Monday, August 30, 2004

"The Safest Rest You've Ever Had"

The Quantum Sleeper
The Quantum Sleeper Unit is a high-level security system designed for maximum protection in various hostile environments

Quantum Sleepers can also be fitted to provide protection from destructive forces of nature such as tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes and floods.
And if it fails, they can bury you in it.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

"This does not mean the relationship has irretrievably broken down."

iWon (Reuters) | Dead Couple to Be Married
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A South African man who shot his pregnant fiancée dead before killing himself will be posthumously married to her at the weekend.

Police Captain Mohale Ramatseba said David Masenta shot 25-year-old Mgwanini Molomo after a quarrel before turning the gun on himself. But Johannesburg's Sowetan newspaper said family and friends wanted to remember them as a happy couple destined for a happy life together.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

"Don't bring the 'real world' into the ACTUAL comics."

While I'm waiting to be retrieved by my great-to-the-fifteenth-or-so grandson, Brian Hibbs is saying what I meant to say about Identity Crisis. Since I seem to be incapable of saying it myself (or so I must conclude), I'll point you there. Excerpt:
Execution, skill, craft, passion, this is clearly Very Good, but because the absolutely wrong set of characters were picked to tell this story, I also think it's Awful. I think both things at once.
I would only modify this to say that I am withholding final judgement until the miniseries concludes, just as David Welsh says I should:
You’re trying to judge the comic based on individual chapters: Obviously, this is madness. Sure, DC is publishing IC in a monthly format, but that doesn’t entitle you to evaluate it on a chapter-by-chapter basis.
(I should point out that Welsh intends this as sarcasm.)
Be reasonable. Spend $4 a month, just in case it might make sense later. It’s the least you can do. Then, after you’ve shelled out $30, you can say how much you hate it. You’ll still be wrong, but you won’t be hamstrung in this manner.
Tell you what, DC: Publish the collected trade first, I'll buy it, and then we'll both be happy, right? (At San Diego Comicon, DC said the trade is scheduled for November 2005.)

Maybe not. They keep claiming they don't--can't!--make money on the trades, that they only way the business model works is with regular monthly sales of 32-page pamphlets for $3. Or, in IC's case, 40-page pamphlets for $4, since Meltzer is a Real Author.

This needs some further thought.

Monday, August 23, 2004

"But if it works...?"

The Time Travel Fund
We establish a fund in current time. You make a small contribution to the fund, and in a few hundred years that small amount grows to a very large amount. From that fund, moneys will be taken and used to retrieve you, perhaps seconds after you join, perhaps even moments before your recorded death, perhaps some other point in your lifetime.
Sure, I'll contribute... the minute someone comes back from 2504 A.D. and tells me you're on the up and up. They can watch me send you the money before I go. It should be very exciting for them. If this is my last post, you'll know why.

Oh, yeah, I'm sure they'll get this message, because the web will still exist five hundred years from now. That obsolescence thing with eight-track tapes was a fluke. Medical science will advance trememdously, but technology won't change.

Personally, I'm thinking that if time machines will ever be invented, then they've already been used. Everyone's first choice for a destination was/will be the forward deck of the Titanic. The ship sank under the additional weight of 3,842 time machines (and 10,461 travellers whose machines stayed behind, like Tony and Doug).

Thursday, August 19, 2004


San Francisco Chronicle | Olympic Journal: Press corps' wretched behavior
An ugly international incident occurred Monday in Athens and received no media play because the perpetrators were members of the U.S. and Dutch press, who strangely chose not to write about it.
...It happened in the chaotic interview room at the swimming venue and the occasion was, ostensibly, a news conference featuring the gold medalist in the women's 100-meter breaststroke, Xuejuan Luo of China. She was joined on the dais by a translator.
Members of the U.S. press were waiting for Michael Phelps or Natalie Coughlin to come into the room. The Dutch were there for Pieter van den Hoogenband, silver medalist in the men's 200 freestyle.
The problems were concurrent. The Americans (none from this newspaper, thankfully) were yakking it up in smug little coteries while the soft-spoken Luo and her soft-spoken translator were trying to answer questions. Meanwhile, van den Hoogenband came into the interview room, walked behind Luo on the dais and sat down at the end, totally out of turn, and conducted his own interview for the Dutch media.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Who's buying these things?

I'll never be as interested in comics as I was twenty years ago. There was a time I bought everything on the stands (much of which is still in my attic getting brown and brittle: it might be time to sort through it and hit eBay). These days, I'm much more selective.

You have to be. Batman alone, for instance, carries four monthly titles (about to be five, when the tie-in to his new cartoon show begins) and his "extended family" of books account for four more (not counting peripherals like "Birds of Prey" and numerous limited series). For Superman the corresponding count is 3 and 0, having been scaled back since his supporting cast is not currently considered strong enough to carry their own books.

This also doesn't count team books. Teen Titans (currently a three-title franchise, thanks to their cartoon show and "The Outsiders", which features most of the founding Titans under new names) could be considered a Bat-book, since Robin or Nightwing is the central character in all of them. Justice League (also with a second companion monthly based on the cartoon) features both Superman and Batman.

(I won't even talk about Marvel's EIGHTEEN X-men books.)

But DC's big success story, and it's current best seller, is Superman/Batman. For purposes of editorial jurisdiction, it's considered a Superman book, but Batman drives it, both dramatically and in sales. The fact that it's written by the popular Jeph Loeb doesn't hurt. (I'm dating myself when I wistfully wish that they'd called it "World's Finest", but that's a topic for another day.)

So, how well does it sell? Diamond International (comics distributors) doesn't like to say. Their monthly sales numbers aren't raw sales, but an index of how well a book sells compared to Batman (which is deemed for these purposes to be a rock-hard consistent seller, an assumption that raw numbers, when available, don't seem to justify). That is, Batman's index is always 100: Superman: Birthright's index this month is 49, meaning they sold forty-nine copies of Birthright #12 for every hundred copies of Batman #630. Or, put another way, about one copy for every two.

Could this be any more obtuse?

Anyway: Superman/Batman #11's index is 208. (S/B's numbers were always pretty good, but at the moment fan-favorite artist Michael Turner is drawing a six-issue arc featuring the introduction -- re-introduction? return? -- of Kara, the Supergirl from Krypton. I've mentioned it before. It's an eagerly-awaited story, and sales are through the roof.) But how many copies is that, exactly?

Fortunately, you only need hard numbers on one book to throw the whole chart into Excel, crunch the numbers and get sales for the industry. (I shouldn't have to do this. What other industry makes their sales figures so difficult to get?) Equally fortunately, has already done this, and has generated sales and trends for DC for the last year (possibly Marvel, too, but I couldn't find that).

Superman/Batman #10 (the most recent for which this calculation has been done) sold an estimated 178,865 copies in its first month of release. Since DC does subsequent printings (Marvel doesn't: that too is a topic for another day), sales can continue past that point, bringing S/B's total to 192,570.

That's a phenomenal number for comic books these days.

Batman sold 72,020: Birthright sold 34,829. Batman Adventures (the cartoon tie-in) sold 12,042. Batman Adventures is #152 of Diamond's top 300 selling comics for the month. Can you imagine what sales must be like for the other 148?

In light of these sales figures, comic books achieve a disproportionate amount of media awareness. There's not a schoolkid anywhere in the country (and not many grown-ups) who doesn't know who Batman is. You'd think these books would be selling in the millions. They once did.

Elsewhere in the AOL empire, TIME magazine's circulation is about 4 million in the US, 5.5 worldwide.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

In this regimented world...

It's nice to know there's still room for stories like this.
Daily Herald | 867 5309 - Jenny gets her number
"867-5309/Jenny" was Tommy Tutone's catchy 1982 hit about the possibility of true love found in a girl's phone number written on a wall.Although Fletcher shares the name of the song's celebrated heroine, the thought of making the number her license plate didn't occur to her until last year.
... "I've been inquiring to the secretary of state's office for over a year with phone numbers, e-mails, everything," Fletcher said.
The excuse most people used to get rid of her was that the numbers are only released in sequence, and the sequence hadn't reached the number she wanted. Furthermore, all-digit combinations aren't recognized as vanity plates and can't be specially requested.
... But then, in late July, she got the phone call she'd nearly stopped hoping for, from the woman at the secretary of state's office.
"When she called, she shouted, 'Jenny, I've got your number!'" Fletcher laughed.
Only because the number was part of the next batch and only because Fletcher had expressed so much interest in 867 5309 did she get her wish. It was really a combination of both factors, rather than the state changing its policy on requests, she said.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Why conservatives have a reputation for not being funny

ShopNetDaily | Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!
"Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed! A Small Lesson in Conservatism" is a wonderful way to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. In simple text, parents and children follow Tommy and Lou on their quest to earn money for a swing set their parents cannot afford. As their dream gets stuck in Liberaland, Tommy and Lou’s lemonade stand is hit with many obstacles.

Liberals keep appearing from behind their lemon tree, taking half of their money in taxes, forbidding them to hang a picture of Jesus atop their stand, and making them give broccoli with each glass sold.
There's also a link to Conservatives Are From Mars (Liberals Are From San Francisco), an actual funny title that someone should jack up and put a better book under it. Featuring a "buy this book" blurb from well-known humorist William Peter Blatty.

An American Shepherd?

The Olympian | Homeland Security targets kids in awareness campaign
WASHINGTON -- The Homeland Security Department is enlisting new allies in its effort to prepare the nation for another terrorist attack: your kids and your boss.

... Starting next month, children in grades four though eight and employers nationwide will be asked to help get families and companies better prepared to respond to a crisis.

In schools, on the Internet and in television and radio ads, kids will be introduced to a Homeland Security mascot in the form of a dog, an American shepherd.

... Just as children learned to take shelter during a nuclear attack or bug their parents to quit smoking and wear seat belts, officials hope grade-school kids will prompt recalcitrant moms and dads to put together a plan.
You know, I don't believe I'd raise the old spectre of "duck and cover", if I were they. If they're looking for a success story to emulate, I believe I'd talk up Smokey the Bear.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Too much time on your hands?

Big Mouth Billy Bass Hacking in Linux
This project uses the power of Linux to add brains to the Big Mouth Billy Bass. The goal is to use any Linux device--desktop or embedded--to make the Big Mouth Billy Bass say or act any way you want!

... I propose to use the MZ104 to control the popular animatronic toy Big Mouth Billy Bass. At the early stages of this project, the MZ104 will dramatically enhance the current behavior of the toy with user selected audio clips and better motion coordination. Later, by adding a microphone and CCD camera to the system, the toy will be transformed into a webcam or a videoconferencing station.

... By adding this functionality to the bass, in addition to networking protocols, the bass will be transformed into an H.323 compliant video teleconferencing host. It will be possible to use Microsoft NetMeeting or CUSeeMe to connect to your bass at home and talk with your loved ones!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

"He told us that he was a conservative activist"

Yahoo News (AP) | GOP Names 19-Time Inmate Auditor Candidate
TACOMA, Wash. - Republican leaders in Washington state were happy to have a contender for state auditor when they accepted Will Baker's last-minute offer to challenge a popular Democrat.

They didn't worry too much about who he was or how he spent his time — until they realized a considerable amount of his time was spent in jail

... Baker, a 41-year-old roadside flower salesman and self-styled political activist, has been arrested at least 19 times since 1992, mostly for refusing to stop speaking at Tacoma City Council and Pierce County Council meetings. He was last released from jail less than two months ago.

Monday, August 09, 2004


Just in case you were under the impression that comic books were anything other than disposable entertainment for the kiddies.
Tampa Tribune | Comics Fans Entertain Fantasy At Convention
Kay Henderson knew she had something valuable among a stash of old comic books.

The 10-cent Dick Tracy comic, and a stack of Little Big and Big Big books were never going to interest her grandchildren.

"They don't know who Dick Tracy was," she said.

On Sunday Henderson collected about $200 for the Dick Tracy, which pitted Chester Gould's rock-jawed detective against a mysterious villain with no face. Paul Dyroff, a collector and comic book vendor from Lake Mary, said the vintage Tracy might climb to $300 on resale.

...Ethan Van Sciver, who was at Sunday's event, will also return. Van Sciver was chosen as the artist for "Return of Hal Jordan," a new Green Hornet comic. It is expected to create significant buzz among collectors, said Tim Gordon, the convention's organizer and owner of Tim Gordon Comics in St. Petersburg.

"This is a new Green Hornet story that brings Hal Jordan back to life," he said.

Oh, by the way, Ms Reporter Person: You've badly misquoted Mr Gordon. "Return of Hal Jordan" is not the name of the book: It's Green Lantern: Rebirth. It's not about the Green Hornet, and he wouldn't have told you it was.

I realize this must look pretty trivial to you, and on some level it certainly is. It's only a comic book. It's the kind of mistake you make when you aren't really paying attention to the person you're talking to. People do it all the time.

But these days, comic books aren't something you buy with the dime you save by skipping the milk with your lunch at school. The people who buy them are also the people who buy other things. Maybe even the people who make the decision whether to subscribe to a newspaper. And these people, people who'll spend $200 for a Dick Tracy comic, people who know the difference between a Hornet and a Lantern, well, they aren't going to subscribe to yours if they see this. If you got something this simple wrong, they'll ask themselves, what else do you get wrong?

It's hard to sell subscriptions: It's easy to lose 'em. How many subscribers can you afford to lose?


From Blogs for Bush:
What John Kerry Says... And What He Actually Did

John Kerry today:

"Had I been reading to children and had my top aide whispered in my ear, 'America is under attack,' I would have told those kids very politely and nicely that the president of the United States had something that he needed to attend to -- and I would have attended to it,"

John Kerry in July on the September 11th attacks:

"...And as I came in [to a meeting in Sen. Daschle's office], Barbara Boxer and Harry Reid were standing there, and we watched the second plane come in to the building. And we shortly thereafter sat down at the table and then we just realized nobody could think, and then boom, right behind us, we saw the cloud of explosion at the Pentagon..."

HAT TIP: Red State, which notes: "the second plane hit the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m., and the plane hit the Pentagon at 9:43 a.m. By Kerry's own words, he and his fellow senators sat there for forty minutes, realizing 'nobody could think.'"

Hmm. When the unthinkable happens, sometimes you have to just stop and think about it. According to the New York Times's watch, the President was told at 9:05. According to Michael Moore (among other sources), he sat and thought about it for about seven minutes. The junior Senator from Massachusetts, a trained military man, sat without thinking for forty minutes until an attack he could see prompted him to evacuate.

Heck, no, I don't blame him. I didn't realize the full importance of the event myself. In that space between the first plane and the second, nobody thought (or at least nobody said publicly) that it was an attack. Obviously K. still hadn't really grasped that it might be. But then, he was not the person who might have to order someone to shoot down a civilian airliner, only the person who would second-guess him two years later.

You know, that's the thing about sneak attacks, is that you don't know they're coming. And the thing about living in a world with 24-hour news channels is: Eventually, if you're a public figure and anyone cares where you were when It Happened, they'll find out. Odds are good there was a camera on you at the time.

That's why I feel for the President. He had his Moment on camera, in a room full of school children. K. had the luxury of having his out of sight, in Senator Daschle's office.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

"I see how it could be considered disrespectful"

Yahoo News (AP) | S.F. Man Says Beheading Video Is a Hoax
The man shown in the video, reached by The Associated Press in San Francisco, said he videotaped the staged beheading at his friend's house using fake blood.

Benjamin Vanderford, 22, said he began distributing the video on the Internet months ago in hopes of drawing attention to his one-time campaign for city supervisor. When his political aspirations waned, he thought the video would serve as social commentary.

"It was part of a stunt, but no one noticed it up until now," Vanderford said.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Don't laugh, you're next

WCBS | Oops! A New Bushism Is Born
WASHINGTON (AP) President Bush offered up a new entry for his catalog of "Bushisms" on Thursday, declaring that his administration will "never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people."

Bush misspoke as he delivered a speech at the signing ceremony for a $417 billion defense spending bill.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," Bush said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

No one in Bush's audience of military brass or Pentagon chiefs reacted.

The president was working his way toward a larger point. "We must never stop thinking about how best to defend our country. We must always be forward-thinking," he said.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

One of the following stories is a joke

MSNBC | Cubans flock to see ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’
HAVANA - No surprise here: Cuban audiences love Michael Moore's anti-Bush "Fahrenheit 9/11."

After opening the island’s summer film program and playing to sold-out crowds in 120 movie theaters across the island, Cuba’s communist government decided to air it on state-run television last Thursday.

... The day after the movie opened in U.S. theaters, Cubans had their hands on bootleg copies. For weeks before the Havana premier, underground video stores were renting “Fahrenheit” for five pesos a night.

... Others were surprised that the U.S. system tolerated such strident criticism of a sitting president.

Alex Martin, 30, praised both Moore for having had the “courage” to make the movie, and “U.S. democracy for protecting freedom of speech.”

Despite the new U.S. travel regulations limiting visits to the island, there was a sprinkling of Americans who saw the documentary in Cuban theaters.

Emerging from the Yara Theater in downtown Havana, Abigail Nelson, an American college student learning Spanish this summer in Havana, noted, “Michael Moore and Fidel Castro see the world eye-to-eye.”
Neither Mr Moore nor his representatives suggested that anything should be done about this conspicuous, widespread media piracy.
Yahoo (Reuters) | 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Shown on Prime Time TV in Cuba
... Cubans have stood in long lines to buy tickets to see rough DVD copies projected at 120 cinema theaters across the island to unfailing applause.

"We hope this film will lead Americans to see the reality of their government, and not only deny Bush reelection but put him on trial for the harm he has done to humanity," said retired worker Armando Rodriguez.

... Cuban dissidents who saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" praised the United States for its freedom of expression and lamented that such criticism of a president was not allowed in Cuba where the one-party state controls the media.
The irony of this was not commented upon by Mr Moore or his representatives.
Guardian | Cuban screening won't rule Moore out of Oscars
Fahrenheit 9/11 is still eligible for next year's Oscars despite being screened on Cuban TV last week, the Academy of Motions Picture Arts and Sciences has admitted.

There had been fears that the illegal broadcast might have scuppered director Michael Moore's chance to add to his 2003 award for Bowling For Columbine. The Academy rules that any feature documentary that airs on TV within nine months of its theatrical release is automatically barred from contention.

In a joint statement, the film's distributors - Harvey and Bob Weinstein, IFC Entertainment chief Jonathan Sehring and Lions Gate president Tom Ortenberg, insisted that the Academy's rule "has not been violated because it was a stolen copy and was in no way authorised by its distributors". Yesterday the Academy appeared to accept the argument. "As far as we are concerned, if this was a bootleg, as we believe it was, then we will not penalise them," Academy director of communications John Pavlik told Variety.
The Academy, like Mr Moore, made no statement on the subject of media piracy in Cuba, whether of praise, tolerance or condemnation. The MPAA, hopelessly out of its jurisdiction, threw up its hands in resignation.
Yahoo (Reuters) | Cuban 'Fahrenheit' Telecast Raises Oscar Questions
Because the Academy rule restricting TV or Internet display of Oscar contenders applies only to documentaries, "Fahrenheit 9/11" could still qualify for nomination as best picture, best director or best original screenplay.

Variety speculated that backers of the film might regard the movie, which has been popular among Hollywood's liberal-leaning elite, as having a better chance of clinching a nomination in the best picture race if it was disqualified from the documentary contest.
On the other hand, the film now qualifies for an Emmy.
Spoof | Michael Moore wins Academy Award
(Los Angeles, CA) -- People Magazine first broke the story about director Michael Moore winning an Academy Award for "Best Picture" last night. Academy Award officials visited Moore today at his New York City home and told him that he could not simply GIVE an award to himself. Moore reportedly replied, "Obviously I can because there it is now, on my mantle don't you see?".

Moore, still shoolgirlishly giddy about his hit movie Fahrenheit 911 apparently commissioned an LA trophy shop to fashion and build him an Academy Award for best picture. Inside sources say that after picking up the trophy from the shop Moore then awarded it to himself in a private ceremony at his home Sunday night. "He even gave himself an acceptance speech in front of his own camcorder" one anonymous source said.
Well, obviously, the only awards that mean anything are those that come from people you respect and love.

Monday, August 02, 2004

What's that? I have to do equal time?

But what exactly constitutes equal time to a statement from a sitting Democratic senator endorsing a Republican candidate?

Sometimes a Kerry/McCain ticket doesn't seem like the oddest thing that could happen, you know?

"Mansions of cynicism and skepticism"

WSJ OpinionJournal | See Y'All in New York
Why I skipped the Boston convention, by Zell Miller

No longer the party of hope, today's Democratic Party has become Mr. Kerry's many mansions of cynicism and skepticism. As our economy continues to get better and businesses add jobs, Mr. Kerry's going around America trying to convince people that the roof is about to cave in. He talks about "the misery index" and the Depression. What does he know about either?
Why, Senator Miller, haven't you heard? Senator Kerry served in Vietnam.