Creative Giving

My favorite part of Christmas this year was making wrapping paper out of old Entertainment Weekly photo issues.

I think this means I’ve officially reached adulthood, because I enjoyed giving more than receiving, and because I’ve reached a point where there is nothing that I want that I can’t buy myself.

What am I Listening To?

I’ve added the Mog widget to the left nav. Mog tracks the music I’m listening to, and if those songs are in their database, you can hear samples. If you click the widget, it takes you to my profile and in the list below “Last Songs Played,” you can click on the speaker icon to hear a sample of that song.

My new favorite song is “Got Nothing” by Under the Influence of Giants. Check it out. Also take a listen to “Lost in a Whirlpool” by Frank Zappa. Captain Beefheart is the vocalist, and it was recorded in the late 60’s. I really have to wonder if that song wasn’t somehow the inspiration for South Park’s Mr. Hanky.

Unhealthy Questions Redux

Perhaps the most timely example of a question that does not deserve an answer is “are we winning the war in Iraq?”

The question presupposes that we have a clearly defined enemy and objective. At least in Vietnam we had these things: the people from the North needed to be moved back up North. Success could be quantified by geographic gains, plus enemy body count estimates and defined targets destroyed. In Iraq we have a variety of ethnic groups chaotically striking at us and at each other with guerilla terrorism. You can’t fight an enemy you can’t see[1], so Iraq really isn’t a war per se.

This is where the Bush Administration’s deft abuse of language is coming back to haunt them. They’ve successfully manipulated most Americans into thinking that we’re in a war on Terror, but Terror is not an enemy. Terror is an abstract concept, so while they thought it would be a great way to scare up some cheap oil, take out a bad guy, and install a democracy, it turns out the War on Terror has gone so poorly that they have no way to answer the question of whether or not this war can be won.

So now Bush is stumbling on his words even more, because by the Iraq Study Group’s admission, the situation in Iraq is dire. He can no longer say that we’re “winning” this sham of a war, and I wonder how much longer he can stay in that position. Maybe he can successfully convince America, for whom he has set up a win-lose duality, that we can simultaneously not be winning, yet not be losing. To do that he’d have to leave the comfortable world of black and white that this administration has built its policy on, and that’s a tall order for Mr. “Fer us or agin us.”

1.) In the post-Cold War era, who would have thought that the remaining superpower could be undone by small enemy forces too small to detect? The War on Terror is roughly akin to trying to shoot bullets at a swarm of mosquitoes.

Plog Splurge

Finally added two new sets of photos to the much-neglected photo log. The first is a collection of random pictures from New York and the second mostly from Harrison. The highlight is a finely kept and festively decorated home in Harrison, just a few blocks from my dad’s house. It was such a delight that my uncle Barry wanted to be in the picture.

Note the tasteful addition of candy canes in the yard, glad tidings of holiday cheer.

Also, Emily wants to say hi:

Unusual Tunage

I came across this CD, The Kings of Diggin’ at the Tower Records sale in Nashville, and it’s the best $10 I ever spent. I highly recommend it. DJ’s Kon, Amir and Muro share two discs worth of their favorite vinyl relics, culled from their years of audio spelunking in the back of America’s record stores: obscure soul, funk, jazz fusion and other groovy nuggets abound. In particular, one track stood out, as it’s the basis for a current chart hit.

The Moon People – Hippy Skippy Moon Strut

Astute listeners will also recognize that the tune splices its groove with a variation on “Tighten Up” by Archie Bell and the Drells.

The chart hit in question is Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man,” and I’m glad this gave me the excuse to address something. Her new record is fantastic. Yes, you heard right, Colter has purchased a Christina Aguilera CD. Why? Because DJ Premier is behind the boards for several tracks and Christina cuts loose from the constrictive pop format here and there. You’re already tired of her “Candyman” from the Verizon commercials, but it’s a nice homage to that 40’s/Andrews Sisters sound. There’s also a convincing gospel soul number, and several legitimately funky songs. And her voice. It has some magical direct line to the spinal cord. I had hoped that her new record would lay off the studio gloss, as her voice is one of the few in pop that does not require multi-tracking. My hope is that she’ll someday attempt a raw, stripped-down soul/jazz record, but I’m not holding my breath.

God’s Overcoat

The Oxford American has published Kevin Brockmeier’s fantastical tale, A Fable with Slips of White Paper Spilling from the Pockets. My only complaint is that the title is unwieldy, and not at all reflective of the simple magic of the story. I heard Kevin read a version of it at this year’s Arkansas Literary Festival and I was completely entranced by it, so I’m very excited that it has not only been published, but that it is available digitally for dispersal around the Internet. I think it will become the most popular destination on the OA’s server. Give it a read and send it along to others.

More Unhealthy Questions

Another great example of a question that does not deserve an answer is “how many webpages are there on the Internet?” Any answer would be misleading because you have to first define what a webpage is, and then consider that thousands of sites contain thousands of pages that are dynamically user-generated, so if they’re different every time you visit – how do you count those? If a webpage pulls in data from a database and recombines them into something new for every session, does that count as a unique page?

So the question presupposes that webpages are discrete things that can be counted, and they’re not. Websites, on the other hand, are a little easier to count. Top-level domains like are quantifiable. Even that, though, brings up the question of subdomains. Does count as a website? It could stand on its own if Amazon wanted it to. So, there’s still some room for error.

Google Maps: Pollution Detective

Rolling Stone has a great article in this month’s issue (Snoop Dogg on the cover) about hog farm waste in North Carolina. The writer, Jeff Tietz, mentioned taking off from the town of New Bern for a flight over some vast expanse of hog farms. The article pointed out that hog waste lagoons are very often pink in color[1], so naturally I thought it would be interesting to see what they look like with the aid of Google Maps. I only found a few sporadic examples, as rural areas are still relatively unphotographed in detail by Google Maps, but here’s what I dug up, using New Bern as my point of origin:

Example 1
Example 2
Example 3 (may not be a hog farm, but sure looks like one)
Example 4
Example 5

Perhaps future updates to Google Maps will reveal a larger expanse of factory hog farms there, which gives me some hope for the future that at least some environmental abuses will become harder to hide as more people can see the Earth from the sky. I’m still looking to find the massive cattle farms depicted in the Fast Food Nation film.

1.) For reasons I am not going to mention because this is a family blog; plus you might be enjoying a nice snack.

Quote of the Week

Best Buy Senior vice-president J.T. Thompson on transforming styles of management:

“I was always looking to see if people were here. I should have been looking at what they were getting done.”

Well, duh. Business Week has a great article on Results-Only Workplace Environment (ROWE), where employee performance is based not by attendance, but by performance. Mobile technology is allowing employees to work from anywhere, and places like Best Buy’s corporate HQ are actually moving away from the traditional notions of measurements of productivity. They’re smashing the time clock. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the office for 8 hours, it matters that you’ve been productive. Seems rather obvious to me, but then what do I know? I just work in web design.