Thursday, April 26, 2007

buying the war

Last year, Stephen Colbert was the host for the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. In his speech, he said this to the Washington press corps:

As excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president's side, and the vice president's side.

But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in Eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished. Over the last five years you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.

But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!(complete transcript here)
It was humorous, subversive and, as Bill Moyer’s latest documentary Buying the War: How the mainstream press got it so wrong demonstrates, sadly accurate.

Bill Moyers gained national prominence as Press Secretary for President Johnson and then worked as a television journalist for NBC, CBS and PBS. He has won more than 30 Emmys and almost every other major journalism award. Of late, he has been a vocal critic of national media for their lack of investigative reporting, and in Buying the War he makes a devastating case for his position.

Although there are still some fine national reporters (these Pulitzer Prize winners, for example, as well as Walter Pincus for the Post and a handful of New Yorker authors), the institutions that published the Pentagon Papers and exposed Watergate clearly lost their way. Howard Kurtz on the Post’s coverage:
I went back and did the math. From August 2002 until the war was launched in March of 2003 there were about 140 front page pieces in THE WASHINGTON POST making the administration's case for war.

It was, "The President said yesterday." "The Vice President said yesterday." The Pentagon said yesterday." Well, that's part of our job. Those people want to speak. We have to provide them a platform. I don't have anything wrong with that. But there was only a handful-- a handful of stories that ran on the front page. Some more that ran inside the pages of the paper that made the opposite case. Or, if not making the opposite case, raised questions.

Buying the War aired last night. Watch on-demand or read the transcript

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Wired Magazine hosts several blogs that I have included in my news reader. Listening Post covers digital music, Gadget Lab reviews the newest gizmos, and Autotopia discusses the future of cars. To this list, I just added Geekdad.

Geekdad launched in March. It is a group blog focused on kids and technology, and its writers include some dads familiar to readers of (at least) one cool thing. Jim Bumgardner is the creator of the Whitney Music Box, Thomas Hawk takes very pretty pictures, and Warren Packard has written for (at least) one cool thing on memory cards, MAME and (in a precursor to his current position) strollers.

If you are a dad, a mom or just like fun things, check out Geekdad and posts like:

Beginner’s Video Rocketry
Introducing your kids to the machine shop
Novel uses for model rockets
Places to take your kids in Portland
The origins of Lego Mindstorms
Combat gliders

and the Redwood Valley Railway.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

reactions to the record

Jeff of Riding East mentioned an amazing symposium sponsored by the Stanford Music Department. Reactions to the Record starts tomorrow and it features very talented musicians from around the world. Of most interest to me are the 8pm concerts tomorrow and Friday nights, and the Saturday morning class with the gifted and generous St.Lawrence String Quartet. More details below:



Perspectives on Historic Performance

April 19-21, 2007

Photograph of Victrola disc and player.

The Stanford Department of Music is hosting a three-day symposium to explore the vivid styles of performance heard on the earliest acoustic recordings and player piano rolls, styles that began to vanish with the First World War and were considered almost scandalous after the Second. This will be a forum for experiment and dialogue, and the focus will be practical: what might these traces of vintage styles mean to performers, composers and listeners today.

Symposium Homepage

About the Symposium
Schedule of Events
Reservations & Fees
Performers/Presenters Bios
Concert Details
Banquet Information

Monday, April 16, 2007

Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet

Alonzo King is a gifted choreographer. His innovative and sophisticated works are performed by ballet companies internationally, but his passion is LINES, the Bay Area company he founded in 1982. LINES has an extensive touring schedule and a repertoire of groundbreaking work, and this Spring they add to it with a collaboration with the Shaolin Monks of San Francisco.

In Collaboration premiered this Friday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and performances continue Wednesday April 18 through Sunday April 22 (tickets). I was fortunate to see a preview as part of a fundraiser for LINES and I was stunned by the integration of these very different art forms.

The Shaolin Foundation in San Francisco is the only sanctioned monastery and school outside of China. Its monks study Chan Buddhism and wushu, the martial art developed in the 6th century at the Shaolin Temple on Songshan Mountain. The San Francisco group is quite extraordinary, and its members include:

Master Shi YongYao, the Temple’s 70 year old Qi Gong master and expert in the “metal finger” technique;

Master Shi GuoSong, a 1998 Gold Medalist in the World Wushu Tournament and a leading practicioner of the non-contact Shaolin Boxing;

Shi ChangQiang (pictured above with Brett Conway), a young and very accomplished student expert in Seven Star Boxing and the Nine Jointed Whip;

Shi ChangJun, a master master of Red Boxing and Spring-Autumn sword. Like Shi ChangeQiang, ChangJun is in his 20s (
read interview);

and, the delightful 10 year-old triplets: Shi LongHu, Shi HuHu, and Shi BaoHu.

Alonzo has choreographed a cultural exchange. The monks and the dancers have very different backgrounds but they share an amazing command of physicality and in interest in each other’s disciplines. During In Collaboration, this exchange plays out in fantastic demonstrations of martial arts and modern dance as the monks teach wushu and learn about the West in return.

Adding the appeal of this unique performance is a beautiful score played on traditional Chinese instruments. For the fundraiser, Musical Director Hong Wang enchanted us with stunning melodies on the erhu, the bawu and the ma tou qin. For the full performances, Hong is joined by Sheshen Zhang and Wanpeng Guo.

Photography by Marty Sohl

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

the inn at spanish bay

Not only haven’t I been blogging often enough; I haven’t been golfing enough either. To celebrate Stuart’s upcoming nuptials, the guys decided to help me change that. Golf at San Juan Oaks on the way down (a great layout but the back 9 is brutal when the wind is up) and Poppy Hills the next day (phenomenal course, and with green fees under $100, a great value). In between we stayed at the Inn at Spanish Bay.

Spanish Bay was built by the Pebble Beach Company in 1987. They acquired land at the tip on the Monterey Peninsula that had used for a sand mining operation and they meticulously restored the habitat. They also hired Robert Trent Jones, Jr. to design a world-class links course at home with its siblings Spyglass and Pebble, and they opened a 269 room hotel.

For the past 20 years, the Inn at Spanish Bay has been a premier escape. It is not inexpensive, but the consensus opinion is that it is worth it. The rooms are very large and quiet, the service is friendly and efficient, and there is no better place to enjoy an evening beverage than by their outdoor fire pits.

A tip for your visit: book a forest view room. You’ll save some money and will find that most spectacular scenery is available when walking the grounds. If you book directly you may get a better rate and be able to secure a one night stay instead of the usual two on weekends. Oh, and if you dine at Roy’s as we did, order the Kobe beef and crab roll. It is delicious.

Monday, April 09, 2007

lots of links

Last year I learned that it was easy to develop a blogging routine. Last month I discovered how it easy it was to drop the habit. But, just because I haven’t been writing often doesn’t mean I haven’t been finding interesting things. To catch up, tonight I offer 9 links across 3 categories.

Food and drink

I was back at Evvia. I continue to recommend the Greek salad and the Gigantes, but the braised goat with feta and pearl onions is my new favorite entry. The rack of lamb is also excellent; consider a half order.

I have been enjoying some nice wines. Two value oriented selections from the Russian River Valley are the lively Quivera Sauvignon Blanc and the well-balanced, fruity Crossbarn Pinot Noir. Crossbarn is Paul Hobbs second label.

And, we tried more creations from Sushi Sam’s. Don took detailed pictures, and Joy and Mike provided sake. To their Yuki No Bosha “Cabin in the Snow” Limited Release Junmai Ginjo and Hatsushibori “Pure Snow” Junmai Ginjo I added a bottle of Mu Sake “Nothingness” Junmai Diaginjyo. All three were clean and delicate on the palate, not surprising given their very similar SMV values.


Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People’s Temple, a 90-minute documentary that premiered tonight on PBS, tells the very disturbing story of Jim Jones through interviews with 8 former followers and extensive footage from the 50s, 60s and 70s. It re-airs this week.

Babel – I wanted to see this in the theater and finally caught it on DVD. I was impressed. Think of it as a better version of Crash with more intense acting.

When it was released, The Illusionist was overshadowed by The Prestige (which I loved), but it is possible that it is the better film. I’m not sure why it didn’t generate more buzz. Edward Norton delivers another outstanding performance, and the story is both romantic and mysterious.

Interesting news

A new species of dinosaur capable of burrowing underground has been discovered.

An excavation on Keros has unearthed new clues about Cycladic civilization.

Finally, an article from the Smithsonian describes how SSRL imaging is used to unlock the mysteries of the palimpsest and expose the lost writing of Archimedes.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Häagen-Dazs Reserve

Super-premium ice cream giant Häagen-Dazs has released 5 new flavors in a line labeled Häagen-Dazs Reserve, a nod to the exotic nature of the main ingredients. From the left, they are: Brazilian Acai Berry Sorbet, Amazon Valley Chocolate, Pomegranate Chip, Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream and toasted Coconet Sesame Brittle. Last night, we tried the Pomegranate Chip and it was quite tasty, rivaling some of the best options from my favorite local ice cream shops. I can’t wait to try the acai berry sorbet next.

Häagen-Dazs flavors contain no artificial ingredients or emulsifiers.