by Sarah Boxer | NYT
On the Web you'll find the Infinite Cat Project but no Infinite Dog. My Cat Hates You is big on the Web, but there is no site named My Dog Hates You. (Dogs Hate Bush exists, but then so does Cats Hate Bush.) As any good Web hound can tell you, Rathergood.com is filled with crazy crooning cats. But where, oh where, are the singing dogs? (New Guinea singing dogs, a real breed, do not count.)
Cats are the Web's it-animals. They're everywhere. When you look up Devil Cats, you'll see comics about cat owners who love too much and the cats that cheat on them. Look up Devil Dogs, and you'll be offered apparel for the Marine Corps and information about Drake's cakes. Under the heading "Animal Antics," ifilm.com has four "Viral Videos" of cats, none of dogs. There are tons of badly drawn cats at www.tiddles.co.uk, but there's no such site for dogs.
Sure, there are dog sites aplenty, including fanciers' sites, funny sites and even an occasional hoax site, like thedogisland.com. But most don't have the buzz of Infinite Cat or Rathergood.
Why cats and not dogs?
Perhaps mycathatesyou.com will provide a clue. This site, founded in 2000, offers what it calls "the largest collection of sour-faced, indignant felines on the Internet." There you can see a squinty-eyed, snaggletoothed cat named Guapo, who appears ready to tear someone's head off. If you posted a picture of a dog as scary as that, no one would laugh. They would send for the dogcatcher.
Now take a look at Litterboxcam.com, where a live camera is trained on the litter boxes of two cats, Grey and Black. Every 60 seconds the image is refreshed. Counting down to zero and waiting for the cats to come into the frame is strangely and annoyingly suspenseful.
But if you Google poop and dog, you'll be led to a site called smellypoop.com/photogallery.html, which is more disgusting than funny. Or you may find the story of the "dog poop girl," also known as the "puppy poo girl," or in Korean "gae-ttong-nyue," which, believe it or not, is also not funny.
This is her story. Last month a woman let her dog relieve itself on the subway in Seoul. She was caught, by a cellphone camera, doing nothing about it. Within days, her picture, her identity, her family's identity and her past were revealed to the world on the Web. She quit her university in shame. The Washington Post and The Columbia Journalism Review weighed in. On Wikipedia there's already a "dog poop girl" entry logged, and a movement to delete it.
Interesting, yes, but not funny. Maybe the difference is that dogs are public, everyone's business. They go on subways and they go in parks. They are always caught in flagrante defecato. Cats stay home. They are private, nobody's business. To watch them in their homes is a privilege. They are perfect for the Web, the medium of voyeurs.
For example, go to the "Educational Videos" on zefrank.com, where you can catch the cat named Annie B., also called Mooshie, in 15 different scenarios, including one in which she re-enacts the shower scene in "Psycho." It's special. It's intimate. And another thing: she seems content with her small apartment. Cats are O.K. living in tight places and never going out. They don't mind if their owners spend every waking hour on the Internet.
Dogs would die if they had to wait for their owners to go off line. And who wants to post pictures of a dead animal? Serious bloggers, the kind who float to the top of Google regularly, just don't have time or space for dogs.
But can that be the whole story? There's a deeper answer to be had at infinitecat.com, where users post pictures of their cats gazing at pictures of other cats already posted on the Infinite Cat site. You see an infinite regress: pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats.
Remind you of anything? Those cats are like so many bloggers sitting at home staring into their computer screens and watching other bloggers blog other bloggers. Cats, who live indoors and love to prowl, are the soul of the blogosphere. Dogs would never blog.
Posted Sat Jul 30th, 2005 - 5:00pm by CPC Top of page
CNN | LIEMPDE, Netherlands (AP) -- There are hundreds of tents on the hot and soggy campground, but this isn't your ordinary summertime outing, considering that it includes workshops with such titles as "Politics of Psychedelic Research" or "Fun and Mayhem with RFID."
This is the three-day "What The Hack" convention, a self-styled computer-security conference dealing with such issues as digital passports, biometrics and cryptography.
Borrowing heavily from Woodstock and the more professionalized Def Con conference that begins Friday in Las Vegas, the event held every four years in the Netherlands draws an international array of experts and geeks. About 3,000 gathered Thursday for the opening.
Unlike better-known and better-funded industry meetings, "What the Hack" had to fight for its right to exist.
The mayor of the southern Dutch town of Boxtel, who oversees the village of Liempde where the convention is held, initially tried to stop the event from pitching its hundreds of tents outside his town -- a reluctance stemming from the lingering public image of hackers as asocial, anarchistic and vaguely menacing.
The mayor withdrew his objections after meetings with organizers.
Some of the scheduled lectures and workshops might reinforce the convention's shady reputation, such as the talk about mayhem with RFID, which stands for radio frequency identification tags.
But other seminars appeared wholesome enough, such as the workshop on how to make homes more energy efficient or how activists can lobby governments more effectively.
Even the local police officers assigned to monitor "What the Hack" are being included in the event. Officers are holding daily workshops to educate the public about how they go about securing events like these. Such cooperation with authorities would have raised eyebrows in previous years.
Befitting the age of terrorism, the conference is taking up such security issues as biometrics and new passport technology.
But in line with its anarchic reputation, organizers have made a parody of their own security arrangements, asking attendees to screen their own belongings at an unmanned baggage scanner. Rubber gloves for a "do-it-yourself body cavity search" are provided free of charge.
Overall, the atmosphere resembles that of a music festival, with orderly people waiting in line to buy Jolt colas and vegetarian meals. Children and hammocks are as prevalent as ponytails and laptops, and a curiously popular hangout is the Slacker Salon, a computer-free zone where frenetic Web surfing is taboo.
The relaxed setting is a conscious choice, according to Internet entrepreneur Rop Gonggrijp, who in 1989 helped organize the seminal Galactic Hacker Party, an open-air convention that formed the template for What The Hack.
"The idea was to break the stereotype" of hackers as sun-averse malcontents bent on vandalism, he said. "They've never been part of this community. And now there's fortunately space in the media for more than one kind of hacker."
Rutgers University anthropologist Biella Coleman said events like these serve a critical function for the many communities of people who are acquainted online, but rarely get the chance to meet in the real world.
"Virtuality needs sociality," she said.
Klaartje Bruyn, for example, is a sign-maker by day, but came to What the Hack for social, rather than professional reasons. Electronically arranging meetings with friends both real and virtual from the comfort of her hammock, she lauded how the festival could bring together so many far-flung yet like-minded people.
"It's like a blind date with 3,000 people," she said.Posted Fri Jul 29th, 2005 - 6:00pm by CPC Top of page
I haven't seen or heard anything about Rocketo except for this preview by Amid Amidi on Cartoon Brew, but it looks like a fantastic comic book.
I was prepared for a letdown as soon as I saw ROCKETO's cover because there's no way the interior art could live up to such a masterful drawing, right? Well, what an incredible surprise to open it up and find an entire comic that looks like this. Every page of ROCKETO is a jaw-drop gorgeous work of cartoon art, with tight drawing, color and design throughout. The expressive use of color and rhythmical black inks give the book a distinctive feel that defies comparison to any other current American comic; you have to look at European comics to find anything that remotely resembles ROCKETO's stylish cartoon sensibility.Posted Thu Jul 28th, 2005 - 6:00m by CPC Top of page
BY ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun July 27, 2005
WASHINGTON - When senators return to Washington this September, they will be set to consider new legislation that would commit America to ending tyranny the world over.
Tucked inside the House version of a bill that authorizes spending on foreign aid is the language of what is known as the ADVANCE Democracy Act. The act instructs American ambassadors and embassy staffs to draw up democracy transition plans for unfree regimes, with input from nonviolent opposition movements in the various countries. While Congress has passed laws that require America to work with democratic opposition groups for specific countries - such as the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act - never before has it considered a law that would, as ADVANCE proposes, "commit United States foreign policy to the challenge of achieving universal democracy."
A sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Tom Lantos, a Democrat of California, predicted that in the Senate the bill, sponsored there by Senator McCain, a Republican of Arizona, and Senator Lieberman, a Democrat of Connecticut, would not be opposed. "I don't think there will be any opposition in the Senate," he told The New York Sun.
A spokesman for Senator Biden, a Democrat of Delaware who is the most senior member of his party on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, yesterday said that he supported the bill. "We need a sign of readiness from chairman Lugar," the spokesman, Norm Kurz, said in reference to the Republican of Indiana. "Assuming that that is there, the assumption is the committee will take it up and begin working on it. It needs to be cleaned up a little bit." A spokesman for Senator Lugar did not offer a comment yesterday.
The little-noticed legislation passed the House a week ago today as part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act by a vote of 351-78. Mr. Lantos last week told the Sun that the bill "puts the meat on the bones of the president's second inaugural address." In that speech, President Bush said, "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."
The bill would allow the State Department to "use all instruments of United States influence to support, promote, and strengthen democratic principles, practices, and values in foreign countries." It charges the CIA and Treasury Department with tracking the personal assets of dictators and their associates...
read the rest herePosted Wed Jul 27th, 2005 - 6:00pm by CPC Top of page
BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- Tattoos of mermaids and roses, cherubs bearing crimson hearts, Lenin's head and the trademarked pattern of French luxury brand Louis Vuitton stand out against bright pink skin soaking in the sun outside Beijing.
This living gallery of skin art is not on display for a tattooists' convention or a Harley-Davidson fan club meeting. It is an everyday sight in Chenjiatuo village and is borne on the flesh of some unlikely subjects -- big, fat pigs.
The idea was cooked up by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, who has hired a small staff of local farmers and tattoo artists to raise some 20 sows and use them as canvases for skin art at his rustic China base, Art Farm.
"I decided to do something in China first, and I realized tattooing pigs would be a good introduction to the country. It's low-tech," Delvoye, 40, told Reuters.
The pigs get sedatives before they go under the needle and are carefully raised until their natural deaths, normally well past the six-month mark when farm pigs are slaughtered.
Collectors can buy the pigs live and pay for their keep as "foster parents" or simply purchase their tattoo-festooned skins for display after the pigs pass.
"The Art Farm is a real enterprise and by selling, eventually, the skins, the whole thing gets financed and I can go on," said Delvoye, who has pushed other artistic boundaries with previous works.
Mortality is a primary theme in the porky "paintings".
"Tattoos remind you of death. It's leaving something permanent on something non-permanent," he said. "Even when tattooing flowers, there is a morbid side to the activity."
He has tattooed pigs off and on in Europe and Indonesia for a decade, but in booming China Delvoye sees a perfect environment for steady production.
In turn, he has been unexpectedly inspired by the country -- from its burgeoning art scene to the rampant piracy of everything from DVDs to Paris's latest fashions, which is behind the Louis Vuitton-patterned pigs.
"We saw all these fake Louis Vuitton designer bags. You always read in newspapers about other countries complaining about these fakes and then, as an artist, I'm interested in what's fake and what's real," Delvoye said.
"I like to play with ownership rights."
Funny gringo With fans and radiators in their pens and plenty of food and running water on the farm, the pigs enjoy better living conditions than millions of China's rural poor, even many people in Chenjiatuo, a situation he admits some locals find "crazy".
Still, Delvoye says he has been welcomed, in part because he has given gainful employment to several villagers.
"They love me here. They think I'm a funny gringo," he said.
Wang Chao, 20, followed his father to a job on the farm, which on a scorching summer day meant following several pigs and rubbing sun-block lotion on their sensitive, patterned backs.
"These pigs live very well," Wang said, admitting he did not really understand the meaning of Delvoye's work.
"He's part of the neighborhood now. It's good to work together and understand each other," Wang's tanned, thickly built father said.
For Delvoye, the pigs and the farm represent just the start of his China ambitions.
He is working on a new, larger Art Farm with the space to raise more pigs and crops to feed them. Typical for China's dynamic building boom, construction is set to begin around the end of July and the farm should be finished in September.
"I did a similar thing in Belgium and it took two years," he said.
The new farm will also have video cameras to allow collectors or anyone else to watch the tattooed pigs cavort and sleep live on the Internet, a program he has dubbed "Pig Brother".
For his next project, Delvoye plans to tap China's mighty factories to have 5,000 anatomically correct, Barbie-like dolls in his likeness made in Shenzhen, a southern manufacturing hub.
"I tattoo pigs here today, but maybe tomorrow I do something else. Anything is possible," he said.
"I'm only warming up."Posted Tue Jul 26th, 2005 - 10:55am by CPC Top of page
By Ben Tripp | SmirkingChimp.com
Terrorism is the new black. It will remain in fashion until the War on Terror ends.
Two things have been proven by this so-called 'War on Terror', an idea that from its outset was as absurd as a 'War on Violence'. First, this escapade has demonstrated that terrorism works. It works better than anything: better than diplomacy, better than eloquence, better than the teachings of Gandhi or Jesus Christ or Martin Luther King. Second, the War on Terror has proven that the battleground of the future is at home, where the civilians are.
In the past weeks, London has suffered a major, coordinated terrorist bombing attack and a second attempt. Egypt is reeling from an equally savage attack within hours of this writing. The targets in both cases were civilians. The world is terrorized. Meanwhile, American armed forces continue hunting after phantoms in the rubble of Iraq, a nation destroyed in the name of the War on Terror, and where, until we invaded it, there were no terrorists.
Terrorism works. The outcome of a national election in Spain was swayed by acts of terror. The outcome of the 2004 presidential election in the USA was swayed by acts of terror. In the first instance terrorism worked against the standing government; in the second, terrorism helped George W. Bush squeak back into office. Nobody learns from a profitable mistake. So the War on Terror continues. Corporations closely allied with the White House reap record-breaking profits from open-ended, effectively unaudited contracts to assist the military in prosecuting the war. This profiteering will rage on as long as the emergency of war persists. A kind of corporatized mercenary infrastructure has arisen to perpetuate the War on Terror, from materiel to catering to torture. The worse things get for the military, the more profitable they become for the military industrial complex. War on Terror has no foreseeable end...
Read the rest of the article here Posted Mon Jul 25th, 2005 - 11:55pm by CPC Top of page
Wingnuts safeguarding humanity
Hahahaha! Beware the grey ooze!!
"Even a few pioneering groups, living independently of Earth, would offer a safeguard against the worst possible disaster—the foreclosure of intelligent life's future through the extinction of all humankind." - Sir Martin Rees
From the web site: The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, dedicated to providing solutions that will safeguard humanity from the growing threat of terrorism and technological cataclysm. This humanitarian organization is pursuing all possible options, including self-sustaining technologies using AI and nanotechnology, with an emphasis on self-contained space arks.Check out the Lifeboat Foundation FAQ Posted Sun Jul 24th, 2005 - 10:00pm by CPC Top of page
Blues legend Long John Baldry has died at age 64 after a four-month battle with a severe chest infection.
Baldry's agent posted an announcement on the musician's website that Baldry had passed away Thursday night in Vancouver, where he had been living.
"Our world is a lesser place without him, for John was a person that enhanced this world with his enormous presence and talent," said the statement posted on the website.
The musician was admitted to the intensive care unit of a Vancouver hospital in April after returning from a trip to his native Britain.
Baldry was nicknamed "Long John" because of his height – six foot seven –and had been living in Canada for the past 25 years.
The bluesman named Leadbelly, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry as his musical influences.
Baldry, born in London in 1941, is recognized as one of the chief influences in British blues and rock music in the 1960s. His seminal 1962 album, R&B From The Marquee is considered the first British blues album. Baldry hit the top of the singles charts there in 1967 with Let the Heartaches Begin. He also performed in the Beatles' first worldwide television special in April 1964.
During the last half of the 1960s, he led a band called Bluesology that included Reginald Dwight, who went on to become Elton John. His other bands included Blues Inc., Cyril Davis and the All Stars and the Hoochie Coochie Men.
Baldry has released more than 40 albums, performing with a string of other famous musicians including Rod Stewart, Jimmy Page and Mick Jagger. The Rolling Stones opened for Baldry in London in the early 1960s before the Stones hit it big.
Stewart considered Baldry a mentor and was at his bedside when he was admitted to hospital in March.
In 1979, he teamed up with Seattle singer Kathi MacDonald to record a very successful version of You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'.
After spending time in New York City and Los Angeles in the late '70s, Baldry chose to settle permanently in Vancouver, B.C. and became a Canadian citizen in 1980.
Posted Sat Jul 23rd, 2005 - 11:12am by CPC Top of page
Despite some criticism, Mr. Floatie brings a comedic touch to a serious issue
Peter Cowan | Times Colonist
You can't ignore a seven-foot-tall turd.
That's Christianne Wilhelmson's take on Mr. Floatie, who has become a fixture at Victoria-area events. The program co-ordinator with the Georgia Strait Alliance says the chocolate bar-shaped mascot is responsible for renewed debate about what Victoria should do with its sewage.
Most people were tired of hearing about the issue, which the alliance has been pushing for more than a decade, but Wilhelmson said Mr. Floatie's recent appearances have changed that.
"He has managed to raise the issue back to the level where people are talking about it again," she said.
However, Wilhelmson's enthusiasm is not shared by Denise Blackwell of the Capital Regional District, who thinks Mr. Floatie is a childish waste of time.
Mr. Floatie is the mascot for People Opposed to Outfall Pollution, or POOP. Organizer James Skwarok, who also wears the mascot suit, said Mr. Floatie has been an invaluable tool.
"Without our mascot, I don't think we would have nearly as high a profile," he said.
Humour is a big part of the way Skwarok says he gets his message across. His business card identifies him as the "movement co-ordinator" and in conversation he switches to Mr. Floatie's falsetto voice, cracking jokes about the importance of fibre. The organization's website features a recipe for floatie snacks and the lyrics for the Mr. Floatie song.
The idea for Mr. Floatie came to Skwarok after seeing an episode of the TV show South Park, which featured a character named "Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo."
Using a backpack, garden wire, foam and velour, Skwarok and Terry Bieman built Mr. Floatie. A small fan inside the costume prevents Skwarok from overheating while he is out glad-handing.
This weekend, Mr. Floatie will be cheering on contestants at the Victoria Toilet Regatta in the Inner Harbour. They'll race human-powered boats, which must be fitted with a toilet.
The group is raising money to help pay for a sewage treatment plant, but with only $700 in the bank Skwarok admits it is more about raising awareness. POOP would like to see the sewage go through a secondary treatment system where an aeration system breaks down the sewage before it enters the ocean.
Right now, 120 million litres of raw, screened sewage are dumped into the ocean.
Since April 2004, Mr. Floatie has made appearances at many local events, including parades, the Tall Ships Festival and Swiftsure yacht race. He also attended candidate debates in the provincial election, raising the sewage issue with local candidates.
While POOP and the Alliance say Mr. Floatie has people interested in the issue, Blackwell, a Langford councillor and chairwoman of the Capital Region District's environmental and liquid waste committees, said the mascot is a waste of time.
"It's so juvenile that he draws attention to himself, not the issue," she said.
She thinks recent articles and letters to the editor have done far more to help the debate than Mr. Floatie has.
Posted Fri Jul 22nd, 2005 - 6:22pm by CPC Top of page
Very often, you can measure the health of a society by what it values in terms of popular culture. So, considering the popularity of Paris Hilton, Monster Truck rallies and “The Fantastic Four,” I’d say America’s pretty close to flat-lining. Who can save us from our crass, juvenile tastes? Who can raise the bar on our cultural identity?
If NBC has anything to say about it, it will be Jesus.
Yes, Jesus Christ will find himself taking a prime time berth next spring in a new, darkly comedic drama, “The Book of Daniel.” But, fear not, this won’t be that old, stodgy Redeemer many of us encountered in Bible class but, rather, a “contemporary, cool” kinda guy.
“The Book of Daniel” centers around the life of a conflicted Episcopal minister and family man, the Rev. Daniel Webster, who’s also addicted to pain-killers. His only confidant? “Hip” Jesus. But, here’s the kicker! ONLY Daniel can see Jesus!
NBC President Kevin Reilly describes the show as being “different” and “out-of-the-box.” No, it’s not. It’s a variation of the old flick “Harvey,” wherein James Stewart portrayed tippler Elwood P. Dowd whose constant companion was an invisible “pooka,” a six foot tall rabbit named “Harvey.”
Welcome to the New Mellenium, gang, where an invisible rabbit has been replaced by Jesus Christ. I’m not sure who should be more upset, Jerry Falwell or PETA...
Read the rest at the M. Kane Jeeves site
Posted Thu Jul 21st, 2005 - 10:40am by CPC Top of page
First TV dinners drew hate mail from husbands
PHOENIX, Arizona (AP) -- Gerry Thomas, who changed the way Americans eat -- for better or worse -- with his invention of the TV Dinner during the baby boom years, has died at 83.
Thomas, who died in Paradise Valley on Monday after a bout with cancer, was a salesman for Omaha, Nebraska-based C.A. Swanson and Sons in 1954 when he got the idea of packaging frozen meals in a disposable aluminum-foil tray, divided into compartments to keep the foods from mixing. He also gave the product its singular name.
The first Swanson TV Dinner -- turkey with cornbread dressing and gravy, sweet potatoes and buttered peas -- sold for about $1 and could be cooked in 25 minutes at 425 degrees. Ten million sold in the first year of national distribution.
It was fast and convenient, and fit nicely on a TV tray in the living room, so that you didn't have to drag yourself away from your favorite television show.
'Modular' eating Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, said the TV Dinner "started a change in American eating habits bigger than any change in culinary history since the discovery of fire and cooked foods."
The TV Dinner fit in with societal changes at the time, when more women were entering the work force and did not have the time to spend all day preparing dinner, Thompson said. It also helped introduce the notion of "modular" eating: If there were only two people at home, you put only two dinners in the oven.
"Some people claim that the TV Dinner was the first step toward breaking up the American family because it made it possible for everybody to eat in a modular way," Thompson said. "That was going to happen anyway. The redefinition of the American family was going on anyway."
In a 1999 Associated Press interview, Thomas recalled that the inspiration for the TV Dinner came when he was visiting a distributor, spotted a metal tray and was told it was developed for an experiment in the preparation of hot meals on airliners.
"It was just a single compartment tray with foil," he recalled. "I asked if I could borrow it and stuck it in the pocket of my overcoat."
Bonus pay for creation He said he came up with a three-compartment tray because "I spent five years in the service so I knew what a mess kit was. You could never tell what you were eating because it was all mixed together."
Since interest in television was booming, he added: "I figured if you could borrow from that, maybe you could get some attention. I think the name made all the difference in the world."
"We had the TV screen and the knobs pictured on the package. That was the real start of marketing," Thomas said.
The TV Dinner drew "hate mail from men who wanted their wives to cook from scratch like their mothers did," Thomas said, but it got him a bump in pay to $300 a month and a $1,000 bonus.
"I didn't complain. A thousand dollars was a lot of money back then," he said.
After the Campbell Soup Co. acquired Swanson in 1955, Thomas became a sales manager, then marketing manager and director of marketing and sales. He left the company after a heart attack in 1970.
He later directed an art gallery and did consulting work.
"It's a pleasure being identified as the person who did this because it changed the way people live," Thomas said. "It's part of the fabric of our society."
Thompson said that until last year, Thomas had spent one day each summer talking to Thompson's history of television class for graduate students.
"This was really fun for them," Thompson said. "This was like meeting a great American industrial legend. So many things we take for granted remain anonymous. We know the architect that designed St. Peter's, but who knows the architect that designed that basic ranch-style house?"
The TV Dinner, Thompson said, is "one of the few things we've got that we actually have the human being who had his fingerprints all over it."
Posted Wed Jul 20th, 2005 - 11:33pm by CPC Top of page
Run for the hills!
Laser coding could mean the end of those tiny stubborn stickers that have to be picked, scraped or yanked off produce.
A pear is just a pear, except when it is also a laser-coded information delivery system with advanced security clearance.
And that is what pears - not to mention organic apples, waxy cucumbers and delicate peaches - are becoming in some supermarkets around the country. A new technology being used by produce distributors employs lasers to tattoo fruits and vegetables with their names, identifying numbers, countries of origin and other information that helps speed distribution. The marks are burned onto the outer layer of the skin and are visible to discerning consumers and befuddled cashiers alike.
A new laser technology for labeling fruits and vegetables, designed by Durand-Wayland, Inc., is being put to work at Southern Oregon Sales, a pear distributor in Medford, Ore. The process, government approved and called safe by the industry, may sound sinister. But it was designed with the consumer in mind: laser coding could mean the end of those tiny stubborn stickers that have to be picked, scraped or yanked off produce.
Sticker-removal duty took Jean Lemeaux of Clarksville, Tex., half an hour one day last week.
"I was picking all the little stickers from the Piggly Wiggly off my plums and my avocado pears and my peaches," said Ms. Lemeaux, 76. "Then I had to make fruit salad out of the ones that got hurt when I took the stickers off, and then I had to wash the glue off the other ones before I put them in the fruit bowl."
"One time," she said, "I got up the next morning and looked in the mirror and there were two of them up in my hair."
Posted Tue Jul 19th, 2005 - 7:48am by CPC Top of page
Today's New York Times has an interesting article about the mass production of oil paintings in China that are exported for sale in Western stores like Pier 1 and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Groups of artists crank out the paintings based on postcards, Internet images, and in some cases, art monographs about masters like van Gogh. From the article:
The biggest market for oil paintings from China turns out to be in Florida condominiums and other second homes being built as part of the global housing market boom. Hotels and restaurants also buy large numbers of Chinese paintings.
Many of the paintings depict scenes that Chinese artists have never seen. "European landscapes, like the Mediterranean or Venice or Paris, are the best sellers for us," Moses Ben Herut, the president of Oilpaintings.com, said in a telephone interview from Alpharetta, Ga...
Wang Yuankang, the paintings entrepreneur at the Canton Trade Fair... said his factory had 10 "designers" who do original paintings and 300 painters who copy these originals. Another 200 workers do the framing, he said.
Some operations are even larger. Vicky Leung, the business manager for the Chaozhou Hongjia Arts and Crafts Company, with a booth near Mr. Wang's, said that the company had two factories with a total of 10 designers, 250 painters and more than 500 framers and assistant painters.
One advantage of the larger operations is that they allow specialization, with simple assembly lines like those that Henry Ford brought to the automobile industry. The larger factories have some painters specializing in trees, others in skies, others in flowers and so forth, an approach that not only improves "quality" but also increases output and reduces costs.
Posted Sun Jul 17th, 2005 - 10:01pm by CPC Top of page
In a bold bid to cleanse the United States of Satanic filth, thousands of Christians are migrating to South Carolina. This mass migration, organized by Christian Exodus, seeks to "reestablish constitutionally limited government founded upon Christian principles. This includes the return to South Carolina of all 'powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States.'"
But why would anyone want to do this? According to Christian Exodus, many Christian activists are disappointed that "the U.S. Constitution has been abandoned under our current federal system, and the efforts of Christian activism to restore our Godly republic have proven futile over the past three decades." As such, they feel that "the time has come for Christian Constitutionalists to protect our American principles in a State like South Carolina by interposing the State's sovereign authority retained under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."
But how is this migration of thousands of Christians into South Carolina going to help? Their clever idea is that since "millions of Christian conservatives are geographically spread out and diluted at the national level," it would make political sense to concentrate their numbers "in a geographical region with a sovereign government" that they can "influence through the electoral process." Hence, once all these Christian migrants have settled in South Carolina, they can proceed with their holy political task of "electing State and local officials who will interpose on behalf of the people and refuse to enforce illegal federal acts."
Found on Plastic
Posted Sat Jul 16th, 2005 - 11:12am by CPC Top of page
By PAUL KRUGMAN | New York Times
John Gibson of Fox News says that Karl Rove should be given a medal. I agree: Mr. Rove should receive a medal from the American Political Science Association for his pioneering discoveries about modern American politics. The medal can, if necessary, be delivered to his prison cell.
What Mr. Rove understood, long before the rest of us, is that we're not living in the America of the past, where even partisans sometimes changed their views when faced with the facts. Instead, we're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. In particular, there are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern.
I first realized that we were living in Karl Rove's America during the 2000 presidential campaign, when George W. Bush began saying things about Social Security privatization and tax cuts that were simply false. At first, I thought the Bush campaign was making a big mistake - that these blatant falsehoods would be condemned by prominent Republican politicians and Republican economists, especially those who had spent years building reputations as advocates of fiscal responsibility. In fact, with hardly any exceptions they lined up to praise Mr. Bush's proposals.
But the real demonstration that Mr. Rove understands American politics better than any pundit came after 9/11.
Every time I read a lament for the post-9/11 era of national unity, I wonder what people are talking about. On the issues I was watching, the Republicans' exploitation of the atrocity began while ground zero was still smoldering.
Mr. Rove has been much criticized for saying that liberals responded to the attack by wanting to offer the terrorists therapy - but what he said about conservatives, that they "saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war," is equally false. What many of them actually saw was a domestic political opportunity - and none more so than Mr. Rove.
A less insightful political strategist might have hesitated right after 9/11 before using it to cast the Democrats as weak on national security. After all, there were no facts to support that accusation.
But Mr. Rove understood that the facts were irrelevant. For one thing, he knew he could count on the administration's supporters to obediently accept a changing story line. Read the before-and-after columns by pro-administration pundits about Iraq: before the war they castigated the C.I.A. for understating the threat posed by Saddam's W.M.D.; after the war they castigated the C.I.A. for exaggerating the very same threat.
Mr. Rove also understands, better than anyone else in American politics, the power of smear tactics. Attacks on someone who contradicts the official line don't have to be true, or even plausible, to undermine that person's effectiveness. All they have to do is get a lot of media play, and they'll create the sense that there must be something wrong with the guy.
And now we know just how far he was willing to go with these smear tactics: as part of the effort to discredit Joseph Wilson IV, Mr. Rove leaked the fact that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the C.I.A. I don't know whether Mr. Rove can be convicted of a crime, but there's no question that he damaged national security for partisan advantage. If a Democrat had done that, Republicans would call it treason...
Read the rest here.Posted Fri Jul 15th, 2005 - 11:53am by CPC Top of page
The Grant Wood painting American Gothic (1930) is a touchstone of American culture, depicting an upright Midwestern family on the farm. The story behind the painting is the subject of Thomas Hoving's book American Gothic: The Biography of Grant Wood's American Masterpiece. A native of Iowa, Wood and his paintings were rooted in the Midwest. His style, however, owed something to the realism of 15th-century northern European artists. Susan Stamberg interviews Hoving, already a best-selling author and once the director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, about his exploration into Wood's most famous painting.
Posted Wed Jul 13th, 2005 - 11:53am by CPC Top of page
Hrmm. Forty-six. I have no plans to go on walkabout this year, however I will take time to reflect. Posted Tue Jul 12th, 2005 - 12:01am by CPC Top of page
I hated the Airport movies, but loved Airplane! Who can forget the hero's "drinking problem"?
The parody movie Airplane!, a source of favorite comedic bits that are still recalled in conversations today, is marking its 25th anniversary. Brothers Jerry and David Zucker wrote the film with Jim Abrahams, who also directed a cast that included Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Barbara Billingsley and Julie Hagerty.
The satire was a reaction to a series of airline disaster films of the 1970s, with titles like Airport 75 and Airport 77. The film also included Leslie Nielsen, who would go on to star in the Naked Gun series, from the same creative team.
Among the memorable lines included in Airplane! was this bit of cockpit radio chatter, uttered by Peter Graves: "Flight 20-Niner clear for vector 324. We have clearance, Clarence; roger, Roger -- What's our vector, Victor?"
Posted Mon Jul 11th, 2005 - 7:38am by CPC Top of page
KNOX, Pa. - One could say that St. Mark United Church of Christ is bee-deviled. The church in Clarion County, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, has been infested with bees in its walls for about seven years. The church tried an exterminator and that didn't work. Now the problem has gotten so bad that honey oozes through its walls.
The church has hired McCool's Wildlife Removal of Rocky Grove to remove the honey, seal the damaged walls — and relocate an estimated 1 million bees to a local bee keeper.
Eric McCool, who owns the business, said it typically takes about a day to remove bees from an infested building, but the church is so badly infested it will take three or four days.
The bees aren't crazy about the move. McCool has been stung more than 100 times this week.
"I ended up going to the emergency room. Even though I'm not allergic, any time you have a large amount of venom, you have a toxic reaction," McCool told The Derrick of Oil City for Thursday's editions.
Church maintenance man Lee Stroup said the congregation plans to worship as normal Sunday.
"We've never had to hold church elsewhere. We'll have church this Sunday," said Stroup. "We just wanted them gone so no one gets stung."
Posted Sun Jul 10th, 2005 - 8:33am by CPC Top of page
Triathletes insured for £1m against Loch Ness monster bites
Insurance against Loch Ness Monster attacks Triathletes participating in Scotland's biggest triathlon will swim in Loch Ness as part of the competition. Fortunately, each of the 100 participants will be insured for £1m against bites from Nessie. From The Guardian Unlimited:
"With so many top athletes in the water of Loch Ness at one time, we couldn't take the risk of one of them being attacked by Nessie," said David Hart of the (insurance) firm Nova International.
"The competitors will all be very psyched up and very driven, so there's going to be a lot of noise and a lot of splashing going on, just the sort of thing that might annoy a prehistoric lake monster. Or even worse, give it an appetite..."
Not everyone welcomes the insurance deal, though. The official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club took exception to the suggestion that Nessie would attack anyone - however much they splashed.
The club's chairman, Gary Campbell, said: "Everyone knows she is friendly; she has been present in the loch for centuries and never hurt a soul in all that time..."Posted Sat Jul 9th, 2005 - 8:27am by CPC Top of page
By MATT CRENSON, AP National Writer
NEW YORK - Gregory Green is between countries these days. In 1994 he founded The New Free State of Caroline, a small nation-state based on a speck of coral in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. But he lost it five years later in a custody battle with Kiribati, a country that only came into existence itself in 1979.
So now Green, a conceptual artist by trade, is preparing to start again by claiming a pair of small islands in the Indian Ocean.
Though he's cagey about exactly where they are.
Unclaimed territory is hard to find these days. Virtually every square inch of the planet's terrestrial surface has been carved up by the world's 199 officially recognized nations, leaving nothing for those who want to start their own countries except a few barren rocks sticking out of the Arctic Ocean and maybe a handful of extremely remote coral atolls.
That hasn't stopped a few bold dreamers from trying. Some of them, like Green, scour maps for as-yet unclaimed territory and try to make it their own through legitimate international channels. Others half-seriously stake out virtual realms in cyberspace or, thinking outside the sphere, boldly go after other planets. A few creative types even try to carve their territory out of existing nations by exploiting technicalities or ambiguities in international law.
Some of these aspiring nation-builders attended a summit in New York in June where they shared in the joys and heartbreaks of creating a country from scratch. They had been invited for the joint symposium and citizen registration drive by the New School University's Vera List Center for Art and Politics.
"We claim all the digital territory on the planet," said Mark Ohe, ambassador to the United States for Elgaland-Vargaland. He pronounces his name as if it were just, "Marco."
Elgaland-Vargaland also claims all ambiguous territory along the boundaries between other countries, and the oceans for 10 nautical miles beyond the territorial waters of all existing nations. Citizens characterize it as a nation of frontiers.
Not surprisingly, Elgaland-Vargaland's citizens — Ohe estimates there are about a thousand of them — are all expatriates. Most of them live in Sweden and the New York City area. But they enjoy a rich culture — Elgaland-Vargaland has a flag, currency, postage stamps and an official song based on an archaic Swedish national anthem.
"It's not a song I could hum," Ohe said, apologetically.
Are these guys serious? Hard to tell. Like most invented countries, Elgaland-Vargaland exists mostly in the minds of its citizens.
But when you think about it, beneath all their trappings the world's "real" countries are essentially just shared notions about how to divide the world's territory and people. So in a sense, all you have to do to establish your own realm is stake a claim and then convince the world of its legitimacy.
By those criteria, the most successful made-up nation would have to be Sealand. Englishman Roy Bates founded Sealand in 1967 by occupying an abandoned World War II artillery platform 7 miles off the coast of Britain. He proclaimed it an independent state and named himself Prince Roy of Sealand.
Soon after, Bates tested his country's sovereignty by firing warning shots at a Royal Navy buoy tender passing nearby. He was brought before an English court, but a judge refused to hear the case on the basis that Sealand lay beyond British territorial waters. Since then Britain has extended its territorial waters to a distance of 12 miles from the coast — but so has Sealand, insisting that the waters between the two countries be split down the middle.
About a decade after the shooting incident, three associates of Bates landed on Sealand with the intention of discussing a business proposition. Bates was not there, but his son Michael the Prince Regent was. A disagreement ensued, and the men ended up imprisoning the prince in Sealand's kitchen.
Hearing of the situation, the elder Bates immediately flew to Sealand by helicopter and retook the country by force of arms — or, more accurately, arm (he confronted the intruders with a rifle).
Bates released two of the men right away. But the third held a Sealand passport that Bates had awarded him during a more harmonious era of the young nation's history. So Bates charged the man with treason and threw him in a brig.
After a few weeks the man's native land — a well-known but no longer intact entity called West Germany — approached the British government to inquire about his whereabouts and condition. The British declined to interfere in Sealand's affairs.
Confident in its sovereignty, Sealand has now embarked on an economic development plan. With the help of an American computer entrepreneur, the Bates family has turned its domain into an offshore "data haven," where customers can store digital information beyond the reach of governments less tolerant than Sealand's.
Digital media often play a major role in the establishment of nascent nations. On his Web site, His Serene Majesty Grand Duke Travis of Westarctica claims all of Antarctica between 90 and 150 degrees west longitude, and that he has notified nine countries that "this area will henceforth be known as The Achaean Territory of Antarctica." The duke has graciously granted all scientific research operations within the realm four years to register their presence with his government.
Roger Kuiper is more of a Mars man. He has some Antarctic claims himself, but his most substantial claims encompass all of Mars, several moons of Saturn and Jupiter, and some swaths of a few other celestial bodies. That's a pretty impressive empire, considering Kuiper administers it from his Kalamazoo, Mich., apartment.
"The whole idea of creating your own country, your own nation, has a bit of an edge of megalomania about it," Green acknowledged.
Green founded the New Free State of Caroline as an artistic statement. He wanted to create a country for all of the people who feel oppressed by their own lands. And he wanted it to be as real as possible, not just a nice idea.
Green's art is notorious for its authenticity. He has run into legal problems in the past for his very realistic replicas of bombs, both nuclear and conventional, and an installation that proposed a means of dosing 10,000 people with LSD.
Green wants his new nation to be similarly provocative.
After doing some research, he concluded that a piece of land would have to meet three requirements to be suitable for the establishment of a new nation-state. First, it would have to be uninhabited. Second, there could be no evidence that the ancestors of any existing indigenous group had ever permanently occupied it. Third, it had to be either unclaimed by any existing nation or subject to a territorial dispute involving two or more states.
The island of Caroline appeared to meet all three criteria when Green founded his country in 1994. It was uninhabited, appeared to have been so for quite some time and had been claimed over the years by five different countries.
So Green threw his hat into the ring. He wrote letters notifying the United Nations and various other international bodies of his intentions on Caroline. He recruited about 2,000 citizens. He designed a flag, established embassies (usually art galleries) in major world cities and set up pirate radio stations to give his citizens access to the airwaves.
Then in 1999, Green learned of archaeological finds showing that prehistoric people once lived on Caroline. That gave Kiribati, a nation of 33 coral reefs inhabited by the descendants of ancient Pacific Islanders, firm possession of the island.
Though he'd never even set foot on Caroline, Green was crushed.
"It was basically Gilligan's Island," he lamented, mourning the loss of a carefree utopia that could have been.Posted Fri Jul 8th, 2005 - 8:59am by CPC Top of page
One of my most favorite paintings is Van Gough's "Starry Night" (I have a massive reproduction of this hanging in my office!) -- so I was thrilled to find the AndreaMosaic site. Having coded a digital mosaic art piece (iconz, 2003), I can appreciate the elegance of this (and similarly available) software. This link is to a cool photomosaic image of the famous painting 'Starry Night' created with the AndreaMosiac software. This is made with over 210.000 tiny photographs and a total size of over 1.500.000.000 points -- in other words it's a 1.5 gigapixel image. Once at he site, click over the image (Zoom In) until you start to see the tiny images. Link. Posted Thu Jul 7th, 2005 - 8:27am by CPC Top of page
A book by Joe Scanlan, an artist, describes how to build a coffin out of Ikea bits for less than $400. The book is $27.95, via PayPal. http://www.thingsthatfall.com/coffins-3.php previously: I'm Dying to See One of These Posted Wed Jul 6th, 2005 - 8:27am by CPC Top of page
Posted Tue Jul 5th, 2005 - 11:01am by CPC Top of page
Howard Zinn | Boston Review
The notion of American exceptionalism—that the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by violence if necessary—is not new. It started as early as 1630 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when Governor John Winthrop uttered the words that centuries later would be quoted by Ronald Reagan. Winthrop called the Massachusetts Bay Colony a “city upon a hill.” Reagan embellished a little, calling it a “shining city on a hill.”
The idea of a city on a hill is heartwarming. It suggests what George Bush has spoken of: that the United States is a beacon of liberty and democracy. People can look to us and learn from and emulate us.
In reality, we have never been just a city on a hill. A few years after Governor Winthrop uttered his famous words, the people in the city on a hill moved out to massacre the Pequot Indians. Here’s a description by William Bradford, an early settler, of Captain John Mason’s attack on a Pequot village:
read the entire article herePosted Mon Jul 4th, 2005 - 11:38pm by CPC Top of page
Did the Chinese actually discover the North American Continent? Evidence is starting to point to the fact that one of the world's greatest and least known explorers may have come in contact with the North American continent 40 years before Christopher Columbus. Zheng He was a Chinese Muslim who was captured as a child and made a eunuch to serve the Chinese court. He eventually became a scholar and advisor to Emperor Zhu Di who sent him on a large mission to the ends of the Earth to collect tribute. He commanded seven expeditions between 1405 and 1430, and sailed from China to the west where he reached as far as the Cape of Good Hope. According to records Zheng He's contingent was large in comparison to European counterparts. His fleet size varied from 48 to 317 ships and was manned by over 28,000 men. As with all archeological records, Evidence may even point to the fact that Zheng He was actually following in the footsteps of the earlier explorer and conqueror Kublai Khan.
Posted Mon Jul 4th, 2005 - 11:33pm by CPC Top of page
ROME (Reuters) - An Italian court has told a 98-year-old plaintiff to come back in 2010 for the next hearing in her legal battle over property rights -- more than 10 years after the case first opened.
Amalia Cuccioletti, who was born in 1907, launched the suit against some of her relatives in 1997.
An initial hearing was held in 2001, but the court in the central Italian town of Macerata has decided to fix the next session for 9:30 a.m. on March 25, 2010, Ansa news agency reported on Saturday.
"The court of Macerata has hit a new national low with this," Cuccioletti's lawyers were quoted as saying, referring to Italy's notoriously slow legal system.
The lawyers, Giacinto Canzona and Basilio Cupaiolo, said the court had turned down a request to speed up proceedings.
"Most probably (Cuccioletti) won't be around to hear the verdict," the lawyers said.
In Italy, it takes on average 3,041 days to obtain a definitive sentence in a civil case.Posted Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 - 4:59pm by CPC Top of page
SONKAJARVI, Finland (Reuters) - Estonia reigned supreme once again in the wife-carrying world championship on Saturday, as Margo Uusorg sprinted home to win the Baltic country's eighth straight title in the offbeat competition.
Forty couples from 10 countries gathered in the remote Finnish village of Sonkajarvi to complete a 253.5-meter-long obstacle course. A man must carry a woman, not necessarily his spouse, through a pool and across hurdles.
The few rules require a minimum weight of 49 kg (108 lb) for the "wife" and state that all contestants must have fun.
Uusorg, 25, completed the course in 59 seconds with friend Egle Soll, 23, clinging to his back in the trademark "Estonian Carry" -- hanging upside down with her legs clenched around his neck.
Uusorg's prizes were his partner's weight in beer and a high-tech mobile phone.
It was his fourth victory, and the third in a row for his family. Brother Madis won in 2004.
"We don't have a secret, we just try to run fast and hope the legs work," said Uusorg, who works in Stockholm as an embassy driver. He warned that the family would be even stronger contenders next year when brother number three, Urmet, takes part.
"He holds the Estonian record for the 800 meters," Uusorg said.
Uusorg and Soll received first prize from the hands of visiting U.S. basketball legend Dennis Rodman, who declined to compete, saying he lacked both a wife and proper training.
"I'm not in shape ... It could hurt the back," said the former Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons forward. But he promised to train for next year.
"I'll carry the kids around the house or something," he said.
Some 9,000 people came to view the event, set deep in forests and lakes a couple of hours' drive from the Arctic Circle. It began in 1992 as a purely Finnish contest based on local legend, according to which wife-stealing was once commonplace in the region.Posted Sat Jul 2nd, 2005 - 11:05pm by CPC Top of page
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (July 1) - The owners of the other contestants in this year's World's Ugliest Dog Contest may have thought their pooches had a chance - until they saw Sam.
The 14-year-old pedigreed Chinese crested recently won the Sonoma-Marin Fair contest for the third consecutive time, and it's no surprise.
The tiny dog has no hair, if you don't count the yellowish-white tuft erupting from his head. His wrinkled brown skin is covered with splotches, a line of warts marches down his snout, his blind eyes are an alien, milky white and a fleshy flap of skin hangs from his withered neck. And then there's the Austin Powers teeth that jut at odd angles from his mouth.
He's so ugly even the judges recoiled when he was placed on the judging table, said his proud owner, Susie Lockheed, of Santa Barbara.
"People are always horrified when I kiss him. He may turn into a prince yet. He's definitely a toad," she said. "I always thought he'd be great on greeting cards or on a commercial for Rogaine."
Sam, who's pushing 15, has something of a cult following after winning the contest - and fans' hearts - for three years running. Last year, huge crowds gathered around Sam and Lockheed at a local parade and Lockheed said she received letters and calls about her pup for weeks.
"So many people have told me they've got his picture on their refrigerator. He certainly has a little cult following," she said. "I did years of professional musical theater and never achieved the fame Sam has."
Sam will appear in this weekend's Fourth of July parade in Santa Barbara, but the recent events may be the cap on a long, ugly career. Lockheed says Sam's now suffering from congestive heart failure, lung and kidney problems and has definitely slowed down in his twilight years.
Still, he enjoys regular gourmet meals of sirloin steak, cheese balls, roasted chicken and flan (so he'll swallow his multiple pills). He also passes occasional weekends at the Gaviota ranch of Lockheed's boyfriend, where the World's Ugliest Dog rides in the back of an ATV with his few remaining hairs wafting in the wind.
The British government has put out a series of anti-cigarette ads that say smoking is bad for your sex life because it makes men impotent and women ugly. The ads claim smoking "means you can't get it up" and that it ages women's skin, causing "cat's bum mouth," whatever that is. They should consider recruiting Sam, the three-time winner of the World's Ugliest Dog Contest (left, real photo. Well, mostly.) as their poster dog and bag the cat's bum stuff. Next to Sam a cat's bum doesn't look half bad.Posted Fri Jul 1st, 2005 - 10:32pm by CPC Top of page