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