g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
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Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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Saturday, December 20, 2003
11:51 - Reasoned political discourse
http://flash.bushrecall.org/

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This would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.

Wait, no-- actually it is funny.



Probably not for the intended reasons, though.

I'm sure it'll win over voters by the legion.

Friday, December 19, 2003
18:33 - Sorry, we're only budgeted for 30 polygons
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/031219/480/nyr10412192112

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CapLion isn't wild about this, but I think I could really get used to it:



Remember what Libeskind's original proposal looked like? It was essentially just a big spire, like a knitting needle jabbed into the sky. This new design is apparently the result of a big pitched battle between Libeskind and David Childs, Larry Silverstein's own chief architect, and the result is something that actually has some interior space and a more prismatic aspect. Yeah, it's tapered still, and has those sharp icy edges that look like someone's a little bit impatient for cities to start looking like Bicentennial Man-- but it could be (and was) a whole lot worse. This design even evokes the WTC a little. Not much. But a little.

What I don't like, though, are those new secondary office buildings-- the things that look like they were hacked off of the Fortress of Solitude with a machete. The tower-- okay, the tower can be futuristic and post-modern and wind-powered, whatever. But these other buildings look like they're trying to force the issue. They don't look like New York one bit. San Diego, maybe, but not New York.

Maybe it's just because none of the other buildings around there are blue. They're all stone and cement, and don't spend all their time reflecting the sky like utopian structures from the 80s. The WTC was like a solid block of concrete. (Which is part of the silly appeal of this.) This thing looks fragile. And as determined as they are to eschew surface detail of any kind whatsoever, the secondary office blocks are going to look like cheesy raytraced CG models even when you're standing at street level and looking up at them. Look at the other buildings all around them. They all have something from the 19th century in them, even the most modern ones. But the new proposals are from the "blend into the sky" school of design, which I thought had gone out of style years ago.

Nonetheless, I'm not going to complain much. I'm no New Yorker, so I won't presume to know what really "fits" the skyline; but I could get used to this. And we can be thankful that they're calling it the "Freedom Tower", rather than, say, the "World Cultural Center" (which is what that other finalist, the monstrosity made of two spidery ghost-towers of piping with a mysterious blob embedded between them, would have been). And it'll be tall as freakin' hell.

It'll send the right message.


15:42 - Built like a brick... spider-hole
http://www.sftt.org/cgi-bin/csNews/csNews.cgi?database=DefenseWatch%2edb&command=vie

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Hey, Arab World? You thought those pictures of Saddam's dental exam were humiliating? You ain't seen nothin' yet.

Based on my own recent work in Iraq, I know that Saddam Hussein’s last place of refuge was a septic tank.

During my tour in Iraq, I managed 75 reconstruction projects with the 4th Infantry Division in the “Sunni Triangle” near to where Saddam was captured. These projects included sewage disposal and sewage treatment systems, along with the refurbishment and construction of many septic tank systems. The cramped underground chamber next to the hut where Saddam had been hiding matches a common septic tank design found everywhere in Iraq.

...

The location of the hole near a hut only reinforces the idea that this was originally a locally-built septic tank. Most likely, the hole was emptied of sewage and the dirt bottom expanded horizontally to allow for better hiding.

This is supported by the reaction of news reporters who had crawled into the hiding hole. They all mention the terrible stench of the place. Also, a nearby ditch had recently been put to use as a latrine, which indicates that the septic tank for the hut was not available.

From everything seen, it is apparent that Saddam had converted the septic tank of the hut where he lived into a bolt-hole to hide in if coalition forces approached. It turns out to be an unbelievably fitting form of irony. Saddam was found cowering in a septic tank like the vermin he is.

I'm reminded of a scene from Schindler's List. (Anybody who's seen it can probably guess which scene I mean.) It's nice to see the shoe on the other foot once or twice in history, isn't it?


13:27 - Quick, find a culprit! ...No, another one!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1108537,00.html

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Tim Blair links to this unintentionally hilarious Guardian column, in which Polly Toynbee freely admits to having been duped by a variant of the Nigerian spam/con game.

But it wasn't about the £200. Not long afterwards my bank received a letter with a perfect copy of my signature, giving my bank account numbers, asking for £1,000 to be transferred at once to a bank in Osaka, Japan. Luckily, the bank thought to ring me up and query it. It turned out that a host of recent scams had asked for money to be transferred to Japan and the police had alerted all banks. It took me a little while to work out how they got my signature and my bank details, but then it clicked. Sure enough, when I reported it to the police, they laughed. They knew the Sandra letters very well and the real purpose was to sting the victim's bank account. It happened again last week when my bank got another request for a £1,000 transfer to Japan and I do feel a fool. Looking back at the letters now, I can see it all. For heaven's sake, she even said both her parents had died of the ebola flesh-eating virus.

Then look where she lays the blame for it:

The NCIS claims most of the scams orginate from Nigeria or the large global Nigerian diaspora. It began small-time in the 60s and mushroomed in the 90s, with large bundles of air-mails from Nigeria; two years ago it moved on to email. Why from there? "Clever, educated people with a long history as expert traders and dealers, they don't see it as criminal but as business. And they may think westerners deserve all they get."

The line between honest and dishonest business is easily blurred. We point fingers at Nigeria, this richest and best-educated country in Africa that should be a mighty power had it not been so catastrophically misgoverned, with legendary corruption. Yet what kind of global honesty is promoted, what model of good capitalism and good government? The US is about to hold another election that will be largely bought and sold by business and oil interests. Think of the corruption that US and UK conservatives carelessly unleashed upon the former Soviet Union in the name of extreme free market ideology.

The image of capitalism now being spread about the world is cowboy stuff: little gleaned from America extols the virtue of regulation, restraint and control. We reap from the third world what we sow: if some Nigerians learned lessons in capitalism from global oil companies that helped corrupt and despoil that land, it is hardly surpising they absorbed some of the Texan oil values that now rule the White House. Alas, the querulous, navel-gazing and increasingly non-internationalist EU seems in no mood at present to offer a different and better face of capitalism to the world.

I get it. The real crooks here are thieving cowboyish oil barons... like George Bush. And the careless "capitalism" they're sifting out all over the world. Instead of the very reassuring mantra regulation, restraint and control. (Eeew.)

I've got an alternate view of what's to blame for the Nigerian scam. How about: Members of a Western society that's grown to loathe itself so much for its success, and yet who are so guiltily greedy for more, that they're willing to undertake an ostensibly "charitable" cause-- even a patently illegal or immoral one-- to try to alleviate their consciences? The people falling for these things think that through an act of charity to an unfairly put-upon Third Worlder at the mercy of Western imperialism, they're puttin' one over on the Man, and yet making a tidy sum at the same time-- yet they'd never admit it to the authorities. As Toynbee herself says, "After all, who would admit they agreed to launder Bin Laden's cash?"

It's ingenious in its design: it targets Westerners who are a) rich, b) greedy, c) dense, and d) guilt-ridden. Sounds like your typical Leftist do-gooder to me.

"Rampant capitalism" isn't the problem here-- a lack of accountability is. One can only admire the practitioners' skills in efficiently seeking out ripe targets. Sure, what they're doing isn't business-- they're just committing fraud, and in the presence of actual police efficacy and enforcement they'd be doing time right now. But the country treats this as an industry, and so these guys look at themselves as entrepreneurs. Their rationale is probably along the lines of "We're entertainers. We play our targets like instruments, and make music that sounds like cha-ching, cha-ching." If their country doesn't treat them as criminals, they won't treat themselves as criminals. Time for some good old-fashioned cultural imperialism, eh?

(This line of reasoning, incidentally, ought to appeal to people who say that the West "created" terrorism, and that the victims in the WTC were simply asking for it by being so arrogantly high up in the air. For a more ethically sound argument, how's this: The scammers are criminals, and they must be dealt with so that even the stupid need fear no scam.)

By contrast, check out commenter "Wallace" at Blair's place:

My email to the rube "Ms. Toynbee"...who by the way is so dumb as to leave her email address in html "tag" format so that every spammer in the world can reach her.

I'm in the oil business in Texas where our values include honesty, business on a hand shake basis and loyalty. Like most self absorbed European journalists, repeating jingoistic blather, it is obvious that you know nothing of what you speak. And by the way, most European journalists worth anything more than a pence have learned by now that the "cowboy" reference to anyone in the U.S. is taken as a compliment.

And at least we're not dumb enough to fall for a basic con game.

The worst tactical mistake someone can make is to imagine himself or herself so much more intelligent and moral than the opposition that the opposition isn't even worth listening to. Examination usually shows the opposite to be true.


12:13 - Apostrophe Fantasies
http://www.capitalistlion.com/article.cgi?789

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I know I'll regret this.

CapLion has posted in defense of Robert Jordan in the face of rampant Tolkienophilia, and he's entitled to do so. I can't say much in direct response, not having ever read any Jordan (well, I tried once to get into one of the books, but I was floundering under florid inward thoughts from some princess in a tower about a dozen different bizarrely-named houses within ten pages or so, and the map inside the front cover has more in common with the one in Bored of the Rings than with Tolkien's); but I can say that Tolkien seems to have turned me into something of a chauvinist when it comes to the fantasy genre.

Commenter Jay Random says:

Tolkien was a peerless prose stylist, capable of writing fluently & powerfully in a tremendous range of styles, ranging from King James Bible to Frank Richards Edwardian. His prose is also tremendously compact; it is difficult to spot places where he could have written a scene shorter without vitiating its whole effect. Jordan writes pedestrian prose, no offence in itself, but he pads & pads & pads. Inidual scenes stretch on for whole chapters.

As befits a professional linguist who invented languages as a hobby, Tolkien has a superb gift for names. Jordan tends to appropriate names from bizarre & ill-matched sources, & betrays a tin ear by many of his choices. There is just no excuse for Ghraem'lan.

Which is indicative of the genre being dominated by what I call "apostrophe fantasies", for obvious reasons. It makes it hard to distinguish a serious novel from a piece of fan-fiction.

Someone once gave me a copy of The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, and I don't know if I have ever been so viscerally disgusted by a book-- to the level of wanting to burn it and disavow any friend who had a copy of it on his shelf, which seemed alarmingly many-- as I was with that one. (I remember-- it was back in high school-- writing a diatribe in which I said that whereas Brooks was perfectly happy naming a character "Panamon Creel", pulling random syllables out of "bizarre and ill-matched sources" (like, say, his ass), Tolkien would have given a full literal translation and etymology of the name, and devoted a subheading to the appendix explaining how this was an improper transliteration of a diphthong that the Eldar would have pronounced with the palatal criol, and so on.)

One of my earliest blog entries, shortly following the release of the first Jackson movie, was about Brooks using the occasion to hop into the spotlight and talk about how big an influence Tolkien was on his life. Yeah, no flippin' kidding, I said. Considering that The Sword of Shannara has a plot and cast of characters identical to LotR's, except that they're on a quest to find something rather than to get rid of something (gee, that makes it more original), except with names like "Flick" and "Rappahalladran River"-- how generous of him to use the occasion of Tolkien's revival to oh-so-modestly shill his "Skull Bearers" and "Allanon". Oh, and it's in a post-nuclear-apocalypse setting and stuff. Wheee.

The question this brings up is, though, do I want other authors to outdo Tolkien? Or do I just take sick pleasure in seeing them fail? I guess there's a little of both. Just as supporting democracy in the Middle East, free global trade, and so on are founded on the bittersweet notion that we don't at all mind seeing some other country become better and achieve more than the US does, as long as it's dedicated to the principle of individual freedom and democracy, even at the expense of American jobs and power-- I suppose if someone actually did develop a world that was as richly rendered as Tolkien's, and gained as much of a devoted following, to the point where journalistic testimonials on the dust jackets of new entrants into the field started invoking that name instead of saying The best blahblah since Tolkien... well, bully for him, then.

However, I haven't seen it happen yet. A look at the quotes on Jordan's dust jackets tells me everything I need to know.


11:55 - iCoup

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This is an interesting development:



Not one that we didn't have warning of, but it's still fairly momentous. How many millions of AOL users are there again?

It's a no-brainer for AOL, though. They could have partnered with one of the other myriad music stores that have popped up since Apple's did, but... why?

The thunderous response to iTunes helped push four other music services to market, with several more planned. But their initial success has been much more muted.

The first to take on Apple was BuyMusic.com in July. It expected 1 million daily song downloads. "We're not achieving that at all," says BuyMusic CEO Scott Blum. "I've spoken with my competitors, and we're nowhere near (Apple's) numbers."

Maybe you shouldn't have smashed that guitar, huh? You might need it for the subway tunnel.

And now AOL-- a huge chunk of the online market, by any estimation-- is going to start contributing to iTunes' market share, immediately after Apple announced its 25 millionth download.

I'd say that's a pretty unequivocal success.

I also like the simplicity of the technological adjustment necessary for opening iTunes up to AOL. All they have to do, it seems, is accept AOL user IDs as well as Apple IDs for signing in to the store. And all AOL users have that already. Apple barely has to make any tweaks to the software or the store, assuming the pricing is all the same for AOL users. (How much of a cut does AOL get out of this deal?)

My Christmas present to a friend of mine was to revolutionize his music-listening experience by moving him from a 20GB folder full of MP3s to iTunes, and he's still transported with joy over how much fun it all is now. I had originally planned to give him my old iPod, too-- but I'm having trouble converting it to Windows format. (Anybody with any brilliant tips, I'd love to hear them.) No matter-- it would have been gravy, as iTunes is itself that much better than what he was used to.

Was Apple just in the right place at the right time? Or was this Steve's plan all along, starting back in 2000 with the first release of iTunes, the first non-OS software Apple had released for free consumer use (aside from iMovie) in years?

Who can know but the Steve himself?

Wednesday, December 17, 2003
22:08 - "The very last stroke of the War"

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Apparently there are quite a lot of Iraqis, Zeyad included, who are experiencing an odd sort of let-down feeling following the capture of Saddam. In most cases it's not because they liked Saddam at all, or because they equated Saddam with their national pride; it's because Saddam looked so pathetic. "That was the tyrant we were so afraid of all these years?"

In the words of LGF commenter Malice:

Even those who hated Saddam feel saddened by his surrender. It makes sense when you think about it. He kept the whole country in a state of terrible fear for 30 years, but yet he was afraid to fight and die at the end. Wouldn't you also feel betrayed and sickened at your own cowardice for not standing up to him? Wouldn't you feel that such a weak man could have obviously been overthrown at any time, and that your people may have suffered for the last 30 years for nothing?

I suppose it's kind of like that feeling that you get in the NCAA tournament - when the team that beats your team gets crushed in the next round. You hated them for knocking your boys out, but then you cheered for them to legitimize your own team's failure. When they get spanked, you realize that your team sucked all along.

Yeah. And to anguish another metaphor...

This wasn't the Valar driving Morgoth to his uttermost refuge in Angband, hewing his legs from under him as he pleaded for mercy, and dragging him out in chains, as some have painted it. Sure, the parallels are all there in context-- but those video images make plain that whereas even a chained-up Morgoth needed to be kept at bay by a vengeful and snickering Tulkas poking him in the back of the head every couple of steps, this Saddam clearly didn't. Docile as a cow.

What it reminds me of, in the Tolkien context, is the end of the Scouring of the Shire: Wormtongue slitting a bedraggled Saruman's throat from behind, while the hobbits watched aghast. Though they were brandishing shovels and hoes and ready for a fight, this kind of anticlimax would have made them all wonder-- how come we didn't stand up to Sharkey sooner? Is this all there was to him?

I haven't seen the Return of the King movie yet, but I know that the Scouring of the Shire was cut from it-- reportedly because Jackson didn't like it. To him it felt wrong, somehow-- too unbalanced, too anticlimactic, too depressingly banal an end for such an epic story. (I kinda see that point. Kinda.) And perhaps that's what's going on here; the thirty-year-old tale of horror that has been Iraq deserves a more crashing-chords-and-fanfares kind of ending, a blow-up-the-load-bearing-boss ending where the good guys have to race to safety before the last Tikriti palace caves in on them. Not this-- a Star Trek ending, where a few red-shirts dig the blinking and disoriented fugitive out of a cave, babbling incoherently, delusional, unlikely even to provide any kind of satisfaction to his victims who can't even get him to understand that he's lost.

It's as though we'd caught Hitler, and he'd turned out to a quiet little man who enjoyed chess and painting Alpine scenes and who personally wouldn't hurt a fly, and when confronted with his crimes merely smiled beatifically and asked what the weather was like. Prison or execution-- neither end would have felt right. Like with the Japanese leaders who never truly accepted defeat, even in the Nuremberg trials, the only thing was to swallow the bitter pill of knowledge that this was the best we were going to get.

I guess that's the nature of dealing with power-mad dictators. You can't deal with them as you would normal human beings-- they're too far gone. You'll never get satisfaction, no matter how well things go.


16:04 - I could make me some quick cash...
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2772461666

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How much would you pay for a mint-condition PowerBook G4... box?

Some lucky fool's answer was "$1,225.00".

The sick thing is that this isn't the first time I've heard of Mac boxes going for absurdly high prices. This has got to be a record, though-- especially since it isn't even for a vintage machine or anything.

Hey, I've got a G5 box I wouldn't mind parting with, especially for a grand or so. And I'll bet I could get some nice pocket change for my iPod Dock and FireWire cable boxes... right? They fit conveniently in the hand and everything.

I can't sell a 17x12" scanner on Ebay, but I can apparently get rich off boxes. Outta my way!

Via Combustible Boy.


15:48 - Hollywood Thrashes About
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0356634/

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It's clear to me what's going on.

Hollywood is out of ideas. Plain and simple. They can't come up with anything new. New ideas, the currency of storytelling, are all but frittered away now, and they don't grow on trees.

What Hollywood needs is a sugar daddy for their supply of ideas, and they know it. They think they've got one, too. It's called CG animation, and the studio execs have got it into their heads that CG will save their skins. Here's how.

CG makes it possible to make live-action movies out of existing properties that previously only existed in a still, drawn, 2D format. Formerly it was necessary to do full-scale animation to bring, say, Scooby-Doo or The Grinch to life; but now that the Great Savior, 3D animation, has arrived, Hollywood can make the much cheaper live-action films that springboard off the existing popularity and name-recognition of the title characters. All they have to do is convert the 2D properties into 3D models, and they have an instant story and basis for a movie. They can now bulldoze through a rich and untapped universe of 2D comic strips, animated TV shows, and storybook characters, from The Cat in the Hat to .... God help us... Garfield.

This is only the beginning. It doesn't matter if most of these movies suck; like spammers, for whom one single bite in a million spams sent out is enough to justify the whole effort, Hollywood can sustain itself on the one surprise hit that they manage to crank out a year, though they seem not to gain any understanding of why a given movie is successful and another is a flop. They'll just keep trying until something sticks (George of the Jungle), and then do it over and over again, no matter how execrable the result (Dudley Do-Right).

Nah, maybe I'm being unfair. Stuff like Fight Club and The Sixth Sense do keep being made. There will always be creative writers with new original ideas that manage to capture the public's attention. And clued-in scriptwriters will always be able to develop a pleasing and satisfying story, if the execs will allow it.

For example, there's a kind of script that I've been noticing lately: it depends on either a) the audience, b) different sets of characters, or c) both being left in the dark about some crucial plot point, having only seen an incomplete picture of it, until the moment of revelation at the end that turns the world upside down for the characters in question and kicks the movie into high gear for the viewers.

This is as opposed to a script where you just create a setting, define a goal, set up some characters, drop them into the story and let them go to it.

I had all but given up on Disney producing any more of the former, more complex stories; The Lion King was the first time they'd done one (the audience knows what's going on, but the different sets of characters are variously missing crucial bits of information until the moment of revelation, when everything changes and the movie crashes to its close), and I'd begun to assume it was the last as well. But Brother Bear is in fact another of exactly that stripe: the central character growth and the climactic series of events do not occur until the moment of revelation that resolves the half-seen story partially revealed earlier in the movie. The audience might have guessed at the whole picture, but the characters don't figure it out until near the end.

(Actually, the Emperor's New Groove has a revelation moment like that too. It's all about character growth in that film's case. Other Disney films have minor revelation moments too-- Tarzan, Mulan, Beauty & the Beast-- but they're not really what I'm talking about. The various transformation scenes or unmaskings don't cast the whole preceding plot into a new light; they just resolve it.)

This kind of script is not inherently better than the more straightforward kind, but it does tend to make a movie more memorable. It's why Toy Story is so much more satisfying than Finding Nemo, for example-- the former is a complex story centered on the slow revelation of facts previously invisible to the characters, while the latter is a fairly simple adventure where one thing leads to another, and another, and another, until the credits roll. Straightforward stories without revelatory twists can be good, but it's the Sixth Senses and Fight Clubs and Shreks that people really remember.

And in the end, all the pre-existing 2D properties in the world won't win audiences' hearts and minds as much as a good mind-warping script. But, of course, those take a lot more work.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
20:20 - Blame Kris

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In a hole in the ground there lived a dictator.

Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing to sit down on or to eat: it was a spider-hole, and that means discomfort.

Not my fault. I'm serious.

Oooh, ooh-- What did the spider say to the rat? "Can I share your hole? Mine's infested."

(If you groaned, that one's Kris' too.)

Monday, December 15, 2003
00:32 - The very definition of "kludge"

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One of the geegaws I can now enjoy, now that my iPod is one of the newer generation with the remote contacts and dock connector, is the iTrip by Griffin. It's an FM transmitter that attaches to the top of the iPod and lets you play your music through your car stereo, which though subject to static interference is a much more elegant (and legal) way to listen in the car than using headphones.

However, the iTrip's design is very simple and self-contained, totally lacking in native controls. Most FM transmitters that I've seen for CD players and the like consist of little dongles with backlit displays of their own, which you can use along with a scroll-wheel or buttons to select the transmission frequency. As you drive around, you can jump to another frequency if a station heaves into sight transmitting on your frequency. But the iTrip doesn't have that. It's just a little white cylinder that plugs into the iPod.

So how do you control what frequency you transmit on?

Here's how:



The iTrip installation CD comes with 103 little 5-second MP3 files, which it installs into iTunes and thence onto the iPod. Each MP3 file is actually a series of carefully timed beeps at a certain frequency, which when picked up by the iTrip tell it to synchronize to that frequency. You play the MP3 of the frequency you want, the iTrip's LED flashes to confirm, and thenceforward it transmits on that frequency.

This just makes me quake in my seat, with how much of a kludge it is. I mean it in its purest sense: not a bubble-gum-and-baling-wire Band-Aid solution, not an inadequate or temporary fix; rather, it's a solution that utilizes the extant technology to its fullest capacity and in ways never really intended by design, thereby accomplishing its goal in a surprisingly elegant manner. This is the kind of thing that makes engineers wince at first, then cringe-- and then gape and blink and grin ear-to-ear. Wow! You actually got away with that! says the geek examining the device for the first time.

It's a hack; it's not the slickest thing in the world. But it works, and it means the iTrip can blend in seamlessly with the iPod's minimalist design, with no visible controls or redundant displays or even software feedback into the iPod itself. It operates within the confines of the iPod's technology, and uses it in a creative new way that makes me laugh one of those laughs of joy over the magic of tech. This stuff is so much fun.


17:50 - There is one Dwarf yet in Moria who still draws breath!
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=9326_Gimli_the_Dwarf-_Anti-Idiotarian

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This LGF thread is music to the ears, both for its original content and for its commenters. The lede is Gimli, or John Rhys-Davies, coming sternly out as an anti-Idiotarian figure of great energy far out of measure with his in-makeup height:

“I think that Tolkien says that some generations will be challenged,” said John Rhys-Davies, “and if they do not rise to meet that challenge, they will lose their civilization. That does have a real resonance with me.”

Pointing a finger at the media, Rhys-Davies went on, “What is unconscionable is that too many of your fellow journalists do not understand how precarious Western civilization is, and what a jewel it is ... The abolition of slavery comes from Western democracy. True democracy comes from our Greco-Judeo-Christian Western experience. If we lose these things, then this is a catastrophe for the world.”

Rhys-Davies revealed that as far back as 1955 his father had predicted that “the next World War will be between Islam and the West.” The actor recalled his response: “I said to him, ’Dad, you’re nuts! The Crusades have been over for hundreds of years!’ And he said, ’Well, I know, but militant Islam is on the rise again. And you will see it in your lifetime.’ He’s been dead some years now. But there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and think, ’God, I wish you were here, just so I could tell you that you were right.’”

Looking at the lone female journalist at the table, Rhys-Davies said pointedly, “You should not be in this room [according to Muslim custom]. Because your husband or your father or your husband is not here to guide you. You could only be here in this room with these strange men for immoral purposes.”

Rhys-Davies went on to contemplate the significance of demographic shifts among Western Europeans and Muslims in Europe. “There is a demographic catastrophe happening in Europe that nobody wants to talk about, that we daren’t bring up because we are so cagey about not offending people racially. And rightly we should be. But there is a cultural thing as well ... By 2020, fifty percent of the children in Holland under the age of 18 will be of Muslim descent ...

“And don’t forget, coupled with this there is this collapse of numbers. Western Europeans are not having any babies. The population of Germany at the end of the century is going to be 56% of what it is now. The populations of France, 52% of what it is now. The population of Italy is going to be down 7 million people.

“There is a change happening in the very complexion of Western civilization in Europe that we should think about at least and argue about. If it just means the replacement of one genetic stock with another genetic stock, that doesn’t matter too much. But if it involves the replacement of Western civilization with a different civilization with different cultural values, then it is something we really ought to discuss — because, [hang it all], I am for dead-white-male culture!”

For which no doubt he'll be roundly hanged in the media in the coming days and weeks, in movie reviews as well as on the Op-Ed pages. I daresay we're only hearing from him now that Return of the King is in the can because "No Blood for Oil" man Viggo Mortensen probably wouldn't have wanted to work with such an odious racist on the films. (He wouldn't have been the first Aragorn to walk off Jackson's set.)

Interesting tidbits from the comments, like this one from Aaron:

One occasional charge is that Tolkien was anti-semitic, presumably because he occasionally compared his Dwarves to Jews. Those comparisons seem to focus on history and language, however: in Letter #176 he says, "I do think of the 'Dwarves' like Jews: at once native and alien in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue.....". And he seems to have had a very positive view of the Jewish people in general. For example, when discussing the origins of the name "Tolkien" in the final footnote to Letter #325, he says, "It is not Jewish in origin, though I should consider it an honour if it were."

In light of which, this gem reiterated by Glen Wishard takes on special significance:

The letter was actually from a publisher who wanted to print a German edition of The Hobbit. German law required authors to prove that they were "Aryan" before they could be published.

Tolkien wrote two replies to the letter - one polite and one not-so-polite. He sent both letters to Allen & Unwin and let them decide which they would send to the Germans. Only one letter survives, and nobody knows if it was the "polite" one, or if it was the one that was sent, but it says in part:

... if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people ... I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.

He also couldn't resist punching a hole in the "Aryan" delusion:

I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is, Indo-iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects.

Tolkien's never let me down. Gimli carries his banner.

UPDATE: Paul reminds me that this isn't the first time Rhys-Davies has held forth on this subject. I'd want to give this guy an Oscar, if only that honor hadn't been totally diluted by the likes of Michael Moore.



17:25 - Something Pleasant
http://www.somethingawful.com/

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Now this is something I'm glad to see. Zack "Geist Editor" Parsons of SomethingAwful.com is a class act:

Many of you, including me, may not be too keen on the war in Iraq. Don't let petty politics stand in the way of your human empathy for your fellow goon and your fellow American. In case you still don't want to send in money, keep in mind we're going to repeatedly nag you about this like National Public Radio until our goal is met! Besides, buying armor plates for some guys who are going to get shot at it is so much cooler than a freaking tote bag!

Donate via paypal to armor-donation@somethingawful.com and keep watching this post throughout the day for updates on the amount of money we have raised.

That's the kind of rooting-for-the-common-good I've been seeing so painfully little of. Thanks, SomethingAwful.

More to the point, thanks, SomethingAwful patrons:

Current Amount Donated: $8,278.04

Jeezum crow!


16:53 - Theater of the surreal

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Oh, man. This is rich. Edited for content.

From: support@supportwebsite.com
Subject: Fake ID for Muslims
Date: December 15, 2003 4:32:46 PM PST
To: ***
Reply-To: support@supportwebsite.com

Need a fake license to get into the nude bar and see some p***y?

Visit www.souvenirids.com

Travel and fly on planes under any name!

Get job at preschool if convicted molester!

www.photoidcards.com Do it now!

 CALL 24 HOURS 206-202-1672
Here my voice I am from Iraq. My Muslim brothers I am here to service you. Praise Ala!

This is not spam. You signed up as Arab decent person looking for new identity information for new mission.

Wow. Iraq the free, eh? This isn't because I signed up for one of those Arabic translation sites a few weeks ago to translate that page put up by the supposed al-Qaeda hackers who perpetrated those DOS attacks, is it?

I'm also having trouble with "Arab decent person" in this context.

As Apu said, "It is good to see you are learning a trade"...

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© Brian Tiemann