the gumbo pages
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weblog,   n.    1. A collection of links with accompanying writing and commentary that reflects the personality and interests of its author.   2. An evolved "hotlist" that's fun to read.   3. A microportal.

looka,   v.   (Yatspeak)  
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look", in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans; usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  
2. My weblog - news, movies, food, music, books, sf, media and culture, Macs, politics, humor, reviews, rants, and whatever else tickles my fancy. Please feel free to contribute.

Chuck Taggart
icq: 8591604

Weblogs I like:

Bifurcated Rivets
The BradLands
Have Browser, Will Travel
Robot Wisdom

Looka! Archive

Presently empty  

Made with Macintosh
  Stuff worth reading
   Updated (almost) daily | last tweak @ 9:53pm, 7/30/99

  July 31, 1999
Quote of the day:   "I have a simple philosophy:   Fill what's empty.  Empty what's full.  Scratch where it itches."  -- A. R. Longworth. I have no idea who he or she is, but I like this. Sometimes my Netcom shell account's fortune cookie program spits out a good one.

Surfwatch responds to my vociferously outraged emails.   After writing a series of highly annoyed emails to the SurfWatch censorware people, I got replies from three of them which all seemed to either contradict one another or to contradict what's in their "Test-a-Site" search engine. It seems that my site is indeed deliberately included in their blockage filters, but not the sex/drugs/hate/gambling main filter. Or is it? Read my entire rant about it.

Uh, it's just for medicinal purposes.   From -- In stunning testimony this morning before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, investigative TV journalists explained how a 7-year-old child, a man dead for 24 years, and a neutered cat ordered drugs over the Internet.

Fly me to the moon...   The late astronomer Eugene Shoemaker, co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy among many other achievements, will have one ounce of his ashes deposited onto the surface of the Moon by the Lunar Prospector probe. I think this is incredibly cool.

More thoughts on "Eyes Wide Shut",   and good ones, too. Kubrick's films almost always get highly mixed reviews upon their initial releases, and they also become richer with each subsequent viewing. Jonathan Rosenbaum, the film critic for The Chicago Reader, has written what I think is the best, most thoughtful and insightful review of the film I've yet read. I've had discussions with friends who've hated the film, and I accept their points, but I'm going to see this one again next week as soon as I get back from Clifftop.

There's a compendium of Rosenbaum's reviews archived at the site as well. Many thanks to my friend Barry Kelley for turning me on to this resource.

Aha, so that's it!   Here's a site that explains a little bit of the background history of and the people behind one of my favorite online satire sites after The Onion -- the Landover Baptist Church. Turns out they were former students at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University who got kicked out of school three weeks before graduation 'cause "Chancellor Falwell" didn't like their sense of humor. Big surprise.

I just wanna thank  everyone who's written to me with words of encouragement for this little endeavour of mine, particularly those in the weblogging community who've made really nice mentions of Looka! over the last couple of weeks -- Jack at, Robert at Bump, Laurel at Windowseat, Jim at Have Browser, Will Travel, and anyone else I may have missed. Writing every day has been good for me, even if it's just a few sentences about a few thoughts. Perhaps this'll spur me on to longer pieces, which is something I've been wanting to do again for a while. Unfortunately, I'm the God Emperor of Procrastination.

  July 30, 1999
I swear to God this is true.   Last night I went with my friends Chris and Dule to the United Artists Marketplace 6 Cinema in Pasadena to see "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut." I went up to the ticket window, smiled at the high-school-age cashier and said, "Hi. One for 'South Park', please." She looked right at me and said, "Can I see your I.D.?"

I am thirty-seven years old.

I may look a bit younger than that, but I don't look sixteen.

Brilliant, brilliant feckin' record.   One of my favorite albums of 1998 was (naturally) by one of my favorite bands -- "Spine", by Massachusetts-based Cordelia's Dad. They play acoustic traditional American music with the intensity and drive of the punk bands that some of these guys were in (and they still play loud electric music on the side). They're all amazing, and their lead singer Tim Eriksen particularly so; he may look like he just stepped out of CBGB, but he is perhaps the finest singer of traditional songs in America today. There's a better-late-than-never review of the album in Denver's alternative weekly, Westword. Most of the album's reviews came out well over a year and a half ago, but this is a good excuse to write and rave about these guys again, which I'll do any ol' time.

And now, political spam.   I got spammed by the Elizabeth Dole for President 2000 campaign.

Here's the beginning of the email:

From: Terry Neese <>
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 15:49:13 -0400
Subject: I need your support for Elizabeth Dole

Good Afternoon.

I wanted to take a moment of your time to 
ask you to consider joining me and hundreds 
of other small businesswomen across the 
country in supporting Elizabeth Dole for 
President of the United States.  As many of 
you have done throughout your lives, she is 
bucking the odds and blazing new ground in 
seeking the Republican nomination for President.  
Her campaign is going well -- in large measure 
with the support of women entrepreneurs such as 
Um ... well, it's obviously not individually targeted by someone who went to my web site, read about me and said, "Gee, I think Chuck would be the perfect Dole supporter!" Besides, I'm not an entrepreneur. I'm also not a businesswoman. In fact, you may have noticed that I'm not a woman, either. I've never even done drag.

In my recollection, it's the first time I've ever received political campaign spam, and it supremely pisses me off. I've had a long-standing policy of never doing business with spammers, and although the prospect of my voting for a Republican is as about as likely as my buying a summer cottage on the lunar surface, I will NEVER vote for a political candidate who thinks it's all right to spam me. (I did actually vote for a Republican once. My first presidential election was right after I turned 18, and I voted for John Anderson ... but he was actually running as an independent by then.)

In accordance with my zero-tolerance policy toward spam, I will do my best to get the emailer's account cancelled by his or her ISP.

"Pirate" radio usually = real radio.   Westword also has a pretty good article illuminating the FCC's attitude toward low-power microbroadcasters, who are currently operating illegally.

Apple in bed with AOL.   In the middle of all the controvery over AOL not allowing Microsoft's kids and Yahoo's kids to play with their kids, Apple has just announced a deal with AOL to create software that connects with AIM users. I guess this means that Mac users will never get a newer and more fully-featured version of ICQ, which is my preferred messaging software despite its clunkiness. I can't stand AIM.

Viva El Jefe!   If you grew up listening to Dr. Demento, you undoubtedly heard the classic song, "Friendly Neighborhood Narco Agent"; I don't think I've heard the song since junior high, but I can still sing it. The man behind that song is Jef Jaisun, and although it's his primary source of infamy, there's a whole hell of a lot more to him than that. Among many other things, he's a damned fine photographer, and he's got lots of his music performance-related photos and lots more up on his web site. Check it out.

Recipe of the week:   Whipped Chipotle Sweet Potatoes. This is so easy, and so, so good. I'm a huge fan of the sweet/hot mixture. Be careful, though ... add the chipotle paste gradually and taste the mixture until it's at your comfortable heat level (mine involves beads of sweat on the brow and a runny nose). Remember -- if spicy food burns your tongue so badly that you can't taste the flavors of the dish, you've put in too much chile!

Now we can't even pee in peace.   I use a neat little shareware control panel on my Mac called WebFree, which filters out banner ads from web pages and is completely configurable. I love it, 'cause I generally hate ads. I don't listen to 'em on the radio, and I don't watch 'em on TV. These days it's getting ridiculous, though -- there are ads on the checkout line conveyer belt divider bar thingies at the supermarket, they're on the inside of the shopping cart so you pretty much have to see 'em, and now they're even embedded in the floor. The next step? Ads in urinals. Gee. If I had a company that I wanted to publicize, the exact thing I'd want is for the consumer to associate my product with the image of his urine spashing on my logo...

I really like "A Word A Day".   You sign up for free, and you get a new vocabulary word in your email every day, with definition, pronunciation in .wav and .ram versions, usage in a sentence or quote, and usually as part of a weekly theme. I like trying to guess the definition when the email hits my box, by looking at the subject line, before I open it. I'm kicking butt this week, 'cause they're all words relating to teeth -- my dad's a dentist, and I used to work in his office. Diastema, dentifrice, malocclusion, bruxism ... c'mon, these are easy. Keep 'em coming, Anu! You can subscribe to AWAD and have loads of fun yerself.

  July 29, 1999
The new Los Lobos album is out.   It's called "This Time", and it's really, really good.

Pacifica backs down.   Besieged Berkeley radio station KPFA will reopen tomorrow, after the board of the Pacifica Foundation, after two weeks of mind-bogglingly bad decisions and mis-steps in handling the situation there, decided to let the staff back in "on good faith."  In the meantime, Pacifica keeps denying that they're considering selling the station relieve their massive debt. Keep up with it all on the "Save Pacifica" site.

Get encryption now.   The Clinton Administration outlines a plan for the FBI to monitor all non-military Internet traffic. This surveillance is supposedly to "protect our infrastructure from intrusion" by hackers; what it means is the electronic version of the FBI reading your mail. All this hoo-hah about hackers ... the government doesn't have Commies as their boogieman anymore, so they must need a new one. There's discussion on Slashdot.

The wane of critical thought.   An excellent commentary by film critic Paul Tatara about the decline of influential, thoughful film criticism, studios who think they're giving the audience what they want, and audiences who don't want to think anymore. Or, why reviewers warn people away from "Wild Wild West" and "The Haunting", but they go anyway. (CNN)

Ticket Booth Tyranny, Part Two.   The second part of Jon Katz' rant, in which he encourages the foundation of "Take a Geek Kid to a Restricted Movie Day". (Slashdot)

Barnum was right.   There sure are some gullible people out there. Just keep repeating to yourself, "It's only a movie ... it's only a movie ... only a movie ..."

From Peacefire: Porn yes, Bible no?   I got an email from Peacefire yesterday, reporting on The Censorware Project's report on BESS - a piece of Internet filtering/censorware that blocked a site containing Bible quotes, but allowed the kids to see and lots of other porn sites. Oops indeed. Here's the BESS software company's site.

Speaking of censorware...   SurfWatch replies that my site is not in fact blocked by their software. Why then, when I enter "" in their "Test-a-Site" search engine, is the reply "   is BLOCKED by our most recent Productivity filter"? Somebody's full of shit here.

"Lifehouse" reborn.   I was a big Who fan in high school, and I still am. I think Pete Townshend is a brilliant songwriter, and two of the most amazing (and second-loudest, only after Sugar) concerts I've ever seen have been Who shows.

Pete's 1972 solo album "Who Came First" featured some songs from a shelved "rock opera" (yes, I know that's a hoary old term) called "Lifehouse", including the gorgeous song "Pure and Easy". Some well-known Who songs like "Baba O'Riley" and "Behind Blue Eyes" were originally intended for "Lifehouse" as well. It was described as a futuristic, visionary piece which in 1971 seemed to foresee the birth of the Internet (interesting). And I was always curious about the production Pete would refer to as "a sf film we never made".

Pete's finished it, and it's being unveiled by the BBC in December, in time for the turn of the millennium (I know it doesn't really turn until 2001, so hush). I already love the few songs I've heard from it on the old albums. It's being described as "extraordinary", and I'm kinda excited about it. And no, it's not an actual sequel to "Tommy".

The vile Exodus International is conventioneering.   The notorious "ex-gay" group is at it again, holding a huge convention in Illinois. These people really piss me off. Hate under the guise of love and religion is still hate, and I just don't understand how they can justify convincing people to live a lie in the name of Christ. You can take a leopard, brainwash him, make him feel bad, paint him black and call him a panther, but under the façade he'll always be a leopard, and probably one who hates himself. (Dopey analogy, I know, but you get the idea.)

Harry "Sweets" Edison died yesterday.   I had probably heard him play many, many times without even having realized it. He backed up people like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday, and had joined the Count Basie Orchestra when he was 18. Thanks, Sweets.

Klingon Speakers Now Outnumber Navajo Speakers.   From The Onion. As usual, their satire has some truth to it, and sad truth in this case.

TV is evil! (Well, maybe not entirely...)   A Looka! reader turned me on to, a nifty website where you can set up a personalized TV-watching grid, search for favorite shows quickly, and even notify the system to email you a day in advance when something you're looking for is coming on. Since my TV-watching time is slim these days, this can help me find the good stuff, without having to wade through endless listings for all the crap I don't watch. Thanks, Andrew!

  July 28, 1999
Celebrity Grief Orgy - It's the American Way!   Tom Tomorrow's recent edition of "This Modern World" puts the whole JFK Jr. thing in perspective quite well. (Heads up from Steve Kelley.) I promise this is the last time I will ever mention this subject.

More "Woodstock" flappage.   My friend Steve Gardner sent me an email with his thoughts on encountering some 60s era ex-hippies who said that such things would never have happened at "their" Woodstock. Steve pshaws. Jack Saturn also has interesting and pertinent comments in yesterday's entry on his site.

Got some ID, kid?   Ostensibly to prevent more schoolyard massacres (or to save America for democracy, from Satan, or whatever), theatre owners are cracking down and demanding IDs to see R-rated movies. It's not a new phenomenon, though. When I was in college I worked as a movie usher, and our boss was a carding fanatic. If kids managed to get someone to buy their R-movie ticket for them, the ushers had to card them. I hated it, but I did it so I could see free movies (it wasn't just the miminum wage, free stale popcorn and semi-weekly bathroom puke cleanup that attracted me, believe me). I suppose the Cosmos got its revenge when me and my baby face got carded trying to buy a movie ticket once, and I was 26.

Jon Katz interfered recently when a mother who wanted to drop her kids off to see "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" with her express stated permission was refused by a theatre manager, and he rants in a Slashdot article:  "Ticket Booth Tyranny, Part One".

Uhh...   chill, dude. It's just a weblog. You really should relax.

New Yugoslav films heading our way.   When I was seeing "trick" last weekend, I saw a poster for an upcoming Yugoslav film called "Cabaret Balkan", directed by Goran Paskaljevic. I asked my good friend Dule (who's from Belgrade) about this guy, and he said that Paskaljevic is "one of the more important directors back home; never did much that made it big outside of Yugoslavia, but is definitely a recognizable name." The new film was "originally a play called 'The Powder Keg'; I know that the play was supposed to be very good, and the movie to be very close to the play."

I've been a fan of films from the current and former Yugoslavia (especially the work of Bosnian director Emir Kusturica), so I'm looking forward to this one. Here's an interview with Paskaljevic and fellow Serbian director Srdjan Dragojevic. (indieWIRE)

Fundamentalist Aesopians Interpret Fox-Grapes Parable Literally.   From The Onion, a delicious skewering of fundamentalists. I'm so glad these guys are back from vacation.

THUMP THUMP THUMP ... Owwww!   I knew there was a good reason for me to hate clubbing besides crappy thumpathumpathumpa techno-poop club music. It's bad for your health, no less. If you go clubbing regularly, read this and learn the potential dangers of such hideous maladies as "clubber's eye", "clubber's bottom" and "clubber's nipple". (The Times of London)

"Don't link to us"? Oh please.   I can certainly understand why someone wouldn't want someone else to crib something from his or her site and copy it onto their site; it happens to me and it pisses me off. But in a move that demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of hypertext and that links are what makes the Web work, Universal Studios has ordered a site called Movie List to cease and desist from providing direct links to trailers on Universal's web site. It seems to me that if you put it up on the Web, it's fair game to have someone link to it -- as long as you don't steal, plagiarize, duplicate it, claim it as your own or use it unfairly, like when people link to my graphics on my server, using my bandwidth and pretending it's theirs, 'cause they think it looks neat on their page. This isn't what Movie List is doing; it's more like a weblog for trailers. Get real, Universal.

Oh, here's a cool trailer for "Mystery Men", and another one for "American Pie", both in Quicktime (and quite obviously not produced by me).

Sorry Rabbi...   Apparently the ultra-orthodox community in Israel doesn't care for the ad campaign for Disney's "Tarzan". Memorable quote: "It won't be so terrible to have Tarzan in pants."

*twiddle*   I've been playing with the design again, giving the reader a little more column space for the meat of the matter, and pushing the little definition and links column further to the right. I'm not a web designer, so I obsess over these tiny little details. I've gotten some nice feedback about the design so far (thanks, Laurel!) ... if you have any comments, pro or con, about design and readability, drop me a line. T'anks!

  July 27, 1999
What, dirty recipes?   My site, The Gumbo Pages, has been blocked by the SurfWatch Internet censorware product, and is listed as being "sexually explicit". If y'all can find anything sexually explicit on my site, please let me know. I seem to have missed that part, and I could use a cheap thrill. I know I said that White Chocolate Bread Pudding is (almost) better than sex, but really ...

Oh, here's how to permanently disable and uninstall SurfWatch, without needing the password. (PeaceFire)

New signs of the Apocalypse:   Also, Salon reports that Ventura's backers slammed Ross Perot at a Reform Party convention, which could mean $30 million in campaign funds for a Ventura 2000 presidential race.

Dvorak's threatened masculinity.   PC Magazine columnist John C. Dvorak describes the Apple iBook as a "disaster" because he finds the design "girly", more like a compact than a Compaq, and says that "no male in his right mind will be seen in public with this notebook". At first I thought this was satire, but he's serious. (A serious idiot.) Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Vaporware cinema ... finally. is a site featuring trailers for movies that don't exist. This is a blast.

TRON redux?   I've been reading a lot of buzz here and there about a supposed remake of the Disney film "TRON", which is allegedly in preparation at Pixar. People seem really excited; I thought the guy at Ain't It Cool News was gonna pee in his pants (he's since edited the text of the article since I first read it last night, perhaps to make him sound less like a guy who was about to pee in his pants). Now, I love Pixar and all, but I only have one question. Was it just me, or didn't "TRON", like, um ... suck?

AOL != The Internet.  Grrrr.   I know I can't expect every member of The Teeming Masses to be computer- and Internet-literate, but I'm getting sick of people saying, when I mention that I have email or I'm on the Internet, "Oh, you have AOL." No. I do not have AOL, that overblown online service who have ignored netiquette, RFCs and long-established Internet standards since they broke from their proprietary shell and unleashed themselves on the Net at large. I have a few words to say on the matter, prompted by the fact that AOL is refusing to let other kids play with their kids. (And before you start yelling at me, I mean no disrespect to your average, satisfied, well-behaved AOL user. Someone just mistook AOL for the entire Net in front of me for the twelve thousandth time, and it just set me off on a long, rambling rant.)

I miss "Frank's Place".   This series, created and produced by Hugh Wilson and starring Tim Reid, was set in a small Creole restaurant in New Orleans, and in my humble, completely unbiased opinion, was the greatest show ever on TV. Coincidentally, I had been looking all over the web for references to it, anything, and was unable to find it; but thanks to a heads up from Laurel and her Windowseat weblog, I found a mention in an article by Howard Rosenberg decrying the almost complete lack of people of color on network television.

I really, really miss that show. My friends knew better than to call me when it was on, and one of the greatest thrils of my life was having been invited to be a gumbo cookoff judge in the local "La. to L.A." Creole festival, along with Tony Burton and Frances E. Williams, who played Big Arthur the cook and Miss Marie, waitress emerita, on the show. If anyone knows where I can get copies of "Frank's Place", please let me know. Thanks.

A life wasted?   Far be it from me to pass judgment; you decide. Maybe I just don't understand his muse. (Did you ever see the "Mr. Boffo" cartoon where an artist spent 25 years sculpting his final work, and it merely said, in 10-foot high stone letters, "I'M NOT SPUTID"? I think I laughed for two hours.

  July 26, 1999
Hellooooo!   You can now tell if I'm online and reachable via ICQ by looking at this pretty little flower icon to your right, and underneath the logo on the home page ...

If it's green, I'm online. If it's red, I'm away. Isn't that nifty? It does that all by itself. Woo, technology ... lemme tell ya. Credit-where-credit-is-due department: I stole the idea from Jack Saturn, who has one on his site.

So much for peace, love and understanding.   Woodstock '99 ends in flames and rioting. At least they didn't invite the Hell's Angels.

I won't panic! (Yet.)   An interview with Douglas Adams in the London Sunday Times reveals that "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is being made into a big-budget film by Disney. He's writing the script, which is good (but Disney, while promising him final rewrite, insisted that one of their in-house script doctor lackeys work on it too). My panic begins with the mention of the name "J*m C*rr*y" in the course of the interview. Quick, get me my towel...

I saw "trick" yesterday.   Funny, very well written, mostly well-acted, and basically a hoot. (Most memorable line: "It burrrrrrrns!") Tori Spelling was a particular surprise; I must confess I'd never paid much attention to her in the past, but she's an attention-grabber in this film ... as are the two leads, Christian Campbell and John Paul Pitoc. This one's got crossover appeal and then some, and it's a lot of fun, so go see it. (Tired = Scott Wolf. Wired = Christian Campbell. Woof!)

Hey, no cheating by reading the book!   Stanley Kubrick's control over "Eyes Wide Shut" even extended to his having prevented the long out-of-print source novel from being published until two months after the film's release. Kubrick was apparently "slavishly" faithful to the novel in adapting it, which might be part of the problem with this film. A costumed, masked orgy might've been shocking in 1926 when Traumnovelle was written, but in 1999 it just ain't that big of a deal. The L.A. Weekly reports that on opening day at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, the star-studded audience was antsy, and the antsiness degenerated into a snickerfest. "When the robed inquisitor demanded of Cruise, 'What is the password for the house,' someone from the back of the theatre yelled, 'Bullshit!'" Walkouts ensued, and apparently continued throughout the day. Oh dear.

I've resolved to see this film again soon, and to think about it more. This is Stanley Kubrick, and his work deserves more thought than most.

Honey, get me a deal memo.   Scientists at Georgia State University have apparently had some success teaching chimpanzees to speak English. If this keeps up, these chimps could have very lucrative careers as Hollywood screenwriters.

Stone knives and bearskins?   In 1984, I loved my Commodore 64. I was addicted to Infocom text adventure games, as well as a world exploration/conquest game called Seven Cities of Gold (sometimes I used to slaughter friendly natives just to piss off my roommate Fred). I also had a spiffy little word processing program called WriteNow!, which came in a ROM cartridge that plugged into the back. I did a lot of writing on that little machine, including a 60-page screenplay (unsold and unproduced, alas). In 1999 I'm even more in love with my Power Mac, and can't ever see myself going back ... but there are lots and lots of folks who still love their C64s and Apple II GSes, some of whom use those at home after a workday using Crays and Sun workstations. (New York Times; free registration required. Heads up from Bump.)

And speaking of which...   Thanks much to Robert Occhialini for the nice mention over the weekend. His weblog Bump is one of my daily reads. Make it one of yours, too.

Oil of Joy.   Read about the joys of oregano, a wonderful, bold and versatile herb that comes in many variations -- fresh and dried, Greek and Mexican, and more. It's good for a lot more than just shaking onto your pizza, or selling to someone as fake marijuana. Uh, I only witnessed this sort of thing in college, I swear... (Fine Cooking)

  July 25, 1999
Jesus of the Week,   by Peter Gilstrap. (New Times LA)

Chicken outlaws.   Sometimes my beloved home state embarrasses me. Two Louisiana legislators, both Democrats (and one whom I would have voted for if I were still voting back home) are opposing a bill in Congress to crack down on cockfighting. And I'll bet you didn't even know it was legal there (and in two other states). Republican representative Billy Tauzin says he sees the legislation as "an assault on the lifestyle of the people he represents in southwestern Louisiana." Funny how the rest of the world is on the brink of the 21st Century, while Louisiana's still in the 19th. (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

Public airwaves indeed.   The FCC have been shutting down microbroadcasting "community radio" stations all over the country, calling them pirates. KBLT, broadcasting from the Silverlake region of Los Angeles, got busted last year, and they were arguably the best and most eclectic and adventurous radio station in the city, bar none. Now, the FCC have been reconsidering their stance on microbroadcasting, and are considering a plan to license low-power stations (1-100 watts). The equipment for such a station is ridiculously affordable, and it provides a great alternative to both big-money commercial radio and big-money "public" radio that's beginning to resemble it. In general, I think it's a great idea -- if the FCC don't screw it up. Tell the FCC what you think. Read commentary on Slashdot, too; it seems that the FCC's wording could be a plant from the commercial broadcasting industry that's designed to kill the very thing it's legalizing.

"Online Service Wars, Episode 1: The IM Menace"   AOL has responded to Microsoft's release of its new instant messaging software by jamming the messages from anyone who tries to use the MS product to communicate with someone on AOL. *snicker* (Nando)

  July 24, 1999
Brrrrrrr.   Just got back from a midnight showing of "The Blair Witch Project", seeing it on the big screen for the first time. It hammers home the point that until now, people just didn't know how to make horror movies anymore. They thought that expensive digital effects are scary, and slashers with big knives jumping out and startling you are scary. No, that's not scary; that's crap. That's how you take a wonderful Shirley Jackson novel and turn it into a bad movie, like Jan de Bont just did. They've forgotten that what's really scary isn't what you see, it's what you don't see. Movies that build a palpable sense of fear and dread for their entire running time, like "Blair Witch" and unlike almost everything else, are scary. Screw the hype, just go see it.

'Tis the season to be boinking...  fa la la la la, la la la la. Careful, now. (BBC)

Oops.   Here's what happens when you run over your Palm Pilot with a minivan.   Network Solutions, who were never all that swift to begin with, now no longer have a monopoly on registering domain names. The much-maligned ICANN and umpty-ump lil' companies can now handle your domain names for you ... and I betcha it's gonna end up looking like a big train wreck. Just ask the guy who woke up one morning to discover that all of a sudden he owned the domain and about 30 others that were obviously not his.

Eyes wide at bad sex.   Lots of yammering in Salon about "Eyes Wide Shut". The more I think about this movie, the more disappointed I am by it.

Off to the hoosegow, and good riddance.   A British man was sent to prison for refusing a flight attendant's orders to turn off his cell phone during an international flight.

  July 23, 1999
"You'll never amount to anything!"   Is it just a generation-gap cliché? Eric Weisbard doesn't think so. Here he talks about 25-to-39-year-olds, the group into which I currently fall. How we've been screwed culturally by living in the shadow of the baby boomers and how we're now being overrun by their kids. (Village Voice ... heads up from Barry Kelley)

Whoa, Madonn'!   HBO's "The Sopranos" was nominated for 16 Emmy Awards yesterday, including Outstanding Drama (first made-for-cable series ever to receive this distinction). This is completely deserved, and it should win as many of those awards as possible; it's just about the best show on television. They're already shooting the second season, to debut in January 2000. Then maybe we'll finally find out what happened to Uncle Pussy.

Moi, j'suis fier d'être 'Cadien.   A terrific interview with Louisianian singer/songwriter Zachary Richard, who says "I'm not a Cajun musician. I'm a musician who's Cajun." And quite a musician he is; his latest (all-French) album Cap Enragé is one of the best I've heard in years. (It's a Canada-only release; here's a great place where you an order it. Article from Offbeat)

Amiga gets in bed with Corel.   Okay, I can't help it. As a former Amigahead, with not one but two Amigas (an ancient, glacially slow 500 and a 68030-based 4000, both of which I dearly loved at one point) sitting amongst the cobwebs in my garage, I'm keeping an eye on Amiga-related announcements. The latest announcement is a deal with Corel to start developing some apps to have ready-to-run when the new Amiga launches. Some guys on Slashdot raise some interesting questions, like wondering how Amiga-like it still is with all this Linux architecture built in, and how Amiga's trumpeting this on their site but Corel ain't saying squat.

Thanks to Jack Saturn for the nice mention yesterday. His weblog,, is one of my favorites and is probably the best-looking one out there; it's got a great design. Check it out.

WebTV wackos weweased on da Web.   (Thank you, Elmer, Baba Wawa, Pilate and Biggus Dickus.) I hate to sound elitist, but does the unleashing of the Teeming, TV-Watching, TV-Dinner-Eating, Non-Net-Savvy Masses by WebTV mean that we'll be seeing lots more web sites like this, and this? (Heads up from CamWorld)

  July 22, 1999
Liberty Bell 7's long splashown.   Gus Grissom's Mercury spacecraft, which sank on splashdown after the explosive hatch blew prematurely, has been recovered from the ocean floor. The hatch itself was not found, and they're not going to look. I'm glad they aren't, either; bad luck to those who keep trying to blame Gus for that after all these years.

The hills are alive ... with the sound of nuclear detonations.   It's been discovered that the BBC had prepared a cache of programming to be broadcast to the dying masses in case Britain came under nuclear attack, and that prominent in this cache was "The Sound of Music". Apparently if you're burned to a crisp and dying of radiation poisoning, Julie Andrews' singing is the only thing that can make you feel better.

Eddie Izzard is my new favorite standup comic.   His new 90-minute special on HBO, "Dress to Kill", is a scream -- watch it. Otherwise, you can get his videos from his website. They're worth it. Read his comments on Lenny Bruce, too. (London Sunday Times)

Fun with Photoshop.   Bob Jackson took the original famous one in 1963; George Mahlberg doctored it in 1996. Rock 'n roll!

  July 21, 1999
Apple introduced the iBook today.   I want one. Da urnge one, I think. There's also a spiff new wireless network/hub system called AirPort. It looks really cool, like a UFO.

Lyndon Johnson Jr. Sworn In As George Editor.   "News brief" from today's issue of The Onion.

More on the KPFA brouhaha.   There's now an entire web site dedicated to "saving Pacifica" -- from itself, apparently. Salon comments on the controversy, and interestingly points out that the stupid management tricks on Pacifica's behalf have made people care about this station, even if they don't listen to it anymore.

Screw you guys, I'm going home!   Democrats, if you can't find a better guy to run for president than Al Gore, I dunno what I'm going to do. And now, of all things, I find myself agreeing with arch-conservative pundit David Horowitz as he writes about Gore's support of censorship. The veep -- a big supporter of the "V" chip -- apparently thinks that the link between TV violence and real-life violence "is exactly analogous to the link between cigarette smoking and cancer." (Uh huh.) Horowitz predicts that Gore and cronies will try to censor "South Park" under the guise of protecting children (and to get votes). Censorship is bad, period. I'm with ya there, David. But I'm not turning Republican. Brrrrr. (from Salon)

I saw "American Pie" last night.   It's definitely of the late '90s variety of teen comedy -- crude and raunchy. But it was very well-written, the young actors were all terrific (especially Chris Klein - he's a natural actor, sweet-natured, incredibly gorgeous, and going places), and above all, very funny. Eugene Levy, whom we don't see nearly enough of these days, was a riot. Go see it.

"This Modern World", by Tom Tomorrow - 7/19/99.

We love Microsoft.   Apparently about half of the Web sites running Microsoft's web server software can be cracked with six lines of code. Hey, but can they crack Mac OS X Server? (from Wired News)

  July 20, 1999 - "That's one small step for a man..."
One giant leap into death?   On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the BBC reports on a recently-found NASA memo which says that had a technical malfunction stranded the astronauts on the moon, NASA would have cut the radio and let them die in silence. Apparently Nixon even had a patriotic speech all ready. (And all this time we thought that NASA were 100% good-guys, and that "Capricorn One" was just a bad movie.)

Me, I'm very glad that Neil, Buzz and Mike survived -- in fact, Neil Armstrong was one of my childhood heroes. NASA have a nice little Apollo 11 history site; heck their entire human spaceflight site is pretty cool. HBO's superb 13-part miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon" is now out on DVD.

And after all these years, there's still a small batch of wingnuts who think that the whole thing was faked. They're coming to take me away, ha ha, they're coming to take me away, ho ho, hee hee, ha ha, to the funny farm ... (from Wired News)

Ghoulfest redux.   <rant> Yes, it's terrible that John F. Kennedy Jr. has died in a plane crash, quite probably due to his own errors and poor judgment flying a sophisticated small plane himself, with insufficient flying time logged, in the dead of night with near-zero visibility -- piloting for which he was wholly unqualified. I'm sorry for him and his entire extended family. But for God's sake ... the wall-to-wall media ghoulfest has got to stop. Santa Monica, California public radio station KCRW interrupted "This American Life" to present over 45 minutes of a "live" news conference in which absolutely nothing substantial was reported, and absolutely nothing was said ... because they knew nothing. NBC blathered on for two hours the other night, and it's still barely slowed. Wait until you KNOW something, report the news succinctly, and move on. Let the man rest in peace, and give his family some peace as well. This is not the only thing happening in the country and on the planet. </rant> (from Salon)

I saw "Eyes Wide Shut" last Friday, and finally have a few moments to comment. I still haven't made up my mind yet; I definitely need to see it again. We went to an 11pm show after a full and active day, and I wasn't as alert as I could have been (or needed to be, really; it's a very slow-paced film. Not that there's anything wrong with that...)   Nicole Kidman was wonderful - she can act rings around her movie-star hubby. The cinematography was gorgeous, the imagery amazing, but ... I have to ask "why?" I don't think it's Kubrick's best, nor do I think it's his worst, like the folks at Feed. Also ... I covet the Stanley Kubrick Collection on DVD, despite the needless nitpicking and whining about it on Salon.

F for fake?   Salon reports on allegations that the directors of The Blair Witch Project may have faked their online fan base. I don't know whether to think this is brilliant, or to be really pissed off by it.

George Lucas gets all whiny about "Star Wars" fans who take it all too seriously, and blames the Internet for all the fuss. Methinks the lady doth protest too much, and maybe he should concentrate on being a better writer.

Well, you get what you pay for.   Seems that AOL is going to start giving away their service for free in Britain, to try to compete with another local ISP that does the same. (Wired)

High camp, or ultimate evil?   A Hello Kitty tarot deck.

  July 19, 1999
The U.S. House of Representatives have passed a bill to "protect religious liberty" (gee, I thought that was already protected by the Constitution). The scary part is that they rejected an amendment that would have ensured that religious liberty would not become a license to practice discrimination. The religious right-wing is all a-flutter and already gleefully chortling that this "puts an end to the gay agenda".   (from PlanetOut)

I firmly believe in the freedom of religious expression, but I think the right for someone else to practice his or her religion ends when it violates my civil rights. I hope the Senate and/or the President nip this bill in the bud ... but they probably won't, because they're all spineless cowards.

Bye-bye celluloid?   Saul Anton explains how digital technology will liberate independent filmmakers. (from Feed)

Oh dear.   Apparently a new nuclear accelerator designed to re-create the Big Bang might just spawn a black hole and destroy the Earth. Gee, we didn't even have to wait for the Vogons to come. (From the London Sunday Times ... plus commentary on Slashdot)

How to make blowtorches out of Strawberry Pop-Tarts. Who says that web pages that haven't been updated since 1994 aren't still useful?

  July 18, 1999
Headed to (or living in) New Orleans with your Palm Pilot? Now, thanks to the wonderful NOLA Live site, you can download a weekly music calendar and have it with you wherever you go. Who's at Tip's, the Maple Leaf, Howlin' Wolf or the Funky Butt? Whip out yer Pilot, pick a club and go. This is a GREAT idea.

Perhaps the finest collection of 78 rpm recordings in existence belongs to a man named Joe Bussard, who is a bit deranged about the whole thing. Thank God for that. He'll even share this great old music with you, if you're nice. (Washington City Paper)

I saw "Eyes Wide Shut" last night.   I'm too sleepy to write about it now, except to say that I need to see it again, very soon.

  July 17, 1999
Saw three excellent films at Outfest last night (three in a row, ack ... haven't done that since film school). First, the strange, goofy but sweet little indie "The Story of a Bad Boy" (Julie Kavner was fabulous); a superb French film called "L'Homme est une Femme Comme Les Autres" and a disturbing but excellent Swiss film called "F. est un Salaud" (un autre critique). The reviews are in French (Anglophones, je suis désolé), but you can always Babelfish 'em.

Well. A really fascinating Cringely column today, on how Apple is using open-source software to defeat Microsoft, without actually appearing to do so. If this was the plan all along, fair play to ya, Steve. MacWorld Expo in four days! (

Molecular computers with the processing power of 100 of today's workstations that are the size of a grain of sand, within 10 years? But I want one NOWWWW, Daddy! (Yahoo! News)

A blind American blues singer has mastered the mind-bogglingly difficult art of Tuvan throat-singing.

  July 16, 1999
"Eyes Wide Shut" opens today.   I'm a huge Stanley Kubrick fan, and I've been waiting 12 years for this.

From Salon: Stanley Kubrick: Paths to Glory. See Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times (AFTER you've seen the film, of course)

KPFA brouhaha -   All is not well in Berkeley public radio. Staffers at KPFA (including some who've been there for decades) have been suspended, thrown out of the studios and replaced with archival tapes for daring to be critical of Pacifica Radio moves toward blandifying and "NPR-izing" the station to make it smell better for big corporate donors. (San Francisco Examiner)

The Mexican Catholic Church dislikes "The Phantom Menace",   but not for the same reasons I do. I thought the whole "racist stereotypes" thing was a bit of a stretch, but this story kinda takes the cake. (Nando) Don't these guys have anything better to do?

Speaking of not having anything better to do, there's an out-there church group that really hates certain movies. They actually sit there and count how many times "the Lord's name is taken in vain". And they really hate the new South Park movie. Heh.

By the way, my favorite online church group is The Landover Baptist Church, with their Onion-like organ.

  July 15, 1999
So much for respect, compassion and understanding.   An American priest and nun have been ordered by the Vatican to "terminate their ministry" of 20 years to gay and lesbian Catholics and their families, whom they dared to treat with love and respect. Jesus wept. (Nando)

They're made of meat?   YAY! I've been looking for this story for a very long time. It's perhaps my favorite lost-and-almost-forgotten sf short short story, as I read it ages ago and forgot both the title and author. It's an amusing little tale of two superintelligent noncorporeal aliens who have difficulty believing that the sentient life forms on this little blue planet they found are made of ... well, you know. The author is Terry Bisson, check out his website, where I found the above one-act dramatic adaptation of his great story. You can even download it in .doc format for your Palm Pilot.

"Sitcom" est merveilleux!   Last night, inadvertently in honor of Bastille Day, I saw a fantastic new French film at Outfest entitled "Sitcom", directed by François Ozon. I loved it. I haven's seen a film like this since the last Luis Buñuel film I saw, and it was one of those rare films where you just can't wait to see what happens next. Go see it when you can.   Now that the annoying Network Solutions has lost their monopoly on registering the big .com, .org and .net domain names, you can now apparently register dirty domain names. Sorry, "Father Ted" fans ... but and are already taken. (c|net)

  July 14, 1999 - Bastille Day
U.S. Rep. John Kasich dropped out of the presidential race today, and I didn't even know he was in it. In fact, I didn't even know he existed. Is anybody else as bored with all this as I am already? There's not a one of these people running for president who is more exciting than a bowl of thin, cold, tasteless gruel.

"Hey, would you like to go to a seminar with me?"   Yesterday a friend of mine told me that a friend of his tried to get him to go along with him to a "seminar" run by a group that, as my friend's researches revealed, draws the attention of anti-cult watchdogs. Someone he knew and trusted basically invited him to a brainwashing. Stuff like this spooks the hell out of me. In fact, as soon as my friend related his friend's question, I was instantly, instinctually spooked.

A reporter from Elle magazine went to one of these seminars and from her experiences wrote a big-time debunking; she was sued for her trouble. Scary.

Bright light makes me sneeze.   As long as I can remember, I've sneezed uncontrollably when walking from relatively dark indoors into bright sunlight (my record is 13 in a row, unbroken since high school). In fact, I can make myself sneeze by looking into a 40-watt lightbulb.

I told my friend Fred Jasper about this, and he thinks I'm full of shit. So in the spirit of scientific enlightenment, I happily provide him (and you) with an article on what medical types call the photic sneeze reflex. Even the Urban Legends Archive has a bit about it, and they say it's true (via an excerpt from a peer-reviewed medical journal). See Fred! I told ya!

An Apple in my Palm?   Could it be that my favorite desktop computer/OS might be cooking up something with my favorite palmtop PDA? AppleInsider says the deal is near. Cool!

  July 13, 1999
"IMPORTANT! Forward this to everyone you know!"   I swear, I'm going to strangle the next friend, acquaintance or stranger who sends me a forwarded email about the $250 Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe or the Good Times virus or any other crap like that. There are a ton of these, and they've been circulating the net via the emailboxes of the gullible for years now.

  July 12, 1999
The Blair Witch Project is one of the creepiest films I've ever seen.   I saw it recently thanks to a videotape that had been circulating at work, and I really wish I had waited until it was theatrically released (which is imminent). However, if you're going to watch it on tape, watch it late at night, alone, with all the lights out. It works. (It was additionally spooky for me 'cause I've been on film shoots out in the woods with student directors who don't know what the feck they're doing.) There's an excellent article about the film in the New Times of L.A.

I used to be an Amiga user.   It was a great machine, 8 or 10 years ago. Way, way ahead of its time. Gateway bought the Amiga technology, and I thought they were nuts. Too little, far far too late. But I'm wondering ... they're basing their still-useful multitasking technology on the Linux OS. They might be on to something here. CNet tells about Amiga's comeback.

  July 11, 1999
Why "The Phantom Menace" sucks, by noted sf author David Brin. To be fair, he says a few nice things ("It looks gorgeous," he says, which it does), but he spells out why this film demonstrates what a lousy writer George Lucas is. If you're going to create a cultural phenomenon, at least try to write it well, please. George, will you PLEASE call Larry Kasdan to write the next one? (from Salon)

  July 9, 1999
For ages I've been ranting about how a big reason we have so many problems with rampantly spreading computer viruses and near-worldwide security holes in people's systems is because of the dominance of Microsoft's crappy OSes. Read computer industry gadfly Bob Cringely's column on the dangers of near-universal reliance on Microsoft's security-hole-ridden software. (From

And while we're on the subject, Microsoft-owned yes-mag Slate now claims that it's the consumer's fault that Microsoft's software is so bloated. Uh huh. Read Salon's take on it.

Finally, Matt Walsh makes a case for an all-out boycott of Microsoft on his Boycott Microsoft site. (It's easy not to use Microsoft. I do it all the time. You start by buying a Mac, and the rest flows naturally.)

  July 8, 1999
"Looka!" is born.   I've become fond of weblogs lately. Some weblogs I like and read frequently are CamWorld, the BradLands, Bump, Flutterby and a few others. (I love NetSurfer Digest, too.) They've all inspired me to get these neat links I find daily into a place where y'all can read them too. Thus, my (almost) daily weblog. Let's see how it goes.

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