Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Echo Chamber  

After you've been bouncing around weblogs for a while, you start to notice that there's an awful lot of echo (echo... echo...) in the blogosphere. (sphere... sphere...) In fact, sometimes it's downright annoying to see a dozen different posts on the same subject. What ever happened to diversity? Or sticking to what you know, rather than floating wild-assed guesses and making inane comments about something you know very little about?

Sure, people do that a lot in their everyday conversation. And blogs by their nature are going to reflect that. Believe me, I have no illusions of anything changing. And it's not just blogs -- 24 hour news channels, news magazines, and tabloids all suffer from the same effect.

Personally, I find it a lot more interesting when someone speaks with authority about their field of expertise, or talks about things that are decidedly off the bandwagon. That's why I keep tabs on Iraq via Juan Cole's Informed Comment, look for interesting and solid investigative reporting at Salon, geek out with Daring Fireball, and occasionally check for updates on below-the-media world events through Soj's excellent Flogging the Simian.

Linking and bandwagoneering has its place, certainly. It can provide a lot of ready detail and perspective on whatever topics are being attacked by the bandwagon at the moment. However, it can also serve as a distraction from other topics. After a certain point, the information content of each additional link starts to decrease, until the additional links are more noise than signal.

The more interesting thing to me is increasing the diversity of topics, which you get from people who post original articles with meaningful content. And in the long run, I think that's going to be what the Internet is really all about. Original content will be the pearls that people seek out in the ocean of information -- or more colloquially, the bucket of shit -- that is the 'net.

And that's my take on blogging in a nutshell: Be the pearl, not the shit.

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Bottle Let Me Down  

Album coverI ran across this album in iTunes while searching for something else. It caught my attention first because of the title, and then the whole concept and the interesting glimpses available through the preview.

Check it out: The Bottle Let Me Down - Country Songs for Young Suckers. (At Amazon for those who aren't iTunes-enabled.) Nice play on words. Yes, it's a kid's album, and yes, it's got a country theme... but that's not a problem because you have an open mind, right? Besides, most of them are pretty mild and they're honest country songs; not that glitzy fake western stuff.

Figuring it was worth $10 just for kicks, I bought it. There are a few notable standouts in the album.

The musical:

  • Sad and Dreamy, by Alejandro Escovedo - "I hit the big 1-0, I feel so old, candy just doesn't taste as good any more." Oh, life is so hard when you turn ten whole years old! The mournful tone reminds me of Nil Lara.
  • Three Little Fishes, by Andy Hopkins & Jon Rauhouse - definitely a kid's song, but the refrain is catchy.
  • Little Red Riding Hood, by Freakwater - surprisingly dark and sexy. "You're everything a big bad wolf could want." Rowr.
  • Rubber Duckie, by Kelly Hogan - she's got a very sexy voice, on par with Stacy Kent, and this is a fun song which shows it off well.

And the silly:

  • Godfrey, by Robbie Fulks - "Godfrey, the sickly unemployed amateur children's magician... he's got tricks you haven't seen." Whoa.
  • I Am My Own Grandpa, by the Asylum Street Spankers - fast-paced familial silliness, served up in bluegrass.
  • Funky Butt, by Devil in a Woodpile - "She got the funky butt, stinky butt... open up the window and let the funk go out." The laid-back New Orleans blues sound is actually pretty nice on the ears too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

John Kerry, Hero  

Here are a few collected stories about the lives that John Kerry has saved with his quick, decisive actions.

There are more stories besides the life-saving ones, if you choose to seek them out, about Kerry's sympathy and caring. For the most part I'll leave that up to you. But really, these four stories show exactly why John Kerry is a man deserving of everyone's respect regardless of your political views.

Think about the man you're reading about here, and then consider the motives of those who have been attempting to smear him. And always remember to check non-partisan sources like Annenberg Political FactCheck for the real truth.

Jim Rassmann in 1969
Source: Los Angeles Times, March 13 2004

Rassmann was 21 at the time, a Special Forces lieutenant in charge of a company of American and Chinese fighters. On that day, they traveled on a convoy of five patrol boats led by the 25-year-old Kerry, a Navy lieutenant — and they were on the run, being chased down the Bay Hap River by enemy soldiers firing guns and rockets.

The group had already lost one soldier that day. As they sped down the river, one boat was blown out of the water, and then another. An explosion wounded Kerry in the arm and threw Rassmann into the river. Rassmann dove to the bottom to avoid being run over by the other boats. When he surfaced, he saw the convoy had gone ahead.

Viet Cong snipers fired at him, and Rassmann submerged over and over to avoid being hit. The bullets came from both banks, and Rassmann had nowhere to go. He began thinking his time had come, but the fifth time he came up, he saw the convoy had turned around. Kerry had ordered the boats back to pick up the man overboard.

Kerry's boat, under heavy fire, sidled up to the struggling soldier. Rassmann tried to scramble up a cargo net at the bow but was too exhausted to make it all the way. He clung to the net as bullets whizzed past.

"Next thing I knew, John came out in the middle of all this," Rassmann says. "I couldn't believe it. He was going to get killed. He ran to the edge, reached over with his good arm [Kerry had been wounded in his right arm] and pulled me over the lip."

Rassmann later recommended Kerry for the Silver Star, and was upset when the Army instead awarded Kerry a lesser Bronze Star with a "V" for valor. The medal citation described Kerry's actions on the river that day.

Former US Senator Chic Hecht in 1988
Source: Las Vegas Sun, February 6 2004.

Former U.S. Sen. Chic Hecht of Nevada is a staunch Republican, but he thanks his lucky stars for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

On July 12, 1988, Hecht was attending a weekly Republican luncheon when a piece of apple lodged firmly in his throat.

Hecht stumbled out of the room, thinking he might vomit but not wanting to do it in front of his colleagues. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., thumped his back, but Hecht quickly passed out in the hallway.

Just then, Kerry stepped off an elevator, rushed to Hecht's side and gave him the Heimlich maneuver -- four times.

The lifesaving incident made international news, and Dr. Henry Heimlich, who invented the maneuver in 1974, called Hecht to say that had Kerry intervened just 30 seconds later Hecht might have been in a vegetative state for life.

"This man gave me my life," the 75-year-old Hecht said Thursday.

Hecht said he was amazed that Kerry acted so quickly -- some people were assuming that he was having a heart attack.

"He knew exactly what to do," he said. "But a lot of people know what to do. They just don't size up the situation immediately."

Del Sandusky
Source: Washington Post, July 28 2004

When George Butler, a college friend, broke his hip and femur in 1994, Kerry tracked him down the next day at a hospital in New York. Butler had been lying alone, worrying about a blood clot going to his brain. Suddenly, there was Kerry ringing his phone. He was in Tokyo, where it was 4 a.m.

Another time, Sandusky, Kerry's former helmsman, called him from Illinois and said, "I'm ready to cash it in. I can't stop the bad dreams, and I can't stop the drinking." Over the next 24 hours, Kerry talked to Sandusky -- canceling meetings, instructing aides to yank him off the Senate floor -- until his isolated friend agreed to check into a treatment center. Over the next 12 weeks, Kerry called Sandusky's doctors to make sure they hadn't forgotten his crewmate.

Licorice the hamster - Alexandra Kerry at the Democratic National Convention, July 30 2004

Well, it is an incredible experience to be here tonight. And I have to admit that it hasn't been easy to sift through years of memories about my father and find those few that might best tell you who John Kerry really is. So let me just begin with one July day when Vanessa and I were kids. It's a silly story, but it's true, and it's one of my favorite memories about my father.

We were standing on a dock waiting for a boat to take us on a summer trip. Vanessa, the scientist, had packed all of her animals, including her favorite hamster. Our overzealous golden retriever got tangled in his leash and knocked the hamster cage off the dock. We watched as Licorice, the unlucky hamster, as he became termed, bubbled down into a watery doom.

Now, that might have been the end of the story, a mock funeral at sea and some tears for a hamster lost. But my dad jumped in, grabbed an oar, fished the cage from the water, hunched over the soggy hamster and began to administer CPR. Now, there are still to this day, there are some reports of mouth-to-mouth, but I admit that's probably a trick of memory. The hamster was never quite right after that, but he lived.

Now, like I said, it may sound silly and we still laugh about it today, but it was serious. And that's what mattered to my father.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

First posts  

First posts are pretty much useless things. So let's just get this out of the way quick, Annie Hall style, and not have to worry about it. Right now my darling wife is heading home with sushi for the family so I don't have much time. We all like sushi here, even my 8-year-old stepdaughter, a fact for which I am incredibly grateful.