Friday, November 28, 2008

Santa Fe Trail, 1940

Alternate blog post title: Whiskey Tango Hotel Foxtrot Hotel?!

First, I should mention that although the liner notes on the box said this movie was supposed to be The Santa Fe Trail, a 1930 movie starring Richard Arlen, it is not. The movie on the disc is actually Santa Fe Trail, a 1940 movie starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland and Ronald Reagan. John Litel is also in the credits, but he had only a small role and I was not able to spot him.

Now that that's out of the way, I can start off by saying this movie has almost nothing at all to do with "the Santa Fe Trail," and is actually an excremental pile of historical revisionism covering the alleged activities of abolitionist John Brown and the "heroes" who opposed him during the years between 1854 and 1859.

Too harsh? Well, as I began watching it, I kept thinking, wtf?! Wtff?! Why? Who? What was the purpose behind creating an anti-abolitionist movie in 1940? I hopped onto imdb to check out some of the comments there. I kept going through comment after comment, thinking, what the hell is wrong these people?
What makes this film a remarkable document is its unflinching, for the Hollywood of the 1940s, portrayal of the evil of slavery, the pain of blacks ensnared in its web...

Bull. The blacks in this film are portrayed as meaningless, cartoonish caricatures of human beings. At one point, a black couple even states that:

Woman: Ol' John Brown say he gon' give us freedom, but [unintelligible], if this here Kansas is freedom, then I ain't got no use for it, no sir!

Man: Me neither, I just want to get back home to Texas, and set 'til kingdom come!
Another commenter said:
A powerful movie too interested in the truth to take sides.
Bull, and again I say: bull. The abolitionists are repeatedly portrayed as insane, evil, opportunistic @ssh*les, while the pro-slavery and (cough) "neutral" people are portrayed as the reasonable, gallant and heroic good guys.

Also there were a couple of nameless pipe-smoking extras in the railroad car scene.

For another example of how this movie is skewed, I offer the following segue caption.

In context, it is clear that this caption is referring to Palmyra, Kansas as "the cancer of Kansas" because it is a hotbed of abolitionist fervor "and the western end of the underground railroad for slaves."

But finally, after several comments that seemed to apologize (as in, explain away) the movie, I came to a comment that echoed my own feelings, so I'll just quote it here in full.
I COULD call this "a typical rousing Hollywood actioner" - but I won't. This is an insidious movie that pollutes History even more than normal Hollywood fare. It had nothing to do with "The Santa Fe Trail", but dealt with abolitionist John Brown from Kansas to Harpers Ferry in the years before the Civil War, and the reaction of West Point officers to him. So what's wrong with it? It is nothing but pro-Slaveholder anti-black propaganda. 1. Atrocities by pro-slavery forces in Kansas were never depicted, just those by Brown. 2. Brown was never shown treating blacks with respect and as equals. As he always did. 3. Blacks were only depicted as shiftless, helpless stereotypes. 4. One third of Brown's fighters at Harpers Ferry were black - none were depicted in the movie. 5. The assault against Brown at Harpers was preposterous - about six times the size of the actual fight. 6. West Point cadets were shown as mostly pro-slavery, and abolitionist cadets were depicted as crackpots and the cause of the Civil War. 7. John Brown's famous and magnificent speech before the Court was not shown. 8. John Brown was denounced as a "traitor" - by the Robert E Lee character who would soon renounce his West Point oath and fight against the United States - UNlike many other Virginia officers. I could go on. But this movie should only be shown in a classroom as an example of propaganda and deceit.
Yes, propaganda and deceit. And it is so overt that I kept thinking someone must have somehow made it in 1860. The propaganda and deceit are so obvious, it is just bizarre. And again I must ask: why?

I, John Brown, shall be the sword of Jehovah!

Raymond Massey does a stupendous and totally over-the-top job as John Brown, who is portrayed as principled and idealistic, but still essentially 150% batsh*t evil crazy.

Comedy is sometimes thrown in, lurchingly, like ramming a truck down a gear when you're still going too fast. Alan Hale (who to me will always be Skipper's Dad) and some other guy provide the comic relief.

You think it's gonna be hard chewin', Tex?
Well, I don't know. I still gotta hunch we shoulda skinned it first.
We took the horns off of it, didn't we?

Whew, all that and I still haven't given a plot synopsis. Okay, to begin with, it operates under the fictional premise that Jeb Stewart (Errol Flynn), George Armstrong Custer (Ronald Reagan), Phil Sheridan, James Longstreet and George Pickett all graduated together from West Point in 1854 and were all the very best of friends. They all get posted to Leavenworth, Kansas after graduation and Stewart and Custer lead a guard for a cargo wagon train that's supposed to be going to Santa Fe (thus they spend about 15 minutes on the "Santa Fe Trail"). The journey gets derailed quickly when John Brown, operating under an alias, stops them to get his crates of Bibles. While unloading the crates, it is discovered that they are actually rifles. This is about the only thing they got almost right.

The rifles that were smuggled to abolitionists in the Kansas territory--disguised as crates of Bibles--in the years before the Civil War were mostly Sharps rifles. But based on my own research (and of course I could be wrong), the rifles in this movie appear to be Model 1869 carbines, which were, you know, not introduced until around 1869. I believe the rifles in question were more likely to be the Model 1852, which is conspicuously different from the 1869 in that it has a shorter forearm and no barrel band. But that's only a minor quibble, really. Nothing like having all the famous generals of the Civil War starting out as a group of BFFs.

When it comes to the handguns, however, I must cry foul. This is too obvious to let slide, and I cannot let it stand.

During this period, the Army should have been using the Colt Army revolver, which was a cap-and-ball gun, had a non-fluted cylinder, and no topstrap. The handguns used in this movie are obviously Colt Peacemakers, which did not see the light of day until 1872. You poinked the pooch, folks. I don't care what the prop department had. I could give them extra credit for having Stewart run out of ammo after 5 shots, but then I would just have to take it away because the barn he was sheltering in also held a wagon load of smuggled revolvers (a time-traveling wagon, apparently, since the revolvers were all from at least 13 years in the future), that were being smuggled already loaded! How conveeeenient!

As far as I could tell, these were the only two guns used in this movie, except for a couple of cannons.

There is also a half-hearted attempt at a friendly love triangle with Stewart and Custer vying for Kit Carson Holliday (De Havilland), but it's so superfluous amidst all the sh*t-slinging that it's hardly worth mentioning.

The climactic battle scene is, I must admit, quite impressive and very well coreographed, with some pretty good special effects for the time, but of course, quite inaccurate. John Brown is captured and in the movie gives this fictional speech before being hanged.

I am only walking as God foreordained I should walk. All my actions, even the folly leading to this disaster were decreed to happen long ages before this world began. But I cannot remember a night so dark as to have hindered the coming days, or a storm so furious as to prevent the return of warm sunshine in the country at peace. I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood. I let them hang me. I forgive them and may God forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Perhaps he gave some kind of speech on the gallows, perhaps not. History doesn't record it. But for his last docmented speech, go here. Here is an excerpt.
This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to "remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them." I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say, I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done!
And then the movie immediately jumps to the completely gratutious 30-second wedding ceremony of Stewart and Holliday. Surprise! Happy ending after all!

So, should you watch this movie? Yes, but only once. But be sure to educate yourself first on what really happened during those years, and pay attention to everything that's wrong.

And then, when it's finished, ask yourself: What movies from the early 2000s will people be watching in 2060 and thinking: Good God, did those people really believe the things they're saying?! What a load of cr*p!

Source: Western Classics 50 Movie Pack Collection
Runtime: 110 minutes
Amazon Search: Santa Fe Trail

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Also, never sneeze with a pipe in your mouth

So tonight I have been enjoying the silence after the kids went to sleep with my ambient mp3 collection and a pipeful of St. James Woods. A hefty blend of broken Virginia flake and real Louisiana Perique (not "Perique"). It was a slow, thoughtful day spent with the part of my family who I don't see very often, and a slow, thoughful pipe was the perfect finish (I am still trying to squeeze a few more minutes out of this bowl as I type). And I have just done something stupid for the second time in my pipe-smoking career: I burned myself.

Here at my desk, I use matches to light my pipe. I am almost always reading something on the computer screen, and usually "read through" the match when I do relights; it has become almost automatic. But a few minutes ago I overshot the bowl and the flaring match came down on my finger. It didn't hurt all that much, but it certainly got my attention. The first time I burned myself was more painful.

That first time, I was using the bigger kitchen matches and just as I struck the match, I lost my grip on it. I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt at the time, and the flaring match flipped out of my right hand, up inside my left sleeve, leaving a nasty burn on the inside of my wrist before it was extinguished.

By the way, I really hate Diamond brand matches. They are badly inferior, in my opinion. Prone to breakage--I have had flaring matches snap in two many times. I used to get Ohio Blue Tips at H.E.B. and I thought they were excellent matches, but not even H.E.B. carries those anymore. Only Diamond. Sigh.

So what is the moral of this story? I'm not sure. Maybe it's: sometimes you need to take your eyes off the screen. Perhaps it is: leave the 19th century behind and get a decent butane pipe lighter (never!). But I am more prone to agree with Homer Simpson's sentiment: There is no moral. It's just a bunch of stuff that happened.

And now the last whiff of smoke has wafted to the metaphorical rafters, a pleasing aroma unto the small, old gods of pipe smoking. But my finger will heal, and tomorrow is another pipe.

Obligatory Thanksgiving post

Is that an awesome looking bird, or what? And it's good to eat. The turkey should have been our national bird instead of the eagle.

My wife had to work today, but the kids and I made the trek to my mom's place in Gonzales, where we had the traditional Thanksgiving fare. I hope all y'all have something for which you can be truly thankful. For example, I'm thankful that I get a paid holiday tomorrow, too!


Scientific American has a collection of 12 Examples of Kinetic Illusion in Op Art. Such as the Enigma Illusion, below.

Some technical explanations are included, for example:
Op artist Isia Leviant unknowingly combined the MacKay Rays and the BBC wallboard illusion in the now classic Enigma illusion. Several original Leviant paintings illustrating this effect hang in the San Francisco Exploratorium, including its very first version (known as the Traffic Illusion). As you view the Enigma image, notice how the concentric purple rings appear to fill with rapid circular motion, as if millions of tiny and barely visible cars were driving hell-bent-for-leather around a track. But does the illusion originate in the mind or in the eye? The evidence was conflicting until we found, in collaboration with our neuroscientist colleagues Xoana G. Troncoso and Jorge Otero-Millan, at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, that the illusory motion is driven by microsaccades: small, involuntary eye movements that occur during visual fixation. The precise brain mechanisms leading to the perception of the illusion are still unknown, however. One possibility is that microsaccades produce small shifts in the geometrical position of the peripheral portions of the image. The reversals in contrast that these shifts produce could then create the illusion of motion. Neuroscientist and artist Bevil Conway and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School recently showed that pairs of stimuli of different contrasts can generate motion signals in visual cortex neurons, and proposed that this neural mechanism may underlie the perception of illusory motion in certain static patterns.
Still hard to understand, at least for this layman. So you may be better off ignoring the explanations and just grooving on the graphics.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Oklahoma Cyclone, 1930

Think of singing cowboys and you think of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. But before either of them, there was Bob Steele.

Who, by the way, eschewed the guitar for the baritone ukelele.

Now, a word of warning. I am not a film critic. I am only someone who, for reasons yet to be conclusively determined, enjoys watching westerns, including very old westerns (any "western" starring Sharon Stone is out--I'm not interested). I am not interested in the technical aspects of filmography, although I'm sure I would be the first to point out a boom mike swinging into the scene. I am more interested in the stories they tell, the dialog that is spoken, how guns are used and misused, and what ever became of some of the obscure actors who appeared in these movies. I do not write blog posts like this to show off knowledge; in fact, I write them to educate myself. So, you were warned.

Steele's real name was Robert Bradbury, Jr., and he was the son of a director. He began his career using his real name, and later changed his nom de performance to Steele.

This movie also stars the sultry beauty Rita Rey as Carmelita, who made three movies during 1930 and '31 and then vanished from the face of the earth, although I suspect she may have just gone back to Mexico or whatever other Spanish-speaking Central or South American country she was from. It's too bad I can't show it in these still pix, but in almost every shot she is heaving. I mean, as in heaving bosoms. Heaving, I say. I am not saying she was overly-endowed, I'm just saying that she seemed to make it a practice to breathe from her chest. Heaving.

She also came with her own band. Why? I don't know, they just seem to turn up at opportune moments.

But I suppose I should mention the story. Steele plays a character who is using the obvious alias of Jim Smith. It opens with Smith outrunning a posse and managing to fall in with an outlaw gang led by a notorious badman called the Black Diablo (Charles King). One of the outlaws, called Rawhide (Slim Whitaker), suspects that Smith is not what he seems, but he is kept in line because the B.D. believes Smith is okay. Another outlaw named Slim (Al St. John), one of those outlaws with a heart of gold, befriends Smith even though he suspects Smith is not really who he claims to be. Smith passes himself off as another semi-famous outlaw called The Oklahoma Cyclone. In the final minutes of the movie the true story is revealed: Jim Smith is really Jimmy Henderson, whose father is a lawman who was captured by the Diablo and is being held in captivity with failing health. Smith set himself up as a fake outlaw in order to infiltrate the Diablo's gang and find his father.

The guns of this movie aren't really interesting, but that's pretty much the norm for all these old movies in my experience. Handguns are Colt Peacemakers, and rifles are Winchesters (probably 94s). There are no rifles in this movie, only Colt revolvers. But remember this is 1930 and look at all that smoke! You can also see that it appears Steele is firing into a clear spot on the ground next to Rawhide, although he is allegedly shooting the gun out of Rawhide's hand.

Several seconds later, and the smoke still hasn't dissipated. If you watch the movie, you can see that the smoke is blowing toward the camera.

Several more seconds and there's still smoke. It takes about 20 seconds for all the smoke to clear. To me, this is saying that those blanks are loaded with black powder! Cool.

The final scenes are the climactic gun battle during which it appears that Smith/Henderson is going to get shot, but Slim backs him up and turns against the other outlaws. Black Diablo shoots Slim as Slim shoots B.D. More smoke!

Here's Black Diablo doing the standard clutch & keel that you see in a lot of these movies instead of what I would consider a real reaction to being shot in the chest. More smoke. Several shots were fired in this scene, and it looks to me like there was so much smoke in the air that they stopped and started over again after it had cleared out. At one point you can hardly see any people because of all the smoke.

Smoke. And the real posse arrives just in time to see Slim get shot.

The final scene is, I must say, one of the most chilling death scenes I have ever seen in a movie of this sort. You can see a small entrance wound on Slim's stomach, a couple inches above his belt and near his left hand. He backs up against the bar as the guns slip from his hands. He reaches up and scratches his head, knocking his hat off.

Then he brushes at the wound dumbly, as if trying to brush away a bit of dust before slipping to the floor and saying a few final words to Smith/Henderson and dying. This seemingly strange reaction--brushing feebly at his wound--rings true to me. And that's why I said it's one of the most chilling death scenes I've ever seen in an old western.

There isn't all that much truly terrible dialog, and I'm a big fan of stupid script. At one point someone says, "I'm swaying like a drunken female," and that's about the dumbest thing anyone ever says. The very first line of the movie is, no kidding, "Go around. Head him off at the pass!" I don't know if that was the birth of one of the most enduring western movie clichés ever, but it had to be one of the first times this line was used.

So would I recommend it? No. But it's only an hour long, and you would be better off spending an hour watching it than spending an hour watching half of something really stupid with Sharon Stone and Leonardo Di Caprio.

This is only a mediocre movie. It's not good enough to be good, nor bad enough to be good, nor even really bad enough to be truly bad. Slim's death scene earns it one extra star.

Source: Western Classics 50 Movie Pack Collection
Runtime: 66 minutes
Amazon Search: The Oklahoma Cyclone


National Geographic has a brief but eerily impressive video of a Magnapinna squid, with "elbowed" tentacles, filmed at almost 8,000 feet depth by a ROV at a Shell drilling site about 200 miles from Houston out in the Gulf. Check it out.

Alien-like Squid With "Elbows" Filmed at Drilling Site

New NSSF blog

FYI:Aiming for Accuracy is a new blog from the National Shooting Sports Foundation with the purpose of "Hunting down and correcting inaccuracies about firearms, the firearms industry and the shooting sports."  Probably worth your time to check out.  That is all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Not great...

But allegedly much better than members of the "government" scored.

Seen all over the place lately, and the link is here, for the record. I think my more libertarian viewpoint cost me a few questions.

Progress report

I'm glad to say that yesterday I had the opportunity to set someone straight on "assault weapons," how gun shows work, how hard and expensive it is to legally acquire fully-automatic weapons, and what the "assault weapon" ban really did. Fortunately, this wasn't a person who was pre-biased, it was just someone who was honestly ignorant and asked some honest questions.

Now if I can just get him to stop referring to a .40-caliber Glock as a "Glock Forty."


I have a feeling everyone already knows about this, and I only recently saw the tail-lights of the bandwagon zip past, but I have been getting some big kicks out of this site: Hot Chicks with Douchebags. Although I think some of the pictures are really hot douchebag chicks with douchebags. Some people may not find it humorous, especially douchebaggy people. But I guess you can always file a lawsuit.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The mustache! Oh, the mustache!!!

This is a guy I had to look up. His silence and slapstick way of moving; his high, painted eyebrows and a waxy, fake-looking but real 'stache kind of gave me a creepy feeling. [Screen caps from Rollin' Plains (1938). Click to enlarge.]

Beware the 'stache!Very strange vibe from this guy. Turns out Snub Pollard, real name Harold Fraser, was an Australian who moved to the U.S. and became a vaudeville actor, famed for his slapstick comedy. He was in nearly 500 movies and theater shorts, and toward the end of his career was usually uncredited. According to imdb, he was injured numerous times from doing silly stunts in the name of comedy.

Tex and his comic relief.
In this movie, Pollard plays a character called Pee Wee, and in fact, he was sometimes credited as Pee Wee Pollard. He is obviously very short; imdb says he was 5'4". He and the other sidekick, Ananias (strange name for this character played by Horace Murphy), are sort of like two Shaggys. At every sign of danger, Tex goes charging in while they run the other way. Ritter plays a Texas Ranger, so my question is: how did a Ranger get stuck with these two goofballs?

This movie was from 1938, the second one I watched yesterday was from 1937. I think I need to go through and watch them in chronological order. Both of these sidekicks played very minor non-sidekick roles in the movie that came before this one. Pollard's role is very short, and monumentally creepier even than this one.

It's the silence. It must be. But then he came from the days when movies were silent, and although he later appeared in numerous talkies, he remained silent himself. I was beginning to imagine that he didn't even have a mouth under that 'stache until he visibly opened it for some reason.

This has been a very strange blog post but I guess I had to get it out of my system. I suppose you can expect more odd commentaries like this as I work my way through this collection. But I need to go to imdb and get all the release dates before I watch any of the others.

Oh yeah, one other thing. Rollin' Plains was the last movie appearance of a cowboy band called...Beverly Hill Billies.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Movie stuff

Did not spend any time on the internet today because my wife was expecting a last-minute Avon order, which of course never came, but it gave me an opportunity to do some computer maintenance.

I used a CD that came with my USB hard drive to do a full backup of the C drive, first time ever for this machine. Well, it's a lot more convenient than a tape backup, let me tell you, and faster too. But it still took a long time. So I sorted some DVDs and found a box of "50 classic westerns" that my wife had bought for me a long time ago and which I had never watched. So I started with disc one and today watched two old Tex Ritter movies, Rollin' Plains and Sing, Cowboy, Sing. I am more familiar with pictures of Ritter as an older man, but these movies were from the late 30s, when he was still young, and back then he looked much more like his son John would later look. So maybe I'll try working my way through this box. A lot of those old movies are only about an hour long, since they weren't meant to be the only feature for a Saturday afternoon at the movies. These two looked like they were burned to DVD not a moment too soon, the film had really begun to degrade in spots. There are also some John Wayne movies in the collection, also Randolph Scott, Gene Autry, and a few people I'm not really familiar with.

I also discovered a handful of really strange-looking anime DVDs. My wife again, apparently just buying a DVD because it was there and it was cheap, and she knows I watch anime. Unfortunately, she doesn't, so it seems she can't tell the difference between Hellsing and Sailor Moon ("they're both those Japanese cartoon shows, aren't they?") I put them in their own stack to take a look at sometime. I think it would be a good idea to read about them on Wikipedia first so I have a rough idea of what's going on.

I also discovered that I do not have a DVD of True Grit (I thought I did), which is one of my favorite John Wayne movies, so I'll have to keep an eye out for that on the Western movie channel. I do have two DVDs of Angel and the Badman, one in the original black & white and one colorized, if I recall correctly. We caught Rooster Cogburn last week on the Western channel and I was surprised that my son sat there and avidly watched the entire movie.

And finally, I must mention that this week, I believe starting on Thanksgiving night, the Encore Western channel is going to be running a Lee Van Cleef marathon!!! I'll be DVDing the whole thing, or as much of it as I can. I should get plenty of good squinty-eyed pipe-smoking screen caps out of it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


A few weeks ago I created a Facebook account because I wanted to be able to view David Codrea's Facebook page and I couldn't unless I had my own page and got added as a "friend." So I have a Facebook page.

My question is, why would someone who I don't know want to add me as a so-called "friend?" Not only do I not know them, it is very unlikely that I would have anything in common with them and in fact probably be at odds with them.

Puzzling. Anyway, I think I'm going to just delete the account, if possible. Doesn't seem much use.


I did some voluntary OT this morning, working in the Bowen Drive and Valley Trails area. The weather this morning was about as perfect as it could get, in regard to my job. The temperature was just right so that I neither broke a sweat nor had to wear a jacket, plus there was no wind and no sunshine. 506 meters in 3 hours, not counting one that I spent about 10 minutes looking for after I finished everything else. I did find it, but it was way up there in that intersection of Bowen, Old Tezel and New Guilbeau, and I think it might have been put on the wrong route.

At about 9:00, I saw this, and just had to say, What the...?!

Way up in the northwest, someone had to tag this vacant house. I have an absolutely certain way to put a stop to this kind of nonsense, but most people probably wouldn't approve. It doesn't have so much to do with providing a so-called "creative outlet" for vandalism, and a lot more to do with extermination.

It seems that there is nowhere, and I mean nowhere in San Antonio that a house can be vacant and not get vandalized in this way. Worthless P.O.S. punks.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Maybe they're not as expert as they think

Another cougar sighting, this one in New York, and the witness got a photo.
"They do seem to be coming back if you look at North America as a whole, including Florida, North Dakota, Texas," McCollough said.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cryptozoology Home-Study Certification

Flamel College (named after Nicolas, of course), offers a home-study course in cryptozoology.
Cryptozoology is a combination of anthropology and zoology in which researchers try to find and study animals that are only rumored to exist. In other words, cryptozoologists study animals and other creatures that have not yet been accepted by science as real. They look for specimens of unknown creatures they refer to as "cryptids." In a way, cryptozoologists are a specialized branch of monster hunters. Cryptozoology does not normally collect or study UFO reports, ghosts, or even animal apparitions. Nor do cryptozoologists normally study out-of-place animals or newly-discovered small animals and insects, since finding new species of such creatures is fairly common among biologists.
Course and materials for $85. The course seems heavily based on Loren Coleman's Cryptozoology A to Z, but he is not affiliated with them. They just chose his book.

And yes, there's also a course in alchemy.

via Cryptomundo, of course

Brains online

Some brains are just naturally better, juicier, and formerly smarter than others, and we've got them here at We sell only the highest quality fresh brains, delivered straight to your door. We do the dirty deed so you can spend more time... well... doing whatever the hell it is you zombies do when you're not ripping open people's heads.
I'm not (yet) willing to say how I got there, but I just discovered an amusing parody site that looks like Amazon but is more zombie-focused:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mid-week rant

Today was a hard day, and I'm really too tired to think. So I spent a while vegetating and watching a bunch of Tru Calling episodes that I recorded from Sci-Fi the other day. If you've never seen it, let me just offer two words: Eliza Dushku. Enough said.

I recently saw Robocop 3. I think I've seen bits of it before, but this was the first time I attempted to sit through all of it. I didn't technically see all of it this time, because I fell asleep for about 30-40 minutes.

First I should say: this movie totally sucks. Bad acting, bad writing (My friends call me Murphy, but you can call me...Robocop!!!) And then there's the robot clone ninjas. WTF? Holy chao this movie is bad. But this time, I also noticed that it is a total socialist screed.

The "good guys" are people living in apartments, on land they don't own. The "bad guys" are the owners of the land. There is no subtlety, no gray areas, no endless nuance of reality to this story: the people should be allowed to live where they want, no matter if they can afford it or not, and the owners are always perfectly willing to murder them in cold blood to retain control of their property.

Think I'm kidding? Watch it sometime, when you have two hours to kill. At one point the heroine shrieks, among other things, the paramount insult: capitalists! Yes, the movie goes out of its way to portray capitalism as a movement of mass murderers.

It strikes me that the movie portrays almost everything exactly the opposite of the ways things are and the way I would expect things to happen, and in fact, the way things have happened in the past in other countries. Land owners would be more likely to be evicted so that their property could be "redistributed." The socialist rulers would be far, far more likely to employ common street gangs as mercenaries (in fact, I will be surprised if this isn't actually tried somewhere in this country in the next few years--it's going to be a disaster).

The first two Robocop movies were okay, in my opinion. They showed a human, tormented leftover of a man in Murphy. Number three portrayed him as nothing but a near-mindless automaton in slavish service to the party. Also the movie really sucked. I know I said that already, but it bears repeating.

Fortunately, I still have three hours more of Eliza Dushku to watch.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Free mp3 sampler download

This one is a short sampler of five songs, total playing time 18 minutes. Another freebie from Amazon. Link here. I grabbed it when I saw Kasey Chambers' name on the list. She has one of those voices that I never get tired of hearing. Her song on this one is "Rattlin' Bones," a duet with Shane Nicholson.
Smoke don’t rise
Fuel don’t burn
Sun don’t shine no more
Late one night, sorrow come round
Scratching at my door
But I cut my hands
And break my back
Draggin’ this bag of stones
Till they bury me down, beneath the ground
With the dust and rattlin’ bones

Left my home and left my love
Caught on a rusty nail
Devil rose up, heavy with gold
My soul’s not for sale
Then a holy man in a house of God
He offered me a book of prayer
And when I left my home I left my love
I left my faith back there

Smoke don’t rise
Fuel don’t burn
Sun don’t shine no more
Late one night, sorrow come round
Scratchin’ at my door
But I cut my hands
And break my back
Draggin’ this bag of stones
Till they bury me down, beneath the ground
With the dust and rattlin’ bones

Shuttin’ my eyes and hang my head
Darkness makes no sound
Climb it up, bottom there
Earth’s on the way back down
When a sadness falls on the morning bird
Wonder what the day will bring
But I’m shuttin’ my eyes and hang my head
At least that bird can sing

Smoke don’t rise
Fuel don’t burn
Sun don’t shine no more
Late one night, sorrow come round
Scratchin’ at my door
But I cut my hands
And break my back
Draggin’ this bag of stones
Till they bury me down, beneath the ground
With the dust and rattlin’ bones

Till they bury me down, beneath the ground
With the dust and rattlin’ bones
Minor key, of course, with a steady banjo backbeat. Nice.

Hell's Nuns

A news report that sounds like a combination of several different Monty Python scripts. The headline reads: Priest 'smashes chair' over Italian restaurant owner's head as nuns kick him in the stomach.
The clergyman and nuns allegedly hit and kicked the 49-year-old man in an argument over the lease on the restaurant, which is owned by the Catholic Church.

The restaurateur said he rushed to the eatery, in the village of Rutino near Salerno, in southern Italy, after hearing that the priest and nuns were causing trouble.

He told police that he got into an argument with the priest, who smashed a chair over his head. The nuns followed up by kicking him in the stomach.

Stunned passers-by were shocked to see tables and chairs being hurled around the bar and promptly called the police.

"I came down to try to calm things down but the priest hit me with a chair and I ended up on the floor. Then the two sisters started kicking me, insulting me with unrepeatable words," the unnamed owner said in a statement.

He was taken to hospital with injuries to his neck and bruising to his abdomen.

A lawyer for the clergy disputed his version of events, noting that the nuns had "a combined age of 160".

"This establishment was being occupied illegally," said lawyer Gaetano Di Vietri. "As to the alleged aggression, I would only say that the two nuns have a combined age of about 160. For the rest, it will be up to the magistrate to clear up, but the clergy members deny the allegations."

The priest and nuns belong to a religious order, the Disciples of Santa Teresa and the Baby Jesus, which owns the lease on the premises and reportedly wants the property back.

The quick dead

Simon Pegg (of Shaun of the Dead) argues for a return to traditional zombie portrayals.

Simon Pegg on why the undead should never be allowed to run
I know it is absurd to debate the rules of a reality that does not exist, but this genuinely irks me. You cannot kill a vampire with an MDF stake; werewolves can't fly; zombies do not run. It's a misconception, a bastardisation that diminishes a classic movie monster. The best phantasmagoria uses reality to render the inconceivable conceivable. The speedy zombie seems implausible to me, even within the fantastic realm it inhabits. A biological agent, I'll buy. Some sort of super-virus? Sure, why not. But death? Death is a disability, not a superpower. It's hard to run with a cold, let alone the most debilitating malady of them all.

More significantly, the fast zombie is bereft of poetic subtlety. As monsters from the id, zombies win out over vampires and werewolves when it comes to the title of Most Potent Metaphorical Monster. Where their pointy-toothed cousins are all about sex and bestial savagery, the zombie trumps all by personifying our deepest fear: death. Zombies are our destiny writ large. Slow and steady in their approach, weak, clumsy, often absurd, the zombie relentlessly closes in, unstoppable, intractable.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A short hunting story

A member of our congregation took his approximately 20-year-old daughter hunting for the first time. At first, she was only going along because her husband (the member's son-in-law) was going. But then she shot the rifle at a target a few times.

"And then she decided she wanted to shoot a deer...which she did. So then she started asking what else she could shoot."

I think maybe he should have taken her hunting a long time ago. Anyway, on the way home, she said, "Daddy, I need to get my own rifle now."

Heh. Another rifle"man" born.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pardon my ignorance, but...

What is the threaded device in the picture above?

Also, there's something that doesn't look right about the cartridges. I also just noticed something else that seems wrong with the gun, unless it's just a trick of the light. Can you spot it?

I've never handled a Python, so I don't really know anything about them. But the more I look at this picture, the more I think this is only a replica. So what's the deal?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Too Much Information

You ever have one of those days when you wake up about 2:00 AM during a dead sprint for the toilet?

Yeah, it's been one of those days. I was going to do some voluntary OT today, but it took a few hours for the Imodium to kick in, so I canceled. I haven't even felt up to a pipe today. Maybe later tonight.

And Bloglines has been hosed all day. Had to use my backup Thunderbird as a news reader, but it doesn't seem to pick up new posts until they're around a day old.

I've been wanting to do another music post but I just haven't had the heart. I did get the CD of Signals a couple days ago. Now all I need is Snakes and Arrows and my Rush collection will be as complete as I want it to be. This morning I watched a bunch of "Wild West Tech"'s that I recorded yesterday. They were old shows but I think I must have missed them all the first time. Also saw a documentary on Sir Francis Drake that I'd not seen before, and one episode of Doctor Who which I had also missed the first time. So that's how I spent my day today, in between trips to the bathroom. Thank goodness for the DVD-RW.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Keeping Britain safe from silly parties

Not The Silly Party, but...just silly parties, in general.

Suspected Terrorists
A group of students had their 'Mad Scientist' party brought to an abrupt end when police mistook them for terrorists.

The private party, held in Hackney, north London, was organised by a group of friends dressed in white laboratory coats and wigs, who put on a display of theatrical 'experiments' to entertain guests.

But when police entered the building for a routine check in the early hours of Sunday morning, they discovered scientific debris and plastic skeletons and mistook it for terrorist paraphernalia or drug-making equipment.

Caretaker of the property, Richard Watson, 29, was arrested under The Anti-Terrorism Act and questioned while the entire area was evacuated and roads cordoned off with police tape.

He said: 'I was handcuffed and put in the back of the police van for over an hour while the bomb squad and drugs team came down.

'There was a ridiculous amount of police there. Every time I looked out of the van I could see a new group of them swarming around.'

Three fire engines and three ambulances were also called to the scene as Mr Watson was searched and interrogated.


'I brought down my childhood chemistry set and a few teddy bears for us to dissect in front of our friends. It was hilarious, we were making things fizz and pop and throwing talcum powder around. It was like a performance art piece.

'The police saw all the mess and assumed that we were making bombs which I thought was a bit presumptuous considering it had just been Halloween.'
I would consider it a "bit presumptious" for cops to enter private property for a "routine check."

Oh yeah, and...uh, speaking of Weird Science, you probably don't want to click this link. I'm serious, don't do it. Just forget I ever mentioned it. Oh no, you clicked it, didn't you?


And you just felt yourself die a little inside. I tried to warn you.


It's time for November sweeps. New TV shows instead of reruns, or possibly high-rated reruns, anything to get better ratings.

Oh yeah, and news crews are looking for the stories that will get them more viewers. Ratings mean everything.

At my job, we have been warned several times this week not to stay in one place too long--that is--don't spend 30 minutes eating lunch, because the local TV news crews are swarming all over the city trying to find municipal employees goofing off. These stories make for good ratings. We've already had several complaints this week that--of course--must be investigated, but which in reality are pretty much blown off for being so trivial and sometimes downright stupid.

So after hearing this warning for about the 17th time this week, I confronted my supervisor.

Me: I just want to make sure I'm not confused. We have a 30-minute lunch break, right?

Super: Yes.

Me: But if we sit in one place for more than 15 minutes, we'll get in trouble, right?

Super: (hesitating) Yes.

Me: Okay. I just wanted to make sure we were all clear on that.

So, for all your TV "journalists" (heh) who have nothing better to do: screw you. How much do you get paid for sitting on your fat asses and spying on people who are only trying to make a living, and counting how many minutes they spend in a Valero restroom, or trying to choke down one of those godforsaken hot dogs so they can keep going for a few more hours? And you still pretend wonderment when people profess contempt and sometimes outright hatred for you? You would cost someone their job because they had the temerity to try and spend their lunch break eating some real food from a real restaurant? For better ratings?

Screw you.

P.S. I wasn't personally affected by this. But it still fills me with rage.

In the vault

Just in case you've ever wondered what the inside of a large meter vault looks like, here's one that's unusually clean and dry. I'll try to get a picture of the more common disturbingly wet and filthy vault sometime.

They don't get wet from leaking water. They get wet from condensation and rain, and there's no place for it to go but in evaporation. But in a closed vault, not much evaporation occurs.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Downtown South

Here are some pix from today's work. Still early in the morning (7:17 AM), and the sun hadn't really risen yet, but here's the Tower of Americas in the distance. I don't remember exactly where I was when I took this about 15 minutes into the route. Maybe S. Santa Rosa.

An hour later and I think this is on S. Flores. I don't know the story behind it, but it reminds me that downtown seems to have a higher concentration of artsy-fartsy types than any other part of the city. It says:
" rubs against one's tongue
it hangs there hurting one
insisting on its own existence
finally it gets so one cannot stand the pain
then one must have beauty extracted"
Okay then.

Here's a quiet spot on the Riverwalk near the intersection of East Arsenal and Washington. There's a meter inside a cabinet under the bridge. I think it may be part of the Riverwalk irrigation system.

See anything familiar? The yellow things are some empty 20-gauge shotgun shells scattered on the ground on El Paso close to the intersection with S. Flores.

P.S. Today I saw a Via bus hang a jaw-droppingly audacious U-turn in a wide spot on South Flores that left me standing there in open-mouthed astonishment and not a little admiration. The driver must have learned to drive in Hazzard County or something.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Marshall Fritz

You may have seen some bloggers linking to The World's Smallest Political Quiz on occasion. You may have even taken it. The creator of the quiz, Marshall Fritz, passed away recently from pancreatic cancer. Advocates for Self-Government has more.

José Cuervo is a girl's best friend

Mexican scientists turn tequila into diamonds:
Mexican scientists have turned the country's national tipple tequila into diamonds, and are seeking applications for their discovery, with the crystals too small to be used in jewelry.

The tequila diamonds could be used to "detect radiation, coat cutting tools or, above all, as a substitute for silicon in the computer chips of the future," Miguel Apatiga, one of three researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico who made the discovery this summer, told AFP Tuesday.

The scientists found that the heated vapor from tequila blanco, when deposited on a stainless steel base, can form diamond films.

They began experimenting some 13 years ago with synthetic diamonds -- made by a technological process, as opposed to natural diamonds, produced by geological process -- from gases like methane.

Later they produced diamonds from liquids, and then noticed that the ideal compound of 40 percent ethanol and 60 percent water was similar to the proportion used in tequila.

"One day I went to the campus shop and bought a bottle of cheap tequila. I used it under the same experiment conditions as for a test with ethanol and water and obtained positive results," Apatiga said.
They are now studying "more select brands" of tequila to see if they can produce higher quality diamonds.

I have had the same problem

Until I learned that I was not the center of the world.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sailor on the Seas of Fate

I don't read as much as I used to, but recently I thought I would try to get back into it by revisiting something I'd read before.

I have read the main Elric saga (the two trilogies) only once before, and it was many years ago. Sometimes I think I should have moved past this kind of literature by now, but I keep coming back to it. There is something in the tragedy conveyed by Moorcock's Eternal Champion tales that speaks to me. And the overall gloom that runs through the Elric tales matches my mood of late.

I think my favorite incarnation is Corum, possibly because his tales were the first I read long decades ago. To me it seemed that Elric went out looking for trouble, whereas Corum would have been happy to live out his life in peace and seclusion, but he and his family were violated. Therefore Corum is, to me, more tragic.

I made a cursory pass through my shelves last night and picked out several other Eternal Champion books. Maybe I'll just spend the next several months slowly working my way through them, with the standard diversion here and there to keep from getting bored. I have the Hawkmoon books as well, although his story did not seem as gripping to me the only time I read it. I never got much into Erekosë, although I do have one or two of his books. I also quite enjoyed Jherek Carnelian in The Dancers at the End of Time, which I always mention but which (to my surprise) I've noticed many Moorcock readers have never read. Jherek is more of a tragic-comic character, and is another incarnation of the Eternal Champion, though not obviously so.

I have attempted to read the Chronicles of Jerry Cornelius twice, but have run out of momentum and abandoned it both times. Maybe this time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Interesting products from the past

Like this. More at Oddee. When I was a toddler, paregoric was still being prescribed as a remedy for teething pain. Believe it or not, I still remember how it tasted. The taste of this, and the taste of what I later figured out was veal baby food, are probably my earliest memories.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A million little faxes

Good luck with that.
Formal acknowledgement of an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race - Disclosure - is close at hand and already under consideration by elements within the United States Government. But it is not a fait accompli. It could be withheld due to events or loss of political will. It is critical the American people act in concert now to help close the deal. There has never been a more profound opportunity for you to make a difference and change the course of history.


Between November 5, 2008 and January 20, 2009 - seventy-seven days - send a letter, fax and/or email to the senatorial office and transition headquarters of the President Elect Barack Obama calling for the next administration to end the Truth Embargo regarding an extraterrestrial presence and release as much relevant information to the American people as possible within reasonable constraints of national security. You won't be alone. The goal is one million.
I just want to know what their attraction is to cattle anuses.


And yet it moves.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Okay, here are a few pix from today's workplace. This is the worst foot route I have. All alleys (except for 50 meters or so), and a long 466 meters in the Rittiman/Harry Wurzbach area. The top picture is from the beginning where it isn't quite so bad, the other two are from the jungles in the middle of the route. Toward the end they get not quite so bad again. The only thing good I can say about this route is that now it's a whole month before I have to do it again. If you look at the map, this route covers everything inside of Karen, Grantham, Rittiman and Corrine, plus a few in that triangle between Corrine and Harry Wurzbach.

Remember the summer of 2007 when it rained unremittingly? That's when I started this job, and I was still a rookie when I did this route for the first time. These alleys were mind-blowingly overgrown back then because of all the rain. These pix can't even begin to convey what they looked like a year and a half ago. But that wasn't the only problem.

They had been using some temps back then. One of them was a real squirrel-boy. He always came in late, he never spoke with anyone, and the expression constantly on his face made me think he was trying to decide if the time was, in fact, just right to commit mass murder. He was supposed to have been doing this route, but he wasn't. He was just punching in numbers and saying he did it. This caused all kinds of billing problems, of course, but for me personally it meant that the first time I did this route, I was the first person actually read those meters and actually go down those alleys in three months. I will never forget it. It was July 3, 2007. I remember because I can recall thinking, "well, at least tomorrow is a holiday." I have spoken with several customers who remember that summer well, because their bills were totally screwed up. It took me seven hours to do that route the first time. I can now do it in around 3 to 4 hours, depending on how many meters I have to backtrack and test. I've marked many of the meters with blue paint, but not all, and this winter after the overgrowth has had a chance to die down again I'm planning on remarking the entire route.