Monday, December 29, 2008

The escapades of "real-life superheroes"

These guys obviously didn't take the hint from The Dark Knight that non-celebrity vigilantes just get in the way. Calling themselves "real-life superheroes" or "reals," they patrol the streets to various levels of success fighting crime and looking like a bitchin' Devo luchadore, if this photo from Rolling Stone is at all reliable. Armed legally with their fists, a "pepper spray cannon" or stun gun (so they don't break any laws), these people are "superheroes" in the same sense that friendly biker gangs are - they patrol when they can, trying to help people and break up small scuffles and minor evildoing along the way. The big stuff still goes to the police, though it's arguable that a visible "superhero" presence in a community could have an effect on crime; even for cowardly, superstitious evildoers, the image of the renegade superhero is pretty well imprinted upon our minds.

Rolling Stone elaborates on their rationale:
Although Master Legend was one of the first to call himself a Real Life Superhero, in recent years a growing network of similarly homespun caped crusaders has emerged across the country. Some were inspired by 9/11. If malevolent individuals can threaten the world, the argument goes, why can't other individuals step up to save it? "What is Osama bin Laden if not a supervillain, off in his cave, scheming to destroy us?" asks Green Scorpion, a masked avenger in Arizona.
It's beyond stupid to point out that these people don't have superpowers, intelligent cars or subterranean secret lairs, but civil liberties groups should appreciate the effect they have on society and our good men and women in law enforcement by testing the limits of a citizen's ability to enforce the law on their own. If they cooperate with the police as normal citizens and don't break any weapons laws, it's fair to say they'll have a discouraging effect on street crime. And they get to wear cool costumes while they're at it.

But these guys run into problems not faced by superfolk with more interesting origin stories:

Artemis of San Diego reported on his blog that he had heard a woman screaming outside his home but by the time he had dressed up in his costume the police were already there. Kevlex, 47, who runs the Superhero Registry, says he patrols more in winter than summer in Arizona, when his Kevlar and Spandex kit itches. But the deadliest kryptonite against a superhero is boredom.

“I was out every night, 8pm until 2am, hanging about all the bad corners and nothing happened, nada, zip,” recalled Mr Invisible. “It was raining: even the drug dealers were at home. And often cops are just too good at their jobs."

(Rolling Stone and TimesOnline through BoingBoing - you may also enjoy this article on the Black Monday Society, a similar Utah group)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Musicians to press Obama on end to "sonic torture"

Hey - whatsa matter? You some Moozlim-lovin pussy?

Man, there's so much to fix with the upcoming administration. Why does it feel like a sheepish sort of revolution, with talk of secret prisons closing and abuses of government being corrected?

According to the copyright restrictions it so zealously preserves, the United States still owes royalty payments on the hours and hours (and hours) of music it has used to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq. But their lax enforcement of U.S. law while breaking international law is more indicative of their bad attitude than the main focus when torture is concerned.

From Wired:

Reprieve, a British human rights law group that represents over 30 Guantanamo Bay detainees, is planning to work with musicians to lobby President-elect Barack Obama to end the practice of sonic torture by military interrogators.

Earlier this month, Reprieve and the U.K. Musicians Union launched Zero dB, a "silent protest" over the use of music in interrogations. According to Reprieve, many of its clients have been subjected to hours of music played at deafening volume -- sometime for days or even weeks on end. And the BBC has reported on a particularly insidious practice: using the theme songs from Sesame Street and Barney [as well as to break the will of prisoners.

This has musicians furious. Last week, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails even suggested he might pursue legal action to stop the practice.

A partial list of some of the interrogators' favorite tracks is telling (emphasis added):

• “Enter Sandman,” Metallica.
• “Bodies,” Drowning Pool. [Whose idiot bassist said "I take it as an honor to think that perhaps our song could be used to quell another 9/11 attack or something like that."]
• “Shoot to Thrill,” AC/DC.
• “Hell’s Bells,” AC/DC.
• “I Love You,” from the “Barney and Friends” children’s TV show.
• “Born in the USA,” Bruce Springsteen. [I guess "Kidnapped to Cuba" isn't as catchy]
• “Babylon,” David Gray.
“White America,” Eminem. [Way to be subtle, ya little skinheads] • “Sesame Street,” theme song from the children’s TV show.”

I prefer the term "sonic torture" over "music torture" or whatever idiot term our guvmint has probably invented (probably something like "aural interrogation") because it's not music these people are familiar with, or "music" in any way that you'd normally experience music. It's just sound blasted at a body, and after a half-dozen hours I'm certain it all coalesces into a thick sludge of despair and tuneless garbage that destroys you more than it makes you want to cooperate with anybody.

Anybody who says that this isn't torture obviously hasn't ever felt their body, mind and soul fall apart from stress or lack of sleep. It's much, much worse than having a fingernail pulled out.

Hey - so maybe "Drowning Pool" isn't such a bad choice after all!

Rockers to Press Obama on Music Torture (Wired)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa Claus is the Devil: A long, exhaustive proof from some kooky evangelists

Wacky evangelical organization Dial-the-Truth Ministries, who wrote pages and pages of giant, gaudy text attacking every rock group under the sun for Satanic influences and use images like

to promote their site, have one masterpiece to their credit: an exhaustive, scripture-twisting proof of Father Christmas' double life as the Father of Lies himself.

Witness the following concrete points from the article, and weep:

- The serpent who tempted Eve spoke with kind, beguiling tones, and Santa is also quite jolly!

- "The devil’s trademark 'ho, ho, ho' was carried over from the early medieval Miracle Plays to the popular old English play "Bomelio"[!]

- An internet Google search on "Satan Claus" (not Santa Claus – but SATAN Claus) found over 1,700 hits! Obviously, there are many that tie the two together. [And I found 16,600 hits on Google for the phrase "killer kitten," proving that kitties are ferocious.]

- Christ himself helps us out!:

"John 10:1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way [say a chimney?], the same is a thief and a robber. . ."

I could go on. Santa, the article states, is obviously impersonating Christ himself with his red raiment and white, flowing hair, tendency to build things (the Carpenter!), Northern lodging, wearing of a holly crown and airborne flight. Elves, the article notes, are also called trolls and analogous to Satan's fallen minions! Children love him and believe on him, rather than our Lord himself!

So Santa's perceived similarities to the Devil speak of their close affiliation, while his perceived similarities with Christ are filthy lies. Makes perfect sense to me! I'm glad this type of Potter-bashing, Santa-lynching nonsense isn't as prevalent where I live. Lord have pity on the poor kids raised with Froot Loops for parents.

Santa Claus: The Great Impostor (From the great minds at Dial-the-Truth Ministries and 72-Point Text Factory, though this article is mercifully free of giant, bold, crimson text.

My EP is finally finished! (The Black Plaid EP)

My first EP is finally finished! I'm calling it Black Plaid, and it's pretty much the first half of the (free) album I'll be releasing sometime next year. It's a collection of mashups, experiments and a few original compositions. Download it here:

Dustin Steinacker - The Black Plaid EP

(And a link to a ZIP file if you don't have WinRAR)

UPDATED: Listen to it on Soundcloud, the other links have been down for awhile

Tracks and List of Samples

Most of the following samples are highly modified and many are unrecognizable but the full list is included in the interests of completedness:

Originally titled "Malfeasance Toned of Argon", back when I was intending it to be a parody of techno music. It's still kind of a parody.


Beat: The Knife - "Like a Pen"
Bass: Public Image, Ltd. - "Albatross"
Sound effect: Battles - "Atlas"
Strings: J.S.S. Bach - Brandenburg Concert 1 (Adagio)
Sound effect and vocals: Subtle - "A Tale of Apes I"

More bass and two loops from "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes
Short Segment from "Moonlight Sonata (Presto) by Beethoven
Short drum segment from "Voodoo Lady" by Ween
Explosion from "We Will Rock You" by Max Raabe Orchestra.

Tales #1: Vine Hilos

Mashup between "Mera Pyar Shalimar" and "The Rose Garden of Mystery" by Secret Chiefs 3

Sound Effects: "Broken Glass Hearse" by Secret Chiefs 3
Drone 1: "Soldier Side" by System of a Down
Drone 2: "Super Are" by Boredoms
African Guitar: "Erdi" by Ali Farka Toure

Tales #2: Abrasions

Mashup between "Facing the Plastic" by Serart and "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" by Serj Tankian

Choir (strangely enough): "Hardware Store" by Al Yankovic

Tales #3: Partisan

Mashup between "Mera Pyar Shalimar" by Secret Chiefs 3 and "Intro" by Sigur Ros

Sound Effects and Choir Aah: A heavily pitch-tweaked "Super Are" by Boredoms


Beat and distorted drums: Radiohead - "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors"
Guitar: Dustin Steinacker
Drone: Björk - "Hidden Place"
All unattributed sound effects and tapping: Dustin Steinacker


Guitar and descending main melody: Dustin Steinacker
Drums: Arcade Fire - "Black Mirror"
Strings: Eels - "Going To Your Funeral"
Sound effects and voices: Grizzly Bear - "Deep Sea Diver"

Fit the First

Rambling hippie:
Intro sound: Ween - "Mutilated Lips"
Guitar, electric guitar and main beat/melody: Dustin Steinacker
Short drum bursts: Gorillaz - "Last Living Souls"
Choir: Taken from a "500 Outer Space Sound Effects" disc I borrowed from the library whose title I have long forgotten.

Vocal samples:

Spiro Agnew ("The hippies and the yippies and the disruptors. . .")
Unnamed news anchor commenting on the Kent State Massacre
Albert Einstein ("I believe that Ghandi's views. . .")
A very old movie whose title I have forgotten ("You think that you are seeing the truth. . .")

Monday, December 22, 2008


I might not have the heart to vandalize Wikipedia, but Photoshop has no such qualms (click to enlarge):

Semi-Classic Album of the Week #9: The Knife - "Silent Shout"

The Knife - Silent Shout (2002)

I've loved electronic music for some time now, organic music that incorporates standard instruments in unconventional ways or makes gentle noise sound more musical than most music. But before Silent Shout I never really got into really cold, bleeps-and-bloops electronica. And this is a very cold record - cries for help resonating from ear to ear in crystal-clear sonority.

I still consider this album a musical hug, distant and tortured though it may be. It's just so densely-layered, ingenious and alive that you have to accept its "why'd you kick me?" puppy attitude. The Knife took a sudden turn from sunny electropop to make this record, which sounds all the more jarring and essential by contrast.

Bush, Cheney wrote thousands of letters to families of fallen soldiers

From the Washington Times, something a little more upbeat:

For much of the past seven years, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have waged a clandestine operation inside the White House. It has involved thousands of military personnel, private presidential letters and meetings that were kept off their public calendars or sometimes left the news media in the dark.

Their mission: to comfort the families of soldiers who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to lift the spirits of those wounded in the service of their country.

. . .

"People say, 'Why would you do that?'" the president said in an Oval Office interview with The Washington Times on Friday. "And the answer is: This is my duty. The president is commander in chief, but the president is often comforter in chief, as well. It is my duty to be - to try to comfort as best as I humanly can a loved one who is in anguish."

Bush shoe-thrower 'tortured into writing letter of apology'

Photo Credit: Welt Online
The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush was tortured into writing a letter of apology, his brother said today.

Muntazer al-Zaidi was wrestled to the ground after throwing his shoes during a news conference held by the US president and the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, on 14 December.

The investigating judge in the case said last week that Zaidi, who will stand trial on 31 December, was beaten around the face and eyes. Zaidi's brother, Uday, said the journalist suffered worse injuries, including a missing tooth and cigarette burns to his ears, and would sue.

In the interest of verity, al-Zaidi's brothers have previously said that he suffered a broken arm in jail, a statement that for whatever reason turned out to be false.

But what damage could possibly be done to the new Iraqi government and the United States when it comes to light that agents of the new regime tortured a journalist for a semi-violent, yet ultimately harmless gesture directed at the U.S. President? (After all, he's only being charged with "insulting a foreign leader" and not "attempted murder." My roommate points out that this may be one of the few brushes with reality ol' Dubya has ever been confronted with.) And how suspicious are Prime Minister Maliki's further statements regarding the "investigation"?:

Maliki said Zaidi admitted in the letter that a terrorist had induced him to throw the shoes. "He revealed … that a person provoked him to commit this act and that person is known to us for slitting throats," Maliki said, according to the prime minister's website. The alleged instigator was not named.

"A terrorist!" Golly!

Self-adjustable glasses make optical care accessible to impoverished areas of the world

Gotta love the do-it-yourself humanitarian nature of these lenses, whose strength can be adjusted by the user as needed. I don't think this sort of things would fly in the first world, where we've grown accustomed to trusting the experts for our prescriptions, but they seem destined for areas like sub-Sarahan Africa, in which the article states there is a mere one optometrist per million people.

And look at those hinges - much better than the dainty, brittle hinges we've got over here, eh?

Scott Adams on Libertarianism

"I remind you that I lean libertarian (without the crazy stuff) so all of my impulses are to allow people the freedom to hurt themselves any way they choose, so long as their corpses don't block my driveway or cost me anything."
-Scott Adams, brilliantly summing up and simultaneously making me question my own philosophy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pitchfork Media's 100 Best Tracks of 2008

Pitchfork has put up their annual list of their 100 best tracks from this year's releases, and there's hardly a dud in the bunch. Go, listen to twenty or so at a time (when you have some quiet time - I recommend nighttime), discover some new types of music and commune a little with yourself.

(I'm a Pitchfork fan, but even the site's haters might find its yearend wrap-ups redeeming its occasionally obnoxious coverage.)

"The 100 Best Tracks of 2008"

(Hint for those wanting to download the streamed tracks: Follow the blog posts after searching for the track on the Hype Machine)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

College Photos of Barack Obama

Time Magazine has put up an awesome pictorial from a 1980 photo shoot featuring our very own Time Person of the Year (and President-elect) Barack Obama at LA's Occidental College.

He seems a great deal more uptight now. Maybe it's the nicotine jitters.

Semi-Classic Album of the Week #8: "Serart"

"Serart" (2003)

It's easy to like world music, but often difficult to get really enthusiastic about it. Listening to music in foreign tongues and tones, after all, helps us build a kinship with the human race and makes us feel cultured to boot. But it's difficult to deny the perspective barrier between an artist a hemisphere away and the listener picking up her LP on a whim. Ergo, the the thrill of exploring new cultures and sounds often subsides long before you take the disc back to the library.

But Serart is folk music unlike any other, a collaboration between famed Armenian musician Arto Tunçboyacıyan and fully half of the members of System of a Down (SoaD singer Serj Tankian, along with Arto, forms the body of the group while Shavo provided samples). It celebrates culture and heritage while including modern elements and compositions that you won't find in folk music. It's a soulful, intelligent album that understands dissonance and melody, well-written and produced without being too glossy. Arto gives the project focus without repressing Serj's natural tendencies to squawk and use dissonance, and not even the dance elements and samples feel out of place.

Link to my crappy yet well-read review from nearly four years ago.

Heteropoda Maxima: The Spider From Hell

It's not the creepiest spider in the world, but this image of a Heteropoda Maxima and its brood is one of the creepiest collections of pixels I've ever seen. I wish I had an attribution, but I can't find this outside of some random German webforum.

UPDATE: I posted this image on the xkcd forums, whose residents have been kind enough to post related images of predatory centipedes, bird-eating spiders and blankets of baby spiders. Lovers of creepy crawlies should check it out (don't worry - most of the images are in spoiler tags so you won't be confronted with them all at once.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A selection of artistic or questionable spam

I haven't checked my spam folder very much lately. Maybe I should:

Hmm. . . just download the attachment, you say? You'll have to click those images to view them clearly.

Real Music (He said tongue-in-cheek)

Call me a sucker for lo-fi heartfelt indie, but this is one of the most beautiful songs and videos I've ever heard or seen. Some people feel healed by slow, depressing love songs. But this is heartbreaking and ennobling, and made me feel pretty great during a (somewhat) stressful, difficult time.

My emotional baseline doesn't vary very much (I'm pretty stable), but everybody has their off days. This sort of thing helps.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Video: Iraqi journalist throws shoes at President Bush

When I heard about this video, I thought that it was an exaggeration: Maybe he threw the shoes at Pres. Bush's feet as some kind of statement, or merely threw them near the President. No - it's much more dramatic than I thought. This isn't necessarily the sort of statement that's going to help anything, but at least it's interesting.

The commentator points out that the gesture of the "shoe" is unique to Arab culture, as the sole of a shoe is considered an insult. I'm sure this gesture was not lost on our culture-savvy Commander in Chief mid-duck. My personal feeling is that a flying shoe is a flying shoe, and that the subtleties of culture fall by the wayside while you're avoiding one. "In Tennessee, hitting a man with a shovel is considered a grave insult!"

UPDATE: The guy isn't exactly enthusiastic about the U.S., which from a certain perspective is perfectly understandable. They seem unable to decide between charging him with insulting a state head and attempted murder. Wouldn't something, y'know, in between be a little more appropriate?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Semi-Classic Album of the Week #7: The Flaming Lips - "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots"

The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)

I credit The Flaming Lips for introducing me to the concept of "slow rhythms/fast beats" and, by extension, to the world of independent music. Though the Lips had long been signed to Warner Bros. Records, their music maintained an independence, personality and, perhaps most importantly, an occasional raggedness that always put them more in line with the indie groups they influenced.

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is forty-five minutes of blissful, moving pop music, with a science fiction theme that eventually wanders into more introspective territory. The band has a knack for making traditional instruments sound very electronic, and the guitars, keyboards and drums on this album often sound almost sampled, making a nice spacey atmosphere that makes this great driving/"chill" music.

The lyrics are still fairly unsophisticated, but quite affecting in their simplicity, giving weight to tracks like "One More Robot / Sympathy 3000-21" or "In the Morning of the Magicians." Wayne Coyne isn't always the world's most shining lyricist, but this album has few cringe-worthy moments, unlike the fairly bland* The Soft Bulletin or At War With the Mystics, which seemed to dedicate itself to being as thoroughly uncompelling and uninvolving as possible.

But Yoshimi (aside from one really terrible shrieking instrumental early on) really shines. So much work went into creating the funky, organic soundscapes that anybody with a shred of patience should find themselves head-bobbing along, if not preparing for the upcoming robot war, which sounds like it's gonna be pretty dang stylish.

* I'm aware that the critical consensus doesn't agree with me on that statement.

Selections From a Seditious Carol

"Later on we'll conspire
as we dream by the fire
to face unafraid
the plans that we've made
walking in a winter wonderland. . ."
It's a lighthearted Christmas song at the outset, but by reading too much into it we can turn it into an innuendo-laced, anarchic riff on ancient cultures. And isn't that what Christmas is all about?

I don't necessarily have an issue with these lyrics, but "conspire" seems an odd choice of words. I've long been under the impression that long-term relationships are built on understand and affection, and nothing quite as spooky as a conspiracy. And what exactly is that conspiracy, if the chilling final lines are anything to go by? Does society not approve of their relationship? ("And then we'll get married BWAHAHAHA!") Are they some sort of Bonnie and Clyde couple planning some grand heist? Very few Christmas songs end in a hail of gunfire.

I suspect it's a rhyme of convenience. After all, the only other appropriate rhyme ("perspire") is either too suggestive or just too darn sweaty for a sentimental love song. And the other rhymes online resources suggest are just too ridiculous: "catch fire", "transpire", or "inquire." And the higher-syllable entries are oddly appealing but wouldn't work: "telegraph wire", "radial ply tire", or, best of all, "ecclesiastical attire." Nope - better to go with the steamy sweatiness even if it leaves you with a Christmas song the government won't let radio stations play before 10:00 PM.

"In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say: Are you married? We'll say: No man,
But you can do the job When you're in town."

Unless Parson Brown has been receiving transmissions from his snowman counterpart, this just looks like a nifty way for the two youngsters depicted in this poem to continue living in sin.

"When it snows, ain't it thrilling,
Though your nose gets a chilling
We'll frolic and play, the Eskimo way,
Walking in a winter wonderland."

I guess it's fair to say that playing "the Eskimo way" involves playing in snow. I don't think they involved traditional Inuit games like the "Blanket Toss", "Bone Puzzle" or "Cribbage Board" in their pre-Christmas lovestricken conspiracy.

Behold the Puppycam

At the present moment, over five thousand people are watching puppies on a webcam. These puppies are getting older and no longer tiny adorable bundles of puppyfat and enthusiasm, but they're still plenty cute.

I foresee a future wherein nearly all of man's puppy-related enjoyment comes from two animals, left in their little Truman Show world and observed for the blood pressure benefits of humanity. When the Puppy Cam HD comes around we'll know we've truly arrived.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

More carthartic humor

As long as I've given up any semblance of impartiality regarding Blackwater, here's an excellent political cartoon that pretty much sums up my philosophy on mercenary contractors:

Cartoon by Jeff Danziger
(Click the image to enlarge or follow the link)

Remember, Patriotism Means Accepting Bad Deals!

The American auto bailout explained. Remember, we help the country by rewarding failed businesses! (Some language on the link.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Blackwater Killers to Face Charges

image by Latuff2, click to see more clearly

I expected the lies, the irresponsibility and rationalizations from Blackwater for the reprehensible actions of the employees referred to in the story below, but I never expected them to stand trial. I won't lie - they sound very, very guilty - but I hope this case is treated like any allegation of an unprovoked mass killing would be treated in the U.S. The Iraqi government wants Blackwater to leave Iraq. Right-thinking Americans with any understanding of the rule of law are disgusted by the idea of gun-toting mercenaries (sorry - "independent contractors") in the country, and repeat incidents like this cannot be overlooked. Somebody hold this company responsible for aiding and abetting employees who act like terrorists.

However, it should be noted that while Blackwater says that they are "disappointed" that one of their employees plead guilty, they stress that this is because the employee gave false information to the company regarding the incident in the intervening months (though you'll notice the press release does not indicate there was an internal investigation). The first story pulls this unfairly out of context.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Blackwater Worldwide security guards opened machine gun fire on innocent, surrendering Iraqis and launched a grenade into a girls' school during a gruesome Baghdad shooting last year, prosecutors said Monday in announcing manslaughter charges against five guards.

A sixth guard involved in the attack cut a plea deal with prosecutors, turned on his former colleagues, and admitting killing at least one Iraqi in the 2007 shooting in Baghdad's Nisoor Square. Seventeen Iraqis were killed in the assault, which roiled U.S. diplomacy with Iraq and fueled anti-American sentiment abroad.

The five guards surrendered Monday and were due to ask a federal judge in Utah for bail.

"None of the victims of this shooting was armed. None of them was an insurgent," U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said. "Many were shot while inside civilian vehicles that were attempting the flee from the convoy. One victim was shot in the chest while standing in the street with his hands up. Another was injured from a grenade fired into a nearby girls' school."

The guards were charged with 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter. They are also charged with using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence, a charge that carries a 30-year minimum prison sentence.

The shootings happened in a crowded square where prosecutors say civilians were going about their lives, running errands. Following a car bombing elsewhere in the city, the heavily armed Blackwater convoy sought to shut down the intersection. Prosecutors said the convoy, known by the call sign Raven 23, violated an order not to leave the U.S.-controlled Green Zone.

"The tragic events in Nisoor Square on Sept. 16 of last year were shocking and a violation of basic human rights," FBI Assistant Director Joseph Persichini said.

Witnesses said the contractors opened fire unprovoked. Women and children were among the victims and the shooting left the square littered with blown-out cars. Blackwater, the largest security contractor in Iraq, says its guards were ambushed and believed a slowly moving white Kia sedan might have been a car bomb.

"We think it's pure and simple a case of self-defense," defense attorney Paul Cassell said Monday as the guards were being booked. "Tragically people did die."

Prosecutors said the Blackwater guards never even ordered the car to stop before opening fire. In his plea agreement with prosecutors, former guard Jeremy Ridgeway, of California, admitted there was no indication the Kia was a car bomb.

continued at Breitbart

Puppy News of the Day

Hero puppies rule!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

More Dangblasted Referential, Outdated Humor: Harry Potter Titles

If this image weren't in too many places to
determine who created it, I'd attribute it.

As somebody who wasn't in the United States during the whole Harry Potter brouhaha over the last couple books, I'm really quite disappointed that only one person had proposed "Harry Potter and the Snape Kills Dumbledore" as a possible title for Book 6. The online community really needs to get on the ball.

Also no Google hits for the following:

Harry Potter Escapes From Guantanamo Bay

Harry Potter and the Inhuman Itch

Harry Potter and the Tragic Bat Mitzvah

Harry Potter and the Overbearing In-Laws

Harry Potter and the LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!!!

Harry Potter and the Neville Ruins Everything Again

Harry Potter and the Chapter of Yelling

Harry Potter and the Protracted Dream Sequences

Harry Potter and the We Designed This Typeface Just For This Book, Aren't We Just Incredible?

Harry Potter and the Rest is Moot, Really

Friday, December 05, 2008

And as long as we're linking Dinosaur Comics: The Midas Touch

The text and metatext of this one were just too good not to transcribe for easy reading, with a few edits to fit the new format. I wish I'd thought of the following story. The least I could do was ham up the following image in tribute:

The Myth of King Midas

Midas was a king who was nice to a friend of the God of Wine, and so he gets a wish from the God of Wine! NICE! And so Midas wishes that everything he touched would turn to gold. Instantly the ground he's standing on transforms to gold!

The gold change races across the planet's surface and down into the mantle like a shockwave, transmuting it instantly. In seconds, the Earth's iron-nickel core becomes pure non-ferrous gold, and the planet's magnetic field is lost. Unshielded from solar wind, every living creature begins to absorb fatal levels of radiation. The soft gold of the planetary crust, unable to sustain the weight placed upon it, begins to buckle and distort.

Midas watches in horror as his planet dies a golden death.

He's soon overcome by the terrible sensation of drowning on dry land: any air that touches his lungs is being transmuted on contact into tiny flecks of gold. He suffocates and dies as his lungs fill with the precious metal. Air that touches his cooling body continues to transmute, and he's soon covered in a fine golden layer of ash.

Later, aliens discover Midas' body and use him as a highly unstable source of gold, keeping him in vacuum suspension with magnetic fields. But their ship soon suffers a power failure, Midas hits the floor, and the ship is transmuted. The ship drifts until drawn in by the gravitational field of a backwater planet, where it crashes and causes the planet to suffer the same fate as Earth. We join our story centuries later as our heroes, bounty hunters seeking the near-mythic Midas Flesh, successfully break quarantine and get past the defences erected around the planet. they are the first to land on the Second Golden Planet.

. . . The End?

(As long as I'm stealing Mr. North's stuff and editing it I'm going to go ahead and recommend the incredible Dinosaur Comics collection for your Christmas shopping needs.)

Fascinating, Futile, Recursive Party Games

Here's one for the metamath crowd.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Folk Songs Turned Into Awesome Movie Trailers (Rewrite)

This is a rewrite of a proposed movie trailer I did about a year ago. You should really hear me say it aloud for the full effect, but it's still worth reading:

Onscreen: "The following PREVIEW has been approved for ALL AUDIENCES by the Motion Picture Association of America."

A group of FORENSIC DETECTIVES is sitting in a large board room, going over unseen grisly photographs. The camera pans over the room, to the grim face of DR. WOLVERTON, the program head (Morgan Freeman if we can get him).

WOLVERTON: "Team, we are tracking a dangerous killer. Every time he takes a life, he adopts the surname of his victim. First his name was "John Jacob". Then he killed Doctor Alfsheim Jingleheimer. "


WOLVERTON: "Dr. Schmidt, I'm putting you in charge of this investigation. We need to stop our friend before his name has a chance to grow any longer."



NIGHT - INSPECTOR SCHMIDT is working at his drawing room computer, beads of sweat dotting his brow as he feverishly searches through documents, images, databases. A beat. The music rises as sudden comprehension dawns on his face. The music and breath sound effects rise to a crescendo, and, as the camera draws nearer and nearer to the man's face, come to an abrupt halt:

INSPECTOR SCHMIDT (WHISPER): ". . . his name is my name too."

A window breaks downstairs. SCHMIDT looks up quickly. What follows is a random sequence of inexplicable violent images, the type usually seen in movie trailers: A figure swings a sledgehammer at somebody who ducks as the wall is torn apart behind him. Someone jumps off of a roof. A fire hydrant explodes. DR.
WOLVERTON looks up from his desk and yells "Who's there!?", nervously picking up a pistol. A prison door creaks open, and an inmate within shields his eyes from the light and yells "WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME!?!"


Finally, everything fades to black. Spooky children's voices sing quietly to screeching sound effects:

CHILDREN: ". . . whenever he goes out, the people always shout. . ."

YOUNG GIRL (whispering): ". . . there goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. . . ."

Through each beat of the pre-chorus ("LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!!!" ) a letter drops into place until the screen reads "July 2009" in blood-red letters.


I have some friends in the university film program who claim that they would like to help me make this trailer. I haven't yet taken them up on their offer (mainly because I'm sure they were sincere when they offered to help but won't actually be so enthusiastic when the time comes, but also because I'm sure I can't match the awesome image in my head and I'd rather leave it the way it is. We'll see, I guess.

My Taco Bell Experience: The Way Things Should Have Gone

"Hi, I'd like to order the Chicken or Steak Burrito."

"Would you like chicken or steak?"


"Chicken or steak?"

"Do I have to choose one or the other?"


"I'm sorry. I was hoping to preserve the mystery. I was hoping you'd allow me one small surprise in my day of tedium. Now I'm afraid I'll be stealing fire sauce packets from your fine establishment."

"Here comes the gubmint for our guns!"

In a move that anybody with a working brain stem could have predicted, gun "enthusiasts" (note to self: please replace "enthusiasts" with "nuts" in all future posts on this topic) have been rushing out to buy weapons before the Obama shocktroopers come around the mountain to take everything that goes boom, pop and bang.

Though it's easy to bash gun nuts for their reactive hot-button issue ways, the economics behind this are undeniable: by and large, Democrats are seen as the party of gun control, and Obama's position on gun control has been somewhat inconsistent for those who really care about this sort of thing. This, coupled with the fact that Obama clearly has no problem getting the federal government involved in states' rights issues could get some people worried. (Though in all fairness it's clear that Obama at least understands that gun control can't be imposed at the federal level without an amendment, leaving it as a states' rights issue. It will be refreshing to have a president who can give answers on Constitutional issues. Google "Bush + Constitution" for more context.)

Anyway, how many reactionary gun nuts have really thought about the issue in these terms?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hamlet retold through Facebook updates.

Hamlet told entirely through status updates and sentences the likes of which you'd see in Facebook:

- - - -

The king poked the queen.

The queen poked the king back.

Hamlet and the queen are no longer friends.

Marcellus is pretty sure something's rotten around here.

Hamlet became a fan of daggers.

- - - -

Polonius says Hamlet's crazy ... crazy in love!

Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Hamlet are now friends.

Hamlet wonders if he should continue to exist. Or not.

Hamlet thinks Ophelia might be happier in a convent.

Ophelia removed "moody princes" from her interests.

Hamlet posted an event: A Play That's Totally Fictional and In No Way About My Family

The king commented on Hamlet's play: "What is wrong with you?"

Polonius thinks this curtain looks like a good thing to hide behind.

Polonius is no longer online.

- - - -

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Clumpy Sighting #2: Barkwire (SomethingAwful)

Another strange Clumpy sighting. I'm sure that nobody else will find this interesting, but I find it surreal enoguh to find a name I've associated with myself for so long repeated so many times.

Clumpy: Barkwire

Monday, December 01, 2008

Semi-Classic Album of the Week #6: The Mars Volta - "Frances the Mute"

NOTE: When I don't post as often, these music reviews take up a disproportionate amount of space on my blog. If this whole feature isn't as interesting to others as it is to me, I'm open to two possibilities: either doing it less often (say, every other week) or including a new tag which shows all content but these music reviews, essentially sorting them out. Those interested in my musical proclivities can still click the "Semi-Classic Album of the Week" tag (like the one below) to read only this feature.

The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute (2005)

Progressive rock is nothing new, but few contemporary groups have managed to pull it off as well or as satisfactorily as our favorite bunch of chronic guitar wankers The Mars Volta. So it's undeniable that their second record Frances the Mute is pretentious, like all good prog, but why overlook the genuine talent needed to write lyrics as incomprehensible or melodies as roundabout and affecting as the ones you'll hear on this release?

Even casual fans who find themselves put off by the meandering ambient pieces or some of the album's less-focused bits will find golden moments here. The album's opening track is a hard-hitting torrent of funky, percussive guitar and whimsical, Jabberwocky-style multilingual lyricism, the following track a slick whirlwind of slick Latin licks, "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" heartbreaking, and the 32-minute closing track truly epic, with a repeating chorus that serves to tie some of its slower moments together (and when one of your "slow" moments is a fifteen-minute scraping grind to oblivion, you need that chorus). Only the radio single "The Widow" could have stood to be cut - it's a decent track in and of itself but would have been better as a standalone single like the title track, which would have been included if the world's CD players could handle a commercial CD as long as most feature films.

This band isn't nearly as experimental as they'd probably like to be, and when they try to really push the envelope and be strange they almost uniformly fail, but they're excellent songwriters and they have a great sense of progression which really serves this, their best record. Even the haters might be converted if they get a chance to listen to Frances the Mute on a really, really good stereo - the production values are second to none and they use every inch of available aural space, most of which you won't hear on those ubiquitous white heaphones. Even the ambient pieces settle into their own Dark Side of the Moon grooves once you give them a chance. You really should.