Murrowed brow.

Tuesday, August 31st, 2004

ShopTalk today led off with a quote (provided without comment) from deep in broadcast journalism’s past…one that I thought appropriate to pass on during a week of police versus demostrators in the streets of New York while in Washington, civil liberties seem all the more on the wane.

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular.”
—EDWARD R. MURROW, journalist (1908-1965)

Are there reporters out there following in Murrow’s tradition, with his courage? or has the economic landscape changed too much to support that old hardy breed?

Hole in the bucket.

Monday, August 30th, 2004

On the first night of the Republican Convention, an orchestrated fiesta of we love the troops more than those other guys, I read (out here, in the vast blackness of the Internet) that the Justice Department is again—again!—abusing their authority and prerogatives. The whole story is here at The Memory Hole, but I commend to you here a quote, from a Supreme Court opinion, redacted—blacked out!—by the Justicers because I guess those expressed, oh-so-very-public ideas of the highest court of the land can represent a threat to someone’s national security…

“The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect ‘domestic security.’ Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent.”

I want to see t-shirts printed with this paragraph. I want to see Ashcroft apologize. I want to see the election go another way.

C-Spanning the globe.

Sunday, August 29th, 2004

My brother called earlier this afternoon to ask if I was watching the protests on the streets of NYC on C-Span. “Punching in and out of it,” I said.

It occurred to me that everyone I had talked to who watched the Democratic Convention on television—seriously—watched most of the coverage on C-SPAN, blissfully spared commercials and Wolf Blitzer’s tiny microphones and the blather they picked up.

And now again, on the eve of the Republican Conventions, this non-profit service of your local cable companies—in some ways more “public” than public television—is serving the American public interest by just pointing a camera out on the streets of Manhattan and shutting the hell up. What’s CNN covering at the same moment? Prepackaged People magazine biography of Dick Cheney. Fox News? Canned wrap up of the week’s news—old news.

C-Span is in many ways doing the job of the 24-hour news channels, at a fraction of their budget. It’s the kind of service that makes one wish their mandate was broader: “Where’s C-Span for the Olympics?” Sammy asked.

So now, here come the Republicans. If you want to watch—really watch, you know where to go.


Wednesday, August 25th, 2004

You heard about there being new rules about overtime…rules that the labor secretary hailed as being great news for employees?

Rule 6: Employees whose job requires imagination, invention, originality, or artistic or creative endeavors are not eligible for overtime.

Oh, that’s just great. Encourage people to avoid creativity. And let employers take advantage of creative people. Oh, good idea.

Well, we can dig it.

Thursday, August 19th, 2004

Will Smith might want to take note. Some guy (in an earlier day I think I’d say “some wag,” but we’re all wags now) named Shane posted this in a comment to an entry in Engadget…ladies and gentlemen, Issac Hayesimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:

A robot must risk his neck for his brother man, and may not cop out when there’s danger all about.

A robot must be a sex machine to all the chicks, except where such actions conflict with the will of his main woman.

A robot must at all times strive to be one bad motha-shutchyomouth.

Excuse me, I’m getting a bad case of the wicka-wackas.

A spime day.

Tuesday, August 17th, 2004

Okay, I really thought about going to Siggraph this year…it would have been the first time in more than a decade for me, but no, I figured I had important stuff to do here at home.

So I am pleased when I read excellent reporting from the conference, and even more pleased when I can catch up on keynote speaker Bruce Sterling’s remarks in tasty, convenient online form. Sterling is at his futurist best here, and manages to weave together smart objects taken to the extreme, macroregional systems, our wasteful society, and Steve Jobs’ cancer. Yes, you read that right.

All that and more, as they say. Please click and enjoy.

(Sex) object lessons.

Sunday, August 15th, 2004

“Blog, Interrupted”, April Witt’s Washington Post story on Jessica Cutler, the blog-and-tell intern. Somehow, this piece (which is just outstanding, I think) manages to address in one tidy package a lot of what I’ve been thinking about modern sexuality, the internet, slacker attitudes, feminist ideals filtered through a trashy pop culture, lessons on importance of looks versus what’s inside, what passes for power in Washington, and, uh, the all-too-frequent new-blogger incredulity: “you mean everyone can read what I just wrote?”

The lessons to be learned are myriad.

It’s long. It’s detailed. Read the whole thing while it’s there (how long do Washington Post pieces stay on their site?) Reflect. Repeat.

* * * * *

And while I’m in the linking-to-print-articles spirit, I commend to you:

Tom Shales of the WP on HBO’s edginess in general and Six Feet Under in particular–can you be too edgy?

The Post shamefully downplayed anti-war stories before the Iraq invasion…

Inside Al Queda’s hard drive–from the guy who bought it, in the Atlantic Monthly

So five minutes ago.

Sunday, August 8th, 2004

That’s one of those expressions (I saw it most recently in a Rolling Stone movie review) that really snaps into focus the level of my disconnect with our pop-culture filled world. It’s like Wired magazine’s “Wired/Tired/Expired”, in that what we’re supposed to be doing/reading/consuming/thinking about these days is that of the moment. It used to be simply “out” and “in”, as in “out of fashion” and “in fashion,” but right now the focal point of in-ness is razor-sharp and incredibly brief.

Amazing for a culture that is so largely cobbled together from recycled bits and samples of samples of creativity (yes, that was “samples of” twice.)

And from my perch way off the edge of what is “of the moment,” I just watched last year’s ‘American Splendor’ with great satisfaction. Pekar spent the last 30 years or so telling stories of ordinary life in a form and with a richness that makes weblogs seem positively one-dimensional. Couldn’t help but be reminded of my brother’s recent work that is very personal and a great use of the form. Also, the movie has Cleveland and White Castles in it, so, well, there you go.

* * * * *

Oh yeah, also learned on the web what ‘Guilloche’ means. Hint: not the same thing as huitlacoche.


Sunday, August 8th, 2004

I went to my brother’s favorite aggregated site this morning–Metafilter–and lo and behold:


…it wasn’t having a good Sunday morning. And I may be imagining it, but a lot more of the heavily-hit sites, from Slashdot to Google, have been having their no funcionar kind of moments lately.

And when they don’t show up, I ask myself “Okay, denial of service attack? Someone forgot to close a bracket? Power hit? Act of terror?”

It’s generally hard to tell. And generally, there isn’t an available explanation after they return to service.

And inasmuch as broadband internet is a utility in our house just like water and gas, it’s kind of like the ceiling fan switch in the living room doesn’t work for a moment, and then later, it does. Ghosts? Gremlins? Funny how we think about reliability and “always-on”-ness.

A few weeks ago, a powerful thunderstorm with lightning scored a direct hit on the uplink facilities for CNN and other Turner networks (2.8 miles due west of our house, by the way) and CNN’s audio feed to the satellite(s) was out for, I forget, 15 minutes or so. Amazingly, their ratings numbers held up–even beating MSNBC at that particular moment.

That interruption was big news, though, and reporters demanded a statement from CNN’s spokespeople. Hey, something blew. Happens all the time…or it used to, in the land of television. Now, with their multiply-redundant systems, it’s rare that the big networks just aren’t there…if something does fail, more often than not we suspect (and blame) the local cable companies, who do nothing to earn our trust by hiding behind voicemail trees and customer service people far removed from the folks who actually go out and reset the breakers and fire up the crashed servers.

We had a power hit at the house this morning, too…the kind of off, then on, then off, then on hit that really plays havoc with solid state equipment. Froze up my G5 solid and knocked Sammy’s machine off. Darn you, Georgia Power.

The Justice Department doesn’t want you to read.

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004

Does this seem right to you? My sister sent this along, from the American Library Association via BuzzFlash:

Last week, the American Library Association learned that the Department of Justice asked the Government Printing Office Superintendent of Documents to instruct depository libraries to destroy five publications the Department has deemed not “appropriate for external use.” The Department of Justice has called for these five these public documents, two of which are texts of federal statutes, to be removed from depository libraries and destroyed, making their content available only to those with access to a law office or law library.

The topics addressed in the named documents include information on how citizens can retrieve items that may have been confiscated by the government during an investigation. The documents to be removed and destroyed include: Civil and Criminal Forfeiture Procedure; Select Criminal Forfeiture Forms; Select Federal Asset Forfeiture Statutes; Asset forfeiture and money laundering resource directory; and Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA).

ALA has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the withdrawn materials in order to obtain an official response from the Department of Justice regarding this unusual action, and why the Department has requested that documents that have been available to the public for as long as four years be removed from depository library
collections. ALA is committed to ensuring that public documents remain available to the public and will do its best to bring about a satisfactory resolution of this matter.

Librarians should note that, according to policy 72, written authorization from the Superintendent of Documents is required to remove any documents. To this date no such written authorization in hard copy has been issued.

I did a Google news check, and then wrote her back to say that it looks like the DOJ reversed its policy…but the point remains, that the ONLY hits that came up on this story out here in the land of Google (vs. lexisNexus) was from the Boston Globe reporting it–and then reporting the reversal.

Two hits. Did CNN report it? How many, if ANY broadcast outlets?

Yeah, it’s not as compelling as, say, a murder in Utah, or how big a bounce Kerry really got, but it is, after all how our civil liberties erode…one tiny bit at a time–and that’s a story that’s really really difficult to cover.