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9/20, 9PM





Friday, August 25, 2006
3:53 PM      

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will finally know peace.”
— Jimi Hendrix


Introducing Uzme

She's the new kitten in our lives. When we met her, she was called ‘Bisou’ — French for kiss. It's a good name, but didn't completely fit her. After several days of living with her, her true name emerged:

Uzume (pron. ‘oo-zoo-may’) or Ama-no-uzume is the Japanese Shinto goddess of joy and happiness, and good health. The name means ‘whirling.’ Uzume brought the sun goddess Amaterasu back from her cave, bringing light back to the world:

Amaterasu fled and hid in a cave called the Iwayado. Darkness covered the world. All the gods and goddesses in turn tried to coax Amaterasu out of the cave, but She refused them all.

Finally, the kami of merriment, Ama-no-Uzume, hatched a plan. She placed a large bronze mirror on a tree, facing Amaterasu's cave. Then Uzume clothed herself in flowers and leaves and overturned a washtub, and began to dance on it, drumming the tub with her feet. Finally, Uzume shed the leaves and flowers and danced naked. All the male gods roared with laughter, and Amaterasu became curious.

When She peeked outside from her long stay in the dark, a ray of light called ‘dawn’ escaped and Amaterasu was dazzled by her own reflection in the mirror. The god Ameno-Tajikarawo pulled her from the cave and it was sealed with a holy shirukume rope.

Surrounded by the merriment, Amaterasu's depression disappeared and She agreed to return her light to the world. Uzume was from then on known as the kami of dawn as well as mirth.

Uzume has been our alarm clock for the last week or so, often rising with the dawn. One of her favorite games is pouncing on feet. Her particular gift is eliciting maximum sensation without breaking the skin. She has a lot of energy, and is very acrobatic, which leads us to her #1 nickname: ‘Taz.’ Other names include ‘Wild thing,’ ‘Chewy,’ ‘Baby cat,’ ‘Ball o' teeth,’ ‘Tawny kitten’ and ‘red.’ The coolest thing about her, is that she's a certified lap cat.


My Very Educated Mother Just Said Uh, No, (Pluto is not a planet, Virginia.)
Well, they met and hammered out the criteria for planet-hood, and decided that instead of adding three, they would subtract one, and create a new class of ‘dwarf’ planets. And so there are eight...

But before that, there was a moment where there might have been twelve (Including Charon, a moon of Jupiter!), and the mnemonic might have been something like My very eccentric mother curiously just showed us nine Chihuahuas playing xylophones.


My comfortable existance is reduced to a shallow meaningless party

Seems that when some innocent die
All we can offer them is a page in some magazine
Too many cameras and not enough food
This is what we've seen...
— Sting, Driven to Tears

I'm a little disturbed by the marketing juggernaut spurred by the approaching conjoined-twin anniversaries of Katrina and 9/11/01. Food Network is serving up Emiril Lagasse, who at least is from New Orleans, with a slogan about rebuilding New Orleans one meal at a time. Wheel of Fortune is taping shows there, probably in the new Harrah's casino. A litte more iffy is House and Garden Network's show Life after Katrina, featuring yuppies rebuilding their home. I bet Home Depot is a sponsor. But I think the weirdest offering is CNN's complete re-airing of their 9/11/01 coverage, in sequence. I assume they've updated the breaks with current commercials, and I suspect they edited out some particularly raw footage — like when microphones caught the impact sounds of early jumpers.

My complaint is that most of what we're being presented with simply promotes spectatorship without fostering involvement. At its worst, it actually increases detachment while selling product all the while.


Ayumi Sakamoto is an interesting and talented photographer.


More Hurricane Spinning
No doubt, Ray Nagin's got spunk. And, he has a point. Apparently peeved about all the attention being focused on how slowly New Orleans is being rebuilt (as if the Feds and the insurance companies have nothing to do with it), ol' Ray shot back:

“That's all right. You guys in New York can't get a hole in the ground fixed and it's five years later. So let's be fair.”

Scrappy. I think it also underscores how a process like rebuilding can get hamstrung when politics get involved.

Reminds me of this story:

BUSH: I just had coffee with Rockey Vaccarella, of St. Bernard's Parish, Louisiana. He caught my attention because he decided to come up to Washington, D.C., and make it clear to me and others here in the government that there's some people down there still hurting in south Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast. And Rock's a plain-spoken guy. He's the kind of fellow I feel comfortable talking to...

Nice that the man holding the title of President of the United States should concern himself with what kind of people he feels comfortable talking to. It's that bubble thing, I guess.

Despite what Bush said, it sounded more like Rockey came up to kiss George's ass:

... my mission was very simple: I wanted to thank President Bush for the millions of FEMA trailers that were brought down there. They gave roofs over people's head. People had the chance to have baths, air conditioning. We have TV. We have toiletry. We have things, necessities that we can live upon.

But now I wanted to remind the president that the job's not done, and he knows that. And I just don't want the government and President Bush to forget about us.

And I just wish the president could have another term in Washington. ...

You know, I wish you had another four years, man. If we had this president for another four years, I think we'd be great.

Maybe Rocky believes you can catch more flies with honey. I suspect he was good at polishing apples in school, too.

Yesterday, poll-addled CNN flashed another statistical graphic: 31% of respondents thought the Katrina relief efforts by the Federal government were the right amount, while 10% actually thought they were too much! 56% said the efforts were insufficient, which means about 3% didn't dignify the question.


T-Shirt Spotting:
Don't even try. I'm not drunk yet. — Worn by a woman in Manhattan.
I tried to be good, but I got bored. — Worn by a boy on the downtown 6 train, approx. 12 years old.

Cheeky, wouldn't you say? Hey– isn't Benis the last name of Elaine's charater on Seinfeld? Nope, that's spelled B-e-n-e-s.


Fast( food)ing the Weight Off
... or when Super Size Me mates with Jared Fogle's Subway diet...

Glancing over the shoulder of a J train rider last week, I noticed several headlines in the NY Post referring to some kind of diet campaign being run by McDonalds. ‘Skinny-Size Me,’ read one headline. Another crowed ‘Diet Promises a Happy Meal,’ while more copy read ‘Lose 10 pounds on nothing but fast food.’ It seemed clear that this was another press release dressed up as an article. If I had looked closely, I might have even seen fine print saying ‘special advertising section.’ After all, there's fake news everywhere.

It's been about two years since Morgan Spurlock's engaging film Super Size Me made headlines and earned an Oscar nomination. While McDonalds claims that their decision had nothing to do with the film, they cancelled the Super-Size promotion after Spurlock's film, which illustrated the ill health effects of super-sizing too often, got substantial buzz.

Some time later , Subway began running the Jared commercials, asserting that he lost 235 pounds eating nothing but Subway sandwiches. Looking closely, it's clear that there's nothing magical about Subway's sandwiches. Jared had simply reduced his caloric intake to about 1000 calories a day [a 6" turkey sub and a bag of baked chips for lunch and a 12" veggie sub for dinner, with extra veggies and no cheese, oil, or mayo] and started exercising regularly.

So now, McDonalds is jumping on the bandwagon. You, too, can lose weight eating our fast food. Ten pounds! Man, that's maybe even a little more than water weight...

I sometimes visit the school at the International Center of Photography, and notice that some of the facilities and resources that have been made possible by anonymous donors. Wouldn't it be wonderful, if a corporation could actually provide substantial funding for things like a dietary education program or a disaster relief effort without using it as a sales hook?

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006
8:28 PM      

My Idea of a Balanced Diet is a Beer in Each Hand
The J train passenger was wearing this slogan on a bright yellow shirt. He had wrap-around aviator sunglasses with gold trim, that would have made Miles Davis proud. A rhinestone-encrusted earring gleamed. He sported a goatee and a Bart Simpson belt buckle. Clearly, this is a man who just wants to blend in with the woodwork. Naw, as Was (Not Was) sang: woodwork squeaks and out come the fre-eaks...


Hurricane Spinning
An article appearing in the Biloxi Sun Herald suggested that Katrina was a one-of-a-kind freak. ‘Hurricane Katrina was an anomaly, even before she was named,’ the article begins. It goes on to detail numerous ways Katrina differed from any storm we've ever seen before. The laundry list of factors and factoids easily gives the impression of a confluence that could almost never happen again.

But just when you expect the writer to assert that we'll never see a storm like that again in our lifetime, it instead hits us with this:

Max Mayfield, director of the NHC, said he hopes coastal residents learn from Katrina but he doesn't want them to believe this will be the worst hurricane they will ever see.

Not exactly the conclusion the ‘move back to the Gulf Coast’ boosters might have hoped for.


The Dope on Anti-Doping Dopes
... or, the accusations fly... There's a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and they are on a mission (crusade, perhaps?) to clean up sports. WADA's president is former International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Dick Pound.

Unfortunate name. Maybe that's why he seems so angry, or maybe it's because he was passed over to be Olympic President in 2001. He quit the IOC after that.

In March, former Austrian ski coach Walter Meyer filed suit against Pound and current IOC chairman Jacques Rogge over defamation. Pound explicitly told members of the press that transfusion equipment found in a police raid of Meyer's residence at the Salt Lake Winter Olympics was intended for use in blood doping. Meyer has countered that the equipment was actually used to measure blood lactate levels, and was perfectly legal. As a result of the discovery, he was banned from the Winter Olympics in Torino.

During the Torino games, Pound's organization prompted Italian officials to conduct a raid on the Austrian biathlon and cross country bases the night before competition. Several athletes' performances were compromised, and no positive results turned up. The motivation? Meyer attended the Games as a spectator and had visited the athletes.

In a thread titled ‘Why Dick Pound Is The Most Dangerous Man In Sports,’ Pound is quoted flatly stating that American cyclist Floyd Landis took a ‘morning-after pill’ to recover after a disasterous stage performance during this year's Tour de France. Sheesh! — the guy's even a lawyer. Respondents were quick to point out that performance enhancing drugs don't work that way, and to take issue with a lot more of Pound's inflammatory language. (He must think he's funny when he proclaims 2006 the Chinese Year of the Excrement for cycling. If I were Chinese, I'd want Pound's poetic license revoked.)

From there, Pound goes on to pitch using WADA's ‘formula’ clean up cycling:

The answer lies in the formula established by the World Anti-Doping Agency... we should be willing to use every weapon in our combined arsenals. Doping offences can be established without the need for a positive analytical result. Sport authorities know who the athletes are, where they are, more or less what they are doing to dope... but they have no power to seize evidence, to compel people to provide evidence and to enforce trafficking rules.

Whoa! Can you say ‘witch hunt?’ I think Dick Pound's favorite movie must be ‘Judge Dredd.’ One writer interprets Pound's ‘suggestion’ as a way to nail Lance Armstrong without a positive result. Jacques Rogge of the IOC is in league with Pound on idea of ascribing guilt without a positive test. In february, the BBC reported:

"To find somebody guilty of doping you don't necessarily need urine and blood samples," said IOC president Jacques Rogge. "It can also be based on circumstantial evidence."

This puts some of Bob Roll's comments during the Tour de France coverage about the people Jan Ullrich associated with in a different light. My hunch is that he's sympathetic to Pound and Rogge's stance.

I still don't know how to parse what's happened to Landis. It doesn't make sense that his performance would have turned around like that with an overnight dose of testosterone, and it seems that there is the possibility of a false positive in the test for synthetic testosterone, which is the most damning piece of evidence leaked to the press so far. On the other hand, Pete Rose swore he didn't bet on baseball for years...

One thing is certain: with so much money at stake, professional sports are prone to cheating at all levels, and people who make a lot of money from pro sports have a vested interest in maintaining its legitimacy. Without heavy corporate involvement (big money), sports like pro cycling wouldn't exist at all, and because of the money at stake, some athletes, coaches, and even whole teams (remember Festina?) may feel compelled to boost their standing by nefarious means. I'm sure some athletes subscribe to the adage ‘if you dope and don't get caught, did you really cheat?’

These are the ingredients of a self-sustaining cycle.

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