Saturday, July 08, 2006

From The Internet Tubes

Since the last post was a peek into the oddities stashed and stored in huge-antical Web Tubes (1), I happened to have the time to collect some more news and videos which tend to create a unique mixture of surprise and dread.

First, GoldenAppleCorp (of AT) wagged a finger at me warning me away for dissing David Hasselhoff, and today I just happened to find the newest video from The Hoff, a remake of a 1975 tune called "Jump In My Car." Is it just me, or does the international fame and resilience of this guy portend a future political career? The video features him wearing a T-Shirt declaring Don't Hassel the Hoff, but it was the dancing that gave me the heebie-jeebies. View the Hoff's latest here.

In other music news, this comment about a new album from Justin Timberlake indicates, as a friend told me, a train wreck is ahead:

he first single from the upcoming Justin Timberlake album, "SexyBack," features a pounding bass beat and electronic sounds, and does not include the falsetto singing that has become Timberlake's trademark. He said, however, that "The best way I can describe that song is say David Bowie and David Byrne decided to do a cover of James Brown's Sex Machine," Timberlake told reporters."

To which I say - Ewwwww! Clean-up on Aisle 12!!!!

To mark the 60th b-day for Our President, the Nintendo company gave him an early gift - a new Nintendo DS Lite, including a copy of the game Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day. The letter from Nintendo accompanying the gift emphasizes the Decider need not be an expert gamer to give it a go.

The advertising giant that is NASCAR found a new client. True, the sponsorship is only on the local track circuit, but who would have ever have foreseen a combo between Scientology and NASCAR? Yes, the Dianetics Racing Team has arrived.

Never, ever, EVER underestimate what is possible in the Web. I said NEVER. One intrepid seeker has successfully traded One Red Paper Clip for a house.

1. I feel like David Foster Wallace making a footnote, but this is for those who missed Alaska Senator Ted Stevens explanation of the internet, here 'tis -- "
I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 oÂ’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."

Visual representations are here. See also, "The Coot-Off".

Friday, July 07, 2006

Is That A Hattori Hanzo Sword?

So what would happen when a 9 mm bullet meets a samurai sword?

This happens.

That Darn Coulter!

A post today at KnoxViews from R. Neal about Ann Coulter makes some of the same points to ponder which I too think most people just don't quite get.

Yes, I'm sticking to my guns about what I said here and here.

The comments on Neal's post mention, as most debates about Coulter do, that Michael Moore is the Left version of Coulter's Right field rants. (Some other Lefties get mentioned too)

But I have yet to hear or read where Moore makes death threats. Coulter does.

Her dangerous fringe followers seem to shovel cash at her like addicts hit meth - both are dead ends.

SayUncle and Les Jones are weighing in with their views too in the comments, and what pops out most quickly is that the range of opinions are expressed without any of the insanely pointless and hate-filled threats of Coulter.

That's all - a good read I just wanted to point out.

Oh, and maybe enough rational humans on the Right or Left or Center or Anywhere Else will express a desire to remove even the tiniest molecule of credibiltiy within a thousand miles of Coulter. Sure she has a right to her opinion, but to provide it more weight than a fart is a critical error.

Camera Obscura - Pirates, Hills Have Eyes, UltraViolet, A Scanner Darkly

I know it seems like an incredible, star-filled lifestyle to write and report on the movies and the often-unseen traps that surround celebrity. And it is. But there is also the seamy, dank underbelly of cinema, the hours and months spent in dark rooms watching movies that no one liked and no one should have made. Someone eventually has to come into the emptied-out palaces to clean up the leavings from "champagne wishes and caviar dreams". Makes for some nasty, crusty cleanup.

Reality shifts are commonplace, most critics or writers get lost in the media mazes and never find their way out. A good example is The Pickle at the Knox News Sentinel - she drools so much over Johnny Depp she taints any objective review of the sequel to "Pirates of the Caribbean" and simply drowns. The paper is soggy.

Will the average moviegoer swim alongside the continuing piratey adventures? Yeah, likely. But whether or not you'll like the movie depends on the skills of the swimmer to keep up with the roiling seas of plots and romance.

Here in this weekly roundup. I track the castaways, the shipwrecks, and attempt to chart the murky movie waters for fellow travelers who seek forgotten treasures or ghost ships and sail outside the shipping lanes. Some movies survive with spectacular skill, some smash against the waves and founder with spectacular doom.

Enough introductions - we're already underway.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the remake of Wes Craven's 1977 horror classic "The Hills Have Eyes" sailed into an alternate reality of the mutated nuclear family which takes revenge on the "normals" by feasting on flesh. The original ultra low-budget thriller almost seems like a seedy newsreel, with some tedious time ticking past until the mutant family forces brutal retaliation for a lost tourist family. The remake gets you there quicker, and also ramps up the blood and violence with terrific style. As in the original, Pacificism is manipulated by horror and fear and turns to primal rage.

Unlike most remakes, filmmaker Alexander Aja, born the year after the original came out, actually gets it right. He transfers intact all the ideas of the original and adds new details and has stunning make-up and effects work so the mutant cannibal family looks as real as the rocky barren landscape. DVD extras show the brilliant and somewhat hi-tech work the KNB EFX group did and will likely help inspire the next generation of movie magicians.

And a big hint here - note the movie is about the attack by mutant cannibals - that sound like a kid's movie to you? It isn't.

Some other news Horror fans will like - Eli Roth is at work on a sequel to "Hostel" and has been signed to direct Stephen King's recent zombie thriller "Cell".

Given the opening sea-going metaphors, the easiest and most cynical review I could provide for the DVD release of the science-fiction thriller "UltraViolet" starring model/actress Milla Jovovich is -- wait for it -- "Thar she blows!!!"

Writer/director Kurt Wimmer showed great technical skill in the highly derivative sci-fi "Equilibrium", and he really pushes the tech edge in "UltraViolet". Shot with high-def Sony cameras, coating the existing backgrounds of modern-day Shanghai with green screens, the movie is jaw-dropping eye candy.

The plot is inconsequential as the opening nearly 10 minute exposition by Jovovich tries to explain that somehow in the future a disease makes people into semi-vampires and she's a widow and the future is weird. Yeah, that takes about ten minutes for her to say. For true gut-crunching surreal nonsense, try watching the movie with her full-length commentary.

The violent killer that is usually referred to simply as "V" by her pals, poses with swords and guns which she has nanotechnologically loaded into infinity on her clothes. All kinds of throwaway tech is here, and the movie grabs bits of anime and goth and comics and blurs it all together in a day-glo Uber-Revlon Para Para commercial for .... I don't know what.

Wimmer has tech skill, no doubt. Now all he needs is a writer. And some actors.

Lost at sea now, mired in a strange silent fogbank we see on the horizon that the adaptation of Phillip K. Dick's "A Scanner Darkly" opens this weekend in limited release and should be in a theater near you in coming weeks.

The movie is fully faithful to the drug-zapped madness of Dick's book. Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is an undercover narcotics agent on the trail of a new drug, Substance D, and wears a constantly shifting visual exterior body mask while on the job. Off the job, he's a fellow drug addict with his friends (superb casting of Robert Downey Jr and Woody Harrelson). Then he gets assigned to track a new suspect - himself. He lives his undercover life and then goes to work and watches himself.

Director Richard Linklater has made the movie in a new rotoscoping animation, which adds to the cognitive dissonance of the story and the addictions and a world hidden within a world. There is no romantic vision of the addict onboard this ghost ship. There is despair and deep black comedy as all slowly sink into the abyss.

As critic J. Hoberman noted in his review, fellow sci-fi writer Stanislaw Lem said of Dick - he was a writer who "
does not so much play the part of a guide through his phantasmagoric worlds as he gives the impression of one lost in their labyrinth."

Fractured time and space and reality are hallmarks of his work. In the novel "Time Out of Joint," the lead character literally sees through the fake world he is in when the Ice Cream Stand at a local park dwindles to a piece of paper with the words "Ice Cream Stand" written on it.

Our voyage is not over, but we've reached a windless beach. The Cap'n says we'll sail again soon.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dollywood Diplomacy

The media mania that followed the diplomatic visit to Graceland from bona fide Elvis fan, Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, accompanied by President Bush and even Priscilla herself is both a little surreal and also a possible new approach to exporting/exploiting American ideals.

I'm sure Prime Minister Koizumi, who released his own CD of Elvis hits, has also seen "Mystery Train," where the lives of foreign tourists intersect in a Memphis hotel on their various pilgrimages to Graceland.

Lloyd Garver provides a rock-solid idea on a new kind of diplomacy in his most recent editorial:

Maybe this kind of diplomacy should be used more often. Let world leaders see both the silly and the awe-inspiring that make up America. There's bound to be some head of state who is just dying to see Dollywood.

"Take the leaders of Iran and North Korea. Maybe they're too embarrassed to admit it, but isn't it possible that they've always wanted to go to Disneyland or Disney World. What would it hurt to invite them for a tour? I'm sure they'll feel very indebted to us if we unilaterally say they don't have to wait in the long lines. And, cynically speaking, if they remain belligerent after several hours at the park, just make them go through that "Small World" ride a few dozen times. After hearing "It's A Small World After All" sung over and over, their minds will be so fried they'll agree to anything we ask of them."

Despite the fame of President Reagan's ballyhooed "tear down this wall", I think the real factors that brought down the Berlin Wall and dissolved the Soviet Union had far more to do with blue jeans and rock and roll -- it was the desire for American goods and style, a yearning for good times and not rations of toilet paper.

It's far more effective when troops arrive to distribute chocolate bars and toys and food and water, and when terrorists blow up families lined up to get those kinds of tangible goodies, then the message is clear and plain as to who the Good Guys are and who the Bad Guys are.

So maybe we should follow up the Graceland Summit (even coming so late in Koizumi's tenure) with a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Summit, a Dollywood Summit, a Bonnaroo Summit, a Universal Studios Tour Summit, and yes, why not a Stuckey's Summit?

The Mississippi Delta was shining
Like a national guitar

I am following the river

Down the highway

Through the cradle of the civil war

I'm going to graceland


In memphis tennessee

I'm going to graceland

Poorboys and pilgrims with families

And we are going to graceland

(NOTE: the picture above originated here.)

Ways the News Fails Us

Several comments on yesterday's post raise important questions, but answers are truly elusive. (And thanks to KnoxViews and Say Uncle for linking to the story.)

I too have heard much about large membership in the area for Klan and "other" extremist groups, but why are they tolerated here??

What type of brutish behavior could a disabled vet have presented to force police to taser him?? Was he threatening anyone? Will the same officials who called for this large deployment be the ones to investigate what occurred?

Other questions remain large - how much will all this deployment cost??

Is this town a smoldering fire awaiting violent eruption over racial issues?

If so, why is there little media attention paid to the issue?

As usual, the Knox media took no interest in the story, other than to report the official line, and no serious investigation or any followup has occurred. There was a brief mention on the FOX News program Hannity & Colmes, but they too simply smirked their way through this event in their "fair and balanced" format.

There are about 17 or 18 different nations which own and operate large companies in this county - Japan, Italy, Germany, and many more. Perhaps local officials wanted to present a fierce and hard opposition to the group who was protesting illegal immigration in order to assure all those investors that local government supports them and not the "others".

We certainly appear to be a community of conflicting viewpoints, and I am not endorsing conflict. But so much remains unspoken, and dissent seems to be forcibly repressed in an instant.

How ironic that a multi-county, state-supplied armed response is present but the most prominent comment is "Nothing to see here! Move along!"

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Morristown Rally Was Surrounded, Voices Silenced

A staggering amount of armed law enforcement, including the city of Morristown's use of an armored half-track, some high-tech Homeland Security equipment, a Knox County EMA Mobile Command vehicle, a THP Mobile Command Unit, a THP helicopter and more all focused their attentions on a very small rally held in Morristown on June 24th to protest illegal immigration.

County Commissioner Tom Lowe had received permission for this rally, and local news and area bloggers all reported on the event noting the tasering of a disabled vet charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Lowe and others have a website to document what actually happened that day citing the immense amount of intimidation they felt aimed in their direction. And despite fears of the local MPD that dangerous protestors would attend - it seems "they" did not attend, though some folks with actual tattoos were there.

Below are some pictures taken by event organizers, which show a huge armed law enforcement presence completely surrounding a cordoned off section of the county courthouse lawn -- and I can only imagine how large the cost of this deployment may actually be. Will the city charge the county for the cost? Will the state charge city or county?

Commissioner Lowe writes on the website there was a:

... a massive planned '“Over-Kill and overwhelming mass of “Homeland Security Toys'…..including an $ 800,000 Homeland Security Mobile Command Center with Satellite Communications & Digital Imaging, Critical Response Half-Track Tank, S.W.A.T. Teams in full body armor with loaded M-16 Rifles, Fire Trucks with unrolled hoses, K-9 Dog, Tenn. Highway Patrol (THP) Riot Squads ..."

The website has far more information to review. While you or I may disagree or agree with the viewpoints the participants attending this event wanted to express, it certainly appears their voices were silenced before they could even speak. Perhaps I am simply unaware of how dangerous this community has become, since we now need an armored urban police vehicle to maintain order.

Above pic shows the new armored vehicle

More pics here.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Consuming Mass Quantities

As Beldar Conehead used to say, "time to consume mass quantities".

And in the somewhat narrow (yet large) world of Competitive Eating, li'l Takeru Kobayashi has just claimed his sixth consecutive win at the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, gobbling down a new record of 53.75 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Takeru, from Japan, has owned this 4th of July contest easily for the last six years - in his first win, they actually had to start making up new placards on the spot as they had never had anyone eat more than 40 of the wieners. And he only weighs 160 pounds.

The event began in 1916 when Jim Mullen won the contest by eating 13 hot dogs.

The event has been aired live on ESPN for the last few years and many were expecting an California dude named Joey Chestnut who set a new record for an American, devouring 52 of Nathan's Famous dogs. But it wasn't enough to best Takeru.

Takeru also has a record of eating 17.7 pounds of pan-seared cow brains to win $25,000.

There are records aplenty among the Eaters - take Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas, who hold the female record for Nathan's at 37 dogs, the previous overall record for an American.

The International Federation of Competitive Eating
(IFOCE) has a large menu of events and records to peruse, should you hunger for more information on this .... uh ... sport.

I was somewhat impressed as well with the achievement of Kate Stelnick, a 115-pound sophomore in college who, in 2005 devoured what's known as Ye Olde 96er at Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in 2 hours and 54 minutes - making her the first person to ever down the burger in less than the 3-hour time limit set by Denny's Pub.

That's 8 pounds of burger, 12 slices of cheese, an onion, half a head of lettuce, copious condiments, and a special bun which brings the total weight of this puppy to 11 pounds.

So remember, you'd have a heck of a long long way to go to match these Mass Quantity Consumers no matter how much you overeat on this particular holiday.

The Revolution of Independence

The concept of Independence from Tyranny remains as revolutionary an idea today as when the founders of this nation declared their independence in 1776.

So much history and so many events are murky or forgotten, but a rather comprehensive account can be found at the American Revolution Home Page.

Some facts from that site include:

The Americans of 1776 had the highest standard of living and lowest taxes in the Western World. Farmers, lawyers and business owners in the Colonies were thriving, with some plantation owners and merchants making the equivalent of $500,000 a year. Times were good for many others too. (The vast majority of business owners and professionals were white males.) The British wanted a slice of the cash flow and tried to tax the Colonists. They resisted violently, convinced that their prosperity and their liberty were at stake.
There were two Boston tea parties. Everyone knows how 50 or 60 "Sons of Liberty," disguised as Mohawks, protested the 3 cents per pound British tax on tea by dumping chests of the popular drink into Boston Harbor on Dec. 16, 1773. Fewer know that the improper Bostonians repeated the performance on March 7, 1774. The two tea parties cost the British around $3 million in modern money.
By 1779, as many as one in seven Americans in Washington's army was black. At first, Washington was hesitant about enlisting blacks. But when he heard they had fought well at Bunker Hill, he changed his mind. The all-black First Rhode Island Regiment - composed of 33 freedmen and 92 slaves who were promised freedom if they served until the end of the war - distinguished itself in the Battle of Newport. Later, they were all but wiped out in a British attack.
There were women in the Continental Army, even a few who saw combat. Probably the best known is Mary Ludwig Hays, nicknamed "Molly Pitcher." She replaced her wounded husband at his cannon during the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. Another wife of an artillery man, Margaret Corbin, was badly wounded serving in her husband's gun crew at the Battle of Harlem heights in 1776. Thousands of other woman served in Washington's army as cooks or nurses.
By 1779, there were more Americans fighting with the British than with Washington. There were no less than 21 regiments (estimated to total 6500 to 8000 men) of loyalists in the British army. Washington reported a field army of 3468. About a third of Americans opposed the Revolution.
At Yorktown, the victory that won the war, Frenchmen outnumbered Americans almost three to one. Washington had 11,000 men engaged in the battle, while the French had at least 29,000 soldiers and sailors. the 37 French ships-of-the-line played a crucial role in trapping the 8700-strong British army and winning the engagement.
In one key respect Jefferson used Natural Law instead of natural-rights theory, substituting "the pursuit of happiness" for "property" in the trinity of inalienable rights. In this change, derived from the Swiss legal philosopher Emerich de Vattel, he emphasized public duty rather than (as the language seems to indicate) personal choice, for natural law theory is that happiness is attainable only by diligent cultivation of civic virtue. Two passages in Jefferson's draft were rejected by the Congress -- an intemperate reference to the English people and a scathing denunciation of the slave trade. The document was otherwise adopted without significant change, and formal signing by 56 members of Congress began on Aug. 2, 1776.

And if you wish to celebrate by blasting away with fireworks, you can simply click on this link, then crank up the volume and click away with your mouse for endless and non-flammable explosive fun.

As for me, Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!

(NOTE: Apparently I should add Give Me A Spellcheck)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bloggers Under Military Watch

I received an email this weekend which detailed a relatively new program as part of the apparently endless War on Terror, which says that the U.S. Dept. of Defense has decided that blogs and bloggers are now under watch.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research has received funding to begin a study of blogs in order to:

"Dr. Brian E. Ulicny, senior scientist, and Dr. Mieczyslaw M. Kokar, president, Versatile Information Systems Inc., Framingham, Mass. said ... 'It can be challenging for information analysts to tell what'’s important in blogs unless you analyze patterns.'

"Patterns include the content of the blogs as well as what hyperlinks are contained within the blog."

This new program is part of an overall program created since 9-11 which has been dubbed "Transformation".

Of course, there is much understandable wisdom in a philosophy of action aimed at modernizing military operations, and in the last year or so, a serious effort has been made to target blogs and bloggers to provide information which may be incomplete or, in their minds, incorrect.

The concept is large in scope and is steadily working to provide levels of modernization involving everything from MREs to nanotechnologies.

Drawing quite a bit of attention from onlookers, Staff Sgt. Robert Atkinson, of Natick's Future Warrior Concepts Lab, represented what soldiers may look like several decades from now.

Wearing a black padded suit and black helmet, he said, "I've been called everything from Darth Vader to RoboCop and the character from the Halo video games."

The prototype suit, though generations away in development, is a visionary project of the Future Force Warrior project and the Future Combat System program.

The helmet system for the suit will have a tiny computer system and monitor that will keep soldiers in contact with commanders; it also will have thermal night vision goggles.

But most amazing, Atkinson said, researchers are looking to use "nanotechnology" on the uniform to give soldiers superhuman strength. Electrical impulses sent to the human muscles will provide soldiers with extra strength, he said."

I'm all for a prepared military so we don't have to hear about celebrities like Cher raising money for armor for personnel or reports of equipment lacking in proper defenses.

What I am less sure about is the trolling of blogs for data collection.

Reality Me has a post about this topic today as well and comes to the same question I had - couldn't they just use Technorati for such informational opportunities? At least the information about the program is easily available to those who bother to seek it out. (hat tip to CSW for the info)

The Most Popular Blog Post In The World

Of all the blogs and blog topics in the world, I have inadvertently stumbled upon the most sought after information in all the internets. My initial discovery I simply dismissed as one of those momentary oddities, like the brief popularity of that web site that featured semi-clothed Barbie dolls engaged in lascivious activities, or like the video of that nerdy guy providing a history of white people dancing, or the omnipresent pleas from some Nigerian businessman e-spamming every inbox in the world.

It isn't some petition demanding Congress promote or prevent some heinous legislation. It isn't a picture of some celebrity giving birth in a Third World nation under the watchful protection of an army of Scientologists under orders to create a three-acre Zone of Silence during said childbirth.

It isn't the surreptitious download from a cell phone camera of a nameless student/employee/elected official caught in the act of a private and/or personal nature. It isn't even the latest conspiratorial scoop from pundits of the Instant variety. Or even just plain porn.

The evidence supplied by the statistics provided by the Site Meter application here reveals that nearly all of eastern and southern Australia, much of the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Germany, Spain, Uzbekistan, India, Madagascar, Japan, Canada and all 50 states and additional territories of our great nation all point to a ravenous hunger for one thing and one thing only - pictures of Cats That Look Like Hitler.

(I was even compelled to followup with a second post.)

Certainly I was befuddled (but in a nice way) to realize that millions of people made time to view or link to Cats In Sinks, or The Daily Kitten, or just submitted pictures of Stuff on Cats.

But, dear reader, I am at an utter and complete loss to understand A.) why anyone would want to put tiny nazi clothes on a cat, B.) take pictures of it and C.) find that the majority of the civilized world which does not adorn their cats thusly STILL want to see images of cats thus adorned.

Since my first link to said page in mid-June, traffic here has been beyond the ken of mortal man. Naturally, I am most grateful for each and every visit. But no Technorati tag nor diatribe of the evils of Ann Coulter or the NYTimes or even detailed accounts of Brittney Spears baby-dropping can touch the importance, the insatiable desire, the relentless onslaught of web seekers for felines in the clothes of a brutal military regime.

So if you are a blogger who wonders if or when or how readers will seek your posts with rabid determination, then your choice is obvious:

The Holy Grail is made of Cats.