Pages

2003/12/31

Tinfoil Hat Squad: Commence Theorizing

Well, it now looks like Elliott Smith might not've committed suicide.

    A coroner's examination of Smith's body, the findings of which were released Tuesday, were inconclusive as to whether the two penetrating stab wounds that killed him were self-inflicted or the result of foul play, according to a Los Angeles County Department of Coroner spokesperson.
So now we'll be forever plagued by loony conspiracy theories about what really happened. (Hey, he used to be on the Kill Rock Stars label, which is based in Seattle. Kurt Cobain was from Seattle. Therefore Courtney Love killed him!)
The Miracle of Modern Technology

It used to be that drunken women could only embarrass themselves by flashing a few dozen or hundred people at a time, maybe some thousands under special circumstances, and unless they were complete idiots about it, they weren't likely to be arrested. The Internet's changed all that. There are whole newsgroups and websites devoted to women running around naked at springbreak and Mardi Gras. Now their drunken indiscretions are archived for all the world to enjoy, forever and ever, world without end.

But one thing hasn't changed -- you still have to be a moron to get prosecuted for it.

Not surprisingly, the woman in question is your standard issue vaseline coated Barbie Doll (site not work safe).

2003/12/30

Will No One Rid Us of These Troublesome Priests?

The Church of England, a sect founded upon the highest moral principles, is taking a stand against Tony Blair.

    In the most outspoken outburst, the Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, accused religious conservatives surrounding the US president, George Bush, of espousing "a very strange distortion of Christianity" - particularly since, through Iraq's reconstruction, many would gain financially.
A clear violation of the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not profit from good deeds. Obviously the C of E also believes it a venal sin to write off charitable donations on your taxes.

    [The Archbishop of York] called on people to pray for Mr Blair and called on him to show more humility rather than exercising power in an authoritarian way. Referring to Iraq, he said: "One of the qualities of a good leader is that they have to be really attentive to the views of the people. It seemed at one stage that that was not happening."
Okay, Blair decides it's morally correct to attack Iraq no matter what the public thinks, and he's an authoritarian bastard who lacks humility, but God smites a whole city because a few folks decided butt-lovin' was the way to go and He's worthy of our adoration and worship. Talk about double-standards.
Best Error Message Ever

I was following a link from Instapundit to the Cranky Neocon when Firebird through up an error message:

    Sorry, but the monopolists at Microsoft require that you have Internet Explorer to view this site.
I've heard about sites designed with proprietary code but I've never actually encountered one before now. Luckily I have User Agent Switcher installed, so I changed my string to IE 6 to fool the site.

NOTE TO WEBDESIGNERS: Don't be a tool. Design your site to W3C standards so everyone can view it regardless of what browser they use.

2003/12/29

Instapundit is upset with an Indymedia git who, in an attempt to argue that Lord of the Rings is filled with racist imagery, suggests that the Uruk-Hai resemble Amerindians. As Reynolds says,

    As someone of Native American descent, I'm deeply offended. So is reader David Emigh, who writes: "As a Cherokee brought up in New Mexico I can think of NO Amerind that looks like the Uruk-hai."
The Indymedia piece is filled with other moronic tidbits like,

    In fact all Europe's mathematics, reading and writing and technological advancements in transportation and warfare are all based on African and Asian concepts.
And here I'd thought Europeans had invented numerous methods for killing each other on their own. But apparently the atomic bomb, airplane, and tank are actually Asian and African in origin.

The writer goes on to suggest that premodern and non-Western cultures have invented all sorts of wonderful medical technology that our science doesn't comprehend -- always a sure sign of kookdom -- then brings the Masons into it (I'm reminded of Umberto Eco's adage that all kooks eventually bring up the Masons, Templars, and/or Illuminati).

However, I do disagree with Reynolds on one point --

    A guy who sees a resemblance to American Indians in the Uruk-hai is like a guy who sees a resemblance to black people in chimpanzees.
There are those of us who think all people (though especially those on cable news) look like chittering apes regardless of skin color.
Everything You Need to Know About John Kerry in a Single Picture

Your mouth is moving but all I hear is 'Blah, blah, blah.'

Via Tim Blair

2003/12/28

"Mad World" Takes Top Spot in Britain

Donnie Darko fans will appreciate this: Gary Jules' cover of the Tears for Fears' song "Mad World," which played over the montage at the end of the film, is the #1 song in the UK right now.
Best of 2003, Part the Fifth

Best Reality TV: Family Business

And you thought I was going to say The Simple Life. Nope. Best reality series (by which I mean, the reality series that least sucks) is the tale of Adam Glasser, better known as porn star Seymore Butts. Forget all that treacly morality you get from watching Paris and Nicky get fired from one job after another. There's no moralizing here, just a guy trying to raise his son alone and find a woman who isn't a skank or turned off by his job. Watching spoiled rich girls stick their hands up a cow's ass isn't as entertaining as Adam trying to deal with an actor who can't perform, or his uncle trying to collect money from a guy who apparently traffics in action figures. And above all, Family Business actually works as a documentary, something most reality series (the exception being Project Greenlight) fail at. You actually come away from each episode having learned something about pornography; what do you learn from The Simple Life except that Paris is a vapid bink?

Of course, the reality series I want to see would combine both shows -- Paris Hilton in The Porno Life.

2003/12/27

Best of 2003, Part the Fourth

Best New Cartoon: Kid Notorious

You either love Robert Evans or you think he's absolutely boring -- if you you're in the former camp, you have no hope of explaining what you like about him to the latter. It's the voice, it's the style, it's the ego. And Kid Notorious captures all those things about him. The animation is almost superfluous -- the show is all about the voices -- Evans and his cat Puss-Puss, English and Tollie Mae, Donald Rumsfeld and Slash. The show could be a radio program and remain just as funny (or not, for those of you who don't find Evans amusing).

Best New Cartoon (runner up): The Venture Brothers

Parodies of Jonny Quest tend to have one note -- Doctor Quest and Race are lovers (SEE: Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law), but this show completely eschews that in favor of less obvious jabs at the old H&B series -- the Doctor Quest analogue is, in fact, an evil genius who doesn't realize that his inventions are the sort of things that would make Darth Vader drool; the Race stand-in is a lunkheaded goon who's more interested in beating people up than helping Dr. Venture; and the boys are naive, sheltered little snots.

This is one of the few cartoons on Adult Swim that feels truly adult oriented, like something out of Heavy Metal, instead of the weird-for-weirdness-sake aimed at college students. The only thing keeping this out of the top spot is that it was only a one-off special and not an actual series (though Cartoon Network's rectifying that for next year).

2003/12/26

Best of 2003, Part the Third

Best Song of the Year: "Dusty Turnaround" by Lizzie West

Okay, technically this is from 2001, but it was only available on an impossible to find independent release until this year when Warners put it out on an almost impossible to find album.

There's so much to love about the song, from Lizzie's gravelly, slightly off-key warbling (even I can sing along to it), to the bizarre Wizard of Oz references in the chorus:

    You take that dusty turnaround
    Yellow brick road,
    Just remember, there is no place like home.
But most of all, there's a sense of freeness in the song (it is from an album subtitled Freedom Songs after all), like Springsteen's "Born to Run," only the world-weariness is mixed with joy. It conjures images of people driving Route 66 (the one Dylan sang about, not the Interstate) and lost on the backroads of West Virginia on a bright spring day. Of all the party songs that fill MTV and VH1 these days, none are so joyous as this simple folkie tune.

2003/12/25

Oh My God

I can't believe this is happening. Not on Christmas.

    "At 2315 last night, we detected an unidentified air craft approaching the coast of New Foundland," said a Pentagon spokesman. "Attempts to contact the craft were negative. We scrambled fighters to intercept and force it to land. At this point the craft altered course towards New York City. Officials in NORAD contacted Homeland Security then the President and received permission to fire if the craft started a descent."

    "At 2348, an F16 from Loring launched two AIM 120 AMRAAM missiles at the unidentified aircraft."

    A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that search teams had turned up several blackened antlers and a red cap.
This is a black day for us all.
Best of 2003, Part the Second

Best Music Video of the Year: "So Say I" by The Shins.

The actual song is just okay -- you won't want to mute the television while the video plays, but you won't remember the tune five minutes later.

But the video ... communist penguins take over the world, how can you not love that? I'm not sure if it's supposed to be allegorical of Linux (if so, I guess the Kommisar Penguins represent Linus and Stallman), but that doesn't make it any less entertaining to watch, even with the college level CGI.
Merry Pagan Holiday Shoddily Disguised as a Mainstream Religious Festival, and a Happy Arbitrarily Chosen Day Representing the Turning of the Year

May the Great God Pan bless your goats.

2003/12/24

How Splurgetastic is This Giftmas?

Instapundit points to this story and wonders what it portends for the holiday mood.

Well, my last minute shopping experience was the exact opposite of Starhawk's. Borders wasn't too bad, only a fifteen foot line, but I live in a town with a Waldenbooks, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and three used book stores; however, Best Buy was absolutely packed -- I could barely get down the ailes, and the line stretched halfway around store even with nine registers open.

Outlook: This Christmas is the triumph of the A/V geek.
Best of 2003, Part the First

Since there's probably not going to be much to blog about for the rest of the year, I'm going to waste time with Best Ofs. Today, Best Album:

Kathleen Edwards, Failer

This is the best Angry Chick album since Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pills -- which is a relief since Alanis's latest albums have been so mellow. But where Morissette was simply caustic, Edwards keeps her anger confined to a bitter sarcasm.

    And if you weren't so old I'd probably keep you
    If you weren't so old I'd tell my friends
    But I don't think your wife would like my friends
Nor does she cast herself as an angry victim of lying, cheating men as Alanis often does, but instead portrays women who've been ground down by life but are doing what they need to get by. There's a quiet desperation in her characters, but the vitriol's been squeezed out of them until all that remains is a sad resentment.

    Going down in the same old town down the same street to the same bar
    And the same old people saying hi and I don't care
    Going down in the same old bar and I don't even order anymore
    I am so sick of consequence and the look on your face
    I am tired of playing defense
    I don't even have hockey skates.
There's bitterness in her voice even as her lyrics betray resignation. The only time one of her characters seems totally beaten is the song "Mercury":

    Wanna go get high?
    Mercury is parked outside
    Wanna take me to
    The parking lot of the old high school

    And it's like you said
    I would've turned up dead in the car
That's the entirety of the song, but it takes Edwards three minutes to get through the whole thing, singing with dirge-like slowness and yet a sort of drugged happiness.

The CD clocks in at barely forty minutes, but it contains better material than some albums that are twice as long.
Worst Idea Ever

John Wayne as Genghis Khan.

2003/12/23

Libertarian Paranormal Investigators

Showtime ran a marathon of Penn & Teller's Bullshit! last night. I'd seen most of the episodes when they'd aired at the begining of the year, but watching them all together made me realize -- Penn and Teller are libertarians. The big giveaway was that in two of the five episodes -- one on global warming and the other about second-hand smoke -- they used experts from the CATO Institute, but the way they skewered the smoke-free advocates for foisting their desires on everyone else was classic libertarianism as well. I positively loved how they showed environmental protesters to be idiots (Sure, I'll sign a petition against dihydro-monoxide!) and hypocritical wannabe commies (Capitalism is bad! The world would be better if everyone lived in mud huts!), and despite their claims about not having anything against communism/socialism, it was pretty obvious they view it as another bit of quackery.

Googling shows that they are, indeed, of the libertarian persuasion and geeks to boot. Not bad, we get P&T and Ah-nuld (I don't care what ticket he ran on, fiscal conservative + social liberal = libertarian), while the Dems are stuck with Streisand and Garofalo, and the Republicans get Bruce Willis.

2003/12/22

Maybe VH1 Will Have Incessant Commercials on This

Instapundit notes that the civil affairs coordinators in Iraq are asking Americans to donate musical instruments to the Iraqis. Glenn then notes:

    What is it with these people and music? And Iraqi law students need money for law books; here's a post on how you can help, via Lawyers Without Borders.
But we're supposed to be there to help the Iraqis.

(O'Hara First Law of Comedy: Never pass up a cheap shot when someone hands it to you.)

2003/12/21

The Fine Line Between Freedom and Perversion

I was just looking through my site stats, amazed at how many hits I get from people googling for Scarlett Johansson's ass. Some of the search queries are so bizarre I have to check them out to see why I'm showing up in the results. Usually it turns out I used the words in several disparate postings within a single archival page, so, for example, if I mention pussy cats in one entry and teenagers in another, I'll get hits for teen pussy.

Anyways, as I was checking out one of these weird results, I came across a site called I Got Caught from All About Sex.org. Figuring it was funny stories about room-mates and parents walking in at inappropriate moments, I clicked on it.

Well, it is filled with stories about people being interrupted in flagrante delicto, but there's little funny about the stories, and less about the comments from the people running the site.

This is a fairly typical entry:

    Me, my sisters (16 & 13), My brother (12), My next door neighbor (13 Female) and a friend (14 male)were all masturbating at a sleep over one night around 2 in the morning. Some people gave oral sex and and we thought that the door was locked. [...] My sister and my friend began to have sex and my sister let out a loud YES! when she climaxed. It woke up my father and he barged into the unlocked room. We are all in counseling.
Okay, four siblings and two friends, some probably still in puberty, engage in group sexual activity, but the father catches them before it turns into a full-blown orgy and sends them to counceling. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. But not to the guys who run the site. They write:

    This is sad... We're curious, what was their reasoning for putting you all in counseling? Did they say you were all sexually "abusing" each other?
Elsewhere, in response to families that masturbate in front of each other (or even as a group), they write say:

    Some people would call this incest, but we don't believe it is. Remember: incest is defined as:

    "INCEST (in'sest) n. Sexual intercourse between persons so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry." - Webster's Dictionary, 1996 - Nickel Press

    The child sexual abuse industry is trying very hard these days to convince us that two siblings doing anything sexual together is incest and is "child sexual abuse". We believe they are just so full of themselves that they have to justify their industry existing by labeling EVERYTHING as "child sexual abuse". Child sexual abuse does happen, and is a very bad thing, but two siblings involved in consensual sex play and experimentation not including intercourse does not by itself constitute "abuse" or "incest". Actually, if you really think about it, if children are especially curious about sex and their bodies, who are they alone with most often? Who are they most likely to be nude in front of? Who are they most likely to be caught masturbating by? Their siblings, of course! So it really shouldn't come as a big surprise that siblings often explore sex together.
and,

    What we believe is that ALL kinds of things should be taken into consideration before deciding that a child has been sexually "abused" or harmed in some way by sexual exposure. It is NOT a simple, cut-and-dried, black or white issue (like the psychologists and "child-savers" say), and in order to truly act in the best interest of our children, we should not paint every situation and everyone with just one brush. What is most important is... ARE YOU HAPPY? ARE YOU CARED FOR? ARE YOU LOVED? DO YOU GET ALL THE TOUCHING AND AFFECTION THAT YOU WANT? ARE YOU PROTECTED FROM BAD PEOPLE, AND ARE YOU PRACTICING SAFE, RESPONSIBLE and FULLY CONSENSUAL SEX???

    If your answers to those questions is "YES", then don't let anyone, including the authorities, the child protection agencies, the court system, or some highly-degreed child psychologist convince you otherwise. BE CONFIDENT about your sexuality, and STAND FIRM for what you know is right for you and your particular level of maturity.
No, dude, it really is a simple, black-and-white issue. I mean, I'm all for sexual freedom and all that -- for adults. We have an age of majority for a reason -- children have neither the knowledge, experience, or foresight to make decisions for themselves. Now, I think eighteen is a bit high -- sixteen year olds function as adults in American society but without the accompanying rights -- but I don't think many sane people would argue that any but the most exceptional thirteen, fourteen, or even fifteen year olds are able to make decisions with far-reaching consequences.

So it falls upon parents to do that for them, and if the parents catch their children having a circle-jerk with the neighbor kids, they damn well should teach them better, and to hell with whether it feels good. If the kids still want to do it when they become adults, more power to them, but at fourteen they don't get that option any more than they get to have their own credit card.

And should the parents decide that it's all right to masturbate in front of everyone, the government needs to step in. I don't care if the kids say they don't mind -- of course they won't mind if they've been raised to see their father wanking over Dawson's Creek. But when they get older, they will mind -- I've known people who've been raised in screwy households like that, and the results aren't pretty.

"If it feels good, do it" is a fine philosophy for people who understand responsibility and consequences, but only a nutbar would apply it to children. As the good Doctor once said, "If monkeys could control the world, they'd fill it with bananas" -- and Bog knows, the average teenager has less sense than a monkey.

2003/12/20

Amazing Advancements in Spelling

Looking over coverage of Libya's renunciation of WMD programs, one thing that strikes me is how far spelling has advanced in the last fifteen years. Last time Qaddafi was a major figure in news coverage, back in the mid and late '80s, there were as many spellings of his name as there were newspapers -- Qaddafi, Qaddafy, Khaddafy, Kaddaffii, Ghaddafi. It got so bad there was even an SNL skit about it. Now everyone, even bloggers, are typing from the same style sheet -- his name is Qaddafi.

Now someone needs to bring his clothing up to date -- he still looks like a villain from Miami Vice. (Actually, more like Simon and Simon or Riptide, but since he's being friendly now, I'll promote him to an A-level cheesy '80s detective show.)
Wow, PETA, I Never Knew My Mother Was This Cool!

Your Mommy Kills Little Bunnies

2003/12/19

Libya Agrees to Dismantle WMD

Bush is on TV right now, announcing that Libya's agreed to dismantle it's weapons of mass destruction.

    Libya's leader Colonel Gaddafi has confirmed his country in the past sought to develop weapons of mass destruction.

    Downing Street says he has now declared his intention to dismantle this programme completely.

    Number 10 said the move follows discussions over the last nine months between Libya, the US and the UK.
Gee, what happened nine months ago that might've spurred Libya to do this?

UPDATE: When news breaks, anchors often have to speak extemporaneously and reveal what air-heads they are. Frex, Tony Snow was just giving a history of Qaddafi's sponsorship of terrorism, mentioning the bombing of a discotech in Munich, Germany, and Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, England. But in actuality, the disco was in Berlin, and Lockerbie's in Scotland.
Nigerian Money Scams -- America's Fault

The only thing more pathetic than someone who gets taken in by a scam is someone who gets taken in by a scam and then feels the need to whine about it in public. Take Polly Toynbee for instance:

    With embarrassment, feeling a fool, I admit I was a victim of a Nigerian fraud. Looking back now, I can't think why I was so easily taken in but I did make a reasonable check. A hand-written letter arrived from a Nigerian 14-year-old called Sandra. It was nicely written on a religious school's headed paper, though not too perfect, telling me her sad story. Both her parents had died and she had to complete her last two years of school. Her results were good, and it would only cost £100 a year for the last two years to cover the cost. I wrote back and I also wrote to her headmaster, whose name appeared on the school letterhead, at a PO box. He wrote back in more adult handwriting to say Sandra was indeed a needy and promising student, and he enclosed her last term's report. It was an impressive document, each subject carefully filled in by a teacher with different writing, giving an excellent but not over-the-top report, with some subjects subtly lagging a bit behind. So I sent a cheque for £200 and received another of Sandra's letters, a bit too full of God's mercy and Jesus's blessings for my taste. I had an idea I might keep in touch with her to see what became of her. If I had any doubts, £200 was a modest sum for all the effort a fraudster took to create these letters.

    But it wasn't about the £200. Not long afterwards my bank received a letter with a perfect copy of my signature, giving my bank account numbers, asking for £1,000 to be transferred at once to a bank in Osaka, Japan. Luckily, the bank thought to ring me up and query it. It turned out that a host of recent scams had asked for money to be transferred to Japan and the police had alerted all banks. It took me a little while to work out how they got my signature and my bank details, but then it clicked. Sure enough, when I reported it to the police, they laughed. They knew the Sandra letters very well and the real purpose was to sting the victim's bank account. It happened again last week when my bank got another request for a £1,000 transfer to Japan and I do feel a fool.
Okay, she feels the fool -- good start, though it'd be better if she admitted she is a fool. So does she accept responsibility for making a stupid mistake? Does she blame the Nigerian scammer for preying on the weak minded?

Hell no.

    The image of capitalism now being spread about the world is cowboy stuff: little gleaned from America extols the virtue of regulation, restraint and control. We reap from the third world what we sow: if some Nigerians learned lessons in capitalism from global oil companies that helped corrupt and despoil that land, it is hardly surpising they absorbed some of the Texan oil values that now rule the White House.
Yes, folks, she blames George W. Bush and the US in general for the 419 scam -- those poor, stupid Nigerians could never've thought this up if Dubya wasn't in the White House (never you mind that the scam started when GWB was just a boy).
You Don't Want to Go into the Coat Room at this Party

From IMDB:

    Hollywood actress Winona Ryder has been rudely snubbed by her defense attorney Mark Geragos - who failed to invite her to his Christmas bash. Geragos - who failed to clear Ryder's name of shoplifting charges at Los Angeles boutique Sak's Fifth Avenue last year - invited other clients Michael Jackson, murder suspect Scott Peterson and rapper Nate Dogg to the glitzy bash but left Ryder off the guest list.
What is this, a Christmas party or the Legion of Doom? Hey, maybe Saddam will show up, too.

The Hall of Doom

Poor Winona, she just doesn't have what it takes to hang with that crowd. But that's okay, I'd be more than happy to have her for Christmas.

2003/12/18

Crossing the Line

The whole Indymedia network is filled with loons, but this goes too far even for them -- they've published the names, addresses, and places of employment for Cheney donors. The comment section is filled with things like,

    One can easily look up a lot of these numbers in the phone book, and probably come up with addresses, too. Some may be nonpub, but I'll bet that the vast majority (heh heh, majority) is not...
and

    This should be made a permanent link. Buisness like Fred Meyers should be able to called out and boycotted. This should be added permanently to the website so we can know who is taking away our free press.
Okay, I know the word "fascism" get bandied about too much, but in all earnestness, this is fascistic behavior. Just substitute "Jews" for "Republican donors" and you can well imagine the Nazi party trying this in the early '30s.
Wow, Cat Stevens and Michael Jackson! Islam Gets All the Good Music!

What do you do when you're accused of pedophilia and face a future of being passed between prisoners like a joint at a Grateful Dead concert? Why convert to the Nation of Islam in the hope they'll protect you if you get convicted!
The Final Decline of France?

Roger L. Simon's back from his research trip to France and he paints a bleak picture of a country in decay. And this from a liberal.
Paris Hilton -- More Popular than the Prez

Paris Hilton, a woman who's famous for nothing more than being a spoiled skankoid, got better ratings than Diane Sawyer's interview with President Bush. That says a lot about America. I don't know what exactly, but it's a mouthful even for Paris.
"Joy to the World, the Americans Caught Saddam"

I cannot believe South Park managed to turn out an episode about Saddam's capture that quickly. They've always been topical, having an episode about the 2000 election while the recount was still ongoing, and altering the ending of an Elian Gonzalez episode to keep it in line with current events, but this marks a new high. And even though Saddam only shows up in the last five minutes, it's obvious they made the episode from scratch in the four days since his capture and didn't just change the ending to something they already had in the can -- just viddy all the references the boys make to missing their Christmas adventure, indicating that Matt and Trey had had a Christmas episode planned but couldn't pass up the chance at topicality.

I wonder, is the military showing the South Park movie to Saddam in captivity? Forcing him to watch a cartoon where he sodomizes the devil would have to be the best interrogation technique ever -- Torquemada himself couldn't top it.

2003/12/17

A Red-Letter Day in the History of Aeronautics

Today marks an important milestone in the history of civilian aeronautics -- and I'm not talking about the Wright Brothers' flight. No, this is something that might have an even more profound impact on the world -- Brian Binnie piloted SpaceShipOne, a privately built craft, to an altitude of 68,000 feet at speeds in excess of Mach 1. Scaled Composites, a California company, built SS1 as their entry for the X-Prize, a contest with the aim of creating a civilian spacecraft. While 68,000 feet is far short of the 330,000 required by the contest, it's nonetheless an impressive start, and breaking the sound-barrier is a real eye-opener. Up until now, I've been thinking the X-Prize was a wash -- it's been around since at least the mid-90s and I haven't seen much beyond stories about innovative design ideas. But it looks like things are moving along and we could see some of the competitors ready to make their try in the near future.

When that happens, a lot of people will be taken by surprise -- apart from pop-sci magazines and a few shows on the Discovery and Learning channels, there's been practically no media coverage of the X-Prize. Wouldn't it be especially great if someone won the X-Prize before the next shuttle launch -- imagine how that would undermine NASA's space monopoly if the only manned vessel in operation in the US was built by a small, private company.
Now Why Didn't We Have This Fad When I Was 13?

A new wave of parental paranoia, propagated by scare-mongering local newscasts, is sweeping the nation -- sex braclets:

    Jelly bracelet fashion accessories have been around since the 80's. But instead of a fashion statement, they may be making a statement about your kid's sex life.

    These bendable pieces of colored rubber have become a sexual code to many teens.

    Here's a common breakdown:
    Yellow: hugging
    Purple: kissing
    Red: lap dance
    Blue: oral sex
    Black: intercourse

    In a game called snap, if a boy breaks a jelly bracelet off a girl's wrist, he gets a sexual coupon for that act.

    It's become such a problem in some middle schools in Florida that districts started banning the bracelets.

    If your daughter is wearing one of these bracelets, it may be cause for concern.
While Snopes still lists this as undetermined, I'm pretty sure it's false for one simple reason -- kids suck at remembering rules. Maybe if it were part of some card game with the rules written down, but something spread by word of mouth? Come on. Who remembers Opposite Day? Now who remembers which day of the week was Opposite Day?

...

[crickets chirping]

My point exactly. Opposite day was whatever day someone disagreed with you.

    "Nuh-uh! You are so wrong. Mighty Mouse would whup Superman's ass."

    "Yeah, well today's opposite today, which means you think Superman would win."


Or how about Monopoly -- every time you'd play, you'd have to make sure everyone agreed on the special rules -- the ones not on the box, like "landing on Free Parking gives you all the money in the Community Chest" -- or else you'd get into a fight because someone didn't want to go to jail after rolling three doubles.

I can well imagine how this game would really be played in middle schools -- whatever color bracelet the most popular girl happens to be wearing will signify that she's sexually active and ready to go down on guys; whatever color the most unpopular girl happens to be wearing will signify that she's a complete slut; the guys will have detailed discussions about what colors various girls are wearing, while most of the girls will remain ignorant of the whole thing except for vague rumors.

Any attempts to seriously play the game would last until the first time Melvin "Zitboy" Muffley snags a girl's bracelet.

In fact, it reminds me a lot of a game called Padiddle we played at my high school -- it was basically Punch Buggy, except you hit the roof and said "padiddle" when you saw a car with one headlight. Whoever scored ten padiddles could get a sexual favor from someone else in the car.

Yeah, like that ever happened.

Everyone played the game and made jokes about what they'd do if they won, but it was pretty much a given that the girls wouldn't pay up unless perhaps their boyfriends won.

So basically, I wouldn't worry what color bracelet a teenager's wearing unless she's a slut, in which case the bracelet doesn't make much difference anyway.
I Hereby Declare Christmas a Secular Holiday

The latest report of holiday-oriented political correctness run amuck comes from Texas:

    My kindergarten daughter was informed that in the song "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," her class was to sing: "We Wish You a Merry Hissmas." This prompted her young mind to ask me what holiday Hissmas was, among other questions.

    The mother told her daughter to tell the teacher that the family celebrates Christmas, not Hissmass. The teacher told the girl she could sing "Christmas," but to sing quietly.
Okay, seriously folks, this is absurd. I mean, I'm an atheist, I think Judge Moore should be disbarred, and I'm all for restoring the Pledge of Allegiance to its original form. But Jebus!

When I was in school, here's what teachers did -- "Okay, class, is there anyone here who celebrates Hanukkah? Oh, Hannah, of course. Can you ask your mother or father if they might come in next week and teach us about Hanukkah?" Then Hannah's mother would come in one day and show us menorahs and dradles and fix us latkes (ick -- most disgusting things I've ever tasted; I'm lucky they didn't turn me into an antisemite). Then the next day, we'd have a Christmas party. Everyone was happy and -- hey -- it was real multiculturalism.

But the truth is, Christmas has become a secular holiday anyways -- Santa's no more a religious symbol now than the cupids on Valentine cards. As long as they're willing to put out Menorahs, I have no problem with cities or schools displaying creches. If anyone's so sensitive that even the name Christmas offends them, they can call it Giftmas instead, but leave the rest of us alone.
Who Should Try Saddam?

So there's a debate brewing -- or at least some people are trying to start one even though the decision appears to've been made already -- over who should try Saddam Hussein, the Hague or some other international court, the US, or Iraq. A number of Democrats and the rest of the world are pushing for an international court, either because they think the Iraqis are incapable of giving him a fair trial, that they're just puppets of the US, or because they're laboring under the delusion that international courts are anything but farces, despite the ample evidence to the contrary. Tacitus has a good (if one sided) round-up of the arguments.

Personally, I'm all for an international tribunal. After all, he perpetrated crimes not just against the Iraqi people, but Iran and Kuwait as well. I think Hussein should be judged by a panel to consist of the following:

  • an Iranian
  • a Kuwaiti
  • an Iraqi Kurd
  • an Iraqi Shia
  • an Iraqi Sunni
(We might also add a Chaldean and a Marsh Arab, but this is a good start.)

This way there'll be three major ethnic groups and both branches of Islam represented -- and the presence of an Iranian should quell accusations that the judges are American puppets. Plus we'll get to say we're all for internationalism while keeping the French out of the process.

2003/12/16

Stephen Hunter -- Geek

Stephen Hunter has a good review of The Return of the King in which he demonstrates a decent knowledge of the original books (listing all the names of Sauron is pretty impressive, as is counting all the major engagements of the War of the Ring), but he makes a mistake in the very first line:

    It may help if you know an orc from a Ringwraith or Aragorn from Gimli or Gandalf from Maiar.
Gandalf is, as any Tolkien geek will tell you, a Maiar. I'm not sure if this is a simple flub (perhaps he meant "Valar"), a deliberate error so he won't look too geeky or to annoy fanboys, or if he just never got past page 5 of the Silmarillion.
Natalie or Kiera

Diablo at Pussyranch has some thoughts on Kiera Knightley vs Natalie Portman. (It's not sexist because she's a chick.)

    Keira Knightly is so much sexier because she's, like, imperfect. She has that naughty little underbite like "Ooh, I'd fancy a nibble! And she's all gangly.

    Natalie Portman looks overgroomed. She thinks she's so perfect in those Tocca sundresses, writing letters to the Harvard Crimson and not revealing her real last name (Hershlag!)

    Move over, Padme. Your seatwarmer is making strides in Hollywood, big strides!
Yikes! She's right -- Kiera was one of Padme's doubles in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

The thing is, Portman used to be really cute and a good actress back when she was acting in Leon/The Professional and Mars Attacks, but around the time she turned 18 and starred in Episode I (they happened at about the same time) she transformed into a mediocre starlet with bland looks.

Knightley, on the other hand, had IT. She's pretty but not stunning, and in addition to the aforementioned underbite, she has a truly obnoxious British laugh, as exhibited in the Pirates of the Caribbean DVD. Come to that, she sounds like Eliza Doolittle when she's not acting. But she comes off as someone who you could hang out with at Dennys, whereas Portman seems like she needs a proctopolectomy before she'd leave the house without five layers of makeup and perfectly styled hair.
Media Notes: The Blog

Howard Kurtz's Media Notes column now comes in a new bloggy flavor. Actually, he's been writing an online column on an irregular basis for quite a while now; this just puts all his postings on one page, whereas before you had to go to a main index that included his print articles as well.
When in Doubt, Assert

The Guardian today, in a clear attempt to woo readers from the Independent, printed an article of extreme loonyness by George Monbiot.

    At Kitty Hawk, George Bush will deliver a eulogy to aviation, while a number of men with more money than sense will seek to recreate the Wrights' first flight. Well, they can keep their anniversary. Tomorrow should be a day of international mourning. December 17 2003 is the centenary of the world's most effective killing machine.
Right from the start, he exhibits an inability to distinguish the instrument of destruction from the delivery system -- airplanes have killed very few people, and most of those accidentally -- surely automobiles are far more effective at killing people. Bombs and missiles and bullets kill people, and save for missiles, all of them predate the brothers Wright. You might as well say that the human arms and hands are the greatest killers in the world.

    The aeroplane was not the first weapon of mass destruction. The European powers had already learned to rain terror upon their colonial subjects by means of naval bombardment, artillery and the Gatling and Maxim guns.
To call artillery and Gatling guns weapons of mass destruction is to dilute the phrase to the point of meaninglessness. Sorry, but if it can't kill a thousand people in a single use, it ain't mass destruction.

    None of this was lost on the Wright brothers. When Wilbur Wright was asked, in 1905, what the purpose of his machine might be, he answered simply: "War." As soon as they were confident that the technology worked, the brothers approached the war offices of several nations, hoping to sell their patent to the highest bidder. The US government bought it for $30,000, and started test bombing in 1910. The aeroplane was conceived, designed, tested, developed and sold, in other words, not as a vehicle for tourism, but as an instrument of destruction.
A big "So what?" That the obvious application of a device is to kill doesn't negate the greatness of its invention. The blade was invented for no other purpose than to kill, but I don't see anyone writing screeds against knives and axes, saws and razors, scissors and nail-clippers.

    I doubt much mention will be made of all this at the centenary celebrations tomorrow. Instead we will be encouraged to concentrate upon the civil applications of this military technology. We will be told how the aeroplane has made the world a smaller place, how it has brought people closer together, fostering understanding and friendship. There is something in this: the people of powerful nations might be reluctant to permit their leaders to destroy the countries they have visited. But commercial flights, like military flights, are an instrument of domination. As tourists, we engage with the people of other nations on our own terms. The world's administrators can flit from place to place enforcing their mandate. The corporate jet-set shrinks the earth to fit its needs. Those with access to the aeroplane control the world.
Yes, the world would be a better place without flight. Imagine how glorious it'd be if the Red Cross couldn't transport disaster relief to flood and earthquake victims in any useful time. Just think how much better we'd be if we couldn't fly people across the oceans of the world for heart transplants. What a wonderful world Monbiot wishes we could live in.

    Those hijackers had turned the civilian product of a military technology back into a military technology, but even when used for strictly commercial purposes, the airliner remains a weapon of mass destruction. Last week the World Health Organisation calculated that climate change is causing 150,000 deaths a year. This figure excludes deaths caused by drought and famine, pests and plant diseases and conflicts over natural resources, all of which appear to be exacerbated by global warming. Flying is our most effective means of wrecking the planet: every passenger on a return journey from Britain to Florida produces more carbon dioxide than the average motorist does in a year. Every time we fly, we help to kill someone.
Yes, George, and every time you lie, God kills a kitten. There are lots of dead kittens today because of you.

And just in case the rest of the article wasn't enough to convince you that Monbiot is an idiot, he ends with a wonderful demonstration of his ignorance:

    Just as Alexander the Great worshipped his horse, George Bush, the new conqueror of Persia, will tomorrow worship the aeroplane.
No, dumbass, Persia is Iran which we haven't invaded yet; Iraq is Mesopotamia. Jebus, if you're going to make such idiotic arguments, at least get your facts straight.
It's the Death of the Internet!

FCC commissioner Michael Copps is making dire predictions about the future of the Internet:

    This Internet may be dying. At the behest of powerful interests, the FCC is buying into a warped vision that open networks should be replaced by closed networks and that the FCC should excuse broadband providers from longstanding non-discrimination requirements.
Of course, people have been predicting the Internet's death since about five minutes after the first Star Trek flamewar broke out on ARPANET. But there's an old saying -- "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." It's a bit of an exaggeration, but not as much as you might think (remember, it was originally designed to withstand nuclear attacks), especially if you include humans as part of the equation. As long as computers can send and receive data over a network, people will invent new ways to send whatever they want. For an ISP to completely control the data flow to users would reduce their service to uselessness and people would flock away.

But Copps says,

    Some argue that competition will save us from this fate. But today only a minority of Americans has a choice between cable and DSL. The rest of us can take whichever one is available -- if one of them is available. Until real competition between technologies limits the power of incumbents, we must not abandon anti-discrimination rules.
I don't entirely buy this. Of course, if all else fails, you can just revert back to dial-up, but I doubt the situation will ever be that bad. Those of us who have a choice in the matter live in metropolitan areas like New York and DC, but our options include many of the same ISPs that service the rest of the country. So, for example, Comcast might be able to censor content out in Bumfuck, Arkansas where they're the only broadband provider around, but if they tried it in the DC area, people would just switch to one of their competitors (which, here in Manassas, includes broadband over powerlines *). So either Comcast would have to offer significantly different Terms of Service for different regions, or they'd have to let the Bumfuckians access the same sites as the Manassholes.

* Wow, according to this, we're the first in the nation to have this technology. Of course, it helps to live somewhere with underground powerlines -- the wires make for great antennae, so transmitting over them kicks up a lot of interference unless they're shielded.

2003/12/15

When You Don't Get Your Way, Pitch a Fit

A protester at the new Air and Space Museum annex has been arrested for trying to deface the Enola Gay. Based on the picture shown on a local news station, this was some baby boomer who hasn't grown out of his irresponsible youth.

2003/12/14

Loony Toon Alert

Didn't take long for the first loons to come out of the wood-work and accuse Bush of staging Hussein's capture. From a kook named Brian Bernardini in rec.arts.tv (sorry, too early for it to've shown up in Google's archive):

    I find the timing interesting.

    [Someone asks him why]

    Bush was about to experience a great deal of backlash from the recent stories about Halliburton and the thing about non-coalition countries not being able to bid on reconstruction projects.
Yes, Bush was just waiting for some trouble to brew before he whipped out Hussein like a Get out of Jail Free card.

Some nut named Al Lewis then chimes in by saying:

    The capture of Saddam Hussein is purely symbolic at this point.
Yes, pure symbolism. His death or capture hasn't been one of our highest priorities since Bush ordered the first missiles to fly. (You remember the first missiles, the ones from the failed decapitation strike that began the war.)

By this logic, we should stop caring about getting bin Laden because, well, it would only be symbolic -- I mean, even if we catch him, al Qaeda will continue.

It's sad that some people have taken being against the war to the point where anything the US does has to be a failure or a screw up, and our successes have to be written off as symbolic.
We're Not Big Brother, Honest

I haven't blogged about the UN Internet summit because, well, I doubt anything will ever come of it, however this news is pretty disturbing -- summit organizers implanted, apparently without telling anyone, Radio Frequence Identification (RFID) chips on badges used by conference attendees -- including several world leaders.

Between this, the attempts to keep reporters and ICANN representatives out of meetings, and the general purpose of the conference (to discuss internationalization of the DNS and IP systems), this really is looking like something out of a black-helicopter conspiracy.
To Fall on Your Sword

Reports are now that Hussein had a gun with him in his hidey-hole, but he didn't use it to resist capture, or even blow his own brains out. Preferring suicide to capture has been the honorable thing since the ancient world when Roman generals fell on their swords rather than submit; even the Jews, who abhor suicide, were willing to commit mass suicide during the great revolt of 66 CE, most famously at Masada. Even Hitler had the good graces to kill himself.

But not Hussein -- even though the means were at hand for him to take his life, he chose to give over to the Americans. Despite his years of defiant rhetoric, he turned out to be too cowardly to put the barrel in his mouth and pull the trigger. Apart from finding out he was wearing Depends undergarments, I don't see how this could be more humiliating for him and his followers.
Re-sult!

US forces have captured a hobo who was living in a hole in the ground. The phrase Sic semper tyrannis comes to mind.

Instapundit has a roundup of reaction from around the net.

The big question is, "What now?" By all accounts, Hussein's a cowed and beaten man who offered no resistence apart from hiding. Offering to take the death-penalty off the table might get him to cooperate, maybe to issue a statement telling his followers to put down their arms, but would it be worth letting him live? I don't think so. Right now we need to cut off his head, put it on a pike, and send it on a world tour (figurtively, at least).

2003/12/13

Tolkien Is a Bigot, Take 100,713

As the premiere of Return of the King approaches, Tolkien's much in the news, which can mean only one thing -- it's time for every semi-literate ijit who's ever touched a copy of Lord of the Rings to start ranting about how racist and sexist Tolkien was. The problem with such criticisms is that it invariably relies upon a facile reading of the text -- "Hey, there are pseudo-Norse themes in here, just like the Nazis used. And all the good guys are white!" -- that falls apart if you look at the story in any detail.

Attacks on Tolkien generally begin by claiming he depicted the bad guys in racist ways; this usually comes in two flavors:

  1. The orcs are charicatures of other races,
  2. Sauron's army consists of Southrons and Easterlings -- the non-whites of Middle Earth.
Let's start with the orcs -- this criticism is usually accompanied by a quote from the books, like,

    [Orcs are]squat, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant-eyes.
Johann brings up that line fairly early in his screed, and just over a year ago, John Yatt wrote in the Guardian that,

    In the evil corner, the orcs of Isengard: "A grim, dark band... swart, slant-eyed" ... To cap it all, the races that Tolkien has put on the side of evil are then given a rag-bag of non-white characteristics that could have been copied straight from a BNP leaflet. Dark, slant-eyed, swarthy [Wow, dark and swarthy], broad-faced - it's amazing he doesn't go the whole hog and give them a natural sense of rhythm.
Okay, I'll paypal a shiny nickle to the first person who can tell me which race is "swart" (literally, "black") and has eyes that could be described as slanted. The fact is, the orcs are a hodge-podge of traits, assembled like a Mr. Potatohead from the whole range of human facial features into something alien. Or, as Jonah Goldberg said in response to Yatt,

    One is tempted to ask who is the real racist here? On the one hand we have people -- like me -- who see horrific, flesh-eating, dull-witted creatures with jagged feral teeth, venomous mouths, pointed devilish ears, and reptilian skin, and say, "Cool, Orcs!" On the other hand we have people, like Mr. Yatt, who see the same repugnant creatures and righteously exclaim "black people!" Maybe he should spend less time vetting movies for signs of racism and more time vetting himself if, that is, he free-associates black people with these subhuman monsters.
And do note that to put forth this argument, its proponents have to pick-and-choose what traits they use -- they'll point out every instance of "slant eyes" but ignore the "clawlike hand[s]" (II.III.3 "The Uruk Hai"), the "great, flat, toeless [feet]" (I.II.5, "The Bridge of Khazad Dum") and "eyes ... like coals" (ibid) (presumably that last means refers to hot coals, i.e., glowing red). Either people like Johann and Yatt are being intentionally dishonest when they make these claims, or they have such a jones to prove Tolkien racist that they can't be bothered with such niceties as facts.

Nor do they fare much better when they try to argue that Sauron's Army of Ultimate Evil is filled with all the non-white races of the world. This line of attack fails on two fronts.

Firstly, it supposes that those who fight for Sauron are evil, when at every turn Tolkien tells us that the Dark Lord wishes to enslave the entire world to his mind -- why would anyone suppose that the Haradrim and Easterlings are willing followers of Sauron? As Sam (whom Tolkien considered "the chief hero" (Letter #131) and moral center of the story) thinks upon first seeing a dead Haradrim:

    He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace.

    --II.IV.4, "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit"
To see that Sam's on the right track, that Sauron levied his army by threat, just consider what happens in the Battle before the Black Gate once Sauron's power is broken:

    And those that were deepest and longest in evil servitude, hating the West, and yet were men proud and bold, in their turn now gathered themselves for a last stand of desperate battle. But the most part fled eastward as best they could; and some cast their weapons down and sued for mercy.

    --III.IV.4, "The Field of Cormallen"
Seems pretty conclusive to me that Sauron's human army didn't want to be there, save the few collaborators. For this to be racist, so would any movie depicting hordes of Germans and Italians murdering their way across Europe and Africa.

The second problem with this argument is that a substantial number of the white characters are, in fact, bad guys -- from traitors and collaborators like Bill Ferny, Ted Sandyman, Grima Wormtongue, and Saruman himself, to Gondor's nemeses, the Corsairs of Umbar.

The Corsairs are, in fact, rather significant, since they are Numenoreans just like Aragorn and the Rangers and Gondorans; but they're evil Numenoreans who came over the sea late in the Second Age and colonized the lands of the South. In The Silmarillion, Tolkien depicts them as evil men who subjugated the natives of Middle Earth using superior technology. Indeed, those who read The Silmarillion will find that the Numenoreans aren't the master race that many critics of Tolkien assert, but rather a technologically advanced civilization that received the favor of the Valar (gods or angels) for services rendered in the First Age -- and squandered that favor over the next three millennia, until they finally decided to mount an invasion of Valinor itself (Heaven), and Eru (God) had to step in and complete destroy them.

And why did the Numenoreans, a civilization of supposed uber-mensch, decide to mount such a fool-hardy attack? Part of it was that they'd become overweening, intoxicated with their power and jealous of the Valar; and partly because Sauron had come to Numenor and subverted the royal family, feeding them lies to turn them from the path of good ... just as he undoubtedly did in Rhun and Harad and all the other countries that later sent him troops during the War of the Ring. In fact, Sauron did far worse in Numenor -- he turned most of the population into Morgoth (Devil) worshippers, making them actively evil, whereas other men he merely enslaved.

Only a small percentage of Numenoreans remained loyal to Eru and the Valar, and they escaped to Middle Earth where they established the kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor.

Compare this to Johann's description of the Numenoreans:

    Ideals of "blood" and its purity are always sloshing around his narrative. For example, the Men of Gondor - "the high men" - are descendants of the Numenorians [sic], the greatest of all warriors. Over the centuries, they have become "degraded" because of breeding with inferior races. When their bloodline is pure, as in Aragorn's descendants, the strength of the original Lords of the West is retained.
Except that Aragorn's descendants won't have the strength of the Numenoreans of old -- Tolkien's world-view is fundamentally medieval, grounded in the idea that the world is winding down like a clock, the magic draining away so that each age is less than the one before. Aragorn himself is something of a throwback, the greatest of his line since Isildur, but even Isildur wasn't as great as his ancestors.

Nor is it correct to say that what makes Aragorn great is his Numenorean blood. What's significant is that he's from the line of Numenorean kings -- albeit a side-branch -- and the Numenorean Kings are descended from Earendil, who can count most of the heros of the First Age as his ancestors -- including Melian, one of the gods. This isn't like being a pure-blooded "Aryan," but rather the equivalent of someone who can mark Odysseus, Achilles, Hector and Agamemnon on his family tree. This is pretty common in mythology (and soap operas), and no more racist than Darth Vader turning out to be C3P0's, Luke's, and Leia's father.

Seriously folks, if you ever notice that the most popular book of the last fifty years is racist and no one's trying to get it banned from schools, perhaps you should reread it in more detail to see if you're missing something, otherwise you're just going to look like a maroon.
EU Constitutional Covention Goes "Pfut"

The best political minds in Europe can't figure out how to design a legislature that balances the interests of countries with small populations against those with large ones. It's certainly quite a challenge. I mean, it's not like there's a model they could look to, a country that's had such a system in place longer than most European governments have existed. Nope, nothing like that exists.

2003/12/12

Calculated -- SEE: John Kerry

From The Note by way of Howard Kurtz:

    En route to a Claremont, N.H. chili feed, Kerry defended his use of the "F" bomb in a recent Rolling Stone article.

    "I might have used the word bungled. I might have used the word lied. I might have used the word misled. I might have used the word screwed up or any number of things,' the senator said. 'But then I went to the thesaurus and looked it up. And I think I pretty well described exactly what they did in Iraq, frankly."
What's telling about this statement, besides the fact, as Kurtz notes, that he needed a thesaurus to look up "fuck up", is that the other words he considered using are not synonyms -- to say that Bush has bungled is not the same as saying he lied. In other words, Kerry didn't say that Bush's fucked up in Iraq because he believes it, but because he wanted to find something harsh to say about Bush and decided "fucked up" was a better attention grabber than "lied" or "misled".

And people wonder why Dean's leading in the polls.
Lock 'n' Load

Postal workers are "mad as hell and ... not going to take it anymore" according to Lisa de Moraes:

    The U.S. Postal Service is pulling out the heavy ammo to try to kill a "scurrilous and abusive depiction of postal workers" in an upcoming sketch on Fox's "Mad TV."

    The post office has called on its 750,000 employees and its 9 million private-sector partner employees...
Nine million? Jebus, that's a lot of people in postal related fields. That's larger than the US army. Maybe we should deploy them to Iraq -- I mean, they can provide their own transportation and guns.

    ...to protest the sketch, scheduled for the late-night show tomorrow, in which disgruntled, armed postal workers debate who should get to "go postal" first while customers lie face down on the floor. The usual amount of "Mad TV" hilarity ensues, which is not much.
Let me guess, they're going to follow it up with a Jerry Springer parody and a couple Spice Girl jokes?

    "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more," Azeezaly S. Jaffer, vice president of public affairs and communications for the U.S. Postal Service, said in a statement;
Way to prove those stereotypes wrong! You've certainly convinced me that you aren't going to pick up an Uzi and venhilate me. Really, you have. Now put that Uzi down, Mr. Jaffer. That's it. I'll just back away slowly now.

    Jaffer noted that he had lifted the line from Peter Finch's character in the 1976 flick "Network."

    This is probably not the best choice Jaffer has ever made as spokesman for the postal service. That's because in "Network" Finch, as aging TV anchorman Howard Beale, delivers that famous line after telling viewers live on the air that he intends to commit suicide, also live on the air. Beale, of course, then becomes enormously popular and gets his own TV show, but when things get out of hand, the network decides to have him assassinated on his show.

    Aside from that, it's a great quote.
Be sure to read de Moraes' full column, which is even snarkier than normal. I particularly enjoyed this bit:

    This, in turn, brings back fond memories of the 1999 study, conducted for the Partnership for Trust in Government, that found the American public holds a dim view of postal workers because the creators of "Seinfeld" poisoned their minds with the show's inept mailman Newman, who stockpiled mail in anger when denied a transfer to Hawaii.

    (That study also blamed Marge's sister Selma on "The Simpsons" for the unkind thoughts many people have toward Department of Motor Vehicles employees. Selma, a DMV employee, was prone to doing things such as giving an actor who doesn't want to be seen wearing glasses a pass on his eye exam, and he asks her out on a date.)

    In fact, that study concluded that TV was pretty much to blame for the fact that elected officials and civil servants had replaced businessmen as the "least likable occupational group."
Imagine that -- Isaac Asimov was a good forty years ahead of his time when he described the best ways to bribe bureaucrats in Foundation and Empire.

2003/12/11

open_source_prefs("open.source.evangelism", true);

Another security hole in Internet Explorer. And in other news, the sky is blue.

    Danish security experts have discovered that Internet Explorer 6 allows Web sites to display false addresses in a user's browser.

    It could allow a malicious site to display a trustworthy URL, pcpro.co.ul reported.
Someone on Slashdot posted this explanation of what the bug is:

    However, with this exploit, if you put a URL encoded ASCII "NUL" (%00) or "SOH" (%01) in the URL, the location bar will not display the @symbol or anything after it. Thus:

    http://www.yahoo.com%01@www.0wnz0red.com/0wn-j00.html

    will take people to the "0wn-j00.html" page on 0wnz0red.com, however the location bar will only display:

    http://www.yahoo.com

    Assuming 0wnz0red.com is a well-done forgery, even the most clueful geek would have a really, really, really, hard time telling that he's at anything but yahoo.com. (yeah, yeah, netstat and firewalls and all that, but that's not the point)
So for all of you viewing this site with IE (and my site stats say most of you are), perhaps it's time to look into switching to Mozilla. The user interface isn't much different from Explorer, but it's much less buggy, automatically blocks pop-ups, and, best of all, is extensible, which means you can add plug-ins to make browsing even easier.

For most people, regular Mozilla 1.5 (which is the basis for Netscape 7.1) should be sufficient, but for the adventurous, there's the experimental Firebird browser, which is leaner and faster.
The Ozz Man Recovers

According to IMDb:

    Wildman rocker Ozzy Osbourne gained full consciousness yesterday for the first time since undergoing emergency surgery....
Oh, puh-leeze, the man hasn't been fully conscious since sometime during Reagan's first term.

2003/12/09

Funny as Eating Irish Babies

Meryl Yourish is annoyed that people enjoy reading Allah.

    I'm still not laughing. I seem to be missing the parts that are supposed to be humor. Yes, I get that this is a parody. I understand that we're supposed to be laughing because Allah is making fun of Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism and Jew hatred. But I simply can't seem to laugh at things like the posts I have excerpted, and I don't find this form of humor very amusing.
I think the problem here is that Allah's satirical, not parodic, and, contrary to popular belief, satire isn't necessarily supposed to be funny. I mean, did you laugh when Napoleon sent Boxer to the glue factory in Animal Farm -- "Ha, ha, ha, the Soviet oppression of the proletariat is hilarious!" How about that bit in Sewer, Gas, and Electric where people of the future own robots that look like Uncle Remus and Amos 'n' Andy? Of course not -- it's not supposed to be funny.

Satire is primarily ironic -- that is, the writer makes his point by saying the opposite of his point. On times it can be funny, as, say, The Life of Brian, but just as often the humor is the blackest of black, or entirely non-existent, like with Swift's "A Modest Proposal", which was so straight-faced that many of the original readers couldn't tell if Swift was in earnest. While Allah isn't in the same league as Swift, he's clearly writing in the same dark style.
But Can Edward James Olmos Top Lorne Green's "Best Death Ever"?

I was pleasantly surprised to see an attempt at realism in the new Battlestar Galactica last night. Sure, it still featured the Star Wars inspired silliness of small one-man fighters dog-fighting in deep space, but at least this time they were kilometers apart instead of a few meters like in the original.

I particularly like the fact that the Cylons actually used nukes to wipe out humanity instead of strafing cities (the second dumbest idea in the original, right behind the damned robot dog, which is quite an accomplishment for a show that was packed with dumb ideas like Rosie O'Donnell in a tube-top). And, miracle of miracles, we finally have an SF show that realizes that without air to propagate the blast wave, a nuclear explosion in space is just a burst of radiation. That the Galactica could survive a direct hit by a nuke is a bit of a stretch, but since we didn't see any Praxis rings or fighters shaking from the blast, I'll forgive it, especially since the writers followed it up with a great damage control scene: with part of the ship on fire, Colonel Tigh orders the burning sections sealed and vented into space, even though there were people still inside, the science fiction equivalent of a sub commander ordering compartments closed off to stop a leak. Except that in most movies that have such scenes, the captain spends five minutes agonizing over the choice, usually giving the men enough time to escape. Real life's not like that, and neither is the new Galactica -- Tigh took about five seconds to reach the decision and stuck to it even when the engineer insisted he only needed another minute to evacuate his men. I find the realistic situation a lot more interesting than the false melodrama of Crimson Tide and the like.

But best of all, there're signs that the writers have actually read some science fiction, particularly Vernor Vinge, Ken MacLeod, and other cyberpunk-influenced space-opera authors. This time around, the Cylons aren't even bothering to fight the humans, but hacking their computers so they're sitting ducks. The newer human ships, with their networked computer systems, are easy marks, and only the old Galactica, designed to be robust against hack attacks, can resist. I'm just disappointed the writers didn't work in nano-babbages like the Solar Union uses in The Cassini Division.

The other nice touch here was that the Cylons are no longer wasting resources by having robots pilot their ships, and instead are just programming the ships to fly themselves -- hey, if you have artificial intelligence, you don't have to put it into a bi-pedal robot.

The show also has some nice character moments. Besides the aforementioned scene with Colonel Tigh, I love Adama's numb voice as he reads off the first report of the attacks -- there's no anger or fire in his voice, just pure shock. Baltar, though no where near as deliciously evil as John Colicos's original, is a great slimeball tech-pundit-genius (too bad he never has the opportunity to say, "I for one welcome our new robot overlords").

The changes to the characters don't bother me, mainly because I was never too attached to the originals, apart from Starbuck. But the new Starbuck is good if different (hey, it's nice to see a pilot as a swaggering jock and not an annoying brat like Luke Skywalker or the guys in Space: Above and Beyond).
Put a Fork in It

How much more pathetic can the Kerry campaign get? After it came out yesterday that Gore would be endorsing Dean, they drafted a response for Kerry to use if he the press asked him to comment -- and then accidently placed The New Republic on the CC: list. TNR notes that this isn't a big deal in itself, but indicative of how screwed up the campaign is. The part I find truly pathetic is the AOLish nature of the grammar:

    I don't think kerry should comment, unless asked at a press event?. Not other campaign has issued a statement...[Empahsis added to highlight errors]
Four mistakes in nine-teen words. How did this woman graduate high school let alone get a job with a presidential campaign?
Just in Case There Was Any Doubt

On the off chance anyone still doubts that Indymedia is anything other than an online loony-bin, check out this article on the Protocols of Zion, which, they claim, are forgeries ... designed by the Illuminati to frame the Jews. And for support, they cite a review on Amazon.com!

Brilliant!

2003/12/08

Who's the Loon

Last week pundits drubbed Howard Dean and called him a moonbat after he said a certain 11 September conspiracy theory was "the most interesting" one he'd heard. After watching General Clark on Hardball, though, I think the criticism is completely misaimed. The General repeated his assertion that, after 11 September, people (whom he won't name) with connections to the Bush administration told him that we were going to invade Iraq whether or not Hussein was connected to the attacks. He still isn't offering support for his claims, he hasn't explained why he didn't mention this a year ago, but he is hinting that it's an impeachable offense.

And his explanation of why he was fired is less than compelling ("I wasn't relieved of command; I was asked to retire three months early").
Battlestar Galactica

The SciFi Channel's new Battlestar Galactica miniseries premieres tonight, and many fans are upset over changes.

Yes, the producers have made Starbuck a chick, changed the race of several characters, and made the Cylons look like Debbie Harry. But come on, it's Battlestar Galactica, a Mormon skiffy series from the Carter Administration, just slightly less cheesy than Space 1999, that reused the same dozen FX shots in every episode. It's not like they're butchering Shakespeare here -- I mean, it'd be kinda hard for the new series to be worse than the original.
Darl vs Linus

Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel, responds to Darl McBride's open letter that asserted that open-source in unconstitutional.

And in other news, Sun Microsystems is about to release their Linux-based Java Desktop System, and is in negotiations to include it on Wal-Mart's planned line of computers. Some people aren't happy with the idea of it being a proprietary system, but you know, as much as I love open-source, I like sticking it to Microsoft more, and this looks like something that'll eat into MS's market-share. Besides, looking at the specs, most of the sytem seems to be open-source software and you're just paying for the ease of installation and migration. For new Linux users, it might be preferable to downloading several CDs worth of ROM images for Debian.

UPDATE: Oh, and SCO's stock is down 9% on the day.

    But on some level, SCO has turned its stock into a lottery ticket on the outcome of its controversial suit against IBM. On Monday, SCO shares traded low as $15.10 and were recently down $1.05, or 6.4%, to $15.39.
In the immortal words of Ishtar Ketchup, "Sweet, dude!"
Misunderestimating Dean

Jonathan Rauch at Reason dissects Dean's supposed extremism and finds it lacking.

    The Left loves Dean because he stands up to Bush and does not seem like a fast-footed career politician. If in actuality he is a fast-footed career politician, as the record suggests--well, so much the better. Being one without seeming like one is political gold. Ask Bill Clinton.

    The point is not that Dean, should he win the nomination, will beat Bush. The point is that Dean is no pushover. Republicans chortling that Dean would be the next McGovern had better watch out: He may be the next Clinton.
I'm glad I'm not the only one who's actually listened to what Dean's saying instead of being distracted by his rhetorical style and nitpickery over how he phrases things. This is going to be a bloody campaign, not the paint-drying contests we had in '96 and '00.

Oh, and I'm so going to be insufferable when Dean's campaign doesn't turn out to be an extremist moonbat who's campaign self-destructs.

2003/12/07

Hanoi Jane's a Little Insane

Jane Fonda once more proves that being a washed up sex symbol is no substitute for brains.

    That's why V-Day, The White House Project and their many allies are partnering to hold a national women's convention somewhere in the heartland, next June of 2004. Its purpose will be to inspire and mobilize women and vagina-friendly men around the 2004 elections and to build a new movement that will coalesce our energies and forces around a politic of caring.

    The convention will put forward a fresh, clear, and concise platform of issues, and build the spirit, energy and power base to hold the candidates accountable for them. There will be a diversity of women from across the country who will participate in the mobilization. There will be a special focus on involving young women. There will be a variety of performers and artists acknowledging that culture plays a powerful role in political action. There will be a concurrent Internet mobilization. Women's organizations will be asked to sign on and send representatives to the convention.

    There will be a caravan, a rolling tour across the country, of diverse women leaders, celebrities and activists who will work with local organizers to build momentum, sign people up, register them to vote, get them organized and leave behind a tool kit for further mobilization through the election and beyond.

    This movement will be a volcano that will erupt in a flow of soft, hot, empathic, breathing, authentic, vagina-friendly, relational lava that will encircle patriarchy and smother it. We will be the flood and we'll be Noah's arc. "V" for Vagina, for vote, for victory.
Young women looking for vagina friendly men? Well count me in.
Let the Ignorant Articles Begin

Well, this month is probably our last chance for a long while to hear guys who read Lord of the Rings thirty years ago expound upon its meaning. But today's Telegraph gives us a doozy from Sam Leith.

    The Lord of the Rings, as any GCSE English student would tell you, is an allegory about power.
Well, apparently these English students skip straight to the story without bothering with the introductory materials, because Tolkien states flat out that,

    But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.
The professor goes on to explain that he intended his story to be applicable, that is, for each reader to find his own meaning in the story based upon his personal "thought and experience," unlike allegory where there can be but one meaning -- that which the author coded into the story through his own meaning. As Tolkien put it,

    ...the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.
Leith continues to show his ignorance:

    Tolkien tends to mystify, to leave irreducible the origins of Sauron's evil, and mysterious the nature and purpose of the place beyond the Grey Havens, to which Frodo finally travels to rest.
Not really. Tolkien never explains these things all in one go (odd given that the books have several chapters of pure expository conversation), but reveals it in drips-and-drabs, saving some important bits for the appendicies. Of course, part of this is because he intended for the Silmarilion, which deals with the history of the Elder Days, to be published at the same time as LotR, but his publisher felt they were taking a big enough risk with a thousand-some page epic without adding a fictional mythology to it. However, even for those who know Tolkien only through the hobbit tales, the answers are there.

Sauron, and also the Balrog of Moria, are fallen angels and former lieutenants of Morgoth, the original Dark Lord whom the Valar (gods or angels) banished at the end of the First Age.

    In those days, the Great Enemy, of whom Sauron of Mordor was but a servant, dwelt in Angband in the North.
    --I.11 "A Knife in the Dark"
After his master's defeat, Sauron decided to fill the gap and take over as the new Dark Lord. Indeed, that Sauron is the second and lesser Dark Lord is integral to one of Tolkien's central themes -- the medieval/Greek notion that the world is running down. On the other side, Aragorn is the greatest of his line since Isildur, but Isildur was just a poseur wannabe compared to his ancestor Earendil, or even Luthien, who once beat up Sauron with the help of her dog and broke into Morgoth's stronghold to rescue her lover, Beren. We see the theme repeated everywhere in Tolkien's books -- Saruman tries to create his own Ring of Power, but it's a toy next to Sauron's or those wrought by Celembrimbor; and the Phial of Galadriel contains just a drop of light from one of the Silmarils, over which the wars of the First Age were fought, and even the Silmarils were just pale reflections of the light from the trees of Valinor (heaven, the mysterious land across the sea that Leith was wondering about); Frodo uses the Phial to ward off Shelob, who is a fat cob compared to her mother Ungoliant who was the one to destroy the trees.

All of this is present in the books if you read closely enough.

Leith manages to fit in one more bit of ignorance before the end of the article:

    Interestingly, Tolkien - an observant Catholic - does not give his world a God.
Yes he did.

    'Behind that, there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it.'
    I.2 "The Shadow of the Past"
His name's Eru or Iluvatar, and while Tolkien never explicitly mentions Him in Lord of the Rings, His servants, the Valar and Maiar (gods or angels, depending upon how you look at it), are. Elbereth/Gilthoniel, whose name Frodo and the Elves are always calling, is one of these. So, for that matter, are Gandalf and Saruman, albeit they're from the lowest echelons of the Maiar, sent to Middle Earth to do the dirty work in fighting Sauron while everyone else was chilling in Valinor (the Valar are probably the laziest gods ever invented by man).

Still, I guess we should be thankful that Leith actually has some idea of what he's talking about, unlike the various reporters who've relied upon crib sheets for their articles.
The Filmic Equivalent of "Layla"

What is it with The Manchurian Candidate? I mean, it's a good movie, but it's way overplayed -- any time I channel-surf through the premium channels, I see Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey sitting in Communist League Flower Society playing solitaire. And then today, I saw Roger Ebert's latest Great Movies column on the film, and after reading his take on the Janet Leigh character, I had an urge to rewatch it, so I hit "Guide" on my remote and paged through the "M"s -- sure enough, there it was on Showtime 3 East, starting just ten minutes later.

As much as I enjoyed watching it, there are many better movies that rarely get played -- when was the last time you saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or Patterns on TV? It's like the way if you turn on a classic-rock station for ten minutes, you'll here Derek and the Dominos wailing "Layla" but no one ever plays the MC-5 or Velvet Underground.

We Is Witty

Newsday has an article on that Google trick where searching for "miserable failure" turns up the White House website.

    "I thought it was absolutely one of the funniest ideas I've ever heard," said Don Waller, owner of Don Waller Interactive, a Web design company in Islip Terrace and a blogger who joined the prank in late October. "I just decided to jump in with it."
Okay, dude, get over yourself. Unless you're thirteen, it's not that funny; it's the Internet equivalent of drawing a moustache on Bush's picture.

2003/12/06

Dead Presidents

Eminem? A controversy? Whoda thunk it?

Yes, this time he's apparently released a song where he raps:

    Fuck money. I don't rap for dead presidents.
    I'd rather see the president dead.
Not surprisingly, people are upset over this.

    Even though written to be brain fade of the month, the lyrics encapsulate where Bush Hate is going.
No they don't. They demonstrate that Eminem's run to the well a few times to many. His career is built upon controversy, and he's already played out gay-bashing, wife beating, mom hating, driving fans to murder/suicide, and, most recently, racism. And "fuck da police" is already taken. That pretty much leaves assassinating the President, covering Charles Manson, and advocating genocide. If he gets really bored, he might even try doing a seig heil.

But there's nothing political about this; it's a calculated PR move. If Gore were President, he'd be saying the same thing. It's what he does.

2003/12/05

SCO Update

Looks like a judge just handed SCO their ass in a sling. Over on Slashdot, someone mentioned that SCO's legal team didn't even show up at the hearing. And in other news, you can watch the effect of this decision on SCO's stock here.

My, if this keeps up, SCO might have to go back to developing software.
Is Not It Cool News

Harry Knowles' long lost brother Larry now has his won website.

Heh, heh, heh.

(May not be entirely work-safe.)
More SCO Madness

As though we needed further proof that SCO's run by morons, today Darl McBride issued a statement that the General Public Liscence is unconstitutional. His argument -- well, the Constitution gives Congress the power to establish copyrights, whereas the GPL and other free and open-source distribution methods are anti-copyright.

Now, I think some of Stallman's ideas about copy-left are pretty loony, McBride's claims are even sillier.

    The software license adopted by the GPL is called “copy left ” by its authors. This is because the GPL has the effect of requiring free and open access to Linux (and other) software code and prohibits any proprietary use thereof. As a result, the GPL is exactly opposite in its effect from the “copy right ” laws adopted by the US Congress and the European Union.
Yes, but that doesn't make it unconstitutional. GPL developers own a copyright on the programs they create, but they choose to release their products freely, but with the stricture that if you modify or incorporate the program into another product, you have to use the GPL and acknowledge the original developer. So what? If you don't like it, don't use the GPL. This is like complaining that a mall won't let you stand in the food court preaching about Jay-sus -- they're free stop you, and you're free to go somewhere else.

    In taking this position SCO has been attacked by the Free Software Foundation, Red Hat and many software developers who support their efforts to eliminate software patents and copyrights. Internet chat boards are filled with attacks against SCO, its management and its lawyers.
No, Darl, you're being attacked because you're filing silly lawsuits against everything even remotely connected to Linux for no reason, and attempting to extort money from companies using it, even though your claim of infringement has more holes than Paris Hilton.

    Despite the raw emotions, however, the issue is clear: do you support copyrights and ownership of intellectual property as envisioned by our elected officials in Congress and the European Union, or do you support “free” – as in free from ownership – intellectual property envisioned by the Free Software Foundation, Red Hat and others? There really is no middle ground. The future of the global economy hangs in the balance.
Sure there's a middle ground -- I support both. I think open source and free software is superior to Microsoft's buggy programs, but I think copyright is necessary for films, movies, and literature (though I dislike Congress's current copyright regime, which amounts to "copyright term > N+1" where N=The age of the oldest Mickey Mouse cartoon). Everyone who enjoys the blue screen of death is still free to buy Windows, and Bill Gates is still free to develop it and sell it. This is a perfectly equitable system where there's freedom of choice for both devs and users.