Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Bright Ideas: Cooking a Lava Lamp™ 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
There are bizarre ways to die, and then there are some truly bizarre ways to die. This is apparently one of them.
KENT, Washington (AP) -- A man who placed a lava lamp on a hot stovetop was killed when it exploded and sent a shard of glass into his heart, police said. Philip Quinn, 24, was found dead in his trailer home Sunday night by his parents. "Why on earth he was heating a lava lamp on the stove, we don't know," Kent Police spokesman Paul Petersen said Monday.

After the lamp exploded, Quinn apparently stumbled into his bedroom, where he died Sunday afternoon, authorities said. Police found no evidence of drug or alcohol use.
Don't try this at home, kids. Really.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004
farkleberries Links du Jour 34 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Monday, November 22, 2004
The Beat Goes On: Philly's Giant Heart Celebrates 50th 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
When I was about 3 years old my parents took me to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia - we lived right across the Delaware, in Trenton back then - and while I remember little else about the trip, I still have deep-seated memories of walking through its then most-popular attraction, the Giant Walk-Through Heart. I remember looking up at the changing light patterns inside this awesome red-and-blue-lit Bradburyesque, Poe-ish thumping marvel, and feeling miniscule and surrounded by a whale-size cardiac rhythm.
For Philadelphia-area baby boomers, annual class trips often meant visits to the Liberty Bell or the Franklin Institute heart, whose narrow passages and thumping audio (buh-BOOM, buh-BOOM) both frightened and delighted those who entered.

The two-story heart, a papier-mache-on-metal creation, opened as a temporary exhibit called "The Engine of Life" in January 1954 and quickly became the museum's signature attraction. The model underwent two earlier facelifts, but even now survives pretty much intact, save for some fresh paint and new details.
[A large JPG of the interior is available here, and the Franklin Institute's Press Box page on the Giant Heart is here.] Thump THUMP Thump THUMP...

The VCR Is [Officially] Dead 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The VCR is dead, dead, dead.

I feel like breaking out into a Bauhaus dirge: "The VCR is Dead"*

Magnetic tape reels in a black case
Back on the cutout rack
The VCR is dead
The bats have left the bell tower
The victims have been bled
Hollow-eyed black box
The VCR is dead
Undead undead undead
The virginal brides file past the tomb
Strewn with time code's dead hours
Bereft in deathly blue
Alone in a darkened room
Tape count
The VCR is dead
Undead undead undead

* With apologies to Peter Murphy and company, of course, for "Bela Lugosi's Dead." Okay, it was funny for about 30 minutes.

Friday, November 19, 2004
[Un]common Values 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Good post by Cindy today over at EclecticEveryday, "The Morality Mandate":
Perhaps by shifting the focus of our national conversation to include how all Americans, regardless of orientation can share...values, we will find a solution to please both sides.

But this will take effort. This will take involvement. This will take personal courage. It’s easy to talk to people who agree with you, who go to the same church, work at the same job, and have the same experiences. A little more challenging to engage with someone from a different social, economic, or geographical background. But by voting, you are helping determine national policies that will impact people from every spectrum of society. Shouldn’t you have some personal knowledge of who they are? [read full post]

Holidays Are Like People: Every One Has an A--hole 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
We've all heard of drivers flipping someone "the bird," but this is just...criminal:
RONKONKOMA, New York (AP) -- Five teenagers were arrested in the hurling of a frozen turkey that smashed through a motorist's windshield, critically injuring her.

Police said Ryan Cushing, 18, threw the turkey from a car he and the other teens were riding in Saturday. It smashed through the car window of a 44-year-old woman who was driving in the other direction. She was in critical condition at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Cushing was arrested on charges of first-degree assault, reckless endangerment, forgery, criminal mischief and criminal possession of stolen property. He and the other teens allegedly stole a credit card to buy the turkey at a supermarket. The other four teens were charged with criminal possession of stolen property.

Ronkonkoma is in the approximate geographic center of New York's Long Island, about 50 miles east of New York City.
New York Newsday has more details, including photos.
Members of a heartless Long Island gang that hurled a 20-pound turkey through a driver's windshield were nabbed last night as the victim lay in a coma, cops said.

Nearly every bone in the woman's face was broken when the bird was tossed from a moving car - hitting her with a force equivalent to a bowling ball dropped from a 20-story building and causing her to lose control of the steering wheel. Suffolk Detective Sgt. William Lamb said five teens were under arrest, including the suspected turkey tosser, Farmingdale State University student Ryan Cushing, 18, of Huntington, who was charged with first-degree assault.
Doctors said it was too early to tell whether the 44-year-old woman suffered significant brain damage in Saturday's attack on Portion Road in Lake Ronkonkoma. The Daily News is withholding her name at the request of her family.
Earlier, the gang had smashed a car window and stolen a purse containing a credit card from a car parked outside a multiplex movie theater. The youths first went to two nearby Blockbuster Video stores, then moved on to a Waldbaum's supermarket, where they used the card to buy a heap of groceries, cops said. Among the purchases was a 20-pound fresh turkey.
No sense quibbling over details, but didn't the AP report the bastards suspects had hurled a frozen turkey? I'm sure that's a detail the defense laywers would latch onto. But wait, it gets even better. From WIS-TV, Columbia, SC:
She has a broken nose, top jaw is broken, fracture of the lower jaw, her jaw needs to be wired, she needs a tracheotomy." Chief Jerry Curtain of the Farmingdale Fire Department says, "It's like a cinder block coming through your window at 80 miles an hour."
It's stories like this that make me an advocate of vigilante justice...for a few weeks at a time, at least.

I suppose this story is pure coincidence?

Thursday, November 18, 2004
Locusts in Egypt! Where's Kokumo* When You Need Him? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Or Charleton Heston, for that matter.
CAIRO (AP) In an echo of the biblical plagues, millions of locusts swarmed into northern Egypt on Wednesday for the first time in 50 years, prompting authorities to order emergency pesticide spraying to protect the region's important agriculture industry. Clouds of the red insects, up to 2 3/4 inches long, flitted about over Cairo, while others hopped around on rooftops. By evening, the skies were clear.

Christian Pantenius, program coordinator of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization office in Egypt...said the locusts were showing no sign of moving farther south along the agriculturally rich Nile River valley, and he predicted the swarm most likely would head southeast toward the Red Sea coast...

Locusts, which normally live between two and six months, eat their weight -- about 0.07 ounces -- in crops every day. They can travel as much as 120 miles in a day. The FAO described the insect clouds as a "medium density swarm of locusts numbering several million, if not a billion," covering several square miles.

Pantenius said it was the first time locusts in such numbers had hit the region around Cairo since the 1950s. Small numbers of the ravenous insects were spotted in Egypt during a locust plague that struck countries from eastern to western African in 1986-89. The FAO said big locust outbreaks like that now afflicting western and northern Africa generally last for several years.
* James Earl Jones played the adult Kokumo, a possessed boy exorcised by Father Merrin in Africa in Exorcist II: The Heretic - a fact conveniently forgotten in Exorcist IV: The Beginning. I'm certain he's too busy recording Verizon Wireless™ menu voiceovers to have participated in that travesty. You see, the young Kokumo was apparently targeted for Regan McNeilization because of his inherently good nature...he was the, ahem, Good Locust.

Sometimes when I watch E2, I still think it's a weird, weird dream. Funny timing those locusts have...
name billy
status student
age 20s

Question - What triggers a grasshopper to become a locust?

In the movie the Exorcist, James Earl-Jones explains to Richard Burton that when there are a lot of grasshoppers together the "rubbing of the wings" between each other triggers this transformation. Is this Accurate? If so, what exactly happens to cause this transformation in color and behavior?

Grasshoppers and locusts, assuming normal usage of the words, are different species. You might want to consult a good insect text to see the comparisons/contrasts.

Thanks for using NEWTON!

Ric Rupnik
Huh? I'm sorry, I haven't seen the movie the Exorcist, but this confirms my opinion that one should never pay much attention to any "science" in movies. Grasshoppers and locusts are completely different insects and one never becomes the other. The movie s fiction.
J. Elliott

Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Football and Moral Values, Again 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Has NFL football become a major new corrupting influence on America?
[SI.com] The network's steamy intro to the Philadelphia-Dallas game, featuring a naked Nicollette Sheridan jumping into the arms of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens, drew complaints from viewers and the NFL...ABC Sports apologized Tuesday for the segment, used a day earlier to promote the hit show Desperate Housewives and broadcast just nine months after another football flap -- the Janet Jackson Super Bowl fiasco.

The spot showed Owens and Sheridan in an empty locker room, with Sheridan wearing only a towel and provocatively asking Owens to skip the game for her. After she dropped her towel, he smiled, agreed to be late for the contest and she jumped into his arms. Sheridan was shown only from behind and above the waist after she dropped the towel.

The NFL called the intro "inappropriate and unsuitable for our Monday Night Football audience." ABC has broadcast Monday Night Football with a 5-second delay this season, a precaution after Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at February's Super Bowl.
Then again - maybe I just don't get out enough - but in what universe is...ahem...feminine pulchritude considered "unsuitable for [the] Monday Night Football audience"? Who wrote that with a straight face? Does anyone even remember the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders? Let's be realistic: pigskin and cheesecake have a long mutual history.

Frankly, I think the TV execs are more concerned about the skit's implication Owens was about to - as Grandpa Simpson would say, have seccccchssss - than over flashed flesh. In which case, they should be getting down on their knees and flagellating themselves for most of their prime-time shows.
Oh, Satan is an evil charmer,
(Shut de do, keep out de debbil)
He's hungry for a soul to hurt,
(Shut de do, keep de debbil in the night)
And without your holy armor,
(Shut de do, keep out de debbil)
He will eat you for dessert.
(Shut de do, keep de debbil in the night)
-- Randy Stonehill, Shut De Do'
Side Note: how long until "wardrobe malfunction" is added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary's new words? It'll be in good company, joining this year's debutees like body wrap, clafouti [clafouti? really? why?], darmstadtium, dreamcatcher, menudo [the dish, not the band], and MP3.

Monday, November 15, 2004
ID Chips for Drugs: "Is That Viagra® in Your Pocket, Or..." 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Very interesting: the FDA and several major pharmaceutical companies announced plans to implant RFID "ID chips" in bottles of prescription medicine, ostensibly to prevent counterfeiting. Currently, the first medications targeted to include the radio tags are pharmacy-size large bottles of Viagra® and Oxycontin®, but as the cost-per-unit decreases, even consumer packaging may soon contain the ID tags - leading to concerns about privacy. From the Chicago Tribune:
But the technology is not expected to stop there. The adoption by the drug industry, officials said, could be the leading edge of a change that might rid grocery stores of checkout lines, find lost luggage in airports, streamline warehousing and add a new weapon in the battle against cargo theft.

"It's basically a bar code that barks," said Robin Koh, director of applications research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Auto-ID Labs. "This technology is opening a whole series of opportunities to make supply chains more efficient and more secure."

Wal-Mart and the Defense Department have mandated that their top 100 suppliers put the devices on delivery pallets beginning in January. In June, Accenture, a technology consulting firm, won a contract worth as much as $10 billion from the Department of Homeland Security to use radio tags at U.S. border checkpoints. Other companies are rushing into the market for scanners, computer chips and other elements of the technology.

The labels are called radio-frequency identification. As with automated highway toll systems, the devices consist of computer chips embedded into stickers that emit numbers when prompted by a nearby radio signal. In a supermarket, they might enable a scanner to read every item in a shopping cart at once and spit out a bill in seconds, though that technology remains a distant goal.

For drugmakers, radio labels hold the promise of cleaning up the wholesale distribution system, where most counterfeit drugs enter the supply chain, often through unscrupulous employees at small wholesale companies that have proliferated in some states.

The initial expense of the system will be considerable. Each label costs 20 to 50 cents; the readers and scanners cost thousands of dollars. But because the medicines tend to be very expensive and the need to ensure their authenticity is great, officials said, the expense of the radio tags is justified.

Privacy rights advocates have expressed reservations about the devices, worrying that employers and others will be able to learn what medications people are carrying in their pockets. Civil liberties groups have voiced similar concerns about ubiquitous use of the technology in the marketplace. [read full article, reg. req.]
Is is just me, or does it seem there's no aspect of our lives that the corporate sector and our government aren't clamoring to keep tabs on?

One obvious way of circumventing the "is that Viagra® in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" problem would be to transfer the medication after purchase into a non-tagged bottle, and to discard the empty "bugged" container in the pharmacy's trashcan. However, I seem to recall that many prescription medications are unlawful to possess outside of their original pharmacy packaging [including many classified in the U.S. as Schedule II and III controlled substances] - as it's then difficult to prove the drugs are legitimately prescribed - and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if a new Federal law eventually appears, making possession of "tagged"-class drugs outside of radio-labeled containers a crime.

UPDATE: Thank you, RFID Buzz - an interesting and informative weblog that discusses ID-chipping - for the link to this post!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Thanks to RFID News for linking this post as well!

Friday, November 12, 2004
Give Up Red-Laser DVD's? From My Cold Dead Hands 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Now, I'm as excited as the next geek about new technology, but somehow I'm just not quite ready to buy into the next-generation "blue" DVD players yet.

I know...the picture quality is purported to be much better, the new "blue laser" discs hold more data and so forth, but frankly I've grown accustomed to waiting at least a decade between format changes.

Our first DVD player hasn't yet celebrated its 2nd birthday, and I'll be damned if I'm going to put it out to pasture just yet. I think it's a symptom of our growing malaise with aging and distrust of permanence; our disposability-oriented culture discards relationships, stereo equipment and used Kleenex™ with equal cheer.

After all, even audio CD's have been around for over 20 years now. I admit, I've amassed a large collection of .mp3 tracks - and I love the format - but only because I already owned the computer hardware to start downloading and using them. If one had to go out and purchase stand-alone, dedicated .mp3 players or audio systems, you can bet I'd still be eyeing my 1986 copy of Giorgio Moroder's From Here to Eternity...and Back* for laser rot.

The free stereo cobbled together sounds twice as sweet: my "home entertainment system" consists of a 1960's vintage Lafayette 50-watt stereo amp hooked up to two old wooden Realistic speakers I found a few years ago discarded in the alley. Yes, they are actually made of honest-to-goodness wood, not veneer on particleboard; and I spruce up the cabinets now and then with a dab of Scott's Liquid Gold. The setup actually sounds halfway decent, and it's choice for listening to my Esquivel albums, or Henry Mancini's Combo! Hubba hubba.

We haven't even purchased an HDTV system, a plasma monitor, or a TiVo yet - and we don't even have cable. Our "wireless" rabbit-ears telly only pulls in 3 over-the-air VHF stations. I call it the "Affirmative Action television" - the signal quality is so bad, I often can't determine the racial identity of folks I see onscreen. Not that it matters, but it goes a long way toward the goal of being "color blind" in the MLK sense. When we watch the local news on our set, the chroma shift is so severe that Mayor Daley sometimes looks like a giant talking bullfrog in a maroon suit.

In addition we receive about a dozen UHF Chicago stations below channel 28 whose programming leans toward the bizarre or foreign-language: not that the two are mutually exclusive concepts.

I say, let wealthy gadget junkies buy the first round of blue-DVD players. Go ahead, gloat at your prescience, your art's vanguard state - for tomorrow, you'll wish you waited for the price to drop, and I'll buy your lofty Blu-Ray castoffs [or whichever format ends up winning the market skirmish] for a pittance.

One word of warning to those "early adopters": Quadraphonics.

* The first CD I ever purchased.

Thursday, November 11, 2004
Press Here for a Load of Hot Air 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Sick of all this political hot air? Have you ever wanted to tell all those politicians, "just blow me"? Well, No Milk, Please has a very funny photo of an electric hand-dryer seen at Chicago's O'Hare Airport - see, this one sports a special label above the start button:

This tickled me pink, so I made my own version using a Microsoft Word Avery label template that I'd like to share with you, my beloved readers. Print your own "hot air" protest stickers!

The template is designed for a standard 5160 Avery address label sheet, which you can purchase at any office supply store. It's an MS Word .doc file, so your machine may warn you that "downloading this file may contain macros or viruses that may harm your computer." It doesn't contain any, but if you're leery of overly touchy-feely computer files, I'll understand.

Click here to download PRESS HERE label template.  Warning: MS Word .doc file

Feel free to use these wherever you like: the text is editable, so you can change the word "Congressman" to "Senator" or "Pr....ofessor Jones," name names if you want - stick them on hand dryers, clothes dryers, even toilets! Not that I advocate defacing public property [cough cough], but it's a good harmless laugh. Use at your own risk, of course. ;)

farkleberries Links du Jour 32 - The Chitlin Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

"Population Growth is a Wondrous Thing" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
University of Chicago Social Sciences Dean John Mark Hansen, described by Gapers Block as "one of the nation's leading political minds," had this to say to the Chicago Maroon regarding last Tuesday's election results:
Maroon: Was the election fair?

JMH: It depends upon whether you like the outcome. There were problems, and there will continue to be problems, but without secretaries of state, state legislatures, state courts, and the Supreme Court having to step in, it certainly feels more fair than in 2000.

Maroon: What message would you tell Kerry activists on campus spent so much time campaigning for a candidate who eventually lost?

JMH: The world did not end. The Democratic Party is no longer the majority party in the country, but neither is the Republican Party. The electorate is about evenly divided, and the new majority party will be the one that captures the middle.

Maroon: What message would you tell Bush supporters on campus, who may feel like they’re a small minority?

JMH: The world is not made fundamentally anew. George W. Bush may have received the most votes of any presidential candidate in American history—population growth is a wondrous thing—but John Kerry received the second largest number of votes of any presidential candidate in American history. The voters may have given the Republican Party the ability to govern, but now it has the responsibility to govern.
More: The UC "Nobel Nests"

Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Electronic Vote Hacking 101 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Whether vote hacking actually occurred last Tuesday or not really isn't the point. The fact that it can be accomplished easily - with no telltale evidence - is indictment enough of electronic "black box" systems in their current state.

So, just how easy is it? According to these examples: Too. Damned. Easy.
Bev Harris, of BlackBoxVoting, explained to Howard Dean on the CNBC TV show "Topic A With Tina Brown" just how easy it was to hack into the main vote tabulating computer and switch the votes. The main tabulator is just a regular PC, like in any home or office. It's hackable. And it's not hard at all. From the Free Press article:
[H]arris had Dean close the Diebold GEMS software, go back to the normal Windows PC desktop, click on the "My Computer" icon, choose "Local Disk C:," open the folder titled GEMS, and open the sub-folder "LocalDB" which, Harris noted, "stands for local database, that's where they keep the votes." Harris then had Dean double-click on a file in that folder titled "Central Tabulator Votes," which caused the PC to open the vote count in a database program like Excel.

In the "Sum of the Candidates" row of numbers, she found that in one precinct Dean had received 800 votes and Lex Luthor had gotten 400.

"Let's just flip those," Harris said, as Dean cut and pasted the numbers from one cell into the other. "And," she added magnanimously, "let's give 100 votes to Tiger."

They closed the database, went back into the official GEMS software "the legitimate way, you're the county supervisor and you're checking on the progress of your election."

As the screen displayed the official voter tabulation, Harris said, "And you can see now that Howard Dean has only 500 votes, Lex Luthor has 900, and Tiger Woods has 100." Dean, the winner, was now the loser.

Harris sat up a bit straighter, smiled, and said, "We just edited an election, and it took us 90 seconds."
Quoting Sheelzebub at Pinko Feminist Hellcat
Here's a similar situation. Would you feel comfortable using a banking system that allowed any ATM service worker to alter your account balance by 'cooking' a spreadsheet stored in the machine? Of course not. At least computerized banking systems provide you with a transaction statement that can tip you off something is amiss; whether you can reclaim the disputed funds is another matter.

One major problem with electronic ballots is that voters have no access to any type of verifiable "statement," since a valid record would require accounting of all votes within the machine up to that point. Even if we addressed privacy issues, and the fact that a running tally of voting results would undoubtedly cause problems with undue influence on future votes on that particular machine, only the very last voter would have an accurate total - and if hacking is easily accomplished, any semblance of accurately reflecting voter's choices is gone. The paper receipts given to electronic voters only verify each individual's voting choices - not the machine tally - and are analogous to ATM statements that verify your transaction deposit amount without telling your what your total account balance is.

What about verification or recounts? Unless every voter at a polling place shows up with their individual ballot receipts to compare against a specific machine's results - a highly unlikely occurrence - the public must take electronic voting results on faith alone.

We shouldn't make the mistake of minimizing this issue as simple partisan bickering, or dismissing it as Democrats' "sour grapes" paranoia. In my opinion, making the U.S. elections process this fluid and impermanent devalues it immensely for any political party.

A transcript (with screenshots) of the Howard Dean/Bev Harris voting machine demonstration is available here - just scroll about three-quarters of the way down this page:
Dean: There are two problems [with electronic voting]. One, there's no paper trail which means you can't verify your vote, and it can't be recounted. The other potentially serious problem: tampering and rigging of elections. We asked Diebold, one of the companies that makes these machines, and Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood to appear on this program. They both turned us down.

But Bev Harris is here. She's a crusader who thinks this is a disaster waiting to happen. Bev, you've made a potentially blockbuster statement. In under 2 minutes, you can hack into an electronic voting system, and change the results of an election with almost no chance of being caught. Bev Harris, how did you discover this?

Bev Harris, Executive Director of 'Black Box Voting'
: Well, I found the software that they were keeping secret, as a proprietary trade secret, and I found it on the Web quite by accident, and I worked with several different computer scientists who were very helpful in terms of analyzing the weaknesses. One of them had designed accounting software before. And of course, counting votes is just a form of bookkeeping. And right away he could see the weaknesses in it, and he kind of walked me through it like an AOL tech might walk you through something on the phone, he showed me how to rig an election.

Dean: If this is so easy to do, what in the world are we doing relying on this technology all over the country?
[NOTE: The Black Box Voting.COM site states they are no longer affiliated with Bev Harris, whose domain is Black Box Voting.ORG]

Tuesday, November 09, 2004
farkleberries Links du Jour 31 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

The Ultravox Covers Competition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
UltravoxAnd now, for a little 'light' posting: for the past several months, the official UK Ultravox website/fan forum has been inviting fans and artists to send in their best cover versions, remixes and original "sound-alike" recordings. About 20 entries have made the semifinal cut; winners in each of the three above categories will be announced soon, judged by legacy U-Vox drummer Warren Cann [for those unfamiliar with Ultravox, he's the band's lone Canadian member - the blue dude in the picture].

My favorite is an entry in the remix category, "Mystère X" by Mehdi Touzani. [page link to .mp3 download] Taking its major cue from "Fade to Grey" by Ultravox splinter project Visage, the track sculpts "Mr. X" from Vienna into a chilly, sinuous, more organic form that's arguably better than the original. The Ultravox version owed its major debt to 1970's Kraftwerk machinebeat circa "We Are The Robots," but here, Touzani burnishes the techno/New Wave finish with Fleur Lairet's silky en Francais narrative and a slightly tweaked syncopation, suggesting pre-"Call Me" From Here To Eternity...-era Giorgio Moroder.

Also recommended is a charming instrumental "Christmas remix" of "Love's Great Adventure" by Nils Günther [original on the 1985 Ultravox Greatest Hits Collection], and an original (or should I say pastiche?) by Mike Lyden called "Extreme Voice" that sounds 'more Ultravox than Ultravox', uncannily incorporating just about every tonality in the Ultravox gamebook from Vienna to Quartet. One can easily make out bits and pieces of "Sleepwalk," "Cut and Run," "New Europeans" and other standards of the band's repertoire, with only one odd-man-out synth solo momentarily breaking the spell. The lead singer doesn't quite capture Midge Ure's passion or range - he sounds most like recent Ultravox touring vocalist Sam Blue - but he's darned close, and the synth and guitar stylings are classic 'Vox. I don't know exactly how Lyden accomplished this delightful feat, but surely sampling must have played a key role. It's a great homage, currently rated 9.10 out of 10 on the forum poll.

UPDATE: Mike Lyden responded to my Ultravox.com forum post, mentioning that his song actually did not use any samples of original Ultravox songs. I listened to "Extreme Voice" again a few times, and all I can say is wow...I'm even more impressed! That's a great recreation of the Ultravox 'spirit' and sound.

Which leads me to mention that technology's also been especially kind to all sorts of amateurs in this regard. With the widespread availability of inexpensive or freeware sampling, recording, and encoding software there has been a massive increase in homebrewed music on the Web. Though the quality ranges from stellar to unlistenable, even dilettantes can frequently produce accomplished results without spending a fortune.

Especially nice is the fact this fansite's been around for years in various incarnations, and the original bandmembers chime in periodically with forum posts, contest judging, and other grass roots activities. Some decry the diminished "mystique," over-accessibility (and overexposure) of many artists and performers in the Internet Age, preferring the one-way media filter's soft focus; I'm thinking particularly of Alice Cooper's interview comments in the recent Rodney Bingenheimer biopic, Mayor of the Sunset Strip. Certainly, some performers overdo the interactivity angle - prankster-rocker Andrew W.K.'s (or his ghostwriter's) daily advice column is dead-on hilarious - but on the whole, I think being able to share some virtual forum space with one's favorite artists can be enlightening and democratic - why not? It helps fans feel more "in touch with the action," and a superb way to share ideas.

[P.S.] Fans can view the Ultravox History, a nicely-done online 52-page PDF book containing a detailed 1997 interview with Warren Cann by Jonas Wårstad.

More: Italian 'zine OndaRock's Ultravox page
VH1's Ultravox page
"New Romantic" on the Wikipedia
Trouser Press.com's Ultravox entry
Midge Ure.com
Punk 8-Tracks:
One of the more bizarre artifacts of the early years of punk is the punk 8-track tape. There were no more than 5 years between the birth of punk and the death of the 8-track, and few companies bothered to produce them (Sire being the most notable exception.) There are few truly "punk" 8-tracks, but the numbers grow if one includes the associated genres.
[CollectorScum.com] That's even a narrower time frame than, say, Hip-Hop Cassettes. Is the cassette dead yet, or just moldering in the basement?

Sunday, November 07, 2004
Days of the Living, Days of the Dead 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I thought I'd share with you this thoughful post from farkleberriesUSA, written by my friend James: "There is nothing to fear from the dead. It's the living we should fear."
I live in a bordertown in the desert southwest, and I've come to realize that this place, and so many others like it, may share a flag and some other surface similarities with adjacent communities, but like cities and towns on both sides of the fence, this ain't the US of A, and it ain't old Mexico, either. It's La Frontera, the border, and it's a world unto itself.

Cultural assumptions about how people should or could behave go out the window after a short time here. And I can't help but soak up some of the lifestyle and the attitude, in the same way the people of Mexico's borderland have absorbed the attributes (bueno y malo) of us "norte americanos." Each November since my migration to this place, I've attended displays of altars in honor of "Dia de los Muertos" (Day of the Dead). And it was jarring at first, those smiling skulls, and the food set out as some kind of offering. But after thinking upon it, and considering it's origins (Catholic with a hint of Mayan, in a country that emerged from a history awash in blood and death), and it's attributes, I think it's probably a healthier attitude than most.

I've already lost two brothers-- one, suddenly, to a car accident over 20 years ago; another, 6 years ago, to cancer. Add to that the loss of a high shool friend at age 17, and I can say I'm probably a person who has thought about death and dying more than alot of people I know, young or old. That being said, I have developed a profound appreciation for this celebration, this honoring of friends and family passed, this smiling handshake with death. It's a healthier response, as far as I'm concerned, than the "let's talk about anything but that" attitude in the US that basically encourages people to turn their face and run from the idea. My appreciation has developed to the extent that I'm going to create memorials of my own at our community's Dia de Los Muertos celebration next November.

And that cross-cultural shift? I also saw some of that here at Halloween, with scores of muchachos y muchachas at our door, though some didn't quite seem to get the 'routine' or custom-- I had more than a few wearing no costume whatsoever, yet with pillowcase (candy bag) in hand. For reference, it's better to man the candy bowl and distribute the treats individually. Otherwise, you're inclined to chastize repeatedly, "Solamente uno, por favor!"
You know, I feel the same way about death and the dead. I think many people unfortunately conflate celebrating the dead with celebrating death itself - when nothing could be further from the truth. After all, the dead are merely people who no longer walk our Earth. They were our loved ones, neighbors, friends and family in life. When they still live in our hearts, are they any less so in death?

On Halloween, Bari and went for a walk through Rosehill Cemetery - the city's oldest and largest (350 acres) about a mile south of where we live. It's a remarkable place, where many of the area's famous historical figures rub plots with the recently departed of Chicago. At the grand white Joliet limestone entry gate, a series of majestic Civil War era monuments greet visitors; its winding neatly groomed paths and roads lead to thousands of resting areas that range from solemn and eerie to pious to whimsical. I could spend hours wandering there.

Echoing the neigborhoods of the living, at Rosehill there are Latino, Russian, Irish, German, Scandinavian, Jewish, Chinese, Greek and Polish sections - and diverse places where all share together regardless of nationality or religion.

There are areas where Classical-style mausoleums and obelisks of the wealthy dead block the sun from the small flat markers of the less well-heeled, but while the grand memorials tend to be bereft of signs of attention, often the plainest graves have the freshest, most beautiful flowers left behind only hours before. Even in death, love bears no relation to material possession.

And there was little there to feel frightened of, even in the howling wind that blasted dry yellow and brown leaves into our faces and cast alternating swaths of sun and cloud over the landscape. I think the dead appreciate our remembrance; perhaps there is a measure of joy in it for them somehow as well.

Saturday, November 06, 2004
Missive from the Reality Based Community 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Caveat: this may be a slightly disjointed post, between the attention-stretching influences of PBS, a bubbling soup pot and a pint of Guinness. So, here I am sitting in front of the computer, watching - or more accurately, listening and periodically turning my head toward the TV - The McLaughlin Group, an old favorite from my high school and college days, on Chicago's PBS affiliate WTTW-11...what a delicious - as my friend Cindy would say - chocolate-covered clusterf$@& of a show.

You know what's strange? I used to believe Pat Buchanan was the Bogeyman back when I was in college, but jeezum crow, his brand of rhetoric sounds positively tame compared to some of the extremist blather I'm hearing today. To mix metaphors, compared to the vicious oily doublespeak rising to the top of the rotten political apple barrel these days, I'm almost soothed by the sight of Pat's greasy combover and spraying spittle - "Fetuses, morals and Bork, oh my!" How Ivory soap mild, how Special K crisp. Why?

I recommend a peek at Ron Suskind's "Without a Doubt," which appeared October 17th in the New York Times magazine. Tonight, a friend left a paper copy of it on the kitchen counter with a handwritten note on top that read, "God help us." Suskind writes,
"In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend - but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors - and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.' ...

And for those who don't get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me.

'You think he's an idiot, don't you?' I said, no, I didn't. 'No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!' In this instance, the final 'you,' of course, meant the entire reality-based community."
God help us, indeed. I turn my head toward the tube. John McLaughlin and crew are actually talking about the possibility of state secession in the next 20 years. Secession is staring to sound tempting, but where's our Mason-Dixon Line? Do the West Coast and Mid-North-East get an easement? Voila! - a Solution!

Buchanan manages to say "Bork was a genius" and "the Democrats are demoralized" in one sentence. I'm tempted to create a McLaughlin Group drinking game.

Demoralized? Not quite. We may be in a temporary loser's funk - but, ahem - 49% of the vote isn't a beatdown in any sense of the word. Sorry, guys. 2004 was a squeaker, claims of "overwhelming cultural mandate" notwithstanding.

One blog I frequent displayed a postelection county-by-county red vs. blue map of the nation, gloating, "look at all the real estate we red states have!" Sorry to burst the bubble, but the last time I checked, wasn't it "one man one vote"? Per acre, plenty of that red 'real estate' boasts ten times more cattle than voters. Who'd have thought Americans ever would be proud to call themselves "Red"?

Up next on WTTW, one of my favorite classic British sitcoms: Keeping Up Appearances. I laughed at it 20 years ago, and it's still a hoot. *sigh* It's like being in the Reagan era all over again; new verse, same as the worst.

More: from South Africa, "Faith Secures Bush a Second Term," a op-ed piece by Harvard professor and Hoover Institution member Niall Ferguson for the Cape Times

Friday, November 05, 2004
A Regrettable Isolated Incident 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Or at least, that's how this will be spun. A minor error, with virtually no impact on the final outcome of Tuesday's election:
Computer error at voting machine gives Bush 3,893 extra votes

[Associated Press] COLUMBUS, Ohio - A computer error with a voting machine cartridge gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in a Gahanna precinct.

Franklin County's unofficial results gave Bush 4,258 votes to Democratic challenger John Kerry's 260 votes in Precinct 1B. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct.

Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, said Bush received 365 votes there. The other 13 voters who cast ballots either voted for other candidates or did not vote for president. Damschroder said he received some calls Thursday from people who saw the error when reading the list of poll results on the election board's Web site. He said the error would have been discovered when the official canvass for the election is performed later this month.

Damschroder said after Precinct 1B closed, a cartridge from one of three voting machines at the polling place generated a faulty number at a computerized reading station. The reader also recorded zero votes in a county commissioner race. Damschroder said the cartridge was retested Thursday and there were no problems. He couldn't explain why the computer reader malfunctioned.

Workers checked the cartridge against memory banks in the voting machine Thursday and each showed that 115 people voted for Bush on that machine. With the other machines, the total for Bush in the precinct added up to 365 votes.

Information from: The Columbus Dispatch
[via Freon]
Columbus, Columbus...why does that name sound familiar? Oh, that's where the friendly folks are. But wait, there's more - the CBC reports,
In one North Carolina county, more than 4,500 votes were lost because officials mistakenly believed a computer that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did. And in San Francisco, a malfunction with custom voting software could delay efforts to declare the winners of four races for county supervisor.
Yes, these could simply be regrettable isolated incidents. The trouble is, we may never know if that's really the case.

farkleberries Links du Jour 30 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Thursday, November 04, 2004
farkleberries Links du Jour 29: "It's really hard to kill someone with a carrot." 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Reactions Around the Blogosphere 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
There's a minor vestige of comfort to be found today by reading the spectrum of reactions to yesterday's election results. I'm fascinated and heartened by these "couldn't-have said-it-better-myself" outpourings that range from cautious optimism...
I would have wanted a Kerry victory no matter how small the margin, but there might be some long-term good from a second Bush term. The Democrats have an opportunity to learn from this defeat and come back stronger in 2008. A win this year would have been awesome, but maybe it was too much to expect. Maybe it's just meant to be a two-part, 8 year mission to take back our government and reverse the reactionary trend. I guess I would take a decisive, pivotal win in 2008 over a temporary reprieve in 2004. [comment by B2]
...to increasing anger...
A lot of commentary...is about how moral values was the most important issue to voters [Election Day] -- and of course moral values is really a gloss for gay marriage. I don't doubt that the issue was decisive -- in Ohio, for example -- but it's just not fair to say that it was the most important issue to voters. By presenting the war in Iraq and the war on terror as two separate issues, the polling data misses the point that there are two very different notions out there of how America's foreign policy should work. This was the most important issue to voters -- but it was an issue on which they split evenly. The poll hid that split on what's really one issue in two different categories.

MORE: This is really starting to piss me off, this idea that somehow there's a new cultural mandate because of the election results. Exit polls showed only about one fifth of voters felt that moral values were the most important issue in this election, and that's clearly a minority. Yes, it is likely that the presense of these voters (due to the ballot initiatives concerning gay marriage and/or the strong evangelical get out the vote effort) pushed the president over the top in Ohio and therefore won him the election. But that doesn't mean it was the most important issue to Americans in this election, and it sure as hell doesn't represent a statement of American will. [more by Paul at Locussolus]
...to sadness and fear for the future...
...And now I'm afraid. What will the consequences of this national disaster be? I keep hearing that the Christian Conservatives buoyed him into office -- but where will these people be when my daughters are denied equal rights because they are female? When gays and lesbians can't embrace their loves wholly? When other countries are looking at us the way we look at other countries run by idiotic religious fanatics?

Two Americas. Red America. Blue America. I have no understanding of Red America. How can we surrender to the loss of our precious rights? Today, I mourn.

Tomorrow, I fight. There is more than one kind of insurgency -- there is the kind that uses legal, safe ways to fight every little erosion of our rights. The kind that speaks up when public monies are used to fund religious charities. The kind that reminds everybody that there is more than one "Moral" vote -- and one values honesty, accountability, and basic humanity to other humans. The one that works for free speech -- even that offensive speech that embraces the deviant -- because we must remember that the definition of deviant is ever fluid, and means basically one in opposition to the status quo.

Because I have children, damn it. And if we surrender to Red America, and George Bush's crazy cronies, they will have no freedom. The Supreme Court appointments ... The Newly Conservative Congress... What future will they have? [continue reading "My Heart is Heavy" on EclecticEveryday]
...to calls for a paradigm shift...
Let me admit this right up front: this sucks. It's depressing. And it makes things harder for the immediate future.

The big mistake the Democrats, and most of the left, made was to believe that by winning elections we will change the country.

Just the opposite is true. It is only by changing the country that we will win elections.

We need to stop thinking in terms of winning elections, and start thinking about persuading more of the country to believe our ideas. If we do that, elections will follow.

What does that mean for the left? We still lack an effective left counterpart to the Heritage Foundation and the Fox News Network; by which I mean, we lack effective institutions dedicated not to pushing our candidates but instead to pushing our ideas. And that's killing us.

Some lefty blogger just sent me an email saying that we should say "We're preparing for 2006 and 2008 and 2010 and 2012 now." To which I say, stop thinking in terms of even-numbered years. We need to build institutions that change the way our society thinks, and if that program doesn't fit into a two-year electoral cycle, then throw away the cycle. [continue reading "Measure in Generations, Not Elections" by Ampersand on Alas, A Blog]
I'm feeling all of these things, and I thank the bloggers here and many others I hadn't mentioned for their passionate, articulate words.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004
The Day After 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Well...where to start? After having stayed up very late (for me) to watch as much of the unfolding election drama as I cared to take in, I'm pretty tired today. I'm also thankful for small favors, like not having my crotchety co-workers cheerily (and offhandedly) ask, "so, did your candidate win?" again. I'll reserve comment on them for now. I mean, it's not as if waiting for all the ballots to be counted would have been such a huge imposition. Our country would have survived the wait, and the Oval Office would have not sat vacant a single moment.

This may be simply some sequela of reading a great deal about prisons lately (for a class, folks), but I swear I feel like I've just been denied parole for another four years. Back to the cell.

On a lighter note, I'm also proud and very glad that I live in Illinois, one of the few decisive Democratic victory grounds last night; and new Senator-elect Barack Obama's victory speech last night only served to confirm my beliefs we've a mighty fine candidate on our hands here in the Land of Lincoln.

The Village Voice today rings the mourning bell, with the headline "The Dream Is Lost." Perhaps not yet lost, but delayed for what seems like an endless dark tunnel of unknown future days. Let's not forget these words: "Justice deferred is justice denied."

Yes, as leaden and confining as the concept sounds, it is four more years - no more, no less. We all know how much can change in four years time. We all recall the one day that can make all the difference.

We may have called it a war, but perhaps in longer view it may be reassessed as a battle. Let us move onward and forward, and make every one of these coming 1,461 days count like never before.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004
farkleberries Links du Jour 28 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Monday, November 01, 2004
Between Full Recovery and Death 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Isn't that the truth of it all...
CLAMART, France (AP) -- Yasser Arafat's French physicians are refusing to discuss his health crisis, leading to rampant speculation about the Palestinian leader's dramatic deterioration. One Palestinian official ruled out leukemia, while another said it was not a concern "for the time being." A medical guessing game has ensued, with talk of possible blood disorders, poisoning, a viral infection.

Israel's chief of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, did little to clear things up. He told a Cabinet meeting Sunday that Arafat's "situation is between full recovery and death," said an Israeli official who briefed reporters on the meeting.

Before You Vote Tomorrow... 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I received an odd spam email this morning containing a 5-page PDF file entitled "The Wiser Vote," basically asking Americans to not vote tomorrow - because our representative form of democracy is illegitimate, and the only type of worthwhile voting is the direct sort where voters get to speak out on referendums and propositions. The document, or online pamphlet, if you will, was relatively well-written, but contained this sort of cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face separatist type of argument:
"Voters who go along with the [representative elctions] scheme make uninformed choices. When voters choose what they don’t really want, they give a mandate to representatives. Because so many bills that show up in Congress were not topics during the campaign, casting uninformed votes is the equivalent of signing a blank check. The representatives can do anything they want after they are elected. The voters will get distracted and fail to supervise effectively.

Citizens who refuse to go along with the scheme by refusing to vote abandon their franchise. They give up the one thing that separates them from peons on haciendas and medieval serfs. It is smarter to see through the clever scheme and not go to the polling place."
I suppose...but that's like saying the most effective means of protesting air pollution is to stop breathing. I tried to find out who the author of "The Wiser Vote" piece was, but the email contact address included in the PDF file appears to be bogus. The other recipients listed in the header were all at various academic organizations, so I have a feeling it might have been sent as a prank by someone as a school.

Bottom line...whoever you decide to vote for, just vote - period. There is no reason to add low voter turnout to the questions that will undoubtedly surround tomorrow's results.

I'm 1984. Which Literature Classic Are You? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
1984George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four.

You are the classic warning against the threat of totalitarianism. To you, politics and philosophy are inseparable, authorities suck and reality might not exist outside our imaginations.

Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
"Nevertheless Winston did not speak for another moment or two. A feeling of weariness had overwhelmed him. The faint, mad gleam of enthusiasm had come back into O'Brien's face. He knew in advance what O'Brien would say. That the Party did not seek power for its own ends, but only for the good of the majority. That it sought power because men in the mass were frail cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves. That the choice for mankind lay between freedom and happiness, and that, for the great bulk of mankind, happiness was better.

That the party was the eternal guardian of the weak, a dedicated sect doing evil that good might come, sacrificing its own happiness to that of others. The terrible thing, thought Winston, the terrible thing was that when O'Brien said this he would believe it. You could see it in his face. O'Brien knew everything. A thousand times better than Winston he knew what the world was really like, in what degradation the mass of human beings lived and by what lies and barbarities the Party kept them there.

He had understood it all, weighed it all, and it made no difference: all was justified by the ultimate purpose. What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?

'You are ruling over us for our own good,' he said feebly."
Hats off to Booklust (and by extension EclecticEveryday) for the quiz link!