December 31, 2005


...the call of the linking sheep. I join the herd. But you should watch this. It's brilliant. (Shockwave Flash required, no video). o/~...this is the Ultimate Showdown...of Ultimate Destiny...good guys bad guys and far as the eye can see...o/~

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Car Dancing Par Excellence

Via MeFi, an awesome sequence of autodancing from carmaker Isuzu's ad campaign in the mid-1980s. Pity about the model of car chosen to receive this treatment, but ah well. Bear in mind, this was shot without special effects (according to the link, AFAICT) other than props such as ramps and the like.

Seriously, da-a-a-mn.

I recall, during the same period, there was an ad shot for a Renault (the Fuego?) on upper Park Avenue, Manhattan. I remember arriving in that area to visit a friend, and realizing that every car in every parking place for as far as I could see was a red Renault Fuego. There were security guards on each corner with radios, and the cars were all under plastic covers, but that didn't really detract from the sheer oddity of the view. The ad, IIRC, was essentially a crossfade shot where the 'normal' Park Avenue traffic faded into a stream of identical red Fuegos.

But they were just driving along sedately.

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December 30, 2005


I had waaay too much fun reading the ginormous list of myths suggested to Mythbusters.

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December 27, 2005


This is a review of the 2003 film Kontroll that I wrote for a website on which I spend too much time.

Kontroll was made in 2003, in Hungary, by Nimród Antal. It is his first film. It was re-released in the United States in April, 2005. An American ( Zone 1) DVD is now available.

Everybody hates us. That's just the way it is. - Bulcsú

Tell me a story about trains.

Underneath the City, there is another world. One which winds between the roots and sinews of the world we build; one where the human obsession with authority over people, place and time is played out to the fullest. In the Underground, it all dances to the System's tune: people, trains, escalators, gates, lights, day, night, go, stop - all of it.

The Budapest Metro is the oldest in the world. It is a zoned system; for those of you who have never taken a zoned European-style subway, you purchase a ticket at entry, and (in some) pay a fare based on your trip when you exit. One thing is constant, however - you must retain your ticket or pass, or else you are subject to Kontroll.

There are inspectors in the subways, who rove the system and require passengers to present their tickets or passes in order to prevent what New Yorkers call 'turnstile hopping.' In the Budapest Metro, they are called Kontroll. Being stopped is being 'Kontrolled'.

In this world, they move in 'crews' - groups of five. We follow one in particular - a young man named Bulcsú. He isn't like the others - in the opening scene, we see him waking up to the flicker of massed flourescent lights as they ting on, his arms crossed in his leather jacket, his head against a pillar. He is sleeping on a Metro platform. As the first train of the day thunders into the station, he rises slowly and wearily, not noticing his slow nosebleed.

Thus begins Kontroll.

It's not a comedy, though it has hilarious moments. It's not a thriller, though there are chases, escapes, and confrontations. It's not a romance, despite a man and a woman finding each other in the System. It's not a mystery, despite deaths and killers.

It just is.

We watch Bulcsú and his crew - the Professor, Muki the narcoleptic, Tibi the new guy, and Lecsó - work the System. Rivalry with another crew takes its toll. The sudden rash of 'jumpers' in the system takes its toll. The passengers - the job itself - take a toll; we watch as the crew becomes more and more battered as the film goes on, legacy of scrapes, accidents, or too often assault. There is a tormentor in the system, who ambushes Kontroll with spray cans of shaving cream before running; he is their Unicorn, named Bootsie - none of them have ever caught him.

Bulcsú finds a young lady in the System - one dressed in a bear costume, unexplainedly. She dances in and out of his flourescent-flickered existence with a smile and a flick of a dirty, ragged stuffed ear. Although the primary rivalry is between Bulcsú's crew and that of another Kontroller, really, the tension is between the people and the System. We watch it work on each of them, through the film. Some are hiding in it. Some are fighting it. Some just exist in it, caught in its strands. In one excellent montage, we watch the various denizens of Kontroll talking to a company psychiatrist, therapy for witnessing a particularly nasty incident involving one of their own.

Bulcsú keeps seeing an owl in the System, unsure if he's hallucinating.

We watch him wander the system at night, sometimes alone, sometimes not. The dirty steel majesty of silent trains is juxtaposed with the imperfection and mystery of ventilation fans at the end of a tunnel. At one point, he walks slowly until he reaches the literal end of the line, before turning, moving steadily back into his maze world.

The System runs, and endures. The people inside it fight, move, hide, play, wander, live, and die. The continual low-level violence, even if it is manifested between people, is really the friction between the soft flesh of the human and the hard ceramic and metal of the System they move through - pachinko with blood.

Whether the Kontroll crews are part of the system or simply inhabit it is one of the questions you may find yourself asking. They live between the people and the System, it sometimes seems - subject to pressure from both sides. But do they mitigate the sharp edges for the people moving through, or do they amplify them? Are they paying a price in blood for what they do, or for where they are?

The soundtrack of the film is perfect. It's by the (now-defunct, apparently) Hungarian techno band Neo, and is both atmospheric and relevant. It fades in and out, intermingled with the screeches, moans and wails of steel, unidentified hums and clicks, sudden flickers of light and general inchoate roar of technological purgatory that is the soundscape of the modern subway system. If you do go hunting for it, you may be able to order the CD from Hungary ( may have it).1

The story, if there is one, progresses as we would imagine the status board of the subway system does, throughout the day. People move around the System, running towards and away from each other. Sometimes they meet at intersections. There are two plot threads that move, however haphazardly and with however many detours, towards resolution. We never leave the subway system.

The movie ends when it should, how it should.

I recommend it.

Kontroll (2003)

(International title: Control U.S. Release, 2005)

Director: Nimród Antal
Country: Hungary
Run time: 1:46 (on the Hungarian DVD)
Language: Hungarian (with English subtitles)

Note: if you like this film, you might wish to check out the movie Metro (Subway) by Luc Besson.

1 Warning: the "really kick-ass track" that can be heard during the crew's platform amble and Muki's Bruce Lee imitation (also in the preview trailer during the same scenes) is not on the soundtrack CD (filmzene)! It is the track "Everybody Come On" and is to be found only on Neo's previous album Lo-Tech Man, Hi-Tech World. The soundtrack CD is from Warner-Magneoton Hungary.

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December 24, 2005

Pay No Attention To That Consolation Prize

So Senator Ted Stevens (AK) may have in fact (for now) lost out in his quest to sell off the oil underneath the ANWR. He may have also lost on his $450 million bridge boondoggle - oh, wait, what? Balloon Juice says nope, he didn't.

Pay careful attention to that $450 million of 'your' money.

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December 22, 2005


I can't stand it. I have to link it again. Everyone go read this now. I'll wait.

Now tell me that isn't a truly fucking worthy rant. My hat is off.

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Where's Q when he's needed?

Oh, dear, that's right. Desmond Llewelyn is dead, God Rest His Gadgetized Soul. Still, there's a biz opportunity for an aspiring Q...given that the recent announcement that Britain will be tracking all cars everywhere indicates that they will rely on automatic license-plate reading cameras, the good ol' spinning plate would seen to be poised for a comeback. But JBZ007 is taken, boys.

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December 21, 2005

Returning to Normality?

David Ignatius, in the Washington Post, claims that the recent pushback against the Bush Administration's post-9/11 national security structure is a sign that the U.S. is returning to normal. As the sense of immediate crisis passes, and airplanes stop flying into skyscrapers, the nation looks to the rule of law, and tries to regain the 'center line' promulgated by the Founders (my paraphrasing of him).

My problem with this is that it seems to glance approvingly on this process. It tells us that this push back towards the center is adequate compensation for the wild and dizzy swing to the right after 9/11. I disagree vehemently. To take that position is to simply accept that the rule of law will drop into abeyance when drastic events occur - and I believe strongly that that is an improper position.

We should strive to ensure that the system does not swing out of line in response to catastrophic events. Allowing it to do so simply does, in fact, offer 'encouragement to our enemies,' Mr. President. All it takes is for one of them to decide that this constriction of our liberties, and hence damage to our way of life, is their objective, and you have created the ideal conditions for them.

I fail to understand how the Executive branch can think that this form of unilateral invasion of American citizens' privacy, arguably a flat violation of the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution, 'improves' our situation. I would argue that the damage done to our political system by that swing far outweighs the damage done in New York City - and I am a New Yorker.

Why? Think of the many times we have willingly spent lives and treasure to preserve our way of life - specifically, our political and civil philosophical ideals. Think of the resources marshalled to fight the threat du jour to those ideals (as well as, yes, to our prosperity - which may be linked). We seem to have decided, in each of those cases, that we were willing to risk, hazard, and ultimately spend the lives of Americans to preserve them.

Yet President Bush and his advisors decided, without consulting us, that even though we'd already paid the price to preserve those liberties and that Constitution, we wouldn't mind if they trampled them a bit for us.

Impeach them now.

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It continues to get interesting.

In a bipartisan way, no less.

Despite the fact that Google News, when you select the "U.S." header, current displays no sign of this story anywhere, despite having multiple-story categories for:

  • Puppy Smuggling (not kidding)
  • Explosives missing in Albuquerque
  • Polling data showing that more Americans prefer 'Merry Christmas' (I swear I'm not making this up)
  • A 'Star Studded' memorial for Tookie Williams
  • An emergency landing at Boston's Logan Airport
  • Schwarzenegger asks that his name be removed from a stadium in his hometown
  • ...and on, and on.

December 20, 2005

Discussion over the wiretap issue going on over at Intel Dump. It has a remarkably high signal:noise ratio for an internet 'Comments' discussion. I recommend it highly. One poster has a summation of his own position I strongly agree with:
But of course whether the president thinks that is irrelevant, just as the discussion on how important this program is to the GWOT is irrelevant. The bottom line is that it was not the president's call, it was Congress's call, and this president decided to ignore the law and his duties under the Constitution because he was more afraid of Osama than he was of remaining loyal to the Constitution. And that is being generous.
I would be less generous, and mutter darkly about ulterior motives involving the power of the Executive and the President's inability to admit mistakes, but that's me. Don't read me, go read the discussion.

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Hello? Press? Hello?

You've just been presented with a blatant and barefaced lie by the President of the United States in a public speech - going on the record in 2004 stating that
"...a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
This would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to square with recent revelations about the Administration approving warrantless wiretaps- unless the targets weren't terrorists and the Administration knew that when writing the speech.

Now, personally, I favor an explanation of sheer bald-faced lying or complete stupidity in letting this quote pass over actual conspiracy. But I can't come up with any way that this can be spun to let them slide, and if the press doesn't at least force them to try, I will be...well, even more disappointed in it than I have been.

Note: the original of the speech, before I am accused of presenting a liberal link with an axe to grind, can be found here. This is the paragraph in question (paragraph 29) in its entirety:

Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
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There's hope.

I keep waiting for a backlash. In the meantime, cheer what we can get and hope sanity continues to prevail.

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December 18, 2005

Bush, Wiretaps, and FISA

A bit of legal analysis (from an actual lawyer) about the Bush administration wiretaps and FISA, in relation to recent conservative blogposts opining that "FISA allowed it." To give away the ending: Nope. The posts in question specifically omitted text from the FISA which limited its applicability to a specific set of targets. Surpise, surprise...when the actual text is quoted in full, it really doesn't look good at all for the Bush crew.

What a shock.

Think about it carefully: if it was legal under existing statute, why would those carrying it out need to be 'covered' by a (constantly revisited) Executive Order?

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December 16, 2005

The Same, Except When It's Not

President Bush seems angered by the assertion that his administration misused intelligence to make the case for war in Iraq, various mouthpieces for the man telling us that "Congress saw the same intelligence."

Er, except the Congressional Research Service doesn't think so.

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December 15, 2005



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Nose brown? Check.

This is the sound of a Bush Administration 'talking points' disseminator being interviewed. This one, however, has cleverly managed to retain a job as the Political Editor at the Washington Post while simultaneously describing a paid GOP staffer as a 'grassroots conservative blogger' when citing him in order to support an attack on one of his own employee's columns (somewhat misleadingly confused with a 'blog') - because that column happens to come across critical of the White House.


Well, if they're willing to spend all that money buying press over there, and spend dollars buying stories on stuff like No Child Left Behind, why shouldn't they have the WP political editor bent over a table prison-style?

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December 13, 2005

Always Knew Robert Bork Was Odd.

I mean, come on. Lemon in a martini??


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December 12, 2005

So according to this demographic...

Followed a link from the incomparable Wonkette to a story about how 'really, nobody likes Hilary's flag-burning statute.' Ended up at, which I won't dignify with a link. While reading the story, which appears to be a condemnation of HC for trying to have her cake (look strong on flag defense) and eat it too (pander to the flag-burners by doing a 'statute' instead of a constitutional amendment) I found two things amusing. One, I wasn't that far from their point of view, although I myself fall into the flag-burning-is-protected-expression category. The second, though, was the line of ads that blogads (or whoever) had placed to run down the left side of this right-leaning, Republican-toned news site. From top to bottom, we have (animegifs all):

  • Defend Delay! ("No Laws Broken. Flawed, Contrived Indictments. Prosecutorial Misconduct. Stop the Travesty in Travis Co. Click here to help!")
  • New "Ghetto Blocks"! ("Wicked Prison fight system!" (picture of sullen black guy, fists raised) "Brutal Secrets OVERNIGHT!")
  • Irish Bare Knuckle Boxing! ("Take His Head Right Off!" (pic of Irish slugger wearing Nike swoosh, fists up to defend against YOU THE INTIMIDATING VIEWER!)
  • Men: Don't Chase Women, Attract Them! CLICK HERE NOW! (pic of Blonde with come-hither look)
  • Beware of the Dangers of Weight Training! The Ultimate Fitness Program! (pics of buffed out white guy with no shirt, posing and humping floor) No Equipment Required! Get Fit Fast! Master Your Own Bodyweight!
  • Own Gold Within Minutes! Buying gold online: "That was Easy" GoldMoney!
  • (pictures of large bills of various currencies flickering behind this URL, which I'm afraid to visit.)
  • U.S. Gold Eagles! American Eagle Gold Coins Only $18.95 (*over spot price) lessee. If I read, I'm a DeLay defending (okay), can't-fight, afraid-of-black-guys-cuz-they've-been-in-prison, likes-to-beat-up-irish-guys-for-sport, out-of-shape gambler in other country's miseries who can't get his own women and thinks having my money in GOLD is a good thing, especially if done through a website that uses animated gifs as its primary attractor.

And that's just the ads in the left-hand ad bar.

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Man...I can see it now..."Car, forward, overdrive, engage. Tea, Earl Grey, Hot."

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Do not go gently

Big ups to the Massachusetts Information Technology Division and its legal counsel, one Linda Hamel. They refuse to go gently into that good night, and rage - rage! against the dying of the light.

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December 7, 2005


I know I sound like a shill. But if you use OS X and are a lazy sot about backups (like me) then get this. NOW. It rules. I have two physical drives in my Mac, set to mirror nightly, so that if one of them dies I don't even have to 'recover the array' or anything, I just remove the bad one and boot off the other. I have used it around ten times to restore my system from the 'backup' drive to a preinstall state after removing iffy software I was testing. All for $28. If you don't have multiple drives, it's marginally less safe but easier to just use multiple partitions on a drive - doesn't protect you against physical failure of the drive itself, but does protect you against corruption of the drive partition. Combine with cron for nightly happy. (Update: the newest version has prefs for automatic runs, and will insert itself into crontab without the need to resort to add'l software or editors. W00t.) Simple software ftw.

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New Orleans, Mr. President.

Every day you get up, Mr. President, I want you to look at this. Especially the part about schools. Then I want you to ask yourself what you're going to do that day.

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December 6, 2005

Two signs of t3h apocalypso.


Now breathe.


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December 2, 2005

In a biting bit of irony...

...a spokescreature for Tom Delay rejects assertions that the Texas redistricting plan of 2003, which cemented GOP control of Congress, was driven by partisan goals as 'political babble.'

This is in response to queries about a memo which has recently come to light which shows that the staff lawyers and analysts at the Justice Department who reviewed the proposed redistricting map unanimously rejected it as illegal or harmful to the voting rights of minorities in Texas. Politically appointed officials at the Justice department overruled this report and approved the plan.

What sickens me is how un-shocked I am.

Convict Tom Delay. Impeach Bush and Cheney. Indict Ashcroft.

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December 1, 2005

Ms. Parks, Your Bus Is Safe

Bejamin Greenberg posts an article that everyone should read about what happened to The Bus after Rosa Parks caused such a furor on it. I'll spoil the story: It was carefully hidden and saved for us, despite being shot at and vandalized by those who would rather Jim Crow had never fallen. It's in the Henry Ford Museum, and it's been restored. The article was written by the grocery store owner who persevered in holding the bus in trust for America, and who felt the time was finally right - so that fifty years after Rosa kept her seat, The Bus is Back.

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