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March 31, 2009

How Long Till Things Like This Show Up In IMDb?

I watched this all the way to the end and didn't realize who the voices were until the credits rolled.

There appears to be a whole bunch of these out there, basically ads for old video games, with the basic concept reimagined. Also, I think more people should push boxes with envelopes. 'Cuz, y'know.

March 26, 2009

Up A Couple Notches

It's always an exciting time when all four cats have to go to the vet.

It's even more exciting when, just as we arrive at the vet, it starts raining. A lot.

Maximum excitement can only be reached, however, by having the sort of cat carrier that doesn't have a solid top, but a metal cage lid, allowing easy access to raindrops. Lots and lots of raindrops.

All that happened this morning. Boy, are those cats pissed at me. Still.

March 25, 2009

Lengthening The Tail

Ah, crappy economic times call for more interesting ways to get money out of you, the consumer, who is apparently not consuming. For fans of old movies, this seems like an excellent idea:

Warner Bros on Monday became the first studio to open its film vault to "made-to-order" DVDs, as it sought new revenues in a slumping DVD market by making it possible for fans to buy decades-old films.

Warner Bros, owned by Time Warner Inc, made an initial batch of 150 titles available for purchase online at www.WarnerArchive.com, including 1943 comedy-romance "Mr. Lucky" starring Cary Grant and the 1962 release "All Fall Down" with Warren Beatty and Eva Marie Saint.

...

The Warner Bros film archive has 6,800 titles. Since it entered the DVD market in 1997, the studio has released only around 1,200 of those titles from the vault. By comparison, the company expects by the end of the year to have more than 300 titles available via the DVD-on-demand service.

"I think ultimately the odds are very good that every film ever made will be available on this kind of basis, because why not?" Adams said.

Excellent. BOD (burn on demand) should work very well for something that's owned outright by the publisher (er, studio), since there's no chance of a "if it goes out of print, rights revert to the creator" argument.

In a related note, that sort of suggests that when POD gets off the ground, it'll happen first with media tie-in work-for-hire books. Those'll never go away now. Which is good news for you Buffy/Star Wars/Farscape/whoever completists out there.

March 24, 2009

The Garden Of Tuesday

I seem to be mostly unable to update on Mondays. Perhaps a three-day weekend is hardwired into me. C'est la vie.

* * *

I learned today from a colleague that both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes died on April 23rd, 1616 - at least, on paper. The truth is, Spain and England were using different calendar systems. Spain had switched to the Gregorian calendar system in 1582, but England was still using the Julian calendar, as they thought the conversion was some sort of plot by the Pope to, oh, I don't know, mix everyone up so they were worship on the wrong date and go to Hell. In truth, Shakespeare died May 3rd. Please make a note of this.

* * *

Colbert has won the "Name that NASA ISS Module contest." I wonder if they'll actually do it, or chicken out.

* * *

The cherry blossoms are in full bloom outside. Just gorgeous. Sigh.

Reading: Blood and Iron, by Elizabeth Bear.

March 20, 2009

Dirty Laundry

Newspapers don't do headlines like this anymore:

"DEADLY RADIUM TREASURE LOST IN ATLANTA WILL BE TRACKED BY VISITING RADIOLOGIST! YEAR-LONG SEARCH FOR THE PRECIOUS VIALS HAS FAILED! (Atlanta Constitution, 12/12/1939, pg. A1"
Actual headline, honest. They went on to call the man a "Sleuth of Science." Now that's eye-catching.

To me, this is why they're dying on the vine: Boh-ring. If they take a page from their forefathers, things will turn around. Just look at these recent headlines transformed:

"Heat on AIG despite returned bonuses" becomes "REVILED WALL STREET FAT CATS BEG FOR MERCY, BUT TO NO AVAIL!"
"Bush to write memoir on presidential choices" becomes "BUSH TO WRITE MEMOIRS! WORKING TITLE: 'IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME'"
"Atlanta still a magnet" into "CENSUS ANSWERS 'WHO ARE ALL Y'ALL ANYWAY?'"
Sure, they're misleading, but c'mon. You want eyeballs, after all. Let's get some snarky pulp in there, already. The alternative is to take headlines from vaguely related song titles, as is popular in the blogosphere. Not that I know anything about that, of course.

March 19, 2009

This Week, On Most Wanted

For those of you curious about such things, I saw earlier in the week (and forgot to post) that the long arm of the law had managed to once more lay its hands upon the Little Houdini, he who so recently freaked out my place of employment not long ago. Returned to his old tricks, instead doing something like relocating to parts far, far away.

The moral of his story is, it doesn't do much good to master the art of escaping if you don't know how to stay hidden.

March 18, 2009

Nobody Knows

Stayed up too late last night reading Mr. Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Fun, quick read, and Amazon is selling it for about 40% off, which is a heck of a deal. If you didn't catch his appearance on Colbert the other night, take a look at that as well:

Heh.

* * *

In news that I shouldn't care about as a heterosexual male in this country, and yet amuses me greatly since I do, in fact, follow the show:

"Project Runway" finalist Kenley Collins was arrested today after assaulting her fiance with their cat, authorities said today.
Oh, schadenfreude. So bad, and yet so tasty.

Yes, I like Project Runway. What of it?

Reading: In addition to Graveyard, some graphical goodness:

  • Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One - A remarkable retelling of the origin of Doctor Octopus, portraying him as nuttier than a man in a peanut suit swimming in a vat of cashews in West Almond, NY. Even more remarkable is that I bought it off Amazon for six cents. Six cents! Plus $3.99 S&H, admittedly, but still. Six cents! What? They have copies there now for a penny? Grumble.

  • Immortal Iron Fist, Vol. 1: The Last Iron Fist Story - Oh, Brubaker. You can do no wrong.

  • Justice League of America, Vol. 1: The Tornado's Path - the reboot of the JLA. Liked it, but comic writers? y'know that thing where you use caption boxes instead of balloons, and they each have a different color and/or font for each character? and you think, oh, now you can have a dozen of them on each page? STOP IT RIGHT NOW KTHNX
Now, if you will pardon me, I hear a chocolate macaroon calling to me.

March 17, 2009

Happy Saint Green Guy

Luck of the Irish and all that whatnot to you all. And in honor of the occasion, here's the big guy himself:


The Hulk, as drawn by the great Marie Severin. Image snurched from BeaucoupKevin. Gracias!

Here we see Hulk working on his correspondence. This one's a letter to President Obama, giving him his opinion on the economic crisis (probably something like "HULK ANGRY! SMASH AIGFG! CRAM DOWN MORTGAGES!").

Hulk: Populist for the times.

March 13, 2009

Oh, Ricky

AP Interview with Ricky Gervais and Elmo derails quite nicely:

Also, can someone bring me another cup of tea?

Musical Interlude

The Friday Random Ten:

"Standing in the Shadows of Love," Barry White
"Don't Go," Matthew Sweet
"Nugget," Cake
"Distant Early Warning," Rush
"We Can Work It Out," Heather Nova
"Good King Joy," Trans-Siberian Orchestra
"Step On Me," The Cardigans
"The Tick Theme Song," Doug Katsaros
"Here With Me," Dido
"The Carol of the Old Ones," The Arkham Carolers

Hm. I'd forgotten I still had my Christmas music loaded on my 'pod. Sort of perks March up a bit, at least.

March 12, 2009

I'll Come Running With A Heart On Fire

My only comment on the intarwebaggedon known as Racefail '09: The Failening! I'm sharing this not because I'm looking for a cookie or a "poor you" or whathaveyou, but because it's a bit funny.

(If you don't know what I'm talking about when I say Racefail, then I congratulate you. Also, Hi Dad! Here's some extremely brief context.)

Like so many, I'd been following Racefail, before it spread over so many corners of the internet that it became literally impossible to follow it all. At any rate, I saw a comment (forget where) with some suggested reading on awareness of race and racial understanding. That sort of thing. Now, I'm all up for raising my consciousness, plus I do have easy access to the joy and splendor that is free interlibrary loan, so what the hey. While at work one morning, I filled out a request for one of the books and left it at that.

Or so I thought.

That very afternoon I'd been schedule to teach a library instruction session to a graduate-level education class. These are pretty straightforward. Show them the library catalog, education databases, and other resources. One of those resources, naturally enough, is interlibrary loan. In the course of the demo, I logged into the system to show them how it works. That is to say, I logged into my personal account. About three seconds after I logged in, one of them raised their hand and then pointed at the screen. "Um, what's that book?" she said, pointing at the book request I had made just that morning.

The title of the book in question was, A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being a White Person or Understanding the White Persons in Your Life, by Janet E. Helms.

Don't misunderstand me, it's a good book (as I learned when I finally got hold of it). The title's just a bit...hm. One of my coworkers, also judging it by the title, asked me if it was something in the vein of Stuff White People Like. There are less charitable interpretations as well.

So, yeah. There I was, having to explain why I was requesting a book with such a potentially misleading title to a group of people who had little or no context as to why I was requesting it, never mind the fact that I was effectively a guest presenter (who hadn't finished his completely unrelated presentation) in someone else's class, which meant I had to be sensitive to what the professor wanted, and and! a class that was mostly female and various ethnicities, while I am a white boy at a southern university. The fact that I was relatively new to this debate-slash-argument was just the cherry on top. I'm all in favor of the teachable moment, but c'mon.

Now, I didn't shy away from explaining the book and why I was requesting it, but I found myself extremely aware of my words, wanting to avoid a Michael Scott event. I think I managed it. At least, no one rolled their eyes, which is what I find myself doing when watching Michael Scott's latest verbal atrocity on The Office, they all said, "Huh," or something to that effect, and we finished up.

So yeah, funny. For some values of funny, anyway.

March 10, 2009

Not That You Asked

My position on The Watchmen movie, illustrated by others (very handy that way):

There's some truth in the punchline, of course, but that's essentially it. And now, good night.

The Sky's Up There

A project that's been ongoing at work is the removing of old checkout cards from the backs of the books. It's another sign of the evolution of the job: once these were necessary things for tracking who's got what where, but now with all checkout done electronically, they're just charming and quaint reminders of the past.

OR ARE THEY?!

Yes, yes they are.

OR ARE TH-- [stop that]

Ahem. What my repressed personality is trying to say is, they also have the potential to cause problems later on down the line, like a World War II mine buried in a French farmyard. Those cards often contain what would now be considered sensitive information on patrons, like full name, address (sometimes), and various ID numbers of interest. Sometimes they'd been blacked out, sometimes not. There'd been an ongoing removal project for the last several years: whenever a book gets checked out, the card gets pulled. Simple enough...except that, if a book is never checked out, the card is never pulled. Ergo, last week the card pull project became active, with every book being checked and disarmed. So to speak.

I did my pulls in the American literature section, which proved a bit dusty at times. It's interesting (well, to me) to see the rise and fall of some authors and how they're studied (or not). Books by and about Henry James or Herman Melville, all the cards were already gone. Books by Henry David Thoreau had no cards, while books about Mr. Thoreau did (apparently people are reading him but not studying him). And poor, poor Washington Irving. His works are neither read nor studied. Tragic.

Reading: At the Mountains of Madness, by H. P. Lovecraft, another author whose position in literary reputation has changed over the years.

March 05, 2009

Damn You, Data! Now Everyone Wants An Emotion Chip!

Ah, Japan: Robot Programmed to Love Goes too Far

The trouble all started when a young female intern began to spend several hours each day with Kenji, testing his systems and loading new software routines. When it came time to leave one evening, however, Kenji refused to let her out of his lab enclosure and used his bulky mechanical body to block her exit and hug her repeatedly.

...

Ever since that incident, each time Kenji is re-activated, he instantaneously bonds with the first technician to meet his gaze and rushes to embrace them with his two 100kg hydraulic arms. It doesn’t help that Kenji uses only pre-recorded dog and cat noises to communicate and is able to vocalize his love through a 20 watt speaker in his chest.

Poor old Kenji! Even if it finds someone, it's still screwed (I think this might be a triple entendre, by the way), if Proposition 8 advocate David Gibbs has his way!

Reading: An old favorite, The Best of H. P. Lovecraft.. Because when the economy is collapsing, there's something relaxing about the idea of slipping into madness.

March 04, 2009

"Iceland instantly became the only nation on earth that Americans could point to and say, "Well, at least we didn’t do that.""

So, I'm reading this article from Vanity Fair on the total economic collapse of Iceland, and it's fascinating. Terrifying, but fascinating. It is essentially a case study of how the psychology of a society could lead them to behave en masse in such a way that has, effectively, ruined them all.

Yet another hedge-fund manager explained Icelandic banking to me this way: You have a dog, and I have a cat. We agree that they are each worth a billion dollars. You sell me the dog for a billion, and I sell you the cat for a billion. Now we are no longer pet owners, but Icelandic banks, with a billion dollars in new assets.
It's like when, after the fire department shows up to put out the smoking embers of what was once your home, your wife says, "What the hell were you thinking?" and all you can reply is, "Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time."

As a side note, it also has this:

Alcoa, the biggest aluminum company in the country, encountered two problems peculiar to Iceland when, in 2004, it set about erecting its giant smelting plant. The first was the so-called “hidden people”—or, to put it more plainly, elves—in whom some large number of Icelanders, steeped long and thoroughly in their rich folkloric culture, sincerely believe. Before Alcoa could build its smelter it had to defer to a government expert to scour the enclosed plant site and certify that no elves were on or under it. It was a delicate corporate situation, an Alcoa spokesman told me, because they had to pay hard cash to declare the site elf-free but, as he put it, “we couldn’t as a company be in a position of acknowledging the existence of hidden people.”
Words to live by.

Back In The Saddle Again

Back at work, after yesterday's excitement. I had some question about that, as they have still not yet caught the guy. Took forty minutes to leave campus, as they were checking everyone's car. You know the drill: they look in the windows, pop the trunk, etc. Just like crossing the border into South Whackisztanavia, or wherever your travels take you.

AJC had an article about the guy, which makes him sound like a bit of a character. Called him "The Little Houdini." I especially liked this part:

[Coffee County (Tenn.) Sheriff] Graves said Gay had been arrested in Orlando. Police there checked computer records and found he was wanted in Coffee County for stealing a Wal-Mart truck from Manchester, Tenn.

He is also the man suspected of stealing the tour bus of country music star Crystal Gayle, allegedly so he could return to Tennessee to see his dying mother.

In August 2007, Maxim magazine did a cover story about Gay’s exploits, dubbing him “The Last Outlaw.”

“I guess we’ll do a background check the next time we pick up a fugitive,” Graves said.

Hilarious.

March 03, 2009

Just Like A Monster Movie, Only With No Access To The Snackbar

I am trapped in a computer lab due to an ongoing "security situation" here on campus. Prisoner (this guy, but hard to say for sure) being transported from Florida to Tennessee slipped his handcuffs when the officers stopped at a Waffle House to eat (details here and here for the curious). Now we're on lockdown, unable to leave until we get the all-clear. This has been going on for about an hour. Cell phones don't work now, what with 20,000 people calling home/the babysitter/loved ones. At least I have internet access.

Dammit, when I get out of here, I'm getting waffles.

Update: Free! Woo! Etc!

March 02, 2009

Parenting, With Illustrations

And now, a helpful parenting tip from the Internet:

Exactly right.


Wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong!


Ahem. Thank you, and good day.