July 9th, 2007

Chris Keeley

Wellcome Trust releases 2000 years of medical images under Creative Commons

Wellcome Trust releases 2000 years of medical images under Creative Commons

Ian sez, "The Wellcome Trust, one of the UK's largest medical charities, has released its image collection under Creative Commons licenses, with a new web site to search through it. I'm not sure how many thousand images there are, but for science teachers and anyone doing research into the history of medicine and biosciences, this will be a huge bonus." Link (Thanks, Ian!


Chris Keeley

Robber Disguised As Tree Hits N.H. Bank

Robber Disguised As Tree Hits N.H. Bank

Filed at 9:17 a.m. ET

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- Leaf it to New Hampshire, where a bank branch was held up by a man disguised as a tree.

Just as the Citizen Bank branch opened Saturday morning, a man walked in with leafy boughs duct-taped to his head and torso, and robbed the place.

''He really went out on a limb,'' police Sgt. Ernie Goodno said Sunday.

Police said the leafy man didn't saying anything about having a weapon, just demanded cash, and was given an undisclosed amount.

Although the branches and leaves obscured much of the man's face, someone who saw images from the bank's security camera recognized the robber and called police.

Officers said James Coldwell, 49, was arrested early Sunday at his Manchester home and charged with robbery. Arraignment was not expected until Monday.

Chris Keeley

iPhone schtuff roundup

iPhone schtuff roundup

  • Tart up your iPhone with these 320 x 480 crops of great works by legendary erotic photographer Steve Diet Goedde (produced on request by BB readers' popular demand -- evidently, a lot of Goedde fans read this blog). No full nudity here, just lovely, classic alt-cheesecake. Link.


  • The Los Angeles Times has an interesting feature about this weekend's first-ever iPhone Dev Camp, where people gathered "to develop web-based applications and optimize web sites for iPhone." Link to story.


  • BB reader Geoff says, "Here's a 'sad iPhone' wallaper in the style of the old school 'sad mac' error message! Link."


  • BB reader Franko says, "Speaking of iPhone wallpapers, Stephen Worth, the Director of the Hollywood Animation Archive, has posted some gorgeous wallpapers based on the art of N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, and many others. These are really well worth looking at, in my opinion." Link.


  • BB reader Paul Caron says, "Apple has announced that by the end of the month it will give its 18,000 full-time U.S. employees a free 8-gigabyte iPhone (retail price: $599). The tax angle? Apple will have to include the $599 on the employees' W-2s as taxable compensation, and the company will have to pay employment taxes on the amount as well." Link.


  • BB reader tonx says, "I just installed Google's Telekinesis, it's a remote desktop for iPhone. I can browse my desktop's file system and view images and documents. Playing media files seems to be in their plans... but this is a pretty awesome taste o whats to come! Here are screenshots."


  • Anonymous says, "Instead of spending hours in line for an iPhone, this guy decided to spend hours fitting his Motorla SLVR into an old NES controller. It seems he was able to fit everything in there and close it back up." Link.

    posted by Xeni Jardin

  • Chris Keeley

    OpenMoko: Linux-based $300 open smartphone

    OpenMoko: Linux-based $300 open smartphone

    The OpenMoko is a $300, Linux-based open smartphone. Unlike the iPhone, it doesn't come locked to any provider (and certainly not to the crooks at AT&T), it doesn't come with DRM, and it allows you to install any third party app you like, even if Steve Jobs worries that it might spoil your experience. It's still in "developer preview," but this might just be my next phone.
    The Neo 1973 boasts the following hardware specifications

    * 2.8" VGA TFT color display
    * Touchscreen, usable with stylus or fingers
    * 266MHz Samsung System on a Chip (SOC)
    * USB 1.1, switchable between Client and Host (unpowered)
    * Integrated AGPS
    * 2.5G GSM – quad band, voice, CSD, GPRS
    * Bluetooth 2.0
    * Micro SD slot
    * High Quality audio codec

    Link (Thanks, Jeramia!)

    Update: Gabriel sez, "The current version of the Neo1973 has built-in GPS too, and the mass-market unit that will ship in October will have wifi and accelerated graphics too."

    Chris Keeley

    Sly Stone's Higher Power

    Sly Stone's Higher Power


    Sly Stone on his custom three-wheeled chopper, outside his home, in Napa, California, on June 10, 2007.

    View a slide show of Sly Stone and friends.

    Sly Stone vanished into rumor in the 1980s, remembered only by the great songs ("I Want to Take You Higher," "Dance to the Music") he left behind. What's become of the funky leader of the Family Stone since he forsook his Woodstock-era utopianism for darkness, drugs, and isolation? After a few sightings—most notoriously at the 2006 Grammys—the author tracked the last of the rock recluses to a Bay Area biker shop, to scope out where Stone's been, where he's headed, and what's behind those shades.

    by David Kamp August 2007

    Will Sly show up?

    I sure hope so. I have an appointment with him. I've flown across the country and quadruple-checked to make sure that we're still on.

    To cynics and music-industry veterans, this very premise is laughable: an appointment with Sly Stone. Yeah, right. For 20-odd years, Stone has been one of music's great recluses, likened in the press to J. D. Salinger and Howard Hughes. And in the years before he slipped away, he was notorious for not showing up even when he said he would. Missed concerts, rioting crowds, irritated promoters, drug problems, band tensions, burned bridges.

    But in his prime, Stone was a fantastic musician, performer, bandleader, producer, and songwriter. Even today, his life-affirming hits from the late 60s and early 70s—among them "Stand!," "Everyday People," and "Family Affair"—continue to thrive on the radio, magically adaptable to any number of programming formats: pop, rock, soul, funk, lite. He was a black man and emphatically so, with the most luxuriant Afro and riveted leather jumpsuits known to Christendom, but he was also a pan-culturalist who moved easily among all races and knew no genre boundaries. There was probably no more Woodstockian moment at Woodstock than when he and the Family Stone, his multi-racial, four-man, two-woman band, took control of the festival in the wee hours of August 17, 1969, getting upwards of 400,000 people pulsing in unison to an extended version of "I Want to Take You Higher." For one early morning, at least, the idea of "getting higher" wasn't an empty pop-culture construct or a stoner joke, but a matter of transcendence. This man had power.

    He also had a compelling penchant for folly. In the jivey, combustible early 1970s, when it was almost fashionable for public figures to unleash their ids and abandon all shame—whether it was Norman Mailer's baiting a roomful of feminists at New York's Town Hall or Burt Reynolds's posing nude on a bearskin for Cosmopolitan—Sly was out on the front lines, contributing some first-rate unhinged behavior of his own. Like marrying his 19-year-old girlfriend onstage in 1974 at Madison Square Garden before a ticket-buying audience of 21,000, with Soul Train host Don Cornelius presiding as M.C. Or appearing on Dick Cavett's late-night ABC talk show while conspicuously, if charmingly, high. "You're great," Stone told his flummoxed host in 1971, in the second of two notorious visits to Cavett's soundstage. "You are great. You are great. You know what I mean? [Pounds fist on heart.] Booom! Right on! Sure thing. No, for real. For real, Dick. Hey, Dick. Dick. Dick. You're great."

    Cavett, grasping for some sense of conversational traction, smirked and replied, "Well, you're not so bad yourself."

    "Well," said Sly, eyes rolling up in contemplation, "I am kinda bad … "

    Sly Stone is my favorite of the rock-era recluses, and, really, the only big one left. Syd Barrett, the architect of Pink Floyd's entrancingly loopy early sound, passed away last summer at the age of 60, having resisted all entreaties to explain himself or sing again. Brian Wilson, the fragile visionary behind the Beach Boys, has been gently coaxed out of his shell by his friends and acolytes, and now performs and schmoozes regularly. He doesn't count as a recluse anymore.

    But Sly has remained elusive—still with us, yet seemingly content to do without us. I have been pursuing him for a dozen years, on and off, wondering if there would ever come a time when he'd release new material, or at the very least sit down and talk about his old songs. I've loved his music for as long as I've been a sentient human being—he started making records with the Family Stone when I was a toddler. And over time, as the silence has lengthened, his disappearance from public life has become a fascinating subject in and of itself. How could it have happened? How could a man with such an extensive and impressive body of work just shut down and cut out?

    "I often tell people that I have more dead rock stars on tape than anyone, and they'll say, 'You mean Janis, Hendrix, and Sly?'" says Cavett today. "A lot of people think he's gone." Even if you're aware that Sly lives, you have to wonder what kind of shape he's in, projecting that beautiful but reckless man of 1971 into 2007, the year he turned 64. What of the dark rumors that he's done so much coke that his brain is zapped, and that he now exists in a pathetic, vegetative state? What of the more hopeful rumors that he's still writing and noodling with his keyboards, biding his time until he feels ready to attempt a comeback?

    I had long dreamed of the latter scenario. Syd Barrett excepted, they do all come back. Brian Wilson did. The Stooges did. The New York Dolls did. Even Roky Erickson, the psychedelic pioneer from the 13th Floor Elevators, long presumed to be fried beyond rehabilitation by electroshock treatments he received in the early 1970s, has staged a robust return to the live circuit.

    My hopes for a Sly comeback were highest in 2003. That year, in the back room of a music store in Vallejo, California, where Sly grew up, I sat in on a rehearsal of a re-united Family Stone led by Freddie Stone, Sly's guitarist brother. Freddie was intent on recording an album of entirely new material that he had written with his sister Rose, who played organ and shared lead vocals in the old group. "Sylvester's doing very well, by the way," Freddie told me, using his brother's given name. Gregg Errico, the band's drummer, who was also in on the reunion, explained that, while they weren't counting on Sly to join them, they had set a place for him just in case, like Seder participants awaiting Elijah. "We profess that the keyboard is on the stage, the [Hammond] B3's running, and the seat is warm for him," Errico said.

    But that reunion quickly fizzled out. After that, my Sly search lay dormant; I pretty much gave up. He hadn't shown his face in public since 1993, when he and the Family Stone were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Characteristically, Sly slipped in and out of the ceremony without saying much, barely acknowledging his siblings and bandmates. So why would he ever want to perform again, much less meet up with a stranger?

    Then, out of nowhere, there began a series of brief, intriguing resurfacings. In August of 2005, he was sighted in L.A. on a chopper motorcycle, giving his sister Vaetta, who goes by the nickname Vet, a ride to Hollywood's Knitting Factory club, where she was performing a set with her band, the Phunk Phamily Affair. The following February came Stone's enigmatic appearance at the 2006 Grammy Awards, in which he loped onto the stage in a gold lamé trench coat and plumy blond Mohawk, performed a snippet of "I Want to Take You Higher" with some guest musicians paying him tribute, and loped off again before the song was over. And in January of this year, Stone put in a surprise cameo at Vet's band's show at the House of Blues in Anaheim, California, adding vocals and keyboards to their performances of "Higher" and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)."

    What to make of this? Was Sly's newfound quasi-visibility a sign that, at last, his return was nigh? Early this year, I managed to get in touch with Vet Stone, who confirmed that her brother was indeed planning a return: a show in San Jose on July 7 with her band (which, with Sly's blessing, has been renamed the Family Stone), and then some summer dates at festivals in Europe. After several telephone conversations in early spring and one meeting with me in person, Vet called one day with the news: Sly would speak. We would meet up on May 9 in Vallejo, his hometown, 25 miles north of Oakland.

    Are You Ready?

    On the designated day, Vet and I arrive early at the designated meeting place: Chopper Guys Biker Products Inc., a Vallejo business that manufactures parts and frames for custom motorcycles. Sly, who lived in L.A. on and off for 36 years but recently relocated to Napa Valley, gets his bikes serviced here. As Vet and I kill time chatting, we eventually notice that it's about 10 minutes past the appointed start time of our meeting. Nothing worrying, but a long enough period to have faint thoughts of Hmm, maybe this won't work out. Vet tells me how many doubters she's had to deal with in booking those summer European dates, "people who wouldn't take my call, people who hung up on me, people who think I'm a delusional woman." She has been the catalyst of Sly's tentative re-emergence, the one who pulled him out of L.A. and found him a home up north, who persuaded him to play with her band and get back out on the road again. It's exhausted her, and she's openly daunted by the logistics of planning for her brother, never the smoothest of travelers, to fly to Europe and then zip from Umbria to Montreux to Ghent.

    But she's gotten this far, which fuels her faith. "All I can say," she says, and it's something she says a lot, "is that I'm his little sister, and he's never lied to me." Nevertheless, even Vet is starting to get a little nervous about the interview, checking her cell phone, stepping outside the front door of Chopper Guys with me to see if anyone's coming.

    And then, like John Wayne emerging from 'cross the prairie in The Searchers … a strange form advances through the wavy air in the distance: some sort of vehicle, low to the ground, rumbling mightily as it turns off the highway and into the parking lot. As it comes closer, the shapes become clearer: a flamboyantly customized banana-yellow chopper trike, the front tire jutting four feet out in front of the driver. He sits on a platform no higher than 18 inches off the ground, legs extended in front of him, his body clad in a loose, tan shirt-and-pants ensemble somewhere between Carhartt work clothes and pajamas. His feet are shod in black leather sneakers with green-yellow-red African tricolor trim. Behind him, on an elevated, throne-like seat built between the two fat back tires, sits an attractive, 30-ish woman in full biker leathers. He always was good at entrances.

    Sly Stone and his lady companion, who I learn is named Shay, disembark from the chopper and walk toward the shop. He applies pink baby lotion to his hands, which I notice are huge, with elongated, tapering fingers. He's still very slim—there was never a Fat Sly period—and he does not appear frail, as several recent reports have described him. In fact, he moves rather well, especially for a 64-year-old man who's just spent time scrunched into a custom-chopper cockpit. But he has the same hunched posture he had at the '06 Grammys—a bit like Silvio Dante's in The Sopranos—and he wears a neck brace.

    We shake hands and say hello. I've heard he owns an old Studebaker, so I tell him I, too, own an old Studebaker. "Really, what year?" he says, looking up at me with a smile. He pulls two chairs together for our chat, a metal stool and an old barber's chair. As all these mundane things are transpiring, I realize I'm recording them in my mind like a doctor observing a patient recovering from brain trauma. He is aware of his surroundings. He is capable of participating in linear conversational exchanges. He is able to move chairs.

    The only strange part: he is still wearing his helmet and shades when we sit down to talk. Good lord, I'm thinking, is he going to wear the helmet the whole time? Fortunately, without my prompting, Vet says, "Why don't you take your helmet off?," and Sly obliges, revealing a backward San Francisco Giants cap.

    "Still sporting the blond Mohawk under there?" I ask.

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    the same face from Woodstock, Cavett, and the cover of Fresh. It really is Sly Stone.

    David Kamp is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.

    Chris Keeley

    John Szarkowski (1925-2007)

    John Szarkowski (1925-2007)

    "John Szarkowski, a curator who almost single-handedly elevated photography’s status in the last half-century to that of a fine art, making his case in seminal writings and landmark exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, died in on Saturday in Pittsfield, Mass. He was 81." - NY Times obituary

    Chris Keeley

    the corporations are very involved in the war machine

    They have 35,000 full-time lobbies here, like the drug companies getting all kinds of subsidies from Congress. And they have 10,000 political action committees. 

    Ralph Nader on the Candidates, Corporate Power and His Own Plans for 2008

    Monday, July 9th, 2007


    The race for the 2008 election is on, and all we hear about is the race for the money. Presidential hopefuls are vying with each other to raise tens of millions of dollars for what is projected to be the most expensive election in history. But hardly anyone is talking about where this money comes from or where it ends up. Fewer still have asked persistent questions about corporate America's grip over not just the elections, but most policy decisions out of Washington, DC.

    Today, we spend the hour with a man who has spent the last four decades doing all of this and more. I'm talking about consumer advocate, corporate critic, and three-time (will it be more?) presidential candidate Ralph Nader. We spoke with him in June at the end of a conference called "Taming the Giant Corporation." [includes rush transcript]



    • Ralph Nader, consumer advocate, corporate critic and three-time presidential candidate.
    AMY GOODMAN: The race for the 2008 election is on, and all we hear
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    Chris Keeley

    Poll: Record Support for Impeaching Bush, Cheney

    Poll: Record Support for Impeaching Bush, Cheney
    A new poll shows record public support for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. According to the American Research Group, forty-five percent of Americans would back impeachment proceedings against Bush, while fifty-four percent would back the same against Cheney. A measure to impeach Cheney has attracted nine co-sponsors since Ohio Democratic Congressmember Dennis Kucinich introduced it earlier this year.

    Sheehan Mulls Pelosi Challenge
    Meanwhile the peace mom Cindy Sheehan has announced she may run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi if Pelosi fails to introduce articles of impeachment against President Bush. Sheehan set a deadline of July 23rd -- the same day she arrives in Washington, DC from a two-week caravan starting at Sheehan’s former protest site near President Bush’s Crawford estate.

    NYT Calls for Iraq Withdrawal
    In media news, the New York Times has come out in favor of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. In an editorial published on Sunday, the Times editors write: “It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.” The Times was widely criticized in the lead-up to the Iraq war for its coverage mirroring the Bush administration’s claims on Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. 

    Al Gore: "I pledge to demand that my country join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth. I pledge to take personal action to help solve the climate crisis by reducing my own CO2 pollution and offsetting the rest to become carbon neutral. I pledge to fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without safely trapping and storing the CO2."

    Chris Keeley

    Price Cuts Paralyzing Zimbabwe Economy

    Price Cuts Paralyzing Zimbabwe Economy

    Filed at 4:01 p.m. ET

    HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- Cars no longer line up at gas stations because there's no fuel for sale. Gone are the meat, bread and cornmeal that Zimbabweans count on for their meals. Two weeks after the government ordered price cuts in response to the country's rampant inflation, the economy is coming to a standstill.

    More than 30 company executives have been arrested for hoarding goods and flouting the price cuts, and several have been fined up to $6,600, court officials said Monday. Among those rounded up were executives of a leading clothing retailer, two directors of Zimbabwe's main food distributor and fast-food chain, and the chief executive of the largest producer of pork products.

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    Chris Keeley

    Report: War Costing US $12B a Month

    Report: War Costing US $12B a Month

    Filed at 3:58 p.m. ET

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The boost in troop levels in Iraq has increased the cost of war there and in Afghanistan to $12 billion a month, and the total for Iraq alone is nearing a half-trillion dollars, congressional analysts say.

    All told, Congress has appropriated $610 billion in war-related money since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror assaults, roughly the same as the war in Vietnam. Iraq alone has cost $450 billion.

    The figures come from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which provides research and analysis to lawmakers.

    For the 2007 budget year, CRS says, the $166 billion appropriated to the Pentagon represents a 40 percent increase over 2006.

    The Vietnam War, after accounting for inflation, cost taxpayers $650 billion, according to separate CRS estimates.

    The $12 billion a month ''burn rate'' includes $10 billion for Iraq and almost $2 billion for Afghanistan, plus other minor costs. That's higher than Pentagon estimates earlier this year of $10 billion a month for both operations. Two years ago, the average monthly cost was about $8 billion.

    Among the reasons for the higher costs is the cost of repairing and replacing equipment worn out in harsh conditions or destroyed in combat.

    But the estimates call into question the Pentagon's estimate that the increase in troop strength and intensifying pace of operations in Baghdad and Anbar province would cost only $5.6 billion through the end of September.

    If Congress approves President Bush's pending request for another $147 billion for the budget year starting Oct. 1, the total bill for the war on terror since Sept. 11 would reach more than three-fourths of a trillion dollars, with appropriations for Iraq reaching $567 billion

    Chris Keeley

    Witness testifies that Spector threatened women

    Witness testifies that Spector threatened women

    By Michael Muskal
    Times Staff Writer

    12:23 PM PDT, July 9, 2007

    The murder trial of Phil Spector took a turn back to the prosecution today as a former security guard and onetime New York City police officer testified that the music producer threatened women and used obscenities to describe how they deserved to die.

    After a hearing with the jury out of the room, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler reversed himself today and ruled that Vincent Tannazzo could testify.

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