The Original Unfilmable

The Watchmen is perhaps the most important super-hero comic ever done. Alan Moore was on top of his game, and in our estimation even Miller‘s Dark Knight doesn’t quite represent the quantum leap Moore achieved with Watchmen.

And yet, in 20-odd years, nobody’s managed to do a film. In college, we used to say it was unfilmable, but still amuse ourselves over drinks with fantasy casting. As it happens, in 2007, you no longer need content yourselves with plans over booze; you can put your own segments on YouTube and let the world see what you’ve got. Apparently, there’s a real film in the works (but this has happened before); we only hope it’s as good as this tiny bit of fanfilm.

We love this more than we can possibly say

Pandagon explains how to talk to a Libertarian. It’s fucking brilliant:

But there are some Libertarians who remain unswayed by such ugly facts. Whether through persistent ignorance or sociopathy or a mixture of the two, they hold as an article of near-religious faith that they derive no benefit from the modern regulatory apparatus that they could not duplicate on their own with the homebrew FDA they have in their garage. Or even worse, they manifestly hold the welfare of others as far less important than their own profit and comfort. … In a cutthroat economic free-for-all, with the mass of people on the bottom and a handful of ruthless Machiavellian princes at the top, each one of these goobers thinks it’s inevitable that he (gender specificity deliberate) will inevitably become one of the princes.**

And the footnote:

** This is, of course, known as the Renaissance Faire Fallacy.

Then, introducing her first tactic for Libertarian cranial discombobulation, she drops this gem:

Most American Libertarians have precious little grasp of the history of their political philosophy. They seem to think that the Libertarian school of thought sprang fully formed like Athena from Ayn Rand’s beetled brow, with Robert Heinlein as attending midwife.

Beautiful. Go read the whole thing.

We meant to bring this up before, but we got busy

Have you been following that story about a Georgia state rep (Ben Bridges) who has been promulgating the idea that Darwin and Copernicus are both wrong, and that spreading their theories is the work of a shadowy Jewish cabal? Here’s a sample:

The Earth is not rotating, nor is it going around the sun. The universe is not one ten-trillionth the size we are told. Today’s cosmology fulfills an anti-Bible religious plan disguised as “science.” The whole scheme from Copernicanism to Big Bangism is a factless lie.

Said legislator gets these ideas from his campaign manager, who is married to the King Hell nutcase, one Marshall Hall (see FixedEarth.com). Other state-level pols got Bridges’ memo supporting Hall’s kookery, and some sent it on to other colleagues. People appear to have been taking him seriously, at least until someone pointed out what a raving nutbird looney he is; however, Bridges’ memo is clearly the product of Hall, so it raises the question of just exactly what he’s doing sending out unvetted correspondence that is so transparently looney and, by the way, anti-Semetic.

Anyway, it’s a mess, and we wanted to point it out. As for additional analysis, we rely on the inimitable Fred Clark, who is on the case and doing a better job than we have time for this week.

Why is security frequently stupid?

Security maven Bruce Schneier tackles the elephant in the room where post-9/11 security is concerned. Worth your time.

He opens with what is essentially a distillation of his position. He’s on solid ground here:

Since 9/11, we’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars defending ourselves from terrorist attacks. Stories about the ineffectiveness of many of these security measures are common, but less so are discussions of why they are so ineffective. In short: much of our country’s counterterrorism security spending is not designed to protect us from the terrorists, but instead to protect our public officials from criticism when another attack occurs.

Look out! Heathen Comin’

No, not us, but the Jackson Office has a delivery on the way. Word has it that the production personnel had sort of hoped to have to work at this longer, if you take our meaning.

Mrs Heathen and I cannot WAIT to start teaching the little tyke terribly inappropriate things and providing the all-important noisy, noisy gifts complete with tiny, breakable parts.

As we’ve said for years, most people are dumb as rocks

Technology Review on the rampant scientific illiteracy in the US and the world:

Okay, now let’s talk (dare I say rant?) about the 200 million Americans out there who cannot read a simple story in, say, Technology Review or the New York Times science section and understand even the basics of DNA or microchips or global warming.

This level of science illiteracy may explain why over 40 percent of Americans do not believe in evolution and about 20 percent, when asked if the earth orbits the sun or vice versa, say it’s the sun that does the orbiting–placing these people in the same camp as the Inquisition that punished Galileo almost 400 years ago. It also explains the extraordinary disconnect between scientists and much of the public over issues the scientists think were settled long ago–never mind newer discoveries and research on topics such as the use of chimeras to study cancer, or pills that may extend life span by 30 or 40 percent.

As Carl Sagan eloquently wrote in The Demon-Haunted World, ignorance reigns in our society at a moment when science is on the cusp of doing amazing and wonderful things, but also dangerous things. Ignorance, said Sagan, is not an option.

Appeals Court Whimps Out

The court of appeals has sided with Bush in refusing to strike down a law denying Federal courts the ability to review the cases of Gitmo detainees.

Twice before the United States Supreme Court has ruled that federal courts may consider habeas corpus petitions by the Guantanamo Bay detainees. In response to those decisions, Congress has twice rewritten the law in an attempt to limit the avenues of appeal by the detainees.

The most recent revision to the law, at issue in today’s decision, was signed by President Bush last October. It eliminated the jurisdiction of federal courts over habeas challenges by any non-citizens held as enemy combatants, and set up a military review for the prisoners at Guantanamo, with limited right of appeal to the federal courts afterwards.

We’ll see what the Supremes say. Surely it’s impossible that the Administration has figured out an end run around the Constitution that’s as simple as holding people in Cuba.

Supporting our troops

We’re pretty sure this doesn’t qualify:

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan’s room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, the DRM industry noticed

The responses to Steve Jobs’ “let’s abandon DRM” memo have been pretty amusing so far. The first one, from the RIAA itself, was Orwellian in its wrongness: they thanked Jobs for his offer to license FairPlay, which is actually something Jobs’ letter explicitly said was off the table. Good luck on that reading comprehension problem, doofuses.

Even more bizarre, though, was the response from the head of the DRM firm Macrovision; you know Macrovision; they’re the people who make it difficult to copy VHS tapes. Anyway, the response is a very model of PR bullshit, chock full of deliberate misstatements and outright lies, which is why we’re very happy that Jon Gruber over at Daring Fireball has provided a handy translation.

In Macrovision’s world, the solution is not to abandon DRM; it’s to make it universal, so that the content makers can charge you for a song you play on your iPod, and then charge you again to play it at home, and charge you a third time to use it for a ringtone. They don’t want you to ever actually own any content in the way we all now own and control CDs. We suspect they think they’ve hidden this goal in their response, but Gruber makes it very clear what their real goals are.

Amazing. It’s like they’re frozen in amber.

This evening, we decided we’d like to watch a movie not yet on our Netflix queue, so we ventured to the last surviving independent rental venue in Houston of which we are aware, Audio/Video Plus (they do not appear to have a web presence, which as you’ll see is hardly surprising).

Heretofore, when we’ve wanted the odd ad-hoc rental, we went to Cactus, a locally owned and operated music and video shop that’s been in Houston for years and years and years. Sadly, last year the owners retired and, in the absence of a buyer, closed the store for the last time. We miss it. Since then, Mrs Heathen and I have done all our renting with Netflix except for a sad weekend when we tried out Hollywood, only to become so frustrated with their response to unplayable DVDs that we fired them immediately.

At the time, we thought — foolishly, as it turns out — that our real option ought to have been the two branches of AVPlus, the last vestige of local rental in Houston, said to be a cinephile’s dream. We figured we’d get there eventually; the inner loop store isn’t far from Heathen HQ.

Well, tonight was the night. When we arrived at the shop, we were at first confused, as the parking lot was utterly empty. Still, they appeared well-lit and open, so in we went, and asked the counter girl about a membership. That’s when she said words that, from her tone, she knew to be discouraging and bizarre:

“Ok, it’s a two dollar processing fee. We need your driver’s license and a credit card. We only rent VHS.”

Heathen Central does not now even HAVE a VHS player hooked up, and we’re not even sure if we still own one. Furthermore, PAYING someone to rent tape when DVDs are available seems like the fullest folly; why pay the same money for a crappy picture and shitty sound that you’d pay for high resolution and a 5.1 surround track?

Frankly, no wonder their parking lot was empty. Independent Houston, we tried, we really did. But tonight, we rented from Blockbuster. There appears to be no local venue from whom we can rent DVDs, and we’re unwilling compromise on experience just to keep our money local. After all, making the effort to buy local usually means HIGHER quality, not lower.

Finally, we’ll just say we think Ray put it best:

No, I ain’t got a fax machine! I also ain’t got an Apple IIc, polio, or a falcon!

Or, as it happens, a VCR. Join the 90s, AVPlus, or die the sad, slow death of a dinosaur left behind by the market.

Distressing Fact Pointed Out Just Now On The Well

College freshmen have never lived as adults or even near-adult persons in a world not dominated by post-9/11 hysteria, fear, paranoia, and surveillance.

We’re used to meeting people for whom the Cold War is an abstract history-book concept, but this is a little weird for us.

More Dialog from Mrs Heathen

This is wholly unfair, but we’re running it anyway.

  • Context lost, but she WAS awake at the time: “Let’s not think about it. Let’s think happy thoughts about judicial review and dead interns.”
  • Later, when she was sleeping: “I got your bananas! I got your bananas!” Us: “What, honey?” Her, dismissively: “It’s in your calendar.”

Right.

19 points of truth

We’ve never heard of this dude before, but he lays down the law on web design. If you’re looking for a web site, read these rules, and immediately ignore anyone who tells you to break them.

Update: This was so widely linked that it appears Mr Cole’s site has been removed, hence the 404 you’re now getting. We’ll find a mirror, or he’ll recover. Sorry if you missed it! (Thanks for the head’s-up, Tom.)

Dayum

Former Gizmodo editor Joel Johnson delivers the smackdown, and it’s beautiful. And we say this as a somewhat reformed gadget fiend.

[...] you guys just ate it up. Kept buying shitty phones and broken media devices green and dripping with DRM. You broke the site, clogging up the pipe like retarded salmon, to read the latest announcements of the most trivial jerk-off products, completely ignoring the stories about technology actually making a difference to real human beings, because you wanted a new chromed robot turd to put in your pocket to impress your friends and make you forget for just a few minutes, blood coursing as you tremblingly cut through the blister pack, that your life is utterly void of any lasting purpose. [...]

[...] Stop buying this crap. Just stop it. You don’t need it. Wait a year until the reviews come out and the other suckers too addicted to having the very latest and greatest buy it, put up a review, and have moved on to something else. Stop buying broken products and then shrugging your shoulders when it doesn’t do what it is supposed to. Stop buying products that serve any other master than you. Use older stuff that works. [...]

Get it together: every single one of these consumer electronics companies should be approached as the enemy. They work for us. Hold their feet to the fire when they say their product is going to change even a small part of our lives. Circle back again in six months when they’re shilling the incremental upgrade and ask them why the last version didn’t cut the mustard. Step out of your blogging trench and ask yourself what your responsibility is to the tens of thousands of idiots who are reading this site right now to determine what they should spend their next paycheck on. They’ve already proven they’re too imbicilic to make any smart purchases on their own. (Remember, Gizmodo was a nexus of debate over which MP3 player was going to “kill” the iPod two years after Apple won.) If you write like another stupid fanboy who ricochets a pillar of spunk off the roof of his gaping mouth just because something is glossy and uses electricity, you’re just doing the work of the companies trying to get rich selling us broken promises.

WORD. Seriously.

Uh-oh

The first floor of Heathen Central has had a minor water stain in the ceiling for years, but we just noticed a new development near it — i.e., more staining. Obviously, somebody needs to look at this. Anybody local got a name we can trust?

Reply by email or comments. Thanks!

Oops

A co-worker just alerted us that our phone line was down, so we logged into the site while awaiting “help” from a CSR. This is what we found:

Down.

Uh-oh. In their defense, this is the first time ever we’ve experienced this, and we’re also able to MAKE calls, which is nice. We just can’t get any. So if you’re trying to reach us today, hit the cell.

Dept. of Disconnects

This story suggests that the Grammy haul enjoyed by the Dixie Chicks is representative of a “disconnect” between the Academy and country music fans. Apparently, the fact that country radio doesn’t play them anymore, and that the same radio stations didn’t play the last couple years’ Best Country Album artists — in 2006, Alison Krauss; in 2005, Loretta Lynn for her Jack White-produced Van Lear Rose.

But the rift with country-music radio seems impossibly wide. The Chicks have said they never felt at home on Music Row, even when they were a top-selling country act.

“If you’re trying to offer an olive branch to country radio, that’s not the way to do it,” said Ken Tucker, Billboard country music correspondent. “The Chicks are celebrating being the outlaws.”

Outlaws? You mean like Willie and Waylon and Billie Joe — otherwise known as “real country artists” compared to the generic bullshit Music Row produces?

Uh, duh. And it’s a good thing they are, too.

The mouthbreathing jokers who consider Music Row’s output the pinnacle of the form aren’t exactly discriminating consumers. How else could we explain the never-ending stream of crap they produce? Remember, Music Row is who abandoned Johnny Cash, and country radio is who provided zero support for his Rick Rubin-produced end-career masterworks.

The problem isn’t a disconnect between the Recording Academy and country fans. The problem is that mainstream country fans wouldn’t know good music if it bit them on the ass, and country radio is too busy pandering to the lowest common denominator to do any education at all. (Of course, Nashville perpetuates this, by having their own ghetto awards at the CMAs where everyone sounds exactly the same, and all the politics are reactionary and Bushite.)

So, yes, there’s a disconnect. One organization cares about good, groundbreaking music of all kinds — jazz, rock, rap, metal, classical, country, bluegrass, you name it. They reward on quality, not sales. And then there’s Nashville, which has driven out groundbreaking and interesting artists almost as long as it’s existed.

As Robbie Fulks said, Fuck This Town.

Dept. of Amazing Omissions

A friend has a new T-Mobile Dash smartphone, and opined last night that he’s utterly shocked, as it appears to have no facility at all for highlighting, selecting, cutting, or pasting text.

Wow. If anyone knows differently, please let Heathen know. We’ll pass the info on to the Dash owner.

Things get better and better

From WaPo:

One ambassador in Washington said he was taken aback when John Hannah, Vice President Cheney’s national security adviser, said during a recent meeting that the administration considers 2007 “the year of Iran” and indicated that a U.S. attack was a real possibility. Hannah declined to be interviewed for this article.

How can anyone think that’s a good idea at this point?

Why you really, really don’t want Vista

Security guru Bruce Schneier lays it out for you in essentially untechnical language.

Short answer: Microsoft has sold you out in favor of kissing up to the entertainment conglomerates, so consequently Vista is always trying to figure out if it needs to stop you from doing something unauthorized with copyrighted material. Always. We think we know enough about software in general and Microsoft in particular to realize that this will NOT end well for anyone concerned.

Options? If Windows is a must, stay on XP. If you’re buying new, consider switching to OS X or, if you can, Linux (geeks only, really). Vista is a non-starter; at the end of the day, if you pony up several hundred to several thousand for a computer AND a few more bills for an operating system, the resulting system should be unequivocally and absolutely YOURS, and should take orders from nobody else. We don’t think that’s an extreme position, but apparently Redmond does.

Nonsequitor words of inspiration

“You gotta put down the duckie if you want to play the saxophone.”

Hang with it through the cameos, which include John Candy, Jane Curtain, Madeline Kahn, Pee Wee Herman, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Izhak Perlman, Paul Simon, Jeremy Irons, Rhea and Danny, and a smattering of contemporary sports figures.

It’s kind of old news, but it still makes us angry

Tenent warned Rice 2 months before 9/11. There’d been a drastic uptick in al-Qaeda communications, and it was clear something was up. This warning, like those before it, was largely ignored.

Also note the context in which the Post runs this:

Editor’s Note: How much effort the Bush administration made in going after Osama bin Laden before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, became an issue last week after former president Bill Clinton accused President Bush’s “neocons” and other Republicans of ignoring bin Laden until the attacks. Rice responded in an interview that “what we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years.”

The Rice claim doesn’t even pass the giggle test.