Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Here are some funny names for you to think about while you sleep:

  • Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Dishwasher
  • Wingnut Potato
  • Rev. Skeezy McPencil
  • Jim Crap
  • Kristti Triskit
  • L. Ron Cupboard
  • Sergei Ivanapopolopov
  • George Humbolt Wookie Borscht
  • Dr. Fabio Explodingmattress
  • Rock Stump
  • Brenna Reinhart

These names will be featured in my upcoming Thomas Pychon novel.

This maturity brought to you by: A Sleepless Night.


Apropos the Borders Dispute

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

An article at Business 2.0 which starts off:

“Borders Group (BGP) used to pride itself on stocking its bookstores with the widest selection possible in a brick-and-mortar establishment. In its cooking section, for instance, there were always more than 10 titles about sushi, including Sushi for Parties, the more supportive Squeamish About Sushi, and The Encyclopedia of Sushi Rolls, a definitive tome that explains, among other things, how to spell your name in makimono.

“Now, Borders is planning to yank half of those sushi how-tos from its shelves. Why? In part because HarperCollins, the nation’s third-largest publishing house, told it to.

“Welcome to the world of ‘category management,’ a bizarre and controversial place in which the nation’s biggest retailers ask one supplier in a category to figure out how best to stock their shelves. You’d expect HarperCollins to tell Borders which of its own books are hot, of course. But that’s not what’s going on here. Borders has essentially tapped Harper to advise it on what cookbooks to carry from all other publishers as well.”



Sunday, February 2, 2003

I have never had the power suppply on a Macintosh laptop work for more than six months without fucking breaking. Those wingnuts need to take one of the guys off of the “back-lighting for the keyboard” team and stick him on the “working power supply” team. I swear to jebus… So many cool features adorn my little iBook — but so many back problems still haven’t been solved.

But I haven’t come to tell you all about my laptop troubles.

I’ve come to tell you about the terrier that lives in the yard behind ours. One time, sitting in the living room, doing my work as I’m prone to do, I watched him — Homer, the nametag says — chase around and finally capture and, well, screw and unwilling chihuahua. Now, I most definitely believe that there is nothing funny about rape. But. Watching a goofy little tarrier try to nail down a pop-eyed chihuahua triggers something much more primal than that… It’s uncontrollable, really. In fact, just the thought of dogs having sex is really, really funny. And I’m not a perv. Those pictures mom found on my hard drive were downloaded without my knowledge by that homeless guy I lent my laptop to.

Anyway. The dog-sex story is definitely one to lay on the grandkids:

“Mom!!! Grandpas talking about chihuahua rape again!!”

“Now dad, we’ve had this talk. If you keep bringing that up in front of little Weenus and Josh III we’re going to take you straight back to the home.”

“I crapped myself.” (That’s me. I hope to say that sentence a lot once I’m past … thirty.)

So, if I had to cull a moral from this verbal adventure, it would be this: It’s difficult to get rotten banana smell out of hair.

Thank you. Drive through.

[Originally posted to Brenna’s group blog, “The Magical Futon.”]


The Borders Issue

Friday, January 24, 2003

Okay, so I’m not a professor in Austo-Borders Relations, but I think it worthwhile to try and answer to Coté’s thoughts about the Borders protest Tuesday afternoon. A story:

Borders opens their store. They offer some slightly better deals on popular titles and have some sort of promotional for the first month, offering 25% of everything in the store or what have you. They also have a big, catchy sign that has a funky Austin “flare” to it, and run big ads in the Statesman and on TV. This is great for consumers! I can get the new Danielle Steele hardback nice and cheap, Coté grabs a couple new books about Java. They have a nice coffeeshop inside along with an atrium and a nice outdoor patio I can sit at while I look through my new purchases. Awesome.

So bunches of people go to Borders this first month, curious about the place and looking to exploit the good deals. Some like it. BookPeople is kind of old and dull. It doesn’t have the same sparkle as Borders. So Borders picks up a steady stream of customers. These aren’t snooty liberals like myself, just the honest ordinary readers, and Borders does alright by them.

So Borders pulls in a decent crowd — and so, really, does BookPeople. They both seem to still offer good prices and neither seems vacant. Fine.

But now BookPeople is loosing money. They both are, actually, but The Borders Group can afford the loss. In fact, it’s built into their business model for new stores. When opening a store, they expect no profits for, say, eighteen months. During this time, the 1,300 other Borders stores and their online presence make up more than enough of the loss. BookPeople, on the other hand, cannot survive this competition. Loosing cash for eighteen months means they can’t make good on their lease and they eventually have to relocate to a cheaper location. South Congress, or something. In a smaller building. Offering fewer books. Truly substandard in relation to the Borders.

So Borders tried really hard to cater to Austin. They offered the deals. They did some support of local authors. They even brought in some interesting names to talk about books. And they have that lovely atrium!

But now they don’t need to compete quite so hard. It’s 2005. Besides the campus Barnes & Noble, they’re the only large bookselling near downtown Austin. They have a luxury position. Their prices are a bit higher than the remaining indies — higher than at the BookPeople that’s now on south Congress — but that’s okay. They’ve got a beautiful place and a great selection, you’d expect stuff to be a tad expensive. Besides, you’re not really paying attention anymore, since your only real options are Borders and Barnes & Noble, and high or low, their prices are about the same. Nothing else really registers in your mind. $30 for a hardback is just what they cost. No thinking about it.

Something else is happening, though, that you don’t really notice. They stopped bringing in real exciting authors or speakers and the books are kind of lame. Maybe 2005 is just a crappy year for literature. You don’t really see many locals and the “New Fiction” shelves are covered in stuff that doesn’t really do much for you. Some books that got turned into big movies are displayed, and some books that look like they might be turned into movies soon. Everything’s sort of distant and vague. But the lighting is really nice, you have to admit, and they do have that awesome atrium. And they’re right downtown. It’s a good place to shop.

It’s too bad the mid-00s suck for writers just like the late-90s sucked for popular music. We know that the inabilities of good bands to break into the mainstream had nothing to do with the hegemonic control over radio by a handful of corporations allowed by broadcasting deregulations.

So, anyway. Enough of that. This is my story of what happens when Borders comes to town. They will cause BookPeople to fold and will create a sort of happy sensory-deprivation. You will love them for a while, but then once the competition is gone, they’ll sink back into the most profitable mold — which these days seems to working with other media companies to create as much of a blackout as possible, except for the few products they are interested in promoting. Notice how major media sucks these days? That’s why. The consumer doesn’t know what they’re missing, but they’re getting what’s offered at a cheaper rate (they think). And that’s what Borders will help do to our city.


Upcoming Josh Events

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Well, looks like a bunch of things are coming together for the coming months. Though the details are currently sketchy, I thought I’d go ahead and make a little announcement here…

Looks like I’ll be playing a show in Denton (outside of Dallas) around the beginning of March with the Aleph, Stars as Eyes, and possibly others. The Aleph and Stars as Eyes are quite good, so I’m rather proud to be involved. I’ll be doing a dxm set (possibly throwing in some Clearing Stages bits, just for variety).

There have been mumblings about a show at the House of Commons around the same time, as well. That show would be with the Octopus Project, another great local band. Some others might also be involved. I hope they get a decent sound system. That’s all I’m saying.

And I have been invited to speak about electronic music in Ana Boa-Ventura’s Intro to Convergent Media class at UT around the beginning of April. This should be really exciting, speaking to a class as a knowledgable person (ha!) rather than as just another student doing a report of some sort. Other speakers in the series are AMODA artist Jared Tarbell (creator of Levitated) and my former boss (and Mason’s step-father) Dr. John Slatin. Again, quite an illustrious set of names to be associated with.

Related to that, Ana has been putting together a event, with the help of AMODA volunteers Ginny and Maria. Sean and I might get to do a networked dxm set for that event. Sean would play out of NYC and I would mix his audio into my audio performed here in town.

Finally, I’m hoping to hook up a slot in an AMODA Digital Showcase in late Spring. I’d like to debut some new video as well as perform a freshly-overhauled dxm set.

Alright! It’s a lot of stuff. Hopefully it’ll all come to pass. Sounds like some fun.

I’ll keep everyone posted, I’m sure.


XHTML 2.0 Working Draft

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

The W3C has released the XHTML 2.0 Working Draft. It appears to include major revisions over previous versions of HMTL, including:

  • A new <nl> tag for navigation lists (aka menus).
  • A new <line> tag to replace <br /> for single line-breaks.
  • A more general <h> tag for headers, to be used in conjunction with…
  • The new <section> tag, to hierarchically organize information.
  • Deprication of the <img> tag in favor of the <object> tag, which can now also contain image information (and other media information) in the XHTML itself. (As opposed to current standards, which require you to point to other files for image data.)
  • A <colgroup> tag to help keep those tables organized.
  • New <ins> and <del> tags to indicate insertions and deletions from draft documents.

Many other changes have been proposed, as well, no doubt.

Now, Zeldman complains about the lack of compatibility with older standards, arguing that the W3C might have done better calling the new specification something like “Advanced Markup Language” (AML) instead of XHTML 2.0 to avoid confusion and incompatibility complaints.

“Imagine if Illustrator had been named Photoshop 2,” he writes, comparing XHTML 2.0 to Illustrator and XHTML 1.0 to Photoshop. “Some artists would scream with pleasure. (‘Finally, I can use vectors!’) Others would howl with rage. (‘What do you mean I can’t edit photos any more?’)”

This is nonsense. I haven’t done a thorough study, but at first blush XHTML 2.0 appears designed to accomplish the same goals as 1.0 in much the same way — it’s not a different product nor a completely different paradigm of text markup. It attempts to solve some of the more outstanding problems with HTML, though, and this requires deeper structural changes.

As different versions of HTML and XHTML come out, we should start paying more and more attention to our document-type declarations, usually the first line in the HTML code. Internet Explorer 5 for Mac does render pages slightly differently depending on which version of HTML the page has declared it will use. Hopefully new browsers will include this sort of feature, allowing different markup processing engines to fire up depending on which text markup scheme the web page uses — HTML, XHTML 1.0, XHTML 2.0, or whatever else may come in the future.


Diversity in Media

Tuesday, January 7, 2003

“Having seen how totalitarian regimes moved the world to war through domination of their news media, the government during the 1940’s put restrictions on how many news media outlets one company could own, both nationally and in a single city.

“Though those rules have been relaxed in the last 20 years, companies are still blocked from buying a newspaper and television station in the same city or from owning more than one TV station in the same market.

“Three weeks after it proposed eliminating those rules, the F.C.C. released a series of reports about the current media marketplace. But the reports focused almost entirely on the economic impact of relaxing the ownership rules. They largely ignore the public’s interest in a diverse and independent press.”

NYTimes Op-Ed

Let me restate an old opinion:

Everyone in this country should have both the will and the means to express themselves publicly. Media isn’t something you watch, it’s something you participate in — or should if you value the society and community in which you live. We lack forums, interactive centers of discussion, thought, and art. Television, newspaper — these are not forums. They’re bullhorns. You can’t talk back. The reasons behind the lack of diversity in media are complicated, no doubt, but if we had a more educated population who had things to say and a better sense of how to say them in this modern world, having just a handful of voices dominating the local and national conversation would be inconceivable.

And seriously — you have no excuse. Dorky as it may be, if you are reading this, then you have access to the world wide web — truly and honestly a global interactive forum. Say things. Do things. If monoculture is something you can’t stand, fight it by creating something better.

(Many people seem afraid to write. They feel like they have to put on some sort of writerly cloak to organize words for other people to read. Fuck it. Just write as you think and you’ll do just fine. Better, possibly.)

And also, remember that when it comes to media, you vote with your eyes and dollars. Media is a democracy, so be aware of what you’re looking at and paying for. Shop local. Support newcomers. Read with a purpose rather than just absorbing everything that falls in front of your eyes. Don’t do stuff or think you need to see something just because everyone else is.

And turn off goddamn Fox News. Those jackasses only make money because people watch them…


(Stepping off of my soapbox.)


Tort Reform

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

I’m listening to another report about the tort reform bill that will be brought up in the Texas State Legislature. Both the Texas House and Texas Senate are now dominated by the Republican party — for the first time in quite a while. Anyway, the tort reform would, amongst other things, limit the amount that could be awarded in a personal injury lawsuit to… $250,000. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but as I understand it, under this new law: If you eat a tainted Tylenol that makes you go blind, the most you could receive from the company is $250,000 — even if the company knew of the problem in advance and could have prevented it. Or, if your tires come apart and your truck flips, severing your spinal cord at the third vertebra, the most you could receive from the company is $250,000 — even if they knew of the problem in advance and could have prevented it.

Please, let me know if I’ve got this totally wrong. I couldn’t find a news article about this on the web — I’m reporting from an NPR article that aired a couple of minutes ago. (And from information that’s been in my mind from various sources.) Sounds like the law would also limit the amount trial lawyers could receive for their services in such a case.

Anyway. Before having any opinion about tort reform, read this. It’s a link to information about the McDonald’s coffee-scalding case, in which a woman was awarded $640,000 for spilling coffee on herself. You’ve heard of it, no doubt. The case seems to always come up as an example of why tort reform is necessary, usually with several million reported as the amount of money awarded. But when you have a few more of the facts, it seems much more rational.

What this info about the McDonald’s coffee case — which I have read about in greater depth before — hints at, is that when a jury gives someone hundreds of thousands of dollars (or millions) for some (seemingly) minor transgression on the part of a company, the larger part of that amount is punative. (Compensatory = Compensation for injury, like hospital care, restitution for lost work, et al. Punative = Penalty money. Since you can’t jail a company, you hit them where it hurts — the ledger.) The company knew of a problem and had a chance ot fix it, but didn’t. Someone got injured. Now the company must pay much more for negligence to (hopefully) persuade them (and other organizations) from hurting people in the future. It’s the same reason you jail someone for robbing a store. If I had to offer a change, it would be to require a portion of any punative settlement to go into public coffers. That would, I think, offset some of the (seemingly valid) complaints that such expensive lawsuits force us all to pay more money in taxes and for goods.

There will always be problems with our judicial system. Frivolous lawsuits will sometimes occur just as egregious miscarriages of justice passed in favor of large corporations will sometimes occur. And while improvements should be made, the government should always err on the side of the less powerful party — the individual, in the case of tort reform. In my experience, those with more powerful tend to screw over those with less power more often than the other way around. The less powerful are the ones more likely to require the assistance of the courts to attain justice.

Anyway. Remember this?

Here is another good link from the Association of Trial Lawyers of America site.

And this site, despite the charged title, has some interesting resources. It’s clearly looking at the issue from one side, though.