Archive for January, 2004

German Heavy Metal


Lars-Erik Fisk: Volkswagenball

at the Fleming
at the University of Vermont

quicktime movie
(698 kb)

We Need to Work on the Parking


The Dowbrigade is off to give another driving lesson to his 19-year-old
son, the one who wants a Hummer so he can crush other cars out of parking
spaces, the one who eats frozen burritos raw to save time.  He claims
if he has a driver’s license he can get a job. We suspect this to be
merely another cruel delaying tactic and are going ahead with our secret plan
to leave the country suddenly without telling him.

So this will probably be out last post of the day.  When we get
back from these sessions we are in no shape to do anything but self-medicate
and lie in a quiet, darkened room for a while….

Mission Impossible


his better judgment, the Dowbrigade has agreed to attempt one of the
toughest tasks he has tackled in his entire teaching career – explaining
NFL Football to a class of foreign college students who don’t know a
forward pass from an actionable offense. We tried to avoid it, having
ventured there before, but they begged.

The job, from a didactic point of view, is somewhat akin to teaching
quantum mechanics to a school
of fish. And, of course, they need to know it by Sunday.

It is not that the subject matter is THAT complicated, although on this
New Hampshire Primary night it is appropriate to note that Sen. Eugene
McCarthy once said "Being in politics is like coaching Professional Football
– you need to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough
to think it matters." This is not the problem; all of my students (3
Japanese, a Korean, 2 Thais, a Brazilian and a Saudi) are smart and well-educated.
But not a one of them has ever seen a single play of a single game, in
person or on television.

The problem is that their old Professor here tends to go off on wild
tangents when addressing the subject of Pro Football.  One minute
we are explaining the line of scrimmage, and the next we’re waxing lyrical
as a Metaphor for Post-Industrial Cultural Domination, or decrying the
racial inequity in football upper management, or obsessively spouting
obscure statistics like points scored off of turnovers or average yards
per penalty.

When we come to our senses, the students are staring at us like we’ve
started foaming at the mouth, and are no closer to understanding the
intricacies of the Great American Game than they were before we began.
Believe us, we’ve been there before.

But not this time!  We’re going to keep it simple this time, stick
to the basics, maintain distance and decorum.  To that end, we have
discovered an entertaining site, Football Basics, from the NFL
for Kids web site
.  It explains everything!  With funny
animated cartoon players demonstrating the different positions, the equipment,
the rules
of the game. Now if we can only remember to avoid the topic of instant
replay entirely.  And the tuck rule.  And the point spread…..



Pander:n., & v.t.
1. go-between in clandestine amours, procurer; one who ministers to evil
designs. 2 v.i. minister (to base passions or evil
designs, or person having these)

Japander:n.,& v.t. 1. a western star who uses his or her fame to make
large sums of money in a short time by advertising products in Japan that
they would probably never use. ~er (see synecure, prostitute) 2. to make
an ass of oneself in Japanese media.

Clever and well-designed (once you get inside) site documenting the
escapades of Western Media Whores chasing their Yen yen in the Land of
the Rising Sun. Try going to the alphabetical listing and look for your
favorite stars – they’re probably there!


Wanted: Comprehensive Political Calendar


After an extensive search, we finally found an iCal calendar called American Politics and Government with most of
the presidential primaries and some of the debates.  However it is
clearly incomplete.  For example it lists only two primaries for
next Tuesday: Oklahoma and North Dakota.  Whereas a static web
site with a simple primary calendar lists eight: the two above plus Delaware , South Carolina, Missouri, Arizona,  New Mexico and Virginia,

Does anyone know of a better primary and political event calendar, preferably for iCal?

By the way, isn’t it weird the way all these guys have been hanging
around New Hampshire courting 180 thousand backwoods eccentrics, while
a week from now 8 states will be awarding 50 times more
delegates.  Appearantly none of them has the balls to go for the
mother lode, out of fear that the press will say they “gave up” New
Hampshire and paint them before a gullible public as a

Bet there’s a happy bunch of candidates tonight, whoever wins the damn
election.  Looking down the lineup of states for NEXT Tuesday, we
don’t see a one as cold and gloomy as the Granite State…

Cultural Dissonance


This article from the New
York Times
covers a company whose role
seems to be to help business travelers avoid costly faux pas when traveling
abroad. Reminds the Dowbrigade of the time we politely accepted a gourd
filled with a viscous liquid during a midnight celebration with a Jibaro
tribe in an Amazonian clearing, and found ourselves talking to the trees about 45 minutes later. At which point the Chief told us he was
very happy and honored we had agreed to marry his daughter. Fortunately,
he was just joking (the Jibaro have a piquant sense of humor).

When I was in Shanghai on business, about the only thing to do on
a free night, after having made the required stroll down the Bund by
the river, was to visit
the Shanghai Circus in a vast Communist-style People’s Auditorium. Being
a Westerner, I was able to buy the most expensive $5 seat: right
the aisle,
down front. Suddenly, I was "chosen" by the circus master and
escorted onto the stage. A large board was wheeled out and an acrobat stood
in front
of it. His partner across the stage suddenly threw a knife at him, and
in a lightning moment it thrust into the board just below his elbow. The
burst into thunderous applause. I stopped smiling.

from the New
York Times

Clinton’s E-mail Total – Two Messages


archives of the Bill Clinton presidential library will contain 39,999,998
e-mails by the former president’s staff and two by the man himself.

"The only two he sent," Skip Rutherford, president of the Clinton
Presidential Foundation, which is raising money for the library, said Monday.

One of them may not actually qualify for electronic communication because
it was a test to see if the commander in chief knew how to push the button
on an e-mail.

Former Ohio Sen. John Glenn has the distinction of being the first American to
orbit the Earth and the only person to receive an e-mail written by Clinton when
he was in office.

The e-mail was sent with the help of Clinton staffers to the space shuttle while
it was in orbit and Glenn was a part of the crew. It praised Glenn for his return
to space after almost 40 years.

"He’s not a techno-klutz. I don’t think President (George W.) Bush sends
e-mails, either," Rutherford said of Clinton,"Most of the decisions
in the Oval Office are made through decision memos."

The 40 million e-mails of the Clinton administration are almost exclusively comprised
of memos, notes and correspondence among his aides and cabinet members

from Yahoo News

The Blogging Consortium


Although of course the Dowbrigade recognizes that part of the power and righteousness of the Blogoshpere derives from its lack of professionalism in the mercenary sense, like most serious Bloggers we sometimes imagine how nice it would be to be able to blog full-time, without having to worry about the time-consuming details of a “day job.”

Furthermore, it seems as though an inordinate number of successful and prominent bloggers are university professors or other educators, due no doubt to the flexibility of their schedules and access to disposable hours. How many other undiscovered natural-born-bloggers are out there whose professional or financial obligations form a barrier to participation?

Putting aside the moral implications, is it even theoretically possible to imagine a scenario in which blogging would be a remunerative activity, short of selling out and becoming a blog whore to a major corporation or PAC? We would not have asked such a silly question were we not willing to give it a try, so here goes:

Clearly, not many people would pay anything to read any one Blog. There are too many others out there, and not even the best bloggers can write worthwhile posts EVERY day. But what about a consortium of 50 really excellent blogs, including at least a few famous, top blogs, all in one place, with a variety of news, sports, humor, politics, technology and business? In addition to the 50 regulars, throw in a dozen guest bloggers every day chosen for topicality or relevance to current events.

Of course, these bloggers would have to make their content available ONLY through the consortium, which would be a sacrifice at least for a while. And the question remains, would it be economically viable? A truly high-quality and well-chosen 50 would certainly provide an information resource comparable to the New York Times or Time Magazine. Suppose all of this writing and reporting were available in one place for 25 cents a day. Once registered, users could be charged a quarter any day they used the site, for as many times as they wanted to visit it that day. They could stay connected 24-7 for a quarter if they wanted. And on any day they didn’t use the service, they would be charged nothing.

The utility of a scheme like this depends on the implementation of a painless and popular picopaymens system, and as far as we know none exists at this point, but present practicality has never constrained our imagination.

However, the pull and power of even 50 of the ‘Sphere’s top bloggers alone would not be enough to make this scheme work. The site would have to offer a number of value added services. Like a web-based Super-Aggregator to manage multiple reading lists and organize an individuals complete news flow needs. Users could have access to complete aggregator channels for each of the 50 featured bloggers via a drop down menu. There could be a search feature for the 20,000 RSS feeds we are already tracking via stream name or keywords, which could create an instant aggregator channel with the results of any particular search. The site could feature special aggregator-channel reading lists on important topics of the day compiled by experts in each field. And eventually it could offer tons of additional fun and useful features which are only now being imagined and developed by the clever gang of early adopters who are starting to figure out what can be done with this amazing technology called RSS.

With that kind of powerful information management functionality, and access to a varied and hot bunch of bloggers, we imagine the hits would come. How many would it take?

Suppose 100,000 visits a day, which is only an average of 2,000 for each of the 50 Blogs at the center of the scheme. That doesn’t seem unreasonable. Why, several of the big names get that many visits alone on a good day now. At 25 cents a hit, that works out to $25, 000 a day, or $500 a day for each of the 50 contributors. Assuming one of the 50 bloggers contributed every day of the year, they could take home $182,500 before taxes. Not too shabby.

Porn Star Ignites Firehouse Fracas


KEYES, Calif. — No one quite remembers the last big fire
to rage through town, but a firestorm — fueled by sex and the Internet
— has engulfed this rural community. The source of the trouble comes
straight from the town’s firehouse, where the pornography career of one
of its own has many fuming.

On Jan. 13, most of the town’s 33 volunteer firefighters walked off
the job for three days after a cadet was fired for allegedly visiting
a pornographic website. The details are in dispute, but by some accounts
the cadet was accused of hacking into the pay-to-view pornographic website
of Chantel Lace, otherwise known in town as Alexas Jones, a volunteer
firefighter, wife of the assistant fire chief, and daughter-in-law of
the chief.

”It’s not just about the porn star issue; that’s only a part of it,”
said Jared Gibson, one of the firefighters who joined the walkout.
He and the rest of the crew did not want to leave their jobs, he said,
but needed to make a point. ”It’s about having people run the department
the right way.” Captain Herb Collier, who also joined the walkout,
said he wants assurances that the Joneses’ pornography business stays
out of the day-to-day operation of the firehouse.

Jones said she has no plans to resign her nonpaying post, although she
has been on leave since November because of a problem with her hip.
"As far as pushing me out, that’s not going to happen,” she said Wednesday
night. ”When I’m on duty, I don’t mix my two jobs."

from the Boston Globe



What’s up with Technorati? As a devoted follower of the Blogosphere and
our own position within it, the Dowbrigade regularly consults a number
of specialized resources; Feedster to find blogs posting on specific topics
of interest, the hit counters and referers lists built into Manila, our
Blog creation tool of choice, and Technorati to learn about our corner
of the Blogging universe and see who is linking to the Dowbrigade.

But lately, Technorati is taking longer and longer between its periodic
sweeps to record and evaluate these links. Today, for example, the information
about the Dowbrigade on Technorati is almost TWO WEEKS out of date. We
realize the number of Blogs to be tracked is exploding, but is this really
the best they can do?

Even worse, from our egocentric POV, is the misleading statement "Blog
last updated 12 days, 2 hours and 43 minutes ago"! The exactitude of
this pronouncement lends it an air of official authenticity, when obviously and
it is completely mistaken.

As someone who takes great pride in the regularity and consistent quality
of our postings, the Dowbrigade takes it as a personal affront and insult
being told that he has not been doing his Blogging for the PAST TWELVE
DAYS. It emotionally and almost physically hurts to see that condemnation
of our work habits and authorial responsibility in such a respected and
widely consulted source.

Hey Dave! Our Blog is updated EVERY DAY, multiple times, and having
you tell uninformed or curious users who took the time to check out the
universe of the Dowbrigade that we have been flagrantly remiss to the
point of not being able to post ANYTHING for 12 days makes us angry and
hurt. At least change the text to read "This listing not
updated for 12 days" or "Last checked 12 days ago" or something.

Your service in invaluable and we know it means a lot to many bloggers.
However, we don’t know how much longer we will be able to tolerate the
psychic beating we take every time we see those damning words "Blog last
updated.." We suspect we are not alone.

A Breif Break Before Lunch



Taking a breif break before lunch in our Intensive Core Class, our mind refuses to budge from the delicious Eggplant Lasagna we whipped up yesterday in a cold-induced fit of domesticity.

The secret to this dish, of course, is in the Eggplant, which must be sliced into 1/2 inch-thick disks, soaked in a mixture of beaten eggs, milk and soy sauce, coated in seasoned Italian bread crumbs, and then lightly browned in Olive Oil before being layered into the main platter, along with Portobello mushrooms, seasoned crushed tomatos, sweet Hickory Turkey sausage and 4 kinds of cheese. Mmmmmm, can’t wait to get home today and heat some up – Lasagna always tastes even better the second day….



The Dowbrigade has decided to finally weigh in on an idea that has been
circulating around the Blogosphere for several weeks now – Adopt-a-Journalist.

The concept was popularized by Jay
, and then interestingly commented
on by Al
and Halley
, among others. The basic idea is
that to counteract the relative anonymity and lack of accountability
on the part of Major Media writers and reporters, Bloggers should choose
a single reporter and monitor, repost and comment on all of that individual’s
journalistic output.

Come on! That’s the most invasive, repugnant and counterproductive idea
we have heard in the ‘Sphere since paid subscriptions! Who appointed
us to be the Thought Police? And Who is Going to Monitor the Monitors?
What a misguided, uncivil and rude waste of time!

Never content to be a nattering nabob of negativity, the Dowbrigade
does have a couple of suggestions for keeping track of the Major Media,
and enabling the thinking public to weave their useful but limited reporting
into our pastiche of emerging understanding.

First, all news reporting should be clearly identified with a particular
reporter, editor or news desk. Major papers like the New York Times do
identify the individual authors of their feature articles, but many less
prominent stories on the inner pages run anonymously. In addition almost
all of the stories coming out of the news wires, AP, UPI and Reuters,
which are of course picked up and published by hundreds of local papers
around the world, are completely anonymous.

Then, and most importantly, every single professional reporter should
have his or her own RSS feed. When we read an interesting or thought-provoking
article, we should be able to instantly (by clicking on their name) subscribe
to that writer’s feed, and to review his or her aggregated writings,
in order to get a clear idea of their views, political orientation, history
of positions on the issues, etc.

This would allow those of us who value diversity of opinion and resist
taking the network pap at face value the opportunity to see where these
opinions are coming from and weave their occasionally important voices
into a better rounded collection of professional, personal and identifiably
biased punditry from across the political spectrum.