Tuesday, December 31, 2002

His Name is Mudd
After assassinating Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth rode into Maryland to evade capture. In disguise, he sought refuge at the home of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd. The next morning, Booth rode on and was subsequently killed in a shootout with federal troops a few days later. Dr. Mudd was interrogated for his ties to Booth and was found guilty of aiding and abetting the assassin and was sentenced to hard labor. Ever since that decision, the descendants of Dr. Mudd have sought legal means to clear the family name and prove his innocence in the Booth matter. This past November 2002, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed the Mudd case. This is the story of a man whose name is Mudd.

Monday, December 30, 2002

Citizens on Patrol
No, I am not advocating that we lure Commandant Lassard out of retirement. But Kreblog's post about anti-terrorism measures is interesting and I think pointing in the right direction. Some of the plans under the Homeland Security Act I think are worthy, such as much of the reorganization and streamlining of various agencies responsible for facets of homeland patrol and protection. However, I do share some misgivings about various federal overreaches in this regard, mostly out of concern that they will not be effective. One idea that has been discussed in the blogosphere and that I relate here is that we as citizens can't put 100% faith in federal protection of our safety (much as we do not count on the local police department to protect us completely from random crime). Crime prevention measures can reduce the chances of its commission, but law enforcement in many ways is reactive - in a sense that it addresses crime already committed. What this means is that citizens can't cede to a federal power their responsibility to themselves and the community to be vigilant, aware, and themselves responsive to crime. Think about it. During 9/11, the one entity that stood up to terrorists and prevented their horrible aims was the ad hoc citizen militia that formed on Flight 93. Nowhere was the FBI, CIA, or Pentagon to be found during that moment of crime prevention. That's not to say that their deaths in the Pennsylvania countryside weren't crimes themselves, but they at the very least prevented much greater catastrophes. I think this spirit of the citizen militia needs to be retained and honored somewhat in any discussion of Homeland Security. That we cannot entrust our complete protection to the feds, but that we in turn can play a part in the protection of the country at some level, at some moment when called upon.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Rebuilding the WTC Site
Go here to see the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. website for detailed reviews of the seven site rebuild designs. Below I have listed my thoughts on each.

Firm A: I think the plaza layout and the extensive use of greenery (including the sky gardens and viewing platform on the new WTC building itself) is quite attractive. Unfortunately, I can't say I like the look of the new WTC building itself. Too bulky, weird, and angular.

Firm B: I appreciate the thinking behind the amphitheater memorial, but who uses amphitheaters anymore? A deep, stone, staircased pit may not be attractive and I just don't see this being a magnet for people (see Boston City Hall as an example of how a brick courtyard amphitheater drives people away). Also, the design for the new Twin Towers is not appealing as it looks like two electric toothbrushes reaching into the sky. This concept plan did not appeal to me at all. Too busy, too unfocused.

Firm C: What first caught my attention was the attractive concept for the train station and the illumination ideas for day and night. However, this firm's idea concept falls apart soon thereafter as they envision the WTC site to be in perpetual construction over the years, culminating in a cramped jungle of wobbly looking buildings. How's this for an appealing skyline?

Firm D: My first impression was of those rock crystal gardens that kids grow from a kit. The designer certainly has an appreciation for crystalline structure, especially with the layout of a 9/11 memorial. I found this nightscape rendition to be inspiring and eye catching. I also appreciated the idea to make the centerpiece tower a showcase of gardens, particularly evident from this angle. Overall, not bad in my view. Futuristic, bold, and yet not massive. I liked the extensive use of glass, prismatic angles, and color within the architecture and also the melding of more natural elements like the tower of gardens. Interesting.

Firm E: The Mission Statement certainly was audacious enough, what with all the appeals for architecture to celebrate diversity, democracy, and the like. The design firm decided to offer 3 different concepts based on cost. The first concept was the Sky Garden. This concept view of the site was certainly quite inspiring. What I like is the extensive use of greenery as well as a memorialization of the original Twin Tower footprints incorporated within the multilevel park. Here's that Amphitheater idea again. The second concept revolved around the idea for a massive Great Room plaza which I thought was quite bold, but really all that's being offered here is a large museum/shopping mall. The third concept was for a skeletal framed World Cultural Center which would surround the footprint of the original Twin Towers. The idea is certainly grand, but this discussion of Structural Analysis left me a bit unsettled about the quirky design. Overall, I like the vision and presentation of the Sky Park. Its perhaps the most traditional to the original WTC site, but I like its elevated idea and green and open concept. In terms of architectural merits, the Great Room and World Cultural Center ideas seemed original but did not seem as inspiring as the Sky Park concept.

Firm F: This certainly makes a statement. New York would once again host the tallest building in the world. A view from below. A closer view. This daytime view made the buildings appear quite out of place to the older existing stone architecture that surrounds the site. I appreciated this discussion of safety and evacuation in the event of an emergency. Imagine this view from your office. Overall, I think this idea is very bold and ambitious. I think it aspires to the idea of the original Twin Towers which were meant as clear statements. Not only did we construct the largest building in the world (at that time), but we put up two of them! In this idea, grand architecture returns to NYC. On the otherhand, this idea does the least towards harmonizing the site with the memory of the events of 9/11. The architecture is sweeping and massive, but there's also something about it that is a bit inhuman. Perhaps that is the dilemma. Do you appeal to the original grandeur of the WTC and its architectural hubris? Or do you instead downplay the site a bit; keeping the interaction between man and architecture on a more horizontal level (through memorials, parks, concourses, etc) rather than the more audacious vertical approach. (Which this concept is certainly striving to achieve). Very interesting. I guess I say I like the idea of the buildings themselves, but are they appropriate for the WTC site considering the events of 9/11? Would this sort of architecture make more sense at another location other than the WTC site? This also begs the question, did 9/11 give a black eye to this sort of architectural reach (iie to building bigger, bolder, and stridently)? This view may offer an answer

Firm G: Well, I guess IKEA weighs in with their concept offering. NYC: Home of the world's largest set of waffle fries. Here, the buildings are awaiting for some Alien Mothership to arrive and drop a Connect Four playing piece. Enough shelving space for glass figurines to be placed in the future. I'm sorry I just didn't like this one at all.

Overall, I'd say I liked the Sky Park idea offered by Firm E and the architectural ideas offered by Firm D. I think the site needs to be quite humanly interactive, with parks, art, memorials, etc as well as offer cutting edge architecture that is visionary. But then, I still can't overlook the scope that Firm F is reaching for. Architecture is many things to many people. It is such an interesting artiface because it combines majesty and artistry, power and subtlety, the practical with the conceptual. What would Howard Roark design?

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Playing With the Queen of Hearts
I love the world that is the Game of Poker - especially the high stakes variety. The movie Rounders was very entertaining and I enjoyed its dissection of the poker playing universe. A friend of mine goes to Foxwoods on occasion and tells me of his exploits at the blackjack and poker tables. One thing we both appreciate is the ALL-IN, that fateful move where the poker player goes for it and pushes all chips towards the ante at the center of the table. The ALL-IN is one of the ballsiest expressive actions in life. It says to all, Here I am, you want a piece of me? Another interesting aspect of poker is the psychological reading one can do to see whose bluffing, who is not, whose pretending to do both, and what behaviors they signal that expose their strategy. This article details the power one can wield if they learn to read the Tell.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Jagged, Gritting Teeth (Part III)
During the summer of Love Canal (aka 1978), the dust cloud enveloped the man like a cracker in soup. The little bones in his ear throbbed from the percussion of the pneumatic drills, gougers, and ore crushers. Volumes of the shiny black rock were being pulverized in the cavernous chamber he stood watch in. A rich vein of the anthracite had been discovered months previous and was now being liberated for export. Tons of which would find its way into the furnaces of energy and industry and from those infernos would find atomized release up and out through soot charred smokestacks of the industrial heartland.

He inhaled deeply with an unrestrained enthusiasm. His trachioles soaked up every available molecule of Vitamin (A)nthracite and Vitamin (B)itumen that the atmosphere around him transported. With each respiration the tenseness of his body waned and the pulse quickened. The man blessed the mines for the health and succor they provided and for warding off the ever-threatening specter of asphyxiation he ultimately feared. Asphyxiation - to choke and die a horrible death. To be deprived of life giving molecules. The man knew the salvation of the mines would not be his forever. In fact, he felt his days within the damp, dark, dusty womb of the earth to be numbered. He knew it from the many behavior citations piled up in his employee record. Or by the way his foreman always watched at him suspiciously. Always seemed to be watching for that very moment when the man would unclip his respirator mask and gulp in the mine's purifying atmosphere unfiltered.

And notice indeed did the foreman, for in an instant the man was motioned to board the shaft elevator that would spirit him from his much adored subterranean lung. He knew what was to follow and in fact had prepared himself for weeks to expect it: a decibel busting harangue, one whose volume would approach that of the earth moving machines found down below the surface. Summary dismissal from service with the mining company for the many marks against him, for the many violations of protocol and regulation - all of which were in place to address worker safety. Safety! If only they knew how unsafe it was for him to not breath in what for all others was deemed unhealthy. If only they knew what the mines meant to him, what they did for him. An atmosphere he could walk around in, work in, be productive in, feel human in without for once thinking about the lingering threat of asphyxiation that he had feared since birth.

Indeed, his firing was official. An escort brought him to the company's property boundary and locked the gate behind him as he stood one step beyond its confines. The bus he customarily rode would not arrive for several hours, and each breath of pollution (or what others praised as "fresh Appalachian mountain air") constricted his lungs and his muscles, and his vascular system and his brain. Normally, the diesel fumes from his busride would be enough to get him back into town (he made sure to sit in the very back and try to inhale deeply for every last wayward tailpipe emission that crept into the cabin). But since the bus was not available he would have to resort to more desperate measures, ones he had developed out of survival and necessity over the course of his life. The man looked down and scanned the ground for discarded cigarette butts. He picked up a few here and a few there. Each butt would provide maybe one or a handful of puffs, but a handful was enough to ward off the creeping paralysis that an untreated and contaminated breath brought. Normally he would always carry cigarettes on him, to be used in emergencies and in the downtimes between moments where more desirable and life-affirming atmospheres were available to him. Funny how cigarettes to him was like an inhaler to a child stricken with asthma. Each opened up the chest and the lungs and liberated the diaphragm from its paralyzed exile. However, the man had no cigarettes on him, and the bastards who fired him must have stolen his pack before giving him back his personal effects. Too bad he couldn't march back to the employee lounge and buy a pack from the vending machine installed there. The man shook his head at the utter contradiction it was for a company to be so concerned about what went into its employees lungs down in the shaft and yet provided cigarette vending machines in the lunchroom.

But for now the crisis was averted. The man scavenged enough butts by the side of the road to get him by. He brought one up to his lips - a half smoked Winston stubbed out in haste. He inhaled long and powerfully, bringing in volumes of the necessary smoke. Exhalations were bittersweet, for he saw the smoke entrails rise above his head and despaired over the fact that they could never be reclaimed. Rivulets of smoke escaped between the gaps of his jagged, gritting teeth. The man resigned himself to the fact he would have to begin again in his life's quest for the enduring arrangement that would provide him respiratory salvation.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Please Bring Back Toecutter and The Humungus
Excellent news. Mel Gibson has signed on for Mad Max 4. Oh yeah! Time to get your post-nuclear apocalypse on.

Monday, December 09, 2002

Iraq & Oklahoma City Bombing
Here is the audio account interview, arranged by a Philadelphia talk radio station, of a presentation of evidence that investigative reporter Jayna Davis gave to Sen. Arlen Specter regarding Iraqi links to the Oklahoma City bombing.

Here is a written presentation of the evidence - including description of Iraqi Gulf War veterans employed in Oklahoma City by a Palestinian with ties to terrorist organizations. Among other details, eyewitnesses have placed Timothy McVeigh in the company of these Iraqi soldiers (including the mysterious and oft-reported "John Doe #2")

I went nuts at the NH State Liquor Store (Large facility, ample parking, conveniently located off of major Interstate). I was suckered in by their 10% off of total purchase if 12+ bottles of wine were purchased. So I went shopping. Some California Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc (my favorite being Cakebread's), Spanish table red, Australian Shiraz, Italian Pinot Grigio and Chianti, and a Bordeaux. Oh, and 2 bottles of on-sale Tequilla. We had the Spanish red on Saturday night with a meal of Pad Thai. Then on Sunday morning I noticed one of the bottles leaking through the cork as it was situated on its side. So what to do? Yep, that night had a bottle of Australian Shiraz with a grilled steak for dinner. Today at lunch I had a bottle of Wild Irish Rose along with my turkey sandwich. Tomorrow for breakfast will be a danish and a Thunderbird.....

Friday, December 06, 2002

Lessons from Bizzaro World
This article is a genuine MUST READ. It really puts in perspective the annoying and insulting crap coming from various parts of the globe regarding the current situation. Enjoy.

Glad to See Him Go
I'm glad to see O'Neill resign as Treasury Secretary. Other than his much publicized African tour with Bono, O'Neill didn't do much good. Tax cuts, low interest rates, etc have kept the average consumer spending and buying homes - which is really what's buoying this economy right now. What hasn't rebounded is business spending, and that's what's keeping things in the can and ticking unemployment higher. Presidents can help things on a macro-level, but it still requires that businesses of all sizes do their part. And that's the rub. Presidents don't hire people, businesses hire people. And if businesses are skittish about the market, then they don't hire people. O'Neill didn't do much to offer up confidence for business and the market to start moving forward again, and that's what has led to his downfall. Treasury Secretaries can exert some influence, but by and large they are Cheerleaders, and O'Neill just didn't cut it at that even.

Consider the 90's for example. Clinton was a good steward of the economy during his tenure, with the help of Larry Summers and Robert Rubin as his economic guides, and Greenspan helming the Federal Reserve largely because these men didn't get in the way of the economy and start throwing up all sorts of obstacles. However, in my view the person most responsible for the economic success story of the 90's is none other than Bill Gates. (*Gasp*!) Yes, ther Nerdy Evil One. Think about it though. The beginning of the 90's saw a computer market somewhat split between Apple Macintosh and the PC clones. Then two developments occur simultaneously at the same time that set the stage for the rest of the decade: MS Windows & Intel's Pentium processor. In relatively short order you have an expansion of computer power readily available to the average customer and an operating system that makes computer applications more approachable for the average user. Soon, the PC clones take off: Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and most importantly DELL. Why Dell? Simple, Dell targeted Big Business with their Go Direct strategy and Big Business responded by hoovering up information technology like there's no tomorrow. Concurrently, the Internet (which existed since the 50's) became democratized in a more accessible form through the creation of the World Wide Web. Add all this together: Increases in computer power at lowering prices; the adoption of a universal Operating System that allows for software standards and transfer of computing skills/knowhow across multiple industries and markets; and the expansion of an information network steadily transforming itself from not just a text based, but also a graphic/video/sound based interactive medium.

So pretty much everything takes off. Lots of computers, a familiar operating system that everyone is using, and a cool network that allows for the transfer of information in eye-catching audio/visual format. So immediately companies like Cisco and 3Com get cranking because demand for their data routers is limitless. (Even Cabletron too, but somewhere along the way they stumbled and never recovered. Perhaps Kreblog has the inside story on what happened). People and businesses want networks. They want access to networks. And they want the information to get to them at faster speeds. So companies are cranking out faster speed modems. Communication lines become upgraded: T1, DSL, fiber-optic Broadband. Software companies sprout up to provide new ways to arrange, package, and present data. Internet friendly coding languages are utilized to make the audio/visual experience more seamless and interactive and informative. Soon every company has a website of their own and begin telling their story, hawking their wares, making it another avenue of business relationship. Soon it's why go the Brick & Mortar locales at all? Why leave the house? Everything you want is on the web. Click and buy in one sitting. Not on the web? No way are you going to survive. Everything is running on full steam. The possibilities are endless. The Web is the Way! Forecasts are through the roof. The internet marketplace is limitless. Network Bandwidth has to be ratcheted up because the demand is going to explode. Communications companies are laying fiber-optic everywhere. Global Crossing is circling the Earth in fiber. The pace of business is now measured in photons. Stocks are going up. You don't own stocks? Where the hell have you been? Companies are getting rich. Salaries are exploding. Dot-com kids are making millions selling ideas to venture capitalists. There's no end in sight!

And then *poof*. It all collapsed. All the expectations went unmet. Forecasts were unrealistic. All the hype was misplaced. And then came the reports of the accounting scandals. How high profile companies cooked the books. How all that hype was based on myth. Companies that double and triple ordered went and canceled those orders - erasing "profit" from someone else's books. Numbers were revised downward. Outlook deflated. Business orders for parts decreased (existing inventory had to be cleared off of shelves first). Business travel became an unnecessary expense, thereby putting the airlines in a pinch (never mind what the effect terrorism had on their business). Stock wealth disappeared overnight. 401k balances vanished. The Party was over.

That's not to say that it all was a myth. You might say that pretty much until things got crazy at the end the boom of the 90's made sense because of all these simultaneous developments in technology. Indeed, I mentioned Bill Gates as responsible for the 90's economic boom. He certainly had help from others what with so many prosperous industries coming to life in the 90's - offering products and services that relied on his Windows and the spinoff effects that resulted. But think also of the saturation levels that have been hit as the technology boom of the 90's ran its course. PDA's, Cell Phones, DVD players, etc. For something like the 90's to occur now, you have to have an exponential jump in an adoption of next generation technology and then hold on tight for the spinoff effects to happen and other business to spring up like wildflowers and expand on these newer technologies. Think about it in this way. How much different was 1981 to 1989? Compare and contrast that to 1991 and 1999 and the difference with the latter is much greater I believe. As a small example, think about it in computer gaming terms: How big was the difference between the Atari 2600 of the early 80's and the Nintendo of the late 80's? Big, but now compare the Nintendo to the Playstation 2/XBox and these newer machines capabilities and the differences are HUGE. A Cell Phone in the early 80's was a 3 pound lead-acid battery type that operated on 3 watts of power and ran off of analog radio waves. Now TMobile is offering the tiny digital video camera phone for $100 bucks and a boatload of calling minutes and runs off something like 0.03 watts. See what I mean about huge exponential shift in technology? That's what the 90's boom rode on and that's why I say Gates is the posterchild for this era. Not Clinton and not his advisors.

So what does this all mean for right now? It means Bush and Co can nip around the edges and try to make sure the macro-economic conditions are favorable. (Low Taxes, Low Interest Rates, etc). But what it's really going to take is some major technological moves. Not just nipping around the edges and making DVD players smaller, or a better video cell phone, or something that we already have and just perfecting that a tad here and there. No, if we do that then we'll continue to coast in some form or manner. The economy probably won't go in the dumper, but it won't skyrocket either. No, what its going to take to get not just consumers excited but Businesses excited to buy and produce more are some big technological shifts that get everyone jazzed up again like it happened in the 90's. Whose going to do it and what technological shifts and developments need to happen is anybody's guess, but that's (in my view) what it's going to take to get things humming again. We need a new Gates.

I can't believe the current ad campaign underway for Cottonelle bathroom tissue.
I Just Can't Believe It!!!!!
Toilet paper ads usually hawk their product from the angle that it is soft and comfy. Puhleeze Don't Squeeze the Charmin!. But Cottonelle is approaching it from an altogether utilitarian angle: You Wipe Your Ass With It!!!!!!. No, seriously. Their commercials show people jutting their asses towards the camera. And they are psyched about it. They have used Cottonelle, now they have a clean ass!!!!!
Butts everywhere. Clean, well-wiped, confident butts! Happy butts! Butts you can feel secure bringing out into the public because it is superbly sanitized and does not smell at all. When using Cottonelle, dexterously maneuver the tissue squares throughout the ass-crack region - expertly removing away all offensive expunged waste material (ie, SHIT). Smile America. Trust your ass with Cottonelle!

See the Cottonelle ad here.
Join Cottonelle's message board and discuss your favorite ass-wiping and shitting stories here.
Read Slate's commentary on the ad campaign here.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Words of Wisdom
Lnotes hits the nail on the head with her comments about what Christmas should be about. I agree. It has to be more than just shopping and gifts. Its a time to put the thermostat a bit higher, to enjoy the time to hibernate, spend time with friends and family and have a few laughs. Drink hearty, warm drinks, etc. Play with the cat for a few minutes longer.

Dirty Old Bastard Turns 100
"I love all of you," Thurmond told colleagues in a farewell speech in the Senate last month, "and especially your wives."

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Quote of the Day:
As law professor Donald Garner said to the Washington Post, (the lawsuits portray) "Americans as the most pathetic, pitiable people in the world, that we are incapable of limiting what we eat."
-On the Fast Food lawsuits.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

WMD: Weapons of Masochist Domination
Well looky looky. One of the UN Weapons Inspectors assigned to safeguard the world from Saddam has had ample experience inspecting "weapons" already -as an S&M practitioner.