Collapsing World

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Outside(r) art

Outside(r) art

A blank concrete wall behind the new Arts Center has become a popular
canvas for graffiti. Rather hypocritically, the Arts Center people
have been power-spraying the designs away. So much for encouraging
art. From the work I've seen, many spray-paint taggers are much more
talented than many "real" artists. One group puts their artwork
indoors, the other puts theirs outdoors. I think it's time to tear
down the walls and integrate art with our environments. I thank the
taggers for adding a splash of colors to my morning walk. If not for
them, it'd be just another dreary grey wall contributing to the
color-neutralization of our cities.

Anyway, I saw this new piece of graffiti on the wall this morning.
Roughly, it says, "It is prohibited to contaminate the mind with

Gas explosions: they're not just for manholes anymore

Our occasional Washington correspondent Jean phones in with this report:
Now houses are exploding in Maryland.

Gas Leaks Identified in Pr. George's

By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page B01

Washington Gas has found about 1,400 active leaks in underground service lines within a 100-square-mile area of Prince George's County, according to a report the utility sent late yesterday to the Maryland Public Service Commission.

The leaks are not considered hazardous because the vapor remains underground and has not migrated into homes or buildings, Washington Gas spokesman Tim Sargeant said after releasing the 33-page report. The company plans to repair all leaks within six months, the report said.

Washington Gas has been under scrutiny since a District Heights house exploded in March after its residents complained of a gas odor. Since then, company officials have acknowledged that they had noticed an increase in the number of leaks in the county a year and a half ago.

Good luck selling your houses over the next six months, folks! Note that the leaks are not considered hazardous because they're confined to underground--slowly accumulating and building up in concentration. (rubs chin) Hmmm, what else do we know of that operates on the same principal?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Tune out, turn off, drop in.

I must confess that I haven't done a very good job of observing TV Turnoff Week, but what can I say? I has to have my Daily Show fix. However if you have given up television for lent--or are just too frightened by images of the scary new pope to turn it on--and if you happen to live in the Philadelphia area, why not stop by The Jaunt and partake in some of their festivities? An old cellmate of mine is participating, and you can gaze in wonderment at the fact that my tiny hometown turned out such a high percentage of weirdos.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Quote o' the day

"Call me paranoid, but given all the manipulative tricks the Republicans have gotten up to recently, I am prepared to believe that this has less to do with Homeland security and more to do with keeping the American public ignorant and free of foreign influence and inspiration. An ill-informed, isolated, ignorant populace is a populace easily manipulated. Fed a diet of reality shows coupled with faith-based reasoning (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and you have a perfect recipe for a country in which the government that can do more or less whatever it wants. Democracy becomes a farce without access to information."

--David Byrne, on the denial of visas to foreign artists.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


We're in Bed, Bath & Beyond today (DON'T say anything!). I'm looking at their wall clocks because in my advancing years I've discovered that the pale blue LEDs of the VCR don't quite cut it anymore. Along come two college-age girls. I don't really pay much attention to what they're saying until I hear, "I don't know. I don't think I'm ready for a clock." The utterance slithered into my ear, surrounded by brain, and began choking the life out of it.

in anyone's life are they not "ready" for a clock? Time is one of the basic elements of our universe. Buying a clock isn't one of those major, life-altering decisions, folks. It's a double-A battery, a flake of quartz, some cheap plastic gears, and two sticks of differing lengths encased in a flimsy plastic housing. You're ready for that. Maybe not a Rolex. Maybe not a GOOD clock that's accurate and won't have to be reset every week. Maybe not anything made primarily of non-synthetic materials. But you're ready for the crap they sell at B,B & B.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Happy Earth Day

Do something nice for your world.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Cartoon peril

Cartoon peril
I believe it's testimony to how far our culture has sunk that the man-eating monster in my nightmares looks so poorly computer-generated that it completely fails to be scary.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Quote of the day

"The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them."

--Rep Tom DeLay, giving us a glimpse into his theocratic, judicial-free, omniscient utopia, in an interview with the Washington Times.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

I am officially a gearhead

Cold-air intake installed
Originally uploaded by olivander.
My very first DIY performance upgrade! I swapped out the stock air intake with a cold-air intake. A CAI allows more air into the engine at cooler temperature, which increases engine efficiency and power. I regret going cheap, because the kit fit poorly and the instructions were abysmal. I ended up finding an online how-to. Though it was for a different brand, it was similar enough for me to figure out what went where.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

First blossoms

First blossoms

We have magnolias!

Friday, April 08, 2005

The last top 10 list ever (we really mean it this time)

Pope John Paul II was buried today amid spectacular popular turnout. The funeral brings to a close the long reign of a famously conservative man who assumed the papacy during Jimmy Carter's presidency. Some called his views old-fashioned and said they alienated younger Catholics. We couldn't help but wonder if the College of Cardinals will take that into consideration when they convene to select a new pope. With a heavy dose of speculation, we give you:

Top ten signs the new pope is attuned to the youth culture

10. His blog is popular, but is made up mostly of links to BoingBoing, Wonkette, and Daily Kos posts.
09. Sends a "shout out" to his "homeboy in Heaven" during Sunday mass.
08. After his death, is nominated for sainthood on the basis of the miracle of his impeccable eBay feedback rating.
07. 24" spinners on the popemobile.
06. Ornate papal vestments now referred to as "bling".
05. Can be seen at his apartment window jamming to an iPod.
04. Basilica Square turned into skateboard park.
03. Christens himself Pope Sean Paul I.
02. Runs Popester file sharing service from his Vatican bedroom computer.
01. Shows up on Paris Hilton's Sidekick.

Rock show

cliff suiseki rose suiseki ripple suiseki concretion suiseki island suiseki

I uploaded to Flickr some of my nicer zen rocks, or suiseki. Suiseki (literally "water rocks") are also known as scholar stones or viewing stones. Rather than sculpting the stone, its natural beauty is displayed and highlighted. Nature is, after all, the ultimate artist. Ideally, the stone should resemble a larger part of nature in miniature. That's why suiseki are often associated with bonsai. Traditionally, suiseki sit upon painstakingly carved wooden stands called diaza. I have neither the patience nor the competence to create nice stands for my rocks. For that reason, and the relatively poor viewing quality of the stones, I refer to my rocks as suiseki lite.

If you'd like to see what good suiseki stones look like, here are some real suiseki sites.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Why you should pay attention in school

Oh, my freakin' gawd. This guy got arrested when he tried to pay for something at Best Buy with $2 bills. Those people at Best Buy displayed the same level of education you normally only see behind the counter at Taco Hell or Burger Thing.

My favorite line is, "It's a sign that we're all a little nervous in the post-9/11 world."* Right. Because anyone using uncommon legal tender must be suspicious. Everyone knows that good, patriotic Americans only use $20 bills straight from the ATM. I think I'm gonna get some Sacajawea dollar coins and try to spend them at Taco Hell...

*as long as everyone else is going it, I might as well begin citing 9/11 as a rationalization for everything. "Oliver, why isn't the new file server ready yet?" "You know, you can't be too hasty in a post-9/11 world."

Today's top story:

Pope John Paul II is still dead.

Monday, April 04, 2005

More photos of buildings and food

I love this site. Actually, I love pretty much any place where one can see photos of a particular locality taken from the viewpoints of a variety of its residents. You get to see what the area is really like, beyond the limited range of the calendar photos, through the eyes of people who might never cross one another's paths. The city dweller takes pictures of the hidden infrastructure of his city, while the mid-state barnstormer takes pictures of farmland from the air, while the guy on the shore takes pictures of oceanbound Lakes freighters loading their wares. That variety of perspective and community deep-digging is one of the reasons I like Flickr so much.

Of particular interest is today's offering: a series of photos from the relatively affluent Kenwood neighborhood of Minneapolis. Most of these homes were built during an era where architectural individuality was part of showing off one's wealth. Minneapolis/St Paul is one of those rare areas where wealth and culture combined for a brief time at the turn of the last century, and the results of that mix have not faded.

BTW, one of F. Scott Fitzgerald's many St Paul residences is on the market. Can be yours for a mere $656,000.

Meanwhile, here's what happens to soda when it gets left in the garage all winter:

Mountain Squish

Lead in the air

Special correspondent Jean writes:

It's springtime in DC...
A manhole cover flew into the air and struck a truck yesterday morning after an underground explosion at a busy Northwest Washington intersection, authorities said.

Two other covers came loose from their seats in the pavement after the 7:30 a.m. explosion that sent smoke billowing from at least four other manholes near 14th and Q streets, according to Alan Etter, a D.C. fire department spokesman. No injuries were reported.
Washington, DC, is the flying manhole cover capital of the world. Since 2001, portions of the sewer system have been collapsing, fires have broken out throughout the system, and manhole covers have been flying like frisbees. It's been a comedy of errors as city utility departments all place the blame on one another: electrical works blames street works for nicking their wiring, while streets blames electrical for not mapping their cables. Meanwhile, everyone is blaming the sewer dept for its crumbling infrastructure.

All I know is, I want to see this happen during an inaugural parade.

On a related note, here's what happened when a Chicago manhole cover blew off in 1937.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Catch a falling star

NASA has taken a "de-orbit only" position on the future of the Hubble telescope. Bastards. On the plus side, if you're really good at re-entry calculations, and have a lot of mattresses to spread around your backyard, maybe you can snag yourself a mighty fine accessory for your nightly window-peeping.

Nuage: Mitch Hedberg, 1968-2005

I was distraught to pick up the newspaper from the driveway this morning and see an obituary for one of my favorite comedians, Mitch Hedberg. Heart attack. He was only 37. You may not know the name, but you've seen him at one time or another. He had a spaced-out delivery, like Stephen Wright on acapulco gold. He was so shy that he almost couldn't face the audience. In his early years, he'd stare straight down at his feet while delivering his bit, his long hair dangling in his face as though to further hide from the crowd. You just wanted to run up onstage and give him a hug. In later years, he was able to finally look up and out among the seats, but he still wore darkly-tinted glasses, as though if he couldn't see the audience well they couldn't see too deeply into him.

He hailed from St Paul, MN, as was well known and loved on the local comedy circuit. He has a new album out, "All Together Now". I'll pick it up and put it alongside his previous album, "Strategic Grill Locations". Comedians don't make a lot of money doing the tour thing, and Mitch leaves behind a family way too soon. I'm sure they can use all the financial help they can get. Buy one of his CDs--even if you don't always get the jokes--and remember that for every Bill Cosby and Rodney Dangerfield and George Carlin, there's a Sam Kinison, a Lenny Bruce, a Chris Farley, and a Mitch Hedberg: guys who never made it beyond the initial promising arc of their career and left us with one less reason to laugh.

Last year, the St Paul Pioneer Press ran an interview with him (alas, unarchived) in which he discussed his troubles with drug abuse and how he'd finally kicked the nastier habits and was putting his life back together. Isn't that a familiar story? Troubled entertainer straightens out only to die unexpectedly. I guess the moral of this story is, don't clean up your act or you're gonna die. Pass the acapulco gold.

On the air with Vatican Vinnie

As Pope John Paul II passes through what may well be the final hours of his long papacy, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls has become a familiar face on TV. His determination to put the best spin on an obviously terrible situation has me calling him Rome's version of Baghdad Bob: Vatican Vinnie.

Several weeks ago, when the pope was unable to breath properly and had to have an emergency tracheotomy, Vatican Vinnie talked as though it was no big deal. In fact, it probably didn't even need to be done--they inserted a breathing tube almost for the hell of it. As if the pope were Michael Jackson in a Rococco Crap store: "I'll take one of those, and one of those, and two of those..."

Yesterday, John Paul was given last rites, which actually had the effect of tearing the media away from poor Terri Schiavo's death bed and putting them in full Pope Death Watch mode. That is a big deal. You know last rights: the Catholic ritual for the dying. "Oh, no, no, no," Vatican Vinnie tells us. "Last rites aren't just for the dying anymore. They give them all the time now. It's really little more than a blessing for the sick." (I'm paraphrasing there.) He practically waved his hand and went, "Last rites...feh."

Um, Vinnie... The last time the pope got last rites was when he took two bullets and the Vatican officials were trying to remember which firewood pile was for the black smoke and which was for the white. Terri Schiavo was off her feeding tube for a week before she got last rites. Cop Rock didn't even get last rites.

This morning, with news that the pope was running a high fever, was in septic shock, and had suffered cardiocirculatory collapse, Vinne tells us that John Paul is "lucid, fully conscious." Most doctors will tell you that if your blood pressure is so low that your veins collapse, then the blood flow to your organs--including your brain--is very low and there is no way you are lucid.

If it weren't for the fact that a person were clinging to life somewhere in the massive complex behind him, Vatican Vinnie's optimistic-to-the-point-of-delusional pronouncements would be almost funny.