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July 31, 2006

Chicago vs. Wal-Mart

NYTimes (found on Digby):

After months of fevered lobbying and bitter debate, the Chicago City Council passed a groundbreaking ordinance yesterday requiring "big box" stores, like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, to pay a minimum wage of $10 an hour by 2010, along with at least $3 an hour worth of benefits.

My favorite quote:

Wal-Mart's response to the Council's action was swift and blunt.

"It's sad - this puts politics ahead of working men and women," John Simley, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said in a telephone interview. "It means that Chicago is closed to business."

Yeah, they voted 35-14 to put politics ahead of working men and women by giving working men and women a raise. How do you say stuff like that for a living and still sleep at night (I know, i know: on a big bed surrounded by beautiful women. It's times like these i wish i was religious so i could be content in knowing these people would go to Hell.).

And another vindication for those of you with the Costco memberships:

In arguing that Wal-Mart and other companies can easily afford to meet the new standards, proponents of the measure pointed to Costco, which says it already pays at least $10 an hour plus benefits to starting workers around the country.

By fnord12 | July 31, 2006, 5:15 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Good comics week: Ronan, Avengers, ASM

Would be great if it weren't for Ronan dragging things down, but even that wasn't as bad as i thought it would be...

Ronan The Accuser #4
Well, the final Annihilation mini-within-a-mini is over, and while they've definitely been mixed, i'm still pretty excited to start getting the rest of the story now that it's been streamlined. Ronan was probably the worst of the four, both because the story had very little to do with Annihilation and because what it was about wasn't very good on its own, either. Interestingly, of the four of them, this was the only one i had any real expectations for, since it was written by Simon Furman. Furman wrote a very good and funny Death's Head a while back, and his UK Transformers comics are also well regarded (I have a few Transformers trades and they're pretty good). But this story didn't work very well at all.

It started off pretty strongly in the Prologue, with Ronan being falsely accused of treason to the Kree empire, and him having to go off and defend his name (it had nothing to do with the Annihilation wave, but it was a good enough concept that i was willing to go with it). But when Ronan arrives on a planet that has basically been taken over by all of Marvel's "space" women, working for Gamora, who last i read was A) dead and B) a good guy, things got a little weird. Nebula, major bad-ass who has taken on the Avengers multiple times and claims to be the grand-daughter of Thanos, working as a goon for Gamora was really odd.

But instead of really going into an explanation of what they were all doing there, we switch over to Glorian, of all people (unless the explanation is that everyone was mind-controlled by Glorian That's what i'm going with, but that's not a very good story). So who is Glorian? Glorain is gold-skinned rainbow boy. He makes your dreams come true. He's sort of the herald of the Shaper of Worlds, who is a pasty white skrull stuck in a box (Amazingly, that's the best picture of the Shaper I could find on the internets. I'll have to scan one in later.) Glorian is tired of being the herald and wants to Shape his own Worlds. So he gathers the necessary energy by, umm, mind controlling people to fight each other. That's cheesey. That's, like, Contest of Champions "let's think of a reason to have fight scenes" cheesey.

And it doesn't really go anywhere. Whatever Glorian was up to gets interrupted by the Annihilation wave, rushing in at the end of issue #3 to drag Ronan back into the main plot. Glorian sacrifices his newly created world to defeat the Annihilation wave. Ronan... fights some bugs, and finally hunts down the person who falsely accused him, who of course dies before she can tell him anything. Useless. Ronan decides he needs to warn the Kree about the bugs, which means the point of this mini-series was basically "here's what's been happening with Ronan before he finds out about the bugs". The only way this plot could somehow be relevant to Annihilation is if Annihilus himself arranged for Ronan to be falsely accused, and we don't find out about it until the main story. That's way too much subtlety for the big bugger so i don't see that happening. Which means this story was both bad and pointless.

So why do i say that this issue wasn't all that bad? Well, it was basically a big fight scene, with all the various factions fighting the bugs until Glorian's big deus ex moment, and as it turns out, the art is by Jorge Lucas (i did that joke already), who is quite good and detailed in a Future Imperfect George Perez sort of way. Additionally, the coloring is interesting. So from a visual perspective, i liked it a lot, and for a big battle scene, that makes up for a lot, even if the plot isn't very strong.

Avengers #22
I have a confession to make. Marvel says that the whole point of the Civil War concept is that both sides have valid points and it isn't a clear case of good versus evil. While they say that, it's pretty clear that Iron Man and Reed Richards are acting a little funny and Cap is the good guy (and even those going along with IM's side, like Spidey and the Thing, are having serious doubts). So unless they're setting us up for a twist, i think it's fairly clear that Cap's side is going to be shown as correct. However, i'm not with Cap on this. Oh, i don't think anyone with super powers should be forced to register with the government (that would be closer to the Mutant Registration Act). But i do think that if this were the real world, i would want anyone acting as a vigilante to be arrested. And i could accept that if there were vigilantes out there that were doing good, that they could be offered a clean slate in return for an official government job. I don't see this as a "safety vs. civil liberties" issue the way Quesada frames it (actually, he flubs it and says "freedom vs. civil liberties" but we know what he means). It's really a question of, should people be allowed to operate outside the law? Of course, that's basically the whole premise of super-hero comics, so if you question that, the way this series is, you're tearing at one of the foundations of the genre - which i think is great, as long as they realize that (and i think they are, but the framing suggests otherwise).

Anyway, this issue did a lot to make me see it from the other side, and also to make the law look alot more like an MRA than an SRA. Luke Cage, doing nothing but sitting in his home, was to be arrested because he had not registered, simply because he has powers. Which means the law is wrong.

Even regardless of that, it was a great issue. Good characterization of Luke, and the relationship between Luke and Jessica. And i like the approach of the New Avengers during Civil War - i don't know if it will continue but it seems like each issue will focus on one of the team members and their reaction to the law. That's a really good way to deal with a crossover, and it lets focus on one of Bendis' strengths - characterization - while the main action takes place elsewhere.

Amazing Spider-Man #534
Another great issue, focusing on Spider-Man's doubts about the side he's chosen. I loved the Cap/Spidey fight. I liked Spidey being kind of creeped out about Iron Man knowing about his spider-sense (in the old days, Spider-Man would jump out of the way or shout "Look out!" and everyone would be like, "how did he know we were about to be attacked?" because SM never made a point of advertising that power. I like that being referenced/acknowledged). I also liked the sort-of old-school "Want to find out what The Thing is doing here? Check out the current issue of FF!" footnote. My only complaint is that this issue takes place after the resolution of the cliff-hanger in Civil War #3, so we have a pretty good idea of how that ended up (i.e. minor spoilers for Civil War 4), but that's not a big deal.


By fnord12 | July 31, 2006, 1:13 PM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link



July 28, 2006

$12,000 for Tom Defalco to sit around and think up Speedball

Jim Shooter (from the Comic Urban Legends series on Comics Should Be Good!):

About 18 months before Marvel's 25th Anniversary, I was called to an executive staff meeting (the President, all the VPs and Directors) to discuss the Anniversary. It was decided we should have a "publishing event" to celebrate. I suggested several things, including introducing a second "new" universe. Everyone liked that idea. I was given a development budget of $120,000. Later, Tom DeFalco asked me if he could be in charge of the project. I agreed. Months passed. Tom made little progress. The only idea I can remember that he developed in that time was Speedball, the less said of which, the better. Time got short, so I took over. I came up with the concept of a science fiction super-hero universe, as opposed to the original science fantasy super-hero Marvel Universe. By this time, Marvel Comics was being shopped for sale. Suddenly, the owners (essentially the Board of Directors) were as one might expect, loathe to make any investment in the future. Nothing "useless" that took dollars off the bottom line (such as developing characters that may pay off in the future, when presumably new owners would be in place) was tolerated. My budget was cut from $120,000 to $80,000 to $40,000 to "stop all spending" in the space of a week. We had spent only about $12,000 point, much of it on Speedball, I believe.

By fnord12 | July 28, 2006, 4:00 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



As I Lay Dying Review

Just finished Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. It's a crappy book. Not in the sense that it was badly written. It's well-written, the characters are portrayed well. It's crappy in the sense that every single person in the book is cracked in the head, and as you read it, you wish someone would just beat them all to death with a stick.

Man's wife dies. He insists on taking her to some other town to bury her, claiming it was her wish. Well, they've only got a rickety wagon and all the bridges have washed out in a storm, so they have to go the long way. In July. Can you imagine the condition the corpse had to be in after 9 days on the back of a wagon in July? Not to mention the coffin got submerged in the river at one point.

All the while, the husband just keeps going on and on about how hard life is to him but he doesn't begrudge anybody anything and blah blah blah. I hate martyrs. I share the sentiment of the doctor at the end of the book. "Of course he'd have to borrow a spade to bury his wife with. Unless he could borrow a hole in the ground. Too bad you all didn't put him in it too..." [emphasis mine]

He clearly deserves to be beat to death. The reason the everyone else deserves a good beating is because they all see he's a good for nothing whiner but they go along with all his bullshit. Sure, living with him has driven all of his kids insane, so you can't blame them too much, but the neighbors are more than willing to go along with his seriously bad judgment and his "poor me" attitude.

If i could, i'd have jumped into the book and wrung his neck about 2 chapters in.

Other than that, it was a good piece of literature.


By min | July 28, 2006, 1:26 PM | Boooooks | Comments (2) | Link



July 27, 2006

Diaspora Review

Fnord12 won't read it. He says if it takes me 3 tries and a website to get thru a book, he doesn't want to have anything to do with it. I don't think that's fair to poor Greg Egan. And anyway, you don't have to actually understand the math to understand the story. Despite my website reference, i think i only understood 1% of it all. So sad for me. Stoopid brain.

So, the plot. As provided by Amazon: "By the end of the second millennium, the human race has evolved into three distinct groups: conscious software programs known as citizens, sentient robots called gleisners, and unaltered humans or fleshers."

Actually, the fleshers are mostly genetically mutated/enhanced, but some remained unaltered. The book mainly follows the life of a citizen named Yatima. In the first half of the book, you see how Yatima starts as a sentient with no self-awareness - like a baby looking into a mirror for the first time - and evolves thru its experiences. The innocence/ignorance Yatima exhibits in the first few chapters are the best part, i think. Others' lives are often touched upon and later linked with Yatima's story.

The second half of the book deals with the discovery that the universe will soon be destroyed in a second Big Bang that nothing will survive. Yatima and others work towards finding a way to escape the outcome and this is where the math comes in. Hyperspheres. Five, six, nine dimensions. Oy.

I liked this book. I especially liked the math, but would definitely appreciate it if someone could sit down and draw me pictures to explain it. I also liked the interactions between the characters - how different must your frame of mind be when you can clone yourself and live completely separately from your clone for thousands of years, only to merge back into one identity in the future?

I think i liked it less than his other books, though. I think it was the ending. Sort of anti-climactic considering the whole "the end of the Universe" thing. I don't want to give away too much in case some of you want to read it (you know, the ones who aren't big weenies like FNORD). Let's just say that the ending is a quiet and calm affair. It fit. I wanted something more conclusive, mebbe, but it fit.


By min | July 27, 2006, 1:21 PM | Boooooks | Comments (2) | Link



The Elusive Black Holes

Scientists have been looking for black holes in space. For the last 2 years. They can't find them. The only explanation is that the blackholes are hiding from us and they're very good at it. They are clever like that.

"Naturally, it is difficult to find something we know is hiding well and which has eluded detection so far," says Volker Beckmann of NASA Goddard and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, lead author of the new report to be published in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal. "Integral is a telescope that should see nearby hidden black holes, but we have come up short," he says.
...
...perhaps the hidden black holes are more hidden than astronomers realised. "The fact that we do not see them does not necessarily mean that they are not there, just that we don't see them. Perhaps they are more deeply hidden than we think and so are therefore below even Integral's detection limit," says Bassani.

By min | July 27, 2006, 1:03 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



Why Should We Buy Solar Power?

We can make our own. China has built a nuclear fusion device that they call the "artificial sun". If the test is successful, it will be a new source of energy.

Scientists told the newspaper a successful test will mean the world's first nuclear fusion device of its kind will be ready to go into actual operation, the newspaper said.

The plasma discharge will draw international attention since some scientists are concerned with risks involved in such a process. But Chinese researchers involved in the project say any radiation will cease once the test is completed.

Let's hope they're right about that radiation thing.


By min | July 27, 2006, 11:58 AM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



More toys to kill you with.


(Click to englarge)

I was originally against pre-painted plastic miniatures as a matter of principal, plus the original ones i saw (by the people who went on to make HeroClix) were pretty crappy, so when Wizards of the Coast started putting out theirs, i just sort of ignored it.

But recently, in my quest for a female halfling cleric (which i still haven't found - i think the people who make minis assume all girls want to be Elven princesses), i started looking at the WOTC site and saw all the wonderful creatures they've been making. When i saw that they made Tiamat, i was hooked. Got myself a bunch of other classic D&D monsters too: you can see the Purple Worm in the back there, and there's some Xorn, and some Grell, and Thri-Kreen. Also got some bizarre stuff like those Celestial Dire Badgers and Giant Frogs, and a good smattering of generic skeletons and wights and other monsters.

They actually look pretty good. Some of their spears are a little flacid, if you know what i mean, but the paint jobs are much better than the earlier ones that i saw (and look at least as good as the crappy job i've done painting the metal ones).

In fact, i like 'em so much i'm gonna get some more. The site i ordered from didn't have any Bulettes, but i've found another site that does. I wonder if i can get some Rust Monsters...


By fnord12 | July 27, 2006, 8:57 AM | D&D | Comments (11) | Link



Random Lyrics Thursday



Stars and Stripes of Corruption by the Dead Kennedys

Finally got to Washington in the middle of the night
I couldn't wait
I headed straight for the Capitol Mall
My heart began to pound
Yahoo! It really exists
The American International Pictures logo

I looked up at that Capitol Building
Couldn't help but wonder why
I felt like saying "Hello, old friend"

Walked up the hill to touch it
Then I unzipped my pants
And pissed on it when nobody was looking

Like a great eternal Klansman
With his two flashing red eyes
Turn around he's always watching
The Washington monument pricks the sky
With flags like pubic hair ringed 'round the bottom

The symbols of our heritage
Lit up proudly in the night
Somehow fits to see the homeless people
Passed out on the lawn

So this is where it happens
The power games and bribes
All lobbying for a piece of ass
Of the stars and stripes of corruption

Makes me feel so ashamed
To be an American
When we're too stuck up to learn from our mistakes
Trying to start another Viet Nam
Like fiddling while Rome burns at home
The Boss says, "You're laid off. Blame the Japanese"
"America's back," alright, at the game it plays the worst:
Strip mining the world like a slave plantation

No wonder others hate us
And the Hitlers we handpick
To bleed their people dry
For our evil empire

The drug we're fed
To make us like it
Is God and country with a band

People we know who should know better
Howl, "America rules. Let's go to war!"
Business scams are what's worth dying for

Are the Soviets our worst enemy?
We're destroying ourselves instead
Who cares about our civil rights
As long as I get paid?

The blind Me-Generation
Doesn't care if life's a lie

so easily used, so proud to enforce

The stars and stripes of corruption
Let's bring it all down!

Tell me who's the real patriots
The Archie Bunker slobs waving flags?
Or the people with the guts to work
For some real change

Rednecks and bombs don't make us strong
We loot the world, yet we can't even feed ourselves
Our real test of strength is caring
Not the toys of war we sell the world
Just carry on, thankful to be farmed like worms
Old glory for a blanket
As you suck on your thumbs

Real freedom scares you
'Cos it means responsibility

So you chicken out and threaten me

Saying, "Love it or leave it"
I'll get beat up if I criticize it
You say you'll fight to the death
To save your worthless flag
If you want a banana republic that bad
Why don't you go move to one?

But what can just one of us do?
Against all that money and power
Trying to crush us into roaches?

We can't destroy society in a day
Until we change ourselves first
From the inside out

We can start by not lying so much
And treating other people like dirt
It's easy not to base our lives
On how much we can scam

And you know
It feels good to lift that monkey off our backs

I'm thankful I live in a place
Where I can say the things I do
Without being taken out and shot
So I'm on guard against the goons
Trying to take my rights away
We've got to rise above the need for cops and laws

Let kids learn communication
Instead of schools pushing competition
How about more art and theater instead of sports?

People will always do drugs
Let's legalize them
Crime drops when the mob can't price them
Budget's in the red?
Let's tax religion

No one will do it for us
We'll just have to fix ourselves
Honesty ain't all that hard
Just put Rambo back inside your pants
Causing trouble for the system is much more fun

Thank you for the toilet paper
But your flag is meaningless to me
Look around, we're all people
Who needs countries anyway?

Our land, I love it too
I think I love it more than you
I care enough to fight
The stars and stripes of corruption

Let's bring it all down!
If we don't try
If we just lie
If we can't find
A way to do it better than this
Who will?



By fnord12 | July 27, 2006, 8:54 AM | Music | Comments (0) | Link



July 26, 2006

Bottled Water

Go read why bottled water is bad for you.

Intro paragraph:

The bottled water industry is a prime example of why P.T. Barnum, not Adam Smith, should be anointed as capitalism's patron saint. Aside from its usefulness in remote areas during disasters and emergencies, bottled water is an entirely needless affectation. The fears about the safety of public water supplies that its purveyors play on are exaggerated nonsense. But the enormous global bottled water industry built on these false fears undercuts public water, disfigures landscapes and exposes trusting bottled water consumers to serious health risks.

By fnord12 | July 26, 2006, 12:58 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



What the--?

Link:

[Iraqi PM] Al-Maliki's visit [to the US], meanwhile, prompted a sharply worded letter from leading Senate Democrats saying it is essential that the Iraqi leader clarify, before his Wednesday address to Congress, whether he supports or denounces Hezbollah's attacks against Israel.

"Your failure to condemn Hezbollah's aggression and recognize Israel's right to defend itself raises serious questions about whether Iraq under your leadership can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East," said the letter obtained by The Associated Press. It was signed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Charles Schumer of New York.

OK. I'm happy to condemn Hezollah (although remember they thought they were just starting up another routine round of prisoner swapping by kidnapping those soldiers), but i don't recognize any country's right to defend itself by bombing civilian targets in other countries, so i guess i'm not qualified to run Iraq. And where do we get off telling the PMs of other (supposedly) independent countries what they should or shouldn't say or do?


By fnord12 | July 26, 2006, 12:11 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (5) | Link



July 25, 2006

Whose Space? Their Space!

Wayne lent me Spin magazine's August 2006 issue so that i could read an article about MySpace. It doesn't seem to be available online yet, but it's all about me being a chump:

But recent changes to the terms of service that all MySpace users agree to upon creating an account have left some wondering if they're giving away more than they intended. The revised user agreement, which quietly went into effect in May, stated at press time that MySpace has a "nonexclusive, fully paid, and royalty-free worldwide license... to use, copy, modify, adapty, translate, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute" any content uploaded to the site.

All those verbs mean that if you put your material on the site, it can now be used by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., the company that owns MySpace. With such open-ended phrasing, MySpace could argue that it has the power to license music and art for, say, movies or MySpace advertisements without paying you.

Just as an aside, is anything not a part of Rupert Murdoch's evil empire?

The article then talks a little about protest rock singer Billy Bragg, who has taken his songs off MySpace because of this.

Jane Ginsburg, a Columbia University law professor who specializes in intellectual property issues, suggests that Bragg's concerns may be justified. "I can understand why an author would be reluctant to sing on to this," she says. "I think the interpretation that [MySpace] could use [content] in any way that they want without getting permission, and without compensating the owner, is correct."

MySpace insists that this is not its intention. "This is the problem when lawyers get involved," Jeff Berman, senior VP for public affairs and communications, said in a statement. "MySpace is not seeking a license to do anything other than allow it to be shared in the manner the artist intends." Though plans may be in the works for tweaking the fine print, the wording had not been changed by press time.



Oh yeah. It's all those naughty lawyers' fault, for actually reading the contract. Nevermind that it was MySpace's lawyers who wrote the contract.

So what does this mean for me? I have no delusions that the four songs i've put up on MySpace are fantastic and are going to make anyone gobs of money, so i'll probably just leave them up there out of inertia, but it's still pretty annoying and it ruins the myth of the internet being a magical place where people can share their music without record labels.


By fnord12 | July 25, 2006, 5:21 PM | Music | Comments (6) | Link



Rice in Beirut

How sweet. She brought blankets. That proves she cares.

As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice touched down in Beirut yesterday on her top-secret visit, the bombing miraculously paused for a few hours, a sure sign of American and Israeli collaboration.
...
The secretary also brought a package of proposals for an international military buffer zone in southern Lebanon, which included training for the Lebanese Army. The Carteresque plan calls for such slow implementation, that it reveals a central truth of U.S. policy: The Bush administration completely supports Israel's own war against terrorism.

By min | July 25, 2006, 1:57 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Ninjas Are Sweet!

I don't care how old this is. Call it a classic. Ninjas are sweet!

Link

Facts:

1. Ninjas are mammals.

2. Ninjas fight ALL the time.

3. The purpose of the ninja is to flip out and kill people.

Ninjas can kill anyone they want! Ninjas cut off heads ALL the time and don't even think twice about it. These guys are so crazy and awesome that they flip out ALL the time. I heard that there was this ninja who was eating at a diner. And when some dude dropped a spoon the ninja killed the whole town. My friend Mark said that he saw a ninja totally uppercut some kid just because the kid opened a window.


By min | July 25, 2006, 12:19 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (2) | Link



July 24, 2006

Aren't you guys getting ahead of yourself?

I mean, i like the Young Avengers and all, but, ummm, where's my Power Pack box set? Where's my Masters of Evil / Thunderbolts double-box set? Where's my Ego The Living Planet? How did these whippersnappers get to the front of the line? I found this picture on Tom Breevort's blog, where he goes into some weird thing about collecting toys being like worshipping graven images or something. We like them because they're toys, Tom!


By fnord12 | July 24, 2006, 5:26 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



Anyone out there not depressed yet?

More James Wolcott, who used to be a snarky, kind of light and funny sort of blogger. I would go to his site when the other blogs were too depressing. You should go read the whole thing, but here are some a lot of snippets (some of which are actually quotes from other people, including TomPaine.com's Robert Dreyfus, Robert Fisk, and Larry Johnson, so make sure you check the post for attribution):

  • Iraq is engaged in a full-fledged civil war. For those remaining defenders of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, who argue that the United States needs to stay put in order to prevent civil war, it's too late. It's here, in all of its brutality and ugliness.

  • "What is unfolding in Iraq is a staggering tragedy. An entire nation is dying, right in front of us. And the worst part of it is: It may be too late to do anything to stop it."

  • "The blame for this carnage must be laid squarely at the feet of George W. Bush. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was ordered against the advice of the CIA, the State Department and most U.S. military officers, and in defiance of the United Nations, America's allies, and the Arab world. The United States attacked and destroyed a nation that had never attacked the United States, which had no weapons of mass destruction and which had no connection to al-Qaida."

  • As Dreyfuss observes, the death spiral will continue because the Bush administration is in self-hypnotic denial and, I would add, there is no peace movement or political opposition with any upward force. Compare Iraq with Vietnam, and the sense of resignation and futility is apparent. I will never forgive Joe Lieberman for undercutting John Murtha and muffling the urgency of Murtha's warnings about how rapidly Iraq was unraveling by issuing one of his classic mushmouthed pieties. He immediately gave the White House and the War Party bipartisan cover, helping ensure the policies that weren't working would continue not working as the death-toll tabulator rose and rose.

  • But it is not enough to blame Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair, Lieberman, the neocons, the liberal hawks, and other useless idiots. By our actions in Iraq, and our complicity and collaboration with the Israeli assault on Lebanon, American citizens are culpable for letting 9/11 turn them/us into passive accomplices. "The complicity of the American public in these heinous crimes will damn America for all time in history," Paul Craig Roberts rages at Antiwar.

  • "They look like us, the people of Beirut. They have light-coloured skin and speak beautiful English and French. They travel the world. Their women are gorgeous and their food exquisite. But what are we saying of their fate today as the Israelis - in some of their cruellest attacks on this city and the surrounding countryside - tear them from their homes, bomb them on river bridges, cut them off from food and water and electricity? We say that they started this latest war, and we compare their appalling casualties - 240 in all of Lebanon by last night - with Israel's 24 dead, as if the figures are the same.

  • "But did the tens of thousands of poor who live here deserve this act of mass punishment? For a country that boasts of its pin-point accuracy - a doubtful notion in any case, but that's not the issue - what does this act of destruction tell us about Israel? Or about ourselves?"

  • "We should not confuse Hezbollah with Al Qaeda. Unlike Al Qaeda, Hezbollah has a real and substantial international network. Unlike Al Qaeda, Hezbollah has a real and substantial international political and financial network. They have personnel and supporters scattered in countries around the world who have the training and resources to mount attacks. Hezbollah has no qualms about using terrorist attacks as part of a broader strategy to achieve its objectives. The last major Hezbollah attack against the United States was the June 1996 attack on the U.S. military apartment complex in Dharan, Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah also organized the attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994. But they also have exercised restraint when they felt they could achieve their objectives through political means. The ten year hiatus in major mass casualty attacks could come to a shattering end in the coming months, and American citizens are likely to pay some of that price with their own blood."


By fnord12 | July 24, 2006, 5:07 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Did he graduate from the Weston A. Price school of writing?

From James Wolcott:

Just as [Ahmad] Chalabi schmoozed, exaggerated, and lied in his role as neocon lobbyist and go-between to draw the U.S. into Iraq, where he could nobly serve as America's handpicked puppet, [Amir] Taheri has been brewing dark clouds of impending-doom-if-America-doesn't-act-now in op-ed after op-ed and bubbling springs of bullshit,* taking his case to the White House, where any knave is welcome if he furthers the War Party's agenda.
...
*"It was in 1989 that Taheri was first exposed as a journalistic felon," wrote Larry Cohler-Esses in The Nation. "The book he published the year before, Nest of Spies, examined the rule and fall of the Shah of Iran. Taheri received many respectful reviews, but in The New Republic Shaul Bakhash, a reigning doyen of Persian studies, checked Taheri's footnotes. Suddenly a book review became an investigative expose. Bakhash, a history professor at George Mason University and a former fellow at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, detailed case after case in which Taheri cited nonexistent sources, concocted nonexistent substance in cases where the sources existed and distorted the substance beyond recognition when it was present. Taheri 'repeatedly refers us to books where the information he cites simply does not exist,' Bakhash wrote. 'Often the documents cannot be found in the volumes to which he attributes them.... [He] repeatedly reads things into the documents that are simply not there.' In one case, noted Bakhash, Taheri cited an earlier article of his own--but offered content he himself never wrote in that article. Bakhash concluded that Nest of Spies was 'the sort of book that gives contemporary history a bad name.' In a response published two months later, Taheri failed to rebut Bakhash's charges."

By fnord12 | July 24, 2006, 4:54 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



The Silence of the Blogs(?)

I never heard of The Forward, but they're apparently finding some sort of irony in the fact that "liberal" bloggers aren't saying much about Israel's war. To support their point, they quote a bunch of centrist and center-left bloggers (like Kos and TPM) who've basically said that there's not much to say because our government is not directly involved so there's nothing we can do about it or because they don't want to attract a bunch of anti-semite "supporters". That's all fine and maybe they should be beaten up a little for not taking a stand, but why make it seem like it's a trend when you've got Billmon, Digby, Juan Cole, and James Wolcott, all prominent liberal bloggers, doing fairly detailed and ongoing analysis of what's happening there.

This is the best part, though:

Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the The New Republic and a general critic of bloggers, rejected the "complexity" explanation.

"Why would you expect complexity from bloggers, left, right, or Martian?" Wieseltier wrote in an email to the Forward. "They are not in the complexity business on any issue. Maybe the problem is not complexity but complication - the way in which sympathy with Israel's campaign against Hezbollah, and therefore with the use of force, might complicate their lives in progressiveland, where they live."

Waaaaah!!! Why won't anyone read our magazine???

You know, why is the guy from The New Republic sending emails complaing about bloggers to The Forward anyway? How do you think that went down:

Hey, we're doing sort of a half-assed article on how liberal bloggers aren't talking about Israel as much as maybe we thought they would be. Care to comment?

Or do you think Mr. General Critic of Bloggers has been emailing his critique to everyone in his Contact List, and only The Forward took the bait and wrote the article?


By fnord12 | July 24, 2006, 4:11 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Godzilla: Final Wars

Not to be outdone by Spored, we have our own Godzilla review. I warn you. There will be spoilers.

The movie was touted as a return to "old-school" Godzilla, as it is yet another "final" episode in the Godzilla franchise. It is definitely the best of the "new" Godzilla movies, but hardly on par with 1960s-1970s Godzilla, imo.

When in doubt, throw in a robot. - Although just about every monster Godzilla has ever fought makes an appearance in this film, there was a definite shortage of monster-ful scenes. How could this be? Why on earth would any director bother with scenes not involving men in monster suits? These are very valid questions. You won't like the answer, but I'll tell you what they did. They filled the huge chunks of time with people doing "dramatic" things. Sure, there was one kewl fight scene. And who doesn't love super-powered humans in uniform (the director didn't really make use of them, either. i'll get into that a bit later). But i'm in it for the monsters. And if you can't provide me with monsters, you'd better have something damn good to replace it with. Like a robot that communicates using semaphore. Now that's kewl.

So, the movie starts off with Godzilla falling into the ocean in the South Pole and getting frozen there. Some years later, the UN has formed a force of super-humans (also referred to as mutants) whose purpose is to fight monsters. Suddenly, monsters are everywhere. Australia, China, Japan. Mutants are sent out to engage them. Enter the requisite aliens. They're actually controlling the monsters. Their goal is to enslave the Earth and use the people as a food source. And guess what? The same thing that lets them control the monsters also let's them control the mutants! That pretty much takes care of the entire mutant force in the first 30 min. All except one, that is. He's special. Who didn't see that one coming?

What follows next is lots of dialogue between the main characters. Lots of time spent on discovering the aliens who claimed to be friendly weren't really. Lots of really poor acting on the part of one Don Frye, former mixed martial arts champion who speaks English the entire movie while everyone around him is speaking Japanese and a worse actor than Hulk Hogan (despite what Spored would have you believe). One not so thrilling motorcycle fight scene. And still no Godzilla. No Godzilla for at least the first hour of the movie.

When they finally do free Godzilla and bring him back to Japan, that's when the fun starts. Godzilla comes out victorious with every monster he encounters. Mostly, because he's totally pissed off. If you've seen Godzilla vs. Mothra, i think you'll notice Godzilla is not good when he first wakes up. In fact, if there is no breakfast sandwich ready and waiting, he pretty much kicks everyone's ass until there's no one left and then he goes home and goes back to bed. At one point, King Caesar, Rodan, and Anguirus attack Godzilla all at once. Needless to say, the fight ends with all three of them laying pathetically in a pile. Let's face it, King Ghidorah, these guys are not.

They even trot out Manilla for this one. He is definitely my least favorite Godzilla baby, but his antics are still cute. The requisite little boy shows up and teams up with Manilla, dragging his grandfather into it all. Only in a Godzilla movie will you find family members more than happy to transport you and your lizard friend in their vehicles. The only problem i had was the little boy's shorts were clearly not short enough. As you all know, children in Japanese movies are always dressed in shorts that would make even Magnum P.I. blush to wear. I'm pretty sure it's part of the child labor laws in Japan.

More humans running around and dialoguing. Meanwhile, Godzilla is presumably fighting a space robot monster the aliens sent in. But you wouldn't know it cause they don't bother to show you the fight. They were too busy showing you people. Jerks. They can go to hell.

At some point, it becomes pretty obvious that the people making this movie are either big fans of Star Wars and the Matrix or weren't able to come up with their own ideas so had to steal them from someone else's movies. There's a scene reminiscent of the Death Star run in the first Star Wars movie. Also, lots of Matrix-esque camera work on the fight scenes with the slow motion and the flying in the air and such.

Mothra makes a two-second appearance, but the little twins don't do their little Mothra song, so there's another point deducted. Jerks. The space monster robot turns out to be King Ghidorah in disguise. Ofc. He kicks the crap out of Godzilla. Alot. Godzilla triumphs at the end and then tries to eat the humans, but Manilla steps in. Godzilla, thus thwarted, decides to go back to monster island and have a beer.

The humans are happy. They're saved. Except, pretty much all of Japan has been destroyed what with all the monster fighting going on. And realistically, I'd say all the people were dead, too. But, hey, who cares? They beat the aliens!


By min | July 24, 2006, 1:00 PM | Godzilla & Movies | Comments (8) | Link



Good Comic Book Week: Nova, Eternals, Civil War, and Cable & Deadpool

This week's comic review:

Nova #4
Another Annihilation mini-within-a-mini comes to a close. This one was quite good. It started off a little shaky, i thought. The idea of Nova absorbing some ultra-powerful computer didn't sit right with me, and i was afraid that the introduction of Drax and Quasar was going to be distracting, but it all worked out very well in the end, with a nasty fight that showed what a bad-ass Annihilus was but still let Nova eek out a (minor) victory. The fact that the big bug man showed up personally definitely made this story seem a lot more meaningful to the main Annihilation story in a way that Super-Skrull didn't. I didn't have high hopes for a book written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, known to me as the guys who wrote about a million bad Marvel UK stories as well as Force Works, but i may have to re-evaluate my opinion of them (and get all the Force Works issues... yeah!). The art was really nice, too.

Eternals #2
I've read reviews from people saying that this is is too slow, but i've been enjoying it. The exasperated, "i know it won't work but i'll try it anyway" attempts by the Deviants (<-- i assume?) to kill Ikaris are pretty funny, and the rest of it strikes a nice balance between tongue-in-cheek silliness without being goofy and earnest plot development. I'd think this would be of interest to any Gaiman fan. My only concern from a Marvel fan perspective is that it really hasn't been that long since the Eternals have been active in the MU. Gaiman's plot seems to have the Eternals as amnesiacs for some time, so it makes me worry that Gaiman is writing this as a direct sequel to Kirby's original without acknowledging anything that's happened since. It's only issue 2, so there is still time for everything to be explained, and in fact it shouldn't be explained yet... i'm just antsy. I wasn't paying that close attention, but i'm pretty sure that Gaiman was claiming that 1602 was in Marvel continuity, and if he really thinks that, from what i've seen of 1602, i think maybe he doesn't have such a good grasp of the concept... But none of that should detract that from the fact that this is a good story that is just starting, with great art from Romita to boot.

Civil War #3
Wooooooooooo! I'm so conditioned by the current trend of "decompressed" stories that i would have never expected a fight between the two groups to have occured as as early as issue #3. This is a very fun story, and is probably the best crossover Marvel has done this side of Secret Wars (is it too early to say that yet? Sorry, i'm just excited!). I was surprised to see Spider-Man and the Thing (and to a lesser degree, the Invisible Woman) showing up as part of Iron Man's team based of developments in their own books, but i'm sure that's all accounted for. It's interesting to see the X-Men sidelined in this cross-over; very unusual, in fact. I was also shocked by the super-secret shock ending of this issue; i would have never expected him to not support Cap. Can't wait to see where it all goes.

Cable & Deadpool #30
I just started reading this last issue when i heard that Cable had taken over his own country (after leading a rebellion against cheesey Mark Gruenweld character The Flag Smasher), so i was ready for a continuation of that plot and the examination of Cable in this new role. Instead we got a Civil War crossover, including a fight with the Great Lakes Avengers, who i've always hated. So i expected to be annoyed by this issue, but instead i really liked it. FabNic created Deadpool (essentially), but i thought he was funnier in the hands of Christopher Priest and Gail Simone. I thought that by throwing in the GLA, FabNic was substituting real humor for plain goofiness, but Deadpool was actually very funny here. Even better, i like Cable and the way he is working for Cap but trying to get him to withdraw from America, and the distinction between Deadpool and Cable's attitudes towards the Registration Act was well played out. Very good stuff, and making me reconsider my evaluation of FabNic as a B level writer. At the very least, i am tempted to go back and pick up the rest of this series, and i'll certainly keep it as an on-going.


By fnord12 | July 24, 2006, 10:17 AM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



July 23, 2006

Always the last to know

How come no one tells me these things:

Wizards of the Coast has announced that it will be closing its chain of retail stores, including Wizards of the Coast stores and the affiliated The Game Keeper stores. Wizards, a subsidiary of Hasbro, has retained Gordon Brothers Group, LLC of Boston to assist with the closure, which should be completed within approximately 60 days, according to a press release.

The move out of the retail store business will enable a deeper focus on Wizards' core business of game design, unnamed company officials said in the release. Wizards' trading card games and role-playing games -- including Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons -- are among the biggest brands in the hobby game industry.

Monday December 29, 2003 [!!!!!]

Compound that with the fact that The Game Room seems to no longer be interested in stocking Wizards of the Coast related products, and we've got a little problem finding D&D minis.


By fnord12 | July 23, 2006, 11:09 AM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link



Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I ask you: Is this the face of a killer?

The Man-Thing movie wasn't very good. OK, it was awful. But you probably didn't need me to tell you that. I guess this tells you everything you need to know: "The film was originally intended for a 2004 video release, then upgraded to a theatrical release for Halloween, then back to video and later to the Sci Fi Channel television release it received in 2005."

The Elektra film gets a solid "almost OK" rating from me. More ninjas totally flipping out and killing people definitely would have helped things along, but it had reasonably true-to-the-comics versions of Stick and Typhoid Mary, so it gets credit for that. I probably would have liked it less if we hadn't fast forwarded through most of the "plot".

Now, i have to be careful here, but Fantastic Four may have actually been "pretty good". I caution you, i had just sat through Man-Thing and Elektra, so it's possible that even Nothing But Trouble would have seemed like a good movie by comparison*, but i actually enjoyed FF. Sure, the Dr. Doom character was terrible, sure the Thing looked absolutely awful, sure the plot made very little sense... wait, was i saying this movie was good? Well, it was a fun dumb action movie, let's just leave it at that.


*No way.


By fnord12 | July 23, 2006, 10:22 AM | Comics & Movies | Comments (2) | Link



July 20, 2006

Goram Gruenwald

If you followed through the links in my previous post, you read about Vibro (if you didn't, you missed some funny stuff), but you may not have read this in the comments:

I once met Denny O'Neil at a convention and he told me that he wasn't really interested in creating villains so much as exploring Tony Stark's alcoholism, so Mark Gruenwald (the series' then editor) would come up with characters like Vibro.

I just read through a huge stack of Denny O'Neil Iron Mans, and they definitely read like that -- here's some interesting and serious stuff about Stark's alcoholism, here's some interesting stuff about Rhodey learning to be Iron Man, and oh, i guess we'd better throw in some lame villain, too. I thought it was just O'Neil bowing to comic book convention. Now that i know it was Mark Gruenweld, king of cheese, forcing those characters on O'Neil it makes even more sense. The saddest part you can tell from the previous issue's teaser and that blurb on the cover that he was really excited about this new character he'd come up, like he'd created the next Magneto or something.


By fnord12 | July 20, 2006, 9:13 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



Lame-Ass Villains

Bored at work? (i know you are)
Love reading about comic books? (i know you do)

Go check out Dave's Long Box's Lame-Ass Villian Compendium. And don't worry, they're mostly all Marvel characters.


By fnord12 | July 20, 2006, 4:30 PM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link



X-Poll

Your opinion solicited:

Should the X-Men comics focus primarily on themes like prejudice using the mutant concept as a metaphor, or should they be primarily super-hero comics like, say, the Avengers, that occasionally deal with the mutant theme as an extra layer?


By fnord12 | July 20, 2006, 11:57 AM | Comics | Comments (47) | Link



And I Thought You Guys Were Crappy Drivers

This poor kid. But I have to say, I'm totally on board with him never driving - ever. It's bad enough with my dad out there driving with one eye sporting a cataract and the other with double vision (God help us - his eye doctor said it was fine for him to drive).

A 16-year-old boy apparently had a seizure during his driving test, causing him to hit five vehicles, flip his Jeep and wreck the front of a store.

By min | July 20, 2006, 10:48 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (4) | Link



Brought To You By The Letter 'R'

Rod sometimes mentions a comic he read where Doctor Octopus stole the Letter H. To illustrate the severity of this, all the Hs in the comic were missing. In the end, Spider-Man stopped him. It would appear that there is one other person in the entire world who has also read that comic.
Link

A consonant-loving thief has police and business owners baffled after dozens of Rs were stolen from signs around the community.

"We've lost our Rs. And we want them back," said Randall Jones, president of Headley Hardware.

...

Putnam Inn manager Jane Hansen isn't sure how the thief climbed more than 6 feet off the ground to take Rs from a sign in front of her motel.

It wouldn't be so hard for a thief with 4 octopus-like robotic arms, now, would it?


By min | July 20, 2006, 10:35 AM | Comics & Ummm... Other? | Comments (19) | Link



Hoppy in Ireland

Oh, sure. Wait til after we leave before something exciting like this happens.

Runaway circus kangaroo on the loose in Ireland

"This kangaroo broke loose just before the show while they were bringing him from the cages to the arena. He decided to take a walk," said local farmer John Walsh on whose land the 2-year-old male, named Sydney, made his break for freedom.

...

"He would be happy out there and he'll have plenty of grass, plenty of water and plenty of sunshine," Walsh told Reuters on Wednesday as Ireland basked in near record temperatures more typical of Sydney's native Australia than Ireland's temperate maritime climate.

I'd also like to point out another example of Global Climate Change there with Ireland having "plenty of sunshine". It's just their luck. The Irish finally get to enjoy some decent weather for a change, except they're all so short on melanin that they'll end up getting skin cancer because of it.


By min | July 20, 2006, 10:17 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Random Lyrics Thursday

Down on the Farm by the UK Subs

All I need is some inspiration
Before I do somebody some harm
I feel just like a vegetable
Down here on the farm

Nobody comes to see me
Nobody here to turn me on
I ain't even got a lover
Down here on the farm

They told me to get healthy
They told me to get some sun
But boredom eats me like cancer
Down here on the farm

Drinkin' lemonade shanty
Ain't nobody here to do me harm
But I'm like a fish out of water
Down here on the farm

I wrote a thousand letters
Till my fingers all gone numb
But I never see no postman
Down here on the farm

I call my baby on the telephone
I say come down and have some fun
But she knows what the score is
Down here on the farm

I can't fall in love with a wheatfield
I can't fall in love with a barn
When everything smells like horse shit
Down here on the farm

Blue skies and swimming pools
Add so much charm
But I'd rather be back in Soho
Than down here on the farm

Reminds me of our trip to Ireland.


By fnord12 | July 20, 2006, 8:47 AM | Music | Comments (1) | Link



*sniff*

I wish you people would stop mowing your.. *achoo* ... your lawns.


By fnord12 | July 20, 2006, 8:41 AM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link



July 19, 2006

When you are surrounded by madmen, keep your mouth shut

A Peter David story found on an old message board:

> It's always nice to see a creator posting on here,
> particularly one so renowned for being a loose
> cannon (at least as far as loose cannons go at Marvel.
> I recently read about your long-forgotten
> plans to kill off JJJ and let theKingpin take over the
> Daily Bugle, Peter. That's a 'what if?' story I'd gladly buy.

Well, before THAT rumor gets out of control, let me clarify that that came out of a discussion I was having with Tom DeFalco while in Jim Owsley's office, and it wasn't serious. Tom--who, by the way, is a good friend and I adore the guy--was illustrating the importance of not writing stories that make it impossible for subsequent writers to continue the series in the same spirit. And he said, "I could write this fantastic story in which we kill off JJJ, and have this heartbreaking death scene with him and Peter in which they finally come to terms, and then JJJ is dead. But what do you do then?"

And I instantly said, "Well, I'd have the Kingpin buy the Daily Bugle." And I started rattling off this whole storyline with growing excitement. Poor Tom's standing there going, "No, no, Peter, you're missing the point" and I'm jumping up and down and saying, "Owz! Owz! This could be great! Let's do it! Let's kill off JJJ!" But I was never really serious and it didn't go beyond that.

The karmic revenge came some years later when I was at an X-writers' retreat (doing X-Factor at the time) and we were discussing Magneto's imminent return and him facing off against Wolverine. And I said, "Y'know, I don't know why Magneto even bothers with Wolverine. Why doesn't he just rip out Wolverine's metal skeleton and be done with him." And Bob Harras and the guys all looked at each other and said, "What a GREAT IDEA!" And I immediately said, "No, guys, no, I was kidding, it's a terrible idea. Wolverine can't survive that." And they're going, "No, it could work, 'cause he's got a healing factor." And I'm screaming, "Healing factor?!? He'd HAVE NO BONES! He'd be a healed puddle of flesh!!! Are you all INSANE?!?"

And they went and did it. My major contribution to X-mythos, and it stemmed from one dumb remark that I tried to recant and couldn't.

PAD


By fnord12 | July 19, 2006, 3:54 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



Poppycock

Jesse Jackson:

Imagine going to the dentist with an aching tooth, and going through the pain of having it diagnosed and pulled -- only to discover the dentist pulled the wrong tooth. Not only have you suffered for nothing, you've still got to operate on the real problem.

Democrats seem about to put themselves through this agony. Pundits and politicians tell Democrats that they have a "values" problem -- that people of faith vote against them in large numbers because the Democratic party is seen as secular, or as anti-Christian, or as straying from mainstream values.

Poppycock. Democrats didn't lose Florida in 2000 and the 2000 election because of the lack of a high faith profile. Al Gore won the popular vote nationally and the popular vote of the majority who cast ballots in Florida on Election Day. He lost Florida because the fix was in, because the Voting Rights Act was not enforced -- and because Republicans turned the recount into an alley fight while Gore played by rules. Then a transparently partisan majority in the Supreme Court violated its own principles and shamed itself by ordering an end to a fair count, worried Bush might lose. This wasn't about faith; it was about will.

Similarly, Democrats didn't lose Ohio in 2004 and the 2004 election because of the lack of a high faith profile. They lost because the fix was in, and because once again, Republicans had a partisan zealot -- Ken Blackwell -- as secretary of state. Once again he abused the powers of his office in choosing voting machines and election schemes. Once again, a majority of people set out to vote for Bush's opponent.

Having identified the wrong tooth, Democrats are now hearing the wrong prescription. They're urged to embrace the symbols of faith, to go to church, to speak from the Gospel, to advertise their faith.


By fnord12 | July 19, 2006, 12:51 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



How a purely capitalist government works

Americans trying to flee the Israeli bombing of Lebannon have "been told they can't board a ship unless they've signed a contract agreeing to repay the U.S. government for the price of their evacuation."


By fnord12 | July 19, 2006, 12:36 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (4) | Link



July 18, 2006

Godzilla vs. Giant Mushrooms

Spored To Death reviews Godzilla 2000.


By fnord12 | July 18, 2006, 3:34 PM | Godzilla | Comments (0) | Link



The Four Most Overpaid White House Staffers

Heh. From Thinkprogress:

Deborah Nirmala Misir Ethics Advisor $114,688
Erica M. Dornburg Ethics Advisor $100,547
Stuart Baker Director for Lessons Learned $106,641
Melissa M. Carson Director of Fact Checking $46,500


By fnord12 | July 18, 2006, 1:40 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Feeling safe?

Thought i'd help promote a little fear-mongering from Billmon:

Al Qaeda leaders feel about Hezbollah and the emerging Shi'a crescent, they can't be too happy about seeing their status in the terrorist celebrity pantheon overshadowed by Hezbollah's starring role in the Lebanon extravaganza -- particularly at a time when Al Qaeda is already under considerable pressure to prove it still has political and operational relevance. But there's really only way to show the world who the real scourge of the Jews and Crusaders is: By executing a major terrorist attack, either in Israel (hard) America (less hard) or Britain (even less hard -- although something bigger than a couple of pipe bombs in the Tube would probably be necessary to make the point.)

The bottom line is that like any fading rock group, Al Qaeda badly needs a hit to avoid being permanently supplanted in the public eye by its Shi'a rival, which is setting the charts ablaze, so to speak. If the original band or its various spin offs have any ambitious projects on the drawing boards, now might be the opportune time to put them into production.


By fnord12 | July 18, 2006, 1:27 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



July 17, 2006

Bad comic book week: Super-Skrull, Silver Surfer, and X-Men

This week's comic review:

Super-Skrull #4
The Annihilation mini-series have been majorly disappointing. There's been some good character moments, but they've moved at a ponderous pace and have done nothing to advance the story i read in the Annihilation Prologue. The Super-Skrull is one of my favorite characters from a pure "his powers are cool" perspective, and i've always liked examples of him using the FF's powers (he has the powers of all the members of the Fantastic Four) in "evil" ways that the FF never would (like using the Invisible Woman's forcefields to suffocate people). But like any villain that's been around for years, i guess people felt he started to become a joke, because villains can never actually win in comic books. So after a constant string of losses, the character looks like a loser. This book looked like it was going to address that and at the same time advance the main Annihilation plot by having the Super-Skrull weaken a key piece of Annihilus' weaponry too.

So how to address the "loser villain" issue? One option is to let the bad guys actually win every once in a while. The problem with this is it can distrupt the comic book's status quo in a big way, killing off heroes or conquering a planet or whatever. Unless you're prepared for the villain's win to be a major event, instead of the "villain of the month" story, you can't do that too often.

Another option is to let the villain be successful elsewhere - just not when the heroes are around. There's been some evidence that for low level earthbound villains, they generally make a good life for themselves robbing banks and whatnot in the parts of the US where the heroes don't congregate. With a character like the Super-Skrull, who acts mainly off planet, this could have been even easier. He could be a prominent general of the Skrull army who just can't handle Earth's super-heroes (which is no shame - even Galactus, Thanos, etc., get beaten by Earth's heroes). But the writer of the Super-Skrull mini (Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the writer of the TV show Lost, which, for some unfathomable reason, isn't a sequel to The Land of the Lost) decided to not go this route, i guess because he wanted to explore the idea of a loser super-villain who has to now prove himself a hero.

It's an ok theme to explore, i guess, and it starts off ok, except for being very, very slow. The problem is, after establishing the Super-Skrull as a ruthless and efficient strategist, it turned things around with a really cliched betrayal plot twist. The betrayal doesn't even make sense from a character perspective - when you have a character speaking to the audience in the first person in issue #2, you can't turn it around and pretend it was all a ruse in issue #4. This issue, showing Super-Skrull developing feelings for the pawns he's been using and then trying to sacrifice himself to save them (i think? I got bored and stopped reading so closely and the art was annoyingly unclear), was just sappy and out of place in a story about one of Marvel's great villains. All in all, some decent moments but ultimately not worth it. As far as advancing the overall Annihilation plot, Annihilus doesn't even appear in this story. The Silver-Skrull managed to destroy the Harvester of Sorrow weapon, but we don't even get Annihilus' reaction to that, so it doesn't feel like it was that important.

Silver Surfer #4
Another concluding Annihilation mini. This one took a surprising turn for the better in issue #3, in revealing some interesting peers of Galactus, and then in making the Silver Surfer return to his original role as Galactus' herald. Some very neat ideas that i was looking forward to seeing developed here. Well, this issue took about a minute and a half to read. It was all very cool... Thanos talking to the new cosmic beings (even his little pixie thing got more interesting) and Silver Surfer being all cold and distant and super-badassed. But the whole book was a fight scene, and it didn't feel like there was much of a resolution. If you can take the end of the fight to mean that Annihilus' super-powered general is now out of the picture, i guess that's as much of a set-back as the Silver Surfer's destruction of the Harvester of Sorrow, but it looked to me like the guy was just kind of resting on a bit of planetary debris - not dead, not banished back to the Negative Zone, not restrained in any way, not even unconscious. I guess since the writer - Keith Giffen - will also be writing the main Annihilation story after the 4 mini-series(es) conclude, he felt that he could just pick up on the story from there, but it's a pretty unsatisfying conclusion to the Silver Surfer story, especially after the great set-up last issue. Again, no real advancement of the larger plot - Thanos had been hanging out with Annihilus but he left to talk with the Galactus peers, and you don't see the conclusion of his conversation with them, either. It's all been set-up, which isn't a good way to conclude a mini-series.

X-Men #188
A new creative team takes over the X-Men, and since the writer is Mike Carey, the guy who's been writing the excellent Lucifer, i thought i'd give it a go. Well, the story seems like it might be interesting, but the art is atrocious. Not from a "the characters don't look good" perspective. They do. But from a "i can't tell what the heck is going on from scene to scene" persepective, it's really, really bad. One example: Sabretooth is holding a hostage. A Sentinel approaches, ready to fry both Sabretooth and the hostage. Cannonball steps up, tells the Sentinel to back off. Rogue says "Sam, you know you'll just bounce off the Sentinel's armor", Cannonball says "Did you ever see me play pool?". In the next panel, Iceman is holding the hostage.

As far as the story goes, the idea is that this team is going to be the "rapid response team," and it's going to be lead by Rogue. Isn't every super hero team a rapid response team? I mean, the idea is that they sit around their headquarters and when they're trouble they quickly mobilize and respond. The other option is the pro-active team that hunts down the bad guys before they do anything, which is a concept i love in theory but which has never really been executed well. I guess you also have super-heroes who patrol, actively looking for bad guys doing bad things, like Spider-Man, and explorers like the Fantastic Four who go to bizarre places and run into trouble with the locals, but i think "rapid response team" is actually the norm. But i think the idea is that this team might be the ones to do the dirty sort of black-ops work that the regular X-Teams might not want to get their hands dirty with. Which is a good way to distinguish them from the other X-Books, and could be a good idea. And it's an interesting group of team members: Rogue, Cannonball, Iceman, and Mystique so far. The little corner box (yay! the return of the corner box!) also shows Cable and Sabertooth. The cover art also shows Aurora (from Alpha Flight) and Lady Mastermind (who i think is a character Claremont created because they killed off the original Mastermind with the Legacy virus). So there should be some interesting dynamics between Cable and former pupil Cannonball, and Mystique and foster daughter Rogue. Also interesting that on a team of 3 former team leaders (Cable, Mystique, Cannonball), Rogue, typically a loner, will be leading the group. Yep, it all could be quite interesting, if only the art wouldn't suck. As it is, i'll pass on this series, unless the artist changes.


By fnord12 | July 17, 2006, 1:08 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



I thought you were going to ask me about the pig.

I will provide no context:

"Apart from the pig, Mr. President, what sort of insights have you been able to gain as regards East Germany?" a German reporter asked the American leader.

"I haven't seen the pig yet," said Bush, sidestepping the question about insights gained from his two-day visit to this rural seaside region that once rested behind the Iron Curtain in a Germany divided between East and West.

And when an American reporter asked Bush whether he is concerned about the Israeli bombing of the Beirut airport and about Iran's failure to respond to an offer for negotiations that the U.S. and European allies have made, Bush replied with more boar jokes before delving into the substance of the questions.

"I thought you were going to ask about the pig," said the president, promising a full report from the barbecue. "I'll tell you about the pig tomorrow."


By fnord12 | July 17, 2006, 12:13 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



July 14, 2006

Sicker Still

There are Christians who can't wait for the end of the world because they think Jesus will come and take them to heaven. They call it the Rapture. They are excited and happy about things like Israel bombing Lebanon because it means the time of the Rapture is approaching. All the lives lost are a good thing, as far as they're concerned. The only thing they're sad about is they didn't convert enough people. It's sick and demented to cheer for the suffering of others because you think some mythical savior is going to come and take you away. Well, guess what? Even if Jesus did come, he wouldn't take you because to have joy over war and death makes you an evil person, and the Christian faith has a completely different place for your kind.

If you can stomach it, here's a message board with some Rapture enthusiasts. If not, here are a few of the posts on the site:

I too am soooo excited!! I get goose bumps, literally, when I watch what's going on in the M.E.!! And Watcherboy, you were so right when saying it was quite a day yesterday, in the world news, and I add in local news here in the Boston area!! Tunnel ceiling collapsed on a car and killed a woman of faith, and we had the most terrifying storms I have ever seen here!! But, yes, Ohappyday, like in your screen name , it is most indeed a time to be happy and excited, right there with ya!!

If He tarries, I will just have time to get my hair and nails done (you know let all I come into contact with know of my Bridegroom and what He has/will do). So i am all spiffied up for Him when He does arrive to take me home. No disappointment, just a few last minute details to take care of to be more pleasing to look at.

Days like today it's all I want. Other days because of others I want one more. But what a privilege to be apart of the rapture. I can hardly wait!!

They're all so excited by the prospect of being taken away from this "harsh" life to some wonderful place that they don't give a damn about how they get there. So what if it takes the deaths of millions to bring it about?


By min | July 14, 2006, 11:36 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link



Sick

If your response to the kidnapping a couple of your soldiers is to massively bomb civilian targets, resulting in the death of some 60 people so far, you are massively fucked up in the head.

Everything else, like the fact that the Lebanese government is new and very fragile right now and has absolutely no control over Hezbollah, is obvious. You want to pressure Lebanese government to get off their asses and shut down Hezbollah? Fine. You want to create a special forces strike force to sneak across the border and get your people back and kill some terrorists? No problem. You want to go to the UN and ask them to send in the smurfs to put the country under control? OK. You want to massively bomb another country in violation of international law, killing civilians? You're a psychopath.

Chomsky made an analogy when the US attacked Afghanistan. It was along the lines of, 'if someone comes into your house and murders your family, the correct response is not to firebomb the entire neighborhood the murderer is hiding in'. That analogy is even more apt here.

Update: Billmon is, of course, more eloquent than me.


By fnord12 | July 14, 2006, 9:22 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



July 13, 2006

Homeland Security - Keeping Bean Festivals Safe For You

So, good ol' Department of Homeland Security has been putting together a database (cause that's pretty much all they do - data mine) of all the national monuments and chemical plants and other places that are likely terrorist targets. This database is supposed to be used to assess how much funding each state gets.

Well, by now, you've all heard that security grants to NY and Washington were cut by 40%. And you've all heard the uproar this has caused. If I were the idiot who signed the paper designating the allocations, i would hide in fear and shame. Luckily, i'm not that idiot, so we carry on.

Here's the AP story Spored to Death sent me.

Much of the study by Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner appears to have been completed before the department announced in May it would cut security grants to New York and Washington by 40 percent this year.

But the report, which was released Tuesday, affirmed the fury of those two cities - the two targets of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks - which claimed the department did not accurately assess their risks.

Instead, the department's database of vulnerable critical infrastructure and key resources included the Old MacDonald's Petting Zoo near Huntsville, Ala., a bourbon festival, a bean festival and the Kangaroo Conservation Center in Dawsonville, Ga.

[emphasis mine]

Well, I think it's pretty obvious to everyone that the Kangaroo Conservation Center is a key resource and a very likely target. The terrorists, afterall, hate our freedom and what better way to strike at that freedom than to take away our ability to conserve kangaroos, the best-known symbol of the Wild West?

Spored was particularly concerned for when he read this article, he cried out, "Oh god! They's after our bourbon!".

We've seen what made the list. Now let's take a look at what didn't make the cut.

The report noted that Indiana has 8,591 assets listed in the database - more than any other state and 50 percent more than New York. New York had 5,687 listed.
...
...the Homeland Security assessment of New York this year failed to include Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, or the Statue of Liberty as a national icon or monument.

Uh hmm.......

A Homeland Security spokesman did not return a call or e-mail for comment Tuesday night.

Because they were smart and decided to stay home. They sure as hell weren't going to take the fall for this one.

The data "have been and are currently being utilized to support allocation decision making processes for the department," wrote Foresman, who oversees the database and the grant funds.

He added: "The process also continues to mature and improve."

Let's see. The towers (in NYC, mind you - it's not nearly as vulnerable as Indiana, but the terrorists are sneaky that way), got blown up in 2001. It's now 2006. That's 5 years. 5 years. And his best answer is the process "continues to mature and improve"? 5 years and they still can't figure out that just mebbe Times Square might be just a little bit more vulnerable than Sherry Lewis' petting zoo in Alabama?? I suppose on the other hand, i should be glad that they're so incompetant at data mining.....ugh.

Someone pass me the bourbon.


By min | July 13, 2006, 11:16 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3) | Link



Xorn and Magneto

The same person who provided the Civil War scripts also gave me an explanation on the whole Xorn/Magento mess.

First thing it is important to know is that the Scarlet Witch has been super-powered by Loki since the beginning of the Disassembled arc, which is how she got her reality alterning powers. Loki was responsible for creating the Avengers and he needed to destroy them for closure as his part of his ultimate plan with Surtur and the forge of Mjolnir was reaching fruition (in addition to keep them from aiding Thor).

So he powered up the Scarlet Witch, and tormented her with her father Magneto's death, driving her crazy and causing her to destroy the Avengers. At the end of Disassembled, Scarlet Witch used her new reality altering powers to effectively recreate her father, bringing him back from the dead in his most rational state, and later depowering him to preserve his sanity (since it's known that Magneto's use of his powers affect his mental state). In order to restore his repuation, she also created another Xorn entity, separate from Magneto, thus alleviating Magneto from any guilt over his recent attack on Manhattan.

Doom, now attuned to Asgardian energies due to his recent escape from Hell, has been tapping into Scarlet Witch's powers as part of his Project 42 scheme, the result of which is causing some of her creations to become unstable, leading to the recent merging of her House of M energies and Xorn, and Xorn's seeking out and attacking Magneto. One result of Civil War will be Doom's restoration of the Scarlet Witch's sanity and normal power levels as Doom does will not allow such a power to exist on his planet (prior to making a few big changes using her powers that will serve as a red herring that the heroes will fight to reverse while Doom preserves a few smaller changes. But i don't want to give too much away!).


By fnord12 | July 13, 2006, 10:12 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



Civil War Spoilers

Last night i was provided with the script for the last few pages of Civil War #5 and the first few of Civil War #6:

SCENE: It is NIGHT. A group of HOMELESS PEOPLE are fleeing out of a sewer pipe into an open reservoir. They are led by a GIANT cloaked in rags.

Suddenly a squadron of SHIELD agents emerge from the pipe. They open fire with machine guns and a flame thrower. The homeless people fall to the ground, apparently dead. The GIANT emerges from the carnage, his rags in flames. He tears them off, revealing himself as the ABOMINATION. He looks at the homeless people, screams in horror, and attacks the SHIELD agents, scattering them. Filled with rage, he is about the kill an agent when MS. MARVEL appears, looking arrogant, with a second SHIELD squad, armed with gamma cannons.

The shot moves back, revealing the overall battlefield. In the top left corner of the panel, a shooting star is moving towards the earth. In the next several panels, as MS. MARVEL approaches the ABOMINATION, the comet approaches the earth, and in the last panel there is an EXPLOSION.

SCENE:
A sophisticated lab. MR. FANTASTIC, wearing a lab coat over his uniform, is working silently along side IRON MAN, with his visor open to reveal Tony Stark. A monitor in the background displays "Project 42." As we watch Reed work, a shadow falls over him. He turns, horrified, and attempts to stretch away but he is held by a pair of huge green arms. The next page reveals a full splash panel of the HULK, huge and savage but with a gleam of intelligence in his eyes. MR. FANTASTIC is attempting to slip away, but the HULK will not release him and Reed is hopelessly contorted. In the next panel, IRON MAN lifts his arms to fire his repulsor rays, but another green hand covers his head, crushing his helmet. It is the ABOMINATION. As the HULK stretches MR. FANTASTIC beyond his limits, accompanied by a *CRACK*. IRON MAN struggles to get free. The HULK approaches IRON MAN, who begins to fire up his unibeam. The HULK covers IRON MAN's chestplate with his hands and squeezes, and there is an EXPLOSION.

END Book 5.

BEGINING Book 6.
SCENE:
A sophisticated lab reduced to rubble. MR. FANTASTIC lays on the ground, contorted in impossible ways. IRON MAN lays nearby. His helmet is crushed and his chestplate destroyed. He is laying in a pool of blood. Slowly, MR. FANTASTIC opens his eyes and lays silently on the ground for a moment. Then he pulls his body back together and stands. A moment later, he touches his left glove, and his body begins to transform, revealing DR. DOOM. DOOM walks towards IRON MAN's body and presses another button on his gauntlet. IRON MAN transforms, revealing KANG, but still in broken armor and apparently dead. DOOM makes another adjustment on his armor and KANG disappears. He then walks to another part of the lab and clears away some of the rubble, revealing a computer monitor displaying "Project 42". Next to the monitor is a red button. Scene ends with DOOM's finger touching the button.

I guess it takes away some of the moral dilemma by making the pro-registration side bad guys in disguise, and turns the whole Civil War into a typical superhero story, but i can't say i'm disappointed.


By fnord12 | July 13, 2006, 10:04 AM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



3.5 is for suckers

Armor class should be low! Long live THAC0!


By fnord12 | July 13, 2006, 9:10 AM | D&D | Comments (12) | Link



July 12, 2006

Covers - not worth the effort

Ok, that's not quite what Tom B. says, but it's pretty close:

So let's talk about covers a little bit.

It used to be, back when comic books were sold exclusively on the newsstand, that the cover was what sold the magazine. That's why so much attention and effort was spent on the cover image. There was no advertising, no promotion, no Wizard magazine or Previews catalogue or Newsarama to let people know what was coming out months in advance. In fact, other than if it might have been mentioned on the Bullpen Bulletins page, or shown in a house ad, you didn't have any idea that a new book was coming until it arrived. So the cover was a crucial component in making your title sell.

We still put crazy amounts of effort into our covers--but one of the unspoken truths of the industry at this point is that the cover is no longer responsible for selling the magazine, and may in fact have a negligible effect on the total sales. Sure, a really good cover may be able to hook a few extra people into picking up the book off the racks, assuming it's there for them to find, but the whole mechanism of our distribution and retail system makes the cover close to superfluous. Retailers order their books months in advance from the Previews catalogue, as do a great deal of the customer base through pull lists. And once you get outside the big coastal cities especially, the amount of display space a given shop has is relatively miniscule. I don't know what proportion of the average shop's books are sold off the rack as opposed to through pull list subscriptions and advance orders, but I'd hazard a conservative guess that it's probably half.

There was a time not so long ago when it was Marvel policy that every cover should have a single iconic figure, and no direct relevance to the story in that given issue. And fans far and wide screamed about it--yet it did nothing to hurt sales overall. And now that we've returned to mixing up the cover approach, it hasn't materially affected sales either. I regularly hear from a small group of people who don't like the mostly-iconic covers we've been running on NEW AVENGERS, but those covers clearly have not been hurting the sales on that book--and the more story-driven covers on, say, THING didn't materially increase the sales on that book.

The place where cover art can help or hurt your book's sales these days is really the Previews catalogue, the tool that retailers and readers use to advance order their books. So it's not like the cover art is irrelevant or anything. But even within that venue, just having a strong image isn't enough in most cases to sell the magazine--other factors such as story content, creative team, relevance to the larger Marvel Universe, and the amount of coverage given seem to be more important elements in making a decision for most retailers and fans. I'd hazard a guess that, were we to solicit a new ULTIMATE project with, let's say, Brian Bendis writing and Greg Land penciling, but we didn't show any image at all, it would still be ordered quite well--retailers would be very upset with us, because they hate having to take a position on any title without the maximum amount of information they can get, but I expect that most of them would weigh the factors they did have--especially if the story content promised important elements for the ULTIMATE line--and would order acordingly.

So, does the cover matter anymore? Well, everything matters. It's just a question of degree. And at this point, the cover no longer has to shoulder the promotional weight that it once did--so it matters perhaps a little less than it once did.

Covers have always upset people. Most of them depicted things that never actually happened in the comic. Often they were drawn by a better artist than the one responsible for the interior, which is misleading. Many had word balloons, which Wayne says is an absolute no-no. And lately they've been doing what Tom calls the 'iconic' covers - covers that are just generic pictures of characters that have nothing to do with the plot of the comic. Obviously even the iconic covers take a lot of work - it's just that they can stock them up in advance and use them as needed. I like the iconic covers the least. Every once in a while is ok, but 12 months in a row of "Punisher stands in front of a wall" is too much, and those early New Avengers comics featured characters that weren't even on the team yet (and they weren't drawn by the interior artist, so that matches 3 of the above negatives). But if the thinking is that the cover doesn't affect the sale anymore, then i don't see them changing their policies any. Although for what it is worth, the house ad for Annihilation, showing the four (iconic) covers of the four miniseries, was probably the main reason i decided to get that event.


By fnord12 | July 12, 2006, 3:33 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



"New" Discovery

I'm sorry, but they're just discovering this now?

The U.S. scientists found that some magical substance in mushrooms may have the function of altering consciousness.

I mean, they thought that all the references to funny mushrooms was what? Hip slang?


By min | July 12, 2006, 1:48 PM | Science | Comments (1) | Link



Dessert...mmmm....

We had ice cream cake and cupcakes.

 

And, yes. Those are whole oreos in the middle.


By min | July 12, 2006, 11:05 AM | My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link



Satire's Lost on Them

Wanyas was kind enough to provide this link to us from a blogger named Pete who read an Onion article and thought it was real.

When referring to the killing of her child she said:

"I am totally psyched for this abortion!"

...

"If my HMO wouldn't have bowed to their pressure not to cover oral contraceptives, I never would've gotten pregnant in the first place."

Sorry ma'am, if you hadn't had sex you wouldn't have gotten pregnant, it's not the HMO's fault for not supporting your promiscuity while not married.

He goes on like this for a bit. The best part, however, is reading the comments. They pretty much tear him apart for the next 800+ entries.

I'm pro life, but sweet Jesus you're an idiot. For your next post, how about a passionate speech on the need to immediately free Prince Albert from the can?

Lemme just say, I was at the post-abortion party and it fucking rocked....Fallopian tubes were just falling out for the hell of it.

Ladies and Gentlemen... we now have a new tide mark for the shallow end of the gene pool.

Sufficient Scruples awarded Pete the Stegosaurus of the Week award (Because You Have More Brains In Your Ass Than In Your Head).

Not satisfied with this, however, Pete posted an update. He still refers to the subject of the Onion article (Miss Weber) as if she was a real person. And justifies his initial assumption that the article was real because that's just how "pro-abortionists" talk.

Needless to say, a few people wanted to let me know that I was a dolt for thinking that her article was real. As a matter of fact, call me a dolt, because in the beginning I really did think it was real. Why? because I meet women like her in the field all the time. Anyway, I wrote the blog in a way that was meant to point out how psychotic the pro-abortion movement is.

He then goes on to recount an absurd conversation he supposedly had with a woman in the park after he put up some Genocidal Awareness Project posters (i think you've all seen these. The dead fetus pictures.) to prove how "psychotic" pro-choicers are. The conversation basically goes "do you think it's ok for a mother to strangle her child to death?" and the response was "maybe." Now, as pointed out in the comments (he received another 600+scathing comments about his intelligence for this post) the chick was more than likely messing with him, trying to get him to go away.

Then, the jerk quotes the HMO comment again so that he can say how wrong it is to have sex for the second time! If you make an embarassing mistake and everybody notices, just run with it. That way you'll still come out on top!

This comment might be my favorite so far:

Don't listen to these heathens Pete, you know in your heart of hearts that Caroline Weber is just as real as I am. Keep believing child. Jesus Christ

Pete finishes up with "Either way, I think I did a good job of turning the "satire" right back at them, don't you?" which shows that once again, he's got no clue what satire means.

And now, due to all the backlash he received from these 2 posts, Pete moved his entire site to a new location. Registration is required before comments can be left. Unfortunately for him, it wasn't enough.

I'm not sure packing up your blog and moving it to a new address is an effective way to escape the embarassment you've brought down upon yourself. You might want to look into witness relocation programs.

I like what you've done with blocking off comments on the latest post. You should probably do that on everything you ever write from now on. If your mistake wasn't going to follow you forever, the amusement of your attempts at damage control will.

Um, sweetie? We can still see you.

He even got a wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_Together_For_Life but it's being considered for deletion, so if you want to check it out, better do it quick.


By min | July 12, 2006, 10:47 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link



July 10, 2006

Ignorance Keeps Me Safe

Just going to go ahead and steal this one from King of Zembla:

Dzakovic was in charge of the FAA's Red Team -- a small, elite squad who conducted mock undercover raids as terrorists and hijackers. It probed vulnerable areas inside airports. With surprising ease and frequency during routine tests, members of his team slipped bombs, guns and knives onto aircraft.

Several days after Sept. 11, 2001, the FAA grounded the Red Team, apparently because it didn't want to be embarrassed by the team's findings. Dzakovic disagreed with this cowardly attempt to bury the truth. And so he took the bold step of filing a whistle-blower disclosure in October 2001 with the Office of Special Counsel, an independent government agency. That document -- the first of its kind by an FAA Security Division employee -- set in motion a lengthy and costly investigation by the inspector general.

One finding of that inquiry, according to Dzakovic, was that FAA security operated in a way that created a "substantial and specific danger to public safety."

But instead of rewarding Dzakovic, the newly formed Transportation Security Administration, which had swallowed the FAA, punished him by reassigning him to an entry-level clerical position behind a desk. He spent months punching holes in paper and putting training binders together for new TSA employees. The counter-terrorism expertise of this valuable 14-year FAA veteran was stupidly wasted. He wanted to spend the rest of his career fighting bad guys, but his government bosses thought that wasn't such a good idea after he became a whistle-blower . . . .

...

"Many of the FAA bureaucrats that actively thwarted improvements in security prior to 9/11 have been promoted by FAA or the Transportation Security Administration. I have never in my life been around more gutless, inept and outright ignorant people than I have at TSA headquarters, most of whom are in management. You combine this atmosphere with absolutely no accountability and it is a very dangerous formula for a repeat of 9/11.

Link


By min | July 10, 2006, 1:54 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



July 7, 2006

Foreign Accent Syndrome

An English woman has suffered great distress after coming through a stroke only to lose her accent.

The woman from the north of England, who had a very distinctive "Geordie" accent, now speaks with what some hear as an Eastern European accent and others hear as Jamaican. She is one of only 50 people to have suffered from foreign-accent syndrome, which was first recorded in Norway during the Second World War.

Linda Walker said: "I was devastated. I don't sound like me. It is so strange because you don't feel the same person. Not only did I have a stroke but I got lumbered with this foreign accent syndrome as well.

"I want my own voice back. It's like losing a big part of your identity. You don't feel like the same person any more."

Foreign-accent syndrome occurs after substantial brain injury and is not always correctable through speech therapy.


By min | July 7, 2006, 9:52 AM | Science | Comments (1) | Link



July 6, 2006

I Did It!

I got passed the point in Diaspora where i stopped reading it the last 2 times. Whooooo!!!! Take that, you giant, desert turtle!

Unfortunately, Egan's site doesn't go much into Kozuch's Theory and n-spheres. So i'm a bit stuck. I just don't know how to visualize a 6-sphere (sphere with 6 dimensions). And don't give me a link to the wikipedia entry. I've read that already, in addition to a bunch of sites i found on google. All i want is some sort of visual representation of what a 6-sphere might look like. And mebbe some text explanation. Ofc, you couldn't really visualize a 6-sphere due to us only having 3 dimensions, but there must be some sort of representation out there.

Which reminds me. I like fractals.


By min | July 6, 2006, 2:46 PM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link



Sheesh

Can you believe that asshole Kenneth Lay died of a heart attack? And why is it that rich people who are convicted of crimes get to go on vacation while they're awaiting sentencing? Sure, mebbe he's not a violent criminal who needs to be held in some maximum security facility, but c'mon. He gets to spend time at his vacation home in Aspen?? WTF is that? He should be sitting somewhere much less comfortable. Mebbe a Motel 6 or something, at least. Gawd.

Anybody seen Wag the Dog? Have we got any conspiracy theorists out there?


By min | July 6, 2006, 2:31 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Lost Dimension

There is a color that loses a dimension when the temperature is cool enough. A DIMENSION. It goes from 3-D to 2-D. That's crazy. Remember, no matter how thinly you slice something, there's still 3 dimensions. It might be microscopic, but it still has height, width, and length. Now they've discovered a color that can shed an entire dimension just like that.

The most recent research, published in today's issue of the journal Nature, shows that at the lowest temperature point at which the change of state occurs -- called the Quantum Critical Point -- the Han purple pigment actually loses a dimension: it goes from 3D to 2D.
...

They observed that at high magnetic fields (above 23 tesla) and temperatures between 1 and 3 degrees Kelvin (approximately -460 degrees Fahrenheit), the magnetic waves in three-dimensional crystals of Han purple "exist" in a three-dimensional world as per conventional wisdom. However, below those temperatures, near the quantum limit, one of the dimensions is no longer accessible, with the unexpected consequence that magnetic ripples propagate in only two dimensions. (Kelvin is the temperature scale used by scientists; zero degrees Kelvin is absolute zero, a temperature so low it is experimentally unreachable.)

The magnetic waves in the pigment exist in a unique state of matter called a Bose Einstein condensate (BEC), so named for its theoretical postulation by Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein.

...



Research such as this could aid in the understanding of processes important for quantum computers. It is believed that this type of computer would operate based on quantum magnetism to perform many different computations at once. Theorists believe this capability could produce answers to mathematical problems much more quickly than is currently possible with conventional computers.

I don't get the part about quantum computers. I'm still stuck on the whole 2-D thing. What i want to know is how would this affect the Hulk's pants? Would it keep them from getting shredded all the time? Which also brings to mind a second question. If Banner and Reed Richards know each other, how come Richards never gave the poor guy some unstable molecules? He's buying new purple pants every week, ferchrissakes. C'mon, Reed. Help a guy out.


By min | July 6, 2006, 12:24 PM | Science | Comments (3) | Link



This Just Reinforces...

...my rule about no landlocked states and never south of Maryland.

There is a group of (for now, let's just call them) people calling themselves the Stop the ACLU Coalition who has started publishing the names, address, and phone numbers of ACLU plaintiffs on their website. As some of you may recall some months ago Michelle Malkin published the personal contact info of some college students which resulted in them getting death threats. This coalition is posting plaintiff info for the very same reason. Threats and intimidation techniques to frighten people enough to flee or to become silent. They say the ACLU and the people they represent are anti-American. I suppose if your idea of American is burning crosses on lawns, then i guess you're right. However, i was given to understand the term meant freedom of ideas and expression, separation of church and state, equal rights for all, not just the powerful. Granted, we need lots of work in some of these areas, but we're doing better than, say, Nazi Germany. And how these people can hide behind their bibles, claiming to be Christian while persecuting others and calling for blood is beyond me. Real Christians should be denouncing them for the imposters they are. Shame on you if you're not.

In their latest "triumph", the Stop the ACLU Coalition ran a Jewish family out of town. Where is this town, you ask? Perhaps in Arkansas? Or Kansas. Or Utah. Alas, no. It's in friggin Delaware! I'm going to have to revise my rule to be "no landlocked states and never south of Jersey".

A large Delaware school district promoted Christianity so aggressively that a Jewish family felt it necessary to move to Wilmington, two hours away, because they feared retaliation for filing a lawsuit.
...

The complaint recounts a raucous crowd that applauded the board's opening prayer and then, when sixth-grader Alexander Dobrich stood up to read a statement, yelled at him "take your yarmulke off!" His statement, read by Samantha, confided "I feel bad when kids in my class call me Jew boy."

...A former board member suggested that Mona Dobrich might "disappear" like Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the atheist whose Supreme Court case resulted in ending organized school prayer. She disappeared in 1995 and her dismembered body was found six years later.

The crowd booed an ACLU speaker and told her to "go back up north."

Um....i'm totally not geography girl or anything, but since when did Delaware consider itself south? I mean, as far as i'm concerned, the south can have them, but really. Go back up north?

The General wrote them a nice letter.

Please allow me to be the first to thank you and the staff of Stop The ACLU for all you did to make the Indian River Pogrom such a resounding success. It isn't easy to run a Jewish family out of town in these politically correct times. Usually, they just hunker down, hiding behind antiquated interpretations of the Constitution and the good will of those who wrongly believe that non-Christians are entitled to all of the benefits of citizenship.

He's got that and their reply posted. You really need to read both. I'm not sure what's worse. The fact that these racists were allowed to threaten a family or that they're so twisted in their brains that they couldn't figure out that the General was not on their side.

I reiterate my earlier statement. I'm never leaving my house again.


By min | July 6, 2006, 10:06 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



July 5, 2006

Holmes, Vampire Hunter

Vampires were on the ship, as passengers. But if i stuck with Sherlock Holmes, i would be safe. He had the uncanny ability to move among them undetected. We just sort of blended in with everyone else. There were a couple of close calls, though. They had herded us into stalls, and we were told to fill out and sign some card. He managed to avoid being put into a stall. I could see his head over the stall. He reached out his hand and gave a tug. I was able to vault over the stall, passed the female vamp in charge. Another time, for some reason, we almost got caught, but i managed to pull the cross necklace out of my shirt in time. It bought us a few moments to escape. The human passengers were oblivious to the danger they were in.


By min | July 5, 2006, 7:08 AM | My Dreams | Comments (0) | Link



July 3, 2006

Internet Tubes

Senator Ted Stevens, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, heading decisions made on, among other things, net neutrality, demonstrates his complete and utter lack of understanding anything at all.

There's one company now you can sign up and you can get a movie delivered to your house daily by delivery service. Okay. And currently it comes to your house, it gets put in the mail box when you get home and you change your order but you pay for that, right.

But this service isn't going to go through the interent and what you do is you just go to a place on the internet and you order your movie and guess what you can order ten of them delivered to you and the delivery charge is free.

Ten of them streaming across that internet and what happens to your own personal internet?

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially.

...

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck.

It's a series of tubes.

[emphasis mine]

If you're feeling guilty and need to punish yourself, you can read the rest of it here.

Often when i send an internet, it gets held up in the tubes. If only i could pay more money so that i could get access to bigger tubes that wouldn't get filled up so quickly.

Just to add a visual to this so that you realize how net neutrality would bog the system down, a photo of an actual internet (that i lifted from Kos):


By min | July 3, 2006, 10:46 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (5) | Link



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