Wednesday, July 30, 2008

All Your Zeroes Are Belong to Us

What do you do when hyper-inflation makes your currency worth less than the paper that it is printed on? Lop a few zeroes off here and there and everything will be right as rain.

Zimbabwe’s economy is unravelling at such a pace that the central bank is set to slash yet more zeroes from the country’s increasingly worthless currency.

State media on Sunday quoted Gideon Gono, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor and one of the members of the ruling elite targeted by fresh western sanctions last week, as saying he would extend a currency policy that has so far failed to stem hyperinflation.

“This time, we will make sure that those zeroes that would come knocking on the governor’s window will not return,” Mr Gono was quoted as saying on Saturday in a speech to farmers.

Independent estimates put Zimbabwe’s inflation rate well above the official 2.2m per cent, prompting the introduction last week of a 100bn Zimbabwean dollar note. Even state media reported Mr Gono’s comments “drew laughter” from his audience.

The governor is expected to chop three or six zeroes from the currency, following a three-zero cut in 2006.

Beside the inflationary zeroes haunting Mr Gono, analysts and some opposition politicians say the crumbling economy in what was once a regional bread basket is perhaps the single greatest factor that might force Robert Mugabe, president, into relaxing his grip on power.

Read the story.

To the MDC negotiators: just say no to powersharing. Anything that leaves Mugabe with official standing or official government seat is purely a lie. Over these past two decades he has destroyed an economy, watched as infrastructure crumbled, ruined the country’s largest industry (farming, led an violent and oppressive regime, starved political opponents, stolen elections, and still, somehow, maintained some claim to legitimacy. That lie can’t be tolerated any longer.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Go Forth and RSVP

Go now and RSVP for RMBB 5K: The Donkeys Over Denver Edition.

The site is nowhere near complete, but it’s usable. Please be sure to use a real email address when leaving your RSVP--we have a little something to send out to everyone who let’s us know that they’re coming. And do RSVP because we need a good count for our hosts.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Blogger Bash 5000: The Donkeys Over Denver Edition

With the kind sponsorship of Lijit and with the hard work of Mr. Lady, the DNC edition of the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash can finally be announced. Thank God.

August 28, 2008
Trios Enoteca
1730 Wynkoop·Denver, CO 80202
7:30 PM to Close

Free Food and Free Beer & Wine
(In limited supplies and only if we like you.)

I’ll be setting up a new site to support this event as well as updating this post with the links of everyone who RSVPs, so be sure to leave a note to let us know that you’re coming. The new site will go live Wednesday evening.

While Lijit has been extremely generous, we are still looking for a few more companies to sponsor food and booze. Email me for information if you’re interested.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash: Donkeys Over Denver is Homeless Edition

So, yeah, the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash: Donkeys Over Denver Edition is homeless. Our contact at ViewMyLife.com no longer works with the company and I haven’t been able to get in touch with anyone over there. I confirmed that they did not reserve space at the location that we discussed which leaves us in a bit of a scramble.

So, while I would still like to hold the event on Thursday evening after the DNC has closed out, we need to find a place that will accommodate us for a reasonable fee. The Corner Office was nice, but the lowest they could go was $4,000 plus tax for the space that we held last time. Which, while I love you guys, I’m not willing or able to pony up for. They have been kind and are putting our information out to a series of venues downtown to see if anyone can still work with our budget, time, and needs.

Damnit. Not good news…

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Little Sentences

Do you ever read things that strike you as particularly well written? Well, this, from Sean Stewart’s Perfect Circle did that for me.

I’m considered a bit peculiar in the family, but not as peculiar as my Aunt Dot, who--though still a Baptist--believes that in a past life she was the queen of the planet Saturn. (Aunt Dot got into past-life regressions as a weight-loss therapy, and since discovering that she died of famine in eighth-century Ethiopia, she’s lost forty-eight pounds. And kept it off.)

None of which explains why I haven’t said anything about the upcoming blogger bash (Donkeys Over Denver). Sorry about that, but I got distracted by some bits and bobs that floated through my world…

We’ll talk more on Monday.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Check in the Guinness Book of World Records Under Holy Damn, Can That Be Right?

This is an amazing story--amazing in that the country of Zimbabwe still exists as a mostly cohesive entity. That the economy hasn’t collapsed to the point that the government can no longer function just beggars belief.

Zimbabwe’s annual rate of inflation has surged to 2,200,000%, official figures have shown.

The figure is the first official assessment of prices in the troubled African nation since February, when the rate of inflation stood at 165,000%.

Zimbabwe, once one of the richest countries in Africa, has descended into economic chaos largely blamed on the policies of President Robert Mugabe.

Zim dollars are worthless--worth less, probably literally, than the paper the stuff is printed on. Which brings up the next story about Zim’s failed leadership:

It has come to this - Zimbabwe is about to run out of the paper to print money on.

Fidelity Printers & Refiners, the state-owned company that tirelessly churns out bank notes for the Mugabe regime, was thrown into a crisis early this month after a German company stopped supplying bank note paper because of concerns over Zimbabwe’s recent violent presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent by international observers.

The printing operation slowed drastically. Two-thirds of the 1000-strong workforce was ordered to take leave, and two of the three money-printing shifts were cancelled.

The result on the streets was an immediate cash crunch.

Intriguingly, if Fidelity continues to refuse to supply the special paper, it will become even more likely that Mugabe’s government will crumble. Without the truckloads of cash to pay off the cronies, military, and police, Mugabe’s true base of support may well crumble. With every passing year, Mugabe’s leverage on the people of the country erodes a touch more; unfortunately, it also leaves more dead, displaced, and unfed citizens suffering under his failing government, too.

It would be funny (although, ultimately, quite damaging) to see the government fail because it could no longer print money. What the democratic process has thus far failed to do may be accomplished by such a small thing as special paper.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This Would be Funny if it Weren’t So, You Know, Not Funny

At the request of an interested party I’m removing the bulk of this post. I’d give a long explanation, but that would probably defeat the purpose of pulling the post, wouldn’t it?

So, yeah, anyway…

Blogger Bash: Donkeys Over Denver Edition
August 28, 2008
Official Announcement to Come Tomorrow

In case you were wondering.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

You must agree with the Christians… OR ELSE.

What happens if you don’t agree with the Christian agenda? They’ll do everything they can to defame you, shut down your business, and make sure you are never heard from in public again. People aren’t allowed to have a difference of opinion when it comes to “Christianity and God”, see. If you disagree with the Christians, then they’re coming after you.

The latest offender is Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials books for young adults, is going to be the victim of a Christian rights protest. His “crime”? He doesn’t believe in the benevolent God of the Christians! Therefore, these “Christian” advocates think he should be boycotted and his business shut down. How open-minded and tolerant of them!

Roman Catholic groups in North America are calling for a boycott of a forthcoming film adaptation of the first in Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, arguing that it is bait to ensnare children in his “atheist agenda”. Bill Donohoe, the president of the Catholic League in the United States, has said that the British author’s His Dark Materials books are deeply anti-Christian and promote “atheism for kids”.

He said he feared the film would prompt parents to buy the books, unaware that the third in the series, The Amber Spyglass, climaxes in an epic battle to “destroy God”.

The conservative league’s call for a boycott of The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, has been taken up by a growing number of Catholic leaders.

The Catholic school board in Ontario has ordered Northern Lights, the book on which the film is based, removed from library shelves.

See, if you don’t support the Christian God, then you don’t deserve to make money. You don’t deserve to have a successful business. From these people’s perspective, you aren’t allowed to have a different opinion than the one they hold.

And yet somehow, atheist authors are the ones painted as intolerant and close-minded.

What’s that you say? What am I going on about? I’m going on about this strange and, in my mind, misguided attack on the idea of using boycotts as a political tool to support personal causes.

Cassy Fiano paints boycotts as a terrifying act of economic oppression when, in fact, boycotts are supremely democratic in nature. A boycott with enough support will succeed in either changing the behavior of a company or organization by causing economic hardship, it’s true, but without much popular support a boycott will surely fail. Indeed, if the boycott is in itself repugnant to most citizens, they may well support the target organization even more to fight the effects of the boycott. A boycott is very simply people voting with their dollars and their business.

Do I agree with either of these boycotts? That’s an irrelevancy: I support the concept of groups of citizens refusing to do business with companies that they find politically or socially repulsive. Be it Dixie Chicks, Ben & Jerry’s, the new GI Joe film, or the Manchester Grand Hyatt (be sure to read Cassy’s post linked above), I won’t always agree with the cause--ferGodsake, don’t even get me started on the talk of boycotting Dunkin Donuts a bit back--but I believe that the boycott is a practical tool used in any healthy, open society and act as another manner in which we hold these larger conversations about our own society.

My iPhone is Just About to Get Much Cooler…

The iPhone Application Store is about to be open for business (which requires iTunes version 7.7, which is available now, and iPhone software version 2, available tomorrow) on Friday and I’m going to be downloading some nifty applications to make my iPhone an even better platform from which to manage my plans for world domination. And since I can browse the app store right now--integrated into iTunes and just as easy to use--I’m already starting to plan a few expenditures.

  1. Pandora for iPhones-- Pandora, the cool purveyor of musical niftiness, has a free application that will turn my iPhone into a roving jukebox. Freakin’ awesome.
  2. Recorder-- For $8.99, I’ll get a feature that I think should have been built into the iPhone from the beginning: voice recording.
  3. - Or- TalkingPics-- Which is a bigger, more complicated app than Recorder, but it looks like it has some nifty options. It associates recorded content with photos and even appears to create slide shows with aural content. Which might make taking reference pictures and notes a freakin’ breeze for journalists.
  4. BookZ Text Reader-- For $1.99, I can make the iPhone into a little portable library. I’m curious about a few things like what formats it supports and whether it operates in both horizontal and widescreen views, but for $1.99 a little experimentation can be excused, right? It explicitly does work with files from Project Gutenberg, so I will be able to build a collection of great books to keep me company on long flights. Take that overpriced Kindle!
  5. iPint-- Because it’s a game, it involves beer, and it’s free. While I have no idea what the game might involve, it still seems a worthwhile investment.
  6. Jared: Butcher of Song-- Because old Mac fans like me still remember Jared’s warbling songs with fondness. Sort of.
  7. Light-- Because the iPhone makes a surprisingly good flashlight already, and the bright white screen of Light will do the job even better.
  8. Platinum Solitaire-- For $7.99, it’s another way to kill huge chunks of time when in airports and airplanes.

Of course, that’s just a start to the damage that I’ll do to a credit card loading my little iPhone up with bright, shiny little applications.

Apple is going to rule the world.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Still Providing Cover for Tyrants

Leaders in Africa continue to provide cover for Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to continue his illegitimate rule of the country. By resisting calls for sanction and continuing to suggest that the road forward is through a unity government, these leaders are doing their best to provide legitimacy to the tyrant: while no one can seemingly deny that he bullied, murdered, brutalized, and intimidated his way into office, they still imagine that no legitimate representative government can be established without Mugabe and his party.

What they seem to fail to understand is that no legitimate representative government can be recognized untilMugabe and his party no longer stand at the helm of the government. Until power has passed peacefully from Mugabe and to a democratically elected head of state, the government of Zimbabwe is a lie that was forced on its citizens at the barrel of a gun. Specifically, any government that preserves Mugabe’s presidency is a lie and an affront to Zimbabweans.

Leaders from the developed world and Africa failed on Monday to agree on how to deal with the crisis in Zimbabwe, which overshadowed a meeting between the Group of Eight and seven African heads of state.

The African leaders resisted pressure from the US and Europe for sanctions against the Mugabe regime, telling the western nations that they still saw scope for African diplomacy to lead to a power-sharing accord.

Appearing at a joint news conference with President George W. Bush, Jakaya Kikwete, president of Tanzania and chairman of the African Union, said: “The only area where we may differ is on the way forward.”

Last week the African Union called on both sides in the Zimbabwe crisis – President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change – to come together in a national unity government. The call came after Mr Mugabe declared himself the winner of a presidential election run-off on June 27 which the MDC candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, boycotted, citing violence against his supporters.

Mr Kikwete said: “We are saying no party can govern alone in Zimbabwe and therefore the parties have to work together.”

The continued assertion--even if only by implication--of Mugabe’s legitimacy is disgusting and shameful. Once again, Africa’s leaders are failing Africa’s citizens.

Read the story.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Review: Hancock

Hancock is about one half of a good movie. The other half is about as bad as any big release I’ve seen in a while.

The first half of the movie, where we are introduced to the title character, is fun and interesting. Hancock, as played by Will Smith, is a pathetic bum who lives between a dilapidated trailer and whichever bench he winds up on after tying on a really good bender. He’s angry, uncaring, and lost--and he looks more like a homeless panhandler than he does a super-strong man impervious to bullets and with the power of flight.

At every turn he is offending someone or destroying something without showing anything resembling forethought.

When he saves the life of a PR man set on changing the world, he invites a new force into his life that leads him on the path to adulthood. Ultimately, the entire first half of the movie captures a boy becoming a man--Hancock learning to balance both the creative and destructive energy that every boy feels in order to create a happier world for himself and the people he cares about.

Hancock had been so destructive in his heroism that the LA DA’s office wants to put him in jail--a laughable concept for a guy who can easily rip through the walls and fly away. But Ray Embry, the PR man played by a very solid Jason Bateman, convinces Hancock to turn himself in and submit to the city’s justice. It’s a ploy to let the city learn how much they miss the crimestopper in the face of ever rising violence, but it also provides one of the most telling scenes of the first half of the film.

While making basketball shots from extreme distances, Hancock misses and the ball bounces well outside of the prison. Without a thought, he launches himself out of the prison yard and grabs the ball. For a moment he looks at the prison and then away into the distance--obviously he has the power to walk or fly away and nothing that the guards can do would stop him. The scene grows tense as the other inmates and the guards look on; he finally launches himself into the sky and we’re still not sure of his decision. When he lands back inside the fence, you just know that he’s made one of his first adult decisions.

The boy would have known that he had the power to do what he wanted to do: walk away and leave the suckers behind. The adult realizes that sometimes we do things out of responsibility and necessity: being grown up isn’t always easy. Combined with the way Hancock has looked at Ray’s family, very obviously wanting the love and care that comes from that kind of intimacy, Hancock is on his way to accepting his role as a human being with the capacity to make a positive change in the world--a role that doesn’t hinge on superpowers, but on making the right decisions.

Then the film gets shot to hell in the second half with ridiculous plot twists and phenomenally underdeveloped plot points that strip away the messages of the fist half. I won’t spoil the twists, but I would be surprised if most viewers didn’t see the really big reveal coming--and then rolled their eyes at the glib explanations and the foolish way that it leads to big, city-crushing fights and mortal danger for our hero. What I can say is that all the good will that I felt about midway through was pummeled into submission by a super-stupid plot and script.

It really could have been better; it had a good premise and an interesting start.

Here’s a warning, though: it’s fairly violent, quite profane, and not particularly family-friendly. Some of the humor is juvenile, but not particularly graceful--one scene in which Hancock shoves a man’s head up another man’s butt is both crass and dumb, but not at all funny. I wouldn’t necessarily advise bringing the little kids.

Beside Smith and Bateman there isn’t much character to develop, leaving a typically gorgeous Charlize Theron underutilized. The visual effects are decent but not particularly impressive and the same could be said for the cinematography overall. In fact, in most respects it’s a very workmanlike and disappointing effort for something that cost upwards of $150 million. Smith and Bateman salvage a bit of the thing as does an opening act that reaches just a tiny bit higher than most summer action movies. A lazy close, not nearly enough humor, and a seriously flawed plot make this one good to skip.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Mid-Morning Play List (Because, Damn, I’m Tired)

Want a playlist to help wake you up this morning? I sure as hell needed one--and this did a pretty good job of waking me up.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

Consider it a public service--and, perhaps, an antidote to the swirling political stupidity that we can’t ignore, can’t avoid, and seem powerless to change.

Of course, I’m feeling a little cynical today…

Speaking of cynical, I tried to hold this back but my filters seem to be down right now. If it were a stand-alone post, it would be called “Uma Thurman’s Dad Loves Dick"--but that would be crass, so we won’t go there. Instead, I’ll just stick this little teaser in and let y’all decide what to do with it.

You mean you fantasize about being breast-fed by Dick Cheney?

Read the rest And thanks, Shawn. Kind of.

And, speaking of loud music, because we sort of were, check out Shawn’s swipe at a bunch of bands you probably like. Again, kind of.

Western fans appear mostly oblivious to their good fortune and ease of rebellion: American Hardcore, a wonderful documentary on the mutation of aggressive music in the early 1980s, nonetheless begins with an ominous montage of scenes from Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural cut with various old-school punk rockers bemoaning the nation’s “puerile fifties fantasy,” which included but was apparently not limited to cardigan sweater-type milquetoast fashion trends, feathered hair, wine coolers and consumer culture. It’s tempting here to offer a feigned swoon and falsetto Oh, the horror!. Everyone, however, has their lot in life and rebels have to rebel against whatever looks like the most promising proto-fascist symbol at the moment, even if those symbols are...well, feathered hair and wine coolers. “This isn’t baseball,” a member of The Adolescents, still angry over a plaque given to him to commemorate a 1981 hit single, rails. “You don’t give me an f--ing trophy. This is a war I’m in the middle of.”

Actually, Acrassicauda is in the middle of a war. The Adolescents guy was in the middle of puberty. There is a difference. Heavy Metal in Baghdad is Henry Rollins’ Black Flag tour diary Get in the Van on steroids; Blood on the Tracks with actual blood on the tracks. No matter how hardscrabble and beaten down by society rock dissidents of whatever subgenre prefers to imagine themselves, it simply cannot compare.

I haven’t seen Heavy Metal in Baghdad, so I can’t comment on that, but I have seen American Hardcore and found myself caught somewhere between digging the music, the interviews, and all the interviews and rolling my eyes at all the gee-golly-weren’t-we-just-the-most-rebellious-rebels talk. That stuff grates a bit but doesn’t take away from the story of hardcore in the US--and some of the footage of shows I never got to experience was absolutely exhilarating.

Still, whatever I got from American Hardcore, it doesn’t sound like it compares at all to Heavy Metal in Baghdad--I’ll have to check that out.

Read the rest.


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