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halloween 2003 roundup (coming soon)
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the future of online gaming
star wars cereal review
japanese culture link of the day (12/6/2002)
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  xFriday, November 22, 2002


Last Thursday I donated platelets; it was my second donation here in Indianapolis. (This time I brought my own movie, Dark City.) Today's mail brought an unexpected but welcome thank-you gift: A book of movie passes to AMC Theaters (plus a coupon for a free small popcorn), which I could use the next time I go to Castleton Arts (where I caught Spirited Away earlier this week). How nice!


quotes of the day

William Burton has an excellent roundup. My fave: "Those who oppose all reform will do well to remember that ruin in its worst form is inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few and the triumph in both parties and business of a sordid and selfish materialism." (Theodore Roosevelt)


canine link of the day

I head about this last night on NPR...scientists studying the DNA of domestic dogs believe they have pinpointed where humans and dogs first began their mutually beneficial living arrangement--East Asia. Another study shows that dogs understand human gestures better than chimpanzees, the likely result of selective breeding.

(via War Liberal)


swank retro shopping site of the day

...with a name that invokes redheads, yet. Retro Redheads offers vintage linens and dinnerware to give your kitchen, dining room and bar a kitchy makeover.

(via Very Big Blog)


straight to the art of the matter

Kevin Drum of CalPundit takes issue with a Guardian article that scoffs at the late Princess Diana's taste in music, finding it too pedestrian. ("To the end of her life, Diana's tastes were not just middle-aged but horribly underachieving - and they seem to have come to a juddering halt around the time of Live Aid in 1985." Hey, you have a problem with '80s pop?). Drum rejoins:
...people who think that it's sophisticated to make snarky remarks about someone else's taste in books, or popular music, or movies, or whatnot, need to grow up.

I have always found this tedious even in casual conversation, but it's especially snobby (or anti-snobby as the case may be) when you see it in print, where someone obviously had time to think it through and decided to say it anyway. Antonin Scalia is a huge opera buff, but this doesn't make him a worthy person. Oprah Winfrey has middlebrow taste, but this doesn't make her a bad person, regardless of what Norah Vincent and Jonathan Franzen may think.

The art police ought to stay in their caves, where they belong, and leave the rest of us alone to enjoy our lives.

Amen, brother. Personally, while I think I have refined enough taste to distinguish quality (yet another reason I don't go to movies much any more), I revel in any number of things some might consider questionable taste: Japanese pop music, Mickey Spillane novels, Speed Racer, Golan-Globus movies, The Go-Go's, kaiju flicks (hey, I even liked Godzilla's Revenge), lava lamps, Ed Wood movies, Italian zombie films, Dean Martin records, comic books, old computer games, punk rock, chop-socky films, and much more. Anyone who has a beef with that doesn't have to read this Web log, and many do indeed take that path. That's fine. But I don't apologize for my tastes to anyone.

If this snooty Brit writer wants to write a haughty diatribe against my frequent departures from highbrow culture, she's welcome. But I betcha I'm having a lot more fun than she is.

(via Eschaton)


gummint regulation

Singaporeans are now allowed to chew gum...provided they have a prescription. The substance was banned ten years ago as part of somewhat draconian anti-litter ordnances, but the population is evidently "more mature about their civic responsibilities," so the stricture has been relaxed as part of a trade deal with the U.S., which no doubt hopes to supply Singapore's citizens chewing gum needs.

(via Destroy All Monsters)


deepest sympathies

In addition to running his fine political blog Daily Kos, Kos has been keeping track of his wife's first pregnancy on an alternate site.

Alas, his wife has just miscarried (more at fishyshark). I can only imagine the pain the couple must be feeling, but I've had occasion to imagine it pretty vividly. When my lovely bride was pregnant with our second girl, she experienced some difficulty that tinged the joyful expectation with a higher-than-usual dose of worry. Happily for us, everything turned out just wonderfully, and we have an adorable 17-month-old girl
naomi joy
as well as her delightful imp of a three-year-old sister.
cecilia hope
My deep sympathies go out do Kos and his wife. I've left a message of sorrow and support on the comment thread; please do so as well if you feel inclined.


oh swell

Imagine my surprise to note a sudden spike in my hits today--more than 200 and counting, well above the 50 or so I get on a typical day. Eagerly I check my referral log--did one of my favorite bloggers link to me? No; just that my mention of a certain adult video company that recently filmed a video in an IU dorm is propelling Google hits aplenty (I'm freakin' fifth in the search rankings!). Sheesh.

In related news, IU has warned said pr0n-video-company not to use the unversity's name or logo in connection with marketing the video, that story being the present sixth-ranked Google hit.

  xThursday, November 21, 2002

interesting referral log info

This humble blog is fourth in Google's rankings for "l33t anime gallery girl", right after Web comic Mac Hall.


retro game geek link of the day

C00L! A Web site by Tom Wham (if memory serves me right, his name rhymes with "bomb"), the designer of great little mini-games that used to appear in the pages of Dragon magazine, like Snit's Revenge and The Awful Green Things from Outer Space, which has apparently been reissued by Steve Jackson Games! Somewhere in my basement I still have the boxed editions of those...

(via MetaFilter--you have my gratitude!)

Update: Per the discussion on MetaFilter, I also still have my copy of Ace of Aces (although video games like Red Baron sort of made it lose its luster) and Car Wars, and at one time I owned the issue of Dragon that came with Food Fight.


inventor remembered

This is sad....first James Coburn, and now Dr. Earl Warrick, the inventor of Silly Putty, dead at 91.

(via FARK)


required reading

Andrew Hagan has a lengthy critique of Bush's plan to privatize many government services.



doom 3 screenshot
Here's a report of an E3 preview of id Software's upcoming Doom 3: The Legacy. c00L--I can't wait!

(via Counterspin Central)


sully explains it all

Of course, of course! Andrew Sullivan sums up the reason for Bush's, um, disingenuousness in a recent column: If Bush were honest about his agenda, his policies wouldn't get enacted.
Yes, some of the time he is full of it on his economic policies. But a certain amount of B.S. is necessary for any vaguely successful retrenchment of government power in an insatiable entitlement state. ...Bush and Karl Rove are no dummies. They have rightly judged that, in a culture of ineluctable government expansion, where every new plateau of public spending is simply the baseline for the next expansion, a rhetorical smoke screen is sometimes necessary.

Of course. I understand now.

(via Eschaton via Spinsanity)


oliver's army

Since the mid-term elections, there has been much opinion offered in various quarters as to what the Democrats should do to broaden their appeal. (My own two cents: Running as "Republican Lite" clearly didn't work, but letting Republicans be Republicans for the next two years, in my opinion, should ultimately help the Dems.) I think I like Oliver Willis' suggestion best, though.

christina aguilera

Update: In all seriousness, I like Andrew Hagen's proposals too.


p.l.a. weighs in

Dwight Meredith wonders what would happen if the "liberal" media held Dubya to the same standard as it does Gore, who is of course "reinventing himself" once again as he reemerges onto the national stage. After all, "the ['liberal,' don't y'all forget! --ed.] media established consistency and truthfulness as the criteria for measuring a presidential candidate. If a candidate does not tell the truth, he or she has a character flaw that should disqualify them from the Presidency. Similarly, by the media’s criteria, the shifting of positions and “reinventing” of oneself is a character flaw that should disqualify a person from office."

His conclusion? "In one respect, the media’s coverage of the 2000 campaign was spot on. One candidate really does have a problem telling the truth and is constantly reinventing himself. There was just one little problem of mistaken identity."

But don't just take my word for it...Dwight spotlights numerous inconsistencies in Bush's positions.


mfinley explains it all

Michael Finley has a concise summary on how to be a right-wing pundit.

(via Seeing the Forest)


the responsibility president

Eleanor Clift has more on Bush's tendency toward impreciseness, flights of fancy, or whatever the "liberal" media wants to call it to avoid portraing his statements as the falsehoods they are.’s not true that Bush is a man of his word. He has shimmied and shifted in lots of areas, including Iraq, manipulating language the way Clinton did and exaggerating in the same way that he once pilloried Gore for doing.

Even though there is no credible evidence linking the Iraqi president to the 9-11 attacks, Bush persists in suggesting on the campaign trail that Saddam might use Al Qaeda as his “forward army.” Polls show that two thirds of Americans believe Saddam was behind 9-11, a useful myth irresponsibly fed by Bush. The president said in a speech last month that Saddam is experimenting with unmanned drones capable of reaching the United States with weapons of mass destruction. When confronted with the geographical improbability of such a feat, a White House spokesman countered that the drones could be launched from ships. Unless Iraq has an aircraft carrier we don’t know about, that scenario is equally implausible.

But Bush carries on, his reputation for honesty and integrity unchallenged and his image as a plainspoken Texan touted at every turn by his loyal followers. Another case in point is the battle over the proposed Department of Homeland Security. Bush initially had no interest in a big reorganization, probably with justification. It’s a mammoth undertaking; it would take years to accomplish and the payoff in terms of making the country safer is questionable. Yet Bush embraced the idea when the war on terrorism was faltering, and when the legislation stalled in the Senate he saw an opportunity to link national security with Democrats holding up the bill. He could have reached agreement some time ago on the personnel issue blocking its passage, but instead he held out because he knew it would force Democrats to resist him and either look unpatriotic or turn on their base—the federal unions whose job protections are in dispute.

Compared with taking the country to war based on a body of lies, Bush’s duplicity on domestic issues doesn’t seem as egregious, but the pattern is disturbing. On the budget, he has managed (or mismanaged) the biggest fiscal reversal in the country’s history. Part of the loss of revenue is the result of 9-11 and the recession, but Bush has totally abdicated his responsibility in steering the country out of the financial mess. His response is to gloss over the $300 billion loss from the balance sheet, pick a fight with Congress over a symbolic $13 billion appropriations bill and then claim he’s fiscally responsible.

There is hardly an issue where Bush hasn’t pulled a fast one. The rules he announced with great fanfare this week to make it easier to move generic drugs onto the market were passed by the Senate in July. Bush opposed them then; now with polls showing voters think he hasn’t done enough on domestic issues, he’s flipped.

How does he get away with such crass duplicity? The media doesn’t want to disturb the story line. Gore was the prevaricator; Bush was intellectually challenged. So when Bush fiddles with the facts, the media doesn’t see malevolence. They see a man who’s not articulate, who doesn’t speak with lawyerly precision.

Folks, Bush ran on a platform of character, responsibility, and integrity. In effect, one of his campaign pldeges was honesty, which means that when Bush is (frequently) dishonest, he's being doubly so: he's lying, and he's belying his promise not to lie. And the "liberal" media plays along.

(via History News Network)


asian obesity standards revised

asami katsuragi
Obese? Japanese model Asami Katsuragi doesn't seem to have much to worry about, but slender-looking Asians may still suffer obesity-related health problems

Scientists are reporting an increasing incidence of obesity-related health problems among slender-looking Asian pople. According to CNN, a measuring standard known as the Body Mass Index (BMI), which compares the ratio of body fat to a person's size, is not suitable for Asians, who genrally have a smaller body frame. As a result, Asians with an acceptable BMI may actually have too much body fat for ideal health.
To help doctors prevent obesity-related ailments, the World Health Organization established in 1997 a body mass index standard, calculated by dividing a person's weight in pounds by height in inches, dividing again by height in inches and multiplying by 703.

A normal weight is a BMI of less than 25; overweight is under 30 and obesity is over 30.

But the 10-country research showed that Asians had more fat content compared to Caucasians, which meant that a BMI of 25 was way above overweight for Asians.

In response, a group of WHO experts in July recommended an Asian optimal BMI of 23. Anything over it should be considered overweight and a health risk, they said.

In other words, an Asian and Caucasian may be the same weight and height, but the Asian is at greater risk for fat-related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.

(via Destroy All Monsters)


japanese prince collapses, dies

Japanese Prince Takamado collapsed while playing squash at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo and died minutes later despite desperate attempts to revive him. The prince, a cousin of Emperor Akihito, had earlier become the first member of Japan's Imperial Family to visit South Korea since the end of the Korean war. He was 47.

(via Destroy All Monsters)


groovy dam stuff

Destroy All Monsters just posted my review of the much-derided Godzilla's Revenge, and a short news post as well.


happy blog-iversary

Ipse Dixit is two years old today. Congratulations, Dodd!


flash game of the year

c00L!!! A Flash-based port of the awesome arcade game Sinistar!

(via Belligerent Bunny Blog)


speaking of godzilla...

godzilla vs mechagodzilla
...maybe Dodd will lift this link and maybe he won't. Toho Studios has put a (Japanese-language) trailer online for its upcoming kaiju rumble Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. w00t!

(via Destroy All Monsters via Ain't-It-Cool-News...and while I'm as big a fan of running gags as anyone, the whole "Man in Suit!" thing is getting old...)


new to the links section

I've been meaning to add Twisted Kaiju Theater to my list of fave Web comics. This funny and irreverent site creates comic strips based on photos of the author's extensive collection of Godzilla toys.

Also, please welcome Wil Wheaton to the blogroll.

Update: And FARK reminded me that I've been meaning to add 8-bit Theatre as well. This amusing Web comic uses the icons from the original Final Fantasy game as characters.

  xWednesday, November 20, 2002


Sorry for the dearth of posting earlier...Blogger was having major difficulties. It just belched out the day's worth of posts, so everything's copacetic...for now.

Yes, I am really, really looking into Movable Type...


sound off like you got a pair!

This nifty little site lets you bask in the mellow vocal stylings of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (masterfully played by R. Lee Ermey) from Full Metal Jacket. (Trivia courtesy the IMDb: "Former US Marines Drill Instructor R. Lee Ermey was hired as a consultant on how to drill USMC style. He performed a demonstration on videotape in which he yelled obscene insults and abuse for fifteen minutes without stopping, repeating himself, or even flinching - despite being continuously pelted with tennis balls and oranges. Director Stanley Kubrick was so impressed that he cast Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann.")

(via SixDifferentWays...and congrats for the nod on MSNBC's Weblog Central!)


swank retro paperback gallery of the day

pulp paperback cover
Bonnie Burton has a great gallery of sleazy pulp paperback covers from her personal collection. I also like to pick up old pulp fiction novels when I find them in used bookstores and the like. My prize is an early paperback edition of My Gun is Quick that author Mickey Spillane was kind enough to autograph for me! I ought to do some cover scans myself...

(via SixDifferentWays)


child endangerment celebrity idiot of the day

Pop idol Michael Jackson has said he made a "terrible mistake," referring to an incident in which he shocked a crowd of German well-wishers by holding his six-month-old son over a fourth-floor hotel balcony to display him to the group. In latest developments, German prosecutors have said Jackson is unlikely to face charges in connection with the incident.

Of course, the child was never harmed, but Jackson's action (didja catch the movie title reference?) lacked any semblance of common sense. Recently my grandparents visited, staying at one of those hotels with a large central atrium. On the way to their room, my one-year-old wanted to look over the railing. To tell the truth, I was never comfortable with her being anywhere near the railing, but rather than risk her climbing it herself, I picked her up with both arms and held her high enough so that her face could peer over the top, down to the lobby below. She was in no danger at all--if by some chance she'd wriggled out of my arms, she couldn't have gone aywhere but the floor on which I stood--but I still felt an irrational fear on her behalf. I wouldn't have considered dangling her outside the safety of the railing, now matter how good a grip I had. And even if I had, my lovely wife would have (rightly) had something to say about it.

I haven't really listened to Jackson's music since Thriller, and although I occasionally feel sorry for the freak show his life has become, incidents like this and others lead me to conclude that Jackson's own questionable judgment is largely to blame.



Blogger led me to yet another planet-named blog: PlanetMike. It seems to be mostly concerned with parenting and hi-tech gadgets, and I can certainly dig that.

  xTuesday, November 19, 2002

icon link of the day

pixture icons
pixture icons
pixture icons
Pixture Studio boasts several nifty freeware collections of icon in both Mac and Windows formats. They include characters and vehicles from Star Wars, Hawaiian themes, Japanese food, electric guitars, and a groovy set of Hallowen-themed icons that I wish I'd known about a month ago.

(via email from Onye)



Last month, I mentioned an investigation by Indiana University officials concerning activity in a dorm leading to suspicions that the dorm and IU students had been involved in the shooting of a pr0n flick. According to the Indiana Daily Student, the incident of--which involved a resident manager discovering a camera crew and not-fully-clothed women--was indeed part of the shooting of a pr0n film.
Calli Cox, publicist and adult film actress for Shane Enterprises, said more than 100 students were involved with the filming of "Campus Invasion," while 20 to 30 signed a modeling waiver permitting their likeness to be used in the final version of the film.

Cox said the students who signed the release were filmed receiving oral sex from adult film actresses. In all, Shane Enterprises brought six adult actors to Bloomington -- two male and four female.

Cox said Shane Enterprises solicited campus groups from greek organizations to clubs to take part in the filming three weeks prior to their four-day visit.

"We contacted several different organizations on campus and got a very good response from several people," Cox said. "These students are adults who made their own decisions."

"One student told us he films his own adult movies in his dorm room all the time," Cox said. "These things happen on your campus whether we are involved or not."

The article quotes school officials as fearing the film will tarnish IU's reputation.

Update: The AP has picked up the story...

(via FARK)


also of note

According to the hit counter, Planet Swank should receive its 8,000th visitor any minute now. Welcome.

Update: It happened sometime before 8 p.m, and apparently a referral from Dodd (whose site I have perplexing difficulties connecting to from home, for some reason). Thanks very much for visiting!


at last!

In other Miyazaki-related news, the acclaimed animator's wonderful My Neighbor Totoro (a favorite of my daughters and myself) will be released on DVD December 3! w00t!



spirited away poster
Last night my lovely bride and I did indeed manage to see Miyazaki-sensei's Spirited Away (official site) at the Castleton Arts theater (A quick aside: What a cool place! This three-screen cineplex is like a combination movie theater and coffee house, complete with a comfy couch and shelf of movie books to peruse while waiting for showtime. And the hot caramel-coated popcorn was excellent.)

The movie was amazing.

spirited away still
Young Chihiro encounters one of the denizens of the spirit world

I'll post my thoughts presently, but in the meantime here are reviews by Roger Ebert , Stomp Tokyo, and Destroy All Monsters.


truly outrageous

It wasn't that long ago when the President sparked some ire with a speech that contended that--quote--"the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people." (The senate was under Democratic control at the time.) Many took the statement as a direct slight of Democrats' patriotism (the speech was later ameded to soften the language); at the very least, the President was complaining about Senators, in his view, placing special interests over passage of the Homeland Security bill.

Today Senate Democrats lost a bid to strip out a series of last-minute provisions tacked onto the Homeland Security bill. The President himself--along with key advisers--lobbied undecided senators, contending that the bill would not pass this year if the favors were stripped out.
The most controversial provision would protect pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits over the side effects of vaccines they create. The protections would be retroactive to lawsuits already in court concerning ingredients use din vaccines. Democrats said that among the lawsuits that would be thrown out were those involving claims that mercury-based preservatives used in vaccines cause autism in children.

(Note: P.L.A. has lots to say about that...)

The bill also includes liability protections for makers of airport screening equipment and airport security firms and weakens an amendment offered by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., that bars companies that set up offshore tax havens from getting federal homeland security contracts.

CNN summed up the provisions thus:
• Enact new liability protection for pharmaceutical companies for the vaccines they make.

• Gut a Senate amendment that would prohibit the government from signing contracts with companies that move their headquarters offshore -- where they don't have to pay U.S. taxes.

• Create a homeland security research center program at a U.S. university. Democrats say the legislation is written in such a way as to create the center at Texas A&M University in Texas, home to some powerful GOP lawmakers and Bush.

• Provide liability protection for airport screening companies.

• Provide liability protection for companies that sell anti-terrorism technologies or products.

• Erect barriers to the Transportation Security Agency for the issuance of some security rules for travelers.

• Allow the Department of Homeland Security to hold advisory committee meetings in secret, a move Democrats say is a gift to corporate lobbyists.

I think this situation pretty much speaks for itself. The Republicans have wasted no time in not only asserting themselves but showing where their priorities lie. The delicious contrast with the President's earlier remarks about special interests, of course, is lost only on those with short attention spans or dogmatic blinders.


child-care idiot of the day

A Mississippi woman was arrested Monday night at a Louisiana rest stop after passing out drunk in a parked car carrying five children--two of her own and three she was supposed to be babysitting in Picayune, Mississippi, more than 20 miles away from the rest stop.

One of the children, a seven-year-old girl, used a borrowed cell phone to call 911. The woman was found slumped over the steering wheel Sunday and the car was still running, according to police. Her blood-alcohol level registered 0.27 on a breath test, well over the 0.10 limit, the report said. Deputies said they had to subdue the woman with pepper spray when she became "combative," and she remained jailed Monday.

The children were not hurt.


shipwreck news of the day

sinking oil tanker
The stricken oil tanker Prestige, which developed a cracked hull last Wednesday during a storm, split in two and foundered off the coast of Spain today. If the tanker's cargo containers rupture, the resulting oil spill--potentially twice the size of the one from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska--could threaten Spain's seacost environment.


james coburn r.i.p.

james coburn as derek flint
Some very sad news this morning: Actor James Coburn died yesterday in Los Angeles of a massive corornary. The silver-haired, steely-eyed actor was 74.

Coburn was the veteran of numerous films, including The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, the spy spoof Our Man Flint (pictured), and, of course, was one of a zillion actors who made a cameo appearance in The Muppet Movie (as the owner of the El Sleezo Cafe where Kermit met Fozzie). In his later years, he provided the voice of the gruff boss Mr. Waternoose in the Pixar film Monsters, Inc. and was noted for a strong performance in 1997's Affliction.

Updaye: The WaPo's Ken Ringle has this fine appreciation.

  xMonday, November 18, 2002

tom tomorrow explains it all for you

This Modern World summarizes the case for the war on Iraq.


topping the girls' xmas list...

h4x0r t-shirt
H4x0r T-shirts in kids' sizes! w00t!

(via BoingBoing)


i've had conversations like that

A.L.I.C.E. is a chat bot designed to emulate the conversational responses of a real person. BongBoing points out what happens when two incarnations of A.L.I.C.E. talk to each other.


cloudy tonight, chance of (meteor) showers

As you may remember, I didn't get to see the Perseid meteor shower in August (and I've never seen a shooting star outside of a Spielberg film). The local paper reports that I may get a chance tonight/tomorrow morning...
The annual Leonid meteors will come storming through the sky early Tuesday in a show not likely to be matched for nearly 100 years.

Viewing conditions will be partially obscured by a full moon, and clouds and maybe a few sprinkles are forecast to move into the area this evening. That's the bad news. The good news is that the meteor storm will really light things up and overcome the bright, setting moon on the other side of the sky, if the weather cooperates.

"If we did not have a full moon, it would be close to 3,000 meteors an hour at peak," said Brian Murphy, director of the Holcomb Observatory at Butler University. "We'll certainly see at least a tenth of that -- 300 to 400 meteors per hour."

The moon also will create enough light -- blotting out local street and building lights -- that it won't be necessary to go out into a dark, rural area to see the meteors, Murphy said. However, skygazers who do so likely will see more action.

Update: I was up at 4 a.m., but solid overcast prevented any meteor viewing. Maybe next time...


in the air tonight

The Lockheed EP-3 reconnaissance airplane that was the centerpiece of an internation crisis when it collided with a Chinese fighter jet in April 2001 took to the sky once again after extensive repairs at Lockheed Martin's factory near Atlanta.

The EP-3 sustained serious damage in the collision, plunging nearly two miles before the crew regained control; the Chinese pilot was killed. The crew was forced to land in Chinese terriroty and was detained by Chinese authorities for nearly two weeks. After an "inspection" by the Chinese, the EP-3 was dismantled and airlifed back to the United States, where it received a new wing, nose, and tail, as well as upgraded electronics.

Officials reported satisfaction with the test flight. After further tests, the aircraft will return to active duty.

(via Belligerent Bunny Blog)


tron remembered

RetroCrush fondly remembers the Tron video game--and remembers the movie not so fondly. You can download the ROM of this game for the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) here.

(via FARK)


anime wallpaper of the week

vampire princess miyu wallpaper
Since October I haven't made much mention of my desktop wallpaper--I change it every Monday--but this week's is a pretty cool rendering of Miyu from the excellent anime OAVs and TV series Vampire Princess Miyu.

(Courtesy Abstract Anime)


no such thing as a fee lunch

Sunday's Washington Post has this interesting article on the proliferation of fees that are tacked onto bills for everything from airline tickets to cell phone service to banking. The article does a good job of summarizing the complexities of nickel-and-dime surcharges, which I personally tend to find quite annoying. The concept of paying money to a company simply for the privilege of doing business with them particularly rankles--I'm looking at you, Ticketmaster, although banks are equally guilty--especially since companies no doubt factor the cost of the transaction into the transaction itself. As the article points out, fees and service charges make it difficult for the consumer to comparison-shop for the best value. (Dilbert cartoonist Douglas Adams dubbed industries like banks and phone companys, which offer essentially the same serivces and create arcane sets of "plans" and "fee schedules" to avoid preseting consumers with a clear value proposition, "confusopolies.") But the bottom line, so to speak, is that consumers, myself included, pay those nickel-and dime--or rather buck-or-two--fees, and many probably do so without particularly notcing.

(via FARK)

  xSunday, November 17, 2002

cheapo dvd alert

Lasy night my wife and I got a rare evening out. We had intended to go see Miyazaki's Spirited Away, but I blew my City Knowledge roll and we mistakenly went to the wrong theater, so we watched the new Harry Potter flick (CNN review) instead. After, we hit a Marsh supermarket to pick up a birthday card and flowers for our friend Onye (whose celebration we went on to attend), and lo and behold, they had a rack of cheapo DVDs for the low, low price of three bucks eachs. Since I find that sort of thing irresistable, I picked up a couple: The Legend of the Eight Samurai, with Sonny Chiba, Etsuko "Sue" Shiomi and Hiroyuki "Henry" Sanada, and '50s teen exploitation flick Hot Rod Girl, starring Lori Nelson, Frank Gorshin, and the square-jawed Chuck Conners as (what else?) a cop.