Friday, June 18, 2004

The War on Spyware

Just when I spent the entire week rooting out the terrorist network lodged in my two computers -- spyware, malware, and other hijack programs -- a report comes out that 1/3 of the computers out there might be infected with spyware.

Spyware sucks. Not only can these things track your browsing, certain malevolent programs can register your keystrokes and facilitate identity theft and credit card fraud.

I've been using Spybot, Bazooka, and Ad-aware to clean up my computers. Be vigilant. And as an extra precaution, don't download Kazaa, which is bundled with Spyware. Or PartyPoker for that matter.

Top 50 Magazines

Tipped by James Callan, I checked out the Chicago Tribune's just published list of top 50 magazines in English. An interesting list, though stocked with the usual suspects. But they did give props to a few of my favorites:

Seems to me the best English magazine on the planet right now is The New Yorker (ranked #6), which broke the definitive Abu Ghraib stories and continue to publish investigative pieces that put the dailies and the newsweeklies to shame. Add to that the literary ripostes from Louis Menand, occasional reports from Philip Gourevich, and fine arts reviews, and you have a magazine that has finally left the dark ages ushered in by Tina Brown.

If I must starve on a one magazine diet, I'd pick The Economist (#3) to subsist on. Many aren't thrilled with its gimme-the-free-market-or-gimme-death slant, but if you read it from cover-to-cover every week (which I aspire to, but typically don't) you'll know more about what's going on today than you will from any other weekly or monthly magazine.

A few others: I don't read the Atlantic Monthly (#17) every month, but they continue to publish the most provocative counterintuitive pieces around. The intellectual giant New York Review of Books (#36) should place higher, and I got no problems with tech bible Wired being in the top 10, though the top spot is a bit of a stretch. Entertainment Weekly's (#30) always a fun read while propped on the can (even when Owen Gleiberman is at his most detestable), and Jane's (#9) easily the most readable chick-rag for a guy.

"10 Ways to Her Scream!" and "5 Tips to Get Ripped Abs!" are headlines that never fail to grab my attention. That's probably why I often pick up the Cosmo for men, Men's Health (ranked very high at #8) at the airport for some light airplane reading. Useful guy stuff, and not as embarrassing to lug around as Maxim.

Which magazines did the Trib ignore? For one, there's a glaring shortage of provocative 'zines and design mags. Where's Adbusters or I.D., or even Wallpaper*? They leave out a whole category of the most cutting-edge publications. No hipster rags like Black Book or Flaunt. No niche zines like Giant Robot or Bitch.

Among the publications I subscribe to that missed the cut: McSweeney's one-of-a-kind The Believer, irreverent and witty musings on literary cornucopia, and essential if you like to read really good graduate school English essays. A criminal omission. Others: the movie nerd bi-monthly Film Comment, which has been going through an identity crisis, and Harper's, strong but increasingly militant.

Most appalling is the absence of the zippy, colorful Lucky, a nirvana for a few of my closest pals. Ask not what you can do for shopping, ask what shopping (and reader-friendly layouts) can do for you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Ulysses Unbound

On this day 100 years ago, Leopold Bloom, a Dublin Jew, wandered around town and met up with an intellectual kid named Stephen Daedalus. His wife Molly pined for him at home. Not much else happens.

Ranked by most literary experts alongside Proust's equally masterful In Search of Lost Time/Remembrance of Things Past as the greatest novel of the Twentieth Century, Ulysses is one of those books that has attained the reputation as one of those handful of novels anyone aspiring to cultural literacy ought to read. Like Brussel sprouts, it's good for you, and that's one reason to read it. But many people are scared off by the novel's daunting length and difficult reputation. Too bad. While it's not Grisham, Ulysses is endlessly inventive and funny. But beyond all its modernist brilliance, what stayed with me is Joyce's attention to the dreams and urges and doubts of Leopold Bloom, an ordinary Irishman, who, by force of Joyce's unsurpassed genius, becomes larger than life.

That, and all that jazz about Joyce's revolutionary use of modernist elements: the epic of the ordinary, the profuse allusions to the Western canon, the Homeric structure, the stream of consciousness, blah blah blah. You can read all about it in TNR's helpful reposting of the great Edmund Wilson's contemporaneous review of Joyce's magnum opus.

The publicity generated by this 100 year anniversary is pretty cool; it reminded me of just how amazing this novel was. Check the book out, if you haven't already.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Ben Konop coming on!

My buddy Ben Konop, running for the seat in OH-4, is really coming on. Top Dem blogger Kos reported yesterday that party insiders are high on his campaign, and I've been told that preliminary poll numbers are very promising.

It's still a steep uphill battle against bigshot Repug Mike Oxley (whose corrupt ways I wrote about here), but there's a fighting chance. I mean, if Ben's beloved Pistons can take out the Lakers...

Now if only Bob Dylan will throw a fundraiser for his biggest fan, the race will be locked up.