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Friday, July 28, 2006 
quahogs entertainment group
here's that announcement i alluded to yesterday.

montana, who's a regular reader and commenter, recently asked me to redesign his website. i had already created the previous design for the now-defunct montana & mcdeviltoast blog, so he decided to let me take a whack at the entire website. (that blog is now dead, as mcdeviltoast moved to myspace, so montana has a new QEG blog here.)

more importantly, he had few requirements for the site ("something similar to the escape mechanism site would be great"), and basically let me run wild with the design. this made it an exciting opportunity to get creative and try different things, which i hadn't really been able to do for awhile on anyone else's site. (as you might recall, though i did a lot of work rebuilding the escape mechanism and some assembly required sites earlier this summer, i was mostly updating & adapting other people's designs there; i didn't get to redesign those sites from scratch.)

i like basing designs around text elements—see, for example, the BB Freelancing logo or the prodigious use of dingbats on the recycle your record collection shirt—because text characters can be powerful symbols, and more importantly, they're free to work with, and i don't need to draw anything or steal graphics from elsewhere. so i was really deeply interested in creating a design that revolved around the letter Q, a letter that's stylish as well as fairly rare.

in the end, i came up with the concept of making a Q-shaped sidebar/navigation menu on the left, sort of like the enormous mr yuk lurking behind my bad taste design, except that the Q takes on a more important function. the Q shows up in a few other places as well, such as in the fancy horizontal rules that separate blog posts, as well as on individual artist pages.

back when i did the original montana & mcdeviltoast design, montana requested a pink-on-black design, so i reused those colors for the new design. finally, to fill in the rest of the space, i made some fibonacci-inspired header graphics using red lines and a red grid that ended up only being used in the artists section. maybe it's a little bit freejack, but i think it looks cool.

some of the info on the site (particularly in the artists section) might be a bit out of date, but beyond that, the new site is live and everything should be working. check it out and let me know if you spot any bugs or errors.

Thursday, July 27, 2006 
long-time readers will remember that i've long been addicted to the civilization video game franchise, including the current civ game, civilization IV. i've been hooked ever since i played the original civilization at a friend's house back in high school, and civ IV is so good that i made the mistake of showing it to my girlfriend, which immediately got her hooked, too.

a new expansion pack, civilization IV: warlords, hit stores on tuesday, and i rushed out to grab a copy that morning. my schedule has been pretty light while i wait for freelance work to come in, so since tuesday i've been spending a good deal of my time playing, which means there likely won't be too many blog posts this week, though i am still checking my email every couple hours. (that said, i might have an announcement about a web design project soon.)

the expansion pack adds cool new features—i've been waiting for the "vassal state" option since hearing about it months ago—along with some really interesting new scenarios. i've been playing the "vikings" scenario a lot so far, and last night virago & i tried out the "gengis khan" scenario, finding it to be pretty cool as well.

if you're familiar with civ IV and want to know more about the warlords expansion, check out civfanatics' warlords info center, which has basic info about many of the new additions to the game.

Sunday, July 23, 2006 
strangers with candy
virago and i were both fans of the show strangers with candy, so yesterday we headed up to the landmark theatre (for the second saturday in a row) to see the strangers with candy movie.

if you're familiar with the show, you have a pretty good idea what to expect, but if not: amy sedaris plays jerri blank, a 50-year-old ex-prostitute and drug addict who gets out of prison and decides to pick her life up where she left off by going back to high school. most of the show's original cast returns—except for some of the kids, who now look too old for their parts and have been recast—notably including stephen colbert, who now has his own hit show called the colbert report. the movie also adds a number of celebs in smaller roles, including matthew broderick as a rival science teacher and philip seymour hoffman as a member of the school board.

strangers with candy is a parody of after-school specials. the writers—sedaris, colbert, and paul dinello, who plays art teacher geoffrey jellineck—intensely studied the after-school genre in order to skillfully turn it on its ear. all the major characters, save some of the kids, are shallow, paranoid, and selfish almost to the point of solipsism. they're not just bad role models; they're bad human beings. molehills are magnified to mountainous importance, and everything is an excuse for massive amounts of angst.

but enough with that. you want the answers to two questions:
  1. is the movie good?
  2. how does it compare to the tv show?

first off, the movie is lots of fun. our 2:45 matinee show was fairly empty, but i still heard lots of laughter from the dozen or so people in attendance. there are some great scenes, and i'm still chuckling over a couple of them. fans of the show know what to expect, for the most part they'll get it, and they'll walk away satisfied.

that said, strangers with candy the film is not as good as the best episodes of strangers with candy the tv show. the format, which works so wonderfully as a 30-minute show, suffers a bit from being stretched out to 90 minutes. the new characters help somewhat, and all do a good job in their roles, but it's not quite enough to fill up that extra time. i'm not sure what could have been done to solve this problem, either: the format doesn't lend itself to complicated plot twists or the usual gimmicks that are used when tv comedies are adapted for the big screen. (come to think of it, i can't come up with many tv comedies that successfully made such a jump, except for a couple SNL movies like wayne's world and animated features like south park: bigger, longer, uncut or family guy presents stewie griffin: the untold story. the transition from tv comedy to comedy film is difficult, and strangers with candy manages better than most.

you might think that, because this is an R-rated movie rather than a show on broadcast cable (which was probably rated TV-14), the writers might ratchet up the filth level. but that didn't really happen; aside from one or two scenes, there isn't much here that they couldn't have gotten away with on comedy central. i didn't hear one f-bomb in the whole movie, and there is one scene where they might have said "shit" but i don't remember whether they did or not. of course, jerri is a perv and says all sorts of pervy things, but she sticks to silly euphemisms.

the movie's been out in new york for nearly a month, and started turning up in other markets on july 7. if you're a fan of the show, you've probably already decided to see the film (or have already seen it), and i won't discourage you. if you've never seen the show but you're a fan of dark satire (or of stephen colbert), you'll like the film, too, but should definitely check out the strangers with candy tv series. for some inexplicable reason, comedy central doesn't seem to be showing the reruns right now, but the whole series is on dvd.

if i had to give out letter grades, i'd give the movie a B, but i'd give the tv series an A.

Thursday, July 20, 2006 
somatic responses - androstyle music video
back in the early days of the "breakcore scene", the preeminent place to discuss "dark, sick music" was the c8 mailing list. the list was full of raucous discussion and unusual characters, including many of the pioneers of breakcore and related musical styles. this was before breakcore "got big", if it could be said to be big now—back before idm labels like planet mu started releasing breakcore records, when venetian snares was just a guy with one 12" out who posted mp3s on his personal website.

two of the major players on the c8 list were the healy brothers, welshmen who made music under the name somatic responses. although their music didn't rely on the "mashed-up amen" sound that to this day dominates most "breakcore" music, somatic responses had released numerous records on several labels and were highly regarded on c8.

one of the brothers (i forget which one) mentioned onlist that he would love it if people made videos for SR's music. i'd already made a few primitive videos, and i had recently gotten a new computer with video editing capabilities (my first all-in-wonder card), so i jumped at the chance, and put together this video for the song "androstyle" from their circumflex cd, released by hymen records.

this was the first video i ever edited digitally, though as usual the sequencing is fairly random. most of the footage is again taken from scramled tv footage, except this time it was digitally captured (as opposed to the eggify video, where i pointed a video camera at the tv). i also incorporated some still image work and some footage of people dancing from some b-movie. no, i don't remember what movie it is.

incidentally, the political discussions on the c8 list were intense. the european breakcore scene is intensely political (unlike the US scene). after 9/11, the flamewars got so bad that the list admin shut it down. but the website remains, and the list was eventually replaced with a message board that still gets regular traffic.

this video, as well as a couple more of my earliest videos, is still online at the c8 video page, though my videos there are in realplayer format, so you're probably better off watching 'em on youtube. or if you're really curious, watch both versions and compare how the different codecs distort the video in different ways (the youtube video is pixellated in parts; the .rm video is jumpy). but there are other videos on the c8 video page that might be of interest, so go on and check it out.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 
old-school industrial videos
more youtube madness. videos marked with an asterisk are not work safe and may contain graphic violence, nudity, profanity, offensive imagery, and other good stuff like that. in particular, skinny puppy's "testure" video depicts animal testing and vivisection, and may be too graphic for some viewers. i've tried to mark all such NWS/NSFW videos but might have missed some. your mileage may vary.

skinny puppy


psychic tv


einstürzende neubauten

and because i went to their concert earlier this month:

nine inch nails

this batch is not as accessible as my list of old-school hip-hop videos, but i'm sure someone will appreciate it.

Monday, July 17, 2006 
a hoosier by any other name
when i went off to college in missouri, i was surprised to discover that in st louis slang, the word "hoosier" is a synonym for words like "redneck" and "hillbilly". i found this to be rather odd, since the official definition is "a person from indiana", and indiana is a four-hour drive from missouri. furthermore, many who used the term didn't even know its original definition.

every state probably has a neighbor state that residents crack jokes about. in indiana, people make kentucky jokes. in missouri, they make jokes about arkansas and the missouri bootheel. (a common joke is that if you moved the missouri bootheel into arkansas, it would raise the average IQ of both states by two points.) so in my time in missouri, it wasn't uncommon to hear people denigrate the people of arkansas by calling them "hoosiers". it was weird, but i didn't take it personally.

cut forward to 2004. mitch daniels was running for governor, and one of his major campaign planks was that the current administration was giving too many contracts to out-of-state companies. mitch insisted that he would award way more contracts to hoosier businesses (meaning "indiana businesses", not "redneck businneses").

in a way, mitch has kept this promise. but as tdw has pointed out on numerous occasions, he did it by changing the definition of hoosier. now the AP has started to catch on. take this story, which appeared in this morning's indy star:

More than 80 percent of the money spent on state purchases went to in-state vendors, according to a state database -- but a newspaper analysis found that not all of those companies were based in Indiana.

A recent "Buy Indiana" report tracking state expenditures on goods and services from July 1, 2005, to June 19, 2006, classified the University of Cincinnati and the University of Utah as in-state vendors, The Journal Gazette found.

the university of cincinnati is bad enough, but at least it's only 40 miles or so beyond the indiana border. on the other hand: utah?

But the state has changed the definition of what constitutes an Indiana business.

Formerly, the classification meant a company's principal place of business, and a majority of its payroll and work force were in Indiana, said Carrie Henderson, commissioner of the Department of Administration.

But last year, Daniels and the Republican-controlled General Assembly expanded the definition to include any business that makes significant capital investments in Indiana or has a substantial positive economic effect in the state.

"The category was expanded a little bit to include larger employers that weren't necessarily headquartered here but who had really meaningful investment in this state and employed a lot of people and ... contributed to the economy in ways that were important," said Henderson, who believes the figures are accurate.

Such companies must have a minimum $5 million capital investment in Indiana or be among the top 500 companies in terms of number of employees or taxes paid in the state.

That includes companies such as Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services and Cincinnati-based General Revenue Corp.

As part of the Buy Indiana program, they receive a price preference on bidding on state contracts or other procurement procedures.

according to the mitch daniels administration, wal-mart is an indiana business. not only that, but wal-mart gets special incentives for being "hoosier".

the weirdest thing about this new policy is that it would seem a company can purchase "indiana business" status: buy one factory in the state and the rest are discounted. honda is building a much-touted new plant in the state. surely honda will invest more than $5 million in the construction of the new factory. so is honda now an indiana business? what about cintra and macquarie? surely the $3+ billion they hunked down to buy lease buy the indiana toll road qualifies them as indiana businesses, too.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 
a scanner darkly
ever since i heard that richard linklater was going to direct philip k dick's a scanner darkly, and would do so using the animation style he'd used in waking life, i've been desperate to see it. dick was one of the greatest sf authors ever, and even the cheesiest dick adaptations have more good ideas than most junk that passes for science fiction cinema these days. beyond that, i'd loved waking life and was eager to see a darker, more linear film with that style.

i first heard about it at least a year ago; it was supposed to come out last september, then got pushed back and pushed back, eventually to this summer. it's finally out, so i took virago to see it this afternoon at the landmark. (but first we stopped for dim sum at shanghai lil. the dim sum wasn't perfect, but it was pretty tasty and surprisingly reasonably priced. i had been concerned by the decidedly mixed reviews at indyethnicfood.og, but i'd be happy to go back.)

so i'd been building the movie up in my mind for a year or more, and i wasn't disappointed. i loved it. it was extremely faithful to the book (which i read years ago) and is probably one of the best "drug movies" i've ever seen, by which i mean movies about drugs and drug users, not "movies to take drugs to". (i could easily see someone having a "bad trip" if they took the wrong substance before watching this film.) having only seen it once, i'd rank it up there with drugstore cowboy or maybe requiem for a dream (though not as emotionally bludgeoning as the latter).

the cast does a fantastic job of depicting addict behavior: paranoid, rambling, and erratic. lots of people dislike keanu reeves, but he's generally pretty good in roles where he's supposed to look confused all the time (ted "theodore" logan, neo in the matrix i), and he puts in a perfectly serviceable performance here. but keanu is upstaged by the brilliant performances of robert downey, woody harrelson, and rory cochrane. we spend much of the film watching these three (and sometimes keanu) talk a bunch of nonsense and get into hijinks. in this sense, it's not all that different from linklater's earlier experimental films like waking life or slacker, except there's a stronger narrative guiding the story along.

needless to say, it's not a happy movie, though i chuckled at a number of scenes. as the tagline says, "everything is not going to be ok." this is a dark, dystopian movie that takes place in a world where everyone is under constant surveillance, which unsurprisingly sounds far more realistic now than it did when dick wrote it. most of the characters are strung out on a drug called substance D, though it's not clear what kind of drug D is or what kind of high users are supposed to get from it. (is it an upper? a hallucinogen? an MAO inhibitor?)

the animation style—linklater shot the movie with live actors, and animators digitally rotoscoped over the film—perfectly suits the surreal style of the film, giving it a dreamlike, psychedelic quality. and the "scramble suit" worked wonderfully; i can't imagine how it could have been done nearly as well in a live-action film. i would describe the scramble suit, but i could never do it as well as dick himself did in the novel, so i'll just retype a couple paragraphs, because i love dick (snicker if you must):

Basically, his design consisted of a multifaceted quartz lens hooked up to a computer whose memory banks held up to a million and a half physiognomic fraction-representations of various people: men and women, children, with every variant encoded and then projected outwards in all directions equally onto a superthin shroudlike membrane large enough to fit around an average human.

As the computer looped through its banks, it projected every conceivable eye color, hair color, shape and type of nose, formation of teeth, configuration of facial bone structure—the entire shroudlike membrane took on whatever physical characteristics were projected at any nanosecond, and then switched to the next. Just to make his scramble suit more effective, S.A. Powers programmed the computer to randomize the sequence of characteristics within each set. And to bring the cost down (the federal people always liked that), he found the source of the material for the membrane in a by-product of a large industrial firm already doing business with washington.

In any case, the wearer of a scramble suit was Everyman and in every combination (up to combinations of a million and a half sub-bits) during the course of each hour. Hence, any description of him—or her—was meaningless...

[if you want more, you can "search inside" on amazon, or just buy the book. it's good. i'm not going to retype it for you.]

the scramble suits in the movie change a bit more slowly than in the book, but the effect works perfectly. and there are other scenes, notably hallucinations, which work beautifully with the animation and would have been trickier to pull of in a live-action movie. i can't imagine this movie being anything other than what it became.

i was totally psyched going in to see this movie, and i am still totally psyched about it eight hours after having seen it. i think that says it all. (i felt similarly about superman returns, which i saw a couple weeks ago but never got around to mentioning on the blog.)

this is a must-see for philip k dick fans, as it's the most faithful dick adaptation i've seen. some characters are blended into composites, and dick obviously didn't write all the dialogue (like the dialogue that refers to events from after his death), but the heart of the book is there. in contrast, even the best dick adaptations like blade runner changed substantial parts of the book. but if you're looking for whiz-bang sf action, maybe you should rewatch minority report or totall recall; a scanner darkly is mostly psychological, and the hero doesn't save the world at the end.

one last thing: i could be wrong, but i'm pretty sure i spotted the image of philip k dick himself in the scramble suit. look closely during the very first shot of "fred" in the suit, right after he's been introduced. you'll briefly see a bearded man who just might be philip k dick. i need to see it again to be sure (preferably with a pause button in my hand), but i do believe it was him. i thought that was a nice touch, especially when i dug out the novel to retype the above quote. here is the rest of it:

Needless to say, S.A. Powers had fed his own personal physiognomic characteristics into the computer units, so that, buried in the frantic permutation of qualities, his own surfaced and combined... on average, he had calculated, of once each fifty years per suit, served up and reassembled, given enough time per suit. It was his closest claim to immortality.

needless to say, philip k dick clinched his claim to immortality a long time ago; as one of the most creative and influential sf authors of all time, he won't be soon forgotten. RIP philip k dick.

update: IGN filmforce has the first 24 minutes of a scanner darkly for free! and i'm pretty sure it's legal, too. i'm impressed that warner is willing to post 24 minutes of its new movie online. so i went there, watched the first few minutes, and took the screenshot that is now attached to this post. tell me that's not philip k dick.

BB Freelancing
i've mentioned before that i'm trying to get started as a freelance copy editor. i have a moderate amount of experience editing general reference and consumer books, and i have tons of experience editing computer and technical books. i'm still at the stage where i'm looking for clients, but i have some a few leads and one client has already expressed interest.

i've set up a new website for my freelancing business: i might edit the text further—editing your own writing is hard—but the site is probably ready to go public. i designed everything on the site, including the butterfly logo pictured above, which i like a lot.

my business's main focus is copy editing, specifically for the computer and technical publishing markets. but as regular readers know, i've been doing a lot of web design and development recently (in fact, i've been working on one new design that will go live very soon). i really enjoy web work and hope to continue, so BB Freelancing also offers web design and development services.

maybe it's a bad idea to offer such dissimilar services on the same website. i suppose it's possible that potential editing clients could see the web design stuff and think i'm not serious about copy editing, though i hope my experience will dissuade them of that idea. on the other hand, maybe they'll like that i have other skills and decide that i'm more qualified because of it. i guess it could go either way.

like i said, i'm looking for clients, so if you have any leads, send 'em my way. (there seem to be a lot of publishing employees in the indiana blogosphere.) and if you're interested in hiring me to do some web work for you, my schedule is pretty open at the moment.

Friday, July 14, 2006 
mr. yuk is mean
rob g found this classic mr. yuk commercial on youtube. i've had the mp3 of the song for awhile, but hadn't seen the commercial in many, many years.

mr. yuk naturally holds a very dear place in my heart.

gracenote graces us with its database
i spotted this blurb in the indy star:

Gracenote Inc., a tech firm founded and chaired by Indianapolis businessman Scott Jones, has landed a deal with dozens of music publishers to offer digital copies of more than one million song lyrics over the Internet, according to the Wall Street Journal.

That paves the way for Apple Computer and other companies that use Gracenote's services to offer lyrics with song downloads.

The deal is also likely to lead to legal action by music publishers against a multitude of Web sites that post lyrics without permission from copyright holders.

Gracenote, based in Emeryville, Calif., did not disclose financial terms of its agreement.

reuters has more:

Until now, consumers' access to song lyrics has been largely through unauthorized sources, which usually provide inaccurate content, the company said.

Publishing industry officials cited Web sites like ( and ( among those who provide their catalogs' lyrics without their authorization. These sites could not be reached for comment.

inside indiana business has a post up about the story, with a couple soundbites from scott jones. check out the first audio clip; its caption is "Jones says one day you won't have to know the artist or title of the song to be able to find it and buy it." and that sounds great, except that you can already do this on google, and the reason you can is because of volunteer lyrics sites like go ahead and try it. type a phrase from the lyrics of a song into google, and chances are you'll find it immediately. you'll improve your chances if you add the search term "lyrics". i do this all the time to look up hip-hop lyrics, since my local blazin' hip-hop & r&b station doesn't seem to believe in back-announcing.

so basically, jones is bragging that he will shut down these free services and replace them with a pay service that does the same thing. that's SOP for the music industry, but who does jones think he's fooling here? sure, he also mentions having such capability on an ipod, and a sort of "name that tune" program where you "hum a few bars" and the program can identify the song, both of which would be cool and don't currently exist, but there's no technological reason why these services couldn't co-exist with free user-driven lyrics sites, or why they couldn't have been created without a precious license from gracenote. (they could be done just as easily using freedb, for example.)

but if you know gracenote's history, you'll spot the real irony here. once upon a time, gracenote was itself an open-source database called CDDB with content created by users. if you were playing cds on your computer in the mid-90s, you probably used CDDB and might have even submitted a few tracklists to the database.

but then, once CDDB was full of content (user-created content that was as inaccurate as the stuff on, its founders weren't so interested in open-source anymore. from wikipedia:

In 1998, Kan and Scherf incorporated CDDB into a privately held company with investment from Escient, a high-tech venture firm. CDDB was then renamed Gracenote. The maneuver was and remains controversial, because the CDDB database was and is built on the voluntary submission of CD track data by thousands of individual users, who received no compensation for their work. Initially, most of these were users of the xmcd CD player program. The xmcd program itself was an open-source, GPL project, and many listing contributors assumed that the database was free as well. However, at some point the code for xmcd was modified to append copyright notices to all submissions. How visible or open this was to contributors remains a matter of debate. Many contributors of track listings were angered at the transfer of these listings to a profit-making entity which proceeded to make money by charging license fees for access to a database of track listings which individuals had contributed for free.

As of 2005 Gracenote claims that its database contains information on almost 4 million CDs. The reliability both of this statement and of the database itself have been challenged. Because the information going into the database has not been subjected to quality control, duplicate entries are very common. David Jennings, in an article entitled "How many CDs are there in the world?" gives an example of a six-CD set in which "two of the six CDs appear twice in the database, and one appears three times." An article on the AtomicPop website cites Ty Roberts, chief technology officer of Gracenote, as saying that there are approximately 500,000 individual CD titles commercially released and available for sale today in the United States.

in short, gracenote started out as the same kind of free, unlicensed, user-driven database service as sites like, and has the same kinds of accuracy problems as those sites. but gracenote was the first to "go legit" and is now helping in the fight against other free, user-driven services.

yet you won't see these facts in the major news coverage of the gracenote deal. these stories are full of quotes about how inaccurate unlicensed sites are, but you won't find any mention of the similar inaccuracies in gracenote's own database, or of gracenote's past as exactly the kind of service the industry is trying to demonize.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 
we are all doomed
all you america-haters who said "the terrorists would never invade indiana" need to read this nytimes article:

It reads like a tally of terrorist targets that a child might have written: Old MacDonald's Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade, the Sweetwater Flea Market and an unspecified "Beach at End of a Street."

But the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, in a report released Tuesday, found that the list was not child's play: all these "unusual or out-of-place" sites "whose criticality is not readily apparent" are inexplicably included in the federal antiterrorism database.

The National Asset Database, as it is known, is so flawed, the inspector general found, that as of January, Indiana, with 8,591 potential terrorist targets, had 50 percent more listed sites than New York (5,687) and more than twice as many as California (3,212), ranking the state the most target-rich place in the nation.

emphasis mine, bitches. and i'll even say it again for further emphasis: indiana has more terrorist targets than any state. in other words, we're totally fucked.

either that, or maybe there's something wonky about the list. let's look at some other places on the list to see if we can divine the answer:

In addition to the petting zoo, in Woodville, Ala., and the Mule Day Parade in Columbia, Tenn., the auditors questioned many entries, including "Nix's Check Cashing," "Mall at Sears," "Ice Cream Parlor," "Tackle Shop," "Donut Shop," "Anti-Cruelty Society" and "Bean Fest."

regrettably, even though indiana scored #1, the article seemingly doesn't list any indiana landmarks... unless the "mall at sears" refers to the sears in the muncie mall, made famous in the lazy muncie video.

how many of indiana's almost 9,000 terrorist targets can you name?

update: the indy star has a follow-up. for one thing, the amish country popcorn factory is in indiana:

About three miles from the nearest town, Brian Lehman's popcorn factory near Berne has somehow ended up on the federal government's list of potential terrorist targets.

"I don't have a clue why we're on the list. We're on a gravel road, not even blacktop. We're nowhere," said Lehman, owner of Amish Country Popcorn, which employs five people.

Nevertheless, Amish Country Popcorn is one of 8,591 places or events in Indiana that the Department of Homeland Security regards as serious potential terrorist targets, according to an inspector general's report that raised questions about the accuracy and relevance of what's known as the National Asset Database.

the story also offers an explanation for why indiana has so many potential targets:

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security said federal officials are to blame for the state's large number of targets.

The list may have become inflated because states were left to interpret a request for potential targets however they wanted.

Pam Bright, a spokeswoman for the state's Homeland Security Department, said federal administrators asked Indiana to make a list of "critical infrastructure and resources," not a list of potential terrorist sites.

"There was not a clear definition of what they wanted, so Indiana took the safe side and submitted all of our important infrastructures," Bright said. "If that's not what they wanted, they should have sent it back and said that's not what they wanted.

according to this theory, dhs messed up twice: first by not being specific enough in its questions, and second in not suitably scrutinizing the answers.

Sunday, July 09, 2006 
stAllio! "eggify" music video
did you ever stay up late, trying to watch an "adult" movie on a scrambled cable channel that you weren't subscribed to? it's not possible on newer digital cable/satellite systems, which will simply tell you that you don't receive that channel, but on the old analog systems, you could sometimes catch a glimpse of warping, distorted, discolored ghosts gettin' it on. it seems kind of quaint today, with the internet so full of pr0n that avoiding adult content sometimes requires effort, but once upon a time, horny teens often had to resort to such indignities in order to get an occasional peek at some boobs.

do you ever watch tv with the closed-captioning on? i used to, and i was fascinated by the bizarre stuff that would turn up. even minor signal interference would cause glitches, color changes, and all sorts of odd things to show up in the CC text. around 1999, i made it a point to record some of this CC gibberish using a handheld camcorder. i also recorded some scrambled spice channel, and some video feedback using a nice, large tv. then i edited all that stuff together into this video, for a track from perpetual emotion machine.

note that this video is not work safe. there's not much nudity, and what nudity is there is warped and mutated, but every so often you can see a green nipple or some distorted blobs gyrating in a suggestive fashion.

enjoy. i've wanted to upload this for awhile, but i had to ensure that it wouldn't be too pixellated first. i encoded this to divx before uploading it, so it looks much crisper than the average youtube video.

thou shalt not edit
what do you do if you're a social conservative who loves hollywood movies but is mortified by profanity, violence, and partial nudity? how can you keep current on all the latest blockbuster flicks without subjecting yourself to the occasional D-word or exposed nipple?

until recently, you could rent all your dvds from a service like cleanflicks or play it clean video, which offered custom-burned dvds of movies with all the objectionable content excised. if you wanted to watch titanic but couldn't bear the thought of seeing kate winslet topless, these places were ready to serve you.

it might sound like bizarro world. you might be thinking "seeing kate winslet topless is the only reason to watch titanic!" but there is a market for such things. or at least there was before it was declared illegal:

Edited-movie distributor CleanFlicks plans to appeal Monday the decision of a federal court judge who has ruled that production of "sanitized" movies violates federal copyright law and hurts the Hollywood directors and studios who own the movie rights.

The legal battle over editing movies to remove nudity, harsh language and other elements included 16 prominent directors, including Steven Spielberg and Robert Redford, and entertainment studios such as Disney, Sony, Universal, Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox. They filed suit in 2002 against companies — mostly in Utah — that edit DVD and VHS tapes for content.

U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch issued his decision Thursday, ending a three-year court battle. In his 16-page ruling, Matsch said cutting language, sex and violence causes "irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies" and referred to the businesses as "illegitimate."

Unless an appeal is filed, those named in the suit, Utah-based CleanFlicks, CleanFilms and Family Flix USA and Arizona-based Play It Clean Video, must stop "producing, manufacturing, creating, designing, selling, renting" edited movies.

CleanFilms could not be reached for comment on whether it plans to join the appeal. Family Flix USA shut its doors in 2005 after five years of business. Play It Clean Video no longer operates stores in Utah or Arizona.

The judge also ordered the businesses to turn over their inventory to the movie studios within five days of the ruling.

"Having CleanFlicks shut down and the corporation shut down would destroy CleanFlicks," said Daniel Thompson, owner of the four CleanFlicks shops in Utah County. "I think it's ridiculous that you can't watch a movie without seeing sex, nudity or extreme violence. I don't understand why they're trying to keep that in there."

of course, you can "watch a movie without seeing sex, nudity or extreme violence" by doing some research and only choosing to watch movies without such content, but that's not as easy as going to the censorship store.

the salt lake tribune points out that this ruling does not apply to companies like clearplay, which sell specialized dvd players that supposedly edit out objectionable content automatically (and which i blogged about last year).

dr octagon in indianapolis
i didn't register for mms this year—frankly i just forgot about it, then the due date passed—but the schedule is up and there's at least one show that i need to attend:

Kool Keith AKA Dr. Octagon, is most renowned for being in the seminal, old school NYC hip hop trio, Ultramagnetic MCs. Hailing straight out of the mean side of the Bronx, Kool Keith has redefined the conventional hip hop styles and introduced his own "bizarre" take.

Dr. Octagon will perform at The Vogue Saturday August 12. Tickets will be $12 in advance, or you can purchase your MMS Wristband for only $20. Check out the new Dr. Octagon video for Aliens on our new fangled blog.

if you want to see the "aliens" video, i'd actually recommend going to (the video is higher resolution), but if you're interested in MMS, it couldn't hurt to check out their blog.

Thursday, July 06, 2006 

i've been looking into getting started freelancing, since there's still lots of editing work to be done out there; there just isn't much full-time work, at least not locally. getting people to give me that work will be the tricky part, as tax laws make it more complicated than it needs to be. (so if you know anyone who's looking for freelance copy editors, let me know. every contact helps.)

any book editor worth his salt needs to have a copy of the chicago manual of style. forget strunk and white; this is the definitive tome on style and grammatical issues for the US publishing industry. when i was still "in-house" i had a company-owned copy on my desk. now that i'm going solo, i need a copy for my personal library. it's a big, heavy hardcover and it lists for $55. but it's only $34.65 right now on amazon!

i was scanning the amazon page, getting ready to order my copy, when i noticed that someone had tagged the book with the tag "grammer" and i just had to share. (click pic for larger screenshot.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006 
virago lives downtown, not far from the regions bank building, site of the largest fireworks display in the state. unfortunately, her balcony faces the opposite direction, so we couldn't view the fireworks from the comfort of her apartment, but we went downstairs to her apartment complex's second-floor parking structure, where we had a pretty good view.

i wasn't the only one who thought to go there. a couple dozen other residents were there, and of course lots more were camped out on balconies. we were struck by just how many people crowded into downtown indy for the fireworks. they were camped out all along the streets. we even had to pay $5 to park, because all streetside parking downtown had been snagged up. it was worth the $5, though, because the fireworks were excellent.

i had been inspired by this post on boingboing about photographing fireworks. specifically, i was interested in the update about taking "unconventional photos". so i made sure to bring my camera, and even had to miss the first couple minutes of fireworks as i raced upstairs to the apartment for new batteries.

i took lots of pictures until my memory card was full. i didn't put a lot of time or thought into framing my shots; i just pointed at the sky and pressed the shutter a lot. i'm not nearly as good a photographer as those people, plus i was shooting between skyscrapers and a nearby tree, so most of my pictures were crap, or at best mediocre. but out of the 80 pictures i shot, i got a few that were pretty interesting, so here you go. in the first three, that L-shaped thing to the left is a string of xmas lights wrapped around the railing of a balcony on a nearby apartment building. most of the later shots were actually taken with portrait orientation, but i don't really feel like rotating them. i'll leave the rotation (90° clockwise) as an exercise for those who give a damn.

i thought the ring effect on these last two was pretty damn cool.

update: after uploading all these photos, i came to an unpleasant realization: blogger's image upload utility automatically shrinks (and recompresses) photos it thinks are too large. of course i knew that blogger was creating smaller "thumbnail" versions to be posted in the blog, but i had simply assumed that the original, full-size photos would be untouched (even though a puzzling number is suffixed to the names of uploaded files). we all know what happens when you ass-ume. i hadn't really noticed before because whenever i'd posted important images (say, for cat bending), i had always uploaded them myself using sftp.

i had intended to post the actual, full-size images (1280x960, ~300k each), not the recompressed shrunken versions that were in the original post. so i thought about starting a flickr account and uploading a bunch of them there (including several not included here), but a free flickr account still wouldn't let you see my originals, and i'm not quite ready to pay for a flickr account yet. i might still do that, but for the time being i've uploaded all the original photos here, deleted the 1024x768 impostors, and corrected the links. sorry for any inconvenience.

nine inch nails / bauhaus / peaches
i used to be a fairly big NIN fan in the early-mid '90s, but i lost interest sometime before the fragile. so when i first heard that NIN and a reunited bauhaus were coming to the amphitheatre formerly known as deer creek on july 3, i didn't think much of it. however, virago turned out to be eager to see bauhaus, so she suffered through ordering tickets via ticketmaster and we got lawn seats to the show. and hell, i made the NIN dictionaraoke (one of the most popular dictionaraokes), so it's only natural i see NIN in concert at least once. later, we found out that peaches was also opening, which was an added bonus.

it had been many years since i'd been to "deer creek"—the last show i distinctly remember attending there was lollapalooza '94 1997—and i was pleasantly surprised by the experience... once we got through the door, that is.

first off, i was impressed by the fact that we were not charged to park. free parking at a major concert! but once we got out of the car, we were stopped in the parking lot and informed that we couldn't bring in a blanket, so we had to turn back and put my blanket in the trunk. fortunately we had brought sweaters just in case, so we grabbed those to sit on instead. we were stopped again by another employee who had spotted our sweaters and was concerned that we might have a forbidden blanket, but we didn't. when we finally reached the door, we were told that we couldn't bring in umbrellas either. (the forecast said rain was possible.) we were a bit annoyed that nobody had thought to tell us this before, but when we tried to check our umbrellas at the desk, we were told that umbrellas were indeed allowed. so we got that straightened out and we were in.

peaches went on promptly at 7 and put in 30 minutes of music. it sounded pretty good, but we couldn't see much from out spots on the lawn. then, a mere 15 minutes later, bauhaus began playing their hour-long set. i wasn't terribly familiar with their stuff (other than a few "hits") but they put on a strong performance, and unlike in cleveland, they did play "bela lugosi's dead". a sizable portion of the crowd didn't seem to know or care about bauhaus, which surprised virago, but not me, since bauhaus never really crossed the line from "influential" to "multi-platinum" as NIN had. like i told her at the time, "the people who know are here to see bauhaus as much as or more than nine inch nails".

bauhaus ended around 8:45, and we only had to wait about 35 minutes before NIN came on. again i was impressed by what seemed to be short wait times for a concert of this size; it seems like i usually had to wait a lot longer for similar-sized shows in my youth.

when NIN came on, virtually everybody stood up. we didn't, as virago didn't feel like it, so i didn't get to see much of the elaborate lightshow or what was playing on the big screen behind the band. what glimpses i caught of it seemed cool; i wished they would have piped the video to the big monitors surrounding the pavilion so those of us in the lawn could see it better, but no matter. we did get to see some fireworks off the horizon to our left. (turns out symphony on the prairie was going on a few miles away.)

being that i've never even heard the last two NIN full-lengths, i was excited by how much old material they played: at least 4 tracks from pretty hate machine, some stuff from the downward spiral, and surprisingly (to me,anyway), 3-4 tracks from broken (depending on how you classify "suck"). overall, i knew most of the songs, which made it a bigger treat than i'd expected.

we decided to cut out during the encore, while the band was chugging through "the hand that feeds", and quickly realized this wasn't such a hot idea, because the blazing strobe lights from the stage disoriented us as we tried to make our way down the hill to flat ground. but we managed to make it without falling down, and we got to listen to "head like a hole" (which i had predicted to be the last song of the night) as we made our way back to the car. it was only 11pm, and we managed to beat the traffic. all in all, it was a lot of fun, and a few annoyances aside we had a great night.

the photo i've posted is taken from, courtesy fans can buy large prints of this photo and others from the show at frcphotos, as indy star music reviewer david lindquist explained in a recent entry on his blog. if you're interested, you can read lindquist's review of the show (he had a much better view of the stage than we did).

Monday, July 03, 2006 
speaking of people who want to kill journalists...
after news broke last month of the government's program to snoop into people's bank records, the right-wing crazies came out of the woodwork, insisting that the ny times had committed treason by publishing the story, which they claimed endangered national security—though they never tried to explain how it endangered security, as if al qaeda had no idea that the US wouldn't be investigating bank transactions. they generally ignored that the la times and wall street journal had also published the story, focusing on the ny times because that paper had reported on (and won awards for) the NSA phone-tapping scandal a few months back.

the gop's hate machine frothed and fumed; right-wingers went on tv and merrily fantasized about times editor bill keller dying a gruesome death. it would all seem ridiculous, like bad satire, except that the insanity would soon begin to increase exponentially.

on friday, the ny times published a fluff piece in the travel section about the town of st michaels, maryland, where vp cheney and secretary rumsfeld both have luxury summer homes. it was a standard feature; the washington post had run a story back in 2005 with much the same information, and the times had run a similar piece about the clintons in 2003.

to a normal person, the story is light to the point of banality. but much like those poor children who are afflicted with "tootsie roll" vision—a form of dementia where the mind begins seeing tootsie rolls where there are none, until the tortured soul can no longer see anything but tootsie rools anywhere—people with murderous rage in their hearts began projecting it onto innocent feature writers. from glenn greenwald:

I learned today from Michelle Malkin, Powerline's John Hinderaker, Red State, and David Horowitz, among others, that The New York Times not only wants to help Al Qaeda launch terrorist attacks on the United States, but that newspaper also want to do everything possible to enable The Terrorists to assassinate Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld. That is the conclusion which these sober leaders of "conservative" punditry drew after reading this article in the Times' Travel section, which features the tiny, charming village of St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where both Cheney and Rumsfeld have vacation homes.

you might have thought it was just a boring bit of fluffery in the travel section, but these people think it was a deliberate attempt on the part of the times to hand terrorists all the information they'd need to assassinate rumsfeld and cheney. perhaps most ironically of all, one of the pseudo-media outlets pushing this angle is newsmax, had itself published a story last year about cheney's then-future home in st michaels.

convinced that the times article was an indirect act of terrorism, right-wingers decided to strike back. one of them posted the home address of the times photographer who dared to snap a photo (with rumsfeld's permission) of rumsfeld's driveway. another blogger suggested that angry goopers should hunt down times editors and reporters, and even hunt down their children:

Go hunt them down and do America a favor. Get their photo, street address, where their kids go to school, anything you can dig up, and send it to the link above. This is your chance to be famous - grab for the golden ring.

grab golden ring = kill some journalists. gotcha.

coulter accused of plagiarism
after all the plagiarim-related posts i've made over the past year, i'd be remiss if i didn't mention this.

a couple weeks back, when i first read the rude pundit's allegation that right-wing attack dog and shock merchant ann coulter had plagiarized various passages for her columns and her latest book, i tried to sit down with a copy of the first chapter of the book (godless; coulter published the first chapter online), plugging phrases into google to search for plagiarism myself. i soon gave up, for two reasons: first, the task required actually reading coulter's writing, which is difficult for any sane person to do for long, and second, because the chapter had been posted online in so many different places that filtering my search results was difficult.

now, the ny post has jumped into the fray:

John Barrie, the creator of a leading plagiarism-recognition system, claimed he found at least three instances of what he calls "textbook plagiarism" in the leggy blond pundit's "Godless: the Church of Liberalism" after he ran the book's text through the company's digital iThenticate program.

He also says he discovered verbatim lifts in Coulter's weekly column, which is syndicated to more than 100 newspapers, including the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Sun-Sentinel and Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle.

Meanwhile, many of the 344 citations Coulter includes in "Godless" "are very misleading," said Barrie, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, where he specialized in pattern recognition.

"They're used purely to try and give the book a higher level of credibility - as if it's an academic work. But her sloppiness in failing to properly attribute many other passages strips it of nearly all its academic merits," he told The Post.

Barrie says he also ran Coulter's Universal Press columns from the past 12 months through iThenticate and found similar patterns of cribbing.

unfortunately, the post mentions where in the book these passages can be found, it does not reprint the excerpts so that readers can compare the examples for themselves (nor does it acknowledge that the rude pundit had already caught two of its examples). if i were a student living on campus, or hell, if i just had the time today, i'd be tempted to roll on down to the library, find a copy of the book, and type up those passages for posterity. this being the blogosphere, though, i'm fairly confident that someone will do this very soon.

update: universal press syndicate has agreed to take a look at barrie's report. and coulter struck back at the post in her latest column (but does not actually deny the plagiarism charges).

update: tpm muckraker has the list of alleged plagiarized passages.

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