Saturday, June 24, 2006

Monkey Gangs Grab Own Flags


Who knew a monkey could contract patriotic fever? Well, it's really World Soccer Cup fever.

The report also mentions that the Monkey Gangs number 120. And whenever I have the chance to use words like Monkey Gangs, I will.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Camera Obscura - New Star Trek, Petulia, and The Best Movie Posters Ever


It isn't often a TV series gets so big it outlives its maker, takes on the movies, gets remade again and again, has its own postage stamp, line of books and collectibles, and becomes almost a modern myth, but Gene Roddenberry's "Star Trek" does all that and more.

I'll give you some insight into what's new in the Trek world, point to some classic movies now on DVD,provide a sneak peek at a Superman-ish hero poised to land in the U.S., and give you a chance to select the best movie poster ever - all in today's humble offering.

My sister was the first Trekkie I knew - and she was there at the beginning. She had 8 by 10 glossy black and white photos on her wall from NBC of Kirk and Spock and Chekov, copies of scripts from the show and more, all while the show was still in its first run in the 1960s. Someone gave her (or me, I cannot recall exactly) a model of the Enterprise spaceship, which somehow got lost or tossed over the years. That really makes me angry when I think of that - it would be a rare prize these days. And thanks to the vast resource of the internets, I located a site that has many details on all the history behind the props used as the spaceship - and a major attraction on the page - a way for you to order your own Enterprise model. Just go here. And you're welcome.

Over the years I made friends with deeply loyal and committed fans - one of them provided me a link to this page, where you can read about J. Michael Straczynski's ("Babylon 5" creator) pitch to studios on a re-invention of classic Trek which has the fans worked up. It is a must-read for fans or the curious. The internets is humming away too talking about the possibility that Matt Damon may play a young Kirk in a movie from J.J. Abrams ("Lost", "Alias").

A very interesting, well-made and continuing Trek series following the adventures of the Starship Exeter, all made by fans which took years to complete and is continuing to provide "new" episodes, can be found here. That's bona fide devotion, people.

I think I hit my tipping point about Trek one Christmas, circa 1993, when I saw a Christmas tree decorated with Trek ornaments. I knew then the fans had become much, much more than fans - they were an economic and religious force to be reckoned with and they continue to expand faster than Wal-Mart.

William Shatner is not just an actor, he is an Icon of America, all thanks to the repeated broadcasts and the simple but powerful writing of Roddenberry and many other fine science fiction writers. Forget John Ford/John Wayne - no fans or groups ever did so much to keep and uplift an actor.

Since we're on the 1960s, two of my favorite movies from that decade got new DVD treatments this week - a tragic romance and a satire beyond compare.

Tragedy and love set in San Francisco starring the beautiful Julie Christie can be found in "Petulia." The movie blends in the madness of the late 1960s and the madness of love as Petulia gets involved with a doctor named Archie, expertly played by George C. Scott - the pair go to the Fillmore and dance to the Grateful Dead - as they sort through their troubled lives and attempt to comfort each other. Director Richard Lester and cinematographer Nicholas Roeg made a masterpiece, in this terrific snapshot of the 1960s. The DVD is long overdue and if you haven't seen it, you are in for a real tearjerker and a brilliant movie.

I love the poster for this movie (this is one of several made for the movie), which I mention since, at the end of this post, you'll find a link to a great collection of movie posters and your input can round out the top 100.

The other movie that landed on DVD is the hilarious creation of writers Evelyn Waugh and Terry Southern called "The Loved One". The movie starts as a satire of business and funerals and becomes a shotgun blast of offbeat humor with a cast of Hollywood's most famous names. Man, were the 1960s surreal and strange. When else would you find a poet in a Hollywood cemetery and Liberace and Rod Steiger filling out the background?

Newscoma has a fine post about the top 100 movie posters of all time.

I think too many of the posters in the listing are new, and given the hundreds of thousands of movies made, they could have done better. I was glad to see mention made of Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" poster and of course "Jaws" and "Alien" are on the list.

I have just two of many suggestions I could make to the list, starting with:

And another fine one:

Go and add your faves to the list.

Finally - as Superman is about to return to theatres, moviegoers in India and beyond have Krrish. Somehow, I don't see that name catching on quiet as well.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Return of The Cats That Look Like Hitler

Pointing out places with the goofiest crap on the internets has its rewards, judging by the hundreds (if not thousands) of people who've visited this humble but lovable blog in the last week in search of Cats That Look Like Hitler.

I doubt the searchers have spent much more time actually reading what has been written here on all kinds of topics, despite any attempts to offer news or analysis of modern America. Well, the times are worse than tough so why not have some mindless fun - just chalk all this down to my amazement at the world I inhabit.

Yes, I've ranted plenty over the cons of neo-cons, but did that bring me mention on the Air America blog? Nope. Cats That Look Like Hitler did.

Viral ads, illegal immigration, corruption, bribes, waste, war - does that bring attention? Nope. Cats That Look Like Hitler does.

Do posts about loopy and meaningless Senate votes bring attention from Senate offices? Nope. Cats That Look Like Hitler does.

I confess to an attraction to writing about the odd and the weird along with any thoughts about how strangled the Constitution and Civil Rights have become, how deeply misguided Americans are wallowing in revenge and hate and loooooooove of money. But weird wins the contest by a huge margin. I've even become acquainted with the miniature universe of Catbloggers, and two weeks ago I'd never heard of it.

As any writer does, I hunger for readers and spotlights and links to this page. Like Faulkner or Chandler, millions more people will see the movie The Big Sleep than bother to read the books either man sacrificed and slaved to create.

But, dang - is a search for funny kitty pics outweigh most any use the internets has??

Survey says - YES!!

If I had known, I'd have written about and posted pics of Illegal Immigrant Cats Who Might Be Gay Nazis a long time ago.

Oh - and just in case - more Cats That Look Like Hitler:

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Happy Summer

There is a way to stay current on the all the astronomical adjustments needed to appreciate summertime fun at the Summer Solstice News page.

I know it's summer because it's hot and humid and the NBA finals just ended.

Before there were NBA finals in June (which began in June 1976 - yay Celtics), humans huddled around the giant rocks at Stonehenge (when Celtics meant something rather different).

Many humans still gather on the spot today (see image below from the BBC). Yay humans.

Yay astronomy and yay daylight for a long long time today. Yay.


Oil Addiction, No - Style Addiction, Maybe

Despite a national plea from the President to end the "oil addiction" in America, county government (and I'm willing to speculate the same is true for city and state) seems to be addicted to big gas guzzling vehicles.

I love Mayor Ragsdale's responses to questions about the purchases of big expensive SUVs (via WATE-TV reports):

"
County Mayor Mike Ragsdale first said, "I don't want to stand here and discuss cars."

And

"
This vehicle is appropriate for the mayor of a major metropolitan county like Knox County and we consider it an entirely appropriate expenditure of public funds.

I suppose Knox residents should be grateful, since in Hamblen County, officials refuse to even release public records regarding mileage on vehicles paid for with tax dollars.

What type of vehicle is "entirely appropriate" for you? Me, I wanna new 2006 Mustang Convertible. Budget realities say my 1996 pickup at 26 mpg is best for me right now.

The Terrorism Index

Gathering the views of former government officials and other experts, both Democrat and Republican, some facinating information in the War on Terror emerges at Foreign Policy.com.

Some snippets from the article:

"These pessimistic public perceptions could easily be attributed to the high cost, in both treasure and lives, of counterterrorism efforts. After all, Americans are constantly being told by their elected leaders that their pessimism is wrong, that the war is being won. But they’re also told that another attack is inevitable. Which is it?
"
-----
"Despite today’s highly politicized national security environment, the index results show striking consensus across political party lines. A bipartisan majority (84 percent) of the index’s experts say the United States is not winning the war on terror. Eighty-six percent of the index’s experts see a world today that is growing more dangerous for Americans. Overall, they agree that the U.S. government is falling short in its homeland security efforts. More than 8 in 10 expect an attack on the scale of 9/11 within a decade. These dark conclusions appear to stem from the experts’ belief that the U.S. national security apparatus is in serious disrepair. “Foreign-policy experts have never been in so much agreement about an administration’s performance abroad,” says Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and an index participant. “The reason is that it’s clear to nearly all that Bush and his team have had a totally unrealistic view of what they can accomplish with military force and threats of force."

Is the Military response the only plan we are constantly reinforcing?

How is the U.S. doing a rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq? Given the promises of funding reconstruction via a renewed oil economy in Iraq, information shows little has been accomplished.

"
We installed a third of a billion dollars' worth of combustion turbines that can't be fueled."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

No Warrants Needed, Just Buy Phone Records

Serious head scratching followed the story today that law enforcement at every level - local, state and federal - have been buying up phone records via numerous private companies, with a $30 million dollar pricetag, though the AP story reports these companies don't charge law enforcement.

I mentioned this in January of this year.

And then the House approved legislation to make it a crime to sell such records without notifying the customer. That legislation disappeared. Poof! Gone.

Now law enforcement says they are simply making use of a legal business - of course it's legal because the legislation meant to outlaw it ... missing in action.

As Alice said in Wonderland, "Curiouser and curiouser!"

Senate Says No To Punishing Waste, Fraud

Billions of dollars lost in outright fraud or waste - and zero attempts to correct it or prevent it thanks to Senate Republicans.

The brain goes numb attempting to conceptualized how much waste and/or fraud can occur when the budgets are topping $400 billion. In a subcommittee hearing on June 13th, officials with the Dept. of Defense and State Dept. admitted they really could not say exactly how much money has been provided contractors and sub-contractors and sub-sub-contractors for private security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor how many companies had contracts, nor how many of those private forces had been wounded or killed, or if any had faced disciplinary problems. The hearings I watched on C-SPAN 2 were most informative - if only for the lack of information available.

TN Congressman John Duncan, member of the committee, said his constituents would be horrified to learn of the high levels of waste occuring as corporate giants like Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater, KBR, etc etc were simply supplying invoices for costs with little description.

Congressman Henry Waxman is prepping info about the vast sums of tax dollars getting Hoovered-up by private contractors, which you can access here.

I know - just because Halliburton's contracts with the Fed are up 600% doesn't mean anything is wrong. Except that Rep. Waxman's report identifies 118 Fed contracts worth $745 billion as qualified members of the fake it/waste it/overcharge it club. Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, Rita - all devour contracts worth billions.

Senator Byron Dorgan of N.D. attempted to add an ammendment to the current spending bill to require specifics on keeping contractors honest. Every Republican Senator voted against the bill which would halt any firm which:

"
- Executes or attempts to execute a scheme or artifice to defraud the United States or the entity having jurisdiction over the area in which such activities occur.

- Falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact.


- Makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations, or makes or uses any materially false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry.

- Materially overvalues any good or service with the specific intent to excessively profit from the war or military action."

Sen. Dorgan offered many examples, including:

"
Brand new $85,000 trucks that were left on the side of the road because of a flat tire and then subsequently burned. 25 tons, 50,000 pounds, of nails ordered by Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), the wrong size, that are laying in the sands of Iraq. 42,000 meals a day charged to the taxpayers by Halliburton and only 14,000 are actually served."

After telling the amazing tale of the KBR Halliburton subsidiary ordering hand towels for soldiers embroidered with the "KBR" logo, to allow them to double the price of the towels, Dorgan told one Halliburton whistleblower's story of his company serving food date-stamped "expired" to American troops rather than throwing it away.

"[Halliburton was] serving food at a cafeteria in Iraq for the soldiers, and a man named Roy who was the supervisor in the food service kitchen said that the food was date-stamped 'expired,''' said Dorgan. "In other words, it had a date stamp, which meant the food wasn't good anymore, and he was told by superiors that it doesn't matter. Feed it to the troops. It doesn't matter that they had an expired date stamped -- feed it to the troops."

Sadly, the mass consumption of tax dollars battling a "last-throes" insurgency continues at astonishing rates, and oversight by Congress evaporates faster than a drop of water in a 5th-grade instructional movie about the cycle of condensation.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Monday Afternoon Web Walk

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly are a few of the category names I could use but I'm not.

So as Mr. Serling used to say: "Submitted for your consideration:"

Funniest thing I've seen in a long time (many bloggers have been posting this like mad, so count me among them.) Here's a clue for those idjits in elected/appointed offices - if Steve Colbert wants to interview you, you're probably an idiot.

Well deserved kudos to Congressman Duncan for his vote against the meaningless non-binding resolution praising all efforts in Iraq. Go right to Congressman's web page and read some of his thoughts on the non-conservative wasteful and dubious achievements of the GOP-led administration. (BTW, Congressman Ford voted the same way.) A taste of what you'll find on Duncan's mind:

"There has been fighting going on in the Middle East for several thousand years. If we say we have to stay until there is perfect peace, that time will never come."

And

"It is sad that some conservatives, who have always been the main opponents of big government, have gone along with this huge expansion of government power just because the word terrorism is used by every government agency now to get more money and power."

How about hiding spending tax dollars from a local perspective. Hamblen County Commissioner Linda Noe rips away the curtain behind the sheriff's office (or tries too). I wonder if this is just one reason the current sheriff was not re-elected??

Speaking of being cancelled - the Chung-Povich show reveals yes, they have no idea what to do with a TV show. I've seen better things on public access. (via NiT)

Does it matter what Bob Corker's daughter does?

Lessons in getting attention for Immigration Reform - the press may find out you only prosecuted 4 employers in 2003, down from 182 in 1998.

"
Between 1999 and 2003, work-site enforcement operations were scaled back 95 percent by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which subsequently was merged into the Homeland Security Department. The number of employers prosecuted for unlawfully employing immigrants dropped from 182 in 1999 to four in 2003, and fines collected declined from $3.6 million to $212,000, according to federal statistics."

More later!

Sunday, June 18, 2006