Friday, May 18, 2007

Taking a Week and Change Off

Just as I get back in the swing of things I have to take some time off. A little later this morning I am flying to NYC for my sister's wedding. After I come home LATE Sunday I have three days to get ready for Flipside before I head out there on Thursday. Bsically I am going to be out and off the net until May 29th at the best. Until then here is some Digital Underground to keep you busy!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Train Drunkeness

I have learned two very important things in the past 24 hours:

  1. While taking the train home after some serious drinking might seem like a good idea, being cheap and all, it might not be the best plan. Besides the six-block stagger I have after I get off at my station, there is the fact that the movement of the train can be quite comforting when one is four sheets to the wind. I almost fell asleep between the bar and my stop.
  2. When nursing the sort of hangover that only a night of heroic drinking which involved more than one round of tequila shots can deliver, what was once a nice rhythm that almost lulled you to sleep a mere five or so hours earlier is the Devil. Riding the train while very hungover is a special kind of hell.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Random Thoughts for 5/16/07

Before we delve into the marginally funny I have a serious request to pass along. Read this post, then this post, and finally this post from Pete over at A Perfectly Cromulent Blog. This is seriously fucked up and any help you can give would be greatly appreciated by parents across the state. As it is Pete is not the only parent of an autistic child that I have known and so even though this does not have any real-life bearing on me, for the moment, getting every child the best medical care possible is something I feel very strongly about.

Pete touches on it a little in the first post, but in reading stuff like this the hypocrisy of Right to Lifers never ceases to amaze me. How can you say that you believe the zygote* is human, on the one hand, and yet once a baby is actually born your legislative agenda appears to not care about said baby one bit. If the Right to Life crowd were true to the core ideals which lie at the heart of Jesus' message, which boils down to love one another and take care of your fellow man, then we would have an excellent education system and an excellent health care system. Instead for most of them their fidelity to their faith ends where inconvenience begins. A sin I am just as guilty of as the next guy. (Well, maybe not the next guy, we all know about Brian.)

When thinking about the word "Tortoise" I always think it should be a color. I know there is tortoise-shell but I always think of something different. Tortoise Red, perhaps. It would be light and kind of frilly; most likely French or faux-French which is popular with the Woodlands Wives crowd.

You can check out previews for NBC's new fall shows here, although there is no coverage of the new "Heroes: Origins" series. I think it comes as no surprise to anyone here that I have pretty much zero interest in "Lipstick Jungle," which is pretty much aimed at a totally different demographic. "Journeyman" looks like it could be very interesting, although they are getting dangerously close to a story idea I have been hacking away at for far too long now. Beyond the interesting concept I have really enjoyed Kevin McKidd's performance as Lucius Vorenus in "Rome" and it starts a Eurasian hottie by the name of Moon Bloodgood amd what's not to like about those prospects? From the What TV Needs is Another Cop Show Department comes "Life," a show which I will be tuning in to because I enjoyed Damian Lewis in "Band of Brothers." From the preview it looks like he engages in some pretty good repartee, something I always appreciate. Next up is "Chuck," which manages to encapsulate just about every nerd fantasy I have ever had in one show, which I sure is the point. This show is going to be a very week-by-week thing for me as the pilot was helmed by McG who we all know from the entertaining 2000 remake of Charlie's Angels and the execrable follow-up Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. While we're on the subject of specious remakes, the last show in the line-up is "The Bionic Woman." The preview looks pretty meh-a-licious however on-again off-again crush Katee Sackhoff shows up in at least the first episode, thereby assuring that I will check it out.

Well that's all the rage and snark that I can muster for now kids. Enjoy!

* Which I was saddened to learn is not, in fact, a small furry animal with horns.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

YouTubesday: Tis the Season

Well the summer movie blitz is on and even though the first offering really kind of stank things up, there is still hope for the spandex-clad crowd with the upcomming Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. (Jessica Alba makes my Sivler Surfer rise.) Your special-effect rasterbation needs will be taken care of by the third installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (I'd plunder Kiera Knightly's booty) and Michael Bay's take on the Transformers, which I am sure will lead to cries of Childhood Rape from many Transformers fans, who, when you really think about it might be some of the most pathetic geeks out there. Those of you that crave spy/thriller action can sate your needs with a double-scoop of hot buttered Matt Damon, served with a side of George Clooney and Brad Pitt for all the ladies, in June's Ocean's Thirteen and in August's sadly Franka-free The Bourne Ultimatum. With all the hotness that is going to be crowding the screen this summer, you might find yourself wondering that oft pondered question WWJS? (What Would James See?)

To be honest I will probably see all of them at some point, but the movie I am most looking forward to is Live Free or Die Hard, coming to a theater near you on June 17th. The reason this is my number one most anticipated movie of the summer? Bruce Willis.

I am sure you do not need me to tell you that Bruce Willis is the bomb-dot-com, as the kids say, but I am going to it and you're going to like it! From his early days on Moonlighting he has always rocked. He even brings a smile to my face when suffering through the likes of Hudson Hawk, which according to IMDB has some much funnier lines than I remember, or Look Who's Talking Too. On top of all that he hit it with Sarah Jessica Parker, one of my teenage crushes, in the otherwise forgettable Striking Distance. Finally someone has come up with the perfect way to celebrate the manliness that is Bruce Willis, and I don't mean by dropping his ass like a hot potato and shacking up with a kid some sixteen years your junior, but rather a celebration in song:

This is the video for the Guyz Nite song "Die Hard." This song has been stuck in my head ever since Kevin posted it back in April. Blame him.

According to the boys over at Japan Probe, we're not the only ones eager to see more hot John McClane on terrorist bastard action. Japan's own Bruce Willis impersonator Puchi Bruce has been hard at work making Puchi Die Hard. Here he reenacts the scene from Die Hard With a Vengeance wherein our hero is forced to wander the streets of Harlem wearing a sign that says "I hate niggers." Here Puchi puts a twist on it by wandering around Roppongi wearing a sign that says "I hate Gaijin."

Somehow I think it looses something. While remaking this scene from Die Hard 2 Puchi learns two important lessons. First that terrorists have issues with math. Second movie grenades explode after five seconds of hippie time rather than real time.

Finally completing Puchi's trek through the franchise we have him starring in the final stand-off from Die Hard:

At first I thought they had mapped Puchi's head onto Bruce's body. If you look at the beginning of the clip it really looks like Puchi's head is too big for his body. ("He'll be cryin' himself to sleep tonight on his huge pillow.") All in all these things don't look too bad. What is it all leading up to? Why the release of this:

No, wait, lets roll that back and de-Puchify* it:

That's better! My nomination for the most quoted exchange of the summer?

Matt Foster: You just killed a helicopter with a car!
John McClane: I was out of bullets.

And here is the full trailer:

SWEET PILE OF MONKEY NUTS! Was that Silent Bob getting all lippy to John McClane there at the end of the trailer? I think I might have just had a nerd-gasm.

* Puchify! Can I get a witness! AMEN!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Roy L. Pearson, Dick o' the Week

I did not have many thoughts worth sharing today so I thought I would concentrate on awarding the Dick of the Week award to one Roy L. Pearson, an administrative law judge in Washington D.C. whose claim to fame is that he is suing a mom and pop cleaners in D.C. for $67 million dollars over a pair of pants. I'll say that again for those of you in the back of the room not paying attention. A judge in Washington D.C. is suing a family operated business for $67 million over a pair of pants. This is after turning down settlement offers for $3000, $4600, and $12,000. The cost of the original suit was $1150. From the ABC News story:

Plaintiff Roy Pearson, a judge in Washington, D.C., says in court papers that he's been through the ringer over a lost pair of prized pants he wanted to wear on his first day on the bench.

He says in court papers that he has endured "mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort."

He says he was unable to wear that favorite suit on his first day of work.

He's suing for 10 years of weekend car rentals so he can transport his dry cleaning to another store.

The lawsuit is based in large part on Pearson's seemingly pained admission that he was taken in by the oldest and most insidious marketing tool in the dry cleaning industry arsenal.

"Satisfaction Guaranteed."

I would like to take a moment to point out the authors of this piece, Jim Avila, Chris Francescani & Mandy Harris, have struck the perfect tone. It is pretty clear to me where their sympathies lie, particularly after this bit:

The ABC News Law & Justice Unit has calculated that for $67 million Pearson could buy 84,115 new pairs of pants at the $800 value he placed on the missing trousers in court documents. If you stacked those pants up, they would be taller than eight Mount Everests. If you laid them side by side, they would stretch for 48 miles.

I want to repeat more of the article here, however the further on I read the more pissed I get at Pearson. This was not the first time this particular cleaning place misplaced a pair of trousers belong to the Honorable Jackass Pearson. There is the old saying that begins "Fool me once," which seems pretty applicable, or the Latin saying caveat emptor, or "let the buyer beware."

Above and beyond the stupidity emenating from Roy L. Pearson, esquire, is the very real fact that his actions have a very real affect on the owners of the store, an immigrant couple from Korea. From the ABC News article:

"It's affecting us first of all financially, because of all the lawyer's fees," Jin Chung said. "For two years, we've been paying lawyer fees. ... We've gotten bad credit as well, and secondly, it's been difficult mentally and physically because of the level of stress."

Later, Soo Chung broke down in tears.

"I would have never thought it would have dragged on this long," she told ABC News. "I don;t want to live here anymore. It's been so diffuicult. I just want to go home, go back to Korea."

It is disgusting that some insignificant fraction of a man has managed to destroy the American Dream for these people.

A couple of people have suggested that this fucktard's motivations could be racial as he is black and the owners Korean, two groups which apparently have trouble getting along. (Why is it that minorities seem to always out-racist the racists?) However the more likely explaination is that Pearson is bat-shit crazy. Here is an excerpt of the appellate court decision regarding his divorce which I think is telling:

...unless husband [Pearson] met her conditions for reconciliation. These conditions included husband changing his behavior toward the couple's family, changing his controlling behavior, and becoming financially responsible.


The trial court found that husband was substantially responsible for "excessive driving up" of the legal costs by "threatening both wife and her lawyer with disbarment [sic]," and creating unnecessary litigation.

The entire decision can be read here and is rather chuckle-worthy in parts.

For more on this you can read a piece by Sherman Joyce, the president of the American Tort Reform Association, or this letter from Melvin Welles, a former chief administrative law judge at the National Labor Relations Board, to the Washington Post.

I think it is clear from this that Pearson is a litigious ass and is well deserving of the Opiate Tested and Weng Weng Approved Dick o' the Week Award. (And apparently if you want to contact him all you have to do is search through the comments on this post for his address, phone number, and email address. God I love the internet!)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Frinday Link-a-Dink-sama

So before we get into the snark and jackassery which is the usual tone of these posts, you should go check out this post on Japan Probe from Evan. It includes a pretty awesome picture of Himeji castle and cherry blossoms.

And then there are these things and they're just freaky!

Exotic Shopping

For All the Harajuku Girls in the Hizzle

Insert Ace of Base Joke Here

Its on TV.....IN JAPAN! (Or maybe just YouTube.)

  • El gato gigante! (See how multicultural I am? For those keeping track at home this cat is approximately 1/11th of a Funkywoodjam.)
  • Okay, I think this one is from Australia, but, well, damn.
  • Poor Yukipon! His mistress is a drunk who is dating a dude that is allergic to cats so he is forced out of the house and has to get a job so he can eat. I really like how they use the angry eyebrows in the second clip and I want a Yukipon costume for Flipside.
  • Ummm...yeah.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thoughts on the Virginia Tech Tragedy

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings I had several thoughts which I would like to share. Part of the reason I chose to wait as long as I did is that I wanted some emotional distance from the event for both me as a writer and my audience. Now, here are my thoughts in no particular order:

On the Korean/Korean-American Reaction

I do not know how many of you caught that both Washington state Sen. Paull Shin and the South Korean ambassador Lee Tae Shik felt the need to issue apologies. While I understand that culturally there is a strong sense of collective identity among Koreans, I was really left speechless by these apologies. The only two reasons I can think of for offering these apologies is either the aforementioned sense of collective identity or a fear of backlash. Either reason is misguided. Any rational person can see that Cho Seung Hui was a nutter and that he is way out of the norm for the Korean/Korean-American communities. Of course this world is not made up of entirely rational people so the apologies may have been offered up in an attempt to deflect the feared backlash. If so this seems to be a misguided attempt. As I said, rational people will not blame the communities and offering up these apologies give the sort of chowder-heads that will try to blame the communities ammunition. The apology is something they can point to and scream, "See!! They know they're guilty!" For a far more in-depth and better think-piece about this you should check out Adrian Hong's "Koreans Aren't to Blame" over at and for more on the fear of The Backlash(TM) check out this post from Andy Jackson over at The Marmot's Hole.

On Blaming the Victims

Sometimes I am fairly cynical, particularly when it comes to punditry, but not even I thought this sort of thing was possible. We have several pundits asking why none of the students attempted to defend themselves. They run the gamut from the National Review's John Derbyshire who says:

Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake - one of them reportedly a .22.

At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. Better yet, just jump him. Handguns aren't very accurate, even at close range. I shoot mine all the time at the range, and I still can't hit squat. I doubt this guy was any better than I am. And even it hit, a .22 needs to find something important to do real damage - your chances aren't bad.

Yes, yes, I know it's easy to say these things: but didn't the heroes of Flight 93 teach us anything? As the cliche goes - and like most cliches. It's true - none of us knows what he'd do in a dire situation like that. I hope, however, that if I thought I was going to die anyway, I'd at least take a run at the guy.

I quoted the entire thing because it just keeps getting better and better. The more I think about this piece and write a response to it, the more I suspect Derbyshire is just trolling. Seriously, how could a reasonable person write this and actually mean it?

Handguns are not accurate because despite all his practice he still can not hit the broad side of a barn? Uses those parameters I can unequivocally state that the Winchester Model 70 rifle is grossly inaccurate because, despite my extensive Boy Scout training and having shot one a couple of times, I have trouble getting a bullet in the bullseye. Of course Carlos Hathcock might have another opinion on the matter.

Why didn't someone count the shots and jump Cho while reloading? We will leave aside the fact that we do not have a clear picture of how things went down in there and that Cho may have reloaded between classrooms, denying the people a chance to jump him between bouts of dealing death and get right down to brass tacks. In order to count the shots one would have to know the type of weapons being carried by Cho AND be able to distinguish between the sound of these two weapons discharging in a confined space. On top of that one of the guns Cho was carrying was a Glock 19 which can be equipped with 10 round, 15 round, 17 round, or 33 round magazines, adding another fact you have to know. Now you have to have the presence of mind to keep track of this while people are dying all around you. (I particularly like how Derbyshite managed to go from discussing Rambo in one paragraph to counting rounds in the next. Clearly he lives in a Clint Eastwood world where men are men, women are women, and the sheep are afraid.)

Speaking of presence of mind, which is what this all comes down to in the end, is exactly what kept the victims from confronting Cho. Before we talk about the victims, lets take a look at some of what has been written about soldiers in combat. These are soldiers who have been trained to kill and operate in combat conditions. According to this piece by Dave Grossman, the author of On Killing, "...most participants in close combat are literally 'frightened out of their wits.' Once the bullets start flying, most combatants stop thinking with the forebrain...and start thinking with the midbrain..." Remember, here he is talking about trained professional soldiers who have been the beneficiaries of some of the world's most advanced training and preparation for combat. Odds are most of the people at Virginia Tech did not have this sort of training and yet Derbyshire somehow expects them to overcome the mind-shattering fear of being shot at and organize a bum rush of Cho.

Derbyshire is not the only knucklehead to invoke the passengers on Flight 93 to, by comparison, call the Virginia Tech victims a bunch of cowards, however they all neglect to point out the critical differences in the situations. At Virgina Tech the victims are caught in a chaotic combat environment where they have no idea what is going on. Contrast that with the passengers on Flight 93 who, while in a stressful situation, were not being shot at. They also learned that other planes had been hijacked during the morning and used as weapons against the World Trade Center so they can reasonably assume they will suffer a similar fate. They know they are going to die and now they have a comparatively calm moment to face this fact and try to do something about it. Hiding under a desk was not going to save anyone on Flight 93. It just might have saved some lives on April 16th.

And then, finally, there is the ninja factor.

You know, I try to make light of this but I really do not have the heart to go any deeper in to this subject. I find the very idea of blaming the victims abhorrent. If you're interested in more of this sort of jackassery feel free to read Michelle Malkin's bit of foolishness about how American universities are adding to what Neal Boortz refers to as the wussification of America. It is too bad Boortz felt the need to fire off his April 18th screed because I feel like Media Matters might have been a bit hard on him for his question on the 17th where he asked why no one fought back. To be fair he did frame the question poorly, but rather than blame the victims for their deaths I think there he is legitimately asking for someone to explain things to him. Oh yeah, then there is this depressing bit from the National Review Online's resident Canadian Mark Steyn in which he decries our culture of passivity while taking pot-shots at this same aspect of Canadian culture.

On the Public Grief and Gnashing of Teeth

It is right and proper that we mourn the people who died in the Virginia tech shootings, most of them were young and just getting started in their adult lives, but the time dedicated to mourning them on the news networks and memorializing their lives seemed almost obscene to me when we have service men and women dying almost every day in Iraq. For every one of the thirty-two victims at Virginia Tech we have lost over one-hundred members of the armed forces in Iraq. Where is the crying and rending of shirts on their part? For every Caitlin Hammaren, a 19-year-old student who was studying international studies at Virginia Tech, there are over one-hundred Aaron M. Genevies, a 22-year-old Private 1st Class serving with the 1st Infantry Division. He died on April 16th of wounds taken when his vehicle struck an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). Where is the public outcry over the 104 members of the armed forces that died in Iraq during April, the sixth deadliest month since the beginning of the war in 2003?

I am not saying that the deaths at Virginia Tech were not tragic, but I just wanted to point out the disproportionate amount of public weeping being done. If, as I believe, every untimely death is tragic, then you have to wonder why these twenty-two deaths deserved such attention. I am certain that someone will try and point out that the majority of the VT victims were students, which may be true, however if it is an age thing then you have to consider that the majority of the soldiers loosing their lives in Iraq are enlisted men and low-level officers, just about the same demographic as a reasonably diverse college campus. I also think that the argument that the people dying in Iraq are soldiers and there is some expectation that soldiers will die is just a crap arguement. If anything this argument makes the deaths in Iraq even more meaningful than the deaths at VT because the foundation of this argument is that the soldiers are willfully putting themselves in harms way. Perhaps that is, ultimately the answer. The deaths in Iraq can be justified but the deaths at VT cannot.

(You might want to check out this site, which has detailed information and statistics about the casulties suffered in Iraq.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

BOOK REVIEW - Night Soldiers

Night Soldiers
Alan Furst
Random House, 1988
462 pages

The year is 1934 and the Great Depression is wrecking havoc with the world. Only a year has passed since Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany and, even though the spectre of war is years away, the battle lines are already being drawn. In the town of Vidin on the banks of the Dunav, or Danube as it is called in the West, Khristo Stoianev is drawn into the struggle between the fascist states and Stalin's Russia. Of course when his younger brother, Nikko, is beat to death by the local fascist thugs, Khristo does not know that he is beginning a journey that will take him across Europe. From an NKVD training cadre in Moscow to shadowy operations amongst the chaos of the Spanish Civil War; from Paris to his penultimate rendezvous is a small church in the Romanian village of Sfintu Gheorghe where the Danube flows into the Black Sea.

Night Soldiers has everything I look for in a period spy novel. This novel is heavy on atmosphere and lite on the technical minutae, although there is enough to provide satisfaction for those of you who like that sort of thing, with just a dash of Stalin and a sprinkling of Parisian debauchery to spice things up. From the beginning sentence I found myself drawn into Khristo Stoianev's world and after a plot twist or two I was genuinely hoping for Stoianev to find his happy ending, an occurance which is far too rare in these sorts of books. I believe any fan of the genre or historical fiction in general will find this a worthy read and I highly recommend it. (I'm looking at you, Scott.)

Moving away from the book and on to something of a pet peeve of mine; Night Soldiers cost $13.95 for the trade paperback and tips the scales at a healthy 462 pages. For the same cover price I picked up Furst's second novel, Dark Star, which weighs in at 444 pages and then his third novel, The Polish Officer, which also cost me $13.95 and is the fly-weight of the crowd at a measly 287 pages. My very breif and unscientific survey of the other Furst novels at the store indicated that this trend toward the leaner novel continued. What's up with that? How is it that I am paying the same price for almost 200 fewer pages of entertainment?

Oh well, this will not slow me down in my attempt to read most of Furst's novels before his signing appearance on June 11th at Murder by the Book in Houston*. Actually I would not know anything about Alan Furst if it was not for their website and listing of author's doing signings in the near future. Murder by the Book is a dangerous place for me to go as I always spend about $50 in there and that is AFTER I prune my selections down to the things I just have to have right now. If you are ever in Houston and mysteries and thrillers are your thing, a trip there is definately worth your time.

* This may sound familiar to those of you who remember my speculation that I might try to be all caught up on Rankin's novels before the signing? Yeah, I read exactly no other Rankin novels between completing Knots & Crosses and his appearance.)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

YouTubesday: Midget Madness!

From the phat rappin' skillz of Joe C., with his memorable lyric "three foot nine with a ten foot dick" from Kid Rock's "Devil Without a Cause" to the jackassery of Wee-Man and Verne Troyer's memorable turn as Mini-Me in the Austin Powers franchise, the midget sidekick has made quite the comeback in the past decade. Now, thanks to the CHUDs, Claytonian over at JapanProbe, and the magic of the internets we can celebrate a pioneer in the field, the original lil' flip, Weng Weng.

This video is made up of footage from 1981's "For Your Height Only" and 1982's "The Impossible Kid," a pair of movies parodying the James Bond flicks, in which Weng Weng portrays Interpol Agent 00. I am sure it comes as no surprise to anyone reading this that both these movies have been added to my collection. Now lets kick back and enjoy the supreme awesome that is Weng Weng as he...

Dispatches a bunch of samurai-sword wielding thugs:

Employs his poison darts:

Just kicks ass:

And kicks even more ass:

Weng Weng. He may have only been two-foot-nine but he was ten feet of kick ass!

As a short post-script to this week's YouTubacualr celebration of the wee-man in all of us I would just like to take a moment to point out that this is Verne Troyer's ex-wife:

Her name is Genevive Gallen and you can see more of her here. I am so in the wrong business...and about three-and-a-half feet too tall.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Random Thoughts for May 7th, 2007

I was watching a video clip of a hamster on his wheel earlier today. He would run and run and run and get the wheel spinning pretty good. Then he would stop the wheel and poke his head out with a quizzical look as though asking, "Now where am I?" When it became obvious he hadn't moved at all he would go back to running, probably thinking that this time he'll go somewhere. I know some of you are expecting some moral to the story here, but really, as I watched this I began to fear the day when all the rodents we have stuck in little balls and wheels and forced to run for our entertainment rise up against us. This is the sort of thing that will keep me up tonight. Fear of the hamster overlords.

While reading a review of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Samaritan Snare" I stumbled across the phrase out-of-the-box. At first blush I thought Siskoid meant by this that Riker's tactics were mundane however the celebratory tone of the statement, "...I still enjoyed how out-of-the-box he always is in his battle tactics." It is clear that Siskoid is either being a smart ass, and this being the internet is a very valid option, or, the more valid option as I see it, he means non-standard thinking. This got me thinking about how mutable out language can be.

I do not own The Sound of Music on DVD. A fact I find somewhat disturbing and I may have to rectify on the next pilgrimage to Best Buy.

How I amuse myself in the office of late? Well, I wander by a coworker's desk and toss a packet of duck sauce towards them while hollering "DUCK SAUCE!" like it is some sort of battle-cry. Why yes, I do amuse myself, thanks for asking. (Actually I don't yell, it is a professional environment after all, I tend to say it in a very off-handed manner in contrast to the act of throwing something at them.)

On Saturday I drug my ass over to Houston Camera Exchange to check out, and possibly buy, a couple of accessories for my camera. I am particularly interested in the Speedlite 580EX II flash, the TC80N3 remote, some extra batteries, and the BGE2 battery grip. This is the second time I have been in HCE and the second time I have basically been ignored by the staff. From the moment I walked in I got a "you're not part of the in crowd" vibe that I get in some comic shops, and the staff's disinterest confirmed this feeling I had. You know what bothered me the most about the whole deal? I want to support local business rather than the congolomerates and dot-coms. I am willing to pay full retail price to support local business, even though, for example, offers a savings of almost $530 on the four items I listed above, and this is before tax. What I am not willing to pay extra for is the "privilege" of what I consider piss-poor service. Oh well, I tried.

While we are on the subject of photography. Remember the post from yesterday about me having entered a photo contest over at Well, due to the number of entries they decided to cut the field down to the top 500 entries and my entry was not judged to be one of the top 500, however my freind Brian has managed to place his picture in the top 500 so go vote for him. His picture, which is much better than mine, is located here. I am bummed about this particular development and it has kind of taken the wind out of my sails about the whole contest, particularly since I do not know what I am going to do for the whole "Feeling Sexy?" theme for round 2. (I did have a really funny thought for an entry. Take a cat and dress it up in a garter and stockings. Feline sexy.) We'll see what happens.

EDIT - 05/10/07 Somehow I managed to forget the "in" when quoting Siskoid, which he helpfully pointed out in comments. Whoops!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Vote James!

So I entered this photo contest over at The contest is broken down in to three rounds. The theme for round 1 is "The Meaning of Life" and the prize is a Leica D-Lux 3 camera. The theme for round 2 is "Feeling Sexy?" and the prize is a Nikon D40x and a copy of Adobe Photoshop CS3. The theme for round 3 is "Speed Demon" and the prize is a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II. (Holy monkey I want to win round 3!) The winners are chosen based 50% on voting and 50% the decision of the judges. My entry for round 1 can be viewed here.

Voting for round 1 opens May 7th so get out and vote for me!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Link-a-palooza

I read a rather large number of blogs which cover the news, commentary, and insanity from Korea and Japan and not a day goes by that I do not find a couple of things worth sharing with my loyal readers. I keep marking these entries as unread in my feed-reader with the intent of sharing them with you at some point. Now that there are over 100 in there to share, I think the time has come to unveil my new semi-weekly feature in which I do a linkblogging entry to keep you all abreast of the the wackiness from across the Pacific. I do not have any good ideas for a name for this, so if anyone can suggest one you'll get a nifty tip o' the bowler.

Linguistic Hilarity

Wacky Products from the Orient
  • Lee over at TokyoTimes seems to think a Hello Kitty banana case is just what the doctor ordered!
  • I am not sure if Keepon is actually going to be available in the retail world in the future, however it is pretty damn cool. Shake a tail feather lil' dude! (On second thought this thing might give me nightmares about the legions of Peeps I have consumed. Thanks for the loss of sleep, James.)

Asian Advertising is A-OKAY!
  • Care to sign up for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force? If not these two ads will certainly change your mind! Seaman Ship for Love, indeed!
  • For those of you with a more academic bent, you can buy this piece of software which will help you learn kanji on your Nintendo DS.
  • Mozilla Firefox is my browser of choice and with this ad it is certain to blow up in Japan. They have fox-ears on and everything.
  • The McFlurry invasion of Japan has begun and it is led by some seriously bling'd out penguins. One might, if one had a predeliction for HORRIBLE jokes, say they were McPimpin', but really we are way above that here.
  • While here in the States, Glen Beck tries to convince us that the jury is out on global warming, in Japan the girl-group Hello Project tells us to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle in this ad. (If that doesn't convince you to do it then you might have to deal with the ire of Kotooshu, the Bulgarian-born sumo wrestler who delivers the same message in this ad.)
  • So this next ad is for diet water, a concept that I am more than just a little hazy on. How can one make water lite? Probably best not to think too much about these things, besides, it seems to get this sloth pretty pumped.
  • Everything in Japan gets the cute, or kawaii, treatment, even band-aids. (For more information about this sort of anthropomorphism in Japanese advertising you may want to check out the forthcoming book Hello, Please! Very Helpful Super Kawaii Characters from Japan by Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda. Or you can just check out this pic from AltJapan.)
  • In this clip, from Japundit, I don't really care what is being advertised as much as the manner in which the advertising is being done.

Drinking with a Kung-Fu Grip

Given my love of the drink it is probably a good thing I do not live in Japan. Prepackaged sake Jello shots? Buckets of sochu just waiting to be consumed? One cups? How in the hell is a man expected to stay sober? Oh, well the image on the vending machine at the bottom of this post might slow me down a bit.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

LOL Virus

I am going to take it on faith that most of the readers of the Opiate are familiar with how humor works on the internet, howerver for those of you who are not sure what I mean I have included the following primer:

1. Find a picture of an animal. Ideally the animal in said picture is doing something funny or interesting, however just looking surly can work. Cute Overload is a good source for these pictures. (Please make note of Rule #7 aka the Japanese Rule aka the Paris Hilton Rule. I do have to wonder what small thing the author is referring to; is it her small animal companion or her brain?)

2. Get after the picture with Photoshop or some other progam that will allow you to add text to the image. Check out the funny animals section on Error: Access Denied, I Can Has Cheezburger?, or Meme Cats for more of these than one can shake a...well, you get the idea. (A couple of my favorites are here and here.)

3. Profit!

Okay, no, not really. The real step three is:

Post the now modified and, without a doubt even funnier picture somewhere on the web. The preferred target is a forum of some kind in which others may marvel at your hip design sense as well as your ability to make the blandest of english into an nigh unreadable mass of random characters which retains the original meaning. (This is a skill that leaves me half in awe of and half embarassed for the perps.) These are referred to, I am told, as lolcats or image macros.

Now I am not certain when someone decided this would be a good idea, however like all things on the internets, once an idea has been released into the wild there is no telling where it will go. You can rest assured that someone will take it way beyond any bounds of decency.

To the best of my knowledge this has yet to happen however the first step in that direction has been taken with the posting of LOLTrek over at Live Granades (which has one of the best taglines in the history of man.) First I want to say that this might be the best thing I have seen on the internet since the drunk monkeys and "Die Hard" double-whammy that BCK unleashed last week. Second I am a bit concerned with the amount of thought Stephen put into this little project.

Then Wil Wheaton got in on the act.

Really Wil, do we need a LOLWesley floating around out there? Think about the children.


After I wrote this post I found this gem on I Can Has Cheezburger? and almost spat Coke all over my PC.

Mantisyahu? There is no word for this other than BRILLIANT!

(If there is anyone out there who doesn't get this one, check out this site and then this site.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

BOOK REVIEW - Before the Dawn

Before the Dawn
Nicholas Wade
Penguin Books, 2007
314 pages

You may have noticed that my rate of book consumption has dropped off significantly over the last few months. This is only partly true as I have been attacked by about four different books which are currently nicely stacked on my bedside table in various states of completion. Before the Dawn is only the first book completed in this read-a-palooza (my money is on Alan Furst's Night Soldiers coming in second place.) But enough of that, lets to it, shall we?

Before the Dawn, subtitled Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors, is an examination of how the bleeding edge of genetics is being applied to archaeology and anthropology. Wade, who writes for the New York Times was educated at Eton and Cambridge, approaches this very complex subject in a manner which should be easy for the average reader to absorb. He begins with a general introduction to the development of the human species, spending quite a bit of time on the factors which may have caused us to take the developmental path we did, diverging from chimpanzees and Bonobos. After giving the reader a good basic understanding of where he thinks we came from he then goes on to dedicate several chapters to subjects as diverse as race, language, history, and continuing evolution.

In the chapter titled "History" Wade takes a look at some historical questions which have been answered by genetics. The most interesting of these is the ongoing debate on whether Thomas Jefferson had children with his slave, Sally Hemings. Using genetic samples from descendants of Jefferson's paternal uncle and Sally Hemings' youngest son, researchers found that the two groups shared a common Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is passed from father to son with minimal and predictable changes, which means these two groups are related. Given that there are sources from Jefferson's lifetime which make mention of this possibility, claims largely dismissed as scurrilous lies by many, it seems very likely that Sally Hemings did indeed bear Thomas Jefferson at least one child.

The book itself is written in a very clear and precise style which, as I said, makes this very complex and potentially confusing subject matter understandable to the lay-person. I highly recommend this book as it presents a fascinating way to look at who we are.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

YouTubesday: Stanley Cup Playoff Time

Judging by the lack of posting that is going on here you might be under the impression that we're on hiatus again, and you would not be far from wrong. My excuses this time range from still dealing with getting settled in the new casa to being seduced by the siren's song of Nicholas Wade's Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors plus it is Stanley Cup Playoff time and this year; this year I have cable.

Now to help you cretins get in the proper head-space for the Stanley Cup Playoffs I offer this week's installment of YouTubesday, an octet of videos from or about the playoffs.

Lets get things started with the final game of the regular season for the New York Islanders. Playing at New Jersey they had to win the final game to make it into the playoffs. With the game tied at 2 all after regulation and the overtime period, it went to the shoot-out:

That was an awesome poke-check from Wade Dubielewicz and the most dramatic entry in to the Stanley Cup Playoffs I have seen in some time. Of course it does not really matter since the Islanders were put out of the playoffs in five games by the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres are a popular pick to go all the way this year after winning the President's Trophy for the most wins during the regular season; quite the change from having declared bankruptcy less than a decade ago. Here is the 2007 playoff intro video for the Sabres:

This is perhaps one of the best intro videos I have ever seen. It sure beats the pants off of the Aeros intro videos from the last five seasons or so. The song is from the Goo Goo Dolls who are Buffalo natives. Now are you ready for the playoffs?

I know I am.

Now all of this brings me back to the first year I watched the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This was back in the days when the divisions were Adams, Patrick, Smythe, and Norris and the conferences were the Prince of Wales, more commonly called the Wales Conference, and the Clarence Campbell, or just Campbell, Conference. The year was 1993 and the defending champion Pittsburg Penguins were coming off a dominating performance during the regular season. At the time I knew pretty much nothing about hockey but since a friend had given me a Canadiens puck (which I still have floating around) I was rooting for the Montreal Canadiens. Here is a six minute video summing up their performance in the playoffs:

In a word? Awesome. Every game they played was beautiful and they, more than anything else, cemented my love of the game.

As much as I love the Montreal Canadiens, and wish they would get better, for me the most emotional cup win since I have been watching hockey was the Colorado Avalanche win in 2001. The Devils, another one of my favorite teams and the defending champs, stretched the finals to a seven game series. In sports there is nothing better than a game seven in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, particularly when you know that one of the greatest guys to ever play the game has a chance to win his first Cup after a 22-season career, 21 of them with the same team. Of course I am talking about the legendary Ray Bourque. Here is a four-minute video of the highlights from game seven of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals played in Colorado:

To this day I still tear up when I see Ray Bourque lift the cup. He is the sort of athlete that we rarely see any more in this age of whiney superstars; a real class-act who showed us fans the meaning of sportsmanship and endurance.

Enough of this emotional stuff, lets find the funny in the Stanley Cup Playoffs!

While not strictly Stanley Cup Playoff related, the next two commercials from Nike crack me up every time I see them.

"You got a sakate sharpener I can borrow there?" Comedy gold.

This one is only relevant because Rod Brind'Amor won the Cup last year with the Carolina Hurricanes. (You can see the full version of the commercial here.) Of course these are not the best commercials I have seen, but since I could nto find any of the ESPN National Hockey Night commercials, which are classics that I would pay money for if I could get them on DVD, we will have to do with these.

For the final Stanley Cup Playoffs video I would like to offer the following:

If anyone can figure out why I put this here, please let the rest of the class know by leaving a comment.