Say what you want about the French, but DAMN they have cool parades

enormous marionette First spotted over at JWZ, and then via Metafilter, which provided some much-needed context. Apparently, it’s a parade by the art group Royal de Luxe in Nantes, France, and was done in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the passing of Jules Verne.

Those are marionettes. The “Petite Geant” actually arrives in an enormous rocket. At one point, she kneels and lets kids swing on her arm. Don’t miss the shots of the 37-foot-tall elephant; apparently, his trunk is also fully articulated and could pick up hay to eat. Amazing. Fuck floats; absurdly articulated and expressive marionettes are where it’s at. Awesome pics and even a few videos here. There’s some behind the scenes stuff, too.

Also, more pix and video at the Nantes.fr site — perhaps someone (Miche?) can provide us with something like a translation of the relevant text.

Also also, because we live in the future, there’s already a flickr tag for “Nantes.”

More
JWZ has more technical details gleaned from someplace, plus links to more pictures.

The Star-Trib on Memorial Day

From an editorial via Atrios:

In exchange for our uniformed young people’s willingness to offer the gift of their lives, civilian Americans owe them something important: It is our duty to ensure that they never are called to make that sacrifice unless it is truly necessary for the security of the country. In the case of Iraq, the American public has failed them; we did not prevent the Bush administration from spending their blood in an unnecessary war based on contrived concerns about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. President Bush and those around him lied, and the rest of us let them. Harsh? Yes. True? Also yes. Perhaps it happened because Americans, understandably, don’t expect untruths from those in power. But that works better as an explanation than as an excuse.

Brilliant.

Investigators Blame Stupidity in Area Death

WHEATLEY, AR – Although reckless driving and minor driver impairment were cited as additional factors, police investigators ruled pure, unadulterated stupidity as the primary cause in the death of an unlicensed motorist involved in a single-car accident Sunday. “We’re fairly positive the deceased was operating under the influence of being an unbelievable dumbass,” forensic investigator Evan Lawrence told reporters at the scene, a stretch of road littered with SUV parts, beer cans, food containers, fishing equipment, and pornography. “I mean, we’re not saying alcohol, fatigue, poor vehicle maintenance, and driver error didn’t play their parts — but mainly, that driver was a goddamn dipshit.” [More]

TV Execs: “Compatibility is not a goal”

This is astoundingly rich. At a recent forum in re: the proposed resurrected broadcast flag, Mike Godwin of Public Knowledge pointed out the main objections to the scheme (quote from Prof. Ed Felton’s Freedom to Tinker, which in turn is quoting a story from National Journal Tech Daily by Sara Lai Stirland):

Godwin said any regulations concerning digital television copy-protection schemes would necessarily have to affect any devices that hook up to digital television receivers. That technical fact could have far-reaching implications, such as making gadgets incompatible with each other and crimping technology companies’ ability to innovate, he said. “I don’t want to be the legislator or the legislative staff person in charge of shutting off connectivity and compatibility for consumers, and I don’t think you want to do that either,” he told a roomful of technology policy lobbyists and congressional staffers. “It’s going to make consumers’ lives hell.” Godwin’s talk drew a sharp protest from audience member Rick Lane, vice president of government affairs at News Corp. “Compatibility is not a goal [emph. added],” he said, pointing out that there are currently a plethora of consumer electronics and entertainment products that are not interoperable. Lane was seconded by NBC Universal’s Senior Counsel for Government Relations Alec French, who also was in the audience.

Felton continues:

To consumers, compatibility is a goal. When devices don’t work together, that is a problem to be solved, not [a] mandate [for] even more incompatibility. [Slightly edited to fix what appear to be typos in Felton's text.] The FCC and Congress had better be careful in handling the digital TV issue, or they’ll be blamed for breaking the U.S. television system. Mandating incompatibility, via the Broadcast Flag, will not be a popular policy, especially at a time when Congress is talking about shutting off analog TV broadcasts. The most dangerous place in Washington is between Americans and their televisions.

More coverage at TechDirt and Engadget.

Update: Mr. Godwin has posted his own entry as well.

More judicial dumbassery

An appeals court in Minnesota has ruled that simply having encryption software installed on one’s computer can be viewed as evidence of criminal intent.

In making his decision, Judge R. A. Randall:

[...]favorably cited testimony given by retired police officer Brooke Schaub, who prepared a computer forensics report–called an EnCase Report–for the prosecution. Schaub testified that PGP “can basically encrypt any file” and “other than the National Security Agency,” nobody could break it.

Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. Properly implemented public-key cryptography (with sufficiently large keys) is essentially unbreakable, even by the NSA. But it’s also a cornerstone of Internet commerce, and — since it’s so effective — is now commonly used to secure sensitive documents and emails in everyday life, even for users who are unaware of its role.

Extending this logic, we may presume that sealed envelopes suggest conspiracy, since people with nothing to hide would just use postcards, right? Leaving aside the utterly boneheaded implications along those lines, this also makes just about every computer out there evidence of criminal intent — Windows, if we’re not mistaken, can make encrypted ZIP files, and OS X includes a FileVault drive-encrypting feature. Both, presumably, include methods for initiating public-key secured network connections — otherwise, every credit card you type on the net would be sent in plaintext. Go Minnesota!

Fuck Spam

So in looking for the old entries referenced below, we realized just how awful the comment spam problem had become here. So we did something about it.

As we’re not the first to notice the problem, a quick search revealed the existence of Scrub, a perl script designed to remove comment spam from Blosxom/writeback comments via user-supplied regexps. It won’t solve the whole problem, but it’ll got a long way down that road — especially since we’ve cron’d the execution of said script.

For this to work, though, a few words will become off limits in the comments — but unless you’re aching to talk about incest, viagra, cialis, etc., I don’t think we’ll have a problem.

However, one new rule may bite some of you: no links. You can put in an address, but you can’t make it a link.

Dept. of Potentially Happy Endings

A year ago, we pointed out that, well, Hollywood types tend to be evil goatfuckers. This is no surprise, of course, but the particular evil this time was the shelving of Paul Schrader’s prequel to The Exorcist, and the hiring of dismal hack Renny Harlin to complete the film.

Harlin’s version (Exorcist: The Beginning) came and went, and what critical notice it received was uniformly damning. It was, by all accounts, among the worst things ever committed to celluloid. And then something interesting happened.

The powers that be decided to release Schrader’s version, too. It’s called Dominion, and it opened last weekend. (Astute readers will recall that we suggested this might happen last year.)

Via MoveOn.org

Yeah, it’s cut-and-past posting, but for a good cause. Read and do.

Subject: Please sign emergency petition to save our courts Hi! I just signed MoveOn PAC’s emergency petition to stop the “nuclear option” the far right wing’s plan to seize absolute power to stack our courts -Ð and I hope you will sign too. Starting Monday, the petition will be delivered straight to Congress every three hours until the final vote, and many of our comments will be read aloud on the Senate floor. Please sign right now at: http://www.moveonpac.org/nuclear Why is this an emergency? This Tuesday, the Senate will vote on Republican Leader Bill Frist’s “nuclear option” to break the rules of the Senate and give the Republican Party absolute control over appointing federal judges. For 200 years the minority’s right to filibuster has kept our courts fair, by making sure that federal judges needed to get at least some support from both sides of the aisle before they were given life time appointments. If Frist eliminates the filibuster, his next step would be to force far right partisan judges onto the powerful U.S. Courts of Appeals. The real targets, however, are the four seats on the Supreme Court likely to become vacant in the next four years. With that much power on the Supreme Court, the far right could strike down decades of progress on labor rights, environmental protections, reproductive rights, and privacy. The “nuclear option” will live or die by a final vote, probably on Tuesday, and the vote is still way too close to call. There are at least 6 moderate Republicans still on the fence and only 3 more votes needed to win. If we can get enough of our voices into congress and into the streets in the next 72 hours, we can still save our courts. Please take a minute to join me and sign the emergency petition today. http://www.moveonpac.org/nuclear Thanks!

For more on the context of judicial filibusters, check out Rude Pundit today.

Heathen Reviews “Revenge of the Sith”

So, last night at midnight, I accompanied my friend, business partner, and boss (one guy) to the first local screening of Lucas’ latest fuck-you to his fans. Our review follows.

Sweet CHRIST Lucas, would have been too much to ask for you not NOT FUCK THIS ONE UP, TOO?

What the hell were you thinking with that bullshit Frankenstein scene — a scene that reaches its shockingly awful nadir with a melodramatic “Noooooooooooooooooo!” from the newly-reconstituted Vader upon hearing his brides’ fate. Which, fortunately, almost certainly frees us from the possibilty of “Bride of the Sith,” something we cannot assume Lucas would not otherwise attempt.

Also, Chewbacca? What is this, the world’s smallest universe? And what’s with the Wookies doing Tarzan yodels?

This whole affair makes us want to create the Star Wars Suck Scale, which we offer below.

The Star Wars Suck Scale

Being a revisitation of the relative quality of Lucas’ plodding epic.

  1. The Empire Strikes Back. Honestly, it’s the only decent film of the lot. It’s also the only one with its head firmly above water here.
  2. Star Wars, which frankly finishes this high only because of its cultural touchstone status. Lucas’ direction was crap even in 1977. Unfortunately, too, this represents the last vaguely acceptable filmmaking effort. All below here are in suck territory.
  3. Return of the Jedi, which appears inordinately proud of its “best of the suck” position — a position it gains only for being associated with the top two finishers, really. I mean, c’mon, EWOKS? And ANOTHER Death Star? You’re not even trying, Georgie.
  4. Revenge of the Sith. There’s a huge drop here, but not as big as the drop before we get to…
  5. Attack of the Clones. Blissfully free of what-Lucas-did-to-Liam Neeson — and mercifully low on Binks-ism — this one only barely edges out the worst of all.
  6. The Phantom Menace. Never have so many waited so long for something so awful.

BTW: If you’re gonna post whining about spoilers above, don’t bother. In fact, here’s some more:

  • Sidious == Palpatine (oh, like that’s a shocker)!
  • Anakin turns into DARTH VADER!
  • Padme gives birth to twins — LUKE AND LEIA!
  • Rosebud was his SLED!
  • Bruce Willis was DEAD THE WHOLE TIME!
  • That chick in “The Crying Game” IS A MAN!

Two Down

Pay attention. Newsweek is now retracting a story that was apparently true (even the former Army chaplain said so in 2002 — and he was quoting the camp’s head honcho), and they’ve done it not because of riots in Afghanistan, but because the White House asked them to, which is so astoundingly inappropriate as to boggle the mind. As Josh points out, this means the Administation has effectively domesticated both Newsweek and CBS at this point. With Fox already firmly in their pocket and PBS in their sights, they’re well on their way to neutering the press.

As Bill Moyers said, a democracy can die of too many lies. Or, as Rude Pundit puts it: “This is a blood game, and, motherfuckers, if you’re not doing the cutting, you’re the ones bleeding to death.”

Read This

Atrios pointed out this editorial from Molly Bingham, who spent much of last year trying to figure out exactly who the resistance is in Iraq. Where are they from? What do they want? Why do they fight? Looking into that issue forces examination of more than just the resistance, and it’s those realizations that create the insights in the editorial. Just read it.

More on the useless jackasses in Washington

Portions of the so-called Real ID act — which is a bad idea anyway — purport to prohibit Judicial review. We figure they’re not just stupid — I mean, nobody sleeps through ALL of civics and still finds a seat in Congress — so we’re forced to conclude this is quite simply an overt statement of contempt for the Constitution, separation of powers, and the rule of law.

In which we clear the decks

Here’s some crap we’ve been meaning to post. Now that we’re done with work for the evening and Mrs Heathen To Be is out art-car-painting, we’ve settled in with the new NIN (verdict so far: “Eh, but then again how long could YOU be that angry?”) and some Knob Creek to Take Care of Bidniss. To Wit:

The death of investigative journalism

Editors say they forbid undercover operations:

“It is important that sources be aware that they are dealing with journalists,” said Tim Franklin, editor of The Sun in Baltimore. “It is not something that I feel comfortable with. This is a form of undercover journalism that, thankfully, went out of vogue in the early 1980′s.”

Presumably, the “early 1980s” represent some sort of ancient period in journalism wherein it didn’t almost universally suck.