Watching TV from miles away

Universal Hub: Now that’s a wide-screen TV. Looks like WGBH is going to get into the lit advertisement space with a VERY large (30’x45′) outdoor display. Visions of 25′ tall Ernies aside, it looks like you won’t actually be able to watch television on the display; it’ll show a different image each day.

That relieves me of having to make the obligatory hifi comment, but I’ll make it anyway: with every TV in the world moving to 16×9, why on earth would they deploy a 3×2 TV instead? I could almost understand 4×3, but 3×2 is just puzzling.

More info about the Jumbotron LED mural can be found on’s design pages for their new building.

New mix: a young escape to find you

New mix up at Art of the Mix: a young escape to find you. Been working on this one for a while, finally got it put together tonight. Copies out soon to the usual suspects.

Two or three superb cuts on this—the return of Black Francis on “Threshold Apprehension,” Sonic Youth’s “Do You Believe in Rapture?,” Gillian Welch’s take on Radiohead’s “Black Star,” and three tunes that have been waiting their turn on one of my mixes since high school, “Fixing a Hole,” ”Yer So Bad,” and “Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires.”

DVD Review: Foyle’s War, Series 4

foyle's war series 4

Sixty years after its conclusion, World War II continues to provide an inexhaustible flow of stories. While many follow traditional narratives of Good vs. Evil on the world stage, a set of quiet television dramas from England have told a different story:
what does the Last Just War look like from the home front?
Foyle’s War explores crime stories in a small village against the backdrop of the war. And Series 4, now available on DVD from Acorn Media, begins at a particular point in the war:
what happens when your allies come to stay and fight the war from your soil?

The first episode, “Invasion,” is a case in point. The story opens with a young boy playing in the street, whose eyes widen at the sound of motors coming up the lane. As Jeeps roll by, he runs back to the house shouting, “The Jerries are here!” The boy’s mistake sets the stage for the next 90 minutes, during which a murder mystery plays out against a background of mutual Anglo-American distrust.

This is, in fact, the sort of video that can be challenging to watch without bringing context from current events. One uncomfortable resonance point includes the angry speech from the farmer whose land is requisitioned by the war department, asking whether the Americans have come to help or to stay. Another, the scene of Foyle providing background on British behavior and customs to a schoolroom full of American GIs, only to be confronted by an isolationist private angry at having been dragged from the US to save the British, is an uncomfortable metaphor for American foreign policy.

What the series does best, though, and what episodes 3 and 4 in the set deliver in spades, is show warfare from the perspective of those left behind at the home front: spouses, retirees, war profiteers, and the police themselves. One critique of the series is that the producers spend so much time on getting the historical atmosphere right and exploring these characters that they can lose the thread of the main plot; with each episode featuring some level of murder mystery or other police case, that can be a little frustrating. But overall the show is one of those rare viewing experiences that is quietly compelling. I’ve tried, and failed, to do other things while the program was on (like for instance writing this review), and for an inveterate multitasker like myself to confess that is high praise indeed.

Harry Potter: all over but the movies

I started, and finished, Deathly Hallows last night. Don’t worry: no spoilers from me. Just a note to mark the end of that particular journey.

But one thought: how the hell are they going to make that a movie? Jo hardly managed to fit it all into just one book.

Living in the wiki

Just to show you that you never know when you’ll follow a reference down the rabbit hole: I was struck by a greeting that one of my German coworkers gave another. Looking it up, I was quickly sucked into a maze of Frisian and Jutish dialects and German comic book characters.

The greeting used is moin, which (Wikipedia says) comes from the Frisian and is commonly used in the eastern Netherlands and Schleswig-Holstein. As with all central European languages, there are cognate greetings in closely related languages, including Old Saxon and Jutish.

The rabbit hole part is the way the greeting likely spread to my coworkers, through the German comic book character Werner, who consistently uses the greeting (apparently when not consuming large amounts of beer). And yes, it all comes back to beer as well: the official website for Werner feature promotes a special sixpack of Werner’s favorite beer, Bölkstoff, including judicial actions by the Guild Brewery of Hanover and corporate takeovers by Inbev.

Vista: Very, very hungry

I run Windows Vista at the office. Generally I get along with it just fine, and our company’s software plays pretty happily with it. But every now and then in my daily work I hit some kind of wall. Sometimes it manifests as a problem with Microsoft Outlook: when I try to launch Word to read an attachment, it starts up the Office Installer instead, then complains that it is suffering from “Windows Installer error 1450” and can’t proceed. Cancelling or clicking OK brings me to the same place: a copy of Word that complains that it hasn’t been installed for the current Windows user.

Other times, the problem manifests as a refusal to open other software applications, even Notepad, or to open new explorer windows. When I hit this point, even clicking on the funky little restart menu to try to get to the restart menu option won’t open the submenu. I have to hold the power key down to force the power to cycle.

It feels for all the world like the bad old days of Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 when one of the system resource heaps would be exhausted. But that shouldn’t be happening in Vista, or any post-NT OS, for that matter.

What’s weird is that applications that are already open, e.g. Firefox, appear to run just fine as long as you keep them running.

I can’t find anything on or on the web at large about the issue, so I’m posting something to jog my own memory the next time I run into the problem.

From a psychic landscape


I uploaded a bunch of photos last night to Flickr, including some from our vacation in North Carolina: some purely family photos and one large set of a visit to the place I will always remember as Grandmother Jarrett’s house.

As you can see in the photos, it’s not really a house so much as a farm, with as many as seven or eight buildings on the property (counting various barns and one chicken shack). The property was built up over the years starting with my great-grandfather, Zeb Jarrett, who built the house. In one photo you can actually see the evolution of the house: the section with the porch on the right was the original house built by Zeb and Laura, while the middle section was added on a few years later and the part on the left was added by my grandfather. The house was well kept up over the years, and my aunt has put it in exceptionally good shape after my grandmother passed away a few years ago. But without my grandmother there, it feels like a stage set waiting for someone to walk on.

In fact, walking past the barns I felt the truth of Laurie Anderson’s lyric: When my father died we put him in the ground. When my father died, it was like an entire library burned down. In this case, everything still stands but the spirit of the place is gone.

Harry Potter and the Cantabrigians

After a long week, Lisa and I headed down to Harvard Square tonight to take in the Pottermania. We’re both a little too old, now, and have too many other responsibilities to stand in line until midnight to get a copy of The Deathly Hallows, so ours will arrive from Amazon sometime tomorrow. (And I will get to read it by the end of next week, if I’m lucky—Lisa has dibs.)

But we enjoyed watching the chaos. Coming into the Square past the Coop, the crowds of college students waiting for the doors to reopen at midnight were substantial; fortunately for my eyes, few wore costumes, though there were more than a few Gryffindor scarves in evidence. Walking from Eliot Street to the Harvard Bookstore along the back roads, we saw a little more cosplay, most perfectly safe (though the college age girls in school uniforms and plaid short skirts were a little much).


While on vacation, I borrowed Björk’s Homogenic from my sister Esta. Listening to it reminds me of nothing so much as the conversation between Björk and Diddy, as imagined by “Sometimes… I climb into a laundry basket and tickle my ears!”

Then of course there’s the sequel, featuring the conversation between Diddy and Snoop: “Yo yo, you know that Japanese lookin’ white girl from Europe?” “Bjizzle?”

OK, I’m easily amused, but it does stick in the head. Even after it was posted, like, a lifetime ago.

Back. And so is “None of the above”

Having spent a good 17 hours or so spread across two trips in the few days since I posted last, I have still not recovered from my vacation. I think it will take a few days for the soreness to go away from the drive.

My soreness, however, must pale in comparison to the feelings of the average GOP presidential candidate when he learns that his entire field is trailing “None of the Above” for the 2008 nomination. While I would hate to have to run away from W’s war record as a GOP candidate, surely there must be someone in the party who will go out on a limb and do that. If not, the 2008 election will shape up as a referendum on whether we should be in Iraq, rather than what it should be: a contest of ideas on how to get out of the mess we are in, since our need to get out is for all rational people a foregone conclusion. (Via the slickly-redesigned Talking Points Memo.)


Ten years ago, I was in North Carolina—specifically, in a small town outside Camp Lejeune—on a consulting assignment. I was bored stiff. The dialup at the hotel was awful—and yes, there was dialup; this was before wifi, before Ethernet in every room, and at least in this hotel before reliable plain old telephone service to every room. Even then I was an Internet addict, so this was like a virtual guarantee of death by boredom that night. So I got out and walked down the street from one strip mall to the other, ending up at a Wal-Mart. In the music section. Where I decided that it was the right sort of night to take a risk on an artist I had listened a little to but didn’t know that much about, and pick up OK Computer by Radiohead.

And something, even as I played the album through my computer’s crummy speakers, exploded in my head.

Ten years on, and I am writing a blog post at my parents’ retirement house in western North Carolina, over wifi while I download OKX, a tribute to OK Computer. While I haven’t heard of most of the artists on the album, those I have—Doveman and the inimitable John Vanderslice—make me think that this is going to be pretty darn good.

A lot has changed in the intervening ten years, but the basic message of impersonal alienation has more relevance than ever before.

Alive, still

All indications to the contrary, I’m still alive. It has been a lovely, if thundery, few days here in the mountains to the north and west of Asheville. Food has been commensurate with past experiences—steak at my uncle’s on Tuesday night, big southern breakfast Wednesday (eggs, sausage, sawmill gravy, biscuits, grits, tomatoes, cantaloupe, fig preserves, and black black coffee), a repeat of the fish tacos experiment last night. Tonight we’re going to make our way to the Jarrett House—if there is a connection to our family other than the name, it’s a distant one—for some fried chicken and trout.

Then, if we survive the meals, we’ll go to a rare movie on Friday, then get back on the road Saturday to go back to New Jersey, where we can collect the dogs and head for home.


Anyone wondering where I am is forewarned: it’s going to be a nice quiet vacation for me for about a week. Leaving out the car trips, which render it a nice, nerve-wracking headache of a vacation.

Today, for instance, we’re at Lisa’s parents in coastal New Jersey, after a six hour trip holding Joy (our Bichon dog who hates to travel, even when tranquilized). Our reward for the trip: a beach excursion cut short by 54° water. (It was 70° F three days ago before the storm.)

That’s OK. I made some killer fish tacos (fried tilapia and sour cream/lime/chipotle sauce) that more than made up for it, as far as I’m concerned.

Mixed messages

On this two-hundred-thirty-first Fourth of July, it’s good to know that the president is in favor of clemency.

For his pals.

That the Vice President is willing to declare his own personal branch of government to avoid laws governing the executive branch.

They say every nation gets the government they deserve.

Heaven help us.