2007-12-16

jarad on vh1

My nephew Jarad DeRochey makes a cameo in Gotti's Way, episode 4, beginning at about 01:41 -


Hint: visualize my daughter Laurel (below) as a UFC fighter.

2007-12-06

wash warm, tumble dry

Some time ago, I became fascinated by the use of sentence fragments and fractional grammar in English. One observes this especially on product packaging in the US.

For example, consider the statement:

shake before opening
WTF!?! Does that indicate that one must tremble prior to unfolding? Just what do all those fragments tell us?

On a related note... My first laptop was a Mac PB180, which I bought new in 1994. What a workhorse! Anywhooo, I used to lug it around everywhere. And when I encountered a new sentence fragment used on a product label, I'd pop open the PB180 and quickly make a note. Had one hell of a list of them going back then, which we used repeatedly in the production of FringeWare Review magazine.

This is the point where I must apologize to some of my friends from that period, for all the times I'd pour through their cabinets and pantries, searching for novel product packaging grammar. In particular, someone I was dating at the time was rightly most embarrassed by this behavior. Sorry, V.

Several years and many disk crashes later, I've lost that original monster list o' sentence fragments. But recently, I started a new one. Hopefully it'll grow over time.

Limited time offer.
Subject to change without notice.
Restrictions may apply.

2007-09-28

generations



My mom, Cherie - circa 1942, in Rifle, CO.
My daughter, Laurel - circa 2007, in Avila Beach, CA.

Their visual resemblance at that age feels uncanny to me. Laurel has a wee bit o' the Persian side of our family asserting, more like my brother and sister do.

Sixty five years. Thirteen hundred kilometers. Yours truly, gratefully in-between.

Laurel's photo by Flo Leibert

2007-09-10

the western lands

Out on the Western Slope of Colorado, great mountains spill their bowels into a vast desert. Standing at one point along the Colorado River, one's view up the mountain is filled with snow-capped peaks, while downriver the view opens into a desert scene of mesa, scattered now with vineyards emerging out of near-Martian dust. Arriving out of France, out of Canada, out of Iowa, my people settled there. Open range cowboys. French mostly, with a wee bit o' Irish, plus a few blue-blooded Brits "gone native", along for the ride. Mountain people, ranchers, "rugged individuals".

You'll wreck in hell to leave me out. When me you fly, I am the wings.

The road to the Western Lands is by definition the most dangerous road in the world, for it is a journey beyond death, beyond the basic god-standard of fear and danger.

It is the most heavily guarded road in the world, for it gives access to the gift that supersedes all other gifts, the gift of Immortality.

Meriwether Lewis, one of our blood kin, led his expedition across the continent in a lifestyle not terribly unlike how my grandfather lived, how my uncle is said to still live, way off the grid.

Along that same blood line, my great grandmother's great uncle, Oscar Rush, chronicled the life in The Open Range, which J. Frank Dobie praised as "a sensitive range man's response to natural things". Part of the canon of Southwestern literature. Oscar was born before the start of the Civil War and lived up until the beginnings of World War II. I can only image the contrasts he experienced, but thankfully I have in my hands one of his own copies of the book as a guide.
The road to the Western Lands is devious, unpredictable. Today's easy passage may be tomorrow's deathtrap. The obvious road is almost always a fool's road. And beware the middle roads, the roads of moderation, common sense, and planning. However, there is a time for planning, moderation, and common sense.

Out in that land, my sister tends a ranch on the banks of the Colorado, not far from where our grandparents in their day raised some of the most prized Angus bulls in the West.

A mountain burns nearby, has burned for more than a century from a coal mine fire. Cul tir was the origin of our family name in Celtic, back in County Sligo and stretching further into Prehistory. Back on the green coast where Yeats learned his love of verse. Black lands, filled with coal, which burn and choke the air.
A dangerous road. Every pitfall, every error, every snare to which every man has been liable since the beginning, you are sure to meet on the road to the Western Lands.

These days the landscape is littered by the flotsam of drilling rigs and the human litter of petroleum search crews. I wonder what they'll find searching beneath our family detritus?

My other grandfather likely hid my father there, following WWII and manufactured revolution sweeping through our corner of Central Asia. Following the rise of the Soviet Union, and the incursion of the UK and US into the Middle East. Other petroleum search crews, striving beneath that other part of our family detritus. Out there on the Western Slope, it must have seemed safe, remote, unreachable by our enemies -- compared with the intrigues of Tehran or Paris or Moscow. My other grandfather was wise to imagine it, but my father was brave to embrace it.
To reach the Western Lands is to achieve freedom from fear. Can you free yourself from fear by cowering in your physical body for eternity? Your body is a boat, to lay aside when you reach the far shore. Or sell it if you can find a fool. It's full of holes. It's full of holes.

It is a black land, a land of terribly bloody history, of battles larger than could be imagined on the Eastern coast. Our family cannot hide from that dharma. Perhaps the thirsty majestic mountains themselves demand it as tribute for tolerating our mortal kind in their shadows. And so they burn.
I want to reach the Western Lands. It's right in front of you across the bubbling brook. It's a frozen sewer. It's known as the Duad, remember? All the filth and horror, fear, hate, disease, and death of human history flows between you and the Western Lands.

On the banks of the roaring Colorado river, beneath the shadow of peaks, watching a sunset over the mesas, my sister stood in white, presiding. I gathered my two young daughters close, to brace them from fear. Our family fired a twenty one gun salute -- via .44 magnum no less, as one might only expect from French cowboys gone feral in the American West. A small raft lit aflame and floated quietly downriver, our tribute to my nephew, Lennon, as his wake. "Daddy, is that for the boy who died?" my oldest daughter asked. My younger daughter gathered rocks, unflinching. Neither seemed to fear, from either weapons firing or our ritual celebrating death. As by the blood coursing downriver through their veins, would likely so.
How long does it take a man to learn that he does not, cannot want what he "wants?"

You have to be in Hell to see Heaven. Glimpses from the Land of the Dead, flashes of serene timeless joy, a Joy as old as suffering and despair.


with kudos to WSB, Material, and the neteru

2007-02-22

schwa meets darpa


Engadget ran a story today entitled "US Army to arm UAVs with xenon-based paralysis inducer". The article describes that technology as a "non-lethal crowd-control device".

Wikipedia's entry for Schwa describes it as the "underground conceptual artwork" of Bill Barker. A true original among the popular alien image fetish / conspiracy theory "parody" themes of the 1990s. One of Bill's original serigraphs for Schwa hangs on my wall. We had lots of fun working with Bill at FringeWare, especially for the cover of FWR #5. That issue was our first to sell through completely, though I've stashed away a box or two for posterity.

Bill's first pitch to me about Schwa was that it was a government conspiracy for alien UFOs to use Xenon-based technology for non-lethal crowd control. In other words mass media brainwashing. Holy shit! Apparently somebody at DARPA was actually listening to us back in the 1990s. Either that, or Bill knew more back then than he could ever say in words. I'd bank on the latter.

BTW, Wikipedia states that Bill has been "MIA" since 2001. I've talked with him since then. More like doing fine while avoiding the paparazzi.

2007-02-14

spinning iran

If you read just one article today, do just one thing to understand the world a little better, I recommend that it be to read Spinning Iran on Rafe Colburn's blog.

Bush's rhetoric about "War with Iran" is more neocon (read: pro-Israeli lobby) nonsense. The Newsweek "photo gallery" is like a page out of 1984. US diplomats are negotiating with Iranian diplomats now, brokered via Russia and Qatar. The results of those negotiations will be normalized relations, which are slated to become Bush's legacy (what's left of it).

The age of the "Great Superpower" is over, the Kissinger Doctrine failed, and with it goes the predominance of a whole other mess: Saudis, Tel-Aviv, etc. Welcome to a world where Asia becomes much, much more quintessential.

2007-02-13

ogoglio open

A quick note that Ogoglio, which is exploring the "new business district" of Metaverse, has uploaded an open source release.

This is one to watch. In fact, watch the screencasts which Trevor is publishing about progress on Ogoglio on a fairly regular basis.

A term has emerged in the Ogoglio notes: "distributed self". That seems quite succinct. In recent discusssions among HeadCase and friends, we've been talking about avatars, persona, what can be performed through microformats such as FOAF or XFN, etc. But the phrase "distributed self" really wraps it all up into one noun phrase.

2007-01-28

attack at cia headquarters

I can neither confirm nor deny that members of our party were in any way responsible for several unfortunate events which occurred last Friday evening at the Culinary Institute of America (California Branch) in St Helena. Because I plead the Fifth, my comments may not be construed to support any of the alleged acts, including but not limited to: (a) the disappearance of a wrought-iron rooster from the wall ("Sir, we know that you have the rooster"); (b) contributing to the delinquency of a wait-server by suggesting to bribe said CIA employee in the face of mounting distress on the part of the maître de ("Only if it comes from Humbolt"); or the willful inciting of a "cougar" attack ("Gee, you smell great!") on our way out the door. I can confirm however that two of my friends, the aforementioned rooster rustlers and designated "cougar" bait - to whom we shall refer by the utterly fictitious pseudonyms "Karsten" and "Charlie" - did in fact score an autographed chef's hat for somewhat less than the winery price of a Stag's Leap 2002 Estate Grown Petite Syrah.

A member of our board has a bed and breakfast in the family, located on a beautiful stretch of Silverado just a few clicks up-valley from St Helena. They graciously hosted our firm's first "off site" week. We initiated festivities with a visit to Dean & DeLuca which involved intense negotiations en français followed by dropping a few bills (non-expensable) and holding up the checkout line for nearly an hour. Our ensuing ratatouille feast and successive raids on said family's mountain cellar provided fine food, wine, and conversations all week long, fueling some amazing sorties into the metaverse, which I hope we can begin to share with the world soon.

After months of crunch time, preparing for a wide set of technology demos, we deserved a little pampering - so we availed ourselves of the local terroir. In a private room at Tra Vigne we learned the intimate details of Pighed's recent forcible detainment by LAPD for running a red light after midnight on a girl's bike. For the up-scale down-home version of local fare, various attendees made excursions to Market throughout the week.

Lobster Roll at the latter was so amazing that Erin and I missed our flight home from Oakland. I've reviewed it for a first contribution at Lindsey Simon's new Dishola site. And as I type, our girlies are both nearly unrecognizable after munching on their chocolate duck bling-bling from Woodhouse, right near Market. Be certain to check out The Olivier next door.

Ah, Napa! Not quite as dear as my home terrior in Edna Valley, but the best thing this side of Tuscany. Moreover I can confirm that thanks to the oneological genius of Opus One, I got more smashed than I've ever been outside of Russia or Japan, and the Scallop Gnocci at CIA alone is well worth an immediate trek up to Napa.

2007-01-17

01/11 - rip dear raw

won't shed nary a tear
knowing that you're laughing
from the other side.

http://robertantonwilson.blogspot.com/2007/01/raw-essence.html
http://www2.blogger.com/profile/06504517528789477168
http://subgenius.com//bigfist/pics13/RAW/index.html

your not-so-gentle prodding as "mark cruise" on our FringeWare email list, and those $23 worth of margaritas at the airport may be dearly remembered.

2007-01-11

bay-nays foster

My daughters call bananas "bay-nays". This recipe, with which I've been experimenting since 1996, is approximately as old as my first Java code. It's also the only dish that I've ever served to (otherwise seemingly civil) adults which caused them to fight and steal at a dinner party ;) Be sure to use dark chocolate and light, fresh flour ... and in the name of gopod, prepare enough to avoid the fighting.

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 60 minutes

  • Ravioli Pasta:
    • 1 cup Banana pulp
    • 1/3 cup Sugar
    • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
    • 1 Egg
    • 2 cup Flour (Semolina)
  • Filling:
    • 1 Chocolate bar
    • 1 Egg yolk
    • 2 Tbs Water
  • Sauce:
    • 3 Tbs Butter
    • 3 Tbs Sugar
    • 1 Lemon, small
    • 1 shot Liqueur
    • dash Cinnamon, Nutmeg
    • 1 Banana
    • 1 tsp Powdered Sugar
    • 1/2 cup Chocolate Sauce

Blend banana pulp, sugar, vanilla, egg. Blend in flour. Process to make pasta sheets. Pound chocolate bar into powdery small chunks, then spoon in to ravioli. Coat seams with egg/water mix and cut. Boil until ready.

Saute butter, sugar, spices on low heat until caramelized. Add sliced banana and lemon juice, then stir. Carefully add ravioli and saute until browned. Pour in liqueur (a mix of rum, Everclear and banana liqueur works well) and let heat for 30 sec, then light with a match. Spoon flaming ravioli into dishes, and lightly sprinkle with rum caramel from the pan, chocolate sauce and powdered sugar.

2007-01-04

wal-mart's peanut butter manifesto and "Slavery 2.0"

Is the world's largest multinational corporation, Wal-Mart, on the decline? Or is it simply riding the political ebb and flow as it tracks a neoconservative agenda to undermine people of color and drive a wedge through the Democratic Party?

Interesting news comes today that a judge in Chelan, WA has declared the building permit illegal for a new Wal-Mart "supercenter" being constructed there.

The mix of reactions from locals in Chelan seems characteristic of other areas in which Wal-Mart has faced opposition. Older or poorer residents look at consumer prices and tend to want access to cheap goods, which Wal-Mart provides. Local retail businesses generally know that they'll be forced into a situation in which they can no longer stay open, resulting from changes in traffic and spending patterns, changes in zoning, etc. Real estate organizations lobby ardently on behalf of Wal-Mart, often in direct opposition to homeowners. Local political officials get paid off and cut corners legally to accommodate corporate plans. Homeowners know that as a supercenter comes into an area, the crime rate tends to rise, the traffic becomes clogged, and the home values tend to fall.

Where we own a home in Austin, news came last month that Wal-Mart had obtain a building permit to open a 220,000 square foot, 24/7 "supercenter" in our residential neighborhood. To place this into perspective, that would become one of the largest "big box" stores in the state of Texas - in our residential neighborhood.

In brief, there is an old shopping center called "Northcross Mall" which was built decades ago when this area was on the very outskirts of Austin. When my wife was a kid here, Northcross was the shopping center of the region, but for several years it has been largely vacant - mostly due to rather harsh policies by its absentee landlord. The city has grown to a point where this neighborhood is now considered "central" and is mostly residential. When I bought a home in this neighborhood 12 years ago, nearby retail properties were mostly in decline; however, several innovative small businesses have worked hard to renovate the area, so that we have a place were neighbors can walk to local businesses. WMT came in, arranged with Austin's city manager to obtain a building permit without a public hearing, the city manger recused herself from further comment on the issue, and now we're going to have semi-trucks driving through our neighborhood to supply a 24/7 superstore. On one side there is the Real Estate Council of Austin, pushing hard to promote the WMT/Clinton agenda. On the other side, there are five neighborhood associations - in other words, the political power of approximately 2500 soccer moms plus their best friends, family, and neighbors, which multiples into about 10% of the city population - looking ahead toward rising crime rates, lower home property values, degraded public schools, etc.

It is interesting to look at the political activity of Wal-Mart. Notably, they spend most of their political funding - more than 80% - on conservative, "Religious Right" Republican candidates. At the executive levels, WMT contributions to RNC exceed their contributions to DNC by approximately a 30:1 ratio. Those candidates tend to represent the bulk of WMT customers, two-thirds of whom come from "Red" states: poor, under-educated, working-class people in rural America. However, there is also a healthy stream of WMT political funding heading toward Democratic leadership, particularly in the Senate, such as Clinton, Ford, Bayh. Clinton in particular was on WMT's board of directors for several years during its major growth period - during its main period of destroying "ma & pa" retail businesses throughout the US, during its main period of undermining laws for employee benefits.

What is intriguing and arguably appalling is how much emphasis WMT has placed on African-American political lobbies. One blantant example is found the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, where WMT with its Democratic party candidates in tow has been systematically acting as a wolf in sheep's clothing to tear apart support for Black voting rights, labor protections, etc. Lee Walker of Heartland Institute argues a racial case for "sell on the downside" case on behalf of WMT:

When a city government steps in and makes it illegal for some businesses to pay less than $10.00 an hour and an additional $3.00 an hour in benefits, it effectively makes it illegal for those businesses to hire many black applicants. Crucial entry-level jobs that would enable young blacks and ex-offenders to start climbing the career ladder to better-paying and more fulfilling jobs will be closed to them.
IMHO, if Walker, et al., do not represent a neo-conservative push toward "Slavery 2.0", I don't know what else would be reasonable to call them.

Looking at the arguments about Wal-Mart, the issues are not about "access to reasonably priced consumer goods" or "protection of a free market". WMT is just about as oppositional to "free market" economics as any entity in the world, considering how their growth in recent years has been built by literally threatening local elected officials into changing laws which support WMT at the cost of destroying existing businesses and communities, not to mention their lobbying against labor protection laws, minimum wage, health care rights, etc. The underlying issue is about how to compel poor people - mostly people of color - to work for less than an affordable living, as the conflict in Chicago exposed so directly.

Admittedly, I am a Green, and in some ways the WMT corporate history of predatory acts have helped to illustrate what I believe are the fundamental and unresolvable flaws of the Democratic Party - racial prejudice being among the foremost. Even so, I am encouraged to find that currently DNC front-runners such as John Edwards and Barak Obama have broken ranks with Clinton, et al., with respect to WMT. The issue there appears to be foreign policy: Clinton arguably has no foreign policy beyond "Let's increase the trade deficit with China" or "Maybe we should invade Iran". Thankfully, other DNC candidates appear to have a more global (read: less self-serving) perspective for the long-run.

If one were to take a counterpoint position, what would be important to consider vis-a-vis WMT in terms of conservative American interests? Notably, WMT is one of the largest employers in the US, and it accounts for a substantive chunk of our foreign trade. Given those measures of strategic importance, it is interesting to review the security risks which WMT faces. For example, while they appear to have built and continue to nurture a solid foundation for political support and a huge base of consumers, they have a systematic weakness in their vendor relations. Quite arguably, a culture of fear has emerged where WMT actively pits one vendor against its competitors, to leverage that fear for lower wholesale pricing. While in the long run their pattern of sublation will most likely expose WMT to antitrust actions, in the short term their vendor policies expose a significant vulnerability to so-called "terrorist" attacks. If a non-state actor were to arrange for systematic delays of the supply chain of vendor deliveries - even on the order of trucks being delayed on the highways by mere minutes - then some of the most essential WMT policies would be triggered and come into play. Effectively the corporation would begin to attack its own internal operations.

Not that I am encouraging such acts, but as a thought experiment, does that risk worry anybody? If some non-state actor were ambitious enough to stage that kind of attack, the most likely outcomes imply that it's time to "stop eating peanut butter" in Bentonville.