Archive for February 21st, 2004

Originals Available on E-Bay


major Hollywood blockbuster has to have its attendant merchandising line.
  People today can’t be content to just go to a movie one or twice
or fifteen times. They have to buy the seatshirt, the juice glasses, the
sheet and pillowcaase sets, toothbrushes, videogames, pajamas, action
figures and Disney-on-Ice reenactments

No one has ever accused Mel Gibson of being anything less than a sensational
showman and consumate capitalist. Current red-hot mercnadising tie-ins to Gibson’s
latest "Passion" include pins, key chains, coffee mugs T-shirts and
2 1/2 inch pewter nails bearing the inscription "Isaiah 53:5," referring
a Bible verse that begins, "He was pierced for our transgressions . . ."

The nails are hung on a leather thong and cost $16.99

February 19, 2004 — Replicas of the nails used to hang Jesus on the
cross have become the red-hot official merchandise linked to Mel Gibson’s
controversial new movie, "The Passion of the Christ."


from the New York Post

New, Independent Mike


Dave, over on Dave
Winer’s Test Site
, is looking for a
good quality microphone to use with his PC. What a coincidence! The Dowbrigade
has been looking for a microphone as well, but we had something a little
different in mind.

Following the trailblazing Chris
, we are wondering about incorporating
sound bites into our blogging.  What we want is a microphone that
DOESN’T PLUG INTO ANYTHING.  It would have an internal power source
and enough digital memory to hold a couple of hours of voice recording.
Light, easy to carry and sneak into closed events, and super-easy to operate
(like one switch: Off-Record-Pause).

When the citizen blogger/journalist returns to his or her computer,
the sound files could be transfered via removable media like CompactFlash,
or downloaded directly via a short USB cable.

We know there are small, hand-held voice tape recorders available, some
digital.  But we have seen people using them, and they DON’T LOOK
LIKE REAL REPORTERS. It looks like they are talking into a camera or
a remote control device. We want one that looks like a real, classic, official
microphone, just with a small digital recorder inside.  We feel
that the interviewees would take us more seriously with a realistic-looking
mike, even if it wasn’t plugged into anything.

Does such a thing even exist?

Technology a Two-Edged Sword


There seems to be a certain unfounded optimism
that something intrinsic in the nature of blogs or the internet guarantees
that they will be a force for openness and reform in the political
system. We wish we could share in this heady euphoria, but just because
got there first doesn’t mean we have an advantage when the time comes
for full deployment of the technology.

In our opinion technology is by and large value neutral. If
it is true that technological innovations are often introduced by free-thinkers
and creative iconoclasts, it is equally true that the more powerful
these innovations are the more quickly they are adopted
and co opted by the existing power structure.

Case in point – the Printing Press. While some feel that the
ongoing digital revolution is the most significant upgrade to information
infrastructure since Gutenberg, it is useful to review what happened
in the 15th century. When old Johannes came up with the first printing
press, German reformers were all aflutter with the liberating idea
that now books and political tracts no longer needed to be copied out
one at a time by hand.

But what was the first real book that they printed? The Bible!
And within a very few years the dominant power in Europe at that time,
the Catholic Church, owned 90% of the existing presses and had instituted
controls and taxes on printing and publishing that continue to this

The clearer it gets to even brain-dead ward-heelers that the
internet technologies are potentially political dynamite, the quicker
they are going to hire or breed their own brand of bloggers. The uses
to which they will put "our" creations are frightening to imagine.
Can they be stopped?

The printing press did end up popularizing literature, theology and
politics, but it took 200 years and the Protestant reformation to loosen
the stranglehold of the Papacy on Europe. We must remember technology
is a two edged sword, and be ready for the entrenched power bases to
turn our own tools against us.

Unbridaled Web Fertile Ground for Attack Ads


New York Times has an interesting article about how the more ‘liberal’
sensibilities on the Web allow campaigns,
including both Bush and Kerry, to get away with more vicious attack
ads without facing damaging political backlast which has resulted in
the past from placing such ads on TV.

But part of the Web’s appeal has been its unbridled nature, and it
is showing that it can act as a back alley – where punches can be thrown
and things can be said that might be deemed out of place, even if just
at a particular moment, in the full light of the mainstream media.

"The principals themselves feel like they can act out there in a way that they
wouldn’t dare to do in the mainstream media," said Jonathan Zittrain, a director
of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.

Mr. Bush’s campaign, for instance, has not been ready to launch a confrontational
television ad, let alone a positive one, because it is trying to cling to the
transcendent trappings of the Rose Garden for as long as possible.

from the
New York Times

NATO Official Hacked to Death at Peace Conference


This story has so many hooks the Dowbrigade doesn’t
know which one to grab. The killer was a NATO officer named after our
browser (a killer ap?). The murder took place in an ESL classroom, whose teacher obviously
missed "Defusing Cultural Conflicts in the Classroom" my presentation
at last years TESOL Conference in Baltimore. With better teacher training
these tradegies need not happen.

AN Armenian military officer attending a NATO Partnership for Peace
program was hacked to death with an axe and a knife today by an Azerbaijani
participant, police officials said.
Budapest police Major Valter Fulop told reporters that the suspect, identified
as Ramil S, was detained without resistance accused of committing murder with "unusual

"We say ‘unusual cruelty’ because beside a number of knife wounds on his
chest, the victim’s head was practically severed from his body," Fulop said.

The Armenian Defence Ministry identified the suspect as Lieutenant Ramil Safari
of Azerbaijan and the victim as Lieutenant Garcon Markarian of Armenia.

The interrogation of Safari and witnesses – including Markarian’s Hungarian roommate
– was under way, police Major Jozsef Szigeti said.

The officers were attending an English language course within the framework of
NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, which is aimed at increasing cooperation
between neutral and former Soviet bloc nations and NATO in peacekeeping and other

from Australia

Roboreceptionist Doesn’t Do Coffee


Institute student Mark Michalowski, right, looks over the kiosk where "Valerie",
the new Roboceptionist at Carnegie Mellon University operates from
before the indroduction of the school’s latest foray into interactive
robots on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2004 in Pittsburgh. Students and professors
from the computer science and drama departments created the personna
that greets people and gossips on the phone. Instead of just giving
out directions or telling visitors about the weather, Valerie is programmed
with her own personality. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

from Ananova

New Jersey Mom Countersues RIAA for Racketeering


In what legal experts described as a novel strategy,
Michele Scimeca is citing federal racketeering laws like the one that
jailed mob boss John Gotti to countersue record labels that accused her
in December
of sharing some 1,400 copyrighted songs over the Internet.

The Rockaway Township woman, who claims she was targeted for her teenager’s school
research project, is among hundreds of individuals sued by the music industry
since last summer. Another 531 computer users were sued yesterday in "John
Doe" suits filed in Trenton, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Orlando.

Labels are using "scare tactics (that) amount to extortion" in efforts
to extract settlements, Scimeca alleges in legal papers sent to the U.S. District
Court in Newark.

"They’re banding together to extort money, telling people they’re guilty
and they will have to pay big bucks to defend their cases if they don’t pony
up now. It is fundamentally not fair," Scimeca’s lawyer, Bart Lombardo,
said yesterday. The Cranford attorney said he occasionally downloads songs for
personal use and sees nothing wrong with that.

from the New Jersey Star-Ledger

Skin Shot of the Day


We dated her for awhile, put we couldn’t get past the tails….


from Worth 1000

Adam Curry Back From Iraq


is heading back to Holland today after a hectic but unforgettable
week in Iraq. As a guest of the Dutch military, he spent most of his
time on bases, but did have several opportunities to visit towns and
villages, meet sheiks and regular people, and blog it all.  Read
his reports here.

Also, a
beautiful series of photos
by his producer Maikel "little fish"

No Comment


Our friends and fellow bloggers tell us we should be thankful
that the Dowbrigade News receives so few comments after our postings.
Our all-time high water mark was six comments, on a posting of questionable
taste, and three of those comments were from the Dowbrigade’s Mom, drawing
attention to that fact.

So we have always taken that as a sort of back-handed compliment and
felt uncomfortably unendowed in the comments category. Why is it that our readers
largely refrain from commenting on our efforts? Is is because of the humorous
nature of the material (typical comment: "Ha ha, very funny")? Is it because
our pieces speak for themselves and require no commentary? Or is it that
the majority of our readers can’t really write at all, and mostly come
to look at the pictures?

Our outlook was altered, however, when blogbuddy Andrew
being attacked by a nasty " slow-moving, multi-ip address using comment
robot". Being a digital
, the Dowbrigade has no idea what that actually
is, other than that it clogs your server and blog with nonsensical comments,
but it certainly sounds scary. So maybe we are lucky with our dearth of
commentary. Any comments?

Do-Not-Call Does, Can Spam Can’t



Hiawatha Bray reviews the success of the national do-not-call registry
and the Can Spam Act. While 74% of the folks who got on the no telemarketing
list report a decrease in unsolicited sales calls, 71% say the deluge
of junk email continues unabated, or has increased.

Jennifer O’Shea, press secretary for Senator Conrad Burns, a Montana
Republican and a sponsor of the antispam law, said the law will begin
to work once the FTC starts suing spammers. "It does take time for
cases to be taken up and for people to be prosecuted," O’Shea

But the FTC official in charge of enforcing the law took a much dimmer
view. "This law provides some tools that we hope will be helpful," said
Howard Beales, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, "but
it’s not going to make a major difference."

from the
Boston Globe