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
Eric S. Raymond
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
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 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
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 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Saturday, October 8, 2005
14:22 - The truth's still getting its boots on
http://timblair.net/ee/index.php/weblog/true_believers/

(top)
Yesterday the news "broke" that Houston, we have confirmation of God in the White House—and of course everyone from incoherent LiveJournal authors to the world's most widely read editorialists pounced. Way too juicy a scoop not to, right?

In Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs, a major three-part series on BBC TWO (at 9.00pm on Monday 10, Monday 17 and Monday 24 October), Abu Mazen, Palestinian Prime Minister, and Nabil Shaath, his Foreign Minister, describe their first meeting with President Bush in June 2003.

Nabil Shaath says: “President Bush said to all of us: ‘I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, “George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.” And I did, and then God would tell me, “George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …” And I did. And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, “Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.” And by God I’m gonna do it.’"

Abu Mazen was at the same meeting and recounts how President Bush told him: “I have a moral and religious obligation. So I will get you a Palestinian state."

Now, it's funny: the last time I heard these quotes being attributed to Bush, it was in those TV ads solicited by MoveOn.org—entries for their "Bush in 60 Seconds" campaign to develop an anti-Bush ad to air during last year's Super Bowl.

GRAPHIC: Pictures Of Hitler
HITLER: (Speaking In German)
CHYRON: We have taken new measures to protect our homeland,

GRAPHIC: Pictures Of Hitler
HITLER: (Speaking In German)
CHYRON: I believe I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator,

GRAPHIC: Pictures Of Hitler
HITLER: (Speaking In German)
CHYRON: God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them,

GRAPHIC: Pictures of President Bush
HITLER: (Speaking In German)
CHYRON: and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.

CHYRON: SOUND FAMILIAR?
BACKGROUND: Cheering German Crowd

That was at the beginning of 2004, which means the quotations were in public view by then—they were first reported by Ha'aretz, on June 30, 2003, right after the meeting in question took place.

So from Abbas' mouth to MoveOn.org patrons' ears. That's the credibility trail.

And now here they come again. Only now it's "the distinguished and highly reliable film-maker Norma Percy" making a new BBC series, filming Abbas and Shaath as they recite what they'd said back in June 2003... or maybe it was just stock footage shot at the time—this part is unclear. If the former, though, it meant that the Palestinians had apparently really rehearsed it well, so as to make a good show of it for Percy's eager cameras, or else the quotes were accurate (or had been mangled by a "helpful" translator). I wasn't about to dismiss either possibility, though the credibility of the source material remains entirely outside the realm of what I'd consider solid.

I did try to dig up commentary from the news stories at the time that would have debunked the quotes; I was sure I'd seen such a thing in the outraged reaction to the MoveOn.org Hitler ad, but no amount of Googling turned up anything substantive. I did, however, find sympathetic articles defending the ads and claiming that the quotes were authentic (though providing little in the way of citations or evidence).

Well, now it's the next day, and the White House has issued its denial, and so has Abbas—so I guess the footage must have been shot back in 2003 after all. And even the people inclined to dismiss McClellan's denial out of hand would surely pay attention to Abbas'.

But that wasn't fast enough for every editorial writer from here to Timbuktu to register their horror anew at the quotes which have been swirling around the toilet bowl of the Internet's seamier underbelly for over two years now. They've just been bumped into the spotlight again, this time by the BBC itself, and I haven't yet decided whether it's sadder that the BBC's very credibility is what's served to renew the world's interest in them—or that that same credibility has sunk to such abysmal levels that this kind of thing hardly even surprises me.

But do go see Tim Blair's latest on the matter, a roundup of all the highly-placed opinionmakers who have given this story the same immortality as the "plastic turkey" and the James Watt "Second Coming" libel.

And for the record: no, I don't think Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet.

Thursday, October 6, 2005
17:16 - Whither video?

(top)
So what's coming on October 12?

Although pretty much everybody agrees that the announcement will somehow center on video, Think Secret insists that we won't be seeing a "video iPod". Yes, one is reportedly in development, but it's not coming next week.

Which I still think makes plenty of sense. Who really wants to watch movies on a two-inch screen? The only way a video iPod would make sense is for it to be a largish hand-held screen on the order of the PSP. And that means it would be competing with the PSP, and would probably cost more, and not play games. Doesn't sound like a winning proposition to me.

Unless, of course, Apple were to work out some method by which you could rip your DVD movies onto your hard drive in the same way you can do now with audio CDs, and then organize them in the long-fabled "video iTunes", and then transfer them to the video iPod via FireWire/USB2 to store on its internal 80GB drive. But that's also a long shot. DVDs are a lot more structurally chaotic than audio CDs, which are bound by a very restrictive standard: add DRM to an audio CD, and it's no longer an Audio CD™. DVDs are a wholly different animal, with myriad different ways to encode the content, trailers, alternate audio tracks, special features, and so on, to say nothing of the DRM flavor of the day. MacTheRipper (currently on the run from the authorities) has fairly good "main feature detection", so it's not impossible to do from a technical standpoint—but the big barrier, naturally, is the MPAA, which would never allow such a breach of their control. The big labels already regret not having more control over the format of a CD; they're not about to give up what hold they have on DVDs.

So that's not in the cards, I would think. Yet, and this is telling: http://www.apple.com/movies returns a 403 error, not a 404. That means something's there, and in internal dry-run testing with live URLs, and the webmaster is too lazy to have put up a custom 403 page that looks like a 404 page. (Thanks to Lileks for spotting this!)

Which means, to my eyes, an online, downloadable movie store. So you can get pay-for-download movies, perhaps in nice HD-quality H.264, to play on your computer.

Now, that sounds well and good, especially if it's cheap (like $10 a movie, with infinite playability, like with the iTMS). But even then I don't think I can see getting too excited over it... unless there were, say, an AirPort Express-like box with video capabilities, for sending the movie wirelessly to your TV rig.

Is that a viable business proposition for Apple? Is it something customers are ready for? It's certainly got the appropriate geekiness level—which is to say, no more tech-savvy required than using iTunes and AirPort Express. But what about the cost? The movie industry has been trying for years to figure out what the best and most profitable way of selling movies is: buy-once, own-forever DVDs? Rentals? Limited-play-count auto-degrading discs? Pay-for-play (e.g. DiVX)? Some of these schemes have failed abjectly, and others have achieved great popularity even though they aren't the most efficient use of viewers' money (think of any typical thousand-dollar DVD collection that the owner never takes down off its shelf). But that's really the studios' dream, right there: more money paid for stuff that doesn't necessarily cost the studio anything.

How would downloadable movies fit into this universe? Would the studios see it as a cash cow or a loss-leader? Would they be able to price it such that it makes them money and is at the same time attractive to buyers? How paranoid would they have to be about DRM, and what technology would they use?

I think they can swing it. At least, I'm going to assume they can, because that's where all the signs are pointing.

So that's where my money is. But I'm not the first to put it there; I'm in good company, it seems.


16:28 - Perspective and soda
http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/huron.html

(top)
You know, I've got to wonder: would today's Left, upon reading the Port Huron Statement (the manifesto of the Students for a Democratic Society, the guys who turned the 1968 Chicago DNC into a riot), recognize themselves at all? Or would they be horrified? And what about vice versa?

It's a fascinating read, and I can't believe I've never taken the time to peruse it before. True, there are some large chunks of complete phantasmagoria. There are swathes of text anchored in nuclear paranoia and a sense of pre-Civil-Rights racial futility. It's a product of a different time, when the space race was brand-new and the economy was far more centered on huge Cold War government projects and sweatshop industry than on anything like the tech booms of today, and the text does indeed seem to be describing a totally different country than this one. There are the to-be-expected appeals for warmth toward organized labor and socialism and a resistance to knee-jerk anti-communism. With these things I'm sure today's Left would feel right at home.

But not with statements like "Although our own technology is destroying old and creating new forms of social organization, men still tolerate meaningless work and idleness" and "When we were kids the United States was the wealthiest and strongest country in the world: the only one with the atom bomb, the least scarred by modern war, an initiator of the United Nations that we thought would distribute Western influence throughout the world. Freedom and equality for each individual, government of, by, and for the people -- these American values we found good, principles by which we could live as men. Many of us began maturing in complacency."

Of course it all concludes with the statement that of course, college students are the natural inheritors of the reins of political power. Imagine the leap of logic it took a bunch of college students to say that.

The point is, while the document is full of all the usual talking points that have survived into present-day incarnations of Leftism, the thoughtfulness of its prose is completely gone in what I usually see today, and with it the heart that apparently used to underlie liberal thinking back in the day. I think the people who wrote this thing would be sickened to see the causes that those who consider themselves the Chicago Seven's spiritual descendants throw themselves into today.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005
14:25 - Lowest common denominators
http://www.xenotypetech.com/

(top)
Evariste sends this: a fresh new example of what happens when Apple cripples its own superior implementation of something in order to play nice with the slow children:

Here's the problem, simply put: OpenType fonts use a different structure to provide access to font features (e.g., small caps, swashes, true fractions, etc.) than Macintosh TrueType fonts. Apple, most likely under pressure from Microsoft and Adobe (the creators of the OpenType font format), has decided that it would be helpful if people could access these and other features in OpenType fonts on a Macintosh. As a result, Tiger now looks for the presence of OpenType font features and converts them to Apple's own format. The problem with this approach is that it then ignores the existence of its own native format for font features. You'd think this wouldn't be a big deal, but OpenType, regardless of the hype, does not provide a sufficient featureset to display many of the world's writing systems. It requires the presence of an adjunct file which [currently] only exists under Windows.

Why all of this is bad...bad...bad: A cross-platform font that contains OpenType features as well as native AAT features no longer works as intended because the intelligence in the AAT tables is ignored by Tiger. Crippling Apple's superior ability to handle writing systems seems like a high price to pay for what amounts to typographic niceties (no offense to people who use and enjoy swashes and old style numerals). Even scarier is the thought that Apple might be abandoning its technology altogether in favor of something obtrusive (no doubt to be licensed from Microsoft).

Under the OpenType model, Microsoft must 'bless' a writing system before it will work and that means if Microsoft thinks your writing system is insignificant or otherwise unworthy of their development time, your favorite script isn't going to work. Under Apple's structure, developers decide if, when and how they support a writing system — no waiting for rich corporati to decide when a script is marketable.

Harsh words? Maybe. But for small developers like us (they're aren't many of us, admittedly), this will be impossible to deal with. Take Tibetan or Burmese for example, these have been possible for years on a Macintosh, but still have yet to be officially adopted by Microsoft. Even the upcoming release of Longhorn is unlikely to support Burmese. Do you really want to wait for Microsoft to decide when you can type in your native script?

You'd think Apple could afford to be less compromising these days, what with its newfound political capital accumulated ever since OS X burst on the scene. But it seems exceptionalism isn't quite as important to the company as it once was. Sure, that may have some concrete advantages here and there. But tell that to the Burmese.


11:57 - A couple of thin red lines
http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/10/04/britain.redcross/index.html

(top)
It's one thing for Piglet to be banned, or a medieval pig statue to not be restored, or an ice cream lid design to be changed because someone thinks it looks like it says "Allah".

But what about the Union Jack?

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding, said Tuesday the red cross was an insensitive reminder of the Crusades.

“A lot of Muslims and Arabs view the Crusades as a bloody episode in our history,” he told CNN. “They see those campaigns as Christendom launching a brutal holy war against Islam.

“Muslim or Arab prisoners could take umbrage if staff wore a red cross badge. It’s also got associations with the far-right. Prison officers should be seen to be neutral.”

Doyle added that it was now time for England to find a new flag and a patron saint who is “not associated with our bloody past and one we can all identify with.”

How tied are Britons to their flag? How deep does it run in their blood? This isn't Winnie-the-Pooh... this is a thousand years of history and culture.

Is this the line beyond which Britain won't be pushed?

Eventually someone's going to have to stand up and say that if we're going to have a secular society, then that means everybody has to stop being offended by perceived religious affronts. And that means everybody. That's the social contract under which we live here in the Western world. If someone can't handle it, he should be politely but firmly shown the door.

Or, if we're not willing to do that... it we're willing to lay down and surrender, not just in the face of everyday citizens' religious complaints, but in the interest of prisoners not taking umbrage... then maybe we as a culture don't deserve to live anyway.

Via LGF.

UPDATE: What would Lord Nelson make of all this?

UPDATE: For reference, here is a post with background on how the "English flag" (the flag of St. George) and the Union Jack are related. Pretty cool, if you ask me. I'd hate to see such a clever contrivance lost to history for fear of stepping on the toes of people who put AK-47s and explicit statements of creed on their flags.

UPDATE: I wonder what George Galloway would have to say about this.

Wait, no I don't.


10:40 - [huey stare]

(top)
Heh. Apparently it is that iconic:


The Huey Stare: The Animated Series.

C'mon, new Futurama and Venture Brothers! We need you!

(Sorry about the glare and reflections; the stare was so much more piercing late at night when the sign was internally illuminated.)

Monday, October 3, 2005
15:09 - Fool's Golden Age

(top)
On the plus side, as announced in GIANT SCREEN-FILLING LETTERS in all the bumps for the past week, Adult Swim has gained an extra hour on Sundays, beginning at 10:00 PM instead of 11:00, apparently in deference to the monstrous crowds of viewers swelling its coffers with unstaunchable DVD sales.

But don't let's get too fired up now, hear. What goes in that extra leadoff hour? Futurama? Space Ghost? Home Movies? Venture Brothers? No. Of course not. Haven't you been paying attention? The answer's obvious: American Dad and another half-hour of Family Guy.

Seth McFarlane is the new David Feiss: an animator/voice actor/director/storyboarder/Shaolin Master Who Must Be Obeyed In All Things whose talent points are all spent in self-promotion. Never mind that the art lacks grace and/or nuance and the humor he peddles is worn for shock value and the voices he provides are harsh and grating and the comic timing has all the ingenuity of the drunk guy at the party dancing on the sofa with the lampshade on his head while everyone else sidles huntedly for the door, wailing kids in tow. He's money in the bank, man, so buy that man his own studio.

Both these guys are trying to be Mike Judge or John Kricfalusi, which is something all the industry's random rag-tag up-and-coming jacks-of-all-trades have been trying to accomplish for fifteen years now, each one muttering his own superstitious incantations and affecting his own version of a can't-miss nasally laugh or protruding butt joke. I don't think it's going to work. In order to be Mike Judge you can't try so hard—it has to come naturally. (Besides, the "I can't draw straight lines or symmetrical human beings" art style only works exactly once.) And in order to be John K., you have to be John K. No David Feisses allowed.

I have yet to decide whether Adult Swim is falling all over itself to hang on to the careening Seth McFarlane bandwagon just because it's the in thing to do in Hollywood these days, or if it's because the bumpmasters actually, honestly think he's a genius. I know they find themselves promoting crap they lie through their teeth about finding funny, like Twelve Ounce Mouse. But I also know they slavishly and obsessively bend to the whims of the people in the forums, so how do I know who to blame for this? Maybe I don't know my demographic as well as I thought I did, which I never thought was a lot.

Oh, but take heart. Saturday nights at 5:00 AM, it's the SUPER MILK CHAN POWER HOUR, with reruns of Cartoon Planet! See? I knew someone in the Turner Tower still had that old-time religion.

And apparently this, alleged not to be a joke, is coming to Cartoon Network as well. Uh... yay! I think! ... (Huh?)

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