Thursday, April 26, 2007

Needed: New Paris Peace Talks

Advice, Please:

Now that Tim and I are in the harsh new social environment known as the PTA, we're part of an email communication system in which each new posting to the PTA discussion board is also delivered as an email message. I appreciate this immediacy, because it'll remind me constantly of PTA meetings, changes in class schedules, and so on. However, I fear the immediacy as well, because it is an easy way for conversational wildfires to start and rage furiously and unproductively. To be specific: the school is working full-tilt on its upcoming Carnival, which is our only schoolwide fundraiser of the year and very important to our budget. A parent wrote in to say that her 5-year-old felt too pressured to sell $1 raffle tickets for the carnival and this was a problem that the parent community needed to fix. Her post was several paragraphs long, however, and was not as well-worded or well-edited as it could have been. Consequently, several parents who are hard at work on the Carnival (and deeply stressed out about it) felt criticized by other parents just at the time when they needed to feel community support.

Was this tension handled by one parent calling up the other parent and saying, "Gee, we're having some hard feelings about this, how can we work this out and move on?" No. It played itself out in waves of various parents posting from the perspectives of: a) hostile; b) defensive; c) suggesting a big summit to overhaul school fundraising; d) impugning other parents' child-rearing abilities; e) calling for a school-wide party to celebrate the school-wide carnival; d) calling for a special peace summit ..... on and on.

The email tsunami might have seemed pretty funny if I wasn't a member of the fundraising committee.

So here's a question: Plenty of internet sites address email etiquette like, "don't post in all-caps," "be nice to newbies", how to use the little carrot-marks as quotes, and so on. But have you seen anything about how to avoid this type of 'reply to all' Sturm und Drang, or how to reconcile it once it has run its course? I figure plenty of PTAs out there have experienced precisely this situation before.


Warrants Issed for Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty

via The Associated Press
NEW DELHI -- A court issued arrest warrants for Hollywood actor Richard Gere and Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on Thursday, saying their kiss at a public function "transgressed all limits of vulgarity," media reports said.

If convicted, Gere and Shetty could be fined, jailed for three months, or both.

Sure, it's news, and they scooped the Bollywood fan sites on this one, but the AP totally missed out on this: Aishwarya Rai will take her husband's surname to be known as Aishwarya Bachchan.

And this: Bollywood is planning to "remake" Charlie's Angels.

Batman: Defenders of the Night

Via Boing Boing, a jaw-dropping six-minute Batman & Robin fan video.

Link is to "Chris' Invincible Super-Blog", where the YouTube video is embedded along with a running text commentary, including the identification of the single greatest line in anything, ever, spoken by "Bruce Wayne" at 1:27:

"I've been looking into something. There's a series of robberies all over... a bunch of technology companies all over. At least seven or nine security guards have been killed already."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Farm Bill: Eaters Come Last

Michael Pollan's lucid explanation of The Farm Bill. As Pollan describes it, it's not the farm bill, it's The Food Bill. You should care because it's only up for reauthorization every five years.

As a rule, processed foods are more “energy dense” than fresh foods: they contain less water and fiber but more added fat and sugar, which makes them both less filling and more fattening. These particular calories also happen to be the least healthful ones in the marketplace, which is why we call the foods that contain them “junk.” Drewnowski concluded that the rules of the food game in America are organized in such a way that if you are eating on a budget, the most rational economic strategy is to eat badly — and get fat.

This perverse state of affairs is not, as you might think, the inevitable result of the free market. Compared with a bunch of carrots, a package of Twinkies, to take one iconic processed foodlike substance as an example, is a highly complicated, high-tech piece of manufacture, involving no fewer than 39 ingredients, many themselves elaborately manufactured, as well as the packaging and a hefty marketing budget. So how can the supermarket possibly sell a pair of these synthetic cream-filled pseudocakes for less than a bunch of roots?

For the answer, you need look no farther than the farm bill. This resolutely unglamorous and head-hurtingly complicated piece of legislation, which comes around roughly every five years and is about to do so again, sets the rules for the American food system — indeed, to a considerable extent, for the world’s food system.

[This is actually being posted by Deirdre, but since Tim's already signed in, I'm not going to bother with my own i.d.]

This American Life Completes Documentation Of Liberal, Upper-Middle-Class Existence


And we also learn that it's much easier to parody Sarah Vowell than we ever suspected.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Catching up on episodes of Ryan is Hungry, a twice-weekly videoblog on the intersection of green and tech cultures by Ryanne Hodson and Jay Dedman.

This episode, from back in February, highlights Longleaf Lumber (mill in Maine, showroom in Massachusetts), a company that reclaims lumber from the past couple of centuries of human construction (barns, factories, etc.), remills it, and resells it as flooring and other products.

Longleaf's Marc Poirier leads a brief tour of the lumber yard, displaying an incredible depth of lumber knowledge. I've never been quite sure whether those experts on Antiques Roadshow know everything they're saying (or if they've looked it all up in reference books off-camera), but Poirier is clearly the real deal.

Click to view

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gere kiss sparks India protests

Protestors are burning Richard Gere in effigy, after he publicly kissed Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS awareness event, in a recreation of one of his moves from Shall We Dance?

More conservative Indians, no fans of Bollywood to begin with, are burning Shilpa Shetty in effigy.

Shetty, no stranger to contreversy, is not only a Bollywood actress, but the winner of the UK's version of Celebrity Big Brother, as well as an activist for HIV/AIDS awareness and PETA.

Although Ms. Shetty is a fixture in the celebrity "news" each week on "Namaste America" and "India Waves," we've seen none of her movies, including the notable release from 2004, Phir Milenge, a remake of Jonathan Demme's 1993 Philadelphia. The film featured Ms. Shetty in the role originally taken by Tom Hanks and future Mr. Aishwarya Rai, Abishek Bachchan (the Big B's son), in the Denzel Washington role. But with all references to homosexuality removed. And the requisite musical numbers thrown in (more video montages than dance numbers, though).

Gere has apologized profusely for any embarassment he's caused Ms. Shetty, and for his own cultural blunder.

I was going to enter a joke here about waiting for him to apologize for one of his lame movies, but I really haven't seen any of them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pearls Before Breakfast -

The Washington Post Sunday magazine pranks the commuters of the L'Enfant Metro station in Washington DC. That guy over there playing the violin for change? That's not some guy. That's Joshua Bell. And that violin is an 18th century Stradivarius.

Fascinating experiment on context and perception.

A wee bit smug, taking potshots at the Federal employees rushing to work, who won't even so much glance at the musician. By the same token, though, it's a call to reflect on how many details in the urban sphere we filter