31 August 2006

Cap is old and bitter!

Picking up this week's Nerdographs, I was walking past the TPs and saw Earth X in a new trade edition. As I'd never read it, I thought it might be cool to pick up. If nothing else, there was the Alex Ross cover (original, shown above, for sale for $8K) and sketches inside. I'd heard good things about the story, too, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I was not disappointed.

I started reading a bit late last night - I had the week's haul to go over first, including Justice #7 - so I only managed to get about halfway through. So far, it's a good story with some interesting takes on most of the characters. While I'm much more familiar with the DCU, I do know the basics of the Marvel multiverse. What Ross, Jim Krueger, and John Paul Leon delivered is impressive in its breadth, but somehow manages to be more than a compendium of characters.

So far, the takes on Hulk and Cyclops(?!?) have really impressed me. That's quite an achievement, since I've never found Cyclops to be anything but a complete tool. Here, he's older, wiser, and shockingly mellowed. I'll be inhaling the rest of the book tonight and imagine I'll run out this weekend to pick up Universe X and Paradise X as well.

Free speech win for students

The Second Circuit ruled in Guiles v. Marineau yesterday, establishing that this shirt is protected speech, not obscene. Using the classic doubleplay combo of Tinkers-Fraser-Hazelwood, the court finds that the images of cocaine and alchohol here are not offensive, but indeed political speech.

While the exact contours of what is plainly offensive are not so clear to us as the star Arcturus is on a cloudless night, they are evident enough for us to hold that the images of drugs and alcohol on Guiles's T-shirt are not offensive, let alone plainly so, under Fraser. We believe this is especially so given that these images are presented as part of an anti-drug T-shirt, and, moreover, a T-shirt with a political message. Indeed the Fraser court distinguished its holding from Tinker in part on the absence of any political message in Fraser's speech.
Having determined that neither Hazelwood nor Fraser apply, we turn to Tinker. Applying Tinker to the facts of this case, we conclude that defendants' censorship of the images on Guiles's T-shirt violated his free speech rights. The parties agree that Guiles's T-shirt did not cause any disruption or confrontation in the school. Nor do defendants contend they had a reasonable belief that it would. Guiles wore the T-shirt on average once a week for two months without any untoward incidents occurring. Only when a fellow student's mother -- who had different political views from plaintiff -- protested did defendants direct Guiles to cover the drug and alcohol illustrations. Because Guiles's T-shirt did not cause any disruption, defendants' censorship was unwarranted.
Now, if only the court could do something to make the shirt less damn ugly. I mean, who did more blow: Shrub or the graphic designer?

30 August 2006

Holocaust Art

Living in an era where Iran's President can spew his lies and Mel's dad still gets a soapbox, it's more important than ever that we never forget. For that reason, I not only think we need Holocaust memorials, but believe we should force the Huttons and Ahmadinejads of the world to visit and confront the harsh realities of our past, lest we repeat over and over again.

While I believe these museums and memorials need "rare artifacts and important evidence of the Nazi genocide", this should not come at continued pain to survivors. Those who survived - a rapidly aging and diminishing pool of brave, lucky souls - should be honored.

Dina Gottliebova Babbitt is a survivor. She just wants her paintings back.

The Auschwitz museum, which considers the watercolors to be its property, has argued that they are rare artifacts and important evidence of the Nazi genocide, part of the cultural heritage of the world. Teresa Swiebocka, the museum’s deputy director, wrote by e-mail that the portraits “serve important documentary and educational functions as a part of the permanent exhibition” about the murder of thousands of Gypsy, or Roma, victims. The portraits, she added, “are on permanent exhibition, although they have to be rotated to preserve them, since they are watercolors on paper.”

She added that “we do not regard these as personal artistic creations but as documentary work done under direct orders from Dr. Mengele and carried out by the artist to ensure her survival.”

The fact that the paintings were created by slave labor does not lessen the artist's ownership claims. If we are to learn anything from this horrific period of our history, we must recognize that Babbit's claims of ownership are strengthened by the dual facts of her confinement and duress.

The museum serves a noble and necessary purpose; however, it should not emulate those it villifies by denying victims their basic humanity. Nothing is more central to humanity than the act of creation.

29 August 2006

Rescue Me from shitty actors

For three years, I've been watching Rescue Me and for the first two I stopped at the penultimate episode. It's not that I don't like the show; I do, but it's very painful to watch. Episode after episode, Peter Tolan and Denis Leary pile on turmoil and heartache and pain. As individual entities, I've still liked the shows come the end of the season (who doesn't like Jesus in a Lamborghini,) but the cumulative effects were too much.

This year was a bit different. First off, they took me out of rhythm with the rape episode. For those who don't watch (or do, but think deep down women really like to be dominated...) Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) raped his ex-wife. Tolan and Leary promise karmic retribution for Leary's character next season, but for now I still have a bad taste in my mouth.

Then, they decided to off Tommy's brother, Johnny.

If you ever saw any of Ed Burns' early movies, you know the lows to which an indie writer/director/producer sometimes has to sink in casting. Trust me: Mike McGlone is fuckin' Olivier compared to Dean Winters. Killing this guy off was a mercy flush. It was easy to watch the last two episodes, knowing he'd finally be off the show. Sure, he'll show up as an annoying ghost next year, but I'm pretty sure they won't pony up for enough speaking episodes to really hurt me (this is cable, after all.)

The season finale was on tonight and the writers did a great job of introducing more loose threads than they resolved. Next season - barring too much spousal rape or crap guest-ghosts - looks to be a good one.

"Affleck? No. I'm 75 and still not bald. Try again."

Spock gets veto power.

While [Leonard] Nimoy has no inside info on the new film, he did make an interesting comment — that he has the contractual right to approve the casting of any other actor for the role of Spock. Nimoy hasn't said whether he'll exercise that right, but it does allow him to at least have some input in the upcoming film.

How do I get on the Security Council???

Can I form a tiny island nation and get a UN seat? I'd love to have John Bolton bribing me.

28 August 2006

The A Train's coming into the station

Just how old do I feel tonight?

I started my evening watching the ceremony dedicating the National Tennis Center to BJK - technically, I started my evening not playing tennis because I feel like crap - and right now I'm watching the waning seconds of my Tivo'd coverage of the Agassi-Pavel match...Agassi just won the third set tie break and...there it is. No more recording. The BJK dedication lasted a while...

Ah. 6-2 in the fourth. This time, Andre didn't suffer a letdown after taking the tiebreak.

Let me confess that I used to hate Andre.

With my limited skill set, I've carved out a niche as pretty quick for a fat guy, with a reliable (though streaky) serve for position (power disappeared years ago,) and decent reaction time at net. Since I've a limited flat forehand and a super-crap slice backhand, I need to charge the net on just about every point in order to survive. So while I'm not good, I'm a serve-and-volleyer, and have the requisite antipathy for baseliners. They're like another species as far as I can tell. Just standing back there and grunting all the time...it's unseemly. Andre's a baseliner.

However, somewhere along the way (and it's been a very long way) something changed. I started rooting for Andre instead of against him. I'm not sure why, how, or when, but at some point I started to like him. The turning point wasn't obvious (or too late) like Connors in '91; with Andre, I started appreciating him early enough to root for most of his slam victories. It certainly helped that his period of greatest dominance came after age 29. It also helped that as a baldy, I can relate.

Now, I'm just holding my breath, hoping he gets deep in this, his final open. Baghdatis is up next, and that's not a great matchup for Andre's old legs, sore hips, and bulging disc. But I'm not giving up on the A Train just yet. I think he's got one more run in that tired body.

As for my opening question...I've been watching this man play tennis - as foe and fan - for 20 years. That's more than half my life. So yah, for once I feel a little old.

I laughed when he lost his first Open final in straight sets. Now, I hope his neurosurgeon is as good as mine so the back will finally be better. I hope he doesn't get wrong-footed and tweak his hip. I hope he can find just a little more magic for the next two weeks. I hope I can laugh when he wins his ultimate Open final in straight sets.

27 August 2006

Do you want to smell like this man?

Because thanks to the folks at Old Spice, now you can!!!

Two hours in a firesuit, and I'm guessing Tony smells awesome!

24 August 2006

Not quite Cuckoo for Klosterman

So we had this wicked storm today. We lost power at my office around quarter to 11 and I figured it'd be a good time to book out for an extended lunch. Thing is, here in the desert, there's really nowhere for all that water to go. Over the years, a complex system of washes has been built, but I think they were designed by the Army Corps of One Engineer. So about 40 minutes after leaving work, avoiding new lakes (and apparently just missing out on a river running down a major east-west route) I managed to make it to a restaurant that had power.

I ate, tried to read Tristram Shandy (it was too loud,) and, after the rains had stopped, sent a dove out on recon. When he returned with an Olive Garden menu, I figured it was safe to head back to the office.

The roadways were (mostly) clear...until I got close to work. Came at it from the east side, because the west side had been flooded when I left. No dice. Circled around (and mind you this is pretty hard to do in mid-Scottsdale after a rain) to the west side...flooded. My office was visible from the intersection, still high and dry, but she was an island in a sea of, well, water.

Okay. Call and cancel code review. Express sympathies to friend who didn't get out before the deluge. Head home. Download German Scheisse Porn. Finish reading Klosterman. Write snarky review.
-after the jump...

This was interesting. Not in the sense that I learned something (anything) about the world or myself, but that I was reminded how much "modern writers are shit."(1) I guess the fact that Klownerman(2) has enough self-awareness to insert a definition of solipsism(3) where you or I would thank our friend/spouse/Jesus/Kinko's night-shift manager partially excuses him. First off, he's telling me he's thanking himself, and if that's not enough, he's warning me that only his reality matters.

Overall, I actually did like the book. As annoying as he can be, he's a good craftsman, with a fine sense of comedy. He would be great at writing for a three-camera sitcom. And, based on his overall premise that "[i]mportant things are inevitably cliché", his use of standard comedy-writing tropes fits the book well. Still, he's got a lot of that "Brandon Walsh: Sports Guy" thing going. One gets the sense that his credo is "Only My Experiences are valid, whether they Actually Happened or not."(4)

There were a few sections that really riled me, but I think this one, right near the end, finally put me over the top (or it could have been indigestion):

I recall once sitting around a bonfire and asking all the folks staring into the flames what they fantasize about more: dying or having sex. I thought I knew what was going to happen: I thought everybody would immediately answer "sex", but - as we talked about the question in detail and slowly lowered our shields of enforced normalcy - the honest people would admit that they actually thought about dying a lot more than they thought about fucking. Much to my surprise, everyone insisted that they fantasize about sex constantly and never dream about being killed, which seems insane to me.
Now, the fact that Kloisteredman fantasizes about death more than sex doesn't faze me. I'm sure plenty of people do. The fact that he suspected others of the same seems normal. He doesn't believe this is an outré position. What really got me was his belief that anyone who wouldn't "admit that they actually thought about dying a lot more" was somehow dishonest. Since he thought this way, anyone who didn't admit to the same was lying.

Unfortunately, this sentiment that Kluckerman is the arbiter of absolute truth flows throughout the book, right alongside discussions of the nature of reality, memory, and perception. Again, he's indicated that he may not believe any of us exist, so his reality is the only one that matters, but it was still off-putting.

For light reading with some occasional insights, it isn't bad. I suppose this counts as a philosophical treatise for our generation. Like I said, he's got a good grasp of comedy writing (does depend on the Rule of 3s too much, but who doesn't?) and crafts a nice sentence. Then again, at this point, anyone who can use a semi-colon and not feel like he's forcing it comes off as skilled.

I picked my copy up on one of Borders' "Buy X Get One Free" tables, so it wasn't too bad. If you ask nice, I might just give you mine.

1 N. Anderson, B. O'Sullivan, et al, 2006.
2 Yes. I am twelve-years-old. I will make fun of Chuck's name. I will endeavor to do so in a humorous or insightful way. I will fail.
3 Of course, based on my "readership" I actually have no evidence that anyone other than me exists. And G-- knows there are few more self-aware, self-centered, self-absorbed, self-satisfied, self-satisfying people in the world than I. But occasionally, (it's pretty rare, I'll admit) I acknowledge that others have thoughts, opinions, feelings, and needs that are contrary to mine. Je pense donc je suis; mais je pense que vous pensez aussi. (Man, that was harder to translate than it should have been...French rusty.)
4 N. Anderson, 2006.

I guess it'll have to be fondue at The Pol Pot

Damn reasonable people. Don't they know they interfere with both humor and righteous indignation?!?!?

And now I can't recycle* Michael Crowley's "Luftwaffles".

* Repurpose, plagiarize, steal

Thank you! Come again!

Punit Shablok has opened a new restaurant in the northern Mumbai suburb of Navi Mumbai. If it weren't for the 18 hours of airflight, I'd probably rush right over there for a meal "From Small Bites to Mega Joys". I mean, "pastries, pizza and salad" may not sound different to you, but Punit's really found a way to stand out.

Hitler's Cross will certainly stand out. As Punit says, "We are not promoting Hitler. But we want to tell people we are different in the way he was different."

"This place is not about wars or crimes, but where people come to relax and enjoy a meal," said restaurant manager Fatima Kabani, adding that they were planning to turn the eatery's name into a brand with more branches in Mumbai.
If there's one thing Adolf Hitler knew, it was the power of expanding. Once the restaurant Anschluss is over, there will be branches all over Mumbai, their ovens running 24-7 to keep up with demand.

Hmm. Quick poll: was that last bit too over the top? Really? I mean, I didn't open the fucking Hitler-themed restaurant!!!

23 August 2006

The QB is Coulter's Cheerleader

And to think...Jack Kemp used to pimp for the gold standard. I guess it's possible to hold multiple idiotic notions in your head at the same time.

I guess he had one too many concussions back in the day.

Update: Apparently, Town Hall just screwed up. This was a Phyllis Schlafly guest column mis-attributed to Kemp. One too many concussions for her, back in the day?

22 August 2006

Killing all our childhood memories, one by one

Lucas is happy
Discovered a McGuffin
Indy meets Jar Jar

More on Simmons' "Bad" Beat

I woke up this morning a bit irritated. I'm not sure if I'm upset at myself, for not pushing my sarcasm hard enough, or at my friend who didn't seem to catch that "favoritest" was a cue word. Regardless, I'm in a crappy mood and now feel I must properly analyze Bill Simmons' poker beat.

First off, let me point out that although I've said before that Billy-boy is living in a dark closet, it's beneath me to use gender-based insults. From now on, I'll refer to the Boston Bonehead as "Brandon Walsh". That behind us, let's get on to the poker
-after the jump...

Anyone who's read Brandon on poker catches on that he thinks an awful lot of his game. He gives all the credit in the world to the pros, but thinks everyone else is a boob. Now, I've certainly been the fish at poker tables before. It's a crappy feeling, but the only way to get through that stage is to read and practice and get beaten. At least, I thought that was the only way. Brandon has found another: delude yourself into thinking you out-class anyone you've never heard of.

Let's look at this "bad" beat. He'd been at a table for two hours with a loose, trash-talking, "wild Internet qualifier" (WIQ) who kept showing his bluff cards. Brandon "wanted to pick him off". Quick raise of hands: who sees the fish at the table? Is it the "wild Internet qualifier" or is it the man whose ego has come into play? Is it the player who early on established a table image as insane, or the one who believed that table image? Let's move on to the hand.

With K10 suited, Brandon called a pretty hefty pre-flop raise to $550 (I don't know what the blinds were at this point, but since they were only two hours in, I'm guessing this was an approriate bet in the 4x or 5x big blind size. Maybe it was even bigger, but I don't know.) Anyway, Brandon and two other players called and saw the flop with the raiser. Flop's a monster. K-10-6. Brandon didn't mention the suit, so I'll assume rainbow. Of course, it could have been that WIQ got four to his flush.

WIQ "came barreling in for another $1,200." Wow. He sounds really aggressive. Of course, there was $2200 in the pot, so this was only a half-pot bet, but Brandon really sells it as over-the-top. When we see the cards, we'll see that this was a perfectly sized bet, by the way. So Brandon did some calculations and decided to go all-in. Again, he didn't say how much stack he had left (though he was covered by WIQ's $20K.) Still, based on the fact that he'd won a big hand and then coasted for awhile, let's assume he had $12K left. That made his all-in bet here about $11.5K at a $3400 pot.

Yeah, I'd think he was buying the pot, too.

The most likely hands one would put Brandon on for that re-raise (and the smooth call pre-flop) are QQ, JJ, KQ, KJ, A10, AQ, or AJ. In other words, all hands that were dominated by the AK turned over by the WIQ. Now, it must have been a donkey punch to see the two-pair. He'd have thought he had a dominating hand and been outplayed by an overbet at the pot. But he still had outs.

Even if he had no flush options (which again, I can't tell from the story as told,) he had three aces, and any runner-runner combination of QQ, JJ, or QJ. He was way behind, but did have outs. But, and this is way more significant, he likely didn't believe he was behind when he called the overbet.

So what was wrong with Brandon's play?

  1. He let ego get in the way
  2. He proably misread the table and thought the WIQ was the fish. Based on Brandon's earlier poker writings, he only seems to respect people in the Howard Lederer mode. Brandon could sit at a table with Phil Laak and (if he didn't recognize him) believe he was another WIQ
  3. He limped in with a mediocre hand. This early in the tourney, playing a marginal hand like K10 to a preflop raise and callers is loose. He got lucky on the flop, but he was a dog before it. That's a waste of money, and shows a lack of judgement
  4. He overbet at the flop. If WIQ was really as loose and aggressive as Brandon made him out to be, a better raise would have been to $4K. Either he'd get the pot then and there, or he'd be re-raised all-in and could call. The bet, more than anything else, most likely tricked WIQ into believing his AK was the best hand
I won't bother to continue, other than to say I dream of sitting down at a poker table with Brandon Walsh someday. I'm only a bit above average, but I'd clean him like a trout.

21 August 2006

Sports Girl's Bad Beat

My absolute favoritest thing in the whole wide world is hearing about people's bad beats in poker. I mean, having never suffered one myself, hearing about other people's misfortunes really plucks my heartstrings. Thankfully, my favoritest writer in the whole world, Bill Simmons, wrote about his bad beat at the WSOP. And boy was it a bad beat!!! I mean, he called a preflop raise with K10 suited (a monster hand, 'cause it's suited, you know) and got beat by a measly big slick!

Even two weeks later, I remember every nuance -- what everyone was wearing, all their faces, how my chips were stacked, everything. I chugged along for two hours, winning one big hand and battling a steady stream of lousy cards. Meanwhile, a wild Internet qualifier was calling everybody, trash-talking, even showing his bluffs after he won. He reminded me of a football QB who keeps throwing deep; eventually, you switch to zone and start to pick off his passes. Basically, he was Jeff George.

And I wanted to pick him off. Holding K-10 suited, I called his $550 bet along with two others. The flop? K-10-6. First guy called. Jeff came barreling in for another $1,200. Third guy folded. And I knew four things: First, I had the best hand (nobody had trips, I could tell from the body language). Second, I needed to steal that $3,400 in the middle. Third, having played one big hand in two hours, everyone would know I meant business with an all-in wager. And fourth, with 20 grand in chips, Jeff George might be dumb enough to call me. Which he was. And you know what this nitwit had?

A-K. With the odds now significantly in my favor (84.3 percent), I was two favorable cards from taking control of the table. Even in that brief instant -- couldn't have been more than eight to 10 seconds -- I was dreaming about lasting the day, building a nest egg, getting lucky a few more times, maybe even making it through the week …

Then, BOOM! It was over. The dealer turned over consecutive queens, improbably giving us both K-Q pairs, but with an ace kicker against me.

If only the "nitwit" were as skilled as Billy-boy at ready body language, maybe he'd have folded. Then again, what with Billy's table image - established firmly after two whole hours at the table, everyone should have just folded to his raise. But that's okay...with his massive skillz, he'll make it up next time.

20 August 2006

Suicide Boobers

I won't be flying for awhile. At this point, not only are they taking water and shampoo, but moisturizer, gel shoe inserts, everything. Considering how hard it is to actually make the explosives in question from fluid - time-consuming, temperature sensitive, and prone to premature detonation - I'm a little bothered that they're as worried as they are. Now, if someone wanted to bring in really large quantities of fluids that didn't need all this care and attention...fluids that would combine in a massive exothermic reaction...they'd need a lot more than a shampoo bottle's-worth.

I wonder what's being overlooked...
-after the jump...

Raja and Ahmed Khan are addressing a room full of beautiful, well-endowed women. Raja and Ahmed are both dark-skinned men of Indian or Pakistani extraction.

Ladies, my brother and I are pleased at your progress. You all look so much like the whores of the infidels it is difficult for me to remember how you looked when you first joined us.
Brother, it would be difficult to recall regardless, as they all wore the hijab.
That is true, Ahmed, but even still...

With the lights off, we pan the expressions on the women’s faces as they are lit from the glow of a computer slide show
I do not understand this one bit. I specifically used the wipe transitions between my slides, but this PowerPoint presentation is not behaving correctly.
Is it really that important how...
This is why you will never be a cell leader.

Some time passes...
...are there any questions?
And you’re sure these are safe?
Absolutely. Dr. Dasgupta has assured us that the implants will remain intact until the time is right.
What about driving? Is it safe to drive? What if the airbag goes off?
Well, I suppose it is possible that such an event could precipitate a rupture, but I would not be too worried
Yes, besides, you should not be driving an automobile. It is not proper for a Muslim woman to...
Brother! Remember: these women endeavor to infiltrate the decadent western world where women do drive.
Of course.
Yes Chastity? You had a question?
What about pole dancing? Will there be much risk of rupturing the implants doing that?

Ahmed and Raja are driving along the highway
Pole dancing???

Chastity, Destiny, and Pifanny are sitting in their living room. Pifanny is smoking, all three are drinking margaritas.
I don’t know that I can do it, anymore. I mean, I love Allah...
Praise Allah!
But I’m not so sure about killing myself, anymore. I mean, what’s it really going to accomplish?
I know. I was talking with Ronny at the club, and he...
You and that stupid club! We’re supposed to be able to fit in with the infidels; not become one of them!
Someone’s gotta pay the rent on this place! And I don’t hear you complaining about that dress you’re wearing.
Will you two just stop? Finish your story, Pif.
So anyway, Ronny says most Americans don’t even care what happens back home. Why are we fighting them, anyway? What’s blowing up a plane going to do other than make them madder?
Maybe it will make them see the shallowness of their lives? Ooh...it’s time for “American Idol”!

Ahmed and Raja are walking down a crowded street, heads bowed, conferring together
I worry we have failed, brother.
How so?
These girls have become too much like the Americans. I do not know if we can trust them to complete their mission.
What do you propose?
I think you and I must make preparations.

Ahmed and Raja are now dressed as very unattractive women with very large breasts.
He really is the best surgeon.
Yes. I can only hope my 72 virgins have breasts as full and firm as ours.
Yes. But hopefully not filled with explosives!
Allah Akbar!

17 August 2006

How to ¿Ruin? a Perfectly Good Game

I got Dead Rising this week. Should have been a great game. Could have been a good game. Right now, I'm just trying to stop cursing at its stupidity long enough for it to be an okay game.

The demo was almost perfect: lots of zombies to kill; tons of weapons, some with very interesting effects; the whole nectar idea; and, the centerpiece of the game, photojournalism. Then I got the full version. Where to start...I know, how about a Top N list of things they screwed up, from small peeves right on up to the game killers?
-after the jump

  • I can use a showerhead as a weapon (and a damn funny one at that,) can ride a skateboard, and can kill zombies by frisbee-ing saw blades...but I can't grab a backpack in the sporting goods store to carry more weapons and supplies?
  • There are far too many guns in the game.
  • Despite the preponderence of guns, you can't carry ammo.
  • When your current weapon is exhausted, the game jumps you to the next item in your inventory instead of just leaving you ready for fisticuffs. So, you drink your nectar or throw your book instead of choosing what to do.
  • Zombies are easy to dispatch, but crazy humans? They're tough as nails.
  • Those crazy humans? They play the roles of mini-bosses. Some of them (as far as I can tell so far) you can just avoid, but others you must fight in order to complete the game.
  • Oh yeah...completing the game. Frankly, I wasn't looking for a big mystery/conspiracy to solve. I wanted me some zombie-killin'. If I miss a deadline, or fail to kill/maim one of the mini-bosses on time, I can kiss the game goodbye.
  • So there are these three prisoners driving around in a jeep with a light machine gun mounted in back. I managed to kill them all and steal the jeep. I left it by a door entering the mall and when I went back later...the three prisoners were alive and well!!! What the hell?
  • Did I mention that the humans are as tough as nails? It's a-mazing how many feckin' head shots those bastards can take before deciding to leave the scene for a later fight.
Alright. I've bitched about this game enough. There are supposed to be three modes of play, but you have to succeed at this first - incredibly stupid - linear game to open up those other two. I hope I can get through this idiocy and see if there might be an open-ended game without mini-bosses somewhere down the line. Despite my complaints about the trivial items, it's really the mini-bosses and linear gameplay that's dragging this game down.

Tim Burton to Mangle Classic

Woohoo. Isn't this fantastic news. The man who almost single-handedly killed Batman (thank goodness for Christopher Nolan) for all time is going to destroy one of the greatest musicals ever created. Actually, I doubt Burton's take on Sweeney Todd will be very faithful to the original (and if we're especially lucky, not even a musical version of the story.) He seems confused by good original source material.

Sure, some of his confections are entertaining...but he should really avoid trying to retell stories told by superior talents.

At least when Kevin Smith did the chair sequence in Jersey Girl, he showed great love and understanding of the source. Affleck can't sing worth a damn, but the affection was still clear.

Eh, on further consideration I'm not really worried. Burton will toss the score and have it Oingo-Boingo-ized. It'll sound just like every single other movie he's ever done.

John Lott v Freakonomics

Hi. My name is Mary Rosh and I'm guest posting here today. You might remember me from such blog postings as "John R. Lott is a Genius", "John Lott is Wicked Cool", "John Lott Fathered my Love Child: And He's Awesome", and "Steven Leavitt is a Poopy-head". Well let me tell you: it's all true!

I had him for a PhD level empirical methods class when he taught at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania back in the early 1990s, well before he gained national attention, and I have to say that he was the best professor that I ever had.
Professor Lott is suing the big poopy-head for libel and I know that I'll be there, supporting him every step of the way. He's just so insightful...it's like he's right inside my head. He knows my every thought!

16 August 2006

Where's Mel Gibson Now? Where's Mel Gibson Now?

Perhaps not on a par with "the Giants win the pennant..." but a great call nonetheless.
Update: YouTube has since pulled this video at NESN's request. Shame. It's a great anti-Mel rant.
- 17Aug2007 A new copy of the video is up, with rumors that it might stay around...(is it clear I really like this clip?)

15 August 2006

Slow children at play

When I was a wee lad, I used to misread those signs. Without punctuation, it looked like a single declarative sentence. Of course, I wasn't too old before I realized it wasn't one statement, but an imperative followed by a declaration.

When I became old enough to drive, I gradually began to realize that there is a sign that means there are very slow (and probably retarded) people playing. A sign that says "get around this idiot, now!" A sign that says "I'm slower than a set of disembodied knuckles in a vintage Caddy."

If you see this sign, for GOD'S SAKE CHANGE OUT OF THE LANE!!!!

What is it about Harley riders? Whether on their crappy bikes - which, granted, doesn't happen too often what with them being in the shop nine days out of ten - or driving their shitty midsize pickups with multiple Harley window stickers prominently displayed, they can be counted on for one thing: moving slower than Floyd Landis without the testosterone.

Sectarian Violins

At MSNBC, Rabbi Mark Gellman is confused, disappointed, and mystified why "Jews did not vote for the way blacks voted for or Catholics voted for John F. Kennedy". After all, he's "a professional Jew".

Me, I'm just an amateur Jew, but I can offer a few possible reasons:

  • Most of us don't "support the war and yes...support and admire President George W. Bush".
  • Many of us consider ourselves American first, and want what's best for our country. Not all of us have divided loyalties.
  • Some of us believe that irrational bellicosity does not lead to the safety and security of anyone - American, Arab, or Israeli.
I also have to differ with the Rabbi's assessment of "intelligent people's positions on the war":
So he supports the war. So what? The actual difference between intelligent people's positions on the war in Iraq is between those who know we must leave eventually but do not want to embolden our enemies and weaken our friends by telling them when we will leave, and those who also know we will leave eventually and also do not want to set an arbitrary timetable, but who really, really, really want everybody to know that we will be leaving. Those who want to bring all the troops home by next Monday, and those who want to “nuke the bastards” are both nuts. So among reasonable non-rabid people, the differences over Iraq are just not that big. And for this we dumped Joe? It just makes no sense to me and it ought to be a huge embarrassment to all card-carrying Jews whether they agreed with Joe or not.
What about those of us who'd like to let Generals dictate how best to deploy our soldiers in harm's way? To commit an appropriate number of troops to clean up the mess that Rummy and the OVP have caused, and then set a clear end date at which time the Iraqis must self-govern or self-destruct?

As our President famously said, "I don't think our troops should be used for what's called nation building." From the way he's been mis-running the travesty in Iraq, it's clear he still believes that.

The Rabbi should be careful what he wishes for. I don't think he'd much like an America where Jews vote for Jews, blacks for blacks, Baptists for Baptists, and every man for himself.

14 August 2006

But where do they stand on Marvel vs. DC?

From today's Columbia Journalism Review comes this piece on the blog-war in the Middle East. The Israeli Foreign Ministry wants its supporters to download Megaphone, software that will "alert subscribers to internet polls, 'problematic' articles, and online debates which the Ministry would like Israel supporters to 'talk back' to."

Of course, since the Internets are available to everyone, the Lebanese and their supporters can download the same software and monitor the same data. Flame On!

11 August 2006

Ooh...my inner geek is all agog!!!

This almost makes up for the stupid Ultimate Power crossover. It even earns Warner Bros. some much needed karma points for killing Global Frequency (if you can find the torrent, WATCH IT.)

New B5!!!

"Hey! It looks like you're writing a letter!"

I'd forgotten about this video. So happy to have been able to find it on a lazy Friday...enjoy!!!

730 Days, Part IV

He woke as the last echoes of the shrill scream faded in the dark. For three nights, that fish in the cell with Killingsworth had mewled pathetically. Tonight he mustn't have been able to muffle his own cries. For that, he'd be lucky to see another morning. Another nameless stranger come and gone; no one to mourn his passing.

Jonah looked at Marisa's photo for a moment, but that only reminded him her birthday was soon. He rolled to face the cinderblock wall, the hard steel bunk cold through the thin mattress. Javier - who could sleep through a riot, Jonah was convinced - slept soundlessly.

As he resettled, he saw flashes of the dream he'd been having before the screaming tore him from sleep's embrace. Mike and Becca, Memorial Day at Stinson, and the retriever they'd had since they were kids. It was one of those rare, really hot days where the fog had burned off by dawn. Mike's farmer's tan made him look like he was wearing a dingy white t-shirt, at least until he started to fry. Becca's hair was like the waves - smooth, deep, black, flecked with white. He always thought it was funny how black-haired girls had grey, no matter how young.

Munson was old by this time. They got him - Mike got him - from Mrs. Pearsall Memorial Day of '77. The Memorial Day in Cali would be his last. Jonah would have to bring him to the vet that August while Mike was on a cross-country run. Mike never got a chance to say goodbye.

10 August 2006

Who wants to steal a car?

Here's a fun and disconcerting tale of how easy it is to circumvent transponder antitheft systems in cars. Actually, there are several ways to do so, but I really like the way the author, Brad Stone, "steals" his own Honda Civic, affectionately named "Honky".

I walked outside and approached Honky. The door lock would have been easy – a thief would have used a jiggle key, and a stranded motorist would have had a locksmith cut a fresh one. I just wrapped the grip of my key in tinfoil to jam the transponder. The key still fit, but it no longer started the car.

Then I grabbed the emergency brake handle between the front seats and performed the specific series of pumps, interspersed with rotations of the ignition between the On and Start positions. After my second attempt, Honky’s hybrid engine awoke with its customary whisper.

Boo Fucking Hoo

Rick Reilly shows his sensitive side (missed this the other day) in telling the horrible story about a young man who had...to...face...a...pitcher!!!

In a nine- and 10-year-old PONY league championship game in Bountiful, Utah, the Yankees lead the Red Sox by one run. The Sox are up in the bottom of the last inning, two outs, a runner on third. At the plate is the Sox' best hitter, a kid named Jordan. On deck is the Sox' worst hitter, a kid named Romney. He's a scrawny cancer survivor who has to take human growth hormone and has a shunt in his brain.

So, you're the coach: Do you intentionally walk the star hitter so you can face the kid who can barely swing?

Well, let's walk through this like a logic problem:
  • Walk best hitter and get easy out. Win the game, but look like jackasses to people who think sports are anything but zero-sum games designed to teach lessons about life
  • Walk best hitter and Romney comes up with a clutch hit. Not only do you look like a jackass to those people, but Romney gets to stick it right back in your faces
  • Pitch to best hitter and get him out. Romney doesn't get his chance to hit. Since "[t]his is a league where everybody gets to bat" I certainly hope this wasn't Romney's only at-bat but can't tell from Reilly's heart-tugging piece
  • Pitch to best hitter and he gets a walk-off hit (and frankly, with nine- and 10-year-olds, a single will do it). Romney doesn't get his chance to hit.
Maybe I'm missing some outlier outcomes, but I believe that's the full set. So, again, what would you do?

I'd walk the star. And while Romney was understandably upset, at least he ended up learning the lesson that sports and competition are supposed to teach...
"I'm going to work on my batting," he told his dad. "Then maybe someday I'll be the one they walk."
If only the whiners who think everyone should be a winner could learn the lessons of sports as easily.

Elton, give me 20 and 10 every night and maybe you can rent this apartment

Holy crap. I need to pay more attention to important things in the world. Like sports. I'd heard about Donald Sterling's little problem with the DoJ, but didn't realize this was his second time in recent years getting slammed about for being a stupid fucking racist. And it's not like this didn't potentially have racial undertones either.

So I googled the Miser to find some more details on the 2003 settlement and the first interesting link was the The Smoking Gun. Apparently, not only is The Donald 2: Electric Bugaloo a racist, a miser, and a moron.

What to do when your flight is delayed

I always receive news of thwarted terror plots with a mixture of relief and cynicism. Were these inept buffoons, big talkers, or dangerous killers? More cynically: were they even plotters, or a diversion? Today, I'm just happy that innocent deaths have been averted by our capable British and American law enforcement agencies.

Of course, there are always repercussions. The delays and cancelled flights today are causing headaches and grief across the country - and much worse in the UK. Still, at least some people can see the silver lining:

David Charters of Princeton, who arrived around 6:30 am for a 9 am flight to Calgary, was unsure he would make his flight, but was not making a fuss. “If you’re not patient, you shouldn’t be flying because things like this happen,’’ he said. “That’s why they have bars here."
It's always after 5pm somewhere.

09 August 2006

Why DC Will Always Be Better

Idiots. Idiots. Idiots. It was bad enough when the great "Supreme Power" series ended its run as a MAX title and moved over to the tamer Marvel imprint. We went from dark, to meh. Now, of course, it's time to do the Dimension Hop!!!

Wow. So the Avengers are going to meet the Squadron. That's never happened before. (Yes, I know. The Ultimates aren't the Avengers. So sue me.)

All I can hope is that Inertia makes Thor pound himself to a bloody pulp with Mjolnir and Emil Burbank convinces Wolverine that he'd do better on Broadway as a castrato.

Dumped for Ned!!!

My pal-i-o might be down, but he's not out. Sure, he wanted to take Connecticut to the senior prom and she said no. Even though they've been together for, like, ever, she decided to go with that new kid, Ned. But Joe's not giving up that easily. First, he's going to get 7500 of his closest, bestest friends to sign a super special birthday card for her. Then, he's going to ask his big brother Ken if maybe he could help out.

He even got a call from that cool older kid he met at camp last summer, but he was just offering condolences and didn't have any suggestions.

Still, Joe's gonna keep calling Connecticut (even if he just hangs up the phone whenever she answers) and riding his bike past her house.

There's a word for that kind of man...


In a study of more than 5,000 U.S. couples that had recently had a baby, 14 percent of mothers and 10 percent of fathers were found to have significant levels of depression.

The percentage of affected women was in the expected range based on past research, but little has been known about fathers' risk of depression after the birth of a child.

The 10-percent rate in the current study is substantial, according to the researchers, being more than twice the rate seen among the general U.S. population of men.

What the hell? Perhaps these "men" are still sore from their episiotomies? Their nipples are chafing from nursing? They haven't been able to fit into their pre-pregnancy banana hammocks?

Of, maybe they're just depressed because they've got mopey wives, crying babies, and too little sleep.

08 August 2006

Joe of the Sorry Face

Thank god for . What on earth would we do without him looking out for us?

"Of course I am disappointed by the results, but I am not discouraged," Lieberman said. "For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot and will not let that result stand."
Like the wise, compassionate elder he is, he'll save the good people of Connecticut from their own foolishness. One must admire his willingness to sacrifice his own happiness for the trials and tribulations ahead. I for one, only wish I were still living in my home state. I know first thing tomorrow I'd be working on showing the light to the 564 people in my hometown who threw away their votes on the usurper. Usurper!!!

For that is what Ned is. Fortunately, Joe's not distracted or distressed by the loss of a primary; he'll yet ride in on his faithful steed to save us all from tragedy. With his trusty squire, Sean "Sancho" Smith, at his side, he'll right all wrongs what been done to Joe.

05 August 2006

Touring Taliesin West

I've been living in Phoenix for over two years but hadn't made the pilgrimage out to Taliesin West until today. Chalk one more thing up to my inherent laziness. Anyway, I finally went this afternoon - wife and inlaws in tow - and was, of course, blown away.

It's the little things about Wright's work that have always impressed me. Sure, there's the overall majesty and grandeur, but to me, that's a function of the sum of all those small decisions and details. His architecture (and graphic design, for that matter) was always quite situational, informed by locale and environment, but in Taliesin West I can see the roots of the more organic work that dominated the final stage of his career.

The small details - repeating patterns of triangles; the interlocking lines of the logo, adapted from a petroglyph found on the site; the dental trim used throughout - echo each other. The buildings almost appear to have grown out of the desert, like fractals in concrete and steel. The rocks from the site embedded in the home-brewed cement of the walls reinforce that impression, as do the gently sloped canvas roofs of the low-slung buildings. Constant iterations, improvements, and additions through the years allowed Wright and his students to experiment with ideas and materials while growing the site bit by bit.

The motif of shapes within shapes reached its pinnacle with the Guggenheim, a concrete shell rising from 5th ave. The nautilus shell is one of the most obviously recursive forms in nature and Wright's ultimate masterwork. The experiments in the desert, informed by a lifetime of playful study, show Wright's understanding of nature's processes. The recursive patterns show him to be decades ahead of his contemporaries.

As for the photo, that's a piece called "Coming Into the Present" by Heloise Crista, found in the sculpture garden outside the Pavilion Theater on site. Honestly, the piece reminded me of The Flash, so I had to take the pic! All of her work has a wonderful sense of life and movement, organic in its own way. It fits and complements the site.

04 August 2006

The Optic Nerve: Faster than DSL!

Technically, it's not the speed of the optic nerve, but rather the retina, collating and processing visual data before passing it up to the visual cortex.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine estimate that the human retina can transmit visual input at about the same rate as an Ethernet connection, one of the most common local area network systems used today. They present their findings in the July issue of Current Biology. This line of scientific questioning points to ways in which neural systems compare to artificial ones, and can ultimately inform the design of artificial visual systems.

"The employer has a right to expect employees not to drink the fuel"

The stories, they tell themselves:

Cory Neddermeyer, 42, was fired in April from Amaizing Energy in Denison, where he worked as a maintenance technician. The company produces ethanol fuel for vehicles in a formula that includes a high concentration of alcohol.

Neddermeyer was fired after an April 21 incident at the Denison plant. According to Neddermeyer, he showed up for work that morning and saw that there had been a spill of fuel alcohol. Hundreds of gallons of 190-proof alcohol were contained in a 6-inch-deep holding pond that was about 30 feet by 24 feet.

03 August 2006

Cuba: What if?

This is the beginning of the end for Fidel Castro's Cuba. Whether it is the end of the revolution remains to be seen, though it is hard imagining anyone else capable of fending off Yanqui advances while keeping Cuba together. My best guess is brother Raul will take the reins for a six or nine month tour while the revelers in Miami prepare for their Mariel-in-reverse boatlift. Or perhaps it'll be more of a Bay of Pigs II.

Many forces will be acting in concert against the revolution: the expats' fervor; promises of thawed relations with the US; and the simple fact that Cuba's revolution has always been partly a cult of personality. Without Castro's outsized presence, the half-century experiment will come to an end. This will no doubt cheer millions throughout the hemisphere, though a good 6 million Venezuelans, 21 million Mexicans, and countless others will lament its passing.

But I come not to bury Castro, nor praise him. I come to ask what if?

  • What if Ike hadn't let Tricky Dick push the invasion plans through the CIA?
  • What if Kennedy had had a backbone and tossed the plans out the window?
  • What if relations had remained normalized?
  • What if there had been no embargo?
Those who think Marxism is wrong, of course, will contend that its only possible outcome is tyranny, repression, and death. There are certainly enough examples of that around. Based on Castro's reign, it's very possible that's the exact outcome we would have seen. However, Cuba has been in a constant state of siege for much of the last 50 years. As we know all too well, when the perception of danger is high, some people are willing to give up much freedom (and others willing to oblige by taking it.) If the restrictions are great enough, human rights are violated.

Considering the conditions under which Cuba has evolved - especially since the collapse of her Soviet sponsor - it is quite remarkable. Cradle to grave health care, a slightly lower infant mortality rate (6.22 per 1000 vs. 6.43 per 1000) than the US, and widespread literacy. Now imagine a half-century of free trade, normalized relations, and a friendlier, more successful big brother than the Soviets.

What could have been?

Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet

My grandmother was a Kurd. A Jewish Kurd. Yah, she was fucked from day one.

I've heard it's a beautiful place with a high physician density (for when the mortar shells hit you.) Plus, the mullahs haven't become too powerful yet. Still, it's bordered by Turkey to the west, Iran to the east, and the rest of Iraq is, well, right there. "Other Iraq" or not, this isn't toppling the Bahamas anytime soon.

Knowing is Half the Battle!

As I've already stated, the problem started with Tom Sawyer, but clearly the consequences are far-reaching. took a page right out of the MLM manual.

Die Hard

Genius. Genius I tell ya'.

02 August 2006

As the worm turns

Carl Zimmer reviews an upcoming paper titled: "Can the common brain parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, influence human culture?"

So [Kevin] Lafferty wondered, is there a relationship between a country's prevalence of Toxoplasma and its culture?

The answer, he argues, is yes. He selected a few key features of human personality that Toxoplasma appears to influence, and which have been measured on a national scale--such as neuroticism, uncertainty avoidance, and "masculine" sex roles. Lafferty predicted that in countries with higher Toxoplasma rates, these features would all be stronger. He gathered data from studies on 39 countries in from all five continents. He corrected for various factors, for example including per capita gross domestic product as a variable. He found a signficiant correlation between high levels of the parasite and high levels of neuroticism. There was a positive but weak correlation between Toxoplasma and levels of uncertainty avoidances and masculine sex roles. However, if he excluded the non-Western countries of China, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, and Indonesia, the correlations of both personality measurements with Toxoplasma got much stronger.

01 August 2006

Raise a mojito and drink to Fidel

In a bit of foreshadowing last week, Fidel Castro joked that he would not be in office at age 100. Looks like he might have been right. Of course, the Cuban expatriates in Miami are partying like it's 1959 (well, for them, probably more like the end of 1958, right before the New Year.)

This looks to be a mixed bag for Cuba:

What to Gain
What to Lose
normalized relationsuniversal healthcare
trading partnersgay rights
able bodied returneespolitical autonomy
increased tourismfreedom from American corporate control

However, it's a complete and total win for the US. First off, we get a new vacation spot with great food and music. We also get a foreign policy "victory" at a time we so desperately need something to go our way. And - this is the biggest for me - when the expats return home, it should effect a radical shift in the voting patterns of Florida.

Those expats have been one of the most reliable blocs of Republican voters in the country; as they depart, the South Florida demo will move perceptively to the left. The snowbirds are my peeps: expatriated Tri-state Jews. We're a voting bloc, too.