Saturday, November 28, 2009

the only constant in their universe

mark levin: there is a road to tyranny, and i believe we're headed on that road ...
glenn beck: fascism is coming!
unidentified: intimidation is yet another part of the slow erosion of our liberties.
mark levin: they want the population to surrender their liberties to the government ...
yaron brook: you're in very dangerous water to the freedoms that exist in this country.
glenn beck: and controlling your life ... !
michelle bachman: i believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service ... and the real concern is that there are provisions for what i would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward ...
sean hannity: keep it up, congresswoman, you're doing a great job, and, uh, i have no doubt that they will keep attacking you 'cause you're so effective. thank you for being with us. we appreciate it.
michelle bachman: thank you, we're gonna fight for our freedom!
sean hannity: absolutely — against tyranny!

since the great summer of our malcontents a great many pixels have been spent on the unimpeded descent of the republican party into self-perpetuated paranoia and terror.

most of us readily recognize their screeching obstructionism as a coldly calculated form of aversion therapy designed to induce a reflexive nausea in the voting public at the very mention of each and every word and deed of their new liberal overlords. but that's just their election strategy for 2010. as i pointed out in "not just obama", republican hostility can be traced to their long-standing and wholehearted denial of legitimacy and fitness to any leaders not proudly swearing fealty to so-called "conservative principles" even patron saint ronaldus magnus could not uphold.

upon further reflection, i think the paranoia in particular erupts from a place fundamentally ingrained within the conservative psyche. an all-encompassing paranoia is the inevitable response to the acceptance of conservatism as an outlook on life or philosophy.

what is the essence of conservatism at its core, when stripped of the emperor's clothes? it is a dedication to the preservation of the status quo against the forces of change. and what is the only constant in the universe, as the saying goes? that's right, it's change, which i guess makes paranoia the only constant in the republican universe. who wouldn't be crippled by dread with the very laws of the universe arrayed against them?

thus conservatives struggle, in a futile battle they can never ever win. on their side, a homogeneous, aging, shrinking, increasingly unpleasant and disconnected and ultimately dying base that is less interested in recruiting fresh troops than in purging its few remaining heretics. across the battlefield, a younger, diverse, tolerant and growing army untainted by bitter memories of the cold war of the 50's or the culture wars of the 60's, 70's and 80's, for whom the terms liberal, far left, socialist, marxist and communist don't trigger a pavlovian release of the contents of their bladders. for conservatives, time will never be on their side.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

bon appétit!

for thanksgiving, a comics blast from the past from 1983's "mutant world", by richard corben, underground master of form, shadow, light, color, direction, sheer fantasy and, especially here, existential horror:

(art by richard corben, story by jan strnad)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

bigger than god

it's official: irs + secret service + homeland security > god:

wiley drake lifts call for 'imprecatory prayer' against president obama

a former southern baptist convention officer who made headlines in june when he said on national radio that he was praying for barack obama to die now says he wants to see the president live long enough to stand trial for treason.

... wiley drake, pastor of first southern baptist church in buena park, calif., issued a press release nov. 19 calling for an end to "imprecatory prayer" — words of judgment from the book of psalms prayed back to god, directed toward obama.

drake said he is now "calling for all of god's people and prayer warriors to cease the imprecatory prayer, and pray for mr. obama's protection until he can be properly tried for treason."

drake attributed his change of heart to "spiritual counsel" of james david manning, pastor at atlah world missionary church in new york, contained in a 16 1/2-minute video recorded nov. 18.

"i have asked men everywhere please do you no harm," manning said in remarks he addressed to "barack hussein the long-legged mack daddy obama." according to the merriam-webster online dictionary, "mack daddy" is slang for a slick womanizer or conspicuously successful pimp.

"i do not want to see anyone attempt, dream about, think about or ever discuss assassinating you," manning continued. "it is most important to you and to my savior jesus that you live, and that you live a long life, but that you live that we might be able to bring you to trial. you see if someone does you harm, and you are not able to be brought to trial, then we lose the opportunity of proving our statements that you are not the president of the united states of america. you are not. you are an illegal alien, a usurper."

manning preached a series of harsh sermons last year against then-candidate obama that prompted americans united for the separation of church and state to ask the irs to investigate him for violating rules governing tax-exempt charities against electioneering. he says he was visited by officials from the department of homeland security after a recent video message in which he advised people who strongly oppose obama to "be ready to die."

drake, who was second vice president of the southern baptist convention in 2006-2007, said he was also questioned in his home by the secret service after he said in a fox news radio interview june 2 with alan colmes that he was praying for obama to die.

... drake, a third-party candidate for vice president from the american independent party on the california ballot in the 2008 presidential election, recently lost a round in an ongoing legal battle challenging the legitimacy of obama's presidency.

u.s. district judge david carter dismissed a lawsuit filed by drake and other plaintiffs oct. 29, saying the constitution does not give federal courts, but only congress, the authority to remove a sitting president.

(hat tip to dr. conspiracy)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

no, you can't have it back

voted for george bush?


proud of it?

then stop yer bitchin!

chester's ghouls

one of my favorite books growing up was the comics anthology "the celebrated cases of dick tracy: 1931-1951":

(the first panel of the first strip featuring chester gould's iconic flatfoot)

even at 300-plus pages, celebrated cases had been heavily edited for space and violence. several decades passed before i got to see some of the outtakes of one story in particular, reprinted in full in "the dick tracy casebook: favorite adventures 1931-1990" (which i'd found on ebay for a penny). what follows are some strips from both books, reconstructing tracy's 1944 clash with sadistic nazi spy the brow. it was definitely one of his more grisly adventures, which spanned four months and also introduced us to the summer sisters (may and june) and gravel gertie:

let's fast forward to the "ironic" ending left out of celebrated cases:

remember, ladies:

(story and art by chester gould)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

pure wipeout

this past weekend i had a chance to tackle a project that had been sitting on the bottom of my priority list for a few years: recording video from my playstation portable.

while i don't spent a lot of time with games (and the device was a gift), there is one game that i've played at least once almost every day for the last four years. wipeout pure is perfect for someone who feels a little guilty anytime they're not doing something productive. it's a racing game with no learning curve and even simpler controls: left, right, thrust, use weapon, absorb weapon (recharge energy) and reverse camera (look behind). weapons and speed bursts are picked up from special pads on the track. each race consists of up to five laps of about thirty seconds each, making the game perfect for playing while waiting for my computer to finish presumably more important tasks.

unfortunately, while it supports video, there's no way to record activity on the psp and even though the latest model now sports a video-out port, the new port only supports hdtv monitors, and according to reports, does so poorly for games. i don't have an hdtv and it's been several years since i've turned on a tv anyway. (who needs to when you can get the highlights online?)

so, two quick trips to home depot and about an hour of tinkering produced this contraption:

it's cobbled from four corner braces, a length of pre-punched metal sawn into three pieces, and a bunch of nuts, bolts and washers. a somewhat rickety affair, but it doesn't have to hold more than 20 ounces while resting on my lap and belly. despite now having to play at a distance, the only thing that took getting used to was playing the psp without its custom case:

the psp is not for the ham-handed, but logitech's playGear pocket clear transparent hardcase (which i affectionately dubbed "the casket" and into whose upper inner liner i cut a "glory hole", shown above, for displaying the screen while closed) gives you more to hold onto and more room for your thumbs, which results in a more natural grip. playing games without it always feels cramped.

what follows is one lap around "sol 2", a 4400m racetrack suspended 30,000ft among sun-splashed clouds and air traffic. the video quality does no justice to either the psp's famous crisp bright screen or wipeout's world-class game environment and special effects. the action recorded includes a "quake" weapon (a devastating wave of destruction), rockets, mines and a bomb dropped in my face. (the soundtrack is my own substitution. in fact, i always play with the audio off.)

but the real reason behind recording wipeout was to capture for posterity a little move i discovered on the sol 2 track. wipeout doesn't give the player any opportunity to move beyond the track, but i found a way to push the upper envelope just a little, with some help from the "booster" weapon.

unlike most of wipeout's 16 tracks, sol 2 is unwalled for part of its length, right before a steep drop-off. the only small bit of retaining wall in that section is sloped, presenting the racer with a tempting small ramp. firing up a "booster" while racing up the wall will send you sailing high above the track and the other racers:

oops. unfortunately, using the retaining wall itself as a ramp is often a mistake; it can send you into the clouds nose-up and sky-blind, unable to see where to land if you don't sail past the upper bounds of the track into oblivion. (actually, contrary to my melodramatic editing, leaving the track is not fatal; your ship is merely returned to the spot where it was three seconds prior, penalizing you that time.)

experience taught me to aim instead for the space between the ramp and the guy wire. (the space on the opposite side of the guy wire, out on the "wing" structure, will also work, but you're now skirting the outer bounds of the track.)

here's another vault, with a quick peek behind us at the top of our leap:

remember folks, you saw it here first!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

a great escape

since a child, i've always been quite impressed with this one, from batman #227, "the demon of gothos mansion":

the money shot:

(art by irv novick and dick giordano, cover by neal adams and dick giordano, story by denny o'neill)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

if i only had a brain


i wouldn't while away the hours
connectin' shady powers
and wondrin' who's to gain
and my head i'd stop a-scratchin'
itchy plots it keeps a-hatchin'
if i only had a brain ♫

i'd scoff at every riddle
from every individ'le
intol'rant or insane


with the time you'd stop a-wastin'
a real life you could be tastin'
if you only had a brain ♫


oh, i wouldn't wonder why
no judge will hear my roar
i'd stop thinkin' things
no one's thunk before
and then i'd go
and do some chores

i would not be just a-huffin'
my head all full of stuffin'
my heart all full of pain
i'd sober up and tell orly
a new hobby she needs sorely
if i only had a brain ♫

(transformative lyrics by aarrgghh)

Friday, November 06, 2009

tempus fuggedabbouddit

welcome to part three of a little screed originally provoked by this admittedly tongue-in-cheek new york times article blaming snafus plaguing our expensive new large hadron collider on gremlins from the future. all cheekiness aside, stories like this serve as fodder for the public's mindless love of the three great fictions of science fiction. part one raided the star wars' intergalactic cantina. part two pulled the plug on star trek's warp drive. today we take a time-out on time-honored time travel.

actually, "trek wars" fans get a bit of good news this time: time travel is possible. but that's good news only if you're looking for a one-way ticket into the future, because there ain't nothing else on the itinerary.

as pointed out in part two, gravity warps space, and since space and time are initmately bound (whence the term "space-time"), gravity also warps time. this has been demonstrated with atomic clocks, which run slower under gravity's influence. take this idea to its conclusion and you can "time-travel" by simply parking a spaceship next to any gravitationally intense object. neutron stars, white dwarfs and black holes are perfect. as you bask in the glow of the gamma ray death scream of interstellar matter spiraling past you into oblivion, events on earth will appear to flit by, but to those on earth monitoring your ship, you'll have entered a state of essentially suspended animation.

but wait — what if there are no black holes in the neighborhood? don't worry, einstein's theory of special relativity demonstrates that the effects of high-speed motion (acceleration) can simulate the effects of gravity for the traveler. we all experience this anytime we ride in a vehicle. when we speed up, we're pulled into our seat; when we cruise, we feel nothing (other than the normal pull of gravity, which we typically ignore), as we do when standing still; when we slow down, we're pulled out of our seat. so in lieu of finding a black hole, you can "time-travel" by simply stepping on the gas and not letting up. as you eventually approach the speed of light, you'll seem suspended in time to those left behind as your existence is extended thanks to relativity.

still, neither of these scenarios represent the sexy type of time-travel that "trek wars" fans love dreaming about: where they get to undo or avoid some remorseful event in the past, play the ultimate stock tip or become a b-movie actor:

sorry to disappoint again, but there ain't no going home. (and obviously not in 2004!) not only are there just as many practical theories about time-travel as there are about warp drives — that is, exactly bupkis — there's no evidence that time can travel backwards or that we can travel into the past. time's arrows fly in only one direction.

consider the definition of time: the interval between two events. if correct, in order to reverse time, we must reverse the events. consider a glass bottle, tossed from your hand to the trash bin. it hits the rim and shatters on the floor, sending pieces big and small everywhere. reversing time is therefore a humpty dumpty act; a time machine would have to retrace the trajectory of every shard as well as the trajectory of the intact bottle as well as the trajectory of your hand — that's a bit of a workout, isn't it?

actually, more than you can imagine, considering that your hand, the glass, the trash bin, the floor and the air surrounding them are all composed of a ginormous (you just knew that word was coming, didn't you?) menagerie of subatomic particles, all in constant motion and interaction. suddenly, the workload on our time machine just went up exponentially: it has to retrace the changes in the spin, vector, orbit, charge, vibration, etc., etc. — that is, every characteristic we can name, including those we have yet to discover — of every particle in that ginormous cloud of particles making up every object we're sending back in time. the machine would also need to isolate the cloud of particles comprising you the operator from its effects (it wouldn't do you any good to go back to 1976 and not remember that leisure suits actually sucked!), no small task if we have to account for the air moving in and out of your lungs, the hair and dandruff falling from your scalp, and the dust mites in your eyelashes!

now that's a workout! imagine trying to send a city or the entire planet back in time. and i suppose it would be just rubbing it in to point out that you wouldn't be able to send anything back before the date you first turned on your machine. (you wouldn't have any data!)

needless to say, no one has a clue how to reverse the order of events in our universe. relativistic physics allows us to play games with our perception of events, because our perception changes as we change our frame of reference, which affects when the light that originally captured the events finally reaches us:

changing our frame of reference changes the apparent distance (time) between the dots (events) on the timeline without affecting their order.

but just changing our frame of reference is like playing games with a film projector. speeding the film up, slowing it down or trying to run it backwards just ain't the same as manipulating the actual events it portrays — no more than photoshopping a image of yourself will get you back your hairline. that's voodoo. the two have nothing to do with each other. we might be able to play with the projector, but time's arrows fly on, unperturbed.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

worth 1000 words

meet scott rothstein, soon to be adorning dictionary and thesaurus entries everywhere for the word "sleaze":

or better yet, don't meet him.

that is, if you could, since he seems to have vanished:

in a case already being compared to the bernie madoff affair, a lawsuit filed monday in broward county accuses south florida "super attorney" scott rothstein of bilking investors in a scheme run out of the powerful firm rothstein, rosenfeldt and adler, which now says it can't make payroll.

an attorney for one investor told the south florida sun sentinel that the amount of money missing could be over $100 million, though it's not clear where it went.

... he's now out of town and possibly out of the country — no one knows where exactly — and the feds have reportedly shown up at his law firm offices.

... while all of the specifics of the the alleged fraud are not known, CBS 4 reports it may have involved both taking from client trust funds and setting up a side company to sell investments in structured settlements. those are arrangements in which payments are made over time rather than all at once, reaping tax benefits for the payee and allowing the payer to avoid having to come up with the lump sum upfront.

... the problem? some of the settlements rothstein sold didn't actually exist, according to the lawsuit.

ok, wait — sure, the guy's a crook, but c'mon, this is just run-of-the-mill embezzlement. so where's the beef? scottie needs to dig a little deeper if he's gonna be our new poster boy for sleaze, doesn't he?

not to worry, folks. let's just take a look at those "structured settlements" he's been hustling, shall we?

those documents say that rothstein's firm sought out sexual discrimination and whistle-blower cases and used former cops to dig up incriminating evidence.

sakowitz, the potential investor, said rothstein boasted of having sophisticated eavesdropping equipment and that former cops would sift through potential defendants' garbage.

with compromising evidence in hand, the firm urged the targets of the claims to pay a settlement without a public lawsuit.

and this literal bottomfeeder lied to his "investors" about those, too.

folks, i believe we have a winner!

sleaze |slēz|: noun
immoral, sordid, and corrupt behavior or material, esp. in business or politics
informal: a sordid, corrupt, or immoral person; scott rothstein