Japanese PM to receive President Obama

November 10, 2009

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TOKYO TOUR

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will meet with president Obama this week in Tokyo to tackle issues such as Afghanistan, the environment, and the economic crisis.

Obama has said to the Japanese public broadcasting service, NHK, that he is willing to pay his respects to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only two sites that the United States has ever used the atomic bomb against.

Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama was not reached for comment on the issue but it seems Obama is not publicizing this part of his trip.

EAST-WEST RELATIONS

Prime Minister Hatoyama was the first foreign leader to visit the Obama white house and now he has extended the same hospitality to our president.

During their meeting at the Whitehouse early 2009, Obama stressed that he wished to strengthen Japanese-American relations.

The leaders of the two largest economies will meet later this week and continue to form the bond they created in the first month of Obama’s administration.

SECURITY WITHIN ASIA

Obama has stated that America’s relationship with Japan secures the United States’ place in east-Asia.

The meeting with Hatoyama won’t be without its struggles. Secretary of State Clinton has meet with Chinese and talks with North Korea are always on the table which is not something the Japanese government readily approves of.

Most likely, Obama’s visit will center around the environment as the Copenhagen conference is the next international conference that he will be attending.

NEW INTERESTS

Not since George Bush Sr, a former ambassador to China under Nixon, have we seen a president so interested in Asia and its place in the world.

With the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq seizing most of our foreign policy attention its easy to forget how important Asia has been in the past several decades in securing world peace.

Nixon and his triangular diplomacy diffused strong cold war tensions and the trade wars of 80s between America and Japan lead to a great exchange of products and culture.

I hope that Obama will periodically focus on the marvelous potential Asia has in shaping economic and political power world wide.

 

obamajapan.jpg image by hibiscusphoto

British Economy Becoming More Optomistic

November 10, 2009

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NOT SO BLUE OCTOBER

A new London Times poll shows that Britons are more optimistic about their economy than any other time in the last 18 months.

The economy has been showing better signs in London as well with overall sales rising at their fastest increase since April and October sales having their highest street sales in seven years.

The pound reached a three month high during this new economic hill, I would not call it a peak.

SMART MONEY?

Even with this sporadic growth and a relative increase in consumer confidence, the Labour Party has proposed for a national investment corporation that will invest public money in industry and enterprise.

This proposal is a similar if a more organized and logical approach to the bail-outs that we have had in the United States.

Instead of investing in failing companies, the British are opting to support what they call “high growth and innovative” companies.

The way to determine this appropriation of public funds is still a matter of debate.

Pollsters may have found out that currently the British feel better about their economy, but that same poll confirmed that two thirds of the country still believe their country will do badly in the next year.

TEMPERED TEMPERAMENTS

England’s economic psyche maybe a little unstable but it is certainly moving in the right direction. The British Treasury is still pushing hard for billions in investment money arguing that the recovery can be a fragile process.

Does a simple upswing in morale move an economy towards a recovery or is it just cold hard numbers that solve these crises? Concordantly, is the United States bailing its economy in a smart way, by investing in failing companies rather than successful ones?

The greatest so-called capitalist power on the planet is treating its recovery process more like the witness protection program than a true investment deal.

If the American bailout uses American money maybe we should ask for a different investment, perhaps the Brits have some hot tips about the market.

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First Robot Olympics to be held in China

November 10, 2009

STEEL GOES FOR THE GOLD

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The first International Humanoid Robot Olympic Games will be held in the Chinese city of Harbin in June 2010.

The event will showcase robotics creators from around the world and will feature their creations in a competitive setting.

The games will only permit androids, or robots with human features and structure, to be entered into the games unlike the formerly popular Battlebots program on Comedy Central which featured robots with giants saws, hammers, and conveyor belts to name a few.

GAMES FOR GREATER INTELLIGENCE

Organizers of these new type of games states that this competition aims to make robots more efficient and more capable at serving humans at home. (I guess the founders of the games hadn’t heard of the Roomba, no legs but a very efficient vacuum cleaner.

16 events will be held throughout the competition including track and field and football, highly demanding games for even a human body. The robots we will see at this competition will have to have impeccable design and endurance to survive.

“BOT-LETES” FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Chinese officials estimate that more than a hundred universities will compete in the games from over twenty countries around the world. As an American, I whole heartily expect that MIT will be making an appearance in Harbin.

No specific date has been made for the International Humanoid Robot Olympic Games yet, but the artificial intelligence community is electric with its excitement.

Progress Report: Who Killed the Electric Car?

November 8, 2009

THE FUTURE WAS NOW

The 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? chronicled the strange and tragic demise of the General Motors’ EV 1 Vehicle, the first commercial plug-in electric car.

Film maker Chris Paine chronicled how GM, big oil, California politicians, and the white house all led to the demise of what should have been the future of transportation.

It was a brilliant documentary that showed how a good idea can get killed by corporate and political interests. California was the test market of the EV1, due to a strict emissions law that was overturned in 2003, and I still spot the electric vehicle charging stations when I visit home.

The ghostly remains of this environmental savior still haunt residents of California and Paine’s documentary showed this quite well. He featured extensive interviews with former EV1 drivers that showed how well affordable electric cars would work for the American public.

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It has been three years since this memorial service for the electric car, what has happened since then?

SILICON VALLEY TAKES ON DETROIT

As General Motors EV1 was on life support and its plug was getting pulled for the last time, computer engineer at founder of Network Computing Devices Martin Eberhard started the Tesla motor company.

The young entrepreneur gathered a pantheon of tech giants including Paypal co-founder Elon Musk, Google co-founders Sergey Brin & Larry Page, and former eBay President Jeff Skoll to invest heavily in the company.

Tesla Motors revolutionized the idea of who and what a motor company should be made up of. The plug-in electrics that Tesla would produce were not designed by the bigwigs in Detroit or Japan but the techies in California.

The switch from computers to an electric car was a natural one as laptops and other electronic devices had given Silicon Valley enormous experience with creating efficient battery power.

What came about was a marvel of engineering and a bold statement to the automotive community. The first car Tesla produced was not some small funny looking enviro car, it was… THE TESLA ROADSTER.

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This beast could go 0-60 in 3.9 seconds and have a 244 mile range on just one charge. Porches have failed trying to outrun this car and they don’t look this good either. The roadster runs silently and has a sleek sexy design that anyone could envy.

The speed achieved in the Tesla Roadster comes from the electric engine which runs more efficiently than the typical internal combustion engine. The torque is leaps and bounds better because a battery distributes the power far better. EV1 owners stated the same sort of jolt that one gets from driving an electric car. As Tom Hanks said on the Letterman show, “That sucker goes. You can get a ticket.”

The Tesla however is built with 2009 technology and has a far more efficient battery system than the old GM models. It has a top speed of 125 mph and everyone who has driven one has been blown away by its performance.

Founder Martin Eberhard stated in this video that you don’t have to sacrifice speed and design for fuel efficiency. He believes that this type of electric car will get people to buy electrics.

If you have the money that is, the roadster is a 100k dollar car but Tesla will be unleashing the Tesla Model S in 2011 which will be around 57,000 competing with companies such as BMW and Mercedes. Tesla will further down the line create a car to compete with more affordable cars like the Toyota Carola.

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A Better Place is another company that has emerged since the tragic death of the electric car. The company describes itself as “the global provider of vehicle services, accelerating the transition to sustainable transportation.”

Founder and CEO Shai Agassi started A Better Place to promote electric car technology but a new form of infrastructure that provides new solutions to creating efficient and environmentally friendly electric cars.

Agassi started the company after attending a World Economic summit in 2005, where global leaders were asked how can the world be a better place by 2020? His response was ultimately this company.

By implementing battery switch stations, charging stations, and EV network software that manages energy, navigation, and even customer service. Isreal, Denmark, and Australia are the first markets to sign on to Agassi’s system with Hawaii tenatively planned as well.

In the coming years we will see if A Better Place will give us a better electric car, and a better environment. PBS’s program NOW documented how A Better Place is setting up its system in Denmark.

THIS JUST IN

A video of the NXR is displayed at a news conference in Syracuse, New York on Friday.   (Photo: Adam Fenster, Reuters)

Indian electric car company Reva announced late October 2009 that it will build a plant in New York for the manufacture of three seater hatchback electric cars known as the NXR.

It will be sold in the U.S. and Japan in 2010 with broader distribution rolling out in 2012. This announcement has shown that the future of the automotive industry is in electrics.

An Indian company coming to the US with anything but an electric car would seem insane, not only has the electric movement lead to a more environmentally conscious market it is leveling out the playing field for manufacturers.

Who could think fifteen years ago that a Silicon Valley or Indian car company could be successful? The reason these companies will continue towards success is that they are moving towards a sustainable future.

GM and the other bailout companies of Detroit are still stuck wishing for their pre-Toyota days of dominance let alone looking towards alternative fuels seriously.

THE REVENGE OF THE FALLEN

With all these developments and probably more than this blog post can report, Chris Paine has announced a 2010/2011 film called Revenge of the Electric Car.

The film will document the rise of what looked like a fallen hero in the quest for an environmentally friendly world.

As Pain has written on his film blog, “electric cars are back from the dead and this time… they’re not turning back.”

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REVENGE HAS NEVER BEEN SO SWEET!

My personal tagline for the movie

A Change Of Climate

November 7, 2009

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ONE STEP CLOSER…

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has passed a Democratic climate bill through the U.S. Senate on Thursday Nov.5

The bill was written by California senator Barbara Boxer and takes a Cap and Trade approach along with new emissions standards to cut down on greenhouse gases.

The legislation requires that American industry will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse cases by 2020, from levels measured in 2005.

THE PUSH

Senate Democrats have started a self proclaimed aggressive new stage in passing legislation that will push President Obama’s agenda.

This emboldened approach to passing a comprehensive global warming bill is due to several factors. First, the two gubernatorial wins for Republicans in the special election this past Tuesday has shook up the Democratic Super Majority into taking stronger action.

Second, Obama will be attending talks on the climate crisis in Copenhagen next month and Senate Democrats want to give him legislation that he can talk about at the conference.

Lastly, Democrats faced a crushing defeat with a 2008 Senate climate change bill and this will be an attempt at a comeback from that setback.

The bottom line is that the Democrats are trying to effectively wield the majority that they have been given and climate change is one of the few avenues that they and the President want to head down.

KERRY COMPROMISE

Many analysts say that the Boxer bill will not pass a full Senate hearing and the newly senior senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry has been enlisted to rally moderates such as Arlen Spector and Joe Lieberman into supporting this bill.

Kerry was the co-author of the bill and he wishes to get Republicans to join him and Boxer in passing this new legislation that aims to reduce greenhouse gases, a goal that echoes the campaign promises of both his and the President’s campaigns.

Can Kerry motivate a very stubborn right into coming over to the left of the aisle? Obama, one of the most well received president elects in recent history has not been able to deliver that campaign promise so can Kerry, a man who lost the presidency in 2004 far better?

All he has to do is weal and deal the members of Congress which as an experienced Senator I have no doubt he can do, the problem is will the centrist and right wing senators wish to be seen co-sponsoring a Kerry Boxer climate bill?

IS BUSINESS ANTI ENVIRONMENTAL?

If the Democrats are going to want to play hard ball they have good opponents to play against, well maybe I shouldn’t say good, but at least a challenging set of naysayers and head shakers.

The Republican strategy has been to stress jobs and economics within the climate change debate going as far as having Karl Rove publish an article on the matter when Al Gore graced the cover of Newsweek recently.

Common contentions such as that of Senator James Inhofe, the senior Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, state that the strict regulation on industry will shrink the U.S. economy.

Some business leaders have responded to this common Republican talking point such as the former CEO of Paypal and current CEO of Tesla Motors, the sexy electric car company, and most vocally adventurer-billionaire Richard Branson. Here Branson and other CEOs talk about deforestation:

The video shows that even titans of industry regard things like the environment more important that corporate gains. We need to have clean air to even exchange money, let alone make it.

Branson and countries like France and Japan have shown that green technologies and infrastructures pay for themselves within a few years, with heavy investments in those technologies with profitable results. Even if you except that business only wants money than, going green should be an immediate goal of all industry.

KEEP THE HEAT ON

It is easy to want to forget about the environmental movement with the extreme hype and marketing that it received in 2007. The poor Live Aid and Live 8 clone, Live Earth was as awkward as it was long and each cable channel devoting blocks of its programming and advertising to “going green” felt opportunistic at the least and propaganda at the worst.

We need to take the climate change debate in a new direction where technology and innovation of industry is celebrated. The startup company Tesla has proven that one can be successful in creating alternative energy solutions while GE has improved its entire corporate image by building green technology.

The irony is that the energy and environmental crisis might be solved with the flick of a switch but only if we try, because then the earth may go into the dark.

 

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An Inconvenent Truth… 2 ?

November 3, 2009

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BLOCKBUSTER BOOK

The spiritual sequel to the greatest global warming documentary ever (sorry Leo the 11th Hour just didn’t do it for me) has arrived!

Its incarnation is a new book, not a film as many people expected. The documentary fanboys were gravely disappointed by the news. I guess this release rules out the former vice president and Oscar winner from becoming a Hollywood player anytime in the future.

I still have high hopes for Dick though -

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RETURN OF THE GOP

[Probably won't be a huge smash but like many producers he's at least plugging away]

SPIRITUAL MESSAGE OF A SPIRITUAL SEQUEL

All kidding aside, Al Gore’s latest book Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis takes a self reflective look at Gore’s past brand of advocacy.

Gore argues that facts alone will not motivate people to solve the climate crisis and that a spiritual argument must be made. The idea has been touched upon by the former vice president many times as he has frequently said that climate change is a “moral issue.”

This is the first time, however, the climate change advocate has acknowledged that spouting pure science will not win this devisive debate. Its a far different type of Gore than the man who several years earlier stated that science ended the debate on climate change.

Al wants to win on moral grounds now not just on the factual. He has admitted to Newsweek that “laying out the facts won’t work.”

GREEN-AGAIN

Its a strange admission from a man who won an Oscar doing just that with his slide shows around the country. Has he hit a roadblock in just laying out the facts and figures? He might need to say something different after touring the country extensively so, going on the moral road is not such a wild idea.

Could he be reacting to a common criticism that he has recieved his entire public life? Gore can be very wooden in his public persona and perhaps going with a spiritual tone would soften his image as well as his message.

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Gore has trained thousands of volunteers in taking that message and framing on moral and religious grounds, having advocates fromthe Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu faiths argue for going green.

It is possible that Gore has stumbled upon the greatest of Inconvenient Truths: humanity won’t address a problem unless religion has an issue of contention with it.

Is Al Gore turning his movement into one that ask you to “Go Green” to one that asks you to become “Green Again?”

STILL STUDYING

Al Gore isn’t trying to fight the ignorance of his adversaries with more ignorance, however. His new book has even more research from top researchers as well as more than a dozen solution summits on climate change over the past two years.

He also covers new topics such as deforestation and population control. These and other new issues serve as referrendum to some of the problems that he may not have adressed in his previous film/book/slideshow.

The new problems are also what Gore and his fellow advocates argue are demonstrative of the growing problem of climate change – that if we do not stop it now, more issues will arise.

THE EYE OF THE STORM

Gore also appeared on Katie Couric this week and gave a summary of where he sees the climate change movement heading.

The interview features some good cross examination by Couric and she raises another concept in the new “green-again” Gore strategy. She points out to Gore that Karl Rove and other GOP strategists argue that going green will lose American homes money.

Gore maybe trying to avoid the economic debate by turning it into a spiritual and philosophical one. Wars are thought of in the same way. Many times the tremendous cost to taxpayers, governments, and families are ignored because wars are thought of in moral terms.

GORE.O

Gore’s new book doesn’t raise as many questions as his new methodology. What I would like to see more than just the grassroots and spiritual brands of advocacy is a stronger Internet presence for the green movement. What is greener than a virtual campaign?

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Facebook wins $711 Million Against “Spam King” Sanford Wallace

October 30, 2009

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THE SPAM KING HAS NO CLOTHES

California federal Judge Jeremy Fogel, today, found in favor of the social networking site Facebook.com in a spam case awarding it $711 million dollars in financial damages against the well known “Spam King” Sanford Wallace.

Wallace was found in violation of the 2003 Can-Spam Act which set up harsh penalties for illegal spamming. The Spam King set the record for the highest fines for spanning when in 2003, News Corporation’s Myspace.com was awarded a $234 million settlement.

In November of 2008, Facebook won $873 million in damages against two spammers taking the record for the highest damages received under the anti-spamming laws of 2003 but the Wallace/Facebook case still holds the record for highest damages for an individual spammer.

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

Facebook.com has reaped a pretty sum with the case against Wallace although the sought a much higher sum. Originally, the social networking site’s legal team requested $7 billion in damages citing the 2003 Can-Spam act as well as the California business code as justification.

Judge Jeremy Fogel saw their figure as dramatically high and awarded the $711 million that was ultimately ruled. The ruling still made the dramatic point, that social networks are seriously cracking down against unwanted advertising.

The crackdown on these virus like advertisers, known as spammers, seems like an effort for social networks to remove ads from their sites but one look at the social networking scenes top players and one can easily see that is not the case.

POP UP BLOCKER

These two cases are nothing but Myspace and Facebook loudly proclaiming that the only ads on their site will be their ads, competition is not allowed here.

Don’t get me wrong: spamming is not only illegal, it is annoying and sometimes frustrating to deal with but, if anyone takes this case as a social networks stopping the infiltration of ads, he or she is simply wrong.

Myspace, Facebook, and other top sites in the social networking world are now thriving on ads and their agenda in recent months/years has been to cross promote products and other media rather than enhance the user experience.

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The home page of Myspace in recent years is literally a sea of advertising, and just finding the log in station is a chore.

Facebook.com has teamed up with Google Analytics using a system, that some call Orwellian, that reads your web searches and advertises directly to your preferences.

Video content on sites like Hulu and now Youtube have embedded ads that require you watch them in order to view the program you have selected.

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Any website that wishes to operate on ad revenue needs to have many pages and have its users constantly clicking, social networks by design follow this format.

Inhibiting the movement with mandatory ads slows down a user and will make them see less advertising.

Users are always moving between pages and in the process, are getting hit with ads. If these sites want to make money the focus should be on speed not slowing us down with commercials.

A REASONABLE QUESTION

If organizations like Facebook can get so enraged about unwarranted advertising on their pages, what about the users’ feelings about facebook’s advertising.

What if we don’t like the constant, invasive ads creeping on or on the side of our daily home pages?

A social network is defined by its users and has a democratic streak to its core. Websites like facebook and myspace are only as powerful as its user base. Networking allows every individual with a computer to have a small slice of the net to their own perspective.

If Facebook and Myspace can get these large settlements against spammers maybe we can humbly request that the analytic advertising can be toned down.

I would rather deal with spam that even a six year old can tell is advertising than have to deal with Facebook’s ever increasing user customized ads.

THE DIFFERENCE?

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One of the main reasons, a whole generation of media consumers left television and traditional media was that they could have control over the content that they watched or read over the Internet. If we have to go through a mountain of mandatory ads and flash based advertising that sometimes distracts users from important news, then what is the difference?

Social Networks should focus more on making a user’s experience better and with that goal in mind the ad revenue will come. The more profiles, pages, and forums are clicked on the more ads people will see.

Bombarding the flow of information with commercials will just turn users off, making them flock to another site before its corrupted with corporate greed.

I’m not advocating that sites like Myspace or Facebook should abandon their business plans and be pro-bono but they shouldn’t abandon their role as an information and social host. The time when ads block that flow, is the time when they have stopped being social networks.

Google has enhanced their users’ experiences without inhibiting their sessions with 15 minutes of ads. The settlement against Wallace has helped users avoid the ad clutter. However, we must not ignore the efforts of social networks themselves to move in this direction. As users we must take a stand that both spamming and restrictive advertising is not ok.

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Internet to Incorporate Domain Names in Non-Latin Characters

October 30, 2009

EUN_5340 by icannphotos.

SOME NEW CHARACTERS

ICANN also known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers approved the use of Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, and other non-Latin characters in domain names for the world wide web.

The decision came from the non-profit organization on October 30, 2009, after extensive debate in Seoul, Korea over how to make Internet more inclusive to the global community.

The incorporation of non-western characters has been proposed for years and ICANN states that it has previously tested domain names in other scripts but this is the first time that they have been approved for public use.

Websites with Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese characters should be appearing by mid-November according to ICANN officials. These three scripts will come first as they are the top three markets for Internet use.

GLOBAL, MAYBE NOBLE?

Since 1987, when they were created, domain names had been limited to western characters and the ten numerical digits. Users who did know the English alphabet had to use external programs, special keyboards, and or browser plugins to search the web in their respective languages.

The domination of English throughout the Internet led many scholars and political scientists to contend that the world was moving in the direction of a unified language.

Futurist and acclaimed author Michio Kaku saw the Internet and its western centric language as a move towards a world or “type one” civilization.

This landmark decision may buck the trend that many writers and scholars have seen in the past ten years. The incorporation of new alphabets into domain names and, inevitably, Internet script will allow different cultures and countries to maintain their unique language.

However, with the strong incorporation of English already in the digital world it is hard to say how and when this decision will affect the online community.

A WHOLE NEW WORLD

One impact that will most likely come from this change is that a whole new audience of users will have access to the Internet. ICANN’s move towards newer alphabets means that more people will be able to use the web. Individuals who may have not had an education in the English language can join the online community.

The ideal of the Internet is a forum where all nations and peoples can converge and share information. Breaking down this western centric language barrier will potentially allow the web to move in this direction.

The move away from English websites may have other lobbies behind it, however.

THE GREAT FIREWALL

Authoritarian governments such as Iran and most notably China have been working to stop the infiltration of western websites into their respective countries.

News services, social networks, and any website that covers a topic of contention is blocked by intricate systems of firewalls and net nannying.

The elimination of western alphabets is one more step away from the content that threatens authoritarian systems like Communist China. The proliferation of a Chinese alphabet automatically pigeon holes Chinese users away from Western websites.

Instead of trying to block every deemed “anti-communist” website, this new system would make many of those websites simply unsearchable. The west wouldn’t have to exist.

The Atlantic writer James Fallows stated, “In America, the Internet was originally designed to be free of choke points, so that each packet of information could be routed quickly around any temporary obstruction. In China, the Internet came with choke points built in.”

Could this sudden move away from the English alphabet be a conscious lobby by authoritarian governments so that they can create another choke point of information?

INFO WARS

We do not know the influence that China or any government has on ICANN but we do know that the decision will transform the dynamics of global web use. Inevitably when talking about the world and the world wide web, censorship needs to be discussed.

Government and corporate powers exist that work to stifle the proliferation of a free and open source of information. We must fight to save the ideal of the Internet that this decision is trying to achieve, a global communications tool for all.

Government censorship and, even more wide-spread, economic censorship has prevented millions from using the web. ICANN’s decision to use a wider array of language should make the web and the flow of information more free but we should remain diligent in the protection of free speech.

The post modern digital age has seen a new wave of free flowing information but with that opportunity there is great potential for consolidation of information.

The quest for monolithic power over our information will ultimately fail because the human condition can not allow it. As individuals we interpret the world, the way we want to. No entity of power can take that right away. Let us move in the direction of freedom, one byte at a time.

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A Trip To Daddy-O NYC

October 29, 2009

A DOC AND A DRINK

My girlfriend and I head down to the IFC center in the East Village on many weekends in order to see independent and cult films such as the Holy Mountain or the Shining. The price of admission is exactly the same as some of the other movie houses in Manhattan but I feel far better supporting an independent theater like the IFC with my twelve dollars versus an AMC that most likely charges less in other cities.

On our last visit I realized that the IFC center was in close vicinity to a bar and grill that I had been meaning to try for some time. The venue was Daddy-O and I had heard of this gastro-pub on the video podcast Art of the Drink.

THE GARNISH IS A… PRETZEL STICK!

The podcast featured the bar as a backdrop for several episodes of the instructional drink show and the venue didn’t make that much of an impact on me with the exception of one of their featured cocktails. That drink was the Daddy-O Rootbeer Float. An amazing fusion of the kid and party animal in us all.

Before planning our excursion to the IFC and Daddy-O I mentioned to my girlfriend that I had seen the Rootbeer Float episode and as I was describing this drink, my voice got increasingly louder until I reached my crescendo and stated that “The garnish is, can you believe it, a pretzel stick!”

My speech definitely hyped us up and we ultimately decided to go the very next day. The Daddy-O Rootbeer float would be our first order but what else would we find at this east side bar?

Learn how to make the PRETZEL STICK drink here

[please note that Daddy-O uses Sazerac Rye instead of Maker's Mark Bourbon which is a sponsor of Art of the Drink. I personally believe the Sazerac worked pheonomally well probably due to the spice notes of both the rye and the rootbeer]

BRING SOME LOUD FRIENDS

The IFC center was great as always that night and we walked several avenues over and we barely caught our destination. Daddy-O has a very unassuming location on the corner of Bedford and Leroy. The entrance had a cool but simple sophistication to it, the blinds were half drawn and the gold lettering on the door was reminiscent of a town barbershop.

The ambiance as we entered was casual but very nice. It would make a nice place for one to catch up with a loud friend or two. The music was spectacular with a great blend of classic and contemporary cuts. On a second visit to Daddy-O, I had the pleasure of listening to a Who playlist the entire night with many obscure alternate and live takes of some of their older numbers – that definitely scored some points for me.

Upon entering the place and after further investigation, you realize that Daddy-O has all the appeal of a dive bar but without the jager bombs and clueless staff behind the stick. Its a new age pub that marries together the new Cocktilian/gastro movement with a casual down to earth feeling. A venue with lofty ambitions without being pretentious

GIVE ME SOME OF YOUR TOTS NAPOLEON!

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We went to Daddy-O based on the reputation of the drinks but when I sat down I was immediately hungry. The kitchen stayed upon till 4 am remarkably and the had some great daily specials. My girlfriend especially loved the “homemade tomato soup with grilled cheese toast points” special they had that night.

I decided to order the house burger which, online, is hotly debated. I heard everything from it being the greatest burger in Manhattan to being an overrated expensive meal. I was feeling particularly jovial and I decided to take a chance.

Besides, I had already given the most overrated burger title to Island Burger on 9th ave. To this day, I have not had a burger that I felt was as big a waste of money as that monstrosity of toppings but that’s another review.

The burger came out fairly quickly and I was so psyched to try it with tater tots on the side. I have never been a big fry person and tater tots just made this a special treat. The burger was a perfect composition of everything one wants in a restaurant style patty. It was big and juicy but still, relatively, easy to handle.

The bun. lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, and sauce gelled well and, even though I am not a fan of ketchup on burgers, the ketchup worked well and I actually enjoyed it. This is by far the best restaurant style burger in New York City, that being said, if you want that style of burger, the price isn’t going to be five dollars. One should savor this burger on the kind of day that where you feel the need to treat yourself to some meaty goodness

THE FLOAT AND THE FIZZ

Ah yes! The Rootbeer float, how did it fair, after so much hype? It was better than any podcast could have portrayed it. As I said earlier the incorporation of the Sazerac was a welcome surprise and rounded out the drink perfectly. The bar has a great affection for whiskey cocktails and it was refreshing to see rye on a menu, especially in a drink as spectacular as this.

The drink was served in a tall pilsner glass with cream and that glorious pretzel stick cascading over it like a set of majestic snow topped mountains. The first sip was a taste explosion with the flavors of the dairy, raspberry, rye, and rootbeer all dancing on your palate to the beat of the carbonation. The Coole Swan dairy liqueur really held the flavors together and I think mixologists will have to investigate this new spirit closer.

My girlfriend and I finished the float quite fast but while it lasted it was an awesome accompaniment to the house burger. The whole experience felt like being in a speakeasy soda shoppe that your parents didn’t know about.

We finished off our night with a Sloe Gin Fizz for myself and a Brown Derby for my love. The Sloe Gin Fizz at Daddy-O was the first time I had tried this drink and I absolutely loved it. The problem many bars have with egg drinks is that either too little or too much egg is used (many a pisco sour has been ruined by this problem) and this drink found a great balance.

The Brown Derby was another classic cocktail that had great execution while showing Daddy-O’s penchent for all things whiskey. I highly recommend this new age pub. If you don’t want to deal with the pretentiousness of places like Hotel Delmano or Death & Company but still want to have well crafted drinks and delicious food, check out Daddy-O. DON’T FORGET TO GET A PRETZEL STICK!

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The Manhattan Cocktail Classic

October 28, 2009

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME

All avenues of fandom and fanaticism have their holy temples. As aficionados geeks of al kinds need to make at least one pilgrimage to their own respective Meccas. It is that fundamental human need for joining a greater collective or cause.

Hobbyists and the self proclaimed fan boys of any interest whether it is film or football seek the freedom to express themselves without fear or judgment that is why trekkies have their conventions and every man who dresses like Dr. Frankenfurter has his midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show.

DIGITAL DRINKING

Until recently, the culture of cocktilians, mixologists, and drink nerds has purely been a virtual one with blogs acting as vibrant forums of interaction and discussion. The blogosphere spearheaded the modern cocktail revolution demanding a return to fresh flavors, well balanced compositions, and time honored techniques. The virtual community of mixed drink fanboys lifted the cocktail back to a place of culinary status in our society.

If sites like Robert Hess’s Drinkboy.com and Gary Regan’s Ardentspirits.com hadn’t channeled the passions of thousands of other cocktail enthusiasts we may never have seen long lost classics like the Last Word and the Aviation cocktail returning to bar menus. [Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh dedicates a great section in his book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails to the impact of the blogosphere on the drinking culture. It even comes with some great profiles of many of those writers].

“HAPPY TALES!”

It looked like mixology would remain a purely digital culture, outside the barroom, until one event in New Orleans started to dramatically rise in popularity. Tales of the Cocktail was the first and only cocktilian convention. In 2009 a hundred thousand people descended onto the French Quarter according to the Liquid Muse.com. The event each year in July holds seminars, parties, competitions, concerts, tastings, and even an awards show.

Dale Degroff author of The Essential Cocktail and founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail stated at Tales that he sees the future of mixology as not just bartenders putting avocados and basil into their drinks but bartenders fostering a sense of a greater bartending community. What would be the next step in fostering this community? Why not create an event like Tales of the Cocktail in the cradle of the whole bartending scene, New York City?

NEXT STOP: MANHATTAN

Gotham was the city with the first famous bars and mixologists hosting legendary hotels and even larger the life figures such as Jerry Thomas (the man who wrote the very first bartenders guide in 1862. New York led the golden age during the late 19th century and early 20th century sharing sours, slings, flips, and fixes with travelers from around the world. The city’s speakeasies during prohibition kept the craft alive and in the artificially flavored wasteland of the 70s and 80s venues like the Rainbow Room squeezed fresh juices and kept flavors honest.

Today, the new mixology renaissance’s capitol is New York. Gotham bars such as PDT with its bacon infused old fashioned, Pegu Club with its champagne take on the Mojito known as the Old Cuban, and Death & Company with is next generation gin zombie known as the Winchester have all changed the face of contemporary bartending. New York would be a natural fit for a new cocktail congregation and for me the perfect opportunity to dive head first into the cocktail culture.

READY, STEADY, GO?

The event would be in May 2010 over a period of five days with a preview weekend in October 2-4 2009. The preview week would take place at Astor Center and be composed of seminars taught by the world’s leading mixologists, lectures in New York’s greatest bars, and a final party at the New York Public library in midtown Sunday night.

I first picked David Wondrich’s class “History of the Cocktail in New York, 1810-1920.” I had read his book Imbibe! over the summer and his expertise as a cocktail historian is unmatched.I then went with Audrey Sanders and Gary Regan’s “Unparalleled Gin Palaver.” I had a running challenge with my girlfriend that I could not make a gin drink she would like. I was hoping the gin queen herself, Audrey Sanders, could give me some new weapons in my arsenal to tackle that challenge.

PERIOD I: PROFESSOR WONDRICH

I entered the doors of “History of the Cocktail, 1810-1920” and I was immediately seated at a table with connoisseurs and journalists while getting handed a Holland Gin Cocktail in what was a beautiful lecture hall overlooking St. Mark’s place. I took one sip and one look around and I knew I had found my church. Wondrich’s sermon was a wonderful and fanciful affair with anecdotes about the how Gotham shaped not only American drinking habits but the world.

The seminar was what the event was all about- highlighting the contributions New York had made to the bartending scene. As Wondrich said, “the Cocktail stands as first among equals. If there’s something about a quick jolt of ice-cold, mixed up boozy deliciousness that’s essentially American, then its quintessentially New York.”

No amount of reporting can do the seminar justice but its fair to say that Wondrich has great enthusiasm and class about him. He really takes you back to an era that seems so removed from our time and yet shows it to us in a down to earth manner. During the seminar he mixed up five drinks and as I disclosed earlier, I did not have any breakfast, so I was, unlike most of the attendees, drinking accurately in the nineteenth century style.

Wondrich stated in his class that drinking started out as a breakfast activity (I did not want to be this historically accurate however). At fist I thought that perhaps we were expected to imbibe of all five drinks – an avenue that surely would have killed me – but luckily I started to notice that everyone was relatively moderate on their consumption.

The drinks were passed out as Wondrich described them, although at first the audience was humorously a drink ahead of him. It was quite special to sip while he explained the history and nuance of these concoctions, many of which were quite simple by design but with its lush history and bold flavors took on a whole new dimension. Reproduced are the five cocktails that he made for the class:

Willard’s Gin Cock-tail (ca. 1820)

Muddle 1 lump Demerara sugar and a shade of Stoughan’s Bitters in ½ oz water

Add 2 oz of Bols Genever and stir

Add a large lump of ice and stir again

Grate a little nutmeg over the top

[This one was a slow sipper and a close favorite of the whole. This is basically a primitive Genever old fashioned but it’s in that simplicity that this drink really shines. This will probably be the only time I get to try a batch of Stoughan’s Bitters and at the end of this cocktail I was very grateful to try them]



Jerry Thomas’s Fancy Brandy Cocktail (ca. 1850)

Stir with cracked ice:

2 oz Martell VSOP cognac

1 teaspoon rich simple syrup

½ teaspoon Grand Marnier

2 dashes of Fee’s Whiskey-Barrel bitters

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, twist swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top, rub it around the rim of the glass and drop it in

[This cocktail, in the traditional sense of the word, was such a happy contradiction. It was the first time I had actually had cognac, a big ticket item for a poor college student, but it was served in what looked like a plastic container for salad dressing. I loved this Jerry Thomas composition so much though that it was the only cocktail I completely finished. Try this with Bols Genever or finely aged Demerara of Martinique rum – the beauty in the Jerry Thomas cocktails was the interchangeability of spirits and experimenting with this can be quite fun. Make sure to use a small glass that holds no more than 4 oz]


Manhattan Club Manhattan (ca. 1870)

Stir with cracked ice

1 ½ oz Rittenhouse rye

1 ½ oz Martini and Rossi red vermouth

1 dash orange bitters

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and twist a swatch of thin cut lemon peel over the top.

[I never received this one but I did observe other audience members imbibe of this Gotham classic. The general consensus was that this was a wet Manhattan, perhaps too wet for many people's tastes. I personally like wetter martini style cocktails so I'm still disappointed I didn't get to weigh in on this drink]



Weeper’s Joy (ca. 1890).

Stir with cracked ice:

1 oz absinthe

1 oz Martini & Rossi red vermouth

1 oz Kummel

1 barspoon Grand Marnier

Strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top.

[This drink was what Dave called the "weird one." It certainly was an eye opener! As one can see from the recipe, the absinthe lead the drink but it did not overpower the other players in this drink. The Kummel and sweet vermouth balance out the green fairy's bite with the Grand Marnier adding a lovely boozy sweetness to the bunch. Wondrich stated that this cocktail would have been a lot drier if the absinthe sponsor of the night made a drier product - no doubt a shot at the sweetness of Pernod's products. ]


Modern Cocktail (ca. 1910)

Stir with cracked ice

1 oz Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch

1 1/2 oz Plymouth Sloe Gin

1/4 oz lemon twist

1/4 oz 1:1 simple syrup

1 dash absinthe

1 dash orange bitters

Strain into chilled cocktail glass and add a cherry.

[The last drink of the class was not entirely memorable. The Modern Cocktail was announced as a combination of scotch and Plymouth sloe gin so, when I received it, I was expecting some pretty bold flavors. The sloe gin came through immediately but I did not pick up any of the smokiness I thought I would get from the scotch. I didn't really get much of the Johnnie Walker on my palate even after several sips. The whisky was a blended product so a more toned down flavor should be expected but I still fell as if I was robbed of an exciting scotch cocktail. You may want to play with the ratios on this one or just think of it as a nice sloe gin drink]


PERIOD II: PROFESSORS SANDERS AND REGAN

This is where the Cocktail Classic started feeling less like a university lecture hall and more like a party. As the audience entered the room Gary and Audrey were dancing merrily about the room and the feeling from everyone, even after a day of boozing was pure electricity. I got a great table up front and before the lecture even started tables were laughing and chatting about how great the days festivities had been so far.

I think the room had such a fun feeling to it because it was the last lecture of the event and everyone had realized what a big hit the preview week had been. We were all so excited for what would come next and in many ways this class had the sense of accomplishment and celebration – we really did it, we just had the greatest cocktail event in Manhattan so, before you head home let’s have one last good time.

This seminar really was a good time. It was the biggest congregation of personal icons I had ever been too. In one room I was with Robert Hess, Charlotte Voissey, Audrey Sanders, and Gary Regan. It was a veritable pantheon of mix masters.

I introduced myself to Mr. Hess before the lecture started and he was very friendly. I thanked him for his series “The Cocktail Spirit” and everything I had learned from him. I also urged him to do more episodes on tiki drinks and Audrey loudly proclaimed “Yes! He should.” –This was going to be awesome

Audrey Sander’s section of the lecture was clear and simple: certain gins work better in certain cocktails. Her point was an extremely valuable one and demonstrated quite well with the cocktails she selected. She even provided two types of Maraschino liqueurs to compare in the delicate Aviation cocktail.

She prepared us three gin cocktails: the Aviation, the Last Word, and the Jasmine advocating for a soft gin (Plymouth), strong gin (Tanqueray), and citrusy gin (Beefeater) in each of the respective cocktails.

Gary or, as he is now known, “Gaz” Reagan covered the new western gins that don’t necessarily follow the juniper lead, London dry style. He praised Aviation gin and G’vine gin saying that if its not technically a gin “to hell with it.” His new book the Bartender’s Gin Compendium contains many recipes with these new western gins.

Hendrick’s was also mentioned and Charlotte Voisey, brand champion for Hendrick’s, was kind enough to come on stage and talk about a Hendrick’s cocktail that was featured at the end of the lecture.

Gaz was quite a gas and his British bulldog persona was charming and funny. He played well of off Audrey and he didn’t hesitate butting heads with her and audience members. When I asked a question he even called me a lady! I assured him that it was ok, and that after an event like this anyone will start to look good.

Presented are my top three favorites from this lecture along with their recipes (This was such a hard decision as so many of the drinks served during this seminar were absolutely stunning):

1004091742-00.jpg picture by boomboxatm

G, G & G

Adapted from a recipe by Ago Perrone, Connaught Hotel, London

1 oz G’Vine Nouaison

1 oz Galliano L’Autentico

1 oz pink grapefruit juice

2 dashes Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6

1 grapefruit twist, as garnish

Stir over ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Add the garnish.

Jasmine

1 1/2 oz Beefeater Gin

1/4 oz Cointreau

1/4 oz Campari

3/4 oz lemon juice

Shake with cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass

Aviation

2 oz Plymouth Gin

1/2 oz Maraska Maraschino Liqueur

1/2 oz lemon juice

Till We Meet Again…

I absolutely loved this event and I cannot wait to attend the full event in May 2010. I’m hoping I will get to meet even more of my personal bartending idols such as Beachbum Berry, come on you know that New York is in store for a tiki revival and I think the bum is just the man for the job. Dale Degroff was at the preview event but I missed his class by a couple of hours. I hope that he comes back in May as he is probably the best teacher for mixology out there. The sky is the limit for this new event and I hope that I can get involved with it in the future.

Here’s to seeing you in May 2010 -CHEERS!






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