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Friday, July 23, 2010

Daniel Schorr, last of a dying breed

If you have no idea who Daniel Schorr is, he wasn't Bob Woodward or Dan Rather. Schorr was, in essence, one of my great heroes. He was a journalist and writer from the age of Kruschev through the age of Cheney. He was a journalist, and his rough, tobacco-stained voice was a crusty reminder of the news era of a bygone age.

I never met you, Mr. Schorr, but you changed my life in many ways, and you stood for truth in an era that slid to mendacity for the sake of the subject, rather than the audience. You , and your final words at the end of a commentary on the radio, were a marker of sanity in an era of insane politics. You shall be missed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No, Steve. The iPhone 4 just sucks, no matter how many lovey-dovey commercials you make.

Sorry, Stevie. Your phone sucks. Don't try to point the finger at everyone else. If ConsumerReports recommends against your product, perhaps it's because you screwed up, not because the phone industry made a mistake. Admittedly, this is your fourth phone, and the Cult of Apple continues to bring converts, but hell, I -had- an iPhone, and used a different carrier than AT&T to avoid your monopoly. And it STILL sucked, compared to an HTC myTouch.

No matter how many times you show images of people (who need to be on a wifi connection for the video conferencing software to work, unlike, say, the HTC Evo phone available on Sprint) talking about the miracle of small children and babies on primetime TV, your technology is still sucky and I'm never again going to buy one of your crappy iPods masquerading as a phone.

Glenn Beck going Blind? Yeah, tell us something new.

Frankly, if Glenn Beck is going blind, this isn't a bad thing. Although I would be willing to bet Beck is going to claim disability from the government due to his "blindness", regardless of the amount of money he makes as a right-wing pundit/entertainer for the slavering, racially-charged Teabagging movement, his macular dystrophy (eyes go bad, in a nutshell) would at the very least increase awareness of the sightless in America.

Although at the same time I'm now more or less aware that Beck, who's posed in Nazi-era uniforms for the covers of his books and raged against black Americans given "preferential treatment" now that an African-American is in the White House is going to milk this for all the sympathy in the world, I'm somewhat cheerful. After all, being forced to rely on others after spending two decades blaming everyone but himself for the problems of America might humble someone marginally less offensive than former KKK members in the Teabagging movement.

My schadenfreue is brimming over, and I can't stop my internal snickers. I'm crossing my fingers with deep and sincere hope his right-wing, ultra-conservative butt gets thrown to the mercy of the welfare state he has so often decried.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

StarCraft II, et al

On Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty...

I never really enjoyed a lot of the twitch gamer process gaming issues. I do like managing wars and doing the whole strategy thing, but if you asked me to put together a battle of Waterloo I'd question why you were asking me. I wasn't there - I had no idea what the men or generals were up to, and the only thing I could tell you is that Napoleon bit it there.

That said, I did love me some Starcraft. And I recall playing it when the massive games were 500mb, and you had to really load in a CD. Now I'm ashamed (well, not really, because I loved Starcraft and its expansion) to say I went ahead for the full StarCraft II. The only thing is, there's going to be a very, very limited series of games that I can go with now. The specialization of most people in a gaming genre of one kind or another means that no longer can I actually play a game and get a specified area of fun; I can only now play first-person shooters, real-time strategy, MMORPGs, or side-scrollers with any kind of specialization.

And I'm still pining for my very own Medieval Madness pinball game. (Of course, space constraints aside, the $8,500 price tag for such a machine would be an issue. My beloved books don't take that much space.)

But I really did get in on the Warcraft mania, to the point where, not seven years later, I still roll with the game every so often. I'm hoping, too, that it won't go the way of the Sims 3 - where I played for a bit, but got intensely bored after a week.

Either way, I am looking forward to the game, I'm just hoping it'll be good for the long-term, and have the traction its predecessory did.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Banning the Bodies Exhibition

San Francisco has already banned the Bodies exhibition due to the fact that some of the bodies were obtained from China, and China's current status as a country where "permission" is often synonymous with "you didn't say no loud enough" or "you were a political prisoner / murderer / mental patient, ergo you don't get to say yes or no what's done with your body". Now Nick Lacata, Seattle City Council member, is sponsoring legislation that would require any exhibition to obtain permission from the donor's bodies to make sure the bodies are exhibited with respect and dignity.

And that's definitely NOT what happens with the Bodies Exhibition.

On some level I see the Bodies exhibition as a fascinating anatomy discussion, on another a puppetry of intensely macabre proportions. The bodies that are built and maintained are plasticized in an incredibly brilliant method that replaces all of the muscles and veins, capillaries and other organic materials that allows the preservation of the musculature - on the other hand, I'm fairly certain none of the bodies shown in the exhibition really wanted to be paraded around in public. Chinese ancestor traditions means that the families cannot visit these people and provide the graveside services; and frankly, if I knew my grandfather or grandmother, my aunt or my sister were plasticized after their bodies were sold to an organization without my consent, I'd be livid. At best this is disrespectful, at worst it's the desecration of a corpse.

I've not been able to find out whether the bodies used in the exhibition were willingly given by either the families or the deceased themselves. But I also don't see much of a need to outright ban these - I don't plan on attending because of the moral issues I have with this, and I am not the type of person who likes watching the Saw movies the check out the interior body components of other human beings. The Bodies Exhibition is doing downhill; had Licata actually wanted to make a dent in the behavior, he should have set something like this in motion four years ago when the exhibition showed up in the first place.

There's also a racial or a foreign component to this that bothers me. Western societies have a long tradition of using the bodies of "foreigners" as curiosities and exploiting them for "scientific research". The Victorian era hasn't quite finished with the morbid fascination of digging up dead people and showing them in a museum. Very few pioneers of the West were dug up and shown because it wouldn't be "respectful" - likewise, the majority of bodies donated in the United States to medical science aren't used for museum exhibitions. The museums have the technology to virtually explore human bodies in 3-D without sacrificing the dignity of a human being - and the costs would be similar, if not identical to putting a corpse on display, much like Saartjie Baartman ( or the bones of Geronimo.

I wonder if the reaction and the fascination about Bodies would be so popular if the bodies came from Ohio, or Eureka, or the San Fernando Valley, or Manhattan's Upper West Side. Or whether the question of respect for the deceased would even come up. But since they're bodies from China that nobody knows where they came from (aside from some government officials in China who likely made a tidy bribe off of their sale), they are anonymous and we don't have to think about them. If our reaction to Mrs. Sophie Carmichael, grandmother of five, died of a heart attack is that she should be given a dignified burial and that her corpse should not be plasticized in a pose that implies she was a bit of a tramp for all eternity, then it's likely the same pose of Xia Hiu, political prisoner, should be treated the same. 

For my perspective, I won't attend a Bodies exhibition precisely because I cannot see the intention of the people who built this Exhibition as being anything other than sensationalism using the cheapest and most accessible human remains they could - and that happened to be from China, with no questions asked. In a lot of ways, actively walking through the Bodies Exhibition is participating, and while I'm sure the "scientific" curiosity and experience must, for some, outweigh the moral costs, I am also quite sure that the people who "own" this exhibit have made more than their fair share of money profiting from the display of the bodies without the consent of the deceased, or their families.

Friday, July 16, 2010

iPad on the road for kids? Not bloody likely

Don't get me wrong, I believe in the concept that keeping kids entertained on the road is a pretty good thing. However, the article referenced below mentions the general idea that somehow, as Mom and Dad and family rolls on down the road this summer, everyone (save the person driving, hopefully) will be poking around on their brand-new iPads, surfing along, cheerfully playing everything.

This is one of those things that makes me go "burrrhuuuuh?"

I know we're in the age of people happily and cheerfully handing $700 pieces of equipment to their kids, but I can't, for the life of me, understand what average parent would shove a $700 iPad at their kid while driving or trying to entertain a kid solely through the iPad. Sure, I'm positive someone will be able to do so, but come on. $700 buys a kid a laptop. You think they're going to be all trundling along in the backseat with a piece of equipment that I wouldn't trust my former roomie with? (Granted, my former roomie had a tendency to shake when he had low blood sugar and a view of technology that verged on the violent, but still. Even with a fourteen-year old kid I'd be locking the dang thing up in a vault.)

So while the iPad for kids marketing campaign seems to be rolling along, I hardly think the majority of people will be putting out iPads and letting their kids plug into it. For my money, let the kids do what worked for years on road trips - read books, listen to their personal listening devices, roll their eyes disgustedly when asked where they want to eat, and complain when the motel doesn't have a swimming pool.

But then, I'm one of those guys who wonders why a Toyota Sienna would NEED a dual-zone entertainment system. Not to be an annoying old man, but dammit, if I had to learn how to read and pack books while on vacation that would keep me occupied for a three-week run through the southwest, my kids should be able to do so too.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reiki for the Duwamish River? Really? REALLY?

I present KUOW's own Megan Sukys, in her own radio show, about how reiki can heal the Duwamish river.

I'm not really all that into reiki as a practice, though I've had people practicing reiki work on me before, and my subsequent dizziness after lying faceup on a table while people passed their hands and focused energy on certain points of my body might have been due to the energy flow redirect - or that I'm 6'5" and built accordingly and failed to eat my cookie before lying down.

But somehow the idea that a Superfund Cleanup site could be healed by the power of reiki seems...well, stupid.
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