Category Archives: Internet

iPod, therefore I am

MetaFilter offers a list of links to 50 different music sites, all with free downloads. Something for every taste — really. While we’re on the subject of music, try these free downloads of the complete organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach. And while I was never one to swoon over Frank Sinatra, this interview has me thinking I should give the guy’s music another try.

If you’re going to listen to a breakdown of why Ireland’s economy went down the plumbing, make sure it’s from somebody with a Scots accent. “People want to say: look at those profligate governments, spending all that money. We’ve got to restore fiscal sanity. But it wasn’t fiscal insanity that got us here. It was private-sector leverage and the insanity of banking that brought us to this point. So the bankers put it on the state, and the state turned around it put it on the taxpayer. It’s the biggest bait-and-switch in human history.”

It’s too bad that Guillermo Del Toro had to bag out on directing The Hobbit, but he can console himself with the knowledge that now Peter Jackson is stuck with the job of getting into pissing matches with actors unions and casting agents. And the rest of us can console ourselves with the knowledge that it left him time to start a really engrossing and interesting variation on a subject that seemed milked to death.

Pass the popcorn

This is going to be more fun than a Newt Gingrich presidential run and a Sarah Palin talk show rolled into one. Shirley Sherrod, who was forced out of her government job after Internet smear merchant Andrew Breitbart posted a maliciously edited video of her speaking to the NAACP, is going to sue the little scumball.

What makes this so much entertainment potential is that Breitbart, acting with the arrogant stupidity that has become the hallmark of most high-profile wingnuts, has effectively convicted himself of defaming Sherrod in his numerous media appearances since he posted the clip on his Big Government site. A five minute tour of video clips will give even a marginally competent lawyer all the ammo he needs to clean Breitbart’s clock.

I hope Sherrod also goes after FoxNoise, which had a field day with the edited clip. It would be naive to think that any court judgment will significantly impair the finances of either Breitbart or his fellow sleazesters — there are plenty of Daddy Wingbucks types ready to write checks — but it would be good to see a change in the consequence-free environment these hacks have enjoyed up to now.

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The blogging breed

When I hear people talk about the slow death of the newspaper industry, I point out that it’s more akin to an assisted suicide. Of course there are many outside factors dealing blows to the business, but the industry’s knack for making self-destructive, short-sighted business decisions made those blows all the more wounding. The journo snobbery about the Internet is a case in point.

For decades, the twin monsters bedeviling the newspaper business have been production costs (printing plants ain’t cheap) and distribution (maintaining fleets of trucks and drivers to get the papers out to the public). So along comes the Internet, which at a stroke eliminates both problems, and the response of newspaper executives is to treat Web sites as garbage dumps, and then to whine about those nasty bloggers linking to their stories without paying. David Simon’s line about bloggers being the parasites that destroy their hosts is one of the dumbest things ever said by a demonstrably smart person.

So Michael Massing’s piece about how some adventurous  journos are turning the Web to their own purposes is a refreshing tonic. He also provides a list of pioneering sites like Talking Points Memo that have exploited the possibilities of the Intertubes to advance journalism. For anyone who still needs convincing, this article might just do the trick.

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Calling all heathen

How Biblical are your morals? Find out here.

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Google clouds of witness

I expect all you tech-savvy readers out there are going to be convulsed with laughter at my technologically backward ways, but (a) I’ve been poking along in Word just fine with my writing and (b) only now have I heard of Google Docs and Google clouds as a way to write and store works in progress. I swear to Jehosephat that I can’t make heads or tails of all this conflabbed tech stuff you young people today are so taken with.

Apparently it’s a big deal that big-time writer Susan Orlean is using Google Docs to write her manuscripts instead of Microsoft Word. Anybody else out there have an opinion on this? Should I stop using Word and go sailing into the Google clouds of sunset?

Like most writers, my daily waking nightmare is that the day my hard drive fries will be the day after I got lazy and put off backing up my work. Apparently this happened to Orlean but she stayed cool and calm because Google Docs had saved her words automatically. I like that part. The part I don’t like is the idea of storing my personal papers off-site in somebody else’s digital vault. Even if they have a Do Not Be Evil policy in place now, that doesn’t mean they can’t be sold to a company with a less elevated attitude, or undergo a policy change.

So what’s the deal, tech team? Is this something to worry about? Should I opt for Google cloudbusting?

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My back pages


Here is a year-end roundup of this site’s greatest hits to date, selected on the basis of site traffic, commentary and authorial pride.

BRUNO: An appreciation of Jacob Bronowski (above), the philosopher whose work still speaks to me, as clearly and persuasively as ever, decades after my first encounter.

THE BEST SWORDFIGHT MOVIES OF ALL TIME: The hands-down, dead-cert champion click magnet, thanks to a much appreciated link from Kung Fu Cinema that continues to bring in viewers. It was written in installments, so if you want to get the build, start here, go to here and finish up here. Some commenters have noted the prejudice in favor of European-style swordplay, and I admit I know very little about the Asian styles and genres, and my predilection is for realism over fanciful imagery. This leaves out Asian entries like Hero, in which the fight sequences are rapturously beautiful without being (or intending to be) the least bit convincing. I’m always ready to hear arguments to the contrary, however.

A NOVEL DARKLY, A MOVIE DIMLY: Regarding Philip K. Dick and the film adaptation of his finest, most disturbing novel, A Scanner Darkly.

SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS: This brutally witty Burt Lancaster film is one of my favorite movies, and this article about it is one of my favorite posts.

mingus_charles_450pWHAT THE CLOWN KNEW: “The Clown” is a dark little fable about show business that has the same place in Charles Mingus’ huge catalogue that “The Mysterious Stranger” has in Mark Twain’s body of work. Mingus tried to merge words and music throughout his long career; with the help of  radio personality and raconteurJean Shepherd, who at the time was the reigning king of the “night people,” he made the merger work brilliantly.

EMINENCE GRAY: An appreciation of critic and biographer Michael Gray, one of the finest writers on the subject of one of the towering artists of 20th century music.

A POET WHO KEPT HIS WORD: Kenneth Fearing’s poem “Newspaperman” inspires angry and sad thoughts about the death of the newspaper business.

EVEN THE EVIL: What fallen chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer had in common with Icelandic outlaw Grettir Asmundarsen. Maybe that sounds like a stretch, but gimme a little benefit of the doubt on this.

ALL THINGS FILBOID: The genesis of the Bugs Bunny Appreciation Society was an article on the unlikely spot where Termite Terrace overlaps with the work of Hector Hugh Munro, aka Saki.

SUZE ROTOLO, SCENE STEALER: The deranging process of achieving fame, described by someone who was there to see it happen.

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Mungo Bolger of Newbury

Apparently that’s my hobbit name. Glad to get that cleared up.

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Linkin’ linkin’ I’ve been thinkin’

You need to read these blog posts. Don’t try to sass me, just do like I say and everythang will be everythang. 

Sheik and bake with Jeff. Read about Matters of Faith with Kristy. Make fun of sophomoric folk-pop with Nick. Hear about writing, Hoboken and writing about Hoboken from Christian

Study Old English with Professor Nokes. Concoct zombie rhymes with John. Watch for the Antichrist with Scott.

And once you’ve done all that, go on an odyssey with Lance, contemplate shape-shifting reptiles with Henry and sing along with James.

Have a good weekend, too.

Stephen Fry has a blog

And a very geeky, tech-intensive blog it is. I guess that’s how Jeeves managed to keep Bertie Wooster’s life more or less on track, all those years.

Though I’ve sung the praises of Jim Dale’s readings on the Harry Potter audiobooks, I’m very curious to hear Fry’s versions, which are the ones circulated in the U.K. If the next book proposal does well, maybe I’ll knuckle under and buy this. And if the proposal does extremely well, maybe I’ll get extravagant with this.