September 30, 2003
small moments

via the AP: "The focus on Rove brought an odd twist to Bush's travels. When the president boarded Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, he walked up the steps and waved — and not a single camera followed. He looked momentarily perplexed. All lenses were trained on Rove at the bottom of the steps."

Posted by dbrown at 03:21 PM
But The Baby, What About the Baby?

It ain't the Special Issue but still.

Posted by kevin slavin at 11:37 AM
Nothing Sadder Than a Half-Billion Dollar Truth

At first I thought it was fiction, onion, fantasy, or propaganda, that the United States is sending subsidized oil to Iraq.

But reading further, I found out that Halliburton -- spending half a billion dollars of taxpayer money -- is the one handling the import and management of that subsidized oil. That's when I knew that it was just the truth.


Don't you think it's amazing that with so much more of the world able to talk to so much more of the world, and that with so much information moving through the blogosphere, that none of this information has any effect on any political realities of the United States? I think blogland is real, and that it's capital-p politics that form the virtual reality.

Posted by kevin slavin at 01:35 AM
September 29, 2003
code. 00383bpop

When Napster was first, uh, legislated, filesharers declared an "underground" code to find the real music that the record cos were scrubbing. We were to place the first letter of the artists name at the end, the classic example was adonnam, and we would all know to search (and make searchable) our music with that code. As if the record cos don't read Wired News as well. That was pretty short lived. Especially since computers are uniquely well suited to cracking algorithm-based codes like letter ranspositiont.

So now that Kazaa is the new infectious disease, an interesting thing is happening, I just noticed it for the first time today on a Bastard Pop blog (Bastard Pop = mashup = mixing one pop song directly over another with the same beat). Interestingly, these are from March 13th -- pre-RIAA lawsuits -- but with Bastard Pop, it's a double jeopardy thing, since you're not only distributing music without attention to copyright, you are also modifying it. The entry (a typical one) reads:

go kazaa (searchword:)
code. 00383bpop

I just tried running a search on 00381bpop on Kazaa Lite, and didn't turn anything up, but then, the code is from six months ago. In theory, it should return the latest file as specified on the blog.

So Kazaa becomes a decentralized filesharing network but with a key, the key being -- as in fairy tales -- a name. It's a very different idea about filesharing, and a very different idea about Kazaa, and very possibly in widespread use, since the very nature of it is to use obscurity (or extremely local relevancy) as a form of defensive camoflauge.

Only a matter of time before the kinds of recognition-software that powers Shazam tracks down pop files with Terminator-like horror movie efficiency. But like the drug wars, this is not one that anyone will win through legislation and enforcement. In particular when it's purely about one idea vs. another idea (keynames vs. music-recog software, Blaster vs. Windows Update) the world in aggregate will always be smarter than the subset of it working in law enforcement.

Posted by kevin slavin at 09:41 PM
September 28, 2003
Bit by Bit

Media Lab spin-off Ambient Technologies is up to some interesting tricks. Their vision is to "embed information representation in everyday objects... the physical environment becomes an interface to digital information rendered as subtle changes in form, movement, color or light."

I was initially disappointed that the Ambient Orb glows in response to market information, but it turns out you can set it to indicate instant messenger presence and like that. It's not revolutionary, but it is a good set of next steps in liberating what's "digital" from the two arbitrary dimensions of the screen.

Posted by kevin slavin at 09:39 PM
September 26, 2003
168 MPH, part 2


Mr. Plimpton, like a genius, you used every one of your years in full. Not that I ever really knew you, but of everything else, I admired this most of all. Six months ago, when we were stuffing you into the French can-can outfit -- custom tailored to your frame -- I asked you if you thought that would be the strangest thing you'd do that day. You shrugged, and responded that you had no idea what each day was going to bring.

Later in the day when the shoot was on pause, you sat in those petticoats, stripped to the waist, and with only sincerity played Edith Piaf songs on piano. I didn't cry then, but it would be easy to now. In that moment, it was impossible to know just how to feel, and this is still true.

In the next several months, there will be a million stories told about you, and all of them will be true. Big mitts. Big gloves. You didn't win, but you win anyway and always.

Posted by kevin slavin at 11:17 PM
168 mph

In honor of Mr. Plimpton: The Curious Case of Sidd Finch

Posted by dbrown at 12:14 PM
September 25, 2003
There's no such thing as a Barker

Annotations to Quicksilver, page by page, by mr. "don't edit me, my hair's way too long" himself. via mefi.

Posted by dbrown at 07:13 PM

Look what I found in my Gold Box today. What's your first thought about it? Mine was not unique, evidently.

Posted by kevin slavin at 04:38 PM
Posterity calls

You may have seen the Times article a while ago about David Isay's excellent crackpot endeavor...putting an "oral history recording booth" in Grand Central. It's happening soon, and Isay's project is looking for a little pump-priming.

"Before our flagship StoryCorps booth opens next month in New York City's
Grand Central Terminal, we want to make sure that our newly hired
facilitators have ample opportunity to hone their skills. Please help be a
part of the birth of StoryCorps by bringing a loved one or friend to our
Chinatown studio for a StoryCorps session between October 7-17. Think of
it as getting a barber school haircut - without the obvious risk. You'll
receive a broadcast-quality CD of your interview and become part of the
StoryCorps archives. And it's all ABSOLUTELY FREE! Please pass this
invitation along to anyone who might be interested. Email Karen Callahan
at to schedule a time or with questions."

Posted by kio at 03:51 PM
we're #1

The United States was the leader in total worldwide arms sales in 2002, with about $13.3 billion, or 45.5 percent of global conventional weapons deals, a rise from $12.1 billion in 2001.

Posted by elia at 12:31 PM
king of the one liners

from last night's great debate. (NYT)

In one exchange, Ms. Huffington acted offended that Mr. Schwarzenegger had interrupted her, saying: "Let me finish. This is completely impolite. This is the way you treat women, we know that."

Mr. Schwarzenegger, smiling, responded, "I just realized I have a perfect part for you in `Terminator 4.' "

Posted by elia at 08:53 AM
September 24, 2003
at long last, nothing is sacred

Michael Bay has remade Texas Chainsaw. Can you fucking believe it? How come I didn't know about this?

Let me also take this moment to recommend texas chainsaw massacre 2, with an incredible performance by Dennis Hopper, and an oscar-worthy one by Bill Moseley. "Music, Is my life." This one gets either one star or five. Come to think of it, so does the first one.

Posted by dbrown at 08:58 PM

The piece reproduced on page 38 of the Summer issue was put together wrong and isn't anything. The upper surface is supposed to be three inches above another surface, flush with the rest of the box.
-- Donald Judd
New York City

[letter to the editor, Artforum, September 1967]

Posted by dbrown at 07:00 PM
The Principles of Mental Freedom

I got some spam from someone named Euphemia Ferguson, which sent me on some chases, resulting in, first, a brief account of the life of St. Euphemia ("First she was put on a wheel, but an angel of God appeared and broke it. Then he had her thrown into a fiery furnace, but she was preserved by God's power. Seeing this, two soldiers, Victor and Sosthenes, came to faith in Christ, for which they were thrown to the wild beasts, and thus finished their earthly course with glory. After that, Euphemia was thrown into a pit filled with water, and all manner of poisonous reptiles. She made the sign of the Cross over the water as she went into the pit, and remained unharmed. She was finally thrown to the wild beasts, and with a prayer of thanksgiving, gave her soul into God's hands. Her parents buried her body.")

Then, and more useful for all of you, the search led me to the Kabalerian Society of Canada's Free Name Analysis. Type your own name at the bottom of the page.

However, expectant parents please note, "If you are looking for a baby name, do not choose a first name based on the short analysis given here. The child's first name must be balanced with the child's birthdate (inner potential) and your family's surname (last name). Please call us at 1-866-489-1188 (toll-free in North America) or 604-263-9551 for advice before choosing a baby name."

Someone, please call. I want to name my first born daughter Myriad.

Posted by dbrown at 05:46 PM
September 23, 2003
We want beef in dessert if we can get it there.

Well, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association might have to wait for that, but in the meantime, they can enjoy some Cheeseburger Fries. Shit, even their kids can enjoy them at school.

Posted by elia at 07:59 PM
Been lying this whole time.

Colin Powell, February 24, 2001, regarding Iraqi sanctions:

We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions--the fact that the sanctions exist-- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.

Posted by dbrown at 12:08 PM
the grift

as any con knows, this is rule one: never write anything down. Witness the cheerleader robbers, for once. And witness the continuing bbc/10 downing debacle: "Geoff Hoon's claims that he was only marginally involved in the outing of Dr David Kelly were dramatically contradicted yesterday when extracts from Alastair Campbell's personal diary were released by the Hutton inquiry.... Mr Campbell wrote on July 4: 'GH and I agreed it would fuck Gilligan if that was his source.'"

Posted by dbrown at 11:33 AM
No Crying In Baseball

Meanwhile in Iraq there's all these American soldiers, and they don't like the whole damn thing, evidently. Amazing stories from embedded reporter Christian Parenti, on commondreams.

Posted by kevin slavin at 01:46 AM
Virtual Memory

For those of us who grew up at 300 baud, those for whom BBSes were the bad neighborhoods, is like finding a box of snapshots from adolescence, ones that you never knew existed.

At the Tokion "creativity" conference a couple weeks ago, they brought Kool Herc and Melle Mel on stage, and it was kind of amazing to just see these guys who put those first footsteps on a whole new planet. And I remember hearing that stuff, but not as well as I remember the other forgotten heroes: Captain Crunch, Captain Midnight, the Legion of Doom. Emmanuel Goldstein. Count Nibble. I could go on.

I was a lot more like a commuter than a resident back then, but still. Still. With these files I viscerally remember the neighborhood that was never there, and it was so smart and so stupid, the way home is, the way family is. So smart and so stupid.


(found the link through the always-on always-reliable

Posted by kevin slavin at 01:25 AM
September 22, 2003
a better question


The Horse asks a new one: Can Bush beat any Democrat?

Posted by dbrown at 06:12 PM
Information Architecture

On August 15th, when the city was rebooting from the blackout. Anna and I were in Times Square, and it was beautiful the way is beautiful. All the electronic architecture was fucked up and blotchy, coming online in patches and parts.

Particularly beautiful was the Conde Nast building. Power restored, the tower-screen section had lost it's feed, glowing with the pure blue light of flatline video. There was something so sharp about that, it looked more like the future than the live image feed ever does.

But, without any blackout to point fingers at, an architectonic reboot happened to Macy's 10 days previous. With so much in surplus, that day found Macy's short on virtual memory. That could happen for about a hundred reasons, but it got me wondering how far away we are from viruses written for electronic image-architecture. The hackers that produce them might adopt the terminology of "tags" and "bombs" from the graffiti artists who laid, as it were, the foundation.

(Macy's images via

Posted by kevin slavin at 04:31 PM
A Horrible Story That Saps Any Remaining Warmth or Hope You Might Have for Homo Sapiens Sapiens

You may not know the lower-case g genius Banksy, but his work deserves a lot more than an entry of its own. For now, I was reading his little book "Existencilism," and I found this horrible story that cuts into muscle and bone. Which one does when there's something that has to be removed. It's hard to read, so I broke it into an extended entry in case it's not the time to read something hard.


The liberation of Nazi death camp, Bergen-Belsen

I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywher, some in huge piles, sometimes they lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen.

It took a little time to get used to seeing men women and children collapse as you walked by them and to restrain oneself from going to their assistance. One had to get used early to the idea that the individual just did not count. One knew that five hundred a day were dying and that five hundred a day were going on dying for weeks before anything we could do would have the slightest effect. It was, however, not easy to watch a child choking to death from diptheria when you knew a tracheotomy and nursing could save it, one saw women drowning in their own vomit becasue they were too weak to turn over, and men eating worms as they clutched a half loaf of bread purely because they had had to eat worms to live and now could scarcely tell the difference.

Piles of corpses, naked and obscene, with a woman too weak to stand propping herself against them as she cooked the food we had given her over an open fire; men and women crouching down just anywhere in the open relieving themselves of the dysentery which was scouring their bowels, a woman standing stark naked washing herself with some issue soap in water from a tank in which the remains of a child floated.

It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don't know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for those internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wantering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tatooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.

An extract from the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO who was amongst the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen in 1945. Source: Imperial War Museum.

Posted by kevin slavin at 12:52 PM
The HTTP Awards

I'm not sure anymore exactly what Google's algorythms are for ranking one thing over another, but you can see how it orders the 432,000,000 pages under http.

Note also what happens when the Google spider tries to pick up its hotmail.

Posted by kevin slavin at 10:23 AM
And Then a Little Lightbulb Went Off

If your outfit includes wearing a belt and suspenders, then your home won't be complete with this, a light bulb that stays lit even when you turn it off.

Posted by kevin slavin at 12:39 AM
September 21, 2003
Two Words from


Posted by kevin slavin at 10:03 PM
Make and Model

I had one of my very favorite new york moments today. Broad daylight, and it's a cop car, but it's that one that's dressed up like a taxi, siren cranked, blasting up 9th. It's going about 50 mph and everyone on the street stops doing whatever they're doing in order to watch. Everyone staring at it as if it were a rare migratory bird. Which strictly speaking, it is.

I was trying to think about how to describe what's so beautiful about it. Partly it's just that rare one in the genus, the passenger pigeon eating food with all the other regular pigeons. It's the giant squid, it's the bald eagle on the Pan Am building. But it's more than that, because cops don't look that different from east european taxi drivers in the first place. And that taxis and cop cars are the same make and model.

I was trying to think about how to describe what's so beautiful about it, it's something about where resemblences and mimetics touch and fail, and in the end you really can say it in a word, if that word is Bageldonut.

Posted by kevin slavin at 09:46 PM
September 20, 2003
Speaking of Strunk and White

"Former Iraqi Defense Minister Turns Himself In to American General"

Posted by tmonkey at 11:58 PM
truth in sort of advertising

the latest trend (at least for me) in e-commerce is the interstitial upsell page, with all the add ons, whether hotel rooms or books you might also like to read. Expedia's upsell page was so humongous it made me switch back to orbitz.'s new upsell page didn't make me switch, in part because its URL is so sweet: "" At least they call a rose a rose.

Reminds me of a story I've told many times already: Back in 1992 or so, in the liquor store on Market Street near Church, across from the Safeway. A bum (as they called them in SF back then) woozily asks for a pint of a cheap brand of vodka. The clerk slaps it down on the counter and says, Good choice. This will get you really drunk.

Posted by dbrown at 08:56 PM
items of the week-end

some of you may think ebay is old-hat, been there done that, but just so you know, ebay is still the land of the $20,000 fishing lure and the $14,000 old bottle.

Posted by dbrown at 04:16 PM
Can Someone

Tell me how a movie -- written by Michael Ondaatje, edited by Walter Murch, starring Juliette Binoche and Willem fuckin Dafoe -- could suck quite as much as the English Patient sucked? I couldn't even finish it. My whole weekend is shot. No one warned me. I blame all of you. All of you.

Posted by kevin slavin at 01:43 PM
September 19, 2003
thanks for the good and information

Except for Danky Hung, the recent and inscrutable comments we've been getting here on Saturation have kept me awake at night.

But those are Strunk and motherfucking White next to what Steven Johnson's been getting on his site. A good example is the comments on this post -- scroll down to see what we're dealing with here. Makes the comment to the asteroid story -- "It think if it will happen there will be the end of the day" -- look like a real live person wrote it.

What's fascinating about all this is the motivation for it, which Steven Johnson unravels by opening the question up to his readers. Things find their own uses for the street.

Posted by kevin slavin at 06:02 PM
Truth is Also The Second, Third, and Fourth Casualty of War

"it depends what the meaning of i$, i$," writes Derrick Jackson on what the connection between Dick Cheney and Halliburton i$.

Posted by kevin slavin at 04:32 PM

AddYourOwn (DYI Zagats) and Distributed Proofreading (DYI Project Gutenberg). Unlike my beloved MeFi, these loose-community sites have more of a satisfying cumulative effect as they get older.

Posted by hirmes at 04:27 PM
Goddamn French ate or raped all the poultry

Rant: Medieval Fans

Reply to:
Date: Fri Sep 05 13:18:16 2003

I’m tired of all ye Medieval freaks trying to tell me how great the Medieval times are. Well, I’m there right now and I can tell you that it’s a whole bunch of crap, for certain. I just buried my fourth wife for starters. I lost my first Katherine to complications of childbirth, the second Katherine to the plague, Jane to childbirth and for the love of God, the doctor has no idea what killed my third Katherine, though he does think it’s no coincidence that she was in childbirth.

How dare you prance about your “realistic Medieval village” in some suburban cow pasture with your overweight Medieval fans in cumbersome body armor and tell me how great it is here. Do you know we throw raw sewage out on the streets? How great do you think that is? How lovely do you think that smelleth in the middle of summer? You try taking a God forsaken stroll in your fancy robes (I’m merchant class) and tell me that it’s a lot of fun. Huzzah my ass. Everything smells like crap. And I haven’t bathed in a fortnight, I’ll have you know, because some jackass Frenchman dropped a dead cow in our well during the siege.

And you won’t find any damn souvenir shops in my village, I can assure you. We don’t have any stores that sell Medieval swing chairs, whatever in damnation that may be. And your swords? They’re for scoundrels. They’re not even sharp. We also don’t have laser-etched crystals here. Or dragons for that matter, though try and tell that to St. George and he’ll get all pissy.

Whoever believes that you could just purchase a giant turkey leg has another thing coming too. I’ll be lucky to have a frickin’ potato tonight. Goddamn French ate or raped all the poultry. I’d give what’s left of my right ear to have some unregulated shack distributing cheap turkey legs down the road.

Yeah, this Medieval life is so frickin’ great. I guess that’s why my first son died from the consumption. How romantic. You sure you want a castle? Why don’t you open the windows in your apartment in the dead of winter and stroll about wearing eight parkas. Same thing. There’s your friggin’ castle, your highness.

And all this crap with the jousting? Jousting? I’ve been to one damn joust my whole life, and it was only because I thought I might have a chance to grab some royalty aside and get my “heretic” brother’s death sentence commuted. You think we all just sit around jousting all day? We’re too busy coughing up blood, believe you me. And if not that, we’re scrambling around trying to figure out why the Good Lord chose to set fire to the warehouse. I’ve had a blister for eight years. My aunt’s a leper. I sleep near a goat. Go to hell, Medieval fans.

I have the right mind to kicketh you in the codpiece.

Posted by kevin slavin at 02:10 PM
there's nothing wrong with it, it's just

girl sitting next to me on the F train this morning, writing in a small journal.

heading: My goals in life
- To be successful
- To give 100% at everything I do
- To have Noble Character

it went on. I had to stop glancing.

Posted by dbrown at 10:26 AM
September 18, 2003
When You Think About How Alexander Graham Bell Designed the Telephone To Talk to Ghosts It All Kind of Makes Sense Again

Just today, I was on the phone disputing the Connecticut prostitution fees that appeared on my American Express bill. Seriously. While talking to the AmEx rep, it wasn't until I said something funny that her voice broke and I could hear the Indian accent. The image of a woman in Gurgaon investigating the guy who grabbed my AmEx and went on a hooker spree in Fairfield Connecticut is a pleasing one. There's a radio play in there somewhere.

We're seeing more and more about call-center India and globalization, about how the rest of the world is now America's IT department. It's complicated, it's kind of ok and it's kind of not ok, depending on whether you feel one of those jobs is more properly due someone you know here in the States. Which you might not. Globalization is as globalization does, or as it is done to. Due to. OK.

But if it was difficult to put a face to the call center when it was in Salt Lake City, it's even harder when its in Delhi. This article from the Times of India brings it to life a little bit. There is an emerging argument that the call center employees are "cyber-coolies," doing the dirty work associated with colonial labor. But Gurchuran Das suggests that instead -- from an Indian perspective -- the "root of the dispute is ownership of the English language" and that India is in a way just learning how to make a far greater impact on the world. If you think about all the college learnin' about cultural appropriation and revoicing and like that, it's a persuasive argument. There's a long and interesting first-hand exchange about it here.

So Indians are becoming fluent in the languages (Windows as much as English) of first-world transactional superstructures. That sort of is what it is until you realize that they are also staffing the Republican Party Fundraising call centers.

The latest State of the Union address reads:

"With unemployment rising, our nation needs more small businesses to open, more companies to invest and expand, more employers to put up the sign that says, ``Help Wanted.'' (APPLAUSE)

Here in '03, Republicans are outsourcing their fundraising to Noida and Gurgaon, to make sure they can give that same speech in four years time. Applause. Applause. We got to blog this shit because in a thousand years we could never write it.

Posted by kevin slavin at 09:23 PM
ambassador wilson

a snippet from the beginning of Josh Marshall's part one with Joseph Wilson:

TPM: It is September 16th and it seems in the last couple months in Iraq we've basically gone through--quickly gone through--three phases ... Where do you see our position right now?

WILSON: Well, I think we're fucked....

Posted by dbrown at 08:02 PM
1.5 Billion Reasons to Vote Democrat

Kennedy said a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office showed that only about $2.5 billion of the $4 billion being spent monthly on the war can be accounted for by the Bush administration.

Posted by kevin slavin at 08:02 PM
September 17, 2003
Stealth Disco

Meanwhile, sometime around the end of the United States, an advertising agency in the midwest propagates a secret.

It's a little uneven; I recommend the "best of."

Posted by kevin slavin at 06:03 PM
the city never sleeps

maybe that's why it forgets sometimes.

Posted by elia at 12:48 PM
Weight of the World

There are fundamental philosophical differences between the imperial measurement system and the metric system. The imperial system is based on human measurements, whether it's the span of an arm or the length of a man's thumb (whence comes the inch). By contrast, the metric system starts with the known world as the unit, rather than the vicissitudes of human proportion. So the meter is intended as one ten-millionth of the quadrant of the earth, for example, and the metric thermometer is based on where H2O freezes and boils.

Many interesting stories branch and flow off this.

Of particular interest is that if you are not measuring off natural and immutable measures (like the earth) then you need to find or make some physical thing upon which to base the measurements, since the thumb's mileage may vary. Thus was born the British "yard bar," so that there was a kind of ur-yard that rulers and measurements could be derived from. A physical, metal bar. The problems with such a system are innumerable, but in the end, I think we'd agree that the greatest failure was when the Parliament fire of 1834 melted the fucking bar down and no one knew anymore exactly how long it was.

The artist Walter de Maria moves through these histories (whether he knows them or not) and emerges with poetry. In Soho since 1979, hs Broken Kilometer "is composed of 500 highly polished, round, solid brass rods, each measuring two meters in length and five centimeters (2") in diameter." When I stand there, part of the beauty for me is the deliberate rendering of an absolute and immense measurement (1/4,000,000 of the earth) into units that are somehow human in proportion and sensibility. It provides us with the grammar to imagine a kilometer (and thus the earth) in human terms.

Similarly, De Maria's companion piece, two years previous, was the 1977 Sunken Earth Kilometer in Kassel. It's that same brass rod, one kilometer long, unbroken, but sunken directly into the earth such that the tip is flush with the ground. I've seen it three times now, once every five years, and still don't quite know how to say it. It has something to do with a kind of compression, the experience of looking at something tiny and dreaming of something large. The kind of compression in which the weight (or width) of the world is made concrete and abstract, in a five centimeter circle on the ground. Somewhere there's a picture of Joseph Beuy's dog sniffing at that circle, it's one of my favorite photos in the world.

Meantimes, when that first British Yard Bar melted, they called in the Swiss mathematician Ferdinand Hassler (1770 - 1843) to implement a study on how to replace it. He was qualified to deal with topics of precise measurement; it was Hassler who engaged the first U.S. national coastal survey in 1832. Hassler's eccentric character and fascinating charge are all documented in a funny Harper's magazine article from 1879.

Which brings me to the thing that got me thinking about all this in the first place, which is Harper's magazine 2003. I only just now noticed that they publish online the Harper's "Weekly Review," and it's easily the most interesting thing I've read in the week they are reviewing.

From this week: Eight Israelis who were being investigated for terrorist attacks on Palestinians were released from custody, and six neo-Nazis were arrested in Germany for plotting to blow up a Jewish cultural center. Leni Riefenstahl died, as did Edward Teller. Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister of Italy, claimed that Benito Mussolini's dictatorship was "much more benign" than Saddam Hussein's. "Mussolini did not murder anyone," he said. "Mussolini sent people on holiday to confine them."

It's something to do with those broken and sunken kilometers, I think, something to do with the kind of compression of the worldwideworld into a two inch circle. Something to do with noticing how even with all the many languages of the world, that if you just stack the events up, they rhyme with a logic all their own. Something to do with how a week is a completely arbitrary division of human lives, or even of the movement of the earth. But how like the broken kilometer, the week breaks something terrifyingly large into something human. And how yet when you stare deep enough into a week, how frighteningly large that is, as well.

Posted by kevin slavin at 02:23 AM
Jerky Boy

I don't care if it's all made up, this J-Dogg is one funny cat (who pulls the funniest cyber-pranking I've read in a long time.

Posted by tmonkey at 01:24 AM
September 16, 2003
Manufacturing Markets, Chapter 83

As Columbus "discovered" America, so too a London based PR firm has discovered TIREDs: Thirtysomething Independent Radical Educated Dropouts.

It's no Tween or DINK, but still, it feels sour on the tongue, so they must be on to something.

Posted by kevin slavin at 04:12 PM
caption-writing contest #1


Posted by dbrown at 10:15 AM
September 15, 2003
What I like

What I like about advertising is that I get to learn how a lot of American industries work. A lot of closed door meetings about exactly how it is that x produces y to make incremental shifts in marketshare.

What I like about the web is that those closed doors are open. Having found, the bulletin board that porn webmasters use. I can't really understand a lot of what they're talking about (which is ok with me) but I like posts like these where the business side of porn is, uh, naked.

Posted by kevin slavin at 01:39 AM
September 12, 2003
In the Bureaucracy of Hell

So to me, what's most spectacular is not that he had his dead wife and 10 cats on dry ice for six years, nor that he claimed to be performing "experiments" on the cats, but that he's been brought up on a "felony charge of crimes against the dead."

Posted by kio at 03:35 PM
and then there were none


Posted by dbrown at 11:28 AM
To Angel


Posted by kevin slavin at 10:32 AM
Who Defended the Country

From Christopher Lydon's blog, an interview with Elaine Scarry:

"One key fact, " she writes, "needs to be held on to and stated in a clear sentence: on September 11, the Pentagon could not defend the Pentagon, let alone the rest of the country." The passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, who stormed their hijackers and brought their plane down in a field in Pennsylvania, managed by contrast in only 23 minutes to "gather information, deliberate, vote and act"--knowingly, selflessly, in the public interest, after many loving farewells by cell phone. So Elaine Scarry's not entirely rhetorical question, late in the age of nuclear terror, is whether and how we might agree to "restore within our own country a democratic form of self-defense."

I'm not sure yet how I feel about this, in the middle of debates about repealing the laws on assault weapons and the like. It is, at least, an original perspective on national security and 9/11.

Posted by kevin slavin at 02:06 AM
Automated Trend/Search Filters


Lycos 50
Yahoo Buzz

what else?

Posted by kevin slavin at 12:34 AM
Two Words

Half Billion.

Posted by kevin slavin at 12:22 AM
September 11, 2003
BB (P2P)

With all the fuss and blur about how much surveillance we are under (and I am a fusser, and a blurrer) there is an idea (google count 1430) that runs contra, or next to, or under it: sousveillance.

Derived from surveillance (view from above), sousveillance is "watchful vigilance from underneath." In other words, filming as opposed to being filmed. Shooting, as opposed to getting shot.

Steve Mann coined the term, and a lot of other stuff too, in his drive towards cyborg by way of "wearable tech." The human camera is more or less where this seems to start, which allows all of us to record and transmit everything we see and hear all the time. This forms the technological infrastructure for a sousveillance state.

There are certain parallels to P2P ideology, and this watching from under is part of a healthy society, suggests Mann. He distinguishes, though, between in-band and out-of-band forms. In-band sousveillance is for example, those 1800 numbers on the back of trucks, so every driver can report 'how am I driving?'

Out-of-band sousveillance is getting easier, but increasingly unwelcome. One example, offers Mann, is "citizens videotaping police brutality and sending copies to news media." Having just seen Paul Garrin's original videos from the police riot at Tompkins Square Park '88 it's difficult to remember that the lenses of amateur video cameras were not always wide or numerous enough to capture every possible image. Every.

But back in '89, Garrin had to fight to get his police brutality footage on TV, because TV is more or less all we had. So ok, there's the internet now. But what the out-of-band sousveillance subjects (e.g., the police) are more concerned with is the kind of instant decentralized broadcast that is made possible by next-gen video camera-phones.

Which is why there's surveillance, sousveillance, and -- watch this space for a boom industry -- countersousveillance.


(Note, too, that Garrin and Mann appeared together at Ars Electronica's Flesh Factor in 1997)

Posted by kevin slavin at 10:48 PM
Memory is a Lot Less Fragile When the FBI Gets Involved


From the Topeka-Kansas Journal, a portrait of Jeanne Boylan, with her portrait of Ted Kaczynski (recognize him?) in the background. It's a pretty interesting read about her techniques in working with kids who have seen someone the police need to know about. It has a lot more to do with the art of compassion than the techniques of interrogation, which I guess is not so surprising.

More surprising was that her portrait of the Unabomber was "so accurate" (she got those sunglasses and that hood perfect) that Ted Kaczynski broke his own nose to thward identification. We can only speculate on what he used to do that, alone in the woods there, but I bet it wasn't a computer.

Posted by kevin slavin at 02:00 PM
Take the Bus

"Sixteen years ago Road Safety brought the 'Black Box' used in airplane cockpits to the highway."

Only thing is, unlike the airplane black boxes, you don't have to crash for the records to be interesting. That's why the 'Teen Driver Black Box' "...effectively promotes safe driving habits and eliminates aggressive driving behavior, thus reducing the chances of being in a vehicle crash."

Or, to say it as the Washington Post writes it, describing a teen driver scenario: "...[the] 'event data recorder' snitches on him. It will note the speeding incident, along with other dangerous driving behaviors, in a computer file."

Without paranoia or conspiracy, it's just that we're passively broadcasting more and further, in our everyday lives. If you quantified it in gigabytes, how much more personal data do we generate from year to year?

Take the bus. No, wait.

Posted by kevin slavin at 03:07 AM
Ditch the Puppy


"Every 10 seconds the billboard emits an ultra-sonic sound that people can't
hear, but dogs can. Matter of fact dogs can hear it extremely well. The
animals respond by barking, so dogowners could actually think the dogs
are responding to the headline."

Posted by kevin slavin at 02:35 AM
Grow a Beard

Everyone know already that 500 million Gillette razors know where they are? That's RFID technology, it's real little, uses power from the air, and can be tracked most places on the populated earth. Inventory control, you know. Inventory control.

Razors that know where they are, and people who know where those razors are. And cameras that know when those razors pass by. And data correlating that particular razor to this specific purchase. With a specific credit card.

Says a PDF explanation summary, Savant platform can be used for: 1) Reading data from different types of readers, 2) Taking pictures upon triggered 3) Filter data to smooth the read signal and 4) Log data/events to various devices. Did I mention that Prada already has these in use in their store?

Just saying: Grow a mustache. Grow a beard.

Posted by kevin slavin at 02:25 AM
September 10, 2003
Through my optimism I naturally prefer and capture the beauty in life

Goodbye Leni. Goodbye Sally. They don't all go gently, and there's comfort in that.

Posted by kevin slavin at 09:26 PM
Small Steps

Li Bai (702-762), a Chinese poet, tried to catch the moon.
He jumped into the lake in an effort to pick up the moon he saw on the water.
And there, he drowned in the moon's reflection.

Shimabuku: Moon Rabbit

Posted by kevin slavin at 09:06 PM
Form a Hip Hop Band Go Swimming Are Moving

They didn't make me laugh the way Strindberg and Helium did, but they produced this smile that is not often produced. Some kind of, hey, someone dropped their wallet kind of smile. I'm referring to Zombie and Mummy, and the only thing I can say is that the effect is cumulative, so try looking at a few.

Posted by kevin slavin at 08:56 PM
September 09, 2003
Target Market

I got tired of the Viagra ads interspersed through the free printable targets I was shooting at, so I decided to look for a more professional solution for all my aiming and shooting. Just don't confuse the "realistic" targets with the "tactical" ones. No more bottles of beer on the wall, all I'm saying. No more.

Posted by kevin slavin at 06:57 PM
The Future is Open... No, Wait.


Here's Vonnie Bassett, the bookkeeper and mother to a 17-year old Kazaa kid, staring down unspecified damages in the RIAA lawsuit (up to 150K per song). Never mind the other issues, the main point is that she doesn't understand how she could be held responsible for her kid's activities, when she had no way to know they were illegal.

You have to wonder how many of the lawsuits the Times had to trawl to get the one with that face. And you have to wonder if the online media buyers for IBM's new Linux campaign are aware what story they just bought space against.

Posted by kevin slavin at 10:40 AM
And You Don't Need a Cell Phone To Know What Time It Is

I recently installed the Weather Channel's resource-sucking applet that puts the local temperature on my taskbar, right next to the time. It's a strange thing to keep staring at, because of course, it has no correspondence to the temperature immediately surrounding my computer, e.g., my apartment. I remember my old Apple Powerbook, and it would show the temperature, in the very same part of the screen, but that was the temperature of the inside of the computer. This might be considered to be progress.

Inside, outside, and you don't need the Weather Channel to know which way the wind blows. It's just that the thing of my computer telling me the temperature of the one place I ain't at reminds me of something I've been thinking about, now that Street Art is the new Pop Art, with commensurate heroes and mythologies. I've been trying to figure out, what it is that makes street art street art -- as opposed to public art -- and I think maybe it's as simple as this:

Let's just say it's art that's done on things, and that these things are owned by one person, but seen by everyone. Is it that simple? Is it too simple?

Posted by kevin slavin at 12:09 AM
September 08, 2003
Because Consumer Confidence Begins with Underpaid Firemen

We, the undersigned, oppose any and all changes in the laws governing overtime work that would take away overtime pay from any worker, erode the 40-hour workweek or otherwise undermine overtime protections. I urge my senators and representative to block President Bush’s overtime pay takeaway.

Posted by kevin slavin at 11:46 PM

it ain't missile command [16MB QT]

Posted by hirmes at 06:24 PM
down is up

There's always a silver lining to a shitty economy. Headline in today's WSJ: "Long a Drag on the Economy, Capacity Glut Begins to Ebb."

Posted by dbrown at 02:26 PM
out below

So I'm channel hopping last night and land on QVC, which is hawking an extendable ladder. A lady chatterer and a rep from the ladder company and making the pitch, while another QVC team member is setting the ladder up to "clean" a decorative window, as found in the cathedral-ceilinged suburban boats now being built. He goes up the ladder and starts to clean with a duster, loses his footing and crashes 10 feet to the studio floor. Camera stays there for less than one second, just before the twitch viewers can feel is coming. Chatterer & rep keep on talking... a minute later, she says, We hope Kevin is okay. He is moving.

Live TV, a dying art.

Posted by dbrown at 12:29 PM
where else?

Don't know if it's intentional or not (I assume it is, because I also assume nudists are the kind of people who can laugh at themselves), but this year's nude volleyball tournement will be held in Beaver Falls, PA.

Posted by elia at 11:15 AM
September 07, 2003
My mother? I'll tell you about my mother...

The Wave Magazine in SF administers the Voight-Kampff Test to 5 mayoral candidates. One of them gets the reference (and is therefore the only human of the lot), but fails to capitalize on it by pulling out a gun and blowing away the interviewer. But he does get points for wit:

The Wave: You’re in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, Tom, it’s crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back, Tom. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t, not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that, Tom?
Tom Ammiano: That’s interesting. I don’t know. I’m a republican?

Posted by tmonkey at 12:26 AM
September 05, 2003
ebay item of the week


Last bid: $264.

Posted by dbrown at 07:47 PM
150% cool

A cheeky skirt?
The apparently see-through skirts, which are all the rage in Tokyo, aren't see-through at all. They are cleverly designed prints, where the outline of the wearer's derriere and underwear are painted on to the fabric.

Posted by dbrown at 06:22 PM
nyc catacombs

OPEN UP! New York Opens Its Doors For Largest Celebration Of Architecture In NYC History
In only six weeks openhousenewyork will invite the public to tour more than 75 fascinating sites throughout the five boroughs – free of charge!
City Hall and Gracie Mansion;
Washington Square Arch and the catacombs of Green-Wood Cemetery;
The turn-of-the-century Pratt Institute Power Plant and a cutting-edge art gallery made out of shipping containers,
An ultra-modern fashion photo studio in a former gas station ...

Posted by dbrown at 05:18 PM

Sept 05, 2003. Google count: 11

Posted by kevin slavin at 02:15 PM
accentuate the positive

Can you tell an Urdu accent from an Oromo? Brooklyn from Bulgarian? Click hear.

Posted by elia at 12:30 PM
and darwinner is...

Darwinian Poetry starts with a whole bunch (specifically 1,000) randomly generated groups of words ("poems"), and subjects them to a form of natural selection, killing off the "bad" ones and breeding the "good" ones with each other. If enough generations go by, and if the gene pool is rich enough, you should eventually start to see interesting poems emerge.

Posted by elia at 12:23 PM
September 04, 2003
the british invasion

In the last few years, a new kind of British tourist, lured by cut-rate airlines whose flights can cost as little as $25 or less, has descended on Prague in unprecedented numbers, apparently with one goal in mind: to drink as much as possible. Wasted and aggressive, in drag or wearing only underpants, they spend weekends staggering in packs from bar to bar near Wenceslas Square. So troublesome have they become that some places refuse to serve Britons who arrive in large groups.

Posted by elia at 04:07 PM
"typical puerile-savant VICE style"

Indie Bookstore Bans Vice

More details from a Publisher's Lunch, where the store confesses that "the process used to reject the book was perhaps not the most thoughtful way to make a decision." In true 'dumb community' fashion, "the issue has been put on a staff meeting agenda for later this month."

Posted by at 12:16 PM
Irrational Numbers

"With no fanfare and almost no public notice, giant C-17 transport jets arrive virtually every night at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, on medical evacuation missions. Since the war began, more than 6,000 service members have been flown back to the United States. The number includes the 1,124 wounded in action, 301 who received non-hostile injuries in vehicle accidents and other mishaps, and thousands who became physically or mentally ill."

From the Washington Post, which also publishes an "interactive feature" of the KIAs as the information comes in. But how is it that KIA became the only measure of the shock, or the awe? Those 1,124 soldiers -- about 10 a day now -- are so badly wounded that they are sent home. These are not bullet wounds that can be treated in a field hospital, these are serious and permanent injuries, many resulting in amputations. 10 a day. How many, I wonder, will it take? How do you think it would change things if the Post published all the seriously -- often permanently -- wounded, the same way they publish the dead?

Posted by kevin slavin at 08:02 AM
Eppur si mouve

So Galileo is 400,000 miles from home and its antenna decides not to open. What do the NASA engineers decided to do? Take a year to reprogram the OS and radio it up with improved communincation software. That story and more is recounted in this recent NYer piece. That sort of nerdy exuberance led me to download an image of Europa's frozen ocean and map it onto a 3d grid plane. Here's the result (8MB). And from there, the next step was obvious: A view of Kevin's apartment from space (also 8MB).

Posted by hirmes at 02:04 AM
September 03, 2003
i believe the children are the future

For the sixth year, Beloit College has developed and distributed to the faculty and staff the “Beloit College Mindset List” to slow the rapid onset of “hardening of the references,” in the classroom.

Posted by elia at 08:59 PM
We May Have to Wait Years for the Punchline

"U.S. Marines handed over control of a patch of central Iraq on Wednesday to a Polish-led multinational force in a ceremony in ancient Babylon." (NYT)

Posted by kevin slavin at 12:18 PM
Brought to You By the Letter B and the number 2

Lot of blogtown attention to the BBC article on how America is using "Sesame Street," foreign hearts-and-mind-wise. From the moment that Charlotte Beers (from JWThompson) worked the White House it was clear that very little would surprise us. Including that she would resign.

From the article, my favorite part, below. Who knew Sesame Street was a media buy?

>The cute, squeaky-voiced puppet Elmo has just been sponsored by Wall Street firm Merrill Lynch to explain business to American pre-schoolers. And in Russia's Ulitsa Sezam, a storyline about a lemonade stall has been included to show, that in a nation where many people suspect all businesses of corruption, someone "can make a profit and be a nice person".

Posted by kevin slavin at 11:47 AM
September 02, 2003
The Emperor's Clothes Are Camo Green


"As Thomas Kuhn describes in his classic work The Structure of Scientific Revolution, if something occurs outside the dominant paradigm, it -- for all practical purposes -- did not really happen because it is beyond the comprehension of those stuck in the old ways of thinking. In this case, if the dominant paradigm says that terrorism is the exclusive province of movements or governments the United States does not like and the United States is the world leader in fighting terrorism, there is therefore no such thing as U.S.-backed terrorism."

Posted by kevin slavin at 10:13 PM
from the zone

as chronicled elsewhere, the bush-cheney-04 website has a feature called "Write News Editors." Hint: your letter doesn't have to be pro-Bush. Or pro-Cheney. But what is also interesting is typing in your zip code; the website suggests the biggest-circulation locals (WSJ, NYT, etc.) But also, and this is what made me smile, it serves up a list of the papers closest to you.

Mine include:
Christian Times
Algemeiner Journal
The Brooklyn Skyline
The Jewish Press
The Tablet
Daily Challenge
Haiti Observateur

damn I love brooklyn

Posted by dbrown at 08:07 PM
Blaster: Question, Joke, Comment

The FBI report on Jeffrey Lee Parson (t33kid, who tweaked the Blaster virus) is a really good read, as noted on MeFi. For me, there were three very interesting things in there.

1. IANAL, but it's the FBI, so doesn't that mean it's a crime against the United States? I ask only because the crime is not to users -- that is, US citizens -- but rather, as stated in the document, the Microsoft corporation. Well, ok, "aggregate loss to Microsoft and other persons," but since when was Microsoft a person? With the FBI fighting for it? This is not a rhetorical question. I'm really curious how it works.

2. The name of the back door that the Blaster Virus installs is called "Lithium." Lithium, notes Special Agent Farquhar, allows remote control of the system.

3. The original Blaster was ingeniously conceived and produced. White-hat (?) hackers at LSD contacted Microsoft about the vulnerability. Microsoft responded by issuing a patch. It was the China-based XFocus, (whose hats seem to be darker) that then reverse-engineered the patch to find out what it was patching. And then exploited that vulnerability.

Essentially, their distribution system was racing Microsoft's. So the lessons may not simply be about security, but also about distribution systems. Because also, what Blaster was doing as it was racing Microsoft, was specifically trying to shut Microsoft's distribution system down through a DDOS attack on It was an interesting race and I'd say -- if we're using binary -- it's China 1, Microsoft 0.

Posted by kevin slavin at 07:33 PM

Predator showed us that aliens view us with some kind of geothermal vision. It probably makes it easier to hunt, from pragmatic and ethical points of view. Similarly, the Matrix vision of greengrey CRT hieroglyphs looked a lot like the ASCIIvision of, say, Compaq (remember that?) and Prada.

There's just a simple pleasure in looking at the thing you know with, literally, different eyes. Machine eyes, in particular, especially those capable of reading infrared, where lines on the map are just, um, lines on a map. Seeing the world in terms of its water vapor, as well, makes our own planet feel kind of far away again. That, and coffee, might get me through working on the electric toothbrush account.

Posted by kevin slavin at 12:35 PM
Chut UP!

Slate has compiled a handy-dandy list of all the people and instances in which Bill O'Reilly has told people to "shut up". And, no, he does not use it in the "getouttahere!"/"yougottabekiddingme!" sense.

Posted by tmonkey at 11:52 AM
There Is No Prime Minister

Avraham Burg, in The Forward:

"It turns out that the 2,000-year struggle for Jewish survival comes down to a state of settlements, run by an amoral clique of corrupt lawbreakers who are deaf both to their citizens and to their enemies. . . . The countdown to the end of Israeli society has begun.

"A structure built on human callousness will inevitably collapse in on itself." (True? Discuss.)

Posted by dbrown at 11:29 AM
brother, can you spare a dime?

Seattle is proposing a 10¢ tax on all espresso drinks to pay for day care and pre-kindergarten programs for low-income children. They say consumers who already pay at least $2.50 for a caffè latte or a mochaccino are not likely to mind paying an extra dime, particularly for a good cause. If that's the case, I think NYC should slap an extra C-note on every pair of Monolo Blahniks sold on Madison Avenue.

Posted by elia at 09:47 AM