Stripes and solids

>> Monday, February 28, 2011

How about some Ladytron?



When failure doesn't work, fail harder

>> Sunday, February 27, 2011

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

-cliché attributed to Albert Einstein.

It occurs to me I must be insane: I read another piece on the music industry's struggles for relevance in the digital age and I thump my head into my table as if I expect it not to hurt. And I keep doing this again, and again, and again--I see a link in my RSS newsfeed, I click on it, I read the article, I beat my head purpleblack on the tabletop, bang-bang-bang, I go back and check my RSS newsfeed, oh look, another link, click, read, ouch.

I think I keep expecting at some point some Steve Jobsian figure is going to emerge in the music industry who is going to say, "Hey, we can't win the game we've been playing, let's change the rules." I'm not an Apple fetishist, the only Apple product I use is an old iPod and there are some Apple products (::koff::iTunes::koff::) I actively hate with the burning passion of those proverbial thousand burning suns we nerds always use as a hatred-rating (I propose a new unit of measure, to be known as the kilosol: "What did you think of the sixth season of Buffy?" "I hated it with two kilosols." "Really? I didn't think it was that bad." "Dude, 'Spuffy' is worth a half kilosol all by itself.").

But, no. No, here's a summary of at least part of industry analyst Russ Crupnick's presentation at Digital Music Forum East last week:

Music consumers don't want to pay for digital music. We should charge them more.

No. I am not making that up. Here's what he's quoted as saying:

"We have lost 20 million buyers in just five years," Crupnick said. Moreover, only about 14 percent of buyers account for 56 percent of revenue for the recording industry.

"Consumers have flipped us the bird," Crupnick concluded, adding that the lost sales has thus far not been made up yet by other forms of revenue, such as concerts or merchandise sales.


"We've given consumers an awful lot of options for free music, which they've certainly taken advantage of," Crupnick said.


"I think we need to demand more from consumers," Crupnick said. "Why are we being so liberal? Why aren't we talking about asking for more money for the product?"

I have no idea if ITWorld's Joab Jackson is quoting him accurately or taking something out of context--but I have no reason to doubt Jackson, and the kind of thinking attributed to Crupnick is exactly the same kind of profoundly mentally-defective "reasoning" (to abuse that word) that's been coming from the music industry, the publishing industry, the television industry and the movie industry (though they've been a little more flexible and inventive, I think) for more than a decade now. "People won't buy our products because they're too easy to obtain, so let's make it harder for people to get and use them. People won't buy what we're selling because it's too cheap, so let's make stuff more expensive." And every time they do something like this, and it fails, what do they learn from the experience? Apparently what they learn is that they didn't make the product inconvenient or expensive enough, back to the drawing board to make things worse and see if that finally turns a profit.

They make the underpants gnomes look like fucking rocket scientists.

Here's the thing: I can't wholly blame them, because while what they keep doing is obviously stupid and insane, I don't really have a suggestion for them. And I don't have a suggestion for them because, honestly, I think their traditional business is doomed and their flailing about is the corporate equivalent of the herbivorous dinosaurs thrashing around looking for weeds the year winter never ended. What held the various content corporations together was that they were gatekeepers--distributing a feature film or hardback tome or vinyl record to stores around the world was something that practically no individual could do on his own, and even if you happened to be able to make a good independent low-budget feature, self-publish a decent novel or record a studio LP and press it to vinyl or duplicate it to cassette, nobody was going to see it, read it or hear it outside of whatever small circle you could cart the thing around to; if you wanted a mass audience, you had one route and one route only. But the digital age doesn't just make content creation easier (which is what a lot of people focus on, wrongly: for much of my lifetime, access to content creation tools hasn't been prohibitively expensive, depending on what kind of scale you were willing to work on- and what medium you were working in), what's more important is that the digital age almost completely removes barriers to distribution.

Monetizing that distribution may be an alternatively-colored pony. But then that might not be an issue for you: maybe, if you're a content creator, you're willing to stream your new song for free in the hope that people will come to your show in town, or to stream your movie for free but sell t-shirts, or make your book available for free download but ask for donations. I'm not sure any of these things will allow you to quit your day job, mind you, but that isn't really the point, either.

The point is that going through a corporate publisher might still be (for now) a better way to monetize your work (maybe), it's not the best way to find an audience. And I suspect that when push comes to shove, most creative people would rather have the audience than the money (as Gillian Welch sang, "We're gonna do it anyway, even if it doesn't pay"), as much as it would be nice to have both. If you want people to read your writing, the odds are very, very good more people will read it if you put it on a blog than if you send it to Random House with a hopeful cover letter. If you want people to hear your song, posting a clip of yourself singing it in your living room will probably generate more listeners than sending tapes to A&R guys at the various Big Five.

If the content companies are no longer vital to distribution, what purpose do they have? Movie studios have a function to serve if they can keep it profitable--a big feature film is ridiculously expensive and the fifty-foot movie screen in the darkness remains a unique experience that can't really be replicated in a home setting. Book publishers, I think, may be able to adapt by focusing on the midwife part of their operations: a self-publishing writer may not need help with distribution, but he almost certainly still could use the assistance of an editor, art designer, layout designer, etc. Maybe the music industry can take a similar focus, abandoning the gatekeeper and tastemaking business model they're clinging onto in favor of a model where they provide artists with services they can't necessarily provide for themselves, such as professional advice on marketing or the support of other consultants, graphic designers, etc.; unfortunately, however, the music industry has tended to subcontract those services--I'm not sure if any labels still have in-house graphic artists or producers, usually what the label does is give the artist, generally as part of their advance, a budget to hire someone they'd like to produce their next record or design the cover or whatever.

In other words, the music industry may be right fucked.

Which is why they want things to be the way they used to be. And it isn't going to work. The genie will not go back in the bottle, and if they make it harder for the consumer to discover music on their own, it isn't going to produce new sales, it's going to clip the industry's numbers even more. I'm very sorry, I'm not going to buy a Lady Gaga record just because Universal Music Group subsidiary Interscope very much wants me to. Not even if it's the only thing I heard all year because UMG was able to shut down all the Internet radio stations and alternate channels and so I didn't get to hear the new song by Indie Band X; this is what all this is about, you know--UMG and the others are hoping if you can't hear anything except what they're pushing, you'll settle for what they're pushing instead of buying something from somebody else, perhaps directly from the band, even.

The thing is, I'm one of those paying customers they're scrambling for. Which means I'd hate not to hear any new music, but it also means I have a pretty big CD collection already. Which means if I can't catch anything new and likable on Soma FM or wherever, well, y'know, I have a big shelf full of old stuff I like upstairs and I'm still not buying yer stinkin' Madonna-did-it-better-thirty-years-ago chicklet, or whoever else yer pimping this week.

They need to figure this out, and then they need to adapt or die.

But I don't think they're sane enough.

EDIT: It occurred to me that my summary of Crupnick's comments could be mistaken for an actual quote, so I clarified by adding his verbatim comments to clarify. Hope there wasn't any confusion about that.


If you like it, then you shoulda put a ring of limbs on it

>> Saturday, February 26, 2011

So, uhm, some band released an album last week. I'm, like, not totally "hip" anymore, like the rocking kids like to say these days, but I think it might have been Arcade Fire.

I kid! I kid!1 It was Radiohead! They even put out a video:

Or maybe it was this one, which wasn't nearly as good a video although I like this song a lot more:

Hope you're having a spaztastic bowlerhatawesome Saturday. I might be meeting a friend from high school I haven't seen in close to fifteen years, brunch or coffee or something. What are you up to?

1I love Arcade Fire, but the fact that the best album nominated for best album of the year* won doesn't change my opinion of The Grammys**; still, it's some funny shit watching Bieber fangirls and Eminem fanboys get riled up about the whole thing.

*I liked The National's High Violet more, but like that had a chance in hell of even being nominated.

**They're a big fucking joke. Did you have to ask?

(Also, yes, I realize that everything in this post is one-to-two weeks old--which is dead and buried in Internet terms. It's fucking Saturday, give me a break, eh?)



"It goes something like this..."

>> Friday, February 25, 2011

Hey, they even have a new album coming out soon, and they're going on tour and will be in Austin for SXSW. But this is an old one--

The Raveonettes, "Attack Of The Ghost Riders":


"Well I got some friends in L.A...."

>> Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's been out several years now, but I heard it again a few hours ago and I'm trying to place who The Rosewood Thieves remind me of. The Zombies? The Beatles, even? No, not sure about... well, The Zombies... maybe not.... Anyway, whatever, it's a great song.

"Los Angeles":


Galactic images...

>> Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I keep looking for a good Star Wars gag for these Galaxy Tab review post titles, and I keep coming up with bupkiss, bupkiss, I say.

These aren't great pics, being taken with my BlackBerry and all, but they're provided to illustrate the previous blog entry.

This is a picture of the Galaxy Tab on my desk, with a pad of Post-It notes and desktop computer keyboard offered for scale. The dimensions of the Tab are a horrifying 7.5" x 4.5" x .25" (roughly, measured with a ruler I have in my desk for some reason)--horrifying because I remember when getting on the Internet involved a ginormous box plugged into your telephone... which was plugged into the even more ginormous box that was your computer, which was plugged into a ginormous television that was used as a monitor and probably blasted X-rays through your skull with its CRT. Also, getting online in those days sometimes involved walking to the Internet with a big bucket, filling it with ones and zeroes, and hauling it back to your computer through the blinding sleet and snow.

Oh yeah, the pic:

This is so totally space-time-holey, all'y'all! It's a picture of my blog as it appears on the Galaxy Tab, and it's on my blog! Far out, man!

The Tab, like the iPad, has a motion sensor inside that automatically registers the device's orientation (among other things), so that it automatically goes from portrait to landscape mode (and vice-versa) in whatever orientation the machine is in (if you flip it upside down, the interface flips, too). This is the Tab desktop in landscape mode; the news widget mentioning some sort of FTC investigation of Apple was entirely accidental, honest!

(As a final aside, the background image in the first and third pictures is a photograph I took at the USNWC several years ago.)


Conquering the Galaxy...

I love my netbook. That's the first thing to say. It is, in a whole lot of ways, a perfect tool for me. But I've had some problems with it lately. It isn't the netbook's fault: I've had it for about two years and the poor thing's been banged around a pretty good bit, y'know?

What it's doing these days, is it's been spontaneously rebooting, especially right after it first powers up. Sometimes it'll do it right after powering on, and it isn't a big deal, but sometimes it waits until you're in the middle of something, and that sucks ass. And it seems really prone to do this when it's on a lap or uneven surface; I suspect there's something loose or improperly seated on the motherboard somewhere. It's bad enough that I even went online and looked at possible replacements, but not bad enough that I could write bring myself to purchase a replacement and go through the process of reinstalling the operating system and configuring it to be how I'd want my machine to be set up.

And I was thinking about all of the above while thinking about my trip next month to SXSW. (Yes, I'm going to Austin next month,W00T!) I was thinking, for one thing, of being at the airport, waiting for my connecting flight, and fighting my netbook, or even being on the plane if they aglow devices in flight. I was also thinking, hey what if I try to cover SXSW, you know, in a sort of writerly sort of way? The netbook is awesome at the coffeeshop, but maybe not so much on a conference room....

I started thinking, in short, maybe I needed a tablet.

Here's the thing about that: what I need from a tablet isn't what most companies are selling these days. The big thing with tablets these days is the iPad model, the device that exists for consumption, not creation, and I need a device that is at least minimally capable of creative work. Obviously I don't expect to be writing a novel on a little device, but I have yet to see a review of the iPad that suggests it's even useful for editing or light writing or blogging or taking notes very efficiently. That's not a knock on the iPad--it's simply that it isn't the tool I need. What is a knock on the iPad is that I don't use iTunes and don't want to be a part of the iTunes ecosystem, and anyway there isn't a Linux version of iTunes, and Apple requires you to use iTunes to sync the iPad out do almost anything else; indeed, the first thing the iPad asks you to do out of the box is to hook up to iTunes.

So after lookng at my options, I decided to buy a Samsung Galaxy Tab.

The biggest rap against the Tab is that it's overpriced, and that might be true. It's around the same price as the iPad, but with only a 7" screen. On the other hand, that small footprint--or handprint--means the Tab rests very comfortably in one's left hand, say, while one types a blog post, and the device fits in one's back pocket unless it's in a case. And it's definitely a good-looking display.

The Tab runs on Google's Android operating system, with a one GHz processor (somehow I thought maybe there was a dual processor in here, but I'm looking at the specs, and I guess not). The screen is multitouch with a haptic interface and provides the sole interface unless you pony up for an add-on. It's extremely lightweight, fitting, as I indicated, comfortably in one's hand. The Galaxy also offers two built-in cameras for those who care about such things.

The available software is what's provided in the Google Apps store, so there's a pretty good selection, though it may not be quite up to Apple's offerings. Pre-installed software includes memo and calendar, some games, Kindle for Android, the obligatory e-mail app, and a shit-ton of other stuff.

But the cleverest bit of included software and the winning entry for someone looking for a workingman's tablet is Swype. Swype is a small-footprint interface program that basically reads keyboard gestures: instead of hunting and pecking on an onscreen keyboard, you swype your finger around on it (hence the name, natch), and Swype interprets the gesture as a word with a surprising degree of accuracy. Again, i wouldn't want to try writing 50,000 words like this, but for this blog entry that you're reading right now, our some quick notes, or even, possibly for a short story our a few hundred words of something: well, I've got to tell you, this ain't bad. It's no replacement for a real keyboard, but it does nicely.

As for getting work done: I also installed Dropbox and went ahead and purchased Documents-To-Go. DTG isn't my favorite piece of mobile software in the world (I've used several earlier versions on various mobile devices), and it forces one to use Microsoft .doc format, but the only software I could find to convert .odt files is read-only at this point (document editing may show up in the future, but right now the program appears to be one guy's free, open-source project, so I'm just happy and thankful he went to three trouble at all). But, again, it'll get the job done in a pinch. Oh--and this being Android, there's a Blogger application, of course.

A tablet like the Tab is an always-on, always-connected device. You can purchase without a subscription, but to get any use, you'll need a data plan from a cell phone provider. I went with the 35G plan for thirty bucks a month on the chance that I'll use this for movies, though I may downgrade the plan if I just don't use out that much. For convenience I went with Verizon because they're already my cell phone provider. The Galaxy has built-in WiFi, which is an obvious way to manage data costs. The other thing you'll have to do is get a Google account, which may not be a big deal if your already in Google's ecosystem.

The initial impressions are favorable. This is my first day with the doohickey, but I'm pleased so far.

In just a little bit I'll post a picture of the thing. There's probably a way to do that from within the Blogger app I'm using, but I don't know how to do it yet. Also, as magical and nifty as this thing is, I don't think out can take a picture of itself, so I'll need to take one with my cell phone and upload it.

And if I can answer any questions, I'm happy to try.

EDIT OR ADDENDUM: I tried just posting directly from the Tab, and found that the software--not the hardware--ate the formatting. If I don't figure out a way around that, it may mean a change to how I'd use the thing as a blogger: the software lets you just save a post, so if I'm on the go and knock out a post, what I suppose I would probably do is save it and then edit it on the netbook or notebook later. Whipping the Tab out of a pocket or sliding it out of a case held like a notepad from earlier days is still a quick'n'easy way of knocking out a first impression, though, so it's still good! I think! So far!

The final proof, really, will be when I've had it a few weeks and probably after I've seen if it was a useful tool for toting around SXSW; what seems like fun to me, because I'm a pretentious wannabe writer nerd, would be doing a little bit of liveblogging or--gasp!--music quasi-journalist-shit while there; maybe review a set, comment on some comments from a panel, that kind of thing. We'll see if the Tab--or my sobriety--is up to the task....


And now for something completely different: Garfunkel And Oates, "This Party Just Took A Turn For The Douche"

>> Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Oh my, oh my, oh my. As if I needed an excuse to indulge my mad, unrequited crush on the divine and unattainable Kate Micucci, it appears there's now an official studio version of Garfunkel And Oates' "This Party Took A Turn For The Douche" (that's a link to the original living room version), complete with official music video and everything:

Smart, funny, literate and (if it's not some kind of awful sexist thing to state the obvious) adorable.

(H/t to Laughing Squid.)


Quote of the day--they don't speak for us edition

>> Monday, February 21, 2011

Lori Montgomery reported in The Post last week that a bipartisan group of senators thinks a sensible deficit reduction package would involve lifting the Social Security retirement age to 69 and reforming taxes, purportedly to raise revenue, in a way that would cut the top income tax rate for the wealthy from 35 percent to 29 percent.

Only a body dominated by millionaires could define "shared sacrifice" as telling nurses' aides and coal miners they have to work until age 69 while sharply cutting tax rates on wealthy people. I see why conservative Republicans like this. I honestly don't get why Democrats--"the party of the people," I've heard--would come near such an idea.

-E.J. Dionne Jr., "The Tea Party is winning"
The Washington Post, February 21st, 2011.

Not much I can add to that, really, except that Digby's right: follow the money; nurses' aides and coal miners don't drop billions of dollars into candidates' electoral war chests across the country, rich people do.

But, y'know, that's because money is speech, and if you believe that, it only follows that rich people have more speech than the rest of us. So it's their game and their stadium, we're just in the nosebleeds.

At some point it makes you less angry than depressed. David, over at 4 Quarters, 10 Dimes, has a great post up today about the rise of actual conservatism in America--i.e. the rise of true reactionary, anti-revolutionary, European-style conservatism as opposed to the Enlightenment-style "conservatism" that dominated American politics for most of American history. It's a great post, though I don't know if he's quite right: I think what we might be seeing is the triumph of Reaganism, a morally-bankrupt quasi-ideology that despises collective action, exults corporations, feels the sole business of America is business, worships the military and condemns all roles for government other than promoting corporate well-being and enforcing morals. (Incidentally, just as one may ask whether Jesus was a Christian and was Marx a Marxist, it's sensible to ask, was Reagan a Reaganist?) In many ways, Reaganism as a civic religion overlaps true conservatism: it is a quasi-apocalyptic creed in some respects, is actively anti-Enlightenment and draws heavily on Christian mores and tradition (and therefore despises forms of individualism that are incompatible with fundamentalist Christian doctrine and/or Reaganism's worship of business--i.e. the individualist CEO may be acceptable but the iconoclastic union rabblerouser will never be), and it tolerates or even encourages a hierarchical social order by a tacit love affair with post-hoc Social Darwinism (the rich man is obviously more fit than the homeless man, and they are both where they were destined to be from the former's hard work and the latter's congenital shiftlessness). All that said, Reaganism isn't exactly a monarchist or imperial philosophy and does pay at least lip-service to the Protestant work ethic, though it implicitly conflates that work ethic with the aforementioned Social Darwinism (it's just that Reaganists can't actually say the word "Darwinism," you know, because it's a swear word like "liberal").

As I was saying, anyway, at some point it almost has to make you more sad than angry, or maybe the word I'm looking for is weary. Whether you want to label the apparent trend as the second coming of true conservatism or the triumph of Reaganism (or some combination, with the former being the political expression and the latter a religious expression), either system represents the decline and fall of America. Neither set of doctrines is amenable to a post-Enlightenment society, though both are very amenable to the rise of oligarchies and plutocracies (and, frankly, kleptocracies). Either ideology, if applied, will lead to the rise of a permanent underclass and disappearance of the middle class, and that underclass must necessarily either rise up in violence (as, for instance, the emerging American underclass did during the first years of the 20th Century, leading to government and business concessions and empowering much of the underclass to become the blue collar and white collar middle classes) or suffer silently and indefinitely. Neither ideology cares much for how people live--if people want clean water, clean air, trees, food for their children, roads, firehouses, or anything else, they can pay for it like civilized people instead of stealing from people who are willing to work for their living (or whose ancestors did). Either ideology is susceptible to becoming well-armed and bankrupt at home--and Henry Cabot Lodge was right about that. I have started to feel like these may be last days, though I imagine America will roll along on its own inertia for at least a few decades after I'm gone.

I feel despair, in short.

(H/t Digby.)


The mensch

>> Sunday, February 20, 2011

Last week I was over at Deus Ex Malcontent reading Chez's thoughts on the Nir Rosen thing; I don't know that I need to get into that--it's more than enough to say that Rosen was a total dick and his nonapology at Salon doesn't really change that (I link to it, but don't recommend you read it, frankly; it just isn't good).

But that's not really what this post is about. I'm just telling you how I got here. I mention it, because what Chez's post reminded me of was the whole idea of mensch-ness, and how really crucial it is to me, however far I fall from it. And how it's funny that a Yiddish idiom that I was introduced to via a college film elective, of all things, lodged in my psyche the way it did.

Where I was first exposed to the idea of a mensch as a concept, and not just a word I'd probably heard tossed around out of context somewhere, was in an undergraduate film class discussion of Billy Wilder's most excellent 1960 black comedy, The Apartment; Jack Lemmon plays a guy who, at least at first, is something of a long-suffering mensch. And the idea of the mensch was something that stuck in my head all those long years ago and never got unstuck. But being a bit on the very white and Protestant-descended if not outright WASPy side heritage-wise, I don't know if I can do it justice--so, for those not exactly familiar with the idea, here's Wikipedia's definition, in toto:

Mensch (Yiddish: מענטש mentsh; from German: Mensch, for "human being") means "a person of integrity and honor".[1] The opposite of a mensch is an unmensch (meaning: an utterly cruel or evil person). According to Leo Rosten, the Yiddish maven and author of The Joys of Yiddish, mensch is "someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being 'a real mensch' is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous."[2]

In Yiddish (from which the word has migrated as a loanword into American English), mensch roughly means "a good person." A mensch is a particularly good person, like "a stand-up guy," a person with the qualities one would hope for in a dear friend or trusted colleague. Mentschlekhkeyt (Yiddish: מענטשלעכקייט, German: Menschlichkeit) are the properties which make one a mensch.

During the Age of Enlightenment in Germany the term "Humanität", in the philosophical sense of compassion, was used to describe what characterizes a "better human being" in Humanism. The concept goes back to Cicero's Humanitas and was literally translated into the German word Menschlichkeit and then adapted into "mentsh" in Yiddish language use.

In Modern Israeli Hebrew, the phrase Ben Adam (בן אדם) is used as an exact translation of Mensch. Though it usually means simply "a person" (literally, "son of Adam") in general, it is used to mean "a nice guy" in the same way as mensch. This usage may have developed by analogy with Yiddish or by adaptation from Arabic (from which colloquial Israeli Hebrew takes much vocabulary), in which the cognate construction Bani Adam (بني آدم) has the same meaning.

Another website describes a mensch as "a highly evolved human being," which I like the thought of.

The idea of mensch-ness, as I understand it, is that it's not really enough to go through life trying to passively not hurt anybody. Rather, one has an affirmative duty to be basically decent whenever one can. Oddly enough, of all the people in the world to succinctly sum up the basic essence of mensch-ness in a pithy phrase, it may have been writer/actor/blogger/geek icon Wil Wheaton who offered the perfect summary:

Don't be a dick.

That's a starting point, at least. And it's harder than it sounds, because, honestly, being a dick is not only easy, but it's also a lot of fun and enormously entertaining. I fear I probably spend an inordinate amount of time, much more than I'd like to admit, being a dick, and regular readers may recognize that a certain percentage of this very blog is devoted to a certain amount of dickishness on the part of yours truly.

The second step, I believe, is having the self-awareness to realize when you're being or when you've been a dick. The first of those is preferable, obviously, because it's a lot better to realize you're being horrible while you're being horrible because maybe you can stop being horrible. At the very least, maybe you can pull the plug and say, "Shit, I'm being an asshole right now, I'm really sorry, how do I fix this?" But at least to have the self-awareness to say, "Oh, shit, I was a total asshole" is something.

There's a big wrinkle there, however. See, the most assholey thing an asshole can do when he realizes he's being an asshole is to add a "but." "I was being an asshole, but I was tired." Well, gee, y'know, that may be an explanation, but it's no excuse, because there's no excuse for being an asshole and a mensch realizes that. And here, again, let me point out my own conspicuous tendency to fail this test, because like most non-mensches I find it instinctive to try to cover myself and lay off blame, whether it's on someone else or else on existential states like exhaustion, inebriation or the ever-so-common "bad day." I mean, it's understandable that having a "bad day" caused you to be a dick, but did your victim deserve to be victimized by your subjective experience of the day's events? He or she's just moseying along, says something to you and you snap their head off (for instance) because someone cut you off in traffic and your coffee was cold and you had a rude message on your voicemail and you have twelve million things to do and only an hour to get half of them done at best? Sure, you're only human, but you don't have to be a dick about it.

I'd like to be clear, y'know: I'm not saying anyone is perfect or has to be or should even try to be. It's not so much about being saintly, I don't think (and maybe I don't understand mensch-ness, but I think this is right); it's about being decent. It's about being aware. It's about recognizing that you're one node in this web of human relationships and everything you do improves or afflicts the adjacent nodes accordingly.

So those are the first two things. The third thing is--

Well, shit. I'm so busy fucking up the first two all the time, I haven't even gotten close to figuring out the third. Dammit.

But I guess I have this idea of where to start. I want to be a mensch, so I'm going to try not to be a dick and I'm going to try to be aware of when I'm being one. And maybe I'll stumble into the third thing.

And if you have any suggestions, I'd be happy to hear 'em.


"The Mail Order Prophet"

>> Saturday, February 19, 2011

I sort of hate to do this, because folks outside the United States can't watch Hulu, or can only watch it via proxy server, or they can't, or they can on alternate Wednesdays. I went looking for a YouTube link, and came up short, I'm afraid. If you can't share in the fun, I really am sorry.

With the apology out of the way: yesterday's post on scams reminded me of an old Alfred Hitchcock Presents ep, "The Mail Order Prophet" (warning--link includes spoilers), presented in its entirety below (twenty-five-and-a-half minutes) via Hulu. It's a cute enough episode, but the real delight (if you ask me) is that it brings Jack Klugman and E.G. Marshall back together a few months after they'd shot 12 Angry Men together with Sydney Lumet,1 and this time there's a little bit of reversal in the sorts of roles they play, which is nifty--here, Klugman is the cynical and somewhat more sophisticated guy and Marshall the naïf. The plotting is a little light for an AHP episode, but watching Marshall and Klugman sort out what's going on--or one of them, at least--is a helluva lot of fun. If you're not able or willing to watch the episode here and you can get it via Netflix or by renting or buying the AHP Season Three box, there's worth ways to kill half an hour, for sure.

And now, "The Mail Order Prophet":

112 Angry Men was released on April 13th, 1957 and "Mail Order Prophet" first aired on October 13th of the same year. According to Wikipedia, 12 Angry Men was shot in three weeks, but it's not clear if that occurred at the beginning of 1957 or end of 1956; meanwhile, I haven't found any information as to when "Prophet" was filmed (though I'm sure it's out there somewhere). It's actually vaguely possible, though I think very unlikely, that "Prophet" was shot first or close to the same time, but I went with "a few months after" as a reasonable speculation that could be wrong.

If you have any insights or, better yet, facts, feel free to share!


Open letters: double feature

>> Friday, February 18, 2011

Attention; customer. Your atm visa card‏


Sent: Tue 2/15/11 8:11 AM

Attention; customer. Your atm visa card

This is to bring to your notice that because of the impossibility of your UN Compensaction Award fund transfer through our Hsbc Online Banking, we have credited your total $5.500.000.00. Legitimate usd into an ATM VISA card, and we have paid the delivery fee of your ATM VISA card to you, we paid it because your ATM VISA card worth of $5.500, 000.00 which we have registered for deliver, has less than seven days to expire in the custody of the TNT COURIER company and when it expires, the money will go into federal government treasury account.

Based on this we decided to help you pay off the money so that your ATM VISA card will not expire, because we trust that when you receive your ATM VISA card, definitely you must pay back and even compensate us for helping you.
Like we stated earlier, the delivery charges has been paid ,therefore the only money you were advice to send to them is their security official keeping fees $125usd only.

Therefore you should contact them with the below contact information;

Company name; TNT Courier customer service.
Logistic Manager: Kessier Nelson,.
Phone: +229-99 85 73 20

Contact them today with your full details information;
Your Full
Your Country;*
Your Residence Home Address;
A Copy of You Identification;
Your Direct Phone ;
Your Cell;

Try to indicate all this codes to them because it will prove that you are the rightful person that own the atm card deposited in their custody.

Shipment Code awb 33xzs,
Atm Card Registered Code No xgt442.
Security Code sctc/2001dhx/567/;
Transaction Code 233/cstc/101/33028/;
Certificate Deposit code; sctc/bun/xxiv/-78/01
Depositor; Ms Anna Luis

This is to avoid wrong delivery, do that urgent to avoid increase of their keeping fees and let us know once you receive your ATM VISA card.

Yours sincerely,
Ms Anna Luis
Customers service
Hsbc Bank

Dear Ms. Luis,

What'd'ya mean, "definitely you must pay back and even compensate us for helping you"? Maybe I don't wanna compensate you. What is this, some kind of shakedown?

Okay, okay, okay--I have to break character here. And probably for the next one, but I'll try to get into some kind of persona for it. But I have to be honest with you, regular readers of Giant Midgets and any first-time visitors: I didn't really have any good material for this one. I just liked the spam itself, which replaced the usual "I am doing you great favor and entrusting you with many bazillions of dollars" with a kind of wheedling, whiny, insistent tone you don't see in very many of these. One has to wonder if this is a new approach and how well it works; "We already helped you, you must pay us back... definitely!"

Obviously, too, there's also the usual run of ESL spelling and grammar errors, some of them amusing. "Compensaction" so ought to be a real word, though I'd ask readers to offer a definition because I'm not sure exactly what it should mean (a portmanteau of "compensation transaction" seems too easy somehow).

Speaking of "too easy": had I stayed in character, I suppose I might have gone onto a rant about bailing out banks and now they're demanding further help or something. That just seems like such low fruit right now. Better, I think, to just allow you to revel in the desperation conveyed in the above plea.

And now this:

From Miss Juliet Conte‏

From Miss Juliet Conte

From: From Miss Juliet Conte (
Sent: Mon 2/14/11 7:56 AM


My name is Miss Juliet Conte , I am 17 years old and The daughter of formerlate Guinea President Lansana Conte,who died on Tuesday, 23th Dec 2008, after a long illness, aged 74 years old. As a matter of fact, I am the only one in the family who knows about the money he deposited in a bank here in Abidjan Cote D'Ivoire, He deposited the sum of ($10.5 Million United States dollars)

My late father handed over the documents of this deposit to me before his untimely death, Now as he is dead, I wish to seek for your partnership to assist me to move this money to your country fore investment.This is 100% risk free and I will give you 30% of the total amount involve.

If you are interested I will send you the full confidential details of the deposit as a good partner that I can trust to assist me. Can I trust you in this transaction? If you receive this letter, kindly send me an e-mail signifying your interest including your most confidential telephone/fax numbers for quick communication also your contact details. This business is risk free hence we can perfect it within few days upon your readiness.

Check the news:

Respectfully, pls email me (

Miss Juliet Conte

Okay, I'm not bothering with a character for this one, either, kids. Sorry if that's disappointing, but I will say that when I got this one, the first idea was to go with a creep--because this one seems to be selling a certain, hrm, shall we say "prurient" angle? "Oh noes, I am a defenseless seventeen year old orphan, save me, Obi-Wan!" or something along those lines.

At any rate, this one stayed in my spambox for the same reason the previous one caught my eye: it's a somewhat different twist on the usual piece from a FBI agent or bank employee or administrator of the UN lottery program or whatever.

I still find myself wondering how often these things work. The investment in sending out bazillions of e-mails to random addresses using a bot is so low that it only takes a couple of suckers to generate a profit, but how many suckers actually bite, one wants to know. One also notes that the profit margins may work differently for e-mails like the first one pointed above, which appears to include (or even primarily consist of) a phishing scam. How much are these names and phone numbers (and perhaps the other information) worth to the scammer, who I assume turns around and sells them for identity fraud and marketing purposes?

Anyway, I wanted to share these, and I'm sorry if this e-mail ended up being less colorful than the usual "open letters" piece. I'll try to come up with something fairly bizarre and ridiculous next time, honest.

On another note, all these musing remind me of an Alfred Hitchcock episode, but I think we'll pop that up tomorrow... at least (sorry!) for American readers (not my fault!).


They're coming for you, B-Bear-a...

>> Thursday, February 17, 2011

My sister introduced me to Misery Bear via Facebook. I so, so, so wanted to wait 'til Halloween for this one, but I couldn't. So pretend it's October. Pretend leaves are falling and it's cold (that last part may not be too hard depending on where you are). Pretend winter is coming, not leaving. Pretend the children are wandering the streets with their bags and costumes. Pretend things are stirring beneath the eroded gravestones. Pretend a shadow is passing across the moon and the wind is full of voices.

Misery Bear in "Dawn Of The Ted":


Another shoe drops

>> Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I don't know if readers will recall this, but back in 2008 I wrote two posts (here and here) about my qualms about the FBI identifying researcher Bruce Ivins as the individual who mailed several envelopes containing anthrax to news outlets and political offices, resulting in several deaths. I was unconvinced by the allegations and troubled by the claims that (1) Ivins was the culprit and (2) that the culprit acted alone, finding the first claim shaky and the second frankly implausible and completely unsupported by the proffered evidence.

Being a bad blogger, I said I'd follow up on it, then I never had a chance to invest myself in the documents I downloaded from the DOJ. Other things came up and I moseyed along and pretty much let it drop.

Sadly, I still don't have time to get too much into it now, but I did want to pass along the news if you somehow missed it: the National Academy of Sciences has released their report on the biological aspects of the FBI investigation, and concluded that the FBI's biological claims are unsupported by the evidence.

Two particular things should be emphasized. First, that the NAS panel did not review other forensic evidence, scientific or quasi-scientific or non-scientific, nor did the panel review any of the other evidence in the case--witness statements, circumstantial evidence, etc. Second, the NAS panel was not in a position to reach a conclusion regarding Ivins' guilt or innocence, and didn't try. Flaws in the FBI investigation do not exculpate Ivins and other evidence in the DOJ's possession might be sufficient to establish guilt--or not, but it seems one needs to put things that way because it's likely some folks will overstate the significance of the NAS conclusions with regard to Ivins' innocence.

But this also needs to be said: although the DOJ is now downplaying the relative importance of the DNA analysis of the anthrax bacillus collected and comparisons to the Ames strain available to Dr. Ivins for his research, and emphasizing that they had additional circumstantial evidence pointing to his guilt, the actual fact is that the DNA analysis was the linchpin of their case against Ivins. Lots of people have access to mailboxes in New Jersey or harbor grudges against United States Senators or comment semi-anonymously on message boards or liked The DaVinci Code; indeed, there are probably a lot of people who match all of these and others. The rug that really tied the room together was the claim that the bacillus delivered to the victims of the assault probably or almost had to come from Ivins' laboratory, narrowing the entire list of primary suspects down to people with access to the lab.

The NAS panel couldn't corroborate that claim and concluded the FBI overstated its evidence on that score. Indeed, the NAS panel couldn't conclude that the original investigation was right to exclude as a source an Al Qaeda site in Afghanistan (in addition to the NAS statement linked above, see also) or reach a conclusion about the time or skill needed to produce the spores used by the attacker. Nor could they conclude that the silicon samples found in the anthrax letters--described by DOJ as a "dispersant" and indicator of the attacker's expertise--was there on purpose.

The NAS calls for the investigation to be reopened and some members of Congress are echoing that. This is reasonable, not just for the sake of Ivins' reputation (indeed, a thorough investigation may provide conclusive evidence of his guilt), but because the possibilities remain that (1) if Ivins is guilty, he acted in concert with one or more individuals who may be at-large and dangerous, and who need to be brought to justice, and (2) if Ivins isn't guilty, we need to know who the actual perpetrators are and whether they're still out there. Furthermore, a third reason for re-opening the investigation is that it would absolutely be helpful, even if a re-opened investigation confirms Ivins' guilt and that he acted alone, to answer questions the FBI investigation failed to resolve, such as the actual difficulty of staging a biological attack via the U.S. Mail (if the original FBI conclusion that the attack required some technical skill and hardware is correct, it's certainly reassuring).


Funny how this works (a partisan screed)

I think I've figured this out. Aliens. I don't mean the kind of aliens or non-aliens this post is ultimately about, I mean the space kind of aliens, tentacley critters the color of fresh boogers with as many eyeballs as you can count, the kind of aliens whose idea of a trip round the block for drive-thru is to hop on their silver flying saucers, zoom over here from Alpha Centauri and grab a few cow uteri from Farmer Brown's back forty, maybe zonk a Galaxie 500 on I15 so they can put something up the comatose driver's nostril, you know, for kicks because that's how aliens are.

So, what these aliens have been doing, see, is they've been firing brain-rays at Americans to wipe out our long-term memories. I don't know why they're doing it, it's just something they're doing because their brains don't work like ours, or they have nefarious designs on our water, or they're afraid we're going to invent the warp drive and leave Earth, or, or, look: I don't know. Okay? I don't know.

It's just that it's as good an explanation as anything else I can come up with for the fact that we're really stupid, or a lot of us are, and ignorant and forgetful, and my other idea was that we all suffered some kind of brain injury walking headfirst into door frames or something, or we all ate lead paint chips as kids, and the truth is that neither one of those seem probable for the percentages of the population we're talking about. In my very human need for comprehensive explanations, I'm looking for something big, an overarching Theory Of Everything that might explain the mass stupidity afflicting our nation.

So I'm going with aliens. Big, dripping, boogerey aliens.

You're probably wondering what's set me off. You're thinking, "Oh, God, what is it this time?" It is, naturally, the damn Republicans. To be clear, this is a separate category from "Republicans" in general. My Grandmother, Dwight Eisenhower, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincolns are/were all Republicans; Rush Limbaugh, Eric Cantor and John "Don't Call Me 'Boner'" Boehner are all damn Republicans. And so are teabaggers, no matter how much the whole damn lot of them like to insist they're not Republicans, they only vote exclusively for and give money exclusively to Republicans; actually, we can correct that now: the teabaggers are correct that they aren't Republicans, they are, in fact, damn Republicans. They are the sort of Republicans who, to steal from a bit of Founders-era graffiti (directed at John Jay) ought to be damned, and damn everyone who won't damn them and damn everyone who won't put lights in his window and sit up all night damning them. (Political rhetoric wasn't necessarily more civil in those days, but it surely had more style.)


I was reading a piece in Slate about how Cantor and Boehner won't stand up to the bigots in their party. And that led me to this piece in Politico about Republican-led legislatures trying to tweak their electoral laws to require particular pieces of paper before anyone can run for President. State legislatures, of course, can set any laws they damn well please for qualifying their ballots, but it's pretty obvious what shenanigans they're up to here: what they think is going to happen, is they think some Republican Secretary Of State in one or more states will fail to certify that Barack Obama is an American citizen in 2012 and that this will keep Obama off the ballot, which is the only way anyone in hell anyone would willingly vote for whichever chump the GOP nominates in two years.

It's a stupid idea partly because the only states where a Secretary Of State might fail to certify a sitting Democratic president for reelection for political reasons probably went red in 2008 anyway and are likely to again; I have to say "probably" partly because we know how apolitical and neutral Florida's Secretary Of State was in 2000, and besides the whole idea's a clusterfuck waiting to happen anyway. One is reminded, for instance, of all the jokes over whether McCain was really eligible to run since he was born in the Canal Zone at a time it may or may not have technically counted as American soil; I don't know that anybody took the idea terribly seriously, probably some left-wing maniac, but as I recall most commentators on the left pretty much said, "Ha-ha-ha, wouldn't that be funny," and then another shiny object appeared and everybody went monkeyish over that. At any rate, it's the sort of thing that, once passed, is unlikely to affect its target but will then lie abandoned in the muddy fields like an unexploded piece of WWII ordnance until someone trips over it and gets blown all to hell for no good reason.

But what was really amusing and infuriating was this: remember when Arnold Schwarzenegger was popular? As a governor, I mean, not at a skin-covered time-traveling robot. I know, I know: thanks to those aliens, that may be outside of your memory. You may have to take my word for it: once upon a time, long, long ago (we're talking, like, six, seven years, maybe), Arnold Schwarzenegger was a popular state governor. There was even talk about... wait for it, wait for it... amending the Constitution so he could be President.

Okay, okay, maybe not a lot of talk. Maybe not a lot of serious talk. But a third of Republicans were okay with amending the Constitution so that a foreigner could become President--and I'll bet they're glad they didn't do it, now that there's a crypto-Kenyan socialist Muslim in the White House! If they had memories, or even higher brain functions, they might be feeling like they dodged a bullet... a Kenyan bullet.

But there's the point, anyway: it's funny how the damn Republicans (as opposed to the just Republicans) seem to be folks who subscribe to the rule that rules are for other people. I wonder how many of the folks pushing for changing their states' election rules would be all about how unfair and retrograde the Framers' intent was if it were 2004 and the issue were whether a popular Austrian-American governor ought to be Presidential material. It's much in the same vein as the way they're all about the sanctity of marriage even when they're multiple divorcees who've done things like served one of their ex-wives with divorce papers while she was in a cancer ward, or they're against the gay sex unless they're lonely at the airport, or the way they'll preach a righteous sermon about no man being above the law even as they're violating campaign-finance laws by laundering corporate money to candidates (note to Tom DeLay: guess you were right after all). Rules and laws are something to trip the other guy up with, not guidelines and boundaries for one's own behavior. Do as thou wilt, and for God's sake don't get caught, that is the whole of the letter of the law as far as some of these choads are concerned. The only standard is the double standard, forever and ever, amen.

But it's not their fault. This is what I'm realizing. It can't possibly be that they're a bunch of amoral cretins lacking scruples; they had mamas, and I am one prone to assuming that their mamas must have raised them right. Okay. Granted. I have no evidence of that and I am only relying on my foolish optimism and sunny tendency to assume the best of folks even when they're trying to push their fangs through my bootheel. Still. I am relying on the hypothesis that the reason they have such a hard time with standards is that they can't actually remember what the standards are. See? It's hard to be consistent when your long-term memory is wanked because of nefarious alien invaders, hard to follow rules when you forgot about them during your episodes of lost time and the floating on the beam of light and all the probing, aya-aya-aya, what is with all these aliens and all the nasal and anal probing?

Think of the states proposing electoral reforms to keep the aliens (aliens!) off the ballot: all these heartland states in the middle of the map. And then think of the states that are always reporting black helicopters and bovine dissections: notice anything? The aliens are flying over the American heartland, removing the memories from conservative voters so they can't keep their history straight, eviscerating their memories the way they chop up a cow's nether parts. It all makes sense. This is why Glenn Beck sounds plausible to them, not because they're living paranoid lives waiting for the saucer people to come back (though that surely makes them receptive), but because their memories of high school history are collected in jars in a central chamber of the mothership behind the dark side of the moon. And anytime one of these poor bastards watching Beck or O'Reilly says, "Waitaminute, Martha, I think that's bullshit," well, it doesn't help because his and Martha's memory of the conversation gets yanked out his ass around three A.M. when Qlyxopteryx makes his/her/its evening rounds; his wife probably isn't even named Martha, she's just scared to say anything because he might ask her what her name is and she doesn't know, the memory of her name's onboard the mothership storage chamber, trapped in a slightly-glowing rose-colored jar on the third shelf from the bottom along with the first five years of her life. You know how it is, when you don't want to look stupid: you just nod your head agreeably and hope somebody changes the subject--Fox News is an entire network dedicated to that. Wish I'd thought of it, myself.

Aliens, I'm telling you: aliens. It all makes sense.

That, or American politics is full of stupid assholes. You tell me which hypothesis is more frightening.


He should have shown them "Electro-Gonorrhea, The Noisy Killer"

>> Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Robert Broadus, a Maryland resident, is opposed to legalization of gay marriage. Here's why:

This is amazing, of course. I've heard all sorts of reasons offered by people opposing gay marriage, but this is the first time I think I've heard someone object because Buster Bluth might want to marry Lucille's Roomba someday.

This is the kind of thing where you have to wonder if it's even worth criticizing the rest of everything else Mr. Broadus gets wrong. (Animals from different species do, in fact, reproduce sometimes. The ankh has nothing to do with Christianity.) I mean, do we even need to pick on his facts when the thesis he's driving his premises to has nothing to do with biological hybrids and ancient Egyptian mythology and everything to do with the seemingly-distant hypothetical possibility that some church might be forced to recognize robosexual marriage?

For that matter, is it worthwhile to engage Mr. Broadus on his own terms? Lieutenant Data, after all, was one of Star Trek: The Next Generation's usual vehicles for the show's message of tolerance: the whole idea of Data is that human worth should be judged by how a sentient creature behaves, not his origins or what he's built out of. Episodes where Data has a sexual encounter or romantically fraternizes with another crewmember weren't played for squick ("Eww, Tasha Yar used the navigator as a vibrator!") but to attack prejudices about "human" relationships. Had TNG ever done an episode where Data gets married, one can be certain it would've been presented as a joyous occasion for the characters and the viewer, and any squeamish objectors making Broadusian arguments would be the episode's villains, to be overcome by a rousing Patrick Stewart monologue and/or a last act exposure of the character's essential hypocrisy and bigotry.

Add to the irony this: that TNG, like pretty much everything Roddenberry did, was explicitly agnostic and implicitly premised on the idea that religion wouldn't exist in the future. So, y'know, we're not talking about Broadus dealing with a phildickian scenario concerning whether robots can have souls and would it be okay to marry one if it did or hell no, never, regardless. Out of all the science fictional robots Broadus could've picked on, he picks the human android from a television show where nobody has a soul because there is no God, just godlike beings of the week. He might have been better off rhetorically asking if it would be an affront to God if C-3P0 were allowed to marry R2-D2, though I guess that begs us to ask what percentage of Anakin Skywalker would have to be chopped off before his marriage to Padmé was an affront to the eyes of the Lord.

Hoo, boy.

I suppose, to be clear, that this isn't ridicule out of anger or a need to vent, but ridicule inspired by ridiculousness. Lest one ask why I'm going to the trouble to poke this poor, poor man, it's because it's not trouble at all, it's fun. How often do you get to do a post that works in Futurama, Arrested Development, ligers (and tigons and grizzly-polar bear hybrids1, oh my!), a characterization of Lt. Data as a sex toy space pilot, and a question about the Skywalker marriage. I think this stuff is all awfully funny, and I have to thank Mr. Broadus for bringing it all up, even if it is in the context of him being a total dick about stuff he shouldn't even care about.

Earlier in the week, I was wondering if America had crossed an event horizon of stupidity, if we were just beyond the point of recovery and doomed, doomed, doomed all the way down the rest of the spiral. Needless to say, Mr. Broadus hasn't reassured me at all, quite the contrary. On the plus side, though, he does offer the hope we'll be laughing during the great spaghettification of America. It's a long way down, but at least we'll get in a giggle or two.

(H/t to Alan Boyle!)

1Also, before I wrote this and went to Wikipedia for the snarky linkfest, I didn't even know that there was any such thing as a grizzly-polar bear hybrid. Is that not the baddest thing ever? It's like the bears are fucking with us or something. Like, hey, let's take the two most brutal ursines in the world and mix 'em up and see what happ--oh my God, get it off me, it's eating my skull! It's eating my--GAAAAAAAAAH!

If Syfy announced they were doing a movie about grizzly-polar bears fighting sharktopus, I would call the cable company today and have the TV hooked up. Because that would rawk.


After the last page

>> Monday, February 14, 2011

He stood by the rail of the great white ship and looked back at the quay where his friends stood. The ship passed through a bank of fog and when it cleared, the three were turning around to leave; the ship passed through another, and they were gone.

On a whim, he reached into the pockets of his coat until his good hand closed around the phial. He removed it with his good hand and looked at it: it was cold and clear. He muttered to it as the spray from the waves increased, the wind picking up and pushing the white ship forward, still it refused to burn.

He felt a presence by his side, even before the old wizard spoke and set a gentle hand upon his shoulder. "With the passing of the three, the magic of the phial passes, too, as all things must one day end."

"And what have we gained?" he replied, already feeling a dim sense of regret as the ship neared the end of the world. "So the shadow has fallen, but what is in its place? Where we struggled in a world in which good and evil were so plain even the simplest Hobbit child might tell the difference, now the world enters an age when the light against the shadow is replaced by a dim struggle in a murky twilight in which all that can be done is to try and pick the least worst choice, and hope you don't make too big a muck of things in so doing." He felt tired, and sad, and his missing finger hurt more than ever, ached with a sharp pointing ache.

He held the phial up where the old wizard could see it: "And, on top of all else, this is merely water. And all the rest of the magic in the world will eventually leech away, too, I suppose. And the twilit world will, after all, be a little like the world under the shadow and a little like the world under the moonlight." The wizard, for the first time ever, perhaps, had nothing to say.

Frodo began to work at the stopper. It was well-sealed, whether by the Lady's magic or by gunk and grime acquired over the many miles it had traveled from one end of the world to the other, but finally it loosened and released with a small pop. He almost expected some small sigh or exhalation when it was released, but there was none. He raised the bottle to his lips and took it all in one sip. It tasted like water, with a slight acrid tang. Leeched from the inside of the phial or native to the Lady's basin, he couldn't have said. And then he brought back his arm as far as it would go and threw the phial as far as he could. He saw it splash in the water, thought he saw it bob once to the surface, then it vanished behind a wave.

And the white ship pushed on into the Undying West.


Your Sunday song of unrequited love and fading time...

>> Sunday, February 13, 2011

Emmylou Harris, "Goin' Back To Harlan":


Maybe it's the Robert Plant covers, but I've got Low on the brain...

>> Saturday, February 12, 2011

Low, "Murderer":


An open letter to Mr. David Ramsey

>> Friday, February 11, 2011


Mr. David Ramsey

From: Mr. David Ramsey (
Sent: Thu 2/10/11 8:00 PM


It is obvious that you have not received your fund which is to the tune of 5.8million dollars due to past corrupt Governmental Officials who almost held the fund to themselves for their selfish reason and some individuals who have taken advantage of your fund all in an attempt to swindle your fund which has led to so many losses from your end and unnecessary delay in the receipt of your fund.

The National Central Bureau of Interpol enhanced by the United Nations and Federal Bureau of Investigation have successfully passed a mandate to the current president of Nigeria his Excellency President Goodluck Jonathan to boost the exercise of clearing all foreign debts owed to you and other individuals and organizations who have been found not to have receive their Contract Sum,Lottery/Gambling, Inheritance and the likes.

Now your payment will be send to you by ATM card that will be coming alongside a custom pin which you will use to withdraw up to 10,000 dollars per day from any ATM machine that has the Master Card Logo on it.

Also with the ATM card you will be able to transfer your funds to your bank account. The ATM card comes with a handbook or manual to enlighten you about how to use it.
Your payment would be sent to you via UPS, Because we have signed a contract with them which should expired by January 30th 2012.

Below are few list of tracking numbers you can track from UPS website( to confirm people like you who have received their payment successfully and whose payment is on the way.

Traci Murphy==========J203272988 7
Chris Roddy=========J2032729921
Levi Ring=========J203272955 6
Bob Miles========J203272984 1
Amanda L. Lawson======2187529953
Thomas Dyal=========J2129159266
Francisco Vargas=======J2129159220
Jeffrey Allen Bradley=========1Z54AR672210095463
Peter Perez============= 1Z 54A R67 22 1009 5525
Barbara Boris==============J229 021 8003
David M. Stevens ===========J212 915 9346
Paul Forsberg=============J229 058 6473
MarJo Properties LLC=======J229 058 6482
Synergy Real Estate Andy=====J229 058 6508
Tuscan Bend=================== J229 058 6517
Diana Gissel==================J229 058 6526

To effect the release of your fund valued at 5.8 million dollars you are advised to contact the director of payment and delivery officer Rev.Cole Davis with the information below email On contacting him do provide him with the
following informations:
Your full Name...
Your Address:................
Home/Cell Phone:...................
Yours sincerely,
Mr. David Ramsey
CC: Federal Bureau of Investigation
CC: National Central Bureau of Interpol



Dear Mr. David Ramsey,

It's obvious I haven't received my fund? Is it? Is it really? Or is it possible that I am three moves ahead of you. Check the fund. Check it again. Are you sure it's there? Maybe I have the fund already. Maybe I took the fund and gave it back to you just so you would never know it was gone although I established my dominion over it, made it mine, used my power.

Maybe you are playing checkers while I am playing three-dimensional chess. In the future. With Mr. Spock on the Enterprise while hippie space children play electric sitar and sing Utopian songs, dig? Maybe I'm so far ahead of you, I'm behind you already. Look over your shoulder. Missed me. Now I'm there again. No I'm not.

I am playing games with you that you can't even imagine, Mr. David Ramsey. You work in Tinkertoys; my toybox is your brain.

You say you've sent me an ATM card. I say I've sent you an ATM card. Your ATM card is in the mail, unless it isn't. I could give you a tracking number, but that would ruin the surprise. You say my ATM card will work in any machine that has a MasterCard logo on it. The ATM card I've sent you will only work in places that take Discover. Nobody takes Discover. You say you've sent me a PIN. I snuck into your room while you were sleeping, Mr. David Ramsey, sedated you with chloral hydrate, and tattooed the PIN for the ATM card I sent you onto the inner lining of your eyelids. Also, sorry about the kidney, but I know a guy who knows a guy, and you saved an orphan's life. But it's okay: you had an extra one, and I left a cashier's check for a very large amount of money where I found the kidney. Fair trade.

This e-mail is coming from inside your house.

Thank you for the offer of the manual on how to use the ATM card. I appreciate the thought. But I wrote the manual. I wrote the manual in a dead language that can only be known by three people on Earth at any one time. I killed the person I learned this language from when he passed along the last syllable of the forgotten tongue, so for that moment between the last breath he took and the moment my fingers blocked his airway, there were four people who knew the secret name of God (it begins with a "D" and rhymes with "save"--that is all I will tell you). I wrote the manual on how to use ATM cards and I sent half of it to one of the people who speaks the secret tongue and the other half to the other one who shares our dark curse. I sent them alternating pages; in retrospect, it might have been easier to just send the first five-hundred-and-fifty pages to one and the second five-hundred-and-fifty to the other, but I was in a hurry and did the first thing that came to mind. Half the pages were translated into binary and half were translated into Esperanto, but I'm not sure which half is which.

Here is an excerpt, but it is all I will repeat here:

Rapide pasig la karton 011010010110111000100000011101000110100001100101001000000111001101101100011011110111010000101110.

I tease you with this text to mock you, Mr. David Ramsey. Mock, mock, mock. Do you know where I am now? I am composing this response on my cell phone, from beneath the table at which you're reading this.

Made you look.

You have been exposed, Mr. David Ramsey. You are known. You are being photographed by a satellite high in orbit above you. The satellite has been programmed to home in on the peculiar and unique radioactive signature of a strain of salmonella bacterium living in a small colony on the underside of your tongue. You were infected with this bacterium when you ate a tunafish sandwich. You cannot remember eating this sandwich because a posthypnotic suggestion was worked into the cellophane film on the front of the package; this cellophane was really a specialized polarized material invented by 3M in 1957 on behalf of the CIA: messages encoded into the material are only visible under fluorescent light and only from a single direction. This sandwich was placed in the refrigerated display case in your favorite convenience store, carefully placed in the refrigerated container so that your eye almost had to catch it while you were walking down the aisle you always walk down in the direction of travel you almost always take. You did not see the packaging on your first visit or your second, Mr. David Ramsey, but on the third day your eye caught it and you saw the pre-hypnotic suggestion--Buy this sandwich and eat it--and the posthypnotic suggestion--then forget about it. Also, there was a suggestion that you purchase and smoke a carton of Marlboros. Sorry about that. The economy being what it is, we had to get sponsorship somewhere, and Nicoderm stepped in when we needed them. You will remember all of this as if it happened yesterday (which, coincidentally, is when it happened) when I show you the secret word that will relieve you of the posthypnotic impulse.

That's me, outside the window, pretending to be interested in the May 8th, 1917 New York Times. And now I'm not there. Do you remember the man you passed three times in the hall yesterday, the one with the eyepatch, wooden leg and Frankie Goes To Hollywood t-shirt? That was me, too. But I don't really look like that. The t-shirt was a disguise, and also I'm taller in real life.

You are a fool, Mr. David Ramsey. You promise me things I have and offer me trinkets, trinkets, while I am the one who has the antidote for the venom of the thousands of nearly-microscopic scorpions stinging you right now. You thought that was a rash, but in in fact you have been stung thousands or perhaps millions of times by Scorpiones pestis, a near-microscopic predator whose poison is 10,000 times more deadly than rattlesnake venom. Scorpiones pestis, found in a tropical/semi-tropical range from the northern part of the Indochine Peninsula to the southern parts of Indonesia, is a shy predator that subsists primarily on very small aphids and fleas. A retiring creature, interactions with humans are rare and are almost never fatal, as the species prefers to use its stinger sparingly, the stinger can only barely penetrate the topmost layer of epidermis, and the amount of poison the scorpion can inject is minute. That having been said, swarms of Scorpiones pestis can take down very small birds and rodents, the accumulative effect of microdoses of their lethal neurotoxin eventually having a fatal effect. And members of the secretive Longo Cult of religious self-flagellants and assassins have adapted the scorpion as a nigh-untraceable mode of homicide; having attempted milking the scorpions for their venom with a remarkable lack of success, the Longo Cultists will now gather millions of swarming pestis scorpions and place them somewhere a victim will almost certainly come into close contact--usually an article of clothing like a jockstrap, tight-fitting shirt, or a sock, Mr. David Ramsey, a pair of socks one might own, such as a pair of lucky black socks with a design featuring lots of little pictures of Elmo from Sesame Street, purchased by a beloved ex-girlfriend in better days as an ironic joke but still sometimes worn as a pick-me-up for a stressful job interview or to make one feel better when he called in for a sick day to stay at home because he was feeling nauseous the day after smoking eight-and-a-half packs of cigarettes in one sitting while eating a three-day-old tuna sandwich.

I am waving from across the street. Now I am pretending to take a photograph of that fire hydrant. Look again--did you notice that I had no camera, that I merely framed my hands in a rectangle before saying "click" in a loud voice? (That sound effect is what convinced you I had a very fine, expensive camera, when I was merely holding my hands together in a crude squarish shape.) If you want, I can send you copies after I have them developed. Now I am in your backyard. You can't see me because I am behind a tree. I know, there aren't any trees in your backyard--that's because I'm upstairs in your bathroom. I didn't flush on purpose.

Doom is coming for you, Mr. David Ramsey. Doom, doom, doom. But if it's any consolation, its connecting flight was canceled because of snow. You did not know who you were getting in touch with when you contacted me, but now you do. Oh yes. Now you do. Do too. Do too. Do too. Do too. Do not. A-ha! Gotcha!

There will come a time when you will wonder what happened to your life, Mr. David Ramsey. It's alright. We all wonder that sooner or later. What happened was you got older and then you died, and then you came back to life, but it kept happening and the stretches in which you died got longer and longer and longer. And someday you will die and you won't wake up for the longest time, for longer than the moon will zoom around the world and longer than the stars will shine, longer than the last vibration of the last atom left in the universe. And when you at last wake up, you will be alone, and it will be cold, and it will be dark, and the universe will be floppy and overextended like a stretched out rubber that will never return to its original shape and just lies there on the side of the highway where some fucker threw it out an automobile window, and all the light in the universe will have traveled from the most distant parts of the expanding universe and gone right past you, so that you are behind the starlight and see nothing.

You will find this very, very, very boring.



Today in a nutshell, frankly.

>> Thursday, February 10, 2011

Some days.

Radiohead, "No Surprises":


James Brown at the T.A.M.I. Show

>> Wednesday, February 09, 2011

I'll try to keep it short. Here's what happened:

Back in the late 1950s, early 1960s, a guy named Bill Sargent was trying to market a video process called Electronovision which shot video at 800 lines. Which, yes, is high definition video (HD can be defined as 720 lines). There's a little bit of dispute over whether Sargent invented the process (as has been claimed in the past) or was just re-branding some existing tech (see the Wikipedia article linked in the first sentence). Either way, the relevant thing is that to sell the process, he needed productions and investors to fund those projects.

What Sargent really wanted to do was Shakespeare, but the shortcut to raking in the money, it seemed to him, was to cash in on this "rock" thing all the kids were into while it was still hot. So he and his partners drummed up this idea for a "teenage music" show, which would become an annual thing to be aired live in movie theatres over Electronovision displays and syndicated if they could get a network deal to do it; also, part of the gimmick would be that the teens could vote on their favorite acts--using punchcards.

The whole thing was way before its time: high-def simulcast over cable participatory television--a few decades later, MTV and other cable channels would have this down, get your parents' permission before you call, etc. So it's no surprise that the T.A.M.I. Show, as it ended up being called (and nobody could agree whether that was "Teen Awards Music International" or "Teen-Age Music International" or what) went off one time, lost money, was sold to another company that did a lo-def version, then vanished entirely. (And, meanwhile, Sargent's company never got to do all those Shakespeare movies they wanted to produce that T.A.M.I. was supposed to pay for.)

But that's not what this post was about. This is actually just a music video post, I just like explaining this stuff. And I'm not quite done.

So, anyway, the producers of the T.A.M.I. show were booking acts, and one of the acts they approached was Mr. James Brown, the greatest soul singer on Earth at the time and maybe ever. And James Brown agreed to go on their show, naturally assuming he'd be closing.

Well, no, the producers had another act in mind. They wanted James Brown to go on next to last. There were these guys from England the producers had heard would be the next big thing and all the kids liked shaggy-haired Brits, couldn't get enough of 'em, it seemed.

Now, a lot of acts these days would have walked at that point. But you don't become the hardest-working man in show business by throwing tantrums. What Brown said, and this is apparently very close to a direct quote so I'm treating it as such, was fine, he'd give up his rightful place at the end of the night "But I'm going to make the Rolling Stones wish they never came to America."

The Stones, to their credit, apparently pissed their pants when they heard what was happening, and contacted the booking agent to beg for a slot anywhere in the show that wasn't following James Brown.

They were denied.

This is part of what they had to follow (I wish the video wasn't clipped, but it is what it is):

I posted part of the Stones' performance last year. The Stones acquitted themselves well--the T.A.M.I. Show was one of their very first performances in the United States (I don't recall whether this was before or after they went on Sullivan, but it was in the ballpark). They even managed to stop looking quite so scared shitless before they finished their set. And I'm not being critical, there: any sane musician would be scared shitless if they had to follow James Brown, at the height of his James Brown-ness, James Brown having decided and announced before the show he was going to blow you off the stage. It's a testament to the Stones' fortitude that they showed up, really. The Rock Gods know I would have been in the nearest bar getting hammered and screw any contractual penalties.

The story apparently had a bit of a happy ending: Brown congratulated the boys after the show and ended up inviting them to his next concert, front row, and if I remember rightly, he even invited them up on stage with him that night. So good on them.

And as for Brown at T.A.M.I.: is he made of rubber? How does he do that? The man wasn't godlike, he was a god. And The Flames, his backing band--a well-oiled machine operating in perfect sync. Damn.

The T.A.M.I. Show, by the way, finally came out last year on DVD, remastered and restored (the Beach Boys' performance had been excised, and a prior VHS release mixed in a bunch of inferior clips from the unfortunate sequel). If you don't own it and love pop music, it's a must-have: in addition to The Stones, James Brown and the Beach Boys, performers at the original T.A.M.I. include Leslie Gore (at the time the second-biggest act in America after The Beatles), Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Miracles, Chuck Berry, Gerry And The Pacemakers and more. And because it was an early hi-def format, the restored DVD looks and sounds good, a lot better than a lot of concert footage from the era that was shot on video or low-end film. It's worth at least a rental--no, it's worth an own.


Another proud member of the UCF...

Another proud member of the UCF...
UCF logo ©2008 Michelle Klishis international gang of... international gang of...
смерть шпионам!

...Frank Gorshin-obsessed bikers.

...Frank Gorshin-obsessed bikers.
GorshOn! ©2009 Jeff Hentosz

  © Blogger template Werd by 2009

Back to TOP