Monday, July 30, 2007

Swingin' Bachelor Pad

Well, that's one hurdle crossed. I've managed to move into my new studio apartment to the point where I'm comfortable getting up tomorrow and being able to shower and put on clothes. The rest is gravy.

And by gravy I mean I want a refrigerator, gas hookups, my new queen size bed, and the combination microwave/toaster that I saw at Sears this weekend. Yes, a toaster! It's built into the side of the microwave. Useful for small spaces.

By the way, I don't have DSL service until Friday. One day I will find out which neighbor didn't encrypt his wireless router, and I will take him out for a drink.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Your Real Age

Even with all I'm going through, I'm actually 3.5 years younger than I thought, plus I look even younger than that! Try it for yourself.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ron Paul - What's Up With That Guy?

Ron Paul is a Republican Presidential candidate who is against the war. Do I love him? Do I hate him? I don't know, but I do know that just mentioning Ron Paul on your website can quadruple your hit count.

Nothing Freaks Me Like A Cephalopod

I grew up in the Monterey Bay Area, and I've seen some weird stuff. One year, there was a population explosion of bio-luminescent plankton, and for months the tide glowed eerily. Then the plankton population used up the oxygen in the bay and there was a mass grunion annihilation. Volunteers scooped up thousands of beached grunion.

But thankfully I don't live there now, because this terrifies me.

A mysterious sea creature, up to 7 feet long, weighing up to 100 pounds. It hunts in packs of hundreds, flying through the water at 25 mph, changing color.
With a parrot-like beak and arms covered with thousands of sharp barbs, it attacks and tries to eat nearly anything it sees, including fish, scuba divers, even its own kind.
But it's not a creature of Hollywood. It's real. And it's reached the Monterey Bay. The Humboldt squid, also known as the giant squid or jumbo squid, traditionally has lived in warm waters off South America and Mexico, where fishermen call it "diablo rojo," or "red devil."
For reasons that still aren't entirely clear, large numbers of the scrappy cephalopods have been steadily expanding their range north, first off San Diego and Los Angeles, where hundreds have washed up on beaches in recent years.

Squid and jellyfish are sooooo alien and amorphous that I can't deal with 'em. Don't ask me to explain it either. They're just creeeeeeeeeepy. And why no real plurals? What's up with that?

WAMK will be surprised to learn that a mainstream newspaper goes out of its way to dismiss Global Warming as a cause for the migration, blaming instead overfishing in diablo's native waters. I think it's more that they sense that their first major attack on humans would be better launched from somewhere closer to Silicon Valley. Once they take down our technology, then we will be helpless as babes, plump and primed for devouring. And I'm well aware that Los Angeles is right along their route.

The article is two days old, but I read about it today. It figures. Thursday... Cthulu, HP Lovecraft's eldritch God of the deep. Sweet Jesus, we must stop them now, before it's too late!

Then again, I live 30 miles from the beach and it's 100 degrees out here nowadays, so I can probabaly outrun my ectomorphic overlords if the time comes.

Okay, never mind. I'm fine now. Whew! Still... watch the aquariums.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Flaunting My Ignorance

The first ever YouTube debates happened a couple of days ago. There's been plenty of comment around the blogosphere about 'em, and even a fun hoax which claimed that somehow the goatse had made it on to CNN. I don't want to say any more about the goatse. Look it up on Wikipedia, and even follow the links if you want to know more. You'll be sorry.

I didn't watch, perhaps out of goatsephobia, but mostly because it's too damn early. The campaign cycle is criminally lengthy and I don't need these people shouting VOTE FOR ME in my face when we all know that a year and a half from now the elections will have been cancelled because Dick Cheney has declared martial law. I've got to buy a barrel of rice and a water tank and shotgun shells. YouTube! Ha!

Also don't fool yourself that opening up the questions to WeThePeople was somehow more democratizing than the normal debate format. The questions were screened, and there were many thousands to choose from. Even taking out anything with goatse footage, any question a moderator would have asked on their own was surely supplied by SOMEONE in YouTubeniverse. If you think the debates are normally sealed off from reality, this is worse because it has the appearance of not being so. Which is more dangerous, a Terminator that's a titanium skeleton or a terminator that appears to be a flesh and blood policeman? I think you know the answer to that!

At this early stage it's not only safe to ignore the candidates posturings, it's VITAL. This is their training period. Pay attention next year. If you must vote in the primaries, start looking at them in that final month when they have their messages all polished up. If they can stay on message and only use small, easy-to-digest sentences -- vote for the other guy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Silver Lining

So last night, a picture fell off a high shelf in my office, plummeting 6 feet to the the tile floor below. Bright side? I'm sleeping on the floor of my office until my swingin' bachelor pad is ready next week, so the picture harmlessly plopped on two layers of sleeping bag, a blanket and sheet, and my leg.

Okay, so maybe it's not the most cheerful silver-lining story ever. You want uplift, watch some Oprah.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The D-Word

I'm getting divorced, all right? That's why I haven't been writing much lately.

Just signed the papers last night, which means now the part that everyone loves begins - negotiating who gets what appliances, which CDs and so on. Music isn't going to be very difficult because we had very, very different tastes in music. The hardest part of DVD shares will be determining who has to keep the ones NEITHER of us likes. How did those get in there?

We were married for a little over 14 years.

Financially we look to be okay. I think both of us are walking away from the union with more than what we had when we met, which means the whole thing turned a profit. Bright side!

Irreconcilable differences. It's the only reason you need in California.

If you enjoy reading this blog, bear with me for a few more weeks and I should be back to speed. Right now I'm embroiled in detail work, the kind that I started writing blogs to avoid doing. I'll be back though. And I won't really be gone either, because I can use the therapy of posting once in a while.

(P.S. I'm not normally this shameless, but if you're a woman who reads this, drop me a line about my profile picture to tell me that I'm totally hot. A little of that goes a long way in these circumstances.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hidden Beauty: Local Boys Make Good

I swear I was gonna keep off this story, but there's a local angle. You always play the local angle!

Mitt Romney, who threw himself onto the John Edwards Haircut bandwagon at breakneck speeds as it careened past him, has been revealed to have used the services of Hidden Beauty, a “a mobile beauty team for hair, makeup and men’s grooming and spa services.” He got two sessions at $150 a pop. I bet it was when he was doing those debates at the Regan Library, which is about a 20 minute drive from here.

The company is based in West Hills! So am I! And as you might expect, I've never heard of Hidden Beauty. There is a gated community called Hidden Hills around here somewhere, though of course it's hidden so I couldn't quite tell you where. It's kind of like the train platform to Hogworts.

Anyway, Romney was quoted as saying about Edwards that he pays $50 for a haircut, including tip - when you include bronzer treatments, this rounds up to $200 bucks, and that makes them about even. Maybe there aren't two Americas, after all. I can't wait to hear what Fred Thompson spends on makeup, though it's a safe bet his hair budget is pretty low. Guiliani, well, calculate by this:

Monday, July 16, 2007

Boing Boing: 1952 comic predicts Bush/Cheney Iran policy

Click to Enlarge

As they suggest, perhaps Cheney read this as a child and it stuck with 'im.

No Legs = Unfair Advantage

...South African Oscar Pistorius, 20, on Sunday night made his debut against a top field of able-bodied athletes. In rainy chill that validated the common phrase "dreadful English weather," he finished a well-beaten seventh, then was disqualified for having run outside his No. 8 lane In the Norwich Union British Grand Prix race.
LA Times, 7/16/07
Oscar Pistorius' legs are missing from the knee down. He was profiled in Wired Magazine a few monts ago, which is why I know anything about a sports story. He has been fitted with carbon fibre springs in the place of normal prosthetic legs, as pictured here.
Pistorius was running in a race against less exotic atheletes, and he'd fought hard to compete in that arena. There are two arguments he had to refute. One is that as a man without legs, he was at a disadvantage. His counter-argument was the second reason why he shouldn't compete: the springs enabled him to propel himself farther than someone with mere feet, and with less body mass, his lungs didn't need to provide as much oxygen thus giving him better endurance.
So in a lot of ways, it's a race of apple versus oranges. Or cheetah versus motorcycles. The question is, is it a fair race?
And the answer is yes, if we all agree beforehand.
Sports is entertainment, nothing more. We pit people against each other and hope that one person or team will win. Often implicit is the assumption that they're evenly matched, but it's no requirement. If people buy tickets to the big Clean Vs. Steroids game, they are perfectly happy to root for clean or steroids, knowing that the Steroid people, while stronger, will have worse judgement and mobility. It's all in the disclosure. Plus, no one goes after their bookies if you know the parameters in advance.
This is the calculation that the promoters made when staging the Pistorius race. It's very disappointing that it ended in a technicality; because this proves nothing. If he wins the next one, it will prove something: We have the technology. We can rebuild him - better, stronger, faster.

My Best Blog Metric

Just a quick observation - I use FEEDBURNER to syndicate this blog, and they provide me with handy statistics. It's because of them that I know what the number one post is, as the result of google searches. I'll make it a multiple choice for you.

1. Turtles All The Way Down (6/19/07)
2. Geopolitics as Barfight (12/6/06)
3. Oh No, Ann Coulter Again (3/5/07)
4. Adwords - Does It Make Adsense? (5/16/07)
5. SECOND LIFE Is Much Cheaper Than Heroin (7/7/6)
6. Nazi Porn Vs. Terrorist Gangs (5/7/07)

Yes, of course it's #6. But thanks for playing!

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Photo the GOP Wants To Hide

This ranks with the "George Bush Can't Find the Exit Door" and "press conference in front of a cemetary" photo ops and the best Republican Encapsulation of recent times - the stage at the NAACP Republican debate. Note Tom Tancredo... and NO ONE ELSE! They all had "scheduling conflicts."

read more | digg story

The Longest Delayed Punchline Ever

I was just about to write a comment in another blog about someone resorting to a reducto ad absurdum argument and I caught myself. Where the hell did I, who never finished college, get all these fancy latin phrases?

Looking back, I remember a 16mm film from high school. It was about how to identify propaganda and counter it. It stuck with me because "propaganda" was depicted as a 7-headed dragon, with one head being ad-hominum attack, another being false analogy, and so on. It was a keystone in my logical development.

I guess it's a pretty dry concept and they filmmakers had to do that to "catapult the propaganda." And it didn't occur to me until just now that depicting propaganda as a dragon IS propaganda.

Setup... beat... beat... beat... (repeat for 30 years) ... PUNCHLINE!

I Was Wrong About Blaming The Messenger

So sue me.

I did a little railing against ad hominum attacks yesterday, calling them a distraction from the real issues. But a weird thing happened. Through means I can't fully comprehend, I have acquired access to a news database from the year 2030. I think it has to do with ATT upgrading its network for the iPhone. Anyway, if you look at these quotes, I think you'll see how wrong I have been. My bad, people!

Al Gore looks sheepishly into the distance. "The thing I never realized was that one man CAN make a difference. Once Tipper and I decided to move our family into that two-room apartment, the global warming trend reversed! It's documented. They were right to ridicule me." Gore sighs heavily and rolls his futon back into place.

See, I wouldn't have seen that coming either.

It was revealed today that Niger had actually sold over 3 tons of yellowcake uranium to Sadam Hussein's Iraqi government in the the 1990s. The evidence had gone unnoticed for decades because Joe Wilson, United States envoy, was enjoying an Iraqi vacation at the behest of his wife, Valarie Plame. "Joe was just there to party on the government's dime," an anonymous source told us. The papers revealing the truth were found under a mini-bar in the hotel where Wilson stayed.

Wow! Is my face red!

The "fame addiction pill" has it's detractors, but Sheehan isn't one of them. "I was out of control. I didn't care about mourning my son, I didn't care whether the war was just. Hell, I was FOR THE WAR! But I just had to have fame."

Page after page of this stuff -- DIXIE CHICKS HOSTED AL-QUAEDA CEL IN STUDIO, OLBERMAN'S EX-DATES TELL ALL: "HE'S A BELOW-AVERAGE LOVER", POOR PEOPLE DIRECTLY AFFECTED BY RISING PRICE OF HAIR PRODUCTS -- I realize now that I have been horribly wrong. In fact it's always appropriate to counter a rational argument with an attack on the person making it.

That's why I feel comfortable saying that Rush Limbaugh's opionions are worthless because he's a drug addict, and anything anyone says on Fox... well, come on! They're fame-whores, or they wouldn't be on TV, right? People who fight illegal immigration are racists, by the way.

Man, is this easier than a real argument? You bet it is! Not that you'd know. You're a terrorist.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I (Cardiac) Huckabee

Oh, THIS is mature.

"Frankly, Michael Moore is an example of why the health care system costs so much in this country. He clearly is one of the reasons that we have a very expensive system. I know that from my own personal experience," said (Republican Presidential candidate Mike) Huckabee, who lost more than 110 pounds and became an avid runner after he was diagnosed with diabetes.
"I know how much more my health care cost when I didn't take care of myself than when I do take care of myself, not only in terms of doctor visits but regular diseases, illnesses, chronic things that come up, monthly prescription bills," Huckabee said. "All of those things have gone dramatically down since I've taken care of myself and worked to live a healthier lifestyle."

Huck. There are ways to grab a piece of a hit movie and use it for your own publicity. This isn't one of 'em. For one thing, it's beside the point - with Universal Health Care Michael Moore wouldn't have to tally how much extra it cost him to be overweight. For another, perhaps anticipating this line of attack, Moore has gone on a program of diet and exercise. You may notice he is bigger in the movie than he is on his contentious CNN appearances.

But the real no-no here is the favorite arrow in the RNC quiver, the ad-hominum attack. Republicans would always rather you discuss John Edwards' hair, Al Gore's car or Michael Moore's weight than poverty, the environment, or socialized medicine. Because they get creamed in the latter arenas and it throws off their opponents. I think we as a people are onto this trick now, but I'm probably being optimistic.

Bonus commenter points for examples of the left doing the same thing!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Harry Potter And The Disco Vampire

Perusing TIME.COM just now, I came across this headline for the review of a certain summer movie:


I think I know how the book ends - in the final pages, Voldemort kills Harry, but he rises again as George Hamilton.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Man About Town

My wife is visiting her parents for the weekend, so I decided to spend a rare afternoon among people, taking advantage of my proximity to tourist spots. You take it for granted when you live in Los Angeles that there is nothing to do here. In fact, people come here because they're attracted by our things to do because things to do in their town suck.

So I hopped the Orange Line across the valley. First stop Universal Citywalk. It's an open-air mall opposite the Universal Studios tour. I like taking the subway because a round trip ticket is a few dollars less than parking on top of the hill, plus you're spared the anxiety of driving. I had lunch at the Daily Grill. A gorgeous model-quality woman sat across from me with her kid, and we were all serenaded by this 17-year-old guitar hero, who performed classic rock tunes with just an effects box and backing tracks. He was note-perfect on HOTEL CALIFORNIA.

I became bored with Citywalk and decided to hoof it down the hill to the subway station. Here's where the "only in L.A." element kicks in. I took the red line to Hollywood and Highland. I heard cheering as I neared the street; sure enough the barricades were up. I had no idea why. The first thing I saw was a street performing trio - a Swedish family of two gawky teen boys and a little girl performing HOTEL CALIFORNIA. I didn't get a picture of them but the street looked like this. Why?

After a little walking around I determined that the Chinese Theatre, which is adjacent to the stop, was hosting a handprint ceremony for the young stars of the HARRY POTTER movies. My first big clue was a sign held by some kids in the bleachers that read 'RUPERT GINT IS BOOTYLICIOUS."

A few years ago I went to Boston by myself, and similarly took the subway downtown on a Sunday, and emerged into the middle of a Greek Pride parade. I felt the same way then that I did today - surrounded by people I had nothing in common with, excited for reasons that I couldn't share. But spectacle fascinates me, so I hung around the big Kodak Theatre mall. I watched people straining to catch a glimpse of (the presumably clothed) Daniel Radcliffe. Two great pictures (thanks cellphone industry, for the camera!) came out of it. Here's the first, of a couple of weary mall employees outside a yogurt shop:

On the left, Supergirl; on the right, Batgirl. There was a guy dressed as The Thing downstairs, but he wouldn't be able to enjoy ice cream until the end of his shift. That's showbiz.

And this other one, just outside the press gaggle. Actually, it's a lousy picture, but if you could see it it's great:
See that little sign in the center of the picture, taped to the barricade with tiny dark squares on it? If I had had a zoom lens, you'd be looking a pictures of the actors, with their names and character names typed beneath them. It's a crib sheet!

No, I didn't get any pictures of Harry Potter stars. That's for tourists. As a matter of fact, I noticed a sign advertising an open mike for a place called the Hollywood Pop Academy. Normally they get a lot of walk-in traffic on a Sunday and a girl named Casey tries to sell you on the idea of singing classes. However since I was the only one there and it was inside, and quiet, I cajoled her into a conversation about what it's like working when the streets are closed, and then we went into a tangent about celebrities sponsoring charities and how it can go horribly wrong. She said that as bad as a Chinese Theatre footprint ceremony can get, it's nothing compared to Academy Awards week, where the streets are closed and security does sweeps of everything

I realize now that I don't enjoy entertainment nearly as much as I enjoy stories about putting entertainment together. When I was a kid I would rather read the Mad Magazine parody of a movie than see the actual movie; it's similar to that.

Thanking Casey for a pleasant chat, I decided to make my way back to the Red Line before the Potter kids emerged and things got really ugly. On the way back I passed the Swedish family again; they were singing HOTEL CALIFORNIA again. Is this some kind of compulsory song for L.A.? Whatever. All I know is, you just can't kill the beast.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Those Who Don't Know Cinema History Are Doomed To Repeat It

Over at Box Office Weekly, guest-me Skot wrote a little piece about Justin-TV yesterday. By the way, good work so far, big fellah! Anyway, to catch you up, Justin-TV is a project in which Justin Ko, a web developer, has strapped a webcam to his head and streams video 24 hours a day. Any time you can log in and see what Justin is doing. Often it's nothing, just like your life.

I just realized why the concept of Justin-TV seems familiar. It emulates the weirdo Robert Montgomery detective movie, THE LADY IN THE LAKE. It was a typical mystery with a gimmick: the whole movies is shot as seen through Montgomery's eyes, which means the only time you see the star's face is if he's looking into the mirror. And he doesn't do that often, because he'd look like a camera with an exhausted cinematographer strapped to its side.

Justin-TV recently expanded, putting cameras on the heads of other people, including a hot blond that you never see. I think this strategy is a mistake. They're only ripping off the same idea. In order to expand and diversify, they need to steal OTHER MOVIE GIMMICKS.

Idea #1. A webcam in a lifeboat. Just like in, you know, Hitchcock's LIFEBOAT. It would be like BIG BROTHER only much, much more limited. 24 hours a day, the same 8 people, all getting more and more annoyed at each other. Maybe one of them is a Nazi spy. Probably Al-Quaeda would work better in this modern context.

Idea #2. At some screenings of THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES, masked ushers rushed into the auditorium during climactic scenes and waved cardboard axes at moviegoers. How difficult would it be, when Justin is having a conversation with a roomful of geeks on your computer, for them to trace your I.P. address and send a team of local Geeks over to your home or office, to duplicate the experience? Note to self: make sure viewers sign a release first, to avoid breaking and entering charges.

Idea #3. During the beta test of the site, stage an elaborate, scary trip to the woods; have Justin and the gang killed off one by one, and claim it's all real. Then, just before you go with version 1.o, announce it was all faked. Yeah, I'm still bitter about BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.

Idea #4. Electric shocks. William Castle wired some seats for showings of THE TINGLER. I'm not quite sure how you'd integrate it with Justin-TV but I like the idea of administering random electric shocks to people. Note to self: confirm appointment with therapist.

Idea #5. "This website is so exciting, no one will be allowed to log in during the last 20 minutes." Lame idea, but easy to implement.

Idea #6. Hitchcock again - instead of a camera strapped to someones head, have one that is trained on the apartment building across the alley, like in REAR WINDOW. Like Justin-TV it's voyeurism, but it also offers some variety!

And finally, Idea #7. Two cameras, mounted on either side of the head. 3-D, man! I can't believe they aren't doing it already! I know what you're thinking but if headaches and motion sickness aren't already a problem with Justin-TV, 3-D ain't gonna make 'em one.

Low-Stress Cynicism -- Hitleresque Felines

Tip o' the hat to WAMK for the link - I'm taking a few moments off my busy schedule of fretting and anxiety to point you in the directions of a website devoted to Cats That Look Like Hitler. I could describe it to you, but a picture can launch a thousand ships.

It should be obvious to you all by now that I am a dog person.

Monday, July 02, 2007

An Hiatus

Regular readers of this blog (and I swear it's more than Skot and WAMK) will be disappointed, or perhaps relieved, that I'm going to be knocking off blogging for a while. I got stuff to do. May I suggest using the RSS feed, to monitor when the hibernation is over?

In the meantime, I'm told there are other sources of crackpot opinions all over the web, and I encourage you to take advantage of them.