Monday, June 27, 2005

Since You Asked

THIS IS THE BILLIONAIRE GENTLEMAN-HORSE!!

More zippers, mule!

And even though you didn't ask, Frank J. teaches us all we need to know about ninjas.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children

There's a good post from last year at The Comic Treadmill about the old series "Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children," which, along with the comments on it, does a decent job of giving an idea what the story was like.

To repeat here (as I did on the Fables board) my own comment from there, I had one issue of this series when I was about 15--"I Am Paul's Dog." I lived in a small town half an hour from any comic shop, though, and three hours from the one where I bought that issue and never got my hands on another issue of the series, and yet it struck me as being so cool back then that it's haunted me since. Whenever I've been in comics shops--in CA,TX,SC,FL--I ask if they've got any Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children. Usually they've never heard of it. I'm left with a combination of nostalgia and regret.

Now, via this whole worldwide "web," comes a marvelous new alternative to the need to hunt down and pay a two or three hundred dollars for the complete run of BSfUC. It's an official Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children web site, with--get this--indexed scans of the complete series. The site is still under construction, but the issues are in there up through number 12 of 30. I prefer holding the printed paper copy in my hands, but this way is cheap and convenient. It'll do nicely for now. I highly recommend checking it out.

[Long] Update (23 Nov 05):
I've been getting in the past few weeks a decent number of hits from searches for "beautiful stories for ugly children," so it seems that a. there's definitely a fan base out there for the Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children series and b. to at least some of those people, I'm a conduit for information about it.

In the original paragraphs of this post, I had celebrated the availability online of the scanned versions of the issues. Not long after that those scans became unavailable (though the covers are still available online). Series author Dave Louapre explained it this way:
We posted the book scans in an attempt to placate all you little BSFUCers who couldn't find some of the books, but have been informed that it may be hurting our chances of getting them republished in a collected works form, which is one of the main goals of this site....
And added this on the "Talk to Dan and Dave" bulletin board:
Publishers, we've learned, just seem to have a problemo with putting money into work that is readily available online. Sorry. When we can, we'll put them back up, but probably not anytime soon.
Naturally, I am once again aggrieved by the lack of either online scans or conveniently bought published form of the series. I expressed this to Dave on the message board:
After I noticed the site back in June, I was thrilled to have the scans available but then promptly and stupidly took them for granted. Read a couple of issues and then figured I'd get to the others eventually. Inexcusably, "eventually" never arrived for me, as I failed to return to the site until Dave left a comment on my blog. Now that I see the scans have been removed in order to further the effort to have the works published in a collected form, I'm left with the all-too-familiar sting of regret. Now, after I've still only read three or four issues altogether when I could have read them all for free, I'm eagerly awaiting the opportunity to shell out the cash for the published collection.

Dave, how long am I going to have to wait? What's the progress look like here? Can you give us a timeframe? Should I even hold out hope?
To which he replied,
I'll let you now the second Dan and I know anything. There are several things brewing, and hopefully all of them will see the light of day. The "collected works" idea is among them. Please be patient. And thanks again for your support and loyalty.
He later added, in response to another fan,
BSFUC may well be reappearing in a collected works form very soon. Don't want to jinx anything, but we are in negotiations. Thanks for the interest and support.
So I have two points here. 1. There's the updated situation. No scans available online, sorry, but there is the prospect of the series being republished soon in collected form. So we're all clear on that. 2. There is now, unlike, I believe, in June, when I first posted on BSFUC, a message board, whereupon all of you who are interested can express to Dave your eagerness to buy the republished collection. I think he likes to know, and it could only encourage the publisher. 3. Damn, I'll use commas every chance I get, won't I? [See first sentence of point 2.] 4. No one expects the Spanish inquisition.

Good News! (5 Jan 06) Anthology to be published this spring. See here and here.

Famous

Eric Norris is famous on the dinner theater circuit for his Hairy Giblet Helicopter act.

Update (28 Nov):

Disappointingly, "sometime early January 2004, Google.com adopted measures to prevent Googlism.com from querying the Google servers to find new Googlisms." Alas. I suppose we're simply left with nothing more interesting than
eric norris is there
eric norris is abducted
and
eric norris is the stunt coordinator and director of actions sequences for his father's hit CBS television show

New Level of Rejection

I didn't believe it when the other night a friend mentioned this happening to someone he knows at work, but the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports it's true: online dating services, specifically EHarmony.com, will reject many people outright as undateable. "Let us please confirm your insecurities," essentially.

Article requires login. Use BugMeNot.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

100,000 Civilian Deaths from Iraq War?

The British medical journal The Lancet [registration required; bypass it with BugMeNot] published a study indicating that there were about 100,000 civilian deaths in Iraq from the 2003 invasion and its aftermath. This number was then widely circulated.

Slate magazine subsequently published an article debunking the study's methods and conclusions. Absolutely read it. This Instapundit post has a debunking of that debunking and a debunking of the debunking's debunking. It's worth a look.

Fred Kaplan in that Slate article instead recommends the methods of the group Iraq Body Count. Their estimate is presently between 22434 to 25426. A great many of those, of course, are Iraqi civilians who have been killed by suicide bombers, car bombers, shootings and other terrorist actions. Those are not from the guns or bombs of the U.S. or its allies. Some may want to place the blame there anyway, as those attacks occur in cirmstances resulting from our invasion. I disagree with that. Our military presence does not compel anyone to target civilians or, indeed, Iraqi policemen.

But even if you're determined to blame the U.S. for civilians killed by terrorists (some would say "insurgents"), it's at most about 25,000. That's obviously still a troubling number, though one deserving further scrutiny. But 100,000? No.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Camel Grooming

Where do you learn how to groom and train camels? Probably not from AllCamels.com. It looks pretty badly out of date, with it's Camel Training School & Workshop scheduled for April 2002. The best bet appears to be the South East Missouri Camel Training Clinic, but you've missed it this year. It was May 20-22.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Romaine Lettuce Threat

This is amusing. This guy put together a pseudo-scientific paper on the responses by various bloggers profiled by Norm Geras to the question, "What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world?"

A lot of people said Islam or fanaticism/fundamentalism, and various other responses given by more than one respondent include George W. Bush and the USA generally, WMD, China, environmental problems, human nature, and poverty.

Here's what amuses me, though. While several answers were given by only one respondent--disease, appeasement, greed, the UN, the Republican party, statism, intolerance, there is a category of "Other" listed. What, I wondered, could get counted in the "Other" category if these aforementioned answers got broken out on their own?

While a few of the answers there were just abstract and nuanced, several were terrific:
Other threats included rose-tinted glasses, killer bees, Romaine Lettuce, and "The Sleep of Reason getting a hold of the Dreams of Reason".
Alert, vigilant profiled bloggers watch out for all sorts of things for us.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Ba'ath Party Origins

The Ba'ath party was founded in Damascus in 1947 by Michael Aflaq, a Greek Orthodox whose name is often quacked by a duck on television, and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, a Sunni Muslim.

The Iraqi Ba'ath party was founded in 1951.

In Syria, it held power from the early 1950s until 1959 and then again from 1963 until the present day. In Iraq, the Ba'ath party took power in 1963.

This article
says that while its main ideological objectives are secularism, socialism, and pan-Arab unionism, both the Iraqi and the Syrian branches moved away from Ba'athist principles.

See also this BBC article and this Wikipedia entry.

100% Humidity

Some colleagues were having a disagreement as to whether there can be 100% humidity without rain. I didn't know the answer at the time and learned it just now from a website feature actually named "Ask Steve." Ha. This time it was more like "Ask, Steve."

Anyway, that Steve's a TV weatherman in, unsurprisingly, Seattle. He says,
When the relative humidity reaches 100 percent, you'll notice it feels quite wet outside, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has to rain.
One fewer mystery.


Update: explanations of how relative humidity works here, here, here, here, and here. My mind tends to glaze over a little at the details on this, but nonetheless, there it is.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Malia's Restaurant

Malia's in Aiken (SC) is a pretty terrific restaurant. Seems like a good place to take a date, but I'm speculating. Well, from me personally, it's speculation, but Aiken Online, in their 2004 Community Choice awards, named it the city's most romantic restaurant.

All I know is I found the food damn impressive. Of the 5 at my table, three of us had the duck and two the salmon. Duck can be tricky to eat, so I could have chosen better for the convenience factor, but it was expertly prepared and mighty tasty. The salad also was actually more interesting than any other such restaurant.

"Dining in Aiken" uses the word "gourmet" in describing the food there and notes reservations are required for Friday and Saturday evenings. I'm unsophisticated enough not to know gourmet when I see it. That site links to an extremely basic page for the restaurant which points out that the menu changes regularly, which obviously prevents posting it on the web as Bee's Knees and Blue Sky Kitchen do.

This site has a couple of reviews of it in which people mention some of the types of dishes they've had (lamb, pork scallopine, steak salad). One says it's Mediterranean-style. Maybe. I didn't notice that, but I'm not great at noticing things.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir

It's another name to add to the list of genuine villians.

It came to my attention today that, though I had thought I was following the Darfur story, I didn't even know the actual name of the head of state of Sudan.

It's Umar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir, and he's a very, very bad guy. For a few striking paragraphs, see here. For a longer, yet concise, summary of the terrible situation in Darfur, see here. For still more, see the links in my previous post and certainly also this.

A British guy I had some conversations with last year said he thought George W. Bush was the most dangerous person in the world today. I was thinking someone more like Kim Jong-Il, but Bashir looks to me as if he deserves some consideration. I wonder how many places after President Bush my British friend would rank him.

Cat, Girl, Alien, Predator, & Dinosaur

Some particularly terrific online comic strips:

Cat and Girl.
Some of my favorites, in no very strict order and each deserving a look:
here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.


Daily Dinosaur.
Read the archives. Start almost anywhere.

Anakin Dynamite

It was inevitable. Lucas & Christensen's Anakin Skywalker was destined to be crossed with Hess & Heder's Napoleon Dynamite. Another destiny fulfilled. (via K-Lo on The Corner.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

It's not about the Thetans.

Sheila O'Malley and commenters on her blog pointed to some great scientology resources (especially this and this.)

Back when I settled on a URL and title for this blog, I gave it the title "Just So We're Clear..." for the reasons detailed in this post. But a few times since, and especially since being reminded of it tonight, I've imagined that people might get the idea that I'm some kind of Scientologist, eagerly hoping that I and others can rid ourselves of the engrams and the excess thetans and whatnot, achieving Scientology's state of Clear. (see here and here for more.) It is emphatically not so.

There are various religions I disagree with and some tenets of those religions I have real problems with. Still, that's a whole different deal than Scientology. A "church" that not only peddles wacky ideas cooked up by a science fiction writer but requires you to pay enormous sums of money for them doesn't deserve to be called a religion. A cult and a scam is what it is. It's disgusting, Tom Crusie and his ilk are thoroughly ridiculous people, and I wonder if I ought to change the name on this lame little blog. In order to, you know, make things clear...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Role of China in the Darfur Situation

In a new column on China (h/t Roger Simon), Mark Steyn makes a point I hadn't realized previously about Darfur:
China is the Security Council member most actively promoting inaction on Darfur, where (in the most significant long-range military deployment in five centuries), it has 4,000 troops protecting its oil interests.
I didn't know that and find it fascinating. For more on the horrors in Darfur, see here, here, here, here, here, and here. Just for starters. (hat tip to Instapundit, of course, for most of those.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I am responsible for the day. What's a subluxation?

steve ely is a "subluxation
steve ely is responsible for the day


(Googlism)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I imagine they'll correct this soon.

The Associated Press obit for Anne Bancroft on the ABC News site (h/t Corner) says in the text,
Bancroft was awarded the Tony for creating the role on Broadway of poor-sighted Annie Sullivan, the teacher of Keller, who was born deaf and blind. She repeated her portrayal in the film version,
The headline, though, says,"Oscar-Winner Anne Bancroft, Who Starred As Helen Keller in 'The Miracle Worker' Dies at Age 73." Someone wasn't paying attention. I'm guessing the confused headline writer was someone from the ABC site. She definitely didn't play Helen Keller.

I wonder if the correction will include an acknowledgment of the initial mistake.


Update (8 June 2005, 2215): Wow, they still haven't changed this? What the heck?
Again (17 June 05, 0006): They still never did. Don't they read their own headlines?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Unexpected Metafiction Arising from Toni Collette

I finally just watched About a Boy for the first time this week. It's a terrific movie, of course. I don't know what took me so long.

Toni Collette plays the boy's mother. She also played the mother of Haley Joel Osment's dead-people-seeing boy in The Sixth Sense. Since then, Haley Joel Osment starred in several other big films and became rich and famous, so much so that Nicholas Hoult as Marcus in About a Boy, talking about how he doesn't have the money to allow his mother to home-school him, says, "Maybe, if I was like that movie kid, Haley Joel Osment, I could pay her that much."

This is weird. Not because of the line itself. This monologue, like all the rest of the writing in the movie, is very good. What's weird is that the movie just referenced a real actor who got famous from the real movie The Sixth Sense, while it (About a Boy) co-stars an actress who also acted in a major role in The Sixth Sense. So in About a Boy's universe, The Sixth Sense was a successful film, presumably, and Haley Joel Osment is rich and famous from having acted in it. The character Marcus is aware of this, it seems. Is he aware also of who played Cole's mom in that movie? If so, he knows it to be Toni Collette. How does he manage to avoid realizing that in fact his own mom is played by Toni Collette?

Plainly, Toni Collette exists and acts in successful movies in Will & Marcus's world if Haley Joel Osment does. What must she be doing at the time of the events in the film? Because in our world she is at that time acting in the role of Fiona Brewer. Is it possible that in the movie the whole cause of Fiona Brewer's very bad psychological and emotional problems is the understandably troubling realization that not only is she herself not real but she even knows who the specific actress is who is pretending to be her? That kind of thing could mess up anyone, I would think.

[Updated almost immediately to change the title, because it looks from Google that "Interdimensionality" is a word used by pretty much just--well, people that I don't want to be confused with, I'll just put it that way.]

Maybe I Know Your Secret.

I just discovered Post Secret, and it's awesome.

Comics blogs

If you're a comic book fan, Suspension of Disbelief is a pretty good blog (and, actually, the first strictly comic book blog I came upon), but it remains disappointing that what started out as a group blog became basically a one-person blog.

I like one-person blogs perfectly well, of course--I read IMAO pretty regularly for a while when it was just Frank J. and not so much since. I think Instapundit is better with just Glenn Reynolds' perspective than it was the once or twice I saw him have guest bloggers. But the point of Suspension of Disbelief is to fact-check comic books ("Comics regularly expect us to believe the impossible. Making the real-world backdrop that they're set against truly realistic makes those impossibilities easier to handle"), so a varied range of expertise and ideas really benefited that. I hope Loren soon finds some cohorts there who can offer as much as he.

I've since found a few other pretty good comic book blogs, though. I especially like Dial B for Blog, but most of the ones he links to on his sidebar are good, too.

The Missing Persons Missing from the News

A million people have probably seen this post by Orin Kerr, wherein he noted, "a person who followed the MSM uncritically might think that the only missing people in America are young attractive white women," since Instapundit linked to it yesterday, so it's not as if he needs the person or two of traffic I might give him, but I thought it might be worthwhile to link here to a couple of stories from last year that explored this at more length on MSNBC here and here. (Found via this page.)

It's actually not easy to find statistics through Google that by race, gender, or age (beyond child vs adult) break down the numbers for missing persons. But according to the National Center for Missing Adults, the FBI statistics as 0f 7/30/04 reflected 30,622 adults missing for one year or more. If the proportion of those that are pretty young white women actually matched the proportion reported in the press, that would very much be a matter worth some investigative reporting.

Update: This blogger, going by "xrlq", makes some points worth considering. The Cristina Williams example would be more effective in demonstrating that white women aren't overrepresented among reported missing persons case if it weren't one case set against the many mentioned here.

I also don't think Chandra Levy was all that attractive, but she definitely looks better in the photo here than the one here. Coverage of that case could be attributed much more, though, to the possibility raised in it that a congressman may have had had an affair with her and then done away with her.

The implication of inappropriate attraction xrlq makes that Orin Kerr, the author of this, and anyone else who suggests that media coverage of missing persons is influenced by whether the victim is good-looking is unnecessary. Some kids are cuter than others, and it doesn't make anyone a pervert to say so. Use of the word "attractive" in too broad a sense is just careless syntax used in a general way to mean good-looking. And good-looking kids tend to get put in the public eye, being cast in TV shows, for instance, a lot more than ugly kids. And no one calls the TV producers or audiences pedophiles for it.

I will somewhat grant xrlq's point that Kerr did, despite his insistence otherwise, come off as suggesting CNN shouldn't report on the Holloway disappearance at least as much as suggesting they should report on more disappearances of those who are male, non-white, old, or ugly.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Does Kerry want to make a case for impeachment?

Well, this is weird.

I was going to post wondering whether the famous Qatar-based satellite television channel Al Jazeera is lifting its sentences from a conservative American website. Clicking around, it became apparent that the better questions are whether a UAE-based website with a confusing name is actually doing that and how clear it is to everyone that these are separate entities.

Polipundit links to this story that John Kerry plans to present Congress on Monday with the Downing Street memo, which Rep. John Conyers has called evidence of "intentional manipulation to reach foreordained conclusions supporting the case for war." Conyers is said to be considering initiating impeachment proceedings, though I can't find him on record as saying so specifically. He does say on his website that he is seeking for President Bush to "answer the questions posed to him by 89 members of Congress." (Unfortunately, while that same website invites visitors to click on a link to view the letter Conyers is sending to Bush, the link for the letter leads only to a form for supporters to add their names and contact info in support of the letter and no text of the letter itself.)

The AlJazeera.com story Polipundit linked to includes the sentence "Failed presidential candidate Kerry advised that he will begin the presentation of his case for President Bush's impeachment to Congress, on Monday."

That article was posted on Saturday, June 4. The previous day, June 3, a website I hadn't heard of before called The Conservative Voice posted a short article (itself echoing a NewsMax article) with the sentence "Failed presidential candidate Kerry advised that he will begin the presentation of his case for President Bush's impeachment to Congress, on Monday." Very familiar, down to the superfluous comma.

I first noticed the identical syntax when intending to cite (the real) Al Jazeera as support for the claim that Kerry is pushing for impeachment after reading the angry insistence otherwise at this blog post, which basically just copies and pastes from a site called Light Up The Darkness, which copies most of the text of this news article and then criticizes The Conservative Voice's article.

I read that and thought, "well, it's not just this Conservative Voice site saying Kerry's going to push for impeachment. Al Jazeera's saying it, too, and they have a slightly higher profile and different reputation as a news source." Then I noticed the sentences matched exactly and got confused. I couldn't find a link on AlJazeera.com to click through to the Arabic version and discovered through Google that the widely-known Qatar based satellite TV channel has its website at aljazeera.net and its English language version at english.aljazeera.net. Aljazeera.com has a disclaimer noting they're not associated with the TV station in any way, but they sure don't make it obvious. I came upon it directly through Google, but the link for it from the main page is in small unobtrusive print at the bottom of the page.

This leads in three directions. First, while Light in the Darkness's Ron Chusid isn't right about everything (the Senate vs House question is irrelevant, as nobody suggested Kerry would begin impeachment proceedings, only make a case for impeachment, which anyone can do, even Ron Chusid), he is right to criticize The Conservative Voice's Sher Zieve for attributing to Senator Kerry a statement that no quoted material seems to reflect. It's still possible Kerry mentioned impeachment. If so, though, some evidence would be warranted, while none is offered.

Second, the AlJazeera.com article appears, though less plainly, to draw significantly on the Standard-Times article and is almost certainly lifting a sentence directly from the article on The Conservative Voice. There is neither any byline on the AlJazeera.net article nor any indication it drew on other published sources. What kind of absurd excuse for journalism is this?

Thirdly, I wonder if all of Polipundit's readers are aware of the difference between AlJazeera.com and aljazeera.net. I imagine I wasn't the only one who thought initially it was the TV channel's site that was running that story.

Update (17 June): Edited to correct the name of Light Up The Darkness, replacing "in" with "up."