June 17, 2003

Segway Verdict: Dorky

OK, So I guess this is officially a trend: two Segways in 3 days. First, one passed me on Fifth Avenue near the office. That was the first one I've seen live. Then on Sunday, some guy was riding his down the Riverside Park bike path while his female companion jogged alongside.

Apparently, they are quasi-legal on New York sidewalks. (Which is just as well, since our sidewalks are in way better shape than our streets, witness the wading pool size potholes on my block. Driving has definitely taken on an obstacle-course quality in much of Manhattan.)

Meanwhile, the Harvard Business School has printed an excerpt from a book on the Segway that describes the reaction of Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos to the Segway. Vintage Jobs:

"Its shape is not innovative, it's not elegant, it doesn't feel anthropomorphic," said Jobs, ticking off three of his design mantras.

"You have this incredibly innovative machine but it looks very traditional."

Perhaps more to the point, it looks dorky. Driving one seems about as sexy as driving the forklift at Wal-Mart. The company seems to understand this as their website is filled with pictures of goofy Middle Americans attending to mundane tasks on their Segways.

And the stories of how their lives have been changed — I mean, seriously, people, get a grip. Apparently, the hype machine is gearing up, though, as Justin Timberlake rode one on the MTV awards. If anything is going to kill this machine, that kind of exposure will.

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June 14, 2003

The Madness of the Ideologues

What is about anti-US writers that none of them can come up with a coherent argument that is worth reading? Case in point, Eric Hobsbawm's screed in Le Monde Diplomatique, here excerpted and translated in The Guardian.

Here's Hobsbawn morally incomprehensible:

There is a genuine case to be made that there are governments so bad that their disappearance will be a net gain for the world. But this can never justify the danger of creating a world power that is not interested in a world it does not understand, but is capable of intervening decisively with armed force whenever anybody does anything that Washington does not like.

In other words, The world needs a force for good, but I don't propose lifting a finger to have one. Naughty dictator, naughty naughy. Please stop.

Here's Hobsbawm with an interesting observation:

And Bush's existing international policy is not a particularly rational one for US imperial interests — and certainly not for the interests of US capitalism.

This is true, the ultimate dominance of the US is and will continue to be, cultural and economic. The military component so current right now needs to be short. A) because the US can't really afford it, B) because the American people ultimately don't support it, and C) most of the problems of the world are not conducive to solution in this fashion.

Once we pass beyond the current situation of terrorists and terror-states aided and abetted by European appeasement and collaboration, the US military venture will probably subside. Also, maybe someday there will be a Democratic Party that will overcome it's own rampant inanities and form a significant opposition.

As to why people like Hobsbawm can't string a coherent and rational argument together, it seems to be part of the "madness of the ideologues" — too blinded by their hatred and anger to actually grasp the world.

Is there anyone out there that is actually writing progressive analysis that is readable? I have some ideas but I welcome other's observations.

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June 07, 2003

Positively 44th Street

The New York Times Company mission statement:

The Company's core purpose is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment.

Well, it certainly has created news, and distributed much high-quality entertainment this past few weeks.

Here's the New York Post's take, classic and wonderful tabloid head:

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June 04, 2003

Shooting the Wounded

For those among you what don't get the "dead trees" version of the New York Times, there was an editorial page ad from TomPaine.com that must certainly qualify as "Self-Foot Shooting 101".

Their message: not only must we Democrats fight against a popular President who shows aplomb at dealing with national and international crisis, we need to kill off each other first in order to do it. They even venture a gratuitous slap at front-runner Lieberman, targeting his speeches as unexciting.

DLC "New Democrats" are GOP Lite: cozy with corporate elites, comfortable with free-market fundamentalism, hostile toward unions, keener for tax cuts and defense spending than for public investment or securing the social safety net.
[...]
George Bush is beatable. Liberals and progressives gathering this week in Washington for the "Take Back America" conference know that. The question is: Will the Democratic Party favor the DLC, which has plenty of money, but is otherwise bankrupt? Or will it adopt the vision, passion and values needed to get out the vote?

George Bush may be beatable, but it looks like George Bush is the only guy who can beat him, since these Democrats remind me of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the one who has his arms and legs cut off and won't quit: "Oh. Oh, I see. Running away, eh? You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you. I'll bite your legs off!"

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Flag of the Week

Odd Job Lot, New York, May 26, 2003

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June 03, 2003

My Sordid Past

I have to come clean. My history is not clear of suspicious team associations.

When I went to Ossining High School, we were the Indians. Actually, strictly speaking, the jocks were the Indians — I was on the Debate Team and the newspaper. Last fall, the High School dumped the Indians mascot, despite the historic association of the town with the Sintsink Indian tribe. (Originally the town was called Sing Sing, but the infamy of the prison led to a name change in the mid 20th century.)

Our arch-rivals were the Headless Horsemen of Sleepy Hollow. No one objected to that name, I guess because the headless don't have a constituency in America (or as my wife said, they don't have a voice). This despite the number of them in Congress.

McGill University's teams are The Redmen. (The women are The Martlets, and the baseball team The Redbirds.). I'm not certain if Redmen ever referred to an Indian mascot (I suspect it did, maybe someone can enlighten me). The school colors are Red and White so that is apparently the imagery they encourage now. Given the origin of the James McGill fortune, we're just lucky they weren't The Beavers, I suppose.

{By the way, McGill was critical in the history of football, inventing many of the basics back in 1872-1874. For more.}

Apropos of nothing perhaps, I wanted to point out that my son's High School has an elaborately complex set of team names, since apparently they could never agree on a single image. Makes reading the school paper confusing at times.

Stuvesant High School:
Boys —
baseball, tennis, soccer: The Hit Men
basketball: Runnin' Rebels
Football: Peglegs
Swimming: Pirates
Handball: Dragons
Girls —
basketball: Phoenix
swimming: Penguins

Peglegs because Peter Stuyvesant had a wooden leg, of course. I hate to think of the origin of Hit Men (must have been when the school was on the lower east side).

My son is on the cross-country team. Needless to say, they don't run as the Peglegs, just Stuyvesant Track.

Posted by campbell at 11:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Team Names Redux

In my new-found role as an oppressed minority member (Celt)*, I find this an interesting development: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune may revise its ban on "insensitive" team names.

Notice how the editor posits it as a return to accuracy in reporting (as opposed to "sensitivity" or political correctness, I presume).

Gyllenhaal said the paper intended to replace the ban with a series of guidelines aimed at being sensitive to readers while leaving language decisions in the hands of writers and editors.

Those guidelines include using alternative logos for potentially offensive ones — a script "I'' instead of the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo logo, for example — and avoiding slang terms or abbreviations such as "Skins'' for "Redskins.''

"This isn't nearly as much about Indian names as it is about the paper's responsibility toward accuracy and realism,'' Gyllenhaal wrote. "Over the past decade, sensitivity over language has increased dramatically with the rise in conflicts among global religions, bitter divisions in the Mideast, cultural wars at home. When there's an outright ban of any words on one topic, it becomes difficult to justify why we rely on mere guidance on other topics.''

I'm unclear how "Redskins" is less denigrating than "Skins". Of course, references to "warpath", "scalps" and "scalping" (except about tickets) shouldn't be tolerated.

On the other hand, has anyone thought about how Minnesota's use of "Vikings", "Twins", "Wolves" could be deemed objectionable to Norwegian-Americans (or People of Color: Blond), multiple-birthed Americans, and endangered species?

Me, I still haven't ordered my "Fightin' Whities" T-shirt.

*I don't know how many Americans have encountered Canadian Tire Money, but for a striking example of insensitivity to Celtic sensibilities:

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June 01, 2003

If you're not part of the problem, you're part of the problem

There is a movement afoot by anti-US radicals to bring down the "unilateral hegemon" by organizing the world's masses to economically strangle the US. But more on Arundhati Roy's wet dream another time.

A report from the G8 protests shows how unlikely that scenario is to unfold. The protestors have met the enemy and, to rephrase the immortal words of Walt Kelly's Pogo, they are them. One group attacked a Socialist Party meeting for being insufficiently radical.

This started a while ago. This ludicrous graphic appeared a few weeks back on one of the main anti-G8 web sites:

The point, of course, is that it is unacceptable (except to "bobos") to want to change globalism, say to make it better for the world's people.

So if they need to amend their chant, I'd suggest: We are 2000, They are six billion.

"They are eight — we are six billion" is on the lips of just about everybody in Annemasse... [...] The activists divided themselves up into the two camps to show their diversity. One is the "intergalactic village" — grouping environmental, anti-nuclear or other social activists. The other is the "anti-capitalist, alternative, anti-war village."

Two camps of European activists — wonder if you could classify them by odor?

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