Saturday, September 23, 2006

My Newest Sticker

What this should really read is "Support the Torture of American Soldiers: Vote Republican," but I can't get it to fit on a bumper sticker. These are the Christian values the Republicans profess to embody? I guess I never read the Bible closely enough.

This administration argues for the rights, the rights to torture people in your name. They argue for this right because come Monday we will find out that they have already tortured people in your name in secret CIA prisons they claimed did not exist but now have admitted to, and they want to desperately cover their evil asses. The terrorist have won; the United States has become a rogue state and those who supported the Texas scum infesting the White House are complicit in their inhumane deeds. They are pure evil and if you support them, you support evil.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Miami Twice

A number of things have occurred in the past week or two to make me take a second look at CSI: Miami. When I first looked a this show, I spoke of just how awful it was; just how badly written and poorly acted the entire series was. So where could I be going now? Why would I come back for a second critical look? Well, three reasons really.

First, last week the A&E Network began running the show five nights a week, beginning with the first season, 2003. Out of curiosity I peeked in and what I found was shocking: it's good! For that first season CSI: Miami was really a good show. No over-acting hammy shit from star David Caruso. No suspects confessing at the drop of a hat. Real forensic work leading to the solving of crimes. No "baby girl, baby boy" shortcut to characterization nonsense, just good scripts being well executed. Like I said: shocking! If you get a chance to catch some of the first season, I think you'll like it.

The second reason for looking at this show again was an article in the Los Angeles Times that ran this week. It spoke of the show's season opener, which was filmed partly in Brazil, and how appropriate that was as the show has become a world-wide phenomenon. CSI: Miami is now the most watched U.S. television show in the world, seen by more the 50 million people each week. The article states:

"CSI: Miami" is the No. 9 show in the U.S. But it's the top-rated U.S. show in France, Italy and Germany and ranks second in Portugal and the Netherlands. Among dramas, it is No. 2 in Spain, No. 3 in Canada and Britain, and No. 7 in Australia.

Unless the rest of the world is watching three-year-old episodes, I just don't get it. But, with an open mind, I watched the first episode of the 2006 season, which is...

The third reason for this second look at this third-rate show. Ah, CSI: Miami, what a breath of stale air you are! Cheesy, laughable dialog, ham-bone over-the-top acting, cliches instead of characterization, plot twists you can see coming from across a football stadium, plot holes you can drive a large semi through, suspects confessing at the drop of a sombrero! This show has it all!!!!

A few scattered observations:
  • For a show set in Rio there was an obvious omission of women in thongs. I guess this is the result of the Gestapo tactics employed by the FCC, which is turning American TV into a bland, vanilla wasteland. This is just downright insulting.
  • I have noticed that I don't really mind all the shots of David Caruso's carrot-top hair blowing in the wind, but the shots of his eyebrows fluttering in the breeze are starting to seriously creep me out.
  • When you only show one suspect for a crime they have to be the one who did it. You can't pull someone out of nowhere (in this case a house painter you didn't know was there) and suddenly say "they did it." Actually, in typical CSI: Miami style, the house painter is the one who says he did it. He confesses when they tell him that an electronic nose detected that house paint had been near the victim. I'd be laughing if this show didn't consider that great plot acceleration.
  • Even if they are supposed to be the "good guys," the stars of a show are not allowed to go to another country and murder people.
  • You are not allowed to prolong a plot by not speaking what has to be said. In this episode they do just that; Horatio has an opportunity to tell someone something that will stop the plot in its tracks, but instead says, "We need to talk," giving the character an opportunity to leave rather than hear the truth. But then again, piss-poor writing is the hallmark of this show.
If you haven't seen the episode yet, I'm going to give away something that should be obvious after the first five minutes of the show, Horatio's brother is killed by the bad guys (believe me, you see it coming way before it happens), and Caruso is standing over his dead body all alone, posing for the camera, hands on hips, pushing back the coat and as he turns and walks away he mutters, "I love you" to his dead brother. It's so ineptly done I almost fell off the couch.

I'll be catching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip from now on.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Stuck inside of Mobile with the New PC blues again

Well, I am writing this from my new PC. It's a Dell XPS 410, their new "hot box." Surprisingly inexpensive in it's standard configur- ation, but I don't do "standard configurations."

My reason for getting this new box was the death of my last PC, a Sony VAIO I had for about four years. Still not sure what is wrong with the old box, but once I get this one set up I will have some time to deal with it. My VAIO died a horrible death four months ago when I was really in the middle of it with my son, so much so that I was hardly functioning. So instead of getting it fixed I moved to my wife's PC, but it soon died. So, I moved to my Dell laptop and have been using it since then.

I lost a lot of stuff on my VAIO hard drive, some artwork I had spent the better part of two years working on and a lot of writing, so when I looked for a new PC I wanted security of data. Dell offers dual hard drives in a RAID 1 configuration, one the mirror of the other. If one dies the other still works and has all of your data on it. So, my new Dell has two 320GB hard drives.

I do a lot of graphics on my PC so the more RAM I have the better. I splurged for 2GB of RAM and could upgrade to 4GB if I ever need it. It has the newest Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 processor, an NVIDIA GeForce 7300 LE graphics card, a 16X DVD-ROM, a 16X DVD+/-RW drive, a 13-in-1 Media Card Reader, a Creative Labs X-Fi Sound Card and the big splurge, a 24-in 2407FPW Wide Aspect Digital Flat Panel Display.

When I buy the PC they say I should have it in a week or two. When I get my email confirmation, it says I will get it in seven weeks. A later email extends that to eight weeks. This does not make me happy, but I've had this problem with Dell before. In 1995 I bought a Dell Dimension 120 right after PC Magazine, PC World and Byte all declared it the best Windows 95 PC. I waited almost two months for that PC to arrive.

So after the long wait, it arrives early Wednesday morning. I work from home (currently on the Dell laptop), utilizing VPN to access the company's network and then using Remote Desktop to access my PC at work. This all works surprisingly well. So I am working and setting up the PC at the same time, doing the PC setup whenever I catch a break from work (compiling code or running long queries, etc.). What I mean is, my full attention is not really being given to setting up the PC. I get the hardware all together and rearrange my desk to allow for a 24-inch monitor. I also cleared out about 10 years worth of computer jetsam: cables, transformers, switch boxes, wiring, microphones, etc. that lapped up around my PC and entangled itself in a twisted mass behind my desk.

While working I let the system set itself up, turning on whatever it wanted (virus protection, Windows Update, etc.). To facilitate this I had to connect the PC to my wireless network. At some point one or more of these programs wanted to reboot my PC, so I let them. In response I got the Windows blue screen of death!

Not happy, I rebooted and went into Windows Safe Mode, figuring that maybe something was amiss with the driver that allows for the 1920x1200 resolution on the screen (it is an amazing monitor). I booted up, reset my screen resolution back to something reasonable and did a shutdown/restart. Blue screen of death. Back to Safe Mode. Blue screen of death. Normal Mode. Blue screen of death. Safe Mode. Blue screen of death.

Now I'm really not happy. I locate the special tech support number for XPS machines and call Dell. I get a really nice guy who walked me through a number of things, none of which helped. We even tried to reload the system to its original configuration and that failed. He had me boot to the special diagnostic partition that all Dell PCs have and start running the hard drive tests, since he figures the problem has to be with the hard drives. I remind him that I have two 320GB hard drives and he gives me his direct number and says, "call me back when you are done with the diagnostics." He also says I should run the "Windows Blue Screen" diagnostics as well. It is 5:00PM when I start the HD diagnostics. They finished at a little before 1:00 the next morning.

Later that same morning I ran the blue screen diagnostics (which just so happen to also have in them the HD diagnostics). I start them at 7:00AM. They finish at 10:00PM. I've now run 23 hours of diagnostics on my new PC. It has passed every test. "Fuck it!" I say and reboot one more time. This time I tell it to go back to the last configuration that Windows knows worked.

My PC has been running ever since, even after a number of reboots just to be safe.

One of the things I remember Windows Update installing was the Windows Genuine Advantage Notification tool, a "feature" from Microsoft that ensures you have paid for your copy of Windows. This "tool" may be the culprit, because it wants to install it again now that I have reset my machine. I don't think I am going to let it.

I'm slowly adding software to the new box and will add some hardware (WinTV and my new Wacom Intuos 3 tablet) this weekend, crossing my fingers the whole time. I'm also going to set up my emails, I have a bunch of them, in Outlook and see how many I have gotten over the past five months (so if you wrote me an email in the last four to five months, I didn't get it yet!). Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Run don't walk to your neighborhood theater and see Mike Judge's Idiocracy, that is, if it is showing in your neighborhood. It might not be and if it is, you most likely don't know about it since it has a advertising budget of $0. Not even newspaper ads folks, nothing. Really sad too because though not as good as Judge's Office Space, Idiocracy has a lot to say about America and the dumbing down of society.

It's a science fiction tale of a one-year cryogenic suspension experiment gone wrong. Mr. absolutely average, Luke Wilson, wakes up 500 years from now to find out the human race has been taken over by trailer-park idiots and he is now the smartest person in America. It's lewd, it's crude and it's funny. The laughs would have been bigger if they didn't hit so close to modern reality.

How dumb is America? Everyone is starving because of a food shortage. Crops don't seem to grow anymore now that the FDA was bought by a sports drink company and some sort of Gator-Aid is being used to water the crops. The #1 movie in the country is Ass, one and a half hours of a guy's ass farting. It won eight Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay.

There are still Starbucks on every corner, only now they serve hand-jobs, not coffee. Carl's Jrs motto is no long, "Don't bother me, I'm eating," it's now "Fuck You! I'm eating!" Fuddruckers name has changed. First is was Buddruckers, then Buttnuckers and now it's just plain old ButtFuckers.

According to Wikipedia, the film has only been released in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago and three cities in Mike Judge's home state of Texas--Dallas, Houston, and his hometown Austin.

But if you can, see it while you can and pray you don't live in a country where the president is a WWE wrestler/porn star. It's bad enough living in a state where the people were idiot enough to elect a two-bit actor governor (geeze, we did that twice; once in the 60's [whatever happened to THAT hack] and now again in the 2000's).

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Heart of the Matter

This evening my wife and I saw Heart perform for the first time. It's been 30 years since Dreamboat Annie was released, but the Wilson sisters are still in fine musical form. Anne's voice is just as big and impressive as ever, and oh, can Nancy play guitar.

It was an interesting set they played; mostly Heart Top Ten hits, but they strayed from that from time to time. Near the end of the set they played an amazing version of The Who's Love Reign O'er Me. They followed it with two Led Zeppelin tunes, as only the Wilson sisters could do them. It seems for 30 years now they have been trying to be the next Led Zeppelin, even in their other persona, the Lovemongers.

I remember the first time I heard the Lovemongers' version of of Zeppelin's Battle of Evermore. I was truely impressed. If you've never heard it, have a listen. You have to listen to a very short commercial first, but after that I think you will like.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Things That Might Have Been

One of the many things I am known for is the site listed to my right, the Art of Don Newton. Don was a professional comic book artist for about nine years in the 70s and 80s. Don was one of my favorite artists. I first encountered Don's work years before he became a pro, when he produced a prodigious amount of artwork for comic book fanzines. Don was really THE fanzine artist, producing hundreds of illustrations for dozens of fan publications. A lot of fanzine art was crap, but Don's art was something you could study and learn from. No small part of my early style was gleamed from looking at Don Newton artwork.

It was fun to watch a guy grow in the ranks of fandom and then slowly make it as a professional, first at Charlton Comics and then at DC and Marvel. After Charlton folded Don mainly worked for DC, spending six years drawing Batman and three years drawing Captain Marvel and Aquaman. At DC Don also drew The New Gods, The Brave and the Bold, Green Lantern, the Vigilante, Blackhawks, Hawkman, and Infinity Inc.

But there was a time when Don wanted to work for Marvel. He sold Marvel a single painting for Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction, but he also tried to sell them other paintings, beginning with a cover for The Rampaging Hulk. It was not to be; there were some at Marvel who did not appreciate Don's style, who thought Don did not belong there. The cover above is not real; it is a mock-up I created of what might have been had Don found a more receptive audience at Marvel. It is based on the painting Don tried to sell to Marvel in 1976, a painting which I own and love and which has a place of honor on the wall in my office.

I love the painting and think it makes a great cover. Too bad there were people at Marvel who did not feel the same. Had he sold this second painting, who knows how long his career as a painter might have lasted, what masterpieces he might have produced. Ah, the things that might have been....

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The One and Only

A few weeks ago I wrote about the problems I was having with my Sony Cyber-shot DCS-P92 and how I had discovered that there are a large number of Sony products out there with defective CCD components. On the 21st of August I shipped the camera to Sony using a pre-paid UPS label from Sony that I printed at home. OK, it wasn't exactly free; I did have to pay $5.00 to Staples for a box and wrapping it securely, but that was it.

On August 29th I received email from the Sony Repair Center in Texas that they had received my camera and today UPS delivered my repaired camera to me. It took someone suing Sony to get them to repair this stuff for free, so they may not have willingly done the right thing, but they did do the right thing none-the-less.

If you have a Sony product that is causing you problems, visit the and look for "repairs." I think it may just be worth your while.

Friday, September 01, 2006

One for the Ages

Another amazing display of guts. Another astounding display of tennis. For 21 years now Andre Agassi has been treating us tennis fans to a show.

OK, maybe not for 21 years; that's just the length of his career. But for a good number of years Andre has been showing us what it means to be a champion and what it means to be a man.

Yeah, sure, he started out as the brash, "image is every thing" court smart-ass, but over the years, we have watched him grow from that young kid into quite a man. He has won over $30 million in his career. What do you do when you're rich? Well, if you're part of the George Bush set, you hoard your money, only using it to make more money or to buy power; you become the ugly American at home personified. If you're Andre Agassi however, you use your fortune to help those less fortunate than you.

You start and personally fund the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. That's a long way from marrying Brooke Shields. But I digress.

In the last tournament of his career Andre has now put on two exhibitions of tennis magic, two stunning three-and-half-hour-plus displays of the intelligence of the mature player defeating the strength and energy of the young. If you haven't been watching the US Open, you've been missing history.

But it's not too late. Agassi takes the court again in the third round on Saturday. Can he do it again? Can his agonizing back hold together one more time? Can it hold together five more times to get him into the finals? Only time will tell, but I think the 23,000 who watched him last night in New York are all rooting for it.

I know I am.