Month: October 2002

The California Coastline Project

This is brilliant. A guy who got rich during the dotcom era is photographing every inch of the California coastline from a helicopter

The camera is linked with a cable to the helicopter’s global positioning system, and to an Apple Power Book laptop. Every three seconds, he snaps a picture, and the exact longitude, latitude and altitude are recorded.

Adelman said he will spend about $20,000 to photograph the whole coast, and take about 10,000 pictures in all. He has finished about 60 percent, including nearly everything from Marin County to Los Angeles. He expects to finish the rest of Southern California this week. One area, over Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, is in restricted air space and Adelman is still working to get permission to photograph

This is what computers and the Internet are for. The fact that this project can be undertaken–and made universally available–for so little money amazes me.

Why is he doing this? I’m sure that once he is done, people will find all kinds of fascinating but unintended uses for it. His motive is environmental preservation. Check it out at californiacoastline.org.

Punch-Drunk Love

Saw Punch-Drunk Love last night. Excellent movie. Very weird, jarring audio throughout. Very studied use of symmetric framing, apparently to reinforce the sense of soul-crushing artificiality. This is perhaps only the second good movie that Adam Sandler has been in (Shakes the Clown would be the first), and he really goes beyond himself in this role, as Jim Carrey did in the Truman Show. But I’ll see just about anything from P.T. Anderson on spec.

Caetano Veloso

Saw Caetano Veloso last night at Bass Concert Hall with Gwen and another friend (who just happened to know the cellist). The local alternative weekly did an interesting piece on him recently.

The show was great. Although he played a number of old standards, there was nothing stale about his show, or about him. Unlike some musical acts that have been around as long, he clearly continues to innovate musically, not resting on his laurels. He’s also just damned talented.

Kung-log

Just downloaded a specialized OS-X tool for posting to Movable Type blogs: Kung-log. This is a test post using the program. Seems to work OK, although BBEdit is still a better writing environment.

The Internet and the ADA

In an important decision, a judge has ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to the Internet. A blind man sued Southwest Airlines over the fact that their website was difficult to use with his screen reader.

What to make of this? I’m sympathetic to the plaintiff. And it would be sensible, both from business and aesthetic standpoints, for the Southwest website to be more universally accessible, but bringing the Internet within the ADA’s purview could open a huge can of worms.

Hail

Austin occasionally gets a violent hailstorm. Last night was one–hailstones the size of ping-pong balls. My car now has six small dimples on the hood. Frankly, I’m surprised it wasn’t worse.

Now to figure out how to smooth out the dimples…

Towering hypocrisy?

Out running errands yesterday, I stopped by the Tower Records near the UT campus, which had marked down a lot of CDs to $8.99.

Although a lot of the marked-down items were best-of collections, there were some good standbys lacking from my collection, so I took the opportunity to fill these gaps–things like Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited, Neil Young’s Harvest, and Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Dream. While not cheap, $8.99 starts getting into the range of what I’d consider a fair price for CDs (of course, I buy a lot of music at what I consider unfair prices, too).

Right next to the checkout counter, I noticed a big floor display of blank CD-Rs. By all rights, the RIAA should be outraged that a major music outlet is essentially condoning and profiting from piracy, but I haven’t heard any cries of indignation on this subject. I’ve messaged them–if I get any feedback, I’ll post it here.

Orange Mothers & Meat Purveyors at the Cactus

Last night, Gwen and I saw the Orange Mothers and the Meat Purveyors at the Cactus Cafe. Gwen and I had seen the same line-up at the Continental Club when we had been dating for about two weeks. We’ve been dating for just about six months now.

The show was good. There was a bizarre opening act–three white guys doing traditional Indian (err, Native American) chants. Can’t say as it did much for me. But the Orange Mothers are fun, and the Meat Purveyors are fun as well as being really talented, energetic musicians. The Cactus has the advantage (to us) of being cigarette-free–the only bar I know of that is. And it is convenient. As is so often the case, we had several tempting options for Saturday-night activities, but the show at the Cactus won out.

Paper Tiger

Although I have little interest in Tiger Woods and less in the sport of golf, there was an interesting story surrounding him in the paper today.

Apparently he is being called upon by civil-rights campaigners to take a stand regarding the policy at Augusta National that only men can be members. The policy strikes me as equally (and very) anachronistic, silly, and inexcusable. Tiger’s comments are interesting.

In his most extensive comments on the Augusta’s membership, Mr. Woods rejected the suggestion that he steers clear of political controversy for fear it will harm his corporate interests or affect his income from endorsements. “There’s no validity to that at all,” he said. “I’ll say what I believe, but I’ll choose when.”

Then Mr. Woods took his cap off and rubbed his forehead in frustration.

“I’m also trying to win tournaments here,” he said. “Do people understand that?”

Fair enough. He’s an athlete (if you call golf “athletic”).

But he also said “It would be nice to see everyone have an equal chance to participate, but there is nothing you can do about it.”

Now, I don’t know much about the whole power structure of the pro-golf world. Perhaps he doesn’t have as much pull as I imagine he does. But I suspect he’s being either na├»ve or disingenuous when he says that. I get the impression he has a huge amount of clout in the golf world, and that if he said “I cannot in good conscience play golf at a club with such blatantly unfair policies,” the board members at Augusta National would convene an emergency session and reverse their policy fast enough to give us all whiplash. The only way these things change is when people “do something about it.”

But there are other interesting issues at work. Tiger Woods, simply because of the circumstances of his birth, attracts issues like this that no other golfer does.

Mr. Woods smiled when he was asked if he thought it unfair that he constantly heard the question of whether women should be admitted to Augusta National, especially since legendary white golfers like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus — who are members of Augusta National — are seldom asked about it.

Forget about race for a moment. Tiger Woods is basically an entertainer. He’s got a lot of exposure, money, and public support. Does that mean that he is obliged to be politically outspoken? A role model? It’s not clear to me that we should put that freight on our entertainers, and frankly, it can get pretty tedious when they assume that mantle anyhow.

Parsing problem

Spotted a banner at a resale shop today that read “Formerly Good Samaritan Thrift.”

The bad samaritans are more fun anyhow.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Gwen and I saw Standing in the Shadows of Motown last night, a documentary about 14 session musicians in Detroit known as the Funk Brothers. The story goes that these 14 guys, in some combination or another, were the sound behind every hit vocalist that came out of Motown for about 12 years.

The movie was interesting if for no other reason than that it exposed me to that fact. It had a lot of good music (seemingly shot at concerts staged for the movie), and a lot of bullshitting and storytelling by the men in question. Although it keeps things in a rough chronological order, there’s not much organization to it. That’s OK up to a point, but running about two hours long, it starts getting a little old–it could either use tighter editing or more structure.

Switch

In the beginning were the Switch ads from Apple. Quirky music in the background and a regular person just describing why they switched from Windows to Macs, with a lot of jump cuts to stress certain points.

Then came the parodies. Will Farrell made an especially funny one that was played at a Macworld conference.

Then came the ripoff. Microsoft concocted an obviously faked Mac-to-Windows switch story (nobody talks like a marketing weasel except a marketing weasel). When they were called on it, they took the page down. It lived on for a while in Google’s cache, but seems to have been lost to the shifting sands of time.

Anyhow, one of the original ads in particular, featuring a teenage girl, Ellen Feiss, seemed to capture the imagination of a lot of people. So now there’s a fan site for her. And a tribute song.

And now, Apple has brought the switch ad concept to Japan. Momoko Kikuchi seems to be the one most like Ellen (her story is kind of like Ellen’s, too…). I wonder how long it takes before she gets her own fan base.

In a related story, that annoying “Dude, your gettin’ a Dell” guy is out of work. Maybe he’ll be able to get a part in Dude, Where’s My Car, Part II.

Seasons change

Every year for some years now, a group of my friends has gathered for a weekend at a cabin on the Pedernales river (perversely pronounced Per-duh-Na-liss if you’re not from around here), and this year’s outing was this past weekend, where we celebrated Jenny’s big 4-0. Not much to report, since the weekend is all about doing nothing. We stay up late, sit around the campfire, sing 1970s rock standards, and drink a lot. I experimented with a cocktail of Tito’s Vodka and ultra-sharp ginger ale–pretty good.

As anyone who has spent any length of time will know, the weather is subject to dramatic changes. When we went to bed on Saturday, it still felt like summer. By the time we woke up on Sunday, it was very clearly autumn. These drastic temperature shifts always take the wind out of my sails for a few days.

Synthetic fun

A couple nights ago, Gwen was given an invitation to some sort of party at La Zona Rosa. The invitation promised it would be a showcase for new art, fashion, and film. “Could be fun,” she figured, so she accepted and invited me along. We agreed to ride our bikes and meet there.

It turns out to have been kind of a weird event. It was a manufactured party, sponsored by Chrysler behind the fig-leaf of an internal promotional organization called PT Studios. There was another company called Gen Art involved in some capacity.

The vibe was very strange. Zona Rosa, which is a big, barnlike club, had been re-dressed to look like some kind of futuristic boite. Very loud dance music stymied most attempts at wry commentary. The minute I walked in, I thought “This is not my scene.” After looking at the other people, I realized that it wasn’t anyone’s scene, in fact. There were all kinds of people there, and the only thing they had in common was that they had somehow been invited. Some people clearly just came straight from work without any particular expectations. Some people clearly were treating it as a big event, and had gotten all dolled up. Some people were funky, some were sleek fashionistas, some were bums like me, some were regular corporate working stiffs. There was little sense of excitement in the air.

The real point of the event was apparently to manufacture enthusiasm about the new PT Cruiser Turbo. Several were parked outside, kitted out with dress-up kits and the like. Indeed, there was a brief fashion show (that somehow seemed like it belonged in an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. There were some photographs hanging on the wall. There was a room set up for screening three shorts–we watched two, one of which was amazingly pretentious, the other which was cute, but also an obvious Chrysler promotional film.

One down, two to go

Well, thanks to the intervention of a kind soul who will remain nameless, I have scored a pirate copy of Office 2001, allowing me to run Office X after all. Now I just need to get my hard drive fixed and deal with that address-book problem.

Upgrade woes

What a disaster.

I upgraded to MacOS X version 10.2 yesterday. This may turn out to be more aggravating than the upgrade from 9.0 to 10.1. Why? Some specifics:

  1. Address book: Although it was fairly primitive in 10.1, I started using the address book and depended on it. Much to my amazement, not only does the address book in 10.2 use a completely different file format, it doesn’t have any import function for the old address book. The only way to get old address-book data into the new program is by exporting the data to an interchange format before upgrading. At this point, I can’t even get my 10.1 install CD to run, so I can’t install the old address book for that purpose.
  2. Microsoft Office: Some people brag about being Microsoft-free. Many others aspire to that noble condition. Apparently Microsoft itself is trying to give me a shove in that direction. After installing my upgrade edition of Office X, the installer requested that I locate the old installation or the old CD. I can’t seem to locate the CD of the previous version (I probably threw it out in a housecleaning). A frustrating call to Microsoft tech support leaves me thinking that they aren’t going to help me. Either I can buy the full new version, or I can track down someone else’s copy of the earlier version, or I could perhaps buy a copy on eBay.
  3. My hard drive: When I came home this morning, I discovered my external hard drive, a firewire model from QPS, was making an ominous clicking noise every few seconds. Double-clicking the drive icon resulted in the spinning beachball of doom. Now, for the most part, this drive is reserved for my MP3 collection, but I copied my personal files to it for this upgrade, since I wanted to reformat the hard drive and start fresh. I was able to open the terminal and use the Unix “cp” command to copy the most critical data off the drive, but now it doesn’t even mount on the desktop. I left voicemail with QPS, which still hasn’t been returned.

Shinjumen

Another whacky fad from Japan. Inserting pearls in the penis. This article had a lot of fun with the topic

Shukan Taishu notes that while many ordinary women in their 20s tend to clam up when it comes to pearl implants, older women are more inclined to shell out a bit for the added sensation, meaning the artificial amorous aid can make the world a man’s oyster.

In the immortal words of Slim Pickens, Holy mother of pearl!