|Saturday, April 24, 2004
22:58 - Dowdifying Reality
Have you ever seen a testimonial quote on a DVD case that says something like, "This is ... a good movie"?
Makes you wonder exactly what the ellipsis is leaving out, doesn't it? Like, say, the word not?
Anyway, that's how I often feel these days when trying to work out exactly what ails the Left so severely as to completely alienate me from all the Leftist ideals that I once held so dear, not to say from all my Leftist friends who (with a few rare exceptions) want to have nothing to do with me once they've discovered I'm no longer batting for their team.
It has to do, I guess, with being able to formulate complex hypotheses about how the real world works, founded upon completely, provably incorrect basic assumptions. They'll take some concept that they picked up somewhere, like "The Republicans and the KKK are basically the same thing"—and use it as the foundation and the springboard for a whole worldview that assumes that anyone who votes for someone with an R next to their name is a racist, or at least condones racism.
Sigh and trot out unpleasant facts that specifically refute the fundamental assumption, and you get sputtering, hemming, hawing, and furious attempts to reclaim some kind of moral high ground—certainly not anything like an "Oh, I guess I was wrong."
You can see this happening in our media and politics all the time. Just today there was more news of American casualties in Iraq. Of course, there's a knee-jerk reaction among many in the media and all over the country that "This was never supposed to happen! I thought we were all done with Iraq. I mean, didn't Bush tell us that the war in Iraq would be a cake-walk, and that it would all be over quickly?"
A quick perusal of his speeches shows that Bush said no such thing. In fact, he said (and continues to say) the diametric opposite:
This is a massive and difficult undertaking -- it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Iraqi democracy will succeed -- and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation. (Applause.) The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution. (Applause.)
Nor did his "Mission Accomplished" speech from the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln suggest that our job was over:
We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. (Applause.)
The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq. (Applause.)
Nor, for that matter, did Bush ever "promise" that invading Iraq would make us safer, indignant bumper stickers on Volvos and minivans notwithstanding. He's pitching an entirely different approach than "making us safer" in the immediate term. From the 11/6/03 speech:
Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo. (Applause.)
Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace. (Applause.)
Furthermore, all over the place people are claiming that Bush said Iraq was an "imminent threat". They'll even point triumphantly to the Jan. 28, 2003 State of the Union speech, claiming that Bush specifically used the word "imminent" regarding the threat Iraq posed. However, very few people on the Left seem willing to actually read the speech, preferring to take it as an article of faith that it says what they've been told it says.
In fact, it says:
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.
In other words, he said, in only slightly more words, "Iraq is not an imminent threat". But the media and the politicians determined to grill Bush are somehow managing to mentally toss that little not right out the window, inserting a mental ellipsis for the testimonial on the DVD case for Bush: Smackdown 2003. "Iraq is ... an imminent threat."
Hey, we're just saving space. How much difference can one little word make?
Only turns the entire premise of the discourse one-hundred-eighty degrees, is all. But hey, that's not important, right?
But that's old news even for the Leftists who have somehow accepted reality enough to shut up about this particular issue. Some have Moved On to carping about the economy, like a member of my social circle who was over at our house last night. We were watching a Deep Space Nine two-parter, in which Our Heroes are space-time-wedgied back to the San Francisco of 2024, where the poor and homeless are processed into barricaded-off "sanctuaries"—derelicted neighborhoods where there is no law and no hope, just the cast-aside refuse of a depressed urban world who have been moved to an out-of-sight, out-of-mind location for the benefit of the champagne-and-caviar set. Plenty of opportunities for Sisko and Bashir to walk slowly about the lawless streets and give long, excruciating, whining soliloquies about how "This is a society that has simply given up... if only people would wake up and realize what they must do to become a truly enlightened culture, none of this ever should have happened!" (This is in the days before the Federation passed laws against poverty, you see, and simply transported poor people into space or somehow "lost the signal due to interference", or however the hell they "abolished" poverty and greed and sickness and money.)
Someone made a comment about how even in 2024, the urban peacekeepers (the National Guard) were still using those old Deuce trucks from WWII. "Well, they're in a depressed economy," someone else pointed out. "When that happens, they'll press old equipment into service."
This friend, from behind the dinner table, harrumphed over his turkey. "Well, we're working on getting to that point ourselves," he growled.
The economy is getting worse, you see. Unemployment at 1996 levels, industry at a 20-year high, tens of thousands of new jobs being created every week—all stuff you can read about in any financial-news source you care to check out. But never mind—it's an article of faith that the economy is still careening down the toilet, dragging ourselves inevitably into 1933, with Hoovervilles for all of us.
I didn't want to break up such a happy scene of Friday-night bonhomie, so I said nothing. Ah well, there was always this cheerful Trek episode to watch.
So now the flavor of the month, brought to us by LGF (of course), is what that bunch of perennial winners over at Democratic Underground are doing: namely, running a poll to try to figure out what can possibly explain Bush being ahead in the polls.
Poll question: Is Bush ahead in the polls because most Americans are racist?
The polls show most Americans support a foreign policy that embraces preemptive strikes outside legal bounds (ie. Iraq).
They are willing to kill foreigners willy-nilly behind a policy that says “all Muslims are a POTENTIAL threat.” Never mind the ramifications of killing innocent people, as long as these attacks hinder terrorists they are justified. After all, in the end us Americans represent the good guys: Christian/Jewish brotherhood, and the Muslims represent the terrorists.
Generalizations like this are what leads to mass genocide. It’s no different than the anti-Jewish propaganda that Hitler promoted as a cover for his brutal imperialism.
As of right now, 67% of the respondents (deep thinkers all, I'm sure) have voted Yes. (And the rest, judging by the followup comments, believe that, no, it's actually because most Americans are ignorant.)
And let's not forget Jermaine Jackson:
Jermaine, also a singer, told Reuters in an interview: "I do not agree with the U.S. government. What they are saying about Muslims and Arabs is all propaganda and brainwashing."
Now: what I want to know is, have any of these people even read a speech by Bush on Islam, Muslims, or terrorism? Have they even heard one?
Or have they heard every last one, and simply discarded them because what they heard didn't match the presumptions about Bush that they'd already stuffed into their brains, whatever cereal box they originally read them on?
I'll freely admit: if our President were going up in front of the microphones every couple of weeks and delivering speeches that called upon Americans to ferret out any and all Muslims or suspected Muslims living in their towns, call their local authorities, and turn them over for internment and questioning because, you know, all Muslims are potential terrorists, y'all—well, sure, I would in fact be all about condemning such hateful and unsupportable incitement. It's uncalled-for, it's un-American, it's Nazi-esque, and it's just plain wrong.
Only problem is, it's not happening.
It's not even close to happening.
Here is a handy summary page of all of George W. Bush's statements on Islam and Muslims over the years. Let's look at a few random examples of what this hateful Nazi racist redneck Republican has said, tarring innocent Muslim Americans with the brush of terrorism and fomenting anti-Muslim sentiment throughout this country:
• "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war."
• "Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields. Muslim members of our Armed Forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nation's ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace."
• "The Islam that we know is a faith devoted to the worship of one God, as revealed through The Holy Qur'an. It teaches the value and the importance of charity, mercy, and peace."
• "It should be clear to all that Islam -- the faith of one-fifth of humanity -- is consistent with democratic rule. Democratic progress is found in many predominantly Muslim countries -- in Turkey and Indonesia, and Senegal and Albania, Niger and Sierra Leone. Muslim men and women are good citizens of India and South Africa, of the nations of Western Europe, and of the United States of America."
• "This new enemy seeks to destroy our freedom and impose its views. We value life; the terrorists ruthlessly destroy it. We value education; the terrorists do not believe women should be educated or should have health care, or should leave their homes. We value the right to speak our minds; for the terrorists, free expression can be grounds for execution. We respect people of all faiths and welcome the free practice of religion; our enemy wants to dictate how to think and how to worship even to their fellow Muslims."
• "According to Muslim teachings, God first revealed His word in the Holy Qur'an to the prophet, Muhammad, during the month of Ramadan. That word has guided billions of believers across the centuries, and those believers built a culture of learning and literature and science. All the world continues to benefit from this faith and its achievements."
• "We're taking action against evil people. Because this great nation of many religions understands, our war is not against Islam, or against faith practiced by the Muslim people. Our war is a war against evil. This is clearly a case of good versus evil, and make no mistake about it -- good will prevail."
Anti-Muslim? I have a hard time imagining how he could possibly be more pro-Muslim in his speeches, short of converting.
Not only has Bush never said a single word treating Islam as the "enemy" or casting a glowering scowl upon the Muslims within our borders, as he's charged to be constantly doing by the DUers and Leftists everywhere—he's said precisely the opposite. He's rained down these statements of politically-correct peacemongering with such zeal that people like Charles Johnson, who see acts of Islamic terror condoned and cheered by mainstream Muslims on a daily basis, grow increasingly frustrated with Bush's steadfast refusal to even use language that approaches the subject of making war upon even a specific and tiny subset of Islam. Bush is saying all the right things, all the things the Left would demand to hear from a President who's fully on their side. These quotes are not just not racist or anti-Islamic, they're fawning. They're simpering. They're about what you'd expect to hear if Noam Chomsky or Ibrahim Hooper were writing Bush's speeches.
And yet not only are they ignoring all these statements, they're treating Bush as though he's been saying precisely the opposite of all of them, all this time.
Hell, ever since 9/11/2001, he could have been pounding his fist on the table, ranting about nuking Mecca in a brown military dress uniform and a little toothbrush moustache, and the Left could not possibly vilify him any more than they're doing now.
I fail to see how anybody could aspire to want the job of President. If you're the wrong kind of person, you see, you can simply do nothing right, in the eyes of a certain segment of your constituency. No matter how good you are, no matter how many of the right moves you make, you're guaranteed to be loathed with a murderous, fiery rage. Boy oh boy—where do I sign up?!
If DU were a real place, you could walk in with a clipboard, stop people at random, and ask random questions:
• "Do you think that Bush has characterized Iraq as an 'imminent' threat to America?"
• "Would you say that Bush has used anti-Muslim rhetoric in his speeches to the country about terrorism?"
• "Did Bush give the impression in his speeches that the war in Iraq would be easy and quickly accomplished?"
• "Do you think Bush has unfairly fomented anti-Muslim sentiment in America in the wake of 9/11?"
• "Would you say that Bush is a racist?"
• "Would you describe the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as being characterized by widespread, reckless destruction of civilian property and lives?"
• "Would you say that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are fundamentally 'racist'?"
• "Do you think Bush's speeches regarding Islam and Muslims post-9/11 are similar to Hitler's speeches regarding the Jews in the 1930s?"
You know that a depressingly large majority of the respondents would answer "Yes" to every last question.
Reality be damned. They know what's goin' down.
These people wonder why nobody takes them seriously. They know they're right; they know they're educated and sophisticated and intellectual, so they can't be wrong. Obviously. They don't need to read the news. They know it supports their assumptions. Why would they have to confirm what they already know?
So to explain away this bizarre tendency of Americans to view them with dismissal and bemusement rather than the awe they feel is due them as the intellectual superiors of the average Joe, they concoct increasingly freakish theories, theories which make perfect sense to them. Like: Americans support Bush because Americans, by and large, are racists. And Bush is a racist, so obviously they like him. He plays to their hateful, bloodthirsty impulses, just like Hitler.
These are people who grew up thinking they were better than everybody else: the smart kids in high school, picked-on by the jocks. They had to concoct some reason why the jocks kept getting the chicks and not them, and why the idiots in the school weren't simply herded into the gym and gassed so the smart kids could actually learn something. I believe I understand something of their mindset, having once been there myself; they hold a grudge toward humanity already, and naturally they hate the unseen force that unjustly held them down during their formative years. Nowadays the stakes are simply higher, and the conspiracies are commensurately vaster and more evil.
It must be terribly depressing in the DU world, to live in a reality that's so dismal, that deliberately ignores everything that's going right so as to convince themselves that everything is shit. They can shut out the fact that we live in the richest, most tolerant, safest, most culturally/racially diverse country in the history of planet Earth, which ought to be the vindication of every "progressive" ideal they hold close to their hearts; they can convince themselves, somehow, that we're a nation of inbred, white-trash, racist rednecks with single-digit IQs and no interest in anything beyond pro wrestling and shooting beer cans off fences. Theirs is a world with a perpetual soundtrack of morose Goth music and R.E.M. and Jello Biafra and Rage Against the Machine, where Peter Schilling lyrics spark nods of rueful agreement rather than outrage:
How I love the life I lead
Cannot think and cannot read
Watch our values slip away
play the game of U.S.A!
I find myself wondering which is worse: "cannot think and cannot read", or "will not think and will not read"...?
UPDATE: Sigh. Twice today I've had friends approvingly tell me that in this post, I've very effectively made my case: that most Americans are morons who don't read.
That was the exact opposite of the point I was trying to make. (Is there a theme here?)
What I'm trying to say here is that most Americans are not morons; they're way more in-tune with reality than most of "us" (the self-described Enlightened Elite) are willing to believe. Most people are rational, open-minded, and willing to listen to reasoned discussion from both sides of an argument. I mean, think about ten random acquaintances, and think back on twenty random people you met or saw during the course of the day. How many of them would you describe as clinically stupid? By which I mean, how many of them—driving on the highway, walking past you in the mall, serving you your Arby's sandwich, delivering your package—would you call idiots, people on whom you wouldn't feel comfortable conferring the sacred trust of democracy?
How many would you guess are racists? How many would you guess are ignorant?
DU says "most". Are they right? I don't think so.
The problem I'm trying to highlight is that the Leftists, the DUers, the elitists who are positive that Bush is a Muslim-hating racist and that Americans can't be trusted with sharp scissors because they're actually (gasp!) polling in his favor, are singularly and unusually prone to this behavior. I believe they're worse than the statistical average when it comes to being open-minded about alternate viewpoints. I believe they're (perversely) inured to rational, multifaceted discussion because they're convinced of their own superiority, whereas most everyday folks tend to have a humility about them that lets them accept that they might not be aware of the whole story on a given issue.
A contemptuous lack of faith in the decency, intelligence, and social competence of the majority of Americans is a clear sign of the kind of immaturity that you see concentrated, primarily and almost exclusively, on the Left these days.
And I want no part of it.
|Friday, April 23, 2004
11:19 - Apple and the Unemployment Rate
Many people, particularly Dean Esmay and Bill Hobbs, have been pointing out that there's an odd discrepancy between the unemployment rate (5.6%, the same as in 1996) and new-job-creation numbers (308,000 in March), and the payroll survey which still shows a disproportionately smaller number of people working for participating companies than, say, five years ago.
They've pointed out that this discrepancy can likely be attributed to the fact that the last five years have seen an unprecedented boom in self-employment, which lowers the unemployment rate as covered by the census and household income surveys, but does not count as real "employment" by the payroll survey.
In other words, everybody's starting up their own businesses now—largely, I would guess, fueled by stock-option fortunes in the hands of people whose dot-com employers no longer exist (though that's by no means the only source).
Why now? There must be something new on the business landscape, something that makes this kind of thing more possible than before, that brings it into reach of the average entrepreneurial Joe.
I'm not prepared to suggest that this is the answer, but a reader (who asked not to be named) had the following to say:
Apple's enterprise product line is also great for new, tiny businesses (made possible by the Bush tax cuts!) run by people familiar with Apple's consumer products, that will never afford consultants or IS professionals.
I recently financed a friend's recording studio, which will be a two-person operation for the foreseeable future. The usual storage device would be something made by Glyph Tech. Neither one of us could administer it confidently — there doesn't even seem to be a downloadable manual — and while a failure could easily cause a loss of $5000+ worth of tracks, the budget doesn't cover a consultant.
So we're getting an Xserve RAID instead.
Most of the big-iron manufacturers seem to have become dependent on consultants recommending hardware intentionally made unnecessarily complex, which would tie the buyers to the consultants for any change or repair.
Meanwhile, Steve Jobs is excellent at making average Joe consumers like me aware of Apple's cool enterprise products, which more and more people eventually find a need for. Did the other computer companies forget that they started in garages, too?
The garage: incubator of the American spirit, whether we're talking about rock bands, hot rods, or Fortune 500 tech companies. People with carports don't stand a chance...
|Thursday, April 22, 2004
23:25 - I don't know how to break this to you...
So I was flipping around on the channel guide in the half-hour dead zone before Adult Swim comes on with its balm of Futurama, and my gaze lighted on something on the Sci-Fi Channel titled Tripping the Rift.
"It couldn't be," I though. "...Could it?"
But lo, it was. Evidently the Sci-Fi Channel has picked up that Tripping the Rift and developed it into a full-fledged, raunchy late-night 3D-animated cartoon series.
"Oh boy!" I thought. "Looks like they're expecting it to follow the same pattern from mid-90s Internet meme to unstoppable cultural icon as South Park. Rah! Rah!"
What a fool I am sometimes.
I don't know which episode I saw of the series, but the all-new plotline featured the Captain and his freakish crew heading toward a planet called "Floridia 7", and that name alone told me all I needed to know what the story would be—I could extrapolate the whole thing just from that one tiny bit of information in the digital-cable info box.
And I was right. The planet was in the throes of a hotly contested Presidential election, between a clown-man (evidently all villains on the show are clowns), and a... George Goodfellow. (Yes, that's right.) Protruding chin, Satanic grin, cowboy boots, Southern accent, everything you'd expect. It's Our Heroes' job to become muckraking infiltrators and dig up incriminating dirt on ol' George so as to prevent him from winning the election. Due to his penchant for falling for any piece of ass that falls into his path (and his corruption at the hands of big something companies), this is not a difficult job.
Granted, there were plenty of Monica Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton gags too, but all in all the thing was dull and predictable; the only thing that I couldn't project from the seeds presented in the first five minutes was the general visual design of the characters. (Which itself wasn't great; the CG is awful and cheap, to a level that would have shamed a student filmmaker in 1995; the insides of people's mouths aren't even in shadow, for cryin' out loud.) The difference between this and South Park is that whereas the latter has great writing, an asset that transcends cheap-ass animation and a lack of star power, this show just has the (dubious) star power and the momentum of an Internet meme from around 1998 driving it.
Which means it's going to be lucky to last a whole season.
Canadians may envy us our Cartoon Network; but I am fully prepared to envy them the Space Channel, if this is the best the Sci-Fi Channel can do.
Ah well. I suppose I can always console myself with Most Extreme Elimination Challenge.
...Oh, wait. Now they're running the new season of MXC, which is filmed in America under US legal liability rules. Which means the contestants are now encased in padding from head to toe, the "mystery fluid" is a pool of clear distilled water (with a lifeguard in it), and there's a flock of laywers with clipboards following everyone around waiting for someone to get a boo-boo and claim their ten million bucks in an out-of-court settlement.
...Ahh. Adult Swim is on. Sweet, sweet Futurama; at least you've never let me down...
12:59 - Maybe it's a whole series of flukes
Via JMH: TM Lutas has taken note of Apple's corporate strategy, which has borne some very tasty fruit in the consumer space—which many people forget is not Apple's only market.
Apple's recent product entries have pretty much let the cat out of the bag for even the most unobservant that Apple does, in fact, have a business strategy. It's one that they've been executing quite well for some time now. They're trying to get into the server room and the network infrastructure business. Why else would they revise their WiFi base station so you can legally put it in the space above a drop ceiling while not having to plug it into a wall socket for power? They're also releasing software and hardware that undercuts traditional application price points by huge margins in certain vertical markets. Avid is losing huge amounts of business to Final Cut Pro for example.
. . .
Xsan is 100% compatible with (and probably borrows the guts from) ADIC's StorNext File System. This means that anybody who is comfortable with the ADIC solution has to seriously consider Apple's hardware. Because Apple's RAID solution is much cheaper than its competitors, it's reasonable that its going to start cranking out a good deal of demonstration units to test Xsan this winter and start making serious sales come 2005. There are no additional licensing costs beyond the $999 software cost per controller server. And the price savings are sufficiently eye opening that nobody can afford to ignore this entry into the field. Apple's total solutions cost for a SAN is around $30k while similar capacity and performance systems run $150k-$200k. That's aggressive pricing by anybody's standards.
That's the enterprise market pretty well covered, if you ask me—Apple seems to be going after the big-iron crowd with a vengeance, doing things they may have wanted to do forever but were limited simply by a bad legacy OS. Now the sky's the limit; and where Apple is seen as a premium player in the consumer market, they're a budget player in the enterprise market—largely because they can leverage their premium-level consumer products (OS X and application design) to make cut-rate versions of high-end enterprise solutions look a whole helluva lot more attractive.
The Xserve is just one 1U box; granted, it can be outfitted a number of ways, but no matter how the comparative numbers line up, it's hard to convince a buyer that Apple's enterprise product line, with Xserves, Xserve RAIDs, and Xserve Cluster Nodes is the match of, say, Dell with its lineup of server boxes ranging from 1U up to cabinet-sized.
But the server world is a staid, stodgy place. There isn't much in the way of new ideas from the traditional vendors; with the cost of manageability and qualified personnel outstripping the cost of the technology as the enterprise grows, Apple may well have a real story to tell companies looking for a way to spend smarter, not just spend more.
Those two fronts, plus the high-end video processing market, mean Apple is well poised in at least two growth industries—and three, if you take the constant stream of giddy buyers through all the newly opening Apple Stores to be an indicator of a strong consumer sector. I can name a lot of companies off the top of my head that are in a lot worse shape than that.
09:55 - Tabloids Become Seanbaby
Wow! I've been pooh-pooh'ing the Weekly World News and other checkout-lane tabloids all these years. As it turns out, they actually appear to have some real, live, serious humor writers on staff. Could this be the beginning of a trend from "bizarre news that pretends to be real" to "mainstream parody news"? I'd sure feel a lot better about it.
EUROPE TO BECOME GIANT THEME PARK!
Member nations of the European Union have announced plans to discontinue their status as individual countries in order to merge into one giant theme park!
The new park will be called EuroWorld and will cover the entire continent of what is now known as Europe. The decision was made by the EU countries in response to their collective realization that no one in Europe has had an innovative idea in well over a century.
With nothing new to offer visitors, the European countries decided to stop pretending they were still relevant, and to start celebrating their colorful pasts.
"Our stagnant continent has been a virtual museum for decades," explains an unnamed EU representative. "Many could argue that we already were nothing more than an amusement park. The decision to legally become a large theme park is really only a formality."
Via Tim Blair, who says to be sure to take note of "planned prostitute races in Amsterdam". (Shouldn't that be drag races?)
|Wednesday, April 21, 2004
14:54 - Didn't you get the memo?
So are there any comics out there that aren't going to feature a character getting his leg blown off in Iraq as this week's theme?
Guys, al-Sadr reads comics too.
I hope I don't have to start reading Garfield just to avoid this kind of crap.
13:39 - Uh, Eighth Sign of the Apocalypse
Now this is something I thought we'd never see until the humans went extinct and the cockroaches inherited the Earth: the iTunes Music Store now features Disney soundtracks.
I mean, how likely was this? I thought I'd read about Disney signing all kinds of exclusive deals to publish its online content only in Microsoft formats, through Microsoft channels. Besides which, Disney and Steve have been rather at odds lately, what with Jobs blowing Eisner off over the ongoing Pixar gunbattles. I'd have thought Disney would have wanted nothing further to do with Apple.
But then, Disney does have a history of choosing a losing technological path, sticking with it for about a year, and then abruptly changing course as soon as the higher-ups determine that it isn't going anywhere. Remember DiVX (the pay-for-play disc format, not the encoding algorithm)? Disney was a big proponent of it, and stumped for it in opposition to DVD. But when DVD sales exploded and DiVX tanked, Disney jumped ship and brought its whole animated library to DVD in a ridiculously short period of time. Now they're reaping the rewards of DVD, with special-edition box sets and oodles of extra features, with just as much gusto as New Line Cinema is.
So maybe they've determined that to pretend to be a forward-looking media company with a presence in the digital world, and yet not to be present on the far-and-away leader in the legal downloadable music and pop-icon runaway hit portable music player markets, is not just silly, but a bad, bad business move.
So welcome on board, Disney. Now bring along your Miyazaki soundtracks, and you'll be seeing a lot of the inside of my wallet over the next few days.
Hear that, Apple Records? Haah? Haaah?
(iPod-accessorizing story link via Steve M.)
UPDATE: Kevin points out that according to MacNN, this is an exclusive Apple deal until September 30. He adds, "Will they be jacking people around like they do with their limited release dvds?"
I notice that some of the Disney albums in the store are partial ones—not many, but some (including Lilo & Stitch, which is disappointing, but at least The Rescuers Down Under is complete—I've been looking for that one for years).
So yeah, maybe...
11:13 - Same planet, different worlds
Sometimes, I wish that some people who get profiled on LGF could read the words of other people who get profiled on LGF.
For instance, here's Jermaine Jackson, a Muslim convert, acting on his own recognizance as a sort of "cultural ambassador" to the Middle East:
Jermaine, also a singer, told Reuters in an interview: "I do not agree with the U.S. government. What they are saying about Muslims and Arabs is all propaganda and brainwashing."
Considering that what Bush and the U.S. government have been saying about Muslims and Arabs, constantly, ever since 9/11, to the frustration of people who increasingly see evidence to the contrary, is that "Islam is a great and peaceful religion, and a very tiny minority of extremists are trying to pervert it through terrorism" and "Arabs are as capable of democracy, and as deserving of it, as anyone else in the world"— is Jackson saying that that's what he disagrees with so fervently? I wonder if he's ever heard a speech by Bush on terrorism.
Meanwhile, here are a bunch of twenty-something Muslim professionals, sitting down to lunch at a chicken joint in Luton, England:
"As far as I'm concerned, when they bomb London, the bigger the better," says Abdul Haq, the social worker. "I know it's going to happen because Sheikh bin Laden said so. Like Bali, like Turkey, like Madrid - I pray for it, I look forward to the day."
Someone better tell these guys that all the bad stuff people are saying about them is "propaganda" and "brainwashing". Who could ever believe these sweet young men could be capable of violence? After all, says Jermaine:
"I understand their feelings but do not approve of their methods. Islam is a religion of peace. They are wrong," he said.
Something's not jivin' here:
"I agree with you, brother," says Abu Yusuf, the earnest-looking financial adviser sitting opposite. "I would like to see the Mujahideen coming into London and killing thousands, whether with nuclear weapons or germ warfare. And if they need a safehouse, they can stay in mine - and if they need some fertiliser [for a bomb], I'll tell them where to get it."
It's clear where Jackson thinks the problem lies:
"I don't think it is right for us to go to someone else's country and tell them what to do and how to do it," said Jermaine, who is a guest of the royal court in the pro-Western kingdom, which hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.
Wonder how he'd react to hearing this?
According to Sayful, the aim of al-Muhajiroun ("the immigrants") is nothing less than Khilafah - "the worldwide domination of Islam". The way to achieve this, he says, is by Jihad, led by Bin Laden. "I support him 100 per cent."
Does that support extend to violent acts of terrorism in the UK?
"Yes," he replies, unequivocally. "When a bomb attack happens here, I won't be against it, even if it kills my own children. Islam is clear: Muslims living in lands that are occupied have the right to attack their invaders.
"Britain became a legitimate target when it sent troops to Iraq. But it is against Islam for me to engage personally in acts of terrorism in the UK because I live here. According to Islam, I have a covenant of security with the UK, as long as they allow us Muslims to live here in peace."
How downright decent of him. LGF commenters are taking this bit slightly out of context-- Charles' quotation leaves off the final paragraph, without which the interpretation is easily that "All lands are Muslim lands, and all non-Muslims are invaders and occupiers of their own countries." That doesn't appear to be quite what this guy is saying, but honestly, how comforted do you feel?
(In fact, that last paragraph has the feel of a hasty bit of backpedaling. Considering the way these guys talk to the reporter as described in the article, freely giving their names but refusing to be photographed, it would be in character. You don't suppose the penultimate paragraph, the "Brits are the occupiers of Muslim England and must be driven out" one, is their true sentiment, do you?)
But Jackson knows better. He has cred.
"I think Muslims have become the new Negroes in America. They are being mistreated at airports, by the Immigration -- everywhere," he said.
How, then, is one to take this?
But Sayful and his friends laugh at the idea that they are local pariahs. "The mosques say one thing to the public, and something else to us. Let's just say that the face you see and the face we see are two different faces," says Abdul Haq. "Believe me," adds Musa, "behind closed doors, there are no moderate Muslims."
These guys would laugh in Jackson's face when he talks about "Islam" meaning "peace", or says that Muslims are living under the equivalent of Jim Crow laws in the US. These guys are living the yuppie high life and they know it; Sayful says right out that he has "never experienced racism" in the UK, and he smirks gleefully over the idea of overthrowing the very country on whose dole he happily lives. The fact that the West is willing to tolerate their presence at all, without demanding loyalty oaths (jingoist! Anti-multi-culturalist!) or conducting nighttime raids against people willing to talk to newspapers like this, and that the West treats people like Jackson as "cultural ambassadors" and gives them the benefit of the doubt, doesn't signal friendship. It signals willingness to surrender. All it takes is a little bit of subterfuge, a little bit of camouflage, a little bit of patience, and a little bit of C-4.
Who do we believe, Mr. Jackson? How sincerely can we allow ourselves to believe the constant refrain of Islam means peace? We keep getting mixed signals, and the consequences of choosing the wrong people to believe are either a) making a group of people feel uncomfortable, or b) getting slaughtered by the thousands. At what cost comes our commitment to decency and fairness?
The strength of our society—trust—is also its weakness. See, we all trust each other to a certain degree, all day long, to act in a certain way, and to behave in a certain predictable manner that's in accordance to what we say we're going to do. When that trust is intact, our society blossoms. But when we rely too much on that trust, it's so easy to subvert.
The USSR learned this long ago: communism requires the cooperation of everybody to work, but it takes only the rebellion of one person for it to fail. ...Unless you kill that person.
We have a lesser version of that problem here. We don't know how much we can trust Muslims. The article in ThisIsLondon is interspersed with statements from moderate Muslims (like the president of the Islamic Cultural Society in Luton) who insist that the firebrands are the exception, but what are we risking if we take his word over theirs? In a world where we're accustomed to far more honesty in our interpersonal dealings than we really even believe, can we even recognize deceit like this anymore, or distinguish it from harmless bluster?
Our culture, in these Western countries, is a lot more fragile than we think—fragile and complex. Americans (and especially Canadians) are fond of sniffily dismissing the idea that American "culture" is anything worth being proud of, let alone exporting. But it seems to me that if we found ourselves bereft of that culture, and thrust into a world where all the things we take for granted are different or nonexistent, from movies to food to music to being able to wear shorts on a hot day or (if you're a woman) drive a car or go to school, or even being able to trust the word of your neighbor even though he's of a different religion, we'd sure as hell miss it.
Besides, as one commenter says:
Anybody want to tell me that an evangelical Christian handing out tracts is more dangerous to society than this kind of bile? Guess which one the Left is fighting though.
All I can conclude is that the Left wants a different culture. Better? Worse? Doesn't matter; they just want change, like Jermaine Jackson in white robes that allow him to transcend a racial past that everybody but him seems to have been able to come to terms with.
Change. Progress. Anything but what we have now.
|Tuesday, April 20, 2004
21:16 - Seventh Sign of the Apocalypse
What's this? They're updating the Lotus Esprit?
About freakin' time, if you ask me! What is it, 25 years? And it's a nice-looking car, too. Then again, it always has been. (Of course, now the only question is whether anyone taller than a hobbit can fit into it...)
18:36 - Columbine explained
All this time we'd all assumed that Michael Moore had at least this much right: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the "Trenchcoat Mafia", the Columbine killers, were the products of a society that had lost its heart—an America where violence was institutionalized, where video games and the nightly news desensitized a generation of youths to the point where they thought it would be cool to shoot down their teachers and the jocks who tormented them day by day.
Dave Cullen, however, appears to be in exclusive possession of a new interpretation of all the official analysis that has been done since the event: FBI psychologists' work, operating independently of all the pundits in the news and behind the documentary camera, has reached an entirely different conclusion about the nature of these two boys and what they—particularly Harris—were trying to do.
School shooters tend to act impulsively and attack the targets of their rage: students and faculty. But Harris and Klebold planned for a year and dreamed much bigger. The school served as means to a grander end, to terrorize the entire nation by attacking a symbol of American life. Their slaughter was aimed at students and teachers, but it was not motivated by resentment of them in particular. Students and teachers were just convenient quarry, what Timothy McVeigh described as "collateral damage."
The killers, in fact, laughed at petty school shooters. They bragged about dwarfing the carnage of the Oklahoma City bombing and originally scheduled their bloody performance for its anniversary. Klebold boasted on video about inflicting "the most deaths in U.S. history." Columbine was intended not primarily as a shooting at all, but as a bombing on a massive scale. If they hadn't been so bad at wiring the timers, the propane bombs they set in the cafeteria would have wiped out 600 people. After those bombs went off, they planned to gun down fleeing survivors. An explosive third act would follow, when their cars, packed with still more bombs, would rip through still more crowds, presumably of survivors, rescue workers, and reporters. The climax would be captured on live television. It wasn't just "fame" they were after—Agent Fuselier bristles at that trivializing term—they were gunning for devastating infamy on the historical scale of an Attila the Hun. Their vision was to create a nightmare so devastating and apocalyptic that the entire world would shudder at their power.
Harris and Klebold would have been dismayed that Columbine was dubbed the "worst school shooting in American history." They set their sights on eclipsing the world's greatest mass murderers, but the media never saw past the choice of venue. The school setting drove analysis in precisely the wrong direction.
The whole thing is worth reading. This is important stuff. Particularly revealing are the entries from Harris' personal journal, which depict not a picked-on kid with delusions fueled by violent pop media, but a cold-hearted serial killer and mass murderer in the making—a prodigy in the psychopath department.
"YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE!!!? Cuuuuuuuuhntryyyyyyyyyy music!!!
"YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE!!!? People who use the same word over and over again! . . . Read a f---in book or two, increase your vo-cab-u-lary f*ck*ng idiots."
"YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE!!!? STUPID PEOPLE!!! Why must so many people be so stupid!!? . . . YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE!!!? When people mispronounce words! and they dont even know it to, like acrosT, or eXspreso, pacific (specific), or 2 pAck. learn to speak correctly you morons.
It rages on for page after page and is repeated in his journal and in the videos he and Klebold made. But Fuselier recognized a far more revealing emotion bursting through, both fueling and overshadowing the hate. What the boy was really expressing was contempt.
He is disgusted with the morons around him. These are not the rantings of an angry young man, picked on by jocks until he's not going to take it anymore. These are the rantings of someone with a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority. It may look like hate, but "It's more about demeaning other people," says Hare.
In fact, I'd say it sounds like he might have been a Michael Moore fan.
|Monday, April 19, 2004
23:50 - Lorne Greene for President
Gee, where have we seen something like this recently?
"If we mind our own business, there is every reason to believe that the Cylons will leave us alone..."
TiVO'd and encoded and sent to me by James Sentman.
18:21 - The descendants of slaves
Further to my Fear of God post from last week, reader Thom T. sent me the following, which I believe crystallizes a very important historical perspective:
Just read the "Fear of God" post. While I normally
simply appreciate your blogging very much, for the
past few days, it seems like either I'm channelling
you, or vice versa. Scary, I know. :)
Anyway, I'd been thinking about precisely this issue
lately, about exactly what it is these cretins don't
get, and it crystallized in my mind when I read the
passage in which you wrote your solution.
What they don't get is that for the majority of the
world, existence on Earth is a pretty crappy
experience from cradle to grave, and for a good
number of those people, existence on Earth is a
horriffic, shitty, really, really, REALLY
unconscionable version of Hell on Earth.
This is not exactly a stunning revelation, obviously.
The vast majority of humanity lived somewhere in
between these two states until 1850 at the earliest
(and that's being generous, time-frame-wise), and we
know this. Why this is important in regard to the
cretins is that they have their history all mixed up:
I have heard, first-hand, several people, most of whom
are friends of mine and who are not extremists, posit
the view that there were so many other, greater,
NON-WHITE civilizations from the past that
accomplished so many great and beautiful things, and
that our civilization is but a crude, cruel, inhuman,
conformist joke on humanity, where the rich prosper,
the poor are crushed, and the rest of us are drones.
What they don't get is that while Michelangelo was a
great sculptor and painter, THAT WASN'T THE MAJORITY
OF ITALY AT THE TIME. That while the Egyptians built
some of the most breathtaking structures, which are
rightly named wonders of the world, THEY WERE BUILT BY
SLAVES. That while the Greeks may have been more
ahead of their time intellectually than any other
civilization before or since, THAT WAS ONLY A FEW VERY
FORTUNATE GUYS. The vast majority of people who lived
during those ages, and during the great ages of China,
Babylon, Persia, Phoenicia, the Almohads, etc., were
either slaves, or one or two steps above, and that
life for them was pretty damn piss-poor.
They see only the greatness, and, combined with their
ideas of multi-culturalism, project the past onto the
present, and see America as this crude infant
stumbling blindly across the world and wrecking all
that is good, and replacing it with Wal-Marts and
McDonalds. Among these people are those who went to
Iraq (remember, this was once Mesopotamia!!) to become
human shields, and were stunned to learn that the
majority of Iraqis really, really wanted freedom more
than anything else.
What they don't get is that the Industrial Revolution
was vastly more important than the Rennaisance. What
they don't get is that Adam Smith's "The Wealth of
Nations" is the most important work in the history of
humankind (outside of the Bible, for me), and not
Joyce's "Ulysses". What they don't get is that the
Cotton Gin was a far more important discovery than oil
What they really don't get is that personal and
economic freedom are the same thing, and the it was
recognition of such that truly freed the decrepit, and
that, if that didn't happen, they, and we, would be
the decrepit of today. They see themselves as being
the spiritual descendants of the Michelangelos, the
Plutarchs, the Aristotles. Wrong. We're the
descendants of their slaves.
And, finally, it's much simpler than all this, really.
It's freedom OF, or freedom TO, not freedom from.
And if they really want to free people from hunger,
poverty, and oppression, they should stop reading Maya
Angelou, and start reading Adam Smith. The world
outside the West largely sucks. The pagodas should
not be destroyed, but building a few Wal-Marts along
side them would be far more helpful than corrupt
That's the trouble with Communism: it claims to be the ideology of the huddled masses, the wretched refuse yearning to breathe free. But history shows us that when those huddled masses stop huddling and start revving up their hands and brains, the tools of capitalism are far more readily at their service than the tools of communism, and rewards them far better. It allows the best of them to rise to power and stardom, but any of them to freely and realistically aspire to it. The alternative is a world where the best possible future for a peasant is to remain a peasant.
Which is well and good, if we can convince ourselves that the life of the peasant is a good, honorable thing, or that being taken care of by a maternal State is the "right" way to live. But Americans have never quite taken to asceticism, nor to allowing anyone to dictate how we live our lives. Which is why we do the things we do.
16:52 - Apple Owns the Future of Film
JMH sends this story: John Lowry, working in Burbank (whew—Hollywood is still on the cutting edge after all), is pioneering super-high-def film transfers for non-degrading archival and HD-DVD transfer. And he's doing it all with Macs.
What he is doing will make a DVD look nearly as sharp and detailed as a 35-millimeter film print. It will produce images with six times the resolution of today's high-definition television sets. In video quality, it could turn home theater into a true rival of the neighborhood cineplex.
Walk into the suites of Lowry Digital, the company that Mr. Lowry started six years ago, and the first sight that strikes you is the computer bank — rack after rack of Macintosh G5 computers, 600 of them, holding a combined memory of 2,400 gigabytes.
Beyond this room is a super-sanitized, temperature-controlled chamber. Inside, a technician wearing a white smock and cap monitors a pair of machines called the Imager XE-Advanced, made by the Imagica Corp.
The Imagica machines are ultra-sophisticated digital film-scanners. They are loaded with reels from the original negative of the 1967 James Bond movie "You Only Live Twice."
The spools advance slowly, one frame every four seconds, which is how long it takes the Imagica to scan across a frame 4,000 times — a process known as 4K scanning.
During the scan, the machine creates a digital replica of the frame, consisting of 4,000 horizontal lines of data. A cable then transmits this data to a hard-drive server in an adjoining room.
A fascinating read. And check out that rack of G5s. For the money he's being paid, and for what that bank of CPUs would have cost, no way would he use anything but the best possible technological solution available. He wouldn't have chosen the G5 lightly.
Couple that with today's announcements from Apple—full-scale HD production at an iPod price point—and you've got a recipe for a complete Napoleon-returning-to-France rampage by Apple through the film world, with every production house flocking to the banner.
Apple's acquisitions and development of video-production tools over the past four years or so, beginning with Final Cut Pro and continuing through Logic, Shake, Pixlet, DVD Studio Pro, and all the adjunct software packages (like Cinema Tools, with its 24p editing capabilities), have been elements of a very quiet revolution; they don't make headlines, at least not in the consumer space. But it's been all the rage where it counts. Return of the King features a big Apple logo at the end of the credits (it was composited in Shake). And Lowry's high-powered digital bit shop, again, runs on Macs—a decision that could only have come about as a result of Apple having made its case consistently, persuasively, and relentlessly over the past half a decade as being the go-to company for high-end video technology.
CapLion has further ruminations on these developments, from the perspective of someone who works in this field on a daily basis. In his words:
...but I'm sure they'll go out of business any day now.
UPDATE: And of course we all know where the real money in filmmaking is...
10:00 - He lied to us through song!
So, lemme get this straight here.
Michael Moore told us (in a South Park-lookalike cartoon) that Americans are plagued with gun violence because we're all armed out of visceral terror of black people; and that the NRA was formed at about the same time as the KKK (and by the same people), right after the Civil War, as a means to arm Southern whites against the Negro Menace.
And it was in a documentary, so it must be true! ...Right?
So it turns out that not only was the NRA founded by former Union officers as a means to keep the populace well trained in marksmanship, in readiness for another national threat like the Civil War; but gun-control laws were initially created to disarm the darkies.
I know something of the history of this legislation. The original Act of 1893 was passed when there was a great influx of negro laborers in this State drawn here for the purpose of working in turpentine and lumber camps.... [T]he Act was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers and to thereby reduce the unlawful homicides that were prevalent in turpentine and saw-mill camps and to give the white citizens in sparsely settled areas a better feeling of security. The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population.... [I]t is a safe guess to assume that more than 80% of the white men living in the rural sections of Florida have violated this statute.... [T]here has never been, within my knowledge, any effort to enforce the provisions of this statute as to white people, because it has been generally conceded to be in contravention of the Constitution and non-enforceable if contested.
So Moore's not just lying, he's being fundamentally racist. He should be ashamed and appalled to be aligning himself with such a reprehensible philosophy, and he should contritely apologize for misleading the American public and his fans throughout the world.
By the way—did anyone else notice, on the Simpsons episode that aired last night (the one where Lisa becomes student body president and gets art and music and athletics cut from the school budget, in a parody of "Evita"), how studiously the animators softened their caricature of Moore for his self-voiced cameo? They slimmed him down by a hundred pounds or more, and gave him a clean shave. Yeah, the line he got was a gentle self-effacing poke at the dubiousness of his statistics, but damn they were flattering on the visuals.