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30 September 2007

US presidential candidates courting Americans abroad

NPR's All Things Considered did a show about the candidates Guiliani, Obama and Clinton courting US citizens living abroad. Oh, yeah, we vote alright. The chair of the group Democrats Abroad was interviewed on this show.

26 September 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 37 - Phase2, "bubble letters", Obey Giant and other urban artifacts

I have taken to looking at the main page of Wikipedia every day, just for the serendipity of learning something new and unexpected. Today one of the pages featured was that of a graffiti artist from the seminal NYC 1970s scene, who went by the name of Phase2. He is "generally credited" with the invention of the "bubble letter" or "softies" style which is now quite ubiquitous in the urban and even suburban and rural environment.
As one does on the web, I surfed from link to link, learning about wheatpasting, which led in turn to Obey Giant (which started out as Andre the Giant has a posse.) I remember Andre from the wonderful film The Princess Bride, which due to my kids, children of the early 1980s, loving it so much, I have seen many times and pretty much know by heart.) Obey Giant also has an "official" website.
Getting back to the subject of graffiti, I see some on my way to work every day (two trains, a little over an hour on a good day, through Narborough, South Wigston, Leicester, Loughborough, Attenborough, Beeston and ending in Nottingham, which has a thriving graffiti culture. And a fair number of anarchists too.) In the rural category, just across from the Ratcliff-on-Soar coal-fired power plant, there is a graffiti (a graffitus? a graffito?) on a little hump-backed bridge that the sheep like to shelter under that says, in very crude simple letters, "Peak Power". And on the approach to Nottingham, a graffiti attributed to a group called ALF, says "Devaste to Liberate". I am pretty sure they meant to say "Devastate to Liberate" and it is a real blot on the landscape, to my mind, to have grossly misspelled graffiti. And anyway, I have never signed up to that belief anyway, despite being an anarchist. In fact, I have even come up with a minor witticism to take the piss out of such philosophy: Fuck omelettes, I just like breaking eggs.©

19 September 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 36 - Freakonomics

Yesterday I almost bought a book called The Undercover Economist. I was thinking to myself, as I saw this book, that I like books like that, but then I realised that I actually liked one book like that, or rather, like that but better. That's a book called Freakonomics. And there is also a blog called Freakonomics by the same authors.
The Undercover Economist is very UK-based and Freakonomics is a bit US-centric. But Freakonomics is still far more globally-conscious. The main thing is that every idea in Freakonomics is fresh and original and thought-provoking, whereas the ideas I encountered in my brief browse of The Undercover Economist were not that new to me and may be thought-provoking to someone with zero familiarity or interest in economics, but not to me. It absolutely did not deliver on the promises of either the title or the gushy blurbs on the back. So maybe I will catch it on the remainder pile or get one via Bookcrossing. Meanwhile, I heartily recommend the Freakonomics blog.

15 September 2007

Mrs. Watanabe and the share market crisis

The New York Times has this interesting story about yet another Japanese social phenomenon little-known in the west: stay-at-home wives of affluent Japanese businessmen have been gradually gaining clout in international currency markets and margin trading. Trading exclusively online, with a subculture that includes best-sellers, TV interviews, clubs and blogs, they use their own or sometimes their husband's money as a stake and try (often successfully) to build up independent wealth to shield themselves from divorce or excessive control by their husbands. The current shakeup in international markets has brought chaos to their powerful little market, and professional traders consider them a wild card.

12 September 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 35 - the Dylan Dream concert


I will definitely be listening to (and recording if I have the technology) this. By the way, Deborama is a big fan of Dylan's radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour, even though I don't often get to listen to it in real time, and in fact I have a massive backlog of them on the Freeview box to listen to.

Anita Roddick, pioneer ethical entrepreneur


I'm a bit late blogging about the sad passing (too young) of yet another woman I have admired greatly: Anita Roddick. Founder of the Body Shop, she was a real visionary. Nowadays, it doesn't seem especially radical to be an ethical businessperson, but when Roddick put gigantic signs in the window saying none of their products were tested on animals, believe me, it was radical. The fact that it is no big deal now is largely down to her courage and principles.

08 September 2007

Sex or Rugby Union?

Guess the topic of this quote from a news story today:

Eh? You may think it's easy to sell shirts to large men suggestible enough to bury their heads in each others' thighs for 80 minutes, but . . .

OK, would you ever have guessed RU if I hadn't given it away in the title? Well, maybe if you're a serious fan and instantly picked up on the 80 minutes, I'll give you that. Anyway, for those of you who don't live on Planet Rugby, the World Cup is underway since yesterday. England's still hanging in, and France, ah, poor France. I think we will see a massive rise in the prescription of anti-depressants over there.

02 September 2007

Deconstruct him

Under the marvelous title Dien Bien Fool (oh, how I wanted to steal that) journalist and blogging pundit Christopher Albritton in his blog Back to Iraq 2.0 takes on the job of addressing GWB's latest piece of imbecility (or at least the latest I know about, as I don't keep up with him as I should). I mean, of course, the address a few days ago to a VFW where he very clumsily attempted to use the "killing fields" of Cambodia 1975 as a reason to pursue the endless folly of the coalition quagmire in Iraq.
"Really, it’s hard to know where to start", he says. But he ends up here:

And finally Vietnam. In one speech, Bush had managed to drag out the knuckleheaded, right-wing argument that if only we’d stayed in Vietnam a little longer, we’d have won that sucker. If only the media and Democrats hadn’t been so hell-bent on undermining the troops…
This is a tricky subject for Bush, considering he spent the Vietnam years partying and “protecting” the Gulf of Mexico from the Viet Cong in a champagne unit of the Texas Air National Guard. It’s also tricky because war critics have spent the past four years comparing the quagmire or Iraq to the quagmire of Vietnam — which, I might remind you, we lost.

After addressing the again wrong-headed analogy of the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Vietnam, Chris also mentions "but the U.S. threw open its doors and took the “boat people” in. It has not done the same thing for Iraqis, instead forcing them to stay in a deadly cage or face the instability of life in Jordan and Syria."
The "killing fields" reference was very effectively dealt with by David Cortright on the blog "God's Politics" (Sojourner).

No more Minneapolis nice

I can remember when Minneapolis police were famed for their sensitive handling of political protests. Those days are long gone. A regular event in the protest calendar is "Critical Mass", when an assembled group of cyclists take to the city streets, usually at rush hour, to assert their rights to equal use of the roads. This Friday, it suddenly became ugly. Given the tenor of this quote, from before the incident that led to the arrests, I don't think it was the protestors who caused it either:


"Drive down Nicolet, herd the assholes down there. Any blocking of traffic, any blocking of anything, arrest them."

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