, sex and profanity over the years to reach impressionable youth. Yet it was Mr. Valenti’s genius to have devised an apparatus that is not bound by precedent, changes its definitions at will and, ultimately, serves the motion picture industry by becoming, at any given moment, as permissive or restrictive as the prevailing climate seems to demand.

[The Ratings System, Built to Endure]

Super. But what was that documentary I read about on boingboing? Oh yeah, "This Film is Not Yet Rated."
The MPAA's excuse for this is that it's an alternative to government censorship of films, but as director Kirby Dick shows, it's wildly implausible that such censorship would be found constitutional. The MPAA system treats independents as second-class citizens, issuing gnomic pronouncements about a film's suitability, while treating the big studios that own the MPAA with more solicitude, lavishing editorial suggestions on directors who've come under the thumb of the big six.

This Film is Not Yet Rated makes a compelling case for MPAA ratings system as a form of institutionalized, homophobic puritanism. The ratings board is quite relaxed about violence, especially extreme, gory violence, but takes a dim view of sex, and won't tolerate sex out of the missionary position, nor gay sex of any kind, nor any suggestion of women getting real pleasure out of sex. It's an eye-opening look at America's hidden values, where you can take your kids to see bad guys gunned down by James Bond, but not a lightweight teen-comedy about lesbian girls sent away to anti-gay brainwashing camp.

Oh, and what's the logo for the Motion Picture Association of America?
That's the sort of symbol that just screams, "America!" Doesn't it?

So if your feeling like honoring Jack Valenti, you could either write an article about his 'genius,' or watch him in a pirated episode of Freakazoid. It's the episode called "The Chip." Enjoy!


"He hasn't asked them to do this, but nor has he told them not to."

Finally weeks of reading the Note have paid off. The Telegraph reports on a shadow campaign team being assembled should Al Gore chose to run. And the New York Post keeps the chatter going.

Gore-watchers believe that a new book he is publishing next month on the state of US politics will keep his name in the public eye. Many of his supporters helped to run the unsuccessful presidential campaign of John Kerry in 2004. But since Sen Kerry abandoned his presidential aspirations this year, many of his leading advisers have yet to align themselves with any of the other candidates.

They were expected to join the campaign of Sen Edwards, who was Sen Kerry's running mate last time.

The former aide, who has himself signed up with Sen Edwards, said: "The question is: where have all the Kerry people gone? The answer for most of them is nowhere. Now ask yourself why."

Among the senior officials not yet committed is Michael [The Wizard] Whouley, who was national field director for the successful Clinton-Gore 1992 presidential campaign, national campaign manager for Mr Gore when he stood for re-election as vice-president in 1996, and then a senior adviser to Mr Gore in 2000.

Considered one of the most talented Democratic "ground war" experts, he masterminded John Kerry's political resurrection in the New Hampshire presidential primary three years ago, putting him on course for the nomination. Last year, he oversaw the Democratic victory in the mid-term elections.

Two months ago, a former Gore aide, Elaine Kamarck, convened a group of former aides in Boston to consider the possibilities of a Gore campaign.

James Carville, President Clinton's former strategy chief, suggested last week that Mr Gore, who has piled on the pounds, could shed weight over the summer to make himself more media-friendly for a White House run.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he lost 15lb or so," said Mr Carville. "And I think if people thought he could get us out of the mess we're in with Iraq, they wouldn't care how fat he is."

A poll of leading Democratic and Republican strategists found that one in four thought Mr Gore would emerge a strong contender. "He already has emerged - he just has to announce," a Democrat told the magazine Opinion Journal.

A Republican said: "Gore could be the toughest Democrat to beat."

At least eight websites are campaigning to "Draft Gore" into the election. More than 70,000 people have signed an online petition, and more than 120 groups of Gore supporters meet each month around the country to promote the case for a Gore presidency.


Virginia Tech Massacre

Virginia Tech and my school, the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, could be cousins. According to wikipedia they were founded around the same time from public land grants, and now have about the same number of student's and faculty. I've never seen a bloody stage that looked so similar to my home.
The post Columbine fear that swept through the nation and ever school, never reached me. The experts on TV and in the schools told us we should look for the symptoms of the school shooting disease. Prevention would come through kindness and ratting out the ostracized.
The experts on TV said we'd need metal detectors in schools, but that never happened in my schools. An armed police officer became a fixture of the school. His job was to someday shoot one of us.

Everyone worked very hard to convince themselves that the rashes of violence that spread across the country were not symptoms of something larger. That the Dark was not rising. But it was on the mind of the children, the parents, and everyone who was being born again, ready to vote in the next millennium.

On gun control at Virginia Tech, [via BoingBoing]
An interesting blog post, complaining that if a year earlier Virginia Tech hadn't removed all guns from students at school, then some students could have protected themselves in someway against the shooter. I'm sure my school feels vindicated for covering the campus in surveillance cameras. The psychological violence of metal detectors, constant surveillance, and increased police presence, is far less damaging then the physical violence we still can't prevent. Why must safety be so violent?

On the shooting and Ismail Ax,
List of School massacres, [wikipedia]



A chrono-map of my web trail,

December 7, 1941 - Japan bombs Pearl Harbor

December 8, 1941 - Roosevelt responds, "Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us."

December 8-10, 1941 - Man on the Street interviews conducted for the Library of Congress

March, 1941

April 22, 1944 - Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips
His accent is an equal blend of someone from the Bronx and someone from Brooklyn.
He is an honorary Marine Master Sergeant.
June 11, 1945 - The Franck Report advises against use of Atomic Bomb
Unless an effective international control of nuclear explosives is instituted, a race of nuclear armaments is certain to ensue following the first revelation of our possession of nuclear weapons to the world. Within ten years other countries may have nuclear bombs, each of which, weighing less than a ton, could destroy an urban area of more than five square miles.

July 24, 1945 - Truman says,
I casually mentioned to Stalin that we had a new weapon of unusual destructive force. The Russian Premier showed no special interest. All he said was he was glad to hear it and hoped we would make "good use of it against the Japanese."
July 25, 1945 - Truman writes in his diary
We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.

Anyway we "think" we have found the way to cause a disintegration of the atom.
August 6, 1945 - Little Boy
August 9, 1945 - Fat Man


Shiny Futurism

The Future on TV:

2057: Hyperspace author and string field theory co-founder, Michio Kaku hosts this 3 part Discovery Channel documentary, with complimentary website

End Day: Five different 'when not if' scenarios presented by the BBC

Five Ways to Save the World: BBC's law of fives, says this show should be good, even though I haven't watched it yet. I guess End Day needed a flip side.


Lonesome No More!

Kurt Vonnegut is dead. He taught me I could still cry. And laugh. And if I could do those things, then maybe I was still human. I'll miss him lots. Hi Ho.

Pop Quiz

The $100 Laptop is not an laptop project it is:
a.) an education project
b.) an Open Source project
c.) an Internet project
d.) the last stand against greed and fascism

e.) the Shiny Abyss, which we each fill with our hopes and dreams


Chess Matches

Is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as bad as Adolf Hitler? Only one way to know, check his hands. Still, anyone who's got a chess board for a couple of stranded soldiers can't be all bad.

AND at home, Bill Richardson's position on Iraq is as good as the best of them.

I would have a war powers resolution deauthorizing the war, with timetables and benchmarks. I would withdraw this calendar year. The consensus seems to have been built around March of 2008, but I'd get out this year. But the Congress authorized the war and the Congress should deauthorize the war. Then, there will be a legal fight - the administration will say "well, we don't recognize the war powers act." Then you go to the Supreme Court. That's what I would do, because my sense is that every effort should be made to cut the funding, but I worry about whether we have the votes to do it. What this veto will do is President Bush will have made the war by far the number one issue in the 2008 campaign, because this veto means gridlock, deadlock. So I would proceed with a deauthorization resolution.

Be Afraid?

In New Contract, Newt Goes Green

At ten o'clock today, Newt Gingrich will be debating John Kerry on the climate crisis.

"Terry and I wrote A Contract With the Earth to push conservatives back to their environmental roots vis-à-vis Teddy Roosevelt," Gingrich tells us.
Like his 1994 Contract With America, Gingrich's book will highlight a 10-point plan that the publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press, says "promotes ingenuity over rhetoric" and calls for a "bipartisan environmentalism." It's already received endorsements from Nature Conservancy President Steve McCormick and Wildlife Society Executive Director Michael Hutchins.
Ingenuity over rhetoric? It is rather ingenious; like when Clinton lifted the boards off the Republican platform, leaving them with nothing to stand on. Can Newt pull it off? Can he sell Americans on a 'Contract for the 21st Century?' God I hope not.

I want to do some digging on the word contract. It doesn't sound like a 21st Century word to me. Barely sounds like the 20th Century. All I can think of is tenement stories like, Will Eisner's A Contract with God.

I still hold to my conviction that it will be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, then for a Republican to enter the White House in January 2009. But as Jesus amends, "with God all things are possible." (Mathew 19:26)

If 2008 is 1968, and Gore is Nixon, then let Gingrich can be Hubert Humphrey. Look forward to more historical analysis. I haven't even had time to read the 1968 election wiki. Questions for a later date: who will be the George Wallace vote splitter? Will there be a Robert Kennedy? The anti-war protests of the Summer of '07 will pale in comparison to the Summer of '08; so, will the conventions go as smoothly as they did in 1968? Mmm, history.


Mensaje de Newt Gingrich

I have never believed that Spanish
is a language of people of low income
nor a language without beauty

~ Newt Gingrich from HIS YOUTUBE CHANNEL. {wtf}
n.gingrich joined youtube July 11, 2006, and since then has posted 17 videos to his channel, known as "Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America." His viewership started is now in the low thousands, but his most recent video, Mensaje de Newt Gingrich, has received almost 60,000 views in only a day. But that's what happens when the Old Media covers the Internet; they throw the seeds of their readership into nooks the readers could never find alone. And eventually the readers don't need the papers to filter their Newt Gingrich updates.

But the seed of readership has only just been planted. It might not survive phenomena section. Currently, he has 217 subscribers, including this guy. Newt has no friends. And not is do you no longer need a filter to Newt, now Newt will filter for you too.

Since typing the above, Newt now has 222 subscribers, and one of those new ones is me.

Another Massachusetts Flip-Flopper

Campaigning in New Hampshire this week, the candidate for the Republican presidential nomination told an audience that he is a "lifelong hunter," according to the Associated Press. "I've been a hunter pretty much all my life," the news service reported.

But the campaign now acknowledges that the former governor has been hunting twice in his life -- once when he was young and lived on a ranch in Idaho, and more recently on a quail-hunting trip in Georgia with GOP donors.

"I wouldn't describe the governor as an avid hunter," spokesman Kevin Madden said. "I don't think if we were sitting around the hunting lodge, he would have a lot of stories to tell about big game."
Giuliani, however, has lots of great hunting stories; like that time him and Bernie Kerik went hunting for prostitutes, or when he spent six hours stalking this one homeless guy, before taking him down with a crossbow, just before the sun rose over pristine streets of New York City.


Poetria Nova

The air in this region of art may seem murky and the pathway rugged, the doors locked and the theory itself entangled with knots. Since that is so, the words that follow will serve as physicians for that disorder. Scan them well: here you will find a light to dispel the darkness, safe footing to traverse rugged ground, a key to unlock the doors, a finger to loose the knots. The way is thrown open; guide the reins of your mind as the nature of your course demands.
Geoffrey of Vinsauf


Take a Chance

The two episode pilot of Space Above and Beyond is now on TV Links, along with four scattered episodes of the shows first and only season. These episodes give good feel for what the world is like in 2063. The show has really great story arcs and I recommend watching the whole thing through, on DVD, or perhaps TV Links in a few days.
Watch Space Above and Beyond

read about the 1990s

I hadn't thought of this before, but wikipedia tells me that 2063 is the year, in Star Trek, when humans made contact with their first extraterrestrials, the Vulcans. But the first contact in Space Above and Beyond is more Heinleinian than that socialist clap trap.

$150 a Hive

Honeybees are going missing. Starts funny, ends sad.

Colbert's Bears and Balls On Bees
NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on Bees [mp3]

Wikipedia on Bees
Colony Collapse Disorder (or CCD) is the name of the phenomenon that describes the massive die-off affecting an entire beehive or bee colony.
Theories include environmental change-related stresses, malnutrition, unknown pathogens, mites, pesticides, disease, or genetically modified (GM) crops.
Honey bees are not native to the Americas, therefore their necessity as pollinators in the US is limited to strictly agricultural uses. They are responsible for pollination of approximately one third of the United States' crop species, including such species as: almonds, peaches, soybeans, apples, pears, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, and strawberries; many but not all of these plants can be (and often are) pollinated by other insects, including other kinds of bees, in the U.S., but typically not on a commercial scale.


OLPC Reality Check

There have been quite a lot of people trying to impose reality checks on those of us who have put all our eggs in the OLPC basket. OLPCNews has been dutifully covering the praise with the criticism, and as Vernor Vinge said in his recent Long Now speech, it is important to remain open to counter-scenarios, and the signs of their arrival. Here's a slice of negativity pie from Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla, in Lima Peru. Originally written on November 16, 2005, but posted on OLPCNews today.

This new tool, in the best possible scenario, will force a poor country's whole educational system into becoming a very different animal, without consideration of the goals looked after and the possibility of reaching them through lesser, although cheaper and locally produced and locally enabling, means. And in the worst possible scenario, this gadget will end up changing nothing, and the poor will get the chance to receive the worst education possible in full color.

Without doubting for a minute the good intentions of those involved in the project, it is impossible not to think about the whole idea as a world-changing attempt just like many that the computer has brought, and a sort of good intentioned but massive ego trip.

The computer has changed the world in so many different ways but for those imagined by the apostles of computing. This could be the final proof required to make the entire computers-will-change-the- world meme finally moot? I certainly hope so.
Mansilla's main contention is that a computer is not a substitute for an education, and the local environments; the schools and towns, will bend to serve the laptop, not to be served by it. Mansilla is guided by a principle that at times makes me question any technological revolution; wait, how are computers going to make things easier, when they have only ever made things more complicated? Isn't the shadow of every machine a mountain of troubleshooting?

But the death of schools at the hands of OLPC? Eh. So what. Like most people who enjoy tv-links, gmail, and blogging, I never got much out of school. To see the classroom replaced with something else, does not fill me with fear. I hope the next evolution in education is a real one, a good one, and inherently linked to the Internet. And this is where people misunderstand the $100 laptop. It's not an education project and it's not a laptop project, it's an Internet project. Once we give everyone the Internet, nothings going to matter. Adapting Vinge, the Internet must swallow all bureaucracies, within the century, if mankind hopes to survive and to thrive. It's kind of like the opposite of privatization.

However, will the Internet alone be enough to educate the children? In a recent video of the OLPC design team on OLPCNews, a top Engineer revealed a secret goal of the project; to indoctrinate a generation in the open source philosophy. Sounds plausible, possible, and a great first step in tearing down all known businesses and governments. But will there be any benchmarks for it? As I write, Chief Executive Bush is getting ready to veto a Democratic budget for Iraq that has benchmarks for measuring success. Similarly, Chief Negroponte has denied the need for benchmarks or even trials of the system with children. At times Negroponte's stubbornness has seemed frightening, but also strangely reassuring.

When will we know if this is working? Within the year. How will we know if this is working? Trust us, it will be so big, no one will be able to miss it.

Portuguese Wikipedia, April 3, 2006 - 248 907 artigos