Unintended irony

Burningbird writes about a series of public-service announcements (available for download):

All the ads are intended to ‘inform’ the American public about what will happen if we don’t continue to support the war on Terror. All horrifyingly demonstrating the reality of what is happening to this country because of the war on terror.

Ouch. One ad illustrates “freedom”: a shopping cart rolling through a grocery store aisle, with 10 kinds of bread, 50 kinds of breakfast cereal, etc. This is an unintended tribute to George Carlin’s observation that “freedom” in this country means we’ve got 37 different kinds of mustard, but no real political options. Another shows a guy asking for a banned book at a library and immediately being grabbed by the cops–too close to what’s already happening at libraries.

Institutionalized kidnapping

This article in the Washington Post details a startling bit of American history that I had been unaware of: during WW2, the U.S. government kidnapped Latin Americans of Japanese, German, and Italian descent and held them in detention centers, in some cases as late as 1949.

A cautionary tale for our times. I have no trouble imagining the current lot doing the same thing.

One for the lazyweb: better javascript e-mail obscurifier

I’m currently using a javascript to generate my e-mail on this page in a way that spambots apparently can’t detect. Described in brief, it spits out a mailto link, with my account name, then an encoded at-sign, then my domain name. This is all hard-coded into the script (have a look).

Although I lack the coding chops to make it work just right (much less make it elegant), I’d like to generalize this to work as follows:

The script is called with two or (optionally) three parameters. The first parameter is the account name. The second is the domain name. The third is the text (or image tag) that will be used for the link text — something like “mail me”. If the third parameter is not present, the e-mail address itself is inserted as the text.

And it would be great if there were a plug-in that inserted this into Movable Type so that it automatically re-coded e-mail addresses in the main content and in comments.


Somebody (not even sure who) pointed to the nifty graphic at Ryze. The graphic shows relationships between blogs, based on their blogrolls (I think). Interesting to see how they cluster around a few stars. A map like this suggests that a better word than blogosphere, blogistan, or blogiverse would be blogalaxy.

Ryze, btw, seems like an interesting site for aggregating affinities.

An early spring

The new year is only three days old, and despite a mild freeze last night, it feels like spring. I noticed the mountain laurel outside Gwen’s place was covered in buds this morning. When I got home, I discovered that, despite my utter lack of care for the garden, the iris, rose, and skyflower were all in bloom.

The “akemashite” in the Japanese new-year’s greeting, akemashite omedetou is a homophone for the word for “opening.” That seems especially apt right now.


home.jpegGeoURL is another snazzy way to create a linkage between Internet and physical geography. It helps you create a couple meta tags expressing your meatspace coordinates, which you stick in the header of your blog. You then ping it, and it adds you to its list. This could help make some interesting things possible, apart from just figuring out who your real-world neighbors are in the blogosphere.

This also led me to the ACME mapper, which showed me a 1 meter-per-pixel image of my street, shown here.

Audio ads on the web

Well, this is a first for me. This page played a sound clip when I hit it, a guy saying “This column is brought to you by 3M.”

It’s a good thing I have a fast connection, or I would have resented the extra download time. As it is, it was pretty jarring. If this catches on, it is going to create an entirely new form of annoyance on the Internet.



Saw Adaptation yesterday. This is an amazing movie. Multi-layered and turned in on itself, like a deck of cards made out of curled wood shavings, even the title is multivalent, referring both to the process of adapting a book to the screen, and adaptation in the Darwinian sense.

The movie tells the story of Charlie Kaufman’s efforts to adapt the book The Orchid Thief to the screen. Many of the characters in the movie are real-life people, behaving (we imagine) pretty much as they do in real life. Some are real-life people, but behaving (we imagine) very differently than they do in real life. And at least one major character, Donald Kaufman (Charlie’s identical twin brother, both played by Nicholas Cage) is completely fictional. It’s hard to know where reality ends and invention begins.

Although the movie winds up throwing off the Orchid Thief entirely, it manages to depict a fair amount of it, plus a fair amount of its writing by Susan Orlean, but ultimately of course is about the screenplay writing by Charlie Kaufman, who is the major character (who is obsessed with Susan Orlean, who is infatuated with John Laroche, the real-life figure at the center of Orchid Thief). And while Charlie is intensely absorbed with himself, hateful of himself, and paralyzed by both of these, Donald is all the things Charlie isn’t: oblivious, carefree, shallow, extroverted, forward-moving, but capable of occasional flashes of insight.

Donald is following his brother’s example by becoming a screenwriter, but follows a seminar’s recipe for genre writing and forges ahead, unreflectively (“My genre’s thriller. What’s yours?”). Charlie’s progress on the screenplay is thwarted by the lack of action in the story — while trying to carry over the book’s fascination with the wonder of flowers, he finds it’s hard to make a movie about flowers. He tries to re-focus it on Susan Orlean, but fails in that he is too awkward to even introduce himself to her. He becomes practically unglued when his brother’s screenplay (which was finished halfway through the film) gets an enthusiastic reception, and it is roughly at this point that the movie veers way out into left field, leaving behind Charlie’s constant inward obsessing for something else. As if Donald had hijacked Charlie’s typewriter. The movie shifts into high gear, clips along, and crashes to a halt. Charlie takes control of his typewriter back. Time lapse showing the wonder of flowers. The end.

In reality, Charlie Kaufman was the scriptwriter for Being John Malkovich (the shooting of which figures in Adaptation), and while the central conceit of BJM is whackier, the involuting and evoluting structure of Adaptation winds up being just as much fun, and perhaps more of a neat trick, intellectually speaking.

Happy new year

Happy New Year

A new year, and let’s hope, a better one. 2002 was a tough year for a lot of people. I have little to complain about myself, apart from slow translation work. Funny, though, how money — or more accurately, the lack of it — tends to get in the way of so many things. Apart from that, it was a pretty good year. I did a little travelling (though not as much as I’d like). My health was good. And I met Gwen, the high point.

My new-year festivities were spent with some friends. Uncharacteristically for me at least, we assembled at a restaurant on 6th, which was festive enough, had dinner, and then moved on to Club de Ville, where we rang in the new year. My allergies were getting the better of me, so Gwen and I called it a night shortly after. We were travelling by bike, and still wound up in bed by 1:00 AM.

The next day we got up comparatively early, and had an excellent but simple breakfast on Gwen’s stoop, enjoying a very bright, warm morning. We decided to go for a walk to enjoy the day, and then a movie, both of which we did. When out walking through Pease Park, we got to a point where the trail was closed, so we rock-hopped across Shoal Creek. I made it across quickly and easily (moreso than some other people crossing at the same point), and after I was across, realized that this was noteworthy. There was a time when either my adductor/abductor muscles in my left leg were too weak, or I was too unconfident of them, to have hopped across so easily. This felt good.