Filed under: Uncategorized — Oliver August 31, 2004 @ 1:02 pm

I’m ignoring the Republican National Convention as best I can. I ignored the DNC, too. Both conventions have become nothing but theater. The nominees are decided months in advance, everything is scheduled and scripted for TV coverage, and the speeches are nothing but rhetoric that preaches to the choir. It’s unlikely that they’re going to sway any undecided voters. This round of conventions also marks a new era of extraordinary security, the cost of which will undoubtedly cause potential host cities to think twice about taking on the burdon. Many Bostonians and New Yorkers simply left town rather than deal with the hassel of security, crowds, and protesters. The city of Boston’s post-convention financial analysis discovered that the dearth of citizens doing their normal spending actually negated the economic bump expected from conventioneers (“J-O-H…N-N-Y…K-E-R-R-Y!”*). Cities will have to begin taking that into consideration as well.

Rather than what’s going on inside Madison Square Garden, I’m watching what’s going on outside. Protestors fascinate me. Some of them I agree with, some I think are nuts. But you’ve got to admire them. They’re the voice of the people, unexpurated. They are the (sometimes not so) quiet revolt. America has turned and evolved throughout its history on the tide of these people. I say (in words GWB no doubt understands), bring…them…on. I want to see the streets clogged with masses who would otherwise be ignored by those who occupy the ivory towers. I want to see people demanding to be noticed. I want the world to know that we don’t all agree with those in power.

A group called Shut it Down! is working to organize a mass strike tomorrow, in protest of the RNC. As they put it on their web site, “Tom DeLay wants to go to the theater. Broadway Shows — SHUT IT DOWN!” Though I doubt they can pull it off, part of me secretly wants to see them succeed.

* most of you will not get this.

Freedom of information

Filed under: Uncategorized — Oliver @ 12:20 pm an independent media organization, recently posted a list of delagates attending the RNC, all publicly-available information. Now the Justice Department has prompted the Secret Service to open an invenstigation on the organization. And we used to think that dissenters were hunted down like criminals only in China.

In the spirit of freedom of information, I give you The Money Race. You can plug in your address or zip code and see which of your neighbors have contributed to whom, and how much. You can also see a national map which shows which party the majority of money from your area went to.

Here’s a list of contributors in my neighborhood.


Filed under: Uncategorized — Oliver @ 9:58 am

Ok, I got myself all emotional writing that Laura Branigan retrospective, and now I’m listening to Johnny Cash’s final album and trying to keep the tears at bay…

Calling Gloria…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Oliver @ 8:56 am

Laura Branigan died on Thursday. She was only 47. She reportedly died in her sleep of a brain aneurysm. Considered by some to be merely a one-hit wonder thanks to her smash hit “Gloria”, the throaty singer actually had a number of hits, including “Solitaire”, “Self Control”, “The Lucky One”, “Ti Amo” and “How am I Supposed to Live Without You”. Despite releasing more albums and singles, Laura was never able to emerge from the shadows of her similarly-voiced contemporaries Kim Carnes and Bonnie Tyler. Today, her legacy is perhaps best felt in the songs of Sophie B. Hawkins and Alannah Myles.

“Gloria” was one of the first two 45s I ever bought, purchased on the same day (a Sunday, at Pamida) as “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Of the two, “Gloria” spun on the turntable of my parents’ console stereo far more often, until the diamond-tipped needle had sheered off all of the high notes, leaving the sythesized horns strangely muted but Laura’s vocals intact. I still have it. To an 11-year-old on the cusp of a hormone typhoon, Laura’s full, sultry voice was pure lust. That may be partially why she spent so much time in my headphones (the big airline-pilot cans with cracking vinyl, telephone-syle coiled cord, and a jack as thick as your thumb). But why is it then that I felt such a compelling desire to return to Gloria’s story of unfulfilled desire and elusive happiness? Laura Branigan was much more than an appealing voice; she was also a great storyteller.

Laura, you’ll be missed.

The joy you gave me lives on and on
’Cause I know you by heart

I still hear your voice
On warm summer nights
Whispering like the wind
Oh oh oh oh

You left in autumn
The leaves were turning
I walked down roads of orange and gold
I saw your sweet smile
I heard your laughter
You’re still here beside me every day
’Cause I know you by heart


Filed under: Uncategorized — Oliver August 30, 2004 @ 9:47 am

This is cool. Cory Doctrow (of bOINGbOING fame) has posted a bunch of his travel pics to I very well may have to get myself an account there. (Task #2: purchase a digital camera.)

“Flicker”, incidentally, was the working title of a novel I abandoned. It took place within a movie theater over the course of a three-day movie marathon, and followed the interactions of a population of characters who had never met before as they dealt with confinement and sleep deprivation. Um, it wasn’t as much like “The Real World” as it sounds. Besides, I abandoned the project 5k words in because I realized that it was incurably boring. Maybe someday I’ll return to it if I come up with an actual plot.

Ok, I set up my own account. The free account allows only 10mb of uploads per month, and I’m disappointed to see that even if you delete photos you’ve uploaded, the monthly quota used remains the same. I guess they’re counting bandwidth and not storage.

The house with a clock in its walls.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Oliver August 29, 2004 @ 10:32 pm

I have an OG mantle clock that’s been in my family since 1848. At first, it sat and ran in the dining room, but its hourly chime would drown out the television in the next room, which got to be annoying. So I just stopped winding it, and for a couple of years it sat silent, frozen at 4:07. When we replaced the card table we’d been using as a dining-room table with a real dining-room table, the bookcase the clock had sat upon had to go out, so the clock went into the guest bedroom, where again it sat silent. This weekend, I finally got around to shimming and leveling the clock so it could run again. The wall the clock backs up to adjoins the bathroom; now in the bathroom is an ever-present, omniscient tock, tock, tock. It is the house with a clock in its walls, measuring off the minutes until doomsday.

These are the things I think of when I pee.

(your title here)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Oliver August 24, 2004 @ 1:08 pm

–It’s always intriguing to hear an actual reasoned, thought-out explanation of why a person chose a particular candidate to vote for. Usually, people choose a candidate based on long-held and sometimes quite rabid loyalty to a particular party. Political consultant Dick Morris, an independant who orchestrated Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign, explained why he is backing George Bush for re-election during a speech before the Commonwealth Club of California. (You’ll need RealPlayer or a reasonable facsimile.)

–At the opposite end of the spectrum, you can listen to incorrigable liberal Jim Hightower lambast the Bush administration before the City Club of Cleveland.

You need this!The Rasterbatortakes a small image and turns it into a huge image. You can adjust the size of the image, its orientation, etc. The Rastorbator even works in color. The result is given to you as a PDF which you can print, then assemble the individual pages to create your wall-sized mural.

You need this, too!Fontbrowser is a Java-based applet that reads the installed fonts on your PC or Mac and lets you scroll down the list and view an example of each typeface. A must for font-junkies.

–Our friends at the Library of Congress have done the world the immense favor of making Lewis Carroll’s scrapbook available online. Props to bOINGbOING

–Also courtesy of bOINGbOING is this Japanese production of Arice[sic] in Wonderland. Kind of creepy, but love those costumes!

–Explorers in Croatia have discovered the world’s deepest hole. From the article: “The cave, in Croatia’s mountainous Velebit region, has a steady, weaving descent of 203 feet before it takes a direct vertical plunge of 1,693 feet through the ground…” One wonders how many skeletons of unfortunate animals and humans lie at the bottom of that pit. Death by misadventure, indeed. However, we at Oliver Towers question the hole’s title of world’s deepest: would that honor not go to the miles-deep chasm that is the Marianas Trench? Or by “hole”, do they mean those filled only with air?

Pictures of pretty cars all in a row.


Filed under: Uncategorized — Oliver August 6, 2004 @ 9:26 am

–Happy birthday to Charles Fort, born this day in 1874! While certainly not the first in his field, Mr Fort popularised the study of unusual phenomena through his books, “The Book of the Damned“, “New Lands“, “Lo!” and “Wild Talents“. His love for the abnormal and overlooked lives on today in the UK publication “The Fortean Times”.

–We at Oliver Towers believe that Mr Fort would have appreciated the following story: Dutch parliament members are considering a ban on unsolicited toe-licking after a series of incidents in which a man licked the toes of unsuspecting women sunbathing in Rotterdam parks. Because there is no law against toe-licking, police were unable to charge the man with a crime.

–Also worthy of mention alongside the good name of Fort is a candy being marketed in Japan as “Snot from the Nose of the Great Buddha“. Though buddhist priests have objected to the name, they have been unable to flick the sticky treat from the marketplaces, as tourists have been picking the candy from the shelves as if it were gold.

–Here are a couple of trailers for upcoming anime films that we at Oliver Towers cannot wait to see here in the states (though hopefully free of Disneyfication). No, they’re not in English, and no, you shouldn’t care. Steamboy comes to us from the director of Akira and Metropolis, while Appleseed is based on the eponymous manga of Ghost in the Shell creator and author Masamune Shirow.

–As if there were ever any doubt of a correlation, JuliusBlog has compiled a timetable of terror alerts as compared to Bush’s approval ratings. The results are…interesting, to say the least. We of the Tower are continually amazed at what can only be either the administration’s belief that the citizenry genuinely accepts their balderdash, or the administration’s arrogance of knowing that we don’t buy it yet not caring that we don’t.

Odds & ends

Filed under: Uncategorized — Oliver August 4, 2004 @ 12:14 pm

Some quick takes on a lot of things I’ve been accumulating.

–Champ, the Nessie-like creature that supposedly inhabits Lake Champlain, has been sighted again.

–Some people just have a dark cloud hanging over their heads. A woman in Lombani, Zimbabwe has a hail of falling stones following her! She believes an evil spell was cast over her. Her family and neighbors have kicked her out of the village.

–The mysterious “blob” that washed ashore in Chile last year has finally been identified. DNA testing has shown that it’s just a bunch of decomposing whale blubber. One is reminded (for some reason) of the infamous exploding whale of Oregon incident (memorialized here in print by Dave Barry, and here in the infamous video).

–New-fangled “thin client” computing is predicted to be the next big wave in networking. Yeah, we used to call them “mainframes”.

–As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, now our computers may be making us sick. The electomagnetic field produced by computers may be causing our bodies to produce excessive amounts of seratonin, which contributes to tiredness and depression.

An interesting opinion piece on the practice of “tethering”, making content proprietary to the device it’s used on.

–Archivists are working to save the only audio recording of JFK’s assassination. It seems the original, recorded over a police motorcycle radio, is now too fragile to even play, and no quality reproductions were ever made. Goodness knows, the JFK conspiracy theorists could use some extra fodder.

–Also in digital restoration news, the Film and Television Archive at the University of California has restored the 1914 silent comedy, “Tilly’s Punctured Romance”. Widely considered to be the first feature-length comedy, it starred Charlie Chaplin in one of his early roles (relatively early, considering he appeared in 34 films in 1914, his first year of movie acting), and was pieced together from 13 copies.

–Speaking of movies: theater owners, take note.

–It’s now the 21st century. Where are the flying cars? I WAS PROMISED FLYING CARS!

–On an even lighter note, this guy has put together “The Case That Must Not Be Named”, a casemod inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. (Thanks yet again to bOINGbOING.)

–From Fahrenheit 9/11 to Fahrenheit 451: Atty General Ashcroft ordered despository libraries to destroy five publications containing legal information not “appropriate for external use”. (Apparently Ashcroft considers public knowledge of the law to be dangerous. Yeah, ’cause we might find out what he’s up to.) Fortunately, the order was later rescinded. I don’t even have time to go into a rant about how angry it makes me that the “Justice” Department even *considered* making federal law information inaccessable to the public. I’m worried that now that their open attempt to occlude the law failed, they may pull something even more insidious in secret.

–Florida: the state that just keeps on giving and giving…ulcers and migraines, that is. The state, never having recovered from the 2000 elections, and still being critized for its planned use of electronic voting machines this November, announced that a computer crash had caused them to “lose” data compiled from its first use of touch-screen voting machines. How, um, convenient. Does Florida even realize that *no one* trusts them on voting issues anymore? Who the hell are they trying to fool? (Oh, and isn’t Florida’s new Secretary of State even scarier-looking than Kathleen Harris?)

–Finally, Minnesota’s Republican Party has asked its members to go door-to-door and collect information on their neighbors’ voting habits. On the surface, they claim that it is nothing more than a streamlining of their phone and mailing lists. My personal opinion is that neighbors reported as non-Republicans are going on a sort of “watch” list. Me, I plan to screw with the data if any of my “neighbors” come knocking on my door to grill me about my political leanings. Then I’m going to pull the shades and take out a restraining order.

Brandi and a shrunken head. Separated at birth?

The Daily Oliver. No, it’s not me. It’s some guy’s weimaraner. But a cute weimeraner.

Vintage comic book ads. Back when we were young and gullible.

Me and Mr Friedman

Filed under: Uncategorized — Oliver @ 9:20 am

I was listening to Midday on the car radio yesterday. Having come into the program midway, I didn’t catch who the speaker was, but he was saying something that interested me. He said that there is no war on terrorism. We’re waging war on terrorists, on individuals, not on the culture from which terrorism is spawned. Until we begin fighting the root causes of terrorism, we will never eliminate terrorism. As one terrorist is eliminated, another will replace him. You can only eliminate terrorism by removing the urge to commit terrorism. If the folks in the White House would only look at our decades-old “war on drugs”, they would see that this approach has failed before.

I later learned when I checked the online schedule that the person I’d been listening to was none other than Thomas Friedman, the conservative globalization-hugging columnist. He and I have never agreed on anything. Mr Friedman seems to not understand that trade globalization–in the widely-used model he so enthusiastically endorses–not only destroys the economies of struggling, smaller nations (Venezuela) but damages our own economy when we outsource to rising economies such as India. Studies performed with real-world models have shown that when a highly developed country with high wages (the US, for example) outsources to a rising economy with lower wages (India, for example), the wages of the developed country will decline as the wages of the underdeveloped country rise until both achieve a median wage. It’s a lot more complicated than that, but in a nutshell the end effect is that American wages will decline while the price of goods rise or remain the same. For those of you who don’t remember the ’70s & ’80s well, that’s called “inflation”, and it’s bad for an economy.

BTW, Mr Friedman’s speech can be heard here.