Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mardi Gras!

Friend and neighbor Dora turned 50 at the end of January, so husband Jeff and the kids threw her a Mardi Gras party at the Black Forest Community Center. Jeff has a band of mostly fellow Agilent employees, called Pulpit Fiction (at least for now, the band name has gone through many humorous iterations). Jeff's the lead guitarist and vocalist to the left of the drums. Above is "Iko Iko," and you can follow the links to renditions of "Johnny B. Goode," a medley of "Birthday" and "Bring Me Down," an interlude where daughter Cassie introduces mom and everyone sings "Happy Birthday," the band plays "Short Skirt Long Jacket," the band plays "Thank You (falettin me be mice elf agin)," and the band plays an excerpt of Jeff's original "Intelligent Design."

A fun evening and lots of funny costumes.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Morgan Webb Chooses Gaming Over News

Oh, darn, one of the funnier little technology news vlogs is shutting down. One might come to the conclusion that gaming diva Morgan Webb just wasn't getting the advertising in a year like this one to make WebbAlert work, but the site did seem to be getting enough ads. Guess we can take it at face value that she just had too much to do with a five-day gaming show and all those famous-for-being-famous publicity opportunities. (She can probably anticipate that real news coming out of the technology sector may implode in the post-2009 environment.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Vulgar and Over-Caffeinated

I had 20 minutes of excerpts from Col. Ann Wright's Jan. 24 speech to the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, but the Flip Video erased itself when a button stuck. That sucks. I'll just have to tell you that Wright related a story of being tossed out and permanently barred from the Washington Press Club on Jan. 23, when Rep. Mitch McConnell denounced her organization, Code Pink, as "vulgar and over-caffeinated."

Wright is hardly vulgar. She is an Army warrant officer and former State Department diplomat who has served everywhere from Micronesia to Mongolia, including stints heading up the diplomatic side of the invasion of Grenada. She was in charge of reopening the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan in 2001, but resigned from the State Department 18 months later over the invasion of Iraq.

Wright urged the audience to pay close attention to "embedded" military recruitment that uses school appearances and arcade games to get high-schoolers to practice for standoff warfare jobs, such as piloting UAV drones. She talked about the courage of working for peace organizations in cities dominated by the military. And she expressed concern about Obama being able to handle the Pakistan-Afghanistan quagmire without getting more civilians killed in the process. Wright said she was willing to give the Karzai plan for involving some Taliban elements in government a chance, but added that the Afghanistan-Taliban-Pakistan-ISI mess may be permanently intractable.

Wish you could have seen the humorous excerpts from her funny speeches, but you'll just have to go and see her for yourself!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dazzling January

Conventional wisdom says that decent music is rarely, if ever, released in January. We already knew The Boss was going to disrupt that assumption by dedicating his Jan. 27 release, Working on a Dream, to the incoming Obama administration. But was all the Obama fuss responsible for the sudden flurry of astonishing music releases in a bleak and broke January? Or was it music producers trying to get anything in the stores while consumers still had a few pennies left? In any event, the following releases are worth your time and attention:

Bruce Springsteen - Working on a Dream
Antony and the Johnsons - The Crying Light (Kazuo Ohno pictured above)
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
Bon Iver - Blood Bank EP
Andrew Bird - Noble Beast/Useless Creatures
Matt and Kim - Grand
Robert Pollard - The Crawling Distance
A.C. Newman - Get Guilty
Franz Ferdinand - Tonight
Jackie-O Motherfucker - The Blood of Life
The Shadow Ring - Life Review, 1993-2003
Astral Social Club - Plug Music Ramoon
Six Organs of Admittance - RTZ

I'm certainly not complaining, though my wallet is. Could indicate a bumper year for creative music.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Justice Sunday

While Barack Obama was being lauded by Bruce Springsteen, U2, Mary J. Blige, Betty Lavette, Jon Bon Jovi, and a host of stars at the Lincoln Memorial fest Jan. 18, Colorado Springs was having its own little festival of justice. The afternoon started with a rally on behalf of Palestinian rights in Gaza, with a great turnout of kids. The younger cheering section is featured above, and other rally videos are here, here, and here.

Later in the afternoon, Opera Theatre of the Rockies held the first of several special events leading up to a Feb. 28 presentation of the Kurt Weill/Langston Hughes/Elmer Rice opera, Street Scene. On Sunday, 20 actors read a sit-down version of the play sans sets or stage action. This will be followed by musical selections Jan. 25, a showing of the 1931 movie Feb. 5, a discussion on social aspects of poverty and recession Feb. 8, a survey of Kurt Weill Feb. 12, a wine tasting Feb. 13, and a sneak preview of the set Feb. 15. The spoken play was a wonderful preview of the opera to come.

Finally, at 4 p.m., the Martin Luther King march proceeded from Acacia Park, site of the Gaza protest, to Shove Chapel on Colorado College campus. The crowd is above, the Peace and Justice banner-carriers are here. Felt like a little local representation of the Obama mania in DC.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Comcast Rides Again

Of course I'm hypocritical keeping my Comcast account, they're the best bundle out there right now, OK? But the company annoys and outrages me again and again with its pesky political influence-peddling and censorship. If you're unfamiliar with the smarmy history of this legion of scumbags, check out some of Bruce Wagner's tales of censorship, the complaints of poor voice quality and poor customer service, and the company's packing of FCC hearings on net neutrality with paid lackeys.

The latest atrocity involves the censoring of a New Mexico activist emailing people about a rally regarding Israel's occupation of Gaza. Bob Anderson of Stop the War Machine was sending out rally notices Jan. 9 and found his outgoing mail service had been shut off. Bob tells us that "Comcast security says they sent a message about the shut down. But it never arrived here. I don't know when they might have sent it either. This means they must have sent it earlier than the shutdown ... Comcast said I had been reported to them as a spammer and was using Port 25 on their server which is a violation of some type. I should have been on Port 517, they said. I know nothing of what this means except the Comcast rep implied I had been improperly using a business port or some other port and not a residential port. This seemed hostile and a red herring answer. I asked from whom it was that they had a report to shut me down and they said that was proprietary information and they would not tell me ...

"I think a person should have the right to know who is doing this to their private email. I pay Comcast for the email service, they treat it like it is a privilege to email with them. Comcast is one of the telecom companies who have agreed to work secretly with Homeland Security in their interruption and surveillance of terrorists. The question is, does protected political dissent in this country constitute a terrorist activity? I am not a spammer, just a normal politically concerned American citizen concerned that my government is aiding and abetting a genocidal foreign policy in Palestine."

Bob's case is all too common. One thing that concerns me is that an active federal probe under a new administration would find plenty of wrongdoing by both the Bush administration and telecom service providers working with the FISA bypass. Judging by the front page of the Jan. 12 New York Times, Obama is not too thrilled to look into past wrongdoing.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dead Stooges, Dead Dawgs - Asheton RIP

Admit it, when Iggy and the Stooges were in their formative stages, would anyone have guessed a Stooge would have lived to be 60? Ron Asheton, the immortal guitarist who defined The Stooges , died Jan. 6 of undetermined causes. Ron also was instrumental in the Ann Arbor band Destroy All Monsters, working with the always-fascinating Niagara. RIP brother Ron. I'll always want to be your dawg.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Self-Exposure as Police Informant

Sociologists keep telling us they can't believe the self-disclosure obsession some narcissists engage in on Facebook, MySpace, Indymedia, etc. Well, Brandon Darby (left) has taken the discussion to new levels. Darby has outed himself on Indymedia as an FBI informant, and will testify against two activists at the Republican National Convention who allegedly were making Molotov cocktails with Darby's help. Darby seems proud of his role.

An argument can be made for an activist who decides to turn state's evidence after s/he sees an action turn more violent than might have been anticipated. But Darby decided in early stages of RNC planning to be an undercover police agent. At the very least, this calls into question any work he did with Austin's Common Ground Relief on post-Katrina recovery. Despite the pride he shows, Darby is apparently unaware of a longstanding ethic that is common to activists of any political stripe: There is nothing virtuous about a snitch.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Data Centers and Snooping

In two visits to the National Security Agency's British intelligence station at Menwith Hill over the last 12 years, the wonderful women at WoMenwith Hill have clued us in to the way the base is linked to Hunters Stone, a telephone switching center near Harrogate owned by BT plc (formerly British Telecom). The bulk of British inter-LATA phone calls could simply be sucked up by NSA wholesale. But Hunters Stone was designed for a time when voice circuit-switching still mattered.

For several years now, the NSA has claimed to have run out of storage space in the Maryland area, and had called for potential employees to sign up for a future "Storage Station Freedom" in Colorado. While those of us watching the watchers spent months trying to figure out whether such a facility might be near Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora or near the storage corridor on US 36 near Boulder, we failed to notice two things: City officials from San Antonio, Texas were going to Fort Meade to push for new NSA facilities to augment Medina Annex, a major North American crypto-training and listening post. And San Antonio was also lobbying Microsoft to bring a new data center to San Antonio, touting Texas' cheap electricity as a factor.

A new article from Greg Schwartz at San Antonio Current claims that NSA decided to locate a storage facility, probably the elusive "Freedom," at an abandoned Sony semiconductor plant not far from Medina. And the agency made its decision soon after Microsoft located a data center nearby.

These days, telephone switching centers represent the ancien regime. Most consumer data, including voice telephony, is carried using the Internet Protocol, and the aggregation centers of choice are the data centers performing routing, switching, and peering. These are the centers managed by the likes of Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, located in nondescript buildings and using the amount of power of a small city. These data centers are now NSA's favorite neighbors for obvious reasons, and the Microsoft-NSA relationship in San Antonio is the type of thing we should expect to see in many cities, both within the U.S. and worldwide.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Flobots on New Year's Eve

Fight With Tools conference climaxed with a stunning New Year's Eve Flobots performance at the Gothic Theatre. Above is "Same Thing." Follow the links in this sentence to hear a new prose-poem-song "America Will Be," as well as "Stand Up," "Mayday!!!", and a cover of The Turtles' "So Happy Together."

Here's conference street team members getting
ready for a midnight confetti throw.
Happy New Year Everyone.
Stay positive and fight with tools
for a more just society in 2009.