Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Well, fuck. Those assholes at Tawhid and Jihad are using some sort of anime free hosting site - - and no I'm not direct-linking to it. Only go there if you're planning on DDoS-ing it into the stone age. But I'm irate that my hobby has even a peripheral connection with the turds who host decapitation-propaganda. *Almost* irate enough to go learn how to be a script kiddie. Calling all whitehats...
Sorry, I should explain that. A leftist friend of mine keeps me on his mailing-list of Bush-is-the-devil clip-jobs, and this morning's E.L. Doctorow bile about Bush's feelings, or lack thereof, just was one straw too many. Considering I've seen said leftist friend actually break out the evil eye when talking about the devil Bush, I'm not really exaggerating when I say that Bush-hatred looks like the new Witch panic to me.

So sayeth the new Puritans,
Who, observing a worldly affect
Know a man elect,
Or in cases given, not.

You gave us over to the Devil
And his Indian hordes
In the Eastward this season past;

Spreads his society within the Bay itself.
Observe the young,
Tormented by the unseen
Writhe and shout in the public square.
It is your evil that drives them mad!

Witch-finders, witch-hunters, witch-burners,
In the end come again,
To save us from the devil
Made flesh in fallible man.


Monday, September 27, 2004

Driving along East Whitehall Road, in State College's "Southwest Borough", you will find a cluster of about a half-dozen modest homes with Kerry-Edwards signs in their yards, all in a row. I cannot tell if this is at all related to why every other house on that block, barring one, has for-sale signs instead. The one Bush-Cheney holdout square in the center of the Cluster appeared the week after I noticed the Cluster forming. He or she looks like she's under siege; I must be getting sentimental in my old age - I never was one for the underdog, before.
To continue my run of reviews of bad movies, I find it my sad duty to report that the Forgotten is a dire temptation and inspiration of inappropriate critical humor. You know you've got a problem when your deadly-serious dead child/abduction thriller elicits a universal and spontaneous giggle from a matinee crowd of greying adults mid-way through. The story, of a grieving mother who just won't let the memory of her dead child go, is strongly evocative of the plight of the 9/11 widows in the initial twenty or thirty minutes, and the steady tastefulness of that initial twenty or thirty minutes was encouraging. Then the NSA showed up, and seriousness went on holiday. Oh, there was no humor - no intentional humor, at least - but the writing went south along with seriousness, no doubt for a romantic tryst on the beaches around Kitty Hawk.

Our unhinged protagonist develops the belief that aliens have abducted her lost son, and not only bewitches a fellow-grieving dimbulb parent into sharing that belief, but by some miracle of fourth-wall influence, convinces the committee of scriptwriters as well. Not long afterwards, the special-effects crew, who have been unobtrusive and restrained up to that moment, introduce God's Bungee Cord, with which the mostly-unseen aliens eject any character who threatens to interfere with the plot - er, "experiment". When I call it "God's Bungee Cord", I'm not kidding. The first time we see it - a moment replicated in the trailers - it looks like the roof of the world ripping off, which seemed, from the trailer-point-of-view, a cool visual metaphor for phildickian revelation of the facade of reality being torn asunder. Not so much, in the actual execution - the roof-ripping is just the necessary and near-instantaneous prelude to the aliens attaching God's Bungee Cord to the now-unnecessary character so that he or she can be catapulted into the great empty sky. It resembles nothing so much as the punishment for getting a question wrong before the bridgekeeper in the Holy Grail.

The movie-logic never really recovers from the derangement caused by repeated operations of God's Bungee Cord, but I managed to make through to the sappy, unearned, Hollywood Ending. Normally I fulminate against Hollywood Endings, which often will ruin otherwise-decent movies like What Dreams Might Come. (Yes, I mostly liked that movie, although in the generally-laudable rush to hate the new, piously saintly Robin Williams, I seem to be the only one left in that position.) But a Hollywood Ending can only ruin a movie which has preserved its potential intact to that point of the movie. Ruining a good movie requires that one deliver a mostly-good movie-fractionate into the saccharine-stained hands of the Endmongers to ruin. You can't ruin a bad movie; you can only bring it to a close. So they did; at that point, who cares? Send the horse off to the glue-merchants or the knackers, it's a dead horse either way.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

It's the harvest season, so I'm much more busy at work than is usually the case. A few things:

Bellefonte and the rest of Happy Valley didn't escape the flooding, but it was mostly people who live or own property in the low-lying areas who got socked, mostly by Spring Creek, which overran its banks throughout the valley. Water Street was shut down in Bellefonte, and several neighborhoods in Milesburg were flooded out. When I drove through, it seemed as if every portable pump in the county was deployed along one unremarkable street, emptying basements. Houserville and Lemont also had some homes flooded out, especially in Houserville along the fringes of Spring Creek Park, which was inundated. Later in the day I saw some kids with boogie boards wading through the flood along the edge of the baseball diamond in Spring Creek Park. Earlier, I saw two idiots on mountain bikes barrel through the raging flood pouring across Puddingtown Road, up to their waists. Still can't believe they made it without getting washed into the sheep pastures downstream.

Watched about half of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The movie was like someone's plagiarized student reel - here's my version of the end of Citizen Kane, here's my take on the Hudsucker Proxy, a Star Wars-like display of archaic serial editing techniques, the fighter scenes from Pearl Harbor, the fantasy bedroom scene from Brazil, the sidekick from Destination: Moon, ooh - how about the producer's daddy's Flash Gordon? League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in the Central Asian scene, the sleazy guy from the Mummy, touches of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The quality of the films plagiarized dropped as the movie went on, as well. I suppose I wouldn't have minded as much if the plot, action, and characters were sprightly enough, or distracting enough - even the Mummy Returns, as stupid and lame as it was, had moments of movie magic. All Sky Captain... had to offer, from my point of view, was (terrible) style over substance.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Best theory I've seen yet as to what the hell's going on with Rathergate.

Via Roger L. Simon.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

I ran into Mendel Schmiederkamp at the Comic Swap yesterday. He was an officer with PSSFS back in the late 90s, before I stopped going to meetings. He's back in town, and working for PSU's Applied Research Lab. He hasn't changed much, aside from a few more pounds and a longish chin-beard. We talked a while about PSSFS's perpetual problems with its library. The latest news is that Atherton Hall came up with some sort of "lease" arrangement, and now they're threatening to terminate the lease. Nice to catch up with the old PSSFS crew. Speaking of which, the new administration has a livejournal link.
The second volume of Apocalypse Meow was in at the Comic Swap yesterday. (Damn, I wish ADV had retained the original type "Cat Shit One"; I understand that it's literally impossible to market a title with an obscenity centrally featured, but "Apocalypse Meow" is so goddamned lame.) Reading that second volume through, I finally recognized what weirds me out so much about this anthropomorphic war-comic. It's entirely from the American point of view. This was less obvious in the first volume, but after the author introduces a scaldingly incompetent Japanese ranger into the story, the issue came into focus. The comic was written and illustrated by a Japanese mangaka - one Motofumi Kobayashi. But it reads like the product of a particularly red-state army-clan type. If it actually was from the pen of said red-state army-clan American, I'd call it borderline racist.

The decision to portray the Japanese as ugly monkeys is particularly off-putting. I can deal with the French portrayed as foul, disgusting pigs - I'm naturally biased against the French. The portrayal of the various Vietnamese factions - the corrupt ARVN, the stoic Montagnards, the fanatic NVA and Viet Cong - is by-and-large sympathetic, if somewhat superior. It's hard to relate to Russian bears and Chinese pandas with anything but amusement; but the monkeys are a real poser. The Japanese idea of the monkey is somewhat different from the Western notion, I think. It probably has something to do with the commonality of non-chimpanzee or great ape-type monkeys in Japan. When we think of monkeys, we think exotic, intelligent chimpanzees. The Japanese are more likely to picture dim little thieving primates, like less cute raccoons. The Japanese notion of the monkey is a stupid, bumbling figure of chaos. That stereotype is definitely on display in this volume of Apocalypse Meow.

In truth, I have to wonder how much in the mainstream of Japanese manga Kobayashi actually *is*. Even the art feels more like American alternative comics than any of the standard schools of manga. That might just be the time-period - I associate alternative comics with an aesthetic that is strongly tinged with the look and feel of the Sixties. But it bugs me. If there wasn't a Japanese name on this comic, I'd assume it was an American Army brat who'd spent some time on Okinawa or one of the other bases.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

On a variant of yesterday's theme, I find myself impelled - nay, compelled! - to link to this excerpt from C.B.S. Pinafore.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Tragedy of Omlet, Prince of Massachusetts, cont.

(Previously, by others' hands, here and here)

SCENE III. A lavish hotel room in Cleveland.


My soundbites are embark'd: farewell:
And, darling, as the airwaves give benefit
And convoy each sentiment, do not sleep,
But let me hear from you.

Do you doubt that?

For Cheney and the malice of his favour,
Hold it a little cut worthy of the blood,
A rose in the age of weakling nature,
Forward, not permanent, mean, not lasting,
The skunk’s short stink of a careless moment; No more.

No more but so?

Think it no more;
For the negative, mud-slung, gathers none alone
In bundles and bulk, but, as the temple empties,
The lonesome service of the mind and soul
Grows solitary withal. Better I loved you then,
That now no soil nor cautel might besmirch
The virtue of our will: must we fear,
Our greatness weigh'd, my will so not mine own?
For I myself am subject to this plan:
We may not, as unvalued persons do,
Campaign for ourselves; for on this violence depend
The safety and health of Teresa’s whole estate;
And therefore ought our vitriol be circumscribed
Unto the voice and yielding of sweet reason
Whereof we are the banner. Then if I say you love them,
It fits your wisdom so far to believe it
As he in his particular act and place
May give his saying deed; which is no further
Than the main voice of Democracy goes withal.
Then weigh what loss your honour may sustain,
If with too vicious tongue I damn their songs,
Or lose the mobbing heart, or thus our treasure open
To their unmaster'd raging fury.
Fear it, Omlet, fear it, my dear candidate,
And keep me in the rear of that affection,
Out of the shot and danger of the fray.
Be easy then; their evil lies in fear:
Age to itself reveals, though none else near.

I shall the effect of this good lesson keep,
As watchman over your part. Too-good my brother,
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Urge me leap from a steep, thorny cliff in heaven;
Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
Warm in th’ bath of an adoring press,
Happy in your virtue.

O, fear me not.
I stay too long: but here Clinton calls.


A double helping is a double grace,
Fast food makes for long hospital stays.

Yet here, Edwards! attack, attack, for shame!
Their bile drips from the orbit of your eye,
And you are blind’d thus. There; my blessing with thee!
With these few precepts in thy memory
Damn their character. Give thy doubts no tongue,
Nor any proportioned thought the act.
Be thou familiar, and by all means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, no niceties further tied,
Shift away, or to our cause further steel;
But do not dull thy blade with soft sweetness
Lest some milquetoast, halfheart pundit wilt. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Drive the enemy partisans in disgust to flee.
Give every rumor thy ear, and each thy voice;
Earn them every man's censure, and stay on message.
Costly thy habit that niceness buys,
Politician never so sweet, gaudied;
But the apparel thus will wear the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Will be all you to this ticket pulls.
Neither an explainer nor an excuser be;
For halves oft loses both itself and friend,
And stonewalling locks you in the rigid lie.
This above all: to thine own message be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thine falsity will be found by no man.
Farewell: my nurse is here for my bath!

Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

Her sponge invites me, go; the enemy rend.

Farewell, Edward; and remember well
What I demand of you.

'Tis in my memory lock'd,
And some future memoir published, print the truth of it.


For those who insist that Bush is a freedom-suppressing tyrant taking advantage of a terror-war to crush democratic aspirations and traditions, please, please, please look to Vladimir Putin, who is in the process of giving a practical demonstration of what such a thing actually looks like in the world outside of your fevered imagination. It features the suppression of all media which disagrees with the tyrant; replacement of the process of election of legislators and provincial governors with appointment by the central government, and a return to central control.

If Bush was actually the devil of the imagination of some on the left, a Republican appointee would be Mayor of New York City, Congress would have been purged by fiat of Democratic congressmen, Paul Krugman would be in a psychiatric ward, Maureen Dowd would have been poisoned and imprisoned in a medical ward, the Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe would be permanently closed, and the Salzburgers, Ted Turner, and George Soros would be all either be doing time on trumped up corruption charges, or in foreign exile.

Don't believe me? Read the news coming from Russia. It'll curl your hair.

Via Instapundit.

After reading Nathan Hamm's take on that article, I see that I overreacted just a smidge. I'm still not too thrilled with Putin, but he's not quite gone as far overboard as the above link would indicate.

Monday, September 13, 2004

I spent much of the weekend playing games on the computer at home, and watching Fox News. They had Richard Holbrooke on the other night, opining that Iraq was “worse than Vietnam”. You know, if Kerry is a would-be Nixon, sour, foul-mouthed, secretive and unlikable, then Holbrooke is his would-be Kissinger - arrogant, unprincipled, ruthless and sharp-elbowed. The interviewer amused himself by trying to get Holbrooke to identify which parts of the current Coalition in Iraq was “coerced”, and which were “the bribed”. Holbrooke attempted to elucidate Kerry’s “Underpants Gnome” strategy for shifting “ownership” of the Iraq occupation onto the international players. If he provided a phase two, I didn’t spot it.
Bellefonte had a welcome-home parade on the 11th for a local element of the 28th Infantry Division, the 442nd Support Company, which has returned from Iraq. It was a nice little rah-rah-rah moment on a somber day. They had the company sitting on a set of chairs taped to a tractor-trailer flatbed, facing outwards. There was only a couple dozen of the returning veterans, so the next flatbed had some older veterans from Vietnam, and then the rest of the parade was composed of local supporters - little leagues, politicians, majorettes, two bands, some guys on chopped Harleys, a literal clown car, and what looked like every piece of emergency equipment in the borough. There was State Sen. Jake Corman in the rumble seat of a classic convertible, and State Reps. Benninghoff (R) and Rogers (D) in less-flashy cars. There was a file of Civil War reenactors, led by a short man with a sword who I suspect was State Rep. Lynn Herman (R), although he had neglected to bring along a sign for advertising purposes, so I could be wrong.

The reenactors showed off for the crowd by firing off a round of blanks in front of my position on the parade route, than proceeded to march off, reloading as they went. Less impressive was the group of kids with horses, who had painted two white ponies in red and blue in a flag-pattern. I couldn’t imagine that the ponies appreciated that humiliation, and they were expressing that emotion or something similar by taking a dump on Allegeny Street every hundred yards or so. Aren’t they supposed to hold off feeding show horses the day before the show, to avoid that sort of display? Or, at least, fit them with dung-bags to keep the shit off the pavement?
Was watching elfin lied over at Dave’s while my wash went through the Laundromat in his apartment complex. That show just keeps getting creepier and nastier. While watching, it occurred to me that the protagonists in harem anime are remarkably similar to what are known as “cat hoarders”, those well-meaning old ladies who have first one cat, then two, then three, then eventually, every stray cat they come across, until the population exceeds the food budget, and old cats die without being buried, and starving young ones start cannibalizing the corpses of the dead, in a horrible dark chaos that brings nothing more to mind than Make Room, Make Room. Harem protagonists are girl hoarders.

Yes, elfin lied is that kind of show. My clothes are clean, and yet I still feel dirty.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Rain, rain, rain. The mangled ghost of Frances is passing overhead, even as we speak. Pennsylvania is sort of like the rear axle of a Greyhound bus when it comes to hurricanes. The front of the vehicle might get totaled by a deer, and the mid-chassis can get banged up by what's left, but all we ever see is a spray of gore and bone-chips. This is just a really persistent rainstorm.

I really don't understand why people feel the need to move to Florida. Hot as hell, humid beyond belief, flat as a pancake, full of gators, and ground zero for at least one hurricane a season. Hope my parents' new retirement home came through the second hurricane intact. Our in-house opinion seems to be that Ivan isn't going to make the hat trick for Florida, blessed be. Jay says somewhere in the Gulf, no matter what the computer models suggest.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The Monkeysphere. It's essentially a rant on the subject of the emotional village - the sociobiological notion that we can only really maintain relationships with a set number of people - this guy uses 150, I've seen others cite 200. Nothing terribly profound, but fun. And I appreciate anyone who offers rules for understanding the world by starting with 1) You're a moron. So's everyone else.

Via Pixy Misa.

Monday, September 06, 2004

The Kerry campaign managed to organize an event in a 6-to-1 Democratic town - Stuebenville, OH - in which he was roundly booed and abused by a hostile crowd. How did they achieve this feat of negative genius? They cancelled and rescheduled an event two weeks after the first, abortive event, giving their local opponents notice and advance warning. Then they tried to schedule the event at a *gun range*, on the apparent theory that gun-lovers were representative of undecided voters. Or something. Then they had the local firefighters tell the campaign to go piss up a rope. It was apparently a perfect storm of organized anti-abortion students from a local Catholic college, Republicans, irate NRA supporters, and firefighters who descended on an open-air rally, shouting their displeasure at the Democratic candidate. This is the man that the Democratic base nominated to manage a global war of smart networks and rapid response? He couldn't keep college students and a gun range proprietor from getting inside his staff's OODA loop! How the hell does he plan on dealing with al Queda or the mullahs?

Via the Instapundit.

Correction: there wasn't any shouting. Just hundreds and hundreds of anti-abortion protesters with signs. The main point still stands - the Kerry people got upstaged at their own rally.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Well, that's that. Not exactly a ravishing or overpowering speech by Bush 43. The Fox crowd seemed bigger on the speech than I was, but I guess I agree that it wasn't a notable failure or disaster. Pataki made Bush look good in comparison. Can't quite understand the "Pataki '08" crowd - he's so utterly colorless and bland.

Tommy Franks stepped into the campaign with both feet. Good speech, but he's got a really strange public speaking style - staggered, with the end of each sentence sitting vocally at the beginning of the next, and big gaps laid in the middle of thoughts. It sounds like he's reading bad poetry. Since we know from his memoirs that he does, indeed, write bad poetry, this may not be an accident. Always good to see a member of the Brotherhood of Bad Poets do well. I caught his interview with some of the PBS silverbacks between his speech and Pataki's. The one silverback pounded at him for a good five minutes, trying to break his discipline and get him to commit to a partisan line one way or the other on the Swift Vets furball. Franks kept leading his interviewer back to the '71 hearings, and how that told against Kerry in his decision between the two candidates. For those of you following from home, Franks isn't a Republican - says he's a determined Independent, but that he felt it necessary to express his choice this year in a more public and active fashion than the usual privacy of the voting booth. I respect that.

What I don't respect is Kerry's decision to try to upstage Bush with a midnight rally immediately following the end of the Republican Convention. This is unprecedented according to the talking heads, and is certainly disrespectful of the other party. The Republicans did no such thing after the Democratic Convention. But this *type* of behavior is vintage Kerry - it absolutely reeks of his decision in the close 1996 senatorial campaign against then-Governor William Weld, when Kerry intentionally broke a "no mudslinging" pact with Weld in the last week of the campaign, timed so that Weld had no time to retaliate. Kerry likes his nastier, more mean-spirited attacks to come with no warning, and to judge from the speech excerpts released beforehand, this one will be pretty nasty.

But it seems to be a pretty stupid attack, as well. Cheney attacked Kerry in his speech at the Convention, as is the practice for VP candidates - they're there to be the attack-dogs. Kerry's apparently decided to attack the messenger, rather than the messenger's boss. Not particularly smart, I don't think. People don't vote for the vice presidential candidate, and with Cheney in that slot, thank the hypothetical absolute for *that* mercy.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Watched Miller and Cheney with the poker crowd last night. I got knocked out of the tournament early, so I was sitting on the couch playing GBA while they threw comments over their shoulders. Miller was a big hit, but no-body likes Cheney, even our vehemently pro-life conservative host. Dave A. got pissed at Cheney and left early, having been likewise knocked out early from the tournament. The resident clown was asking questions about Cheney's war record as Mrs. Cheney lauded his courage and etc. Explained how he wasn't a military man, despite having been Secretary of Defense.

Zell Miller sounds like a recording of an orator from the first half of the 20th Century. You don't hear his kind of accent much in political circles these days. Kind of bracing, like hearing from the Democratic Past. He's an angry, angry guy. Did someone think that having Cheney follow Miller would make Cheney sound less angry and scary? A rotweiler would seem less ferocious if it had to bat follow-up to today's Zell Miller.

Even the guy who didn't know Cheney's war record, or lack thereof, knew to expect a possible resignation speech. That rumor really made the rounds, didn't it? No such thing, although the first parts of his speech had all the hallmarks of a reworked resignation or retirement speech. So we're stuck with Cheney, are we? Pity.
Band-aids, flip-flops - when did the Republican rank-and-file become prop comics?