Saturday, January 31, 2009

And even more on the baby lady...

Now it seems she's hired an agent, seeks an Oprah gig, and wants to start a career as a "child care expert" on tv. Oh, and she wants "sponsors" to help pay for her kids.

What kind of sponsor? Planned Parenthood?

Well, if Dr. Phil can have a show giving out bogus counseling and advice, I guess an unemployed self described "professional student" with 14 kids can get on tv.

article at UK Times

Multiple babies and mental illness, take 2

You know that lady who gave birth to the eight kids recently?

Remember how it turns out she got fertility treatments to do this? And how we learned that she already had six children?

Now, even more details are emerging and the doctors involved have some explaining to do.

She had _all_ of her fourteen children through IVF. She's never been married. Her mother describes her as being "obsessed" with children. Her mother was so disturbed by this that she (the mother) sought psychological counseling; her counselor told her to kick the daughter out of the house.

But wait, it gets better.

One of her children is autistic.

And he holds a degree in child and adolescent development from Cal State Fullerton. She was also studying for a master's in counseling.

Her mother told the LA Times that all of the children came from the same sperm donor.

My brain just hurts trying to think about all the layers of mental illness at play here and "passing the buck" by health professionals on this.

An NPR report yesterday noted that fertility docs don't see their role as questioning the desire of patients to have more kids. They just see this as a medical procedure where they offer their services and leave the "ethics" up to someone else.

Remember the case that was in the news a few months ago with the woman in her 70s who got fertility treatments and gave birth?

Just because science has a means to do something doesn't mean it should always be done.

What defines a mental illness from something like a peculiar taste or preference is behavior that is harmful to one's self or to others.

In this case and others, again, I have to ask why this medical procedure is being given to someone who is endangering their own health and welfare and that of the resulting kids in order to satisfy their own obsession.

And she was getting a master's degree in counseling?

Sheesh. I've always heard that psychiatrists and psychologists could be some of the most mixed up people on the planet. Now, I believe it.

AP article at Huffington Post

Friday, January 30, 2009

She's a rainbow


Looking for something to whip up for your next Gay Pride Month party?

Check out this website for an illustrated guide to making a Rainbow Cake, so colorful that it will feel like someone is poking your eyes with crayons.

Devil in disguise?


I'm not sure what to make of this.

website

Old Russia, new Russia

I can't read Russian, but these images are fascinating - they're collages of WWII era St. Petersburg and the same locations today.

website (scroll down the page)

Ennio Marchetto

I found a link to this on buzzfeed, but it's worth repeating here with a little more info.

Ennio is an Italian comedian who has developed a unique "quick change" act that includes over 300 characters. Inspired by cartoons, the characters are done with costumes made out of cardboard, with some costumes morphing into others during the act. He first came to prominence at the Edinbourgh Fringe Festival in 1989 and has won several awards for his work over the years.

His website is here. It's a fascinating read - I had no idea one could do so much with markers, cardboard and gaffer's tape.
http://enniomarchetto.com/

A worldwide tragedy

The situation in Somalia is a tragic failure of the UN and of US and other governments to find a solution. Basically, we have a country that has no functioning government where citizens are being killed on a whim and anarchy reins.

Slate has a short piece that looks at the situation, centering on the UN's search for a new "president" for the country.

article at Slate

Please, make them stop

No doubt you heard about the woman who just gave birth to eight children.

Yes, eight babies in one fell swoop.

Turns out she had sought fertility treatments.

Oh, and by the way, she already had six children.

Now, I'm all for reproductive rights and such, but, I'm sorry, this endless pursuit of popping out babies is bordering on mental illness. If you've got six kids already, why go for fertility treatments? Why can't you be happy with the children you have?

I would urge some researchers in psychological circles to do a study on this - women who want to get pregnant so badly and so often that it becomes an unhealthy obsession.

Jeez - we've got enough people on the planet already!

article at LA Times

Prop 8 donors can't be hidden

Supporters of Prop 8, crying about "harassment" of donors, went to court seeking to make the donor list secret.

A judge said "no".

The judge noted that actions against donors had taken the form of peaceful protest and protected speech and the few cases of death threats or other more serious matters could be taken to the police - the public's right to know about who is behind ballot initiatives is more important.

article at SF Gate

rolcats

A cute site that takes Russian locats and translates them into English...

http://rolcats.wordpress.com/

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Slacker - a competitor for sat radio? Not...

I've been occaisionally drifiting over to Orbitcast, a blog devoted to news about satellite radio. As a subscriber, I've been interested in what's going on with the merger of Sirius and XM. (Lately, it's been some rate increases on some subscription packages and more changes to channel lineups.)

A few posters in comments there have been referring to Slacker, with some saying they may switch to the service. It's and intriguing idea, but I'm not convinced.

Slacker is a streaming audio service that offers apps for a Blackberry and an iPhone, as well as their own branded mp3 player. You have different channels devoted to popular genres of music (currently, it appears, about a dozen coverning major rock, pop and country). It basically downloads a whole bunch of music, along with commercials, when you're in range of wi-fi and you take the music with you to listen to in your car or whereever. And, it's free and ad supported, though a small subscription fee lets you listen without commercials and "skip" more songs.

I'm not convinced it's a viable competitor for satellite radio as much as it's a competitor for online streaming services like Shoutcast. Slacker works well for people who listen to a narrow range of music all day - if you're into talk, sports, or more esoteric genres, you're out of luck. It just doesn't have the variety of sat radio (or Shoutcast) - no classical, no oldies, no talk stations, and, more importantly to me - no old time radio shows.

That's the beauty of sat radio - it really does have something for everyone. And, since it's live and you're not depending on a mini "library" of songs you've downloaded through wi-fi, you can change channels and explore if you're looking for something new.

It's just too bad the folks running XM and Sirius don't seem to be able to get their act together to make sat radio a viable business. The problem is that the two companies made some very big mistakes. They concentrated too much on getting "names" like Howard Stern and Martha Stewart or expensive sports packages, spending way too much on programming. They were never able to hammer to the American public how cheap the service was for what you get in terms of great uninterrupted music. They concentrated too much on the auto market. Finally, they offered way too many models of radios with varying esoteric features - it was just too complex.

Now, as part of their restructuring, they're taking away free access to online streaming of channels that was formerly part of a basic subscription - you'll have to pay extra for it each month. It was valuable to people who wanted Sirius or XM in their offices where they couldn't have their radio and represents a big downgrade in service for many fans.

There's some dumb people running Sirius-XM.

As much as I've enjoyed the service and dislike the paplum of broadcast radio (even with the added channels of paplum on HD Radio), I'm thinking that sat radio might not survive at all unless they get their act together, particularly with the economy the way it is.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Classical music is cheap

A writer for the New Yorker sets about trying to find inexpensive and free live classical music around the city - an interesting "idea starter" for someone living in or visiting the city and on a budget.

article at New Yorker

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The White House record collection

Rolling Stone digs up something I haven't thought about in a while - the White House record collection.

Originally donated in the 1970s by the RIAA to the Nixon administration, it was expanded with more rock and a broader range of artists during the Carter years. Reagan had it consigned to the basement.

I've known about this thing for years, mainly because I found an official White House listing of the records in the collection among the government publications in a library.

Yes, undoing Reagan's policies is Change I'd want, especially if it means digging up Led Zepp, Bob Dylan and Marvin Gaye and putting them back into their rightful place in the White House.

article at Rolling Stone

Joaquin Pheonix - yes, it's a hoax

As we suspected, Joaquin Phoenix's recent "meltdown", where he gave up acting to pursue rap, is a hoax as part of a fake documentary he's working on.

Is it just me, or does Phoenix look like Ringo Starr with that scruffy beard?

article at EW

MAD about Obama


Thank you, Mad magazine, for making my day - Obama's featured on the cover of the latest issue in one of the funniest little satires I've seen in a while. It reminds me of the wonderful covers and illustrations they featured many years ago of LBJ, Nixon and Carter.

Long-haul home on the range

A group of designers have put together a prototype for the long-haul "truck of the future".

This thing looks more like an RV that a means for getting cargo from one end of the country to another. In fact, it looks like you could just live in it rather than having a house or apartment. (Heck, it's bigger than my first dorm room in college.)

blog entry at Wired (scroll down for the pics)

Mickey Rourke on WWE?

Mickey Rourke, who received kudos for his work in the film "The Wrestler", has told "Access Hollywood" that he's signing up for an appearance during Wrestlemania; he'll go up against Chris Jericho.

Publicity stunt? Mickey Rourke weirdness? Has he Punk'd us?

blog entry at Wired

(And, btw, why is such an item at Wired, anyway? What does that have to do with technology?)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Breastaurant? ... *shudder*....

The depths of sleeze to which American businesses go to appeal to a mass market never ceases to amaze me.

Currently, the hot buzzword in the restaurant biz is "breastaurant" - yes, Hooters has become not just a "one note" wonder, it's an actual "concept" or theme. Competitors with names such as "Twin Peaks" and "Bone Daddy's" (oy vey) are set to go mano-a-mano against grandaddy Hooters in an all out Smackdown for the frat boy/redneck guy with a mammary fetish market segment.

It seems they think Texas is a prime market for this restaurant "concept". Go figure.

Hmph. I'm surprised that wrestling's Vince McMahon has't started a chain of WWE-themed "breastaurants". Seems like a similar customer base.

article at the Star-Telegram (in Texas, of course)

The resurgence of vinyl

There's been some articles in the past couple of years about the resurgence of interest in vinyl and how sales of lps and demands at pressing plants are actually increasing as the sales of cds fall.

Recently, while digging around at SoundStage Direct for a reissue of an lp for a friend, I was a bit overwhelmed by how many current and classic lps are in print or are being released, often in heavy 120, 180, 150 or even 200 gram vinyl editions.

The range of materials is curious, from punk albums of the seventies to New Wave albums of the 80s, to the usual audiophile reissues of classic jazz or rock lps, including reissues of esoteric and hard to find collectables such as "The Devil's Anvil: Hard Rock Music of the Middle East" from the late 60s or one-shot garage and bubble gum bands.

Most interesting are reissues of some classical lps as multi-disc sets running at 45 rpm by conductors like Fritz Reiner.

The market for vinyl must be pretty healthy if someone can sell "Harry Belafonte at Carnegie Hall", a common lp you can find in great shape, as a box set of 200 gram 45 rpm 12" lps for over $100.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Birds are hard work

Here's a nice little commentary from someone on Long Island that enjoys bird watching and feeding birds, but understands how much work it can be.

I'm tempted to put up a bird feeder near my apartment, but I'm not sure my neighbors would appreciate the seed mess.

commentary at NY Times

Verdi for dessert

A cute little animated video where desserts act out part of Verdi's "La Traviatta".

video at dailymotion.com

On the Internet, no one knows ....

... you're not a real soccer player.

Slate features a piece about an intriguing Internet hoax - a European soccer phenom that didn't actually exist.

If getting fake news out in the mainstream press is this easy, is it any surprise that I don't really pay much attention to the news anymore?

article at Slate

On the Internet, no one knows....

you're a goat.

And speaking of music ...

... has anyone else noticed how unreliable and irritating allmusic.com is as a website?

The content is great and I'm constantly referring to it when I'm researching records I find on ebay, new vinyl reissues, or personnel in old time radio shows in my collection.

However, when I try to access the site, the connection will be reset or it just won't respond when you're in the middle of a search.

I've actually starting typing searches into Google for specific albums I'm interested in and getting Google's cache of the allmusic.com page.

It's been like this for months, no matter whether I access it at home or work.

What's the deal?

Microsoft Songsmith - now anyone can create an atrocious song

The New York Times has an article today about a software package and set of YouTube videos that have taken on "Internet meme" status in recent weeks.

Microsoft Songsmith is a program developed by a couple of scientists that allows anyone to be a songwriter - you just sing the lyrics into the program and it creates a backing track for you.

The commercial for Songsmith, done by the scientists who invented the software, has become an instant classic on YouTube and demonstrates how it works. The program is available from Microsoft for $29.95.

So, here's a YouTube user that shows how an average person might use the software:

Livin' On a Prayer (Bon Jovi) sung by GEvoluton

As you can imagine, the results are often, shall we say, a little less than musical and, more often than not, rather inappropriate.

Some folks have been taking the vocal tracks from classic rock tunes and running them through Songsmith. The results:

I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyYfTips5yc

Sgt Pepper by the Beatles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BZk6aZp9xE

Just What I Needed by the Cars
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRcFcNSTZLw

Roxanne by the Police
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypycpKQxXR0

Long Train Running by the Doobie Brothers (which is intriquing, I'll admit)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOLjQhe7QqE

What's Going On by Marvin Gaye
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbtlEPIlyfU

Hotel California by the Eagles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itsT9zgWRoM

And, finally, how Songsmith interprets Van Halen and Ozzy Osbourne.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kxqMpGAL3I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFZvLprEIpw

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Painter of pancakes



An artist calling himself FaithMouse is on ebay hawking actual oil paintings of famous figures ... with pancakes on their head. The samples reproduced here are Cindy McCain and Internet gossip maven Perez Hilton.

He does commissioned work ... so tempting....

auction at ebay

Elementary, my dear Watson?

Guy Ritchie has directed a few film incarnation of one of the classic characters of the past century - Sherlock Holmes.

What might make it interesting is that Robert Downey, Jr. will be portraying Holmes and the script recasts him less as the reserved English gentleman and more as a brainy, moody, scruffy detective.

The NY Times has a peek.

article at NY Times

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yaqin MC-10L Amp - An initial review



I've been interested in getting a tube amp for some time, but the prices of these things, starting at $1,000 plus, are a bit daunting. However, I ran into several references in forums on the Net in recent months about some Chinese built audiophile amps that are apparently quite good and affordably priced.

So, after some research, and running into a Yaqin MC-10L for sale on ebay from a Canadian seller, I decided to take the plunge. The cost was about $480 with shipping. You can see the manufacturer's site, obviously translated through some kind of software that puts the word "gallbladder" in their product descriptions, here.

The Yaqin MC-10L, according to my friend Stuart who's an electronics and audiophile guru, is a very simple design that's quite similar to the Dynaco ST70, a classic audiophile tube amp sold from the 1950s into the 1970s. Output power is about 52 watts (at 8 ohms) per channel using four EL-34-B tubes for the power amplification stage and four 6N1's, a common Russian/Chinese tube, for the preamp section. (There are speaker connectors on the back to run it at 4 or 8 ohms.)

The amp has four line level inputs, a power switch and a volume control and that's about it. It's an "open top" design, so you can let the heat dissipate and have easy access to adjust bias for the tubes. The MC-10L has been offered by Yaqin for a few years and has been through two or three different versions that involved minor tweaks and cosmetic changes.

Before getting the Yaqin tube amp, I was using a Yamaha Natural Sound home theater amp for my system (HTR-5480) that I paid about $700 for when I bought it six or seven years ago. I liked this amp and Stuart thought it was pretty good for a mid-range priced consumer unit.

I'm using a pair of Monsoon FPF-1000 flat planar speakers (running at 4 ohms) and, for the purposes of testing the amp out of the box, a Stanton STR8-150 turntable with a Trackmaster V-3 cartridge. Later, when I have more time to rejigger everything, I'll be running a Denon DP-47F with a moving coil cart on the system.

Overall, I'm very pleased - it's a major upgrade in sound from my solid state amp and the build quality of the MC-10L looks quite good. For the price I paid, it's really a bargain - you're getting some seriously good sound for not much money and makes a great entry tube amp with plenty of power for many listening situations.

Here's some test listening using some sources I'm familiar with and a few random notes.

Jazz Meets the Bossa Nova
Paul Winter Sextette
original Columbia stereo pressing
A mid-1960s Columbia stereo lp, this is one I enjoy because it's really well recorded and mastered. I could really hear a better sense of a sound stage and better stereo separation. Also, there's some type of low frequency percussion instrument they use that's kind of buried when I've listened to it before; it's very clear with the new amp.

Borodin - Complete Orchestral Music
Loris Tjeknavorian, National Philharmonic Orchestra
original RCA pressing (promo copy)
A kind of mundane RCA release from the 1970s. Typical of RCA releases of the period, the sound isn't very dynamic and sounds compressed, but it did improve with the tube amp. I could pick out some horns and other instrumentation that weren't as clear before. Overall, it makes this lp sound a little richer and warm.

Kraftwerk
Radio-Activity

original Capitol pressing

Really nice stereo separation on this recording. The tube amp lets you hear some of of the electronic "noise" with more clarity - some of it actually sounds harsher and sharper. I could even hear slight hiss from the master tapes on this one that wasn't readily apparent on the Yamaha amp.

Beatles
White Album

original 1970s UK pressing
This is an album I'm really familiar with and the tube amp really shines with this lp. Compared to my solid state amp, it's like some layers of curtains are removed and you can hear much more detail of the mix, especially in passages where the music is dense with strong bass, drums and guitars. The bass and drums themselves are very defined; the hiss of cymbals and snares have more clarity and "bite". On "I'm So Tired", the amp revealed some distortion "fuzz" on John's guitar amp I'd never noticed before in the opening bars of the song and you could begin to hear some of the ambiance of the studio where the recording was done. Again, I could hear the slight hiss of the master tape that wasn't as apparent on the solid state amp unless you cranked it up a bit.

XM Satellite Radio
I was actually surprised at how good and how bad sat radio sounded on the amp. Satellite radio channels are digitally compressed, so the amp allows you to hear more of the compression artifacts in some cases. However, overall, the music is much cleaner - I was surprised with the clarity of some low frequency percussion and strings in one piece on the Classical channel. The amp really shines on XM's 40's channel - it reproduces brass and reeds really nicely from early hi-fi big band and vocalist recordings of the period. On the Classic Radio channel, which plays old radio shows from the 30's and 40's, the amp revealed how much the channel is compressed and full of artifacts. (I restore old radio shows, similar to ones they play on this channel, and I know how good they can sound when reproduced correctly.)

  • Overall, the sound is really flat and accurate - a bass really sounds like a bass instrument and the highs are really crisp and clear. The Yamaha sounded less accurate with highs and the bass was muddier and a little tubby. The tube amp has a flatter overall response - the Yamaha was a bit bass heavy.
  • The tube amp gives a better sense of a soundstage and instruments playing in a space; the solid state amp is a bit more of a "wall of sound".
  • This amp is rated at 52 watts per channel. However, it produces almost the same volume as the Yamaha amp, which specs at 100 watts per channel.
  • It runs warm, but not as hot as I thought it might. (Again, it's my first tube amp, if you don't count some antique radios or a wire recorder I've owned.) After turning it on, the sound comes in and is stable after only a few seconds.
  • Packed really well - the foam fits around the amp and there are slots underneath it for the tubes, which are in projective jackets. The power cord and hex screwdriver for adjusting the bias are underneath the bottom layer of foam in their own slots.
  • Really solid construction - it weighs forty pounds - with really good quality switches, pot, and connectors.
  • The speaker connectors can take bare wire or banana plugs, which is convenient.
  • The instruction manual, provided by the ebay dealer in Toronto, is clear, simple and well written. The tubes are marked showing which one goes where, based on how it was biased at the factory with the included tube set.
  • Has a three year warranty for parts (one year for labor and parts), excluding the tubes.
  • There's a user-changeable fuse in the slot where the power cord goes and it includes an extra fuse in the slot.
  • Some small yellow plastic caps are included to place over unused input jacks to keep dust out (nice touch).
  • The light up blue logo on the front looks like some kind of Satanic symbol with that pitchfork shaped "Y".

Some online resources:

MC-10L schematic and bias adjustment guide
http://yaqin.slickpepper.org.uk/amplifiers/mc-10l

Markhill Amplication
Sells a rebranded MC-10L for $995.
http://www.vacuumtube.com/Markhill%20Amps.htm

Tube Amp Store
Sells the Markhill-branded MC-10L; has a frequency response chart for the amp.
http://www.thetubeampstore.com/MC-10L.html

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Huh?

According to the IMDB Studio Update, Jim Carrey (yeah, that Jim Carrey - the rubber-faced guy) and Ewan McGregor are co-starring in a new movie - a gay romantic comedy.

I can't believe I just typed in the words "Jim Carry" and "gay romantic comedy" in the sentence.

The movie premiered at Sundance to "glowing" reviews. The Hollywood Reporter notes that Cary's "comedic versatility and impersonations are amazing, but it's in his character's darkest recesses that he's truly powerful. As the steadfast Phillip, McGregor is sympathetic and vulnerable. His heart is always ready to be broken."

Daily Variety, of course, fretted that the gay subject matter would limit the market for the movie, but that audiences might be curious about Carrey's performance.

The piece at IMDB also notes:

At a news conference at the festival Carrey didn't hesitate to stoke the curiosity. When asked what it was like to kiss a man, he turned towards McGregor and quipped: "A dream come true. I mean, look at the guy."

The film's title? "I Love You Phillip Morris".

Hmph. Makes me think of the tobacco company, since I'm so used to hearing "Caaaalll for Phiiiilip Moorrrriss" in so many old radio shows.

And, by the way, is anyone associated with this production (the director, stars, writer) actually gay?

Seeing Jonathan Demme's "Philadelphia", with Tom Hanks dancing around with an IV bottle humming opera like the worst stereotype of an old queen just really turned me against gay movies made by straight Hollywood. "Brokeback Mountain"'s rather twwwagic take on gay relationships irked me as well.

Update:
Straights trying out the whole "gay" thing seems to be a theme at Sundance this year. Another entry creating buzz (and already getting a distribution deal) is "Humpday", a story about two stright 30-something former college buddies who reconnect one weekend, drink lots of alcohol, and decide to make a porn movie of themselves. Salon has an article about it.

Colorado group now owns Bergman

The NY Times recounts a bizarre legal tale where a group of movie theater owners in Colorado have somehow wound up with the rights to 200 Swedish films, including the works of Ingmar Bergman.

It also notes that Bergman's works probably haven't been distributed in this country very much because of the legal battle.

article at NY Times

Congrats Obama ... Your honeymoon's over - Where's my package?


Congrats Obama on the whole Inaugaration thing.

Now, let's get down to business: where's my package?

I ordered a nice tube amp this month from a distributor in Canada who sent it Expedited from Toronto on January 5th. It was due to arrive at my address on January 10th or 11th.

Well, it's January 20th and still no package. It left Toronto and entered the US on January 7th.

I called the shipper and Canada Post - the package is overdue, but Canada Post can't submit paperwork to the USPS to investigate until it's three weeks overdue (January 26th). Oh, and USPS can't share info on the track of a package with the Canadian postal service.

So, Obama and the new Democratic Congress - how about getting the GAO to assemble a report on delays in shipping international packages through customs and the USPS and overall quality and service going on here? Isn't there a better way to make this work?

A few years ago, another shipper sent a package to me containing some books - some were missing and removed when it went through customs. (The books were innocuous - one was a collection of "Goon Show" scripts and the others were books on American films.)

So, is this thing stuck in customs because the agents looked at it and don't know what the heck it is? Is it so shiny and pretty that one of the customs agents decided to take it home? Has it disappeared into some postal black hole and is now emerging in some caveman's hideaway as part of some government time/space warping experiment going on at the Pentagon? Hmmm?

I'm sorry - with NAFTA and the "Global Economy" all these political types keep talking about, all the open trade in the world isn't going to work if customs and the post office can't work in a reliable way.

Friday, January 16, 2009

An editorial cartoon...

... that sums up the past eight years. (It's the first one on the page; just scroll down.)

Parting shot, anyone?

blog post at Wonkette

Rick Warren - Hitler admirer?

Huffington Post has audio of Rick Warren telling a stadium crowd that they should use Hitler's followers as a model for their devotion to their passionate beliefs. He also had good words to say about Stalin, Mao and Lenin as well.

Follow Jesus like the Hitler Youth followed Hitler?

Huh?

I'm sorry - is this really the kind of whackjob nutcase that Obama's administration wants to be associated with?

I'm like sooo glad I'm switching my registration to "Independent" on Inauguration Day.

article at HuffPost

The Bush economy tanks and sucks even more

Circuit City has announced they're closing all of their stores.

This article at Wired notes that it will add another 30,000 to the ranks of the unemployed and create over 300 more big empty big box stores at malls and shopping centers, adding more empty space to the stores already going under.

Something's wrong when the nation's second largest electronics retailer is going out of business.

Bush=Hoover

article at Wired

Aack is Wack!

Remember that 70's comic strip "Cathy"? The one about the woman who's always afraid she's too fat, likes office donuts, and obsesses about relationships and dating? Yeah, that one.

Well, then check out this art show. I kinda like the "Cathy with Biker" painting.

blog post at Street Carnage

The $64K turntable

An Italian company has debuted a hand-crafted, four armed turntable for $64,000 at this year's Consumer Electronics Show; you can read about it and view pics in this CNN article.

It doesn't top this $150,000 tower of vinyl playing power offered through NeedleDoctor.com.

Rural pluggers wonder what that liberal Obama is up to

The Washington Post takes a little tour of "rural America" where guys in pickups listening to classic rock who voted for McCain wonder when Obama's going to take away their guns.

article at WaPo

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema

In a new documentary, a philosopher looks at the relationship between dreams, desire and movies.

Sounds like a fun piece of work that's "spot on" in the observations.

movie review at NY Times

Surprise: women are vindictive, scheming bullies at work

Somehow, there's this teary-eyed myth of female professionals that's developed over the past few years - women who nuture and mentor, help each other out, etc.

Truth is that women pursuing power act like men pursuing power in the workplace.

Sigh.

Anyone who's seen "All About Eve" or the original version of "The Women", or who has worked in a library or with a bunch of nurses could tell you how women are more than willing to claw your eyes out to get what they want.

commentary at NY Times

Thursday, January 15, 2009

See ya at the Library

Libraries have been on the decline for some time as folks have access to a world of information on the Internet.

Now it seems that people are coming back to libraries ... for free WiFi to look for jobs...

article at WSJ

European Council is Punk'd

The European Council commissioned an artist to create a mosaic art piece that would reflect the unity and diversity of the European Union. Instead, they got a sculpture containing images of toilets and France on strike.

article at NY Times

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More proof the Bush economic downturn is major suck

Analysts have downgraded the stock of Harley-Davidson and are expecting a 30% drop in motorcycle sales this year.

Wired has a brief piece on how this might impact Indian, a revival of an old American-based motorcycle company

article at Wired

Hackers attack liberal blog hub

Strange that there hasn't been any real mention of this on sites like HuffPost.

piece at New Yorker

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A collection of Gay and Lesbian pulp covers

I can't imagine why no one has done a movie adaption of "The Man from CAMP"...

website

The Kipper Kids exhibit at Duke

Too much analysis can take all of the interesting, fun, visceral things out of a performance, but this exhibit at Duke's John Hope Franklin Center is worth seeing.

You might remember the Kipper Kids from their role in the movie, "Forbidden Zone".

article at IndyWeek

Lonnie Frisbee

Found an intriguing article at Wikipedia the other day as I was browsing through pages dealing with Evangelical Scandals. (And, yes, I do casually read Wikipedia to find odd things like this.)

It's a bio of the original Hippie Jesus Freak, Lonnie Frisbee, who, it turns out, was a practicing homosexual the entire time he was involved in ministry.

There's also a doc about him - it's played at some festivals and on PBS stations on the West Coast, but not here in the East or in the South. They're also offering up the doc for fundraising community showings.

Wow - another fascinating gay person for some straight Hollywood actor to portray as Oscar bait in a biopic. I can hardly wait.

article at Wikipedia

page on documentary

Jesus, Punk'd

What do you get when you cross the alt-goth scene in Seattle with a guy who thinks that a lamb-lovin', kind-hearted Jesus is kinda queer?

This guy, who wants to put the "Fight Club" back into church-goin'.

Isn't it strange when you've got a large religious group - Christians - who can't agree on the basic idea of what and who their Savior is?

Is Christianity fucked up or what?

Sigh.

Perhaps I really should start that First Christian Church of Leather and SM...

article at NY Times

Marketing a movie

The New Yorker has a fascinating feature article this week about how movies are marketed at that strapping little up and coming studio Lionsgate.

It's an interesting peek behind the Hollywood curtain that's required reading for any aspiring screenwriter or director.

article at New Yorker

More on Hollywood and 3d

3D movies are poised to make a lot of money for studios.

The only problem is that there aren't enough screens to show them on.

The other problem, not really discussed in this NY Times article, is that Hollywood is trying to do big specticle films in the format that require a large number of screens to make their money back.

Maybe it's just me, but it would seem like lower-budget rom-coms, horror films and other kinds of teen pics would be the way to go to generate interest in 3d again. And, again maybe it's just me, but perhaps they need some better directors that understand how to set up and shoot in depth so it doesn't add so much to the total cost.

3D's easy if you know what you're doing.

article at NY Times

Bush gives final press conference...

... reporters don't show up.

Seriously.

The White House had to round up interns to fill up the seats.

We're just so seriously over the whole Bush thing.

article at HuffPost

Awwww...

It's a cute iddy biddy spider that's saying "Have a nice day! Now I eat you!"

http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/cute-spider

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Seattle PI may shutter in 60 days

Newspapers are having a tough time of it with the economy and Web competition.

The latest coming to the chopping block - the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, home of my favorite editorial cartoonist, David Horsey. (Of course, he has a cartoon about it, as well as a blog post.)

If no buyer is found for the paper it will go "web only" in the next 60 days.

blog post at TPM

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Letter of Last Resort

Slate has a piece about a recently revealed little bit of MADness (that's Mutually Assured Destruction, if you're wondering).

A letter, in a safe within a safe, from the Prime Minister of Britain, that gives permission to a nuke sub commander to fire at will.

Shades of Dr. Strangelove, anyone?

article at Slate

Cat does the weather

A cat wandered into a German tv studio and becomes a star.

Yes, when they want attention, they get attention.

blog post with video clip

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Truth behind Rick Warren's AIDS work in Africa

Rick Warren's key point person in his AIDS work in Africa called for the arrest of known homosexuals and published the names, addresses and photographs of gays on his website, saying they were trying to "recruit" young Uganda children into their lifestyle.

Again, I'm not sorry I'm changing my registration to Independent on Inauguration Day - Obama should have never given extremist Rick Warren a prominent place at the ceremony. Warren and Obama are trying to have it both ways - talking about "reaching across the aisle", but, at the same time, wanting to stigmatize LGBTs.

blog post at Americablog

Serving a 20 year old turntable

In this era of disposible electronics (Apple's line of iPods and iPhones with their locked in, non-user changeable batteries come to mind), it's interesting to see one company that really stands behind their products.

I ran into this article when looking up some info recently on my Denon turntable; the piece is from 2004, but it's worth a read to hear one person's experience getting a Denon turntable repaired by the company, twenty years after the turntable was manufactured.

article from Sensible Sound

Seattle gay bars receive threatening letters

Some bars in Seattle have received letters from a domestic terrorist who is threatening to kill patrons with ricin.

This is why Obama's choice of Rick Warren for the Inaugural, and all the publicity about his views about homosexuals is very troubling - giving a forum to hate speech brings out crazies who threaten or do violence to gays.

We saw it in the 80s and 90s with Helms, Falwell and others, and now, Obama's encouraging it again.

article at the Slog with scan of one of the letters

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Obama puts gay at head of secretarial pool

After inviting dullard blowhard Rick Warren to convocate at the Inauguration, Obama promptly pissed off many LGBTs, since Warren equates homosexuality with bestiality and pedophilia (and was an active campaigner against Prop 8).

The Obama camp saw the outrage of LGBTs and said "Meh...big deal. We're inclusive because we have a Gay marching band at the Inaugural!"

Now that LGBTs have continued to be rather disgusted with Warren and Obama's embracing of this slick, tv preacher that's really no better than deceased blowhard Jerry Falwell, Obama seems to be reaching out to LGBTs to make amends.

It seems that Gays have a role model now in the White House. Someone in a position to aspire to.

Yes, amongst all the positions appointed in the new administration, there's an actual GAY person.

What is this person doing, you might ask?

Well, he's managing the White House secretarial pool.

Sorry, Obama team - I'm still planning to change my voter registration to "Independent" and make a donation to the Green Party on Inaugration Day.

I'll vote for Democrats again when they show LGBTs some respect. Sheesh. Wish I'd never voted for the guy and just stayed home in November.

Creepiness at the DOD

The Department of Defense has put out a call for proposals for software to do a "virtual simulation" of deployed service members that can interact with family members. For example, a "virtual dad" that can read bedtime stories to his kids back home.

article at Slate

It sucks living in cities

For the first time in human history, more people live in cities than in rural areas.

Some scientist types have confirmed that being in the city isn't good for your brain.

article at Boston Globe

The economy sucks (as if you didn't already know)

After news stories before Christmas about US ports filled with automobiles that can't go to dealers because the dealers can't sell cars comes this news about Toyota.

We're screwed, economically speaking.

The car maker is going on an 11 day shutdown. Toyota's sales are down 37% in the past year, compared to just over 30% for Ford and Chrysler. Auto sales in Japan are the lowest in 34 years.

The last time Toyota Motor Corp. halted production at all its Japan plants was in August 1993, when demand plunged because of a rising yen, and that was for only one day, according to the company.

A global economic downturn has hammered the auto industry in Japan and elsewhere, forcing carmakers to cut staff, lower production and delay new models. Major automakers in the U.S. had teetered on the brink of collapse until securing a multibillion dollar government lifeline.

"We are coping with a slump in global sales," Toyota spokesman Hideaki Homma said Tuesday. "Demand in the world auto market is so depressed that every model is falling sharply in sales."


article at Huffington Post

And if that isn't sucky enough for you, Slate has a blog entry about empty malls - it's similar to what I've seen locally.

blog entry at Slate

Robinson Crusoe diary

An explorer, Woodes Rogers, who was friends with Dafoe and who found a man stranded on an island that inspired "Robinson Crusoe" kept a diary of his voyages that was published in a very rare book; a copy was recently found.

I'd love to see this one on one of the free public domain ebook sites.

article at UK Telegraph

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Holocaust Archives

Slate is starting up a diary this week about the Holocaust Archives, a collection of Nazi documents from concentration camps and related materials that has been closed to reseearchers.

I'm surprised that I've never run into a LGBT historian discussing the importance of access to this material - it could more fully document how gays were treated by the Nazis in the concentration camps.

article at Slate

3D is back!

Dreamworks is giving away 3d glasses to promote their new film "Monsters versus Aliens".

The glasses aren't to watch the movie - they're for watching the trailer for the movie, which will be broadcast during the Super Bowl on February 1st.

The following day, NBC will broadcast an episode of "Chuck" in the format.

blog post at wired.com

Hunter S. Thompson motivational posters

A nifty idea - someone should arrange with his estate to actually make the things.

website

End of a long run

The QRS company, which made piano rolls for the past 108 years, is ceasing production of the paper, hole-punched musical things.

post at Slashdot

Freeze bubbles

What happens if you blow bubbles when it's really cold outside?

photo gallery

Friday, January 2, 2009

A demo of my reel to reel deck

Someone on YouTube posted a really nice demo of the Teac 1000R, a reel to reel tape deck produced in the 1980s.

I have the same version of the deck shown in the demo (with DBX noise reduction) except my model is black and has a wood case.

Those strange people

According to the IMDB, "Mamma Mia", the atrocious movie "musical" (and I use that word loosely), has set a new record for DVD sales in the UK.

One in four people in the UK now own this movie.

Why????

Bigger than Life

Well, one of the top films on my list to see is showing in New York in a new print, Nicholas Ray's "Bigger Than Life" from 1956.

It's never been released on video here in the US (though it's out in Region 2 PAL).

I've seen a couple of clips from it and, yes, it looks like one of the most frightening films ever made.

brief piece at the New Yorker

Did FDR prolong the Depression?

Right wing pundits are using this myth as a talking point recently, but it's been around for some time in conservative circles. It belongs with the rehabilitation of McCarthy and Nixon as distortions of history.

article at salon.com