Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nitrate film - hot stuff!

One of the film collecting forums I frequent included a link to a fascinating training film that's been preserved via Google Video.

It was made in the mid-1960s in Luxemberg to demonstrate how firefighters might deal (or not deal) with flammable nitrate film.

It's fascinating to see them dipping the stuff in water or covering it with sand and chemicals and it just continues to burn - it sets off a chemical reaction that provides its own oxygen to fuel the fire.

video at Google video

There's also an interesting article by one of the forum members about a nitrate film fire that happened in one movie theater.

article at

Friday, March 27, 2009

David Horsey on 401Ks

A great cartoon from David Horsey, editorial cartoonist with the Seattle PI.


Solitary confinement

The New Yorker has a lengthy piece this week that tackles the issue of solitary confinement - the psychological implications of solitary are quite serious and the article questions whether this type of punishment is humane. The British experiences with alternatives to solitary are intriguing.

article at New Yorker

Resetting the reset button

Recently, Hillary Clinton presented the Russians with a little gift - a red button marked "reset" in both English and Russian - to highlight a "new start" in our international relationships.

There was only one problem.

Staff in the State Department mistranslated the word.

blog post at NYMag

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Trapped in "The Room"

A strange thing is happening in movie theaters - it appears a new "cult" film is being born.

"The Room" is an indie produced little drama that is so bad that audiences are flocking to it at midnight showings, mocking it and turning the showings into one big party like "Rocky Horror".

article at EW

And your bird can sing?

What if a group of volunteers had assembled data on birds and other natural observations for 90 years in various parts of the country? Think that might be useful to research climate change?

Indeed, it is.

A new crop of volunteers are digitizing the data, held on index cards.

article at

Monday, March 23, 2009

Of cows and robber barons

The Times profiles a dairy co-op that recently suffered an all to common problem - their CEO took off, apparently absconding with funds. The article shows how interconnected all these small business interests are, from the farmers with cows to companies that sell lids for milk cartons.

article at NY Times

Warner Bros opens up the archives

Warner Brothers is starting up a long overdue website - an online store that lets you buy dvds of previously unreleased films from their archives.

The effort is aimed at fans who are looking for favorite films or beyond what's available at local retailers. They're expected to add around 20 titles a month to the site.

article at the AP

Expanding the FM band

Radio World published an article late last year about a group that's trying to do something I'm surprised no one had proposed before - expanding the FM broadcast band.

The idea would be to make more room for LPFM, relieve overcrowding on the AM band, and create more opportunities for growth on the existing FM band by extending it into the old areas for TV channels 5 and 6 that are being vacated by the switch to digital. It would also create an opportunity to finally create one or two standard frequencies for emergency use that could be worked into radio designs by manufacturers.

article at Radio World
editorial at Radio World
response at Radio World

Make your own record

Here's a video showing a very "low fi/low budget" way to make your own records:

Tough times at Harley Davidson

The NY Times examines Harley's problems - they've been unable to attract a younger demo to their products and the Baby Boomers that are their prime market have seen their savings disappear in the current economic crisis.

article at NY Times

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gee ... can I get a deduction too?

Seems the IRS has issued guidelines allowing tax relief for victims of the massive Madoff ponzi scheme fraud. They can deduct the losses from their taxes, basically.

Hello? IRS?

I've basically been defrauded by a cabal of Wall Street investors and now my 401K is worth diddley squat? May I deduct those losses on my taxes? Hmmmm?

article at HuffPost

Dylan's Malibu neighbors sing outhouse blues

Bob Dylan's neighbors are upset that he has a portable outhouse on his property because the smell wafts through the neighborhood on ocean breezes.

Sheesh... these people should live in the country for awhile near a farm.

Perhaps Dylan's doing this on purpose....

article at LA Times

Tom Tommorrow on apocalyptic fantasies

I'm not the biggest fan of "Tom Tomorrow", but this one's really cute - especially the punch line.

So, how do apocalyptic science fiction films compare with apocalyptic reality?

cartoon at Salon

Sexism, I tell you - it's sexism....

According to Salon's Broadsheet blog, there's a new commune in San Francisco devoted to female orgasm.

Yes, I kid you not - a commune entirely devoted to female orgasm.

So, where do I sign up for the male orgasm commune?

blog post at Salon

Tangled up in blue

NY Times blogger Christoph Niemann has a neat little illustrated essay about bothersome cables - telephone cables, computer cables, and annoying headphone cables.

blog post
at NY Times

Friday, March 13, 2009

Yikes! Not a good sign...

Well, let's see. The last time we saw "tent cities", or something like them, popping up in the US was...hmmm...the early 30s?

article at HuffPost

The lady doth protest too much...

Have you ever noticed how those conservative Christians that go on and on about gays or family values usually wind up in Gay sex scandals or have pregnant teenage daughters?

Ever think about how Right-wingnut politicians that complaining about "socialist" Democrats are from states that receive the most funding from the Federal government?

Considered that Republicans try to put on a minority face in public (Palin? Steel? Jindal?), but remain a party primarily made up of older whites?

It's funny how conservative politicians wear their inner fears on their sleeve. Usually, if they keep railing against something, it's some fault in their own lives. It's a psychological thing called "transference" - if you can't deal with your own issues, you say that someone else has the problem.

The latest?

Republicans rail against pork barrel spending. Six of the ten top pork barrel spenders in Congress ... are Republicans.

article at Slate

More on the Shakespeare portraits

The New Yorker has a brief piece about the newly discovered Shakespeare portrait (you know, the one where he looks cross-eyed), comparing it to other likenesses of the Bard, including a possible painting found in Canada.

article at New Yorker

The Lives of Fred Hersch

Here's some info on a documentary on jazz pianist Fred Hersch that's been released on DVD.

Hersch was one of the first musicians in the jazz world to "come out" about the fact that he is Gay and about his battles with HIV and the documentary looks at both his significance in the jazz world and his interesting personal life.

article at All About Jazz

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How representative is Rush anyway?

I've always had a theory that the influence of hardcore conservatives like Rush Limbaugh - and how they represent views of average Americans - has been grossly overstated by the media for many years.

According to this survey, you can probably say that Rush's (and the hardcore GOP's) views really represent the views of about 15% to 20% of Americans.

Keep in mind, too, that we've never really had a comprehensive and honest look at the actual numbers of listeners to conservative talk radio and, among those listeners, how many actually agree with the nonsense they hear or tune in as opposition research or to simply laugh at their absurdity.

article at HuffPost

Lincoln's watch

Did you know that Lincoln's pocket watch had an Easter Egg?

article at NY Times

The uncounted homeless

The NY Times has a feature on a growing trend - uncounted homeless people living in motel rooms. The problem is particularly acute in Orange County, California because of high rents and large numbers of empty motels.

I sometimes wonder if these folks would be better off just picking up and moving rather than trying to stay there - at least rents are much cheaper than what they're paying for a motel room in other parts of the country. I can't imagine the "paycheck to paycheck" jobs they have pay much more in LA than here.

article at NY Times

Random acts of violence

The recession must be hitting hard. It seems like these kinds of things come out of the woodwork when the economy tanks.

Today - 16 killed in school attack in Germany
Yesterday - 10 people dead in Alabama shooting rampage
Two days ago - a shooter at an Illinois church

Oh, and someone in Alabama and Florida is putting acid in rest area soap dispensers

Playing dress up

The creator of "Mad Men" has a son who has become a kind of fashion guru - no small feat in a place like Los Angeles. Here in NC, though, wearing a top hat, a fez or an ascot might get you a bloddy nose in second grade.

Be sure to view the slideshow.

article at GQ

Seattle PI closing, SF Chronicle may be next

It appears the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, home of my favorite editorial cartoonist, is closing down.

This Reuters piece notes that Hearst may also close the SF Chronicle if the paper can't contain costs.

article at Reuters

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's a cultural thing?

Slate takes a brief look at the controversy surrounding a Japanese video game, "Rapelay", where the whole point of the game is to rape women. The piece takes a broader look at "underground" sex games and related culture in Japan.

article at Slate

Cheney's Chief of Staff can't find a job

Former VP Cheney's Chief of Staff, who was the architect behind the whole warrentless wiretapping thing and more general shredding of the Constitution, joins other former Bush administration staffers that are being treated like the bubonic plague by prospective employers.

Anyone wanna guess where he got his law degree? If you guess that it's the same place that Richard Nixon got his JD, you'd be right.

That's one law school that knows how to crank out some ethical lawyers, eh?

article at Raw Story

What's wrong with Obama's recovery plans

A short opinion piece in the New Yorker that, in my own humble amateur economist opinion, states exactly what's wrong with the administration's plans for economic recovery and why the timidity with handling bank's toxic assets is a bad idea.

article at New Yorker

Cross-eyed Shakespeare

Have scholars uncovered a long-forgotten painting of Shakespeare made during his lifetime? Was he really cross-eyed like that?

blog post at NY Times

Want another reason not to live in South Carolina?

It seems that SC is the home of a big "ex gay" ministry, putting up billboards that read "Are you gay or lesbian and don't want to be?"

Is there any wonder that South Carolina has one of the lowest (and sometimes the lowest) high school graduation rates in the country or that their teen pregnancy rate is on the rise?

Just saying....

billboard with slight Photoshop retouching

rather unfortunate and sad prayer requests
at their site

The Eames solar machine

I want one of these.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why is gay marriage such a big deal?

Salon has a brief blog post that explains one reason why Gay marriage is important to LGBTs.

Annie Liebovitz inherited several properties from her partner Susan Sontag - because of a 50% tax on inheritances, which wouldn't apply if their partnership was recognized as a marriage, Liebovitz has nearly gone bankrupt.

blog post at Salon

Meanwhile, about 3,000 fundamentalists gathered at the state capital in Raleigh in support of a proposed North Carolina that defines marriage between a man and a woman. There's also been some similar politicking by conservative religious groups in Illinois backed by the Mormons.

Question: Are the Mormons throwing money behind the North Carolina demonstrations, much like they did with Prop 8?

article at the Duke Chronicle
blog post at Americablog (on Illinois)

Update: It appears the Mormons are campaigning in Maine since there's a bill in consideration there. Americablog raises a good point - is the church engaging in missionary religious practices or engaging in political organizing? If it's the latter, it raises questions about their tax exempt status and their fundraising would fall under election donation transparency laws.

blog post at Americablog (on Maine)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Living in a dictatorship

Some of us seemed to thin we were living in a dictatorship for the past eight years.

Now, with the release of some internal White House memos, we find out we really were.

article at Salon

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The new Prohibition

It looks like we may be entering Great Depression II, The Sequel.

An op-ed piece looks at Prohibition II - the War on Drugs - that bears a distinct similarity to the War on Alcohol of the early 20th century.

Oh, and the piece is by a former Seattle police chief.

article at HuffPost

No love for antidepressants

Some new research indicates that common antidepressants may inhibit one's ability to fall in love.

Now that's depressing...

article at Wired

Evolution of the slow cooker

The LA Times has a neat piece on the evolution of the slow cooker, looking at ways people are experimenting with them to actually create some decent food.

article at LA Times

Miracle Water!

How about a liquid that can disenfect, killing all manner of nasty microbes, and clean as good as bleach?

What if you could drink it?

What if it was water and salt?

article at LA Times

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Octomom loosing the babies?

It appears that some more reasonable and cooler heads are prevealing at the hospital where Octomom gave birth.

It appears they're probably going to withhold the children due to concern over the living arrangements and her ability to take care of them; any premie births are gone over by Child and Welfare Services to ensure that the child can be safe.

Octomom's home, which is owned by her mother, is about to go through foreclosure; her mom is over $30,000 behind in her house payments.

These kids deserve safe home where they can be cared for properly. It would probably be best if they were put up for adoption and never really told about their mom, at least until they're adults.

article at HuffPost

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"I'm shocked - shooked! - that the Web existed before 2000!"

Okay, this columnist, Farhad Manjoo, at Slate is officially driving me nuts. He seems clueless about technology and the Web. But, he gets paid to write a column at Slate. After tackling online college lectures (an emerging phenom a year or two ago), why satellite radio sucks, and why Microsoft should copy the Apple Store in recent columns, he turns to history.

Today's piece is about the state of the Web, circa 1996. He got the inspiration for the piece by noting that someone asked him what it was like to browse the web way back when.

So, he does some research in the Internet Archives and old editions of "Time" magazine and comes to the conclusion that people could read Slate, look at the weather, and play the Kevin Bacon Game. In other words, there wasn't diddly squat there.

I beg to differ.

The Web, in many ways, was quite interesting in those early days. Of course, Manjoo just talks about the commercial Web, ignoring the many websites of academics, artists and individuals that were the backbone of the Internet we know and love today.

He seems amazed that people were "blogging" before 1999, when the term came into existence. No doubt he would be surprised that people were actually creating their own content for the Web before Web 2.0, YouTube, blogs, wikis and all the rest of it.

Sigh. It's columns like this that make me browse to Slate less and less.

article at Slate

High wages, few jobs

The New Yorker has an article that tackles an odd contradiction - during recessions and even the Great Depression, wages rise. It may be tough to find a job, but when you do, salaries remain competitive.

Companies are concerned about loosing talent and overall employee morale, but there are other factors during this economic downturn - the "just in time" model is making companies and workers more productive and the job market more unstable.

article at the New Yorker

San Franciscans save economy, cut your hair, and beat the crap out of you

News from San Francisco:

An assemblyman from the city has introduced a bill to legalize marijuana, controlling and taxing it similar to alcohol. A stimulus plan for the California economy, perhaps?

In a photo essay in the SF Chronicle, meet Mike the Barber who also happens to be Mike the Boxer.

And only the Chronicle could have a headline on the front page that reads "Five Shot in Tenderloin".

And even more gay news

A vandal struck one of the benches in front of a dorm at Duke.

For those that aren't employees of Duke or alumni, I'll explain that the benches in front of the dorm are wood and each group of dorm residents paints them up with something having to do with the name of the dorm - they burn them in a big bonfire as part of some kind of tradition at some point. (The details escape me.)

But, regardless of that, the bench in front of Giles, which said "G-Spot", was painted over with an F and A in front of the G.

The students responded by pasting over the thing with messages of support for gays and against hate speech.

Hmph... times are changing. I remember a decade or two ago when this kind of stunt wouldn't get any attention at all.

article at the Duke Chronicle

Sniper versus sniper

I'm not sure what's more creepy.

Two men suing each other because they both put up windows on ebay, both claiming to be the one used by Lee Harvey Oswald in the Kennedy assassination.

Or that, at the bottom of the article, there's a link to a live web cam looking out on Dealey Plaza from the Schoolbook Depository building's sixth floor where Oswald fired the shots.

article at Dallas CBS TV 11

Utah senate shuts down over anti-gay remark

The Utah Senate shut down for two hours as Republicans discussed the furor created by the public remarks of one of their colleagues that compared gays to terrorists.

It's interesting to me that the Republicans are finally have to deal with the fall-out of pent-up prejudice among their ranks - these kind of spiteful remarks were overlooked for many years. Now, they're seen by the public at large as extremist.

We can certainly disagree on issues, like gay marriage, but using broad brush strokes to paint a whole minority with invective just isn't acceptable any more and is a political liability. Some Republicans are beginning to understand that it makes them look angry and hateful, rather than productive.

Even Rupert Murdoch has apologized for the New York Post's distasteful "monkey" cartoon.

article at MSNBC

New Yorker films closing

New Yorker Films, a major distributor of art house and foreign flicks, is closing after 44 years. It's library of films, which includes major classics, was put up a collateral for a loan by the distributor's owner. Now, since the loan is due and the films are being auctioned off, New Yorker's going under.

article at NY Times

War is such a bear

A movie waiting to happen - a bear that fought with a Polish unit during World War II.

blog post at

Valenti, gays, Hoover and survelliance

Slate has an article that delves a bit more into the Johnson administrations hunt for Gays circa 1964. The incident was started by a Johnson administration staffer that was arrested for performing oral sex in a Washington rest room - the investigation, which included Jack Valenti, drew on the resources of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. (And, the article notes, Hoover's "gaydar".)

I wish someone would do a full history of gays by government entities over the last century. There was a 1919 sting against Navy personnel, a flap over Gays in the State Department in the early 60s, and many more incidents that come up here and there when you look through old newspapers and magazines.

I recall in the early to mid-nineties, during my time with the Tarheel Leather Club and other gay political organizations in NC, rather suspicious men that would kind of come and go from these groups that didn't seem like they fit - we often wondered if they were FBI men. In the late 90s, I saw a brief article where someone had requested their FBI file and, indeed, g-men were doing survellance on gay political and AIDS activist organizations.

I'd challenge the Obama administration to come clean on what the government's been up to the past few decades. What kind of survellance was the Bush administration up to on gays? What was Hoover's FBI up to that still hasn't emerged after all these years?

After the debacle with Rick Warren at the Inaguaration, it's the least that Obama could do to start proving he's serious about taking the interests of gay citizens seriously.

article at Slate

Friday, February 20, 2009

Something Awful or Something Creepy?

The site is running a strange little series. The site, in general, is devoted to humor pieces that make fun of memes or other such nonsense on the Web. (For example, take a gander at their recent "Celebrity Stalker" column.)

These things are just, well, creepy.

It's similar to another series they ran, which seemed to take place in another parallel universe, called "Instructions for a THing".

This one's called "That Insidious Beast" and each entry is a piece of something - a web site, a series of personal journal entries, a blog, etc - from some type of universe parallel to our own with a totalitarian state that's gone right-wing crazy. Here's the different parts of the series:

Magnum PI
TV Infodot Mixups
Televised Broadcast Schedule
Holy Hand Broadcasting
A Great Haul
Active Area
Ghosts of Brier Hill
Field Dominance
Screen Burn

If you want to dive in, the best places to start, at least for me, are TV Infodot Mixups, Ghosts of Brier Hill and Field Dominance.

Make your own fabric

I'm probably late on this, but there's a site out there that lets you create your own fabric.

Just send them a design and they'll print it for you for $18 a yard, no minimum order.

There's one graphic designer that sells custom cloth designs printed at the site here.
A kid in China was recently killed by an exploding chair.

No, it wasn't some kind of terrorist plot or murder scheme. The cylinder in the chair used to lift it up and down exploded and he died from his injuries. A similar chair also seriously injured a 68 year old man.

Yet another reason one shouldn't be a worker in the New Information Economy (TM).

article at Anorak

Charities going bankrupt

The bad economic news continues. The Times has a piece about the growing number of non-profits declaring bankruptcy in recent months.

One thing I'm curious about though, reading through the massive debt and mislaid plans of these organizations is if we're looking at some "weeding out" of badly managed groups. Some of what they were doing and the debt they were taking on sounds nutty.

article at NY Times

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another nutjob Republican

A Utah state senator has gone on the record in an interview comparing gays to Muslims and stating that gays represent the biggest threat to America today. He previously was in hot water for making racist comments.

In his spare time, he no doubt mumbles about the dangers of fluoridated water taking away the purity of essence of our precious bodily fluids.

Feel free to buy the man a straitjacket and a one-way ticket to a mental institution any time now.

article at local Utah tv station

Forget about that Swiss bank

It seems that UBS has lost a case dealing with tax evasion with the IRS and has agreed to disclose information on 19,000 US citizens that have Swiss bank accounts that are suspected of tax evasion.

This would mark a big change - many think that Swiss banks will no longer be a "safe haven" for those wishing to keep their finances quiet.

I suppose cash is the safest bet.

article at HuffPost

Sugary soda! Woo hoo!

Apparently, Pepsi is releasing two sodas - Pepsi Cola and Mountain Dew - under the "Throwback" label in April. The sodas are flavored with real cane sugar rather than corn based high fructose corn syrup.

Sodas haven't tasted the same since manufacturers went with corn based sweeteners to save costs. I've heard that actual cane sugar is better for you than corn products if you indulge in a soda on occasion. Currently, the only plant in the US I'm aware of that still uses cane sugar is a bottler in my home town of West Jefferson, NC that produces Dr. Pepper. Some sodas are available from Mexico and other countries that still use REAL sugar.

article at

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

State Department historians crisis

By way of the New Yorker, is this blog post looking at a recent shake-up with historians who are assembling the official record of the State Department's activities.

This sounds like the worst management practices one would find among academics - petty politics, little dictatorships, and fiefdoms.

blog post at

Lawyers ... bah!

Slate has an article about an absolutely nutty court case.

A law firm, consisting of idiots who don't understand how links work, sued a real estate company for linking to bios of lawyers on their site in recent real estate buy listings, which are open and public.

Seems the law firm thinks that linking violates their trademark - that consumers would be confused, thinking that the real estate site was part of the law firm. The real estate site, a small start-up with not much cash, had to cave and settle the case with these sleezeballs, who are basically trying to control access to public information that they don't like being public.

I would like to make quite clear that this site (or me personally) have nothing to do with these high-priced ambulance-chasing opportunists. I hope you'll join me in placing links to these ridiculously Internet-retarded individuals on your own blog.

article at Slate

Batty Bachmann

Frankly, I think that the voters of some states should be required to prove, in court, that their Senators and Reps aren't completely insane. Minnesota is one of those states - Rep. Michelle Bachmann seems to be living in a fantasy land and has lost touch with reality, telling an interviewer that ACORN got $5 billion in the stimulus package (it got nothing, really) and several other outright hallucinatory lies.

It's people like her and liemeister Rush Limbaugh that the Fairness Doctrine were made for. If you made them tell the truth, their head would explode.

article at Washington Monthly

Controversy over Rent

A high school production of "Rent" has been cancelled because of controversy over the gay characters in the musical.

article at LA Times

Major fossil find in LA

The LA Times has an interesting piece on a major Ice Age era fossil find in the city near the Tar Pits. The collection of fossils include a nearly complete mammoth.

Another interesting point in the article is a novel method the archeologists are using at the site - it had to be quickly cleared because of a construction project, so they dug up the site in crated sections.

article at LA Times

Friday, February 13, 2009

Octomom at my economic stimulus


Is there any end to the weirdness coming out about Nadya and her never-ending need to birth? When will California's Social Services department take these poor kids away from this grotesque, bizarre, mentally ill woman? When will the State of California take away the medical license of her IVF doc and forbid him from touching any other human being in a medical context for the rest of his life?

Now it seems Nadya wrote creepy letters to Angelina Jolie ... and had plastic surgery to look more like her.


thread at buzzfeed

She now claims that she's receiving death threats via phone and email after putting up a website asking the public to support her kids. Police are investigating.

Oh, and let's not forget, she's $50,000 in debt and on food stamps and a couple of her pre-existing kids were on disability. Some have tallied that the hospital cost for her eight babies will be $1.3 million. The total cost of raising all her kids through age 17 are estimated at between $1.3 million and $2.7 million.

Oh well... there's goes the economic stimulus!

article at HuffPost

The functioning sociopath in business

This piece from the AP wire is fascinating; on the surface, it's about the owner of Peanut Company of America and how he's become a recluse since the firestorm over the salmonella outbreak in his plants.

However, if you dig a little deeper, it paints a picture of something not uncommon in business and the workplace - a functioning sociopath.

These are people who are good at putting on a "good face" and telling people what they want to hear. In public or among superivsors, they seem like the nicest person in the world. In private or in their business practices, they're uncaring, dishonest, irresponsible and reckless.

Managers or business people like that can go far, but leave a big trail of destruction in their wake.

article at AP news wire

Another sign of changing times

The Book Exchange, which opened in the early 1930s in Durham, NC, is closing its doors on February 14th.

The store carries an eclectic mix of used books and was a fascinating place to visit. Currently, they're offering a bag of books for $10 and the rest will be donated to charities after the store closes.

article at the News and Observer

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dutch city's pornography collection missing

Too bad we don't have local historians like this in the States...

article from the AP wire

New kidnap-for-ransom capital of the US is ....

... Phoenix?

Yes, and it's all drug related. Arizona has become the main entry for the Mexican drug trade into the US and this type of crime follows. Last year, the city of Phoenix had over 350 kidnappings.

article at LA Times

Former Our Gang actress passes

Shirley Jean Rickert, who appeared in five of the classic "Our Gang" comedies in the thirties has passed away.

She never really found stardom in Hollywood and wound up being a stripper in Burlesque in the 1950s, billed as "Gilda and Her Crowning Glory".

article at LA Times

Well, if it worked for Springer...

The Royal Opera has announced they're working on a new production based on the life of Anna Nicole Smith. The libretto will be by the co-creator of "Jerry Springer: The Opera", Richard Thomas.

article at SF Gate

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The peanut scandal - the missing detail

With all the attention paid to the Peanut Corporation of America's problems with salmonella and shipping tainted products, along with the seemingly lax FDA inspections that have led to this miss, there's a couple of details that are getting ignored.

Stewart Parnell, the owner of the company, was on the FDA's Peanut Standards Board. He was appointed to the position in 2005 and was taken off the board only a few days ago.

Also, the company was involved in two lawsuits, in 1990 and 1991, when they supplied peanut products to candy manufacturers containing toxic mold.

article at Wikipedia

Parnell appeared before a Congressional committee today; invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions.

This is the type of behavior that makes me want to throw out all corporate law - I don't think crap like this would happen if a company President/CEO/owner could be held personally liable for damages or legal punishment for endangering the public.

article at CNN

Noooo!!!! Not satellite radio!!!! Nooooo!!!!


I've been a subscriber to satellite radio for some time. I'm rather sad to hear that Sirius-XM will soon be filing for bankruptcy.

Sat radio's a great service, so there's a possibility that somehow the company or some variation of it will survive. However, I can't see anyone going out of their way to buy a radio and subscribe with Sirius-XM in bankruptcy, which will likely erode the audience and income base of the company further.

Both Sirius and XM weren't able to make a go of it as individual companies and merged a few months ago. With such a great idea - a selection of commercial free and limited commercial stations in a broad range of genres, a great alternative to bland commercial and public broadcasters - it's hard to believe that someone could screw it up.

In my thinking, the companies focused in the wrong areas - too much on the automobile market and not enough on flexible, portable devices (like the Inno); too much on flash in the pan "stars" and expensive sports packages and not enough on strengthening the diversity of the shows.

If Sirius-XM does go the way of so many failed tech companies, I'd petition the FCC to require all AM and FM stations with a certain power level to upgrade to HD Radio and to limit the number of ad time per hour on existing stations.

article at NY Times

However, there is a bright side to all this bad economic news for technology and entertainment companies. Muzak, that purveyor of bad elevator music and annoying shopping ear drivel is in bankruptcy as well.

article at The Street

Online guide to 3d movies

When digging a bit after my Arch Oboler movie post, I ran into this helpful list of 3d movies.

It includes technical details on the specific format used for each 3d movie release.

Arch Oboler, auteur

DVD Savant has a review of the newly-released, "Five", a 1950 post-nuclear apocalypse movie by Arch Oboler.

Oboler is best known today as the man behind "Bwana Devil", the movie that started the 1950s 3d craze. However, fans of old time radio know him for his work on "Lights Out", an influential radio mystery series.

Oboler's film work is mostly forgotten, but is certainly worth checking out - his parody of mass media, "The Twonky", from the early 1950s sounds very intriguing. Besides the subject matter and style of Oboler's movies, which used some radio techniques for sound, the movies are interesting technically. "Five" was the first movie to use magnetic sound recording and was the first movie to use television as promotion for the release. His later film, "Domo Arigato", was the first to use single-lens 3d projection, the format used for movies in the 1980's 3d revival.

You can read an overview of Oboler's film career at (part one and part two).

Mayor of Portland, we hardly knew you...

The newly elected Gay mayor of Portland is embroiled in a sex scandal. Seems he lied about having a relationship with a young man who may have been underage at the time.

The young man's name?

Beau Breedlove.

Slate has the details and links

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Would you vote for ...

... the man who played the lead in "Top Secret"?

Val Kilmer's considering running for the governor's spot in New Mexico.

article at HuffPost

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Bloom County Library

Finally ... a publisher is tackling the entire run of my favorite comic strip of all time, "Bloom County". The hardcover books in the series will include every daily and Sunday strip along with "context pages" that put some of the current events and personalities of the time in perspective so you can understand what's going on in the comic.

press release

Friday, February 6, 2009

The sound you hear...

The New Yorker has a curious piece on tinnitus, a condition where someone hears constant tones or sounds that won't go away, typically due to some type of audio-related trauma or injury.

I knew someone in college with this problem; it definately impacted his ability to hear and how he spoke. Some are suggesting the proliferation of portable mp3 players may increase the rate of this problem in the population over time.

at New Yorker

Thursday, February 5, 2009

IBM's doing what?

A poster of a comment at Wonkette noted something interesting. I'd like to see some verification of this and some quick laws enacted to make it illegal if it's true.

Basically, the poster says that IBM is offering to send American workers to India to do the same job they do here. They'll pay for the visas and paperwork.

The catch?

You only get paid the going wage in India for the job, which is significantly less than what you'd make here.

If you turn down the offer and are let go from your job, you're not eligible for unemployment, of course.

So, is this one true?

comment at Wonkette

Man Caves

The SF Gate discovers "Man Caves"; ie, areas of homes that are off limits to the wifey, stocked with multiple televisions, issues of Maxim, and boxing videos.

In my day, it was called "the basement".

article at SF Gate

Just throw out all your food

Yikes... the FDA has issued a recall on more than 1,300 products containing peanuts.

Just throw away all your food and buy some bananas and steak and you're all set.

recall at FDA site

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Now that's some break...

A company has released a glass pool table.

Yes, you heard that right, a glass pool table. Cost is about $26,000.

Why do I have the feeling it would be a bad idea to combine hard, heavy pool balls and wooden sticks with glass?

Your Eustace contest winners

This year's "Your Eustace" contest winners have been posted at the New Yorker.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Fire sale at Brandais

The Board of Trustees at Brandais has voted to close the university's art museum, despite protests from students, alumni and others. The museum had its own board and did its own fundraising.

Curators of university art museums are watching this one closely, wondering if their institutions might see an art collection sale as a quick way to raise funds in tough economic times.

article at NY Times

Underground theater

... really underground.

A theater troupe has put together a play that is staged on the New York subway system. Sounds like a really fun ride.

article at NY Times


Now, what self-respecting person interested in art and culture wouldn't have a genuine Zardoz mask in their home?

auction at ebay

Carrie Fisher, blogger

Carrie Fisher is now a blogger.

This woman is funny - be sure to read her post about the party she hosted for "Milk" (Paris Hilton showed up, but no one would confess to bringing her as a guest.)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

PediPaws - pet torture device

Here's a little video review from Slate of the PediPaws pet nail trimming gizmo.

I'm sorry - if I were a cat or dog, I wouldn't be too enthusiastic about having someone hold me down and approach me with a buzzing electronic device, especially with a fast-spinning sander on it.

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.


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.

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


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

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

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 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 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

Sgt Pepper by the Beatles

Just What I Needed by the Cars

Roxanne by the Police

Long Train Running by the Doobie Brothers (which is intriquing, I'll admit)

What's Going On by Marvin Gaye

Hotel California by the Eagles

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

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.


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.

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

Markhill Amplication
Sells a rebranded MC-10L for $995.

Tube Amp Store
Sells the Markhill-branded MC-10L; has a frequency response chart for the amp.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


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.

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?


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.


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

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.


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"...


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?


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.


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


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

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