The unbearable little talking paper clip from Microsoft Word has recorded a song entitled "It Looks Like You're Writing a Letter."

If Microsoft isn't a monopoly, why does it act so much like a government agency when allocating resources? Do you know anyone at PricewaterhouseCoopers who has been assigned to write a parody song for one of their despised corporate mascots? Isn't that more of a HUD type of thing?
Update on Tolkien vs. Jackson.

I've been reading The Fellowship of the Ring online and it seems like Tolkien left a lot of things up to the imagination. There were indeed hordes of snarling orcs, but they were quick to flee if their leader was slain. The landscape features as described could be either breathtakingly majestic, or only so from a homebound hobbit's perspective depending on one's reading. I still would like to see a more subdued version of the film - one that spends more time with the details of travelling and feasting and tale-telling that are skipped over in favor of visceral violence and stunning effects.

Naturally too much of this and we'd all be snoring into our popcorn, but it was the scenes with carrots and teapots that tickled me the most. Jackson insisted that making everything believable was a primary concern - but he seems to have put it slightly behind making everything unbelievable. In any case, I'm hungering to go again and pay more attention to details.


"Innovation makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old regime, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new."

- Niccolò Machiavelli, quoted in "The Internet Under Siege" by Lawrence Lessig. Foreign Policy. (Nov-Dec. 2001) - Lessig's article makes an excellent case against the wave of restrictions which are being applied to the internet. Most powerfully, he identifies current trends as warfare by the entrenched and powerful against the potential of the internet to ensure freedom and establish justice.


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I find myself wondering how much of a difference in scale there is between J.R.R. Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring and the new movie directed by Peter Jackson. Is Saruman's tower really supposed to be so unbelievably tall? Did the fellowship really slaughter scores of hulking, snarling orc-goblin creatures with only one casualty? Are all of the waterfalls of Middle Earth so tremendous?

Then I wonder if it's the scale which makes it a successful film. What if all these places and events were a little more mundane, or at least more recognizable, if the movie wouldn't work. I'd like to see that version, though. ...And the soundtrack sounds way too much like Williams' score for "The Phantom Menace"
I find your lack of faith disturbing. (via Pigs and Fishes)


Here's an article that explains the real reasons I am wary of global trade liberalization. This overarching injustice is what moves the thousands of protesters - at least as much as any anarchic / dionysian protest vibe or testosterone-fueled affront to police power:

"The administration's selective adherence to its professed principles confirms criticisms that public interest groups have long lodged against the agreements. One is that far from promoting free trade, the agreements favor power and privilege, and allow wealthy countries like the United States to flout them. A second is that trade principles degrade democracy and national sovereignty by inhibiting countries from legislating in the public interest."


Perhaps more to the point is the fact that we are fundamentally defenseless against motivated martyrs. Israel has far more experience in wars against terror than we do, and we can see their successes every day now. Surely if they just eliminated Arafat, their worries would be over.

Oppenheimer described America's reputation for fair play as our first and strongest line of defense against potential terrorists. Hijacking planes is an act of desperation - of taking a grievance to the only arena where it might be heard. For the sake of security, if not for the greater purpose of human rights and justice, we MUST support alternatives to violence. Evildoers would have no influence if aggrieved peoples could peacefully petition effective institutions of justice. Those who have cheered the attacks against the US are not bloodthirsty, they're just thirsty.

The truth will remain true in spite of our wishes to the contrary. Those institutions who find themselves in conflict with the truth will find it exhausting to maintain the conceit that war could possibly deter terror.
Forty years ago the joint chiefs of staff prepared plans for how to create a pretext for war against Castro's government in Cuba. Among the plans discussed: Instigating conflict between Cuba and another Latin American nation, Baiting Cuba to attack American troops or planes, Fabricating evidence that Castro was behind a US tragedy, such as a failed NASA mission (the death of John Glenn was discussed), and even the possibility of sinking a naval vessel or staging terrorist attacks in the US which could be blamed on Castro. The Kennedy administration rejected the plans and the documents were buried, only to come to light when records were opened up to defuse alarmists after the release of Oliver Stone's "JFK" conspiracy tale. (Here's the ABC story)

Well, now we know that the military considered those proposals to be critical, even if they were treasonous and homocidal. We also know that they held the Kennedy administration in contempt for its "gutless" approach to national security. So now that we do have a right-leaning executive and we do have a war that is convenient to American interests no less so than Castro ever was, and we do have a pretext... What are we to think? That it is NOW unthinkable that that type of planning could be considered?

We have to ask, and we have to be wary of the increasing secrecy surrounding executive matters. This war is being waged in our name and with our overwhelming support - but if it is not a just war - if it is the result of pretext meant to win support for otherwise unsupportable goals... Well, then we've lost our country already; perhaps decades ago.


Here's something I was trying to talk about today, but not very well:

The Principle of Subsidiarity: Governmental decisions should be made at the lowest possible organizational level, respecting the right to self-determination which is traded voluntarily by societies for the benefits of civil authority. In effect, it is a strong statement for individual human rights, but it implies a moral judgment to be made by the community at large about which decisions must be made collectively in order for the benefits and harms to be fairly distributed among all contributors and all those affected. As it is put into practice, this moral decision is determined first by treaty, and then by planners who are given their role by treaty. The treaties themselves have been negotiated by national governments, but under the principle of subsidiarity, those national governments are losing power in favor of regional, and in some cases, local, concerns.

See this "European Parliamentary Fact Sheet" for more on the subject and how it is used in European Union treaties.


"Accusing a Muslim or a Muslim group of disbelief is in itself an act of disbelief. The prophet never accused even the individuals he knew to be hypocrites of disbelief, nor did he treat them in a way any different from other Muslims. No good can come from Muslims accusing Muslims of disbelief; this can only lead to arguement, resentment, and further division. If you find a Muslim saying something which you believe to be in error, present to him/her your reasons for believing them to be in error and try to help them see the truth. Don't waste your time squabbling over petty differences."

A posting by the "American Taliban," John Walker to soc.religion.islam in June, 1997. (He's 20 now, so he must have been 16 when he posted this. By the way, I found this via Robot Wisdom)


I'm back in Birmingham after a jam-packed week in Leuven. My excuse for going was this colloquium on Architecture, Gender and Domesticity. The presentations were, for the most part, quite good - and held to a topic which interests me a great deal. I wish it were possible for me to have contributed more, but I was quite outgunned by the other participants. I did have a chance to throw in my two franks on Saturday morning at the workshop - but I'm afraid I may not have been in peak form after staying up all night dancing at a Club Charlatan in Ghent. Anyway, we'll see how much of me they edit out of the transcript before it's published next year.


I couldn't have said it better myself.

(p.s. - Greetings from cold, rainy, windy Leuven. Place orders for chocolate through dystopos-at-yahoo-dot-com.)