Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

The rap music blares from the Toyota that the Latinos are working on at the side of the quiet suburban street: Ah, America.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Shorter Jeff Emanuel at Red State

Throwing Down the Gauntlet: House GOP Accepts Obama’s Empty Offer to Debate Budget Proposal

Lament, my brothers, for the days have gone down in the west and the courage of man has failed and we can no longer brutally club our political opponents over the head on the floor of the senate, nor can we show our courage on the field of honor by shooting those with whom we disagree; but if only we could, I'd show this Negro President a thing or two!

Seriously, this guy thinks it is a mark of our decadent times that we can regularly have nonviolent disagreements. Oy.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Night Max Wore His Wolf Suit ...

That looks like it might actually be a really good movie.

I'll have to wait and see how much CGI it involves. I believe they've animated some of the faces with computers, but the Wild Things themselves actually look like people in costumes -- which is a nice parallel with Max himself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Words I Wish I Had Written

Kung Fu Monkey:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Via Lance Mannion.

The Amazing Self-Actualizing Woman

There are lots of stories about heroic knights rescuing princesses. In fact, some of our favorite epics follow that same trope: Star Wars, Zelda, The Princess Bride.... But sometimes you've got to mix it up a little. You don't feel like sitting around playing the damsel in distress, patiently waiting for some Y chromosome to come to your aid. In fact, you might have to rescue some poor, wayward princes on your quest, which is okay. As long as they don't get in the way.

I think it would have been awesome if Luke and Han and Chewie had bumped into Leia on the Death Star in the process of seeing herself out. But maybe that's just me. As it is, she starts bossing them around after they spring her and I think we're supposed to be exasperated at that, jeez-can-you-believe-this-woman eyerolling sort of thing, but Luke really did have no exit plan and Han tends to do without plans, so someone needed to take charge.

It's an interesting aspect of her character that is sadly not explored in any of the films.

But then, I grew up reading The Paper Bag Princess, which did a lot of good work counteracting the usual dynamic, which I also experienced in Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Star Trek.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace (1815 - 1852), daughter of Gordon, Lord Byron, was the world's first computer programmer.

When Charles Babbage put together his Analytical Engine, Ada Lovelace was there to program the punch cards that ran it. These punch cards were an idea borrowed from the Jacquard Loom, and would continue to be used well into the 20th century. Ada Lovelace was among the first to see computers as more than glorified adding machines.

So now, on March 24th, the blogosphere is honoring Ada Lovelace by honoring the women who are her legacy. There's a pledge involved, but really all one has to do is put up a woman who creates or uses technology in meangingful ways.

I choose to honor Karen Ellis, whose semi-autobiographical webcomic Planet Karen records her trials and tribulations in modern London, from scraping up enough to pay the rent to battling depression, and most lately watching her flat burn down with all her worldly possessions inside.

Far be it from me to apply such cliches as "gripping" and "compelling." I raise my glass to Karen Ellis, for having the courage and tenacity to keep a graphic journal of her struggles, her defeats, and her triumphs. May she live long and prosper.

Well, There You Go

Seen at the Orlando Tea Party, March 21, 2009.

So, that's what, 21 days in March, 28 days in February, and 11 days in January, makes 60 days. 60 days to calls of impeachment, and all because they believe that all those banks that failed last summer and fall are Obama's fault.

The truth is, Obama has basically adopted the Bush administration's bailout strategy. I guess it's only okay when it's their guy giving all the money handouts. When our guy does it, he gets compared negatively to Robin Hood, Che, Castro, Mao, etc.

Oh, plus let's not pass this opportunity to link Obama to bin Laden and suggest that the President is going to let the terrorists "win."

Via Correntewire and Media Matters.

Monday, March 23, 2009

None of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Levar Burton.

Brent Spiner.

Wil Wheaton.

"Weird Al" Yankovic.

What do they all have in common?


Aaah! Run! It's a nerdsplosion!!

EDIT: Oh, and this:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Easter Sunday 2009 A Very Special One for Britons

David Jason (Hogfather).

Sean Astin (The Goonies, Lord of the Rings).

Tim Curry (Annie, Legend).

Jeremy Irons (The Lion King, Dungeons & Dragons).

Christopher Lee (Let's Kill Dracula Again).

Terry Pratchett (legendary).

The Colour of Magic, this Sunday at 7. [SOUND WARNING, but you should definitely check it out for a treat, some trailers, and other promotional material.]

I'll try to tape it, but it'll probably run four hours or more, like Hogfather.

Tip of the rather bedraggled pointy hat to Space Cowboy at Shakesville.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Archival Star Trek Footage

Just poking around on YouTube, I found this compilation of scenes from the second Star Trek pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," which I find -- if you'll pardon the expression -- quite fascinating.

I apologize for the poor picture quality -- I'm not sure what's going on.

The only really new-to-me scene is the first one, where Kirk makes this log entry:

Enterprise log, Captain James Kirk commanding. We are leaving that vast cloud of stars and planets we call our galaxy. Behind us, Earth, Mars, Venus, even our sun are specks of dust. Question: What is out there in the black void? Until now our mission has been that space law regulation, contact Earth colonies and investigation of alien life but now, a new task, a probe out into where no man has gone before.

Other than that, the only differences are the Act announcements at the start of each scene, and the radically different theme music.

You can also see fairly easily the zippers that run up Kirk and Spock's left shoulders to the collars. Apparently all the shirts zipped up like this, but Nimoy's in particular had to be larger so they could protect his makeup: I think they could only afford so many rubber ears per season.

See if you can spot George Takei in the scene under the opening credits. Hint: he's wearing a different shirt than usual, since he's credited as "Chief Physicist" in the closing credits. Second hint: If you hit the elevator scene, you've gone too far.

Speaking of the credits, I note that the only character who's named in them is Spock. Of the rest, only George Takei (Chief Physicist) and James Doohan (Engineering Chief) are names I recognize.

Also, it's dated MCMLXV -- 1965. I think these scenes must be from whatever version they screened to NBC after the network requested a second pilot.

EDIT: For comparison, you can watch the broadcast version here. There are advertisements, unfortunately, and often they cut in on the middle of one of Shatner's gripping deliveries.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Internets Grassroots Actions

Via Sadly, No! I see that MoveOn.org is circulating a petition regarding the AIG bonuses totalling several hundred million dollars for executives who ran the country into the ground.

My clueless morning-commute radio hosts (SOUND WARNING) were pontificating yesterday that these bonuses were necessary to retain all those brilliant young go-getters who made AIG such a success. Their reasoning was that the bonuses were a non-negotiable part of their contracts, and if the bonuses are not paid the BYGGs will consider the contract breached and leave to find employment somewhere else. I started yelling "But they MBA'd the company right through the floor!" at my unhearing radio.

AIG executives are appearing before a House hearing on Wednesday. Linky to the Petition and sign it if you've a mind to. Maybe we'll get something done.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Who Needs Twitter?

The timorous deer in the back yard are not at all concerned with the bold cat who watches them and licks her chops.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Shakespeare Connection

My folks have recently watched a 1980 BBC production of Hamlet starring, among others, Derek Jacobi as Hamlet, looking rather like Commander Riker,

Lalla Ward as Ophelia,

Whoops, sorry,

and Patrick Stewart (TV's General Sejanus) as Claudius (left):

I am sorry to have missed such a glorious sight as that wig on Patrick Stewart. He had a rather better one as Sejanus:

In the course of my perambulations about the Web today, I learn that thirty years later, Patrick Stewart is still playing Claudius, only this time Hamlet is being performed by David Tennant, late of Doctor Who:

Now, all of these actors, with the exception of Patrick Stewart, had larger or smaller roles in Doctor Who, Derek Jacobi only lately as the Master, and Stewart played some kind of role in some little-known knockoff of Star Trek or something, I'm not sure what. But anyway, not everyone who has trod the boards playing Shakespeare has had roles in scifi, but a lot of British scifi actors have trod the boards playing Shakespeare at some point. There's a paper in there, somewhere, but it probably shows that such actors are either actually good at what they do, or they have large egos. Beyond my pay grade, anyway.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dear Clients: I'm A Prole

I don't really care that you come from a "really distinguished family" on either or both of your parents' sides. Is that supposed to grease your way through our offices? 'Cause like I said, I don't really care (see above).

I pride myself on giving really good service to everyone who comes to the office or calls me on the telephone. Just randomly mentioning, while I'm asking for your name, that your folks were such-and-such whom I probably have never heard of is not going to get me to break out the good china, metaphorically speaking: everyone gets the good china.

All that's going to happen when you mention who your folks were is I'm going to get my proletariat hackles up. You won't notice when you're talking to me, but I'm definitely going to come here and complain about you on my blog.

And then you'll be sorry, because I control this part of the internet. If knowledger is power, then when I'm plugged into my blog I am slightly more powerful than I am at other times. TREMBLE BEFORE MY MINISCULE RISE IN POWER, CRETINS! MuAH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAA!

Friday, March 6, 2009

It Is A Beautiful World


This is just a wonderful headline.

The guy who discovered it was part of a cleaning crew trying to maintain some green space near Beaulieu, Hants (Hampshire).

“I’d just shifted a tree branch with my foot when I noticed something dark and round slowly coming up to the surface. I got the shock of my life when a Dalek head bobbed up in front of me."

I bet what he thought in the moment was Quick wheres a ---ing sofa mate!

Near as anyone can reckon, the Dalek was dumped in the pond during location filming in the 70s, during Pertwee's reign, or the 80s, during Colin Baker's stint. Odds are it's a Pertwee relic, seeing as there were three Pertwee "the Daleks" episodes (Day of, Planet of, and Death to) and one Colin Baker episode (Remembrance of the Daleks).

Infuriating Stupidity and Myopism (UPDATED)

Brazil Girl, Alleged Rape Victim, Aborts Twins
The procedure on the 9-year-old girl draws complaints from Catholic Church

This is a shame. The little girl at the center of this storm must feel awful.

I have a minor quibble with the main headline -- a 9-year-old cannot give consent, so of course she was raped, the only allegations are over who did it -- but the subhead really pushes my buttons. The statements from the Church demonstrate an affliction of rigid thinking coupled with massive ignorance. This unbending attitude and ignorance is borne out in the text of the article:

But Marcio Miranda, a lawyer for the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife in northeastern Brazil, said the girl should have carried the twins to term and had a cesarean section.

"It's the law of God: Do not kill. We consider this murder," Miranda said in comments reported by O Globo.

Mr. Miranda obviously believes that if a girl is capable of conceiving, she is capable of carrying to term and surviving delivery. This particular girl, this 9 year old, is too small to carry twins to term. Forcing her to attempt it is almost certain to damage her health or even kill her. This abortion is not murder; it's self-preservation.

I can only hope that the Church never finds out who this little girl is. They'd never leave her alone again.

Via Pharyngula. I've also seen this on Shakesville, but I saw it at PZ's site first.

UPDATE: It turns out that everyone who supported the abortion, i.e., the doctors and the child's mother, have been excommunicated by the Church. The child herself was exempted "because of her age." The Archbishop of Olinda and Recife has stated that "God's law is above man's law."

Well, God's law is apparently as blind as ever justice could be, because it still does not see any difference between this particular pregnancy and an adult's.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Woman On Robot

David Gibbs III, a lawyer who in 2005 fought to keep brain-damaged Terri Schiavo on life support, told rally participants gay marriage would "open the door to unusual marriage in North Carolina. "Why not polygamy, or three or four spouses?" Gibbs asked. "Maybe people will want to marry their pets or robots."


Colorado Man Getting Table Salt Blessed By Priest

A Colorado entrepreneur has decided that he doesn't like the concept of kosher salt. He sees chefs on the Tee Vee recommend it all the time, and decided to jump on an opportunity to sell Christian salt. He gets sea salt blessed by an Episcopal priest and sells it on the Web.

"I said, 'What the heck's the matter with Christian salt?'" Godlewski said, sipping a beer in the living room of his home in unincorporated Cresaptown, a western Maryland mountain community.

By next week, his trademarked Blessed Christians Salt will be available at http://www.memphi.net, the Web site of Memphis, Tenn.-based seasonings manufacturer Ingredients Corporation of America.

I wasn't aware that my carton of Morton's exalted Jesus in any way, shape or form. That must be where that little altar built out of cinnamon sticks, flour paste, and paprika in my cupboard came from. Thank goodness it wasn't the roaches after all.

Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, kosher administrator for the Chicago Rabbinical Council, said marketing Christian salt as an alternative to kosher salt reflects, at best, ignorance about Jewish dietary laws. He said all salt is inherently kosher because it occurs naturally and requires little or no processing...He said coarse-grained kosher salt is named for the way in which it was traditionally used - to draw blood from freshly butchered meat, because Jewish law prohibits consuming blood. Chefs often favor kosher salt because it's crunchy and easy to pinch.

This guy's name is Fishbane? Okay, whatever. I guess he doesn't swim in the ocean much :)

I was interested to learn that kosher butchers traditionally used salt. Probably they also hung their meat up to drain, as well.

Godlewski said his salt, packaged in containers bearing bright red crosses, has at least as much flavor and beneficial minerals as kosher salt - and it's for a good cause.

"The fact is, it helps Christians and Christian charities," he said. "This is about keeping Christianity in front of the public so that it doesn't die. I want to keep Christianity on the table, in the household, however I can do it."

Sodium chloride is sodium chloride, and nothing is added or subtracted from it when people invoke magic spells over it to make it more acceptable to god.

Mr. Godlewski says this isn't about Judaism, but in fact it is. He sees kosher salt as unacceptable because he thinks it's been blessed by rabbis. He also thinks that kosher salt is helping to drive Christianity out of the public view. That indicates an antagonistic and competitive viewpoint on Mr. Godlewski's part.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Comic Book Nerds: The Last Acceptable Prejudice

Anthony Lane has seen the Watchmen movie and has nothing but sneers for it in The New Yorker (massive spoilers).

He starts by working in towards Alan Moore, mentioning that two of his other projects have been made into movies, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta, of which Lane has this to say:

Both of these have been turned into motion pictures; the first was merely an egregious waste of money, time, and talent, whereas the second was not quite as enjoyable as tripping over barbed wire and falling nose first into a nettle patch.

I'm sorry Lane finds the concept of the 19th-century adventure heroes teaming up so dull, and the struggles of a near-future Guy Fawkes so painful.

It quickly becomes clear that Lane has not actually read Watchmen in its original form.

There is Dan (Patrick Wilson), better known as Nite Owl, who keeps his old superhero outfit, rubbery and sharp-eared, locked away in his basement, presumably for fear of being sued for plagiarism by Bruce Wayne.

Or, you know, being prosecuted for violating the 1977 law banning costumed vigilantism. This is a basic bit of world-building. Was Lane asleep, or was this bit not mentioned in the film?

And he has this to say about Dr. Manhattan:

Whether his fellow-Watchmen have true superpowers, as opposed to a pathological bent for fisticuffs, I never quite worked out, but this guy is the real deal.

Nope, they're all Batman-level street brawlers. Dr. Manhattan is H.G. Wells' "one impossible assumption" in this story.

He also doesn't care much for the choice of opening theme:

But must we have “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” in the background? How long did it take the producers to arrive at that imaginative choice? And was Dylan happy to lend his name to a project from which all tenderness has been excised, and which prefers to paint mankind as a bevy of brutes?

One might think that Bob Dylan knows quite well what sort of brutes mankind bevies of. And apparently Mr. Lane does not get that this is a story about loneliness and disconnection.

But it's by the end of the column that I think Lane is in danger of twisting his upper lip right off:

“Watchmen,” like “V for Vendetta,” harbors ambitions of political satire, and, to be fair, it should meet the needs of any leering nineteen-year-old

Yeah, go jump in a lake.

who believes that America is ruled by the military-industrial complex,

Yeah, I guess having the lion's share of the federal budget, one that gets expanded every year like clockwork, outspends all the other military budgets on this planet put together, still can't get the Osprey to work and yet never faces any sort of real criticism or budget cuts isn't really the master of this country. We're really ruled by the banksters and the people who make over $250,000 who are trying to dump their extra income to keep it out of the hands of Obama.

and whose deepest fear—deeper even than that of meeting a woman who requests intelligent conversation

A quality I've noted lacking in this column, actually. Perhaps I've overlooked it. Is it buried under all the smug and sneering disdain for nerds? I should give him credit -- he doesn't try to politely suggest that pimple cream would be a thoughtful gift to the average fan of Watchmen.

—is that the Warren Commission may have been right all along.

No, the Comedian didn't kill Kennedy. He was in Dallas, but he was keeping an eye on Nixon. Why was Nixon in Dallas? Alan Moore never makes that clear.

I think there is a large reason why movies made from comic books are not going to appeal to movie critics. They don't know the background that the movies have to accommodate in some portion to appease the fan base. I remember X-Men opened with a scene in a concentration camp, with people being burnt up in furnaces and everything, and some movie critic didn't understand that the Holocaust is an integral part of the background of the villain of that movie. Similarly, Mr. Lane does not seem to grasp how the heroes of Watchmen tie into the plot; for instance, he does not seem to understand how Nixon, in the movie, managed to finagle his way into a "third term," which, given the story is set in 1985, is more like his fifth.

Perhaps Mr. Lane believes his column is humorous. I think it betrays certain prejudices. He seems to think everyone who reads comic books is like the Comic Book Guy off the Simpsons: pedantic, small-minded, and obsessed.

Robo Terror Calls

I just got a robocall that would seem to include phrasing intended to drum up business by making people panic.

It said that this call was the last attempt to legally reduce the callee's credit card debt. That implies that if you wait any longer to reduce your credit card debt, you'd be doing it illegally, and there would be punishments if you were caught.

That seems calculated to make people panic and call the provided number, thus drumming up business for what is no doubt a company that buys your debt and merely transfers your indebtedness to them.

How is that not attempting to provoke certain behaviors through fear?


fnar har har har!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mad Enough To Spit

Everything they teach you in high school is wrong, it seems. Especially since, for the past eight years, we no longer enjoyed much of the Bill of Rights, and the government wasn't telling us they'd suspended it.

Oh sure, there was that mug with the Bill printed on it, of which the parts suspended by the PATRIOT Act would disappear when you poured in your preferred heated beverage. You can make all sorts of excuses about how Congress was stampeded into voting for that piece of work, but there was other paperwork Congress didn't even get a peek at until just a few days ago.

The Obama Administration has released a number of secret Bush Administration documents penned by the Bush DoJ that were effectively the law of the land until just before W left office. These were penned by, among others, John Yoo, but they were not Yoo Memos -- these were laws.

The government secretly suspended the Bill of Rights and didn't tell us about it.

Yes, this sounds like something you'd hear about from the 90s militia movement and tin-foil-hat models the country over. But it actually happened. Glenn Greenwald has the details:

Let's just look at one of those documents (.pdf) -- entitled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the U.S." It was sent to (and requested by) Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes and authored by Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and DOJ Special Counsel Robert Delahunty ... The essence of this document was to declare that George Bush had the authority (a) to deploy the U.S. military inside the U.S., (b) directed at foreign nationals and U.S. citizens alike; (c) unconstrained by any Constitutional limits, including those of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. It was nothing less than an explicit decree that, when it comes to Presidential power, the Bill of Rights was suspended, even on U.S. soil and as applied to U.S. citizens. And it wasn't only a decree that existed in theory; this secret proclamation that the Fourth Amendment was inapplicable to what the document calls "domestic military operations" was, among other things, the basis on which Bush ordered the NSA, an arm of the U.S. military, to turn inwards and begin spying -- in secret and with no oversight -- on the electronic communications (telephone calls and emails) of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.

They basically reasoned that the President speaks, and it becomes law. They specifically weaseled around the Posse Comitatus Act by claiming that the PCA prohibited using the military for police work and claiming that anti-terrorist activities were inherently military in nature.

Good thing our boys and girls in olive drab were up to stopping all the domestic terrorists over the last few years, like all the anthrax mailings, the Beltway Sniper, and the Knoxville UU Church shooting. Warrantless wiretapping sure helped us stop those tragedies.