In these days of unending re-makes and "re-imaginings"; of sequels and prequels and spin-offs; of absolutely relentless cinematic regurgitation, I would much rather watch an attempt to do something original than something I’ve seen a hundred times before under a hundred different names – even if, in the end, that attempt trips over its own aspirations and falls flat on its face in the mud – as is the case with The Heretic.
Talking Point Memo has an interesting discussion of one news organization's handling of allegations of voter fraud in the highly contentious South Dakota Senate race. According to the story, reporters for one TV news station who apparently have ties to John Thune's campaign have been employing some questionable tactics, and were subsequently yanked from the story. Josh semes to have to goods; check it out.
According to CNN, although the number of unscheduled days off taken by US employees has remained relatively stable, employees are increasing taking sick days for reasons other than illness. Examples include stress or family commitments. The study's authors speculated that the 9/11 terrorist attacks have caused workers to rethink their priorities.
"I think it's a change in mentality that says the job is important ... but that I have another priority in my life and I have to fit that in," said Lori Rosen, an analyst with CCH, a Riverwoods, Illinois-based business information publisher.
Although the number of unscheduled says off hasn't increased, the costs of such days have, according to the survey. Although employers weren't asked for the reasons for the increase, speculation included rising health care insurance costs, and the trend among employers to keep payrolls lean, with just enough workers to get business done. That leaves companies less able to replace workers when they're absent, and sometimes forces employers to call in a substitute. Simple math also dictates that workers' increasing productivity results in an increased cost when they aren't around.
Some companies are recognizing this reality by offering "personal days" or allowing employees to accrue paid time off instead of adhering to the narrow definition of "sick days." This approach gives the advantage of letting employees schedule days off in advance, saving their employers the expense of last-minute arrangements.
It's the magic of the marketpace at work, that's all.
I thought I'd read something about this yesterday but couldn't find it again, but this WaPo story again reports that the Bush administration withheld the information about North Korea's nuclear admission while Congress was debating the Iraq resolution, informing only key members of Congress (at least they did that). Plus, in marked contrast with his policy toward Iraq, Bush wants to settle this situation diplomatically, and officials say they are keeping their options open.
I dunno...this whole Korea situation casts into stark light just what a big, fresh, steaming pile of bovine excrement the Administration's stance on Iraq really is. And the tragedy is, I actually believe that Iraq needs to be dealt with, but it's simply impossible to give the Bushies any credibility at all anymore.
One more thing...the surprise nature of this statement once again highlights our desperate need for top-flight intelligence. Apparently our intelligence agencies were tipped off when North Korea sought rare metals used in constructing nuclear weapons, and North Korean officials made their admission when confronted with this information. But no one seems to know jsut how advanced the NK nuclear weapons program is or how many bombs they may or may not have.
I'd like to take this opportunity to express my deepest sympathy to Alex "Musashi" Mayo, the editor-in-chief of Destroy All Monsters, whose sister-in-law died suddenly a week ago. Although we've been in touch throughout this difficult week, Alex posted a notice of the tragedy on his site this morning, so I wanted to mention it here as well.
Alex, my family is sorry for your loss and keeping you and your loved ones in our thoughts.
I downloaded today's wallpaper for last Halloween and no longer remember where it came from. It's a cutscene from the classic Capcom survival horror game Resident Evil, from early in the game when the payer interrupts a zombie at its...meal.
The treacherous Dr. Freex, aka Freeman Williams, is your host at The Bad Movie Report. Williams knows whereof he speaks when he dissects bad movies, because he had a hand in making one himself! He wrote the screenplay for the ambitious but flawed low-budget horror flick Forever Evil. On his site, Dr. Freex shares his experiences in making (and appearing in!) the film. It's truly educational reading, especially for viewers who are certain they could make a better movie than the ones they see (the moral is, maybe you can, if the budget and shooting schedule allow it).
According to this recent ZDNet article, spam contiunes to be a growing problem, with as much as 17% of all Internet email traffic consisting of junk messages. I hear that--I have been absolutely flooded with spam in the last two weeks or so, to the tune of some 30 or more bogus messages a day. Grrr.
I'd read Counterspin Central's take on Jeb Bush's recent statement that his daughter Noelle must deal with her own drug problems, and while I was too busy to do much blogging, I took note of it for a later disagreement. Today I find that Dodd and Susanna have beaten me to it, but here I go with my two yen's worth.
I have absolutely no problem with Bush's recent statement. Jeb Bush is a politician, and I think it's fair to assume that some political calculus was involved, but I see no reason to assume that his statement was anything other than heartfelt and the result of a very difficult family situation. Indeed, one of my objections to the entire Noelle saga is the perception it created that somehow Ms. Bush is receiving lighter-than-usual sentences that most people caught up in what I see as a futile and poorly managed war on drugs enjoy, and one that's in marked contrast with the Governor's own tough-on-crime rhetoric. In recent developments, Noelle Bush was sentenced to ten days in jail for violating the terms of her probation. She will be allowed to resume drug treatment after the jail stay. Ten days in jail is no day at the beach, but it does make one wonder if a third chance at treatment would be the standard offering for anyone charged with repeated drug offenses.
Many comments on Dodd's and Susanna's posts pointed out the pain of having a family member who's addicted to drugs, and I certainly share the sentiments. I found Governor Bush's earlier declaration that Noelle's alleged crack possession was a private matter when Florida law clearly defines it as a crime to be inconsistent at best with his hardline public stance on drugs, if not downright hypocritical. But the point is that Bush seems to believe--and I gather from comments left on Susanna's and Dodd's blogs that at least some on the right agree--that drug addiction is indeed a personal problem best dealt with by treatment, with the very real prospect of punishment if the addict does not make the effort. I couldn't agree more with that stance; it just makes sense that the best approaches usually involve both a carrot and a stick. My problem is with bogus and fruitless laws like mandatory sentencing that let a legislator (of whatever party) proclaim that he or she is "tough on crime" but that come with a slew of unintended consequences, especially when they are unevenly applied. I may not support Jeb Bush politically, but I can certainly sympathize with his personal difficulties an hope that it has some enlightening effect on his policies.
Caleb Carr has an interesting column in today's WaPo speculating that the D.C. area sniper might be a terrorist after all. He notes, as Susanna of Cut on the Bias has, that the shooter doesn't seem to fit any of the gernerally accepted categories of multiple murderer. Carr does, however, see consistency with the patterns used by international terrorsts (for example, a well-planned escape route). Personally I'm surprised there's a controversy--to some degree at least, the shootings are terrorism; they certainly have struck fear into the area residents. I don't, however, buy the notion that it has to be international terrorism...as Timothy McVey and others have proved, we're unfortunately capable of growing outr own.
Coincidence department: I'm almost finished reading Carr's novel The Alienist, which imagines the application of the then-fledgling field of psychology to the hunt for a serial killer in later-19th-century New York.
The Bush administration's efforts to cut off funds for international terrorism are destined to fail until it confronts Saudi Arabia, whose leaders have tolerated some of its wealthy citizens raising millions of dollars a year for al Qaeda, according to a new report from an influential foreign policy organization.
The report from the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, scheduled for release today, contends that the administration must pressure the Saudis -- as well as other governments -- to crack down on terror financing, even at the risk of sparking a public backlash that could jeopardize the Saudi government.
"It is worth stating clearly and unambiguously what official U.S. government spokespersons have not," the report notes. "For years, individuals and charities based in Saudi Arabia have been the most important source of funds for al Qaeda, and for years the Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem."
As, apparently, has the Bush administration (and, to be fair, its predecessors). One of the persistent lies arguments you hear from the Iraq hawks--including Bush himself--is that the war against Saddam is somehow connected with the war on terror, and that certainly the neocon hawks' obsession with Iraq wouldn't interfere with the pursuit of al Qaeda. But given that the Administration is going to need the Saudis' cooperation, or at least neutrality, for their pet war, one would be safe in assuming that US pressure on the Saudis to crack down on Islamist financing isn't going to happen any time soon. If that were the case, make no mistake about it, Administration policy would be sacrificing the war on terror for its long-desired rematch with Saddam.
It couldn't be simpler. The Administration has succeeded in convincing Americans that Iraq remains a threat, and by any realistic assessment, to some degree it is. But Americans quite wisely evaluate terrorism as a greater threat. The Administration has been far from honest about its priorities, and needs to make a more convincing case that invading Iraq is more important--to American security, not to the neocons' wish list--than the hobbling of al Qaeda.
North Korea admits having pursued nuclear weapons devleopment in violation of international agreements (more here, here, and here). I haven't had time to digest all these stories yet, but there's no doubt that this revelation poses another major foreign policy crisis just at the Administration is gearing up to get its long-desired war on with Iraq. But it seems that under the policy made clear by the Administration hawks, the path couldn't be clearer. Given that:
North Korea was listed by Bush as a member of the trilateral "axis of evil"
North Korea is, along with Iraq, on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism
North Korea's government has pursued policies resulting the deaths of untold numbers of people from famine
North Korea is developing nuclear weapons in violation of international agreements
And hey, just for chuckles, they're still Communists, after all
...by the hawks' logic, we have no choice but to go to war with Korea right now. Right?
Not much time to blog so far today (which is a pity, because I have a good half-dozen new links sitting on my desktop), but I did want to mention The Mutant Reviewers from Hell. It's a group of young reviewers who've looked at hundreds of movies and give their opinions, singly and collectively. They've even watched The Doom Generation so you don't have to. For your convenience, they also group their film reviews by category, including scary movies. Well worth checking out.
30 years ago, a group of rugby players from the South American nation of Uraguay were traveling to Chile for a match when their airplane crashed in the Andes mountains. After 72 days in the frozen mountains, only 16 survived; their ordeal was documented in a well-known book and movie. This past weekend, 14 members of the team reunited for a match against the Chilean squad they would have played 30 years ago--and won, 28-11.
Ignore the Internet: If you can't imagine any way of making money on-line, then no one else can either. Act surprised when the Internet starts to carry multimedia. Cry, "Who knew?" and insist the whole multimedia thing was invented only to ruin your business.
Be sanctimonious: Claim to be more concerned about the artists than about your profits. You are selfless; your only interest is paying the musicians, without whom you would be nothing. Pray that nobody remembers countless rockers who signed away their souls on recording contracts and were dumped the moment their sales started slipping.
Misunderstand your market: When you count the songs being swapped on peer-to-peer networks, do not notice that most are moldy oldies. It's still theft, you argue, even if you yourself stopped paying royalties for those songs in 1961. Blame piracy, not taste, for your inability to sell new songs that no radio station will play.
Lie: Go on Kazaa, count the MP3 versions of songs you produced, old and new, and multiply that number by the current retail price of a CD; howl that you are losing a fortune. Forget that a Buddy Holly album sold for $2.95 in 1958; you sell records for much more now, and that's the price you use when calculating your losses — it's more impressive.
Kill it: Hollywood failed to make the VCR illegal, but you're going to succeed with peer-to-peer technology. Spend millions on lawyers to sue Napster and Scour into oblivion. Sure, paying lawyers has suddenly become more important than paying your artists, but so what? Hedge your bets by setting up your own Web site, offering songs that aren't selling well in stores. When your e-business proves to be less than a thundering success, blame it on the pirates — meaning all your customers.
Attack of the Tweety Zombies is a fun game on the official Looney Tunes site. It seems that Sylvester has finally offed his old nemesis Tweety, except the little bird now keeps coming back from the grave! The player steers Sylvester around to stomp on the Tweety zombies and duck flying bats.
The two-part device made by a company called Veridian records the offender's location once per minute. At night, the wearer places the device in a docking port that recharges the battery and uploads the wearer's movement to a database. The wearer's locations are then checked against any crimes that occurred that day; if the wearer was found to be in the vicinity of a reported crime, police are notfied via email. A locked ankle bracelet sounds an alarm to local authorities if the GPS receiver is removed more than 120 feet from the offender.
"The real goal here is behavior modification," said Gary Yates, the company's director of advanced public safety programs. "This tool removes the opportunity and anonymity of crime."
Seminole County in Florida is using VeriTracks to monitor pre-trial suspects, and the offenders are required to pay the $6-a-day service fee themselves as a condition of their bond, said Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger.
"It's either wear the GPS device or go to jail," Eslinger said. "Most of them find this much more advantageous than sitting in a cold jail cell, and it also saves us between $45 and $55 a day."
I just added a section at left in which I'll list my favorite posts. Although it currently only has a couple of entries, one of them is an index I've created of all the Halloween-related posts I've done this month. Enjoy!
But it doesn't exactly feel like a great debate is under way. There's been more passion about the last-minute Torricelli withdrawal than about anything the candidates are arguing over in New Jersey, or any other state for that matter.
You'd hardly guess that control of both houses of Congress is at stake.
The reasons aren't hard to divine. Sound bites are easy. Fixing Social Security is hard. Attack ads are easy. Closing huge budget deficits, when everyone is afraid to talk about taxes, is hard. Empty rhetoric is easy. Ensuring health coverage for 40 million uncovered Americans is hard.
Once upon a time, the media might have helped fill the gap. News organizations might have run pieces and editorials demanding specific answers from the candidates on pressing issues. Where are the White House correspondents demanding that Bush talk about something other than Iraq?
I got a kind email from the author of The Chilicheeze Weblog declaring that due to time constraints, it's on semi-permanent hiatus and inviting me to remove it from my blogroll, which I have done. But while I was monkeying with the permalinks, I took the opportunity to add Armed Liberal, Blog Left, and Cooped Up. I also added Joe Bob Briggs' The Joe Bob Report to the Recommended list.
I got another one of those Nigerian scam emails this morning. It reads typically enough (Note: the following is verbatim; any errors are in the original)...
I am the first son of the late JOSEPH (DÉSIRÉ) MOBUTU, the former President of the ZAIRE now democratic republic of congo .
I am presently on political asylum in Nigeria . I got your contact over the internet during my search for a assistance in this mutual transaction.this became neccessary as i do not want anybody known to me to be associated with this money. I want you to note that this business will benefit both of us and that it is 100% risk free. However, you must confirm your ability to handle this because it involves a large amount of money. The funds THIRTY SEVEN MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS ($37million)is my share of my father's estate. I boxed and shipped the money to a security company abroad at the peak of the a political uprising that rocked my country few years ago. Now the crisis has ended , I need a trustworthy person like you to proceed to the place of the security company in order to clear the fund and afterwards,i will come to your country for us to start a joint business venture as i do not have the intention of bringing the funds back to africa for a very long time.
Note that I will send to you the relevant documents that will enable you take possession of the fund for onward investment for our mutual benefit. All I need from you is as follows:
1. Your confirmation of your ability to handle this.
2. Your word that you will keep this business as confidential as possible at all times until we conclude this business.
3. Your telephone and fax numbers for communication.
4. Your full permanent address.
As soon as I get the above information from you, I will disclose to you the name and the country of the security company. i will also forward to you the contact of the diplomat that i have hired to assist us in this business.i will also forward your name and particulars to the security company to enable them contact you accordingly. As we make progress,i will also send to you a LETTER OF AUTHORITY and AGREEMENT LETTER to enable you clear the fund on my behalf. Note that this is a very safe transaction as this funds is my share of my father's estate.
I am waiting for your response to enable us proceed. PLEASE REPLY THROUGH THE ABOVE ALTERNATIVE MAIL BOX;[deleted]
Nzanga JOSEPH (DÉSIRÉ) MOBUTU
So what makes this email different from most other Nigerian spam? The fact that this person--who refers to confidentiality--neglected to hide the other 1,499 email addresses to which he sent this message. Indeed, the message header is much longer than the message itself; it comprises nearly 8 of the 10 pages it'd take to print the message.
Somehow I doubt I'll be responding to this any time soon...
Pants Pants Revolution is a different kind of Web comic: it's generated by pairing randomly selected avatars with snippets of conversation gathered by a bot from the conversations in a chat room. Here's what the site has to say about how it works:
Pants Pants Revolution is an experiment in automated humor. The strips are generated by a bot that sits on the Subnova Hotline server. Every 30 to 60 minutes, it starts recording the chat. When it gets enough text, it will compile a strip with random avatars (some users have permanent avatars) for each speaker. Each of these strips is then archived. Members of Subnova can then rate each strip for its humor content. The archives can then be filtered by humor levels.
...as well as this disclaimer:
This system is by no means perfect, and non-funny strips will be common. However, there are also some downright hysterical strips that manage to pop up.
Given that intelligence is one of the most vital weapons in the struggle against terrorism, the Bush Administration's mishandling of its intelligence assets raises serious questions about its competence to pursue terrorists and protect Americans from another strike.
Today's ZDNet AchnorDesk column was devoted to the infamous Nigerian spam emails that seem to crop up in my inbox on a weekly basis. Columnist David Coursey noted that while his audience of Internet-savvy users might quickly dismiss the email as a scam, people do get suckered to the tune of a reported US$150 million--and that's just what's been reported. Coursey also cited reports that some have even lost their lives when they traveled to Africa to "pick up the money," a development I hadn't heard before (and unfortunately the email Coursey quoted didn't offer attribution). One poster to the comment thread directed readers to his Web site, International Investigation Services, which maintains a database of the so-called 419 scams.
Scott Adams and Keith Allison at Teleport City have reviewed a number of horror movies--mostly Italian zombie and giallo flicks, Japanese creepiness, kung-fu zombie craziness, and a couple of bad slasher films. It's great reading and an interesting look at some different kinds of cinematic horror.
In Indianapolis alone, 7 billion gallons a year are discharged into waterways from 134 overflow points, causing bacteria levels in city waterways to exceed safe levels six months out of the year.
We live reasonably close to Pleasant Run, a small creek that flows through Ellenberger Park. Its scenic value is marred, however, by prominent signs warning of sewage contamination that admonish people not to drink or wade in the water.