Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Video Compilation Of Previous UMass Amherst Hip Hop Events

Tonight's event is off to a roaring start, according to our agents on the ground.  Apparently the lack of online promotion didn't hold back attendance by performers, but the audience is sparse as of now.  The international student dancers are making their presence known in a big way, which makes sense, considering the history of Hip Hop at UMass Amherst that I'm finding archived on
Youtube.  Check out some of my favorite clips...

Here's a two song and dance piece titled "DBJ Asian-American Dance Crew - 2010 Asian Night at UMass Amherst Hip hop dance crew."  The crowd goes wild for this group, and the Youtube community seems to like them as well.  Of all the flicks I've found so far, this one has the best production values.  The video has netted 49,572 views, 80 likes, and two pages of mostly positive comments:

This clip is from the UMass Dhadak student organization.  It's titled "UMass SASA Fusion Dance Team - UMass Dhadak," and has 3,004 views, 3 likes, and one very lonely dislike.  I kind of like it.  According to the group's webpage, they specialize in Indian and Bollywood style dance routines.  The few comments are very supportive:

The Youtube search is going well, and there's no shortage of results for UMass Hip Hop.  Here's clip called "Kaba Modern @ Umass Best Dance Crew."  It has 1,345 views, 5 likes, and a handful of pretty impassioned comments.  I agree with the commenters, the performers in this video do a good job:  

See, it's stuff like this that makes me love the net.  It's interesting to note that while the Hip Hop Auditions flier says its for the "First Ever UMass Hip-Hop Dance Crew" all the video evidence suggests that's not really the case.  And if the recent record is any indication, there have been plenty of Hip-Hop crews in our university's recent past.

UMass Hip Hop Auditions Have No Web Presence

There's an intriguing event at UMass Amherst tonight, but unless you're on campus you'd never know about it.

Our billboards are plastered with a flier touting "Hip-Hop Auditions," and they have been for weeks.  I've seen them in the Library, Thomson Lecture Hall, the lab buildings, and the outdoor covered boards.  No doubt they're all over the residential areas as well.

The only thing odd about all of this, is that the event seems to have no online presence.  I've checked Facebook, Twitter, done Google web and news searches, and this thing doesn't come up.  At the very least, I was expecting a Blogger page.

Even the UMass run event calendar has no listing for tonight's auditions.  And the trusty school paper?  It's completely mute on the topic.

But fear not intrepid reader, for the Journalism 392 group has dispatched a collection of elite stringers to cover the Hip Hop Audition in person.  In the meanwhile, this event's lack of online presence has become the story.

I am working with one meager lead.  That same pervasive flier included an email address for the event's coordinator.  Here's hoping they've got the time to write me back with a few details before the curtain closes.

Another Look At Multimedia Story Telling

This week, I'm taking a look at two multi-media projects for my Journalism class.  To start with, I'm checking out a piece hosted by the Canadian National Film Board.

You can check it out here.

It's not the slick interface, or the fast loading time you'll first notice when you start this project.  No, it's the asinine vocal sound effects in the opening screen.  I always wonder about web designers who include these sort of over powered repeating sounds.

Quickly, I click through.

It's a pretty great project, all things considered.  This format is very conducive to story telling.  I got engrossed in the narrator's recounting of her experiences.  I like how she sets the stage for each upcoming event,  and how she details the dangers (runaway komiticks, falling through the ice, polar bars, broken limbs) she'll face, and how she helps you get a decent sense of what that cold frozen place must be like.
The project's creators use maps at the start of each slide, and vital stats like distance traveled, and temperature are posted with each new update.  This is a wonderful idea.  Excusing the sound effect lunacy at the beginning of the slide show, effects and music are used judiciously throughout the duration.  

On the technical side, I didn't have any problem viewing the project on my newly Linux running PC.  Not bad Film Board of Canada.  Besides a small formatting error, that is. 

The second project I took a look at is called We Choose The Moon, and it's a 40 year celebration of Apollo 11, posted in 2009.  It uses real transmissions from ground control, and a lot of CGI, to tell the story of that mission.  

Check it out here.

I don't like the CGI at all, but the transmissions are certainly interesting.  That said, the great white north seems to be a more interesting subject.  Probably because you get to talk to and hear from the adventurers themselves.  That, and I'm already pretty familiar with the subject.

Black Friday Photo Special

Black Friday has come and gone.

Now we're smack dab in the middle of this newfangled "Cyber Week" thing. 

Last week I scouted out my local shopping center, The Hanover Mall, and the attached Walmart with a borrowed camera.  Here are some of the pictures I took... 

The calm before the storm, the Hanover Walmart set up crowd control fences Thanksgiving afternoon:

Looking just to the right of the fences, the Walmart/Hanover Mall parking lot is deserted.  It's lunch time, and I've never seen this forsaken little lot so quite.  I like it like this:

It's Black Friday, and I'm bravely risking life and limb to bring my dear readers shots of bad small town traffic.  This is taken just across the Hanover-Norwell town line.  It's been stop and go for a while now:

There are people in my parking lot now:

Inside the Walmart, things seem pretty normal.  They've long since taken down the crowd control fence.  The people tending look tired to me:

Inside the Hanover Mall, things are hopping:

More wall walkers.  Notice, the place is already riddled with Christmas decorations:

The rear Walmart exit is more congested than the front was:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The TSA Is Still Odious

After 9/11 the United States was left reeling, confused, and uncertain.  That mentality is revealed in the closure of the Stock Market, and its sudden bullish behavior.

The United States was shaken, but in the dark months after 9/11 a new national resolve formed.  America would not be vulnerable, we would wage war (two of them, in fact) to protect our interests, and we would rally around President Bush.
A decade later, and we haven't been attacked on any scale approaching that of that rotten September.  But now a vocal section of the American population is expressing doubts about how we've gone about protecting ourselves.  This has happened before.  It happened when the TIPS program was introduced, and with each new passage of the Patriot Act.  It's the same national level introspection we saw when the U.S. was confronted with the facts of military prisoner abuse, Guantanamo Bay, and legalized water boarding. 

This time, something seems to be a bit different.

Now it's average American's who are subject to intense scrutiny, and many don't seem to like it.  The angst of this group is directed at both the new backscatter scanners being launched across the country, and the alternative full body frisking.

It's not difficult to understand why so many people are uncomfortable with the new scanners.  They show the operator an essentially nude figure of the passenger.  Boston.com spoke with an offended traveler:

It seems to me the TSA has turned into the threat,’’ said Emery Woodall, 51, from Atlanta, who opted to get the pat-down — what he calls the “lesser of two evils’’ — instead of going through the body scanner at Logan yesterday afternoon.
The news and internet are both full of similarly indignant responses.  Another objection comes from both pilots and flight attendants, who are concerned about frequent exposure to the radiated procedure.  Both groups have recently been exempted from the backscatter scanners after weeks of speaking out.

For those who choose to op-out of the backscatter machine, they can submit to a full body frisking.  This procedure is drawing fire left and right.  The crotch and breast invasive policy has sparked countless outrages.  Here are horror stories from a breast cancer survivor, a crying child's private parts being invaded, and traumatized sexual assault victims speaking up.

A vocal group called Opt-Out Day has decided to protest the new screening techniques tomorrow, by slowing down airport security lines. 

Despite all this, a sizable majority of people are perfectly fine with the new backscatter scanners, according to a recent poll, apparently believing that the loss of privacy is acceptable for presumptive security benefits.

Two Multi-Media Projects

For journalism class I've just taken a look at two multi-media pieces online.  The first features David Rohde, talking about his kidnapping by the Taliban.  That's posted at the New York Times website.  The second was put together by Martin Ricard, and discusses an agricultural/social reform effort in Sierra Leone.  That's posted here.

They're both quality projects, but the shallow spectator in me was most fascinated by the NYT piece.  It's a series of videos that feature Rohde relating his impressions of Afghanistan, his kidnapping by the Taliban, and eventually his escape.  I had expected the escape to play center stage, but it turns out his observations of the warn torn country were the most interesting.  Rohde relates how surprisingly well treated he was, the psychosis of his captors, and just how unpopular the US led occupation has become with the natives.  Perhaps most surprising is how Rhode describes a burgeoning mini-state in Pakistan's tribal area, bundled with a multi-generational insurgent culture.

The video relates the awkward reality of the insurgent's life and their internal dialog.  He talks about their appreciation of American war movies and a decade old first person shooter by Novalogic, and contrasts those appreciations with their enjoyment of jihad propaganda videos.

The escape account was pretty sweet, but it didn't take center stage.  All in all the NYT's piece obviously has enormous journalistic value, and presented the information clearly and succinctly.

The project refers to a Frontline documentary called The Return of the Taliban, which you can watch online here.  I haven't seen it, but I'll have to check it out tonight.

Martin Ricard's project on Sierra Leone is also valuable.  He uses a slide show/index format to direct his audiences attention from one subset to another of his project's focus.

While the NYT's piece focuses on the problems of a society, the Ricard project deals with an ongoing, largely grass roots effort to help the people of Sierra Leone.  The problem is, Ricard's presentation of his work in a Flash interface seems unnecessary to me.  It would probably be easier to work through if the information, which is mostly text, was presented with embedded video's on a static web page.  Without the sound effects.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Four Loko Reactions

Four Loko is under legislative attack in states across the country, with the FDA expected to weigh in soon on a National level ban.  The high alcohol/high caffeine beverage is popular with teens and students across the country, and people on both sides of this issue are weighing in on the debate online.  

A Facebook group titled “RIP FOUR LOKO” was created November 2, as has already gathered over 11,000 followers.  The groups mission statement declares its founders support for the drink:

The beloved drink of Four Loko is now illegal and will not be able to be bought in stores. We will forever miss you Four Loko R.I.P ♥  

The comments on the groups wall are all pro Loko.  Twitter is also alive with commentary tonight.  Tweets are flooding in speaking for both sides of the conversation.

EnviousMo speaks out for the drink:

Noooo four loko might be banned from arizona:o haha not mahh drinnnnk

xBossRicky doesn’t like the brew:

I'm not drinking four loko anymore cause the sh*t it does to you!

wilto takes the libertarian approach:

We needed laws to keep people from drinking Four Loko, huh? Is legislation in the works for bleach or “gravel, even if it’s only a little?

There doesn’t seem to be any sort of consensus in the democratic world of Twitter, although opinions online seem far more passionate than the brick and mortar side of things. 

Portishead - Roads (Good Music)

The TSA Is Odious, And Everyone Knows It

I don't spend a lot of time being outraged.  I used to, but it's exhausting.

Over the last few years I've found myself reacting to hideous events in a detached way.  Concepts like critical reasoning, the importance of public debate, and freedom of speech dominate my internal dialog when I'm confronted by something nasty.  Like I said, its exhausting being irate, but it's also fun.

But sometimes, I'll see or hear something atrocious, and I get a bitter taste in my mouth.  It happened on 9/11 while I sat in my boarding school's auditorium, and later when I first hear about RIAA's demented multi-million dollar lawsuits against teenagers.  It happened when I found out there never were any weapons of mass destruction, and our government knew the truth all along.

I'm outraged now, and it's because of the TSA.  This agency uses the remarkably invasive backscatter scanners to screen airline customers on their way to gate 17.  You have no reason to believe those images aren't being stored.  Not interested in giving a pervy, unprofessional TSA agent a peep show?

Then you're getting groped.

This is screwy, and it shouldn't be happening in the worlds most successful post colonial power.  This is invasive.

Anyways, this video shows footage of a video that went viral recently:

Good for Mr Tyner for registering his valid disapproval.  The reason this film went viral, is because everyone wants to speak to the TSA this way.  I don't think much of the chuckling CNN anchor.

What bugs me is that people are willing to suffer this kind of indignity.  That we don't value our privacy, or recognize our individual sovereignty.  That if this sort of personal degradation becomes acceptable, then further invasions of American citizen's civil liberties become inevitable and easier to tolerate.  A lot of Youtube commenters seem to concur.

Tyner may be prosecuted by the TSA.

National hero Captain Sully is an opponent to this whole thing.  According to the article, pretty much everyone thinks the TSA needs to be put on a leash. 

Link dump:

This National Opt-Out Day thing is gaining momentum.
The TSA is security theater.
Flight attendants aren't cool with any of this.
Neither are our poorly paid pilots.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Arguments Around Daylight Savings Time

It might seem like a strange thing to argue about, but there are those who think daylight savings time has to go.  These malcontents shrug off conventional wisdom and contend that the scheme is confusing and unnecessary, and their tirades make for a fun read.

Lets take a look at what the conventional wisdom looks like.

The California Department of Energy seems to have a pro savings slant.  Their website breaks down the positives into a few primary sections.  According to the Department, it helps save electricity by minimizing the use of electric lights, air conditioning, and heating.  It also gives citizens more outdoor time, helps prevent traffic injuries, and lowers crime rates.

Those are all pretty persuasive arguments.

So persuasive, that they seem to have migrated into the international sphere.  In Japan and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, both places currently considering adopting the measure, these same points come up.  The pro-health arguments have gained so much traction, that it's turned the tide of public approval in two foreign lands.  From the Montreal Gazette:  

"Public approval for DST is growing, from 40 per cent in the 1990s to around 60 per cent today [in Japan]. Heizo Takenaka, a former cabinet minister, says it nearly passed in 2005, but fell victim to bureaucratic infighting.

Sound familiar? Our neighbors in Saskatchewan have been having a similar debate for decades. Saskatchewan is one of the few northern jurisdictions in the world that does not observe daylight saving time. In 2007, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall suggested it was time his province vote on the question, but that has yet to happen."

UMass student Joyce Vander Molen can empathize with the health argument.

The Big Migration

Boston.com has a neat new photo feature up.  They're showcasing a selection of photographs from a National Geographic project that deals with migrations.

The feature is part of their regular "The Big Picture" series, which normally deals with human subjects.  This time it focuses entirely on the animal kingdom, ranging from birds to land beasts to interesting underwater shots.  When you view these pictures in sequence, they tell an awesome story of struggle and survival.  Almost every photograph is taken in the untouched wild, away from any sign of humanity.  I could probably count the number of times I've seen that sort of view on one hand.

Despite the wildly different animal species featured in each photograph, there is a continuity to this series.  In each picture, an animal is swimming, running, hunting, or fighting for it's very existence.  Darwin approves.

It's interesting to think that these creatures aren't just in nature, they really are a part of it.  I've always liked the idea that I'm a part of the natural world, but I've never had to fight a bald eagle and some crows for my meal.

My personal favorite shots come early.  Look for the walrus swarm (photo # 3), and the jellyfish armada (photo # 5).  Usually the big picture showcases pieces from a wide array of photojournalists, all these shots come from National Geographic's team.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Maddow Explains Propaganda, The Echo Chamber

Watch the clip here.  This whole segment is timeless.  Lesbian vampires!

Nine Inch Nails - The Hand That Feeds (Good Music To Wake Up To)

Democrats Gain Another Senate Seat

From the Seattle Times:
Sen. Patty Murray has won a fourth term, riding a wave of strong Democratic support in King County to defeat Republican challenger Dino Rossi.
Murray had been leading Rossi since election eve, with the difference between the two slowly increasing in her favor ever since polls closed.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Deftones - You've Seen The Butcher (Good Music)

The Best Links From Nov 4, 2010 (Or: The Campaign For 2012 Starts Now!) (US Politics Today)

Democracy Now finds the silver lining in the GOP's victory.  Roughly half of the Blue Dog/conservative Democrats were voted out in the 2010 mid-term, while nearly all the progressive Democrats held on to their seats.  Looks like voters prefer liberal dems to their conservative cousins.  What a shame Bart Stupak didn't come out to play in 2012.

The end result is that the liberal wing of the Democratic party is going to be more visible in the House, and America might get to see what progressives look like. 

Incumbent Democrat Senator Patty Murray might still have a job.  Good for her.  There are other continuing races, but I really like Washington State, so this one interests me.

Fire Dog Lake is trying to figure out how to legalize pot in the future, by examining prop 19's defeat November 2nd.  They want to hear from you, so armchair political strategists should head on over.  For a legitimately grass roots campaign, their self proclaimed accomplishments are respectable:

  • You made more than 50,000 calls to California voters, and thousands more to the other states.
  • With your support, we built new sites for two campaigns, and rescued Prop 19’s site after it crashed on Election Day.
  • We transformed the marijuana debate, and have shown that it’s possible to run real, bottom-up campaign to legalize marijuana.
My take?  Now that we know the beer industry is against prop 19, we should plan on their resistance next time.  Buy ad space online and on radio to help reveal their duplicitous motives.  That, and don't put pot on a mid-term ballot.  Young voters won't show unless the Executive's seat is up for grabs.

No matter what, the yes on prop 19 movement can serve as a fairly successful role model for future grass root campaigns.

In other news, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said something revealing:
"...the fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill; to end the bailouts; cut spending; and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all these things it is to put someone in the White House who won’t veto any of these things.”
So there ya go, another Republican is outlining just how doomed the conservative movement in this country is.  The Republicans want to drag the country back into a healthcare reform debate, stop all positive economic progress in this country, slash entitlements (they're coming for you, veterans) and slash services.

And they're already talking about 2012, just like us.  We have officially replaced governing with campaigning!  

This is the right's political strategy for the next two years:  Prevent the Government from governing during a time of national crisis, and then reap the support of the Tea Party.  That's it.  Hopefully conservatives will see these two faced politicos for what they are by 2012, but we shouldn't count on it.  We can't afford another 8 years of far right neo-con leadership, but that's what the Tea Party wants.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Broken Bells - The High Road (Good Music)

The Capitol Is For Sale (US Politics Today)

Votes are bought and sold by extraordinarily wealthy, anonymous, and selfish organizations.

Should We Renew The Bush Tax Cuts? (US Politics Today)

This is the big issue in DC right now, and it's the first time the Nation has seen the new Congress interact with President Obama.

Republicans want to extend the intentionally temporary tax cuts for everyone, including families making more than $250,000 a year.  The Treasury Department estimates this would cost the nation roughly $3.7 trillion per decade.  The Democrats are interesting in extending the cuts for everyone but the wealthy, an extension which the Treasury thinks will cost us around $3 trillion ($700 billion less than the Republican's idea) over the next decade.

The Obama administration is pushing for the Democrat's less expensive and more fiscally responsible plan, but prominent Congressional Democrats are already talking about temporary extensions for all, as a viable compromise with the right.

From Bloomberg:

If Congress takes no action, individual income tax rates will increase to 15, 28, 31, 36, and 39.6 percent from 10, 15, 25, 33, and 36 percent now, respectively. Reinstated limits on certain deductions and exemptions would push rates even higher for taxpayers in the top two brackets.
Most American's are probably unaware that we have historically very low tax rates for the wealthy, and that the US Government is shrinking according to at least 3 reliable indicators.  Despite the right's rhetoric over the last decade, both Clinton and Obama have lowered taxes.  Curious what bracket you're in? Click This.

It remains to be determined whether the Obama Administration would veto the Republican proposal, and whether or not the Republicans are even united enough to push their plan through.  If the Republicans manage the super tax cut, we can't take their pledge to reduce the deficit seriously. 

The right wants to lower taxes while simultaneously decreasing the deficit, a goal which requires massive and deeply unpopular cuts to the budget.  As of now, nobody has any idea what the right wants to cut, or where the political currency to achieve those cuts would come from.  But if history has taught us anything, it's not going to be the defense budget.

I'm excitedly waiting to hear from the new, more conservative GOP what services or entitlements they want to renege on.

The Best Links From Nov 3, 2010 (Or: What The Hell Just Happened?) (US Politics Today)

The Agonist thinks the new Republican House is preparing to do mortal combat with the White House.  The whole thing is worth reading, but here's my favorite bit:
 Don’t expect to see a serious budget produced by the Republicans, but you can fully expect they will reject any budget Obama submits to the House. The odds are pretty high we will get the federal government shutdown (and showdown with the White House) that Newt Gingrich dreamt about in 1994. This time, though, the Republicans won’t flinch, and we may see a forced default on our debt when the Treasury is starved for money.
That entire prediction rests on the idea that the newly elected Tea Party contingent will live up to its campaign promises.  If they do, they'll lose the center.  I they don't, they'll lose their passionate base.  I don't think there's a middle ground this time, not for this crowd.  Either way, the far right isn't going to gain more popular support over the next two years.  Not unless the Democrats continue to disappoint the Nation and alienate their supporters.

TPM talks about fracture lines already appearing within the GOP, caused by Sarah Palin. The conflict is between people who love her (the Tea Party and the Evangelicals) and the people who see her as useful but potentially dangerous (the sane but recently timid Conservatives).  The same fracture lines can be spotted around Beck and Limbaugh. 

The Daily Beast breaks down the numbers, and predicts an increase in tensions between the left and right, not the rise of bipartisanship.  Significantly, Democrats and Republicans showed up in roughly equal ratio's this election.  There are far more registered Democrats then there are Republicans, it's just that so many Democrats didn't come out to play.  I guess that enthusiasm gap was real.

NPR has a short piece that outlines what we can look forward to from the new Republican House:

When it came to specifics they had a couple that seem clear. Boehner said, "We continue to believe extending current tax rates for all Americans is the right policy." He was referring to the Bush-era tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of the year.  On spending he said he believes that 2008 levels of spending is "a responsible way forward." And on repealing the Health Care bill, he sounded fairly clear on that, "I believe that the health care bill will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health care system in the world and bankrupt our country." So, we can see that on the agenda.
Mr. Boehner also said there would be stronger congressional oversight of the executive branch, singling out the financial system reforms that recently passed as one area he thought there should be robust oversight as the regulations are written.
The Agonist might have been right.  It sounds like the right is gearing up to fight for tax cuts for the wealthy, repeal healthcare, and harass the Executive.  I still don't think Boehner is that stupid.  This sounds to me like a continuation of campaign rhetoric.

The Daily Kos has a post up about how the American voter is schizophrenic, and how the left can win him back.  They're predicting internal strife in the GOP, the same as everyone else, while they also see a more united Democratic party, since the Blue Dogs have been so efficiently culled this mid-term. 

I could go on, but nobody has anything else to say.  The right has enough power to seriously wound itself, Obama needs to step up, the left needs to rally, and 2012 is just around the corner.

Is anyone else having fun?

The Live Blogging Experiment

The Nevada Senate race is finished, and Harry Reid defeated Sharron Angle.  That means incumbent Reid gets to keep his seat as Senate Majority Leader.  I covered election night in a series of posts using the live blogging format.

I had a lot of fun, I could do this sort of thing every night. 

When I started this (school) project, I posted a list of sources I expected to rely on for most of the evening.  That list became obsolete within the first 20 minutes or so.  Neither of the campaigns used twitter to do anything but beg for votes, and both stopped communicating entirely once the Nevada polls closed.  Similarly, both their campaign websites were quiet for the entire evening.

Twitter itself did help me out once or twice.  It was in a "Nevada Results" search that I first heard about the power outage that delayed poll closures.  Once I knew what had happened, it was easy to do a Google News search for "Nevada power" and find a few recent stories.  That same technique helped me find a few other recently broken stories.    

Google Alerts was also useful.  I had four alerts set up following the Nevada Senate race.  If I hadn't been glued to Twitter and refreshing Google News searches so often, the Alert results would have been extremely useful.  As it stands, Alerts did let me know about Angle's campaign lawyer filing a voter intimidation allegation against Reid.

I had an RSS reader full of political commentary sites and blogs, which proved useful, but mostly for keeping me abreast of election results across the Nation.  I used Google Reader.  This whole post is starting to sound like a Google promotional piece.

The LA Sun had solid coverage, but they didn't post nearly as frequently as I hoped they would.  I think I only ended up citing them once.  The SilverState2010 site was useful, but it buckled under immense traffic once the Secretary of State's office started posting Nevada district results.  The NYT and MSNBC big boards were much more useful.

Cable news broke the story of Harry Reid's victory, but the online sources picked it up quickly.  I switched between MSNBC and Fox News for most of the evening.  Now I hate and fear Republicans and Democrats in equal measure.

Here are links to all my live blog posts from last night, ordered from first to last:

Nevada 2010 Post 1

Nevada 2010 Post 2

Nevada 2010 Post 3

Nevada 2010 Post 4

Nevada 2010 Post 5

Nevada 2010 Post 6

Nevada 2010 Post 7

Nevada 2010 Post 8

Nevada 2010 Post 9

Nevada 2010 Post 10

Nevada 2010 Post 11

Tool - The Pot (In Memory Of Prop 19), Crystal Method - Trip Like I Do, Dreaming Of Legalizing It, And Just Say Next Time (Good Music) (US Politics Today)

Don't worry, we'll legalize it somewhere else in...

I think these strange foreign types are on our side...

...and the champs from Fire Dog Lake say they'll try again.

Nevada 2010 Post 11

MSNBC cable just called it, Harry Reid took the Nevada Senate race with a margin of 6 percent, and 70 percent of the vote reporting.  Harry Reid is going back to the Senate as the Majority Leader.  His victory also guarantees the Democrats retain control of the Senate.  Two years of Congressional gridlock, here we come!

I can't believe Sharron Angle came that close to election.  Kudos to Reid for the extraordinary bounce-back.

Nevada 2010 Post 10

On cable, MSNBC is talking about Harry Reid like he's already won.  So is CNN, but they're presenting it on an atrocious "holograph" display.  On Fox they're making believe the Republican's have seized Congress, not just the House.  When they say Reid is losing, they're talking about Rory, not Harry.

SilverState2010 is getting swamped with traffic, and it's reload rate has slowed to a crawl.

60 percent of the vote in, and Reid has a healthy lead over Angle, according to MSNBC's site.

The NYT site is way behind both SilverState2010 and MSNBC, it's echoing both of their numbers from about 30 minutes ago.

Both Nevada Senate candidates are dead quiet on Twitter.  Reid must smell victory.  Angle is figuring out how to lobby for a recount.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nevada 2010 Post 9

So Nevada finally got its act together, and sorted out the aftermath from that power outage.

SilverState2010 seems to be the most up to date source, which makes sense, since its run by the SoS of Nevada.  Reid is in the lead by about 8%, but that's with a small percentage of districts reporting in.

Now that data from Nevada is coming in, I'm expecting the networks to start covering the Angle/Reid contest again.

New Majority Leader Boehner is parodying himself in a victory speech.  John Boehner is crying, a lot.  Maybe tomorrow he'll finally tell the country what the GOP's plan for America is.

Nevada 2010 Post 8

Both the candidates are quiet on Twitter, but meanwhile, Nevada poll results have finally started to trickle in.  Here's a visual run down of whats going on in Nevada.

So far only one county has reported in.

Nevada 2010 Post 7

Politico reports:

LAS VEGAS — A lawyer for Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle has filed a complaint with the Justice Department alleging illegal voter intimidation on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's campaign. 

The complaint is based on an article, which appeared Tuesday morning in National Review, that alleged Reid's campaign worked with sympathetic executives to put pressure on union casino employees to vote.
Is encouraging employees to vote the same thing as voter intimidation?  Is "intimidating" managers to encourage voters to vote the same thing as voter intimidation?  I doubt it, even if Angle's lawyer and the National Review article can be trusted.  I'm guessing the question comes down to whether or not employees were ever told who to vote for.

I'm issuing a prediction, this Nevada voter intimidation allegation is going to be a National story in a few hours.

Nevada 2010 Post 6

There has been a power outage in Nevada, and it's going to delay election results statewide.  At least one polling place has to stay open late because of the power outage, and other has to stay open due to a long line of voters.

According to Secretary of State Ross Miller, reported by Fox Five Vegas:
"No results of any statewide races can be reported in any county until all polls across the state are closed," Miller said in a statement. He could not say how long the vote count would take.

I'm telling you, the election in that state has a story arch.

Nevada 2010 Post 5

Its been 20 minutes since the polls in Nevada closed.  NOBODY has anything to report yet.  I'm adding "Nevada results" to my Google alerts.

Reid just thanked everyone for voting.  I'm guessing both the candidates are holed up until districts start reporting in.

Everyone agrees the Republicans own the House, and the Democrats own the Senate.  We're looking at a divided, potentially grid locked Congress.  That really doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would.

Nevada 2010 Post 4

Christine O'Donnel suffered a crushing defeat.  She took it well, which makes sense, since she's used to losing elections.  She gave a whacked out concession speech, and there's bound to be tons of coverage of it in the op-ed pages. 

Both Reid and Angle are begging Twitter for votes.  I like it when politicians beg.

It's a tight race, and both the candidates know it.  A GOP pollster calls Nevada's Senate race for Reid in Politico's shortest article ever.

The Senate is looking securely Democrat.  The House is becoming more and more Republican.  Nobody is surprised.

Nevada polls close in 10 minutes.  I'm betting Reid takes it in the end.

Nevada 2010 Post 3

Rand Paul delivered his acceptance speech.  The Tea Party Movement is officially influential on a National level.  This isn't like the Brown election, Brown was essentially a Massachusetts Republican.  Rand Paul, he's something else all together.

In an anecdotal way, this bodes well for Sharron Angle.  Not statistically, but in the "I have a hunch," kind of way.  The next two years are going to be damn interesting.

Anyways, The XX Blog thinks Sharon Angle is playing it smart by staying quiet.  They're right.

MSNBC is chatting about Harry Reid's prospects.  They aren't saying anything that isn't a verbal shrug.
40 minutes until Nevada polls close.  All silent on the Twitter front.

Nevada 2010 Post 2

Alright, the news was trickling in with the previous setup.  I decided to setup Google Alerts to be sent to my Gmail inbox, so I have something to click when my other sources fail.  The alert phrases I'm going with are "Harry Reid," "Sharron Angle," and "Nevada Senate."  That's casting a wide net.

According the the LA Times Angle has continued to hide from the media:

In a radio interview aired this morning, the candidate made it clear that her campaign is not talking to reporters — and her silence is journalists' fault because they're "unprofessional." She added that others should follow her lead.
She then makes believe her cowardice is a moral stance:

"We need to bring back the professionalism into reporting, and I think that when we have an opportunity to teach a lesson, we should," Angle said in the interview with conservative talk show host Heidi Harris.
I love this stuff.  Apparently enough of Nevada's voters buy her act, the states Senate race is extremely close.  The Washington Times just posted an update, which mentions two pre-election polls, Reid's rise from being a widely despised figure, and an Angle/Scientology collaboration.  If he was so widely despised, how did he win the Democratic primary in Nevada?

MSNBC is projecting a Republican House of Representatives at the end of the night.  Polls across the east just closed.   I'm making potato skins.

Nevada 2010 Post 1

The stage is set:

Nevada polls close at 10 pm tonight, Eastern Time.

 Angle just Tweeted:
This race is going to be decided in the next 2 hours. Get out there and VOTE, folks.
 Reid just Tweeted:
Pls RT! TWEEPS! Make a difference! Text friends - email your address book - IM your contacts, find out if they voted!
 Basically they're saying the same things.  They both linked to polling location websites.

So far, there isn't much new material up on the Senate races coming from the mainstream news.  They're all focusing on the eastern states where polls are starting to close.  The Las Vegas Sun does have a sub site tracking the two contestants.  As of 7pm Reid and Angle are respectively expected to:  

7 p.m. Tuesday - Reid and Democratic candidates will attend an Election Night event hosted by the Nevada State Democratic Party at the Bristlecone Ballroom in the Aria Resort & Casino at CityCenter, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas.

7 p.m. Tuesday - Angle is expected to join Republicans at election campaign watch party at the Venetian Las Vegas Hotel-Resort-Casino, 3355 South Las Vegas Boulevard Las Vegas.
 At least we have an idea where the two are supposed to be when the polls close in a little less than and hour and a half.

It Has Begun, Nevada 2010

I'm really into election night this year.  For Journalism class, we all had to choose a race to watch tonight.  For some godless reason I choose to watch the unfolding Harry Reid/Sharron Angle fiasco.  Full disclosure, I'm rooting for Reid.

My approach to this live blogging experiment is pretty straight forward.  Here's a list of media sources I'm planning to lean on:

The Las Vegas Sun's political section. 

The NYT's mind blowing interactive political board.

SilverState2010, a site promoted by the Nevada Secretary of State.

MSNBC, the cable news channel and the website.

Angle's twitter feed.  Angle's campaign website.

Reid's twitter feed.  Reid's campaign website. 

That should be enough to keep me busy and informed.  I also have pizza.

Looking At Live Blogs, What Makes A Good One (US Politics Today)

There are two ways to read a live blog.  You can read one while it's updating, and you can read it as an archive.  If it's a good live blog, chances are it's going to be informative and entertaining no matter when you read it.  It can also help later readers trying to understand an event from the perspective of someone who lived it.  They are not meant to be perfectly objective.  To illustrate the difference between good an bad live blogs, lets compare three that covered Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity last Saturday.

To demonstrate a live blog gone wrong, I bring you the New York times.

Yup, you're seeing it right.  The staff of the NYT tried to cover a funny event, on a dynamic platform, in an essentially impersonal and objective way.  The writer figures it out about halfway through the rally, but too little too late.  The entries are long, number and stat obsessed, and generally read like the minutes of a very large board meeting.  That doesn't mean that there aren't a few anecdotes mixed in, but they're always discussed in the third person.  This style of writing is off putting in this format. 

Another thing, the headline states that "thousands attended," but nearly every media outlet agrees that at least 150,000 showed, with the CBC claiming 250,000.  That's just cowardly.

Now that we've defined what makes for a bad live blog, it's easier to explain what makes The Guardian's a good one.  The Guardian isn't obsessed with objectivity, which makes sense, since the paper is generally seen as left of the U.S.'s center.  There's more information, more multimedia, and tons of outgoing links.  It's fun to read.

The Huffington Post also covered the event, but their website is so awful that it's a headache trying to read it.  It's better than the NYT live blog, more partisan, and chock full of video.

The Guardian's is better.

Spoon - Underdog (Good Music)

Sharron Angle vs. Harry Reid, Politics Can Be Fun (US Politics Today)

Besides the two states I've lived in and love (Massachusetts and Washington), Nevada is going to get the lions share of my attention tonight.  The Senate race between Sharron Angle and Harry Reid is one of the more colorful competitions for national office this year, and mostly because of Mrs Angle's extreme positions and unusual campaign.  She has the backing of the Tea Part Movement and much of the Republican establishment, while her opponent and the incumbent Harry Reid is backed by the Democratic establishment.

A partisan Examiner.com article chronicles some of her more extreme positions:

  • Privatize the VA
  • Phase out Social Security
  • Phase out Medicare
  • Erase the Department of Education
  • Erase the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Create a Government Agency to control the bodies of all women who are pregnant
  • Force women who are raped to carry to full term
  • Remove all regulations for Banks
  • Remove all regulations for Wall Street
  • Remove all regulations for the Oil industry
  • Remove all regulations for Insurance companies
  • Remove all regulations for Health care industry
  • Bring the Nations Nuclear Waste to Yucca Mountain
Remarkable.  Guessing from that list she subscribes to one of the more evangelical branches of libertarianism.  She has made a few epic missteps on the campaign trail.  Here's an ad many people are calling racist:

I'm not sure that actually is racist, but it's borderline nationalistic.  That's a semantic difference, but it's an important one.  She has also been bizarrely reclusive, refusing to interact with both national and local media until after she's been elected.  Angle has also repeated the falsehood that the 9/11 terrorists came into the country through Canada.  I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Comparatively, Harry Reid is a pretty normal sort of politician, and it might be that his dry toast persona sinks him.  I'm going to be keeping a close eye on the election results in Nevada, and so is just about everyone else.  Numerous recent articles show the two candidates running neck and neck, or with Angle in the lead.

The house has a long history of hosting far left and far right candidates, but the Senate is generally more a more buttoned down collection.  Not this year!

The NYT has an excellent interactive 2010 election feature that makes it easy keep tabs on pretty much every race.

My Take On MovieWeb's Tron Q.A.

Tron by *TronixGFX on deviantART

I'm a nerd.  As a nerd, the history of my people is relatively short.  We have the comic book industry, science fiction novels, computer games and the internet.  We also have a handful of movies we can claim as our own.

Tron is one of the movies that defines my introverted people.  It originally came out in 1982, and its had a lasting influence.  I remember watching it on VHS in my grandmother's generally unused guest room.  It smelled like moth balls.

So when a sequel to this milestone film was announced, the mouth breather community was electrified.  And with the movies impending release date this December 17th fast approaching, people across the inter-tubes are trying to figure out if it will be good.  Fortunately, MovieWeb has conducted an in depth Q.A. with the movie's two lead writers, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, both veteran writers of TV's Lost.  I still need to see that final episode.

The article starts of with some gushing about a 30 minute screening of the film the uncredited author attended. Then it gets down to brass tax, as the author meets with his interviewees.  It's a phenomenal piece for people looking for insight into the creative process for the upcoming film.

Since it's important to know how a writer feels about his subject matter, here is Horowitz talking in the interview about his relationship to the franchise:
Adam Horowitz: It really started twenty-eight years ago as kids when we saw the movie. For us it was like being dropped into the theater by parents who didn't quite understand what this movie would be. Then having your mind blown and running wild through an arcade after that too.
It's promising that both of the lead writers talk about Tron like this.  It means they might be able to recapture some of what made it so cool, since they got it to begin with.  It's also a good sign when people involved in a project enjoy working on it.  It means they feel productive, that they think their efforts are producing something worthwhile:
Edward Kitsis: It just hit me this week that this thing is actually coming out and that we didn't just do it for our own enjoyment. People are actually going to see it and it will be judged.
So far so good.  Of course, both of those excerpts could be examples of cynical marketing talk.  It wouldn't be the first time I was duped this way.  But that doesn't seem very likely to me, given the duo's track record, and the article's gushing about the screening.  These guys can deliver.

The duo continue the conversation, talking about working on Lost, their influences (who guessed "Wizard of OZ?) and even giving credit to the fans of ComicCon, who helped create all this buzz.  The duo also reveal that they're slated to write the sequel to this sequel, an as of yet unnamed Tron Legacy follow up.

I'm issuing a prediction.  Tron Legacy will be good.  Its sequel will be a cinematic catastrophe the likes of which Disney will never live down.

Here's a link to one of the trailers, featuring Daft Punk's Derezzed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What Juan Williams Was Really Fired For, Copypasta Edition (US Politics Today)

Its been more than a week since Juan Williams was fired from NPR, and his story has already started to fall into obscurity.  Which is probably a good thing, since NPR got a bomb threat and PBS was getting irate calls from very silly people. It's time to reflect on the Williams controversy, and see if we can learn anything from it.  According to an NPR report, he was fired from NPR for saying this on Bill O'Reilly's radio program:
"Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."
The same story cites an NPR press release stating that:
"His remarks on The O'Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR."
It's worth reading the NPR source first, so we can get an idea of the network's position.  The idea is that his lack of objectivity were the root cause for his termination.  A Christian Science Monitor article raises an interesting point based on that premise.  The author wonders what Williams's firing for editorializing means at a time when journalists are increasingly expected to express their views.  It's a good question, and I don't have the answer.

I listen to NPR frequently.  I enjoy it's programming, like Car Talk, and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.  But I don't pretend that shows like All Things Considered don't have an editorial bias.  Juan Williams was fired because he strayed away from NPR's official positions, and because he did it on a network that promotes competing ideological positions.  Noam Chomsky outlined all this years ago.


Williams was fired because delusional people could mistakenly interpret his remarks as racist.  Every partisan position has delusional people.  If his infraction was his editorializing, he would have been lightly reprimanded.  And if you think Juan Williams really is a racist, you should watch this.

Incidentally, here's an example of Williams's name being used as a verb.

Living Photograph Collection

It's exactly what it sounds like.  This is a collection of living photographs.  A living photograph is an internet meme that never quite made it.

Here's the great grand daddy of them all:

Here's a bunch of derivitave videos:

Cheer Up, Here's Massive Attack's "Atlas Air" (Good Music)

The Best Links From Nov 1, 2010 (US Politics Today)

The Moderate Voice agrees that many will see Republicans gains tomorrow as a vote of no confidence in President Obama, but makes a case against the idea.  The Moderate blames Democrats for failing to compromise, which is asinine.  I blame the Blue Dogs for failing to ally with their own party.  The author does recognize how damaging to the Republicans another culture war could/will be.  That conflict is inevitable at this point, thanks to folk like Palin and Limbaugh.

The Agonist uses Stewart's rally as a jumping off point for a thoughtful piece on partisanship, racism, critical thinking, why politics aren't transparent, and what the diminishing power of the Democratic party means for America.  I'm going to keep reading The Agonist blog, that was a solid article.

Taylor Marsh is keeping an eye of Sarah Palin's growing political clout:
Even after the silly doomsday predictions about Palin’s demise after she quit the governorship, which I never bought into, she turned the negative spin on its head. So, the politician who comes out of 2010 the strongest is Sarah Palin. That sound you just heard is the GOP establishment’s head exploding.
At this point it's official, she's really is one of the rights most valuable assets.  I'm fully expecting her to continue rallying the "family value" conservatives in the run up to 2012. 

NPR is making the same midterm election predictions everyone else is.  The House will fall to the Republicans, and the Democrats will probably hold the Senate.  They break down the numbers here. That second link is one of the clearest prediction rundowns I've seen.

The Daily Beast has a user friendly piece examining how effective the right's smear campaign against The Stimulus has been, and why the mainstream media has given up trying to correct public misconceptions about it.  It's frustrating because it's true.

The CS Monitor has a quick read about corruption in the United States Government, a subject anyone in favor of campaign finance reform already feels passionately about.  Read this piece from the Washington Post to find out just how much it costs to buy an election, and who's buying this one.

Wired wants you to know we're already fighting an undeclared war in Yemen.

Gogol Bordello: Immigraniada (Good Music)