Blacknell.net

Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Month: November 2010 (Page 2 of 4)

START Priorities

If you think I can get a bit over the top on the TSA or ridiculously overreaching IP laws, just wait until I get rolling on US/Soviet/Russian nuclear proliferation.  That we ever got to where we are today is testament to both the giant failures and achievements of humanity that we even *have* a today.  And now we’re here, with the GOP preferring to spend its time saving us from Texas Representative/Village Idiot Louis Gohmert’s “terror babies” instead of, well, I’ll let Josh from TPM sketch it out:

Russia still has a massive strategic nuclear arsenal with pretty much the exclusive goal of being able to devastate the United States and kill pretty much all of us. For 15 years we had pretty robust right to inspect their arsenal many times a year, make sure they only had as many as they were allowed under our treaties and actually get up on the delivery missiles themselves and look at the payloads? Now we don’t. In fact, we haven’t since December 5th of last year. At first that wasn’t that big a deal. Not much can happen in a few weeks or few months. But now it’s been almost a year. So all that trust but verify stuff Ronald Reagan was so into? Well, now we can’t verify. And for as much as you’re worried about some Muslim guy blowing up a plane and killing a few hundred people, these are weapons designed to kill hundreds of millions of people. Do you feel more secure knowing we’re just taking everything on faith from the Russians? Or that our intelligence on their missile designs and practices is growing older by the day?

And do we hear the White House pointing this out?  Anyone?  Hello?

Midweek Music: No Makeover Edition

All Yelle, all the time, today.

A Cause des Garcons:

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Fatal Bazooka Feat Yelle: Parle à ma main (band geeks will hang out until the end):

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Je Veux Te Voir

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Good thing most of you don’t speak French very well (and those that do, well, I’m not worried about you).

Dude.

Taiwan Cycling Festival: Market Edition

After the opening ceremony, we bounced off on our way to Lu Wey.  But first, we stopped by one of Taitung’s markets:

Click here for a full screen slide show.  Make sure that comments are enabled (look to the upper right for the checkbox).

Bush and Blair Can Both Go to Hell

It’s odd to write these post titles now.  It’s like a time warp back to 2005.  But with Bush attempting to rehabilitate himself, I don’t feel like I’ve much of a choice, here.  So, to restate: George W. Bush is not just a war criminal, but the sort of sorry individual who was willing to perpetrate a fraud on the world so he could get what he wanted:

According to a memo written by a Blair aide documenting the meeting, Bush and Blair in that session each said they doubted any weapons of mass destruction would soon be discovered by the UN inspectors then searching for such arms in Iraq. Without any WMDs, it could be harder to win support for the war. But Bush had an idea—or two.

The memo—portions of which were published in the New York Times and in Philippe Sands’Lawless World —noted that Bush raised the notion of provoking a confrontation with Saddam Hussein. “The US was thinking,” the memo said, “of flying US reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach” of UN resolutions. A retaliatory attack would then be fully justified; the war could begin. In other words, Bush raised the prospect of staging a phony event to justify a military attack on Iraq.

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Now, Bush, too, is keeping the cover-up alive. In his new book, Decision Points, Bush does write about this particular meeting. [ . . . ] But Bush says nothing about his proposal to provoke the war through fraud. (The memo, by the way, does not record Blair objecting to this potential subterfuge.)

One of the most maddening things about this is that Bush doesn’t have the capacity to understand what he’s wrought.  (And I bet Tony Blair wishes he were more like Bush, on this point.  Too bad.  I hope he suffers for it until the end of his days.)

Indy Films: Please Let Me In

I hear and read, regularly, about fabulous indy films that are snatching up festival awards right and left.  But I’ll never see (legally or otherwise) most of them.  And while I’ll grant (assume?) that some portion of these films are made primarily to snatch up those festival awards, I’ve always thought that most of the filmmakers wanted people to actually, you know, see their work.  Which is incredibly frustrating, given that there is an existing conduit for these works (i.e., the Internet).   I understand that not everyone can afford to just throw $$$$ worth of work out on the web for free (nor do I really want them to), so other distribution efforts are always appreciated.  To that end,  I’m glad to see that there’s something of a step in the right direction here:

One of the more unconventional efforts to crack that marketplace is Film Festival in a Box. Ostensibly a game, it’s also a distribution strategy: packaged in rough brown cardboard, each game contains four short films, instructions on playing and topics for discussion. Players watch, deliberate, vote online in various categories (like best movie and performance) and make their favorite filmmakers eligible for cash prizes of up to $1,000.

“It’s a real game that plays with real people and real films, real films from all over the world,” said its founder, Scilla Andreen, a Seattle native who in 2004, with Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi, started the Web-based film distribution company IndieFlix. “You invite people over, have wine and cheese, watch four short films and deliberate as a group.” The group then posts its winners online, and the real filmmakers are notified. Both sides may, if they choose, interact.

“It’s a social-networking and audience-building tool for them,” Ms. Andreen said of the filmmakers. And for the players? “You’re supporting the arts, it’s recycled, it’s green, it’s made in America, and it’s $14.99.”

In fact, I just realized right now that I’ll probably try this myself.  It’s a fun evening for me and a few friends, but what does it get the filmmakers?  Well:

Ms. Andreen is excited too, even if her product is not quite a game changer yet. The first box was released at the start of October, and rewards so far have been modest: about 2,000 Film Festivals in a Box have been sold, at retailers like drugstore.com and Uncommon Goods (where the comedies have done the best). Ms. Andreen has earned back $12,000 on what she said were $57,000 in production costs.

So there’s much to be done, and I don’t think that the magic of the internet always translates into magic in the bank.  But it’s possible:

The Australian nutrition documentary “Food Matters” recently sold about 150,000 DVDs online, said Peter Broderick, a Los Angeles distribution strategist, even before it secured a distribution deal, or television broadcasts via the French media company Canal Plus. “He did it backwards,” Mr. Broderick said of the director of “Food Matters,” James Colquhoun. “Nobody knew who he was. But the interesting thing is, if he never made a distribution deal, he’d still be fine. The biggest difference today is how people think about their audience.”

In any of these approaches, the two constants are making it available to anyone who wants it (i.e., via the internet) and providing some way for paying the filmmaker for her work.  I hope to see more and more of this.

Weekend Music: A-ha Edition

When people (of a certain age) tell you that they “wore that tape out”, it’s almost always metaphorical. A-ha’s Hunting High and Low? I wore it out.  Everyone knows Take On Me. And, like everyone else, I love it.  How can you not?

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Speaking of worn out – don’t you love the tape-warble of the opening of this?  Lots of 80s hits exhibited the same.  But there’s so much more. Here I Stand and Face the Rain:

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Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale:

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That is pure 80s West Germany for me.  Nothing but good.

But When Will They Let Burma Go?

Aung San Suu Kyi’s release is imminent:

After seven years under house arrest and 15 of the last 21 incarcerated in some form by Burma‘s military regime, Aung San Suu Kyi today chose one last night of imprisonment so that she might walk truly free.

[ . . . ]

It was rumoured that Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s best-known democracy advocate and a Nobel peace laureate, demanded an unconditional release and insisted on negotiating her unfettered freedom with military officials before she would set foot outside her door.

That’s great.  It really is.  But what about Burma?

Friday Notes: Better Than Raking Edition

Hey, did I mention I went to Taiwan? Oh, you hadn’t heard? Well hey, here’s some more photos from the kickoff!

Somewhat more seriously – you should check out Mark V.’s take, over at Bikehugger. It’s more succinct than me. And if what he’s got cued up in his Flickr stream is any indication, it’s going to be more interesting. (He’s inspired me to rethink what can be done with phonecam video.)

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Okay, I kinda want one.  (Should I just have admitted that?)

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Still time to register for the ThinkBike workshops:

The opening session will be kicked off by the Dutch Ambassador Mrs. Renée Jones-Bos.  City staff, local decision makers, and bicyclists are invited to learn more about Dutch cycling infrastructure and policy best practices.

I’ll be there for some of it.

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You’ve seen this already, right?  One part of the Federal government tells us that too much cheese is bad for us while another part works to improve the sales of menu items with 8x the usual cheese?  I think that government has a legitimate role in promoting certain behaviors, but it’s pointless if one effort will undermine the other:

Urged on by government warnings about saturated fat, Americans have been moving toward low-fat milk for decades, leaving a surplus of whole milk and milk fat. Yet the government, through Dairy Management, is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese.

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Let these roll around in your head for a while:

Here are a few examples of instances where other languages have found the right word and English simply falls speechless.

1. Toska
Russian – Vladmir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

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I love Hong Kong. I love a good flow. I love hip-hop. Enjoy all three below, in this video from MC Yan:

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Great post and comment thread on the best tool (and other) warranties. I rarely shop by lowest price, aiming mostly for quality that will last a long time. But service in the event of failure is a definite priority. Because buying cheap shit is ruining us.

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I wish I’d had a chance to see this:

Known to its creators and participating artists as the Underbelly Project, the space, where all the show’s artworks remain, defies every norm of the gallery scene. Collectors can’t buy the art. The public can’t see it. And the only people with a chance of stumbling across it are the urban explorers who prowl the city’s hidden infrastructure or employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

That’s because the exhibition has been mounted, illegally, in a long-abandoned subway station.

Taiwan Cycling Festival: Kickoff & Triathlon Photos

As outlined here, we spent the morning in Taitung at the opening ceremony for the 2010 Taiwan Cycling Festival.  In addition to giving me the opportunity to chat with a lot of people about the state of transportation cycling in Taiwan (verdict: struggling), it was also my first time on a bike there.  We started easy, with a quick loop along one of Taiwan’s many recreational bike paths.

Triathlete mounts bikes in Taitung International Triathlon

For a slideshow with captions, click here.

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