November 29, 2004
By Caffeine Alone...
I saw an amusing signature in a friend's email tonight that echoes the current week. I'm editing three Take Control ebooks simultaneously, which all need to go out post-haste. So, my self-assigned label of "Late-Nighter" is certainly apt right now.
It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.
It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed,
the hands acquire shaking, the shaking becomes a warning.
It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.
A quick Google search reveals that the poem is oft-quoted, and a parody of a mantra from Dune attributed to Dennis Ferguson (though I don't know who that is) or a National Lampoon pardody called Doon.
(If you're curious, I'm making lattes and espresso shots using fresh Sumatra beans from Lighthouse Roasters.)
November 21, 2004
I'm Now a Newspaper Columnist!
Hooray! Saturday marked my first appearance as a regular columnist for The Seattle Times: Regular change of passwords keeps sneaky crackers guessing.
My colleague Glenn Fleishman has been the Practical Mac columnist, and when he took some time off to become a new daddy, I filled in for a few weeks. (Notice that the Times' Web publishing system wasn't equipped to handle a guest columnist at the time, so Glenn's byline and picture appeared on my columns online.) The experience went well, and so Glenn proposed that we share the column from now on.
The column appears every two weeks, which means I'll be writing one column per month. We're always open to column ideas, so feel free to contact me at carlsoncolumn at mac.com with ideas or questions!
The Tech-Support Generation
Newsweek has a great article by Brad Stone about how many people are headed home for Thanksgiving... to fix their parents' computers: The Tech-Support Generation.
I know, you can't lump everyone into that category, but I suspect it's true more often than not. And it points to the reality that computers are still difficult to use. A Mac is far easier to comprehend than a Windows PC (and you don't have the spyware and virus issues), but there are still lots of things that can stump someone who doesn't know what an IP address is, or who can't tell if the problem is the computer itself or something else, like a wireless base station. (Heck, I've been doing this professionally for years and I still get stumped.)
Still, there is a silver lining. I like being the tech guy for my in-laws, because it was one of the first things that we connected on after being introduced by my wife: it was the springboard for a good relationship, and gave us things to talk about on that first visit home when I spent a good deal of time wondering, "Will they like me?"
November 11, 2004
Frank Rich on Moral Values
The November 3 election results news made it clear that the presidential election was won by fundamentalist Christians who were more concerned about moral values (i.e., the decay of American society and especially the 'threat' of homosexuality). However, Frank Rich in his New York Times column (free subscription required) points out that the quickly-spun theory is fiction: On 'Moral Values,' It's Blue in a Landslide.
If anyone is laughing all the way to the bank this election year, it must be the undisputed king of the red cultural elite, Rupert Murdoch. Fox News is a rising profit center within his News Corporation, and each red-state dollar that it makes can be plowed back into the rest of Fox's very blue entertainment portfolio. The Murdoch cultural stable includes recent books like Jenna Jameson's "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star" and the Vivid Girls' "How to Have a XXX Sex Life," which have both been synergistically, even joyously, promoted on Fox News by willing hosts like Rita Cosby and, needless to say, Mr. O'Reilly. There are "real fun parts and exciting parts," said Ms. Cosby to Ms. Jameson on Fox News's "Big Story Weekend," an encounter broadcast on Saturday at 9 p.m., assuring its maximum exposure to unsupervised kids.
He also concludes with a point that people don't seem to have grasped: apart from Republican theories about an "ownership society," the "march of freedom," and a return to "moral values," the Bush administration is genuinely, empirically hurting its base.
According to this argument, the values voters the Democrats must pander to are people like Cary and Tara Leslie, archetypal Ohio evangelical "Bush votes come to life" apotheosized by The Washington Post right after Election Day. The Leslies swear by "moral absolutes," support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and mostly watch Fox News. Mr. Leslie has also watched his income drop from $55,000 to $35,000 since 2001, forcing himself, his wife and his three young children into the ranks of what he calls the "working poor." Maybe by 2008 some Democrat will figure out how to persuade him that it might be a higher moral value to worry about the future of his own family than some gay family he hasn't even met.
(For an over-the-top take on this last point, see The Register UK's letter from blue states to reds.)
November 06, 2004
Two Great Movies
Movies are so hit-and-miss lately that I wanted to share two excellent movies I've seen back to back.
I caught a sneak preview of Sideways, which is easily one of the best films of the year. It has a well-rounded mix of humor and depression (since Paul Giamatti's Miles is truly a depressing character in some ways), and the writing crackles.
I also enjoyed the setting and premise: two friends go on a tour of the California wine country. I'm not a wine connoisseur by any means, but my stepfather works at a winery in Napa, so I have a sense of that world. The movie gets it totally right about the types of wineries - in one scene the winery with the most people, most merchandise, and grandest tasting room is also the one with the worst wine.
For another perspective, see "A Connoisseur's Guide to Sideways" at Slate.com, which includes this tasty paragraph:
- Sideways is great wine porn. The vineyard scenes are, of course, stunning, and the wines paraded across the screen will certainly put that knowing smile on the faces of those who like to drink well. When Maya and Stephanie join Miles and Jack for dinner one night, the bottles come fast and furious, and all are recognizable, estimable names: Kistler, Sea Smoke, Andrew Murray, Dominique Laurent (a slightly odd presence, given that Miles indicates early on that he is no fan of excessive oak). When the ladies retreat to the bathroom for a moment and Jack chastises Miles for having subjected the table to a lengthy disquisition on Gaston Huet's Vouvrays—perhaps the ultimate insider's wines—I nearly fell out of my seat. Huet's Vouvrays, mentioned in a major motion picture? Delicious.
The other movie I saw was The Incredibles. I'm a long-time Pixar fan, and I'm ecstatic that they keep putting out movies that are good not because of their 3D animation but because of their stories. (The selection of trailers before the movie reinforced this: Robots and Madagascar look terrible, especially the latter, because they're just retreads of the same character-looking-for-meaning-while-getting-hit-in-the-head-for-laughs theme. Hey Katzenberg, et. al: moving to 3D doesn't automatically make a better movie.)
Incredibles deals with some serious stuff, such as settling into a routine, keeping a marriage together, and being true to one's self. The writing is great, the animation is stunning, and I daresay it's probably the Best Bond Movie of the Last 20 Years (when you see it, you'll understand what I mean).
November 03, 2004
My biggest question: how do you make people see what they refuse to see? So many things should have tipped this election away from Bush. On the radio last night I heard someone say that it would take a "gate" to do it, yet so many things that, in my view, are much worse than Watergate: Abu Graib, tax cuts for the rich, outright lying to the American people, the entire fucking Iraq situation from beginning to end. But people accept what Fearless Leader tells them: a few bad apples, economic stimulus (and don't you mind that deficit, with numbers that are so big that it won't apply to you), the War on Terror(tm).
As long as terrorists aren't blowing themselves up on people's front porches, Americans think it doesn't affect them. But honestly, let's take some bets: how long before the draft gets reinstated? Do you seriously think Bush's promise that there will be no draft can hold up under the pressure he's created in Iraq? And how soon before the U.S. is compelled to invade Iran? And if that happens, what type of "coalition of the willing" will stand by our side? For that matter, who's going to be left to help out in Iraq? Or Afganistan, for that matter?
So, that is the challenge: how do you encourage someone to see the truth? How do you get past the disinformation machine that is making Americans believe that everything is okay? Because everything is not okay.
Is This America?
I overslept and woke up to learn that Kerry's conceding. My response:
I don't recognize my country. I find it hard to believe that Bush won by being "resolute" (apologize for nothing, deflect everything, mislead always) and by playing the gay card (homosexuals are on the march!). I mean, shit: is our country so goddamn homophobic? I think it must be, given that anti-gay bans passed in 11 states. The fact that it even became an issue is alarming.
I don't know. I don't want to say that 50% of the country is stupid. But I think a HUGE number of people are ignorant - possibly willfully - about what's going on. The US is a big fat ostrich, just waiting to get shot in a variety of different ways.
Dan Gillmor pretty much sums it up. And if you're a Bush supporter, don't think for a minute that I'm being overly dramatic: