fresh stuff netted somewhat frequently

Dead blogs create web litter

By DAVID NEWLAND | the Ottawa Sun

Dotsam and netsam are cluttering up the web.

That's right, dotsam and netsam. The expression derives from the nautical term flotsam and jetsam, which refers to man-made junk that litters the sea, such as tangled fishing nets torn apart by storms, or plastic cutlery tossed from cruise ships. Dotsam and netsam are the virtual litter of the web.

Dead blogs have become a big source of this web litter. Although the term blog was coined (from "web log") in 1999, most of the millions of blogs online now are much more recent. In the past few years, publishing tools like Blogger, TypePad and LiveJournal have made posting material a simple operation. Blogging has boomed.

Bloggers are a diverse bunch, and blogs are too. They may serve up commentary, poetry, photography, video or audio, and be published monthly, weekly, daily or randomly. You can even blog via cellphone text messages, using a service like

Vast numbers of new web users are coming online around the world, and lots of them are blogging. Chinese actress Xu Jinglei's blog has been online for just two years, but it's already the most widely read blog in the world.

On the other hand, a recent study by the tech guru firm Gartner predicts the blog boom may be busting, or at least leveling off at a projected 100 million active personal sites. The same study suggests there may already be 200 million ex-bloggers. As the number of would-be bloggers goes up, so does the number of old blogs.

The turnover is referred to as "blog churn." It's an evolutionary phenomenon in which only the fittest survive.

A truly successful blog depends on four factors nothing can replace: something to say, a compelling way of saying it, an audience willing to read it, and the commitment to keep on going.

Maintaining a blog on your own can be tiresome. Eventually many bloggers become ex-bloggers. Their abandoned blogs float idly among the dotsam and netsam, clogging search engines with dated data.

Dotsam and netsam. It has a great ring to it. It would make a perfect name for a blog

clock Posted on August 17th, 2007


Spam: More than Junk Mail or Junk Meat, July 4, 2007

Spam, which turns 70 this year, has been called the Holy Grail of canned meats. Damning with faint praise? Not when you consider the source: Eric Idle, Monty Python alum and member of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, Spamalot.

Monty Python's legendary Spam sketch, which first aired on BBC television in 1970, turned this lowbrow luncheon meat into a kitschy cultural icon. It attained such cult status among Python's geeky, computer-nerd fan base that Spam became synonymous with unwanted junk e-mails. (In the sketch, the word "Spam" is uttered 132 times, often repeatedly and to the chagrin of a couple trying to order breakfast.)

Kitschy or not, Spam is one of the longest-running anachronisms in the American cupboard. Created by Hormel Foods in 1937 and promoted as "the miracle meat," it became K-ration fare for American GIs and Allied forces during World War II. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher referred to it as a "war-time delicacy" and former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev said it kept Russian troops alive against the Nazis.

But the meat that helped us win wars in the 20th century now feels dated and nearly extinct in the 21st. Finding a can of Spam in any modern kitchen would be like spotting the Loch Ness monster in your neighbor's trout pond. What is that thing doing here?

See this at NPR online

clock Posted on July 7th, 2007


Teddy bears turned inside-out

Here's an interview with artist Kent Rogowski, about his "Bears" photographs. Furry, huggable teddybears, gutted and inverted.

Q: I love these bears so much. They remind me of my early sewing experiments. What happens when you take such a beloved and iconic toy and transform it by literally turning it inside out?

A: (...) Teddy bears are designed to be innocuous and non-threatening creatures. Inside-out the bears are still sometimes recognizable but are now much more complicated and contradictory. The seams of the bear now look like scars, and some bears lose their limbs and other appendages depending on how they were constructed. When you look at the inside-out bears they appear to have a history or a past. They no longer offer comfort but instead seem to want our empathy.

These are fantastic!  This one's a favorite.

Link to interview by Nicole Pasulka at The Morning News; here's the gallery show in NYC through August 10, and here's an Amazon link to buy the book


clock Posted on July 5th, 2007


Happy Birthday, Sam.

Samantha Carter is an extraordinary dog, who continues to delight and amaze us all by simply "being".  She is not particularly bright, nor has she ever been particularly affectionate or obedient.  However, she has an uncanny power of being able to always makes strangers smile; women coo, and men crouch down to pat her head.

So, Sam -- know that we have loved you for 17 years.  Although that is a long life for a dog, we selfishly wish you many more years of jumping up on the bed and standing on your hind legs begging for spaghetti.


clock Posted on July 1st, 2007


Good marketing, bad taste

You couldn’t miss it if you were strolling through Chicago’s Rush Street nightclub district, known as the ‘Viagra Triangle’ for its appeal to middle-age suburbanites on the prowl. On one side of the giant billboard was a voluptuous, lingerie-clad female torso bent forward in a provocative pose; on the other, a buff male torso with a white towel wrapped at the waist, equally ready for action. The billboard’s logo? “Life’s short. Get a divorce.”

Ah, adultery, manna from heaven for divorce lawyers Fetman, Garland & Associates, Ltd., whose telephone number was displayed prominently underneath this come-on. The billboard generated plenty of new business before it was taken down, reportedly because it had been erected without a proper permit.

Read More at Lawyer's Weekly

clock Posted on June 16th, 2007

Is there a God?
To believe or not to believe

May 31st 2007 From The Economist print edition

A writer who believes in science not God; a scientist who believes in both. But why are they that way? Nobody knows

SINCE arguments about God have run for thousands of years, it is a little peculiar to ascribe overwhelming importance to the publication of Darwin's “On the Origin of Species” in 1859. Yet the book did have a soul-sapping effect on unsuspecting Christians. In “Father and Son”, a memoir about loss of faith published anonymously in 1907, Edmund Gosse describes how it drove his father, himself an eminent zoologist, to take him to live on top of a cliff, cutting him off from the world in an attempt to protect him from this heretical notion. The plan didn't work. Some spirit of rebellion stirred in the son, sending his mind wandering during marathon prayer sessions, and he broke free in his teenage years. His father, disappointed, stuck with the God of Abraham.

Looking at the recent crop of books on God and religion, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that whether people end up like Mr Gosse or like his father depends on whether they have an intrinsic feeling for religion or not. Christopher Hitchens, a polemicist whose tone is that of an erudite straight-talker, does not. Like Mr Gosse, he started non-belief young. Near the beginning of “God is Not Great” he describes his rebellion when confronted with an effusive divinity teacher at school who pointed to the beauty of hedgerows in the English countryside as evidence of His creation. Mr Hitchens has been skewering the syllogistic arguments of the religious in the name of science ever since.

Francis Collins, on the other hand, has it. Like Mr Gosse senior, Mr Collins is a scientist and a Christian. He confronts Darwin daily in his work as head of the human genome project. He writes well about how, as the code on which DNA is written began to reveal itself, his faith and sense of wonder increased. He stood by Bill Clinton (and worked with his speechwriters) when the then American president talked about DNA as “the language in which God wrote creation”. Mr Collins has no time for intelligent design but conceives God to be of the non-interfering sort, a kind of divine CCTV camera. Yet he believes that Jesus was His son and he prays regularly.

Belief in God and subscription to a religion are not quite the same thing, although both books treat them as if they were. Mr Hitchens makes the untestable case that the world would be better off without religion altogether. Stupid religious people would stop fighting stupid religious wars and a new enlightenment would ensue. The book is entertaining, meandering and at times disingenuous. Nobody ever went to war for atheism, says Mr Hitchens. But atheists tend to find other reasons to kill each other. To the objection that irreligious fascists and communists found plenty of non-religious reasons for murder in the 20th century, Mr Hitchens retorts that these beliefs were types of secularised religion, and as such do not count.

What is missing from the book is much sense of what a world without religion, or one that had not had religion in it, might look like. Lots of the principles that Mr Hitchens holds dear, like tolerance and justice, are secularised versions of religious ideas. Religious folk often do the right thing for what Mr Hitchens would call the wrong reasons. Taking faith away would in many cases take away the will to do them. That cost is worth considering.

Mr Collins argues for what he calls “theistic evolution”, which he reckons is yet to catch on because it has such a terrible name. Though the mechanism of the origin of life is unknown, he says, once evolution was under way no special supernatural intervention was required. As for those parts of the Old Testament that bend the laws of physics, they are symbolic and should be read as such.

This is a God that would be almost as unfamiliar to Edmund Gosse's father, to John Calvin or the pope as it would to a Roman sacrificing a bull to Mithras. And for all their clarity, Mr Collins's arguments about why he believes in God do little to explain why he is a Christian. To understand that, it is probably enough to look at the Gosse family and conclude that either you get it or you don't.


Read the book here (at Project Gutenburg)

clock Posted on June 6th, 2007

Calif. man scarfs more than 59 hot dogs in 12 minutes, shattering record

Published: Saturday, June 2, 2007 | 9:20 PM ET
Canadian Press: BOB CHRISTIE

PHOENIX (AP) - A California man smashed the world record for hot dog eating at a contest Saturday, gobbling up more than 59 franks in 12 minutes.

Joe Chestnut, 22, of San Jose, shattered the record held by Takeru Kobayashi of Japan by downing 59½ "HBDs" - hot dogs and buns - during the Southwest Regional Hot Dog Eating Championship at the Arizona Mills Mall in suburban Tempe.

Kobayashi's old record of 53¾ was set last year at Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, held at Coney Island in New York, said George Costos, who helps runs the regional contests for Nathan's.

Chestnut placed second in last year's world championships, consuming 52 hot dogs.

"He's unbelievable - he just keeps on going," said Ryan Nerz, who works for Major League Eating, which he describes as "a world governing board for all stomach-centric sports."

"These guys' numbers have just been going up at a tremendous clip," Nerz said. "I always thought there was a limit - a limit to the human stomach and a limit to human willpower - but I guess not."

Chestnut won a free trip to New York, a year's supply of hot dogs and a US$250 gift card to the mall.

clock Posted on June 3rd, 2007


Keeping it unreal

by Jeff Sharlet

Published 16 April 2007 | New Statesman

We consider the "primitive" music of blues singers such as Leadbelly to be more authentic than that of the Monkees. But all pop musicians are fakes.

Faking It: the quest for authenticity in popular music

Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor

Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor, two publishing professionals who have turned out their personal record collections to produce a persuasive defence of inauthenticity as the defining characteristic of great popular music, borrow the title of their book, Faking It, from a suicide note - the most authentic, and also the stupidest, genre of all. "The fact is," wrote Nirvana's singer Kurt Cobain shortly before eating the muzzle of a shotgun in 1994, "I can't fool you, any one of you . . . The worst crime I can think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I'm having 100% fun." (The italics are Cobain's.)

Like many people of a certain age, I remember where I was and what I was doing the day Cobain died. I was in my third year of college, I was in a dorm; friends and I were drinking 40-ounce bottles of Colt 45 malt liquor, and when we heard the news, we laughed. Cobain, the gold standard of rock-star sincerity since his suicide, had long seemed to us like a joke, a poseur, a pretty-boy pop singer for the high-school teens who gathered in herds of earnest weeping within hours of the news. We slightly older boys and girls were past that kids' stuff; we listened to 1980s art-punk and traditional blues - two of the fakest musical genres ever presented to the public as revelations of the real - and it was to the forgotten pain of dead black men, Skip James and Son House and Mississippi John Hurt, that we raised our 40-ouncers.

Little did we know that these musicians had been served up to us on platters, literally, resurrected 30 years before by another generation of white college boys who had looked up and recorded the old men as stand-ins for their fantasies of the romantic savage. They had at least bothered to produce some records; all my friends and I did was listen to them and drink malt liquor, a beverage manufactured to exploit poor black people and winos of all races. For us, it was liquid authenticity.


Read the rest here

clock Posted on April 30th, 2007


America's Love Affair with Drugs

A Review by Andrew Benedict-Nelson
from "Review a Day" 

The Cult of Pharmacology: How America Became the World's Most Troubled Drug Culture

by Richard J. Degrandpre

Anyone who has ever quit smoking soon discovers that gaining weight is often an unavoidable part of the deal. In 2001, the United States seemed to experience this realization on a collective level, as the Surgeon General, who many Americans had last encountered in a warning on their last pack of Marlboros, foretold a different sort of public health crisis: a national obesity epidemic.

It hardly seemed fair. Cigarettes, after all, had recently been exposed as delivery devices for a highly addictive and unnatural blackguard of a drug: nicotine. And while certain parties began to point fingers at trans fats or carbs, there was simply no nefarious substance to blame for obesity. It really was just too much of a good thing, food.

But perhaps we had set ourselves up for this frustration. Perhaps our obsessive pursuit of criminal chemicals -- not just nicotine, but its nastier cousins meth and crack -- had blinded us to more fundamental problems weighing down our society. This is the thesis advanced by Richard DeGrandpre in his book The Cult of Pharmacology: How America Became the World's Most Troubled Drug Culture. In particular, DeGrandpre argues that Americans have an almost religious faith in the chemical essence of "demon drugs" (as well as "angels" like Ritalin and Prozac) while completely ignoring the social circumstances in which these avatars intersect with flesh.

Cigarettes are the example most accessible to the average American, and DeGrandpre has no trouble burning a hole through the traditional narrative of nicotine withdrawal. Studies of people trying to quit smoking do not show a clear correlation between the amount of nicotine they once consumed and the difficulty of quitting, he writes; instead, factors like personality play a much stronger role.

These facts are corroborated by the history of cigarettes, which only enjoyed their greatest popularity when tobacco companies had successfully minimized and masked the nicotine in their product. The addictive potential of the drug might have been part of the reason Americans had been hooked for so long, but DeGrandpre suggests that the ubiquity of the cigarette, its insinuation into every culture and color and class, might have just as much to do with it.

These cultural factors become much more significant when applied to "hard" drugs like cocaine -- and, as DeGrandpre would like to suggest, Ritalin. As long ago as 1975, DeGrandpre writes, scientists could show that rhesus monkeys preferred Ritalin and cocaine equally when given unlimited quantities, suggesting that the drugs produce similarly pleasurable and addictive effects. More than two dozen studies since have documented that the two drugs yield similar outcomes in animals. Why, then, has cocaine become a "demon" and Ritalin an "angel"?

Read the rest here

clock Posted on April 26th, 2007


Time to Start Posting Again...

Has it been 6 months already?  Goodness -- it's true that time flies when you're having fun!   I'm going to change things up a little; posting less frequently and writing more about my work, my music, and other interests -- and how these things intersect and interconnect. 

My work and travel schedule remains hectic, but I promise to start posting again regularly.


clock Posted on March 20th, 2007

About This Blog

Reprints from the right and the left, plus comments and random thoughts about faith, music, counter-culture, technology, wretched excess, art, questionable government, and the ultimate interconnectivity of all things.



My web site is here.




Summer  2007

Dead Blogs Create Web Litter
Spam: More than Junk Mail
Teddy Bears Turned Inside Out
Happy Birthday Sam!

Winter/Spring  2007

Good Marketing, Bad Taste
Is There a God?
59 hot dogs in 12 minutes
Keeping it Unreal
America's Love Affair with Drugs
Time to start blogging again...


Archived Posts






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