Category Archives: General

General comments.

Chaka Khan was Awesome

The organizers of the Ventura Counfy Fair deserve a lot of credit for putting together an excellent concert lineup that offered something for everybody. Chaka Khan and the band that backed her up will likely be the best and most tightly coordinated group of musicians to go through Ventura this year. It was nice to be at this performance. 

Chaka Khan at Ventura County Fairgrounds, Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Teachers learn to shoot after Peshawar school attack | Video | Reuters.com

Teachers learn to shoot after Peshawar school attack | Video | Reuters.com

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, the official stance of the National Rifle Association, as stated by its leader, Wayne Lapierre, was

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Implied in the NRA claim is the notion that the United States is a nation as lawless and hopeless as Pakistan; so much so that teachers are being trained with firearms in order to prevent further massacres. The NRA implies that the US government is so inept and so corrupt that it is incumbent upon schools and private citizens to protect children from madmen. The NRA argument is that the United States is a third world country, like Pakistan, where lawlessness rules.

Given that the above video is the embodiment of what the NRA is advocating, it is unequivocal that the NRA is the hopelessly outdated organization that is impeding progress in the United States.

Steal Better Movies, Please

Sony movies leak online as computer systems remain dark | LA Times

Sony’s demise is lamentable. The company is truly legendary in bringing cutting edge technology to the marketplace, especially with respect to entertainment. The company has defined the state of the art in consumer electronics for decades. They have lost their way with consumers, however, by attaching draconian rules to recordings made with their technology, and by leveraging their music and movie production businesses to impede digital media distribution.

The latter act may well have been what motivated hackers to exact revenge on Sony by stealing and distributing its movies, as noted in the LA Times article above.

The greatest disappointment to me is the fact that none of the titles are worthy of watching, in my mind. Fury might be, but the trouble of stealing it via file sharing networks seems hardly worth the trouble.

It’s difficult to condone such a bold act of theft on the part of the hackers–an act that has shut down all of Sony’s computer networks–but, it’s just as difficult to feel sympathy for a company that leverages its market power against the consumers who generate its profits. Conflicts of interest of Sony’s variety–tying entertainment production and distribution to technology–eventually lead to disaster. How could so many executives have been blind to it?

As the Google graph for Sony’s stock price amply demonstrates, it has been long, agonizing demise for Sony. Apple and Samsung have run away with Sony’s lunch while Sony squandered billions creating restrictive technologies to protect intellectual property that nobody cared to buy.

Breach at JP Morgan Chase

Chase posted the following warning to their mobile app this morning. No unusual activity in my account yet, and hopefully their ongoing investigation won’t reveal that my account was compromised.

This is not the compromising position in which I ever wanted to find myself.

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Strange Brew in Weed

Jalapeño Weed Lager. The beer that bites.
Jalapeño Weed Lager. The beer that bites.

Many would call this combination of flavors heresy, but I confess that I am enjoying this Jalapeño Weed Lager. Now if only the food would arrive faster.

No Freedom in Industry, or from Industry

Freedom Industries: other chemical is ‘proprietary’ | MSNBC

The reasons why this company calls itself “Freedom Industries” become less apparent by the moment. They enslave entire populations by polluting their water supplies, they don’t believe in freedom of information, and they don’t give any of their product away for free.

If the management of this company were following any logical argument, then it might declare that the disaster is “proprietary”: theirs, and theirs alone, just like the identity of this chemical. To the contrary, Freedom industries seems happy to claim ownership of everything except their responsibility in this mess. It is only in this sense that the name of the company makes sense. They are free from any responsibility for what they do.

To Which Crime Will Rob Ford Confess Next?

Rob Ford, embattled Toronto mayor, admits he has bought illegal drugs | CBS News

“What is this man thinking? What was this man thinking?” Those are the questions that every human being on earth asks after each Rob Ford revelation. How could an avowed conservative and ostensibly scrupulous man commit the lowest of crimes and then confess to them? Worse yet for the man–but absolutely wonderful for the entertainment starved world–each crime confessed is more outrageous than the last: getting drunk too often, smoking crack cocaine, buying crack cocaine! To what will he confess to next? Here is a list submitted for consideration, in no apparent order.

  • Shooting heroin.
  • Speed balling every time one of his initiatives pass the city council.
  • Running over a hobo before every Canadian Thanksgiving.
  • Acting as a mule for free joint.

Somewhere in the United States, former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry is assuredly sitting, aghast, mouth open, and utterly incensed that a pasty Canadian honky is flourishing under the spotlight for the same acts for which Barry was jailed.

Marion Barry ultimately reclaimed his elected position, and Rob Ford’s appeal seems not to be waning. Yet, this feels decidedly different from the apparent maturity we ascribe to the French populace when they wisely ignore their politicians’ dalliances.

Marion Barry was indignant even after he was re-elected. Ford is repentant to the extent that he seems to be preparing to offer “I was on crack” as an excuse for any poor decisions he may make or may have made as mayor. He and Barry are the only two politicians in all of history who could use that excuse. This is rarefied company, indeed.

I extended my warmest thanks to the citizens of Toronto for having provided the distraction that I desperately needed, as did countless overworked Americans.

Seminal Act of Civil Disobedience

Artist nails his scrotum to the ground in Red Square | World news | theguardian.com

Picture of the act from The Guardian.

Pyotr Pavlensky, the artist in the photo, has a substantial history of employing self mutilation in performance pieces that protest the increasingly repressive nature of the Russian regime, according to The Guardian article above. About the man’s possession of boundless will power and tolerance for pain, no doubts can be harbored. One only hopes that this act is more successful than his previous protests. This writer certainly wishes that this extraordinary act of self mutilation inspires the tsunami of rebellion that the artist desires to incite against a political system that has indeed become a shadow of the Soviet autocracy against which so many people like the artist gave their lives.

The most unfortunate question thus arises. Is a mere scrotum enough of a sacrifice? Should he have gone as far as being incarcerated without due process like Pussy Riot, a cause for which he mutilated himself to no apparently productive ends? Should he have immolated himself like the many Tibetans who do so annually in a final, desperate expression of defiance and self determination against an omnipotent, malevolent government? Must roads to freedom and self determination be paved with entire corpses, not just limbs and valuable appendages like the scrotum?

The political artist’s expression will forever be deconstructed. The desire for attention will forever confound any legitimate expression he or she may have made. It will be a shame if Mr. Pavlensky’s remarkable act of defiance is dismissed as a shameless act of self promotion. It rings sincere, in this writer’s mind, in its desperate expression of a desire for rights and dignity for every citizen in Russia.

Should its impact and distribution be limited to the pages of odd news sections and blogs like this, then the inescapable conclusion is that it is more effective to stick one’s neck out than it is to go balls out in the quest for freedom. Given how extraordinary it is to see a man go balls out like Pyotr, it is hard to imagine that anyone will stick their necks out. This may be the ultimate sign of resignation in the western world and the ultimate assertion of the current price of progress.

It is, perhaps, time to contemplate Syria, Chechnya, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia and myriad other countries where necks are slashed in plain sight of western citizens far too apathetic to vote to protect their own interests. Political and military power are tools we developed to stroke our own balls, it seems, rather then to save necks.

Pyotr, may your balls be safe and your scrotum whole again someday.

The United States Justice Department Are Beer Drinkers

BBC News | Budweiser-Corona beer merger opposed by US

The writer does not write this piece out of a sense of anger, a feeling of resentment or sheer snootiness. The writer is, indeed, grateful–positively, unreservedly and absolutely thankful–that the United States Department of Justice has taken a step to prevent further consolidation in the beer brewing industry in order to keep the market for that elixir that the writer loves competitive.

It is easy to be cynical about this apparently responsible act on the part of a governmental agency that has hardly acknowledged the anti-competitive nature of the telecommunication industry, that did absolutely nothing during the financial meltdown, that refuses to undertake any substantial prosecution of top executives in the aftermath of the financial meltdown, that doesn’t dare prosecute the hierarchy in the Catholic Church responsible for fostering centuries of sex abuse, that threw the book at a defenseless young idealist and drove him to suicide, and that is all to happy to use the PATRIOT act to collect unwarranted data. The same DOJ elected to intervene forcefully, however, to protect the public from higher beer prices. Why is beer so important? So special?

Beer, Benjamin Franklin proclaimed, is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. It is easy to argue that the “happiness” induced by beer is desirably by the DOJ. Given its failures in restraining large corporations from preying on the general populace and its appetite for harassing those who would entertain the notion of counteracting the prevailing corporate order (as enumerated above), a sober populace might be tempted to take the federal department ostensibly dedicated to the dispensation of justice to task. Absent any relief from inflation driven by a devaluing dollar and high oil prices, a cheap high, one might argue, is the only escape left for the average citizen. If it were to disappear, she or he might finally build enough anger and thus gather enough energy to inquire as to why it is that she or he must forfeit every penny earned to profitable concerns that are never held accountable to moral, ethical or economical standards. Why the average citizen must take pleasure–when the citizen’s prospects in the absence of a job are concerned–in toiling arduously daily under the strictest of supervision and face the most dire consequences for his or her failure to dispense his or her duties while the reckless disregard of the most powerful corporations for moral–not even ethical–behavior is rewarded with impunity and material wealth?

The posing of the question is a demoralizing. Pondering its answer is petrifying. It is, therefore, indeed, better to drink beer and to be merry. The DOJ has in this rare instance of wisdom and charity preserved this right for the average citizen. Let’s not drink to that.

Let’s just drink.

The Blue Screen of Death Lives

Apple is the most powerful company in the world. Microsoft software is still pretty awful, but it is quite stable. In fact, the latest revisions of Windows are arguably more stable than Apple’s OS X. Nevertheless, Apple feels compelled to keep the blue screen of death alive on every single copy of OS X sold for the last few years. I first noticed it last year, and on a recent trip to Hawaii, I grew to appreciate the lengths to which Apple has gone to keep the blue screen of death alive.

The public wi-fi network at the hotel in Maui allowed computers to browse the local network. Ever civilized, Mountain Lion neatly organized all the local network computers it found in the appropriate section in the Finder applications, and, low and behold, many blue screens of death appeared in radiant blue and rendered in gorgeous, flawless vector format. Of course, if these computers are broadcasting themselves on the network, they are functioning perfectly, and not displaying the blue screen of death, but that doesn’t stop Apple from representing its competitor–and its savior!–with the most embarrassing emblem any company had ever had the misfortune to earn.

Apple's Icon for Local Network Windows Computers
Apple insists on keeping the blue screen of death alive by using that dreaded screen to represent local network Windows computers.

Rivalry is good and fine, and one can never shed a tear for a company that has thrived by emulating, destroying and acquiring its competitors (Microsoft), but it might be high time for Apple not to disrespect the competitor that saved it.

It’s still a damn good joke, though.