February 27, 2004

Magazine, Blog, Future

En route to Texas I got plenty of chances to browse the magazine racks. And what struck me hardest is just how out of date the content seemed. The rapid fire publication form of web and blogs in particular seems to have routed the news around the magazine magazine world. Once I used to devour dozens of mags a month, all in the name of information, and now I struggle to find glimmers of new information inside an overstuffed newstand.

Magazines aren't going anywhere of course, the demand for print is real and nothing digital in the pipeline will replace it. But content wise the mags are at an extreme disadvantage. The only thing they provide that isn't free online is the long form investigative piece. And how many mags offer that at all?

During last fall's Creativity Now conference writer and editor Carlo McCormick told an anecdote of his first meeting of his eventual wife's father, an old school British ad man.

The question of his work of course emerges and McCormick begins going into all the fantastic cultural events he's covered, interviews done, major magazines he's written for and so on. The father listens patiently. Finally he speaks:

"oh, so you write the stuff that goes on the back of the ads".

Ok, so its only a half true statement, but that half a truth is painfully clear. There is of course a degree of consumer demand for magazines and for high quality content to fill them. But the demand that is really pushing these magazines to the press is the demand by advertisers for a high quality space in which to promote their products. Nothing testifies to this fact more then the way magazines determine how much content to publish based on how many ad pages they've sold. The ratio of ads to content remains constant, so more ads means more content, less ads less content.

Now at the moment advertisers are far happier spending their money on high res tactile environment of a magazine then on the viscous ether of blog space. But as more advertisers get comfortable with the web and web advertising begins showing more clear results the balance will begin to shift. I wouldn't be surprised if the top political blogs this year pull in north of $100,000 in ad sales.

And if and when blog ads can generate enough revenue in the realm of real salaries we are going to see something interesting occur. Suddenly the blog space will begin generating stories that compete directly with the higher levels of magazine journalism. And that feedback loop just brings in more audience and more ad revenue and then more writers.

Magazines strength once was that they could be printed cheaply and quickly, read then disposed of. Unlike the even cheaper and quicker newspapers though, they were also highly filtered and focused. Weblogs hit at both these strengths simultaneously. There is no way magazines can compete on the quick cheap and disposable front, they'll get lapped by the rapid fire publishing of blogs every time. On filtration and focus magazines are on better ground, the art of the editor is a refined one and it works well in the magazine context. But the blog form has its own filtration dynamic, one that overlaps significantly with the magazine space.

So what happens to magazines when their chief value as a medium shifts from being a fast and cheap information delivery vehicle and towards a dense, hi res marketing tool?

The process of course is well underway and I think we can see a few trends. One is the all ad magazine. Lucky and Sony Style capture this dynamic well. The difference between editorial and ad? I wouldn't know I don't read those things. The question is does anyone? Lucky (a magazine about shopping) at least appears to be a smash hit. I'm not even going to try and guess what comes out of this space, other say: 1 - given how much demand there is from the marketing side for this stuff at some point something interesting is bound to emerge. 2 - the amount of money it will take for each interesting thing to emerge is going to be abysmally low.

There is fortunately a more interesting demand for magazines though, one driven not by the advertisers or readers, but by the producers. The cost of becoming a designer or photographer has lowered dramatically over the past couple decades, leaving us with a excess of wannabe magazine producers. The results are perhaps most visible in the space of fashion, which now churns out dozens of glossy expensive magazines. And for the most part what these multitude of producers want is use the magazine as a space of creative expression.

These are forces pushing the magazine towards being a work of art. For the most part they have not succeeded. Instead they collide with more material forces. The magazine as creative showcase has a tendency to demand expensive production. More gloss, more color, more resolution, better paper, die cuts, and onward. Suddenly the push is no longer towards art but towards luxury. It here that the creative push meets the needs of potential funders. Visionaire is the trailblazer here, and I suspect that trail is about to get paved over, and perhaps turned into a mini-mall, high end of course...

The Passion of Christ

So I'm sitting in this café, thinking about going to check out that new Mel Gibson slasher flick. But then, then this fucker next to me starts talking. And get this, he freaking TELLS ME THE ENDING.

Damn. Guess I don't have to see it now.

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A Token Fair


Ok, unlike some of my generation I am down with chain stores. Fascinated really. But of course there are... problems. Peet's might be the best of all chains, the coffee is damn good. Their brand is obsessive attention to quality, and it works. Austin TX is coffee shop heaven, indies everywhere and atmosphere wise many blow away Peet's NPR set piece interior. But for better or worse Peet's still has the best coffee I've had in this town, so far at least.

But then, the sign, pictured above. Obviously not written by the central office, but still. Read it. "The current average price paid to growers is below production cost" Stated as fact, may well be true.

What's fucked up is that they try and pimp the fact that they sell Fair Trade coffee. The problem, Peet's sells 32 types of coffee. One of them is fair trade. ONE.

So read the sign, what does it say. 96% of the coffee Peet's buys is purchased at below production cost for the grower. Then as a token, once a month Peet's brews up it's fair trade jammy. And that's supposed to be a good thing?

Now I appreciate that Peet's is making a little bit of an effort, but who the hell wrote that sign? And is it a product of just plain stupidity or an environment that encourages the celebration of token actions?

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February 26, 2004

Dividing Democrats

I wrote about attempting to divide the Republican party a couple days ago. But the sad truth is that the Democrats have always been easier to divide*. And it makes me worried. Gay marriage should be a winning issue for the left, its an inevitability unless some radical shift in social directions occurs. But so far no one seems to have the balls to pick up this issue and hit it out of the park. No one except SF mayor Gavin Newsom, who I have a new found respect for.

Now I haven't been in SF for a couple seasons now, so I'm not 100% on top of the politics. But I highly suspect that Newsom's stance is at least as much driven by politics as it is by any real conviction. Newsom is left of most of the country politically, but in SF he was the conservative candidate for mayor, and he almost lost to an opponent on his left. There's a bit of Nixon in China in this story, but there's also a bit of Newsom moving to the left in order to sure up his political support.

This is exactly why I'm giving my 100% support to the Democrats this year. The task at hand is to shift the center ground to the left. The social conservatives need to be stripped out of their position of leverage inside the Republican party. once that occurs the stage is set for pushing more progressive/radical agendas in forth coming elections.

And with the proposed Hate Amendment, the right wing has given us the perfect tool to split their party. But someone needs to step up and use it. And the risk right now is that the Democrats might actually use it on themselves. Not pretty.

*note: I should add I don't agree with Kos' characterization of Kerry's support of Massachusetts amendment. I don't agree with Kerry's stance, but his anti-marriage but only with strong civil unions support position is a reasonable enough compromise. And like it or not, democratic politics is all about reaching these sorts of compromises. In fact in some ways that's the tragic flaw of democracy, often all of no one gets exactly what they want...

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w600; 1


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Yahoo Juice

Yow, as of late I've been getting tons of traffic searching for the Grey Album. Google had me #5 for the term for a while. But those days are over and Google returns plenty of more relevant (ie they host the album) results before this site appears. Yahoo on the other hand, which until a few days ago used Google for searches, but now is using their own search engine, suddenly has me as the 4th result. I'm setting traffic records big time, and really I don't much enjoy it. I want people to come here cause they like to read my writing and see my pictures, yah hear?

So Mr Yahoo, I know your service is all fresh and new and not yet toilet trained, but could you freshen your results a bit? By all means send people to me, but can you make it relevant please?

all my love,

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February 25, 2004

A Quick Magazine Note

I've never been much of a fan of either Paula Scher or Print Magazine put the work she's done for the current issue is brilliant. Whole issue is far better then I remember the mag being in fact. Perhaps they have turned themselves around while I was sleeping?

I also been quite critical of Adbusters in the past, but the current issue is a lot better then anything of late. There are actual instances of pragmatism inside Adbusters, whoa... That and they learned that headlines are not a means of corporate mind control reinforcing the hegemony, the result a far more readable mag then its been in a while. Still make plenty of the old mistakes though...

Posted by Abe at 11:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 24, 2004

Gay Marriage and the Un-American Bush

Not only is George Bush's proposed amendment to the US Constitution repugnant, immoral and misguided, but it also strikes as fundamentally un-American. Listen to out national anthem and the words that ring loudest are "home of the free". This is a country founded on "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". The raw hatred, intolerance and cultural restriction that Bush is pushing has no place in this country, and come election day 2004 I think we'll find a vast majority of America agrees.

But at the moment I just feel ill, this is not the path our country needs to travel.

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Grey Tuesday

Today is Grey Tuesday, an act of civil disobedience protesting EMI's refusal to allow the distribution of Danger Mouse's The Grey Album, which remixes Jay-Z's the Black Album with the Beatles White Album. And its actually good.

The site is grey for the day. Tracks unfortunately are no longer available on this site. Illegal Art is still hosting it though.

Enjoy the album and free the music!

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February 23, 2004

2 Party / 3 Party Dynamics

update: The piece below was written one day before US President Bush backs constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages. With that one move the piece takes on a whole new dimension as Bush moves strongly towards the social conservative side of the Republican party, while alienating large masses of fiscal conservatives who once supported him. With any luck this is the beginning of the end of the Republican party. But it also may be the beginning of large scale cultural warfare. Two month in and 2004 is already proving to be a crazy year.

In any case here is the original piece:

It has come to my attention that there are a bunch of candidates running for president that don't belong to the two dominate US political parties. In other elections I might pay attention to them. However in this particular election they are no better then gnats and will be ignored as such.

In the past two elections I voted independent (Nader in 96, Browne in 00) and I truly would like to see a different political structure in place in the country I love. However at the present I think the best way to achieve this is not by voting for a "3rd" party candidate, but instead by destroying the Republican party.

At the present there is a deep rift inside the Republican party between the fiscal and social/religious conservatives. Of the two the social conservatives are by far the more odious. They also have effectively used the Republican party apparatus to gain far more political power then they merit. In addition there is a third conflict, one that is present in almost every political party, a conflict between the special interest groups who see politics as a means to their personal ends, and those that take a broader view of governments roles (or lack of roles).

George W Bush took office promising to be a "uniter not a divider", and he's failed miserably in that task. Any unity between the two parties has be cast absurdly into the wind, and more importantly to the issues of this essay, the unity of the Republican party has also been jostled by Bush's reign. The special interests of the investment banks, defense and natural resource industries have been given by far the highest priorities. The social and religious conservatives have gotten a good amount of attention, but at the same time the broad trends of American society are stiffly against their agenda. In their eyes Bush has failed to stem the growing acceptance of gay rights, abortion and other acts of social liberalism.

The fiscal conservatives however have basically been reamed by Bush. The only thread holding the two together is an anti-tax stance that some fiscal conservatives hold tight to. Bush's constant pandering towards special interest groups and causes he hopes will help him come election time is sending fiscal conservatives into conniption fits. And they have no love at all for the religious conservatives dreams of using government to enforce a regressive social agenda.

While 9-11 has allowed Bush and company to place the Republicans in a position of seeming dominance, the fact is they are internally weak and in a position of hubris that might just set them up for the fall. As the Democrats mobilize to try and reclaim the presidency, they are in a position to weaken the entire Republican party network, and in the process they could well do the whole country a world of good.

The key is to wrest away the leverage the social conservatives wield inside the Republican party. The Democrats need to push and push hard against the religious agendas currently welded into the Republican platform, while simultaneously reaching out towards the fiscal conservatives, many of whom have a lot in common with the centerist wing of the Democratic party. If the Republican party can be polarized between fiscal and social conservatives its going to find itself in a lot of trouble.

The key is driving an actual rift. If the social conservatives dominate, then the Republican party will find itself diving toward the margins. The fiscal conservatives will either head to the Democrats or try and form a centerist party with moderate Democrats. If the fiscal conservatives join the Democrats, then its move towards the center will have reached an apex (hopefully the last one). If that happens then the task is to make the Democrats into the right/center party and build and then build a new second party to their left.

If a centerist party somehow rises, either out of a fiscal conservative / moderate Democrat movement or by having the social conservatives leave/get kicked out of the current Republican party, then the Democratic party is going to be forced left. Again the result is a political shift leftward, with the two dominate political forces being centerist and leftist.

The current rightward political swing of the county is sustainable only by the unholy alliance of the fiscal conservatives and religious right. The leverage held by the fundamentalists far outweighs the percentage of the population they represent. Its unlikely that the fundamentalists could wield much voting power outside of the Republican machine. Thus the left has everything to gain by putting tension on the existing stress inside the GOP. Split the machine and the whole political apparatus shifts leftward. Lets go, time for tactics and strategies.

Posted by Abe at 05:31 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 21, 2004

Marxism and Schizophrenia

Social machines make a habit of feeding on the contradictions they give rise to, on the crises they provoke, on the anxieties they engenger, and on the infernal operations they regenerate. Capitalism has learned this and has ceased doubting itself, while even socialists have abandoned belief in capitalism's natural death by attrition. No one has ever died from contradictions. And the more it breaks down, the more it schizophrenizes, the better it works, the American way.

- Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia part 1

Diving into Anti-Oedipus once again and I'm left wondering if perhaps the capitalism/schizophrenia connection of the title is merely a manifestation of the schizoanalysis process they take themselves through. Its not capitalism itself that is schizophrenic, but the marxist/leftist critique of it.

As Deleuze and Guattari begin to emerge from their schizophrenic journey in A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia part 2 both the capitalism and schizophrenia of the subtitle are conspicuously absent from large portions of the book. The analysis is no longer schizophrenic, we have left the marxist plane of immanence and entered into Delueze and Guattari's own. And in this plane capitalism perhaps does not even exist. And in its place we have a whole host of concepts through which a new economic analysis can be built.

The obligatory irony is that Delueze and Guattari were never willing to give up their own marxism as Delanda has pointed out:

Marxism is Deleuze and Guattari's little Oedipus, the small piece of territory they must keep to come back at night after a wild day of deterritorializing. Who could blame them for needing a resting place, a familiar place with all the reassurances of the Marxist tradition (and its powerful iconography of martyrs and revolutionaries)?

And of course this is not a problem limited to just Deleuze and Guattari. The left of today has dismissed most of marxism in little bits and pieces. But when it comes to larger analysis they retreat right back to its core assumptions. Faith that capitalism exists as some sort of worldwide system. Belief that that system contains internal contractions that make it evil or wrong, and perhaps might lead to collapse. Hope for some sort of larger scale revolution overthrowing said system. Desire for continuous resistance against the system. All without much real evidence that said system actually exists in anyway like the manner it is conceptualized...

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February 19, 2004

Grey Tuesday

Grey Tuesday is Tuesday February 24th. Its a coordinated act of civil disobedience to protests EMI actions to shut down the distribution of Danger Mouse's The Grey Album. Abstract Dynamics will of course participate since we actively called for just this sort of action. We urge you to participate as well.

[via hiphopmusic.com: Civil Disobedience for the Grey Album]

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Texas Bush Perspective

One of the best aspects of travelling is the way it opens you up to new perspectives, new opinions and new world views. I've spent the better portion of the past year in NY and SF, hardly the best vantage points to gauge the opinions of this fine nation. Now I'm in Austin, which has a well deserved reputation as being the Berkeley of Texas, so its hardly better. But on the way there I swung through the Dallas airport and snagged a copy of Texas Monthly in the procedure.

Now I have no idea what the politics of this mag are, but all indications point to a bland upper middle of the road regional lifestyle mag. If you live in America I'm sure your region has one of these things. Solid reporting mixed with guides on how to be a good au courant yuppie eating in the slinkiest new restaurants.

The cover of this particular Texas Monthly however is a picture of one Dubya Bush with a big blue and red lettered "Maybe" splayed across him.

The article, by Paul Burka is not online yet, but it should be archived on the site in a few weeks. Well worth the read. Burka covered Bush as governor of Texas and he's known the man personally. The story he tells is both far more balanced and far more damning then the knee jerk opposition has ever written it.

Burka is a veteran political reporter, but he takes this story with a refreshingly personal and frank air. He voted for Bush in 2000, he liked him as governor. And now he's not so sure what happened. A story of betrayal.

I've never been 100% comfortable with the Bush as dumb puppet line of thinking. Truth is in there for sure, and the "born on third base and thinks he hit a triple" snipe rings truer then ever. But you still don't become president without some degree of talent. Burka knew Bush personally and he paints the best picture of his upside I've read. He knew the Bush that was able to win votes in 2000.

That Bush apparently is gone. In Texas Bush was a moderate consensus builder, the ultimate old boy network kid. Not sure he did much positive, but he certainly wasn't fucking up big time either. But now its 2004 and suddenly he's hard right. A man whose best talent is bringing people together, yet he's tearing the country into love and hate. And if the reports from the Daytona 500 are on point its mostly hate...

Burka concludes that he might, just might vote for Bush again in the upcoming elections. But its sure not a convincing close, and one wonders how many readers are even more sure they will not cast that vote. Especially after the flip a few more pages to the obligatory unemployed white collar article... Yep, even here in Texas things don't look so up for Mr Bush.

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February 17, 2004


somewhere in A Thousand Plateaus is a line to the effect that a nomad always stays in place, the ground just moves beneath them. With that in mind, it appears that in the next few hours the ground beneath me will be moving to Austin Texas for a short although indefinite period of time. If you are in the area, please contact.

all my love,

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February 16, 2004

Parkour, the Art of the Traceur

source image sampled from kiell.com

One part flaneur, one part breakdancer, skateboarding without the board, kung fu with the city as sparring partner. Parkour is the art of the traceur and it looks and sounds quite beautiful. As an art it was born in France and exists mainly in Europe. But as a practice it must be close to universal, and one wonders how its never been an art before.

While the artistic codes and language of parkour are new, the act is as old as childhood. Leapfrogging over parking meters, hopping fences, running up the walls. The physical appreciation of the urban environment is essential to growing up inside a city. And its almost a shame that we need to invent and art in order to allow adults to share the appreciation.

There have been countless times walking down the street where I've been ready to start jumping on ledges and leaping over the hydrants. Sometimes I do, but at other times the oppression of culture overrides. Its not exactly a seemly thing to do is it? God forbid adults actually have fun in the streets... The traceurs appear to sometimes come in conflict with the law, much like their predecessors in urban reterritorialization, skateboaders and graffiti writers. But while the authorities might not realize it, these are the set of people that the future immune system for the urban infrastructure will evolve.

update: Matt Jones had a good le parkour piece a while back. As did Space and Culture, which address the issue of sound.

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February 15, 2004

Fashionably Late

Fashion is perhaps both the highest and lowest of the art forms. On the low it is inescapable, nearly everyone wears clothes and the clothes they where inevitably communicate. Perhaps its no surprise that most people run from this creative opportunity, wearing only what it takes to go unnoticed amongst their peers, in the process broadcasting their tribal identities.

On the high though, fashion is impossibly rarified and encoded. There are apparently only several hundred individuals in the world both wealthy and inclined enough to actually buy regularly from the couture collections. While I'm not aware of the legitimate history of our present fashion system, one can sense the strong links back to the courts of Europe, France in particular.

Pretenses aside, a fashion show is as much a temporary autonomous court as it is a way to show clothes. The structure is better designed for seeing social status then actually watching the lowly models act as mobile clothes hangers. The hierarchy is clearly demarcated in the seating arrangements, themselves arranged perfectly to look at everyone else. No opera glasses needed, its all there in the open. You barely need to pretend to watch the show, half the court is ten feet away on the other side of the runway.

The models themselves are another story. Faces' ice cold, eyes focused several miles outside the room, the walk rigid and robotic. Dehumanized for the court, lucky to be there in some form at all. If they play the game right, they one day too can be seated like a courtier.

The modeling system itself is as much about lifting the fashion nobles ideas of beauty out of the lower classes and injecting it into their own microcosm. Most models are paid little, but compensated in more devious manners. They are perhaps the last social group trained to walk and act, put through a finishing school. Much of their small wages gets funneled towards the agency's network, photographs, portfolios, postcards, agency owned apartments in city centers. In turn they get clothes, and party invites. Dressed up and trained, then wisked into the world of nightclubs where getting a table means spending buying $300 bottles of liquor. Work this space right and the model just may, with luck and skill wind up one of those few hundred wealthy and inclined enough to afford that couture.

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February 12, 2004

The Kerry Sex "Scandal"

So there is a brewing John Kerry sex "scandal". Details are unclear as of yet, but it may well have occurred while he was single...

No idea what's going to emerge, but unless it involves the proverbial live boy or dead girl, odds are that this scandal will not harm Kerry, and may well help him. The moralists in DC never can seem to get their heads around the fact that Americans like sex. And so does nearly everyone else in the world for that matter. And while sex might create "scandal" in the press and amongst the chattering classes, it does little to decrease a persons ability to get votes. Anyone check Clinton's approval ratings post Lewinsky? Or think about how popular JFK remains?

Lets face people like people who are getting laid. As anyone ever ran on a "I haven't gotten any in 20 years, vote for me platform". Maybe Nixon would have if he wasn't physically incapable of telling the truth, but he was probably to smart for that anyway. This is America, sex sells. So lets hope Kerry brings on this scandal with open arms, and remembers not to let the coverup trip him along the way.

update: apparently the scandal just doesn't exist.

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February 11, 2004

To Everyone Coming Here Looking for Danger Mouse's The Grey Album

So my site traffic is breaking all sorts of personal records today, and a large number of those visitors seem to be looking for Danger Mouse's The Grey Album.

So if that's what you are here for, do yourself a favor and head over to Zero Paid. Once you are there go pick out a file sharing program and start to use it. Within an hour or so you should have the album snug on your computer for your own personal enjoyment.

Of course as you may know using P2P programs current falls in a murky (grey?) legal space. But even if it does eventually get ruled illegal the case for file sharing as an act of civil disobedience just grew a lot stronger as the record industry cracks down on the distribution of The Grey Album.

Up in my comments people are calling this genius, and I'd agree that its at least really f'in good. There is no denying the creativity and talent that went into creating this album. But it's illegal to buy or sell and some lawyers would argue its illegal to trade as well.

That breaks the reality down hear into close to a binary. Either this piece of creativity disappears from the soundwaves, or it lives on due to file trading and bootleg cd distribution networks. So fire up your P2P programs friends, the music industry has just made it clearer then ever that the current copyright laws are about protecting profits not encouraging creativity. This is developing into war, industry lawyers and certain old school record execs vs. new school musicians and the fans. I know which side I'm on.

And yeah, donate to the Creative Commons if you've got the bankroll.

Update: Illegal Art is now hosting a downloadable version of the album, holla!

Posted by Abe at 12:35 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 10, 2004

John Kerry

Its funny, before Bush and the neocons took power I never associated myself with the Left. I'm straight independent and have serious problems with the political orthodoxy on both sides. But its clear that Bush needs to go and that means backing the left for a spell.

But then sometimes I remember just how annoying the left can be. Last night some nutjob left a comment on my site calling Mr John Kerry a "Bush clone", before ranting a bit about the "New World Order".

Say what?

Now Kerry's got as many problems as any other politician with enough ego to think they should be president, no doubt. But I'm trying not to be negative on the Dem candidates, so we'll skip that for now. But to call him a Bush clone, that's just absurd. But oddly enough I need to go the the site of the conservative ProfessorBainbridge in order to learn that:

He (Kerry) has a lifetime ADA (Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal group) rating of 92 (two points higher than Ted Kennedy). Kerry's lifetime ACU (American Conservative Union) rating is a mere 5. Between 1992 and 2000, the average ADA rating for US senators was 42, while senators averaged 56 on the ACU's scale.

Bainbridge's conclusion? "In sum, Kerry is so far to the left that he can't even see the mainstream from where he's standing."

Now I disagree with the rhetoric in that last line, but it's damn clear that Kerry is about as far from a Bush clone as you'll get in DC. Well in the white parts of DC at least...

So please, lighten up on the self hating on the left please? Kerry's got leftist credentials from hear to Vietnam, a leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, arrested in demonstrations, had Nixon looking for dirt on him...

I'm not endorsing any of these Democrats until one wins the nomination, so go on and pick the best one. But don't hate on the frontrunner without looking at the facts, OK? Please? They all have their strengths and credentials, go pick a winner.

Posted by Abe at 10:19 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 09, 2004

True Players Never Spend Money on Valentine's Day

Damn, our little Outkast Valentine's jammy went live and we forgot to send ya a promo. Fear not the day is still days away. So here ya go my wonderful readers. Never again will you need an actual card made of paper or a box filled with chocolate. Its all free on the interweb.

And yeah don't even think of playing that song in my vicinity...

Posted by Abe at 11:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack



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Putting the Mass in Mass Media

What, what, hold up. Did I just catch a glimpse of intellectual insight coming from a Bush administration official? Media Czar Michael Powell called the Super Bowl a "sacred period of time". And I couldn't agree more.

I grew up in a home without television, a fact that made me acutely aware of its power to bring people together. It sucks pretty hard rolling into school knowing that everyone else watched Alf last night and you've got no place in half a days worth of conversation... May well be a better person for it all, but it sure didn't seem that way back in 3rd grade.

Adam looks towards cathedrals for comparison, and perhaps he should have stopped there, cause in all honestly his airport analogy baffles me. But the cathedral, the mass, that is the appropriate space to be looking at the sacredness of the ultimate mass media event, the Super Bowl.

The religious ritual is all about shared experience. Everyone under the cathedrals arches shares one unifying experience, one replicated quite similarly in cathedrals and churches round the world. But as religion fragments and threatens to fade, this unity dying in the margins.

The Super Bowl is close to the last mass event on television. The only time when the majority of America comes together in one massive unity, one shared experience. A beautiful thing really, and a beauty that seems lost on many of television's critics.

Ironically the core ritual of the traditional mass seems to have made the leap, with the communion wafer and wine, becoming wafers of potatoes and bottles of watery beer. And this being America of course proportions grow by several orders of magnitude. But still the nation communes. The same game, the same play by play. Same grease-carbohydate-salt delivery systems getting swallowed. Same Ads. Same offensive half time show. Unity for once. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Posted by Abe at 02:35 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Pro Terror Republicans

I didn't watch Bush's State of the Union Address earlier in the week and thus missed this very fscked up moment (avi video file, may not work on macs).


The Democrats clapping at the mention of the Patriot act expiring is great, but it also served to distract from the nastier side, the Republicans applauding the fact that the "terrorist threat will not expire".

Damn. Remember that come November.

[via Atrios]

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February 08, 2004

The Graph Evolves


download the pdf, suitable for printing

designers, both amateur and professional are encouraged to download the Illustrator source file

based off a graph originally created by Music for America

Posted by Abe at 02:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 06, 2004

the Graph


this is a slightly modified version of a graph created by one Outlandish Josh. I'll be making a printable pdf version soon.

Posted by Abe at 06:07 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack


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A Time For Fear

Joshua Micah Marshall brings us another shudder from the daily press gaggle at the White House:

QUESTION: All these countries that do have nuclear weapons, they're not a threat at all? But the intent, and you're a mind-reader as to what was going to happen? It wouldn't hold up in court.

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I know that you do not feel that we are safer because we removed Saddam Hussein from power. I think most people believe the world is safer and better because we removed Saddam Hussein from power.

QUESTION: A lot of people are dead, thousands.

MR. McCLELLAN: And the President remembers those who lost their lives on September 11th. That taught us that we are living in a different --

QUESTION: They had nothing to do with September 11th, the Iraqis.

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I beg to differ. September 11th taught us that we are living in a dangerous new world. September 11th -

QUESTION: So you attack somebody who is innocent?


QUESTION: I guess what I'm asking here is how long has the United States known of the nuclear weapons fire sale being run out of Pakistan and -

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, like I said, there's a lot of -- there are a number of success stories in the intelligence community that often go unseen or unreported or are not reported until quite some time after the fact. You heard from Director Tenet --

QUESTION: Well, tell us.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- you heard from Director Tenet, in terms of what he said on Pakistan. And you've seen, by the actions of the government of Pakistan, that they are committed to stopping proliferation.

QUESTION: It just raises a question. The United States went to war against a leader that we said had these weapons, turned out not to. We're confronting North Korea over what we think are their weapons. Libya is an issue. And, yet, on Pakistan, it sounds as if we've known for a while that they were running this black market on nuclear weapons and haven't done anything.

and yeah, if you are not reading a time for fear, well then you probably sleep a bit better then I have lately. But its essential reading on dark geopolitics of renegade nuclear proliferation.

Posted by Abe at 01:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 05, 2004

The New DFA

Howard Dean's bid for the US presidency may be down to a hail mary pass to win Wisconsin, but his bid to become a powerful American leader looks like its on some strong ass legs. His Dean for America, or DFA organization has just had a remarkable day, and it looks a lot like the DFA is going stay around regardless of what happens in this presidential race. The name perhaps will evolve, Democrats for America or something of the ilk, but the organization is there. And Dean will be the nominal leader with the weight of several million voters and a large cash flow behind him. Presidential nomination or not, there is no way that strength can be ignored.

Regardless of who gets nominated, any Democrat is going to need the nominal support of Dean or they risk losing it all. Like some of the smaller parties in coalition style parliamentary systems of Germany or Israel, the DFA may well be the critical weight needed to craft a winning candidate. America of course resolutely structured for two political parties though, and Dean's strength comes from organizing within one of those parties. Attempts to organize third parties perpetually fail in the US, most recently with the Green and Reform parties. But by finding a way to organize inside the Democratic party Dean has built a far more potent machine, one with far greater chance of lasting power then Nader or Perot could ever build.

The precedent for this strategy is ironically on the other side of the political spectrum, in the world of Christian fundamentalism. Over the past 20 odd years right wing Christians have built a network that wields inordinate power, forcing the Republicans to carry unpopular positions like their opposition to legal abortion.

Howard Dean has already had remarkable success setting the issues that the Democrats must follow, particularly with his aggressive anti-Bush stance. Now with the DFA it sure looks him or at least his organization will be in a position to keep on setting the agenda for some time now, for better or worse. And quite thankfully its looking for the better at the moment.

Posted by Abe at 07:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Damn Aldous, Never Knew You Could Get So Nasty

Never realized just how much snark Aldous Huxley could throw. Peep this paragraph from the out of print Beyond the Mexique Bay. Devastating.

Prostitution and the sale of curios and antiques seem to be the staple industries of the is very depressing city. And since sailors can't afford to be too particular, the first industry is, only too often, merely a branch of the second.

Ouch. Not going to name the unfortunate city...

Posted by Abe at 04:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 04, 2004

John Kerry Doonesbury Strips from 1971




[via Doonesbury.com]

Posted by Abe at 10:28 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

February 03, 2004

The Race

I really like how the Democrats are running this race for the presidency like a relay, passing off the front runner baton every couple weeks. Kerry still seems to have it, but now Mr Edwards is inching up.

So who gets to run the final sprint? Might not know for a while now my friends.

Posted by Abe at 10:11 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Nuance, Nuisance and Networks

Way back maybe 9 or 10 months ago in the first golden age of social software, the concept of nuance came up. Several people whose opinion I respect mentioned that the then current generation of software, just wasn't nuanced enough to capture the social dynamics properly.

At the time I had a sense I couldn't quite agree, but it was impossible to figure out why. Its not that it wouldn't be great to see more nuanced social software, it certainly would be. But I have my doubts as to just how possible it is. Certainly not impossible, but it seems ever more unlikely as Google's entry into the space, Orkut, makes abundantly clear.

Orkut is in "alpha" so we are going to do the best we can to pass on criticizing their hemorrhoid at the Renaissance Faire aesthetic. No, what we are really interested in is just what happens when a quality software company with massive networking experience enters into this social software space... and falls flat on its face. Rather then adding nuance, Orkut seems to add nothing but nuisance to the social software experience.

A piece of software can be looked at as a conversation between the user and the software itself, and by extension the software's creators. The software exists to figure out what the user wants to do and then to guide them towards their goals. And even in this one to one, software to user relationship its pretty rare to find a truly nuanced piece of software. Of all the software I use extensively I think only two I'm comfortable calling nuanced (in a positive manner at least) are Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator.

Now when it comes social software, the conversation suddenly gets dramatically more complex. Suddenly the software is not just having a conversation with the user, but its trying to get the various users have conversations with each other. And the software is present in each one of these conversations, butting its ugly head in and shaping the dialogue. All you want to do is connect with your friends, but this damn application keeps getting in way trying to "help". The nuances that the users want are not in the conversation with the program, but in the conversation with their friends.

Over on Many 2 Many David Weinberger has a good post on part of the reason social software like Orkut keeps getting in the way. Social ties and conversations are inherently fuzzy and blurry. In Deleuzian terms they exist within smooth space, where as the databases powering social software programs are striated by definition. The more datapoints the software tries to define, the more violence it does to the fuzzy nuanced connections that construct real friendship and relationships.

In many ways it is the stripped down dataset of Friendster that allows for nuance. It isolates one key variable essential for building a social network and then gets the hell out of the way. Orkut by contrast tries to define all sorts of data, coolness, sexiness, reliability, and in the process just makes a fool of itself. All 7 of my Orkut friends are of course 3 smiles reliable, 3 ice cubes cool and 3 hearts sexy. But I've actually met less of half of them, so I have an advantage in making those judgements... But really, do you want to explain why you only gave someone two smiles, or why you gave one sister a heart more then the other? This isn't a space you want to be hanging out in. Each datapoint that Orkut grabs is striation, a point of potential conflict, a nuisance not a nuance.

A good social software programmer could do well learning from the great social engineers and machines of our time, the waiter and the restaurant. The restaurant provides a table of you and your companions. It provides the setting (food and drink) to make the conversation comfortable. And then it disappears in the background, allowing your conversation to develop on its own.

A good waiter is there when you need him or her and then disappears. The waiter doesn't provide the conversation, the waiter provides the elements to make the conversation comfortable. But when you need service, switch. The good waiter is there, always ready to react if something goes wrong, but never interupting the natural flow of your conversation. Provide the setting, maintain it discreetly, stay aware of requests for help, but otherwise disappear.

Posted by Abe at 10:11 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Ripping Mix CDS

Do any of my wonderful readers know of a good free program that allows you to rip an entire mix CD as one continuous file? I used to have one on the PC but its long lost and name forgotten. OSX is preferable but a PC program will do the trick if necessary...

thanks in advance, A

Posted by Abe at 12:03 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 02, 2004

The Grey Album

Danger Mouse's The Grey Album. Jay-Z's Black Album remixed with beat created from the Beatle's White Album. A gimmick no doubt, but a surprisingly good one. Most of the weaker album tracks actually sound significantly better on the Danger Mouse version and his alternatives to the original bananas beats of "My First Song" and "99 Problems" hold up surprisingly well. Only "Dirt Off Your Sholders" comes off as significantly weaker, proving once again no one can fuck with Timbaland...


Does Jay-Z voice make all beats sound better? I always thought he just had impeccable taste in beats, now I'm not sure.

How criminal is it that Beatles samples are illegal under copyright law?

Do these samples sound so hot cause its the Beatles, or is there a massive world of untapped rock samples... Paging Kayne West, please step to the rock section and get busy...

And yeah, on the subject don't miss Ghostface Killah's "Beatles" mixtape jam, which apparently is now renamed "My Guitar".

Posted by Abe at 12:21 AM | Comments (122) | TrackBack