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  xSaturday, May 29, 2004

new video game

soul calibur 2

While picking up some photos Friday evening, I noticed that the store was offering the great PS2 swordfighting game Soul Calibur 2 (GameSpot page)for a mere $20. Naturally, I grabbed it. I played it a little late Friday night, and am enjoying it thoroughly. The graphics are gorgeous, and I love the way the characters taunt each other in Japanese before and after matches (sure, there's an English language track, but with the subtitles, who needs it?).

soul calibur 2 screen

soul calibur 2 screen

  xFriday, May 28, 2004

anime link of the day

urd from oh! my goddess!

The Anime Gallery is an old (last updated Monday April 22nd, 1996) collection of graphics from mostly old-school anime like Oh! My Goddess!, Bubblegum Crisis and Vampire Princess Miyu. Of course, I dig all those the most, so the collection is pleasing indeed.


on the good news front

Here's some welcome news: Bush defends Deep South state (Louisiana)
President Bush, forced to defend a Deep South state he comfortably won four years ago, is trying to offset the attention Democratic rival John Kerry is lavishing on Louisiana.

Bush combines a pitch for votes and money Friday as he delivers the commencement address at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge before heading to a New Orleans suburb to speak to Republican Party donors.

His planned remarks at LSU drive home the themes of responsibility and service to society, the White House said. It will echo the president's commencement speech last week in Wisconsin, where he suffered a narrow loss in 2000.

The Kerry campaign has unexpectedly put conservative-leaning Louisiana in play and Bush's re-election campaign is responding in kind.

The state is one of 19 targeted by Kerry with a $25 million TV advertising buy, and he has visited three times in the past two months. Bush has responded with advertising, too.

Kerry's advisers think Louisiana and its nine electoral votes have become more attractive to Democrats in recent years, particularly because of manufacturing job losses there under Bush's administration.

"Bush is not a slam-dunk" to win Louisiana, despite a lead of 10 percentage points to 15 percentage points in state polls, said LSU political science professor Wayne Parent.

Both of the state's U.S. senators -- John Breaux and Mary Landrieu -- are Democrats, as is Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The state went for Bill Clinton in the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections.

Welcome news indeed. Louisiana is far from solid red, and a Kerry pickup would be a telling crack in Bush's so-called "solid South." Even if Bush squeaks by, it's pleasing to see Bush forced to sepend time and resources to defend the state, rather than playing on Kerry's turf. No wonder the right wing is so off kilter lately: the myth of Bush as a "popular wartime president" has been shattered, and the prospect of his defeat come November must be looking more and more real to them.


right-wing dishonesty watch

The Boston Herald pens a scurrilous hack job on Gore's recent speech. Jesse Walker points out that the Herald's scribes shamelessly take Gore out of context:
Set aside the cretinous claim that it's somehow immoral to question the president's competence. What about Gore's assertion that Americans have an "innate vulnerability to use power to abuse others," or that bit about the checks and balances? Sounds pretty bad, doesn't it?

Yep. But it's not what the man said:

Our founders were insightful students of human nature. They feared the abuse of power because they understood that every human being has not only "better angels" in his nature, but also an innate vulnerability to temptation -- especially the temptation to abuse power over others.

Our founders understood full well that a system of checks and balances is needed in our constitution because every human being lives with an internal system of checks and balances that cannot be relied upon to produce virtue if they are allowed to attain an unhealthy degree of power over their fellow citizens.

There isn't any room for interpretation here. Gore did speak the words that the Herald put in quotation marks, but there's no way to make them fit the meaning the paper attributed to them. His comments are not just within the mainstream of American thought; they're within the mainstream of American conservative thought. The editorial is lying.

At Pandagon, Jesse Taylor is much less polite in his outrage.

Not surprisingly, of course, many on the right side of the blogosphere breathe a sigh of relief at having their cognitive dissonance temporarily assuaged. I wonder, though, how many of them actually read Gore's speech as opposed to taking the Globe's reekingly dishonest word for it?


kawaii flash game of the day

In Chibi's Sweets, the player maneuvers a kawaii anime chick to grab the sweets and avoid the food. Yum!

(via #!-usr-bin-girl)


creeping fascism watch

Matthew Yglesias and Matt Welch note the disturbing trend among certain right wingers to contemplate suppression of dissent to Bush's policies. The right-wing spin machine is all set to blame Democrats and the so-called "liberal media" for the failure of Bush's polices (yes, despite the fact that the GOP controls all three branches of government).

Reality check: If you're afraid of the implications of questioning Bush's competence, it reflects more poorly on Bush's supposed competence than it does on his critics.

Update: Arthur Silber holds his nose long enough to document some more charm from the right wing (via Atrios).


simpsons post of the day

Some geniuses have, after painstaking research, come up with an incredibly detailed map of Springfiled, USA, home of The Simpsons. Aw3s0m3!

(via Wirehed Magazine)


(model) aviation post of the day

flying b-52 model

This incredible model of a B-52 really flies! (No word on whether it really drops bombs, though.) Sw33t!

(via BoingBoing)


astronomy image of the day

nyc centerline sunset

According to NASA, today, May 28, is one of two days a year on which the Sun sets precisely on the centerline of every street in Manhattan. Groovy!

(via FARK)


paul krugman explains it all

Shorter Paul Krugman: Although the media is only now waking up to the fact that Bush is a liar, anyone who was paying attention knew that a long time ago.

(Shorter concept originated by D^2 Digest; Busy^3 is currently keeping the faith)


zombie movie royalty post of the day

scott reiniger in dawn of the dead

Actor Scott Reiniger, who played Roger in the classic horror film Dawn of the Dead, has discovered that he's an honorary Afghan prince.
Scott Reiniger, who appeared in the 1978 movie, is the great, great, great grandson of Josiah Harlan, the first American to set foot in Afghanistan.

As a result of a treaty Harlan signed, his heirs are granted the title Prince of Ghor in perpetuity.

Reiniger only found out his title after UK journalist Ben Macintyre published a book on his ancestor's life.

"My reaction initially was that it seemed incredibly surreal," Reiniger told BBC World Service's Outlook programme.

...But Reiniger said he had no intention of claiming his title officially, and added that he felt his brother should have it anyway.

"He has the name and he's the historian in the family," he said.

"So I think he really should have the title."


(via FARK)


zombie site of the day

Just discovered while Googling for the previous post: All Things Zombie. Here's its appropriately favorable review of The Dead Hate the Living.


i've had enough of this whole goth thing

This is hilarious -- a Missouri town has returned half of a $273,000 grant to resolve its Goth problem because it discovered there really was no problem.

Blue Springs received the grant two years ago from the Youth Outreach Unit, money the city and U.S. Rep. Sam Graves trumpeted proudly as a way to fight a perceived Goth problem.

But $132,000 of the grant was returned because officials never found much of a problem with the Goth culture, which some students called a fad that most people eventually outgrow.

Slightly more than $118,000 of the money was earmarked for therapy, assessment and case management, and the plans also included a series of town meetings to discuss the issue.

"It never happened because referring someone for looking, acting Goth is not a concept that ever got imbedded in people's heads," project manager Allyce Ford said of the therapy proposal.

The town hall meetings didn't happen, either, she said, because there wasn't enough interest in the community to conduct them.

(via Jesus' General)

(The title of this post is a reference to the great indie zombie movie The Dead Hate the Living; it's my imperfect recollection of a line spoken by the lovely and talented Jamie Donahue, who plays a fetchingly wholesome goth girl.)

jamie donahue

  xThursday, May 27, 2004

quick template update

Planet Swank now has a new recent referrer log. I've also added a nifty little JavaScript (thanks to CodeBelly) on the left-hand sidebar that lets you choose from a variety of swanky backgrounds (many of them courtesy PixelDecor). And please welcome The Dead Parrot Society to the blogroll.

Update: Oh, and I moved the election counter from the left-hand sidebar to above the posts, as you may have noticed.

Update 2: I've added I Love Everything, Jesus' General, Michael Bérubé and World O'Crap to the blogroll. I'm considering trimming some sites, but not yet.


gallery of the day

maggie cheung

In honor of her superb comedic performance in last night's movie, today's gallery is devoted to the lovely, talented, and extremely funny Maggie Cheung. Best known as Jackie Chan's girlfriend in the Police Story series, she displays her wonderful comedic talent with Chan in Project A 2 as well as in All's Well Ends Well and other flicks. She also get a chance to unleash some impressive martial arts chops in The Heroic Trio and The Moon Warriors (in which she plays a bad guy!).

maggie cheung

Here's a bonus photo of Ms. Cheung, from this gallery.

maggie cheung

...and another, from this magazine cover gallery.


last's night's hk flick

all's well ends well dvd

Last night I finally watched the last of a half dozen cheapo Hong Kong DVDs I got around my birthday last year from's blowout sale. It was the 1992 romantic comedy All's Well Ends Well (IMDb entry) starring Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer), Leslie Cheung and the lovely and talented Maggie Cheung (The Heroic Trio, The Moon Warriors), with a cameo by Loletta Lee. It traces the romantic travails of three brothers and their significant others.

I enjoyed the flick very much -- it was bizarre at times (Hong Kong comedies are very much kitchen-sink affairs, with gags flying thick and fast) but with several laugh-out-loud moments, a satisfying happy ending (the three happy couples, and the brothers' elderly parents, all in wedding attire) and absolutely outstanding performances by Chow, Cheung and Cheung. The film apparently sparked a 1997 sequel.

I'll eventually write a detailed review for Destroy All Monsters, but in the meantime here's a good review at


right-wing disingenuousness of the day which Gregory holds his nose and reads a Michelle Malkin column

Jesse Taylor makes fun of this Michelle Malkin column decrying the newfound fame of gossip blogger Wonkette and Jessica Cutler, aka Washingtonienne, who recorded (anonymously, until recently) her sexual activity with a number of various government workers, including Republican staffers and at least one married man. (Cutler's name became public when she was fired from her government staff job for "indecent material" at work -- that is, posting about her encounters to her livejournal.)

Conspicuously missing from Malkin's venomous screed was a single word of criticism for the men Cutler trysted with. (No doubt they would prefer to remain anonymous; too bad for them.) After all, if Cutler is an evil, immoral skank, there are at least six men walking 'round DC for whom the same description applies. Evidently Malkin adheres -- surprise, surprise! -- to the theory that It's Okay If You're A Republican.

Update: Here's a fresh article on gossip blogs in Wired.


more blogger wierdness

I just realized -- Blogger seems to have ceased keeping archive entries on the left-hand sidebar. I suppose it's a side effect of maintaining individual post pages, which is a consequence of enablign Blogger comments, but it's disappointing...I'd like to be able (and, more imporantly, enable any reader so insane inclined) to browse through older posts a week at a time. If anyone knows a workaround, please drop me a line.

I do dig one aspect of Blogger's new editing interface: When cruising through previous posts to edit, I can view them or -- more importantly, for citing older posts -- simply grab the link, without having to wade through the archives. That's pretty cool.

Update: Jaquandor in the comments points out that I need to clarify: The existing archives -- up to about March of this year -- do appear, but Blogger appears to have ceased weekly archiving after that. Perhaps just republishing the entire blog will help; it doesn't seem to offer a way to republish just the archives, as the previous incarnation did.

Update the Second: Got it -- scouring the Blogger Help index revealed that Blogger has changed the code that implements indexing. The archive listings are now fixed.


swank tunes of the day

esquiviel album

The audio CD my dad made for me from the vintage Esquivel album I bought a while back arrived yesterday, and I've been groving to its smooth instrumental sound ever since.

  1. Granada

  2. Beguin the Beguine

  3. Night and Day

  4. Poinciana

  5. Playfully

  6. Adios

  7. That Old Black Magic

  8. Nature Boy

  9. Magic is the Moonlight

  10. Speak Low

  11. Ballerina

  12. It had to be You

While Googling for the track list, I discovered this excellent site devoted to swank space-age lounge tunes. Its page devoted to this album features images of the front and back cover, a track list, and a transcription of the album jacket copy. c00L!


miyazaki film stills!

my neighbor totoro

Animated Bliss has posted a a nifty batch of stills from the upcoming Disney DVD release of three films by Hayao Miyazaki and Stuido Ghibli: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, and Porco Rosso. Sw33t!

(via Byzantium's Shores; cross-posted at Destroy all Monsters)

  xWednesday, May 26, 2004


Al Gore gives a passionate -- even angry -- speech decrying in scathing detail the incompetence of the Bush Administration and calling for the resignation of the Administration's national security team.

Read the whole thing -- it's inspiring. No wonder more people voted for the man back in 2000.


gallery of the day

eri machimoto

It's a little strange -- although welcome -- to see a slideshow of Miss Universe contestants on China's official XINHUA news service.

(via FARK)


short take

Although I welcome the New York Times' mea culpa on stovepiping bogus info on Iraq's supposed WMD programs onto its front pages, I'll take it a lot more seriously when they fire Judith Miller (double link).

Update: Here's commentary at Times critic blog Reading A1.

Update the Second: Unlike the Times, USA Today names names (via Digby)


bush dishonesty watch

At his speech the other day, Bush made -- several times -- the claim that the US plans to transfer "full sovereignty" to Iraq on June 30.

Today's Wall Street Journal (!) shows that, once again, the facts are biased against Bush. Kevin Drum discusses the risks of such a bold statement here.

Meanwhile, Atrios points to a good headline catch.


tarot post of the day

fark tarot

This FARK Photoshop contest has a great batch of FARK-themed Tarot cards. Hilarious!


quote of the day

...last Wednesday, actually, as Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert waxes wroth on the subject of sacrifice:
"If you want to see sacrifice, [this individual] ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda (two Washington area military hospitals). There's the sacrifice in this country. We're trying to make sure that they have the ability to fight this war, that they have the wherewithal to be able to do it."

Who was the subject of Hastert's lecture on sacrifice? None other than Republican Senator John McCain, a former POW, who had the temerity to suggest that the Republican-controlled Congress pay for the Iraq War with real money by sacrificing some of Bush's tax cuts, as opposed to the current GOP plan to put the whole deal on the national credit card.

McCain got in a good zinger in reply:
"The speaker is correct in that nothing we are called upon to do comes close to matching the heroism of our troops," he said. "All we're called upon to do is not spend our nation into bankruptcy while our soldiers risk their lives. I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility."

Of course, Hastert declined to serve in Vietnam.


go pelosi!

Kudos to Nancy Pelosi for articulating last week the thoughts that have been on a lot of people's minds lately: the Emperor has no clothes.
"The situation in Iraq and the reckless economic policies in the United States speak to one issue for me, and that is the competence of our leader," Pelosi said. "These policies are not working. But speaking specifically to Iraq, we have a situation where -- without adequate evidence -- we put our young people in harm's way."

Asked specifically if she was calling Bush incompetent, Pelosi replied:

"I believe that the president's leadership in the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience in making the decisions that would have been necessary to truly accomplish the mission without the deaths to our troops and the cost to our taxpayers."

Pelosi charged the Bush administration has proved itself wrong on a number of issues with Iraq, including its initial assertions that Iraqis would welcome U.S. troops and that Iraq itself could pay for much of the reconstruction effort.

Predictably, on Sunday Tim Swarens of the right-tilting local paper editorial board parroted GOP talking points decried Pelosi's observation.
Democrats are hurting their own chances of winning the White House this year with their over-the-top attacks on George Bush.

Yes, hard-core Democrats roar in appreciation when Nancy Pelosi calls Bush "an incompetent leader," who "has no judgment, no experience and no knowledge of the subjects that he has to decide upon." They also nod in agreement when Sen. Ted Kennedy rails that "Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management -- U.S. management."

But the Democratic core is going to vote against Bush no matter what. It's the people in the middle whom John Kerry must reach if he's to win in November, and comments like those from Pelosi and Kennedy only serve to turn off anyone not dipped in Democratic blue.

He's right about one thing -- as a proud Democrat, I applaud Pelosi's bold statement. And, of course, red-state readers of the Star will no doubt take some comfort in Swarens' screed.

But Swarens might do well to check out the recent polls. While the presidential race is too far away to call, and Indiana looks to be solid red regardless, the fact is that independents appear to be abandoning Bush by the bushel, and even some Republicans appear to be disaffected.

Swarens is foolish to say that Pelosi's statement is likely to upset anyone but loyal Republicans overly much. It's increasingly obvious that the votiing public is, in fact, coming to the same conclusion; witness Bush's consitently poor approval rating on specific issues.

Moreover, Pelosi didn't wade in the muck that so many Republicans love to wallow in by questioning Bush's character and honesty -- although there's plenty there to criticize as well -- or patriotism. No, she simply pointed out that Bush and Company don't appear to be very competent at achieving the goals they claim to pursue. However much Swarens might wish it were otherwise, during an election year, considering the incumbent's competence is very much on the table as a legitimate topic.


iraq hostage update

As if Abu Ghraib weren't bad enough! Nearly a year ago, I noted that US forces in Iraq had apparently adopted the practice of taking hostages -- an act specifically forbidden by the Geneva Conventions -- in order to secure the surrender of wanted Iraqis. According to Newsday, our military is still at it.
In a little-noticed development amid Iraq's prison abuse scandal, the U.S. military is holding dozens of Iraqis as bargaining chips to put pressure on their wanted relatives to surrender, according to human rights groups. These detainees are not accused of any crimes, and experts say their detention violates the Geneva Conventions and other international laws. The practice also risks associating the United States with the tactics of countries that it has long criticized for arbitrary arrests.

"It's clearly an abuse of the powers of arrest, to arrest one person and say that you're going to hold him until he gives information about somebody else, especially a close relative," said John Quigley, an international law professor at Ohio State University. "Arrests are supposed to be based on suspicion that the person has committed some offense."

U.S. officials deny that there is a systematic practice of detaining relatives to pressure Iraqi fugitives into surrendering. "The coalition does not take hostages," said a senior military official who asked not to be named. "Relatives who might have information about wanted persons are sometimes detained for questioning, and then they are released. There is no policy of holding people as bargaining chips."

But Iraqi human rights groups say they have documented dozens of cases similar to Moayad's, in which family members who are not accused of any crimes have been detained for weeks or even months and told that they would be released only when a wanted relative surrenders to U.S. forces.

"We have many cases of Americans going to a house looking for someone, and when they can't find him, they take another family member in his place," said Bassem al-Rubaie, director of the Council of Legal Defense Care, a group of Iraqi lawyers that has been campaigning for prisoner rights. "This has been going on since the early days of the American occupation."

Emerging developments from the Abu Ghraib scandal reveal that US forces aren't shy about using relatives of detainees or suspects -- including children -- to get them to talk or surrender.
A military intelligence analyst who recently completed duty at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq said Wednesday that the 16-year-old son of a detainee there was abused by U.S. soldiers in order to break his father's resistance to interrogators.

The analyst said the teenager was stripped naked, thrown in the back of an open truck, driven around in the cold night air, splattered with mud and then presented to his father at Abu Ghraib, the prison at the center of the ongoing scandal over abuse of Iraqi detainees.

Upon seeing his frail and frightened son, the prisoner broke down and cried and told interrogators he would tell them whatever they wanted, the analyst said.

These actions are disgusting, reprehensible, and dishonorable. According to Amnesty International, Bush's so-called War on Terror has resulted in widespread human rights abuses. The only way to repudiate this thoroughly disgusting -- and counterproductive -- trend and restore the honor of the United States is to reject the Bush Administration that has stained our national honor and reputation a thousand times worse than any spotted blue dress could possibly do.

It's truly sad to see the Republican party casting itself as pro-torture, while some of its members whimper the party line that the abuse was just the work of a few "bad apples." It's up to reasonable and responsible Republicans to redeem their party from the un-American toads that have hijacked it. Rejecting Bush at the ballot box and handing his entire stinking crew their walking papers come January would be a good start.


parody of the day

The Mighty Reason Man takes a satirical tour of the conservative blogosphere.

THE MEDIA'S WAR ON THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION continues unabated. Recent events have combined with the media's anti-Bush agenda to paint a misleadingly dark picture of Iraq. If you received all your news from CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The Army Times, The Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, USA Today, the Sacremento Bee, the San Jose Mercury News, The Orlando Sentinel, The Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, The Lansing State Journal, the Dallas Morning News, the Boston Globe, the Houston Chronicle, UPI, Reuters, or the Associated Press, you would be under the impression that things are pretty bleak in Iraq.

Fortunately, Michael Ubaldi has several blog posts explaining how good it actually is over there. Just keep scrolling.

posted at 05:23 PM by Glenn Reynolds

(via Eschaton)


new at dam

Destroy All Monsters' celebration of Rumiko Takahashi continues with my review of the hilarious early '80s anime series Urusei Yatsura.

Musashi also links to this awesome photo from Toho's upcoming -- and, apparently, final-for-quite-some-time Godzilla flick, courtesy AiCN.

godzilla, baby!

  xTuesday, May 25, 2004

l33t post of the day

I haven't done one of these in a while, but here it is: The Iliad in "instant messenger speak"! 4w3s0m3!

(via FARK)


blogroll update

I've done some long-overdue tweaking to the Planet Swank template. I've actually left some of the major chores -- such as repairing the single-post template, and tweaking the overall layout -- undone (actually, I managed to fix the problems with the former -- ph34r my l33t HTML skillz!), but I have made some updates to the blogroll. Please welcome Approximately Perfect, Just a Bump in the Beltway, Respectful of Otters, The Freway Blogger, and The Panda's Thumb.

Also, Phil Carter's excellent Intel Dump is now at a new URL. And Nathan (Cold Fusion Video) Shumate's blog has changed its name from Etched in Stone to Tachyon City.

Finally, I've added the Rumsfeld Wire RSS feed to keep track of developments in the Abu Ghraib scandal. And thanks to a request by Jaquandor, I've added my picture to the sidebar.

I'm now off to find a new RSS feed tool.

Update: Found one, and the blog's XML postings are working once again. w00t!


richard biggs r.i.p.

richard biggs as dr. stephen franklin

I'm shocked and saddened to learn that actor Richard Biggs, who played Dr. Stephen Franklin on the acclaimed science fiction TV series Babylon 5, died suddenly on May 22 of an apparent stroke or aneurysm. His official Web site lists his age as 44. Planet Swank extends its condolences to the late actor's family, friends and fans.

  xMonday, May 24, 2004

cheapo dvd alert

The other day, I cashed in an hour of overtime and went shopping at's blowout clearance sale. The discs arrived today:

  • Stephen Chow's Royal Tramp

  • Flying Daggers, starring the lovely Maggie Cheung

  • Street Angels, an apparent knockoff of Sexy & Dangerous, starring Simon Yam and Shu Qi

  • Twenty Something, starring Jordan Chan, which appears to be about Hong Kong night life

  • Also arriving was a copy of Shaolin Master Killer/The 36th Chamber of Shaolin that I ordered from Amazon.

The Universal "Legacy Collection" editions of Dracula and Frankenstein arrived Friday evening, as well, which rounds out my order from the other day.

This Friday, I'll likely spend the dough from another hour of overtime picking up some cheapo discs from the folks who brought me that Gamera disc; they offer five for $25. c00L!


new at dam

Destroy All Monsters has posted my review of the long-awaited theatrical release of the great Hong Kong action comedy Shaolin Soccer.

  xSunday, May 23, 2004

happy anniversary

gregory and crystal, may 23, 1998 my lovely wife and myself, married six years ago today, May 23, 1998. It's been a wonderful six years, during which we've experienced a lot...two beautiful and spirited daughters, a move to a different city, several job changes, buying and selling two houses, a PlayStation and a PlayStation 2, along with the everyday joy of being together. Tonight Crystal and I plan to celebrate with some wonderful time to ourselves, including dinner and a movie.

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