I learned today that there

I learned today that there are perhaps about 30 or 40 Jews in Iraq at this time, most of them living religiously underground. This is an incredible commentary on the resiliency of Sephardic Jews living under Arab rule, which since 1948 has been all but impossible. Before the founding of Israel there were about 100,000. It’s possible that this is one of the oldest living communities of Jews in the world — 2,700 years. Their future, like that of all Iraqis, is pretty uncertain but I wonder if the Jews’ fate is more sealed now than ever.

I was exposed tonight to

I was exposed tonight to one of the worst and most scary pieces of bad primetime entertainment I’ve ever seen: FOX Broadcasting Company’s show called Mr. Personality. It’s truly terrible but I wonder if I’m the only person in the U.S. who hasn’t yet seen it.
Here’s a synopsis:
1. The show looks as if they hired Stanley Kubrick to design a show in which colorfully masked men date a beautiful woman who apparently can see beyond the mask to the horrendous personalities lurking beneath.
2. The music and the sets looks like they were designed by The Bachelor’s ugly step-sister — it’s all creepy-weird music and cold, sad-looking nouveaux riche manse.
3. The men all drink a lot and seem to really relish their full-face masks.
4. Monica Lewinksy “hosts” the show by sitting on the couch with the bachelorette making small talk about the men who are filmed behind the scenes. Oh, she also reads off an index card during the choosing ceremony. Here’s what it says about her on the Fox website (no joke): “Monica Lewinsky graduated from Lewis and Clark College in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology. Raised in Los Angeles, Lewinsky currently lives in New York City and is considering a future career in law.” Wha’?
5. You can download printable mask posters on the website as well. No, I’m serious.

Everyone's talkin' about Seth Godin's

Everyone’s talkin’ about Seth Godin’s new book Purple Cow, which I only read parts of and which will be delivered to me momentarily by a pleasant man in a truck. I’m not sure if it’s all that, but I do know that if you buy the book before Thursday, May 15th, Seth will send you the PDF free — just go to Seth’s Blog to find out more. I’m all for free PDFs but here’s what one might do with that cool document once he sends it to you (with apologies to the Surrealists who are increasingly on everyone’s mind as well these days):
1. Use Acrobat to cut it up into 120 individual pages and send it back to him in 120 emails.
2. Read it straight through and be the first person to ever read 120 pages on a monitor in on sitting.
3. Follow his advice and get rich.
4. Sell it on eBay, which is not cool in any way at all.
5. Change every instance of “cow” to “woc” and see where you end up.

My dad was one of

My dad was one of the millions of folks that bought a Chrysler K-car in the early 1980s. The car was the worst piece of junk that Detroit every created — the thin metal hood, the tinny speakers, the half-applied paintjob, the underpowered engine, the fake dashboard. Now along comes this crazy-looking Chrysler 300C, which is really and truly beautifully designed. It has all the exterior artfulness of a 1930s sedan and the look of a really mean, though less elegant, Bentley.
I’m sure I’ll never own one. But I find it very interesting that Detroit (and also Germany) are releasing more expensive, larger, and better engineered sedans as the American economy ostensibly continues to stink (meaning less buyers) and SUVs continue to stall (meaning more buyers).

My friend and colleague Ravi

My friend and colleague Ravi SIngh has redesigned his site to even better reflect his ongoing interests, such as photography, design, weblogs, and application development. I’m always interested in seeing the organic evolution of Web design through the microscope of personal sites. Inevitably, there seems to be a design trend toward orderliness and stability, with a lot of logical interface design placed in for good measure. It’s as if all interfaces, from television to mobile phones to software to websites, are converging and design standards are being borne out. Is this a good thing? And how can we know? What are the new criteria for strong interface design? (I know you cannot answer these questions here online but I may implement a commenting board sometime soon.)

I've thought a little about

I’ve thought a little about the upcoming release of The Matrix 2.0 and why it’s attracting such a wide range of *believers,* who are fans squared, an admixture of science fiction pessimists, middle-aged children, and otherwise disenfranchised youth. A cab passed me yesterday and on top it read “This Cab Is Not Real” and it was an ad for the new movie.
My personal theory is that the social and political apparatus (the actual machinery of democracy, the activity of voting, the fact that men and women (sometimes) sit together and make policy, the planned distance between metropolitan areas and their state capitals) is so divorced from our everyday lives that it is just possible the world is run by sophisticated robots.
Wait a sec: doesn’t Hugo Weaving look a bit like George Pataki?

I found this to be

I found this to be an absolutely fascinating tool that will ostensibly test your hidden bias or biases. Essentially, the test, which takes about five minutes to go through, will look at how you perceive those different than you with regard to race, sexual orientation, age, or gender. I found the results surprising in that what they reveal about my biases is completely unpleasant.

My wife just finished reading

My wife just finished reading the brand new, out-of-the-box Meghan Daum book, The Quality of Life Report. (I really enjoyed her previous book, My Misspent Youth, but that was then, when I was younger.) Here is here what she had to say about the new book, which is to be released on May 8, 2003.
“Meghan Daum’s The Quality of Life Report will resonate for anyone who lives in New York City and dreams of greener pastures. Lucinda Trout, a 29-year-old lifestyles televison reporter with an egomanical boss, is fed up with eating tri-colored take-out pasta and living in a closet-sized studio apartment. She seizes an opportunity to move to Prairie City, a town located in an unidentified Midwestern state, imagining that life will be more relaxed and simpler, and where she will be able to broadcast her The Quality of Life Report to New York audiences. The denizens of the town are as diverse as they are down-to-earth and Lucinda quickly adapts, albeit with a New Yorker’s sense of slight superiority. In spite of her warm welcome, however, she learns very quickly that she has not solved her problems but only exchanged them for a set of more complex ones, involving Mason, the boyfriend with a serious addiction and three children by different mothers, the coldest winter the area has seen in twenty years, a freezing farmhouse that is more isolated than idyllic, and a dwindling savings account. Although the circumstances are dire, Daum doesn’t make us feel sorry for Lucinda. We like Lucinda because she meets her obstacles not so much with pluck, but with a self-deprecation and cynicism that ultimately result in an emerging self-awareness. She wins out in the end, but not without a cost. There is a lot of humor in the writing, particularly in the portrayals of the local characters whom Daum gently pokes fun at, but doesn’t satirize. The novel is highly readable, and despite the rambling ending, its ruminations on life’s changes and challenges are as thought-provoking as they are witty.”

There is a lot (a

There is a lot (a tremendous lot) of talk about the “roadmap” (is this a new diplomatic turn of phrase?) to peace in the Middle East, but I wanted to see the real thing, which is surprisingly small, clearly written, and comprehensive. It’s written by the Quartet (another new term?) of the US, EU, UN, and Russia (when will they just be called RU?). I wonder (out loud) if this is a real case of form over content or the real thing.