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Sunday, May 30, 2004

Big Things and Video Games 

Behold the world's largest paper cup! It lives in Riverside, CA and comes to us via the World's Largest Collection of World's Smallest Versions of World's Largest Things travelling roadside attraction and museum. (I think I got this link from MoFi.)

Speaking of big things, you should check out the new documentary Super Size Me, in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock -- who previously worked with MTV and Fox -- eats nothing but McDonald's food for a full month. The effects are both intriguing and disturbing. Check out the trailer or some stills. (FWIW, the Tomatometer is at 92%.)

Virtual Surreality

This is an actual ad for some company that's giving away iPods. I suppose we're just trying to get accustomed to the idea of clicking buttons to make the BadGuys™ go away. I mean, America's Army -- the one created by the US Army -- is one of the top downloads at MacGameFiles. (Of course, this may say more about the dearth of Mac games than the quality of the Army's game.)

Now, don't get me wrong -- I love violent video games as much as the next sugar-addicted, caffeine-guzzling young American male. (It's one of the various contradictions inside of which I live.) But there's something distinctly unnerving about video games which are apparently trying to get us to approve of the killing. It's one thing to go around slaughtering unarmed genetically-modified security guards in a shopping mall. The violence is horriffic, but the game is fun. But when you throw politically-motivated intentions into the mix, it seems more sinister; it's so easy to blend our video-game conception of the BadGuys™ with real human beings.

Of course, the entire concept behind State of Emergency is that an evil corporation has taken over the country, and killing the security guards is a way to support democracy -- so that's a politically-motivated scenario, too. Maybe this is a disingenuous distinction. Still, it feels like the danger is much greater that America's Army will pave the way for the radical desensitization of future soldiers than State of Emergency will do so for young political activists.

Meanwhile, I've become addicted to the first "E"-rated game I've played in years: Gran Tourismo 3. This game has taught me more than any other I've played on the PS2. (About cars mostly, but also my own shocking levels of addiction.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go write an article about NCLB.


Check out these cool movies from Chemistry Comes Alive! I particularly like the ice bomb.

Today I'm listening to: Winds of Warning!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Ten Best Things About Walking My Dog 

(in no particular order)
  1. Our stone-faced mailman, who responds with a blank stare whenever I say "hi" or nod or wave.

  2. Annoying people in the neighborhood who insist that -- although I've made it clear that my dog likes to fight with other dogs -- she'll get along fine with their pets and we should come play.

  3. Carrying a bag of dog excrement. (Avoidance of this is one of the undeniable pleasures of living near a wooded area bordering a gas station.)

  4. Drivers who apparently believe that stop signs don't apply to them.

  5. Kids (and adults) who demand to know -- usually from across the street -- how come my dog's "only got one leg." Well, first of all, kid -- she's got three of them. "What happened to her other leg?" Now, just imagine I'm walking down the street with a friend who's missing a hand. Obviously, kids are curious, and maybe we can't blame the kid for asking in that case. But isn't it still horribly rude?

    Maybe I just get sick of answering the same question twice a day. I'm going to start making up fictitious answers: "She was mauling this person one time, because they asked me too many annoying questions, and the person whacked her leg with a baseball bat and we had to amputate."

  6. Neighbors who let their dogs run around loose. The dog inevitably comes running up to my dog, sniffing her butt; and because the owner is desperately trying to grab the errant hound, I have to stand still so the dog won't follow us.

  7. When my dog pauses three times to do her business (in a solid way) and I've only brought two napkins.

  8. Idiots who continue to engage in sightseeing by slowing down whilst driving past the spot where the house blew up down the block last month. "Yeah, that's where the house was that blew up," I imagine them saying to each other inside the car. "They moved all the debris away, but there's still a big hole in the ground."

  9. All the graffiti sprayed around the neighborhood by the phone and cable companies. If they're allowed to spraypaint on the sidewalk outside my house, I should be able to go put my tag on the walls of SBC HQ.

  10. My insane next-door neighbor, who insists on having this exchange every time I see her:
    Insane Neighbor: "What's your dog doing today?"

    Me: "Just going for a walk."

    IN: "Is that his favorite thing to do?"

    Me: "Well, she seems to enjoy it."
    (Notice how patiently but insistently I make it clear -- each and every time -- that my dog is female; each time we have the exchange, my dog becomes a "he" again. Also, she calls me Nick.)

Check out these Photoshopped versions of Far Side cartoons.

Today I'm listening to: Chris Rock!

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Fun at the Tour de Timor 

Today we hosted the 2004 Tour de Timor. Read all about it in my photoblog.


Check out the video of the event. (5.5 MB QuickTime)

Today I'm listening to: Rush Hour! No, not Rush Hour.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Cosby to Poor Blacks: "Knuckleheads!" 

Comedy superstar Bill Cosby (net worth: $540 million) used a speech at an NAACP event on Monday to rail against poor black individuals.
"The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids -- $500 sneakers for what? I can't even talk the way these people talk: `Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' . . . You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!"
Another affront to the legacy of civil rights, the 'Cos points out, is the outrage that follows the killing of unarmed black thieves.
"These are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola,'' he explained. 'People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, saying, `The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?''
Yeah -- if you steal pound cake, you should be shot dead. Duh! Of course, if they were stealing Pepsi, that would be one thing -- but Coca-Cola? Shoot him! And don't even think about touching those Jell-O Pudding Pops! Or that Kodak film!

So to recap: Saying "Filth flarn filth" = bad. Shooting unarmed black men who are stealing pound cake = good.

Understandably, some black leaders took umbrage with Cosby's remarks; but some people believe his words to be "long overdue".

Hassle the Hoff

Speaking of African-American celebrities I have respected for years but who appear to have lost their minds -- Ice-T has agreed to produce David Hasselhoff's rap album. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
The rapper - real name Tracey Morrow - told The Sun: "The man is a legend, we are going to show a whole new side of him. He's gonna come out as Hassle the Hoff. The Hoff will surprise people with his rap skills and humour."
What is there to say? Tell 'em, Cube.
You was hardcore hip-hop
Now look at yourself, boy you done flip-flopped
Giving our music away to the mainstream
Don't you know they ain't down with the team
Of course, this is the same man who starred in Anaconda and Dangerous Ground, so let's consider the source (and his latest low-quality albums).


Here's a good story from the Sacramento Bee about a US soldier who is troubled by his role in the Iraq carnage. VFP reprazent yo!

How should a Buddhist react to Bush? An interesting perspective from AlterNet. Thanks for the link, DLF.

Shocking! Cheating is on the rise in California schools, concurrent with tough new high-stakes standardized testing. (TPCQ: "But there's no connection. And you'd be a fool and a Communist to make one.")


Never post your picture on the Internet.

Today I'm listening to: EatStatic! (Where you have to hunt for sound clips -- literally.)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Heaven Is... 

  • Watching cartoons with Diane.

  • Getting an RSVP for the Tour de Timor.

  • Hearing a student tell me that he voted for me to be on stage for graduation. ("I circled your name six times.")

  • Listening to Babbletron real, real loud.

  • Playing Go.

  • Doing everything you have to do after work and having some time left over.

  • Warm weather.

  • Drinking raspberry wine and playing Gran Tourismo 3 for three hours.

  • Reading comments on my blog.

There's no end to the fun to be had with the American Military Operation Name Generating Device.

Today I'm listening to: DJ Hype!

Monday, May 17, 2004

Don't Panic! 

Even when everything is crazy and/or absurd and all you wanna do is sit on the couch and play video games, don't panic! Fortunately, the new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie is coming out, with hip-hop great Mos Def as Ford Prefect. Yes! Not much yet at the IMDb, but they have some intriguing trivia.

(Picture stolen from Beaker's home page.) Thanks to DLF for the movie website.

Questions and Conspiracies

In general terms, I'm thankful that the internet provides us access to information and perspectives that we haven't always had access to. We can hear intriguing things and news that doesn't make it onto CNN. But now it seems like every thing that happens is getting analyzed by armchair experts who are ready to charge conspiracy at the drop of a hat.

Yes, the grisly video of Nick Berg's death is disturbing in the extreme, and there are some interesting questions to which I'd like answers. ("When Berg is decapitated, there was almost no blood.") But come on -- "The videotape was quite blurred"? Gag me with a blog.

GNN's AfterMath was intriguing, but it feels like lately every event has its Zola wannabes tagging along, "j'accuse"-ing just because they can. It's not like this is the first time this has happened. And don't forget about the bunny!

Still, this is pretty interesting.

We Are Hip-Hop

Thanks to Mark for hipping us to The Hip Hop Box, "The First Definitive History of Hip Hop." It's pretty complete, but there's some stuff you've just gotta have. (No EPMD!?)

As with Burns' Jazz documentary, there will always be things that get left out so that us officianados (some would call us "snobs") can carp about how incomplete it is. What would I add? Thanks for asking!
  • "Paul Revere" by the Beastie Boys

  • "Pimps (Freestylin' at the Fortune 500)" by The Coup

  • "The Formula" by The DOC

  • "Hip-Hop" by Dead Prez

  • "You Gots to Chill" by EPMD

  • "Typical American" by The Goats

  • "Beyond This World" by The Jungle Brothers

  • "New World Water" by Mos Def

  • "Express Yourself" by NWA

  • "Break the Grip of Shame" by Paris

  • "Soul on Ice" by Ras Kass
Please note the restraint I've applied in not including Consolidated, MC 900 Ft. Jesus, or Meat Beat Manifesto. Disposable Heroes really does belong -- as do New Kingdom -- but I suppose we only have so much space.


Too much testosterone blights social skills. It's in New Scientist -- it must be true. Thanks to DLF.

Yes, cup stacking is a sport. I guess. Thanks, MoFi.

Also be sure to check the new PMB post.


Thanks to Josh for sending us the Jesus Action Figure. If there is a God, He's going to punish me for posting this.

Today I'm listening to: JBs Jungle Brothers JBs for short JBs Jungle Brothers JBs for short!

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Ach! My Retirement Grease! 

5,000 pounds of used grease has been stolen from a suburb of Oklahoma City. Life imitates Simpsons!
Police in Edmond, north of Oklahoma City, said on Thursday the grease bandits have hit an area of Mexican, Chinese and steak restaurants over the past three months. . . . The restaurants were planning to sell the grease to a recycling company and the total value of the stolen goods was about $380.

Glynda Chu, a spokeswoman for the Edmond police said the bandits had a good idea of how to get money in the used grease market, but she thinks it odd that anyone would put so much effort into making off with so much cooking byproduct.
Eyewitnesses report that the father-son grease bandit team claimed they were "exchange students" from "North Kilttown" but that they didn't know "Angus McCloud."

Ahh, sometimes it's hard to believe. (Wipes away tears of laughter.)

Attack of the Killer Cicadas

Parents, beware -- swarms of cicadas will be emerging from their 17-year hibernation this spring. Although the insects are not dangerous, their presence apparently constitutes a serious threat to children.
a boy trying to swat a cicada out of the air with a baseball bat instead hit his friend in the nose. . . . The final straw came when another child hurt his hand trying to squish a cicada under a car's tires. . . . "We had a stab wound to the arm from a kid who was trying to kill a cicada on the arm of another child but unfortunately he was using a knife," Baker added. . . . "Another kid tried to kick one under a lawn mower and cut his foot. . . ."
Now I don't want to be cruel or insensitive, but isn't it possible that these kids are just stupid? Why are we blaming the cicadas for these bonehead actions? Hey mom -- maybe you need to teach your kid about the danger of using a knife to swat bugs on your friends' arms! Why is this dingbat allowed near sharp things in the first place? Now the bugs are getting a bad rap because some moron 7-year-old tried to destroy a living thing under his lawn mower and got zapped by the universe. It's called karma. Maybe it'll teach the kid a lesson.

Imaginary Girlfriends

Speaking of pathetic idiots, what kind of sociopathic loser do you have to be to pay money for an imaginary girlfriend? $45 for two months appears to be average. (Each imaginary girl has her own rate -- oh wait, no .. they're real girls but not really available to date.) I can't remember the last time I prayed so hard that something was an elaborate joke. Oh wait -- it was when I heard about Method and Red.



Stairway to Heaven -- Hidden Satanic Lyrics. No, I did not check it out for myself. You do it.

Today I'm listening to: Digitally Imported!

Friday, May 14, 2004

Jonathan Switcher Lives 

No, I am not related to Thomas Pietrowski, the alderman in the Milwaukee suburb of Greenfield, who is trying to defend his right to keep a headless mannequin in his office. (NB: The image at right is not from Mr. Pietrowski's office; it is a random shot courtesy of Metroactive.)

But Andrew McCarthy fans will recognize the eerie similarities Mr. Piotrowski's story has to the 1987 blockbuster smash turd Mannequin, in which a moron falls in love with a mannequin, and it comes to life or something. I remember really liking this movie when I was younger (and stupider, obviously); but I don't remember the chase scene listed in the "goofs" section of the IMDb listing. The IMDb also says that this abomination of a film is referenced in First Blood and the original Terminator. And apparently they made a sequel. Yeek!


I did a redesign of the imagenary site (thanks for the cool new templates, Blogger), and added a cool new picture of a ladybug. Drop by and check it out.


Thanks to MoFi for bringing us Virtual Knee Surgery. Fun and educational and kinda gross.

Today I'm listening to: laidback!

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Look -- New Stuff 

Look, everyone. I've added new crap to the page. So now the three of you who read this thing can have an even easier time browsing through it. Woo, hoo. Now you can see the latest posts and even search the entire FBESP. Exciting doesn't even come close, I know. Try to contain yourselves. Such behavior is unbecoming demure socialites.

Lauryn Hill Is Not a Racist

Today in class a student was shocked that I consider Lauryn Hill cool. (The journal topic was: "Who is the coolest person in the world and why?" -- of course DLF is at the top of the list, but I spoke about many others too.) This student explained that Lauryn Hill admitted to being racist; I asked her to clarify, but she couldn't recall Ms. Hill's exact words. Suspicious, I went looking for the truth when I got home. I found it -- as I so often do -- at Snopes.
MTV would later announce the allegation against Hill wasn't true, but by then it was too late — the rumor was already in motion. In the wake of this slander, Hill did call in rebut the comment on the Howard Stern Show. On numerous other occasions, she has denied saying anything remotely resembling the statement credited to her. In response to her critics, she offered: "What I did say was that I love my people, black people, and I will continue to make music for them."
It's funny how money changes situations. Miscommunications lead to complications.

The Urgency of Revolution

Many years ago I decided that our society needs a revolution if we are to transcend this potentially suicidal phase of our evolution. I believe it must be nonviolent in nature -- since violence breeds violence -- but it must take place with all speed. Sometimes (much of the time, actually) I feel like it's not happening quickly enough; indeed, that we're backsliding and going further down the spiral.

On the other hand, I recognize that [a] sometimes when things get worse the conditions are played out for more people to recognize (thus the ironic majesty of Huey Freeman's claim during the Clinton years that "we need a Bush in the White Hourse"); and [b] the revolution "takes time and space," to use Boots' words.

So is patience a virtue? Obviously, I can't allow myself to burn out; but neither do I ever want to believe that merely doing a little bit here and there is enough. I don't think these questions can ever be answered -- and I know every revolutionary in history, from Douglass to Tubman to Assata to Che to Mandela to Muste has likely wrestled with exactly these concerns.

If I believed in property damage, I could throw a brick through a window. Somehow grading essays doesn't feel as revolutionary.


You've seen the Bunny Exorcist. Now enjoy the Bunny Shining. Courtesy of ABS.

Today I'm listening to: Babbletron!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Beats Without Looking 

Whenever I get paid, I go straight to the CD shop. (Many of you have heard my wacky tale about choosing new music over food money.) I was actually looking for the new Dead Prez disc -- but instead I found Babbletron. Wow! Think equal parts New Kingdom and EPMD, with a little Goats thrown in for fun. Just listen to the first line from Need To Be and try to turn it off.

Yeah, what. Track 6, "Space Tech Banana Clip," is the best treatment of the ever-overdone SF theme in hip-hop since ATLiens. And from some other track (I don't remember which one, honestly -- and it's out in the car), there's some line about "I was married to mary jane / it was a lust for me / it didn't work out / but i got joint custody." Glory. This is why rap exists. (And hopefully you already heard from "Need To Be" -- "We're down with change / we use it to buy food / My thoughts could change the world / I'm just not in the mood.")

A student also lent me a disc by Madison's own theCrest. It's not bad (hey, it even samples Lisa singing the Power Plant Protest Song), but after finding Babbletron, it must simply be a distant second. The sobering part of finding theCrest is also finding MadisonHipHop.com. Naive of me to think I could just open up on Madtown with lyrics whenever I get done with the new album. Oh well -- someday perhaps.


Check out KillerCoke.org. Not to be confused with the pro-Coke KllerCoke.com.


The Hospital. I don't know. The "about" link doesn't really help.

Today I'm listening to: Like you don't know! ("I need to be vindicated!")

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Washing Blood with Blood 

May the gods have mercy on us all. Over 9,000 Iraqi civilians killed by US military action -- and now American radio technician Nicholas Berg has been beheaded live on video.

If I prayed, it would be for the families of these innocent men and women and children. Can we please get to work to abolish this sick mindset of bloodletting as solution? Didn't we learn centuries ago that leeches don't heal the sick?

The Subjectivity of Failure

Well, I didn't think the Newgrounds crowd would like my latest project The Sphere, so I shouldn't be surprised that it's been blammed (completely deleted from the site due to horribly low ratings). Whatever -- I knew it wouldn't be their cup of tea. But it got me to thinking...

I've never really hit it big with any of my creative work. I mean, I've won awards and regional stuff, but I've never had any kind of massive widespread acceptance. I don't really have a problem with this -- I believe I'm doing good work, and most of the people who consume my work tend to like it okay.

Furthermore, I'm at peace with the work. I'm pretty satisfied with what I produce. But I have to wonder -- how do we know if our work is really any good or not? I mean, lots of horrible garbage gets produced by major companies (record labels, publishers, etc). And some really good work goes completely unnoticed. Also -- obviously -- lots of good work gets promoted, and lots of bad work gets rejected.

So how can I tell if my work is solid? Surely my own perception is important, but can it be enough? Doesn't every mediocre talent believe him/herself to be producing work of high qaulity? Doesn't every unworthy writer and musician have at least some people telling him/her s/he's doing a good job? How much really good work does go unnoticed? I suppose we can only look at the work that goes unnoticed for a long time -- if it goes unnoticed forever, we never learn about it.

Maybe I'm just feeling sorry for myself for no good reason. Just some thoughts wandering through my brain.


Michael Moore is having trouble getting his latest movie made. Diane assures me that many other companies will be all over it -- I certainly hope so.

John Kerry wants tougher teacher testing. Yeah, like we don't have enough to do already.

This is a gem, worthy of Bill Hicks: Gun Safety Instructor Shoots Self During Demonstration. Bwa ha ha ha ha!


Check out ShyGirl. Watch her nose very closely.

Today I'm listening to: Looking Back 4!

Sunday, May 09, 2004

A Little Something to Think About 

Several years ago I had an idea for a koan. I put it into a story called Coramkon Park. Now, in the interest of spreading it as widely as possible, I've made a Flash version. (All enlightened Zen students use Flash™.)

So check out The Sphere and, like, be One with the universe. Or something.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Vive Jordy! 

One balmy spring afternoon in 1996, I sat on the balcony of my dorm room at New College with my buddy Paul Beer (see montage at right). We spoke and joked, as we often did, about matters French, and we stumbled upon the fact that he had never heard of Jordy.

I explained that this four-year-old singing sensation had swept France with his newborn vigor and brilliant lyrics (like "Dur dur d'etre un bebe" -- "It's so tough to be a baby"). I'd seen Jordy several times on MTV and naturally assumed everyone else had too. As I told the story, Paul's eyes lit up.

His response (as best I can recall) was: "That's [expletive] brilliant! We should go get it right now!"

And so we did.

We ran to my car, shouting "Jordy! Jordy!" at the top of our lungs (which would have attracted attention anywhere else in the world, insofar as New College can expect such an event about once a day). Off we tore to Spec's, where we had the best chance to find the tyke's album. Sadly, it was not in stock -- but they promised to order it and call us when it arrived.

When it did, I raced over to Paul's house and we ripped into the street like madmen possessed. The next three months were a nonstop Jordy fest. We played Jordy for everyone who came to visit (my room was a central gathering point at that time, given its proximity to the main courtyard and my status as a Resident Assistant -- "You need some toilet paper? Have you ever heard Jordy? No? Sit down!")

I've still got that disc -- its booklet was damaged in The Great CD Soaking of 2001, but it plays like new. Paul and I were editors -- along with Dallas Taylor and Nathan Walker for a short time -- of a magazine at New College called The Final Analysis (later The Albatross, earlier Schneia), and one of our last issues (May 96) became the Jordy issue. (His glorious visage appears on the front and back covers.)

Well guess what, Paul and everyone -- Jordy Lives! Yes, it's true.
Jordy is now 16 years old! Still liveing (sic) in the France countryside. He loves the outdoors. Fourweelers & dirt bikes. He loved his past experences as a singer, but now enjoys being a normal kid. Now he mixes his own techno music, & hopes to be a big Techno star someday.
"But Ep," I hear you say. "I've never heard Jordy! How can I experience the music that moved you and Paul and everyone else so profoundly?" Well, chill -- and check out the Jordy MP3 Archive.

Ah, good times. (wiping tears of laughter from my face)

Human Rights in Belarus

Hey, them's my people! Amnesty International is reporting on harrassment and intimidation of trade unionists in Belarus. What the fudge!
On 30 October 2003 the chair of the Belarusian Automobile and Agricultural Machinery Workers' Union, Alyaksandr Bukhvostov, was detained by police in central Minsk for staging a peaceful protest action against the government's alleged interference in the trade union's internal affairs.
Okay, so they're not being killed like unionists in other parts of the world, but still -- my people gots to be free!

Torture in Iraq

I'm sure you've all heard about it by now -- Iraqi prisoners have been tortured by US forces.
An internal U.S. Army report found that Iraqi detainees were subjected to "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses," according to The New Yorker magazine.
Amnesty International calls it a "pattern of torture," but of course top US generals insist it's a "just a handful" of wrongdoers. Like the LAPD. And Tailhook. And Colorado State. And My Lai. And Wounded Knee. And East Timor. Isolated examples. No need for cynical responses, people!


Killer Robot News

Look at the Air Force ripping off The Simpsons! This is a machine called Robosaurus (You know, like Truckasaurus on The Simpsons, but different), even poised in the same exact position as the monster on The Simpsons. Give me a break!

They're just mad because they're not one-tenth as cool as Survival Research Laboratories. (I don't care for their treatment of animals -- in this case, a cow -- but their robots kick butt.)


That was a TimeWaster™!

Today I'm listening to: Duh!