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  xFriday, March 19, 2004

new at dam

My latest review, a sneak preview of the groovy Neo Soul CD from jpop lable Tofu Records, is now posted over at Destroy All Monsters.


zombie movie post of the day

CNN looks at the new Dawn of the Dead remake. Its verdit: Stick with the original (duh!).
The high-octane update of the 1979 zombie fest offers gore galore, some truly creepy images, occasionally wicked humor and impressive performances for a genre where acting usually is secondary.

Beyond its strong cast, though, the new "Dawn" lacks the bite of George Romero's original, a low-budget affair that served up real drama and sharp satire of American consumer culture as side dishes to its victims' entrails.

Director Zack Snyder's "Dawn of the Dead" mainly is a run-of-the-mill action flick packed with loud gunfire and louder explosions. The movie piles on a bigger group of central characters than the original so the filmmakers have more real people to zombify, but you end up knowing and caring less about each person.

The film's official site includes a pretty spiffy timeline of zombie tales that's worth checking out. It mentions August Derleth's 1932 short story "The House in the Magnolias," Bela Lugosi's superb 1932 film White Zombie (cited as the first zombie movie), Tombs of the Blind Dead, Dead Alive and 1999's Bio-Zombie (misidentified as Japanese, not from Hong Kong), and, of course, Romero's Unholy Trinity, but omits entries later than 1999, such as the excellent low-budget 2000 flick The Dead Hate the Living. Still, it's a fairly decent, if not exhaustive, primer.

For more zombie goodness, check out Teleport City and Cold Fusion Video Reviews.


happy birthday

Planet Swank wishes a happy 25th birthday to the Happy MealTM!

(via FARK)


aviation/lotr post of the day

lotr airplane

This is just spiffy...Air New Zealand has a fleet of The Lord of the Rings-themed planes, and invited Viggo Mortensen to the unveiling.

(via FARK)




Are you ready for...Rums-Fu?

(via Angry Bear)


very sad news

Awwww, what a bummer: J.J. Jackson, a veteran radio personality who became one of MTV's original five "vee-jays," has died suddenly of a heart attack at 62.

Jackson helped define the term "VJ" as one of the first on-air personalities on MTV when the channel launched in 1981. During his five-year tenure with the network, Jackson interviewed some of the top names of the day and was part of some key music milestones. Jackson covered the 1985 Live Aid benefit concert in London and helped to "unmask" Kiss during a 1982 interview. He also hosted the debut episode of MTV's long-running "120 Minutes" in 1986, and brought music titans like Robert Plant and Pete Townshend to the then-fledgling channel.

MTV released a statement Thursday (March 18), mourning the loss of one of its beloved alumni and reflecting on his immense contribution to the station.

"J.J. Jackson's deep passion for music, his ease and good humor on air, and his welcoming style really set the tone for the early days of MTV. He was a big part of the channel's success and we are sure he is in the music section of heaven, with lots of his friends and heroes. We are fortunate to have had him as a part of the MTV family. He will be greatly missed."

Mark Goodman, another of the original VJs who helped blaze trails with Jackson in the '80s, said he was floored when he heard the news. "I was at home, I actually got a call from Martha Quinn," Goodman said Thursday from his home in Los Angeles. "I almost couldn't understand what she was saying, she was so upset."

I'm truly saddened at this news. Jackson's abundant talent, deep knowledge of popular music and easygoing style were always evident during his tenure as a vee-jay. His professionalism lent great credibility to the fledgling channel and greatly contributed to the pleasure of watching what was then a rather bold new thing. Condolences go out to Jackson's family, friends, and fans.

(via FARK; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)

Update: Here's more from CNN.

Update 2: Jaquandor, as usual, puts it well: "There really was a time when MTV was pretty friggin' cool, and J.J. Jackson was a big part of that."


  xThursday, March 18, 2004

hot sauce post of the day

CNN reports on the opening of a museum for Tabasco Sauce in my parents' home town of New Orleans. The museum is reportedly intended in part to debunk rumors about the spicy condiment.
Now, McIlhenny Co. says it's time to dispel some of the "fakelore" that has accumulated over the sauce's 136-year history -- and it plans to open a museum to do just that.

The hot sauce maker said Wednesday that the 3,700-square foot (344-square meter) museum, slated to open early next year, will explode several myths about Tabasco -- many of them kept alive by the company itself.

First of all, McIlhenny wants to set the record straight on how the inventor of the sauce, Edmund McIlhenny, got his first peppers in the 1860s: It's not known.

"We don't know for certain how Edmund McIlhenny obtained his original peppers," said Shane Bernard, the McIlhenny historian and curator.

The story goes that while in New Orleans, McIlhenny got a few pepper pods from Friend Gleason, an ex-soldier from the Mexican-American War who had picked them up in Mexico. Not verifiable, Bernard said.


just groovy

BoingBoing points to this cool interview with the late William S. Burroughs, courtesy the online archives of Creem Magazine. Sw33t!


possible good news

There's no doubt that this news of a high-ranking al Qaeda member possibly being surrounded, if true, is extraordinarly welcome.

In fact, my reaction can be summed up quite simply:

  1. Good.

  2. It's about @#$%^&*! time!


anime fan art link of the day

manami kurumi by fred gallagher

Just for laughs, here's MegaTokyo writer/artist Fred "Piro" Gallagher's renditions of the Kasuga twins, Kurumi and Manami, from one of my all-time favorite animes, Kimagure Orange Road.


web comic link of the day

Sore Thumbs is a thrice-weekly Web comic (the first installment is here) that goofs on gaming and sports both a manga style and a lefty political stance. Sw33t!!!

Unfortunately, that's as political as I'm likely to be today (and there's so much mendacity from the Bush Misadmistration to catalogue!). I hope to work through my stored linkage with a Massive Friday Link Roundup.

(via Pandagon)


retro tech post of the day

Four words: Speak n Spell emulator. Keen!

(via Wirehed Magazine)


spiffy accessory of the day

Four words: USB Swiss Army knife. c00L!

(via BoingBoing, et al)


sad news

Ah, this is too bad...Actress Mercedes McCambridge, who had prominent roles in three of my favorite films (an Oscar-wining turn for her film debut as Sadie Burke the excellent All The King's Men, as Emma Small in the hilarious Johnny Guitar and, of course, as the voice of the demon in The Exorcist) has died at 85.

(via FARK)


caught on tape update

MoveOn has crafted a great ad out of Donald Rumsfeld's flat-footedness after being caught in a lie on national TV.

This is exactly the kind of ad the Democratic party and its allies should run more often -- simply point out the many, many contrasts between this Administration's statements and the facts.

Bush and Company don't dare run on their record. Let the Democrats pick up the baton, then.



At Pharyngula, P.Z. Meyers takes a break from smacking creationists around (note: triple link there) to relate a charming story of his high school homecoming. Many congratulations to P.Z. on the anniversary of the event.


a close call

I had an extremely close call in traffic this morning. I was on the large onramp between I-70 East and I-465 North (the beltway that circumnavigates Indianapolis), driving in the center lane. A blue SUV roared past me on the right. Suddenly, its tires started screeching and it swerved into my lane. It continued to skid, turning broadside to me about three car lengths ahead. There was no time to think, but I cut into the left lane and just barely managed to squeak around the SUV as it began to roll over. It must have missed the rear passenger side quarter panel by a foot or two. (I definitely made my Driving skill roll!) Unfortunately, the tour bus behind me wasn't so fortunate, and struck the overturned SUV. I stopped up ahead and called 911, and that was that. I must admit that such a close call produced a wierd feeling as the adrenaline wore off.

The real kicker is, since my regular ride is in the shop, I'm driving a loaner. I'd have hated to have to explain the accident damage, even if it wasn't my fault.

  xWednesday, March 17, 2004

guinness post of the day

In honor of St. Patrick's day, we bring you this latest scientific discovery regarding one of my favorite brews, Guinness Stout. (Alas, since I gave up booze for Lent, I won't be indulging myself today...) Scientists have determined that the bubbles in a beer glass really do fall, and it's in perfect -- albeit perhaps counterintuitive -- accordance with the laws of physics.
Using a super-slow-motion video camera -- able to record 750 frames a second -- Stanford University scientists with a penchant for some cold Guinness have confirmed that beer bubbles do fall.

But careful analysis of the tape has revealed that, while bubbles are lighter than beer and should rise, the laws of physics need not be rewritten after all.

"The answer turns out to be really very simple," said Richard Zare, a professor of natural sciences at Stanford.

He said the old axiom, "What goes up, must come down," actually holds true.

"In this case, the bubbles go up more easily in the center of the beer glass than on the sides because of the drag from the walls. As they go up, they raise the beer, and the beer has to spill back, and it does.

"It runs down the sides of the glass carrying the bubbles -- particularly little bubbles -- with it, downward," Zare said.

(via MetaFilter)


happy st. patrick's day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

(related links)


yet another blogroll update

Kevin Drum of CalPundit begins his "Political Animal" blogging for the Washington Monthly today. Update your bookmarks!

Late update of the update update: Also, The Gamer's Nook.

  xTuesday, March 16, 2004

a harrowing account

It's justly known as one of the most chilling moments in a remarkably terrifying movie.
Hooper: You were on the Indianapolis?
Brody: What happened?
Quint: Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian t'Leyte, we'd just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin' from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn't know, was that our bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin', so we formed ourselves into tight groups. It was sorta like you see in the calendars, you know the squares in the old calendars like the Battle o' Waterloo and the idea was the shark come to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin' and hollerin' and sometimes that shark he go away... but sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn't even seem to be livin'... 'til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin' and your hollerin' those sharks come in and... they rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don't know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I do know how many men, they averaged six an hour. Thursday mornin', Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boson's mate. I thought he was asleep, Reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water, he was like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he'd been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day a Lockheed Ventura swung in low and he spotted us, a young pilot, lot younger than Mr. Hooper here, anyway he spotted us and a few hours later a big ol' fat PBY come down and start to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water. Three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the twenty-ninth, nineteen-forty five. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

This speech, written by Robert Shaw for his own character, has stayed with me for years.

But what's truly, terrifyingly remarkable about the ordeal of the Indianapolis crew is that Quint's speech doesn't tell the half of it. I recently began reading In Harm's Way, Doug Stanton's excellent account of the sinking and its aftermath. Last night I read through the point at which the 300 or so survivors were rescued at last. During their four days adrift, they suffered not only shark attacks, but exhaustion, drowning, sunstroke, dehydration, hypothermia and salt water poisoning. According to Stanton's account, men were dying even as rescue ships were pulling them out of the water. It's nearly impossible to imagine such an ordeal, or the incredible endurance -- and suffering -- of the men who survived.

Update: I finished the book last night. (I was closer to the end the other day than I thought, thanks to copious pages of endnotes.) Author Stanton makes an excellent case that Captain McVey was the victim of a gross injustice for being court-martialed over the loss of his ship. While the Navy insists to this day that the trial was legally proper, that stance misses the point entirely. The testimony of an American sub ace that the zigzagging tactic McVey was blamed for eschewing was of little value should have led to his exoneration. On top of that, the unprecedented testimony of the Japanese submarine skipper that he would have been able to sink the Indianapolis regardless should have been seen as the blow to the prosecution it obviously was. Moreover, the fact that other naval officers who failed to warn McVey of the submarine threat or failed to take action when the ship was overdue were eventually exonerated makes McVey's role as a scapegoat all the more odious. The Navy should do the honorable thing and expunge McVey's record while there are still some survivors alive to appreciate the gesture.

Jaquandor has further thoughts. He's spot-on in his noting that the pan-and-scan framing used to show Jaws on TV -- which is how I first saw Quint's speech, too -- is, while dramatic in its close-up of Robert Shaw, inferior to the wider shot that shows Hooper's horrified reaction to the ordeal.


blogroll update update

Thanks to my recent Blogger template woes, I've had to reinstate the worthy blogs recently added to the blogroll. I've also added Chris C. Mooney's blog, Legal Fiction, The Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk, and The Gadflyer.


web comic of the day

Oh, this is hysterical! The Book of Revelations rendered (in Flash, complete with sound) in a Pokémon-esque manga style.

(via Pharyngula)


lego post of the day

Master builders at Legoland California have been sneaking risque images into the park's models.
Hidden in a miniature Washington, D.C., at Legoland California, among thousands of characters living frozen lives, a businessman moons a presidential motorcade.

Nearby, in a Lego replica of New York City, a man does his laundry in the nude. And at a New England harbor, beneath an overturned rowboat, two pairs of legs tangle suggestively.

Such adult-themed vignettes, played out in tiny plastic bricks, are a secret diversion at the Carlsbad theme park, where "master builders" make a sport of putting risque scenes into G-rated landscapes.

"It's definitely on the sly," said Bill Vollbrecht, a former master builder who recently left his job at Legoland.

(via FARK)


paper mecha post of the day

Here's a spiffy collection of cut-fold-and-paste Japanese robots. (Japanese only, PDF format) c00L!

(via BoingBoing; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)

Update: BoingBoing follows up with even more downloadable folded-paper goodies:


caught on tape

Ah, this is hysterical -- SecDef Donald Rumsfeld tries to push the "we never said Iraq was an imminent threat" lie on Face the Nation, and Tom Friedman produces quotes from both him and President Bush saying more or less exactly that. (Hat tip: Atrios)
SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this. If they did not have these weapons of mass destruction, though, granted all of that is true, why then did they pose an immediate threat to us, to this country?

Sec. RUMSFELD: Well, you're the--you and a few other critics are the only people I've heard use the phrase `immediate threat.' I didn't. The president didn't. And it's become kind of folklore that that's--that's what's happened. The president went...

SCHIEFFER: You're saying that nobody in the administration said that.

Sec. RUMSFELD: I--I can't speak for nobody--everybody in the administration and say nobody said that.

SCHIEFFER: Vice president didn't say that? The...

Sec. RUMSFELD: Not--if--if you have any citations, I'd like to see 'em.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: We have one here. It says `some have argued that the nu'--this is you speaking--`that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent, that Saddam is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain.'

Sec. RUMSFELD: And--and...

Mr. FRIEDMAN: It was close to imminent.

Sec. RUMSFELD: Well, I've--I've tried to be precise, and I've tried to be accurate. I'm s--suppose I've...

Mr. FRIEDMAN: `No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world and the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.'

Sec. RUMSFELD: Mm-hmm. It--my view of--of the situation was that he--he had--we--we believe, the best intelligence that we had and other countries had and that--that we believed and we still do not know--we will know.

Atrios links to video -- watch Rumsfeld hem and haw as his lies are exposed on national TV. Priceless!

But seriously -- of course Rumsfeld and others asserted that the threat from Iraq was pressing when they insisted on proceeding with their march to war and refused to allow inspections to proceed. (And why not? The inspections were undercutting the weapons rationale by the day.) The sheer arrogance of this Administration's minions to lie so blatantly to the American public is probably fueled by the heretofore complacent press corps that uncritically repeated their assertions. But it fails to contend with the fact-checking abilities in the Internet age, and the press, with its credibility on the line, is obviously starting to question some of the more egregious assertions. (That said, while host Bob Schieffer obviously set Rummy up by pressing him on whether it was truly the press, and no one in the Administration, that made the claim, I wonder if he would have taken the next logical step, as Friedman did.)

If the so-called "liberal media" starts acting like reporters and not stenographers, this Administration is in even deeper trouble than it imagines.

And it bears repeating that the word "imminent" isn't even really the point. Asserting that Iraq posed any threat at all to the United States was and is ludicrous, and completely shoots down the despicable "getting UN permission to defend ourselves" bile peddled by the Bush apologists. The simple fact is, we don't need anyone's permission to defend ourselves, and no one pretends we do. We do, however, according to the UN charter -- which, as a ratified treaty, is US law -- need UNSC permission to conduct a non-defensive war, which Iraq clearly was. We weren't defending ourselves against a threat, especially the genuine threat of al Qaeda, by invading Iraq.


you've got to be kidding

I woke up this morning to discover snow on the ground outside. The snow wasn't entirely unexpected, actually -- the radio had reported a winter weather advisory yesterday, but several previous ones had come to naught. No such luck this time -- although the roads are clear, there was about an inch of heavy, wet snow covering the ground and, of course, my car. The commute in was slower than usual, of course, but forutnately there were no major mishaps.

Even more fun, a second front is expected to move through the area that could bring from four to six inches of the stuff. I generally like winter, but I must say at this point that I'm ready for spring at last.

  xMonday, March 15, 2004

guilty pleasure of the week

I've been digging' on "Love so Pure" by the jpop duo Puffy Ami Yumi, and loving it. I like the combination of chiming, Rickenbacker-style arpeggios with power chords and the catchy chorus, not to mention the duo's cheerful English-language lyrics. Puffy Ami Yumi r0x0rz!

Update: If you want to see what I like about it, here's the song (limited time only, of course): puffy amiyumi - Love So Pure.mp3


new at dam

Speaking of Destroy All Monsters, my review of the fascinating and lavishly illustrated book Secrets of the Ninja is now up over there. It's ninja-rific!

Over the weekend, I looked at the DVD of the superb Japanese thriller Cure. It's a superb and fascinating movie, but I need to watch it again before I can compose a coherent review. It's one of the more prominent items on my to-do list, though. I'll keep y'all posted.


anime/manga post of the day

In the rant space accompnaying today's installment of the popular Web comic MegaTokyo, writer/artist Fred "Piro" Gallagher reflects on the unusual forces behind the growing popularity of anime and manga in the United States.
This comes to a grander point that I think all of you should never forget. Various media industries sometimes think that they are the ones who make "the next big thing" happen, whether it be a movie, or a TV show, or popular book. Manga and Anime is a true examples of an "industry" that exists ONLY because fans here in the states demanded it. Hell, Thanks to the networking made possible by the internet, fans MADE it happen. This "hot thing" we are all fans of was not orchestrated by some media corportation -- in fact, for years it media companies never considered it viable that Japanese anime/manga could ever be 'mainstream'. It's something the fans have made happen by sheer brute force.

Don't ever let the industry change that. You are the ones they watch to find out what you want. Don't ever let yourselves be manipulated into being blind followers that are told to become fans of something and do so because the industry says so. Always remember that it's the fans that are the ones who should decide this. The fact that something like MT can do well with pretty much nothing backing it up but fans is a good thing. The fact that the comics industry got it thru their thick skulls that yes, there ARE women in the world and girls DO read comics, and that we want good, solid stories and we will read manga that isn't all fighting and action and we don't need nudity and violence to be popular and (gasp) consumers have real, working brains...

Keep the brains, don't become media zombies. Media companies are listening to you now, but they'd rather have it the other way around. don't ever ever ever let that happen. Don't ever loose sight of what got us here.

What he said. I remember well the days when anime was limited to Speed Racer and Robotech, and Dark Horse Comic's excellent adaptation of Akira was about the only thing resembling manga to be had. (As a regular visitor ot the local comic shop, I remember my glee at scoring a rare Golgo 13 manga translation.) Anime was something that hardcore geeks talked about at game conventions, and fansubs were about the only way to go if you wanted to see what was really up in Japan.

(As an aside, props to Japan's anime producers for their incredibly savvy tolerance of fansubs ... by taking this seemingly counterintuitive step, they nurtured the seed of anime fandom that has blossomed into a lucrative market.)

Piro is spot-on in his observation that the market for anime and manga was created in response to overwhelming demand. Anime is renowned for its high standards of animation and voice acting, and as long as fans continue to insist on quality and let their own tastes dictate the market -- instead of the other way 'round -- that excellence is sure to endure.

(Cross-posted at Destroy all Monsters)

Update: Jaquandor wonders -- but correctly, in my opinion -- if the rise in popularity of anime and manga coincided with the growth of the Internet. Although I couldn't point to any data, my sense is that the Web -- and, earlier, online services such as CompuServe and AOL -- definitely were a factor. As I mentioned, in my college days, you either had to know a cool comic shop that occasionally carried the goods, or trade at fan conventions. My earliest days on CompuServe, though, saw me downloading anime GIFs. I also discovered anime resources on Usenet, including the Anime Pocket Guide, which influenced my rentals of early AnimeEigo tapes.

Companies like AnimEigo and Central Park Media have long served the then-small-but-growing demand for quality anime. It's pleasing to see these companies continue to thrive as the genre's popularity has grown -- they were the ones willing to risk marketing to what was then perceived as a fringe market, and they should justly reap the rewards when the market they helped cultivate grows.


many happy returns

Here's wishing my friend Dodd a very happy birthday!

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