I think it was Mullah Muhammed Omar who was plastered all
over the headlines a day or so ago, saying they would "Bury
the US". You'd think he'd have found more original Rhetoric.
After all Krushchev couldn't back his threat, and uh, Mr.
Omar, you're no Nikita Krushchev... Interestingly, Krushchev's
own son Sergei became
a US citizen a couple of years ago.
Was I asleep? I didn't hear a peep out of anyone about the
order. Maybe that's because it's still not considered
polite to talk politics. Did the story rise above a murmer
on the TV news? I've had trouble finding much about it in
the newspapers, either.
"Misadvised by a frustrated and panic-stricken attorney
general, a president of the United States has just assumed
what amounts to dictatorial power to jail or execute aliens.
Intimidated by terrorists and inflamed by a passion for
rough justice, we are letting George W. Bush get away with
the replacement of the American rule of law with military
[crappy NYT link requires registration to read]
reports bipartisan fire
I'm afraid we'll hear a lot more like this before these four
years are over. [That is, unless people really do start watching
what they say.] I went searching for additional news on the
Bush order, and stumbled across another
order Mr. Bush issued recently. I wonder what he's trying
to cover up.
It's no wonder Classical music, and even Jazz is suffering.
We've become jingle-ized. I was sitting at my desk this afternoon,
when suddenly, inexplicably, the song started playing loudly
in my head: "If it ain't eggs, it ain't breakfast... I
love eggs... mmmm, If it ain't eggs, it ain't breakfast; I
love eggs..." It's a far cry from "Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik"
or "Giant Steps" or even, say one of the arias from "Carmen."
Nope, these simple, mindless songs leach into the little
crevices in my head, taking up the space formerly occupied
by more complex tunes and useful information. Pop songs from
the '70s that I hated, used to spring into my head while I
was in the shower. This is the same phenomenon, only worse.
You can have fun with this: Try humming one of those goofy
songs around someone you work with. You don't have to do it
loudly, just enough to give them the unconscious hint. You
don't have to do much, a minute or two will do. If the song's
recognizable,they'll lock in. Keep an ear open: in a few minutes,
they'll be humming or singing the tune you programmed.
It was well underway, before I had a clue that anything was
going on. By then, they had him. There were three or four
big guys scuffling with another, much smaller guy on the sidewalk.
I was standing and looking out the window from a B52 bus that
was about to pull off from the stop at Dekalb and Fulton.
The big guys had to be fast; they had all caught up to this
guy less than 50 yards from the door of their shop, where
jeans and tee shirts, among other things, are sold. One of
the chasers had a bundle of clothes that he had apparently
pulled away from the guy they were struggling with. Any one
of the chasers dwarfed him, yet he was putting up a spirited
Still, there was no getting away. One of the guys seemed
to levitate the apparent shoplifter, simply by extending his
arms straight out and rotating his shoulders up slightly.
The would-be escapee's feet dangled uselessly in the air,
making him look like an animated rag doll.
The burly security man carried his quarry back to the store
without assistance. When they got to the store, the captive
was launched unceremoniously through the door-- tossed like
a sack of potatoes. He collapsed to the floor. It was clear
that he would be detained for the police. The burly guy reached
down and scooped the smaller guy up in one fluid motion, then
spirited his captive away toward a dressing room in the back.
As the bus pulled off, I watched one of the chasers walk
toward the front door of the store. He was already in crowd
control mode. The expression on his face seemed to read "We're
in charge. Everything's under control. Don't mess with us."
William Gibson's "Mona Lisa Overdrive" is a really
good book. I'm most of the way through it, and the story gets
stronger and stronger. I had to work in the early parts -
his style of dialog and narration isn't always the easiest
to follow, but it pays dividends in the later chapters.
Gibson's books are where a lot of popular notions about "cyberspace"
come from. He coined the term.
I carry the book with me, and I don't think I've ever had
as many people go out of their way to acknowledge the book
when they see it. There's that knowing smile, and pepole saying
"That really is a good book." Occasionally, people were intrigued
by the title. Once or twice, I'd explained what the book was
about, and they commented "not my cup of tea," but the book
clearly has won a lot of fans.
Try an experiment of your own: grab your favorite book and
carry it out in the open during your travels for a couple
of days. You may find yourself connecting with a number of
I'm not going to dwell on the details of this latest disaster
in Queens. I'm sure there are people out there who believe
in signs, and this is just fodder for them. I found myself
quickly saturated on the saturation TV coverage. So much time,
so little information. There are only so many times you can
watch the same burning buildings, the same sound bites about
fishing the tail section out of the water, the same proclaimations
by various officials...
In The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe talks about how the pilots
in the early space program were fully aware that they were
sitting on top of a massive bomb every time they went up on
a space flight. They knew they were putting their lives at
risk. There used to be little kiosks at airports, where you
could buy insurance just before you got on a flight to somewhere.
I suspect that the airlines began to discourage those kiosks,
because their presence suggested a level of risk that passengers
might not be comfortable with.
We've witnessed things like this before: the flight that
mysteriously blew up over Long Island Sound, the Alaska Air
jet that apparently lost its rear stabilizer when its jack
screw stripped, the commuter plane that probably developed
wing ice and nose-dived into the ground, the Colgate helicopter
that lost its tail rotor and crashed under the 59th Street
Bridge... This won't be the last such catastrophe.
In the next day or so, I expect to hear someone talking about
how statistically, you're more likely to die in a car accident
than a plane crash. Still, there seems to be something different
about being a passenger or getting behind the wheel of a car,
even if it's just the delusion that I have control and I'm
a better than average driver-- that somehow I'll recognize
and avoid that dangerous situation and beat the odds. A friend
of mine called the phenomenon "terminal uniqueness." I guess
it's not just teenagers who suffer from it.
This city has taken a number of hits since September 11.
Yet, in an odd way, it all fits with the city's larger-than-life-ness.
We've got more than our share of people, so it makes sense
to have more than our share of drama.
A friend of mine named Steve, had moved to San Francisco
a number of years ago, and told me about how life was different
out there, because people knew that there could be a big quake
at any time. Living in a city that had been destroyed once,
and that had at least one catastropic quake since that, made
people appreciate life more, but they don't live in constant
I think about that now. New York culture may begin to develop
an attitude more similar to San Francisco culture, or maybe
it's London or Israel, each with their own looming terrorist
threat. There comes a time when, perhaps, you don't become
numb, but you do adjust. You focus on what you're doing, where
you're going, what you believe in, instead of what might happen
to you. In the end, no matter what, they're going to stick
you in a box in the ground and throw dirt in your face.
There are probably a number of de-facto citadels that have
formed since September 11: little enclaves that have erected
barriers and more complex security rituals. This weekend,
Denise and I noticed that the hospital on De Kalb Avenue has
closed off the horseshoe driveway that circles past its front
door. Two tall chain link gates block what was once a beautiful
piece of landscaping.
I imagine the architects all over the world are reassessing
what can be done with the facades and entryways of major buildings.
Majestic, open plazas will just get covered over with giant
concrete planters and "Jersey barriers." A new aesthetic is
Mr Gehry may well be revising the design for the new Guggenheim
museum downtown. The current design floats like a cloud on
stilts , and provides access to the river by allowing people
to pass under the structure. Beautiful, but perhaps too risky
a design in this day and age.
The Wall Street area is one such citadel. At Broad and Beaver,
people pull up to a makeshift gate, and speak to a guard,
who checks to see if you're on a list. If you clear the list,
you pull past the gate and off to the side, and wait, while
another officer with a bomb-sniffing dog, circles your vehicle.
If it's a truck, or it has a large cargo area, that too is
opened and subjected to a good sniff. If you pass the test,
you get back in the vehicle and drive between the two concrete
barriers placed in the road to create the smallest possible
aperture for vehicles to pass through. There's usually a police
car or two parked next to this second aperture.
The ritual catches the attention of many in the area. You
can watch people stop and watch. It's not the Changing of
the Guard at Buckingham Palace, but it is an intriguing ritual
I'm changing my hosting service. I started working on a little
project involving PHP, and ran into a bunch of problems with
my current host's scripting support. Until now, a host was
a host, was a host. Let's just say I've become enlightened.
So far, the process has been pretty painless. I found a site
that allows me to search for hosts by criteria, browsed the
results, scribbled notes and compared, and voila - new hosting
service picked out in a couple of hours. I filled out and
online form, and presto- disk space and an IP address over
the weekend. FTP is no big deal; I just need to figure out
how to get the domain re-pointed, and we're off...
Funny thing is, it's more exciting this time. As soon as
I got an FTP connection, I was jazzed. When I typed the IP
address into my browser and saw the simple text "New Site"
appear on screen, it was like a jolt of coffee. I think it's
because this time, there's more at stake than simply showing
up on the web. There's something about the power of fulfilling
a more complex objective. Unlike the previous times, I know
there are people watching. I've seen the server logs. There's
the understanging that I've just acquired new powers. Like
a magician working out a new spell
I don't expect a lot from TV, even though I watch a bit of
it. Every so often, though, I see moments of magic -- what
I think people thought would be the mainstay of the medium
before it became "the vast wasteland."
Spike Lee was on The Actor's Studio. There seemed to be a
glint in the corner of his right eye - behind his glasses.
I thought for a second, that it was just an odd reflection.
Now, it was growing, spilling down his cheek. Spike Lee was
crying on TV. Now, the tears were streaming from both of his
eyes, but his voice was steady. He was profoundly moved, and
he was OK about that.
Spike had been recounting how his film "X" had been in financial
trouble - the studio had been withholding funds, so he made
calls to Bill Cosby, Magic Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, Janet Jackson,
Michael Jordan, and others. Each of them wrote a check, knowing
that there was a good chance that they might not get their
money back. Those acts of generosity, solidarity, and faith
inspired convinced the studio to get back in the game, and
got the film completed. Powerful stuff.
Most of the times that I have seen Spike in interviews, his
comments have been edited to support the presenter's (often
critical) point of view about his work. This was a rare opportunity
to get a broader sense of Spike Lee, the person.
Spike believes in his work. He's clear about his art form.
He opens up the opportunity for discourse on the subjects
he tackles in his films, but he doesn't offer easy solutions.
There was a moment in the show, where he commented on how
critics often attack him, rather than critiquing his films.
It was wonderfully ironic, when he indicated that one of the
criticisms of Do the Right Thing, was that it doesn't offer
a solution to racism.