•  Last Fortunes Countdown #6 •  Last Fortunes Countdown #5 •  Last Fortunes Countdown #3 & #4 •  Last Fortunes Countdown #2 •  Last Fortunes Countdown #1 •  Fortune for October •  Your Guide to this Fall's Bodily Fluid Moons •  Rinse. Wash. Repeat. •  To the Pole! •  Just a Box of Games, Box 4 •  About Damn Time •  Fortune •  Once More Unto the Breach •  I Surrender •  Just a Box of Games, Box 3 •  Just a Box of Games, Box 2 •  Just a Box of Games, Box 1 •  Gun Belt •  A Man, A Man, A Plan, Not Approved •  Come Home, George McGovern

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«  September 2005  |   Main   |  November 2005  »


»  October 30, 2005

Politics  

Lazy Journalism, Anyone?: Paul McLeary at CJRDaily lobbed a ball over the net in a post appropriately titled "Distortion" last Thursday. It must have seemed a perfect opportunity for an "on the one hand/on the other hand" type of article: Harper's editor Lewis Lapham wrote a widely-disseminated editorial titled "We Now Live in a Fascist State", and Jonah Goldberg has announced a book titled Liberal Fascism : The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton.

McLeary quotes a few short, inflammatory phrases from Lapham's piece, then compares him with Goldberg, saying that the latter is "just as angry, just as distressed about contemporary American life, and just as removed from the 'regular folks' he wants to save as Lapham is", although he offers no evidence that this is so, particularly on the last point.

He then quotes from the publisher's blurb on Goldberg's book. I think the first line is really all that's needed to repeat:

Jonah Goldberg shows that the original fascists were really on the Left and that liberals, from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton, have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler's National Socialism.
McLeary's conclusion from this?
But what does it say about the state of the opinion media when two writers who have traveled such different roads and have such opposite visions of the responsible parties somehow end up at basically the same place? Doesn't really speak well for the seriousness of either enterprise, does it? After all, if the liberals are fascist, the corporations are fascist, the government is fascist, Harvard MBAs are fascist, proponents of campaign finance reform are fascist, then who isn't fascist?
McLeary makes no analysis of the flaws in either argument. His assumption is that if they're both saying the same thing but they're on different sides of the political spectrum that they must both be wrong. He neglects to consider that there is another possibility: that one of them might actually be right.

Lapham analyzes fascism through a 1995 Umberto Eco essay, which says fascist states play up distrust of democratic systems, trump science with doctrine, label dissent as treason, and promote war and nationalism. There are certainly things to argue about in Lapham's editorial, starting with whether Eco's axioms are an adequate definition of fascism and how pervasive each of these features must be before the government reaches the "fascist" level, which itself might be different for individual observers. But it is a reasonably-stated argument, based on certain facts. While both men were too young to fight in WWII, Eco was born in Italy in 1932, and grew up as the country had to come to terms with its fascist legacy.

Goldberg's thesis is that Mussolini, Franco, and other fascists were liberals. That's a bit odd, because I don't remember hearing that liberals went much for the uniforms and the goose-stepping. Artists, intellectuals, and writers — generally clumped on the leftish side of the political spectrum — were some of the first people attacked in 20th-century fascist regimes. When American leftists went to fight in the Spanish Civil War, they didn't fight for Franco. Nor were they generally supporters of Hitler. On the face of it, Goldberg's argument is doomed from the first sentence from an abundance of historical fact. Yet McLeary gives it equal weight to Lapham's.

It's possible that McLeary is making the erroneous equation of fascism with Nazism. Some people seem to think that a charge of fascism is the same as saying that the government's heating up the ovens, and dismiss the idea that democratic America could slide into fascism as just too silly to contemplate.

However, anyone with a knowledge of the last century would know that there were different forms of fascism, just as there were different forms of communism. Mussolini was in power for a decade before (and after) Hitler took charge in Germany. Franco stayed in power so long that his eventual death was a gag line for Chevy Chase in the early days of Saturday Night Live.

But it's a lot easier to write a column on deadline if you don't have to actually think about that. Personally, if I was looking for a well-reasoned, fact-based argument, I think I'd probably go with Lapham and Eco rather than Goldberg.

 

Director  

MAX 2005: Using Flash and Director Together to Produce Rich Applications (9am, 18 October): The last of the three MAX Director sessions I attended (aka the only MAX Director sessions) was the only one scheduled for repeat sessions.

Mark Jonkman's been a regular speaker at Macromedia conferences for several years, where he's usually spoken on Flash/Director interoperability, and MAX 2005 was no exception. He's also contributed a couple of articles to the Director DevNet site.

Mark mentioned that there was still no public release date on the Flash 8 beta.

Much of the introductory material seemed to be aimed at Flash developers unfamiliar with Director (most of the Director developers I know have at least a passing knowledge of Flash, and some have a lot of experience with the program). Flash files are generally small; Director is more extensible. Flash uses vectors, a scripting language, nested movie clips, XML, a media server, FLV video. Director uses a wide range of media types, has two scripting languages, movies in a window, and Xtras.

Mark then showed some samples of Flash inside Director:

  • Flash as interface components in Director,
  • Director as a Flash application shell,
  • Flash as an integral component of Director.
To use Flash with Director, it's essential to understand how the two application can communicate. In Marks's view, simply modifying a Flash movie clip property is not real communication. True communication needs to be bi-directional. He then went through the evolution of communication between Flash sprites and Director applications over the eight years that Director has supported Flash cast members, then mentioned the ability to exchange image data planned for the Flash 8 Xtra.

Mark mentioned that the Lingo setCallback method used to notify Lingo that an event has occurred during ActionScript execution affects the prototype of a Flash object not simply the object instance.

The AS getURL method is the only way to pass messages out of Flash sprites. My notes mention he said Lingo's getVariable method was not so useful.

Next, talking about the convert method, Mark mentioned it sends bitmaps to and from Flash 8's BitmapImages object. He demonstrated some tests he'd done with the beta that showed convert was actually faster copying an image from Flash to Director (and vice versa) than simply duplicating the image with copypixels.

The Flash 8 Xtra should also be able to make use of the new abilities to upload files.

And finally, Mark experienced a crash showing his last example, of real-time imaging of a Flash sprite.

 


»  October 28, 2005

What the...?  

Strange Search Terms: My web provider's server statistics page lists search queries from referrer data in both full and individual word versions, and I check them out every now and again to see how people are getting to my site. Back in the early days of my moshplant.com site, it was kind of scary to look at, because I'd written an article about my search to find out what happened to the royalties for Mein Kampf, and adolf hitler usually topped the list. Close behind was a page containing a Quicktime movie from the 1996 Macromedia User Conference showing a number of the top Director developers sitting in close proximity which I'd titled "Hand Grenade," on the basis of a remark that a single hand grenade could have taken most of the well-known names in the field out. Often, it seemed as if the people looking for the first term were close behind with a search for grenade.

So I was looking through just todays's top search terms, and I see things like flash 8 video alpha flame movie, actionscript code geometric shapes drawing, and actionscript code geometric shapes drawing, all of which I can understand, because the first is something I wrote about for MAX and I have mentioned ActionScript and game development in a number of posts. director rss lingo, otoy, hunter s thompson and pictures? All easily understandable. The top search was for nate sassaman, and since I've mentioned the Lt. Col. from Aloha a couple of times, that's completely comprehensible.

But when I saw the second most common search term on the list was the british army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren I really had to step back and think for a moment. That didn't work, so I tried Google, and ended up in a post I'd written back in June of last year, not too many weeks after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, which quoted George Washington on the treatment of prisoners (quoted in The New York Review of Books from Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer).

"...treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British army in their Treatment of our unfortunate brethren."

 


»  October 27, 2005

Director  

Referencing Flash XML Objects in Lingo: A few months back, I wrote a Director Online article about using the Flash Xtra to read XML data into Director. Now, I would never claim that this was the only way to work with XML; a fine Lingo alternative to the native XML Parser Xtra was created by Andy White six years ago and it's still probably the best-known method for working with XML reliably. It's even been extended, with the newer version (as well as the original) available through Shocknet.

But since my article was written in haste, I focused on the loading of XML data into Director and glossed over the actual access to the XML data. Since the XML object is not a Director list and because access to the data is through ActionScript properties executed in Lingo, that was probably a mistake on my part. A recent inquiry by Peter Wolf, who'd read the article, has prompted this attempt at explanation.

Here's the sample XML document I'll operate on:

<?xml version="1.0" ?>
    <testnodes>
        <item id="level0">This is Level 0</item>
        <item id="level1">This is Level 1</item>
        <item id="level2">This is Level 2</item>
        <item id="level3">
            <item id="level3.5">This is Level 3.5</item>
        </item>
        <item id="level4">This is Level 4</item>
        <item id="level5">
            <![CDATA[<a href="http://www.darrelplant.com/">This is Level 5</a>]]>
        </item>

    </testnodes>

Refer back to my DOUG article to learn how to read in the file. The process creates an instance of a parent script, which can be assigned to an arbitrary variable. In the article, I named the variable doug; here I'll just refer to it as x.

The XML data in the object is contained in a property named objXML. Typing put x.objXML.toString () in the Message window converts the XML data to a string and writes everything out.

The first node in the XML data is the testnodes container, which is the primary node for the XML document. It has 6 child nodes. You can determine that after reading this data in with the command put x.objXML.firstChild.childNodes.length. The firstChild reference is relative to the XML data, and points to testnodes. The childNodes refers to the children of testnodes.

If you've been confused by the whole goofy firstChild and nextSibling terminology in most XML references, don't be ashamed. The people who came up with that scheme should be rounded up and shot. childNodes[0] is really all you need for firstChild because they mean the same thing. In the example above, you get exactly the same result if you type put x.objXML.childNodes[0].childNodes.length.

The first item in testnodes has both an attribute (within the opening tag for the item) and text between the opening and closing tag.

The item itself can be referred to as put x.objXML.childNodes[0].childNodes[0]. You can verify that by putting it (with the toString method following it) in the Message window and you'll see both tags as well as the text between them.

Flash recognizes two node types: element and text nodes. The item nodes are element nodes. If you type put x.objXML.childNodes[0].childNodes[0].nodeType, you'll get a result of 1.0000. Text nodes return 3.0000 (other types of XML nodes are assigned to 2 and other values).

The text between the opening and closing tags is technically another (text) node. The nodeValue property of the first item returns VOID.

The attribute (or attributes) of a node are accessed through a property of the same name, combined with the attribute name. In the items, there is an attribute named id. Typing put x.objXML.childNodes[0].childNodes[0].attributes.id returns "level0".

To get to the text between the tags, you need to go down another level. First, make sure there is another level. Typing put x.objXML.childNodes[0].childNodes[0].childNodes.length returns 1.0000. Then, check to see whether the node is an element or text node. If put x.objXML.childNodes[0].childNodes[0].childNodes[0].nodeType returns 3.0000, you've got text.

You can access the text with nodeValue. Typing put x.objXML.childNodes[0].childNodes[0].childNodes[0].nodeValue will get you "This is Level 0".

A simple change, and you can get the fifth item's text as well: put x.objXML.childNodes[0].childNodes[4].childNodes[0].nodeValue will return "This is Level 4". Note that the last childNodes index value didn't change, the items are referenced by the second childNodes level, the final one just accesses the text node within the item node.

To make it a little harder, let's try to determine the correct reference to the id attribute that says level3.2. That's the third child node of the fourth child node of testnodes. Remembering that all index values in Flash objects begin with 0, if you try put x.objXML.childNodes[0].childNodes[3].childNodes[2].attributes.id, then you got it right. x.objXML.childNodes[0].childNodes[3] is the fourth child of testnodes, childNodes[2]is its third child, etc.

Finally, let's look at the results of the text data in the node with the id of level5. If you type put x.objXML.childNodes[0].childNodes[5].childNodes[0].toString (), what you get is URL-encoded data for the text within the CDATA brackets: "&lt;a href=&quot;http://www.darrelplant.com/&quot;&gt;This is Level 5&lt;/a&gt;". On the other hand, if you reference the data through the nodeValue parameter, you get non-encoded text: "<a href="http://www.darrelplant.com/">This is Level 5</a>". This is useful if you need to pass text with links or tags in it, because otherwise the XML interpreter will attempt to render them into the XML structure.

Of course, this type of access isn't limited to my own simple XML import implementation. They apply to any Flash XML object being manipulated in Lingo (or ActionScript, for that matter).

Drop me a line at blog at darrelplant.com if this has been helpful or if you have any questions!

 


»  October 26, 2005

Director  

Mapping Director Developers: Eric Iverson's set up a public mapping page for Director developers. You can add yourself to the list and see where the rest of our far-flung community works and lives!

 


»  October 25, 2005

Books  

St. Crispin's Day: I can't think of a better day for indictments.

And Crispine Crispian shall ne're goe by,
From this day to the ending of the World,
But we in it shall be remembred;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers:
For he to day that sheds his blood with me,
Shall be my brother: be he ne're so vile,
This day shall gentle his Condition.
And Gentlemen in England, now a bed,
Shall thinke themselues accurst they were not here;
And hold their Manhoods cheape, whiles any speakes,
That fought with vs vpon Saint Crispines day.

    Henry V, William Shakespeare

 


»  October 24, 2005

Director  

I Found My Job On the DOUG Job Board!: After over ten years of more-or-less full-time multimedia freelancing, I started a job today. Not just any job, but a Director job with Reality Engineering of Vancouver, Washington.

I mention this because — like any good Director developer — I got my job from the DOUG Job Board. Within days of seeing the posting on the Macromedia XML News Aggregator in September, I had an interview, and the only reason I didn't begin work until this week was a project in progress and an impending trip to MAX 2005.

So, if any of you ever had any doubts about the Job Board, take it from one old Director developer who's willing to say that it worked not only for himself but for the people who posted the job. At least, that's what I hope they're thinking!

 


»  October 23, 2005

Politics  

Throwing Honor Over the Side: Dad called to let me know about the New York Times Magazine cover story this week on Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, an Oregon high school football star, subject of a laudatory profile in the Oregonian last year, and unindicted co-conspirator in the cover-up of an incident in which some of his men had forced two detainees to jump into the Tigris River from a bridge.

As I pointed out last year, the Oregonian ran their 6 July 2004 profile of Sassaman just days after an article with news of his role in the cover-up. In response to readers who pointed out the omission from the profile, the public editor claimed the reporter who wrote the profile hadn't found any references to the bridge incident (although the editor did) on Google. Perhaps the Oregonian could spring for Lexis/Nexis or something more comprehensive.

 

Director  

MAX 2005: Sneak Peeks (5:30pm, 18 October):

It was another disappointing Sneak Peeks. There was a time not so many years ago when the Sneaks consisted of something more than looks at already-released features, possible UI tweaks, and stuff you've probably already heard is in the works if you've paid any attention to newsgroups, mailing lists, or (in recent years) blogs.

So perhaps it was apropos that the "Code Hunter" theme for the 2005 Sneaks took its inspiration from a TV show that jumped the croc about the time the movie The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course came out over three years ago.

The Sneaks got underway with Captivate, and a statement that it would remove "the complexity of creating branded experiences." Major new ability: export to Flash 8. Not too surprising, since it already exports SWFs.

Flex was up next. Macromedia's partnership with Mercury was announced during one of the General sessions. Flex's big "sneak" was a feature that enable Mercury's automated testing tools to be used with Flex applications. In other words, a feature enhancement without which the already-announced partnership would be useless. Be still my beating heart.

One cool item — although not technically a sneak or even from Macromedia — came from James Kellik (sp?) of ESRI, a leading geographic information services company. Kellik showed a "next-generation mapping web service" that generates vector-based maps in SWF format, with features like auto-rotating labels and the ability to upload addresses in Excel-formatted files for mapping.

As I watched the Breeze sneak of a "collaborative journey from Australia to Anaheim," in which the cursors of both collaborators appeared on map screens with identifiable tags, I wondered how long it would have taken to have written much the same thing with the Shockwave Multiuser Server.

The Flexbuilder application's going to get a built-in RDS database browser similar to Dreamweaver's. Also, a hot key that shows container heirarchy, and object browser editor window goodies.

Dreamweaver? JavaScript and XML interaction.

I didn't write anything down for Contribute apart from the application name. Sue me.

I don't have anything of significance to add to Tom Higgins's Director Sneak, which was covered in a much more timely fashion by Gary Rosenzweig and on Macromedia DevNet. I do, however, have have a couple of photos.

Gary Rosenzweig, Chris Griffith, Mark Jonkman, and Mike Weiland in the Director ghetto of the Ballroom.

Tom Higgins demonstrating a preliminary version of the Flash 8 Xtra and its ability to move image data between Flash and Director with a version of Andrew Phelps's fire demo that uses Flash's image blurring on the flame bitmaps.

The obligatory Director-will-quit-execution now.

After Tom was off, the Flash team came up to describe the "most ambitous" remaking of ActionScript (again, something that was announced elsewhere). A "torture test" featuring 150 "boids" in a simulation showed a marked increase in speed — from about 4 to 15 fps — under the current version of the 8.5 Player, but I couldn't help wondering how the same simulation done in Director would run. Nonetheless, I wish that some similar effort had been put into Director before so many of its engineering resources had gone away. With ActionScript 3, the Flash team has grafted an optimized language engine onto their Player as a foundation for the future and maintained backward-compatibility with the past.

Finally, some planned improvements in the mobile emulation engine were shown.

And that's all I have to say about the Sneak Peeks.

 


»  October 21, 2005

What the...?  

Johnny Ramone Would Have Been 57:

Prior to heading down to Anaheim for MAX, I spent a few days in Los Angeles with Barbara visiting friends and sightseeing. This time, we dropped in on a couple of cemeteries. Forest Lawn was extremely lawn-like, although I did stumble across Stan Laurel's marker. Much more to our collective taste was Hollywood Forever, which had actual gravestones. And that was even before we came across Johnny Ramone's marker. Oddly enough, we were only about a week late for what would have been his 57th birthday.

 

Flash  

MAX 2005: The Art of Encoding Video (4pm, 18 October): Kevin Towes of Macromedia kicked off with a discussion of the Flash Player's position in the world of video codecs, as arguably the most widely-distributed video platform, and one that requires no additional software installation.

Flash 8 uses the new On2 codec. The new encoder offers batch encoding, unlike previous versions.

Legacy video in the older Sorenson codec is still supported by the Player.

Kevin said that Flash's FLV video format doesn't allow for transcoding (i.e. opening and resaving the file in another format) due to compression and keyframe issues — although I dare say someone could manage to do it — and that the best way to do so would be through screen capture of the video playback.

The On2 codec adds the ability to encode metadata, and can be streamed using the Flash Communication Server 1.5 and the newly-released Flash Media Server 2.0.

8-bit alpha channels created in video production tools and exported to the Quicktime Millions+ or Animation codecs can be encoded into FLV files that support alpha transparency. Kevin mentioned that it takes approximately four times as long to encode files with alpha, so get started now!

One caveat about alpha channel video. Kevin quoted Tinic Uro, a Principal Engineer on the Flash Player as saying "Doom 3 won't run on a Pentium 1, either."

On2 has their own encoder, as does Flix and Sorenson. The third-party tools allow 2-pass VBR encoding which can result in more intelligent compression, but only Macromedia's encoder can create cuepoints. Kevin suggested that videos compressed for less than 100k/sec should be created without 2-pass, because the variable data rate created by the more sophisticated tools worked best where the bandwidth was greater.

 

Director  

MAX 2005: Is That All You've Got, Mickey?:

Kevin Baird from digital OutPost did a lot of visual documentation of the group of Director developers who floated throughout the conference like a blood clot in the artery of Flash, Flex, and mobile platelets. He has a Flickr image gallery up that includes a number of shots from the special Tuesday night event at Disney's California Adventure, as well as a video he shot from the "California Screamin'" rollercoaster which just reopened the week before the conference after an accident in July. And yes, he got stuck next to your truly for three of our trips on the 'coaster (that's me you can hear yelling "Is that all you've got, Mickey?" as we go through the loop-de-loop).

 


»  October 20, 2005

Flash  

MAX 2005: Flash Game Development (2:45pm, 18 October): This seminar was presented by Joshua Hirsch, Minister of Technology at Big Spaceship. Big Spaceship does a lot of work for movie sites, and Joshua showed off a couple of examples to start with, including a game for the movie Wimbledon (Someone made a movie about tennis? Man, I'll see that after I see another movie about golf.)

Joshua stressed the importance of developing a working model of the game sans graphics, to ensure that gameplay is workable before all of the visual assets have been developed. He discussed the concept of the casual gamer — someone who likes to idly play a particular game — versus someone who comes to a game because they're interested in a the subject matter (i.e. movie tie-in).

Joshua elaborated four basic categories that games fall into:

  • one-click: where the user basically just needs to steer the mouse around and press the button;
  • twitch/arcade: where time and coordination are major factors in gameplay;
  • puzzle: which relies on pattern-matching of one variety or another;
  • turn-based multi-player: non-real-time multiplayer interactive experiences.
Curiously, Joshue dismissed real-time multi-player as too problematic (for reasons of latency). Director users know that there are methods — or were....

He listed some personal favorites, including the HeliAttack series from Miniclip. (I see that their #1 game is the real-time Shockwave multiplayer game Robot Rage.)

Disadvantages of Flash for games: no 3D, no real-time. Advantages: yadda, yadda, yadda.

He considered several elements essential a game's replay value:

  • it should be easy to learn;
  • it should be hard to master;
  • gameplay should be varied;
  • it should contain infinite possibilities;
  • it should have random incentives.
One simple way to increase the potential for creating a viral game is to allow users to email their high scores to friends for challenges.

He walked through the process of making a wireframed version of a games he called "Tank and Circles", which was remarkably similar to "Asteroids." Through the process he discussed breaking down the game into states, classes, and state transitions.

He brought up the issue of granularity in collision detection (where objects may pass through each other in-between collision checks) and the need to account for it. Havok!

Toward the end, he showed a couple of games Big Spaceship's done for movies over the past few years, a pinball game for Starsky & Hutch, and a 2.5D streaking game for Old School.

 

Flash  

MAX 2005: Building Cross-Platform Games in Flash (2:45pm, 17 October): I was — at most — a couple of minutes late for Andrea Trento's seminar on building Flash games for mobile devices (you didn't think building them for Mac and Windows would have required a seminar, did you?) but he'd already cracked the whip and gotten past the first screen by the time I slipped into my seat.

He laid out some basics of designing games for multiple mobile device platforms. Use a minimum number of colors; each color requires 20-30 bytes of memory, which adds up quickly on low-memory devices. I felt like I'd slipped into a time-warp to 1996, when I was writing my book on Shockwave development. Avoid gradients and alphas; vector gradients require a fair amount of processor power to draw and redraw, and alpha channel compositing is even more intensive. Use fills, avoid outlines; Andrea didn't explain why specifically, but this is actually a processor savings that goes back to the early days of imagesetters. A stroke is a very efficient method of storing shape data, but drawing routines are essentially fill routines, so for a stroke to be drawn, the computer must first create an outline for the shape represented by the stroke, then fill that. Pre-converting to a shape saves processor time, but makes it harder to edit.

Andrea had a list of mobile device screen sizes that are common, but whipped past it before I got more than one-and-a-half down.

He noted that there are differences in the ActionScript support for mobile phones.

Andrea said variables in ActionScript have 10-15 bytes of overhead. He said to avoid long variable names, presumably because AS is stored in a less-compressed format than other languages.

Something I wasn't aware of was the use of i-mode simulators, for mobile phone emulation (I haven't done any mobile development myself).

He's planning to post material on his BeMobile site.

In follow-up questions, someone asked about time frames for game development and cross-porting. Andrea used an example of a game that had taken two days to port from one device to another, after three weeks of development, and said that a similar game in Java would have taken three months. Another question on frame rates led to a recommendation of 15fps for mobile devices. He said that to the best of his knowledge, there were no plans for a Palm OS version of the Flash Lite Player (so much for my Treo) and he recommended MIDI sound.

 

Politics  

The Rampaging Armchair Mouthings of Snowball: In the comments thread of another blog a week or two back, someone (who later apologized) dismissed me as a dogmatist and polemicist, then blamed people like myself for wrecking every left group he'd been a part of. I was accused of "rampaging armchair mouthings" ("typings" would have been more technically correct). Then he wrapped it up by comparing me to "the Trotskyists of old."

That was where I practically fell out of my chair laughing.

Leon Trotsky was, after all, the guy who got the ice axe treatment from a Soviet assassin, after years of exile. The reason he was exiled from the Soviet Union in the first place was because he thought Stalin and his cronies had betrayed the ideals of the Revolution, hence the title of his book The Revolution Betrayed.

"Trotskyite" was a term used by Stalinists to denounce anti-fascist Communists who opposed the Soviet Union's withdrawal of support for Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War, leading to the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Then the term was used to denounce those who were against Stalin's pact with Hitler. Later, it was picked up by Maoists as a synonym for "counter-revolutionary". Trotsky himself was involved in a lot of ugly, violent events, but most of the people killed, imprisoned, or otherwise adversely affected for being "Trotskyites" didn't have anything to do with Trotsky's actions during the Revolution.

If it's a choice between being called a Trotskyite for arguing that people should stick to their ideals and not make compromises with people bent on destroying those ideals or taking the position of those who coined the Trotskyite label and believed controlling power and enforcing a aura of infallibility around their leaders was more important than principle, I'll gladly assume the mantle of Trotsky. Because the latter group was the Stalinists.

In George Orwell's Animal Farm, the analogue for Trotsky is generally considered to be Snowball.

 

Politics  

That Day:

1,500 Days of the Global War on Terror

It's been 946 days since the United States and the Coalition of the Willing invaded Iraq as a part of the Global War on Terror, which began 1,500 days ago, on 11 September 2001. That latter number is longer than US involvement in World War II (1,345 days) and longer than the American Civil War (1,458 days). 1,500 days into the Vietnam War (counting the Gulf of Tonkin incident as the start of major American military involvement), the 1968 election between Democratic Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and Republican former Vice President Richard M. Nixon was reaching its conclusion. Humphrey had been in the Administration throughout the beginning of the war and won the nomination over anti-war candidates despite winning none of the primaries (which had less clout in that era). Nixon told people he had a "secret plan" to end the war. The last American combat troops didn't leave for four-and-a-half years — a total of 3,159 days.

20 December will be the 1,000th day since the invasion of Iraq.

 

Flash  

Persuasive Gaming on On the Media: I'll get back to MAX posts ASAP (my computer didn't have Gary's battery stamina, so I'm transcribing hand-written notes). While I'm getting things back under control after returning last night, I've been listening to one of my favorite radio shows/podcasts, WNYC's "On the Media," and noticed last week's show had a piece on games developed for advertising, political, and other "persuasive" purposes that mentioned Flash.

 


»  October 19, 2005

Flash  

MAX 2005: Next Generation ActionScript [and the last session shall be...well, not first, exactly] (2:45pm, 19 October): Macromedia's Gary Grossman, Architect for the Flash Player started off with a history of the evolution of Flash's scripting language.

Why develop ActionScript 3.0? Performance. Tighter structure. Previous choices in AS development may not have been optimal and may have become debugging challenges. Silent failure of too many errors. Incomplete repair of these issues in AS2.

Many significant changes in AS3. It will be challenging to port existing apps. VM and other major changes shouldn't make any difference in development. It will provide a solid platform for the future of the Flash Player.

AVM2 (the new virtual machine) only executes newly-compiled AS3-compatible files. Both VMs will be kept in the Player. Entirely new bytecode instruction set, will be under 1MB. Codenamed "Zaphod" (which I think Gary pronounced "zaffud," but which should be "ZA-fod").

AS3 includes native classes, string types, access specifiers, namespaces, error reporting, optional parameters and rest arguments, method closures, regular expressions, EX4 (EMAScript for XML), full standards compliance.

Gary went into a fair amount of detail about each of the major changes to ActionScript, but I'm not able to pay enough attention to know what he was talking about and take notes simultaneously.

One item, rest arguments, allows for functions with an open-ended number of arguments. Capitalization nazis will love AS3! Loooong day. Long week. Ready to go home.

 

Director  

MAX 2005: My Dinner With Andy [and Tom] (4pm, 17 October): During the late afternoon, Andy Phelps — tenured professor at Rochester Institute of Technology — and Tom Higgins — Macromedia's product manager for Director — retired to the sports bar in the Anaheim Hilton, where the night before White Sox fans had been spraying champagne around to celebrate the win over the Angels in some sort of championship.

No, Tom did not tell us any secrets, despite our attempts to ply him with liquor. Technically, we didn't have dinner, just nachos. I did, however, introduce Tom to a drink he seemed to like — which I, in turn, found out about from my brother's friend Todd Gentry — the Brave Bull:

Brave Bull

1 shot tequila
1 shot Kahlua®
put ice into tumbler, pour shots into tumbler over ice.

I hereby declare this drink the official cocktail of Director developers.

 


»  October 18, 2005

Flash  

MAX 2005: General Session (10:30am, 18 October):

Session opened with a live-action "Meet Your Match" faux-dating segment that didn't really go much of anywhere that I could see.

David Mendels, a name known to many of us from the old Director days. He discussed the increase in video usage on the Web, in advertising and other models.

"Flash video has quickly become the premier solution" for video on the Web. Does he mean "Premiere"? 26% of people reported in a survey that they didn;t want to install a player. Flash integrates video, etc. Went over Flash 8 Player improvements.

Another segment of the dating skit.

Jen (whose last name I missed) gave a quick demo showing how to add video in Dreamwaver 8.

Steve Kilinsky (Adobe After Effects) and Mike Downey (Macromedia Flash) came on to demo. Steve talked about how to get rid of "palletosis." He dropped out a green-screen, added a new image for the background, animated a text string, dropped in some particle effects. The he previewed an FLV export from After Effects. Mike linked the video into Flash 8 from a server, stepping through the playback and skin options in the new workflow.

More of the dating skit.

Jeremy Allaire came on to talk about his new venture, a video and media hosting, internet TV system that I can't really figure out why you'd want to use. It does have its own "monetization" system and custom Flex-based players, as well as an advertising system built in. Soon publishing APIs for developers to incorporate Brightcove into their own applications.

Several mentions made that the "whole Cold Fusion team is here" at MAX. The Director presence here consists of, uh, Tom Higgins.

Tom Hale, a Sales VP came out to shoot the Breeze. 1,600 enterprise customers. Breeze to be embedded into Cisco's upcoming releases. Displayed a Breeze use from a Japanese company called Binessa (sp?) that drew geometric shapes and symbols. Intoduced Room Extensions and SyncSWF. Nigel Pegg, David Yun, and Peter Rice showed a collaborative magnetic poem application. Not screen-sharing, they point out. Sort of like something that could have been done with the Shockwave Multiuser Server about eight years ago. Beta sign-up at http://www.macromedia.com/go/breeze_developers

More dating skit.

Al Ramadan of Mobile and Devices is introduced. Ran down changes and growth since last year's conference and announcement of mobile plans. Nokia has licensed Flash. Announcement that Qualcomm's Brew service will now support Flash Lite.

Bill Perry of Mobile Solutions showed a Yahoo!-developed Flikr image search tool for phones in emulation mode and on a phone, searching for MAX2005 images.

Josh Ulm hit the stage "on a short leash," as he said, to show off some mobile customization, where the UI programming has been divorced from the data, and incorporating FlashCast, which is a push server technology for content. Gotta go to lunch

 

Director  

MAX 2005: Web and Downloadable Game Development Using Macromedia Tools (1:30pm, 17 October): I've always admired Steve Zehngut's business sense (and Gary Rosenzweig's, for that matter) because they figured out how to make a living developing games, which is something I've never managed to do. So, of course, I went to Steve's session on game development.

Steve's program started off with a little glitch, as he tried to show the remixed trailer for The Shining as an example of a viral marketing tool. The vagaries of wireless connections at a conference....

Steve went through some of his history and that of Zeek Interactive (curiously, I used to work at a company called Zeeks.com). He talked about the major players in the online and shareware game distribution development industry, including Pop Cap, Skunk Studios, Mumbojumbo, Reflexive, and Freeverse. Estimates are that a company like Pop Cap spends well over $75,000 developing a showcase game.

A number of questions and comments centered around one of Steve's statistics, that a prime purchasing market for shareware games is women 35+ in age. Speculation ensued over whether they were buying the games for themselves or whether they were buying them for their kids, whether you were writing games specifically for that audience, etc. Points were made that the most successful games in the category didn't require you to spend a lot of time reading rules, that they had lots of unexpected goodies that popped up during the course of gameplay, and that they could be walked away from to attend to something else (a la solitaire) without affecting game play. Steve recommended Chuzzle and Zume from Pop Cap, both of which I downloaded before heading to the hotel where I'd have had to pay for wi-fi. There was a brief but firm lecture that Director was still a better environment for shareware games than Flash.

Steve encouraged everyone to go to Shockwave.com to play his years-old title Taco Joe, because he's still getting checks through their advertising-supported model. At other venues, he said that a top game at a place like RealArcade might bring in $100,000 to $250,000 per month at its peak, of which the developer gets 25%. All hail capitalism!

 

Director  

MAX 2005: General Session (10:30am, 17 October) [UPDATE]: Ze Frank, the author of "How to Dance Properly" opened with a riff on how a party invitation made him Inter-famous. He's funny, and moving quickly, so I'm just going to type notes from here on out.

"Shut it down? People were finally paying attention to me!"

"The Scribbler": a drawing toy that rewards crappy drawing. Mentioned Director!

"Atheist" and "Buddhist" and "Christian" games.

"Punctuation Substitution"

Stephen Elop, CEO had to follow. said that there were over 3,000 people in the Ballroom. Mentioned those in the community who have maintained support for New Orleans, site of last year's conference.

Showed comments from people on Studio 8 and Cold Fusion 7.

Flash Player 8 gone from 0 to 100 million downloads in less than a month, still around 5 million per day.

Mentioned partnerships with SAP, foreign mobile phone vendors, Flashcast in Japan. 1,600 Breeze customers.

Snarked at Microsoft and their efforts to move into the multimedia development market by displaying a blue screen of death.

Got around to the Adobe merger about 35 minutes into presentation and asked people to maintain trust and keep the faith.

Kevin Lynch, Chef Software Architect, came on to talk about the future of the web and plugged a Kevin Morale (sp?) essay called "What is Web 2.0?" It encourages separation of UI and data.

NOW: Studio 8, Flash Player 8, Flash Lite 1.1, Flex 1.5. Feedback on Studio 8 has been good. 1.5 million trial downloads of the studio so far. Kodak EasyShare camera has a Flash Lite-based touchscreen interface.

Flex adopted by 400 customers so far. Guido Schroeder of SAP brought onstage for some demonstrations.

Back to Kevin, he says that Player 8.5 has an entirely new Virtual Machine, ActionScript 3 (with runtime error checking, standard event model, inline XML, regular expressions).

Flex Builder designed for developers to create rich internet applications without a the Flex server. Sho Kuwamoto, one of the leads on the Flex Builder team comes on stage to build an app that queries Flikr for some photos and displays the results. (An error crops up as he builds it. Dead air. Second time it compiled but he doesn't notice the app's loaded in the browser behind Flax Builder until someone from the audience mentions it.) 9 minutes from start to finish, even with the delay.

William Wechtenhiser of the Flex Enterprise team came to do his own demo, extending the photo search to include chat.

Lynch announces partnership with Mercury Interactive for automated testing with Flex applications. Canned video from Chris Lockhead.

Battery getting low! Gotta go. Only a few minutes left.

[UPDATE]: The future got its licks in via an application mock-up presented by Macromedian Mike Sundermeyer, who was with a group I believe was called "Experience Potential." His media center app was meant to simulate the nexus of an interconnected electronic homeverse, where all of your videos, games, and music are tied together, with reviews, recommendations, and purchasing capabilities in one groovy application (although I did notice that Spice World was in his collection, so I'd have to wonder just how groovy it really was). I didn't see any books, though.

At the end, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen came on and talked about how he really couldn't tell us anything since the last few hurdles of the merger haven't been cleared yet. He definitely implied that there would be some sort of event next year — we'll see if that's just wishful thinking on the part of those of us who are used to shelling out our hard-earned coin to meet our ever-shrinking pool of peers. Some quotes I wrote down for no particular reason:

  • The merger should be final "sometime in the next few weeks
  • Regarding the Universal Player discussed earlier in the session — from which Acrobat was noticably absent — "use your imagination."
  • The combination of Adobe and Macromedia will "revolutionize how people engage with life."

 


»  October 17, 2005

Flash  

MAX 2005: What's New in Flash 8? (9:15am , 17 October): Grant Skinner, started off with his overview of IDE, AS, and Player enhancements in Flash 8.

Showed off blur effect and image compositing, IDE enhancements to Library panel (including switching between open libraries with a dropdown menu, much as you've been able to do in Director for — oh &mdash 10 years. The new Help panel includes Boolean searches and literal search phrases (set off by quote marks).

The script editor now checks syntax for packages and can show hidden characters, which is useful particularly when you're copying scripts from other sources.

Gradients have increased in complexity from 8 to 16 control points, which means you can set more positions within the gradient for specific colors. Radial gradiants can also have their centers offset, so the full spectrum of gradient colors is always displayed between betwen the gradient origin and endpoint.

The '9slice' function that allows items like dialog boxes to be easily rescaled looks to be very useful, as are the new btmap blend models.

He expressed some concern about the potential overuse of the new image filters (drop shadow, blur, glow, bevel, gradient glow, gradient bevel, adjust color, convolution, displacement maps). The last two are only available through AS.

He briefly discussed the new runtime bitmap caching. There were a few items where I think he made some slight mis-statements, but most people don't really know what they're talking about here, so....

There's a new font rendering engine in Flash. Kerning on dynamic text, a wider array of controls over anti-aliasing, and more.

New On2 video codec, new encoder with the ability to create cuepoints, alpha challel compositing, easier to get video into Flash, etc....

Timeline tweening now has independent curve editing for position, rotation, filter, and other properties.

If you're interested in how search engines deal with your Flash movies, there's a new Publishing option for making your Flash content more searchable.

Mobile development, JSFL, blah, blah, blah....

Skinner moved into the ActionScript stuff in the last minute of the scheduled talk. He demonstrated a Goo-type bitmap distortion and animation goodie created in Flash 8.

He quickly demonstrated file upload and download capabilities. I need to look more closely at that.

I'm missing things as I type.

Programmatic skewing.

Load GIF, PNG, PJPG, (no Animated GIF); new garbage collector; auto-update for the Player; show Redraw Regions option to display areas where screen updates are happening.

 


»  October 15, 2005

Politics  

Baggage: In The New York Times' story on the Judith Miller/'Scooter' Libby/Plamegate case, Managing Editor Bill Keller says (emphasis added):

I wish it had been a clear-cut whistle-blower case. I wish it had been a reporter [Miller] who came with less public baggage.
Yeah, like a couple suitcase nukes less public baggage.

 

What the...?  

Signs, Signs: One of the things I like about driving around a city on vacation is the opportunity to see new business names. One particularly catchy sign jumped out at me this evening, driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from Costa Mesa to Westwood, for a Vietnamese soup shop: What the Pho?

 


»  October 13, 2005

What the...?  

Hunt for the Red Caption Contest:

Setup: A well-armed hunter sitting in a recliner points his rifle at a moose on the TV in front of him, two women stand behind him in the doorway, one talking to the other.

My caption: "With the price of gas what it is, it's cheaper than driving out to the woods."

Now you can go and check out what the editors at The New Yorker chose for finalists in their caption contest.

 

Director  

It's Always Good to Know You're Useful for Something:

Alan Levine, the long-time force behind the Director Web site, mentioned the other day that my 1996 book Shockwave! breathe new life into your web pages is still useful to him. He's using it to prop up one side of the Apple XServe unit on which he runs the CogDogBlog site. He says another Shockwave book holds up the other side of the unit, but that it's too much trouble to look to see what it is. At least I'm not the other author!

[UPDATE 13 October 2005 21:12] I was rushing out the door to a meeting before I posted this, and I should have mentioned the contributions of several people to the book: Dave Yang, who provided a short game discussed in the book and has gone on to great things with Flash; Eric Coker, who was but a wee lad when he put together the CD-ROM for the publisher (and who has an eye for captions of sf/fantasy convention photos; and most of all David Duddleston of Violet Arcana, who provided material for an entire chapter on audio.

 


»  October 11, 2005

Director  

Off to MAX:

5th Annual Macromedia International User Conference notepad (September 25-27, 1994 San Francisco, California)

I've been going to Macromedia conferences now for over 11 years, since the first one I attended in the fall of 1994. I spoke at the 1997 conference. I was a member of the press for several others: as a book author on Flash and Director, and as a technical editor for Macromedia User Journal and Director Online. I missed one: the 2002 conference in Orlando which took place just a couple of weeks after I broke the heck out of my ankle. I was gonna go, but the doctor said no. Considering that I ended up with blood clots in my lungs from that break, maybe it was best that happened close to a hospital rather than at 30,000 feet or at Disney World.

In 2001, the New York conference where Shockwave 3D was released gave me a last chance to see the city before terrorism and war were the watchwords for the day. Last year, the conference in New Orleans got me to that city for the first time, before life there changed irrevocably, as well.

If the merger between Macromedia and Adobe goes through this winter, I have to assume that next week's MAX is going to be the last get-together of its type under the Macromedia label. I'm not particularly attached to the name, but it is something I've been intimately associated with as a customer, commentator (and even contractor) for more than a quarter of my life — which includes a rather long prelude to my entry into multimedia. If it's subsumed into Adobe it won't necessarily make a big change in what I do, but there'll be a putting-the-wrong-date-on-the-checks feeling writ large about it until I subconsciously think "Adobe Flash" and "Adobe Director" (at least, I hope I'll be thinking that!)

So I'm looking forward to seeing anyone who's going to be there: the Macromedia folks I've corresponded with over the years; the people who've left Macromedia; the developers I only see at these conferences (hey, it's the real reason I go at all); and anyone I might not have met before. I'm off to LA for a couple of days before the conference, see everyone in Anaheim!

If you haven't already seen it, DOUG, INM, and Macromedia are putting together a Director Get-Together for anyone (not just MAX attendees) on Monday, October 17.

 


»  October 10, 2005

Politics  

The Wernher von Braun School of Journalism Ethics: On NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, Scott Simon interviewed Gilbert Cranberg, author of an short opinion piece in the Columbia Journalism Review on the need for the press to stop simply telling people what politicians or political organizations are saying and to actually verify their facts. Cranberg's view of the current situation was that (apropos of a verifiably-correct John Kerry campaign claim that factcheck.org falsely called untrue):

If you have a political candidate making factually wrong statements, I call that the...the Wernher von Braun School of Journalism Ethics: "You know, we send up the lies and wherever they land, that's somebody else's problem." No, it is not somebody else's problem.

 

Politics  

The Moral Equivalence of David Kline: David Kline was lambasted for being unprepared and over-eager to promote his new book on blogs (at best) or a shill for conservative talking points during an appearance on Bill O'Reilly's show last week during which O'Reilly attacked Media Matters. Kline's first words during the broadcast set up O'Reilly for his stock claim that Phil Donohue, Jeremy Glick, and Michael Moore believe George Bush caused 9/11:

O'REILLY: Now how do you see it, Mr. Kline? Are we overstating this? KLINE: No, I think there are a lot of nutcases out there. You have websites and political bloggers that believe that President Bush orchestrated the 9-11 attacks.

O'REILLY: Oh, you mean he didn't? That's what I've been hearing from Phil Donahue and Jeremy Glick and Michael Moore, that he orchestrated it. You mean he didn't? That's not true?

He also played along with O'Reilly's claim that bloggers were putting his guests in physical danger:
O'REILLY: They -- I couldn't -- I had people turn down this segment -- a bunch of them -- what are you, crazy? I'm going to criticize these assassins? They'll come after me. And that's a chilling effect.

KLINE: Well, I'm not naming names here, right? I mean, I don't want to get stalked.

After Media Matters posted the video segment and transcript, Kline backpeddled furiously, claiming in a lengthy post and comments that he'd been duped by the producer, that he'd never heard of Media Matters before O'Reilly brought it up (although he didn't question or protest any of this on the air), and that he'd been too busy "writing two books, raising two kids, and trying to make a living" to apparently do any research on the guy running the worldwide broadcast he was about to plug his book on. His ploy worked. Media Matters, Daily Kos, Atrios, and Crooks and Liars all prominently linked to his mea culpa.

Then, down at the bottom of the comments on his post this weekend, after the buzz had tapered off:

The whining on this Blog is quite expected.

Everyone knows that Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller, Al Franken, are much kindler, gentler people who have no interest other that the interst of others. #%&*cough/barf8736!

These folks would never have changed topic midstream, or allowed a guest such as yourself to be used for their purpose. Why?? Because their purpose is the purpose of GOOD people, not the evil right wing!

Posted by: M.E. W ylam | October 8, 2005 06:41 AM

Right. I hope we're all beyond thinking that only "our" guys are the good guys and our opponents are bad guys.

That's just dumb. O'Reilly lies, but so did NARAL when it accused Judge Roberts of "condoning abortion clinic violence."

Posted by: David Kline | October 9, 2005 08:36 AM

Unlike The Shadow, I don't know what evil lurks in the hearts of men, or why Kline believes that a 30-second NARAL ad that was almost immediately withdrawn is somehow the moral equivalent of Bill O'Reilly's daily lies, but I can always speculate. I challenge him to find any major figure on the left (well, that's the first challenge) who makes blatantly false statements, who bullies his guests with finger-wagging bravado, and threatens those he disagrees with on the basis that Bill O'Reilly does. Then, he can find the best-selling leftist author with the equivalent eliminationist record of Michael Savage. After that, I've got a few more.

[UPDATE 11 October 2005]: Mike from Crooks and Liars linked here, so I guess I'd better hurry up and make my donation to their fundraiser.

A couple of items. I don't have comments here because usually, only about 90 people a day come here, and a lot of them are Google searches for the multimedia programming posts I sometimes get around to doing. I never added comment code into the blog engine I wrote. Most of my political posts (including this one) are also cross-posted on Daily Kos and available through the blogroll link to the left: My Daily Kos.

While Kline and a commenter at C&L have interpreted this as a political argument, I beg to differ. I really don't care if Kline has "40 years on the left". It's irrelevant to the discussion. The comment above from "M.E. W ylam" doesn't discuss the left in general. It mentions three specific talk-show hosts. It says (sarcastically) "These folks would never have changed topic midstream, or allowed a guest such as yourself to be used for their purpose." That is what Kline agreed to with his "Right." It doesn't make any difference whether he believed the statement, didn't understand the statement, or whatever, that's what he agreed with. It's a pretty simple matter of English comprehension to understand the commenter was saying Franken, Miller, and Schultz would have treated him the same way. That's what Kline agreed with, whether he understood the point at the time or not.

I'm not familiar with Miller, but I'm a some-time listener to both Franken and Schultz. I'm not crazy about either one. But neither insults his guests or threatens them in the same way that O'Reilly does.

I don't know if Kline knows this or not. He may be as unfamiliar with them as he was with Media Matters for America when he went on O'Reilly. But as he did when O'Reilly attacked Media Matters, Kline didn't claim that he couldn't agree to what the comment said because he was unfamiliar with the people the commenter was referring to. Nor did he claim that the commenter was incorrect, and that one or more of the trio didn't fit the characterization. He simply agreed. Nor did he make a clarification when I pointed out that the comment was not addressing the left in general and mentioned some differences in tone between Franken and Schultz and O'Reilly.

[UPDATE 11 October 2005]: As I say above, I don't claim to know Mr. Kline's motivations. He's been very responsive on his blog's comments (see the follow-up to the above quotes), but seems either incredibly misinformed, intellectually lazy, ready to pretend that two entirely dissimilar things are in fact equivalent, or simply dishonest. His remark to me when I suggested that he was agreeing with someone who was calling three specific talk-show hosts as dishonest as Bill O'Reilly was:

I was saying "right" to his overall point -- which was a rhetorical jab at the notion that only the left plays fair, speaks truth, and cares about the public.

But you are certainly free to continue believing whatever you want about what I really meant.

 


»  October 9, 2005

Politics  

Those Wacky Folks At Parade Magazine: Considering that Edward Klein — the author of a Hillary Clinton biography that got virtually the same reception on the right as Supreme Court nominee Hariett Miers — is the author of Parade Magazine's "Walter Scott's Personality Parade," it's no real surprise to find conservative droppings laced in his answers to questions that veer from the world of celebrities to that of politics. The 9 October issue is no exception (emphasis added):

Q: I'm interested in where Fidel Castro gets the dough to shore up his bankrupt regime. Can you illuminate? —Robert Henry, Los Angeles, Calif.

A: In the wake of the collapse of the USSR, which bankrolled him to the tune of $4 billion a year, Castro has turned to Hugo Chavez, Marxist president of Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil-exporter. In addition to shoring up Castro, he's funding revolutionaries and terrorists throughout Latin America.

The first question this raises is: Is "Scott" hearing about Venezuelan support for terrorists from the same sources as he heard about Hillary Clinton's lesbian affairs? While any number of people have claimed that Venezuela is funding terrorists, not even the Chavez-unfriendly US Department of State includes the country on its list of "State Sponsors of Terrorism." Send a letter to the editors at Parade, if you like.

The second question: $4 billion a year? We're spending that much on Iraq every month, and it's a desert hellhole thousands of miles away full of people who want to kill us! Cuba's an island paradise 90 miles off the coast of Florida that offered to send doctors to help out after Hurricane Katrina! Someone's getting seriously ripped.

 


»  October 6, 2005

Politics  

1,500 Days: The Global War on Terror (1,486 days) has surpassed both American participation in World War II (1,345 days) and the American Civil War (1,458 days) in length. Two weeks from today, 9/11 will be be 1,500 days in the past. That means it's time to update my interactive timeline at the top of the blog page.

The new addition to the list is, of course, the Vietnam War, which lasted 3,159 days from the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964 to the date the last combat troops left the country in March 1973. Not even half-way there. Heck, comparatively, we're not even to the part of the Vietnam war where Nixon was running things yet!

If the GWOT lasts as long as Vietnam, we should be done in early May 2010. (For comparative purposes, it took almost exactly as long for the British occupying army to lose the American Revolutionary War. The amount of time from the Battle of Lexington to the last British troops leaving New York City was 3,143 days.)

 


»  October 5, 2005

Politics  

Pimp My Book (On Blogs!): The ongoing feud between Media Matters for America and Bill O'Reilly continues with a segment yesterday on blogs, where O'Reilly accuses MM of being George Soros-funded assassins. Interestingly, Portland was mentioned, as the location of one of the guests for the segment, a David Kline, author of the newly-released Blog! How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business, and Culture. Kline made one point about how pre-WWII media didn't have the veneer of non-partisanship that may have existed "before the advent of corporate media" (presumably between the red-baiting of the 1950s and the Reagan-pimping of the 1980s). Kline's bio on Amazon says he's been a Pulitzer Prize finalist, with many major magazine credits, but you have to wonder about his honesty when he's involved in exchanges like this:

O'REILLY: Absolutely valid, excellent point. But here's the problem: these people are so vicious, and they -- the media is so corrupt in taking their uncorroborated, as Mr. Babbin pointed out -- defamation that most people now won't run for office, sir. They won't do television and radio commentary. They won't put the -- when we had to book this segment, I couldn't get people to come on and say what you guys are saying, because they were afraid that Media Matters would go after them. They -- I couldn't -- I had people turn down this segment -- a bunch of them -- what are you, crazy? I'm going to criticize these assassins? They'll come after me. And that's a chilling effect.

KLINE: Well, I'm not naming names here, right? I mean, I don't want to get stalked.

But, whatever you gotta do to try to sell copies of the book, I guess. Like O'Reilly's viewers can read.

 


»  October 4, 2005

Politics  

Seems Like Old Times: One of the questions that I've had for months about Iraq is just how effective even a security force of 250,000 Iraqis is going to be in maintaining order. The American-led coalition hasn't been able to control the borders, prevent thousands of deaths from suicide bombers, or stop insurgents from taking over towns in western provinces.

The coalition forces are spending billions of dollars a month on operations. Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft have played an important part in insurgent suppression operations. The Iraqis have none of the equipment, support infrastructure, or revenue stream to maintain even the level of opposition the Americans, British, and others are. Even if all of their ground troops were capable of operating without coalition support — which we've recently heard that they aren't — what's likely to happen when America pulls out and the gravy train ends?

Then, someone decides to rerun the "Fall of Saigon" episode from PBS's American Experience.

NARRATOR: By August of 1974, the military balance had begun to shift against President Thieu.

His troops were thinly spread. They no longer had American air support. The American military advisers were gone.

Congress had reduced aid, and South Vietnam also suffered from soaring oil prices after the 1973 Middle East war.

Gasoline was tightly rationed. Ammunition was scarce. Helicopters lacked spare parts and maintenance, and troop deployment by truck was slow and cumbersome.

FRANK SNEPP [CIA Analyst]: In addition, there was the problem of corruption, the siphoning off of material destined to troops in the field. The U.S. establishment in Saigon never had a very good grasp on the subject of corruption because it was, from an intelligence standpoint, strictly off-limits, something verboten.

We, of course, realized that if the South Vietnamese looked anything but pristine pure, the U.S. Congress would not vote any additional aid to Saigon.

And:
GEN. TRAN VAN NHUT (Army of South Vietnam): The Americans instilled in the Vietnamese soldiers and officers the American way to fight a war. Then, when the Americans withdrew and the supplies reduced, it was only natural that the morale and the combat effectiveness of the troops had to change for the worse.

NARRATOR: The Americans had spent lavishly in Vietnam. At Camranh Bay they built a two billion dollar deepwater port. Now, homeless Vietnamese improvised shelters out of its deserted barracks and clubs.

Obviously, Iraq isn't Vietnam. The opposition in Iraq doesn't control nearly the amount of territory the North Vietnamese did. They don't have tanks. They don't have an organized army. Still, with all of the technological advantages and military might of the United States behind the coalition, they haven't been eliminated.

 

Director  

Fonts for Fun and Profit: A discussion about font embedding in a Director application that can print forms led me to wonder (just for a second!): Is Adobe buying Macromedia to shut down two of the primary perpetrators of font embedding (Flash and Director) just so they can crank the prices on the Adobe font library up to $1,000/weight?

 

Politics  

Eighty-Five Days: Judith Miller spent eighty-five days in jail. Arianna Huffington reported the other day that Miller's telling friends she's signed a $1.2 million dollar book deal. The New York Times's executive editor Bill Keller says that a full account of Miller's case will be published, possibly as soon as this weekend.

A professional writer with experience in areas where computers aren't readily available like Miller can easily crank out a thousand or more publishable words a day, even longhand. Maybe more, if they're not particularly bound by the truth. Seventy-five, eighty thousand words or more? You've got a book right there.