Tuesday, May 31, 2005
- "A former top official at the FBI has reportedly admitted he was "Deep Throat" -- the unidentified source used by two Washington Post reporters to help uncover the Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon's resignation." More at The New York Times [reg. req.]
- Types of Throat Singing [With Tips]
- I haven't had a lot of strange search strings on this site lately, but this one stood out: "what hair style goes with a big oval square head." Apparently, farkleberries is the top ranked result on Yahoo! for those seeking big oval square heads.
- You've no doubt heard of Freakonomics; how about Neil Diamond Economics? [Slate]
- Smuckers™ claims to hold the patent for crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so "beware renegade sandwich makers." However, the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals doesn't agree with the jam giant:
Appellate Judge Arthur Gajarsa cited his wife's habit of smooshing together the upper and lower bread slices when preparing their children's peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches. "I'm afraid she might be infringing on your patent," Gajarsa told the Smucker's legal team. The verdict to reject [Smuckers'] appeal was made in two days -- one of the quickest decisions in the court's history, patent lawyers say.[via Overlawyered]
- "The Corporate Fallout Detector scans barcodes off of consumer products, and makes a clicking noise based on the environmental or ethical record (selectable via the "sensitivity" switch) of the manufacturer. It explores issues of corporate accountability and individual choice."
Utilizing stored information from UPC barcode databases and corporate responsibility/pollution level websites, this "device" would allow consumers to know instantaneously the "socially irresponsible radiation level" of any product. Right now, it only seems to work on Smelly European Companies...[via MeFi]
- New Scientist reports on controversial evidence from the University of Rochester that phthalates, chemicals commonly found in household plastic items, may mimic estrogen:
“Gender-bending” chemicals mimicking the female hormone oestrogen can disrupt the development of baby boys, suggests the first evidence linking certain chemicals in everyday plastics to effects in humans.Scientific American picks up the phthalate story as well.
The chemicals implicated are phthalates, which make plastics more pliable in many cosmetics, toys, baby-feeding bottles and paints and can leak into water and food. [read full article]
- "Save Arthur Chi'en, the "F" man":
...Have we come to the point in this country when we honestly think that a word that has lost all meaning, just a word, is going to cause the downfall of the nation and is worth a man's career? Perspective, people! What's offensive is that we let the offended run the world....[Jeff Jarvis' BuzzMachine]
- Thinking of shooting a film in a foreign country? AON Corporation has released their 2005 country-by-country risk assessment map [PDF] detailing "crime, corruption, kidnap and ransom, disease and medical care risks, and references terrorism and political risks" posed to filmmakers. [via Boing Boing]
Thursday, May 26, 2005
- According to a study by the Chicago-based Smell and Taste Research Foundation, the odor of grapefruit makes women seem younger [via Gapers Block]:
Ponce de Leon searched Florida in vain for the fountain of youth. Modern explorers need only cut open a grapefruit, according to a news item in the June issue of Allure magazine. It reported on a study by the Chicago-based Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation that found the smell of grapefruit may make women appear younger. Alan R. Hirsch, the foundation's director, asked a panel kept in an odorless room to guess the ages of women from their pictures. He repeated the task after panel members sniffed the scent of pink grapefruit, and their guesses averaged five to six years younger. [Lakeland, FL's The Ledger]I really get a kick out of that story, because grapefruit is one of my favorite scents.
- "ATTENTION ALL GROWNUPS. Your "inner child" has long been waiting for a chance to usurp control of your body and force it to perform certain actions. The time is now at hand. Read and follow the instructions below. Do this now."
- A high-speed action Dutch deodorant commercial that's more entertaining than most feature films [via Skoften.net >> BowBow2]
- Why half a Bean is better than none:
It's going to be a long time until Millennium Park's Bean fully sprouts. Part of it is going to be kept hidden under a big white tarp...After a winter of hibernation, it appears Cloudgate wants to come out of its tented shell. Thirty iron workers are busy sanding, buffing and polishing the monstrous sculpture. They spent five months welding under the cover of a tent. But it's spring now and fans of the Millennium Park sculpture, affectionately known as the Bean, want it to bloom. [Image courtesy CBS2.com, read full story on CBS2 Chicago]
- A quick lesson in Yodic, and the theory that the diminutive Jedi master is actually Henry Luce reborn on Language Log
- Here's a legal precedent that bears very close watching:
Yesterday a Minnesota court of appeals ruled that the presence of encryption software on your computer can be viewed as evidence of criminal intent.[CNet and ZDNet have the story]
We find that evidence of appellant's Internet use and the existence of an encryption program on his computer was at least somewhat relevant to the state's case against him," Judge R.A. Randall wrote in an opinion dated May 3.The government can crack ciphers they deem important enough to justify the effort, but with this recent ruling they don't even need to break your cipher to judge you guilty... the fact that you have a cipher at all is a sign of guilt. That's analogous to saying that people who put curtains on their windows must be doing something bad in the house. [via Wither in the Light]
It’s time to pack up, at least for a while. Perhaps some day, for some big events, I might come back, but it’s time to turn out the lights, for several reasons.Tim: congratulations, and best wishes on all your future endeavors, writing and otherwise - your news and views at Freespace will be very much missed.
My final message is to always love your freedom, and fight for it with all you can. It is the rarest, and most precious, possession on earth. Without freedom, no other joys are meaningful; no victory is worthy; no riches are wealth; no tomorrows make a future. The right to speak and think and believe and study and work and earn and keep and buy and sell and be what you are, as you want, on your own terms, as an individual worthy to make choices, are beyond any treasures that so-called benefactors might offer you in trade. Do not let people tell you that freedom means moral chaos or poverty. This is not true. Do not let people tell you that folks in other parts of the world don’t long for freedom. This is not true. Do not let people tell you that it is all too late, and that talk of freedom is all speculation divorced from the real world. It is not true. Do not let people tell you that the Constitution is outdated, and that our lives must be governed, governed, governed, as the price for living in society. This is not true. And do not let people tell you that maturity consists of giving up your idealism, or that responsibility means giving up on your freedom, or that wisdom consists of accepting illogical arguments. These things are not true. I’ll end with a passage from John Milton, the great Christian libertarian, who wrote what I’ve always thought was a gorgeous epitaph. He wrote it in the 1660s, when it looked like all hope for freedom was lost—England had restored the Stuart monarchy to the throne, and Milton’s dream of a free society seemed doomed. Of course, only a century later, it revived again, far stronger than ever before.[W]ith all hazard I have ventured what I thought my duty to speak in season, and to forewarn my country in time; wherein I doubt not but there be many wise men in all places and degrees, but am sorry the effects of wisdom are so little seen among us.... What I have spoken, is the language of that which is not called amiss “The good old Cause:” if it seem strange to any, it will not seem more strange, I hope, than convincing to backsliders. Thus much I should perhaps have said, though I were sure I should have spoken only to trees and stones; and had none to cry to, but with the prophet, “O earth, earth, earth!” to tell the very soil itself, what her perverse inhabitants are deaf to. Nay, though what I have spoke should happen (which thou suffer not, who didst create mankind free! nor thou next, who didst redeem us from being servants of men!) to be the last words of our expiring liberty.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005From the Charlotte Observer:
An N.C. Baptist official Tuesday said he worries that a sign outside a small church in Forest City could incite "negative actions" toward Christians around the world. "The Koran needs to be flushed!" states the sign outside Danieltown Baptist Church in the small town some 60 miles west of Charlotte.From Tuscaloosa News Dateline Alabama:
The Rev. Creighton Lovelace put up the message on the changeable sign last Friday and will likely put up a new saying this Friday. In between, the 23-year-old Forest City native is answering critics and explaining to national media outlets why he chose to demean the Quran, the holy book for the world's second largest religion: Because, he said, they don't worship Christ as the son of God. "I don't hate Muslims," Lovelace told the Observer. "I don't hate Islamic people. I just hate the false doctrine."
Lovelace said he was stirred to put up the sign by the worldwide furor inspired by the Newsweek magazine report that U.S. military guards at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba flushed a copy of the Quran down a toilet to rile Afghan prisoners. At least 17 people died in rioting that erupted in several countries over the Newsweek report -- a report the magazine later retracted and apologized for. Just because the sign provokes anger, Lovelace said, is no reason not to say what you believe.
"If one church can't put up a sign and the whole nation be mad at them," he said, "something's wrong."
[Reverend] Lovelace said he knew before he put up the sign that some people would disagree with its message. "I expected some people would be offended, just as if someone put up a sign that said the Bible should be flushed," he said. "That would offend me as a Christian. This is America and we have the freedom of the press, so I have the right to put up this sign."Crusade, or showboating? I agree with Lovelace in the sense that this is the U.S., and we do - hold your breath, still - have First Amendment rights to free speech. Even if I don't agree with the message, I do believe he should have the right to say it. That said, after news stories like this no one should complain that it's all the Liberal Media™'s fault for stirring up anti-American sentiment 'round the globe. Sheesh.
Lovelace said he does not believe he is being intolerant. "We are all told to be tolerant," he said. "You can be tolerant of other people, but that doesn't mean you have to accept anything that teaches against what is in the Bible."
[Above image from the Kansas City Channel.com]
Six hundred volts of electricity killed a man outside of Wrigley Field. He had just been to a Cubs game when he came across an uncovered danger that has claimed many lives. CBS 2's Dave Savini investigates hazards found across the city and in some suburbs.The thing is (in my opinion) third rails aren't so much a "hidden risk," as an ignored risk. (Although I have heard there are - or were - a few grade-level "L" stations with unmarked third rails.) Without trying to sound unsympathetic, there are numerous graphic warning signs posted throughout the CTA train system at each station about the hazards of the third rail, and a broad yellow or blue traction treaded edge borders the platform - again with explicit, bilingual posted cautions not to stand past the threshold, because of "DANGER OF DEATH OR SEVERE INJURY."
Our undercover cameras captured a view of chaos outside of Cubs games and White Sox games. People are packed and pushed to the edge on narrow, overcrowded CTA “L” platforms. Just a few feet away is something so lethal it could kill someone in an instant. CTA workers in charge of crowd control are nowhere in sight. They are at risk of falling on the most dangerous part of the tracks: the third rail. "It could be anybody, it could be anybody that trips or falls or stumbles," Diana Parker said.
Third rails charged with 600 volts of electricity power the “L” and have claimed many lives. Parker’s son was killed on the third rail, now she wants to know what's being done to protect riders. According to what we found in the last two months, it’s not much. We brought hidden cameras to the “L” stops closest to US Cellular and Wrigley fields. People were forced to the edge. No one stopped the drinking or drug use. One fan says he's so drunk he needs to sit down.
Unfortunately, people disregard these warnings all the time: I see riders standing over the treaded edge, leaning over the tracks to see if a train is approaching from the last station, heck, even dancing to their iPods at the very edge of the platforms. The "drinking [and] drug use" mentioned above certainly doesn't help matters, especially during super-crowded ball game times.
I'm not sure how the Chicago train system could be made substantially safer using the existing tracks besides a major technical redesign - or some type of low insulating shield that provides a barrier next to the third rail, although finding a configuration that worked reliably on inside and outside tracks without causing mechanical failures would be tricky and expensive.
I do have one idea. How about some type of L-shaped guard that could be mounted adjacent to the "hot" rail where it is exposed at stations, that left one side exposed for electrical contact with the train, which would reduce the risk of accidental electrocutions without having to redesign the whole track structure? If a rider fell from the platform, they would be much less likely to make contact with the third rail. The guard could be made from some strong nonconductive material (or at least be lined with a layer of durable insulation), and would have periodic drainage holes to allow rain and snowmelt to run off. What would need to change would be the orientation of the electrical contact "shoes" under the trains themselves.
I'm no engineer, of course, and there are probably many good reasons why something like this wouldn't work...hopefully co$t isn't the main one.
More: CTA historic livery (train designs) at Chicago-L.org
The Eshoo v. CTA case (1999)
Bretl's CTA Machine Shop Gallery
Live From the Third Rail (a commuter train blog)
Trackoff.org (UK) Rail Electricity Dangers [PDF]
Kibo's "Orange Cones: Introductory Rant"-
Orange cones don't denote anything in particular in and of themselves, and they're usually not deployed in ways that give you much of a hint why they're there -- usually they're just sitting in corners in small groups. (Often the closest I can come to figuring out their intent is "Hey! There's an orange cone on this traffic island!") Orange cones are like the paprika on food-service mashed potatoes: You get tasteless potatoes with orange dots. These "safety" cones are designed to be highly visible, but because of their ubiquity and meaninglessness, we've been ignoring them. And while we've been ignoring them they've been taking over the world. [keep reading; Kibo's Orange Cone Galleries 1-4 are hilarious]
Monday, May 23, 2005
- Good read: "Stop the Masochistic Insanity: The violent response to the report of 'Quranic abuse' isn't about faith, it's about intolerance," by Christopher Hitchens in Slate
- On a related note, since the Gulf War, popular media usage of the term "The Koran" seems to have shifted rapidly towards the more transliteratively correct "The Quran" (or Qur'an). Thoughts?
- Georgia State University launches a pilot program that uses virtual reality gear to treat fear of public speaking [via Gizmodo]
- In response to the news that Naperville, Illinois' public libraries will begin using electronic fingerprint identification on borrowers, Gapers Block tips us to an article by Yokohama National University IT researcher Tsutomu Matsumoto et al. [on Cryptome.org] detailing how fake "gummy fingers" can easily fool fingerprint sensors:
...gummy fingers, namely artificial fingers that are easily made of cheap and readily available gelatin, were accepted by extremely high rates by particular fingerprint devices with optical or capacitive sensors. We have used the molds, which we made by pressing our live fingers against them or by processing fingerprint images from prints on glass surfaces, etc. We describe how to make the molds, and then show that the gummy fingers, which are made with these molds, can fool the fingerprint devices. [read full article, which includes detailed step-by-step instructions for making "gummy fingers."]So, John Doe didn't actually have to amputate Victor (the "Sloth" victim)'s hand to falsify his fingerprints in Se7en? Oh well, watching Kevin Spacey cast a prosthetic gelatin hand wouldn't have been nearly as entertaining.
- Now here's an 'appropriate' use of our tax dollars: using Medicaid to provide Viagra™ to high-risk convicted sex offenders. Some might say denying medication based on a person's criminal record would be a violation of civil rights. But, consider that 198 of the men who received Viagra™ through Medicaid [I'm not entirely sure from the article whether these figures are national, or limited to the state of New York] were classified by authorities as Level 3 offenders - those considered most likely to commit crimes again. From CNN:
[New York State Comptroller Alan] Hevesi said his office found that from January 1, 2000, through March 31, 2005, 198 Level 3 sex offenders received Medicaid-reimbursed Viagra after being convicted of a sex offense. Sex offenders are those convicted of crimes such as rape, sexual abuse, and sexual conduct against a child.So, Grandma (or Grandpa) Jones next door may not be able to afford blood pressure medication, but the convicted pedophile or rapist across the street is eligible to receive Uncle Sam-bankrolled erections? Doesn't seem right to me. [Also see NY Newsday's spin on the story]
Level 3 offenders are those considered by the courts most likely to commit crimes again. According to Hevesi, his office determined in its audit that the victims of the sex crimes during the five-year period ranged from toddlers to a woman as old as 90; and the crimes included first-degree rape.
- WIRED News has a story on Spanish artist Fernando Orellana's Unending Closure robotics installation, in the Vida 7.0 Art and Artificial Life Competition in Madrid:
Unending Closure presents viewers with three robots enclosed in tall, narrow columns. Each column has a thin slit through which people can see the robots, and vice versa. When no one is nearby, the three robots appear to communicate with each other by emitting a series of calm, running-water-like sounds.In the interest of full disclosure, I admit I did cry a bit (gulp) during the Flesh Fair scenes in A.I., when the unwanted robots were being "executed" as entertainment for a slavering crowd of 21th Century rednecks (okay, I know we're in the 21st Century now, but we're talking the "tail end."). [See also a provocative site called "The Mysteries of A.I.," especially the page detailing an interpretation of Jewish symbolism in the film.]
When people approach the robots, however, they react. If someone gets close, the robot that senses a person crossing its RF scan will respond with what seems like curiosity. But when viewers get too close, the robots are designed to do what could only be called freaking out. "The robot tries to get away," Orellana explained, "but it's impossible for it to get away, because it lives in its enclosure, so all it can do is spin around and try to get away from immediate danger."
The installation is Orellana's commentary on how humans have come to live with so much fear since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "For me, it's a piece about paranoia," he said, "and specifically, the paranoia that's evolved in the last four years: People being stuck inside of their shells, and wanting to look around, and at the smallest bit of danger, they recoil."
Friday, May 20, 2005
- Note to self: never, never allow ripe bananas, Pepperidge Farm™ mint Milano cookies, or a scented bar of soap near bread or sandwiches. Not only will the sandwich absorb their smell like a magnet - but after eating said banana, mint or soap-scented sandwich, you will be plagued for hours by banana, mint, or soap-scented belches. Believe me, this is not pretty at all, especially if the sandwich had any garlic-flavored ingredient. Buon appetito!
- Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith spawns its first groaner catchphrase - 'Hold me, like you did by the lake on Naboo!' [Plus, a quick SW3:ROTS analysis on Begging to Differ, and a link to The Weekly Standard's "The Case for the Empire," Jonathan V. Last's waggish (and still relevant) 2002 commentary on the political undercurrents and allegories in Star Wars]
- While I tend to believe that schadenfreude breeds bad karma, I couldn't help but snicker at this story about the poor sucker who lost his umbrella in the "L" door. [CTA Tattler]
- In the spirit of baseball season, Chicagoist shows us how to put together a genuine Chicago-style hot dog:
Firstly, you start with a Vienna Beef hot dog, boiled; the dog goes on a steamed Rosen poppy seed bun. The condiments are: yellow mustard, bright green relish, fresh chopped onions, tomato wedges, pickle spear, sport peppers, shake of celery salt. And never, ever ketchup, don’t start. Ketchup does not go on a Chicago Style Hot Dog. Chicagoist does allow for some variations to the Chicago Style Hot Dog: the hot dog can be boiled, steamed or grilled, but if it is grilled, char ours black, the bright green relish can be replace with plain relish (or the next day there can be a surprise of bright green poop!), grilled onions are okay if you’re grilling the dogs, and there are days that we can live without sport peppers. Additionally it’s become relatively common to see the cucumber wedge opposite the tomato wedge. No ketchup. [keep reading]
- The F Blog's guide to exotic pussycats; if we had the room and legality wasn't an object, a Savannah Cat (looks like a small leopard, about twice the size of the average housecat) or a Toyger (yes, they really look like minature tigers) might be a nice choice, though I'm not sure our existing kitties Jezebel and Snöe would appreciate a giant carnivorous sibling. The Toyger Cat Society says,
The Toyger is a designer cat. It is designed and bred with the demands of modern apartment life as a human companion foremost in mind. Glittered, pelted, dramatic pattern appeals to both the high-tech glamour and nature-loving, wild dreams of city-caught people while the laid back, easily trained character of these cats make them a joy to live with.A designer cat for geeks who love jungle kitch! Perfect! [via BoingBoing]
The Toyger is a breed in development. Recognized by TICA for Registration Only early in the 1990's and lovely even now, the goals for the breed are long term and the prospect even more exciting! Several of the features proposed have never before been recognized as possible in a domestic cat. Progress is slow but steady in all areas from companionability to appearance.
This breed is of and for the computer age. Computer imaging help breeders determine what they want , how far off a cat might be and how to improve the progeny. Email and lists make friendships blossem, communication of ideas and photos immediate, cross country mating matches arranged, etc. etc. Webpages like this allow breeders and groups to inform the public and further better understanding of breeds and pet choices.
- Interesting article in Slate from the sidelines of the War on Terrorism: "How Come They Divert Airplanes? Why not check the No-Fly List before the plane takes off?"
- Big bro's thumbprint revolution begins...in Naperville? Via Slashdot:
FearUncertaintyDoubt writes "Three libraries in Naperville, IL, soon will start requiring patrons who use the library's PCs to provide a fingerprint scan. The article says, 'Library officials say the added security is necessary to ensure people who are using the computers are who they say they are. Officials promise to protect the confidentiality of the fingerprint records.'"Because of course, all public libraries have computer security as robust as Fort Knox's safes - and no
identity thiefwell-meaning volunteer would ever dream of hacking into a biometric database. Even before this bit of news, the very word "Naperville" usually evokes a "Boo! Hiss!" response among our circle of friends.* I wasn't able to find any reference to this policy change in Chicago local news as of this afternoon; but then again, libraries rarely make headlines unless they're closing up shop for lack of funding or banning books by authors who espouse 'unacceptable lifestyles'. Feh.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
There's a lot of buzz in town about Chicagocrime.org, a new website that uses Chicago Police Citizen ICAM crime reporting stats and Google Maps data to generate a searchable real-time image of crimes reported in the city. It's a remarkable example of how creative folks - like Chicagocrime.org creator Adrian Holovaty - have found innovative, practical, and positive uses for the massive quantities of data being generated by public and private agencies every day. [via Gapers Block]
Using Chicagocrime.org, visitors can view Google Maps displaying reported crimes by location, date, classification, or selecting from any number of variables: you can search for all crimes on your street, or narrow down your search to, say, burglaries or assaults on your block during the past week. Click on the blue link that labels each crime report, and a new window pops up with a street-level map nad detailed information about the incident (no names, however; you'll have to get those from the police).
On the home page, you'll find a quick breakdown of crime stats, such high-crime dates, beats with the highest crime and lowest crime rates in the city, crimes by frequency and incident location - and, which hours of the day are most criminogenic in Chi-town (hint: it's not the middle of the night).
Geographic information system geeks, criminal justice majors (ahem), and plain ol' city residents will find the site fascinating and easy-to-use; just remember, if you feel a hint of urban paranoia coming on, remember that information like this should be in the hands of the common person, not just mouldering on police databases or file cabinets in the basement of City Hall.
By the way, notice anything slightly odd about the above crime map, displaying Chicago arrests for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana? Namely, that virtually all arrests for this type of offense appear to be occurring in one specific area of town? It's not an error or glitch; in one of my CRMJ classes we learned of an enforcement "hot spot" along Division west of downtown that has a marijuana arrest rate at least 5-6 times as high as any other in the city.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
- A Maine House Bill has been approved to make Moxie™ the Official State Drink [via Trish Wilson's Blog] Speaking of odd regional soft drinks (which I personally call "soda," not "pop"), one of that post's commenters tells us of the Southern specialties Cheerwine (a cherry-flavored beverage) and Cool Moon (whose ingredients sound awfully close to Mountain Dew™ and its ilk). It seems that Cheerwine is actually available in a narrow geographic swath of Illinois, just not in Chicago.
- My favorite Midwestern "wierdo soda" is Canfield's 50/50, a blend of grapefruit and lime along the lines of Fresca™ or Squirt™, but less sweet. Oddly enough, there is another product called Canfield's 50/50 - a brand of specialty solder.
- "The FBI has found a long-lost transcript of the 1955 murder trial of two Mississippi men accused of killing Emmett Till, one of the most infamous crimes of the civil rights era." [CBS2.com Chicago]
- I've really come to love Google Maps; and Chicagoist has a post listing some of its handy Chicago-centric features like "Chicago crime stats from February through last month on Chicagocrime.org, [a] live map showing three companies' taxi locations in Chicago on Ridefinder, [i]ntegration of Traffic.com into a live Chicago traffic map, [and the ability to] [v]iew a CTA map as part of Google Maps."
- Vino & Veritas; Harvard Law School's Record has a useful guide to buying wine in a restaurant:
Restaurant tip #4: What to do when the bottle comes. This is the most intimidating part of the process and where the real test begins. The key is to relax and not take it too seriously.
First, the waiter will present the bottle. You should quickly check the label to make sure it's the wine you ordered; sometimes the vintage will be wrong, for example, or the waiter will just have selected the wrong wine. Both have happened to me. If it is the right one, simply nod and say "Yep" (or "Boo-ya," if that's more your speed). If it's the wrong wine, just say so.
The waiter will then open the bottle and "present the cork." Do not sniff it. It just smells like cork. You could fondle it, if you're into that sort of thing, but otherwise just ignore it. (One exception: If you see that it's soaked through with wine, that's generally not good, as it means air probably got into the wine and could have ruined it. More on that below.) [read full article, via Kottke]
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
- 50 Things Every Foodie Should Do [via Songkhla South (a.k.a. LDMA's Life in the WOR Zone)
- Bad duck:
When Steve Schneider of Normal [IL] got home from the gym Friday night, he found shattered glass in the driveway and a big hole in a picture window. Schneider said he cautiously peeked through the front door and saw a large duck sitting in the middle of his living room. He tried to lure the duck out the back door using bread as bait, but the flustered fowl hit the ceiling, flying through several rooms and into a clothes closet. That's when he called for help.[NBC5 Chicago.com]
- "Who Was General Tso, and Why Are We Eating His Chicken?"
It would be possible to...say that General Tso's Chicken simply honors a great personality, just as Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, is honored in Beef Wellington; Pavel Stroganoff, a 19th-century Russian diplomat, in Beef Stroganoff; Count Charles de Nesselrode (another 19th-century Russian diplomat) in Nesselrode Pudding,; or Australian opera singer Nellie Melba in the dessert, Peach Melba. Indeed some believe it quite likely that the dish was whipped up for the general after some signal victory, just as Chicken Marengo was whipped up for Napoleon after he defeated the Austrians at Marengo on June 14, 1800.
Still, the recipe is not particularly original -- the ingredients are used in many stir-fry Chinese dishes -- and the dark meat chicken argues for a humbler origin. It's a poor man's dish, not a feast for a field marshal.
Is it possible that, struggling to carve out a new life in America under backbreaking adversities, and having heard of the sword skills of the remorseless General Tso (who had the top leaders of the Nian Rebellion executed with the proverbial "death of 10,000 cuts"), the overseas exiles indulged in some gallows-humor about their old enemy? That the chopped-up chicken dish may have gotten its name from the sliced and diced victims of Tso's grim reprisals? [read full article, via The Highwayman]
- Planning on seeing Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith this week? The original Star Wars (Episode IV, for us geeks) was the first film I saw in a theater, at age 9, so this series-closer is truly an "end of an era." If you don't mind a ton...of...spoilers, visit News Askew for a dandy review of the 28-year saga's capstone.
- You just gotta hand it to these Minnesota ladies. It takes
ballsguts to wear an "I Love My Vagina" T-shirt to school. It also takes guts [one brave guy from Bemidji, MN] to have 2,005 simultaneous body piercings...arrrgh. What's up with Minnesota, anyhow? [SFGate.com, via Wither in the Light]
- Potty Wars: Nadia Strikes Back at EclecticEveryday
Monday, May 16, 2005A bizarre and disturbing news story from Aptakisic Junior High in Buffalo Grove, IL, with many more questions that answers:
A junior high school student is in police custody, accused of stabbing a classmate right in front of other students. ... Buffalo Grove police say the [12 year old] girl brought a kitchen knife to the junior high school. The knife was in a box with a ribbon around it to make it appear it was a gift.As they say, "weird sh_t happens," but scattered occurrences like these add to the atmosphere of distrust and malaise in our nation's schools. Random acts of youth violence are what spurred what is sometimes called the "devil-child" media trend of the 1970's and 1980's [visible in the popularity of novels and films like Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, The Omen and Carrie, all the way up to what is often considered the last movie of that genre, Stephen King's The Children of the Corn] all reflecting the public's underlying fear of not-just-out-of-control-but-evil youngsters in the aftermath of shocking media-blockbuster crimes like the 1969 Manson Family murders. In reality, the individuals involved in the Tate-LoBianco killings were for all intents and purposes adults, but somehow the convicted were seen as emotional children in the thrall of Family "father" Charles Manson, and came to symbolize "evil youth" of all age groups.
Shortly before French class at 7:30 a.m., the girl stabbed the boy in the back as he sat at a computer.
"The information that we have so far does indicate it was a premeditated act, that preparations did begin last night that resulted in the box containing the knife being brought to the school," Cmdr. Mike Soucy with the Buffalo Grove Police Department. Students at the school were shocked by the incident. "It sort of scares a lot of people that somebody would really do that because everybody is really friends in this school," Silver said.
Gordy Gurson knows both students. "I think they’re both really nice," the seventh-grader said. He said the young attacker stood out because she dressed in black and once colored her hair green. He said his friend was next to the victim. "Once he saw the knife in his back, he pulled it out right away," Gordy said.
Crisis counselors were called to the school Friday. "In the school there was like a lot of people who were scared during class. There were people saying they were afraid to go in the hallway. And a lot of people were just like not focused on their work," said one 12-year-old student. The victim was taken to Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. He is listed in stable condition. His parents tell police that he will be OK. [more on CBS2.com Chicago]
Every era has had its notorious child crimes (e.g., the dreadful killing of UK toddler Jamie Bulger by a pair of 10-year boys - not to mention Columbine and its sequelae), but I think today's intensive media coverage gives the impression there's a lot more of it than there actually is. I'm not so sure today's kids really scarier than they were a generation or two ago, even though kids on both ends of the behavior spectrum get more "face time" than in the past.
However, one caveat: I think media coverage may not simply be a "magnifying glass," but an end in itself. One eerie thing about today's "kid crime" is that a lot of it, like the Columbine shootings, seemed tailor-made to generate the biggest media impression possible. In other words, the crimes aren't just a result of violent urges, but instead become acts of self-destructive self-expression. While underage criminals undoubtedly existed before television and the Internet, the public's rabid fascination with today's "devil children" guarantees a ready audience for these events as they occur - and unless they've had a complete break from reality, the kids perpetrating these crimes know it, too. [See an article called "Should Terrorism Be Reported in the News?" by Bruce Schneier, previously noted in farkleberries Links du Jour 88]
Like the spectre of terrorism, the real risk of "kid crime" has become distorted through the lens of popular media. Bruce Schneier writes,
Modern mass media, specifically movies and TV news, has degraded our sense of natural risk. We learn about risks, or we think we are learning, not by directly experiencing the world around us and by seeing what happens to others, but increasingly by getting our view of things through the distorted lens of the media. Our experience is distilled for us, and it’s a skewed sample that plays havoc with our perceptions. Kids try stunts they’ve seen performed by professional stuntmen on TV, never recognizing the precautions the pros take. The five o’clock news doesn’t truly reflect the world we live in -- only a very few small and special parts of it.What's troubling is that these scattered highly visible incidents of child crime lead to a vicious cycle of generalized mistrust of the young, which in turn engenders more internal rage and alienation on the part of kids. Where do we break the cycle?
Slices of life with immediate visual impact get magnified; those with no visual component, or that can’t be immediately and viscerally comprehended, get downplayed. Rarities and anomalies, like terrorism, are endlessly discussed and debated, while common risks like heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes, and suicide are minimized.
The global reach of today’s news further exacerbates this problem. If a child is kidnapped in Salt Lake City during the summer, mothers all over the country suddenly worry about the risk to their children. If there are a few shark attacks in Florida -- and a graphic movie -- suddenly every swimmer is worried. (More people are killed every year by pigs than by sharks, which shows you how good we are at evaluating risk.) [read full article]
[Image above is a print called "Evil Kids" by artist Lauren Gardiner; you can check out the portfolio on Tight Sweater Press]
Saturday, May 14, 2005
- I thought I had fallen asleep in front of my computer today when I noticed a link referral read, "Chwiliwch Google":...then it occurred to me...it's Welsh! (http://www.google.com/search?hl=cy means Cymru) I'm sorry, residents of Wales, but in my opinion Cymru looks as close to a Lovecraftian language as Earthly tongues get. Maybe that's where old H.P.L. got the idea?
- Oops, my secret is out...The Faces Project.
- There's so little of the real thing left, but Googie is one of the most nostalgic, cheery-looking styles of architecture I can imagine: for many Baby Boomers, and myself (although I'm technically on the early end Generation X), Googie means the Good Old Days. In the future, Googie will be seen as the Cheap Gasoline Age.
Man left his caves and grass huts and through hard work and ingenuity has built an amazing modern world. Tomorrow he will conquer any remaining problems and colonize the rest of the galaxy. However, for all his achievements and modern science man will never lose touch with the natural world and his noble roots.Some other excellent Googie websites include Roadside Peek.com, Armet & Davis' Googie Art, and Ronsaari.com.
The themes of history and primitive man were expressed in buildings and decor that reflected the Old West, the South Seas and even caves. (The interest in South Pacific motifs was partially a result of World War II servicemen returning from tours of duty in that region.)
Man's continuing link to nature was expressed in a number of ways, including the common use of rock and fake rock (flagcrete) walls, lush landscaping, indoor gardens, and vast plate glass windows that broke down traditional barriers between inside and outside. In the world of Googie, it's not uncommon to see UFO-shaped buildings with one rock wall, three glass walls and palm trees growing straight up through a cutout shape in an overhanging roof. [Image courtesy SpaceAge City.com, where you can read the full article]
- Friday the 13th marked the 20th anniversary of the tragic MOVE seige in Philadelphia; details on NPR.
Friday, May 13, 2005
- Blonde Redhead - Misery is Butterfly
- Shpongle - My Head Feels Like A Frisbee
- Enon - White Rabbit
- Sufjan Stevens - Come On! Feel The Illinoise! Part I: The World's Columbian Exposition
- Serahtonic - Close Your Eyes To See
- Prodigy - Hot Ride
- Noreaga - Nuthin'
- Coil - Who By Fire
- Charlie Daniels Band - The South's Gonna Do It Again
- Alphaville - Forever Young
Thursday, May 12, 2005
- Good heavens...have I really written 88 of these things?
- To commemorate the event, how about a flashback to The Nails' "88 Lines About 44 Women"?
- Hugh at Three Bed, Two Bath has a great meme idea, along the lines of the Friday Random Ten: list the products you used to get ready to face the world this morning!
- Trader Joe's Grapefruit & Citrus Shampoo
- Colgate Total toothpaste
- Target mint mouthwash
- Olay Complete lotion with 15 SPF
- Sure Clear n' Dry Unscented deodorant
- Target Sport Fresh body warsh ;)
- Suave Awesome Apple hair detangler
- "Should Terrorism be Reported in the News?" by Bruce Schneier [via Rebecca's Pocket]
- Illinois right-wing groups lambaste Kraft, Inc. over support of 2006 Gay Games in Chicago [via Chicagoist]
- The Sound of Silence: will "yell phoning" become a thing of the past?
Scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center in California have developed a system of tiny sensors that read nerve signals in the throat that control speech. You may not make a sound when, say, you read silently, but your nervous system is buzzing with activity. Recently, they used the system to make the first subvocal cell phone call.Who knows. With this technology, we may also see the end of stage-phoning and butt calls (which are completely different from booty calls). But now, you have to be extra careful about swearing under your breath when you're on the phone. [via BoingBoing]
- Let's keep our fingers crossed for this new member of the human race: (very) little Kalea Lynn Allen, born this week, is the world's smallest infant ever at 11 ounces - "less than a soda can."
Deidra Allen, 27, gave birth to little Kalea Lyn Allen earlier this week. The baby was born three months premature and weighed less than a soda can at birth. Doctors said the girl was so small that intravenous and breathing tubes were too big for her. Despite her small stature, officials at Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma City said the baby is doing well.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005This morning, I took the #4 bus south to work through Bronzeville. A once-prosperous, primarily African American neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, Bronzeville is known for its rich history; unfortunately, like many urban neighborhoods, it's fallen on rather hard times. If I'm not taking the Metra train, I typically get on the bus downtown at Michigan Avenue - and I'm usually the only white person on the #4 by the far-south portion of the trip. After a while, you can tell where a bus is going just by looking at its sideboard advertising.
Magnificent Mile buses have ads for Calvin Klein, Guess?, and Kenneth Cole. South Side rides have ads for "Ug Buys Ugly Houses!" or "Dawn Dish Detergent Even Handles Grandma's Really Blackened Catfish." Sometimes, the sooty bus-rears have public service announcements, like "Man, I'm So Glad I Got That Syphilis Test." Today, I noticed some unusual graffiti written neatly in yellow opaque marker on the blue fiberglass edge of my seat: YOU ARE A SLAVE!
There's a profound sadness to the neighborhoods just South of Bronzeville before Hyde Park, where at least three-fourth of the storefronts are closed or boarded up. Those that remain are primarily liquor stores, fast food joints, pawnshops and "instant loan" locations. There are also churches, schools, and small parks, all scattered symbols of hope and renewal amidst the urban disorganization.
A plywood construction barrier along the route is colorfully decorated in gold, green and orange with smiling, cartoonlike depictions of Chango and other orishas. Nearby, a Baptist church sign (that normally reads SEVEN DAYS WITHOUT PRAYER MAKES ONE WEAK) today perplexingly stated DON'T WAIT FOR SIX STRONG MEN TO TAKE YOU TO CHURCH. I didn't grasp the meaning until I got to work: pallbearers.
What's eerie about this part of Chicago is how few people seem to be around, even in the middle of a business day rush hour. In the middle of the most poverty-stricken part of my ride, I noticed an unusually cruel billboard towering over a dilapidated block around 47th and Cottage Grove. The ad showed a picture of a luxurious, faceted bottle of Chivas Regal reclining against a backdrop of crushed black velvet. Down on the sidewalk, a smattering of ghosts in dusty clothing shuffled along aimlessly; the kind of folks that probably can't afford a painkiller more palatable than an Olde English '40'.
The Chivas ad caption read: OH, STOP IT. ENVY IS SO UNATTRACTIVE.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
- Smile for the camera(s). Say hello to the Spycam Force: "Chicago's two-fisted street cops have a new kind of backup: a point-and-click surveillance network tied to a citywide crime-fighting database." [Noah Schachtman in WIRED Magazine]:
On a warm afternoon on Chicago's West Side, a young African-American man leans against the wall of the One Stop Food and Liquor store at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Homan Street. His puffy black jacket is so oversize that the collar hangs halfway down his back. Thirty feet up, a camera mounted on a telephone pole swivels toward him. Three miles away, in a bunkerlike, red granite building near Greektown, Ron Huberman watches the young man on a PC screen. "You see that guy?" asks Huberman, the 33-year-old chief of Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications. "He's pitching dope - you can tell..." ... "We're gonna go on the air" - call for a police car - "and bust him."
With a move of his mouse, Huberman pans to the right. We're looking down at a second man, in a beige coat. He has a brown paper bag in one hand and a wad of cash in the other. "He's involved," Huberman says, staring hard at the screen. No cop, even undercover, could ever get this close for this long. But the cameras - housed in checkerboard-patterned, 2-foot-tall boxes the police here call pods - can zoom in so tight I can see the wisps of a mustache. Huberman decides not to have his suspected dealers picked up; too much of an Enemy of the State move to pull with a reporter around, perhaps. But the footage will be stored for review by antinarcotics teams. "Now you see the power of what we're doing?" Huberman asks, still staring at the screen.
- I thought other folks were misspelling "pablum" as "pabulum"; but it turns out they are two, nay three, different things! "Pabulum" is a generic term referring to "1. A substance that gives nourishment; food. 2. Insipid intellectual nourishment: "TV . . . gobbled up comedy material and spat it out as pabulum." "Pablum" (capital-P) is a trademark, referring to a brand of bland Canadian baby cereal, and "pablum" (lower-case "p") is 'trite, insipid, or simplistic writing, speech, or conceptualization: We have to settle for the pablum that passes for the inside dope' (Julie Salamon)." Unless, of course, you live in Australia, where Pabulum is "nourishment for the mind."
- Something to chew on...London artist Ben Wilson is transforming trodden gobs of gum into works of art, one piece at a time:
[A]t any one time, approximately 300,000 pieces of the stuff are stuck to the pavement in Oxford Street. Just cleaning it up would cost about £30,000, but now an artist has come up with a novel way of dealing with the problem by painting on it.
And Ben Wilson, 41, originally from Barnet, but now living in Muswell Hill, does not do things by halves. He intends to paint pictures faces, animals, suns, name it and he will do it on pieces of discarded gum all the way from Barnet to the West End of London.
- "Is you is, or is you isn't you?" Researchers are making the surprising discovery that many people may actually have another individual's body tissue inside their bodies; in other words, they are "biological chimeras":
One route to this odd state, called chimerism, is the vanishing twin. Dr. Helain Landy of Georgetown University, who has no involvement in the Hamilton case [a competitive cyclist was charged with blood doping after what appeared to be another person's DNA showed up in his test results], has found that 20 to 30 percent of pregnancies that start out as twins end up as single babies, with one twin being absorbed by the mother during the first trimester.
Others researchers have found that in some cases, before the twin is absorbed, some of its cells enter the body of the other fetus and remain there for life. The cells can include bone marrow stem cells, the progenitors of blood cells. Another route to chimerism is through the cells that routinely pass from a mother to fetus and remain there for life.
Dr. Ann Reed, chairwoman of rheumatology research at the Mayo Clinic, who uses sensitive DNA tests to look for chimerism, finds that about 50 to 70 percent of healthy people are chimeras. The more scientists look for chimerism, the more they find it. It seemed not to exist in the past, she said, because no one was explicitly looking for small amounts of foreign cells in people's bodies.
"Some believe that if you look hard enough you can find chimerism in anybody," said Dr. Reed, who also has not been involved in the Hamilton case. It is so common that she thinks there must be a biological reason for it. [read full New York Times article, via Slate]
Monday, May 09, 2005
- CNET's FAQ on how the REAL ID Act will affect you...and you...and me.
- On Tubas:
Does it count that I played the euphonium in 9th grade? [via MeFi]
Consider the tuba and its player. Maligned by flautists and other snigglers, ignored by second-rate composers, the tuba is a musical instrument with a deep history. From serpents to ophecleides to sousaphones, the tuba is truly God's voice box (although some would say it is closer to Satan's). Tubas represent love. Tubas bring joy. Humor. And beer. Rising above the petty stereotyping of fat men and oom-pah bands, the tuba is inarguably the most important musical instrument that exists today.
- "She's baaaack....": Our Lady of the Underpass has reappeared.
- Spotted at Atlanta Airport: an iPod vending machine [via mp3blogs]
- I've always been under the impression that Texas, though a somewhat conservative part of the country, was a state where folks didn't much appreciate having The Government poking its nose into their daily lives: tagging's for cattle, not Texans. Which is why I've read with dismay the news Scott at Grits for Breakfast reports lately - apparently the Lone Star State is on the Big Brother tip these days:
...legislation near passage in the Texas House of Representatives would gather the two password biometrics most commonly used into a database of 13.5 million Texas drivers, and allow law enforcement to access the information without a warrant in any criminal investigation. Talk about unintended consequences! Well, maybe it's intended by somebody.That's the big downside of biometric passwords: if facial dimensions and fingerprints are forever, so is identity theft. What would a "compromised" person do in that case?
Presently, two types of biometrics are commonly used for personal computer passwords: fingerprints and facial recognition. For some time now DPS has gathered both thumbprints (or fingerprints where that's not possible) on all Texas drivers, and in recent years has begun to maintain that data digitally. Now they'll add facial recognition measurements from their photo database to the mix. (You don't suppose anybody would want to steal that information, do you? Identity theft, anyone?)
Never forget that, to your computer, your fingerprint, facial image or iris scan isn't connected to you - it's just data, a bunch of ones and zeroes cycling through the computer system. If it's stolen, you can never get it back, nor can you change your fingerprints or your facial structure. [read full post]
- Hmmm...interesting. I've lived in or within the general metropolitan vicinity of four of the five cities listed here. Than again, I answered "yes" to the test question, "clean air is overrated."
Trish Wilson's Blog]
American Cities That Best Fit You:
85% Chicago 70% Philadelphia 65% New York City 60% Boston 45% Atlanta
- A downsizing euphemisim for the times, via the CTA Tattler: nearly two thousand Chicago Transit Authority employees are being "administratively separated from their jobs."
- "Just what this city needs"...another chocolate joint. [via Chicagoist]
- According to Rummaging Through the Crevices, two "VoIP geeks" have apparently cracked the problem of polyphonic MIDI transcription - using computer automation to extract note data from recordings where more than one plays simultaneously (chords).
Friday, May 06, 2005
- This will likely come as a shock to my family:
Jolly good, wot! Anyone for tennis? That'll be ten ponies, guv.
You're the epitome of everything that is English. Yey :)
Hoist that Union Jack!
How British are you?
This quiz was made by alanna
[via Lauren at Feministe]
- Grits for Breakfast: Texas risks identity theft with Big Brother biometrics database
- "You My Midga": Roger Ebert and Daniel Woodburn hash it out over Dwarfs, Little People, and the M-Word. Woodburn, a short-statured actor, takes Ebert deftly to task over the use of the word "midget," and Ebert's response is equally thoughful. It's a conversation I personally found interesting, as my taller-than-average (5' 10") better half's cousin is short-statured.
- The reality based community vs. the ribbon-based economy [via Wither in the Light]
- Heavy Metal Poisoning? the WEEE Man is a creepy (think Japanese anime) 7-metre high sculpture made up of the quantity of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (hence, WEEE!) an average U.K. citizen will use and discard in their lifetime. That's a whole lotta cellphones, computers, and washing machines, and I suspect the average American's jettisoned junk would make an even larger WEEE Man. [via GROONK.net]
- Dave at Temperantia denounces Orson Scott Card's glee over the demise of Star Trek, and I wholeheartedy agree with Dave. Boo to you, Card.
- They've painted over the image of Our Lady of the Underpass; news from CBS2 Chicago:
CHICAGO (AP) The underpass Virgin Mary is gone. After a man defaced a salt stain that had drawn pilgrims to the Fullerton underpass on the Kennedy Expressway, authorities painted over the image, which many Catholic residents said resembled a popular representation of the Virgin Mary.
Authorities charged Victor Gonzalez, 37, of Chicago Friday with criminal damage to state supported property, a misdemeanor, for allegedly writing with black shoe polish the words "Big Lie" over the image, police spokesman David Banks said. A public telephone listing for Gonzalez could not be found Friday.
Banks said witnesses told police they saw a man on a bicycle writing on the image around 11:35 p.m. Thursday. Police then directed the Illinois Department of Transportation to paint over the image because of security concerns, IDOT spokesman Matt Vanover said.
Thursday, May 05, 2005Yes, dear readers...after nearly three years, I have come to the conclusion that the name "farkleberries" may no longer adequately represent the vision and purpose of this blog. Over time a few of you have asked me why I named it so in the first place; in truth, it was an accident.
Some of you may recall my quasi-blog from 2001-2002 called "Unzen Koans" before I opened the Blogger account, and "farkleberries"-dot-blogspot-dot-com was the first domain I chose that didn't return the message, "We're sorry, but that domain name is currently in use - please try again." After I chose the name "farkleberries" I found that Wikipedia blurb (on the sidebar) about "the farkleberry is the most astringent of the herbs in its immediate family and therefore of significant medicinal value," which seemed sufficiently eccentric for my purposes at the time.
It's served a purpose, but I feel like maybe it's time for a change. While I plan on keeping the farkleberries.blogspot.com domain for the time being, I'd to like to offer everyone a chance to suggest its new name...after all, you're the ones that come visit this little smoky joint every day, for which I'm very grateful! I can't offer much in the way of compensation at this point, but I will certainly give credit on this blog to the person (or blog/website, if you choose to remain anonymous) whose entry is chosen.
By the by, I noticed there is a new blog out there (established in April of this year) named "Farkleberryjuice," which is just...well...very different from my own blog. They're obviously not a spoof or satire, and I'm positive they don't even know this blog exists (note to new bloggers - please always Google a proposed name first), but I'm starting to get some confusing, conflicting Technorati cross-references from them. Not too good, that. I considered sending the author a
Cheers, and thanks in advance for your thoughts -
(P.S.) I've already considered "The Blog Formerly Known as Farkleberries."
Wednesday, May 04, 2005On May 20th, Paul Schrader's "shelved" original prequel to the Exorcist film series will hit theaters, and from what I've read so far, this version of the film may be every bit as good as Renny Harlin's eleventh-hour reshoot was awful. I honestly never expected this version of the film to see any big screen time at all, despite the franchise's fan base clamoring, so news of its 110-screen limited release was a pleasant surprise.
The series' two previous 'sequels' (as well as the Harlin prequel) withered in the long shadow cast by the gory and psychologically complex 1974 Exorcist; unfortunately producers of the subsequent films seemed to recall only the original's grue and profanity, but precious little of its depth. Schrader - best known for dark, intelligent movies like Taxi Driver, The Mosquito Coast and The Last Temptation of Christ - seemed like the ideal director for the "serious" opener to the series, examining young Father Merrin's (Stellan Skarsgard) post-World War II crisis of faith, and his first encounters with demonic possession in Africa. Roger Ebert says:
A milestone in movie history. Same premise, same hero, same leading actor, two directors, two completely different visions. Not a "director's cut" but a different director and a different film.The LA Times reveals the - how shall we say, unusual - marketing strategy of "The Exorcist v4.2" (if truth be told, Harlin's should have been the real v4.2):
Schrader's "Exorcist Prequel" is not a conventional horror film, but does something risky and daring: It takes evil seriously. There really are dark Satanic forces in the Schrader version, which takes a character forever scarred by the Holocaust and asks if he can ever again believe in the power of God. The movie is drenched in atmosphere and dread, boldly confronting the possibility that Satan is active in the world. Instead of cheap thrills, Schrader gives us a frightening vision of a good priest (Stellan Skarsgard) who fears goodness may not be enough.
After Schrader delivered this version, the studio apparently found it too complex and intelligent, although those of course were not the words they used, and not scary enough. Well, it seems scary to me. They commissioned a different version by Renny Harlin, unseen by me because it was not screened for the press (never a good sign). He replaced three of the four key actors, although not Skarsgard, and produced a work that clanged in at 11 percent on the Tomatometer.
Then the studio decided to release this original version. Schrader, whose screenplays for "Taxi Driver," "The Mosquito Coast" and "The Last Temptation of Christ" and directorial achievements like "Hardcore" and "The Comfort of Strangers" reveal a deep obsession with the war between good and evil, was the right director, and this is a film that works. Those who have seen the earlier version, may find the two films instructive as an illustration of the gulf between a personal vision and a multiplex product.
"Dominion" will be distributed by Warner Bros. and hits theaters the same weekend as the hotly anticipated "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" — a risky but strategic counter-programming plan.Releasing a looking-glass version of a former box-office bomb the same weekend as Star Wars III:ROTS seems counterintuitive, but perhaps it's a move so bold it might actually work - people may have increased "cinemawareness" during this time period, and if E:D's word-of-mouth is positive, more moviegoers may hear about at theaters themselves. Innovative strategy, to say the least. Now, if I were a betting person choosing key callout phrases from the Ebert preview, I'd probably pick:
The strategy also poses an unusual marketing dilemma for Morgan Creek. In marketing two versions of the same movie, is it better to emphasize the films' shared lineage? Or their differences? "Therein lies the problem," said Brian Robinson. "How do you make them so they're related but show their differences in a 30-second TV spot?"
Morgan Creek's marketing campaign for the movie is still being finalized, but tentative plans exist to use a blurb from Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert that pays tribute to the Schrader version while also distinguishing it from the Harlin version of the film.
Boo!"A milestone in movie history...two directors, two completely different visions."
"does something risky and daring: It takes evil seriously."
"drenched in atmosphere and dread...a frightening vision..."
Roger Ebert's preview of Paul Schrader's Exorcist: Dominion
Exorcist: Dominion preview on The Bloody News
- This weekend, I finally got to see the much-vaunted Our Lady of the Underpass on drives to and from O'Hare. Verdict: in person, it really does look like...a salt stain. Oh well. Apparently we humans love to perceive patterns whether they exist, or not. [interesting article at Scientific American on the "Turn Me On, Dead Man Effect"; remember when Paul was Dead?]
- It's a slow news morning in Chicagoland. CBS2 Top Story: Cows Temporarily Block Traffic In Lake County
- From moos to boos: PC World offers us an advance peek at Microsoft's new operating system, code-named Longhorn. I'm sorry, but this OS is about the fugliest thing I've seen onscreen for a long time. By the way: apparently, you'll need a jigawatt-powered PC just to use it. I think I'll stay with XP for the foreseeable future; hell, maybe Longhorn will finally make me go
to the dark sideMac. And just who hired those GUI designers, anyway?
- Postsecret is a blog of reader's anonymous postcards, each containing a secret that the sender has never told anyone before.
The creative aspect is great - you make a 4"x6" postcard on which to write your message, and on the best ones the art really complements the secret. The resulting pieces are beautiful and funny and heartbreaking and terrible. Like life. [via Wither in the Light]
- Goofus and Gallant in the 21st Century: "Goofus: 'Soylent Green again?!?' Gallant: 'Mmm! Tastes just like chicken!'" [via Rebecca's Pocket]
- Anthony Lane's New Yorker review of Inside Deep Throat:
As a caustic Norman Mailer remarks, "The worst thing to be said about us Americans is that we sell our souls for a giggle." You may declare yourself groovily attuned to the liberties afforded by pornography (remember Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson standing shoulder to shoulder with Harry Reems), or you may rush to enshrine your distaste for it in frightened legislation, but you are falling into the same trap. The thousands who congratulated themselves on their ruttish bravado, simply by virtue of having seen a trashy little flick in Times Square, were no less deluded than the millions who fell away in strangulated horror at the revelation, during the Super Bowl broadcast of 2004, that Janet Jackson, in her capacity as a female mammal, possessed a nipple. [read full article]
- Howard Zinn on How To Keep Your Chin Up In Times of W [via Burnin']
- A disturbing news story featured on The Well-Timed Period, re: Segregated Medical Care:
The protocol of six Catholic hospitals run by Centura calls for rape victims to undergo an ovulation test.[via Feministe]
If they have not ovulated, said Centura corporate spokeswoman Dana Berry, doctors tell the victims about emergency contraception and write prescriptions for it if the patient asks.
If, however, the urine test suggests that a rape victim has ovulated, Berry continued, doctors at Centura's Catholic hospitals are not to mention emergency contraception.
- Eat what I say, not what I pay: what the government wants us to eat according to the new food pyramid isn't what it's paying our farmers to grow:
...corn and soybeans receive a good chunk of the $15 billion in subsidies to farmers that the Agriculture Department is doling out this year. And while that might seem logical because the food pyramid advocates a plant-based diet, most of the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are used to fatten cows, pigs and chickens, while the pyramid recommends that consumers eat more fish and beans.Which is probably why McFood remains as cheap as it is, while we pay through the nose for fresh produce. Why does fruit cost almost $3.00 a pound (that's what apples or pears cost at the neighborhood Dominick's supermarket) these days? Steak is sometimes actually cheaper than fruit!
Corn and soybeans also are used to make artificial sweeteners and partially hydrogenated oils that the food pyramid urges Americans to avoid. Such oils also are derived from cotton, another heavily subsidized crop.
That disparity points out an awkward truth about the USDA: what it urges people to eat to remain healthy does not match what it pays farmers to grow. In fact, fruit and vegetable farmers receive no subsidies from the government, though fruits and vegetables should make up the largest share of Americans' diets, according to the new pyramid. [read full article, via Rebecca's Pocket]