I routinely cite my reviews at Destroy All Monsters, but this one is special to me. Please read it. If you like, you can let me know what you thought via the comment thread. And I can't recommend the film highly enough.
I just learned that Amazon.com has a keen little promotion that asks trivia questions about the shopping site and credits a nickel or so to one's account for correct answers; the trivia total can be applied to reduce the price of subsequent orders. It's a neat way to encourage frequent visits and familiarity with the site.
Several years ago, Microsoft Corporation treated me to a ride in a Learjet. From my posh leather-cushioned seat in the back, I could see the b-i-i-i-g smile on the pilot's face as she throttled up for takeoff. Moments later, as we leveled off at 10,000 feet, she got on the intercom to apologize for the delay in reaching cruising altitude...something about clearance not being granted in a timely fashion. We even flew over Bill Gates' house. That was one sweet ride.
The secret crush spam site I mentioned yesterday has upped the ante again. Today's spam was entitled Re: Your Phone Bill. Obvious spam, of course, but notice how they're moving away from implying it's even about a crush? The message also changes tack: "We have been hired to contact you because someone you know is interested in you."
I know that responding to "remove me" offers is a bad move, as it only informs spammers that your email address is live and that you read at least one message, but I'm really tempted to try it.
Oh my, but I love the Internet. Today's exhibit: A fan site devoted to wacky Iraqi information minister Mohammed "No I am not scared and neither should you be!" Saeed al-Sahaf, whose daily (until recently), reality-divorced pronouncements about Saddam's triumphs over the invaders were the source of many a chuckle during the war's dark days.
Although this news is sad, it's hardly surprising. The enormous expense of operating the Concorde prevented its widespread acceptance outside of Europe's heavily subsideized airlines. While returning the jet to service after its first-ever fatal crash in 2000 was a brave statement, there was never any questioned that the aging Concorde fleet's operational service had little life left.
At long last for George Romero fans, Anchor Bay Entertainment will release the highly anticipated two-disc collector's edition of the capper in Romero's Dead trilogy, Day of the Dead. Loaded with extras, goodies include a new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Dolby Digital Surround EX and DTS ES 6.1 soundtracks, an two audio commentaries, with George Romero, Tom Savini, Lori Cardille and production designer Cletus Anderson, and a second commentary with filmmaker Roger Avary. Disc two includes a brand-new documentary featuring interviews with Romeo, Cardille, Savini, Anderson and more, never-before-seen b FX footage from Savini, additional promo footage, an audio interview with actor Richard Liberty, four still galleries, the original screenplay, production notes and trailers. Retail is $29.98.
Once a board of ethics, headed by Falklands War veteran Simon Weston has given the go-ahead, Lena will receive the face of a dead donor, removing her own severely burned face.
The operation is likely to take place after the teenager has sat the Irish equivalent of her GCSE exams, and will end a race between British and American surgeons to be the first to perform the transplant, which was once the stuff of science fiction.
The surgery involves "degloving" the donor's face from a four-hour-old corpse, severing the top layer of skin and then grafting it onto the recipient's face.
I'm sure the images of jubilant Iraqis pulling down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad yesterday were gratifying to the hawks. I, too, welcome the end of Saddam's rule, of course. And I hope that as the fighting winds down, the US will see less need for bombing that claims innocent civilian lives; far too many have been killed already.
For starters, I must remind my hawkish friends of one thing:
Military victory by itself is not proof that the war itself was justified.
No one credible ever doubted that Bush's coveted war with Iraq would result in anything other than conquest. (Indeed, critics sometimes wondered if the Administration's obsession with Iraq to the exclusion of what many judged as a more potent and immediate threat from North Korea stemmed from a desire to avoid any conflict other than a sure win.) The Washington Post has an interesting analysis that credits the military victory in Iraq to three factors:
A "seasoned and well-equipped military" (Although, since many US troops were seeing combat for the first time, I'd lean toward "superbly well-trained" in place of "seasoned.")
The decision to press on to Baghdad. It's clear that war planners' gamble that the regime would collapse with the first combat didn't pay off, but to give credit where it's due, it's now equally clear that the risk to continue to advance on Baghdad proved to be the right move. Of course, that success had as much to do with our military's ability to improvise and make do with a less-than-ideal situation as it did from any cunning strategy on Rumsfeld's part. It's also equally clear that if he'd begun the war with the lower troop levels he'd initially favored, the chances for this success would be slim. In my analysis, the war on Iraq more supports the "boots on the ground" advocates than the "air power and special forces can do it all" team.
Lastly, a conspicuously inept defense by the Iraqi military. This last point can't be over-emphasized: Our military performed brilliantly, but Saddam's forces, which were never a match in equipment or training to begin with, failed to execute even basic defensive strategies, such as blowing bridges and taking advantage of terrain. The lackluster performance of a military the Administration painted as an ominous threat reinforces the notion shared by many of Iraq's neighbors that Saddam was basically impotent.
Also intersting--and potentially ominous--is the fact that, while many units of the Iraqi army were "destroyed"--defined as being rendered unable to mout organized resistance--much of it seems to have melted away. That's good news in the short term; Iraqi soldiers, even the vaunted Republican Guard, appear to have simply gone home. But they likely retain their small arms, and there's little doubt that motivated Iraqis could mount guerilla attacks on occupation forces if they chose.
In addition, the conspicuous absence of the top Iraqi leadership, and the undetermined whereabouts of Saddam Hussein himself, are a deeply disturbing development. Make no mistake about it: Complete success hinges on Saddam's capture or the discovery of his body. The Administration must not be allowed, as it did with Osama bin Laden, to make an individual leader, however ofdious, the focus of its rationale, and then conveniently forget him when he fails to materialize after the shooting stops. While Saddam will never again control Iraq, his mysterious disappearance will be seen as a defeat fort he United States by a humiliated Arab world hungry for such news, and could inspire followers to acts of terrorism or guerilla warfare.
Also interesting is the conspicuous absence of chemical and biological weapons. For starters, post-war discoveries of chemical weapons will, once again, not retroactively justify the war. The question of chemical weapons must be put in the proper context: A sober assesment of threat to national security. There's absolutely no question that advocates of the was grossly inflated the so-called Iraqi threat. The fact that thus far no chemical or biological attacks occurred suggests that even as he was being invaded, Saddam was deterred from using them (of course--had he done so, much Arab sympathy would have evaporated). Or he never had them to begin with. In either case, it's crystal clear that whatever WMD capability Saddam posessed, it posed no threat even to the American invasion. It's difficult to comprehend how this devlopment supports the hawk's contention that Iraq posed a major threat to US security. And I reiterate that whatever threat Iraq may have posed, I have yet to hear a satisfactory responce to the notion that the invasion of Iraq, and the diplomatc debacles that preceded it, are not of much greater concern to our long-term security.
Of course, the year-long harangue about Iraq's WMDs ceased the minute we invaded; it then became "the liberation of the Iraqi people." Notwithstanding that a lenghty US occupation has only just begun.
Speaking of which, why on Earth is the Administration only now figuring out how to run postwar Iraq? As the Administraiton had years to plot this war, and indeed expected Saddam to fall almost immediately, it's absolutely inexcusable not to have a full-fledged plan in place right now for bringing order, not to mention an abundance of pre-placed humanitarian aid. The current anarchy gripping Basra and parts of Baghdad, which the allied forces are understandably reluctant to quell, is a stark reminder that the postwar governance of Iraq can't be just an afterthought.
American and allied forces have made significan military gains in three short weeks. Yet our involvement in Iraq is sure to be a lengthy one, and US security critically depends on the Bush Administration not screwing it up. Needless to say, based on my opinion of their current record, including Afghanistan, I have hope but little confidence.
c00L! The Washington Post has an interesting article noting the increasing popularity of anime and pointing out that the genre enjoys a long history. It leads with several paragraphs that have a particular resonance for me:
Do you think "Yu-Gi-Oh!," "Hamtaro" and "Zoids" are hot, new, cool? Something your parents would never understand?
Think again. Those shows and others, including "Pokemon" and "Transformers," are just the latest in a long history of TV shows created in Japan and played on American television. Just ask your mom or dad (or your teachers) if they remember shows called "Astro Boy" or "Speed Racer." (Go Speed Racer, Go Speed Racer, Go Speed Racer, Goooo!)
Speed Racer (weekday afternoons, Channel 41 in Louisville, Kentucky) was pretty much the origin of my interest in anime back in the late 1970s. The animation was barely above Hanna-Barbera quality (not to slam Hanna-Barbera; I love much of their stuff too, especially Jonny Quest), the dubbing was atrocious, and even my ten-year-old self had trouble suspending disbelief about an international racing circuit in which there were several fatal crashes in each and every race. But there was something swanky about Speed and the marvelous Mach 5 that kept me coming back to anime. As I've mentioned before, when I got to college and discovered the variety and quality of anime that I never knew existed, I was hooked. I hope my girls grow up to love anime too--they seem to be off to a good start--but in their case, if they ever doubt I was into the genre before them, I'll be able to show them my DVD collection to prove it.
Another instance of serendipity from my recent visit to Snopes.com: A funny Salon article on the dreaded Nigerian spam email hoax. "[A] renaissance in short fiction writing is spreading across the globe via the Internet, breathing new life into the always troubled romance between art and crime..."
Great googly moogly! While researching the previous post on the always-handy Urban Legends Reference Pages, I discovered something rather shocking: If you enter a phone number into Google, it'll return the name and address associated with that number, and a map to that location. (Interestingly enough, while the database identifies both myself and my lovely wife--who retains her maiden name--the address is that of our previous house.) Fortunately, Google will remove one's personal info from the database upon request.
I've been getting a lot of spam email about someone allegedly having a "secret crush" on me. Of course, being happily married I'd ignore these messages even if I didn't know they're a scam. Since I ignore them, they've followed the usual pattern: A follow-up email will offer a hint if I visit the site; another will warn me it's the "last chance" to discover who my so-called "secret crush" is. This morning, though, they upped the ante: The email informed me that I have a "workplace crush." (Little do they know that "don't get involved with co-workers has long been one of my cardinal rules; besides, like I said, I'm taken!) However, the URL in the email simply pointed to the same site--one of many--that ostensibly exists to link up people with crushes on each other.
I've had some prior experience with this scam. Like all spam, this is bogus, but it's a little more insidious than most. If you go to the site, you register (providing an email address, naturally), you're asked to list the email addresses of the person you think *might* be your secret crush. (Note that if it's someone with which you've never corresponded, you're out of luck.) Each of those people gets a message that someone has a crush on him or her, and so on and so on. While the site will eventually notify you if email addresses ever match up--and will offer hints in return for even more email addresses--more often than not the match is a result of two people having guessed the other, without any actual interest in play. Crush sites that work this way are more likely to inspire embarrassment than romance.
Meanwhile, the site harvests an expanding pool of email addresses, which promptly receive a flood of additional spam.
Here's a little unsolicited advice for the lovelorn: If you really have a secret crush, get yourself a new Web-based email account--they're free, after all, and disposable--and email the person yourself. Be sufficiently discreet, and if the answer's no, there's no face lost. These so-called "secret crush" sites, though, are nothing but trouble.
Writer Sean-Paul Kelley, who has been reporting extensively on the war via his Web log The Agonist, has acknowledged and apologized for posting information without attributing it to the subscription news service that was its source. Wired News recently ran a story noting the similarities between Kelley's blog posts and information from Stratfor, a commercial information service. According to the Wired story, Kelley and Stratfor have reached an amicable agreement in which the former can run two attributed posts from the latter per day.
This situation is truly a shame...Kelley had achieved some notoriety for his minute-by-minute blogging of the war, and the site's increase in traffic forced him to launch several mirror sites. However, the "new medium" of blogging does not excuse a writer from the mandatory practice of attributing sources and direct quotes, by hyperlink if nothing else. By violating one of the fundamental tenets of professional writers, Kelley has called his own professional credibility into question. To his credit, Kelley has acknowledged and apologized for his poor judgement, and a recent visit to his site shows a welcome increase in attributions and hyperlinks. But his readers--and potential publishers--have a right and a duty to keep his transgression in mind.
Some time yesterday, the hit counter passed 23,000. I seem to be averaging about 150 hits per day, which is, of course, modest, but it seems to indicate more traffic refferred by fellow bloggers, as the search engine hits seem to be reasonably constant. Thanks for visiting!
After seeing this (warning: not for the faint of heart), I don't really feel like it any more.
His name is Ali Ismaeel Abbas; he's 12 years old.
The Bush Administration and the hawks are full of justifications for their cherished war, not a one of which is worth, in my eyes, this boy's suffering.
Yeah, yeah, our forces try not to do this sort of thing, and good on them for it--really! And no one is excusing the atrocities of Saddam's regime. The difference here is, we are repsonsible for this. As I've already said, Bush's pet war isn't worth to me the blood of one Iraqi child. How many kids, I wonder, are the hawks willing to see killed and maimed in furtherance of their ambitions?
Does anyone have a satisfactory answer to the concern--much more immediate than the bogus so-called threat of chemical weapons that Saddam, inasmuch as he posesses them, has been deterred from using so far even in defense of his capital--that this boy's mutilation, and that of other children killed and maimed by this war, isn't going to cause terrorist blowback against the US for years if not decades to come?
And can Bush, or Rumsfeld, or the neocon hawks, or the warbloggers, give this kid his arms back?
The Singapore naval vessel RSS Courageous turned into the wrong shipping lane and had its rear crushed by the Dutch-registered ANL Indonesia.
A senior director of Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority told a news briefing: "The principal cause of the collision was the errors of judgment in assessing the situation... on the part of the RSS Courageous".
Four servicewomen were killed in the incident, which was described as the worst naval accident in Singapore's history.
Investigators from the Maritime and Ports Authority, announcing the findings of a three-month enquiry, said radar records showed the Courageous moving in front of the container ship, then trying to speed up to avoid a collision.
"It tried to go as fast as possible so that it would miss," one investigator said.
The RSS Courageous, a 500-ton Singaporean anti-submarine patrol boat, had its rear shaved off and engine room crushed.
I obviously took the weekend off from blogging; although we were in town and I spent some time on the computer, it was nice to take a break. The weekend was very pleasant, although it's been surprisingly chilly.
I was pleased to spend a lot of time with my daughters. Before the onset of the cool weather, we made it to a park for a while Friday evening. Saturday a couple of Cecilia's friends for the neighborhood came over for a few hours; it was chaotic but fun. We also went downtown yesterday afternoon just to walk around the Circle; Cecilia was hoping the fountains would be on, but enjoyed the time anyway. The evenings afforded a certain amount of badly needed chill time for myself and my lovely wife; we were able to indulge in several of our favorite recreational activities, including watching movies and reading.
We were going to attent the first birthday party Sunday for our good friends Joe and Jennifer's little boy Cooper, but alas the poor little tyke took ill. Cooper has our best wishes for a speedy recovery.
While shopping for his present, I picked up a couple of clearance-sale games for the PlayStation: We got Cecilia a Blue's Clues game, which she really seems to enjoy (and has learned to play with astonishing speed and practically no assist from us), and I grabbed Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Alas, I find that my MK3 skillz have deteriorated over the years...
Another devlopment over the weekend was some tweaking I did on our computer. I installed a new optical mouse (easy) and a new 48X CD-RW burner (still easy, but not as much). (In the process, of course, I took reasonable but not drastic precautions against static.) The new CD-ROM burner is a good and necessary development, as the old one appeared to be going bad, but I seem to need to make some further tweaks to the system, as it fails or hangs infrequently, but more often that it should (i.e, never). Even more pleasing than the equipment is the Nero Express software that came with it. In a distinct improvement over the version of Nero Burning ROM I already had, it allows drag-and-drop VCD creation. Essentially, it converts video files to MPG format, instead of requiring them to be already converted; thus, the process takes quite a while, but it's been fairly bulletproof so far. It even lets me create nifty onscreen menus with text and graphics! Sw33t!
I also passed one of those cheapo DVD roadside vendors. Since I gave up DVD buying for Lent, though, I declined to stop by.
I have some thoughts I may share this morning, but I also have several projects pending, so blogging may be light until this afternoon.
Update: I'm embarrassed that I neglected to mention one of the weekend's most pleasant events: Our friend Onye dropped by Sunday night for tea and conversation. We enjoyed sharing the time, Onye, thanks!