Friday, February 29, 2008

More! Fun! with the Friday Random Ten

Actually yeah. Spent the afternoon typing, faxing, sending out interoffice envelopes, you know the deal. Overall it was a harmonious day. Word of 2-4 inches of snow tonight. I agreed with one of the clinical directors that it's nothing in itself, but with the hysteria? You never know.

Now the music.

1. Bonzo Dog Band--Tubas in the Moonlight
2. Talking Heads--Found a Job
3. Barenaked Ladies--I Know
4. Isobel Campbell--Willow's Song
5. Blur--The Universal
6. Joni Mitchell--Electricity
7. Jimmy Smith--Bluesette
8. Paul Simon--Outrageous
9. Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross--One O'Clock Jump
10. Scissor Sisters--Better Luck

Ycome back now, hear?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What I'm Reading: 2/28/08

Up to this point I've never read anything by Eric Ambler. Nor have I gotten too much into the espionage/Cold War thriller genre. Some Bond novels, a few short stories in anthologies, not much else.

But now I'm reading Ambler's The Intercom Conspiracy Damn! but this is a good read. The premise is that two mid-level spy guys in Europe are dissatisfied with what they've gotten, and hatch a plan to get more. They'll buy a paper, publish embarassing items that the superpowers don't want known, and collect some real money fro shutting up. To this end, they purchase a right-wing newsletter that sends free copies to every member of Congress. Great plan, but it puts the paper's staff in the middle of some hairy stuff.

That staff basically boils down to boozy Canadian newsman Theo Carter. He may be what really makes the story work. Cranky as he is, he's also worth knowing. In the parts of the book he narrates, you see a man who has to hold a lot back just let loose, and it's exhilirating.

Eager for it

As you probably know tragedy struck a few hours ago in Waukegan, IL. It doesn't seem to have been as tragic as it could have been, as no deaths have thus far been reported. Nonetheless, rattling.

Wandering around the Interweb, I was curious to know how many people had jumped to certain conclusions. After all, I had considered the possibility of a terrorist crime of opportunity. My conclusion was that it was less likely than a gas leak (which seems to have been the real culprit), or for that matter a poorly maintained meth lab, but not out of the question. So it might be a popular theory.

Haven't seen much so far. The first of the above-linked blogposts was the nuttiest. (Slightly OT, why is there a "Blogs 4 Brownback." Didn't he fold before the race even started?) But I think some xenophobes are going to hold onto this one, and try to use it to get converts. Pictures and diagrams of leaky gas pipes won't affect that. There are people who want to be at war, and at war with a huge chunk of the world. It's exciting. It casts away doubt. Most of these people don't volunteer to be on the front lines, but they like to think they already are.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gimp my pimp

While I have no plans to vote for Hillary Clinton in the primary stage of the election, I have to agree with Indiana blogger Doghouse Riley on the icky self-pity of MSNBC's David Shuster. According to his Wikipedia article, Shuster is supposed to be, like, a journalist or something. So even if he can use words for effect, shouldn't there be some kind of point behind them? Instead of accusing the Clinton's of pimping Chelsea by putting her on the campaign trail, then giggling like a schoolgirl? As pointed out then, Jenna and Barb have campaigned for their dad too. And they're twins, for those who swing that way.

DHR goes on to say:
Hey, and while we're at it, a big Doghouse Riley digital steamer to the A-list "lefty" bloggers who, having complained for eight years about what the dreaded Em Ess Em had done to this country, announced that D-Shoe was just guilty of being too honest in his choice of expression.

Again, that's pretty much on target. The right-wing media is starting to wake up to the fact that Barack, not Hillary, is the enemy of the moment. Now's not the time for one of the two to throw the other to the wolves.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

lol ≠ cat

This is a link I picked up from someone at Comics Curmudgeon. What do you get when you take Garfield out of "Garfield?" A sometimes poignant, sometimes disturbing portrait of Jon Arbuckle, troubled loner. Witness garfield minus garfield.

Now imagine what I Dream of Jeannie reruns would be like if you erased Barbara Eden. Existential nightmares are upon us.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Random Ten: Half Snow Day Edition

Possibly a full snow day for the school chillun. Definitely I know a library where I was going to pick up a book never opened. C'est la vie.

Quite a few repeat offenders, in terms of artists. That's because:

1. I'm slowly adding CD's to the mix. Slowly.
2. The gizmo seems to favor certain sets. Probably this is blind chance.
3. Selection of the final list.

Anyhoozle, without further ado.

1. Bob Dylan--She Belongs to Me
2. Nellie McKay--Inner Peace
3. Bonzo Dog Band--Shirt
4. Thelonious Monk--Nice Work if You Can Get It
5. Tom Waits--Little Man
6. The Kinks--Rosie, Won't You Please Come Home
7. Joni Mitchell--Barangrill
8. The Clash--(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
9. Neko Case--John Saw That Number
10. Broadcast--I Found the End

Wow, what a title to finish with.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A different drum

Will Schade is a new artist to me, and an interesting one. His work--often tied to animals and/or religious themes--takes what seems like a childish, naive viewpoint. At the same time there's off-color wit and an obsessive approach to craft. A feature article on him in Linda Weintraub's In the Making revelas that he is severely dyslexic, and works the resultant misspellings into his pictures. To be honest, most of these wouldn't have raised much of an eyebrow in Shakespeare's time. Still, something about the work of the artist is illuminated here. You use whatever gifts you have, whether or not they seem like gifts at all.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A good hurt

No, this isn't a campaing song, although as this Borderline Work Unsafe link shows, some well-respected statesmen could use it as one. No, it's the still-living but long silent Tom Lehrer unleashing some satirical magic. Feel it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

So Iran

Yes indeed, I saw Persepolis this weekend. Truth to tell, it was a little hard to read. The subtitles, that is, which were white against a mostly black & white contrasty background. If I'd waited for the English dubbing... But that would probably just be later on video, and anyway would the translators have gotten it down?

Because I have no other complaints. This is easily worth seeing. The humane look at Marjane's family. The puppet shows done within the contrast of the cartoon. Hell, the fact that they found something new to do with cel animation, when Hollywood is treating the form as something rusted out that needs to be discarded.

I also think it's neat to see the young Marjane rebelling against the state to Iron Maiden. This despite the fact that I've always preferred Judas Priest. And now you know my answer to another great question of our time.


On the fascinating subject of search engines.

There are one or two that I've traditionally used for most of my finding stuff needs. While most of the time I haven't had anything to complain about, at least one of them has picked up some annoying habits. This search engine that shall remain nameless has started spitting out suggestions whenever you type into the search field. You fill in a letter or two--say G-L--and suddenly there are results for "Gloria Gaynor," "Glad bags," "glue sniffing" and so on. To me this is annoying, distracting, and unhelpful whether or not the guesses are right.

So I was kind of in the market for a site that would be useful to me--as in bringing me links corresponding to what I want to see--but that wouldn't get on my nerves. It's the kind of shopping that doesn't involve spending money, which is a plus.

Anyway, I found a pretty good one in Clusty. It doesn't try to second guess you. What it does do is group results into clusters depending on what other words pop up. These are displayed in a sidebar. I think they are sometimes useful, but you don't have to refer to them if you don't want to.

It's not necessarily for all your surfing needs, but it may suit a lot of them. There's no tab for video results, which you may or may not find to be a problem. But if your looking for the old Duran Duran clip with all the titties, you'll find it. (Hint, it's "Girls on Film.")

Friday, February 15, 2008

Keepin' the lamplight trimmed and burning with the Friday Random Ten

What we got here? Oh yeah

1. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross--Blues Backstage
2. Fairport Convention--Vala Cupp/Tam Lin
3. Nellie McKay--Manhattan Avenue
4. The Beatles--Love You To
5. Tito Puente--Pick Yourself Up
6. Sarah Vaughan--Dear Heart
7. Beck--Peaches and Cream
8. Big & Rich--Big Time
9. Elvis Costello & the Attractions--Hand in Hand
10. Joni Mitchell--Lesson in Survival

Eclectic to the point of schizophrenia? I like to think so.

The dumb is always with us

It's embarassing criticizing GDub now. He's technically the president, but even his dad probably doesn't think of him as presidential. It's like when a guy hangs out at a bar, hitting on all the women and striking out every time. Then he's still there fifteen minutes past closing, yapping at the bartender about how he knew this girl was really into him, but he cut her loose because her ass was too big.

But it's also embarassing to have him over you, and while he's a useless loudmouth, he's still on that barstool and he's still got that power. And further, his brand of idiocy will stay potent in the Beltway long after he goes back to Crawford to "work" on his "ranch."

Case in point.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President George W. Bush Wednesday urged the Congress to pass a controversial wire-tapping law, warning he would not accept any new delays as lives depended on intercepting key communications.

"Time for debate is over. I will not accept any temporary extension. House members have had plenty of time to pass a good bill," Bush said in a statement delivered in the Oval Office.

The Senate on Tuesday bowed to pressure from the Bush administration and passed a controversial measure authorizing security agencies to tap foreign telephone calls and emails in the US "war on terror."

But the bill now moves to the House of Representatives where it faces stiff opposition from some Democrats, particularly over moves to offer legal immunity to telecommunications companies if they participate in the measures.

Bush charged that the goal of the militants was "to bring destruction to our shores that will make September 11 pale by comparison.

"To carry out their plans, they must communicate with each other. They must recruit operatives. And they must share information. The lives of countless Americans depend on our ability to monitor these communications.

"It is time for Congress to ensure the flow of vital intelligence is not disrupted. It is time for Congress to pass a law that provides a long-term foundation to protect our country. They must do so immediately."

After heated debate, the Senate Tuesday authorized the new measure offering blanket immunity to telecommunications companies for potential violations of US laws requiring warrants to spy on US citizens.

But such a blanket immunity has been resisted by some lawmakers in the House, with the pressure now on to agree a measure as the existing legislation expires on Friday.

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have said the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) needs to be permanently updated before the key modification runs out.

The 30-year-old FISA was amended by Congress last year to make clear the National Security Agency and other intelligence operations were legally empowered to tap into electronic communications when one or more of the targets is in a foreign location, without first obtaining permission from a FISA court.

But Congress set a February 1, 2008 expiration date on that legislation, called the Protect America Act, which was temporarily extended to February 15.

The Bush administration insists the once-secret surveillance program is necessary to monitor communications between suspected terrorists overseas and extremists inside the United States.

But the House version of the draft legislation, which Bush has threatened to veto, offers no protection for the telecommunications industry and has more restrictions on the government's power.

"In order to be able to discover the enemy's plans, we need the collaboration of telecommunication companies," Bush said Wednesday.

"If these companies are subjected to lawsuits that could cost them billions of dollars, they will not participate. They will not help protect America. Liability protection is critical to securing the private sector's cooperation with our intelligence efforts."

However, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd has described the bill as a "travesty," while his colleague Russell Feingold called the measure "dangerous."

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop, without court warrants, on calls and emails between the United States and abroad in cases deemed to have a terror link.

The program, revealed in 2005, caused public outcry and human rights experts have argued that US privacy guarantees mean the intelligence agencies should seek court warrants to conduct such spying inside the country.

First of all "Time for debate is over?" What authority is behind this pronouncement, aside from Bush's own credibility, which is the size of that micron of toothpaste still in the tube when you throw it out? Are there "Spy on us now!" demonstrations in the street that I'm missing?

And how about the questions he's forcefully evading. Like, what's in this program? Will it do what you're saying it will do? Are we just throwing money (and in this case, chunks of the Constitution) down a bottomless pit? Is the government creating a Frankenstein we'll never be able to kill.

When tax dollars are being spent and the government is asking for more and more latitude, conservatives are supposed to care about this stuff. With a few exceptions they don't seem to now.

Again, this will not end with the overdue close of the Bush admin. McCain may object to torture--and there's question of how much he'd do about it--but hasn't quibbled about FISA. Obama or (less likely) HR Clinton may have objections, but I'm not sure either as president would want to get into this fight. The national security establishment isn't a lobby. It's several lobbies feeding off each other. The watchmen will need a whole lot of watching.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Passing from a world he never made

It's funny how you find out about things. I just checked out the site for webcomic Something Positive and saw this.

The Liefeld joke is funny, even if he's not exactly a hard target. But my first reaction was "Hold the phone! Steve Gerber died?'

As it turned out, that is the case. Which is melancholy. Gerber was born in 1947, making him sixty as of February. By the standards of 21st century America, he did not have that long a life. Was it a happy one. I hope so. He did his part to make the world a bit more fun.

In the early seventies, when he hit the scene, mainstream comics were still a pretty square affair. While some writers (notably Denny O'Neil) were dealing with topical material, the results were mostly on the "Mod Squad" level. Hell, it seemed edgy to show hippies and "women's libbers" (an unlamented loss from our vernacular)hoisting placards.

Gerber's work on The Defenders, Man Thing, Omega the Unknown, and of course Howard the Duck took the stories in some wild and goofy directions, no doubt. But he also inserted relateable characters in a way that few had done before and few are doing now. See the "Howard" story "Quack Fu", which adds a surprisingly poignant element to its martial arts flick parody.

Well, if that's not enough to keep Gerber remembered, something is seriously wrong.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A good one for nighttime

It's been a while since I posted any poetical type stuff here. This one is called "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock", by one of my faves, Wallace Stevens.

The houses are haunted
By white night gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace,
And bearded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only here, and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches tigers
In red weather.

Those last four lines have a kind of insight that makes poetry more than just sweet noises. That sounds like a sailor.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

St Lucia of the Stigmata

So Lucia, the newest member of Infinity, Inc, well then. Her superpower seems to be bleeding. I mean, she heals fast too, but that's after spontaneously forming cuts and, well, bleeding like a stuck pig. That's kind of weird, I'd say. Also, her father keeps a bunch of creepy, JonBenetesque pictures from throughout her life. That looks fairly dark. But this is the kind of thing I love about Peter Milligan. He doesn't do things halfway.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Return of the Son of Random Top Ten

Absent last week, back now.

1. Taj Mahal--Cakewalk into Town
2. Roy Orbison--You're Gonna Cry
3. Radiohead--Go to Sleep
4. Danny Elfman--Town Meeting Song (from "The Nightmare Before Christmas")
5. Beastie Boys--An Open Letter to NYC
6. Roxy Music--Beauty Queen
7. Ralph Stanley--O Death
8. Talking Heads--Thank You for Sending Me an Angel
9. Brian Eno--I'll Come Running
10. Arcade Fire--Une Annee Sans Lumiere

Thursday, February 7, 2008

An offer they could refuse

Like this gentleman, I entered Shadowline's create a superheroine contest. And like him, I didn't make the top ten. Am I disappointed? Really, there's no reason for me to be. I have no professional experience writing comics, for one thing. For another, my proposal didn't really fit in the superhero(ine) genre, being more of a freaky sci-fi adventure. I sent it in to sort of clear my head for other writing projects, and actually putting the script together would have been daunting. Still, someday, who knows?

The contest is a worthy idea, though. The industry could use more satisfying and well-rounded female characters. So I wish the semi-finalists good luck, and wish the judges the wisdom of Athena.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


It's the tail end of Super Tuesday, and I've got a super hacking cough. But here's Richard, in his badass orange suit, and he ain't stutterin'.

Maybe I'll be more talkative tomorrow. It's a threat.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

comforting email

A nice gentleman named Wilton Mullen advises me thusly;
Forget about mockery at your pen!s size!

That is so wise! I do sometimes grow self-conscious of my pen!s size, afraid that my fellow beings will scoff. Yet this pen! both writes and prints, and if there are times when it smudges ink on the Post-It note, well, what pen! doesn't?

I wonder what sage advice I'll find if I actually open this letter?

Patriot Games

Man, a great evening this was to go grocery shopping! Why? The Stop & Shop was nearly empty. Of course there were only three registers open, so I'm guessing a few employees took the night off too. Still, it wasn't too long a checkout.

The occasion, of course--as this is Rhode Island--was the Super Bowl. I saw a few men walking around in Patriots jerseys. It's a little hard for me to take a man in a football jersey seriously. It just looks like something a girl would be wearing at bedtime. Mayb there would be a different effect if you tucked it in. Or were actually playing football. But that's just one of my weird reactions. And at least one of these guys wasn't taking himself seriously either.