Apr 232008

Remember how a few months ago I indicated some Huey Lewis and the News concerts were coming up, and it remained to be seen which ones I’d decide to go to? Well, dromomaniac that I am, I decided to go see the ones in Japan.

HLN were over there this month, touring with Chicago. They did six dates, including three in the Tokyo/Yokohama area this past weekend, which I just got back from seeing.

Hence the light blogging here, because I was actually doing something resembling blogging over on the HLN fan board, filling other fans in on what it was like to be over there and see the shows. Although it’s written largely with that audience in mind, it still reads like my normal travelogues. Have a look (There’s about four days’ worth of significant posts, so keep scrolling among the comments to see it all).

By the way, I don’t mean the Disney “Small World” song — HLN have an entire album called Small World, which includes this title track. A track, it might interest the jazz fans among you to know, that Stan Getz played on. And if neither HLN nor Stan Getz are your cup of tea, how about the Foo Fighters? Huey recently joined them onstage at their show in Osaka

 Posted by at 1:42 pm
Apr 152008

An important case recently came out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, an en banc panel reconsideration of an earlier appellate ruling that found the website Roommates.com potentially in violation of the Fair Housing Act, the act that generally forbids housing to be denied people based on “race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.”

Some, like Eugene Volokh see this decision as a fairly minor occasion. Others, like Eric Goldman and Susan Crawford, on the other hand, see it as a significant piece of jurisprudence related not to the Fair Housing Act, per se, but to 47 USC 230, a 1996 statute that provides fairly broad immunity for Internet sites for the content others put on it.

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 Posted by at 9:20 am
Apr 142008

It’s been announced that a third season of Kingdom, the English show centered around fictional solicitor Peter Kingdom I earlier reported liking so much, has been commissioned for development later this year. However, while I still consider it a thoroughly enjoyable show, after watching the second season I’ve become aware of some cracks in its veneer, cracks which I hope will be patched before the next season is shot.

What tends to make so much English television, Kingdom included, better than many American shows is its greater reluctance to rely on clich├ęs, instead providing truer settings and letting the drama and characters develop more naturally. American entertainment is often so contrived — with artificial conflict, stereotypical personalities, stories that play to every public misconception, etc. — that it’s particularly refreshing to watch something from England that avoids such pitfalls.

But if Kingdom showed any weaknesses last season, it was in its weakening fortitude in resisting these predictable tropes. In some instances they snuck in connected to dramatic elements, like with the gratuitous introduction of boorish American military types in Episode 3 (an episode also plagued with cartoonish renderings of its own usually warm and rounded main characters), or the all-too-convenient plot device of a cataclysmic flood in the season finale.

But where I want to particularly focus is on its occasional, yet increasingly frequent, unfortunate and unnecessary over-simplifications of the law, a tendency which does a deep disservice to its characters, stories, and production generally.

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 Posted by at 5:09 pm
Apr 062008

The Olympic torch is now passing controversially through cities around the world, leading up to this summer’s games to be held in Beijing. As China continues its crackdown on dissidents, appalled voices in other countries are calling for their nations to boycott the games with increasing volume.

It’s a reasonable position: China sees its hosting of the games as an enormous boon, so why positively reward a country that’s acting in negative ways?

But I find myself disagreeing with the calls for a boycott. For one thing, it would unfairly punish the athletes more than anyone else. It doesn’t seem particularly constructive to use them as political pawns, particularly when it’s things such as games that help unite peoples when there is so much else trying to divide them. Availing yourself of opportunities to better understand people you don’t agree with doesn’t mean you’re sanctioning their position. On the contrary, by better understanding the context from which it emerges you can instead end up in a better position to persuade against it.
And in this particular instance I think it is of critical importance that people in the west come to better understand China. Though it’s been opening up tremendously within recent years, what’s known about it is still based on anecdote and supposition. The more people who can meet it up close and personal to get a more accurate measure, the better. In fact it’s particularly important in terms of figuring out how our own interests suggest we should choose to deal with it going forward. Because when it comes down to it, I think on further inspection we may be surprised to discover what we *thought* we wanted from China may not quite turn out to be what we actually should.

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 Posted by at 5:47 pm
Apr 032008

This year for April Fool’s Google announced their “Custom Time” feature for Gmail that lets users to send their emails … before they sent them.

In other words, Gmailers can roll back the timestamp so it looks like their email was sent on time. They are, however, only limited to 10 of these a year, lest “people to lose faith in the accuracy of time, thus rendering the feature useless.”
Of course, this announcement was just an April Fool’s joke — or was it?

I’m writing this post for the benefit of anyone trying to reach me. I’m not sure where the breakdown has been occurring, but lately I’ve not been getting some of the email sent to me. Or if I do get it, it’s three days after it was sent. Even the US Postal Service can beat that kind of speed.

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 Posted by at 8:50 am