Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin, Dead at 71

The great, and lately late, comedian and genius George Carlin has left us. He died of heart failure yesterday (June 22) at the age of 71. I could go on and on about how much he influenced modern comedy, even influencing (via his "Seven Words" bit) the legal history of free speech vs. broadcasting in the United States. What matters is that he was a true thinker who made us think, and by making us laugh, kept us thinking.

A few things you rarely hear about: Carlin was present at Lenny Bruce's arrest for obscenity. According to legend the police began attempting to detain members of the audience for questioning, and asked Carlin for his identification. Telling the police he did not believe in government issued IDs, he was arrested and taken to jail with Bruce in the same vehicle. He was the very first host of Saturday Night Live. And oh by the way, he still holds the highest score ever recorded for his exams as an electronic technician at the Air Force Academy in the 1950s.

Of course you'll want to hit his website, which has the best intro I've seen. You might want to read what he has to say about all the "crap" (his word) emails that have been sent around attributed to him (Andy Rooney has the same problem). And really, his whole website, because there are some real gems in there (well duhhh, it's Carlin!).

In some ways, he reminds me of another influential thinker, sci-fi master Robert A. Heinlein. Both were obviously Mensa material. Both made profound impacts on their fields. Both were a bit crusty and cranky, but would've been amazing dinner guests. But dear God, the fireworks that would've ensued if they were both dining together! Politically, socially, quite opposite on a lot of things - then again, quite similar in their views of rugged individualism, and their disregard for the lives of idiots.

(Unrelated side note: did you know there's a half-million-dollar Heinlein Prize for "practical accomplishments in the field of commercial space activities"?)

I'm really sorry to see George go, but I'm sure glad he was here. Generations of sharp-witted observational comics like Lewis Black and Carlos Mencia are his legacy, as are The Daily Show and Colbert Report. He taught (some of) us the nearly forgotten skills of critical thinking, and examination from several angles, and by making us laugh, will keep us thinking for years to come.

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Gay bomb"? You're kidding, right?

"One thing leads to another" - the Fixx

I was cruising my favorite blog (yes, it's today, and saw a link to the 2008 Emergency Response Guide, the book (and software) that decodes all those hazardous materials numbers you see on various trucks on the road. I spend a fair bit of time on the highways, and I've always been a bit curious about the numbers, placards and symbols, so I went to get a copy. Browsing through it, I ran across a jillion things I never wanted to think might be rolling down the freeway right in front of me. One that puzzled me was #2810, Lewisite. I'd never heard of this, so I googled it. Bad move, now I'm probably on some Homeland Security moron's watchlist, because it is a chemical warfare agent (obsolete, but still nasty). But in reading about that, and other chemical agents, I ran across a reference to "gay bomb". Say what? Those are two words I never saw together. I was already under surveillance anyway, so I clicked.

It was as I suspected, sorta. The U.S. Air Force actually speculated on producing a bomb containing a chemical that turned the enemy irresistably gay, making them too busy doing each other to do much fighting. (Could this be another argument for a mixed-gender military?) There was a problem though, no such chemical existed. I don't see whether money was earmarked for research to find one. And if it was produced, it's interesting to speculate on the consequences. Who would handle the ordinance? What if there was a leak at home base, or on the aircraft carrier (keep your Navy jokes to yourself, please)? How long would it take for someone to steal a bit and play pranks with it? Or, to claim someone else had used it on them, as a legal defense?

Other interesting items were discussed, such as a bomb that gives the enemy bad breath and body odor (demoralizes them, and makes them easy to sniff out). Or, hiding beehives in the combat area, then spraying the enemy with bee pheremones.

This is where your tax money goes, folks. But to help pay for it, we're scheduled for a 27% cut in spending for alternative energy research next year. Or at least so says a very detailed chart called "Death and Taxes" of US incomes and outgoes that you can see here, I have yet to find a confirming source for this (but if I do, I'm gonna raise hell on and urge you to do the same).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sean Costello - it's official

The officials have released the final ruling on Sean's cause of death, and I'm afraid it is as bad as I had been hearing from his friends. See it here if you like.

My friend Andy Martin is, besides being an outstanding pro bassist, a certified counselor for addiction and substance abuse problems. He invites you to call him if you or someone in your life has issues that need addressing, and I urge you to do so. He'll be happy to chat with you and determine what needs to be done next. Such problems don't usually sort themselves out without help, so make the call. Keep the number in your phone and wallet.
Andy Martin 770-335-5380

Thursday, June 05, 2008

This Week in Music

Quickie post. Wednesdays @ Bella Bocca gig with Larry Griffith is slowly building, thanks to you friends & fans who come out and party with us. Thursdays at Joel's Tavern also coming along nicely - they've built us a much better stage, and hopefully real lights soon. Fridays I'm at Little Alley, and I hope to be at their new Red Salt location soon. This Saturday at 8PM I've got the George Price Trio doing more of a rock show at Two Monkies, which is on Whitlock in Marietta, across the street from Nik's.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

McCain will continue illegal wiretaps - would Obama?

So, the inevitable President Mrs. Clinton has finally come in second. I'm sure glad that's over, and we can get down to comparing and contrasting the two parties' candidates and agendas. Here's one I find disturbing, from

John McCain vows to continue Bush's illegal warrantless wiretapping program

John McCain has changed his position on illegal warrantless wiretapping: he used to think that the President had to uphold the nation's laws. Now he says that the Constitution is subordinate to the all-powerful executive order.

My favorite line on this comes from the chickenhawks who say that the Fourth Amendment was written before the All Powerful Threat of Terrorism. Sure thing. Ben Franklin and his pals couldn't possibly have foreseen a world in which the very idea of America was under some kind of military threat. Those candyasses didn't understand what war was about. They were armchair theorists, civilians who'd never anticipated foreign soldiers on American soil -- surely if they'd known that America might some day face an actual existential risk, they would have put a little asterisk next to each clause of the Bill of Rights leading to a footnote that said, "Unless the king president really, really needs to do it."

This is the relevant quote, plus a link to see the real source:

[N]either the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. [...]

We do not know what lies ahead in our nation’s fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.


At this time I don't have a quote from the Obama camp stating his intentions on this matter.

It seems that if you're a terrorist who "hates America because they have freedom", your most efficient action would be to give America one good scare and they'll take their own freedoms away for you, calling themselves patriotic for doing so.

Or maybe, just maybe, the ghost of Prescott Bush is still working his plan, using the (admittedly real) terrorist threats to complete his attempted coup to turn America into a fascist state, but this time without the need to use American military troops against Americans.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Think, the noun

This morning Clark Howard's website had a tiny video blurb about a Norwegian electric car that Clark thought would be just great, coming to America in 2009. Well, I have an aging car that will need replacing someday, and with gas teetering on $4 a gallon as I write this (and no evidence the oil companies would want to bring their prices & record profits back down anytime soon) this caught my attention. Clark's video didn't give me much to go on, not even a link, but a Google on "norwegian electric car" was all it took.

Most of the hits from that query were dated 2007, but then again they were mostly still news to me. Quick recap: Ford bought a company called Pivco back in 1999, pumped $150M into it and put it up for sale a few years later when it looked like the car companies were going to kill the California legislation that made electric cars so important in California. A Norwegian smart guy named Willums (who made a fortune investing in solar power) bought the whole company, factory and inventory for $15M. The hard part about electric cars has always been the battery pack, and Willums has forged a deal with the Tesla car people to get those. He now has an electric car called Think City ready to go, and has been showing models around.

As you can see, it's not exactly a babe magnet, unless you like smart & practical babes (I do). It has a range of over 100 miles, at speeds up to 65MPH, for (according to Clark) about 2 cents per mile, and is expected to sticker-price at $25K. Let's assume the usual manufacturer BS and double that to 4 cents, that's still pretty sweet. But this car has some other cool innovations: it's web and wi-fi enabled, and the company is open to new software from other developers, opening up lots of cool possibilities (Norway is the home of Nokia, remember). The car can feed power back into the electric grid on demand. The batteries might be leased, rather than purchased, with the option to buy. Used batteries have a market, they can go onto the grid or be used in buildings as power backup. Dean Kamen is adding on a Stirling heat engine that will extend the City's capabilities tremendously, and "can tap almost any fuel source, from restaurant grease to cow dung", with exhaust pollution so low it "will meet indoor air-quality standards". That would also make every car a portable generator to feed anything from a small rural village (imagine a few of these used as vehicles or power sources somewhere in India, running on whatever awful stuff is around) to a backwoods kegger. The car is to be made in local factories, from modular parts, and will be ordered online and built to order like Dell computers.

Now, if I can just get this in a shape about like a Chevy HHR or Camry wagon so that I can haul my music gear, I'd be all set. Think has a prototype of a model called Ox that looks like just the thing, especially if I can easily remove the rear seats. I wannit!

Here are a few links to get you into this story, and a lot more:
Think's website
Business 2.0 article I based this on
Engadget article, with comments

Researching this article also brought me to these very interesting links:
Go Green, Get Rich
Google's thinktank