Tech Drooling and More


(sigh) A Palm OS computer, with a good keyboard, wireless capability, several hours of battery life, able to hotlink with my desktop machine, and all for a third the price of a low-end laptop? A writer's dream machine.

Still, at $429 USD, that's $429 USD more than I have burning a hole in my pocket at the moment...

Also, Mozilla has released version 1.5 of its full featured browser, and version 0.7 of its stripped down Firebird. I've tried out the new Firebird and love it. Now if only it could support Movable Type's hotlink buttons, I'd be off Internet Explorer like a rocket...

Fallen, Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan has a new album out, called Afterglow. I always like listening to Sarah, but I have to admit that this news doesn't thrill me nearly as much as did the release of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (still her best album) and Surfacing.

Avril Benoit of CBC Radio played the first cut from the album, a single entitled Fallen. At the end she said something along the lines of, "she hasn't strayed far from the sounds that made her such a success," which, reading between the lines, is a polite way of saying that I'm about to be asked to pay $20 for a CD of tunes not much different from four other albums I've paid $20 each to listen to. No thanks; maybe when it comes out in the used stores, or unless the reviews of her other tracks show a significant and interesting departure.

Tori Amos has at least as many albums out as Sarah McLachlan, and each one is markedly different from the last. Tori is not afraid to explore her range and push her own boundaries, and every effort, though sometimes unsuccessful, is still fresh and new. And she's good enough that her new efforts are more often successful than not. Contrast and compare To Venus and Back with Scarlet's Walk -- two remarkably different albums, but each just great to listen to, and both distinctly Tori.

Tori Amos has passed Sarah McLachlan as my personal favourite album maker. Tori, incidentally, has a retrospective album in the works, entitled Tales of a Librarian, set to debut November 18.

What a Bunch of Idiots! (And, For the Record, NOT Referring to the Cyclists, Here)

I am referring to the shock jocks on stations owned and operated by that American media conglomerate Clear Channel. Clear Channel has been accused of Fox News-like bias in its news reporting, and monopolistic practices, but I don't really know much about or particularly care about that. Advocating the assault of innocent bystanders, however, crosses some kind of line -- or should, if there was any justice in the world.

From the October 14 issue of the Chicago Tribune:

Cyclists fail to see the humor in deejays' calls for assaults

By J. Michael Kennedy
Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times

Kevin Bray was, well, shocked, when he heard that shock jocks were urging their listeners to run bicyclists off the road. He was horrified when he found out it had happened at least three times since July, in each case at stations owned by radio behemoth Clear Channel -- first in Cleveland, then Houston and finally at a station in Raleigh, N.C. To Bray, an avid cyclist and veteran North Carolina highway patrolman, there seemed to be an ominous pattern developing.

"All I can say is, `Who's next?'" said Bray, who has filed a complaint against the Raleigh station with the Federal Communications Commission. "What these people are doing is some sort of sick marketing ploy."


The incidents have stirred rage in the cycling world. In each incident, disc jockeys derided cyclists and encouraged listeners to run them down. In the latest example, at Raleigh station WDCG-FM, disc jockeys Bob Dumas and Madison Lane began their rant against cyclists Sept. 22. In the course of the program, listeners flooded their telephone lines to vent about cyclists, including one woman who boasted that her father intentionally hit one while they were on the way to church. One of the disc jockeys promoted the joys of hitting cyclists with Yoo-hoo bottles.


The first of the anti-cyclist diatribe occurred in July in Cleveland, when WMJI-FM disc jockeys suggested cyclists be rammed off the road. One of those who got on the phone to defend cyclists was Lois Cowan, who co-owns four bike shops in the Cleveland area.

"I was repeatedly called a buffoon, an idiot and a PMS sufferer who couldn't take a joke," she said. "Then there were three hours of calls from people saying, `Yeah, you guys are right.'"

Nice guys, huh? You can see the full story here.

Solar Laundromat Owner Cleans Up

To show that there is hope for the world, here's a feel-good press release that crossed my desk at Alternatives Journal yesterday. By installing solar panels into his roof and more efficient light fixtures, Beach Solar Laundromat of Toronto's East End has cut its natural gas consumption by 30%, achieving substantial cost savings while providing the same high level of service to its customers.

The initiative was part of the Greenest City's Cool Shops Program which shows that, with just a little push in the right direction, meeting one's Kyoto requirements is not only good for the planet, but good for one's pocketbook.

And Finally, Angel

Spoilers Below.

While at the gym, dan and I were talking about Spike being a fifth wheel in the first three episodes of this season of Angel. Dan coined what was happening to Spike as "the Jamie Factor". This recalls a situation during the fourth season of the series Doctor Who where the decision was made to make a guest star character for one episode (Jamie MacCrimmon in The Highlanders) into a full-fledged companion. The writers of the stories immediately following The Highlanders didn't know about it, and didn't have time to adjust to it, so for those episodes poor Jamie MacCrimmon couldn't show off that charisma that made the producers decide to make him a regular in the first place. He spent whole episodes unconscious, or trapped in mineshafts, until the initial stories passed, and a writer came along to write a story with Jamie in mind.

Spike escaped the Jamie Factor in the fourth episode of season five, with an episode that focused directly on him and on his predicament, provided some resolution, and established the contribution his character will provide to the series in the episodes to come. I liked it. James Marsters carried off his parts with his usual alacrity and he was well supported by the rest of the regulars. But what made the episode shine was the writing and the directing (both handled by staff member Steven DeKnight), who piled on the creepy and spiced it up with excellent one-liners. My favourite scene is when Angel and Spike are starting to reconcile, and Angel grudgingly admits that, though he hated Spike, he liked his poetry.

Spike (scowls): You like Barry Manilow.

Followed by the grotesque shot of a corpse hanging from the ceiling. That was quite a punch, I tell you. Any show that makes me go "haha-- YAH!" gets my immediate respect.

I remain a little leery of the theology of Angel, with both Spike and Angel (and Wesley and Gunn) both certain that, despite repenting, despite saving the world, Spike is doomed to Hell. It bothers me that Angel feels the same way about himself -- and the response to "so, why bother?" ("what else can we do?) is too cynical for words. I just don't agree with it and it almost shakes me from my sense of disbelief.

The episode addressed some of this by suggesting that Spike was only on his way to Hell because a renegade soul was haunting Wolfram and Hart, grabbing up ghosts and feeding them to the underworld (i.e., this wasn't Spike's actual damnation for his sins), but if Angel continues to follow this cynical path; if some sense isn't given to or expressed by some of the characters that Angel and Spike can be saved (Fred does do this for Spike, and Wesley seems to be shaping up to be a similar candidate for Angel), I may end up being shaken out of my suspension of disbelief, and my interest in this show may drop. However, right now, I trust that the writers know what they are doing.

I like how the character dynamics are shaping up. Angel and Gunn continue to tread into the dangerous territory of the Ends justifying the Means. Fred, Wesley and Lorne are shaping up to be the force that will ground Angel, and have to work hard to keep him from falling off the edge. I'm still not sure what Spike's place on the show will be (probably wildcard), but Eve herself is shaping up to be a wildcard. All in all, I'm still jazzed about this season, and I'm looking forward to the next episode.

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