What collapsing empire looks like

Glenn Greenwald, referring to news that some cities and states around the nation are closing schools and libraries, turning off streetlights, allowing roads to go unpaved, and stopping bus service because of lack of funds:

Does anyone doubt that once a society ceases to be able to afford schools, public transit, paved roads, libraries and street lights — or once it chooses not to be able to afford those things in pursuit of imperial priorities and the maintenance of a vast Surveillance and National Security State — that a very serious problem has arisen, that things have gone seriously awry, that imperial collapse, by definition, is an imminent inevitability?

Oh well, at least we’re still making the world safe for capitalism w/our huge military! Oh, and we also have Steven Slater, “Hero to the underpaid, overworked flight attendants who regularly endure the wrath — and occasionally the fists and feet — of belligerent [airline] passengers. He even has his own ballad (via DF.) That’s the kind of sticking it to the man that’s going to really turn things around!

Contador seizes Tour de France lead from Schleck

Stage 15 today and what a stage it was! Did Contador play dirty when he took advantage of Schleck’s mechanical problem? According to the BBC:

Cycling etiquette says that riders should not attack the yellow jersey wearer when he falls or suffers a mechanical problem.

Hm. Bruce Arthur of the Canadian National Post also argues that Contador played dirty and I have to agree. Regardless, I hope Andy Schleck comes back and eats Contador’s lunch in the next few days. Sadly, that doesn’t seem likely. There are only two more mountain stages where Schleck could theoretically make some time up on Contador. After that, it’s flat and a time trial, both of which will favor Contador.

Today was not a good advertisement for the SRAM Red drivetrain on Schleck’s bike. Of course, I guess that’s what Contador is riding, too.

(btw, the Versus Tour Tracker has been totally worth it. It’s letting me really watch this race for the first time ever and I’m loving it. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of cycling.)

Google Voice for everyone — how?

Google announced yesterday that Google Voice is open to the public. You don’t need an invitation; you just sign up and you get “one number to ring all your phones, voicemail that works like email, free calls and text messages to the U.S. and Canada, low-priced international calls and more.” That’s great. Some of these features might really be helpful to a lot of people. I’ve been trying it out for the last week or so and I like the transcripts of voicemails I get via email and text. The iPhone’s Visual Voicemail is pretty awesome — no calling a number to check your messages or having to listen to a bunch of messages to get to the one you want, etc. So if you have an iPhone, the improvements of Google Voice are diminished. If you don’t have an iPhone, you’ll probably find Google Voice’s transformation of voicemail to be a little revolutionary.

Anyway, my big question here is: How can this be free? Mike Elgan offers one answer:

I’m going to give it to you straight: I believe Google Voice is free because Google wants to track your phone calls, read your voicemails and text messages and invade your privacy to offer you up on a silver platter to advertisers.

Hmph. Maybe Google Voice isn’t so cool after all…

Brief mentions of hideous reviews

John Krasinski, who is really probably the biggest star of “The Office” — I mean, wouldn’t you really rather watch him and Pam than Michael? — has made a movie adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s book, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. Of course it will be painful to watch, and therefore, you must go see it. I command you.

Or not. But whatever you do, don’t read Jed P. Cohen’s review of the movie, which concludes as follows:

So, when the actors, who are trained to sound off-the-cuff and extempore, read these constructions as definitive lines in the script, they are actually reading seriously premeditated, semantically irregular approximations of normal speech that, if the actor is given no leeway and is required to recite the line as such, end up sounding not like a person talking, but like a writer writing like people talk, which results in a singular kind of falsity this viewer has never encountered before.

Talk about trying too hard!

Ok, I’m kidding. Good job, Mr. Cohen, that’s a great Wallaceian construction for which we can all be thankful. It just doesn’t sound as great coming from you, but hey, it’s still well done.

So again I ask, why did DFW go and kill himself, dammit!?

What would David Foster Wallace say?

Roger Federer has fallen to Juan Martin Del Potro at the U.S. Open. I would have loved to have seen that match. But, of course, I can’t help thinking, what might David Foster Wallace have possibly written about this? Just three years ago, he wrote about Federer as Religious Experience. It was an awesome essay, typical DFW, highly entertaining, educational, littered with ingenious and spot-on analogies, chock full of minute little observations that are so acute and precise that you just suck them in with “yeah” after “of, course, yeah!” gratitude — simply awe-inspiring stuff. And, of course, DFW’s whole huge magnum opus was about tennis — and addiction, and families, and drugs, and geo-politics, and feral hamsters, and wheelchair assassins, and cults, and…. But, and so, it just makes me wonder: what would he say about Federer and Del Potrol and tennis now, today? We will never know, and that is very sad. It’s so sad it’s almost infuriating. As John Moe recently put it:

David Foster Wallace hanged himself and robbed us of all the work he would have produced in the future. Our homes were stocked floor to ceiling with the promise of the best goddamn writing people could make and Wallace fucking ripped it off. I’m still walking around wanting to punch someone.

Yeah, me too.

What’s Twitter good for?

Glenn Greenwald expresses something like my own sentiments about Twitter:

At the risk of appearing as crotchety as [John Cole] does, I share that bewilderment.  About Twitter messages, John says “they all read like cell phone text messages between 12 year olds,” and indeed, the only purpose I can discern is that it provides a format for expressing thoughts that are too inconsequential to merit a stand-alone article or post.  For precisely that reason, it is unsurprising that Twitter has become a huge hit among our media stars, for whom triviality is a guiding principle.

But, pre-Twitter, did we really have a shortage of venues devoted to petty musings?   I’d say the opposite is true.

That said, I have found one really useful thing that Twitter does and that I don’t think has ever before been possible: It gives you breaking news in real time before any other online outlet can get to it. Perhaps the best and most recent example was last Tuesday when Apple announced the details of iPhone OS 3.0. If we had to wait until traditional news outlets reported on it, we would have known nothing until several hours after the event. Of course, a few sites were “live blogging” the event, meaning they had people there and they were posting updates every five minutes or so to their blogs. That’s pretty helpful and close to what twitter can do. Still, the people there who were *twittering* the event were able to update continuously and twitter was able to aggregate all the updates and conversation about them into one stream that was easy to refresh and follow. All you had to do was search for the #iphone hashtag.

So twitter is really good at one thing: Breaking news. I’ve also followed a fire in Bozeman and the Tour of California bike race. If you know something is happening but can’t find much about it online, on tv, or elsewhere, try twitter. You just might find it exactly what you were looking for.

Tii-i-i-me is on my side. No it’s not!

Jason Kottke’s musing about timeline twins and the subsequent comments is some fun mind candy for a Sunday morning. As one of the comments says, “The fact that it’s been 32 years since I first heard The Ramones is mind-blowing to me.” It’s only been 22 years for me, but still. Wow.

Several comments (here and here) discuss whether “we” (meaning thirty- or forty-somethings and younger) have changed the way we relate to popular culture compared to our parents. “Imagine still listening to the music of your youth?” one writes. “These days we evolve and move on. And are in fact terrified of hanging on for too long to any one moment in history.”

That is both a fascinating and terrifying possibility. The first thought that springs to mind is that “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.” I think it’s true that we have become much more of a transient culture than that of previous generations; we do live through the moment, then move on to the next w/little thought about what has come before. How else could we get into the current financial crisis other than by paying no attention to the long-term, to the lessons of the past, and living only in the now?

The thing is, I find myself looking back constantly. Sometimes the urge is stronger than at others, but I have two big boxes of cassettes — yeah, cassettes — that I keep because they have music I don’t have in any other format and which I don’t want to forget. I dream of digitizing all (or most) of these cassettes so that I can listen again whenever I want and with ease to the music of my youth. Does that make me a weirdo? Am I out of touch w/”my generation”? Hmph.

It’s all fun to think about, though. I love this one: “Mathew Broderick lip synching The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” (1964) in the parade in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) would be like someone lip synching Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” in a movie in 2008.”

Damn.

Bill

Let me tell you something, kid. Working sucks, ok? Working sucks. And it doesn’t matter if you’re in a bank, a department store, or a doughnut factory, because once you’ve been there long enough the only thing you’ll care about is when your next pay increase is, how many vacation days you’ve accrued, and if your health insurance is going to pay for the cholesterol medicine that keeps your heart pumping no matter how much shit you work through it. Then, after you’ve gained 20 or 30 pounds because you’re so f***ing uptight all the time, you wake up and discover that you’re working for your father-in-law in a position with a gratuitous title and you’re totally replaceable, and, not only is the new guy better at your job, but he’s got a better car, and better jokes, and better hair! So no matter what you do, you make sure you make a lot of money doing it because it all sucks! And that is one lesson I, as your mentor, can teach you.

Bill.

Richie Ramone was Robbed!

Richie Ramone, one of the drummers for The Ramones, lost his fight to get paid for 6 songs he wrote because a judge said that digital files are not “manufactured or sold” but are instead transmitted and licensed.

Wha? So when I pay someone (e.g., Apple) to “buy” a song, and I download the song and do whatever I want with it (listen to it, share it, give it someone as a gift, etc.), I did not “buy” it? Apple did not “sell” the digital file to me? Sure, music from iTunes and other online music retailers has restrictions, but they are easy to circumvent and hardly change the fact that the digital file is “sold” in an online music transaction. Except, apparently, according to this judge, that’s not true.

See why I don’t practice copyright law?