Plug for Gervais

February 13th, 2006 § 1 comment § permalink

Karl PilkingtonEvery Monday Morning, I listen to The Ricky Gervais Show. Apparently, the show is the “World’s No. 1 Podcast.”

If you’ve not heard the show before, I can highly recommend it to you. You might ask what the show’s about. The answer is “nothing at all.” You’re about to waste a perfectly good thirty minutes of your life by listening to the incoherent drivel of Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant, and Karl Pilkington.

Ricky himself takes somewhat of a backseat role in this production. Karl is really the star of the show. It’s almost impossible to describe Karl. The closest character I can think of is Adrian Mole, of fictional diary fame. Karl has been elevated to cult-figure status, according to at least one article in Reuters.

You can download the podcast via iTunes, or from http://www.rickygervais.com. There’s only one show left in the series of twelve, but a second series has been mentioned on the show.

Incoming Snow

February 11th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Snow MapAccording to the NWS, the New York area is about to get buried with 6-12″ of snow (and I like how the margin of error is +/-50% in NWS forecasts).

I’m supposed to go out to a birthday party this evening. I suspect that getting home might be a bit of a challenge. Hopefully the subways will continue to run without incident. I’ll post details on any interesting incidents. Stay tuned.

Update 1540hrs:

There’s some light snowfall in the financial district. No sign of stick-age yet. However, many building owners preemptively doused the sidewalks with salt. The snow seems to be getting heavier as time passes. There’s enough snow in the air where the Brooklyn Bridge is hard to see out the window.

Update 2000hrs

It’s hard to see what’s going on from the 18th floor, but I just got back from a run on the 2nd floor of my building (3.2mi in 34 mins, what). It looks like there’s some accumulation going on the cars parked on the street, but not much more than that. The snow is falling at about the same clip as before.

Update 0130hrs

Just got back from a friend’s birthday party in NoLita. Nearly killed myself walking the two blocks from the Spring St. station to her apartment by sliding off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic. Genius move wearing shoes with hardly any tread left on them. The snow is beginning to fall very heavily, and the winds are blowing it around, so it’s pretty hard to get around. I think that’ll wrap it up for this evening.

Update 0140hrs

Just had a lightning bolt and a thunderclap. Snow is even heavier. The NWS now says 10-16″ by tomorrow afternoon.

Lines in the Sand

February 9th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve been following the “Prophet Mohammed Cartoon” story for about a week now, and as the story continues to snowball out of control, I think it’s time I stated my opinion on the subject. If you haven’t heard about the story, go and have a look at the New York Times for the past week or so. There’s plenty of material.
The Times didn’t publish the cartoons themselves. There’s a list of blogs you can find scans of the originals at http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004446.htm.

I had a conversation via IM with my good friend Kristen yesterday, and while I don’t recall actually taking a side, it did get me thinking on the salient points of the matter:

The only system of values that I am familiar enough with to make any sort of statement is the one I’ve lived with for the past two decades: the general “Western” system of thought. If we analyze the situation within that framework, we come to some inescapable truths:

1) Under its local system of laws, the Jyllands-Posten had a right to publish whatever it chose. Whether or not its actions were “a good idea”, or “a bad idea” are irrelevant to the matter. The Posten has an interest in holding its audience. If the readership don’t like what’s in their newspaper, they won’t read it any more, and day-to-day, that’s what the paper cares about.

2) Under their local system of laws, the Muslim community have a right to dislike the content of the Jyllands-Posten. They have a right to be offended, just as I have a right to disagree with what I might find on the editorial page, or take offense at anything else I choose.

I’ve heard this phrased by several pundits as “the right to offend”. I don’t like the wording very much, but it makes sense. It’s a consequence of free speech.

So, on the face of it, we’re done here. The Posten did what it wanted, and the readership (in a global sense) responded as it wished. So why are we still talking about this? On the one hand, there’s been a great deal of politicking over the reaction of a vocal segment of the Muslim population, and this politicking has comprised most of what’s been on the public stage in the past week. I find the situation interesting for a different reason, though: the “cultural cultivation” effect that has been brewing since 2001, and that has now come to a head.

It so happens that last night, I read an article by George Gerbner, the noted media scholar, about the “Cultural Cultivation” effect of television, in particular. Of interest here is the concept of “Mainstreaming”, where the viewing public are led to believe that certain viewpoints are that of the majority, when they may not be. Of secondary interest is the “Mean World Syndrome”, where heavy viewers of television are led to believe that the ‘real world’ is more brutal and disturbing than it really is. Gerbner used crime figures to demonstrate his hypothesis, but I think it probably holds true here as well.

David Brooks’ editorial in the New York Times this morning (“Drafting Hitler”, New York Times p.A27, 02/09/06)  is a classic example. Styled as an “open letter”, the article refers plainly to “us and them” throughout, drawing a clear line where none may exist. The letter leads the reader to believe that:

1) There is a fundamental conflict between Muslims and The Western World
2) All Muslims share the same beliefs
3) All Westerners share the same beliefs
4) There is “a vast chasm” between The “Muslim World” and “The Western World”

Since late 2001, Americans have had a highly filtered view of Islam. Few images published in the mainstream press have shown much more than violence. In the press, “Islam” has come to be associated with “barbarism”, “terrorism”, “violence”, and so on. I suspect that the media outlets in the Middle East have painted a similarly disturbing portrait of The West, with America in particular being associated with many of the same concepts. George W. Bush has been the ideological figurehead for The West, and Osama bin Laden and a handful of Ayatollahs have been been the figureheads for the so-called Muslim World. Having been subjected to a particularly polarized and distorted set of imagery for the past four or five years, it’s no wonder that mainstream opinion of both parties tends to the bleak, and the tinderbox ignites every time an event comes up that underscores each side’s socially-constructed truths. The scores of articles published in the last year in support of the rights of Palestinians, for example, go nowhere in terms of shifting public opinion in both parts of the world; they get lost amid the wash of “George vs. Osama” rhetoric that floods the mainstream press.

The reality here is that there are more than two sides to the issue. It’s not America versus The Terrorists. Nor is it The West versus The Muslim World. It’s time to have a sensible debate on the matter, rather than using a relatively minor incident to further polarize public opinion and draw sharp lines in the sand when no clear division exists.

Notes on SuperBowl XL

February 9th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Last year, I didn’t watch the SuperBowl. I don’t actually remember what I was doing that day, but I know it wasn’t watching the game, so I actually don’t have a great deal of basis for comparison for my commentary. I won’t let that stop me, though.
This year, I felt a little vested interest in the game, the Seahawks being in it and all, so I made an effort to actually watch.

The game

The game itself was hardly riveting. Most of the plays were pretty standard. Seattle’s running game was lame, and Pittsburgh’s passing game was sort of weak, too. 4 downs, punt. Rinse, repeat, wipe hands on pants.

The officiating was probably the most notable aspect of the entire event. I’m convinced that Seattle got robbed of at least one touchdown, and I’m also convinced that Pittsburgh got a major break in scoring the touchdown right at the goal-line.

All in all, extra-medium-style game.

The Half-Time Show

I like the Rolling Stones. Really. But their performance at the halftime show was pretty lackluster. The production was also horrendous–particularly during “Start Me Up”, the vocals were drowned out, and the rhythm guitar was way too loud.

That said, having the Stones play instead of Justin Timberlake or whoever is popular with the kids right now was a good choice. The irony of having the icons of British rock-and-roll play at the spectacle of Americana was not lost on me.

The Commercials

SuperBowl commercials have become the stuff of legend. A thirty second spot on ABC during the game costs several million dollars, I believe. Apple Computer famously announced the release of the Macintosh with their “1984″ commercial, classic ad campaigns have made their debut during the SuperBowl.

It was disappointing to see that the only product launches that were announced were the Gillette Fusion (hooray, now I can have *six* blades on my razor!), and the 2007 Cadillac Escalade. Now, last I checked, it was still 2006, so I doubt I’ll be buying my Escalade any time soon.

I was in the kitchen during the “Whopperettes” commercial, but I’m told it was one of the better ads.

Overall, not that amazing in the commercials department, though the Budweiser “streaker” ad made me chuckle.

———

So I suppose watching the SuperBowl was hardly the most amazing experience ever, but it was a good way to waste a few hours. The Seahawks didn’t win, but, y’know, I’ll get over it.

Welcome, welcome…

February 7th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

This is, perhaps, my third attempt at creating a website with consistent and regularly updated content. I’ve had this domain since I was 14, and the website hosted in its name has had, with varying degrees of complexity, a site that displayed “under construction”, and other bits of text and uselessness that are all-too-common on the Internet.

This time, I’ve ditched Movable Type in favor of WordPress. While I liked MovableType, later versions of it felt bloated, unsteady, resource intensive, and cumbersome. MT may be the most-used blogging software, but I just don’t like it.

I’m not going to make any grand promises concerning the look of the site at the moment. XHTML and CSS construction are my least favorite programming tasks, and even the simple, default theme you’re looking at right now uses several hundred lines of both to generate this page. I may tweak it a bit, I may not, but I’d rather focus on putting interesting things in the frame, than making the frame look good, so to speak.

The gallery is still up, and is linked to the right. It is woefully outdated, but it’s there for the taking if you are interested. I have updated my PGP keys page as well, with updated keys for my personal and work NYU email addresses.

I shall follow this up with another, more interesting post about SuperBowl XL shortly.