Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tagging Cyberspace - One Year On

Pop Impulse is approaching its first anniversary. Though I am still struggling with navigational and design issues, almost 170 posts later, I am generally very happy with the site and the opportunity to tag cyberspace with my own mark.

That's what bloggers do, we TAG cyberspace with digital grafitti just as a Home Boy with a can of spray paint marks a boxcar or bridge. Some of our grafitti is unexpected and beautiful, some is stark and angry, and much of what I discover is the record of many mundane lives, dreams and aspirations. Almost all is worthwhile in some way to someone. What I really appreciate about the Blogosphere is its bottom-up architecture, which gives voice and admin authority to all. In a previously top-down world, that has been a most refreshing new direction.

In a way, I feel like I've been here before. In the mid-90s I was the publisher and executive editor of Southern Oregon Magazine, the first online regional travel WebZine. That pioneering site was 365 pages deep, contained original maps and a staff of editors headed-up by John Enders, a former award-winning AP correspondent. My two partners have moved on from that venture. John Fricker is an IT manager at Musician's Friend (a Pop Impulse recommended vendor); and Gary Roberts, who was responsible for the design, look-and-feel and maps in the publication, has become a master of Flash animations and advertising. The magazine, alas, was ahead of its time and though it won four awards our attempts to monetize the asset fell short of our needs. It didn't help that we all had day jobs as well.

Pop Impulse has become my refuge and my soapbox. From this blog, I stand and rant to Net surfers about all the stuff that I find interesting and important. At this writing, I have about 500 regular readers. I write to give voice to my wonder, my opinions, and my discoveries. But you keep me going. Three-to-four posts a week. I am grateful for my readers, and agree to keep the content flowing as long as there is interest. At some point, I will better organize the several subjects that Pop Impulse covers. And as all bloggers, I'd like to increase the amount of comments, diggs and subscriptions that I I'm working on that.

In conclusion, I'd like to wish a Happy New Year to all. May the new year bring peace on earth and healing to the planet. I trust that all who celebrate at this time will have a safe and memorable passage into 2008. After a dinner at Meriwether's, my partner and I will be joining Portland, Oregon's hometown band Pink Martini at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall to mark the event. I'll return to this blog the first week of January, the same time-frame that I first lit it up in January of last year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christian Clergy Clash on Christmas

The Church of the Nativity in Manger Square, where Jesus Christ was supposed to have been born. A holy site managed by priests from the Armenian Orthodox Church; the Eastern Orthodox (Greek/Russian) and the Catholic Church. A place where, predictably, on every high holy day there is conflict - among the clergy themselves. That's right. The ordained in pitched battle on the hallowed grounds where the Christian savior was born. Quite an image that. And a regular occurance. This time, it happened on Christmas and four were injured.

To review, the relationships between the sects charged with managing the site are so strained and bitter, every square inch of the place has been measured and marked-out as the turf of one sect or another. Cross the line, get you lights punched out. Then, of course, there are the differing calendars and dates that must be accomodated - often with rancor. Even cleaning the floor has been known to spark mini-riots. Such gracious and dignified behavior. OMG. Read the BBC report here.

But of course, we shouldn't be surprised. So many have died, often tortured and desecrated, in the name of one Christian sect or another. My own ancestors, the Celts, were famous for their internecine feuds. And the recent Irish troubles, pitting Protestants against Catholics, took almost half a century to settle. Then there's the Balkan conflicts. Don't get me started. Sometimes it seems to me that virtually all conflict has a least a few religious roots.

Bhutto Blamed Musharraf

In an October email to her American Spokesperson, Mark Siegel, Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated today blames former general and current Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf. (Image: General Musharraf with Pres. Bush in 07)

CNN's Wolf Blitzer is reporting that Siegel forwarded the email to him and he agreed to embargo the contents unless an assassination actually took place. Well it did, and Americans need to ask themselves and their government if our policies and billions in aid have moved our national and regional interests forward. It is now clear that the government of Pakistan will blame outside extremists when it is their own hands that are bloody.

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

This morning, the Pakistani army killed one of the leading stateswomen in our generation, Benazir Bhutto. More specifically, the Paki Army's ISI security group is to blame. Either this elite corps, long-time supporters of the Taleban in Afghanistan and Kashmiri terrorists, assasinated Bhutto themselves, or their complicity and/or incompetance led directly to the attack. In either case, it is a sad day for Pakistan; for democracy, and, for empowered women everywhere.

It is no surprise that such a despicable act should happen in a country that is full of fundamentalists. That's what fundamentalists do, after all. And they seem to really get energized by exloiting and controlling their women. A 19 year-old gets gang raped in Saudi Arabia, the leading exporter of Wahabi fundamentalism, and it is her crime, her fault, and she is sentenced to 250 lashes. Uh huh. In rural Turkey, a young woman risks honor killing if she even looks at a young man without explicit family involvement and permission. Often it is the father or brother of the girl who murders her to maintain family honor. Now that's progressive thinking. And make no mistake about it, there are those here in the United States who would relegate women to subservient roles, burn books and use violence to impose their fundamentalist doctrines. Declare your independence from fundamentalism. Think for yourself.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Africa - The Power of Tribal Art

When I was 30, a friend needed to sell his collection of African masks and sculpture. The 25-piece collection lived at my home for months while I previewed the purchase opportunity for my associates. Though I never had an understanding or appreciation for tribal art to that time, living with those powerful pieces for months left me with a real sense of their meaning and value. I grew so fond of the collection that I was very sorry to see it go when a more serious collector stepped up and bought it all. I should never have let those pieces out the door. Since then I've been acquiring some African art of my own, including masks, batiks, weavings, baskets and wood carvings. I've included some of the pics in this post. Let me know what you think.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Rudy & Romney are DONE

You read it first here. The 2008 presidential campaigns of Gov. Mitt Romney and Mayor Rudy Giuliani are DONE. Kaput. Finished. Over.

Romney has been thoroughly exposed as an opportunistic phony who flip-flops in time with changing polls. It is clear now that he will say or do anything to get elected. I suspect it is a father-son competitive or comparison thing. In any case, his declining poll numbers reflect hemorrhaging support. And America's mayor Rudy is looking more-and-more like any other corrupt, wiseguy politician. It would have been counterintuitive, in any case, for the Republicans to nominate a candidate who was living with his mistress while still married. Makes Bill Clinton look quite saintly. At least he didn't divorce, twice.

The early stage Republican campaign has come down, for the time-being, to upstart evangelical Gov. Mike Huckabee and the GOP's proven Senate leader, John McCain. I'm predicting that McCain will emerge the victor and ultimate candidate, simply because faced with a real, ordained evangelical the rest of the party will bolt to McCain - led by the pro-corporatation, pro-globalization crowd. More on the upcoming elections and the Democratic primary race in a future post.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Royalty in the YouTube Era

In a cyberspace FIRST, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, England's longest living monarch at 81, today launched a Royal Channel on YouTube. That's right, HRH is now appearing in a variety of videos on the newly configured channel announced today. Readers might also be interested to note that her annual holiday address to the nation is also available as a podcast via the royal web site. Okay, I'm impressed. Her highness seems to get it, and she's obviously got some tuned-in advisors. Here is the Times of London announcement article, and here is the Wikipedia entry on Elizabeth II with everything you ever wanted to know about the old girl and then some.

This does represent something of a validation and coming-of-age for the Internet. YouTube is already playing an important role in US elections, in citizen journalism and user-produced entertainment. Google's YouTube site may turn out to supplant network television in the same manner that Craig's List has undermined local newspapers.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rainin in Paradise

It's definitely Rainin in Paradise. That goes for the weather outside my office window, and as a statement on the condition of our planet. It is also the title of the first single released from Manu Chao's September 2007 Disc, La Radiolina. Chao, arguably the hippest world beat musician on the international stage, blends liberation, a left-leaning point of view, and a variety of musical styles to create a rhythmic and infectious sound. The over-the-top animation in this video speaks for itself. Check it out. You know you want to.

Uzbekistan - Jewel of Central Asia

I've always been fascinated by the beauty of Asian carpets and the skill necessary to weave such treasures. I remember seeing a large, Persian silk carpet that took five generations of one family's life to produce. That is old-world dedication to tradition and quality, a favorite subject on this blog. The ancient Silk Road that introduced Asian treasures to Europe and the west runs through Central Asia, for years shrouded in the haze of the Russian communist revolution and territorial expansion. With the demise of the old Soviet Union, Central Asia is coming into its own again and opening up to the west.

The jewel of Central Asia, its biggest country, is Uzbekistan. Home to Tamerlane, the 14 century military genius and conquerer, Uzbekistan has some of the most exotic and picturesque cities in the region: Samarkand, Tashkent, Khiva and Bukhara. Even the names are exotic, and the architecture is simply stunning.

Blogging has opened many doors for the author and delivered countless new friends and opportunities. In that regard, I have discovered a really wonderful photoblog that is a chronicle of the travels of a very interesting Romanian accountant. His photos of the cities along the Silk Road, especially those in Uzbekistan, are great and very much worth browsing. I had hoped to use some of his fine pics in this post, but alas, he has not given me permission to do so and thus I am relying (as usual) on Wikipedia's comprehensive collection of public domain images. You'll just have to surf on over to Hoinarescu's blog, Creaga Pe Coclauri, and take a look at his images - which are more numerous and much better than Wikipedia's offerings. Make sure and click on his November "archive" for images of Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan is also home to one of my favorite new world-beat artists, Sevara Nazarkhan. A recipient of the BBC's Best Asian Artist award, Sevara has literally put Uzbek folk and popular music on the map. And she's very beautiful, in an exotic sort of way. I've always thought that Uzbeks actually look a combination of their Mongol, Turkic and Persian ancestors. Nazarkhan has a number of really excellent music videos, that are often featured on LINK TV (for those of you with Satellite).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lakota Souix Secede from US - Declare Treaties Void

Wikinews is today reporting that the Lakota tribe, part of the greater Souix Nation, have formally declared their secession from the United States and further declared void all treaties past and present. (Image: Lakota, Pine Ridge Flag)

Now this is news, and it will probably only get a "news of the weird" mention from the MSM. Parts of five states are involved in this modern day insurrection, led by well-known native American activist Russell Means. The original story appears in the Souix Falls Argus Leader. Means and his group sent a letter to the US State Department and have received a sympathetic reception from Latin American countries with large indigenous populations like Boliva. Given the status and sovreignty enjoyed by Native Americans in neighboring Canada, and the election of native leaders in several South American countries, this is a movement that could grow in size and scope. Means is the man to do it, should it get done. His motivation and background are profound.

Sweet Solstice Treats

This time of year is perfect for traditional recipies and Winter comfort food. Fine food is a pleasure, like fine wine, fine music and fine company. In our family, there are several traditional holiday treats. My eldest daughter calls herself a "halfer," because we are a racially blended family -- which makes for some interesting holiday dining. We do homemade Tamales every December, and often prepare a batch of the "world's greatest salsa" as a side dish. This year, we're adding sweet and savory Empanaditas to our holiday fest menu, in addition to Nana Vickie's Rum Cake (soaking in Myers' as I write).

We continue traditions from the British side of the family as well, making Persimmon and Sago Plum puddings, and Yorkshire pudding to accompany our holiday rib roast. And of course, we consume lots of tippy Assam tea with milk to keep warm.

This is the Persimmon Pudding recipe that has been passed down in my family for a couple of generations. The Latin name for the American Common Persimmon means "food of the gods." That's understandable, given the treats that these pulpy, orange fruit produce. My partner makes cookies and the bread-like pudding full of walnuts, raisins and goodness. Here's how the pudding works.

Ingredients: 1 cup flower; 1/2 cup sugar; 2 Tbs butter or margarine; 1/2 Tsp salt; 1 Tsp baking soda; 1 Tsp cinnamon & allspice; 1/4 cup of milk; 1 cup raisins; 1 cup chopped walnuts; and, 1 cup persimmon pulp (about three fruit).

Directions: Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes with the pudding pan resting in a pan of water in the oven. Cooking in water is a must for this dessert.

We also enjoy a stove-top steamed Sago-Plum pudding. In America, plum pudding was often made with figs and became "figgy pudding." NPR ran a great story about holiday puddings yesterday, and included this fine article and recipe for their very alcoholic version on their website, here. This pudding is steamed in a tightly covered pan (Bundt is a favorite) and because of its alcoholic content, will last for months and definitely benefits from sitting a spell.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chris Dodd Stands Up to Spying Telecoms

As a former Telecommunications Councilor for the State of Oregon, I am delighted to report the success of Senator Chris Dodd's effort to derail a bill that would have granted retroactive immunity to large telecom providers engaged in extensive, unauthorized and unconstitutional spying on their domestic U.S. customers.

Just the phrase, retroactive immunity, raises my hackles. Know what I mean? So we're going to give a retroactive get-out-of-jail-free card to a bunch of commercial interests that have been playing fast and loose with our private information and personal conversations? And we're going to do this after-the-fact? After they've invaded our privacy and eavesdropped on our personal communications? I think not. Senator Chris Dodd didn't let it happen. For that, we all owe the fine gentleman from Connecticut a vote of gratitude. Thank you Senator Dodd! Check out the Good Senator's victory video here.

The Bushies have been pushing hard for this legislation, legitimizing their extensive domestic spying program - which has been seriously facilitated by YOUR phone company. Unless of course, you use Working Assets, now Credo Mobile. Read about alarming new domestic surveillance developments in this well-researched article by Tim Shorrock.

This victory was brought to you by Senator Dodd and the Netroot community, which generated about a half-a-million emails and a bunch of calls. Bottom-up democracy at work. Those who participated in this nationwide effort, take a bow. Now get ready for bigger and bloodier battles.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Last Minute Gifts Online

If you're like I am, you've left some loose ends and some holiday shopping until the last minute. So here are my unsolicited recommendations for great gifts that are easy to find and order online.

This holiday season, consider recognizing family and friends through a donation to leading organizations in their fields. For example Partners in Health is making an invaluable contribution to the health and welfare of the Western Hemisphere. Under the guidance of Dr. John Farmer, PIH started in Haiti, moved to the slums of Peru and is taking on major threats such as HIV/AIDS, drug-resistant TB and chronic illness. They do very good work for very little money and turn almost all of your donation into direct action. Or consider funding a specific project in a third-world county through a micro-loan. Just you and the entrepreneur. What a concept. makes it all possible. And a stunning 85 percent of loans are paid back in full. We're talking $50-to-a few hundred dollars. Way cool.

The Donors Choose site, here, allows users to pick a single classroom project in a US school to fund. Sure, this is something we pay taxes for and the government should rightfully fund, but the reality is that the current administration is spending all of its tax money on various wars, military projects and enriching private companies. So we need to step up and 1) change the administration; and, 2) fund worthy projects ourselves in the interim. This site has a lot of projects in the $50 range.

Another forward-looking gift for your activist friends is a carbon-offset credit. TerraPass has made this quick-and-easy to do online. So do what Al Gore does, buy offsets for your family and friends, and party with a clear (well, a bit clearer) conscience.

Google's New Knol Not a Wikepedia Killer

In a variation of the old, "if it bleeds, it leads" axiom of sensational journalism, today's technology news is rife with reports of Google's new challenge to Wikipedia. The WSJ headline says: Google Targets Wikipedia... C/NET talks of a Wikipedia "Rival." Well, that's one angle I suppose, but it is not the right one.

Google's new "Knol" platform is not a Wikipedia competitor, it is substantially different from the Wiki platform and it seeks to accomplish different goals. Read the Official Google Blog post here. Then, read Scott Gilbertson's post on the Wired blog. Scott gets it right. Once built, Knol will be a great compliment to Wikipedia and I personally welcome the development. And I confess, I'm interested in what readers think of my writing, so a rating system makes sense to me.

I've noted before that I use Wikipedia several times a day, and this blog contains almost 150 links to that wonderful and comprehensive source. In fact, I am a Wikimedia Foundation donor and have urged my readers to consider modest financial contributions as well. But I will certainly contribute content to the Google platform, and I imagine that I will soon be a regular user. Hey, the web is maturing and there's plenty of room for continued innovation, and new approaches. Bottom line, I trust both of these organizations and based on my own experience, both produce fine products with my best interests in mind.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

There's Something About Gina

While I'm focusing on friends' blogs, I must say that long-time friend Gina Smith's web presence is pretty pervasive. I added a link to her fine blog, I'm Gina Smith, to my blogroll some time ago. And she's been kind enough to give Pop Impulse a nod and a link.

Is Gina the queen of high-tech mavens? There was a time when Esther Dyson occupied that throne, but IMNSHO Gina has emerged from the last decade-and-a-half as the clear monarch of mavens. She's certainly earned the title.

Gina's background is best captured by John Simonds in this interview, though he misses the fact she speaks five or six languages. Gina started in a modest technical writing gig and from there went to PC Week as a reporter. I met her at that point in her career and we've been friends since. Never one to rest on her laurels, Gina moved up to become editor-in-chief of E2; and, technology correspondent for the ABC Nightly News, Good Morning America and Nightline for 5 years. She wrote the Inside Silicon Valley column for the SF Chronicle for over a decade; and she's now a YouTube video star for Infoworld, an occasional contributing columnist to Computerworld, and published author. Her books include: iWOZ, written with and about Steve Wozniak; and, The Genomics Age. Check out this article she recently submitted to Computerworld about the individuals who shaped the computer industry. Gina is married to a wonderful and intelligent gentleman, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions, and she's the mother of an adorable three year old boy. There are a lot of blogs in the blogosphere, Gina's is one of the few I read with regularity.

Really Take America Back - Jeff's Blog

If you've got 20 minutes or so, head over to my friend Jeff Golden's blog: Really Take America Back. He's posted a very timely video that is worth a look. Yes, I know it's 20 minutes, but good things take time and patience. Jeff's blog is about rediscovering and celebrating our common ground. You'll like his sensibilities and his progressive politics, so take a look.

Jeff contributed three articles to this blog when he attended the YearlyKos event in August and covered the news on the floor for Pop Impulse. That was before he launched ReallyTAB. You can read them here, here and here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Urban Holiday Hijinks - Portland Hearts Santa

Red-and-white clad revelers filled the streets of Portland, Oregon on Saturday in the Rose City's whacky SantaCon celebration. Just one of the many events that "keeps Portland weird," the annual SantaCon kicks off Portland's Santa Season.

Organized by the local chapter of the Cacophony Society, Saturday's event featured Santas in vinyl; heavily-inked suicide girl Santas in hot pants and fishnets; bathrobed Santas, you name it. And for some odd reason, there were an assortment of bunnies as well. And of course, it all worked and was great fun. But it was not a spectacle you'd bring the babies to see. For that, there is the requisite mall at the Lloyd Center. We were treated to this great street musician, dressed for the occasion, who spent all day banging out the blues on accordian and harmonica. Just check him out.

If the personal musings of a new, part-time resident of Portland is of interest to you, check out: Portland Condo.

Don't Blame Consumers for Bad Loans

Now that it is clear the US economy has tanked behind the sub-prime loan scandal, the blame dogs are loose. And of course, it's the consumer's own fault they got screwed by system and owe their souls to the man. Yea, uh-huh. Like I believe that.

Here's the real story, told by countless victims across the country. For background, we all live hurried, complicated and stressed-out lives; and so we often turn to trusted professionals for counsel and advice. When those professionals turn into preditors, the system doesn't work. I know, because I have friends and relatives who were caught in the web of deceit. In the last few years, this is the counsel that an army of loan officers has been providing their trusting customers.

Let me show you the benefits of home ownership. Bottom line, it's like owning the bank. And I can get you into a house of your own no matter how bad your credit or insignificant your job. No problem. We can even finance 100 percent of the transaction, including my fees and the loan origination costs, to make it easier yet. Why wouldn't you want to do this? Look, this is the way that the very rich have been playing the system for years, now you can do it too. What's not to love. We'll just do an adjustable rate first, a second on top of that, and no down payment is necessary.

Often, I suspect, troubled spouses and partners asked: Are you sure we can afford this? Well, when my friends posed that question, they were told the following:

Look, real-estate is a sure thing. It just keeps going up in value. You will always be on the black side of the ledger and if worse-comes-to-worse, you can easily refinance. But you'll have to move fast to take advantage of these rates and this deal.

Given the fact that the middle-class is always working diligently to move up and improve their lot, it doesn't surprise me that many were swayed by these hard-sells. And yes, some even attempted to leverage real-estate speculation to launch themselves into the upper-class. It's the American Dream, after all. But no, they should have known better. What made all these sincere and enthusiastic investors think they could actually "invest" their way to prosperity and a share of the wealth? All consumers deserve, it seems, is scorn and ridicule from the pundits, from shocked bankers and from smug corporate CEO types. What should make this day different than any other?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Own a PS3? You Can Help Cure Disease

Turns out that Sony's powerful PS3, though loosing the console war to Wii, is somthing of a supercomputer. No really. IBM is working on an actual heavy metal product using some gaming silicon on board. And check out this radical cluster configuration.

The PS3's powerful processor is uniquely suited to a certain kind of intensive and repetetive calculation. So If you own the Ford Excursion of gaming consoles, you can download some software and devote some cycles to a really good cause. What is that, you ask? Increasing our understanding of how protein molecules "fold" and "unfold." Turns out the the biophysics of this physiological marvel impacts a number of chronic illnesses; like Alzheimer's, Mad Cow Disease and many cancers. So this is very good work. Makes up for a lot of slacking around chilling on the couch with controller in hand. Check out the Stanford-based "folding at home" project, here, to see what you can do. (Don't you just love the project title? Must have had a marketing maven on the team.) And read their executive summary in pdf format, here.

Why Should the Devil Get All the Good Tunes?

The International Herald Tribune, a very good source of international news and opinion, reviews today a new recording that chronicles the transition of African-American music from rural to urban environments in the pre-WWII timeframe. Compiled by the late folklorist, musician and professor, Dr. John Work III (pictured), Recording Black Culture was recently released by Spring Fed Records, a label based in Woodbury, Tennessee, according to the IHT article. Since the roots of Be-Bop, R&B, Boggie Woogie and the Blues can be traced to African-American culture, this release is of some note. Check out the mp3 clips that can be downloaded from the review. Spring Fed is worth checking out just because of their catalog of American roots music.

As the article notes, the release of this newly discovered collection of historic tunes has fueled the academic dispute around the work of pioneering folklorist Alan Lomax, who told part - but not all of the story of this important period in African-American culture. Now, that record is much more complete.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Consider a Donation to Wikimedia

Okay, it's the season for giving and I'll be holding forth shortly on some gift ideas for skeptical brainiacs who live on the edge. No really. I'm working on the post now, and you'll just have to wait. Today I'm writing to encourage a donation to Wikimedia, the parent org for all things wiki, including Wikipedia. Click here to donate now.

I use Wikipedia and WikiCommons several times a day. In fact, regular readers already know that many of my links are to Wikipedia articles. Over 150 links on this blog alone. There are now 2 million Wikipedia articles in English, all for free on an open, user-managed platform. A bottom-up encyclopedia.

Wikipedia has 8 million total articles in 250 languages, making it by far the largest and most detailed encyclopedia ever developed. But it can't exist and continue to work without our support. So far this year, about 37,000 users from all over the planet have donated. A $40 donation buys 100 million page-views of free information. A C-note subsidizes two Wiki academies in Africa. So join me and become a Wikimedia financial supporter this holiday season. Or gift the donation to a nerd. It's the right thing to do.

Is Homeland Security an Excuse for Corruption?

By now most Americans who are paying attention know that the Iraq war has cost us a half a trillion dollars in direct costs, the lives of over 3,500 US soldiers, and over a million dead Iraqi locals - most of whom were the victims of sectarian violence that simply didn't exist until we invaded. Many are also aware that whatever the outcome, the war has served as a massive profit machine for the military industrial complex, corrupt politicians and lobbyists, and the middle-men who lurk in the darkness waiting to broker deals. Paul Bremer, the first US administrator of occupied Iraq, personally lost 8 billion dollars in taxpayer money. We armed everybody in sight, including our enemies. Cash was imported to Iraq and doled-out from palates stacked with $100 bills. Uh Huh.

Now, Brave New Films in cooperation with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washinton (CREW) today released a new video that chronicles the cronyism and corruption around the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA's Katrina fiasco and gulf-coast clean-up. Turns out that there is a lot of officially-sanctioned corruption involved. Surprised? No, I didn't think so. Check it out for yourself.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Rankin Family - Real Folk, Real Music

If you like North American folk music, you're probably already tuned-in to one of Canada's finest acts: The Rankin Family. Hailing from the rural areas around Mabou on Cape Breton Island, The Rankins are legendary in the Maritimes and all of Canada. They have a sizeable following in the US as well, due to the frequent play their tunes are afforded on local and regional folk shows across the radio dial.

When my partner and I landed in Halifax on our recent trip to Cape Breton for the Celtic Colours festival, the cabbie that took us to town from the airport confided that the only music he really listened to or cared about was produced by the Rankin Family. And that was before we even got to the Island. Check out the group's website here. Download: Sunset and Nothing Like an Ocean for a taste.

Once on Cape Breton, the influence of the family is ubiquitous. The Rankin sisters run one of the Island's best-known pubs, The Red Shoe Pub, in Mabou (pictured above). In addition to great food and drink, the pub features Ceilidhs (Kay-Lees) nightly, with a lot of fiddle playing, during the season. And you're bound to hear some Scots' Gaelic being spoken, and certain to hear some songs in the ancient language of the Celtic Gaels.

Mabou is a center of Gaelic language resurgence. It even has a local government office of "Gaelic Affairs." I admire Canada's commitment to multicultural diversity and to respecting and preserving the languages of its many different citizens. And I admire the Rankin family, for their music and hospitality and for their ability to carry on the tradition after significant family loss. Lovers of folk music everywhere continue to mourn the loss of John Morris Rankin, the group's co-founder and inspiration, killed in a car accident in Cape Breton on January 16, 2000.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

WoW and CoD Merge in Gaming Coup

Gaming giants Activision and Blizzard have decided to merge and form the world's largest computer gaming company, according to this article in today's BBC online. World of Warcraft meets Call of Duty.

Having introduced Time Warner's AGEIS: Guardian of the Fleet to the market in the mid-90s, I know something about the gaming world - and this is some big news. That's why the deal is being valued at $18.8 Billion. Big bucks for a bid deal. Thank the French parent of Blizzard (WoW), Vivendi, for making this happen.

In addition to Call of Duty, US-based Activision authored gaming blockbusters like Guitar Hero and the Tony Hawk Series. So what does this mean to gamers? First, the industry is maturing and consolidating, for what that's worth. We have lost some fine small developers in the process. But in this case the meaning is clear: More horsepower for more games covering more territory. A good thing.

(Images are included based on "fair use" rules as no alternative images are available and no attempt to exploit the images for commercial benefit is being made.)

Saturday, December 1, 2007