April 30, 2006

Reviews aplenty

Allah is collecting bloggers' United 93 reviews here.

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April 29, 2006

United 93

There are spoilers here. If you have no fear of 'em then proceed...

I just got back from seeing United 93. This was the first time I'd set foot inside a movie theater since Men In Black in 1997. It was a 1:20pm matinee and I was one of only eight people in the theater. Aside from what seemed to be a dad and two sons, each of us showed up alone.

I'd read a few comments here and there by people who said that they weren't going to see the film because they had no need to be reminded of the events that it depicts. They say that the people who need to see it are the people who think it's "too soon" to show it. I guess I can understand that as I've never watched the Nick Berg video for the same reason. But, from the time I first read that this movie was coming out, I've wanted to see it.

I've been having a hard time coming up with words that describe my reaction[s] to it. I did some surfing through the blogosphere and, so far, the description that's closest to how I'd describe the film was written by Joshua Minton who, among many excellent points, notes:

The main character in this movie is information--how it flowed, where it stalled, who had it on time, and who had it too late.

The pace is nearly in real time and feels like a documentary. Many of the earlier scenes move slowly, just as they did as they happened. It even takes a few minutes to show us the co-pilot as he gives the required visual inspection of the plane, from the outside, as it is fueling. I never found it dull, even when it spent some time just showing the passengers as they sat around waiting for word that they could begin boarding, though I might if I see it a second time.

I wondered, going in, just what my emotional reactions would be as I watch the events unfold. I was surprised at how emotionally detached I felt most of the time. Perhaps it's because I saw a matinee. I might have had a very different experience if I'd seen a 9:00pm showing.
The scenes at the FAA, NORAD and the various Air Traffic Control centers were populated with professionals who were too busy trying to gather accurate information and make sense of it. Only when the tragedies were before their eyes -- on CNN at FAA and NORAD, and out the window at the New York ATC center -- did we see any vivid emotion from the characters. And those reactions were mostly expressed in silence.

The FAA suddenly looses track of American Airlines Flight 11 "somewhere over Manhatten". They surmise that it may have dropped below their radar as the highjackers were attempting to land at a local airport, but no one can spot it. They then learn that CNN is reporting that a small aircraft has hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. FAA operations manager Ben Sliney (who, among other major characters, plays himself in the film) asks for CNN to be put on the screen. Seeing the amount of smoke billowing up from the tower he protests "That was no small plane. Look at the size of that hole." A short time later he gets confirmation that it was a large commercial airliner that hit the tower. With cool exasperation he says "Well, that's it, then. That's American 11."
But the idea that the crash might have been deliberate hadn't occured to him. "But how could it have hit the tower? It's clear skies and 50!"

There's a scene where the ATC people in New York -- where the burning North Tower of the World Trade Center can be seen in the (relatively short) distance -- are looking for United Flight 175. They tracked it approaching New York City when they lost the signal, and they assumed that it had dropped below their radar. Looking out the window, one guy sees it. "There it is! Just over the Varisano Bridge!". With the north tower burning, they watch as United 175 slams into the south tower. There is no music then that I recall. They watch in silence, processing what they had just witnessed. That solemn moment of silence is the first time that I had a strong emotional reaction: empathy. And it was, I believe, a reaction to what I read on their faces: a transformation from 'does not compute' to 'now I get it'.

Throughout many of the non-93 scenes my response was frustration at how wrong information -- or no information -- kept getting passed along. Long after the FAA had concluded beyond all doubt that American 11 had struck the North Tower, NORAD was getting confirmation from I-forget-where that American 11 was still airbourne and headed for Washington DC. NORAD couldn't get anyone to give them rules of engagement. Jets that had scrambled to intercept it were not only headed the wrong way, they were unarmed. These were uniformed military professionals becoming more and more furious that they were able and ready to respond, but couldn't get a line to the President or Vice-President. In the meantime, the third plane hit the Pentagon.

Even during most of the scenes on board United Flight 93, shot with a hand-held camera, I never felt like I was among them. I was still watching them with a large measure of detachment. At first.

The brilliance of these scenes is that each passenger's character is not developed by having them tell their life stories to each other. They are simply being ordinary. "I just spoke to my wife who said....". I watch an actor named Christian Clemonson, but I meet a man named Thomas Burnett. I don't know anything about Thomas Burnett's life story, but in a very short time, via Clemenson's portrayal, I know who he is.
(Of course, I don't know who the real Thomas Burnett is, but I know who the man on the plane in this movie is.)

The four actors who portrayed the highjackers are, in a word, incredible. They have very few spoken lines, and when they do speak it's subtitled. These four characters are some of the most clearly defined personalities you'll see in a film, and they do it almost entirely without dialogue. Only one of the highjackers -- the "ringleader" -- seems to be able to speak English, and that's only when he says things like "No, thank you, I'm fine," when asked by a flight attendant if he'd like a cup of water.

But I have one quibble. The "ringleader" was portrayed as very nervous; very skittish about their mission. "It's time isn't right yet" he tells his co-sociopaths when they start to be concerned that he's waiting too long to make their move. You definately get the sense that he has very cold feet about doing what they plan to do. Another highjacker decides that it's time to move. The "ringleader" watches as the other three commence the highjacking and, only when the cockpit is cleared of the pilot and co-pilot (who are killed in the process), does he move and take his seat at the controls. This seemed completely unreal to me.

A lot of the action on board is what might have happened. We don't know many details of what actually happened, but most of it seems perfectly reasonable and "life-like". Let's just call it fake but accurate. But, to my mind, the "ringleader" would've become the ringleader because he'd be the strongest of the four. It was only after he was securely in the driver's seat and saw a message display (from memory, probably not verbatim) -- "Be careful of cockpit intrusion. Two planes have hit the World Trade Center" -- that he seems to find inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose. "Our brothers have been successful," he says to his "co-pilot". From then on he seems still somewhat nervous, but his mind is made up.

From this point on the action takes place almost exclusively aboard United Flight 93 and plays out, essentially, in real time. Once it's established that United 93 has been highjacked, we see no more of ATC, FAA or NORAD. From here on out it's the passengers versus the highjackers.

Having learned through cellphone conversations that two planes have hit the World Trade Center, and that there was an "explosion" at the Pentagon, Burnett takes the lead and begins to organize the others. Burnett, Beamer, Glick and the others realize very quickly that they need to either take back the plane or die trying. The two highjackers that aren't in the cockpit are becoming suspicious of what they're up to, but can't do anything to stop them. They are two guys armed with two knives and a fake bomb against a plane-load of pissed off Americans, at least 10 of whom could kick their asses nine ways to Sunday.

Incidentally, their names are never mentioned. There is no "Hi, I'm Jeremy" moment. You have to go here to find out who played who. That's, unexpectedly, very satisfying because, as Josh wrote, "The main character in this movie is information", but not personal information. Watching anonymous men and women responding to events that demand response is what this is about, not what their names are. Names carry baggage. This is about all of us.

It just occurred to me that there were no children aboard that flight.

One older guy was a pilot, but not a commercial airline pilot. He was the one who was gonna be in the hot seat when the others took back the plane. He gave a fair warning that they were travelling awfully low. They weren't 30,000 feet up, mind you, they could see farm houses. Of the ringleader, "If he does something sudden," he warns, "you wont have time to correct it."

One thing that struck me was that there was no to-do made of the words "Let's roll". It was spoken once by a guy who said, in hushed tones, "What are we waiting for? Let's roll." The director wisely chose not to showcase those words. Thank you, Paul Greengrass.

The most satisfying moment was when the passengers launched their offensive. Truely, knowledge went out the window and, for a time, I think I really thought that they could correct history and take back the plane.

The highjackers had been brutal in their take-over. The highjacker who initiated the operation shouted "Allahu Ahkbar!" and promptly stabbed a guy for no reason other than to show the passengers that they were willing to kill at will if they didn't get their way.

The aisle on an airliner is narrow, so the passengers pretty much had to storm the terrorists single file. Beamer went first -- with the others right at his back-- and rushed the guy with the fake bomb, kneeing him in the chest to take him down. The look on the face of that skidmark on the shorts of humanity was priceless. His bluff was called and he knew it. It seemed to take a while, but the bastard was dead.

The second highjacker pounded on the cockpit door to be let in. No go, pal. You're dead with the rest of us, only you'll just have to die sooner and more brutally than us. Too bad.

After a struggle, his neck was broken. Good.

They rammed the locked cockpit door. Tearing a hole through it's center, they managed to eliminate the "co-pilot" and get their hands on the "ringleader". But the ringleader had made up his mind.
This was when music became noticably present. It wasn't anything melodic. It was pretty much just strains of notes and chords that seemed to hold for a while and then blend into the next one. The struggle was for the controls. This was the end. Do or die. Do and die. Right now it was the same thing. Do.

The ringleader shouted "Allahu Ahkbar!.....Allahu Ahkbar!..." as he turned the plane over, under, upside down, and the last minute never shows a man's face. It's all hands and controls, and then a view through the front window. The Pennsylvania farmland getting closer and closer. Closer. Too close. Leaves of grass. Then silence and a black screen.



The credits begin to roll and I wonder what it is that I just felt. I still don't think that I have a handle on it.

It might have to do with the fact that it was a movie. Knowing that many of the main players saw fit to play themselves gives this film "gravitas", as it were. This feels like a definitive account of what happened. But, strangely, what I felt was, I think, satisfied.
Satisfied that I'm not wrong in asking why I should try to "understand" them. Satisfied in knowing that I'm right when I believe that bystanders aren't targets. Satisfied that I'm right when I believe that theocracy is evil.

God = Good
Devil = Evil

We love to know that God is good and that the devil is evil. But, to what does that knowledge translate when "believers" are equipped with the ability to threaten God-given life in God's own name? The spirit of the pilgrims, escaping from religious persecution, has been instilled in me since kindergarten. Theocrats believe that they are doing God's work, but they are merely tyrants who think that they're Gods.

Freedom to just plain be is what we're all about.

And as an athiest/agnostic, I pray that God continues to bless America.

God bless the crew and passengers of United 93.

Sic semper tyrannus.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:40 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 28, 2006


On Friday, April 28th, Neil Young's new album, Living With War, is being presented at neilyoung.com. All ya gotta do is visit the site and the album will begin playing from beginning to end. I shall now give it a listen and record my first impressions.


I read the lyric to this yesterday and I assumed that it would be a slow one. But it kicks ass and is a great song to kick off the album. Moderately paced with heavy distortion on the guitars and played with some gusto. Small band; guitars, bass and drums. The choir is a little distant in the mix, but it sounds good. Kinda like a live audience signing along. I think the lyric is a bit weak, though. "What will people dooooooo.....after the garden is go-o-o-o-ne? What will people say-ay-ay-ay....after the garden is go-o-o-o-ne...?". I'm not sure what this is about but, all-in-all, a good start.

This is taking a while to begin playing. Hmmm. Page is still loading after about four minutes of silence.
Actually, it took me quite a few attempts to even get to this page. It's very busy today.
Hmm hmm hmm hmm.
**drums fingers**
Nine minutes. Still loading.
Twenty minutes passed and I reloaded the page. I'm listening to After The Garden again.

Okay here we go...
Sounds like Peter, Paul & Mary if they were backed by the Plastic Ono Band. Nice. I think I love this song. The choir sounds awesome when they climb to those high notes when they sing the lines "the rockets' red glare, bombs bursting in ai-ai-ai-air / give proof through the night that our flag is still there-ere-ere-ere!". Very melodic but played kinda heavy; a very Rust Never Sleeps sound. Almost like Weezer. I hated Weezer, but this is excellent. The lead guitar almost sounds like trumpet. Actually, I think the guitar and a trumpet are playing the same notes in unison. Neil's voice is a little shaky toward the end. It's not the kind of melody he's used to singing.

This reminds me of something but I can't put my finger on it. Minor chord driven, hard, forward moving, omenous, powerful. Actually, it sounds like a few songs that I wrote years ago. .The mix is a tad bit muddy but it's no biggie. Excellent use of the choir. Feels kinda like Dylan's version of All Along The Watchtower played with more drive. Sounds like something Roger Waters might have written. Neil's voice is perfect for this song.

This sounds a lot like the full band version of Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black). In fact, I think it's exactly the same chord progression and an almost identical melody. That's definately a trumpet there.

Ooops, I just lost the feed again. I'll bet there are at least ten thousand people trying to load this site right now.
Three minutes, still "transferring data from www.neilyoung.com...".
Fifteen minutes. It's coming up on noon so this site is probably only get busier for a while. Maybe I'll come back to it in a couple of hours.
I reloaded the page again. After The Garden is playing again. Let's see I far get this time.
Dammit. Got all the way through The Restless Consumer but it wont start Shock And Awe. I'll try again later.

2:00, I'm trying again. After The Garden is playing. I'm gonna know this song by heart if this keeps up.
UGH! Same thing! Got through Restless Consumer but no Shock And Awe to follow. I give up.

4:00, trying again. One song then silence.

7:00, trying again. I'm liking After The Garden more and more. I'm hearing passion in Neil's voice that I didn't appreciate on the earlier listenings. It's becoming a very short song to me.
Living With War is playing again. "and on the flat screen we're killed and we're killed again...please remember peace..." "don't take no tidal wave, don't take no mass graves, don't take no smoking gun to know how the west was won..." The grunge-folk style with the back-up choir is a nice combo. Kinda clumbsy at times, sloppy, but just different and new enough to make me forgive every not-so-great moment. This was definately a half-baked idea that actually works.
The Restless Consumer again. This is almost frantic. Every song sounds faster and more manic than they did earlier. I really hope I get to hear this all the way through this time.

I'm still reminded of Roger Waters, but also of David Byrne. The music is raw; the word "garage" comes to mind. My understanding is that the basic tracks were recorded in two days. The choir was added in one other day, and the rest was mixing.
Shock And Awe. This is a little less imaginative than the previous songs. Like I said, it's just like the band version of Hey Hey, My My, but faster and more brutal. "We had a chance to change our minds... but now we can't go back... we had a chance to change our minds..!

Neil is playing like an inspired teenager. I swear I wrote all of these chord changes a hundred times. Or maybe Neil did. This one is just rockin'.
Very short song.

I can predict the next chord each and every time. This is remincent of a kick-ass version of Dylan's Chimes of Freedom.
Good lyric. Not too tart, not too sweet.
This is Sonic Youth playing P.F. Sloan. Kewl.
Sorry that I'm not quoting lyrics. It's going by so fast.
Doesn't really make a point.
Another short song.

This is the one that all the buzz is about. Let's see.
I read the lyric a few days ago.
This is the worst mix yet.
This sucks.
Christ, this is awful. Lyric aside, this is noisy crap. Noisy monotonous crap.
Ooooo, some Bush samples...
Cleverly edited. Propaganda.
Ouch, that audio montage is unworthy of even Michael Moore.
Wow, this is worse than I imagined. And I have a vivid imagination.

Good God.

This album is going downhill fast.
Mentions Obama, "but maybe he's too young".
Dammit. Another ordinary track. I'll bet Neil wrote this ten minutes.
Thankfully -- this time -- another short one.

Turn up the distortion and sharpen the drums on Neil's 1974 song Ambulence Blues, take away the variety and subtleness, and you got this droning piece o' crap.
I still don't know what this song is about.
It's half a song. Thankfully short.

The choir is singing the familiar song with a little too much earnestness.
It's like gospel with all the reverence missing.
This is the worst version of this song I've ever heard. Some of the singers are trying to be Whitney Houston. Crap, shut up.
Oh sure, hum it now.
Good God, this is awful.
Sorry, Neil. Brian Wilson you ain't.

And that's the last of it.
The first third of this album is awesome. Then it's hit and miss. The rest is -- sorry to say -- earnest sloppy crappola. Neil, I luv ya. Take more time next time. You don't need to finish an album in 48 hours just to get the good stuff out immediately. Yer only an artist... it's not that important.
And learn some new chord changes.

Spork out.

UPDATE: I thought that was to be a one-day thing, but as of 7:00am EDT the album is still playing when you visit neilyoung.com. Give it a listen or two and write a review. And lemme know about it. I'd like to read some more reax.

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April 27, 2006

And the tour company was hired to do what exactly?

Yeesh. Talk about a bummer

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Four bus loads of students from O'Brien Middle School made the four-hour trip to Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo, Calif., only to find the amusement park's gates locked Monday. The school-sponsored trip was supposed to reward top students.

"It was pretty much a fiasco," said Washoe County School District spokesman Steve Mulvenon. "They ended up wasting a day that those kids could have better spent in class or doing what they were going to do at the park."

School officials said the $50 fee will be refunded, and the tour company that arranged the trip has agreed to pay for the next one. "The tour company neglected to check the schedule," Mulvenon said.

"It is just a bummer for the kids," said parent Jeff Wood. "Now, they will have to wait another month to go and a lot of the kids might not be able to go then."

Principal Scott Grange said the school was even given printed tickets with Monday's date on them.

"But shame on us for not checking," he said.

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April 26, 2006

untitled, pt 2


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Now I'm Beyond Insulted

The scam spammers are actually posing as the IRS. With "copyrighted" messages no less!


There are no words.

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April 25, 2006



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Show & tell Day


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April 24, 2006

Monday, Monday pt 1

The last time I locked my keys in the car was nearly 20 years ago. I had only one set and stoopitly locked the door with the keys still in the ignition. I don't even remember how I got the door open. I seem to remember asking a cop to use his Slim Jim to open it and he may have done it. So, from then on out, and through three more vehicles over the years, I always made sure that I had two sets of car keys on me at all times.

I've had the new (to me) car on the road for a couple of weeks now and I've been meaning to get over to Home Depot to have a second set of keys made. But I just haven't found myself over near Home Depot yet so I was still, as of this morning, driving around with only one set.

Then it happened. At about 8:30am I had arrived back at the house from a little shopping. One of the purchases was a bottle of transmission fluid. On Saturday my uncle told me the car had a slow transmission leak and that I should check it very soon. So, I bought the fluid. The manual in the glove compartment said that I should check it while the engine is idling and warmed up, but not too hot. So I left the key in the ignition, released the hood, grabbed the bottle and exited the car. I, of course, instinctively and out of pure reflex, locked the door. With the keys inside. And the engine running.


I stood there staring at the car from top to bottom and side to side to see if there was some way that I wasn't seeing to open that door. Or a window. Or to climb through the hatch. Anything. Nothing.

I went inside and called my cousin to see if he has a second set of keys that he forgot to give me. Nope.

I looked around the house, through several rooms, looking for anything that I could use as a makeshift Slim Jim. I don't even have any wire hangers in my closet.

But I then found a metal shish kabob skewer in one of the kitchen drawers. Ah HA! It was long and had a loop at the end. I pried open the loop at bit so that it could catch whatever it needs to catch in order to raise the lock.

I managed to get the thing in between the door and the window, but I couldn't turn it to reach into the cavity. I could only move it up and down parallel to whatever mechanism is hidden in there. So, I tried the passenger side door. I was able, with difficulty, to turn the loop 90 degrees, but I wasn't catching anything. "Good kharma, c'mon," I thought. "Think positive thoughts...fortune favors the foolish..." I then tried to force the window down, but that wasn't gonna happen. I didn't want to smash a window, but I couldn't just let it run until the gas ran out. There was 3/4 of a tank in there.

Then I saw the back window. If you know them old 2-door hatchbacks, the back windows down roll down, they swing outward at the back, connected to a latch. I put my open-faced palms on the window and found that I could move it around. Turns out that the bottom bolt at the front end of the window was broken and there was some play at the back -- the side that opens out. When I pushed the window up, the latch would drop to open a bit, but not enough to get it open.

So I grabbed the shish kabob skewer and pulled the window out just far enough to get the skewer inside. Up it reached, grabbed the latch and pulled it open. YES!!! But the window only opens up about 2 1/2 inches at the rear and tapers to next to nothing at the hinged front. The door lock button thingy is, of course, on the other side of the rear window's hinge.

But, luckily, I've got long skinny arms. I took off my coat, took off my sweater, rolled up my left sleeve and stuck my arm into the car. Pushing and pushing my arm forward with the window pressuring my arm at that thinner area between the shoulder muscle and the bicep, I managed to finally reach the lock button and pull it up. The door was unlocked! I opened it and turned the engine off. It had sitting there idling for about half an hour at that point.

Testing the transmission fluid would have to wait a while.

To be continued...

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Hot Air arises!

The lovely and tireless Michelle Malkin has just unveiled a new project. It's called HotAir.com and is a conservative internet video site. With the success of YouTube.com and a host of liberal video sites, Michelle thought it was time, "in part[,] to bring more balance to the videoblogging world. But also because it's the next logical step in the information revolution."

There's much more to Hot Air than the daily newscast, though. We have affiliates from Paris to Washington, D.C., to Wisconsin offering original video, photography, audio, photoshop parodies, and investigative reporting, and we're recruiting more. We are spotlighting the best content across the Internet in our "Top Picks" section. Our group blog is run 24/7/365.

The debut video of Vent with Michelle Malkin is up, and it called Kowtowing to China.

The thing is that I'm on dial-up and have an older version of Flashplayer. (The video is in Version 8 format.) For one or both of those reasons my download was very slow and choppy. I could only watch a few seconds of video before it stopped to download enough to play a few more seconds. The gaps of silence usually lasted about 20 to 90 seconds.

When the play paused, the sound would end and the video would freeze. While, when you watch the video straight through, Michelle is always her lovely self, when the video freezes it often freezes when she's seemingly making a goofy face. But that's just the fact that, out of context, a random frozen image of an active face can look almost unnatural at times and often...well...kinda creepy. "...comes with the meat..."

But, as luck would have it, at one point Michelle was completing the word "Yahoo" just as she blinked her eyes. In the streaming video (which I could watch after the initial long slow download) the blink was so short that I wouldn't have noticed it had the video not frozen at that precise millisecond. The result, though, was that I was staring, for about 30 seconds, at Michelle Malkin's kissyface. Lips puckered. Eyes closed.

I quickly checked to see if I could do a Save Image As command, but nope. Then I hurriedly made a screen shot. But, for some reason, the screen shot didn't take.

So, after I downloaded the video and could play it back at normal pace, I played it right up to that moment and pressed "Pause". Heh. I nailed it on the first try.

And, so, for all you red-blooded, freedom lovin' fellas out there: I present Michelle "Kissyface" Malkin:


We like that.

I've got way too much time on my hands.

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Hey, Is Chris Muir reading my blog?

I dunno, but take a look at today's Day By Day:


Hmmm. To my eye it's a bit reminiscent of this comic that I posted four days ago. (Don't click the link, just scroll down a few posts.) Not only is he talking about redshirts, he ends the strip with the word "duh"!

Okay, maybe it's just coinkidink. And at least his is kinda funny. I guess.

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April 23, 2006

The Comix

Oh, the Comix! Those!

Well, I think some of 'em are pretty darn lame, and some of 'em are pretty darn funny. If you agree, or disagree, then lemme know lest I keep on posting 'em...

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Be Careful What You Wish For


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On Fine Day At Oh Mercy Hospital


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April 21, 2006

Now she tells me

So I go to the bank this morning to cash an unemployment check and the teller asks me if I have an account with that bank and I say "no" and she says that she needs two forms of I.D. and I say "that's new" and she says to me she says "no, sir, it's not, it's been bank policy since July of 2005". They never asked me for two forms of I.D. before. I can't use a debit card or an expired credit card so I am now the humble possessor of 3 dollars in cash and two checks that I can't cash. Bummer.

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April 20, 2006

Suicide bombing, or just plain suicide?

Remember that old joke where a guy puts a gun to his head and shouts, "Everybody freeze or the Polock gets it!"? Well, have a gander at this from the AP.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday again raised the specter of U.S. designs to oust him and promised that his government will blow up his country's oil fields if the United States should ever attack.

U.S. officials have repeatedly denied any military plans against Chavez, but also call him a threat to stability in the region.


If the United States attacks, Chavez said, "We won't have any other alternative - blow up our own oil fields - but they aren't going to take that oil."

Now that's leadership.

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Scene on Deck 4


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April 19, 2006

One Fine Day In The Field of Philosophy


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April 18, 2006

And Now the Fake News


(Yes, I stole that joke from Norm MacDonald, what of it...)

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He Said, He Said


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Warp Speed Food


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One Fine Day In The Burbs


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New Feature......COMICS!


I would've posted this a lot sooner but I had to download a free PhotoShop-like program and then learn how to use it.

Tip o'the tam to Annika for finding this site.

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April 17, 2006


Is it just me or is it that the very idea of Geena Davis playing the President of the United States was rediculous on it's face?


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April 13, 2006

Hey, y'all

So anyway, I and about a dozen others were called in for a meeting at the unemployment office downtown on Tuesday. We were invited to take part in an "advanced job search" program. Why? Because the unemployment office took a look at our qualifications and compared them to what they knew of the current job market in the area and determined that each of us was likely to exhaust our benefits before we could find suitable employment. We have become what they call "displaced workers" Oh. Joy.

So, they are offering me up to $3,000 toward advanced training in my field, or training in another field. That's the good news. The bad news is that I've been looking through the "WIA approved courses" list and, lo and behold, most of what I was interested in possibly pursuing (such as parlegal, CAD or graphics design) take from six months to two years to complete. My benefits run out in about 20 weeks.

Some options that take about two months to complete are Dental Assistant and Web Design. Can you make any money in web design? I'll have to ask Madfish Willie.

The trick is to be sure not to get into an area that is in decline like, say, "small offset printing press operator".

In other news, here's a couple of phrases I learned at passover seder last night:

It's always darkest right before it goes pitch black.

Stressed spelled backward is desserts.

**sigh** Excelsior, peeps.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 10, 2006

"we're looking for a happy story on kids"

Crappy Anniversary, li'l Jessica.

Ten years ago, on the morning of April 11th, 1996, 7-year-old "pilot trainee" Jessica Dubroff died in a crash only moments after take-off in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Her father and her flight instructor (the actual pilot, btw) also died.

A rivetting account of the sad details can be found here. (It is a rivetting read because of -- rather than in spite of -- it's stoic presentation of the facts.)
Lots more to read here.


Jessica Dubroff was allegedly setting a non-existent record for being the youngest pilot to fly cross-country and back again. According to the pilot's wife, the actual pilot, 52-year-old Joe Reid "considered the flight a 'non-event for aviation' and simply flying cross-country with a 7-year-old sitting next to you and the parents paying for it."

But little Jessica's "flight" had attracted media attention. Her father was given a camera and several cassettes by ABC News so that he might record her "accomplishment".

The autopsy report on the trainee's father noted that his left shirt pocket contained "numerous slips of paper with appointment times and dates of TV interviews," including one scheduled for that evening in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and another for the next evening in Massachusetts. There also were numerous business cards from radio stations, TV stations and networks.

Only a short time before the flight from Half Moon Bay, California to Massachussetts to Florida and back to Half Moon Bay, the Dubroffs were squatting and penniless. Not-so-cynical analysis leads many to believe that this was a media stunt cooked up by the father in order to create a sellable story. The Guiness Book of World Records had eliminated the category of "youngest pilot to..." years earlier. Jessica was setting no official record at the time.

The plane took off from Cheyenne in a thunderstorm. In moderate rainfall and winds gusting to 15 knots, the pilot apparantly misjudged his airspeed by watching his groundspeed. With a tail-wind pushing the plane forward he apparantly failed to accelerate smartly and the engine stalled. Witnesses say the plane fell at a nearly vertical angle.

Prior to take-off, the pilot made some errors that investigators found to be "consistant with fatigue".

The errors included:
* started the engine while the nosewheel was still chocked;
* requested a taxi clearance without first obtaining the ATIS;
* read back a radio frequency incorrectly;
* accepted a radio frequency he could not dial up on his radios;
* failed to acknowledge, as requested, weather information from the controller;
* asked "are we going the right way?";
* failed to stop at the end of the runway;
* requested a "special IFR" clearance.

Congress subsequently passed laws forbidding children from flying planes for any reason other than instruction, but that doesn't address what happened in this case. The reason that Jessica, her father and her trainer are dead is because dear ol' Dad had scheduled commitments to the media that he wanted to keep. Three people died to fullfill the dreams of a bankrupt father and a ratings-driven media.

Jessica Dubroff today would be 16, going on 17. She's six months younger than my own daughter would have been. While I might see myself risking my own life to make my daughter's life infinately richer than I alone could've made it, I highly doubt that I could risk my daughter's own life in the process.

I appologize for blogging such a sad story.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2006

Point / Counterpoint


This whole kerfuffle is much ado about a hair-do. It's not about me decking a racist police officer for inappropriately grabbing my arm when I tried to rush through security on my way to an important meeting. It's not about whether or not I was wearing my indentifying lapel pin. It's about my, and any other members', faces being recognized by the security officials. Why should I have to stop and identify myself when I am one of only 535 members of Congress? No. Clearly this is a case of bold-faced harrassment of a black, female, wild-eyed, slightly overweight member of Congress.

They can say all they want about how I may have strutted arrogantly through the checkpoint. Or how I may or may not have turned, swung and clocked the police officer with my fist wrapped around my cellphone. Have you ever been distracted by someone, or something, like a mangy dog, a jack-booted cop or on-coming traffic while you were gabbing on the phone? It's scary. It takes you aback!

They can say all they want about my alledged reaction to being stopped in my single-minded, tunnel-visioned tracks. But, the fact of the matter is that there is a well-closetted Masonic-like secret cabal who single out certain members of Government for the sole purpose of causing us to be late for meetings. What other explanation is there?!

But I will not stand and be treated like a second-class Congresswoman. If the Capitol Police Department wants to file charges then I intend to storm the gate even harder next time because I need to get to my meetings so's that I can do the important work that my constituents elected me to do and they better not try and stop me.

This is all about the future, not my hair.


Allow me to take you on a trip down Memory Lane.

Once upon a time there was a man named Judge Kenneth Starr. Judge Starr got some information that I may have had some people secure a job at the United Nations for a Miss Monica Lewinsky. He learned that there was a claim, in the Paula Jones case, that Monica and I had had a sexual relationship, and that this was a "jobs for silence" episode reminiscent of the alledged Web Hubbell "jobs for silence" aspect of the Whitewater investigations.

Now, since I had made up my mind that any sexual relationship I'd had with that woman, Miss Lewinsky, would remain undisclosed, I simply denied it and had my aides deny it as well. In fact, I famously had James Carville publicly declare "war on Ken Starr".

Now, think about that for a moment. Do you honestly believe that Ken Starr was the least bit interested in whether or not I had a tryst or two with that silly portly intern? To him it was all about conspiracy, behavior, and how it related to Whitewater. But I decided to make it about sex and the politics of personal destruction. I made a mistake. All I and my vocal defenders accomplished was to unfairly, and very publicly, impuning Judge Starr's character, motivations and evidence. But he had the goods on me and he knew it, and I left him no alternative but to clear his own name and to save his reputation.

And I paid for it. Big time.

So, Ms. McKinney, before you dig yourself in any deeper, keep these things in mind: The incident is on videotape; there are many eye-witnesses to the altercation; the Capitol Police Department will defend their honor against any unfair accusations including, especially, those of racial profiling.

If you are right then fight on. But you'd better be right, or else you'll only pay more dearly in the end than you would have if you'd appologized outright and let them just let the whole matter drop.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 05, 2006

happy happy joy joy

The Random Penseur and the Viking Bride have become the proud mama and papa of their third child. And **drumroll**cymbal crash** it's a boy!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2006

McDonald's is looking for some actual customers to test-i-fy about their grub

If you've been to a McDonald's in the past two years or so you've noticed that whole "I'm lovin' it" campaign slogan thang. The paper cups and bags that they give you your food and drink in have these grainy black & white photos and some innocuous text about how they all just can't enough McFood. It started out with models posing like hip young teenagers and/or young adults saying things like "Are we going to Mickey D's?" "You have to ask?" "Oh, I'm lovin' it!". Pretty annoying and downright insulting stuff. If you're over the age of 12 and you're heading for McDonald's it's because it's fast and cheap, not because it's good.

Anywho, then they started featuring Olympic athletes and stuff. But, now they want to give regular ol' customers a chance to get their mug on a bag.

OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) - Want to get your face in front of 50 million people? Here's your big chance - have it featured on a McDonald's cup or bag.

The world's largest fast-food company announced what it called an online casting call Monday, giving customers a chance to be featured on its packaging used daily in more than 100 countries.

As many as 25 winners will be chosen from consumers' entries at , where hopefuls must submit a personal story of what they love in 100 words or less - in any of 16 languages - and a digital photo capturing the essence of their story.

It's all part of McDonald's Corp.'s latest push behind its ubiquitous "I'm lovin' it" advertising campaign.

The company said it will select its new packaging "stars" based on submissions that capture the "I'm lovin' it" spirit with themes of inspiration, passion and fun.

"Our first online global casting call uses technology in a new approach to bring the energy and spirit of 'I'm lovin' it' to life by connecting with consumers and giving them a stage on which to express themselves about the things they love," said Mary Dillon, McDonald's global chief marketing officer.

Today's featured story is from a gal named Macy from Hong Kong who just looooves karaoke. Go here before midnight and see the joyful glow with which Macy shares her love of amateur crooning and robotic cuisine. I think we have our first winner!

Maybe I oughta send in an entry. What do I love? Deliberately ingesting industry standard leftovers that've been equine-glued together in order to induce vomiting, followed by a long moonlit walk off a short pier.

Much like the Arch Deluxe, I'd be a shoe in.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 02, 2006

News of the Weird

If you're gonna run from the cops, don't stop for a Whopper Jr and fries.

ABILENE, Texas (AP) - A police chase of a suspected carjacker ended abruptly when the suspect took a wrong turn: into a Burger King drive-thru.

Abilene Officer Ralph Garcia said he spotted a vehicle that was reported carjacked in Dallas on Wednesday and started following it. The car sped away, fleeing from Garcia and other authorities onto Interstate 10 before exiting and getting stuck in the drive-thru.

If you're gonna open up a child's skull to remove a brain tumor, make sure you know which side it's on.

A report by the state Department of Health Services found that the surgical team did not mark the child's skull as required. The team also failed to complete a required "time-out" to verify they were cutting in the right place.

Doctors reportedly became aware of the mistake when they opened up the left side of the child's skull and could not find the tumor.

After checking the patient's charts and X-rays, surgeons repeated the procedure on the right side of the child's head and successfully removed the tumor.

The report says the doctors also failed to document the wrong-site surgery in the child's medical records.

If you're gonna drive you pet snake home, don't wrap it around your neck.

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) - A man crashed his car after a pet snake he had wrapped around his neck began attacking him, authorities said.

Witnesses reported that Courtland Page Johnson, 30, of East Naples, was driving erratically and crashed his PT Cruiser into several barricades about 9 p.m. Tuesday. He got out of his car, wrestled with the snake and then drove off, reports said.

If you're rob a bank, don't go dropping wads of cash on the ground.

BELLEVUE, Ky. (AP) - A Detroit man is in custody after a witness saw him drop a large wad of cash in the street and called police.
As police hurried to the bank, delivery man Kevin NiBlack watched a jaywalker cross the street in front of the bank.
So NiBlack flagged down the next police officer he saw and pointed to where he saw the man run. Police officers chased the suspect and eventually forced him to surrender.

NiBlack's inspiration?
"I work - sometimes seven days a week - trying to make an honest living like every man pursuing the American dream, and someone had the audacity to rob a bank in front of me," he said.

These stories and more at The Daily Snopes.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 01, 2006


I went bird hunting up in Easton this morning. There aren't too many game birds around here, but if you're lucky you can spot a wild turkey now and then. I had plenty of chances to bag a deer, but a) I don't really care for venison, b) I was alone and getting the thing into my hatchback would be difficult and c) I only had birdshot, not buckshot.

So, after about an hour and a half of moving stealthyly through the woods I looked up saw it. A spotted owl. It was perched and sleeping about 50 feet above the ground. One shot and it came falling straight down.

I got home around noon, fired up the grill and began to clean the bird. My housemate, Chris, asked me what the hell I was cooking and I told him.

"Dude, killing a spotted owl is illegal," he said. "It's an endangered bird!"

"I know," I shrugged. "But, I'm hungry and this was all I could find this morning."

Well, Chris is one of these animal rights wackos and he called the cops. The officer came into the backyard just as I was finishing the grilled owl -- which I flavored up with with a nice herb rub. After a few minutes of checking the police records via radio, and then giving me what for about shooting endangered species, the officer said "Well, since you've had no past run-in with the law, I'm gonna let you off with a warning...this time."

I thanked him and, just as he was leaving, he turned back to me and said "Oh, sir. Just out of curiosity, what does spotted owl taste like?"

I thought for a moment and said "Well, it tastes a lot like bald eagle."

My arraignment is set for 9 am Tuesday.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:46 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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