Monday, February 27, 2006

The rich kid's Christmas toys

Last night I cracked open a beautiful short book called A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut. I've long been a fool for Vonnegut's droll conclusions and deadpan declarations. They cut to the quick.

I couldn't put the book down until I was finished, and then I was torn between starting over and reading it again or running out and buying a copy of it for everyone I know. Here's an excerpt:

"Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many lifeless bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas."

The book's visual beauty is informed by liberal use of Vonnegut's artwork. Who knew? You can visit and see for yourself.

If you or someone you love is from Indiana and shares Kurt’s love for our native state, click here for a very special piece of his art—and thinking.


Friday, February 24, 2006

mikal needs some art

It gets weary, thinking about politics so much. It consumes me sometimes and I forget to indulge the creative side. So I went out on the net tonight in search of some art to entertain myself and both of my readers.

First I found this wonderful image called "resolving differences." It's the free image of the week at one of my very favorite sites on the whole world wide web, I came across this wonderful portal into the world of images several years ago, and have always relied upon it for startling visual idea generation. The concept is, anybody can upload their photos and offer them to the world at large, royalty-free, and for everytime somebody else downloads the photo, receive a credit. Those credits can be accumulated and used to purchase other people's photos. The work is original, provocative, vast, and always the first place I turn when I'm seeking an image to illustrate an idea.

Back in the day, I submitted several of my own photos to istockphoto, and have been pleasantly surprised that lots of people have chosen to download the pictures I took. I've built up some credits, and it's fun to see what people like the best.

So what about this photo of the week? I don't know what it means. Anybody want to suggest a caption for it?


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Things fall apart

Even some of the rats are beginning to flee the sinking ship $$ Bu$hco these days. As Iraq descends into civil war Bill O'Reilly says we should cut and run. Showing his loyalty to the cap'n, none other than Tom DeLay calls the ports deal, “pretty outrageous.”

In the pilot house, they're also dealing with the Abramoff thing, the Valerie Plame investigation, “Cheney's got a gun,” illegal spying on American citizens, and a few other distractions. In their spare time they're trying to nurse our Katrina hangover with assurances from Michael Chertoff. Seeing his skeletal face and listening to his defensive tone of voice only serves to remind me of the long list of incompetent appointments made to reward campaign contributors.

I just don't know what to make of it. Scandal fatigue has never been higher. The media reports one atrocity after another and then in a couple of days starts parroting the Bu$hco party line. Americans go back to sleep because it's just too much trouble to face the music.

Meanwhile those in power demonstrate their disdain of average Americans over and over by doing things like sending our kids off to war, cutting college aid, Medicare/Medicaid, early childhood education, food stamps and housing assistance, focusing their energies on another round of tax cuts for their rich buddies.

I’m ready for a new reality.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Sudden convergence

It crept up on me when I kind of wasn't paying attention, and I like it: digital convergence.

There was the empowering feeling last month when our wireless router really started working, and suddenly I could use my laptop in any room in the house. What a fun sensation it was placing it on the kitchen counter and hitting a recipe site to learn how to make pear tarts.

My new cellphone takes pictures which can be uploaded to the web, and it also lets me check movie times on the Internet for whatever zipcode I happen to be in. Or the weather, or the news. I can also read my email on my cellphone and answer it if I like. (The keyboard interface for typing is still a bit cumbersome.)

Today the UPS guy dropped off the box for the new VOIP service. I plugged it in to the wireless router, turned it on, and lo and behold, a common old telephone set had a dial tone through the Internet. I picked up the new cellphone, called my VOIP phone and left myself a message. Then I went to my account management page on the web and played my message back to myself on my laptop. Seamless.

I'm listening to one of my favorite radio stations as I write this, Channel 2 from, broadcast(?) from Dublin. Later at night I like to take my laptop down to the family room, plug it in to the surround sound and listen to hip music from Detroit or Philly.

All this and more is part of something called ubiquitious computing. I just finished working on a book about it for Peachpit. By Adam Greenfield, the book is called Everyware. This is heady stuff that'll change our lives.

Not all of this is good or easy. I still have to call my y-gen techno son sometimes when I can't figure out how to turn on the TV.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Three more years of this shit???

The Cheney shooting his rich friend news couldn't have been more disheartening. Even though my first impulse when I heard it was to laugh, on deeper thought it makes me want to cry. Every passing day brings me more disgust and revulsion about the people who are so-called "leading” our country. It's like we're living a trainwreck in slow motion. And we have three more years of it to endure.

Mmmmm. Bush. Rumsfeld. Gonzalez. McClellan. Alito. Rice. Cheney. Libby. Abramoff. Lay. What a tasty stew!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Selling us what we don't want

I couldn't help but notice as I watched the Super Bowl last Sunday the ads for cars and trucks.

The most prominently-featured ad was for the Cadillac Escalade, a big, hunking SUV.

Now I'm sure GM has been caught with a few too many Escalades in stock, what with the gas prices and resultant disdain for SUVs. And I know that GM is in big trouble and needs to make money, but this was ridiculous: how many folks watching the Super Bowl are in the market for a top-of-the-line gas guzzler?

Not us. We're looking for a trim, economical convertible that will comfortably seat four people. It needs to be quick, stylish and affordable, preferably a hybrid. Nobody makes one. But what does GM spend millions on Super Bowl ads pushing? Cadillac Escalades. Yecch.

Advertising can only go so far by pushing people to buy products. Better to pull them by designing and building what they want to buy.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Band of brothers—and sisters

Why doesn't the supposedly liberal mainstream media take account of this interesting bit of news? There are 55 Democrats, all of whom are veterans, running for Congress, from districts in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennesse, Texas (7) and Virginia.

This must be disturbing to the chickenhawks who have been so happy to send our children off to their senseless war while their kids party in discos. The Bushco gang and their Swift Boat lackeys must be working feverishly on ways to tarnish the reputations of these 55 brave men and women. Otherwise, this thing might gain some traction.

That's assuming Bushco even really cares about winning the upcoming elections. I'm reading blogs by people suggesting that there was effectively a stealth coup d'état in 2000. All that it will take is another 9/11 and Bushco will implement plans (already known to have been discussed) to “suspend” elections. Now they have Alito and Roberts in place, the Supreme Court will rubber-stamp the whole thing if it becomes “necessary.”

Okay, enough paranoia. We now return to your regularly scheduled programming.