“Can’t stop here. This is bat country.”

Via Rob, we find this:

Man blames car wreck on prehistoric winged reptile

By Rachel Schleif

WENATCHEE — A 29-year-old Wenatchee man told police a pterodactyl caused him to drive his car into a light pole about 11:30 p.m. Thursday.

Wenatchee police cited the man with first-degree negligent driving. A breathalyzer test showed “a minimal amount of alcohol,” said Wenatchee police Sgt. Cherie Smith.

Witnesses told police the man was northbound on Wenatchee Avenue and drifted into a southbound lane for less than a block. Oncoming traffic stopped and waited for the man to pass, Smith said.

He then totaled his car on a light pole, Smith said.

When police asked the man what caused the accident, his one-word answer was “pterodactyl,” Smith said. A pterodactyl was a giant winged reptile that lived more than 65 million years ago.

The man was treated and released at Central Washington Hospital, hospital officials said.

(See also.)

More Niece-ism!

As should be obvious to anyone monitoring the Heathen Flickr Feed, I spent Xmas in Florida surrounded, or nearly so, by nieces on Mrs Heathen’s side of the family. Eldest Niece, currently seen at right, is busy being adorable in this set shot outside the in-laws’ place in Sarasota. Tip: “hide and seek” is generally played to 1,000,000 points with children of this age. Use caution. If possible, deploy Mrs Heathen, a/k/a the Toddler Whisperer. Auntie Bo, as she is know by the sub-3 set, enjoys near-divine status in Caroline’s eyes; we’re pretty sure Natalie and Layla will concur when they age a bit.

More to come; I shot a boatload of pix on the beach on 12/26, but haven’t had time to sort ’em.

So True It Hurts

Scalzi on the Hilton fortune thing, under the heading “Why We’re All Going To Hell:”

A multi-billionaire industrialist donates 97% of his fortune to help fund clean water in Africa, education for blind children, and housing for the mentally ill, and it’s presented by one of the largest news organizations in the world in terms of what it means for Paris Hilton.


New Frontiers in Out-of-touch Bullshit

The RIAA is now asserting, in plain language with little room for interpretation, that ripping legally purchased CDs onto your computer is illegal, fair use (and years of VCR-related precedent) be damned:

Despite more than 20,000 lawsuits filed against music fans in the years since they started finding free tunes online rather than buying CDs from record companies, the recording industry has utterly failed to halt the decline of the record album or the rise of digital music sharing.

Still, hardly a month goes by without a news release from the industry’s lobby, the Recording Industry Association of America, touting a new wave of letters to college students and others demanding a settlement payment and threatening a legal battle.

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.


The Howell case was not the first time the industry has argued that making a personal copy from a legally purchased CD is illegal. At the Thomas trial in Minnesota, Sony BMG’s chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that “when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Copying a song you bought is “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy,’ ” she said.

Yup. We’re sure this is going to go over well. The story continues:

But lawyers for consumers point to a series of court rulings over the last few decades that found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained recording.

And the money shot, from the WaPo writer who clearly understands these things much better than the RIAA:

As technologies evolve, old media companies tend not to be the source of the innovation that allows them to survive. Even so, new technologies don’t usually kill off old media: That’s the good news for the recording industry, as for the TV, movie, newspaper and magazine businesses. But for those old media to survive, they must adapt, finding new business models and new, compelling content to offer.

The RIAA’s legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed. Four years of a failed strategy has only “created a whole market of people who specifically look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies,” Beckerman says. “Every problem they’re trying to solve is worse now than when they started.”

There is zero chance that the RIAA will prevail with this “no ripping” doctrine. There is zero chance that they’ll manage to put the digital genie back in the bottle. There is zero chance that they can survive without a radical reevaluation of how they make money. It’s my fervent hope that an awful lot of these money-grubbing sue-happy weasels end up out of work in the very near future; they’ve got to be scared, what with developments like Radiohead’s online success and Madonna signing a deal with a concert promotor instead of a record label. Big labels aren’t required to make it or succeed anymore, and no one will miss them when they’re gone.

100% Win: NYT Editorial on the TSA Follies

This column is spot on. Read the whole thing. Some choice bits:

Six years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, airport security remains a theater of the absurd. The changes put in place following the September 11th catastrophe have been drastic, and largely of two kinds: those practical and effective, and those irrational, wasteful and pointless.

The first variety have taken place almost entirely behind the scenes.,[…] Unfortunately, at concourse checkpoints all across America, the madness of passenger screening continues in plain view. It began with pat-downs and the senseless confiscation of pointy objects. Then came the mandatory shoe removal, followed in the summer of 2006 by the prohibition of liquids and gels. We can only imagine what is next.

To understand what makes these measures so absurd, we first need to revisit the morning of September 11th, and grasp exactly what it was the 19 hijackers so easily took advantage of. Conventional wisdom says the terrorists exploited a weakness in airport security by smuggling aboard box-cutters. What they actually exploited was a weakness in our mindset — a set of presumptions based on the decades-long track record of hijackings.

In years past, a takeover meant hostage negotiations and standoffs; crews were trained in the concept of “passive resistance.” All of that changed forever the instant American Airlines Flight 11 collided with the north tower. What weapons the 19 men possessed mattered little; the success of their plan relied fundamentally on the element of surprise. And in this respect, their scheme was all but guaranteed not to fail.

For several reasons — particularly the awareness of passengers and crew — just the opposite is true today. Any hijacker would face a planeload of angry and frightened people ready to fight back. Say what you want of terrorists, they cannot afford to waste time and resources on schemes with a high probability of failure. And thus the September 11th template is all but useless to potential hijackers.

No matter that a deadly sharp can be fashioned from virtually anything found on a plane, be it a broken wine bottle or a snapped-off length of plastic, we are content wasting billions of taxpayer dollars and untold hours of labor in a delusional attempt to thwart an attack that has already happened, asked to queue for absurd lengths of time, subject to embarrassing pat-downs and loss of our belongings. (Emph added)

The author — pilot and Salon columnist Patrick Smith — continues, noting once again that the London liquid plot behind the whole “3oz and a baggie” bullshit was implausible in the extreme:

Allegations surrounding the conspiracy were revealed to substantially embellished. In an August, 2006 article in the New York Times, British officials admitted that public statements made following the arrests were overcooked, inaccurate and “unfortunate.” The plot’s leaders were still in the process of recruiting and radicalizing would-be bombers. They lacked passports, airline tickets and, most critical of all, they had been unsuccessful in actually producing liquid explosives. Investigators later described the widely parroted report that up to ten U.S airliners had been targeted as “speculative” and “exaggerated.”


“The notion that deadly explosives can be cooked up in an airplane lavatory is pure fiction,” Greene told me during an interview. “A handy gimmick for action movies and shows like ’24.’ The reality proves disappointing: it’s rather awkward to do chemistry in an airplane toilet. Nevertheless, our official protectors and deciders respond to such notions instinctively, because they’re familiar to us: we’ve all seen scenarios on television and in the cinema. This, incredibly, is why you can no longer carry a bottle of water onto a plane.”

Again, go read the whole thing. No word of it a lie.

The Spirit of Bear Lives On

Sly Croom and his resurgent Mississippi State Bulldogs won the Liberty Bowl last night, besting the UCF Knights 10 to 3.

Actually, I’m not sure if “resurgent” is the right word, since I don’t remember State ever being this good (8-5 for the season), and they’re not done yet. Croom, who played and coached under Bear Bryant for 11 years, has been quietly building a real program in Starkville for four years. It’s going to be interesting to see how they fare in the SEC next year.

The Definitive List of Who Sucked in 2007

The Buffalo Beast has their 2007 “50 Most Loathsome People” list out, and it’s fanTAStic. Some highlights:

43. Sherri Shepherd

Charges: Perfectly illustrated the Creationist’s level of intellect when she declared her disbelief in evolution, and was immediately stumped about the shape of the earth, explaining her ignorance was due to the fact that she was too busy feeding her children to acquire rudimentary knowledge about… well, about anything, presumably. Further compounded her astonishing lack of basic knowledge when she authoritatively declared that Jesus Christ came before the ancient Greeks, and that she didn’t think “anything predated Christians.” Judging by these statements, Sherri probably thinks there are dragons on the other side of her desk.

Exhibit A: Accurately reflects the intelligence of her viewing audience.

Sentence: Pushed off the edge of the earth.


40. Lou Dobbs

Charges: Obvious, intensifying xenophobia and distrust of the yellow and brown races, possibly exacerbated by Mexican wife. Whatever useful message Dobbs once had about economic populism and the deleterious effects of globalization and cheap labor on American wages has long been tainted by his obvious animosity towards foreigners, specifically Mexicans and the Chinese. Every installment of his hour-long broadcast on CNN is dominated by reports about the “menace” of foreign imports, be they illegal immigrants crossing “our broken borders” to spread disease and rape our women, or poisonous products from “communist China.” Proof that Dobbs is a venomous yellow journalist shithead can be seen in his reaction media criticism of a segment on his show in which it was erroneously reported that there had been a sudden upsurge in leprosy cases, totaling 7,000 in just three years, the source of which was a lawyer who had also said in speeches that Mexican immigrants tend to molest children. In truth, there had been 7,000 cases of leprosy in the past thirty years. Dobbs was confronted several times with this fact — first he strongly defended his numbers, then strongly denied ever having used his numbers. A real journalist admits his errors. Dobbs is an ass.

Exhibit A: Sharply criticized the use of Mexican flags in immigrant demonstrations, then denied the obvious double standard of that comment by going on to say that he would have the same problem with Irish flags at the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and, in fact, that he was against St. Patrick’s Day. Yeah, sure, Lou.

Sentence: Stuffed with Green Cards; turned into amnesty pinata.


31. Dana Perino

Charges: In a nation weary of White House press secretaries who feign ignorance, the Bush administration took an innovative step this year, appointing one who genuinely doesn’t know anything. No more lies, America — Dana Perino really can’t answer your questions, honest! This slightly comely, over-promoted office wench not only didn’t know what the Cuban missile crisis or the Bay of Pigs even were; she actually thought it was a funny story to tell on NPR.

Exhibit A: “This is an issue where I’m sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when I say this, but it is true that many people die from cold-related deaths every winter. And there are studies that say that climate change in certain areas of the world would help those individuals.”

Sentence: Sent back in time to ’62; Strapped to bottom of U2 spy plane for extreme history lesson.


26. William Kristol

Charges: Bears the burlesque Cheshire grin of a sophist born with a large silver spoon jammed sideways in his mouth. A second generation neocon raised in the tradition of Straussian perception management and myth creation, Kristol is basically lying about everything — always — and he knows it. Whether at the helm of Rupert Murdoch’s Weekly Standard, appearing on Murdoch’s Fox News Channel, or co-founding the disastrous Project for a New American Century, Bill is arguably the most egregious media hawk of a generation. Seems to have suffered no ill impact to his career or prestige despite having been completely wrong about everything to do with Iraq and Iran, and actually laughs about it with obnoxious frequency.

Exhibit A: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the President’s willing to do something bad for the kids.”

Sentence: Corners of mouth torn apart by metal hook towing mules and face stomped by high-heeled elephants.


23. Bill O’Reilly

Charges: If judgmentalism were sugar, anyone in the same city as this paragon of intellectual overconfidence would lose their teeth within five minutes. O’Reilly is everything that’s wrong with America: Won’t ever admit he was wrong about anything (and will lie repeatedly rather than correct himself), accuses all who disagree with him of treason or insanity, attacks all who criticize him, and glories in his own troglodytic bluster. Anoints himself an authority on morals, despite common knowledge that he is a sexual harasser. Pretends to be an “independent” who just happens to look, sound, and act exactly like a Republican. Hasn’t engaged in a valid exchange of ideas in his entire career, because he knows he’d be crushed in seconds by an average college freshman. O’Reilly wins by interrupting, shouting, and if all else fails, cutting off his opponent’s microphone. A tiny, scared child of a man.

Exhibit A: “And this is what white America doesn’t know, particularly people who don’t have a lot of interaction with black Americans. They think that the culture is dominated by Twista, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg.” Gee Bill, where would they get that idea?

Sentence: Marinated, barbecued, and served at Sylvia’s restaurant in Harlem, where the blacks eat just like real people.

22. David Petraeus

Charges: Two-star schlub elevated to four-star cheerleader, because all the experienced generals retired out of shame or dignity. Under Dave’s leadership training Iraqi security forces from 2004-05, the Pentagon lost track of approximately 30% of weapons distributed, including some 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles. “Petraeus Report” rife with statistical manipulations, discounts pre-surge trends, claiming them as its own, and was heavily vetted, if not written entirely, by the White House.

Exhibit A: Nicknamed “Peaches.” Seriously.

Sentence: Joins Sadr army, betraying us and vindicating Moveon.org. Shot in back of head, so his death can’t be counted as a casualty.


19. Robert E. Murray

Charges: A modern-day Boss Tweed who saw the Grandall Canyon mine disaster as his own personal tragedy, weeping for the cameras while he tried to cover his ass in the most ridiculous way imaginable, insisting his mine collapsed due to an earthquake that somehow went undetected by seismologists, rather than the corner-cutting, cash-wringing, dangerous practice of retreat mining. This bloated, maniacal jackass is so out of touch that he didn’t seem to recognize the horrified disgust on the faces of the miners’ families he coddled for the cameras, as if they weren’t real people to him, just props in some insane, ego-driven PR campaign to minimize his financial liability. A caricature of industrial greed.

Exhibit A: Says Al Gore is “more dangerous than global warming.”

Sentence: Buried upside down in anthracite until death, while Donald Trump stands next to his feet and gives hourly speeches about how much he cares about it.

18. Kevin Martin

Charges: Before attempting to Chairpig the FCC into a realm of media consolidation that would’ve made Sylvio Berlusconi blush, Martin served as Deputy General Counsel for the Bush-Cheney 2000 Florida recount team, and prior to that as Ken Starr’s assistant and Dick Cheney’s lawyer. Judging by his appearance today, he must have passed the bar at twelve. Like a good Bushie, Martin is doing everything he can — which is a lot — to increase corporate control of the media, moving to allow newspapers to own radio and TV stations despite constant exhortations from everyone but Rupert Murdoch not to do so.

Exhibit A: When he’s not busy crushing independent media, Martin crusades against America’s true enemies: Tits and the word “fuck.”

Sentence: Asphyxiated in cloud of Monsanto-produced poison his Newscorp-owned local news station failed to report. Death also unreported.

17. Hillary Clinton

Charges: Began in politics as a teenage Nixon supporter — that’s twisted. Moved on to corporate law, representing Wal-Mart and bravely defending Coca-Cola from disabled employees. Married out of ambition. Failed miserably as the first lady of health care. Has spent whole of senatorial career as a hawk and a panderer. Would have no shot at becoming president if she didn’t just happen to be married to one already.

Exhibit A: Has deftly avoided the flip-flopper label — by never, ever answering a question directly or committing to a position in the first place.

Sentence: Victim of vast right wing conspiracy to shove a brick up her ass.


10. Alberto Gonzales

Crimes: The most truckling, amoral flunky to ever serve as Attorney General. A jurisprudent organelle, he manifests no concept of the law independent of its expediency to the president. Would smilingly accuse himself of providing material support to al Qaeda at President Bush’s request, hurriedly plead guilty, sign his own death warrant and flip the switch himself. His testimony before congressional committees is to public service what cholera is to the small intestine. As first Hispanic Attorney General, Gonzo typifies the self-betrayal and ethical compromise necessary for minorities to become successful Republicans. Been felching sweet approval from Bush’s lily-white ass since Texas. A conscienceless, memo-drafting, loophole-crafting liar for hire, pushing for all the worst administration policies, including nixing habeas corpus, denying and then defending rendition, torture, political firings, and a ton of other evil stuff. He even visited a seriously ill and disoriented John Ashcroft at the hospital, attempting to coax him into reauthorizing a clearly illegal wiretapping program. The only Attorney General who ever could have made John Ashcroft a sympathetic character by contrast.

Exhibit A: “The fact that the Constitution — again, there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away.”

Sentence: Death by dull guillotine, head bent by Beckham.

9. You

Charges: You believe in freedom of speech, until someone says something that offends you. You suddenly give a damn about border integrity, because the automated voice system at your pharmacy asked you to press 9 for Spanish. You cling to every scrap of bullshit you can find to support your ludicrous belief system, and reject all empirical evidence to the contrary. You know the difference between patriotism and nationalism — it’s nationalism when foreigners do it. You hate anyone who seems smarter than you. You care more about zygotes than actual people. You love to blame people for their misfortunes, even if it means screwing yourself over. You still think Republicans favor limited government. Your knowledge of politics and government are dwarfed by your concern for Britney Spears’ children. You think buying Chinese goods stimulates our economy. You think you’re going to get universal health care. You tolerate the phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques.” You think the government is actually trying to improve education. You think watching CNN makes you smarter. You think two parties is enough. You can’t spell. You think $9 trillion in debt is manageable. You believe in an afterlife for the sole reason that you don’t want to die. You think lowering taxes raises revenue. You think the economy’s doing well. You’re an idiot.

Exhibit A: You couldn’t get enough Anna Nicole Smith coverage.

Sentence: A gradual decline into abject poverty as you continue to vote against your own self-interest. Death by an easily treated disorder that your health insurance doesn’t cover. You deserve it, chump.


5. Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid

Charges: Graduates of the Neville Chamberlain school of appeasement, the Democratic leadership continues to ignore the constitution-and the American people-by keeping impeachment “off the table” and refusing to defund the war. True pushovers, they’re too stupid, cowardly, weak and outmatched politically to accomplish anything substantive, their “strategy” essentially boiling down to whining a lot while handing Bush whatever the hell he wants. There is just no way that appearing this weak and ineffectual could be any better for them politically than impeachment. Everything that the White House gets away with, it gets away with because congress allows it.

Exhibit A: Failure to woo the two thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto is moot: They could defund the war with a 41-senator budgetary filibuster. But that would take guts and conviction.

Sentence: 2 cups anthrax bisque.

And of course, the top two should come as no surprise:

2. Dick Cheney

Charges: Worst president ever. So openly horrible, he now makes jokes about being Darth Vader. Unashamedly advocating for executive abuse of power and corporate theft. In and out of public office since his congressional internship during the Nixon Administration. Didn’t care about the quagmire he foresaw in ’94, because since then he’d deftly maneuvered to profit from it. Polling lower than HPV.

Exhibit A: His Halliburton stock rose 3000% in 2007. No joke.

Punishment: Raped by the sun.

1. George W. Bush

Charges: Is it a civil rights milestone to have a retarded president? Maybe it would be, if he were ever legitimately elected. You can practically hear the whole nation holding its breath, hoping this guy will just fucking leave come January ’09 and not declare martial law. Only supporters left are the ones who would worship a fucking turnip if it promised to kill foreigners. Is so clearly not in charge of his own White House that his feeble attempts to define himself as “decider” or “commander guy” are the equivalent of a five-year-old kid sitting on his dad’s Harley and saying “vroom vroom!” Has lost so many disgusted staffers that all he’s left with are the kids from Jesus Camp. The first president who is so visibly stupid he can say “I didn’t know what was in the National Intelligence Estimate until last week” and sound plausible. Inarguably a major criminal and a much greater threat to the future of America than any Muslim terrorist.

Exhibit A: “And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to try to elevate it.”

Sentence: Dismembered, limbs donated to injured veterans.

Letterman remains cooler than Leno

His Worldwide Pants production company has reached an independent agreement with the Writers’ Guild, which means Letterman’s show — as well as Craig Ferguson’s — will return to the air with writers starting Wednesday.

Leno and Conan will return to air as well, but without writers or an agreement with the WGA. In addition to having crappy material, the NBC drones will also have to contend with the fact that many Screen Actors’ Guild members would prefer to avoid shows working without such an agreement.

Because, apparently, there’s no other crime to pursue in Ohio


Robin Garrison, an off-duty 42-year-old firefighter, was walking in Berliner Park in Columbus, Ohio, in May when he saw a woman sunbathing topless under a tree.

He approached her and they started talking and getting comfortable, the woman smiling and resting her foot on his shoulder at one point.

Eventually, she asked to see Garrison’s penis; he unzipped his pants and complied.

Seconds later, undercover police officers pulled up in a van and arrested Garrison; he was later charged with public indecency, a misdemeanor, based on video footage taken by cops who were targeting men having sex or masturbating in the park. While topless sunbathing is legal in the city’s parks, exposing more than that is against the law.

How, exactly, is this not entrapment? Did Garrison really deserve to be arrested here? Does he deserve a conviction? WTF?

.kcirT taeN

Via BoingBoing: Check out this video of a guy singing backwards. No, really. The first half is him singing in reverse while doing things like pouring liquid and popping balloons to establish the lack of trickery; at the halfway point, he’s finished the verse, so the video reverses.

More Civil Forfeiture

This kind of thing really has to stop:

LIMA — Two robbers who broke into Luther Ricks Sr.’s house this summer may have not gotten his life savings he had in a safe, but after the FBI confiscated it he may not get it back.

Ricks has tried to get an attorney to fight for the $402,767 but he has no money. Lima Police Department officers originally took the money from his house but the FBI stepped in and took it from the Police Department. Ricks has not been charged with a crime and was cleared in a fatal shooting of one of the robbers but still the FBI has refused to return the money, he said.

“They are saying I have to prove I made it,” he said.

Because Ricks had some pot in the house, the government’s position is that they can take the money under civil forfeiture rules — even though Ricks has not been charged with or convicted of any crime. The burden of proof is on Ricks; he must prove the money is legally his, and that he is innocent of wrongdoing. The FBI, the story notes, will likely want receipts; since Ricks and his wife accumulated their nest egg over a working life — he’s 61 — it’s a pretty good bet they don’t have every single pay stub.

Due process? Justice? Neither apply in forfeiture cases. Does this bother you? It should.

More Proof the GOP Have No Principles

The Republican Party would have you believe they’re all about state’s rights and minimal Federal intervention, but this is really only true when it suits them. Case in point: Bush’s EPA has just quashed 17 states’ attempts to reduce further automotive greenhouse gas emissions.

More here.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California said the states would go to federal court to reverse the E.P.A. decision.

“It is disappointing that the federal government is standing in our way and ignoring the will of tens of millions of people across the nation,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “We will continue to fight this battle.”

He added, “California sued to compel the agency to act on our waiver, and now we will sue to overturn today’s decision and allow Californians to protect our environment.”

Twelve other states — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — had proposed standards like California’s, and the governors of Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah said they would do the same.

If the waiver had been granted and the 16 other states had adopted the California standard, it would have covered at least half of all vehicles sold in the United States.

This is awesome. Unless you work for 3D Realms.

In gaming, people complain about release delays a LOT. Nothing ever ships on time. Sometimes, the delays produce hype and impossible expectations, especially when the game is released and turns out to suck.

One game in particular has managed to avoid the “released and turned out to suck” pitfall, of course, and that game is Duke Nukem Forever, which was announced on 28 April 1997, and has yet to see the light of day.

DNF — n.b. that its initials can also stand for “did not finish” — is to be the groundbreaking next edition in a popular series; Duke Nukem 3D was the last iteration, in 1996, and was one of the first real truly immersive first-person shooters. (It was a peer to Quake at the time, which has itself had several successful sequels since its release.)

In light of this truly amazing feat of procrastination and schedule-busting, some enterprising souls have produced a fine, fine list of amusing things that have happened since the DNF announcement early in Clinton’s second term. It includes:

  • The entire Grand Theft Auto series
  • The entire run of the Sims game franchise
  • The creation, implementation, and explosion of an entire game genre, the Massively Multiplayer Onling Role Playing Game
  • 58 different Mario games
  • The previous winner of “most delayed game,” Daikatana, started development 10 days before DNF, and was released in May of 2000
  • The whole of Half Life
  • Every Thief game
  • The entire Halo trilogy
  • The creation and release of the XBox, XBox 360, PS2, PS3, PSP, GameCube, Gameboy, and DS

Outside of gaming, they make the following observations:

  • In 1997, a “fast” Internet connection involved a 33.6kilobit per second modem.
  • Back then, a hotrod home gaming rig ran at 233Mhz.
  • There was no such thing as a commercially successful MP3 player in 1997, and wouldn’t be for another 4 years. Since its intro in 2001, though, Apple has sold more than 50 million iPods.
  • Napster did not exist in 1997
  • There was no Google, eBay, or Blogger
  • Stephen King has written 16 novels
  • “The concept of Bullet Time has been developed, pioneered, and completely run into the ground.”
  • There was no Britney or Harry Potter in 1997.
  • The U.S.S. Ronald Reagan (the largest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the world) was in contract, built, launched, commissioned, and began active duty.

Finally, they note a few historical events of importance that took less time than DNF has so far:

  • The Beatles formed, released all their records, and broke up.
  • The entire U.S. program to put a man on the moon, from JFK’s speech until Armstrong’s landing.
  • The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the entire Manhattan Project, and Vietnam.

We’re sure, though, that when DNF is finally released, it’ll be awesome. Probably.

Ah, Louisiana

This is positively Soviet: In Shreveport, a principal had what’s been described as an “inappropriate physical altercation” with a student. We’re sure it would have been swept under the rug except for one thing: a student captured it on a cell phone camera.

The school board’s reaction? Ban cell phones:

Board member Dottie Bell brought the concept up after a student’s cell phone video that showed Huntington High School Principal Jerry Davis and a student in a physical altercation garnered local media attention and subsequently forced the system to place Davis on paid administrative leave.

Note wording. The video forced the disciplinary action, not the actions of the principal. Um, whatever.

Fortune magazine remains clueless; Techdirt notices

Biz-press dinosaur Fortune’s got a list out of the 101 Dumbest Moments in Business from 2007, to which I will not link because they’re stupid. Case in point: Entry 59 is devoted to Radiohead, who famously allowed their new album to be downloaded for whatever the buyer wished to pay. Fortune cites figures (that Radiohead has disputed) saying only 38% paid anything at all.


I would argue that the only thing “dumb” here is the inclusion of this move on the list. CNN seems to think that Radiohead expected everyone to pay for the album, when even the band has clearly stated that this was a promotional move. Is CNN “dumb” for putting this article online for free? Of course not — because they make money through other means, such as advertising. In the same way, Radiohead did quite well even if people downloaded the album for free. After all, even if the Comscore numbers are accurate, Radiohead still pulled in millions, distributed millions of tracks to fans all over the world with no promotional budget, got its name and its music talked about around the globe and found at the top of popular playlists everywhere, and got a tremendous amount of free advertising for its upcoming tour and CD box sets. Can you name a single band in the world that would turn that down? Hell, can you name a single Fortune/CNN editor who would turn that down if he were in Radiohead’s shoes? Not unless he was pretty dumb.

Word. It must be sad to be as clueless as Fortune; perhaps they’re so clueless that just don’t know how bad off they are.

Worst Holiday Movie EVER


Mrs Heathen enjoys trolling the category lists on the Tivo this time of year, mostly looking for the specials of our youth in the innocent 70s, but about a week ago — during a visit by Mama Nia and the Ultilopp — we saw something that sounded so awful and ill-conceived that we just had to tell the Tivo to grab it.

Last night, with the same company over, we watched it.

Oh. My. God.

The film in question is the unparalled and completely unequaled Santa’s Slay, from 2005 (straight to video, for reasons that will become obvious). It’s a Christmas-themed comedy horror, although it’s really only unassailably in one of those categories, since it’s neither funny nor scary enough to qualify for the other two. At least it’s clearly Yuletide.

The argument is this: Notwithstanding what you’ve previously been told, Santa is the product of a second immaculate conception, this time between the devil and the Virgin Erica (we’re sure that’s an inside joke we don’t get). This original Santa was as evil as the normal one is beneficent, and the wintertime “Christ mass” we all know and love was originally undertaken by the faithful to seek protection from his annual murderous rampage.

With me so far?

At some point, ol’ Santa loses a curling match with an angel, and as a consequence is forced to be nice for a thousand years, a period that conveniently expires at the start of the film, thereby laying the groundwork for the carnage that ensues.

And so it begins. Santa — played, of course, by an enormous Jewish wrestler — makes his entrance in the movie’s first minutes; during a dysfunctional Christmas Eve dinner at (an uncredited) James Caan‘s opulent family home, Santa descends the chimney, bursts through the brick mantle a la Kool Aid, and brutally dispatches the family (Chris Kattan (kicked into hutch), Fran Drescher (set afire; drowned in egg nog — this may have been the high point of the film), and Rebecca Gayheart in cameos) before moving on to spread his particularly lethal brand of cheer.

There is, of course, a good-hearted teen, the sometime object of his affection (Lost‘s Emilie de Ravin), a crooked pastor Dave Thomas, naturally), and the apparently-crazy-but-really-wise grandfather (Robert Culp) who has mysterious but longstanding anti-Christmas views. The town’s deli — where, of course, both teens work — is run by a not-long-for-this-world Saul Rubinek, who meets his end pinned to the wall with a menorah.

You can imagine the rest of the film, I’m sure. Good-Hearted Teen (“GHT”) discovers, more or less simultaneously, that Santa is an enormous killing machine AND the “real” story behind Santa from his perhaps-not-so-nutty grandpa, who is easy to peg as the aforementioned angel well before the origin sequence.

(Said origin bit is actually another high point: it’s done in a halfassed Rankin-Bass style (think Rudolph), which makes it clear the filmmaker was at least trying for something smarter or at least cleverer than he ended up with here.)

Santa pursues our GHT with the help of his Viking-themed sled, pulled through the holiday skies (of course) by a man-eating white ox, and loaded (of course) with explosive presents he throws like grenades. There is, obviously, massacre in a strip club (quoth Santa: “Naughty!”), a snowmobile chase, a showdown in an ice rink, a curling rematch, and a gun nut with a bazooka who saves the day.

I swear, as God is my witness, I am not making ANY of this up, and it’s easily as bad as I’ve described here.

(However, it’s still better than this.)

On NPR this morning…

They had a little feature interview with Jack White, who was discussing his upcoming singles which happen to include a cover of “Conquest,” Patti Page’s 1952 hit.

It happens that White is friends with Beck, and was recording these tracks at Beck’s LA home studio. When it came time to do Conquest, they realized they wanted a trumpet player. Does Beck know any trumpet players? No, but what Beck did know was that there is apparently a park in LA where mariachi bands congregate waiting to be hired.

An assistant was dispatched, who quickly called back: not only was the park for real, but before hiring one must decide if one wants a 4-piece or a 5-piece, like chicken.

Dept. of Clarifications

Earlier, we said our Mac folks should upgrade to Leopard “if and only if [they] have good backup.”

We do not mean by this that you can expect to NEED said backup if you try to update. Our upgrade went swimmingly well. We just mean you should NEVER EVER EVER do something like that to your computer (and kind, be it Mac or PC or Linux or VMS or whatever else you freaks are running) without having a complete, solid, and up-to-date backup on hand.

Go buy an outboard drive as big as your computer’s internal drive. Actually, get two. They’re cheap. Shut up. As JWZ said a while back, listen to me. I know things.

Then go get some kind of smart hard drive cloning tool. On the Mac, I like SuperDuper (which is presently broken under Leopard, but works fine for 10.4 and below; also, its “brokenness” doesn’t keep you from reading your backup, just updating it). CarbonCopyCloner is also a fine choice. On the PC, I’ve no personal knowledge, but LifeHacker liked DriveImage XML despite its cheesy name.

These tools will create, on your backup drives, a complete (and potentially bootable) copy of your machine’s hard drive. Typically, your first backup will take many hours, but subsequent ones will copy only the new or changed material; expect those to run for maybe an hour. Why two drives? Because that way you can alternate. Do a complete system backup like this every week, and swap the drives every month. Put the drive you’re not backing up to someplace else. Your spouse’s office is a good choice, or a friend’s house.

Sound like overkill? It’s not. Imagine the tax records, the digital pictures, the emails, the documents and God knows what else that were lost in New Orleans or the Mississippi coast. Imagine how smart you’ll feel if, God forbid, something like that happens where you live, but you’ve got a month-old backup at your mother-in-law’s place, safe and sound. Imagine how little effort this takes.

Of course, this is just system backup. Your critical files should ideally be backed up every day using another mechanism, like one of myriad online backup tools now available. People seem to like Mozy, for example. No reason not to join them. It’s cheap, and it works. What more do you want?

Now, go forth. Backup. Always.

(“Hey Chet, what about Leopard’s Time Machine?” Glad you asked. It’s a great idea. Buy a third drive to use for TM. It doesn’t replace the need, in my opinion, for full-disk bootable backups, or for frequent offsite saves of critical stuff (i.e., your Documents folder).)

Wisdom from the Intarnets

Artist, photographyer, and writer Richard Kadrey had the following to say about the major league baseball steroid foolishness over on The Well:

Dear News Dudes,

We’re losing two wars, people in europe and asia are wiping their asses with dollars because they’re worth less than toilet paper and at least half the current white house senior officials will probably be eligible for war crimes or profiteering charges when the dust settles. I only bring this up because some of us don’t goddamn care that much about goddamn steroid abuse in goddamn baseball. I acknowledge that it’s a legitimate news story, but the amount of time and the breathless “this is a world changing event!” coverage is, as my first editor at a tiny newspaper in Houston put it, “a cracked crock of shit.” Can you all just sit down, suck down a big, steaming mug of shut the fuck up and get some perspective? Are roger clemens shriveled balls really a more important story than rape and cover-up allegations against KBR? Are you just bored covering Britney’s breakdown or taping Amy Winehouse puking into her beehive? This isn’t the reporters’ fault, it’s you news editors sucking jock cock. Maybe you’re getting dad to sit up and listen to TV and radio news a little more, but you’re becoming even more of a joke to everyone else.

Oh, and Congress, you’re holding two hearings on the steroid thing? You can’t even pass a kid’s insurance bill and you’ve decided that this is the time to come clean on your secret Tom of Finland fetish so you can publicly speculate on a lot of big, buff guys’ pecs without looking too Larry Craig? Good choice. I have no doubt that this will make your approval ratings soar higher than Martin Borman’s, but still leave you a little south of bed sores.

Thank you. I’m off the put “the American in Me” by the Avengers on a loop and play it real LOUD out the window until the SWAT team comes down the chimney like santa and gifts me with a triple tap dirt nap. Goodnight moon. Goodnight stars.

(Reproduced here with Richard’s permission.)

Dept. of Graphic Design Absurdities

On my bill for my Sprint mobile broadband modem, the “amount enclosed” portion of the form is rendered in the one-box-per-digit mode common to standardized forms. Observe, if you will, their presentation:

Who pays a million dollar cell bill?

Under what circumstances, I wonder, would any of the places beyond the thousands get used? I can imagine an actual bill getting sent, to be remitted by check, that extends to a few thousand — I even know people who’ve done this with international roaming, knocking on the door of five figures. Bills greater than ten large, though, are almost certainly all handled by some sort of corporate billing and remittance mechanism. How often does Sprint really get some human filling out this form with 6 or 7 digits?

Just so we’re clear

We do not give TWO SHITS about the baseball steroid “scandal.” Professional athletes whose job it is to perform, and who may get cut at any time, and who depend on their jobs for their lifestyle, their ego, or their family turn out to be willing to abuse their bodies with anything that’s likely to help them run, hit, or field a bit better? SHOCKED! WE’RE SHOCKED!

Not. Frankly, we see the whole thing as hypocrisy. The public demands and rewards spectacular play, but is squeamish about ‘roids or HGH or whatever. There’s a huge disconnect. Add the major league money to the picture, and where we are now becomes a foregone conclusion for a long, long time.

Dept. of Interesting Legal Developments

A Federal judge has ruled that a defendent cannot be compelled to give up his encryption keys on the grounds that such information amounts to self-incrimination.

A number of legal and Net.law analysts have been anticipating such a conflict for years, but this appears to be the first actual on-point ruling, and it’s gone 180 degrees from what folks expected.

I agree with this intuitively, but since I believe a suspect can be made to (for example) produce keys to a safety deposit box, I’m not sure what the legal rationale for a difference is. Any Heathen lawyers wish to weigh in here?

Mitt, JFK, faith, and freedom

This’ll just be a roundup, since I don’t have time to do the entry I’d meant to do on this.

Romney attempted to answer the broad questions about his faith and how he’d handle it in office recently, and made more than casual attempts to paint himself as a sort of JFK figure in the process. Kennedy, as you may recall, gave a similar speech to the Greater Houston MInisterial Association in 1960 (right here in Houston) wherein he attempted to put to rest worries that a Catholic president would be little more than the Vatican’s proxy.

The primary problem with Mitt as Jack in this situation, though, is the message of either speech. As Maureen Dowd put it:

The problem with Mitt is not his religion; it is his overeager policy shape-shifting. He did not give a brave speech, but a pandering one. Disguised as a courageous, Kennedyesque statement of principle, the talk was really just an attempt to compete with the evolution-disdaining, religion-baiting Huckabee and get Baptists to concede that Mormons are Christians.

“J.F.K.’s speech was to reassure Americans that he wasn’t a religious fanatic,” Mr. [Jon] Krakauer [author of Under the Banner of Heaven, a history of Mormanism] agreed. “Mitt’s was to tell evangelical Christians, ‘I’m a religious fanatic just like you.'”

Fred Clark has more, mostly analyzing Romney’s charming but hopeless and frighteningly wrong cuplet “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.”

That’s a nice bit of parallelism. It pleases the ear even as it disturbs the brain. In a formal sense, the statement is valid. The first part is not true “just as” the second part is not true.

Romney repeatedly says in his speech that his topic is religious liberty and his own faith. Given that, it’s not surprising that he would argue that “freedom” and “religion” are compatible or complementary. But he goes beyond that, arguing that each requires the other — that religion is necessary for freedom and that freedom is necessary for religion.

Let’s deal with the latter assertion first: “religion requires freedom.” There are far too many counter-examples for this to be true. Think of China, where the government denies religious freedom to millions of Christians and Falun Gong adherents and Tibetan Buddhists. Yet despite this lack of freedom, despite this active oppression — and, in a way, in response to this oppression — these faiths are all thriving. This is what the early Christian theologian Tertullian was getting at when he said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Religion can survive, and thrive, in the absence of freedom.

and more:

But as potentially troubling and unfactual as the latter part of Romney’s assertion is, the first part of it is worse.

“Freedom requires religion,” Romney said. Had he said, “Freedom requires religious freedom,” then I would agree, absolutely. […]

But Romney did not say that freedom requires religious freedom. He said, “Freedom requires religion.” And that’s a contradictory statement — a very different, and very frightening, thing.

If freedom requires religion, then the a-religious and irreligious, the non-religious and un-religious are the enemies of freedom. Romney believes, in other words, that atheism is incompatible with freedom. Whatever it is he means by “religious liberty,” he does not believe it can safely be applied to atheists.

Keep in mind that this is Mitt “double Guantanamo” Romney talking — he’s made it clear what he wants to do to those he regards as the enemies of freedom.