Archive for June, 2007

  • Rob Spectre
  • 29
  • Jun
  • 07

Wired is running a great story on open source luminary Hans Reiser. Reiser is responsible for ReiserFS, arguably the finest of its kind available for Linux. An insanely fast journaling filesystem, it was the first to claim that distinction on Linux, and for many of us the first journaling filesystem we ever used.

What shot Reiser to stardom beyond the ranks of the geekly inclined was the alleged murder of his wife. Having only heard about this case through the notoriously tightlipped OSS community, the article provides a sweeping review of its descent from strange to bizarre to plum bat shit fucking loco. Anytime someone claims that the handicapped sado-masochist who had an affair with his Russian mail order bride committed the murder he’s accused of while trying to dispose of his vehicle with the departed’s blood inside, its a newsworthy affair.

When that guy happens to be one of the smartest mofos in the OSS community, well let’s say its even more far fetched than a pro wrestler committing a double murder-suicide after some dude writes about it on Wikipedia.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 26
  • Jun
  • 07

We are obligated to talk about the new Transformers movie the same way we are obligated to talk about any perverse tragedy. Whether a bureaucratic disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the rampant abuses at Abu Ghraib or the reckless mutiliation of our adolescence, by water coolers and in comic book stores we geeks have to talk about the new movie. We speak hopefully like children on a welfare Christmas, like kids who don’t know the difference when eating government cheese. So bankrupt is our anticipation, so desperate our times.

Ever more revealing trailers reveal references that beg the geek to nuture that false hope. “Holy shit! Is that Soundwave?” we ask each other, almost grateful as we are skullfucked numb by product placement. The fat stacks of cash money upon which Michael Bay sleeps each night is the product of a mortgage for something he doesn’t intend to own. He’s a self-imaged real estate tycoon who denies the bubble will ever burst, living under the illusion that he’ll flip houses for the rest of his life. He buys with the intent to sell to an ever-growing geek army who has always bought to own. Secret G-man bunkers hiding government secrets containing an evil they are too arrogant to recognize it will kill them is sadly ironic.

Optimus has flames. Bumblebee is a Chevy. Jazz is a goddamn four door sedan. To many, these are war crimes. Crimes so heinous you wonder how they could fit in the plan of a benevolent Creator. To the folks on the train ride up to Frisco, these are reasons to stop talking to the guy with spiky hair.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 24
  • Jun
  • 07

I was pinned down in a foxhole near Denang and Charlie was everywhere.  The battle-scarred paranoia of Jacob’s Ladder jarred my consciousness like a ninety decibel klaxon, for I was neck deep in hippies and behind enemy lines.  A punk is about as welcome as a venerial disease in this set, down at the Napa Valley Opera House, a folk music venue buried deep within the wine country of Northern California.  The act was The Wailin’ Jennys whose biography included a renowned alto singer and a bodhran player.  How could I go wrong, I thought, with honest-to-goodness Irishwomen from Winnipeg?  What could possibly go wrong?

As we rolled up to the venue, my hubris began reaping a horrific harvest of sorrow as they flooded around me. They were long and gray haired, reeking of patchouli, and eyeing me – *always* eyeing me – with a combination of curiosity and contempt.  I was a stranger in a strange land, walking into their home, their sanctuary.  If my life were a Nintendo game simulating my lifelong struggle against the hippies, this show would be the boss level.

We were cut off from the exit, placed in a corner on the balcony of the intimate venue.  On any other day, the venue might be a lovely place to see a show.  However, the icy grip of fear strangling my spine Vulcan stylee left no cognitive overhead for appreciation of the Opera House’s simplistic decor.  Survival was my game now as I felt surely the Jennys would issue some secret passphrase and the hippies would snap, descending upon me like a horde of locusts.  Solemnly, though silent, I recited my act of contrition and prepared for their filthy jaws to open and rend me limb from limb.

The soundtrack to my terror proved singular. The Wailin’ Jennys turned out to be a folk (occassionally Irish inspired) quartet featuring a fiddle player of immeasurable creativity and three women executing with flawless precision dense, lush vocal arrangements that leaned heavily to the southern end of the female range.  The typical fairer ensemble that American Idol embraces (and I eschew with nearly the same vehemence as hippies) features solos that never end, pornographic vocal agility, and complete abandon of discipline and taste.  By stark contrast, the Jennys are songwriters first, singers second.  While their virtuosity is apparent, the finely seasoned songcraft producing these arrangements extended beyond just beauty and became real art.  Thematically, the tunes were pretty standard fare for the coffeeshop set.  Songs inspired by driving, dying, peace, love, happiness, lonely nights, and heavy hearts are universal, if not particularly original sources of inspiration.  The hippies were gobbling it up like the Gospel on Christmas morning, though the real draw of attention from the concern for my immediate survival was the tasteful multi-instrumental accompaniment to the absolutely riveting three-part harmony that easy filled the room.

Finding no evidence of ear monitors feeding a clicktrack, I became convinced halfway into their first a capella tune that these women must have synchronized heartbeats.  Accelerating and decelerating tempos without a hint of drift, three women literally acted as a single instrument – description defying tightness.  Great songs executed with superlative polish best captures the Wailin’ Jennys, serving as the solemn organists at my final demise.

After a daring escape involving impressive swashbuckling, I got a hold of their first studio record capturing on wax the finest arrangement of The Parting Glass I’ve heard.  Shuffled to the signing table by the very hippies I had evaded, I approached their table cautiously, suspect of their intent.  It appeared that my hair is what saved me, as the Jennys four all marveled with the real genuine Canadianess I love about Winnipeg.  We clasped hands and rapped briefly, before finally emerging from the Opera House, shocked to be alive.

I’ll never be certain is somehow over the course of the set the Wailin’ Jennys passed along the secret word to let this one pass.  “This one punk can pass freely,” I imagine them singing in their fraternal hippie talk.  I’ll likely never know how I made it out of Napa alive.  But, I got the record to prove I was there.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 16
  • Jun
  • 07

Historians will look upon this past week in the sliver of what remains of Palestine as a turning point. As men with masks and guns pose for photographs in his office, the State Department issues memorandum supporting Mahmoud Abbas with all the potency of an 90 year old man at the Playboy mansion. While the United States issues statements of support, while Fatah issues calls for cease fire, Hamas is cutting literally through Gaza like a hot knife through butter. It has been said in the press that in Palestine, the moderates are not effective and the effective are not moderates. Abbas is swearing in a new government without Hamas. From the outside looking in, I’m not sure how a man can say he’s in charge of anything while looters are stealing his office furniture.

The responses to Hamas’ campaign are predictable.  Israel replaces their Defense chief with a trained assassin (and former Prime Minister).  The United States lobbies the UN for some sanction relief.  Arabs abroad hide their surprise and fear.  Americans assume it is just more of the same.

The summer heat in Gaza nourishes wrath like mother’s milk with the promise of a long, sweltering season ahead.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 15
  • Jun
  • 07

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) deadline for accepting public comments on the subject of the neutrality of the Internet ends Friday. There are profiteers who, in raking in huge sacks of cash money, feel as though some how they are being slighted by the YouTubes and the MySpaces of the world that want to turn the very foundation of the Internet on its head.

The Internet – this network of networks – was a massive project in decentralization. A global network where literally all nodes are created equal. Folks at Verizon and MCI feel that they just aren’t making enough money off the Internet, and would like to charge content providers that use heavy amounts of bandwidth through audio and video streams *extra*.

They already turned the Web into a shopping mall. Now they want to charge you for parking. Our liberties erode daily as merchants shave off a bit of ourselves for percentage points of growth. What little remains of the American democracy offers an opportunity to levy an opinion. Literally the *entire* world hinges on this stopping in America, now and forever. Fight the future.

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