Saturday, June 21, 2003

Argh! If the good Lord had wanted us to think in binary, he wouldn't have given us 10 fingers. That's all I have to say about that.
TinTin Bill, a friend from high school, is currently living and working at Disney in Japan. He's been posting occasional chronicles of his Japanese adventures online, and right now he has a picture on his site that, at least in my mind, makes him look exactly like he stepped out of a TinTin comic book.

While looking for a picture of TinTin to compare with, I was a bit shocked to come across this image and this image. Turns out that some of Herge's early works had something of a racist, colonialist slant on things. This in itself does not entirely surprise me. He was a product of his times, and at the time Belgium was still a colonial power subjugating the Congo.

What surprises me is that I remember reading some of the TinTin comics as a kid and not picking up on any of this. The same thing happened Little Black Sambo, by Helen Bannerman, which I remember reading in a storybook that was handed down from my mom. LBS was actually one of my favorite stories, partly because in the end the family uses the melted butter made by the running tigers to make a big batch of pancakes -- my favorite childhood breakfast food. I was shocked later in life to realize that some people considered the story racist because of the names of the characters. This had just never occurred to me as a child. (The story itself is actually not really that racist, and it seems likely that the names were picked more for their exotic ring than because of any racial agenda. The illustrations are a bit more questionable, perhaps, but still not grotesque. Apparently other editions were published in the US with more stereotypical illustrations.)

I think this points out what an artificial construct racism is. Kids aren't born understanding it, and it is only after society exposes them to it that they can comprehend what it means.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Stupid Corporate Tricks, Part II

I'm still trying my best to remember the new cell phone number I received when I switched from Sprint to Verizon. Then I saw this in today's Business section:

WASHINGTON - The Federal Communications Commission can create area codes specific to mobile telephones, a U.S. appeals court ruled, rebuffing a challenge by Sprint Corp.


Sprint argued the FCC plan could allow the agency to inconvenience current wireless customers by forcing them to switch their 10-digit phone numbers for entirely new ones, while landline users kept theirs.

I had no idea the cell phone companies were so worried about people having to change phone numbers. Why it seems like just yesterday I heard them yelling and screaming about what a bad idea cell phone number portability was. Despite being told by the FCC to make this happen in the mid-90s, the cellular industry has been whining and dragging its feet for years. As Stewart Alsop makes the point:
Question: What do Andrew McBride and Muhammad Saeed al-Sahaf have in common?

Answer: They're both loyal lackeys of corrupt administrations willing to say anything in order to justify their existence.

Muhammad Saeed al-Sahaf is the now infamous Information Minister of Iraq who insisted that the Iraqi army and government had control of Baghdad and were massacring coalition troops right and left. "I triple-guarantee you, there are no American soldiers in Baghdad," the minister was quoted as saying just as Americans were entering the city.

Andrew McBride, on the other hand, is a lawyer for Verizon Wireless, the largest cellular operator in the U.S., and for the Cellular Telephone Industry Association. McBride has taken on, somewhat enthusiastically, the job of justifying the cellular industry's base interests as being the most desirable for consumers. He was quoted as testifying in court to the following point of view: "It's very speculative to say this [number portability] even offers consumer benefits."

Get your story straight, guys! If you're so convinced that it will hurt consumers if their numbers change, why have you been so busily fighting cellular number portability for the last five years? Sheesh.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

My younger brother is buying a house. My friend Aaron just bought a house. Layne bought a house. Another friend from work is buying his second house, after tearing his apart and rebuilding it for the last four years.

Meanwhile I'm still sitting here waffling about whether I'm going to at last settle down in Nashville, go live the hip urban life in Boston, head back to my old haunting grounds in DC, or just maybe go find some sort of job that lets me travel to interesting places like Lithuania, Siberia, or South America. So instead of making hard decisions about this stuff, I sit here in the middle of the night listening to the best of the 40s, 80s, and 90s on MP3 and plagiarizing blog passages about atom bombs. I lack direction, so I avoid thinking about it by wasting time on things that don't matter.

Joshua wrote:
When an atomic bomb goes off, there's a massive release of energy; an explosion of light so intense it vaporizes steel, turns concrete into glass and boils the water out of aquariums from miles away. There's a nanosecond pause after the explosion, where everything is exactly like it was a moment before, only a million degrees hotter. Then everything does what comes naturally: it explodes. That's the part you usually see.
Read the rest. It's chilling.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Chasing Cats

This weekend was the kickoff of the Cat Fish Out of Water city art festival. To help increase awareness of the Cumberland River watershed, the Cumberland River Compact is coordinating the placement of 51 giant catfish throughtout the city.

After getting my oil changed today, I took a detour to Centennial Park. I walked around the American Artisan festival. Then I noticed my first Catfish:

Cat Fish Out of Water: Catsup
Catsup, by Trey Mitchell, sponsored by (of course) McDonalds

So then I hiked around the park a bit and found three more:

Cat Fish Out of Water: Spider Cat
Spider Cat, by Kern Studios/New Orleans, sponsored by Rock Harbor Marine

Cat Fish Out of Water: Classic Black Catfish
Classic Black Catfish, by Margaret Krakowiak, sponsored by Vanderbilt University

Cat Fish Out of Water: Speed Catilac
Speed Catilac, by Susan Rainey, sponsored by Andrews Cadillac. Above one of the exhaust pipes, it says "Body by Fisher!"

According to the map, it looks like there may be three others in the park that I missed.