Archive for January, 2003

The Vaguest Prize Ever

Found in my inbox today:

Hey doc_memory!

When you created your Personals profile, you gave us permission to publish your personal photo in any of Spring Street’s partner publications (by checking the “partner print publication” box). Well, congrats! You’ve been selected for consideration and possible publication, so we’ve deposited 5 free credits into your account automatically. Due to the number of different publications affiliated with the Personals and last minute changes to copy before press times, we are unable let you know which publication and when. However, we can tell you there are some hotties on the network you should meet, so go to and
put your complimentary credits to good use!

Thanks and enjoy the credits!
The Spring Street Gang

So, to recap: at some unspecified point in the future, on one of about ten dozen websites, I may…or may not…be a featured Nerve personal ad.

Thanks, I guess?

Now…could they have made the last sentence any more mortifying?

inside the echo chamber

It’s a little ironic that I work for a television news company, since under normal circumstances I go out of my way to avoid ever watching TV newscasts. Chalk it up to watching “Max Headroom” and “Network” at an impressionable age: the audiovisual mannerisms that are standard to the form just strike me as unbearably stupid and annoying at the best of times, and these are not the best of times.

But work in the industry I do, and ever since we moved into our newer, smaller office space, I’m less than a dozen feet away from the video wall: a dozen or so assorted monitors carrying feeds from each of the major networks, cnn, msnbc and handful of satellite feeds. I wear headphones and listen to antisocial music when I can, but I also have to listen and talk to to my coworkers, so often I just have to surrender to the incoming noise from the wall.

Sometimes, in a morbid way, this gets interesting.

Any story that hangs around long enough to warrant a daily (or better) update ends up getting its own snappy tagline/title created for it. Obviously right now the heavy-rotation winner is Iraq, and over the past few days I think I’ve heard just about every possible variation on the tag:

  • Confronting Iraq

  • Countdown: Iraq

  • Crisis: Iraq

  • Iraq: Confrontation in the Middle East

  • Iraq: We are so totally gonna kick Saddam’s ass.

Okay, the last one may have been my brain playing tricks on me. It’s a little hard to tell sometimes when the surreality is so strong in the “normal” channels.

It’s not really an original or particularly insightful idea to point out that the media is a willing participant in selling the inevitability of this war to a naturally skeptical public, so let’s just ride the weird for a minute: Has your favorite news source come up with a zippy slogan for this war-to-be? Can you think of a funnier one? It’s your voices versus the wall for control of my brain. Your duty is clear.

the devil, and his due

This one’s been kicking around in my head for while now, and I finally felt motivated enough to go dig out the relevant archived articles.

Shortly after taking office, but several months before the 9/11 attacks and the “Axis of Evil” speech, George W. Bush’s new state department got involved in a small verbal blow-up in regard to North Korea. Like a lot of nerve-wracking moments in diplomacy, it appeared to obviously mean one thing at the time, but has started to look a little different in hindsight, and it’s worth revisiting the issue.

The short recap: After an initial statement by Colin Powell indicating that the Bush team intended to pursue, largely unchanged, the engagement policy devised by the Clinton and Kim Dae-Jung administrations, Bush himself countermanded that position, stating that a full review of relations with the DPRK was in progress, and adding that “Part of the problem in dealing with North Korea is there’s not very much transparency. We’re not certain as to whether or not they’re keeping all terms of all agreements.” North Korea went predictably apeshit, South Korean diplomats made worried off-the-record remarks to American journalists about Bush playing cowboy, and pretty much the entire left-leaning segment of America’s punditorium took this as evidence of Bush’s foreign-policy incompetence.

Well. Heh. What a difference few years make.

So it turns out that what Bush said (slightly fractured syntax and a misplaced plural aside) was, in the strictest sense, true: North Korea was flagrantly violating the Agreed Framework accords, and continuing its nuclear weapons development program while happily contining to take the food and fuel aid which the US and South Korea were giving it in exchange for desisting. Moreover, the violations had been known to all parties since before Bush took office.

Seen in hindsight, Bush’s 2001 statements seem a lot less like reckless incompetence, and a lot more like a carefully considered early warning to a regime that was given ample time afterward to clean up its own mess before the real crisis erupted.

I say this not because I have become a sudden convert to the Bush doctrine, but simply to illustrate a point that I think far too many of my peers miss when looking at current world events: not everything is immediately obvious. It can take months or even years before the actual context around the public posturing becomes clear. The concentric circles of echo chambers that are blogs, television and the print media spin cycle encourage all participants to instantly offer up an informed-sounding opinion on whatever the day’s breaking headline is, but sometimes an informed opinion is impossible.

Consider holding your tongue and waiting occasionally. Being able to say “I told you so” is a lesser pleasure than being right the first time.

memories of warmer times: pt 3

Stuck at home, back hurting, tired. What to do? Well, there’s this stack of 350 photos that’s been staring at me in a guilt-inducing fashion for quite some time now… Yeah, that’s a plan.

Almost two years ago now, I did something a bit uncharacteristic: I quit my job with no notice, and went travelling. Miranda’s company, EastQuest Travel, was sending her on a familiarization trip through southeast Asia, and for the cost of the ticket and little else, I was able to tag along. The emails I sent back formed a travelogue that a lot of people seemed to find amusing.

I’d been promising that I’d post the photos of the trip ever since I got back, but the task kept daunting me. I’d taken a lot of photos, especially at Angkor Wat: looking at the timestamps on the photos, there was one 25-shot roll that I expended in 15 minutes! Still, an amazing number of them turned out well — not bad for a little $75 APS snapshot camera.

memories of warmer times, pt 2

Sadly, I have to admit to myself that I’m probably never going to get a proper travelogue of this trip written. Six days of jetlag and influenza immediately after the return mangled the chronology rather badly in my head. Lesson learned: always write the travelogue as it happens. Next time, I’ll bring a laptop, or god help me take notes in longhand.

memories of warmer times

Only about four months late:
Photos from New York’s Halloween Parade.