Monday, February 21, 2005

The State of the Blogosphere

Anil Dash posted this last week.
We're just barely into the phase where normal people have heard the word "blog", and the zealous political bloggers who form a loud, obnoxious minority of bloggers have decided they want their grandmothers to think of blogging as "that thing that gets journalists fired". That sucks, and it's going to limit the number of people who join into our medium. And the zealous tech bloggers who form a loud, obnoxious minority of bloggers have decided they want their grandmothers to think that blogging is "that thing that gets regular people fired". That's not better.

You can't make a medium where there's absolutely zero tolerance for being human and making mistakes. Every political blogger crowing about Eason and Gannon is just sealing the fate of us all when large journalistic organizations start to reciprocate. I know I couldn't stand up to the scrutiny of even the smallest news network or newspaper focusing all its resources on finding my weaknesses, flaws, inconsistencies, or misstatements. Hell, I'd have to eliminate about 90% of the jokes I make from my daily conversations.

Within the comments, someone named "soopa" wrote this:
Being negative is the easiest way to get attention in this medium and others. Anyone can be negative. It is HARD to be constructive. If we continue to build-up foundations built on negativity, there will be no stopping it and it will destroy this medium.

It's something that has stuck with me for the last week and something about which I'd like to write more when I have a chance.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Oh my...

Author Hunter S. Thompson Kills Himself

If he couldn't make it through another four years of Bush & Co., what hope do the rest of us have?

Rest in peace, good doctor.

Effective Dismissal of "Intelligent Design"

And witty, too. New York Times Magazine: "Unintelligent Design", by Jim Holt.

Also worth reading, although scary as hell, "The Crusade Against Evolution" from the October 2004 issue of Wired.

(The scariest letter-to-the-editor over the piece? This one:
The struggle between evolutionists and intelligent design proponents has, in reality, very little to do with science. The absence of intermediary species in the fossil record proves evolution a bust. If ID is truth, then the human race is accountable to a higher moral power. If evolution is truth, then we are accountable only to each other in terms of morals, ethics, and behavior. [Emphasis mine.]

Evolutionists cling so fervently to their outmoded beliefs because ID is the only viable alternative.

Paul Black
Saluda, North Carolina

Yes, because that would be terrible, wouldn't it? Accountable only to each other rather than trying to curry favor with the great referee in the sky. I also love the notion that evolutionary theory is "outmoded," and by implication that "intelligent design" (a term that should always, in my opinion, be surrounded by ironic quotes) is the cutting edge of science. Because, of course, no one ever thought to posit "It is so because God made it so and who are we to question His wisdom?" before now.)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Oscar Fever Strikes! (Just lie down with a cool cloth on your brow)

David Edelstein is right. Either cut the tortuous “banter” between presenters -- letting Bruce Vilanch have the night off for once -- or just cancel the whole damn show altogether. I mean, if you want the thing to be shorter, just have someone read off all of the winners in a quick five-minute press conference before the Barbara Walters Special.

You know, with each and every passing year I care less and less about this stuff.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Woodstein Online

The University of Texas at Austin has started putting Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's Watergate notes up online here: Ransom Center: Exhibitions & Events: Online Exhibitions.

Alas, still mum on who Deep Throat was.

(I'm always amused when some Watergate-era figure who is on the long list of possible Deep Throats dies and political junkies across the country stop in their tracks and wait for some sign from Woodward or Bernstein. It's like waiting for the white smoke to indicate the election of a new pope.)

What the -- ???

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

And the poor kid probably thought that the pictures in the bathtub were going to be the most embarassing ones. Nope, it's going to take a lot to top the time mom scrawled on his face with a magic marker in the hopes of a photo-op.

This kid is going to grow up to be Jack Black in Bob Roberts.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

It's Back!

Air America is back on the air in Los Angeles! Woo-hoo!

That means I don't have to set a timer through Audio Hijack to (hopefully) start the live stream of Al Franken's show, convert it to an AAC file through iTunes and eventually put it on my iPod to listen to later on anymore.

The downside is that I have to listen to all of the commercials. And to Mark Luther's defense of Rush Limbaugh.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Book Review: "Life of Pi"

(Who am I kidding? It's not really a book review as much as a rumination over a book that I've read. Need a real review? Google the title; you'll find something better somewhere else.

If you haven't read the book and intend to do so, please stop reading now. I have no desire to ruin things for you, but I also have no desire to write a bland, vague paragraph about the book and follow it up with all sorts of CAPITALS and exclamation points!!! and bold-faced warnings telling you that beyond this point there be spoilers. OK? Check back later, there might be something for you then.)

I don't know what the point is. That religion is a kind of storytelling, and that both are primal urges in human beings? That the major religions are the same? That the major religions (or maybe all religions) are comforting hokum?

Pi becomes a carnivore while adrift, much to his initial Hindu horror. Is this a sign that religions can be comforting but not always practical in the real world? That anyone, under the right circumstances, can shed his morality?

It's about explaining the unexplainable. How did we get from point A to point B? If no one was there to see it, how can we know? We imagine, we invent, and we fill in the blanks as best we can. The only one who knew what really happened on that life boat was Pi, and he has two different stories. Which one is the best one? As he says, neither one explains to the Japanese gentlemen what happened to their ship. So which is the better story.

The one with the tiger, they agree.

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

And if you, as either the teller of the story or the one being told, can successfully hold contradicting accounts in your head and derive comfort from the friction that results (a kind of heat to keep you warm, I suppose), then what's the harm?

I don't know if I can agree with such a conclusion. I don't know if I can object to it, either. Before he tells his story, Pi says that it will make you believe in God, and this is perhaps the part that is rubbing me the wrong way. On the one hand, Piscine is a practicing Hindu, Muslim, and Christian, all at the same time. He sees the stories of each as comforting and challenging, pushing him to be the best practitioner of each religion that he can be, which would in turn make him a better person. (And you can't help but like him. He's a terribly precocious scamp, full of moxie and all that.) Sometimes the stories of each faith contradict one another, sometimes they compliment one another, and sometimes one or another will fill in a mysterious silence on a topic that the third chooses not to address. He finds harmony where others find discord.

Okay, that's fine so far. But maybe only if you're the one who is being told the story.

If you're telling the story, you need to fill in those gaps. You need to have explanations, even if the point of the story isn't to explain that particular thing. If you're listening to a story, you've got some wiggle room. You can take what you like and discard what doesn't work. If you decide that the wrap-around beginning and ending of "Saving Private Ryan" doesn't work for you because isn't logically possible, then you can ignore it and focus on the parts of the movie that were good. When Pi stitches together the pieces of three different faiths into something that suits him, that's his right as the collector of those stories.

His adventure with Richard Parker, though, marks his transition from a listener or a collector to a storyteller, and with that comes a higher responsibility. This holds especially true when telling stories about faith, which Pi's story undoubtedly is about. Although in what I am supposed to have faith, I don't know.

"Any Day Above Ground Is A Good One"

Hm: National Museum of Funeral History. That's an interesting way of killing some time. (Found at Boing Boing)

I especially like the die-cast models of hearses available in the gift shop.