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Exit ArchiveArchive for April, 2006
Permalink Comments Off on Tiny Vices in SnowComments Off on Tiny Vices in Snow By

Dash SnowSo I think I’m way late in coming to this party, but I just got shuffled over to Tiny Vices, a website that showcases pictures taken by people. Just people. I recall hearing of the site before, but have never visited.

I got to the site from a link featuring a pic by someone called Dash Snow. Click here to see his pics at Tiny Vices. Dash’s medium is the good ol’ Polaroid. But just to warn you, these are not glamorous pictures. The world of Mr. Snow is a dark, dirty, depressingly gritty, sadly happy one. The pictorial blend of violence, blood, vomit, drug use, skanky sex, and crime is punctuated with hazy beautiful moments. A pic of a guy shooting up, a pic of a woman holding a cat, a pic of thugs kicking in a glass door, a pic of a woman and her daughter wearing bunny ears. It’s both a disquieting and serene set of pictures. Kinetics and action are there, but the still moment snapped in most of the pics evoke an odd, languid emotion.

This guy lives a lifestyle whose existence most of us tend to ignore. Though I do not know him or his life, it seems he is part of a crowd that lives solely for the tactile feel of doing things that are destructive. The kinds of things that at once destroy you and make you feel alive. The fluid-strewn alleyways and harmful powdered bliss of Dash’s universe are dirty, cluttered, mysterious.

This kind of world is as far from my reality as can be. I’m not even enticed by it. My visceral reaction is repugnance, and I so often wish the world were free of drugs and violence and the kind of ugliness unkempt lives create for everyone. But there is an attraction, through the lens of pictures such as these, to the underworld I never see. Human beings have created that layer of life. Why? For any number of humanistic reasons. I do not know what Dash’s reasons are. I can tell that he finds beauty in his world. Take a look at most of the people in his pictures. They are smiling, having fun. Perhaps that’s why these dark, messy pictures are able to express a hazy happiness.

A cursory exploration of the rest of Tiny Vices shows that there is more of this captured otherworld. Take some time when you can to look. The site is very poorly organized and not easy to navigate, but maybe that’s intentional.

Time for a frivolous post that will be of no interest to anyone but myself.

I am a picky person. This is obvious the more one reads this site. One of the areas about which I am super-picky is gadgets. One of the gadgets about which I am über-super-picky is cell phones.

I proffer for reference this and this.

Okay, so I have had my Nokia 6230 for over a year now. I love this phone. It’s small and packed with every feature I want. However, the one important feature on the phone that should not be buggy is buggy, and that’s the voice dialing. Often, after speaking the tag assigned to who I’m calling, the voice dialing mode freezes. I then have to either wait a minute or two for it to stop freezing and pop back into action, or I have to turn off the phone and start it back up.

Did I dare contact Cingular about this? No. Or at least, not right away. Like every other massive company these days, their support people are clueless about anything technical. So I have been putting up with the flaw.

In January, I was in Vegas for CES and stopped by the Nokia booth. There, I started talking to one of the booth monkeys and showed him my 6230. You know, every time I talk to someone who knows anything about Nokia and cell phones, when they find out I have a 6230, they inevitably say, “Oh, that’s a great phone.” Booth monkey said such, and I told him, “Yeah, but…”

After describing the voice dialing freeze, the guy told me that that flaw had been fixed long ago with a firmware update and suggested I talk to Cingular about that.

Foolishly, I tried to follow his advice. The conversation with the Cingular monkey went something like this:

“Yes, a guy who works for Nokia told me I just need a firmware update.”

“Do you ever turn off your phone?”

“Uh, why?”

“That’s when we push updates to the phones.”

I declined to point out that nothing can be pushed to a phone when it’s turned off, but I think I understood what she meant.

“The only time I ever turn off my phone is when I fly or when the voice dialing thing screws up, so, yes, I do turn off my phone.”

“Well, try turning it off tonight and see if anything happens.”

I gave up right quick on Cingular being able to help me.

Slam cut to a few weeks ago. Sven and I were inside the belly of the bloated whale that is The Beverly Center. I noticed something peculiar: A Nokia store! Zounds! I went in it right then, and once more the next week to ask some questions, and then again Monday. I had a plan: To replace my Cingularly bastardized phone for a real, unmolested Nokia 6230. Or, in the parlance of the geeky, an unlocked 6230.

You see, the American cell companies utterly control which phones are sold in the U.S. Because the phones are heavily subsidized by the cell companies, they go through a lengthy process of choosing from whatever phones the equipment makers have and tweaking them to do what the cell company wants. This usually includes removing features that force you to spend more money on services.

For instance, my Cingular 6230 does not allow me to save ringtones and games that I purchase where I want. Such things are stored in a place your average Joe can’t get at them, so that when you get a new phone you can’t copy those things to it. Oh, I suppose the cell companies say it’s to prevent piracy, but that’s everyone’s excuse for shafting the consumer.

Another feature that was disabled on my phone is network selection. This became an issue on my business trip to France last year. (Oddly, I seem to have not mentioned it in the travelogue.) My phone was not working on Cingular’s preferred roaming partner in Paris. The signal was also very poor where we were staying. On a real, unmolested phone, I would have been able to go into the settings and tell me phone to try another network. But no, Cingular had disabled that feature, and I had to make many land-line calls and wait days for Cingular and the French company to fix the issue.

[UPDATE: If you don’t believe me about phones being crippled by the cell companies, read this recent tidbit.]

Most cell phones that use GSM (which is what Cingular’s system uses) are tri-band phones. That means that there are three GSM bands it can use: 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz. Sadly, the GSM carriers in the States tend to use 850, 1800, or 1900. So often there’s even more of a delay getting new phones to the States while the equipment manufacturers create a separate version that swaps 850 for 900. Can this be any more tediously boring? Or, if you’re like me, could it be any more tediously frustrating?

So I went to the Nokia store on Monday to get an unlocked phone. When I told the guy there about my voice dialing problem and so on, he said that often those things can be caused by the cell companies messing with the OS on the phones. (I do not imagine the cell companies do this on their own, however, but with the help of the equipment manufacturers as well. They want to sell phones in the States!)

The conversation with the Nokia man was becoming curious, making me finally ask, “Do you sell the phones here?” They do not! It’s merely a showroom. He told me where I could buy an unlocked 6230. Somewhere on Sunset. Or I could buy it online at Nokia, where there are very few unlocked phones for sales in the U.S.

So the iron grip of the dumb-ass cell phone companies seemed in tact. Nokia couldn’t even sell their own phones unless they wanted to risk being dropped by the cell companies out of spite and greed.

To add pain to the whole affair, Nokia yesterday announced some new phones, one of which looked like a great set with the elements I want most: small size, Bluetooth, and, now, a camera. (I have gotten very used to posting to The Wren Forum from my cell phone!) The new N73 looks brilliant. While Motorola has been releasing many quad-band phones, which are 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 and thus usable just about anywhere in the world, including the U.S., Nokia has been slow to follow suit. But the N73 is quad-band.

The pain is that, once again, there would be a delay in the U.S. while the cell phone folks decided whether to pick up the N73 at all and, if so, how to change it so the phone is missing features. It could easily be a year before the N73 ever gets to America, if ever even at all, ever!

A final piece of news came in today that prompted me to write this boring post: Nokia is opening stores in the U.S.! While I don’t live in Chicago or New York, where the first stores are slated to sprout, I’m sure that once the stores open up, I’ll be able to buy an unlocked N73 online from Nokia. And then, friends… then my cell phone happiness will reach its peak! I will hold onto my crippled 6230 for now while I see what happens.

The fact that I have just written a forty-thousand-word piece on this topic reminds me of something I’ve been pondering a while. What if I were to get rid of all my gadgets? Maybe by the time I can buy an unlocked N73, I will have set all my gadgets ablaze and moved to a house in the Colorado Rockies somewhere, hiking and reading and living a simpler life.

Permalink Comments Off on I Left My Heart in Lime and RaspberryComments Off on I Left My Heart in Lime and Raspberry By

Don’t know where Jimmy found this, but it’s astounding. Yes, gentlemen and ladies, feast your eyes—or simply just feast—on San Francisco in Jell-O!

For larger pictures and a short earthquake movie (!), click here.

Permalink Comments Off on Intellectuals and Poor ChoreographyComments Off on Intellectuals and Poor Choreography By

Today brings two items of interest.

First, a nice essay by Aaron Swartz, who always writes so well. It’s called “What It Means To Be An Intellectual.” Using Aaron’s concepts and definitions, I am proud to discover myself an intellectual, as I enjoy both contemplating items of minutiae such as the stylistic quirks of Manga and a change in the federal highway sign font, and subjecting others to such contemplations through fiendishly clever and well-worded writing. (You may or, more likely, may not be interested in knowing that while in Austin this past weekend, I saw Clearview in use everywhere and, as expected, it was just simply no good.)

If the discussion of such trivialities are no good for you, then perhaps you will enjoy this, a delightfully horrible music video from the ’70s. There is no intellectualism at work here AT ALL.

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Teresa and Min in Wedded Bliss

Min and Teresa, all married and stuff.

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Wedding lawn

The setting for Min and Teresa’s wedding.

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Min's bachelor LAN gaming party

Min’s bachelor party was at a LAN gaming place. No strippers, but lots of violence.

Good stuff.

Scotty with AMy's Shiner Bock ice cream

This is Scotty and me in Austin with some Amy’s Shiner Bock ice cream. Yes, it tastes like beer. I picture myself getting both my first intoxication AND my first DUI. In Texas, no less.

Did I not say I should stop reading the newspaper? Did I not learn the ensuing lessons of posting anything about religion?

I did. And I didn’t.

Simply scanning the front page of the Times today, the following article came to my attention. Click it to read, perchance to weep [NOTE: Link now goes to a PDF file]:

Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies

Cute little headline there, but the reported nonsense isn’t cute at all. Just read it! Is it any wonder I feel I need to lash out against these morons? These people hang themselves with their idiocy, but I simply have to point it out to others so that those of us who are of stable and thoughtful mind might be the ones to finally kick the stool away. And Matt and any other sane religious people out there should want to join me in the kicking!

This quote is kind of like jumping into the middle of the pond without first walking along the dock, so read the story first.

Okay, now that you’ve done that, re-live, with gawking kisser, the following:

“What if a person felt their religious view was that African Americans shouldn’t mingle with Caucasians, or that women shouldn’t work?” asked Jon Davidson, legal director of the gay rights group Lambda Legal.

Christian activist Gregory S. Baylor responds to such criticism angrily. He says he supports policies that protect people from discrimination based on race and gender. But he draws a distinction that infuriates gay rights activists when he argues that sexual orientation is different—a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait.

By equating homosexuality with race, Baylor said, tolerance policies put conservative evangelicals in the same category as racists. […]

“Think how marginalized racists are,” said Baylor, who directs the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom. “If we don’t address this now, it will only get worse.”

My goodness! Conservative Christians in bed with the racists? Horrors! This certainly would be the first time that’s ever happened. I proffer that the racists are marginalized for a good reason, and that Mr. Baylor needs to go buy his plot of land in Racistville right now, because he’s going to need to be building a nice little house for himself.

It’s the concept of “inborn” vs. “lifestyle choice” that is the very pivot of such arguments. (See, once again, John’s corresponence with Linda Harvey. Follow the links from this comment.) As the evidence for the genetic seat of homosexuality begins to accumulate, this final point of argument is in danger of being proved wrong. Now, of course, I’ve already spoken about how some (some, I repeat!) religious folks have no trouble ignoring scientific evidence. The people in favor of gay-bashing in the Times article will carry on bashing gays as long as they wish, despite any genetic evidence or otherwise to demonstrate that homosexuality is not a choice. But once the proof becomes overwhelming, these nutters will, indeed, begin to become marginalized just as racists are. In fact, the process has already begun.

I do believe that this sort of behavior is simply the final struggle, the desperate fight back against a social change these people consider detrimental and, I suppose, unholy. As the saying goes, when the cat is cornered, it’ll fight back. Is that a saying? If not, pretend it is for today. Anyway, that’s what’s happening. These mangy cats are fighting from a corner they’ve inevitably gotten themselves into. If the country doesn’t get any more screwed up politically than it is, these people will lose. They will hang themselves, and their souls will not go to heaven but to Racistville.

I might add that they could have difficulty finding people to style their hair or apply delicious window treatments once there. But there should be plenty of pleated slacks!

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All right, you gadget nerds and geeks! Here it is, a real Blu-ray player! Okay, it’s still a prototype, but compared to the other Blu-ray “players” we’ve used, this one actually plays the video off a Blu-ray disc and not a hidden hard drive.

The unit was incredibly buggy, but it worked enough for us to use it in our sales meeting last week. The image was blown up to the huge movie screen at the El Capitan theatre, and it looks astounding. The monitor you see there is a newly-released Panasonic professional HD LCD monitor. It is a gorgeous monitor! We bought four of them for use here at work.

Okay, have at it. The pics are clickabe so you can see larger, more drool-worthy pictures.

Blu-ray Player with Demo Disc Menu

Bl-ray Player with BD-RE Disc

Blu-ray Player Chicken Little CU

Blu-ray Player Angled

Well, this just about wraps up the recent themes presented here on The Wren Forum: Religion, healthy food, and design.

It’s the California Milk Processor Board’s new campaign, Brittlelactica. The TV spots are hilarious, the Da Iry translator is fun, and the entire site is the first time I’ve seen Flash put to really, really good use.

Do yourself a favor and take some time to play around on the site. And also be sure to click on the Got Milk? in the upper right corner. From there, you’ll have access to another milk-sponsored site, Just watching that little cow get whisked into the distance is enough to make me laugh away the Friday blues! There are some funny pics and videos there, as well.

Oh, and since John and I seem to be posting so close to one another, I want to ask you to make sure you read his latest post, wherein he presents another of his letters to gay bashers. This should be interesting.

Remember a couple of years ago when I got into that e-mail exchange with the woman who hated gay people?  Well, after reading a news story about another ridiculous anti-gay effort, I decided to write to the head of the Capitol Resource “Institute”. (I use that “Institute” term loosely.

Below is the text of my letter. I’ll let you know if she responds!


Dear Ms. England,

I read your comments about the “gays in textbooks” issue in California, and while I certainly applaud you for standing up for your ideals and beliefs.

I hope you will agree that other Americans deserve to be able to do the same.

As a gay man, I can assure you of this: I have ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST in “promoting” my “agenda” to anyone, least of all children. Given how much animosity, hostility and humiliation we must endure from some sectors of society who believe we are “faulty,” I would not want anyone to “be gay” — unless, of course, that is how they were born.

I do realize that the idea that people are born gay is a difficult concept for people to understand. Just as I cannot conceive of being left-handed or being tall (something I sadly am not) or being Chinese or being a woman, it’s certainly equally difficult for someone not gay to understand that being gay is part of our genetic makeup.

But being unable to understand or empathize with an individual is very different from being able to respect and value that person.  I cannot imagine for a moment that you would want to instill values like hate, prejudice, hostility and intolerance in any child.  I hope you agree with me that the values we want to instill in children are acceptance, harmony, understanding and respect.  Why would you want to promote an agenda (and, yes, it appears that you definitely have one of those, just as you accuse “us” of having) of fear and ignorance, which can only lead to unhappiness and anger?

Can you imagine what the world be like if Michelangelo, Cole Porter, Oscar Wilde, Dag Hammarskjold, Socrates, Walt Whitman, Alexander the Great, T.E. Lawrence and Tchaikovsky had not been in it?  All of them were gay or bisexual, and just as YOUR most significant personal relationships have impacted your own accomplishments, theirs were informed and influenced by who they were as people.

Such important figures in California as Harvey Milk and Randy Shilts have impacted history far beyond this state and influenced the course of events around the world — and their very existence is the definition of modern history.  To not name them as gay, particularly in light of their accomplishments, would be like not naming you as a woman in a textbook in which your name appears.

I urge you to continue looking into your own heart to realize that California and the United States are founded upon the contributions of people from all walks of life, not just straight white people.

I absolutely PROMISE you that, unless s/he already is, not one child will “turn gay” because s/he has learned about a famous gay person; if it were that easy, I would have become a physician by learning about Dr. Jonas Salk, and I’m afraid I never even made it past basic chemistry.

My best to you,

John Singh

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I am, of course, a sucker for great design. I also happen to be doing the organic food thing because sometimes you have to put thine moolah where thine gaping maw is.

So imagine my near orgasmic delight when I found the following at Whole Foods:

Late July Saltines

Can you just stand it? All their boxes are awesome. Just check their site to see the others. That these treats come from the people who make Cape Cod potato chips is not too surprising, I guess. And like those yummy chips, the saltines I bought are just about the best saltines I’ve ever had! No, I take that back. They ARE the best saltines I’ve ever had!

“But, Steve, they’re just saltines.” Well, if you’re used to throwing Krispy or Zesta into your tomato soup, like I am, saltines are about as boring as you can get without hopping the fence into the yard of the Water Crackers family. Oh, but these Late July saltines are so biscuity good, thick and crunchy, flaky and perfectly salted…

Oh, goodness me, yum.

Looks like Wal-Mart has actually done something sensical and has taken a stand against the vile American Family Association. In a story reported today, Wal-Mart says it will sell and continue to sell the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain on DVD.


By its actions and words, the now-less-than-entirely-reprehensible Wal-Mart has said that Brokeback is a movie with an audience, and a movie they want to sell. (Perhaps they realize how many men will be coming in to Wal-Mart to surrpetitiously look at the package and maybe even buy the movie to secretly watch at home before they go back to their redneck lives in which they hide their true nature from their bigoted communities?)

In the Reuters story, a heinously misguided AFA spokesman says, “It wasn’t even a blockbuster movie, so if Wal-Mart isn’t trying to push an agenda, why would they put it at the front door?”

Perhaps the AFA should take a harsher stance against the other non-blockbusters that Wal-Mart routinely sells and promotes. You know the movies I mean—stuff like The Dukes of Hazzard, which grossed only $80 million in the U.S. (less than Brokeback, despite its Confederate flags); Because of Winn-Dixie ($42 million worldwide); Doom ($43 million worldwide); and Ice Princess ($33 million globally).

On the other hand, if the AFA is continuing to decry the mere presence of Brokeback Mountain on Wal-Mart shelves because of some Biblical objection to homosexuality, you have to wonder why they don’t object to the presence of such movies as Saw and Saw II, Sin City, and Red Eye, since the Ten Commandments lists “Thou shalt not kill” as one of the most important commandments from God. To date, I haven’t seen the notes from God requesting a Commadnment rewrite that “Thou shalt not have sex with men if you are a man.”

It continues to amaze me that the AFA uses obscure Scripture to object to homosexuality so vehemently, but rarely (if ever) makes mention of the legion of its own members who daily break one of God’s supreme Commandments (you think not a one of them ever says, “Oh, G-d”?).

AFA members will never read this, but if one of them should happen upon it, ask yourself: Shouldn’t you be upholding God’s laws before worrying about possible allusions to potentially “God-offending” behavior elsewhere in the Bible?


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There are a few interesting tidbits out there today regarding our nasty government and their nasty spying and manipulation.

First, the bad news. A Washington Post article describes how scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been having reports censored and interviews delayed when the topic of climate change is involved. Very interesting.

Now, some good news. According to Ars Technica, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed suit against AT&T for its role in Bush’s NSA covert surveillance program.

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I’m someone who’s dubious about those red-light-running cameras everyone’s been putting up. I think they are more for making oodles of cash and less for preventing accidents.

So here’s an interesting story that supports all three! The cameras are generating huge revenues, increasing the number of rear-end collisions, but decreasing the number of “serious accidents.”

Oh, my, what a find! It’s a long-lost Hitler sitcom. Can you believe it?

Well, yes, you can. And don’t forget to watch part 2.

It’s not very funny, but it’s almost clever, and certainly British.

Thanks to Robb for this one.