Archive for February, 2004

Sanskrit Boy on the “Passion”


Ryan Overbey has a great review of
the “Passion” movie. We are trying to read a variety of reviews,
because this is one movie the Dowbrigade will never see.  Not for
religious reasons – but we get faint at the sight of blood.  We
didn’t make it through “Carrie” or “The Exorcist.”  Still we are
glad Ryan saw it and can explain it to us….

People sing songs like “Washed in the Blood of the Lamb” in church,
strumming away at acoustic guitars and following along on the overhead
projector, but they have no idea what those words mean. They’re
thinking of lots of things when they sing those songs, but surely
they’re not imagining themselves soaked in blood, dripping wet with the
stuff, smelling the metallic stink of it, and wondering what being
washed in it actually means.

Is RSS Jumping the Shark?


RSS is increasingly going mainstream. Any day we expect
to see WalMart start a steam with its latest markdowns and sales prices.
Today a
long, informative article
appeared on the Yahoo – Technology
site.  Some exerpts:

The technology behind them is called RSS and I rely on it daily to
consult The New York Times, the BBC, CNET News, Slashdot and a few dozen
other Web sites that employ RSS to make the very latest news stories
or bits of commentary available for the plucking.

Some of that upsurge
was election year fever as Democratic presidential candidates
led by
Dean (news
– web
daily turned
on the RSS spigot to "broadcast" to supporters.

But Web feeds are no Howard-come-lately. Info generators of all kinds
– big media,
government and non-profits alike – are embracing them.

Disney leverages the technology to deliver video clips for and
Apple’s iTunes generates a feed to alert subscribers to its latest sounds.

Anyone who builds a Web site can incorporate Web feeds. If it lives on the Web,
it can be brought to your desktop – or to your wireless device, for that matter.

Hundreds of thousands of Web feeds are available, spurred by the popularity
of Web logs, which account for their bulk. One site that has been sorting
feeds since 2001,, added 7,326 in January – its biggest
monthly jump- to its collection of more than 53,000 information streams.

Hell, our buddy Andrew has more than that in his great index Share
. But the gist of the article is correct. It IS a "killer

from Yahoo

Doncha Hate It When That Happens


The graphic below was forwarded to the Dowbrigade by the estimable Norma Yvonne. What is she trying to tell us? Our obtuseness in regards to the fairer sex is legendary, but we know there’s a message in there somewhere…

Thai Bars Hit With Cinderella Law


entertainment industry is prepared for a blow as a new law comes into
effect to enforce midnight closing on bars and clubs.

The only exceptions will be a few zones in the capital, Bangkok, and some resorts,
where bars can open to 0200.

Thailand’s government says the law is part of its campaign to curb juvenile crime
and drug abuse.

What! Bangkok bars closing earlier than in straight-laced Boston? Say it
ain’t so! Our recollection of Bangkok nightlife, admittedly somewhat
hazy, doesn’t include much at all BEFORE midnight. We do remember one
year being holed up in the Honey Hotel, an infamous dive of the faded
jaded elegance variety off the main drag in Sukamvit, watching the
NFL Playoffs with a shady hologram salesman and a member of the Malaysian
who was
on extended
leave or AWOL.

There were two games on each night. The first game started around 1
am. Green Bay was kicking ass, and the Dowbrigade was up and down at
the same time. We were sampling all of Thailand’s vices serially and
sometimes simultaneously, and betting

But despite the visceral rush of professional playoff football on the
tube and money on the bedspread, the highlights of those evenings were
our mini expeditions out into the bars and nightclubs BETWEEN the early
and late games. What with all the commercials and inane analysis we had
almost an hour between games.

Luckily there were approximately 2 thousand bars and nightclubs within
a two block radius of our hideout. The short narrow streets were packed
with sloshed, buzzed, stunned, stoned or staggering individuals of all
known races and sexes.  The sky was ablaze in a neon cacophony better
than any art installation we had ever seen. 4 to 5 AM seemed to be prime
time in that part of Bangkok, anyway.

And the shows, inside the clubs, upstairs, downstairs, around back,
in hidden, windowless rooms, were truly astounding in their
sheer imaginative variety. Despite our extensive knowledge of human anatomy
and erotic activity in diverse cultures, we were exposed to numerous
feats we would have never admitted possible had we not witnessed them
with our own eyes.

All that – Gone! Lets hear from some Thai Bloggers. Is this really going
to work? What are those "special zones" in the capital? Why do they want
to reschedule the youth crime and drug use for earlier in the evening,
so more kids can take part before bedtime?

Trust your tireless correspondent to keep an eye on this one, dear readers….

from the

Stalin’s Revenge


An explosion in numbers of a species of giant crab is
causing concern amongst environmentalists.

Millions of Kamchatka or Red King Crabs have already spread around 400
miles south from northern Norway.

The monster crustaceans, which were introduced to Europe by Stalin in the
1930s, have a claw span of more than three feet and can weigh in at 25

More than 10 million have reached the Lofoten Islands in northwest Scandinavia,
all but eliminating populations of other species such as Northern clams
in their wake.

from Ananova

The Monkey Paw Effect


Next Generation Blogging Tool


Last week the fearless leader of the Berkman Blogger’s,
Dave Winer, wanted to collect some starting point design criteria for
the next generation of Blogging software. Since Dave believes (and we
concur) that software should be designed from user needs translated into
engineering reality rather than visa versa, he asked a select group of
Blogger’s whose opinion he respects as deep thinkers and super-users
to formulate their thoughts and functional fantasies into words.

Needless to say, the Dowbrigade was not among those hoary sages asked
for their opinions, adding to his richly deserved reputation as the Rodney
Dangerfield of the Blogosphere.  The disadvantage of being identified
as a humor blogger is that nobody takes you seriously even when you are
trying to be.  Of course, the advantage is that you can dismiss
all of your critics as lacking a sense of humor.

At any rate, never having been shy and at one point in our career practically
supporting ourselves by crashing parties, we will leap in with our two
bits. For starters, let us say that we agree with almost everything written
by Jim
in response to Dave’s query. Summing up, Jim wrote that users
need completely transparent, drag and drop simplicity in composing and

We would like to expand on and modulate those comments, however. The
dream of a composing environment where we non-coders can drop pictures,
text blocks, links and media gems, move them around and arrange them
just the way we want them is admirable and may someday be achievable.
However, Macromedia and Adobe have been trying to achieve the same thing
in their general purpose web site design programs, and they are still
far from the ideal Jim imagines.

As Dave himself noted browser based composition is clearly the way to
go. It allows designers to allow users to do common composition and uploading
tasks in 2 or 3 steps instead of 10 or 12.  Yet even the most advanced
WYSIWYG html editors like Dreamweaver, in which the Dowbrigade News
is composed, are far from this kind of super-simple drag and drop capability, so it
may take awhile to reach this holy grail

It is instructive to consider the evolution of html editors, for as
we have repeatedly established a weblog is really just a web page with
some build-in functionality. Web page design options range from coders
who compose straight-out in html, tags and strings of code flying from
their fingertips to complete non-techies who simply type text into a
template and have no idea of how it gets onto the web. Many people,
like the Dowbrigade, take a middle path.

This offering of a variety of modes and composition options is essential.
As an educator we know that different people have different learning
styles, and different composers have different composition styles. Some
may say aim for the lowest common denominator and let those who want
to mess with the code use a different application.  However, since
what goes on in the background is pretty much the same, it shouldn’t
be too difficult to let different kinds of users access the functionality
in different ways.

The key to offering the capability to arrange and position elements
within postings seems to be tables.  As a web page designer and
blogger we find tables indispensable in placing specific content in specific
places on the page. Although our initial understanding of cascading style
sheets was that they were designed to do pretty much the same thing,
we could never get them to do more than preserve formatting styles across
a site of disparate pages, and we still use tables for placement in just about all the pages we design. However,
we have yet to find a really easy and flexible table tool.

Without knowing whether it would be technically possible, we can imagine
self-adjusting table cells such that when a user drops an image or other
object into a page an invisible table cell is automatically generated
which instantly adjusts as the user moves the object around the page.
This ability to spatially arrange elements, combine with the common
skills of using a basic formatting pallet, would give even complete non-coders
a high degree of intuitive control over the appearance and functionality
of their content.

In general, we think the principles of simplicity and modifiability,
both of the creation and viewing environments, should be the touchstones
of the next generation of blogging tools. And of course, it must be
integrated with the next generation of aggregators. We would suggest
that the aggregator be a central feature of the new blogging tools, both
as content collector and as a feature for readers.  As Jim suggests,
finding, subscribing and unsubscribe from streams should be made as
simple and intuitive as possible.The aggregator should be enabled to
handle as wide a variety of embedded enclosures as possible; audio, video,
text, etc., and should be completely configurable in that the user can
select, for each feed, how much to display of headlines, body and graphics,
and what to do with enclosures.

In fact, users should have the option of using the aggregator by itself
and ignoring the blogging part of the equation altogether. In fact, the
Dowbrigade already has two Manila blogs set up expressly for that purpose.
If a user wants, their aggregator could BE their blog, simply a controlled
information flow reflecting the interests and character of the owner.

If a product could do all that, the Dowbrigade would be severely tempted
to actually break down and PAY for it. Unless we can finagle a copy as
a beta tester….


Aggregator-Safe Classics


A Revolution in News Production and Consumption


"Every citizen’s a reporter. Journalists aren’t some exotic species, they’re
everyone who seeks to take new developments, put them into writing, and share
them with others." … (Oh Yeon Ho)

For the past several days the Dowbrigade has been researching an upcoming
article on the world’s first Internet President – Roh Moo-hyu of South
Korea.  A
virtually unknown labor lawyer just two years ago, he rode a wave of
Internet organizing and fundraising to the Presidency of the most wired
nation on earth (80% of homes have Broadband access to the Internet)
one year ago. There are many valuable parallels and lessons to be learned
from Roh’s electoral saga and first year in office.

But that is a story for a later date and another publication (although
it will indubitably be posted to the Dowbrigade News). What is currently
blowing our mind is the discovery that the Roh victory was part of a
major media revolution spurred by thousands of "Citizen Journalists".
All of the stuff that is starting to explode on the US media scene is
already in full-blown implementation in Asia! Who knew?

merely reinforces for the Dowbrigade the absolutely necessary global
nature of the revolution which is just starting to make its true dimensions
and potential know.  We in America are not necessarily the center
of the Universe, or even of CyberSpace. Furthermore, in many cases we
are not even close to the cutting edge. Digital democracy is starting
to look like one of these.

Much more on this as our investigation continues.  Meanwhile, check
out, the site that reputedly got Roh elected in South Korea.

Duck Hunting with the Dowbrigade


Antonin Scalia, the
Soprano’s favorite Supreme Court Justice, is in hot water again, and
once again it is his choice of hunting buddies that
got him there.  Just as the furor was starting to die down concerning
his hunting trip with Vice President Cheney so soon before the court
will hear arguments in the case arising from Cheney’s refusal to reveal
the names of the industry insiders who were called in to talk with his
Energy Task Force, there are new accusations.

Scalia is accused of going hunting with the Dean of the University of Kansas
Law School, who was also the lawyer for the State of Kansas, and the
then-Govenor of Kansas, at a time when an important case involving the
state was before the Court.

Now, the Dowbrigade knows that the resulting impression of impropriety
is completely unfounded and, as any social scientist worth his salt would
tell you, based on an unreasonably small sample size. Justice Scalia
obviously just loves being outdoors, the sweet smell of cordite escaping on
the breeze, the reassuring feel of modern weaponry in his hands, and
the chance to kill small, unarmed (but fleet) creatures.

The problem, as we see it, is merely one of public relations perspective.  In
order to completely defuse this potentially embarrassing situation (for Supreme
Court Justices, like Caesar’s wife in more ways than one, must avoid
any IMPRESSION of impropriety), Scalia need only take one simple step.  He
needs to diversity his hunting buddies.  He needs to go hunting
with someone who not only has no pending cases before the SC, but whose
whole political orientation was so out of wack with his own as to
be impossible to reconcile in a single world view.

Someone, for example, like the Dowbrigade.  Yes, we are volunteering
to take a little hunting trip with Justice Scalia, a trip we believe
might be edifying AND enjoyable for both of us. A real briefcase nuke
in the old echo chamber.

Despite the fact that the Dowbrigade suffers from a life-long quasi-Buddhist
abhorrence of killing in any form, he has no aversion to weapons, having
achieved the rank of Marksman First Class in his days as a NRA
adolescent shooter, and a Varsity Letter from Harvard for exemplary service on the Harvard
Sharp Shooting
Team, affectionately known as "the Snotty Snipers".

So we could hang with old Antonin. Hell, who knows how many of the world’s
problems we could sort out over a case of Coors and a couple of those new
big-bore rifles with the Granite Mountain Arms large
magnum repeating
action, and a woods full of critters. Even WITHOUT killing anything we’re sure we could scare the hell out of a wide variety of lifeforms.

So what do you say, Justice Scalia? Why not show those carping critics
that there’s nothing to those nasty rumors. If you can go hunting with
the Dowbrigade, your impartiality, if not your better judgment, will be unimpeachable.

Washington Post Story

Eternal Egypt On-line


Catapults, another of the Dowbrigade’s adolescent fascinations was Ancient
Egypt. Today we tend to see Egypt as an interface
between European Enlightenment and Deepest, Darkest Africa and a sort
of Political Sphinx sitting in the Middle of the Middle East; not a democracy,
not a dictatorship, not a friend to Israel, not really an enemy either.

But when Egyptian IT, art and medicine were the most advanced in the
world, the Europeans were living in caves and fighting with sticks. Facets
of the ancient world that captivated the young Dowbrigade? Secret burial
chambers in mountainous pyramids, the Serpent God Set, the birth of Monotheism
under Amenhetep, the wonderfully titled "Book of the Dead", and the
whole area of mummification, the real kind not the swathed-in-bandages
Hollywood kind.

Last week the Egyptian government and IBM unveiled the results of a
remarkable 3-year cooperative project to create a state-of-the-art virtual
repository for the best and most advanced artifacts and digital displays
of the art, science and culture of Ancient Egypt.

Called "Eternal Egypt" it is chock full of multimedia, Shockwave, interactivity
and 360 degree VR views, live webcams and high-resolution, zoomable images.
we wish
we could have discovered this 35 years ago! It could have changed our

from the
New York Times

Eternal Egypt Site

Haiti Update: Chaos or Conspiracy?


The story from Haiti gets stranger and stranger. We still
haven’t located any authentic Haitian bloggers.  One interesting
lead was John Engle, an American who WAS blogging from Haiti until Tuesday,
when he and his family quite sensibly bailed.

The word we are getting, however, from inside (second and third hand)
and outside of Haiti, is that the "Rebels" and their leader, Guy Phillippe,
are Very Bad Men, in the
and represent the worst sort of virulent strain of Latin American military
dictatorship we had hoped had been forever eradicated from the American
continent. According to the Boston
, they make up in viciousness
what they lack in numbers:

Western diplomatic sources estimate that they do not number more than
300 men. But rebel leaders claim to have recruited scores of new members
since the uprising began Feb. 5, despite their reputations in Haiti
as brutal soldiers and policemen, drug traffickers, and death squad

Philippe is a former army lieutenant and police captain. The front’s
second in command, Gilberto Dragon, is a former military officer and
police major. Both are cited on numerous government and diplomatic reports
for their alleged involvement in drug trafficking and racketeering.

The group’s strongman is Louis Jodel Chamblain, a former military general
who later headed the FRAPH, which stands for Front for the Advancement
and Progress of Haiti, which specialists describe as a paramilitary group
responsible for murdering thousands of Aristide followers in the early
1990s. The group’s systematic use of rape and torture as weapons sparked
the massive exodus of refugees that ultimately led to US military action.

"We’re very concerned about the reappearance of these people," said
Joanne Mariner, Deputy Director of the Americas Division of Human Rights
Watch. "FRAPH was a paramilitary group that committed massacres,
extrajudiciary executions, that helped keep repressive control over
Haiti. Chamblain was essentially the operational leader, very much
in the details, the actual abuses committed."

Even after Aristide returned to power, both Philippe and Dragon were
part of the new police force. Philippe became the police chief of Cap-Haitien,
Dragon the commissaire of an important area in Port-au-Prince. Throughout,
they maintained their esprit de corps.

They and 10 other officers soon took on the name "Latinos," because
they had trained together in Ecuador and spoke Spanish. Philippe fled
to the Dominican Republic in 2000 after he and several other Latinos,
including Dragon, were tied to a coup plot.

Egads! An "Ecuadorian Connection". However,
the Dowbrigade can testify first hand that the Ecuadorian Army’s Officer
Training Institute
includes no courses in "Running a Voudou Drug Gang".

this is also a serious setback to the disarmament movement worldwide.
joined a select list
of countries, mostly small island nations, which have abolished their
armies: Costa Rica, Dominica, Kiribati,Lichtenstein, Mauritius, Maldives,
Monaco, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, San Marino, St. Vincent and the
Solomon Islands, and Western Samoa.

In fact, it appears that the drugged out remnants of the recently abolished
Haitian army are part and parcel of this "Rebellion." Latest reports
from Port
au Prince
say the city is in the hand of drugged out criminals and armed bands
of wacked-out youths. Now, the Bush administration has just announced
that President Aristide should "leave the country".  It
is starting to look more and more like an orchestrated campaign to get
rid of this one-time US ally who may have become an inconvenience to
an administration more interested in control than in conversation.

from the
Boston Globe