Archive for January 19th, 2004

Walk Like an Egyptian

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The
Dowbrigade attempts to stay on top of fashion….

PARIS (AFP) – British designer John Galliano, the golden boy of Christian
Dior, brought ancient Egypt back to life for the Paris fashion crowd,
offering a dazzling couture collection for spring-summer 2004.

Galliano — who drew inspiration from his recent visit to Cairo, Luxor and Aswan
– offered a slim silhouette for next summer, building cor sets into skin-tight
embroidered floor-length dresses bedecked with fur and feathers.

As strains of the Bangles’ 1980s classic "Walk Like an Egyptian" blared
out over the sound system, models paraded down the catwalk in a series of glittering
gold gowns in silk tulle or sexy snakeskin leather.

from APF

Write Your Own Caption

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Europe Approaches True Lord of the Rings

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January 19, 2004 – Undeterred by the spectacular failure of their
Beagle Martian
explorer, which lost contact with controllers during the descent to the
surface of the Red Planet, the European Space agency is preparing for
a descent onto one of the moons of Saturn.

This time next year, ESA’s Huygens spaceprobe
will be descending through the
atmosphere
of
Titan,
Saturn’s
largest
moon,
becoming the first spacecraft
to land on a body in the outer Solar System.

Earlier this month, the giant ringed planet Saturn was closer to
Earth than it will be for the next thirty years. All the planets
orbit the
Sun as if on a giant racetrack, travelling in the same direction but
in different lanes.

Those in the outer lanes have further to travel than those on the inside
lanes. So, Earth regularly "laps”’ the further planets. On New Year’s
Eve 2003, Earth overtook Saturn, drawing closer than at any time in
the next three decades.

from the European
Space Agency

Wakeup Call – Time to Change Careers

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(photo from Marc
ter Bogt
)

London’s Daily Telegraph today published a scathing indictment of the
Dowbrigade’s chosen profession. Within the much maligned and downtrodden
field of Education, the teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages
(ESOL or ESL or EFL) is held in particularly low repute. Reading this article
filled the Dowbrigade with self-loathing, and made us realize we are really
the lowest of the low, the scum of the earth, and a member of
a
peripatetic
and pariah-like
Fraternity
of
the Damned.  Who knew?

The Dowbrigade fell into the Field of Teaching English to Foreigners
when, while researching a Master’s Thesis at the Institute of Latin American
Studies at the University of Texas, in the field of Physical Anthropology,
entitled "Differences in Birth Weights
Between
Babies Born
in the Coast,
the Mountains and the Jungles of Peru, and their Implications for Pre-Natal
Nutrition," he fell in love.

Quickly despairing of finding work in Peru as a Physical Anthropologist,
the Dowbrigade took the only job available for a Gringo walk-on in much
of latin America – teaching English.  25 years later, after teaching
stints at Harvard and Boston University as well as a stretch as the English
Department Chair at the Espiritu Santo University in Ecuador, we figure
it’s time to move on.  Here
are some of the reasons why….

The job is tedious, the salary appalling and the prospects nil. Sebastian
Cresswell-Turner laments that ‘no one with a scrap of ambition’ would
choose to teach English as a foreign language

So while teaching English is fine if you want to spend a year abroad,
and great for meeting pretty foreign girls, considered as a career
that might offer some degree of professional fulfillment, it fails
on every count. No one with a scrap of ambition can possibly consider
it. As the philosopher Alain de Botton says: "You become a TEFL
teacher when your life has gone wrong."

Some TEFL slaves have been so thoroughly defeated that they don’t
even realise what has happened to them. I can sniff out the "lifers" a
mile off . . . scruffy figures, utterly out of synch with the modern
world, any style or sex-appeal they once possessed squeezed out of
them by years of drudgery, exploitation and poverty.

Geez, we hadn’t realized what scum we were until The
Telegraph
woke
us up. As we prepare to drag our sorry ass back into the classroom tomorrow,
after being off on paid inter-session since December 19, to begin an
exhausting 6-week semester of 5-hour teaching days, followed by three
more months
of paid vacation, we are seriously considering taking Mom’s advice and
getting a "real" job…..

from the Telegraph of London

Channel Z Meets Channel Dean

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As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination
heats up, it is becoming increasingly clear to the Dowbrigade that what
you see is NOT what you get.  The mainstream media, which built
Howard Dean up into an unlikely but refreshing frontrunner, has now turned
on the good doctor, and seems determined to tear him down as expeditiously
as they built him up.

This is fine with us, as it seems to have shaken Dean out of the pusillanimous
pandering of the media which we witnessed first-hand earlier this winter.  At
a Dean "Town
Meeting
" in a small town in New Hampshire, the candidate
was, as was his habit at that stage of the campaign, taking questions
from the audience after finishing his stock stump speech.

A Blogger in the audience (not one of our acquaintances) asked him for
his opinion on the lack of diversity in the media, and whether he supported
an increased role for the "independent media" (Blogs).  Dean’s
answer was an excellent example of the artful dodge; he stated his support
for generic diversity and said that was why he opposed the repeal of
FCC regulations limiting the number of media outlets a single corporate
entity
could control in any one media market. And then he quickly moved on,
avoiding the heart of the issue – the monopolistic stranglehold on the
national attention span exerted by a
small and largely
unknown
group of media moguls backed by the economic clout of the same groups
running the economy and the national government.

Happily, Dean’s reluctance to bite the hand that, at that point of the
campaign, was feeding his growing momentum has waned as the feeding has
turned to baiting, and the media has turned to tearing down what it had
just built up.  Lately we have been reading that Dean is now lumping
"Big Media" in with "Corporate Interests" and "Washington Insiders" in
his own personal axis of evil.

It has been a curious dynamic to watch. Every time Dean took another step
closer to the center of power, the laurel wreath of the Consecrated Candidate,
he seemed to take two steps backward in his righteous indignation quotient.
  Every endorsement he picked up from a traditional politician,
the less he seemed like the maverick iconoclast who could effectuate real
change in the political process. Now, as his poll numbers continue to
shrink Howard is running back to his
roots
-
the
outsiders
and independents who got him started and still conform the core of his
constituency.

His latest move is a real stunner.  By seeking out the counsel
of Dave Winer,
Internet visionary and RSS evangelist, he is taking a bold step towards
realizing the real potential of Cyberspace in the American
political landscape.  For months now Dave has been dispensing timely
and insightful advice to all of the candidates on his perennial platform,
Scripting News.  Now, apparently,
someone is ready to listen, and to put his dictums into practice. That
someone is Howard Dean, or at
least some influential advisors to the candidate himself.  And now
Dave gets a sterling opportunity to strut his stuff.

Dave and the Deanies’ first move is an innovative effort to create and
distribute a
really useful RSS feed
– not one which will just endless repeat the
main story line the campaign wants to propagate at any particular time,
but
one which will include "everything everyone involved with the campaign
needs to know". Channel
Dean
will not just about Howard Dean, but about
all of the candidates, the campaign overall, how it is being covered
by the
media
and how it
is being received by the public. This has the potential to be something
very original and important, and is available now for anyone interested,
inside or outside of the campaign.  The
RSS feed is here
, so check it out, and if you like what you see,
add it to your aggregator.

Whether this will make a difference in the current campaign remains
to be seen, and that’s why American presidential politics is such a fascinating
spectator sport. What Dave and the Dean people want to do is to turn
it into a participatory
sport,
and that would be truly revolutionary.

Personally, the Dowbrigade has been wavering between supporting Dean,
Kerry (a traditional politician who strikes us as a person of integrity,
at least) and doing what we have done in the past several elections -
seeking out some crackpot fringe candidate who reflects our attitude
towards the Romanesque circus our presidential politics have become.

But as it looks more and more like the Rove/Cheney team has the game
wrapped up before kickoff, we are leaning more and more towards letting
Dean be the one to fight the good fight and get creamed.  Frankly,
we are more impressed with the Dean campaign than the man himself,
but maybe that’s a good thing.  Even an unsuccessful Dean campaign
could serve as an instructive essay into how the existing system can
be hacked,
undermined,
jimmied or bypassed to let in a little fresh air, and increase the possibility
that someone truly visionary who fully "gets it" will stand a chance
to go all the way at some point in the future.