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The Duality of Life Changing Moments

I’m fine. I spent a few days in the hospital for tests after a one-car accident I walked away from unhurt.

I spent much of my enforced idle time—well, OK, I spent much of my enforced idle time reading, doing crosswords and watching Futurama DVDs as well as old journalism movies.

But I also found myself drawn to the duality of life-changing events. Some life-changing events are glacial—the maturation of your children, your own aging, the steady march to retirement and death. You can’t always, or even often tell exactly when these slow-motion events will culminate. The day your children go off to college, for example, is not the end of worrying about them, it is not even the beginning of the end, but as Churchill once said in a different context, it is the end of the beginning. If you’re lucky, your death, or that of your parents and loved ones, is also in the glacial category. Not too glacial (that can, as I have witnessed be brutal), but a slow decline provides for time to say goodbye, to set things in order, to make your peace with God and man.

Then there are the instants that change everything. One minute you’re driving home, the next minute you have an airbag in your chest and your car is totaled. Or, as happened to a good friend of mine, you have a stroke and you can’t ever take notes again. Or as happened to Edwin Diamond, you die of a heart attack way too young. You say one stupid thing and regret it for the test of your life, but the instant goes by—“the moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on: nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it” (Omar Khayyam). It happens to teachers; they say a thing, or do a thing (swear, slap a student, or worse) and suddenly their career is over. No matter what field you are in, you can get laid off in an instant, and your life is turned upside down (at least mine was). You could regret the moment, but you can’t change it.

Instant death by accident or heart attack is particularly pernicious. The people left behind you feel a total lack of closure, as if they have had only half a conversation they will never be able to finish. Almost no matter how hard you try, there arrangements unmade and things unsaid. A life interrupted in an instant leaves untidy loose ends every time.

And the worst thing is, you can earnestly hope for either glacial or instant life change, but the universe cares not a fig for your desires.

I had a close call. I walked away relatively unscathed. The other thing it made me think about, clearly and distinctly, is my own mortality and my view of the universe. I found myself trying to remember the Lord’s Prayer and the Nicene creed, not because I have been born again, not because I have forgotten the hard-earned lessons of adulthood about the nature of God (not an old white guy in a robe), but because I find comfort in the rituals of my youth. God save me, I may go to church now and then. I already live a pretty good life; I may try to live a better one.

My life-transforming instant will certainly introduce change, confusion and inconvenience, as such moments usually do. But I am accepting the advice of my wife and thousands of years of Eastern religious thought, and trying to live in the moment. What happens will happen, and I will deal with it one day at a time.

Mr. Arendt, RIP

Harold Joseph Arendt Jr. died Jan. 23, 2007 at age 83. He was born Nov. 23, 1923, in St. Paul, Minn., served in the Army Signal Corps in the Korean War and received a Purple Heart. After the war, he received bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Oregon. He moved to Portland in 1958, and worked at Benson High School for 28 years, 10 years as an English and history teacher, and 18 years as librarian. He was a member Gethsemane Lutheran Church for 48 years. In 1955, he married Karen Lee.

That's what you would have seen in the [Portland, Or.] Oregonian last week, had you been looking. As is so often the case, the newspaper got the facts right and the big picture wrong. Mr. Arendt's life touched hundreds, if not thousands of students and was a force for good. With this obit, I find that he was in his 8th year teaching when I came to him in 1966, which explains, in part, why he was so good.

As I wrote his widow last week:

I simply want to repeat what I told Mr. Arendt a few years back, when I got my teaching credential and became an 8th grade US history teacher (at the age of 50); that he was among the most influential and inspiring teachers I ever had, and that he changed my life for the better. It was an honor for me to enter the profession he so proudly practiced. I hope, someday, to be half the teacher he was.

My deepest condolences on your loss. Mr. Arendt will be remembered as long as any of his students are doing good in the world.

May flights of angels wing him to his rest.

This is how I described him in my unpublished memoirs, and the incident for which I most clearly remembered him:


Mr.Harold Arendt, the generally quiet and sane man who taught EE English and social studies, felt required to enforce the pushups for Sir rule.

[Between 1966 and 1970, when I attended Benson High School in Portland, Oregon, it was a city-wide, admission-by-recommendation-only public high school, evenly split between vocational students and college-bound science and engineering students. I was one of the latter. The crème-de-la-crème at Benson attended what were then known as EE or "enriched" classes. At that time, Benson placed two or three students a year in MIT and CalTech; John Ankcorn and I were admitted to MIT in 1970. Benson's rules were strict and strictly enforced, including limits on both dress and behavior. Unlike the neighborhood high schools, you were under constant threat at Benson: toe the line, or we'll send you back to Grant or Jefferson. It was very effective. Among the rules was a requirement that you address all teachers as sir or ma'm. If you failed to do so, the rules required that you do pushups. Hence, the "pushups for Sir" rule.]

He was one heck of a stem-winding tub-thumping inspirational classroom teacher. I think it was a shame that his interest in educational media eventually led him to become Benson's librarian. In any case, one day during class, he was espousing the theories of Plato, that society should be led by philosopher kings. The smart people should be the leaders, not the crassly popular boys who played to the lowest common denominator. The kind of boys who are right here in EE English should be running student government at Benson.

That was all he had to say. We were off and running, a cabal of us, including myself, to form the Benson Improvement League. So far as I know it was the first (and quite likely the last) political party ever formed at the school. I can't recall whether we had dues, but we certainly had grass roots organization, many posters and a slate of officers, which was more than anyone else had. BIL candidates won nearly every class office for four years, and in our junior and senior years, we won all but one or two of the student body offices. I think the organization collapsed after the graduation of its spark plugs, Randolph Harrison West and me. We were such effective political organizers, I believe we were even able to get our mutual friend Tim Franzel elected to office.


OK, that memory was more about me than it was about him, but I hope it made my point. The best teachers inspire us to reach beyond ourselves and become better people. My personal hall of fame includes Donnaclaire Ringle, who taught me in second and fourth grades, Mr. Carpenter (first name long forgotten), who taught me creative writing in 8th grade, and Mr. Floyd who taught me science and probably helped propel me into MIT. Carlton Bryson, my high school math teacher for three of my four years, gave me the grounding I needed to do well on my SATs, and set an example of fairness and decency that remains with me still. Dorothy Gilmour, who taught me EE social studies my junior year, had a section on labor history so comprehensive that I was able to win an AFL-CIO competitive scholarship because of what I'd learned. Robert Bonniwell, senior EE English, made a better writer out of me. Dr. Patricia L. Swenson of the school radio station, KBPS--words cannot express my gratitude to her--everything I am that I don't owe to my mother I owe to Dr. Swenson. When I became a teacher, I contacted as many of them as I could find who were still alive to express my gratitude.

All of these people were public school teachers, working long hours for low pay because they cared. If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Perhaps, someday, I can be a giant too.


Finally, I'd like to add this comment from John Ankcorn:

As you, I enjoyed his classes very, very much. It was indeed quite a stimulation to have someone who gave such tremendous effort into the class and showed me how a full, real adult lives.

One item that he related in class has come back to me every few months over the last 40 years: his recitation of experiences as a surveyor on the coast highway in Oregon. In particular, he said that after going over mountains, crossing canyons, rivers, through forests and travelling 300 miles down the coast, if the accumulated error in the measurement was more than 0.1" (or it could have been 1"), the survey had to be redone. This has always been my image of sustained focus and precision in execution that I have aimed for and rarely witnessed.

That same intensity and focus, brought to our Freshman English class was a unique experience for which I am extremely grateful.


by Craig Reynolds

DRM: Music industry divided over digital future "Critics of the major players in the industry argue that they have been distracted by the fight against piracy and in doing so, hindered the growth of the legal business... In response, the accused argue that they had little choice. 'Free is just impossible to compete with'" Yet that is just what iTunes, or conversely eMusic, manage to do every day: compete with free. Here is the radical approach that eMusic uses: give the consumer what they actually want: Big record labels contemplate switch to DRM-free MP3s?. Also based on open MP3s: Independent record labels sign MySpace deal. It has been previously demonstrated that the DRM on HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs are not secure, so it is interesting to note the misuse of the word "stolen" in this article: AACS confirms hacks on high-definition DVD players. The keys were "stolen" in the sense of "I left my window open and music playing on my stereo was stolen by the neighbors".

I for one welcome our new robotic overlords: Philip Argy's commentary Ethics dilemma in killer bots invokes Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics but like in Engadget's South Korea to develop robot soldiers my first thought was "Idiots! this is how the Terminator got started!" I would expect it to be obvious to everyone why giving lethal weapons to autonomous robots is a very, very bad idea. Yet the race towards SkyNet is on: Military Builds Robotic Insects and Street-fighting robot challenge announced (details). While elsewhere in robot land, danger-bots: Exploding robots may scout hazardous asteroids and Sword-wielding Wii bot, human-bots: The Future of Robotics and toy-bots: Japanese toy firms forced to grow up (Takara Tomy's Omnibot2007 i-SOBOT, "the world's smallest robot"). While not really a robot, Zoho's sculpture (featured on the January cover of Scientific American) certainly is cool, like how a robot should look. Note that the term robot was coined 86 years ago this month. (The headline refers to the Overlord meme see "I, for one, welcome our new * overlords" for which Google now finds 323,000 hits!)

Publishers fight open access to science: the Internet has disrupted old business models of the music and movie business, other publishers have similar problems. As mentioned here before scientists no longer need publishers to disseminate reports on their research. They still need peer review but that is normally provided for free by anonymous colleagues. The preparation of papers is handled by standard desktop apps and "publication" is just a matter of uploading a PDF file to the web. This threat to the scientific publishers has recently provoked an ugly reaction as reported by Nature: PR's 'pit bull' takes on open access Journal publishers lock horns with free-information movement (via BoingBoing which also links to Policy on Enhancing Public Access to... NIH-Funded Research and that other evil threat to publishers: librarians).

Technobits: Norway tells Apple change iTunes or face court --- Thumb-Print Banking Takes India --- NYT upbeat on Netflix download service: A Stream of Movies, Sort of Free --- Microsoft's iPhone Strategy --- Researchers Go Molecular in Design of a Denser Chip (100 billion bits per square centimeter) --- The Turntables That Transform Vinyl --- 53 CSS-Techniques You Couldn’t Live Without --- A Boost for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Research --- MIT-led panel backs 'heat mining' as key U.S. energy source --- Warming to raise seas for 1,000 years: U.N. draft --- arachnid news: Ultraviolet light key to spider mating and Spider Silk Inspires Strong And Stretchy Nanocomposite Fibers --- Brilliant Whiteness of Strange Beetle Explained forget bleach: this bug may be the key to whiter whites.

Groundhog Day (The Movie) and Buddhism

Welcome to another perennial item. I run this one every year in conjunction with Groundhog Day, (the 34th funniest American film of all time, according to the American Film Institute) since the Bill Murray movie of the same name is my favorite movie of all times. This is the fifth time I've run this item!

I went to a showing of Groundhog Day sponsored by the San Francisco Zen Center on Friday, Aug. 10, 2001, held in the Trustees' Auditorium of the Asian Art Museum in Golden Gate Park (relocating in October 2002 to the old SF Main library in the civic center).

I have so much to say about this exciting, exhilarating, eye-opening experience that it is now a subsite titled Groundhog Day The Movie, Buddhism and Me, which includes a description of that seminal showing, commentary, and links to other sites that deal with the connection. While noticing the connection between this movie and Buddhism is not particularly profound, it was news to me, and the nuances were explored in a particularly exciting fashion during the Zen Center presentation. My set of pages are rapidly gaining ground as the authoritative center for GHD/Buddhism commentary on the web. I brush it up and add new material regularly, so if you haven't been there in a while, take a look.

If you love the work of GHD writer Danny Rubin as much as I do, check out his web site which includes a bio, a list of his works in progress (exciting) and a list of his sold films (also exciting).

I can't wait for his next released film. Go Danny!

In the meantime, note that the University of California/British Film Institute has published a Groundhog Day book, by Ryan Gilbey.

Part of a series of critical studies of important films (Thelma and Louise, Eyes Wide Shut, Titanic), this 88-page essay is an exhaustive and thoughtful examination of the movie, from script and conception through production and societal impact. It is not quite as accessible as this website (which, I regret to say, is not among the 111 footnotes), nor can it be updated as easily, but it is dead-tree media, so of course, it carries more authority.

  • [page 11] As the New Statesman noted, it "appeals at once to absolute idealism and absolute cynicism." Depending on the eye of the beholder, this particular glass can appear half-full or half-empty -- brimming over with the milk of human kindness, or shattered to pieces on the floor. It's a kind of miracle that neither interpretation ever fully negates the other.
  • This above all else is what makes it rewarding to keep returning to Groundhog Day. It’s a gorgeous irony that this film, about a man doomed to live one day for eternity, is anything but predictable. The absence of explanation [of what caused the time loop]… has actually preserved the film’s enigma and increased its allure…
  • It would be hard now to express an adequate degree of gratitude that these [explanations] were jettisoned… Groundhog Day is a film that dares to withhold…
  • [page 86; quoting Gilbert Adair, London newspaper Independent on Sunday, 19 March 2000, review section, p. 3] [Groundhog Day] is the progenitor of "avant-garde lite," a sub-genre that he argued would also include Being John Malkovich (1999) and The Truman Show
  • [page 88] The movie also represents an unpolluted instance of pure cinema. That term is traditionally applied to a picture that boasts eye-popping effects or humbling landscapes. There’s none of that here. The irony of John Bailey’s cinematography as that it fully achieves its ambition for each shot to register merely as another flat moment in the same unremarkable day. But Groundhog Day could not be rendered in any other medium. Ramis and Rubin tell their story with the camera: all the necessary information is contained in the movement or duration of a shot; in how it is juxtaposed with its neighboring images, in its relationship to shots we have already seen or are about to see. It’s a film that teaches us how to watch films…
  • …the film, with its inherent repetitions, seems to grow with each viewing, yielding fresh meanings and questions that sprout off from it like new shoots. The experience if returning repeatedly to Groundhog Day proves finally to be no kind of Groundhog Day at all."

In other news, Joe Brancatelli notes that Steven Sondheim has said several times he'd love to do a Groundhog Day musical.


I finally found a DVD copy of È già ieri (2004) the Italian-language version of Groundhog Day. Feel free to look for one yourself, but keep in mind you'll need a DVD player that ignores regional settings (it is only available in a Region 2 version) and can play PAL. I have invested in just such a DVD player because my obscure tastes in journalism films frequently lead me to overseas-only releases (Newsfront for example). Anyway, I lucked out: English subtitles!

According to IMDB, the title can be translated, literally, as It's Already Yesterday; the title for international release was Stork Day. I'm not going to post a quibble on IMDB, but I thought the Italian version was inferior in almost every way, and was a perfect illustration of how the movie itself might have gone bad in the wrong hands in this country. As has been so often noted elsewhere by others, a great movie is the amazing and unpredictable confluence of a great script, great actors and great direction.

Valentina Capecci, Giulio Manfredonia and Andrés M. Koppel adapted The Danny Rubin/Harold Ramis Script. But they have created a clockwork version, with the same characters and lines in the same situations, but with the soul taken out. It is not a shot for shot remake, it's just… off. Antonio Albanese plays Phil as "Filippo." His performance was so flat I scoured IMDB to see if he was a miscast dramatic actor. He's not; he does comedies for a living, although I can't imagine, for the life of me how. Goya Toledo plays Rita, and we see, how shall I put this, much more of her than we did Andie McDowell. That would be one reason I dislike the Italian version--less innocence. Plenty of side-breast exposure, and on-screen sex. I love sex--just not watching it in a theater, or even at home on a DVD.

Fillipo is a jerk of a TV performer. Many lines are lifted directly. He talks to his radio, telling the DJ, "you've put on yesterday's tape." He asks the landlady if she has "déjà vu," and she says she'll check with the kitchen. He clocks the Ned Ryerson character, but Pepón Nieto is no Stephen Tobolowsky; he just goes down, lacking Ned's grace in doing a 360 before falling. The doctor looks at what might be the same X-rays of his head. Fillipo tells two men of a wonderful day he once had, asks why he couldn't have that day over and over, and then drives them into a crash--on a Vespa, not in a car. And he's nowhere near as funny when the police come to call.

There are some distinctly Italian/European touches. The movie takes place in summer, not in winter, and on the Canary Islands (because of a stork migration), not in Pennsylvania (for an annual weather-predicting event). I don't expect the Italian version to be set in the U.S., but winter was the right choice for the film, summer was not. Phil got up each day at 6; Fillipo gets up at 7 (God Bless the Italians!)

Then there are the just plain bad decisions: the suicide sequence is severely truncated. The good deeds are anemic. The self-improvement is almost non-existent. The character has almost no arc of development. There is no "turning point" when he realizes he needs to use eternity differently (flipping cards in the hat in Groundhog Day). The old man sequence is different (no spoilers from me) and not as good. They actually show him undergoing a transition--bad idea, badly executed. The end of the time loop is just silly. Similar but silly. Anyone could have made these bad decisions; thank god Harold Ramis didn't.

The American version was about selfless service (seva). The Italian version is a cute, silly romantic comedy with all the resonance of a bar of lead.

I always felt, and still do, that most of the magic of Groundhog Day is in Danny Rubin's story and script. Ramis made it more commercial, but Rubin had the clever ideas. Still, several essays on the film attribute much of its charm to Murray's performance. I wasn't certain before, but I am certain now: Bill Murray is the inheritor of Bob Hope's tradition of playing the egomaniac who can't see he hasn't got anything to be egomaniacal about. And he makes Groundog Day the gem it is.

Volver, Painted Veil, Good Shepherd, Pan's Labyrinth, Epic Movie

The movies just piled up on me, so I am going to offer mini reviews; sorry, it's all I have time to write if I am ever going to file this week's column. No one's going to send me a DVD for one of these, I don't think.

3 stars out of 5

Penelope Cruz is not as good as the Academy thinks she is, in this nicely done but ultimately only mildly amusing and satisfying film. A little clever writing, but to what end? I can't for the life of me see what the fuss is about.

Painted Veil
4 stars out of 5

Edward Norton is a genius--one of the best actors of our time. This adaptation of a Somerset Maugham story is beautiful to behold, perfectly acted and gripping. It's a must-see. Someone should sit down and write a comprehensive list of the ways the book differs from the movie. Apparently, the book is narrated by the wife and goes on for some ways after the point where the movie ends, but that's all I can tell for sure. The stuff about the Nationalists in the movie is also not in the book.

Good Shepherd
5 stars out of 5

Speaking of genius, I love it when people who write historical fiction take the time to do their homework. As a proud owner of Norman Sandler's master's thesis, 28 years of looking the other way: Congressional oversight of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1947-1975, I know a lot about the history of the CIA; I particularly enjoyed the crack about congressional oversight. "It's not personal" was such a great recurring line. DeNiro was fantastic in about 30 seconds of screen time, as was Joe Pesci. Nice to see him again. Matt Damon was, as usual, brilliant. I don't know what they did to Angelina Jolie in the early scenes, but it took me 15 minutes to be sure it was her.

Pan's Labyrinth
2.5 out of 5

From the previews, you might think this was a fantasy with some sort of message about fascist Spain. Turns out it is really a horror movie, and one which has about a dozen shots in it that we could definitely have done without, not to mention a spectacularly European ending. It's not worth reading subtitles for two hours to see this one. There were actually some moving performances, but not so good as to overcome the fundamental problem: bad movie.

Epic Movie
1 out of 5

I love Scary Movie, as well as most of the other pastiche/homage/stupid comedies of this genre, and how can you not like a film with Fred Willard in it? The poster looks good. The preview looks good. The film itself has a half-dozen mildly amusing moments, two dozen monumentally stupid moments, and overall is a waste of celluloid. Turn it into guitar picks. Awful movie.

Neal Vitale Reviews: Oscar Handicapping

[Neal had a good year; he wanted me to remind you he was second-guessing the Academy, not picking his personal favorites, in the list published here last week]

Not too bad – 23 out of 30. Got all the actresses (including Cruz!). Flip-flopped director/film with United 93/Greengrass.

Biggest surprise in a bad way – Nicholson not getting nominated for Departed.

Biggest surprise in a good way – Dreamgirls not getting Best Picture or Best Director

Rayleigh Effect, No Habeus, Noah's Flood in Az., Hanzel Finds Oddity, Dalton Reports Scheme, Princeton Racism? Dern: Origin of Species, Journalists in advertisements, Dan Grobstein File

In the cartoon Get Fuzzy on Sunday, there is a reference to the Rayleigh effect. My younger daughter is Rae Leigh. How cool is that?

The nerve of some people: Gonzales: ‘There Is No Express Grant of Habeas Corpus In The Constitution’. Arbeit macht Frei. War is Peace. Black is White. Osama and Iraq are the same thing. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.

Glen Spekcert noted this item in the San Francisco Chronicle: Grand Canyon made by Noah's flood, book says; Geologists skewer park for selling creationism. The booklet in question is for sale at the park!

John Hanzel checks in:

I saw this on my daily "Top Stories" list and thought "How the hell can Brazil violate privacy to see what people are buying on the Internet". I guess nerd genes never quite go to sleep. Brazil Gambles on Monitoring of Amazon Loggers 

Headline of the month: Mariners' Putz gets $13.1 million deal

Richard Dalton notes that the Nigerian e-mail scam (I have millions; will you hold them for me? Oh, and send me $5,000 in earnest money… aka the pigeon drop) has taken an ugly term; instead of pretending to be the widows of dead African officials, the scamsters now pretend to be U.S. solidiers, and include links to pictures and newspaper articles. Digusting.

Princeton newspaper column stirs controversy.An article in the annual joke issue of Princeton University's student newspaper has left some readers accusing its staff of racism.

Daniel Dern notes:

On his most recent album, Leave The Light On, country blues
Chris Smither has a great take on intelligent design in his "Origin of Species"
song... here's
audio-only and video-audio.

Journalists are now being used in advertisements, but just those aimed at older Americans.

Dan Grobstein File

[Dan attended this at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan:]

Preview an upcoming PBS series on the war in Iraq and hear leading experts discuss the many facets of the war and the crisis America faces at home and abroad. Participants include Richard Perle, former assistant Secretary of Defense and the subject of The Case for War, one of the programs in the PBS series; Thomas Ricks, a Washington Post reporter and the author of the bestseller Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq; and Martin Smith, an award-winning filmmaker. Robert MacNeil is the former co-host of the NewsHour on PBS.

Here's Dan's report:

Ricks said that we'll be living with Iraq for the rest of our lives. An audience member asked the question "why didn't the media tell us more during the run up to the war?" Ricks said that people in New York believe that The New York Times is "the media". He said that he never worked with Judy Miller and he's gone back and reread all of his reporting before the war and feels that he did a good job. Sometimes his story should have been on page A1 instead of A17 though.

Perle said that after 9-11 the president had to make a decision to protect the American people. Toppling Saddam had nothing to do with 9-11. He knows that Saddam had nothing to do with the attack. The president analyzed the situation and decided that it was too dangerous to let Saddam possibly work with terrorists or give them nuclear bombs or biological agents. He says that there is evidence that Iraq's ambassador to the Vatican (a nuclear expert) visited Niger to try to buy uranium. Perle says also that there is evidence that Saddam was training terrorists. He says that they were afraid to wait until Saddam acted. Perle said that we watched bin Laden get stronger and stronger and did nothing about it. (Nobody brought up Clinton's cruise missile strikes at his camp or the factory in the Sudan or the fact that by the time they could prove that bin Laden was behind the attack on the Cole we were in the middle of the 2000 elections).

Ricks and Martin Smith feel that whatever bad is going to happen in Iraq is going to happen anyway whether we leave or not. Perle says we can't fail because that will embolden the terrorists. Perle says we aren't fighting a war on terror. We're fighting against fundamentalist Muslims who want to destroy us and make us live under Sharia law.

The crowd was very hostile to Perle. One guy kept yelling about the Project for the New American Century and the crowd was trying to make him stop. They kept applauding the other panelists.

The question was asked about impeaching Bush & Cheney. Nobody would agree to that. They all seemed to agree that the president was fooled. He didn't lie on purpose. I saw Mario Cuomo at the same venue Sunday night and he said the same thing. Perle says that the intelligence reports (and he says he saw a lot of them) were unanimous in saying that Saddam had WMDs (inlcluding Blix and the UN). Ricks says that there is plenty of evidence (including the National Intelligence Estimate's footnotes) that show plenty of doubt. Perle says that if Saddam had only accounted for the missing materials and weapons there would never have been an invasion.

They showed some clips from the documentaries that will air on PBS in April for this series. They look very interesting. In Perle's documentary you see him talking to a woman who organized a peace march on Washington and she takes him apart. He is also shown talking to a dissident Iranian student who says he was jailed and tortured (both his wrists were broken and his nose was broken several times). He was waving his hands around as he spoke and his nose looked ok to me. He was let out of prison to take a university exam and he escaped Iran. Perle flew to Dubai to meet with him. The student wants to overthrow the Iranian government.

Perle also said that the two carrier battle groups that are currently in the Persian Gulf are there for leverage against Iran. He says that diplomacy works better if there is the threat of force behind it.

It was strange thinking that Robert MacNeil asked Lee Harvey Oswald to point him to a payphone after JFK was shot so that he could file his report. I ran into MacNeil in Portland, Maine in a hardware store around 1980 (didn't hurt him).



by Craig Reynolds

Microsoft recidivism: as was widely assumed by cynics, it looks like Microsoft simply ignored the antitrust settlement it entered into in 2002: Microsoft case lawyers claim violation and 'Microsoft broke anti-trust agreement,' prosecutors claim. Fortunately for the rest of us, the plaintiffs in the Iowa antitrust lawsuit have kept on top of this and have begun releasing damaging evidence: 3,000 pieces of evidence on Iowa antitrust case posted online.

More iPhone: sorry to go on about this like I was some kind of Apple fanboy...oh, wait... The fact that iPhone was announced as a closed platform, no third party apps, despite running the full featured OS X, continues to draw commentary: Wah! I can’t install an app on iPhone and why I don’t care and Is Apple sandbagging the iPhone? Several recent cell phone designs sport feature iPhone-like features, especially LG's Prada Phone: LG Electronics launches touch-screen phone that resembles much-hyped Apple iPhone and Alltel makes a stab at improving cell phone UI. Technology Review has an article about recent academic work on multi-finder touch screens like the iPhone supports.

Stem cells, adipose cells and naughty bits: some exciting news of advances in therapies for spinal injuries: Stem cells nurture damaged spine which comes just on the heels of recent discovery of a new source of useful stem cells in amniotic fluid. Like the Sony EyeToy before it, the Nintendo Wii has been applauded for putting an element of anti-couch-potato physical exercise into video games. Now at least one gamer has documented his successful use of Wii for weight loss. Speaking of dietary information, see this nicely produced reference: What Does 200 Calories Look Like? (Although keep in mind that modern thinking about nutrition and weight loss cast doubt on a simple "calorie counting" approach.) Lastly, the idea of teledildonics began as speculative fiction but reality has been quickly catching up: Teledildonics Takes a Step and Two-person teledildonic rig.

Technobits: Flexing Muscle, China Destroys Satellite in Test --- once again proof that DRM does not work, the only thing that works is adopting a business model that customers will embrace (e.g. eMusic): A DVD Copy Protection Is Overcome by Hackers --- along those lines: Universal exec - say goodbye to the old record co. --- interesting solar/hydrogen system: Solar power eliminates utility bills in U.S. home --- Google Earth's 3D world --- Silicon 'Lego bricks' used to build 3D chips --- XCOR test new eco-friendly, Mars refuelable rocket engine --- Is Your Car Smarter Than You Are? --- Analog Digital Watch --- George Clooney in SciFi Channel's 6 hour mini-series of Neal Stephenson's spectacular novel The Diamond Age: Or a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (via).

Neal Vitale Oscar Picks

[ed. note: Alas, I am not on a computer that has my Oscar picks, although I think I liked Flushed Away for best animated film, despite its financial "failure." But I want Neal to have bragging rights with his picks. Here they are, not elegantly formatted, but for your consideration...]

Best Picture - Dreamgirls, Babel, United 93, The Queen, Little Miss Sunshine
Best Director - Scorsese (The Departed), Eastwood (Letters from Iwo Jima),
Condon (Dreamgirls), Iñárritu (Babel), Frears (The Queen)
Best Actor - O'Toole (Venus), Whitaker (Last King...), DiCaprio (Blood
Diamond), Smith (Pursuit of Happyness), Cohen (Borat)
Best Actress - Streep (Prada), Mirren (The Queen), Dench (Notes on a
Scandal), Cruz (Volver), Winslet (Little Children)
Best Supporting Actor - Murphy (Dreamgirls), Nicholson (The Departed), Arkin
(Little Miss Sunshine), Affleck (Hollywoodland), Hounsou (Blood Diamond)
Best Supporting Actress - Hudson (Dreamgirls), Breslin (Little Miss
Sunshine), Blunt (Prada), Barraza (Babel), Kukuchi (Babel)