30 August 2008

Sen. Joe Biden & The War On Drugs

Just the other day, after Sen. Obama named Sen. Biden as his running mate, I saw a few posts floating around taking Biden to task on some of his past drug war positions. Not being too familiar with Biden's domestic endeavors, I was unaware that he had been an original architect of our current failed drug war policies in the '80s. Whether this was due to his Delaware constituency and the prevalence of pharmaceutical companies is not clear (at least, I haven't checked up on it), but it true that his positions vis-a-vis drug policy were not exactly progressive.

Yesterday, however, I was heartened to receive a letter from the Drug Policy Alliance Network that gave some updated news on their stance on Biden as prospective VP. While Biden was among the responsible parties that gave us the ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy), the RAVE Act, and prison-flooding mandatory minimum sentencing, he has more recently advocated eliminating the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity (a bill he introduced that both Obama and Clinton co-sponsored) and has been a notable supporter of treatment for addicts.

As DPAN Exec. Dir. Ethan Nadelman points out in his press release (which I recommend you read for yourself), the fact that Obama has selected Biden as his running mate may mean that the latter's positions may be shifting. Obama has not hidden his views that drug war policy in the US has failed and needs to be changed so bringing Biden on board probably doesn't have the negative connotations that some have put forth, regardless of his stances on certain issues.

Zhuangzi, Chapter 13

29 August 2008

Build Your Own Landspeeder

I don't need to say anything about this do I? Dude built himself a Landspeeder. Now he doesn't have to worry so much about his daughter being kidnapped by that new family of sand people that moved in down the street (I hope that's not construed as a veiled racist joke. It's not veiled. It's racist against sand people.) Go check out more photos and info over at Geekologie.

The good folks over at Geekologie also posted some great new underwear news. Ladies, I don't know if these are comfortable or not, but my pants suddenly got shorter when I saw the photos. These are probably NSFW, but since it's Friday and Labor Day Weekend (Damn You, Reagan!), I'm sure you want to see some sexy photos of underwear that defies gravity. Have a lovely weekend if you're doing anything special, because I'm not.

27 August 2008

Sunday, Monday, Habib Beye!

I just noticed that I've had a visitor from the lovely nation of Senegal, producer of such fine exports as footballers and...fish, chemicals, cotton, fabrics, groundnuts and calcium phosphate. The major destination of those non-football related exports apparently is India, while the footballers generally head to France from which they migrate further if they have talent. (Here's a list of Senegalese players)

Anyone missing the reference in this post's title should head over to Beyewatch and get their updates on everything Habib Beye.


Contemporary Jabberwocky

I haven't posted much lately here, mostly because I've been completely focused on the start of the Prem and getting my fantasy team in proper order. Nobody cares about my doings in that realm, so I keep it segregated (though if anybody wants to read a footie-related post, I'm happy to oblige, and may start doing so anyway).

Such blindness on my part resulted in my not finding anything else interesting on the interwebs to post about and that's always a bit depressing. However, my spirits were embiggened today when I caught an article via BoingBoing discussing the English usage as an adaptable technology. As a nerd-word-smith I was rather enthused, since poetry is all about finding new expressions in language and the play of word meanings. Crazy make-em-ups—as Lewis Carroll could attest—are not only valuable monetarily these days, but they help keep a language vibrant and relevant. English is notable among world languages for such adaptability and structural freedom. We don't have a language society that makes concrete rules for word usage, we have dictionaries that keep on top of newly coined words and multiple usages.

Does anyone out there know if there is an Urban Dictionary in any other language? I know that French has its own subversive slang, Verlan, but that's a different case, as French, though a beautiful language that I speak poorly, has lots of rules about word development and additions to the lexicon. Use of Verlan is clearly a political act against oppressive elements of French society, in much the same way as corner slang is a method of keeping communications secret. However, in English corner slang is only one source of new verbal adoptions as Erin McKean's Boston Globe piece clearly illustrates. Our language is flexible enough that we can toy with the grammar we learned when young to expand our vernacular in more expressive (or yes, sometimes just plain lazier) ways. Kids do it on the street, academics do it in their papers, and bloggers do it in their moms' basements. Nature abhors a vacuum, so when there is a vacuum in the vocabulary, it makes evolutionary sense that something develops to fit that niche. (Maybe that last bit is a stretch, but it makes sense to me.)

I'd love to hear about this capability in other languages or if this type of adaptability is really an aspect of English that truly sets it apart from other world languages.

21 August 2008

I Spent Thursday In Summons Court

That's right loyal readers (all 7 of you), I was lucky enough to spend today, 21 August 2008, in NYC Summons Court. Why did I have to take time out of my afternoon at work to do this, you ask? Because on 18 June at approximately 12:35 am, a roving band of badged asshounds selected me for their early morning amusement. Since my day in court has come and gone (and they can't hold any of this self-incrimination against me now), I don't mind sharing parts of the story.
It started off innocuously enough when the Boston Celtics won their 17th NBA Championship trophy. Cigars were procured to celebrate with Red, so we moved to the stoop. Unbeknown to us the stoop is considered "open container" territory and when a van of NY's "finest" came around the corner, they just had to spoil the fun. They wanted to know what we were smoking and why we had beers outside, then they decided to charge me (and only me) with an open container violation. I said I would just go back inside, but they had other ideas. In my state of combined revelry and annoyance, I challenged one of the cops to the effect of: "If you're going to give me an open container summons, you may as well give me one for littering." And promptly threw the cigar in the gutter.
To make a long story short, three cops made sure I remained rooted to my square of concrete and two summonses were produced; one for littering and one for—no, not open container—disorderly conduct. Let's just say I was fucking shocked and so was everybody else. Then the next night on that same corner two different cops wrote me up for riding my bike on the sidewalk. Yes, five feet off the sidewalk. I won't even go into this.
Anyway, the judge today had the good sense to dismiss the bike offense and the disorderly conduct (though I've gotta pay $50 for the littering, which is ample punishment for being an ass, I figure). Below are my recorded thoughts as I made my first trip to NYC Summons Court, hopefully to never return:
1:15pm: Leave work and head to 346 B'way. Court is actually at 108 Leonard. Proper start for bureaucratic adventure.

1:20pm: Get checked in after moving through security and waiting in line for a courtroom ticket. Now I have to wait until 2:15.

1:30pm: Snag a spot on the hallway floor. There are no benches and a fat/pregnant? mom is in the only chair. More families than I expected and right now I'm the only white guy. There was a professional, prep-school looking white guy in line earlier, but I overheard him trying to change his court date as he was going to be out of town on business. Typical.

1:40pm: Obviously I'm curious as to how all these forced loiterers ended up here. Were they drunk and disorderly? Was their bike on the sidewalk? This wait is going to suck.

1:45pm: I don't know if it was silly of me to bother wearing my nice shirt, but most of these folks just have t-shirts on. I was wrong, there is a thuggy white guy in here with a beater and blue bandana on. He and his two black cohorts keep talking about how their shit is just gonna be dismissed (ed. note: they weren't) I hope my shit just gets dismissed. I wanna go watch The Wire now. Half hour to go.

1:55pm: Whitey's talking loud about his time in the hole for slashing someone or other. Claims these are "new times" and jail's a young man's game. He's balding with a van dyke. Bics his head. Semi-retarded Mets fan traverses the hallway. I get a kick out of the clear delineations between the upper and lower levels of Mets fandom. Yankees fans aren't so clear cut.

2:00pm: Two white girls show up, well dressed but look like undercover troublemakers. I'm intrigued, though on second look they aren't really that attractive.

2:10pm: Court Room 3 opens up and everyone sits on benches. Hats and cellphones off says the McNulty.

2:20pm: To speed things up some of us are sent across the hall to courtroom 2. It smells like stale sweat in this room. This whole building reeks of "institution smell" and is remarkably plain, even for a government building. If I worked in here I'd splatter paint the walls with my own blood just to not look at off-white under fluorescent lights every goddamn minute.

2:30pm: My name is called and the judge and public defender do their thing which consists of the judge looking at the tickets, mumbling to himself and dismissing two out of the three. I'm relieved and rather than spend any more time in this hole, I agree to pay the $50 and leave.

2:45pm: Walk out the door of 108 Leonard and head back to work for another hour or so...

20 August 2008

McCain Staffer Disses D&D, Moms' Basements

In a rare double affront to D&D playing bloggers (such as myself), one of John McCain's campaign team members, Michael Goldfarb, was recently quoted as saying:
"It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others."
As is typical of McCain and his campaign, there isn't much logic in that statement. What does D&D have to do with Obama and what does that have to do with a war? There is absolutely zero connection there. Even more, I'm sure he's pissing off a fair amount of nerdy white supporters who don't get out much. I mean, I play and all, but I know that there are plenty of gamers out there who, let's just say, "aren't quite up to speed". Taking a different tack, it's D&D players who have basically designed the world's information networks, so this is a poor strategic move on their part. But then again, they aren't gamers, so how would they know strategy, from football games?

(I recommend reading through the comments on that link as some of them are hilarious)

16 August 2008

Hey Newton...Suck It!

This video is footage of a ferromagnetic liquid manipulated through the use of electromagnets. What follows isn't CGI or digitally altered, it's the real deal: artwork created by Japanese physicist Sachiko Kodama in experiments using magnetic particles suspended in oil. More info and links here.

14 August 2008

Melvins/Big Business - Music Hall of Williamsburg

As always, a brilliant display by the hands-down best functioning, most entertaining rock'n'roll unit out there today. Here's a quick rundown for those who missed it...

• Lacklustre opening set by Porn (featuring Tim Moss and Dale Crover); it just wasn't very interesting and went on for too long.

Big Business came out roaring and it looked like Jared Warren shed a few pounds since the last time they came around. I think he's smaller than Buzz now. Other than the poor sound during the set and the jackass in the Clutch t-shirt who started a fight, their set was predictably great. I don't know what it is with soundguys and venues these days, but they've become incredibly inconsistent.

• "I'm getting too old for this shit." Kids love jumping around and whatnot, but it seemed like a first concert for some of these folks. Seriously, I had two young'uns posting up on me like I was Shaq trying to keep them from the stage. I'm fucking 5'8", guys, settle down. And of course the dude who started a fight because...ah, honestly I have no idea why. He probably has aggression issues. His stupidity, which it took several of us to break up, forced Jared to stop mid-song.

• I've already posted my feelings on Melvins' latest, Nude With Boots so is it even worth mentioning that it's brilliant to watch live? Sure! "It's brilliant to watch live." There ya go.

• Really, the openers were quite poorly named, as the dual drummer attack of Dale Crover and Coady Willis is, as my friend Chris aptly put it, "pretty much drum porn". After the hassle of being up front during the BigBiz set, we decided to retire to the old folks' home up in the mezzanine and watch from there. Turned out to be a great move since it allowed watching Dale and Coady without being leapt upon by overeager puppies.

• Two of the best covers ever done: a molasses-paced, Melvinized version of "My Generation" and the raddest "Star-Spangled Banner" since Hendrix. The latter was a capella until the drums kicked in for some proper pomp at the end.

• They closed with "Boris" which I thought was a nice touch after heavily concentrating on the two latest records for the majority of the set.

For anybody who is going to tomorrow's show at the Bowery Ballroom, expect a great show and hopefully your sound is better than ours was tonight. There was a constant bass buzz that was overshadowing Jared and mucking up the toms, almost like the subs were blown out. I expect better out of a such a newly redone venue, then again, I'm not at all surprised if they cut corners to save money when designing their sound system. Whatever...in general I'm pleased because at least these fellers bring their A+ game every time so it's always worthwhile.

06 August 2008

Nobody Remembers the Trivia Runners-up

Tuesday night is Trivia Night at The Charleston and last night I made my first appearance. Call it beginner's luck if you must, but my team Lazy Nick Salek put in a rather spectacular showing. Consisting of myself, John and Noga (and Noga's Israeli friend, Tom, who, frankly, didn't speak much English but was a nice bloke) busted out a 2nd Place prize of a $15 bar tab. Really, it should have been us holding the ultimate trophy of a $30 bar tab, but the winning team had, like, 15 people on it. I hope you all enjoyed your half-beers losers!

Anyway, next week I plan on cruising into pole position (or something) and picking up that grand $30 prize. Presumably there won't be a joke category, as there was last night, based solely on questions relating to Michael Rapaport's career (that guy sucks). I'm really hoping for fewer questions that are based on pop-culture—though that shit is trivial—and instead more based on things like geography (Sinhalese live in Sri Lanka, Steve, not Madagascar. Simpleton.) I'm good at that shit.


Oh, and clearly this means that I didn't read the Unabomber Manifesto last night like I planned. However, this being Wednesday and my day off, I'll get to it as soon as my headache wanes.

05 August 2008

Bill and Ted (Two Different Ones)

Last night before band practice I was hanging out at my drummer's place and a few of us were watching some tv documentary on the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. To make a long story short, the Unabomber was considered "crazy" and labelled a "paranoid schizophrenic" (which I can't necessarily disagree with) because of his ideas and methods. Clearly, the show was biased in a manner that wished to reflect modern society as a positive thing and, despite showing pictures of smog and polluted streams, they failed to give an accurate representation of criticisms of industrial society. Frankly, I'm not shocked.
Now, most reasonable people will take issue with Ted Kaczynski's methods, as they certainly reflect his inability to socialize with other humans. However, many of his ideas about technological society hold water and continue to resonate today. When I got home from practice I decided I should read the whole Unabomber Manifesto, but I got distracted by another article I found. This one was by Bill Joy, Chief Scientist at Sun Microsystems, and featured in the April 2000 issue of Wired magazine. In the article he describes how he was confronted by some of the salient issues brought up by Kaczynski and his own role in the progress of technology. A particular focus of the article are the ideas of futurist Ray Kurzweil and his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines. (Since this article's publication Kurzweil has published another book, The Coming Singularity, whose premise I find absolutely horrifying and, given Joy's take on the earlier work, I think he would as well.)
As I think I've mentioned at other times on this site, I'm a supporter of scientific endeavor and not a complete Luddite, but I have qualms with those who view technology as a panacea for our societal and environmental ills. Technology doesn't solve our problems, it just changes them. For every problem solved a new one arises that did not exist previously. Making a new gadget makes life more complicated, it doesn't make it easier or safer. Things may get more interesting, but our fundamental questions remain the same (and in this respect I understand why people would follow religions, however ridiculous in premise). Call me a daoist, but I think that over the long haul, everything balances out even if it means extreme reactions (natural or artificial) become the force behind that shift.

Anyway, I'm rambling cos I'm at work and this is all off-the-cuff. I highly recommend reading Bill Joy's article and taking in what he says in there. Tonight my plan is to read the Unabomber Manifesto and put together some kind of response to that on here.