Month: June 2005

Online Seduction 

Losers can now strike out at home

From the people that brought you AXE, the men’s body spray that is sure to get the ladies attention, we now have Mojo Master, an online game developed by Wild Tangent, in which you attempt to seduce 100 3D girls, including Tiffany Fallon, 2005 Playboy Playmate of the Year.

No more humiliation in front of your friends at a bar-you can now pick up virtual women at home, in your underwear if you’d like, just like you’ve secretly always wanted to do at a bar.

The game designers have applied theories of male/female interaction from expert studies of seduction for you to navigate. If you successfully “seduce” all 100 you become … the Mojo Master. Each girl is derived from a personality matrix and you must use the “moves” you learn along the way to bag ’em. You can build your own persona with clothes and “bling,” then work your way through 28 venues in seven cities. But wait, there’s more. This fall you’ll be able to compete with other “playas” live, online.

Just how did we come to this? Well, as the advertising industry continues to seek out unique ways to reach the young men and women in our society that have stopped reading newspapers and watching TV, companies find new ways to introduce their products. You can bet that at some point in the game, you’ll have to use the new AXE Unlimited body spray to attract the ladies. Oh, and that fragrance makes those “brazenly gorgeous 3D-rendered girls” swoon.

Strangely, it isn’t just about making the “move.” A device called a “Seduction Compass” describes girls using five elements: light, fire, earth, ice and shadow. Each represent the different physical and mental types exhibited by the game’s ladies, just like in real life.

As “playas” master their “moves,” they collect phone numbers of girls and add them to his personal mobile phone book. (T-Mobile, take note).

You can play Mojo Master online at


The Independents Day Issue 

Celebrating those who fight against a homogeneous world

Independence. What does it mean? It means separate and apart from-not the same. In America, we are seeing less and less of it. As every new look-alike subdivision gets built, a cookie-cutter set of businesses establish themselves on the high-traffic intersections; chain gas stations, chain fast food, chain coffee shops, chain upscale dining, chain retail … it’s all the same. Travel to any other city in America and look in the sections of town that have been built in the last 10 years and you’ll be hard pressed to tell if you are in Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta or Richmond.

Independent businesses, the backbone of our country are disappearing. And with them, the middle class. As each new big-box store like Best Buy, Home Depot or Wal-Mart opens on the outskirts of town, residents flock to their shelves for those “low, low prices.” You can’t blame people. The value of a dollar has dropped so low, people need to save every penny they can.

These huge corporate retailers have such economic might they can set the prices they will pay for goods. If manufacturers cannot afford to make them at what companies like Wal-Mart want to pay, the implied solution they offer is to move manufacturing jobs overseas or go out of business.

With businesses closing in America and manufacturing jobs moving overseas, it becomes even more necessary to buy what we need at those “low, low prices.” It’s a vicious cycle, and it isn’t just manufacturing. The white-collar, professional middle-class jobs are moving to lower-labor-cost countries as well. This is the new global economy.

The executives of these mega-stores argue that jobs are created as new stores open in cities at the rate of one or more per day. This is true, but they aren’t the same wages that were there before. The wages are often below what is considered a living wage, forcing local and state governments to pick up the tab for the increased need for social services. This, after local governments have welcomed companies with open arms, giving tax breaks and low cost land as incentives to open.

Every aspect of American culture is in danger of being swallowed by corporate interest. How many independent gas stations do you see anymore? Radio stations? Television? Movie theaters? Book stores (new, not used)? Record stores? Office equipment and supplies? Clothing? Shoes?

These megastores aren’t just about controlling market share in a community, wiping out the independents who cannot afford to compete. They cannibalize each other with just as much zeal. Last year, Toys ‘R’ Us realized it was futile to compete against Wal-Mart for toys and announced it was going to get out of toys and focus on its Babies ‘R’ Us division.

In his 2005 book, The United States of Wal-Mart, John Dicker writes, “There is a war going on. Pitched battles between the forces of economic progress and quality of life, between preserving regional identity and national homogeneity, and between the all-important low prices and the dignity of the American worker are beginning to coalesce into an all-out war to define the modern era. And Wal-Mart is winning.”

Wal-Mart is easy to pick on. It’s the biggest, after all. But while you’ve known that for years, they’ve continued to get bigger, happily and quietly growing fat on the lower and middle classes. Dicker points out in his forward that today not only is Wal-Mart the largest corporation in the world, it is the largest retailer (four times larger than it’s nearest competitor, Home Depot), the largest grocer, owns the world’s largest trucking fleet, is the world’s largest jeweler ($2.3 billion annually), is the largest private employer in not only the U.S., but Canada and Mexico, has a GDP larger than 80 percent of the world’s countries, including Israel and Sweden, has more than doubled its annual revenue in the last five years to $288 billion, will control 35 percent of food and drug sales in the U.S. by 2007 and buys $1 billion worth of land-each month.

While economies of scale can lower prices for the consumer, they also make more money for the stockholder and even more for the executives who lobby government to suppress the minimum wage, health care benefits and the quality of life enjoyed by our parents. As the rich get richer, the politicians they put in office make them even richer yet with more tax cuts, while the lowest wage earners are having social services cut off because government doesn’t have enough money.

For a majority of Americans, this may be the first generation to see a decrease in the quality of life our parents and grandparents worked to give us. Two-income households are a necessity, not a luxury today. When will the children have to go to work?

So what is the solution? A few years ago, you could have said, “I’ll shop my local independent stores and pay a little more so my money will stay circulating in the local economy.” Today, that option is disappearing. There are things in the marketplace now that you cannot find anywhere else but a huge, corporate, warehouse megastore, because not enough people supported the little guy. I, too, have shopped at Wal-Mart. Those “low, low prices” call to me like the sirens calling Odysseus. Every time I go there-out of necessity-I get a sick feeling in my stomach knowing that I’m driving another nail in the coffin of American independents.

Years ago, a comedian friend of mine told me he was amazed how you can get everything at these megamarts. He said one day he was pushing his sick mother’s wheelchair around the store and she died in the bulk toilet paper aisle. He pushed her corpse up front to a clerk and said, “I think my mother just died. Can you help me with her?” The clerk looked puzzled for a moment and then replied, “Paper or plastic?” But they don’t have paper anymore. They realized they could save a penny by just using plastic.

-Bingo Barnes, editor of the last independent newspaper in Southwest Idaho.

Boise Weekly Awards & Scary Government 

At the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention last weekBoise Weekly News Editor Nicholas Collias won second place in Arts Criticism for a collection of reviews he wrote last year. We’re just telling you this to brag a little.

Sometimes the federal government putters along, not doing anything to upset the status quo and then … WHAMMO, they hit you all at once with a shotgun effect. The pain from one shotgun pellet lodged in your butt may not be as painful as the pellet penetrating your back, foot, or eyelid, but that doesn’t change the fact that you have been wounded. In this instance, it is our personal freedoms.

There are three things the government did last week-one from each branch of the government-you should be very concerned about as Americans. First, the Supreme Court ruled that the government can take away your personal property (i.e. home, land, anything) if they think a mall or Jiffy Lube might be better for the community. Your farm, which has been in the family for generations, could be taken away to make a subdivision if local politicians (often in the back pocket of developers) believe that it would be “better economically for the community.”

Second, Congress is trying once again to make an amendment to ban flag burning. It sailed through the House and is on to the Senate. In the jingoist, right-wing conservative world we live in, it just might make it unless people wise up. While I would never protest by burning an American flag, I believe it is a symbolic right entitled to every American that is part of their freedom of expresssion. I think this amendment reeks of nationalism and is a perversion of patriotism.

Third, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales amended the rules requiring the adult entertainment industry to maintain age and consent records of it’s performers. The new rules now require every host (not just the creator) of any adult oriented picture (and what is their definition of “adult”?) to have a copy of those records on site in order to “protect the children.” Adult and personal Web sites across the country have shut down in reaction rather than face prison time. It’s a perverse back-door way for the administration to impose it’s own morality on the rest of us.

How to spend $85 million 

To reach his goal, he’ll need to invest the majority of his money in stocks, spread it around and count on a nice 10-15 percent increase. With the remainder, he’ll need to invest in riskier enterprises.

I get the feeling that a guy like Brad has a sense of home, a desire to improve the great community he lives in. I would hope that he consider investing in Idaho businesses and keep the money circulating within the the state. And I, just like everyone else, have a good idea.

Gannett, publisher of USA Today and the Idaho Statesman, is the newspaper company with the top profit margin of them all. Year after year Gannett enjoys a 20-28 percent profit margin from the 101 newspapers it owns, and the Idaho Statesman is consistently one of the top earners with pretax profits in the 40 percent range. In 1997-the most recent year I could scrounge up data off the Internet-the Statesman had 46.1 percent operating profits, making it the third-best paper for Gannett. Now, I’ve heard Boise’s two biggest media sources control a super-majority of the available advertising dollars in Boise. The biggest is the Statesman with what I’d guess is easily in the double-digit million dollar range. Unfortunately, the 40-plus percent profits don’t stay in the local economy. They go back to headquarters on the East Coast, often supporting those other Gannett papers with real competition.

For a few million dollars-maybe a couple million more to make sure-a local, free daily newspaper could get started that competed directly with the Idaho Statesman for a share of this revenue. Even if you cut your profit margin to 10 percent, we’re still talking a couple million dollars profit a year. Gannett has a monopoly stranglehold on this community, siphoning off millions of dollars and giving what most agree is a vanilla product. I know it could be done better.

So, Brad, if you’re reading this, I know of a great little newspaper staff ready to take on a challenge.

RX Rock Poster Show 

Rock poster, rock poster, on the wall…

Posters are one of the simplest forms of advertising. Make a nice picture to draw people in, put some words on it explaining what/where the event is, then display it. It is no surprise, then, that artists, always seeking a new way to display their work to the masses, have been drawn to the poster medium over the ages. Toulouse-Lautrec, bohemian poster artist for the Moulin Rouge in late 19th-century France, is one of those responsible for pushing the poster art into new territory. During the 1960s, poster artists expanded again as a way for rock bands to get the word out to fans, but during the 1970s, the medium almost became extinct.

It wasn’t until a mid-’80s renaissance in Austin, Texas-aided primarily by one artist, Frank Kozik-that the rock poster as an art form began to reclaim its glory and revived collectibility.

The new rock poster movement has attracted some of the best and brightest artists of our time, perhaps scorning the established “high art” communities of galleries and museums. There is a uniqueness to rock posters. They not only often have strange and beautiful art that challenges the establishment, pushing boundaries of style, color and content, but the rock poster also chronicles an event, providing a peek at one specific point in time.

Get on eBay and you can find collectors overbidding each other for rock posters. It’s a highly competitive collectible arena, but to those passionate about it, like Record Exchange owner Mike Bunnell, it can become an obsession.

“I used to get on eBay and spend top dollar,” Bunnell said. “But then I asked myself, ‘What I was doing?’ I’m a merchant. So I contacted the artist directly and asked if they would wholesale.”

Looking around the Record Exchange, you can see the fruits of Mikes’ passion. In large mylar bags hanging from every available wall space-even from wires stretched across the ceiling-are posters produced by some of Bunnell’s favorite artists.

“At first I liked the big, brash colors of Kozik,” he said. “But then I got turned on to others such as Derek Hess and Koop. Now my favorite is Gary Houston.”

Bunnell commissioned Houston to produce a poster to announce the Record Exchange Rock Poster Show (on display for the month of June). The posters, priced from $20 up (a few displayed from Bunnell’s private collection aren’t for sale), are from a wide array of artists currently producing posters in the medium. Most are limited edition prints, silkscreened or offset, and often use out-of-the ordinary colors like fluorescents. While it may be eye-opening to see them all at once, covering every conceivable wall space, the posters at the Record Exchange aren’t going away. They’re all owned by Bunnell, who says he’ll keep them on the walls or in flip-bins-and for sale.

Take a little trip 

By the time you read this I’ll be in San Diego, a stone’s throw away from Tijauana. I’m flying down to attend our annual newspaper convention for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, an organization of almost 200 papers like this one across the nation. You may have seen them in other cities in your own travels: theVillage Voice, the LA Weekly and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Once a year the publishers, editors, art directors and advertising managers from quite a few of these publications gather to swap tales, learn from each other’s experiences over the past year and, most importantly, socialize. During this “socialization,” we typically discuss plans to take over the world and how to fight against big corporate media threats to independent journalism.

This year, I’m involved perhaps more than I want to be. Apparently I’m running for a seat on the board, participating in the membership committee and moderating a seminar. I’ll be a busy boy.

Last week, I got an e-mail from the boycott coordinator for the chapter of the UNITE HERE! Local 30 union of hotel workers. They informed me of a “rolling” strike at several hotels in Southern California, including the one where the AAN convention is being hosted. This may prove to be an ironic challenge to a newspaper industry that has traditionally sided with unions and labor. At the least, it will provide for some lively discussions among the convention attendees during “socialization.”

Flummoxed over the Fish 

Expected record chinook returns fail to materialize, leaving scientists wondering, government officials backtracking and Fish and Game reducing the salmon season

Idaho Fish and Game has reduced the salmon fishing season and decreased harvest amounts as a result of decreased returns of Chinook salmon. But the recent debate over whether salmon recovery is happening is threatening to make the endangered species debate over the spotted owl pale in comparison.

A half-decade of record salmon returns in the Columbia River basin had sportsmen, environmentalists, scientists and government officials claiming success for the salmon recovery plan. This year, the anticipation was big as the offspring of 2001’s record 437,000 fish (the largest since records had been kept beginning in 1938) returning through Bonneville Dam were expected. So far, since June 9, only 85,927 have returned, just 20 percent of 2001’s record, and forecasts predict only 18,300 of those will return to Idaho rivers.

Most salmon return to the same waters they were born in after three to four years in the ocean. So anticipations that 2005 was to be a record year had government officials prematurely touting success in their efforts to restore the Northwest’s salmon fishery. Sportsmen were excited. Fishing communities were giddy at the anticipated tourists dollars, but something happened.

Some scientists theorize that in recent years favorable ocean conditions may have contributed to record returns, but that the more frequently returning El Nino weather patterns may also have something to do with it. Ocean temperatures of northern waters off the coast of Canada are reported to be their warmest in 45 years. This warmer water interrupts the upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water full of salmon-like food.

Another theory is that with warmer oceans, there may be more predatory fish moving north like makerel or hake. In the 1970s, there were only 50,000 sea lions on the West Coast. Today there are more than 300,000 and some have been seen at Bonneville Dam munching on the bunched-up salmon buffet.

Others blame low river levels and drought conditions of the past few years. Still more blame deforestation and an estimated 80 percent reduction in viable salmon habitat. Most likely it is a combination of all of these.

However, many agree blame lies with the dams. Of the more than 400 dams in the Snake/Columbia river system, only four are in question by environmentalists. Their hydroelectric turbines churn up an estimated 85 percent of fingerling salmon that attempt to pass, according to the government’s own studies. Releasing water over them is one solution, which Federal Court Judge James Redden said needed to happen after throwing out last week-for the second time-the government’s proposed plan to manage salmon, claiming it is legally flawed in several respects.

Despite a $6 billion plan the federal government has for salmon recovery (only $1 billion has been spent so far), Judge Redden found the government’s plan lacking and intends to create a more salmon-friendly river by forcing the feds and environmentalists to work together.

Supporters of salmon recovery say a huge boost in fishing tourism would result and one recent study showed Idaho alone could see an increase of over a half-billion dollars in the economy from restored fisheries. But as of now, Idaho communities, like Riggins, that rely on the salmon fishing are hurting.

“The 2001 season brought $10 million into our town,” said Riggins Mayor Bob Zimmerman in a recent television report. But this year, “It’s not looking good for us. We were expecting a great salmon season this spring and the fish didn’t show up. So it’s just another nail in the economic coffin we’re tumbling into.”

Some say removal of the dams are what eventually is needed for recovery. That, experts say, would result in a loss of only about 4 percent of the hydroelectric production in the Northwest, and that has politicians playing up the fear that more water over the spillways or breaching these dams will result in higher eletricity bills for Idahoans. Others say that electricity rates would go up 2 percent at most, as only 12 percent of the electricity in Idaho comes from these hydroelectric dams.

You can’t blame politicians like U.S. Sen. Larry Craig-whipping up the fear of higher electricity costs-and Rep. “Butch” Otter-who rails against environmentalists and says that Idaho won’t be sacrificed “at the altar of advocacy science and biological diversity”-for being so anti-salmon. After all, their largest campaign contributions come from electric utilities ($153,936 for Craig and $48,452 for Otter in the last election cycle), forestry products industries ($127,317 for Craig, $26,450 for Otter) and agricultural interests ($139,005 for Craig and $23,750 for Otter, according to, a campaign finance watchdog organization), industries directly affected by proposed plans to breach the dams and protect salmon. They are simply protecting their corporate donors.

An appeal of Judge Redden’s decision is certain but an administration that listens to lobbyists and not scientists may attempt to overturn Redden’s decision using a loophole in the Endangered Species Act which allows a committee of seven Cabinet members-the God squad-to put economic considerations above endangered species concerns.

Salmon season closed on several rivers Tuesday in Idaho but some limited areas are still open four days a week (Friday through Monday). Limits on salmon are one per day, three in possession and 10 total for the season. Fishing on the South Fork of the Salmon will open Friday, June 17, and remain open seven days a week until harvest goals are met. Last year the season closed during the Fourth of July weekend when harvest targets were achieved.

20 questions 

A classic game with an artificial intelligence twist

Twenty Questions is a game with very simple rules. One person thinks of something and through a series of up to 20 yes or no questions, the guesser must determine what it is. Over time, players learn to hone in on the objects by asking general questions at first such as, “Is it an animal?” or “Is it bigger than a breadbox?” Eventually, the game depends upon the obscureness of the object chosen and the skill of the interviewer.

It was predictable then that eventually someone would write a program that would play the interviewer. In comes 20Q, a round toy about the size of a yo-yo. A small LED scrolling text window asks the question and you scroll to the answer. Since no AI has ever exceeded the full capabilities of a human mind, the toy does establish a few guidelines and takes a few shortcuts, like asking if it’s animal, vegetable or mineral with the first question. Follow-up questions can be answered yes, no, unknown, irrelvant, probably, doubtful, sometimes, usually, rarely and give-up.

We were amazed that this little device actually could get it after about 15 questions. You can also play it online for free at

Gay Pride 2005 

A minority group defined not by race or religion, but by sexual orientation celebrates the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

The last American minority continues to struggle for equal rights, but that’s no cause for sadness. This week, gay and lesbian communities across the globe celebrate what it is to be part of a group that has been around as long as human beings have walked the Earth.

Although many historic cultures accepted and aknowledged same-sex relationships as a fact of life, including the ancient Greek culture which regarded male/male love as the highest form, the word “homosexual” was not coined until 1869 by Hungarian physician Karoly Maria Benkert. Even after identifying a societal group with the name, it took many years for the term to become widely used to define the minority of a group of people in society that preferred relationships with members of their own sex.

Alan Virta, head librarian of special collections at the Boise State University library, said, “It’s only around the year 1900 that you start getting this identity as a group of homosexuals. It [the idea of a type of person who preferred the same sex] really didn’t filter down to the public for years, but you start getting this ball rolling with a sensational trial like Oscar Wilde [tried for 25 counts of gross indecencies and conspiracy to commit gross indecencies] in London in 1895. That was the Michael Jackson, O.J., Scott Peterson trial of the century, all wrapped up in one. It was on the front page of the Idaho Statesman. It really started to bring to the conciousness of people the idea of homosexuals. It was also about this time that the medical profession began to talk about homosexuals.”

The Roaring 20s, a time of decadence and prosperity, created an urban environment where homosexual men and women were comfortable expressing their lifestyle within their social groups, often through the theater and dance of the day. Cabaret and drag shows flourished during this time. But in Boise, homosexuality was not accepted at all.

“The first big [homosexual] trial in Boise was in 1920,” Virta said. “At the main trolley station [the current corner of Capitol and Bannock], two guys got busted for allegedly getting together in the restroom. The trial transcipt is interesting because it gives a glimpse of what gay cruising was like in 1920. Idaho Power, which owned the electric railway, was getting suspicious of activity in the station so they drilled a hole in the ceiling and caught the pair red-handed. One of the guys was an upholsterer, a working-class guy, and the other was a prominent rancher who happened to be active in politics. He was assistant secretary of the Ada County Republican Central Committee.” The first trial ended in a hung jury but the second saw both men convicted.

After World War II, the mass migration of people across the U.S. began a process of social networking that led to the creation of communities and the first gay bars. Virta said that in the 1940s and ’50s there were no gay bars in Boise, but that one older gay man he interviewed who lived here during that time said there were certain bars they could be comfortable in.

In the 1950s, America searched for scapegoats and conducted it’s own inquisition, ferreting out Communists-homosexuals being persecuted along with them. Homosexuals were purged from government jobs and in 1953, President Eisenhower issued an executive order banning gay men and women from employment from all federal jobs. State and local governments followed suit and by the mid-50s, with FBI investigations and vice squad raids, thousands of homosexuals were arrested in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Wichita, Dallas, Memphis and Seattle. But perhaps the most vicious anti-gay witch hunt in the nation occurred in Boise, Idaho.

A short news item in the December 1955 Time Magazine said, “Boise, Idaho, the state capital, is usually thought of as a boisterous, rollicking he-man’s town, and home of the rugged Westerner. In the downtown saloons of the city a faint echo of Boise’s ripsnorting frontier days can still be heard, but its quiet residential areas and 70 churches give the city an appearance of immaculate respectability. Recently, Boiseans were shocked to learn that their city had sheltered a widespread homosexual underworld that involved some of Boise’s most prominent men and had preyed on hundreds of teen-age boys for the past decade.”

In the 1960s, author John Gerassi came to Boise to investigate the incidents 10 years earlier. In his book The Boys of Boise, he documented this dark episode in Boise’s past in which many prominent and powerful men in the community were prosecuted for homosexual activities. Some were run out of town. Some committed suicide. Some men, powerful enough to avoid prosecution, were never outed and not officially known to this day.

Out of this nationwide persecution during the 1950s and ’60s, many homosexual men and women began to organize politically. Influenced by and organized like militant black civil rights groups, these “homophile movement” organizations protested against police harassment and picketed government agencies. On Friday evening, June 27, 1969, New York police staged one of their frequent raids on a Greenwich Village gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. This time, the patrons fought back and three days of rioting in the area ensued. This event ushered in a social change that defined and established the gay rights movement. The following year, 5,000 homosexual men and women marched in New York City to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

The social acceptance of homosexuals in communities began to change across the country. In 1974, the American Psychiatric Association took homosexuality off of its list of mental illnesses. Many communities wrote sexual orientation into their civil rights statutes. States began to decriminalize homosexual behavior. Religious organizations engaged in debates over the morality of homosexuality, and many opened their doors to the homosexual community.

But progress by the homosexual community inspired protests and reaction by those who remained bigoted. In 1977, Anita Bryant led an anti-gay movement in Florida, the same year that six female Boise police officers, fired for allegedly being lesbians, won back-pay and benefits from the Boise Police Department. During the 1980s conservative and religious forces banded together against the gay movement. Stigmatized by the AIDS epidemic, the community faced new challenges in the courts over rights to medical privacy, health care coverage and civil rights. Today, the homosexual community still struggles to fight for the rights enjoyed by all other Americans.

Staff Update 

You may have noticed a few changes to our masthead lately. Come with me behind the magic curtain and see inside Boise Weekly for a bit. About four months ago, we hired two new editorial staff people and promoted our bouncer to a third position. With the addition of our new and improved Web site calendar, database we moved into unknown territory.

Fast forward three months and we realized that some adjustments needed to be made. To balance out the workload, focus on what is really important to our readers and simply make the coverage we provide as thorough as possible, we played a game of musical chairs. Actually, in a way we got rid of the existing chairs and bought beanbags.

First of all, we eliminated the arts and entertainment editor position. Actually, we split it up. Jennifer Parsons, who was the A&E editor, is now the entertainment editor. She is in charge of movies, the gardening columns, food reviews and listings. Sara Beitia, our former food editor and staff writer, is now the arts editor, in charge of visual arts reviews, theater reviews, performance reviews and the 8 Days Out Calendar with all the BW picks. Amy Atkins, our former bouncer and calendar editor, is now the music editor, I believe the first time BW has ever had a position entirely dedicated to live music. She is our official BW Music Mama.

I’ve taken over management of the Sports and Outside sections. Each section editor is now the contact person for listings associated with their area of control. However, the best thing to do is use the new event submission form online.