Sunday, October 31, 2004

Cultural Identity

Returning to my earlier theme of place determining identity, many artists have reinvented their persona based on their country of adoption in preference to their country of birth.
Hemingway's preference for Europe, particularly Spain, in no way diminished his American roots, or American attitudes. Other artists, such as, Mark Knopfler have become more American than British. A similar adoption, though in the reverse colonial direction was Sir Nirad Chaudhuri, who became very British - so much so as to write "The Autobiography Of An Unknown Indian", and dedicate it to

"To the memory of the British Empire in India, which conferred subjecthood upon us but withheld citizenship; to which yet every one of us threw out the challenge "Civis Britannicus sum" [I am a British citizen] because all that was good and living within us was made, shaped, and quickened by the same British rule."

In Sailing To Philadelphia, Mark Knopfler drew on many American-specific idioms to paint a canvas that was redolent of Anytown, USA. He continues this trend with Shangri-La, referencing Ray Kroc and crime stories. He keeps in touch with elements from the British musical journey such as skiffle, referencing the legendary skiffle artist, Lonnie Donegan in Donegan's Gone

Donegan's gone, Lonnie Donegan
Donegan's gone
Gone, Lonnie Donegan
Donegan's gone
Play that big grand Coulee dam
Nobody loves like an Irishman


Cultural affinity often, especially for the adoptee, translates to cultural exceptionalism. This is when the culture is treated as better, superior or more refined. The French are the most guilty of overweening pride, going so far as to raise protests against the opening of Disneyland in Paris, and calling it a "Cultural Chernobyl". The overlooking of European themes in Disney classics, such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty & Fantasia is de rigeur. An excellent article on this theme is at The New Criterion

Contrary to what Jacques Chirac maintained, globalization is not a “cultural steamroller.” It is and always has been an engine of enrichment. Think, for example, how the French artistic sensibility was revitalized by the discovery—or rather fuller knowledge—of Japanese painting afforded at the end of the nineteenth century, or by the arrival in France of African art ten or twenty years later.


A Googly Halloween

Google's current Doodle is pithy and fits the bill just right.

The first Google doodle was for Burning Man 1999
burning man

The Google Guy who draws the doodles is Dennis Hwang, and he posts on this at the Google blog

My name is Dennis, and I'm the guy who draws the Google doodles. But the doodle tradition started here before I did. The first doodle was produced by (who else?) Larry and Sergey, who, when they attended the Burning Man festival in summer 1999, put a little stick figure on the home page logo in case the site crashed and someone wanted to know why nobody was answering the phone.

The Google guys dressed up for Halloween
google halloween

I set up a CRM system at Google in 2000, it was a great experience with awesome, gourmet-chef food prepared by Charlie Ayers, the erstwhile chef for the Grateful Dead(his recipe for fried chicken a la Elvis is here), a guy who kept a bottle of Viagra and Aspirin on his desk and an overall fun atmosphere. It's good to see some of the business rules I helped set up still going strong - try Oh, and if you've got an idea for a Google Doodle, try

Sample Google Menu copyright Charlie Ayers



steamed organic golden beets marinated in a champagne
parsley vinaigrette, shallots, cherry tomatoes, French feta

organic red potatoes, applewood smoked bacon, Italian parsley
red onions, hard boiled eggs, Dijon mustard mayonnaise, white wine

crisp organic romaine lettuce, cherry tomato, toasted walnuts
French feta cheese, sesame seeds, orange zest, lime juice, extra
virgin olive oil, cumin, mint

julienne angus beef, lime juice, mint, cilantro, fish sauce, chili paste
sesame oil, seeds, tamari

marinated organic napa cabbage, cilantro, chili paste, tamari, green
onions, sesame seeds & oil, rice vinegar, lime juice

organic fingerling potatoes, brown lentils, marinated red onions, mint
cumin, bluelake green beans, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic tomato
vinaigrette, toasted almonds

albacore tuna, lime juice, jalapenos, cilantro, English cucumbers
hot house tomato, marinated red onions, olive oil

ground Colorado lamb, ground pork, mint, parsley, carrots
eggs, bread crumbs, garlic, cloves, coriander, milk
Served w/ a Mushroom Miso Gravy

a savory organic blend of tofu, brown lentils, basil, roasted
galric,mire poix, Scottish oats, tamari, almonds
Served w/a Mushroom Miso Gravy


Banana Cream Pie, Coconut Cream Pie, German Chocolate Cake
Old Fashion Apple Pie, Chocolate Midnight Cake

All that food and they still get a lot done!

Moshing Live and Out Of Sync

The elements of high humor and social commentary were brought to a boil on Saturday night's SNL with Eminem's live performance of Mosh, unfortunately, the show curdled. The beginning of the show showed once again that SNL can laugh at itself with an extended rip on lip-syncing. Intermediate and later skits were unfunny, stale & over-extended - except for an animated piece featuring John McCain's inability to fully endorse President Bush without self-flagellation, which is funnier than it sounds

Eminem ended with a 'Vote' Sign, but an otherwise unremarkable rendition of a song that's more effective in it's animated form. He rapped later on in the show - effectively and humorously. The selection of Mosh in this week's episode of SNL was evidently a matter of catching a wave at an appropriate moment, next week, this time, Mosh will be old news, irrelevant, or more scary, very relevant. The song itself is well-formed, well-written, and Eminem seems to have chosen his political voice, besides elevating his discourse from the inane & perverse.

Saturday Night Live's ability to skewer equally fairly left, right and sewer, builds on a tradition of liberal expression. Unfortunately, though, most of the comedic gems and sustained, night-long comedy is in the past of SNL - one has to bear current skits with a rictus rather than a grin

Varied contributors of improv shorts in the past have included Robert Altman, Andy Warhol & Tim Robbins. SNL today is neither consistently creative nor original, leaving the field open to it's more able competitor, The Daily Show. Even South Park does a far more effective job of humor and social-crit, ref their recent episode of the Douche and the Turd

Puffy: "Apparently you haven't heard of my 'Vote or Die' Campaign."

Stan: "Vote or Die? What the hell does that even mean?"

Puffy: (pulling gun) "What you think it means bitch?"

King Turd

comedy vote

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Moshing the Revolution

@EminemPosted by Hello

The powerful new video, Mosh, by Eminem speaks volumes about the ability of a consummate artist to express himself and mold perception. One felt a certain sense of palpable dread and concern at the images presented, and the lyrics set to a numbing beat.

Actors for the State have used such images, sounds & ideas to mold opinion - the most effective being the Nazi Minister for Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.

Another year is behind us, the proudest and most important year of the National Socialist regime. We see its passing with honor and respect. It was a German year in Europe's history. We honor the sacrifices that the entire German people have made in this year. Some were affected more than others. We have done all we could to see that the burdens are fairly shared. This war involves the whole people. It is a war for our national existence.


Eminem uses his images to a different effect - he raises a call to arms, to a non-violent, democratic revolution

Come along, follow me as I lead through the darkness
As I provide just enough spark, that we need to proceed
Carry on, give me hope, give me strength,
Come with me, and I won't stear you wrong
Put your faith and your trust as I guide us through the fog
Till the light, at the end, of the tunnel, we gonna fight,
We gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march through the swamp
We gonna mosh through the marsh, take us right through the doors

@Eminem Posted by Hello

Mosh @EminemPosted by Hello

The last person who did that, Mahatma Gandhi, pulled on the disenfranchised aspirations of a whole people and succeeded, through non-violent means. The horror that followed in Partition, though, was unforgettable. Revolutions, as the French & Russians will tell you, have a way of getting out of hand.

The Sadako Crawl & American Fear


When Takashi Shimizu made Ju-On, he had a certain kind of viewer in mind - the kind who's grown up in a culture of fear, hearing grandmother's tales of haunted houses, ghosts whose feet are turned backward, and who is able to apply a willing suspension of disbelief easily enough to a tale of a house that is cursed in a way that any visitor becomes part of the curse. This is believable in the Asian cultural setting where almost everyone has heard of someone who knows a house where some terrible things happened. The Japanese believe that they are surrounded by spirits all the time. According to the Japanese Shinto faith, after death a human being becomes a spirit or deity. They believe that after death a spirit is angry and impure. Many rituals are performed for seven years to purify and pacify the soul.

An example of a famous Japanese ghost legend is that of Kuzunoha. In Japan, the fox was believed to have the power of transforming itself into a human.

Kuzunoha took the form of a woman in order to marry a man who had saved her life in the Shinoda woods. She bore her husband a child, but one day the man saw her while in her fox form. Thus, she had to return to her life in the woods, after bidding an affectionate farewell to her child.
Mountain Hag
On the other hand, modern American sensibilities are enthused by other fears - of masked men carrying guns, of the death of Social Security, and of the stranger among us. An alternate stream of American fear is induced by premillenarism, which did not end with Y2K, but rather is about the fear that lies around the corner, the Day After Tomorrow, as it were.

Thus, American fear is about the uncertainty of the future, whereas the Asian or Japanese fear is induced by fears from past events and a horror within. American fear is assuaged by the hope of safety in the state, the church, or rapture. ( The doctrine of a secret rapture was first conceived by John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren in 1827.)

A good example of American fear is at The Yale Journal for
Humanities in Medicine

Fear, some might say, is all around us. From academics who tell us that we are living in a culture of fear to government departments that alert us to colour-coded levels of terror, fear has grown into a cultural and political obsession, with the "war on terror" its most ubiquitous manifestation.
1. Fear of God:
2. The Fear of Fear
3. The Fear of the Other

Japanese culture has a different focus. In Japan, 'abunai'(danger) and 'gochui'(caution) are very common words - found everywhere.

Perhaps the greatest source of my anxiety stems from the images themselves. Victims are depicted as little pigs in private school uniforms or young helpless women. Criminals are cartoon foxes bursting out of magical clouds, black knife-wielding blobs or angry speeding buses. I am further troubled by figures of authority that are represented by little boys in baseball caps and frogs in suits.
As a foreigner startled by the scare tactics used in the public sphere, I wonder how living in a 'culture of fear' affects its citizens. Most people I asked found nothing odd about the cartoon images committing gruesome crimes and acts of grave negligence.

The constant refrain of 'terror warnings' seem a far cry from such a culture. A lot of the Japanese fear arises from the very violent historical record of the Japanese peoples, with waves of subjugation and misguided rulers. Other factors include the cramped conditions, the feeling of spiritlessness induced by a fast, fragmented life, and a sustained half-generation long economic slack.

No wonder horror films of a certain type do exceedingly well in Japan. The success of Ringu, with the vengeful spirit Sadako crawling out of the television is mirrored, and perhaps dwarfed by the terror of Kayako in Ju-On aping the 'Sadako Crawl' down the stairs.
A blitz of terror warnings in the US, coupled with economic and political uncertainty create an atmosphere conducive to the success of such films as The Grudge, which is doing exceedingly well but getting mixed reviews as well as an anticipated sequel

The difference between the two cultures and worlds almost makes one feel we live in a Bizarro-world, though.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Victory or Bust !

Boston victory procession
The stuff-of-legends sort of win by the Boston Red Sox will create a sorely lost, presumed dead, sense of joie de vivre in the United States. It reminds one of the song by Al Stewart, "When Lindy Came to Town"

I want to be there in that crowd upon that bright, bright morning
And I can tell the world I saw a new day dawning
With my baby by my side in among that human tide
I want to be right there when Lindy comes to town

Every day is better than the one before it
If I see a raincloud then I'll just ignore it
Everybody says it'll get much better yet
It's 1927 and my whole life lies ahead

Gonna get myself a car and find a place to park it
Get a little cash and put it in the market
And on my wedding day I will turn around and say
There never was a better time than this one anyway

tickertape parade
In 1903, when Boston pulled off a victory against Pittsburgh, they were deemed the team of the century.It was a 'best-of-nine' playoff in 1903 and the start of the modern World Series. They were called the Boston Pilgrims then. After 1918, they have not won since - times sure have changed, but evidently not the passion and ardor of the desire to win - carpe diem!
Boston fans will celebrate from Bangor to Brattleboro, Nashua to Nantucket, Waterbury to Woonsocket

The October 17, 2003 entry for bloggerrabbit, had an interesting odds spread

To all Boston Red Sox fans. The Blogger Rabbit Sports Book is now open and taking bets in the categories that follow. To make this fairer to those partial to betting on the Red Sox the over/under will refer to the actually happening of the event plus or minus the spread.
Libya puts a man in space +10 years Vs. Red Sox win a World Series besides the one they won in 1918.
Interstellar Ship Captains actually do meet and date gorgeous blond-haired, blue-skinned women who speak fluent English without any prior contact with the human race -18 years Vs. Red Sox win a World Series besides the one they won in 1918.
Yassir Arafat dies and the Israelis finally figure out they cannot negotiate with him +3 years Vs. Red Sox win a World Series besides the one they won in 1918.

He came pretty close, methinks with the Arafat bet, apparently the old warrior is pretty unwell.

Victory of this nature is a heroic achievement. The effects could play out as far as the election, though given Mr Kerry's penchant for infelicitous gaffes on the playing field, he should watch his verbiage. It should be declared a public holiday, at least in Boston. Let the bells ring!

Dr Doom and Mr Fantastic

Dr Doom
Marc Faber, or Dr Doom, as he is known in certain financial circles, has a cheerless, or some might say pragmatic outlook on economic events. His site, appropriately enough, is at He has an unfortunate knack at getting things right, though, which makes him all the more annoying to the nay-sayers, the 'grass-is-always-green' kind of people, and his arch-enemy, Mr Fantastic - Alan Greenspan

Dr Faber's comments have included recent thoughts such as

There are several reasons why it is likely that the US economy will weaken far more than is expected by the bullish Wall Street crowd, whose only interest is to get as many investors to invest in the stock market and then to churn the accounts in order to earn high commissions
And, in the case that oil prices were to rise in real terms to their 1980s highs – well over US$ 100 (see figure 2) – then the foundation for World War Three would be laid and most certainly begin to weight heavily on equity prices for which I cannot share the prevailing widespread optimism anyway. Financial stocks have begun to weaken and this is an indication that something is not quite right!
In fact, looking at the history of empires, I wonder why anyone would wish to have an empire because in the long run its maintenance proves to be far too costly. Inevitably, empires experience inflation, rising interest rates, and a depreciating currency.
Credit has to be given to Mr. Greenspan. By bailing out the S&L Associations in 1990 he contributed to the creation of the emerging market bubble of 1994, which led to the Mexican crisis. Then, by bailing out Mexico - with the then acting Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin's help - he contributed to the emerging market debt excesses that led to the Russian crisis and the LTCM debacle of 1998. Again he bailed out the system with an enormous liquidity injection and created in the process financial history's biggest bubble – the NASDAQ bubble of 1999/2000. But until then, Mr. Greenspan was only a “serial” bubble blower.

Mr Greenspan has steered the bulking ship of the US economy through quite some tricky waters. Recent concerns that his deft handling might not be enough cause some concern over his continued role, but he is still consider "The World's Most Powerful Banker" His constant reassurances through the troughs of the recent recession contributed somewhat to the pull-out. He is constantly railed at, praised, mocked and asked to prove his human credentials by conspiracy theorists.

Some humorous cartoons featuring Mr Fantastic are at
Greenspan's Tales of Terror

It remains to be seen who will prevail in this fight for the future of the world! Like all good tales, the hero is not clear.

Beyond belief, really

An intelligent blog is the Synchronicity of Indeterminacy. The blogger combines a randomly selected image with an original one-minute short story inspired by the photo. Amusing and surreal juxtapositions result.

Posted by Hello

This is similar to what Robert Olen Butler has attempted in his new book of stories, Had A Good Time, where he pairs picture postcards he has collected over the years with some knocking good stories.

Hotel Touraine

This is where the people who have more money than brains put up. They pay about $100 per month for 2 rooms furnished when they could afford to have a nice home of their own. I had a job in this hotel last year. Worked there for a week. Saw lots of style, but don’t see as the people were any happier.

The internet is a data miner's treasure chest for serendipitous discovery.A humorous illustration of the relative worth of things comes from the Google translation of a French industrial report À propos de la liste des organisations d'employeurs de l'Observatoire européen des relations industrielles (EIRO)

By definition, the serendipity , of English serendipity , is faculty to make, by accident and/or sagacity, of the happy and unexpected discoveries and is thus, from the methodological point of view, an essential quality of surfing like search for information on the Fabric. Not moving back in front of the calembouresques forgeries, we will translate the English adjective corresponding serendipituous by the "serendispiritueux" doublet connoting the intoxication of the surfer who makes such lucky finds and "serendispirituel" characterizing the internautic serendipity by the often random virtuality - in spirit - of its hyperlinks.

The report itself is a weighty read of plastics industry websites.

Surrealism has consistently provided us a guide through the seemingly chaotic cosmos, in a manner to enable interpretation, subjective though it might be. Originally, surrealism a la Andre Breton was an anti-artistic movement practised in opposition to the Morrocan war of the French colonials. Anti-artistic movements oftentimes become mainstream.Vive le difference!

John Amen's book of poems, Christening The Dancer has good poetry, while addressing serious personal themes. Thus the casual reader revels in the compact phrasature, while there are additional layers of meaning for those who choose to find them - a key function of surrealism.

a restless soldier in need of war,
I began murdering myself for a living.
Grief is leading me down
a dirt road of madness
toward an abandoned town called sanity.
My story is ripening like tomatoes in August.
How can a man pass through turnstiles and tollbooths,
put his signature to a thousand daily contracts,
and yet fail to learn his own name?

The world today layers an unbelievable Red Sox win over dark portents from a terrorist, and tops it off with a flu-shot cruise to Canada. In this context, a little creative license with postcards and stories seems mild. Rather, it the world itself, in V S Naipaul's words, Beyond Belief.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Eclectic Smut And Other Oddities

An intelligent, eclectic, smart smut slut is my kinda gal - especially if she's racking it up. This is a blog to note - chickens, child marriage & more - at a URL to covet

Smut,mindfood & social commentary for the eclectic, intelligent mind and the insatiable libido
This is how the chicken became a worldwide phenomenon (more on the history of cooking chickens later). End of the story? Not quite. Unlike other parts of the world where chicken coops were built and nature was allowed to do its work, the Egyptians did things differently
Call me crazy but there is something about small men that turn me on like a hot sizzling light bulb.The little bodies are tight bundles of concentrated energies that no regular man can match in bed.

Coming from Down Under, one finds another, quite different blog of note at 'Child Rearing & Navel Gazing'

thirty-something, married, mother of two, found, slightly dazed and confused in suburban Australia, mumbling something about a former life of dining out and regular facials...
Early morning: New Yorkers in suits and trenchcoats, coffee in one hand, bag of dirty laundry in another, on their way to the office via the corner laundromat. Old Mexican ladies and young African-American girls pushing prams carrying blonde-haired blue-eyed children of said New Yorkers. People walking five or six dogs at a time. And if you stop and say 'what a gorgeous dog' they ask you if you want to buy it.
The thing is, looking at him, you'd never guess that he's a gun-totin' Bush-votin' red-neck son of a dairy farmer from South Dakota. He looked perfectly normal.

Some more brainfood is at Adult Backwash - "The Internet organized by Personality", more of the generic canned variety, though.

One truly 'deep' site is Suspect Thoughts: A Journal Of The Subversive. This month's columns include:

Aaron Nielsen interviews author Dennis Cooper

Mark Ewert remembers Allen Ginsberg

The Cams Project by Elliot Anderson

That's a picture of ustilago,better known as corn-smut

The right to be wrong

Himalayan parakeet
Ideas are like birds. I had a pet Himalayan parakeet(Roseringed Parakeet (Psittacula Krameri)) while growing up. He was very intelligent. He could speak quite a few words, fortunately none blue. When I went to the zoo and saw other birds like him, I felt pangs of guilt at caging him and getting personal profit from his plight. I could have freed him, but rationalized that he was incapable of surviving on his own.

Ideas somehow take on a life of their own, especially after they are freed from the shackles we apply to them. In the post-modern world, where we strive to free peoples of the world for the sake of an idea called freedom, how then do we justify the ownership of phrases, ideas and thoughts?

Some call it sweat equity, others say it is to recompense the original creator. Yet luminaries like Richard Stallman,whom I interviewed in 2000, Cory Doctorow, Michael Moore, and lots more praise the power of the idea to generate new ideas when shared, to cause a flowering of culture & economic growth.
girl eating mango
From photograph by Yuri Lefrantz

There used to be a blog called 'A Day In The Life' - all it had was a daily-changing photograph of quotidian life in Singapore, or elsewhere. I recently revisited it from my bookmark to see a picture I liked. When I refreshed the page, I saw a takedown notice from the copyright holders of the phrase 'A Day In The Life' - brrr....I'll never treat the casual phrase lightly again.
This site, formerly known as A Day in the is currently on hold. I received a cease and desist letter from Harper Collins Publishing Co. who own the federally licensed trademark "A Day in the Life..." So, I am not allowed to continue to bring you this site from this particular url or under the name A Day in the Life. However, I am in the process of working with a couple of other people to get the site back up-and-running. The new site, which will be called Scene From My Life will be set up shortly.

There are other people, like Hilary Rosen, ex-head of the RIAA who are espousing the Creative Commons License as a means of returning ideas to the common weal, allowing them to serve as the memes they are, and still allowing the creator of the idea to receive recompense.(Slashdot here)
Licenses from Creative Commons allow musicians to dictate how their music will be used - even if they sign with a record label (as long as the CC terms are part of the contract). Some artists want their music distributed as widely as possible, with no payment or control requirements; for them, an unlimited CC license is a way to declare these intentions.

A coffee shop near where I work in Milwaukee has evolved an 'appropriation-friendly' model - there is a sizable folder of CDs kept around. If the visitor likes a CD, he/she can take it, and possibly return it, and others. No rules, no referees. Cory Doctorow posts here that an appropriation-friendly library has opened in 'Frisco guided by Rick Prelinger, media archaeologist, among others
The Prelinger Library is an appropriation-friendly, browsable collection of approximately 40,000 books, periodicals, print ephemera and government documents
Our shelving strategy also diverges from that of other libraries in our approach to materials integration. On our shelves, maps, government documents, books, periodicals, and ephemera are all shelved together within commonly-held subject headings. This promotes an integral approach to research and browsing, and opens wide the possibility of discovery. It is one way we have put into practice our goal of being a browsing-based library rather than a query-based library. In a query-based library, when you know you are looking for a map you go to the map section. In our library, you may be drawn toward a subject without knowing that a map of its related area would be relevant to your inquiry, until you arrive at the shelf and learn so for yourself.

Prelinger library shelving
Image @ Prelinger library

My book collection was considered appropriation-friendly, by my friends. I guess they were ahead of the times.

Slashdotty and loving it

slashdot is one of my favorite sites - excellent karma, geek babes (I wish;) ) and always-late news by CmdrTaco, CowboyNeal & their cohorts. What netizen could resist?

The goatse folks are unmentionable, yet they are very very good at getting FP, or First Post, and sites were being slashdotted before they were instalanched,
which is a strange thing indeed.

I almost constantly have mod-points, am meta-moderating, but have not so far, been able to get a single story published on Slashdot, only to see the same stories show up a day, week or month later.

# 2004-09-29 22:00:33 India has the innate ability to globalize (Interviews,Technology) (rejected)
# 2004-08-24 18:01:20 Amazon Japan lists PlayStation 3 (Games,PS2 (Games)) (rejected)
# 2004-05-26 12:49:06 Digital Copy of fingerprint fingers wrong man (Your Rights Online,News) (rejected)
# 2004-04-14 16:04:59 Lindows picks Linspire - no DOS reference (Index,Operating Systems) (rejected)
# 2004-04-10 02:18:55 Indian outsourcer outsources - to the USA (Index,Technology) (rejected)
# 2004-04-08 02:45:15 Google caught in anti-Semitic flap (Your Rights Online,Censorship) (rejected)
# 2004-02-27 15:22:09 Windows Shorthorn release sounds like ME! (Index,Windows) (rejected)
# 2004-02-23 17:00:41 Fatal Fire at Key Indian Space Center (Science,Space) (rejected)
# 2004-01-14 16:50:45 Steve Jobs, Apple, and the Limits of Innovation (Index,Apple) (rejected)
# 2004-01-08 16:36:21 Opinions on GPL, Open Source & Richard Stallma (Index,Software) (rejected)
# 2003-11-07 15:09:43 Mars mystery explained - somewhat (Index,Space) (rejected)

Of course, one might call an obsession with a techno-geek-proto-socialist-uber-snooty website somewhat dotty, but there are dottier things out there:

The new site, Distinct Dottiness v.02, now contains general Harry Potter information, rather than simply Luna Lovegood stuff,
This site's content is accessible to any browser or Internet device.
However, the design may appear odd if viewed in a graphical browser
My front page is coming to a close, so please make sure you have your arms and legs inside the browser at all times. Below you'll find some memberships and Webrings, and then this ride is pretty much over. But never fear. If you can't find your way back to the top of this page, there're links down there too, 'cause I'm nice (and kind of redundant).

Look what you've gotten yourself into now
The future of the Moon, including settlement, tourism and resource development is in your hands. Find out more about the role you can play in this remarkable project.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Anger Itself

There is something wonderful about the human condition that drives people to excel in ways their forefathers never imagined possible. Societies & organizations may achieve greatness, but it is from the acts of individuals.

There is also something terrible about the human condition that drives other people to commit terrible acts, acts of harm and hate. Societies only suffer from such acts, and the individual is lessened by them.

A humanist might say, hate the action, not the actor, but that is difficult when you are personally affected by the action. Further, because we too, are only human, oftentimes the reaction is as bad or worse than the act, creating perpetuating cycles of hate. Sometimes these have their genesis in trivial acts, like the War of Jenkins' Ear

Often enough, though, out of great evil comes great good. The horror of the evil though further illustrates the darkness within.

A recent report by a terrorist portending gruesome acts gives one pause. What can cause such anger against other men? What can assuage such anger? This is not an example of righteous anger.

In Buddhism, anger is perceived, like any other human force, as a cause for great good or evil. The Lotus Sutra urges us to better our community and land through awakening compassion for others in our lives. Compassion leads to anger at evil. To put it another way, if we cannot get angry at evil, our compassion is weak. It is as if we do not care that people are being deceived. A philosopher once stated to the effect that “once we have become humanistic, what we need to do is develop anger toward that which is evil.”

Thus righteous anger can lead to happiness and personal fulfilment. This however, will not be enough, unless we strive for the happiness and fulfilment of others. It might seem a pipe dream, but Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and countless others have employed righteous anger itself as a cause for great good.

Occasionally, such as right now in the world, there is a swell of deluded people expressing their anger and frustrations through violent means. This has happened before in history, but never before has the individual had such convenient ways of causing terror. In a situation like this, it is righteous to seek out and defeat people who would cause fear and anger through their acts. Unfortunately, as in most human affairs, good and righteous intentions are clouded over by self interest and personal gain.
Peace on Earth?
Image from and @ Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer

A brief history of the concept of terrorism is here:

The history of terrorism dates back at least 1500 years when Jewish resistance groups (66 - 72 A.D.) known as Zealots killed Roman soldiers and destroyed Roman property. The term assassin comes from a Shi'ite Muslim sect (Nizari Isma'ilis - also known as hashashins "hashish-eaters") fighting Sunni Muslims (1090 - 1275) and during Medieval Christendom resisting occupation during the Crusades (1095-1291). The hashashins were known to spread terror in the form of murder, including women and children. The brotherhood of Assassins committed terror so as to gain paradise and seventy-two virgins if killed and to receive unlimited hashish while on earth. The modern development of terrorism began during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror (1793 - 1794). During this period the term terrorism was first coined. Through the past two hundred years, terrorism has been used to achieve political ends and has developed as a tool for liberation, oppression, and international global politics. This essay is designed to provide an overview of the development of terrorism over the past 200 years.

Interesting Links:
Why Marxists oppose Individual Terrorism"
Rise of Domestic Terrorism and Its Relation to United States Armed Forces

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Pride, Loss & Despair

By all accounts, pride goes before a fall. How then are the mighty, after they have fallen? Do they, Ozymandias-like, caution those who come after to "look on their works and despair"?
Art by and @ Viola Fair

Imperial pride is one of the strongest. The British felt they were superior to their subject peoples until the horrors of the two wars overtook them, and humbled them. Imperialism also tends to be racial.

The League of Coloured Peoples, founded in London in 1931 by the Jamaican Harold Moody, used its version of a British identity to seek equal rights for Britons of colour. By invoking an imperial British identity that drew on widely accepted elements of Britishness, namely respectability and imperial pride, the League gained support from black colonials and white English people in its fight for equality. This was true despite the fact that a major element of the League's conception of British identity, racial equality, challenged the dominant idea that ‘true’ Britons were, by definition, white.

The effect of failure on a individual is further magnified by the heights to which he has risen before the fall. How then, must Saddam Hussein feel after his toppling by the Western forces? In his most recent missive to the Western peoples, he sounds defiant, rhetorical, and yet reasoned.

American officials set about making charges or giving the guided media, the Zionist media and its symbols within the authority and outside it a free hand in order to prepare the public mind for the charge.
Once more, we say that war is not an ordinary case. Neither is it procedural in the life of nations and peoples. It is a case of unavoidable exception. Evidence based on conclusion is not enough, even if it is solid to make a charge against a given party or several parties, a state or several states to the extent that the one who makes the charge declares war at the party or parties against which charges were made and bears the responsibility of whatever harm might be sustained by his own people and the others including death, the destruction of possessions and the ensuing serious repercussions.

A neutral observer might see this as a defense ploy by a smart person looking to prepare the ground for his public scrutiny. At the same time, though, it seems plausible that he would ask for stronger proof of his alleged crimes than 'evidence based on conclusion.' The war was unjust, in some respects, and possibly flouted the rules of a just war(Grotius' the motivation of the states and the cause involved to judge whether a war was “just” or “unjust.”). The people of Iraq might beg to differ, and raise their voices in a swell so no one might have any doubt of the guilt he owes to his people. A good blog with information, somewhat slanted by partisan views is Blogs Of War. Some data gathered post-war is here. Another blog that has real-time information, some of it, heart-stopping, is 'Back To Iraq 3.0'

A 'spook among shrinks, and earlier a shrink among spooks', Dr Jerold Post analyzed Saddam Hussein for many years. Apparently, .
"During the mother's pregnancy with Saddam Hussein, his father died, and another son died when he was only 12 years old. She both tried to commit suicide and to have an abortion."
"His stepfather was brutal both physically and psychologically," Post says. "His mother's failure to nurture him and his stepfather's abuse deeply wounded his self-esteem. In psychological terms, it is known as "the wounded self".

"Typically, after such traumatic experiences, people can sink into despair and hopelessness. But it can also produce compensatory dreams of glory," Post argues.

Saddam's rise to the top through coups, intrigue and assassination have convinced him he has inherited the same myth-laden mantle of leadership - and that belief has deepened with every layer of sycophantic, frightened followers who have gathered around him.

"It has produced that most dangerous political personality - malignant narcissism," Post says. This particular brand of personality disorder exhibits itself in an extreme lack of empathy for others, paranoia, the absence of conscience and a readiness to use violence to achieve goals. Post believes Bin Laden is suffering from the same malady.

This does not mean that either man is "crazy". Rather, both act with a cool rationality which is primarily limited by the yes-men around them. In his profile of Saddam, Post argues: "While he is psychologically in touch with reality, he is often politically out of touch with reality."

How then would the mind of this 'wounded self' feel now that his greatest fears have come true? Perhaps, Ozymandias-like, he despairs.

Social Transformation through software

The purpose of software as a social transformation tool is rarely considered. This is mainly because most software is designed for personal productivity. The function of collaborative software, on the other hand, whether it is a blog, a wiki, Microsoft's SharePoint server or workspaces, is to engender social co-development of dynamic processes, products or ideas.

The enterprise is a fertile medium for such social software due to its ability to bring together people working towards common goals. SocialText, a company profiled in Businessweek is working to provide a means for this activity. They have an open source version as well, called Kwiki, that sounds like something I might get on a layover in Hawaii;)

As their blog has it:

Fun is getting things done together quickly as a team. No $1,000 chairs, no custom architecture, no in-house masseurs. A distributed team of top-notch developers, where we find them. We stay in touch with VOIP and wiki, no costume parties or island retreats.
..enterprise software has failed us. 90 percent of collaboration is done with email; knowledge management software goes unused by many

The challenge however, is that enterprise-like structures tend to favor controlled dialog over free thought and expression. The calcification of processes becomes in effect a reason to follow them in the first place, rather than a means to derive a result.

An example of what can happen if unchecked collaboration is allowed to proliferate came recently at Wikipedia when the editors 'froze' the entry for George W Bush, due to incessant partisan rewriting of his biography. Other sites one notices as 'frozen' include India.

Wikipedia's own notes on 'protecting' pages
are interesting.

This page has been protected from editing to deal with vandalism. Please discuss any proposed changes on the talk page.
Protection is not an endorsement of the current version

Edit Wars that could ensue over a page on a wiki, enterprise or otherwise, are a new form of combat, where quite literally, the wars are won with words, not guns. Of course, it raises the question 'Qui custodet, ipsos custodes?', originally 'an excoriation of female perfidy in Juvenal'

Place & Identity

Wonsaponatime, as the poet said, my village defined me, then it was my tribe, then my state, then my country. In the impermanent global flux, does it matter any more where I'm from, where I'm going? As Cory Doctorow has it, do we belong to where we are, or do we belong to Eastern Standard Tribe? (He provides provoking downloads of this provoking book at his site)

Ann over at Instapundit rails that a decision by the Honorable Justice Rehnquist supposedly is anti-states rights. This is another example of an all-too-common parochial view, one that tends to produce vitriol, war and jingoism. States' Rights are valid, in a certain state of mind. I prefer to think of myself as a humanist, although I have an affinity for Texas, California & Laputa, having lived in all of the above.

Nowadays, who I am is related to where I am. My identity is formed by the history of my place of birth, and where I grew up, but my current location creates an affinity that I must adhere to, often at the cost of my place of naissance.

Being post-colonial (I was born and raised in India), I feel this acutely. Time Magazine had an article a few years ago on Indian English writers (like myself) - The Empire Writes Back. But more on post-colonialism later.

To be on the web further dislocates the identity from the location. Everyman is everyplace. The reader can be in the mind, and in the place of the writer. Transnational perspectives are the only ones that apply any more. Robert Cooper expands on this idea in his compact and powerful book, The Breaking Of Nations.
Cooper argues that two revolutionary forces are transforming international relations: the breakdown of state control over violence, reflected in the growing ability of tiny private groups to wield weapons of mass destruction, and the rise of a stable, peaceful order in Europe that is not based on either the balance of power or the sovereignty of independent states. In this scheme, the Westphalian system of nation-states and power politics is being undermined on both sides -- by a postmodern Europe and a premodern world of failed states and post-imperial chaos.

Ref: Thomas Hardy, In Time of "Breaking Of Nations"

Tennyson presaged this in The Idylls of the King,
There at the banquet those great Lords from Rome,
The slowly-fading mistress of the world,
Strode in, and claimed their tribute as of yore.
But Arthur spake, `Behold, for these have sworn
To wage my wars, and worship me their King;
The old order changeth, yielding place to new;
And we that fight for our fair father Christ,
Seeing that ye be grown too weak and old
To drive the heathen from your Roman wall,
No tribute will we pay:' so those great lords
Drew back in wrath, and Arthur strove with Rome

Monday, October 25, 2004

Art & Identity

Mari has a pretty interesting blog - I like the juxtaposition of personal and artistic elements - one gets an impression of a depth not seen most places.

A compelling image from Quance's blog Art uploaded by Quance

The choices one makes in art - the choices one makes in life - is there much difference?

My skills have mostly tended toward verbal art, rather than visual - I always loved seeing art, and so in one form (visual) I'm a reader, and in another (verbal) I'm a creator/writer.

David Bourke

What one needs is a Gutenberg project for art - wherein the art-lover can reference fine art images for free, it's next to impossible to re-use art images on the web due to all the copyrights and wrongs.

Degas' Dance Posted by Hello

Who Am I? A question often asked in Art Posted by Hello

Degas' Horses - art as action Posted by Hello

Some excellent photographs are at Texas A&M's site

Independent, undiscovered artists give one a secret pleasure, almost as if one were being let into a private world, a superhero with a secret identity. Here's one I like
Art by Jaakko
The artist's site
has other good examples

Steal This Blog

The disconnectedness one feels because of an inability to connect and gain insights from the multiple paths constituting the online self is amplified by the modern web browser being insensate to the learnings of the browser.

A blog covers a great deal of ground in allowing the linkage of thoughts into a (hopefully) consistent stream. It limits the flexibility of a reader in providing insight to the blogger to mostly comments.

A wiki, on the other hand, like wikipedia, allows free rein to reader and writer to work on a shared perception of online reality. As the anthropological viewpoint would have it, the observer changes the observed, and vice-versa. Thus, the web becomes more a 'MutualNet' rather than a 'LinkNet'

The sense of control/authorship is then a shared right - Skippy makes some interesting points on this idea. From a semiotic perspective, a reader has never had the ability to layer meaning on the material, unless he/she chose to annotate it, and thereby extend the material, while keeping the original material inviolate.

Jug Suraiya, a leading Indian columnist made a related point in his piece "Pinch This Column" where he invited readers to in effect, take his column and commit piracy on himself, as an act of atonement for his own pirate acts.
Perhaps I can take a tip from the 1970s American yippie leader Abbie Hoffman who titled his anti-establishment book 'Steal This Book'. Hoffman didn't want any part of the establishment to benefit - including that part which would earn royalties on his book.

So he exhorted his readers to steal it. The book became a beststealer, if not a bestseller, and made Abbie famous.

So be my guest. Feel free to steal this column, whenever and however frequently you like. No takers? Oh well. At least no one can say I didn't offer.

Taking his point up, one could potentially rewrite his column if it were a wiki. At best, one can only annotate it.

Contrast this idea with the oral tradition, where embeliishment, and rewrites were what the audience expected, and a good storyteller was one, who in the telling of the tale, told a larger or different tale from the one he/she had heard.

Steven Harnard has an interesting essay titled
Back to the Oral Tradition Through Skywriting at the Speed of Thought
where he praises "The Adaptive Advantage of Hearsay Over Trial-and-Error" and the Oral Tradition
The oral tradition arose out of this reciprocal altruism. It can be thought of as a collective, serial form of cognitive barter, whereby we inherit the knowledge of those who have it already, and in return, we add what we ourselves know, or at least pass on what we have learned.
There is also something intrinsically very conversational and interactive, hence very like the oral tradition, in this quote/commenting capability itself, over and above the accelerated rate of exchange with one's interlocutor(s) provided by the email and web postings. Emulating this instant "text-capturing" power of digital-text processing would again have been prohibitively time-consuming in the Gutenberg medium, in which copying, retyping or real cut/pasting were the only options. This instant quote/commenting capability can even restore to digital interactions with inert texts (even when their authors are long-since dead) some of the "live" interactivity of the oral tradition -- albeit rather one-sided in the case of an expired author, but other skyreaders can in principle take up the interactive baton, and it can be rather exhilarating to carry on a live if unilateral dialogue with a long-dead author in almost real-time before a live audience that is potentially the entire planet!

There are boatloads of other interesting ideas in that paper, including the possiblity of creative peer-review of research, and a fear of such review being inhibiting factors.

As Jethro Tull would have it, one feels one is Skating away on the thin ice of the new day.
Well, do you ever get the feeling that the story’s
Too damn real and in the present tense?
Or that everybody’s on the stage, and it seems like
You’re the only person sitting in the audience

Cinema and Identity - II

Film as a medium, enables the viewer to vicariously experience what the actors go through when enacting their roles.

Animation, has a somewhat different purpose. Whether it is a flip-book or Finding Nemo, one knows, this is not real, in the sense of reality being the sum total of actions performed in a 'real' setting.

Some films blur the distinction by combining animation with real-life settings. Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Space Jam, and more recently, Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow have successfully transplanted animation into the real world. Mostly, though, one is able to discern the dividing line between the real, and the unreal, mostly through a visual distinction in portrayal. Everyone knows, for example, that Roger Rabbit is not a real rabbit.

The new Tom Hanks production, The Polar Express challenges this distinction even further, by converting the actors' actions into a computer-generated landscape.
Apparently, there will be no celluloid film, until the final production stages, this takes another giant leap for film-kind, as it were.

The power of such CGI is that, for example in the Polar Express, Michael Jeter, has signed on to play the dual roles of twin brothers Smokey and Steamer, one of whom is 6'6" while the other is only 4'4". Chris Coppola, who plays the boy who doesn't believe in Santa Claus, is actually an adult. (On the reality of Santa Claus, more later...) The film is based on the children's book of the same title by Chris Van Allsburg, who also authored the book that inspired Jumanji. The book won the 1986 Caldecott Medal.

There are some notes on the design for the film as well as (possibly valid?) grouching on the part of one of the film designers here
Despite not being listed in the credits for The Polar Express for reasons that I can't imagine, I did a great job as Set designer for about six months. I have been asked not to show my work until the film comes out but will be happy to show them in a legitimate job interview
These drawings, by intention, do not look like conventional Set Design drawings. Printed hard copy on paper were only for reference. The CGI modelers did not work from these printed drawings. They took the digital AutoCAD © drawings and arranged them around a 3D cube, then computer modeled the parts within the cube, with the AutoCAD © digital data as the reference. There was no need to include dimensions, little text was required. The most important point was that a high degree of detail was required. Even screws, door knobs and hinges, and other common items had to be details to a high degree of accuracy. Any inaccuracy caused the reference drawings around the 3D cube to not line up, resulting in errors. It is a new way to design sets.

Thus Jessica Rabbit's line "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way" becomes a very believable defense. Courts might have a hard time determining the validity of video evidence. As per the current law,
Images stored on video or digital media, or copies of images stored on video or digital media, shall not be rendered inadmissible by the best evidence rule. Printed representations of images stored on video or digital media shall be presumed accurate representations of the images they purport to represent.

This law might need some revision once the technology described in CGI-films becomes a commodity, as it doubtless will.

The Psychology Of Browsing

As one browses the Web, one is drawn to areas that provoke, as well as areas that are of personal interest. What is interesting?

Zudfunck thinks it's all about sex. Many browsers would tend to agree. That would not explain, however, the popularity of sites like those on the Yahoo Buzz Index. The variety of sites causing buzz cannot be explained away by just that data point.

The key drivers do include sex, money & news. More generally, though, they are representative of the zeitgeist, a la Google.

(From Merriam-Webster, the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era)

In the end, though, who we are, drives what we browse.

Web Agents, play a collaborative role in this effort. A good web agent would be an extension of our identity.

An early, and effective web agent was Lycos. This searched the entire web, not just http - a good 1994 paper on Lycos can be found here - still relevant, makes good reading on Lycos implementation

Interesting breakdown of sites from 1994:

142132 http
102910 ftp
84143 gopher
4314 news
1396 telnet
379 mailto
244 wais
13 rlogin

Another agent mentioned in the paper cited, is called WebAnts. This seems to have some promise as a collaborative browsing agent:
To address these issues, the WebAnts project is developing a cooperative explorer agent; that is, an explorer (or ant) which will share results with other ants and not duplicate their efforts. Another system that employs multiple agents is the WebCrawler [Pinkerton 94], although it is unclear as to how distributed these agents are. The WebAnts model could be used for either searching or indexing, although at the moment, we are concentrating on searching, until we have settled on a design for the index.

The paper had some hope for the future, not yet realized:
The Future of the Web
We categorize Web agents into two broad classes: those that ``pull'' information out, such as the WebCrawler and Lycos, and those that ``push'' information back out, of which the best example is fictional. In Cold as Ice, [Sheffield 92] describes ``faxes,'' which can be defined as expert systems that can oversee experiments, answer questions, and replace many of the functions of secretaries and assistants.

It is this second kind of agent that we hope to build in the future, building on our success with TinyMUD agents such as Julia [Mauldin 94]. Instead of looking for answers, a proxy agent might read newsgroups looking for questions relevant to its owner's areas of interest, might send email to people working on a problem that the its owner has several publications that might be relevant, and might sort, prioritize and even answer email.

ants working together

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Body art and Identity

Body Paint
That's a great image. One gets the feeling that is how nymphs, more precisely dryads, are supposed to look.

Would you believe there is an entire magazine dedicated to Body Paint - the Body Paint Magazine terms the art form "the ultimate in human body expression"
Image from BodyPaintMag

Aboriginal communities use body painting as a means of cultural identity, apart from creative expression.

In India, painting the hands & arms with henna or mehndi, is a popular custom, The word henna in Sudanese, means happiness.
Henna hands

Of course, this art form is also a very ephemeral one. It, in effect, allows the transformation of the identity of the artist/subject for a short while.

Tattoos are a more permanent form of body transformation. The Native American Tattoos have been a mark of identity that set the tribe members apart in distinct ways. pidly, reflecting larger shifts in society. Tattooing virtually disappeared in Polynesia, partly due to Western influence, but it is now being revived as an assertion of ethnic identity.American Indian tattoo

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader