Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Sure, I could criticize the insinuation that "insular and ignorant" is anything but an asset for "great" writing; certainly the best writing comes from highly insular pockets of haughty writers, each insular and ignorant in his or her own sophisticated manner. Again, I could point that out. But as a crass-minded, facetious American I'd rather point out that you'd think a literary representative from a country that looks like a dong would be a little more circumspect in his blanket criticism of nearly 400 million individuals. But pardon me for being insular.
I'd like to further point out that Sweden is known for the following wonderful things and nothing else: rock band The Hives, electronic band The Knife, math metal band Meshuggah, Swedish Fish and Swedish meatballs. So keep your little dong-country criticisms to yourself.
Oh, and we don't name our children Horace. That's game, set and match in any book.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
The unlocking info from Apple is impractical for people who don't use iTunes or no longer have an "authorized" computer with iTunes (the whole stupid "authorization" thing as well as the bad interface of iTunes means that my iPod has never known its embrace - I use an alternate file management software for my 'Pod that gives me more freedom). Opportunistic developer MaxSoft even sells an "iPod unlocker" for $10 that essentially duplicates the easy hack you can implement from any computer that'll unlock your iPod in less than a minute. As always, there's the slightest chance you could screw something up when you crawl into your iPod's actual data, but this is worlds better than reformatting your iPod's brain and losing everything.
The easy fix (as outlined on a few of smarter websites that don't just reiterate Apple's dumb statements):
1) Open your iPod as a flash drive (you'll see it from the "My Computer").
2) Enable hidden folders and go into the folder "iPod control".
3) From within the "Device" folder, find the file titled "_locked" and rename it to "_unlocked".
Then just disconnect the thing and you should be on your way. If this doesn't work (I haven't tested this on any other iPods), deleting the file instead should work, but I would suggest that you Google around before you try anything other than this easily-reversible method. I've given you more than enough search terms should you need to look.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Clothing manufacturers don't get royalties from sales of used clothing, and record labels certainly don't get paid for sales of used music. It's just a happy side effect of the fact that we live in a free market society; people are free to trade and sell objects that they own without getting corporations involved.
But due to some outrageous legislation and licensing we don't actually own the music, movies and electronic games that we buy - we license them from the folks that make them. This means that hundreds, thousand of dollars of the stuff we have worked and paid for are not really ours, but subject to the whims and conditions of ever more powerful corporate firms whose technology and resources show no signs of wavering either. Ridiculous license agreements restrict how individuals can use their own software, their own music. Can resale regulation be far off?
Marty O'Donnell, a developer for Bungie (the makers of the ever-so-popular Halo series) thinks that the rules of resale should be different for gaming:
"It's hard to gauge the effect of used game sales on Halo, but I'm sure it's big," O'Donnell commented. "Complaining about sales when you have a multi-million seller is somewhat difficult to justify, but it seems to me that the folks who create and publish a game shouldn't stop receiving income from further sales."
"It will be harder for smaller titles to be successful in the future if they can't fully realise [sic] a return on investment," [Marty] explained.
Whaddya think? It seems to me that the give-and-take of the market takes care of any issues that secondhand sales create. For example, if Halo was only worth $30 to a consumer but retails for $50, then that individual might buy it and later resell it after getting their money's worth of playtime. The buyer understands that the game is a used copy and pays less than they might for one from the factory. It's a central principle of capitalism.And do I have to mention that every used copy that somebody buys creates one less used copy, forcing somebody who might have bought a used copy to buy the game new?
But that's not even the main issue at hand: Mere "lost sales" (of new products) cannot be equivocated with theft or ripping off creators. Whenever an individual buys something other than Halo, they're spending money that might have been given to Bungie's developers. That doesn't mean that anything needs to change. Every time something perfectly natural happens that's good for consumers but less-than-optimal for creators and publishers of material, industry heads bitch and whine about lost profits. Who cares? Why must the advantage fall by default to suppliers and not consumers? Maximizing profits by butting into the rights of others is inexcusable. I hope that for every higher-up who sweats over every lost opportunity there's somebody who respects consumer rights. Go ahead - legislate and DRM me to death. I'll switch to word searches or something.
Sacha Baron Cohen has exactly one trick, the same one employed by Tom Green and Andy Dick before they faded into merciful obscurity. He's more of a performance artist than a comedian, and his movies and television stand more as documentaries than actual comedies. Despite the loose narrative framework, barging into some public place and acting like an oblivious ass both onscreen and offscreen isn't finely-honed comedy. It's just painful. Granted, "painful" is often very funny. When Borat reveals the prejudices of others he can be quite funny (and that clip of him singing in a country bar is funny. Very funny). But stumbling around, breaking things and telling the same jokes ad nauseum. . .
Bottom line: if this is going to be his shtick until the end of time I'd rather watch him cut hair in a Sweeney Todd prequel than sit through one of his movies.
If I've ever seen a killer app, this is it. Little Big Planet tears at the concept of the sandbox game, offering the best of physics-based games, building games, platformers and "communication" games (think Animal Crossing really going for the gusto). These videos are amazing. It's rare for something to really tug at my childlike sense of wonder these days (haven't really felt it since the aforementioned Animal Crossing), so I hope this thing is still around in five or six years when I finally get around to seriously playing games again. The first video takes awhile to get going so you might want to start after 2:00 or so.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Jon Stewart once again does a pretty good job of summarizing the news. In these clips he takes on the corporate bailouts and subsequent legislated coup of the federal government, finally topping the cake with a summary of Bush's wonderful legacy. Let's all welcome our new Federal Reserve overlord, Baron Von Moneypants.
Watch the first clip for its points, and the second clip for the punchline. I won't spoil it for you, but John Oliver's final line is shocking and cathartic.
President Bush doesn't get another State of the Union address, but I think we all know what he would say:
"My fellow Americans, the corporate bailouts have been a great and terrible success. Both parties, by their general inaction, have come together and united the country on the side of sheer pants-on-head idiocy. Republicans have agreed to massive, unprecedented government control over the private sector, and Democrats have agreed to do it in the stupidest way possible.
But America still has some money left. So I propose a missile. A big missile, the size of the moon. I am absolutely, unwaveringly dedicated to proving that I’m totally stupid before I leave office."
If I had a nickel for every time that an immigration opponent struggling to appear openminded told me that they have "no problem" with immigration as long as it's done legally, I'd have died by now of some kind of copper-nickle alloy poisoning. It's an old trope but I'm sure that the people who say it really believe it.
Never mind the fact that neocons who don't really get too worked up about lawbreaking suddenly find this border dispute terribly important, the one law that must never, ever be broken, under penalty of deportation. Those who don't feel that illegal immigrants should be deported at least want to make their life a living hell for a long, long time; even McCain's waffling on the issue, pretending to worry about brown people to keep his base comfortable. Remember, it's okay to burden the lives of Americans, as long as you do it while speaking English. If we celebrate "legal" immigration while keeping it a very, very difficult and time-intensive activity, all while throwing out illegals, we get the benefits of looking open-minded while keeping People Who Are Different far, far away from our homes. And what's more All-American than a little good, old-fashioned doubletalk?
All while our leaders are attempting to implement the most socialist, authoritarian, freedom-hating thing that has ever been done in my country. I had a casual respect for the Republicans back when they were all about cruel economic efficiency, but totalitarianism just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But never mind that (actually, mind that very much, but let's move on for now).
Jumping back to the immigration issue, this nice flowchart from Reason.com gives you a good look at just how easy and humane our immigration process really is. Take a look at the amply-titled What Part of Legal Immigration Don't You Understand? and maybe shed a little light on the issue in future debates. Remember, a lie repeated enough times becomes truth and eventually common knowledge. . . unless you reject it.
Flowchart: What Part of Legal Immigration Don't You Understand? (reason.com via BoingBoing)
Monday, September 22, 2008
This SNL sketch, partially penned by professional polemic Al Franken, does an admirable job of pointing out the sort of misdirection, sleight of hand and intellectual dishonesty that permeates a campaign season:
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Rockabye Baby is a record series consisting of affectionate "lullaby renditions" of various important bands and musicians. Naturally, their take on The Pixies caught my eye. It's just a sample, but I can't stop listening to their rendition of "Wave of Mutilation." It's so darn peaceful.
EDIT: Holy horoscope - they did a Bjork record.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
At any rate, the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator gives you a peek at the inane identity you may have been given as one of the Palin clan. The results are pure retard poetry. See how much more interesting life would be if Palin was in charge of worldwide baby-naming:
Archibald Clumpy: Commando Coalfire Palin
Richard Nixon: Strike Chipper Palin
Barack Obama: Tarp Lazer Palin
And my favorite:
Fiscal Mismanagement: Bash Budweiser Palin
One of the main reasons lately to back away from AT&T has been their complicity with the government for participation in illegal wiretapping. I realize that the neoconservatives have never been about small government, but they certainly pretend to bring it up quite often. Let's see how they'll react when their precious "private sector" steps in to enforce the Bill of Rights for them:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies today on behalf of AT&T customers to stop the illegal, unconstitutional, and ongoing dragnet surveillance of their communications and communications records. The five individual plaintiffs are also suing President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney's chief of staff David Addington, former Attorney General and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and other individuals who ordered or participated in the warrantless domestic surveillance.
The lawsuit, Jewel v. NSA, is aimed at ending the NSA's dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and holding accountable the government officials who illegally authorized it. Evidence in the case includes undisputed documents provided by former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein showing AT&T has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA.
The Fourth Amendment, for the record (thus the term illegal wiretapping):
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
(BoingBoing quoting the EFF press release)
Sunday, September 14, 2008
My college paper ran a cover story three days ago, on the seventh anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks and subsequent destruction, titled "We Will Never Forget." I realized the intended heartwarming nature of the message, but I found it disheartening. (And it's not just the fact that it's a lazy and shiftless excuse for a cover story, a fact we won't even get into here.)
9/11 was a tragedy, yes, as is any incident of human barbarism toward others (not to mention the 3,000 some-odd deaths incurred by the 19 hijackers). But much of the tragedy of 9/11 stems from what we did afterward rather than from the attacks themselves.
After all, deaths aren't the sole measure of tragedy. In the year 2001 in the United States 16,242 died from emphysema, 42,443 from automobile accidents and 157,400 from lung cancer alone (that last number was built from projections but the specific count isn't important).
And to judge from the reactions of our leaders, economic destruction doesn't dictate whether something is tragedy. Nor is destruction of U.S. land and property a shame as long as it doesn't happen in a major economic center.
And the bills that we've signed into law over the last few years have proven that man's inhumanity to man isn't such a big deal, as long as we're being barbaric to the right people. Nor is abduction without charges or due process something to cry over. And the terrorists' "assault on our freedoms?" It's nothing compared to what we're already doing to ourselves (link1) (link2) (link3). And let's not worry about the right of an honest American to feel secure in their daily actions, ok?
The Trade Center attacks have given us license to grant the already powerful among us more power, destroy our checks and balances, hate those who are different from us who we won't even bother to try to understand, bash two countries to the ground, continue to occupy them with soldiers and private firms (and are we doing anything but teaching Iraqis that the big and powerful will always run things?), detain more people without warrants, tread on the Bill of Rights and otherwise muck up our own nation.
This started out as a funny sort of satirical post. I was going to propose that we adopt a new scale of measurement for foreign disasters and deaths, one that measures them in American lives so that we could feel honest in acting the way we do regarding foreign tragedy and domestic tragedy that doesn't involve Muslims. For example, twenty times as many people died in the Sichuan earthquake of China four months ago than on 9/11/01. Seventy-six times as many died in the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and subsequent tsunami than 9/11. The idea was that we could muster up an actual equation to figure out just how much we should care about such destruction. Factoring in proximity, ethnicity, government type of affected country and damage to U.S. interests, for example, we might estimate that the Indonesian tsunami cost the world the equivalent of about 300 American lives. That's American Life Units, or A.L.U.'s for short. If we decided that the Sichuan earthquake only cost the world about 30 A.L.U.'s, for example, we could consider ourselves intellectually honest for still urging people to remember the 3,000 A.L.U.'s lost in the attacks of 9/11 seven years ago.
All of a sudden I decided it wasn't funny anymore. Can you tell why? Look - all of you who think that American lives and interests are more important than anybody else's had better think about what's happened in our country as a result of 9/11. And that's something we'd better not forget.
EDIT: Again, it's not the fact that atrocities have happened in Iraq (isolated individuals will sometimes do terrible things when you give them a gun), but the absolute lack of responsibility being taken in response which causes more of these things to happen. Excuses, lies and trigger-happy mercenaries don't spread freedom.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I tried several sendups of this line myself, first with a Samuel L. Jackson sort of delivery ("EDUCATECHOSELF!") that didn't really come across in print. I've since revised to the following wonderful image, suitable for framing:
You tell her, Mary.
Monday, September 08, 2008
From the sidebar of IGN's review of Decease Electrostatic:
And in the review's conclusion:
Apparently the real rating is 8.1, if IGN's review page is anything to go by. Why do I continue reading IGN? Their URL is easy to type, and reading popular websites run by dumber individuals is good for the ego. DOH, ho ho ho!
NOTE (9/14): This gets even weirder. Apparently this wasn't even a review for the complete album, but just the final track, "My Apocalypse". They've since changed the numerical score on the sidebar and the reviews page to match the one at the bottom, and they've changed every instance on the page (including the page name) from "Death Magnetic" to "My Apocalypse". Remember, these guys are professionals.
Normally I wouldn't bother with Gary Coleman. He lives around my hometown, and everybody knows more or less where he lives, but he likes his privacy and doesn't have much of a community presence. Besides, when you're an actor who's more famous for a catchphrase than anything, people don't exactly make a hajj to your house.
But when Gary runs a guy down in what amounts to my hometown, I'll naturally have to make a note of it.
The article also makes a statement on Payson's importance in the grand scheme of things:
PAYSON, Utah (AP) — Actor Gary Coleman hit a pedestrian with his truck after arguing with him in a local bowling alley, police said.
Payson police Lt. Bill Wright said Colt Rushton and Coleman got into an argument in the early morning hours Saturday over pictures Rushton had taken of Coleman inside the bowling alley. He said the argument continued outside, and that Coleman hit Rushton and a car as he was backing out of a parking space.
Neither man was issued a citation, and Wright said it wasn't clear whether Coleman hit Rushton on purpose. He said neither man was giving authorities much information.
Payson is 52 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.Well, for the record, we also have a Wal-Mart.
Teach yourself Czech or Dutch or whatever with the following story:
L'acteur américain Gary Coleman, rendu célèbre pour avoir incarné le petit Arnold Jackson dans la série télé Arnold et Willy, a renversé un piéton avec son véhicule, après avoir eu une altercation avec le jeune homme un peu plus tôt dans un bowling.For the record, I'm sure this "Colt Rushton" was being a class-A prick; he has the right name for it. Now to go home and see if anybody knows him. Regardless, It's tough to be the sort of celebrity who everybody knows, but never gets any dinero.
Gary Coleman a échangé des mots avec un certain Colt Rushton, samedi aux petites heures, alors que ce dernier avait pris des photos de l'ancien enfant-star à l'intérieur du bowling, selon un policier de Payson, dans l'Etat américain d'Utah.
Finally, something besides these retarded Obama/Muslims rumors (though to call them "rumors" is probably being generous). The Times Online reports that there is, in fact, a possibility that Kim Jong-Il, North Korea's infamous (and infamously mocked) leader, has been dead since 2003, having died "of diabetes" late that year. Presumably they mean "complications from diabetes", as one doesn't really die from diabetes any more than they die from any other immune deficiency disease.
But, quibbles aside, there's every chance that our tyrant friend Kim isn't who we think he is:
There have been persistent reports that a stand-in appears for Kim at military parades and he is notoriously reclusive. He did not appear in public to receive the Olympic torch in Pyongyang on April 28.I love a good conspiracy, though I'd be the first to admit that the truth or falsehood of this doesn't really make much of a difference in matters of policy, as no country is stupid enough to actually put their leader in charge. Heck, this has even made it to his Wikipedia page.
The professor argues that no substantive policy decisions have been taken since North Korea joined nuclear disarmament talks in 2003.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Out-of-context, non-sequitur and wonderful:
Great, destructive Snickers ad featuring LDS film icon Kirby Heybourne (oh, and a certain infamous celebrity) which was attacked for being "homophobic" (right, cause only gays speedwalk. Besides there's more anger than "phobia" in this clip):
An SNL classic that I somehow missed:
Friday, September 05, 2008
Music critics had it hard in the 90s, watching Metallica die. After five fantastic, groundbreaking albums in a row (with one of the greatest live albums of all time serving as the cherry on top) , Metallica seemed to lose the muse. Companion discs Load & Reload had a few good tracks between them, but even the subversity of Andres Serrano's off-color cover art (which would have received more commentary if parents had known just what they were looking at) couldn't change the fact that Metallica was losing their creative edge.
It wasn't just a matter of Metallica's shift from straight-up riffs, vocal yelps and the art of metal progression (which Robert Christgau dismisses, bless his heart, as mere "composition"). Nope - every album Metallica did after 1991's Metallica (the Black Album to you and me) seemed destined for a sort of semi-listenability, a half-hearted public and critical acclaim that, while accompanied by massive record sales, just didn't seem like the Metallica we loved. 1999's S&M live album had talent behind it, but subverted songs we loved by turning them all into overwrought, orchestrated affairs. "No Leaf Clover" kicked, and "Enter Sandman" was already cartoony enough that a few violins and trumpets couldn't have hurt it, but neutering "Battery" was unconscionable. Unconscionable.
So you'll excuse me for being a little downbeat over Metallica's new album, especially after hearing the title, Death Magnetic. The cover itself should be lauded for depicting the title literally (a coffin encased in a magnetic field), but subtlety has never been Metallica's forte so I'd like to suggest the following:
Photoshoppers: Always copy images from the first page of Google Image Search.
So - how does the album stack up? We could be forgiven for having low expectations after the 30-second sound samples the band posted awhile back failed to blow us away. Thankfully, after listening to most of the album in streaming form and online after the sucker leaked, I'm pleased to repeat that it's more than listenable. As in, you might feel like listening to it a few times. It's easily the best Metallica album since Metallica, mostly because the band doesn't try to do anything new.
And what do you expect? Metallica hasn't had a great album for seventeen years, or a classic album for more than two decades. And since Death Magnetic is perfectly serviceable it's no surprise that it's getting rave reviews.
There's really nothing to say about this album - it's pretty much a homogenous heap of good old-fashioned ". . . And Justice For All"-style metal with perfectly serviceable riffs and perfectly-serviceable vocals. And there's not a vocal hook in sight, further carrying the comparison to 1988's Justice. In fact, Death Magnetic is pretty much a carbon copy of the essence of that album, about eighty percent as good as that album, barring the fact that there isn't a song to match "Blackened" or "One".
(Keep in mind that, though I've heard all of the songs on the album, much of what I heard was streamed directly from their site and thus not CD quality. From the finished tracks I've heard I don't think my opinion would change much if I heard the final album, which I liked okay but probably won't make into a purchase.)
Pre-Order Death Magnetic on Amazon
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
I've created a neat little flash card set of basic greetings and vocab for my introductory Japanese class (one I'm taking, not teaching) online over at FlashCardMachine.com. It's a nice site which lets you create simple flash cards in a few minutes. The set includes both Japanese/English greetings as well as the other way around (you can actually set the program to shuffle randomly between words and definitions but I prefer to include different information).
I've elected to use pronunciation-based romaji (English depictions of Japanese language) rather than unintuitive English phrases (for example, "Konnichi" rather than "Konniti", "Douzo" rather than "Dozo").
Try it out and tell me what you think. Just click "start study session", then "begin". It should be suitable for novices and includes some basic information, but I'd sure like to hear if anybody more versed in the language than me sees any mistakes or incomplete information.
Well, classes have begun again, and the delays and breaks between classes have given me opportunity to continue Ziggy Liberated once more. It turns out that working on something that separates into easy chunks is the perfect medicine for studying ennui, and helps me get more done.
I've posted a few updates for now, and set a few more to gradually time-release over the next few days, like root beer losing its carbonation, except it's with jokes.
(And, yes, I always have and always will work on things that others like only for wholly selfish reasons.)
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Monday, September 01, 2008
I've had this awesome story kicking around in my head for some time after reading it a few weeks ago. I came across it during my usual Google frenzy for a movie that I had been looking forward to (in this case, Hellboy II: The Golden Army). It's a couple pages of the comic, the infamous "Pancakes" story, and it's indicative of the wonderful element of humor found throughout Mignola's work. Enjoy!
The Pancakes Story (Hellboy)