Friday, October 26, 2007

Happy Shiny Logos

Here's a New York Times story on Blackwater's new, friendlier, less testosterone-fueled logo.

And here's a great Mark Fiore parody of said logo.

(Via One Good Move)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thank You for Your Support, Senator Craig

I just saw Senator Larry Craig complain to Matt Lauer that he fell prey to police profiling, when he was arrested in a Minneapolis restroom earlier this year.
Matt Lauer: So, again, the fact these motions seem to replicate a well-established sequence of signals for soliciting anonymous sex, it's a coincidence?

Larry Craig: I now know that this cop is-- this officer is a profiler. He said looking into a stall was one of it. And then a hand gesture or a foot tap is another one … Now I know all about profiling. I know what people feel like when they're profiled. When innocent people get caught up in what I was caught in as an innocent person, it's very angering at times.
That sounds like a pretty explicit criticism of profiling to me, don't you think?

Question is, will Craig (and other conservatives) now come out (so to speak) as strong opponents of profiling? And not just gay-sex-in-public-restrooms profiling, but racial profiling? Terrorist profiling? Will he become an outspoken critic of the Patriot Act?

If so, maybe some of my friends will actually be able to pass through an airport in the future without getting pulled aside every time for special attention just because, say, they were born in Afghanistan or their parents were born in India. (Never mind that no one from either country attacked us on 9/11. Never mind the fact that India's not even a Muslim country.)

Oh, and I expect Craig to remain a strong critic of this sort of bathroom profiling/entrapment, whether he believes homosexuality itself to be immoral or not. Because he'll want to remain ethically consistent. Right?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Benevolent Bibliophile? BookMooch Beckons.

Here's a great site for book lovers: BookMooch lets you post books you're willing to part with. People can then ask for them and you send them the books they want. Free. Out of the kindness of your heart. Well, you do get something out of it, of course. As you give books away, you earn points, and then you can ask for (or "buy") books from folks who are giving them away, too. Brilliant, eh? 40,000 members, too, so there's plenty to choose from. I'm wondering if I can get European paperbacks before they come out over here. Mwah-hah-hah!

Here's a NYT writeup, too. According to the article, BookMooch ain't the first to do this. Just the most neighborly. You can give away your points to other folks if you're feeling extra generous. Or you can donate them to worthy causes, like New Orleans libraries.

Making Mercenaries Contractors Accountable

Act for Change provides this form for you to ask your Senator to enact the Security Contractor Accountability Act of 2007.
The Security Contractor Accountability Act of 2007 would:
(a) Extend and clarify that U.S. courts have jurisdiction over contractors of all U.S. agencies working near a 'contingency operation' area
(b) Require the Justice Department to report on complaints received and the status of investigations
(c) Establish an on-site FBI unit to investigate reported incidents of excessive use of force.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Terrorists, OK. Gays, No Way!

Did you know you can make a terrorist threat and still join the U.S. Army? Did you know that people convicted of homicide can obtain a waiver allowing them to join the U.S. military? But openly gay folks are not allowed to serve. Reading Equality, a magazine produced by the Human Rights Campaign, I learned:
Studies show that from 2003 through 2006, the military allowed 4,230 convicted felons to enlist under the "moral waivers" program.
The Palm Center (formerly the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military) provides additional details:
43,977 individuals convicted of serious misdemeanors such as assault were permitted to enlist under the moral waivers program during that period, as were 58,561 illegal drug abusers. In the Army, allowable offenses include making terrorist threats, murder, and kidnapping.
Michael Boucai, a researcher for the Palm Center, concludes:
The problem is not that the Armed Forces are letting in ex-offenders -- most of these recruits become fine service members, and military service often has a strong rehabilitative effect. The real problem is that, increasingly, the military fails to also recruit the best and the brightest.
Of course, I were gay, I don't think I'd want a "moral waiver," which allowed me to serve in the military. I'd want acknowledgment that I'm not presumed to be an immoral human being just because I was gay.

HRC also created Legacy of Service, a site detailing the national tour against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sex or Violence?

Like a lot of people, I've long thought our culture rather hypocritical in its approach to sex versus violence. For example, in the arena of entertainment, an errant nipple will get you an R rating in a movie (or a huge fine on TV), but you can show scores of people getting killed through violent means and still rate a PG-13.

The vandalism of Andres Serrano's photo exhibit in the little Swedish town of Lund is a transcendent expression of this hypocrisy. It's apparently, emphatically not OK for adults to see depictions of sexual behavior in an orderly fashion, in an enclosed space, but it is OK to destroy other people's property and even to threaten other human beings to prevent them from seeing that material. It's not OK to voluntarily place yourself before such imagery as an adult; but it is OK to subject people involuntarily to violence to make your political point. Violence, it seems to these folks, is morally superior to nudity. Bloodshed better than sex.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Text Mapping Martin Amis

I went over to Many Eyes, which is a cool data visualization site provided (for free) by IBM, and I dropped in the text from Amis's recent essay "9/11 and the Cult of Death." I then created a couple of visualizations folks might enjoy manipulating:
You can manipulate the text in different ways, which may reveal various things about his writing. I learned about this fantastic site last week when I attended the IDEA Conference here in NYC, and Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg from IBM's Visual Communication Lab demoed the site for us.

Tangentially, it would seem I've written a lot about Amis recently. Here's a screen shot of a tag cloud of this blog from Technorati:

Hitched to Everything Tag Cloud from Technorati

Bush beats him out, though. Doh!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Tear It Down

Guantánamo Bay

Amnesty International invites us to Tear Down Guantánamo Bay one pixel at a time. Over 70,000 people have so far. Why should you care?
The detainees at Guantánamo Bay are human beings who haven’t seen their homes or families for years and have faced torture, abuse and ill-treatment in a system from which many have no hope of ever leaving, regardless of their innocence.
The site provides many more details. It's well-known that demonstrably innocent individuals have been imprisoned at Guantánamo. You only have to watch Michael Winterbottom's excellent film Road to Guantánamo to see how they got there.

Biking the Concrete Prairies

David Byrne with Hal Ruzal
Hal Ruzal shows David Byrne how easy it is to steal a bike

Concrete prairies. That's Calvin Trillin's metaphor, not mine. It's how he describes riding his bike around Manhattan. Get rid of the buildings, he said, and that's what you'd have left: flat concrete prairies. I saw him last night at "How New Yorkers Ride Bikes," a wonderful program hosted by David Byrne at the New Yorker Festival. Byrne opened the program with video of his ride (via helmet cam) through Times Square to City Hall, then he rode onto the stage and locked up his bike, which was then promptly "stolen" Hal Ruzal from Bicycle Habitat in a demonstration of just how easy it is to steal a bike. His advice for the only way to avoid getting your bike stolen in NYC? Buy the most expensive lock and chain you can - and the cheapest bike.

Other highlights (and there were many) included Copenhagen architect Jan Gehl describing how biking has transformed his hometown over the past 40 years, a new bike helmet design for fashion-conscious New Yorkers from fuseproject (creators of the $100 computer) and Massachusett's choir The Young@Heart Chorus (no current member is under 73) singing Queen's "Bicycle Race" and Byrne's "Heaven." Byrne joined the group to close out the program to sing a spine-tinglingly beautiful new song, "One Fine Day." There was also plenty of information from dedicated city and non-profit folk who are doing a lot to make New York safer for cyclists.

New helmet design from fuseproject
Yves Behar & Josh Morenstein of fuseproject reveal new helmet design

Now, where can I get one of those helmets? They feature interchangeable components in different colors suitable for different seasons.

Also part of the fun: I rode my bike there, as the event provided free valet parking.

  • David Byrne's own recap of the event
  • NYC Bike Maps - great mashup with Google maps; "accurate maps, relevent information, and up to date news to facilitate a safe and enjoyable biking experience in the New York metro area."
  • TreeHugger - "The Bike Thief: Video Exposes Cyclist's Vulnerability, and Public's Complicity"
  • StreetFilms - "Hal Grades Your Bike Locking" - Hal Ruzal strolls around SoHo/NoLita grading folks on their bike-locking abilities (or lack thereof); most fail miserably
  • Transportation Alternatives - a 5500-member NYC-area non-profit citizens group working for better bicycling, walking and public transit, and fewer cars.
  • NYT - "Indie Rock's Patron Saint Inspires a New Flock of Followers"

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week, so why not make a statement for freedom and buy or read a banned book.

Here's a few ideas. Some of them may surprise you, but these are the "Most Challenged Books of the 21st Century" (yes, that's the 21st century - so far):

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
2. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
6. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
7. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
10. Forever by Judy Blume

Of course, you'll note that the majority of those are children's books. Seems some folks really don't appreciate it when you try to expose their children to anything other than what they've been brainwashing them with from birth. Some other books which folks have tried to ban in the past include Jack London's Call of the Wild, F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and, rather ironically, 1984 by George Orwell.


A Hitched to Everything quote if ever there were one:
For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's futures, and we are all mortal.

- John F. Kennedy, speech at The American University, Washington, D.C., June 10, 1963

Monday, October 01, 2007

Radiohead Passes the Hat Around

Via New York Times blog The Lede: You decide how much you want to pay (or not) for Radiohead's next album online. Click on the question mark next to the empty price fields in your basket and a message says, "It's up to you." Interesting ramifications for online music sales and distribution. Will they actually make *more* money than if they'd sold it through iTunes? Or as one commenter suggests will everyone decide to take it for free, as with Stephen King's experiment with e-books.