Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

For your New Year's enjoyment, here's noted futurist Criswell with his predictions for the New Year from a 1966 episode of the Tonight Show.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The first celebrity robot

New Scientist has an inspiring story about a man who is trying to restore the first celebrity robot, which was built by Westinghouse for the 1939 New York World's Fair and would up co-starring in "Sex Kittens Go to College" in the late 1950s.

article at New Scientist

Friday, December 26, 2008

It's inherited ... just like baldness

CIA uses sex to get info

The CIA is distributing Viagra pills to Afghan warlords in exchange for information about the Taliban.

article at Washington Post

Pot, kettle, black

On Christmas, according to this article in Time, the Pope condemned transsexuals.

It might be a good time to remind everyone of this.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dustin Hoffman's "Tootsie" story

Dustin Hoffman was recently on the "Late Show" and told a wonderful story about working on "Tootsie" that had to be bleeped (but I think you'll get the idea)...

Happy Festivus

State capitol sets up display for nativity scene. State capitol has to accept displays of other faiths. State capitol winds up with Festivus pole...

article at HuffPost

Would you like an extra arm with that?

Huff Post notes the growing trend of garage tinkerers toying with genetic material. Future trend or just a flash in the pan?

article at Huff Post

Wearing your crown of thorns on your sleeve

FoxNews reports on a church in Kansas (where else?) where the members have committed to dressing like Jesus to work in order to protest the secularization of Christmas.


Given a choice between being a Christian wearing a crown of thorns or a Pagan dancing around naked all day, I'll take a religion that's about life affirming, fun hot sex any day.

Hail Zeus!

article at Fox News

The hills are alive ...

Maria Von Trapp has a grandson who runs a ski lodge. And has been a model.

article at NY Times

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

You may not have heard it in the news...

... but there appears to have been a significant environmental disaster that occurred yesterday in Tennessee near Knoxville.

At a TVA power plant that burns coal, 600 million gallons of ash, left over from the plant, were spilled into the Tennessee River, creating a spill forty times larger than the Exxon Valdez. The ash contains high levels of nasties like mercury and arsenic.

The Tennessee River, by the way, is the main water supply for Chattanooga and communities in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama.

The story isn't getting any coverage in the national news.

blog post about the spill
article with links

A handy reference

A website that collects the most depressing/funny quotes from fundie website forums.

Fundies Say the Darndest Things!

ACLU hit by the Madoff ponzi scheme

Showing how the Madoff scandal has some far-reaching implications, I just got an email from the ACLU. They're short $850,000 they were counting on from foundations that got hit by the Ponzi scheme.

From the Desk of Alma Montclair
Director of Administration and Finance
American Civil Liberties Union
DearACLU Supporter,

At the ACLU, we know that challenges to civil liberties can arrive
from any quarter -- at any moment. And, we understand that, as
America's leading civil liberties organization, we've got
to be fully prepared to respond.

As Director of Administration and Finance, it's my job to make
sure that that preparation includes prudently managing our
organization's resources. So, as you and other ACLU supporters
expect, we've been carefully monitoring and responding to the
severe financial crisis enveloping America and its impact on our
ability to defend fundamental freedoms.

In the last couple of weeks, however, we've been hit hard in a
way that no one could forecast. You have, no doubt, heard about the
Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme in which investors have been horribly
defrauded of up to $50 billion. What you may not know is that two
foundations that have been incredibly generous and longstanding
supporters of our national security and reproductive freedom work have
been victimized by the Madoff scandal -- forced to close their doors
and terminate their grants.

That means that $850,000 in support we were counting on from these
foundations in 2009 simply won't exist. We're dealing with
that reality and remain committed to continuing our critical work in
these areas. But, as you can imagine, the year-end donations of you
and other ACLU supporters are now more important than ever.

Please help the ACLU meet critical civil liberties needs in early
2009. Please make a year-end donation now.

I have been lucky enough to work for the ACLU for the past 23 years.
Every day, I see firsthand just how far your donations go and just how
critical your support is to people who depend on the ACLU to help
protect their rights. We're there when no one else is willing or
able to be -- and that's because you're there for us.

We know that times are tough for everyone, and, for that reason, we
are even more appreciative of your support. With all we're going
through, we need you to be there for us now more than ever.

I can promise you this: Every dollar you send will be used carefully
and effectively to support vitally important work defending
people's fundamental freedoms.

Thanks so much for all you're doing.


Alma Montclair
Director of Administration and Finance

P.S. Thanks to our special year-end matching gift campaign, your
support will go even further at this critical time. Please make a gift

© ACLU, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor New York, NY 10004

Christmas threw up on this house

Slate has a roundup of reader submitted photos of this year's worst Christmas displays.

Most excellent ads

A series of amusing beer ads placed in men's restrooms. The ads consist of flowcharts.

And, yes, it's probably misogynist, but it's still funny.

images at buzzfeed

Lost and found

Funny what goes missing in San Francisco. Keep a look out.

posting at Craigslist

Man showers with cat

My cat Socks enjoys hopping in the shower after I get out to chase the water down the drain, but he doesn't like getting wet particularly.

3d horror movies making a comeback?

Lionsgate is set to release "My Bloody Valentine 3D" in January. In recent months, there's been a resurgence of 3D movies, mostly geared to families.

Studios, seeing good response, are deciding to be more adventurous and aim for the adult market. Perhaps we'll see more releases in the format, similar to the 3D craze that run its course in the 1980s.

article at NY Times

Monday, December 22, 2008

Do they know it's Christmas?

Remember those big celeb charity songs of the 80s? "We Are the World"? "Do They Know It's Christmas?"?

Meet the modern version....

video at

Don't touch the jellyfish

Run, don't walk, to the NY Times website and read this review of "Seven Pounds", the latest Will Smith flick.

The movies is absolutely dreadful - even more dreadful after you find out how the movie ends, which A. O. Scott couldn't reveal in his review.

Want to know the ending? Read Scott's review, then click here.

A novel approach to the fossil fuel crisis

A doctor in Beverly Hills (where else?) has come up with a novel approach to solving our dependence on oil. If you've seen the movie "Fight Club", you might have even thought of it yourself...

article at Forbes

Tough times for musicians

I'm already seeing this with some people I know who are musicians; a CNN article looks at how the economic downturn is impacting musicians, orchestras and other performing arts groups.

It's not as devastating as what happened during the Great Depression, with both the economic tough times and the switch to sound films throwing millions of musicians out of work.

Last of the VHS tapes

VHS, the format that started the video revolution, is finally, officially dead, at least according to this article in the LA Times.

The last distributor of VHS tapes, providing discount titles to truck stops and chain stores like Family Dollar, is sending out their last batch of tapes at the end of the year.

An anonymous benefactor

The NY Times has a commentary about a little know incident in Ohio during the Great Depression - an anonymous man who helped people when they fell on hard times.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A special video...

... about a special cat named Charley.

Give the gift of killer sharks...

... only on ebay.

auction listing on ebay

Friday, December 19, 2008

lost in the clouds

The sky does interesting things, such as forming clouds that look really pretty and mysterious.

blog post at Dark Roasted Blend

A hunka hunka' burnin'...

... Santa.

Only in Los Angeles would there be Santas with killer abs.

article at LA Times

A wrestler reviews The Wrestler

Articulate, funny best-selling author Mick Foley, who just also happens to be a pro wrestler, reviews the new Mickey Rourke movie, "The Wrestler".

review at Slate

The AJGLU 3000 becomes self aware

If you're not reading the Comics Curmudgeon, you should be.

blog post

It's a Really Sucky Life, George

Although I'm not a sentimentalist, I do have a certain fondness for "It's a Wonderful Life".

I can't think of any movie that shows one man going through such a living hell - a two hour "long dark night of the soul" that's only relieved in the last five minutes of the last reel. This is one super-depressing movie.

This commentator at the NY Times has summed it up as well as anyone.

commentary at NY Times

What to make your own tv show?

Wired has a fascinating article on a tv production studio in a box.

For $4,000, it's a specialized computer that can control cameras and video effects, letting one person run a live tv show feed, replacing a whole truck of equipment used in the past. It's making niche video programming more viable for sure.

blog post at Wired

Are you nuts?

Find out in the new edition of the DSM. Psychiatrists are debating what should be included in the new fifth edition.

Some areas of contention this time around include gender identity, fetishes, and eating disorders.

article at NY Times

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2000 year old computer lives again

A museum curator has built a replica of the Antikythera device, a mechanical computer built by the Greeks two thousand years ago to calculate movements of the known planets and other data.

blog post at Wired that explains the origins of the device

site about the a book on the device with video of the working replica

feature article at New Scientist on the device and how the ancient Greeks viewed technology

Man buys dog...

... dog bites him a lot.

Turns out he didn't buy a dog, he bought ...

article at annonova

If you think....

... Yahoo questions are silly, wait until you read the questions of the year that went unanswered by Slate's Explainer....

Make your own atomic bomb

The New Yorker has a fascinating story about a former photographer and truck driver that built a replica of the first atomic bomb, much like a compulsive-obsessive detective with a ruler and a set of calipers.

Only the New Yorker could use the phrase "atomic coitus" in a piece and get away with it.

article at New Yorker

Favorite quote:

In the standard historical accounts, the way that the bomb’s gun mechanism worked was by shooting a cylindrical “male” uranium projectile into a concave, stationary uranium target. This act of atomic coitus created a mass sufficient to produce a critical reaction. The mass of the projectile was said to be 38.5 kilograms, and the mass of the target was said to be 25.6 kilograms. But no matter how many times Coster-Mullen did the math the numbers never quite worked out in a way that allowed the projectile and the target to fit inside the gun barrel while remaining subcritical.

The source of the error, Coster-Mullen recognized, was an assumption that every (male) researcher who studied the subject had made about the relation between projectile and target. These scholars had apparently been unable to conceive of an arrangement other than a “missionary position” bomb, in which a solid male projectile penetrated a vessel-like female target. But Coster-Mullen realized that a female-superior arrangement—in which a hollow projectile slammed down on top of a stationary cylinder of highly enriched uranium—yielded the correct size and mass.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No Money Down! No Interest!

Since the economy is still tanking, the Fed is going into panic mode by giving away money.

That is, they're loaning money with no interest. Zero percent. Nada. Nothing.

Why is it I feel like I woke up in 1930?

article at CNBC

A Barbie doll....

... I'd probably buy...

Throw various and sundy things...

... at Bush.

Does your man ...

... smell like Meat?

article from ad age

And, yes, you can actually buy it at Burger King.

If real life was like Bratz life...

You've no doubt seen those annoying and creepy Bratz dolls in local stores in recent years. Now that Mattell has sued the company making them and they're no longer being produced, SomethingAwful did a tribute to the disturbing things with a Photoshop Friday contest...

Be sure to click through to experience the Sarah Palin Bratz...if you dare...

contest at SomethingAwful

Scott Meets Family Circus

Proving once again that there are never enough ways to slice, dice, and remix the vapid and tedious "Family Circus" cartoon...

Scott Meets Family Circus blog

A cat, a box

NASCAR in trouble

I didn't realize that NASCAR's popularity had been in such decline the past few years and how close it is to folding with the Big Three automakers in major trouble.

article at Slate

Monday, December 15, 2008

Identify lost films

A group of film preservationists, the Nitrate Film Interest Group, has set up a photo stream on Flickr consisting of frames and sequences from movies they're looking for information on. You can leave comments to help identify what the films might be.

Tractors, spitting, cloggers ... and rap

Zach Galifianaki's music video of Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothin'".

An article about why is here.

Web ad of the day

From the Onion.

I had no idea that Santa Claus, years ago, handed over the reigns of the family business to his albino female-to-male transgendered offspring.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It must be something in the water, Part 2

Did you know that Zach Galifianakis has a twin brother named Seth who still lives in Wilkesboro, NC?

Seth on Jimmy Kimmel's show

Brian Unger's interview with Seth

the outtakes from Unger's interview are a hoot...

It must be something in the water

Zach Galifianakis is a "quirky" comedian that many people haven't heard of if they don't watch "Comedy Central" or some of the late night shows.

His sense of humor is drier than the Sahara. He was also born and raised in North Wilkesboro, NC, near my home town.

Here he is in a new series of web videos, a talk show called "Between Two Ferns".

guest Michael Cera of "Juno"

guest talk show host Jimmy Kimmel

guest John Hamm of "Mad Men"

Another comedian I find interesting is Daniel Kitson. There's a clip of his show "Stories for the Wobbly Hearted" on YouTube.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wouldn't you rather have...

... a President that gets in snowball fights?

photoset at buzzfeed

Mmm... 2,000 year old brains

Archeologists have discovered a brain. A two thousand year old brain tucked away in a skull from Roman times.

article at Huffington Post

Former First Cat Socks near death

The US News and World report blog is reporting that former first cat Socks is near death, suffering from cancer.

I think the Republicans never did like the Clintons because they owned a cat.

By the way, my own cat wasn't named after the former First Cat.

blog entry at US News

The Magnificent Marble Machine

I had a vague memory - a strange recollection in the back of my brain - of a game show I saw once or twice in the 1970s. A game show that was just horrid.

I forgot it for many years until I ran into a game show site that mentioned it. Now, I've found a link to a streamed version of one of the only two surviving episodes from the series.

The Magnificent Marble Machine

The show ran on NBC for a few months and the producers hoped to capitalize on the pinball craze of the time. With the cheezy graphics and music and the massive pinball machine that seems to dwarf everyone on the show, it's a long strange trip back to the worst of the 70s.

Check one...

Here's something for your HR office.

Wondering if you're really representing all of the diversity in your office or workplace? Attach this simple list of options to various forms under the question "Gender?"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I feel sorry for...

... the dog.

random holiday photo on the web

Bob Jones University - steaming hotbed of liberal thought

Ran into this funny little post at another blog.

Seems that someone got a book via interlibrary loan from Bob Jones University. It had a big sticker in it as a disclaimer. It's worth reading.

blogpost at urbzen

Rediscovering a lost magazine

Historian Neil Harris stumbled upon something a few years back. Browsing through the stacks of the University Chicago Library, he found a mysterious relic of the past. Or perhaps something from a parallel universe.

"The Chicagoan" was that city's answer to "The New Yorker". He has out a new book about the lost magazine. You can see a gallery and covers here.

Dream on...

Ever seen "Until the End of the World" or "Strange Days"?

Ever wondered what it would be like to play back your dreams and experiences or look at someone else's wandering mind?

That day may be closer than you think. Japanese researchers have made some progress in reading your mind, or, at least, your brain waves.

So, when someone asks, "What were you thinking?!?", someday you can reply, "Here - let me play it back for you."

A Charlie Brown ad agency

"The interns came up with better concepts than this! And you know what dips**ts they are!"

Solenoid concert

A video where someone uses a computer music sequencing program to control solenoids tapping on various objects.


Well, I have to admit has me wondering how they do it. It's "Slinky Man" entertaining at a halftime show at Creighton University in Omaha.

null - Watch more free videos

Sure, I thought Christmas season could be hell, but...

It seems that Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church crew are at it again. They're looking to put up a display at the state capital in Kansas. The display would be placed with a Nativity scene, a statement from an athesist group, etc.

It reads:

"You'd better watch out, get ready to cry, You'd better go hide, I'm telling you why 'cuz Santa Claus will take you to hell. He is your favorite idol, you worship at his feet, but when you stand before your God He won't help you take the heat. So get this fact straight: you're feeling God's hate, Santa's to blame for the economy's fate, Santa Claus will take you to hell."


Please, someone get these people some medication, pronto.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NPR cancels shows; listeners yawn

NPR is laying off 7% of its workforce and canceling two shows, "Day to Day" and "News and Notes".

In the press release, NPR noted that neither program acheived enough listeners or underwriting to continue production.

It's not surprising. I listened to "Day to Day" a few times and found it to be just more of the same talk and light news features that NPR listeners get on every other show that the network puts out these days. "Day to Day" was particularly bad since many of the stories were just repeats of material you could read at "Slate", which was a corporate partner in the show.

It's strange how public radio used to have interesting, diverse programming with new and engaging music, dramas once in a while, experimental docs, and other works that gave me a better understanding of the world.

Now, every show (except the long in the tooth "Car Talk" and "Prarie Home Companion") all sound like "All Things Considered".


I do enjoy my satellite radio.

Carrie Fisher, Star Wars princess and walking nutcake

Carrie Fisher talks about her new book, Wishful Drinking. Eccentric isn't quite the word to describe her. Some of the topics in the interview:

*Her former husband who left her for another man
*being told to quit acid by Cary Grant
*shock therapy? "Loved it!"

More free advice for NBC

The big news in TV this week is that NBC is seriously reconsidering their programming and approach as a network, giving Jay Leno a spot at 10:00 pm on the schedule five nights a week. They're also considering a drop in the number of hours they offer programming in prime-time.

The blog Planet All-Star has an open letter to NBC execs with some free advice. He makes some good points - reducing a "season" to thirteen episodes to avoid "padding" of series, having faith in creative talent, and even dropping Saturday and Sunday evening programming. But, I've got a bit of advice of my own.

One of the things that NBC and other networks fail to recognize is that they have a rich library of programming that would be interesting and relevant to viewers today. Think about it - they wouldn't be bringing back "Bionic Woman" or "Night Rider" as new series if the originals weren't fan favorites. So, as an experiment, why not pull shows out of your library on Saturday or Sunday nights for a whole evening each week of "Classic NBC".

The way I'd program it would be to have different shows each week, but program each block in a similar way, perhaps with more family-oriented or daytime shows at 7:00, some kind of drama at 8:00, a couple of sitcoms at 9:00, and a crime drama at 10:00. And I'd go back beyond the 80s to even include a dash of shows from the 50s and early 60s in the mix - for some, it would be nostalgia, for other viewers they'd be surprised at how campy some of the shows would be.

Sure, many of these shows are available on DVD format or even through streaming at various sites. But, for the casual viewer, looking to be entertained, they could tune in just for the convenience of having a block of old shows programmed for them. Heck, it would be cheap and probably do better in the ratings than offerings from the other networks.

The Avengers - radio series restorations

A project devoted to preserving and restoring rare episodes of a South African radio series based on the popular UK television series, "The Avengers", has started up their restoration efforts again after a couple of years in hiatus.

The program was broadcast as a five-day-a-week serial and was based on scripts from the tv series using South African actors. At the time, television in the country wasn't well developed, but people got familiar with "The Avengers" through film exchanges, which rented 16mm films much like today's video stores. Radio drama was still a major art form in South Africa, so the tv show was turned into a radio show.

You can see more info on the show and download restored episodes here.

Vicent Dooley ... "invent destiny"

The web video, with its developing conventions and aesthetics, hasn't really impressed me so far. Web series have a penchant for going after a particular demographic (like Lonelygirl) with such gusto that the internal references are obtuse and the characters and plots are, well, kind of boring. In other cases, such as the many video series at, they're so poorly acted and scripted that they're painful and embarrassing to sit through like half-baked failed television pilots.

This web series looks more promising. The first video is funny and well written. The lead actor is really creates a character here and has a great sense of comic timing. So, let's meet Vincent, inventor. From California...

More videos are at the YouTube channel for the series.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Vince Long's paper tape archives

Here's an interesting site that came along in an old time radio mailing list I'm a member of.

OTR enthusiast Vince Long obtained about 100 reel to reel tapes, many early Scotch paper-based tapes, that were recorded of network and local radio shows in the Billings, Montana area in the early 1950s. They're a fascinating look at local radio and what an average listener might have been tuned to at the time. The collection includes many shows not previously in circulation and include music, variety, news and sports shows. All are available in downloadable MP3 format.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

... and speaking of robots ....

Found this interesting video of the Sony Aibo, an electronic pet "dog" marketed by Sony a few years back.

Unlike the maker of the video, I just don't think it would be as much fun as a cat.

Robot pets are a big industry in Japan; they're seen as convenient companions for the elderly or in situations where there's not much space in small apartment buildings.

Here's two ads for a Japanese robot cat:

And a video that shows a robotic pet seal named Paro. There's also another video on YouTube showing it interacting with patients in a Japanese nursing home.

Chris Thrash's Rock-A-Fire Explosion

Back in the 1980s, there was a pizza chain called Showbiz Pizza that eventually went bankrupt and merged with Chuck E. Cheese.

The centerpiece of the restaurants was an animatronic band, the Rock-A-Fire Explosion, designed by a company in Florida. The display, which would take up one whole side of the restaurant, was similar to the animatronic robot displays that Disney used in their theme parks.

As these displays have been removed from installations in recent years, a small group of enthusiasts have tried to preserve them. Chris Thrash owns one and does something a little more interesting with it.

Originally, the displays would put on shows of pop songs for kids; Thrash and other enthusiasts reprogram them to play current popular songs.

The videos are funny, but also admirable for the technical skill of the original designers of the Rock-A-Fire and for the new programmers. The Rock-A-Fire, by the way, was originally controlled by a four track reel to reel tape machine and later by VCRs or Apple II computers; those preserving and reprogramming the displays now use a modified Tivo.

First up is a video from YouTube showing what one of the original Rock-A-Fire shows looked like:

Here's a couple of reprogramming efforts. The first is Usher's "Love in This Club". Note: This song contains explicit lyrics that may be offensive to some viewers.

The second example I found is the Madonna/Justin Timberlake song, "4 Minutes". It's not quite as creatively programmed as the Usher track and doesn't use all of the characters in the display.

Each week, Chris Thrash takes bids from Internet viewers on what song they should program next. The funds from the auctions go towards upkeep and preservation of the Rock-A-Fire installation.

There's also several videos by Thrash and others located here:

I could see Chris Thrash's Rock-A-Fire Explosion being a musical guest on "Saturday Night Live" or as an opening act for The Gorillaz. (In fact, why not get them to perform Gorillaz songs like this?)