Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tennis Anyone?

Every once in a while I see a tennis picture up on the Yahoo! News list of most popular pictures of the day. It is almost always a picture like this.

I had no idea tennis was so popular.

Fox News wins in court

This from Zwoof at the Daily Kos is remarkable in what it says about Faux News...

In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.

Lawyers paid by Bill O'Reilly's bosses argued in court that Fox can lie with impunity.

It's their right under the 1st Ammendment

FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves.
December 1996, Jane Akre and her husband, Steve Wilson, were hired by FOX as a part of the Fox “Investigators” team at WTVT in Tampa Bay, Florida.to investigat bovine growth hormone (BGH), a controversial substance manufactured by Monsanto Corporation.

Fox executives and their attorneys wanted the reporters to use statements from Monsanto representatives that the reporters knew were false and to make other revisions to the story that were in direct conflict with the facts. Fox editors then tried to force Akre and Wilson to continue to produce the distorted story.
Akre and Wilson refused and threatened to report Fox's actions to the FCC, they were both fired.

August 18, 2000, a unanimous Florida jury found that Akre was wrongfully fired by Fox Television when she refused to broadcast (in the jury's words) “a false, distorted or slanted story” The jury awarded her $425,000 in damages.

FOX appealed the case, and on February 14, 2003 the Florida Second District Court of Appeals overturned the settlement awarded to Akre.

In a stunningly narrow interpretation of FCC rules, the Florida Appeals court claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news does not rise to the level of a "law, rule, or regulation," it was simply a "policy." Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly.
During their appeal, FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Fox attorneys did not dispute Akre’s claim that they pressured her to broadcast a false story, they simply maintained that it was their right to do so.
Fox then filed a series of motions seeking more than $1.7 million in trial fees and costs from both Akre and Wilson.


The AP Headline screamed....

Corey Clark arrested in Arkansas

My question of course is, "Who?"

I had to scan the article to fine out, and I am positive I am not the only one to have to do so. So there seems to be a need to get a message to the news wires. The message is as follows:

American Idol contestants are not really famous people; they are faux celebrities created by the same company that created the Faux News Network. Their purpose seems to be to distract the American public from spending too much time contemplating the train wreck that is the current Republican administration. "Pay no attention to those rights you just lost, some guy you never heard of until we told you he was important has done something inconsequential!"

By the way, I find it very telling that if you type faux news network into Google, the first hit is http://www.foxnews.com/. Very telling indeed.

If You Can't Win Fairly, Win Like a Republican!

Scared shitless Republicans are trying to steal as many electoral votes as possible in the next presidential election. That speaks volumes on how truly awful the Republican candidates are this time out and on how acceptable the Republicans are to dismantling the Constitution if it means they can hold their grasp on power. States cast electoral votes, not congressional districts.

If you can't win fairly, and the Republicans already know they are losing the White House next year, then cheat like a Republican!

Roger and You

As I have said before, I am a big fan of Roger Ebert. I buy his books, I've seen him at book signings, I've watched his film reviews on TV for decades. I have missed his weekly TV tussles with Richard Roeper ever since he was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and have awaited anxiously his return. Slowly that is happening as he continues his long rehabilitation. Part of that return is coming on Thursday when Roger has his first live online chat with fans. To be a part of it follow this link to submit your movie question to Roger.

If you haven't been to the Ebert & Roeper site in a while (I'm guilty of this), the changes there are dramatic and much appreciated. You can watch the entire weekly show, one full review at a time in some very clear, very smooth video. Also according to this weeks show, they are about to put online every Siskel & Ebert and Ebert & Roeper review that still exists. Some of the early years will be missing, but there will be almost 30 years of reviews to search, watch and enjoy. This is a boon for any movie fan!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Michael Vick's professional career dies at 7

I don't think this guy will ever play again. Talk about an ugly situation.

And such a sweet guy too!

Hey Michael, yesterday when Nike told you to "shoo!" they were not talking about a new product line. Your endorsement deals are over, just like your career.

When the Going Gets Tough...

...the Iraqi parliament goes on vacation for a month! My, they are learning from Bush, aren't they?

Not that there is any pressing work to be done:

655,000: Iraqi deaths a Johns-Hopkins study attributed to the war nine months ago.
2770: Iraqi civilians killed in May 2007, according to government reports. (Actual figure unknown because the Iraqi government refuses to share its data with outside agencies that could verify totals.)
1.9 million: Estimated Iraqis displaced within the country.
2.35 million: Estimated Iraqi exiles outside the country in January 2007.
18,000: Iraqi doctors who have fled the country since March 2003.
???: Iraqis orphaned by the war – no reliable statistics.
25%: Iraqi children who are malnourished (May 2006)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I'm Back

I thought I would be checking in each night from my hotel room, but the $10 a day to do so was so outrageous that I declined. You know, when you are paying, with tax, $400 a night for a room, they ought to throw in the fucking broadband connection. The W should be ashamed of itself.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Off To Comic Con International: San Diego!

Since I won't be home my posting for the next few days may be rather sparse! If you get a chance to go to the SDCC, you can find me most often in one of these panels hosted by Mark Evanier.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bottoms Up!

The race to the bottom, from the Washington Post:
President Bush is a competitive guy. But this is one contest he would rather lose. With 18 months left in office, he is in the running for most unpopular president in the history of modern polling.

The latest Washington Post-ABC News survey shows that 65 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance, matching his all-time low.

In polls conducted by The Post or Gallup going back to 1938, only twice has a president exceeded that level of public animosity -- Harry S. Truman, who hit 67 percent during the Korean War, and Richard M. Nixon, who hit 66 percent four days before resigning.

The historic depth of Bush's public standing has whipsawed his White House, sapped his clout, drained his advisers, encouraged his enemies and jeopardized his legacy. Around the White House, aides make gallows-humor jokes about how they can alienate their remaining supporters -- at least those aides not heading for the door. Outside the White House, many former aides privately express anger and bitterness at their erstwhile colleagues, Bush and the fate of his presidency.
With 18 months to go and only two points needed for a tie and three for the "record" you know Shit-For-Brains is looking more and more like a record holder to me!

Pants Aflame!

So now not only does everyone who was briefed by him say Alberto Gonzales is lying, so do documents discovered today from the national intelligence director's office. Some would say that Alberto is lying, but of course the real name for what he has done is perjury!

Time to go to jail Alberto. Time to go to jail.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Justice League of America #56

Justice League of America #56 (On Sale: July 25, 1967) has a great cover by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. This may have been my first exposure to Wildcat!

Continuing last issue's JLA/JSA crossover "The Negative-Crisis on Earths One-Two" is by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky and Sid Greene. Collecting the negative radiation given off by the black spheres, the super-heroes treat four of their number with it, granting them sufficient power to overcome the controlled villains. Flash, Green Lantern, Hourman, and Wonder Woman of Earth-2 are chosen, but the radiation also has the side-effect of turning them evil and setting them against their fellows.

As Superman and Robin battle Hourman, Green Arrow and Hawkman fight the Flash, Wildcat and Mr. Terrific combat Green Lantern, and Johnny and the Thunderbolt are matched against Wonder Woman. Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt also play a big part in all this. Reprinted in the Justice League of America Archives Vol. 7 HC and Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 2 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

No Job, Day Two -- A Life of Leisure

When I began telecommuting to work at Indymac Bank about a year and a half ago I thought it would open up my day and allow me to handle the things I never had time to handle. It didn't end up working that way. Though my bosses, for the most part, were open to whatever schedule you wanted that let you get the job done, the reality was that starting early in the morning and working straight through most of the day was the only schedule that supported the needs of the business unit and the other people in my group. And even getting off earlier than if I have driven into work did not provide me much room to act outside of my home office.

A couple of reasons exist for this, writing this and other blogs being one, but the bottom line is that I didn't realize the freedom of schedule that I anticipated. So, things like getting my car washed during the week never materialized. Neither did going to my health club during the early hours of the day or taking in a matinee. Being out of work though has finally afforded me the flexibility of schedule to get those kinds of things done. I finally, if only for a short time, have the life of leisure I wanted.

Today I framed, matted and hung a painting I finished this weekend, got my car washed, did some grocery shopping and took in the matinee showing of the absolutely brilliant Ratatouille. I head off in two days for a long-planned trip down to San Diego for ComicCon, so a lot of tomorrow will be getting ready for that and for the first time I will have all day to prepare and pack. Nice!

Driving me Crazy!

Talk about a long birthing! The 210 Freeway was first planned 59 years ago; the final section of the freeway opens this morning at 10:00 AM. That section just happens to be between my house in La Verne and my parents house in San Bernardino. I plan on running out there today just to see how much time the final 7 and a half mile, $233 million section will take off of the total trip time. The opening of other sections in the past seven years have cut the drive in half and this last bit should take 10 minutes or so off, making a 15 to 20 minute trip out of what once took an hour.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Note To Republicans: Time to Flip-Flop Again!

So President Shit-For-Brains' Tom Hagen, Alberto Gonzales says that he wants to repair the image of the Justice Department. The biggest joke of this, and only something a Fox News viewer could have no problems with, is that after adamantly denying in front of congress that there was anything political involved with the firing of US attorneys, after accusing the Democrats of "playing politics" with the notion that there was anything wrong in the Justice Department, this slimy bag of cow droppings has the nerve to say that "he's troubled that politics may have played a part in hiring career federal prosecutors."

Once again, for those keeping track, if you are a Republican, you have to change what you believed to match what is now spewing out of the mouths of this administration, while if you are a Democrat, you can go on believing what you knew to be true from day one. You would think that eventually Republicans would have enough of this constant opinion flip-flopping they must do to keep in line with the scum they elected.

No Job, Day One -- Giddy-up!

OK, so I got laid off from Indymac Bank. I can look at it one of two ways. The first way is that my boss really didn't like me. There is certainly anecdotal evidence for this assertion. In our first team meeting she chastised me for not contributing enough; in most subsequent meetings she told me I talked too much. This is only one example, but ask anyone in my group. There was a feeling that there was not much I could do to please my boss.

The second way to look at it is that upper management told them they had to get rid of at least one full-time employee from each group; the list of laid off employees certainly lends credence to this thought. If that was the case they could have chosen Pravin, but he has been doing a lot of the management of the off-shore resources and did a lot of the web development before they moved from classic ASP to .NET and most future development is being pointed to the web (whether it fits there or not). Obviously, they could not get rid of him. They could have canned Steve, but Steve is just about the best analyst I have ever seen. I couldn't do my work without Steve (man I hated when he would go on vacation) and neither could anyone else, so they couldn't get rid of him. That left me.

So I have two ways to look at it, two way in which I could hold it and what I realized today is that I really don't care which one is the real reason. That is because being laid off by Indymac is not a tale of woe, not by a long shot. As I was saying to my wife today, "I'm having some real problems dealing with my feeling regarding this lay off."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"I should be feeling really bad, but the word that best describes my true feeling right now is 'ecstatic!' I can't keep this damn grin off my face." I had truly come to hate my job. Not the work itself; nothing charges me like the creative process of developing great software. It was the politics of the place. But I was willing to stay and see it through no matter how bad it got (and it had gotten pretty bad with no sign that it was going to get any better in the near future).

But now I don't have to put myself through that crap.

I'm free!

I escaped!

And they are paying me a pretty good severance to to do so! Who could ask for anything more?

Day one of no job? Giddy? Yup!

Stormy Weather II

At first I thought I was still dreaming. Then I was sure I was hallucinating. Finally I just sat up and bed and stared open-mouthed as the rain thundered down into my back yard. The first rain in southern California since April 22, when we got slightly less than you would get from the swipe of a panting dog's tongue.

Rejoice! For a little while this morning, the skies gave up that much appreciated moisture!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Checking Out of Indymac

The last major development project I worked on at Indymac Bank was a dynamic way to create innumerable check lists. These were to be inserted in multiple places in the Lead-To-Close (LTC) web application that had been developed to automate the process of bringing new construction loans into our existing systems. It was a project I had been thinking about for years, as Loan Explorer (LE) had what was supposed to be a dynamic check list and we had long contemplated upgrading it. I knew that truly dynamic check lists would require logic and the building block of all logic is variables, so well over a year ago I began laying the cornerstone of a new variable system to LE.

Because of this I volunteered to design the new check list system. While mock-ups of what the check lists would look like and requirements for what data they would hold were being developed, I created the design for the data base tables that would dynamically created the check lists and store the entered check list data. I also took some of the mock-ups and encoded them in the tables so that everyone could see what the data would look like.

I didn't code the web applications at Indymac, mostly that was done by Indian consultants. Slowly, since the first out-sourcing fiasco of our department, we had been building a pretty good group of people in India and on-shore and for the most part the problems of the past were just that. These people knew how to code, and though we had to steer them in the right direction now and then, for the most part they did an amazing job of turning the mock-ups, the requirements and my coding specifications into a workable, reusable and expandable engine for the delivery of check lists. Not an easy job for sure. My specs told them what the system had to do with the data, but I had no clue as to how it would do it.

Besides designing the data system and writing the specifications, I also entered the data for a half dozen or so of the check lists. I finished the last one a week or so ago. I was able to see some early and intermediate versions of the check lists actually run and it looks like my last major development project will be another success, due in no small part to the excellent work of the contractors here and in India.

After all that work, it would have been nice to see the finished product. But not having to worry about it any longer is also not too shabby.

Flight of the Conchords

Flight of the Conchords is a new HBO comedy series about a band from New Zealand, named Fight of the Conchords, who are trying to make it big in New York. It stars Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, to guys from New Zealand who are actually a folk singing duo named Fight of the Conchords. Got it? The two intersperse their adventures in search of love and fame with music. It's sort of like the old Monkees TV show, only instead of the story stopping when a song is sung, the song becomes an integral part of the story. Hard to explain, but easy to understand when you see it.

In the first episode the boys go to a friend's party and Jermaine tries to pick up a girl, only he does it in song, comparing her to among other things a hooker and a part-time model. Check out the video...

I wondered if the odd New Zealand humor would grow old, but so far it hasn't. The show is unique in its approach to the old "search for fame in the big city" storyline. The band has frequent meeting with their manager Murray (Rhys Darby), a deputy cultural attaché at the New Zealand consulate. Murray is not very good at either of his two jobs; he can't find the band gigs, is horrible at promotion and tells visiting New Zealanders to walk through the back alleys in New York to avoid the nasty crowds and then wonders why so many New Zealanders get mugged.

Jemaine and Bret are also constantly trying to fend off Mel (Kristen Schaal), a married woman who is the band's only fan. Some of the scenes with Mel are down right creepy as you see her husband waiting in the car as she constantly stalks the boys, imploring them to "use her" as they see fit.

The humor is droll deadpan, and it that is your thing, then you are going to love this show. If it is not, it may take you a while to warm to these two bumbling folk singers. However, it is almost impossible to not like these two and to root for them no matter how strange things get. It all works for me.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Was it Bill'O Run Amuck Again?

Hey, it was the first thing I thought of when I saw the headline:

Fox attacks restaurant worker in Md.

Pride (In The Name Of Love)

I knew on Wednesday morning that Indymac Bank was going to lay me off on Thursday. I mostly telecommute to work and I got a call from my boss on Wednesday (while at the hospital hoping to take my mother home) saying that I was to show up for a "mandatory" meeting with my boss's, boss's boss in a large conference room on Thursday. The rumors of layoffs had been swarming around the company for a few weeks, so once I called others and found that they knew nothing of the meeting I knew what it meant.

I went home and got to work. Did I sabotage the system? No. Did I start copying source code? No. Did I begin erasing files? No. I simply went to work and when I was told of a problem we had never seen in the Market Data database, which it was my job to import each quarter and manage, I worked for hours straight to find the problem. I analyzed the issue, a problem that we had not encountered in two years of processing this data, and rewrote portions of an application and a stored procedure in order to correct the problem from reoccurring in the future. Then I isolated the bad data in the database, deleted it and re-imported using the newly corrected process. All in all it took six fairly frantic hours to analyze, reprogram and correct.

Last night at dinner celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary (could Indymac's timing be any more brutal?) my wife said that that was why she was proud of me, because I gave the job everything I had, even when I knew they were about to fuck me over.

Lose the job, keep the wife? Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Stormy Weather

No, this has nothing to do with my new status as an independent consultant (which my wife says sounds better than being unemployed), this is the forecast on Mars. I mentioned before that Mars Explorer Opportunity was looking to descend into Victoria Crater a few weeks ago. Well, the powers that be at NASA decided to wait for a Martian dust storm to stop before going forward and now neither Mars rover is moving anywhere. The storm has gotten so bad that 99% of the sunlight is being blocked from reaching the solar cells on the rovers. They barely have enough power to run the heaters that keep their electronic components from freezing into oblivion.

There is no end in site for this massive storm engulfing much of the red planet and if it does not abate soon, it could spell the end of the remarkable ever-extended missions of these little powerhouse machines that have, so far, refused to die. Good luck guys!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Working it Out

My company, Indymac Bank, laid off 400 people yesterday. The mortgage business is rough and Indymac's stock has taken a beating this year, down over 40%. I still work there, well at least until Monday when my termination becomes official. They say I was too expensive, but my last two managers had not liked me and people in India will work for almost nothing compared to my salary.

I first started with the company in 1993 when it was called Countrywide Mortgage Conduit. It was then a wholly owned subsidiary of Countrywide Mortgage, but over the years it somehow bought itself out from under Countrywide and grew into one of its biggest competitors. When I started with them as a contract programmer, the IT department was one manager and one employee. I installed the company's first copy of the newly released Windows NT and wrote about 50% of the code for their first major application, FOCUS (Front Office Commitment and Underwriting System), a massive Visual Basic/SQL Server application that most of the company's 80 employees used to do their job on a daily basis. I was the first contractor they hired in 1993 and the last one they let go in 1995, when they decided that contractors were too expensive.

I moved on to Disney and Nestle and then in early 1999 I took another contracting job at IndyMac Mortgage (I missed the intervening name of Independent National Mortgage Corp.). I worked in the consumer construction lending division, writing software in support of a rather lack-luster third-party product called TCL (The Construction Lender) before doing a bit of work with the newly formed Reporting Management Group. They were looking for a way to centralize reporting across all divisions of the company.

I had built such as system at Nestle using Crystal Reports and came forth with what I thought was an improvement to that design, delivering reports through the Intranet browser, which would build a dynamic interface for each report, and relieving the need for a desktop reporting system on each PC. I had no idea how to do this, but I said I could and I pitched and sold them on the idea and then delivered by building the Report Hub, releasing the first version in January 2000. Within a few months the majority of reports in the company were running on the Hub. The way it was built you could embed it into applications and as I had now moved on to the commercial (subdivision) construction lending group we quickly integrated the Hub into the budgeting and disbursement program being written for them: Loan Explorer (LE). I was soon doing all development for LE

In the massive contractor purge of 2001 (they go through these every few years), I stayed on and became an employee for the first time, taking a rather large cut in pay, but adding some fairly good benefits. Also, after the big Y2K fiasco and the .COM collapse, the market for contractors was pretty shitty at the time. It was somewhere around here that IndyMac bought a small bank and changed their name once again.

I had some fairly good years there, 2001-2005 and even part of 2006, but there were always conflicts. First, the way management bonuses were set up a manager had to produce something on their own in order to get a bonus for it. You've heard the expression "If if ain't broke, don't fix it?" Well, at Indymac it's a requirement if a manager wants his bonus! Now when a new manager took over the Reporting Group he could not take credit for the Report Hub's success, so he decided to kill it. Every six months since that time we have been told that the Hub would be turned off in six months. They spent a ton of money on a third-party product called Cognos, which was supposed to do everything the Hub did, only better. In reality it did half of what the Hub did, only much, much slower.

Somehow, even though I was not in the reporting department, I managed to do two upgrades to the Hub over the years (replacing the horrid Crystal scheduler with one of my own and upgrading Crystal versions) and though they have moved a number of reports to Cognos since 2001, the Hub still produces thousands of reports a month (well over 3/4 of a million reports since 2000), and despite them buying numerous expensive upgrades to Cognos, the Hub still does it cheaper and faster. But Indymac upper managment has always been a sucker for a "dog and pony show" (anyone who has ever dealt with the company's dreadful digital dashboard will attest to that) and they bought the Cognos hype hook, line and sinker.

What was good about those years, beside watching one hugely expensive version of Cognos after another fall flat on its face, was Loan Explorer and the people I worked with, both in IT and in the business unit. I was able to take a fairly simple budgeting and disbursement system and over the years build it into a world-class system. I moved much of the logic from the core application to callable objects. The heart of LE was always the spreadsheet views of ever more complex and detailed budgets and draws and even the logic of the spreadsheet was moved out of the app and into the objects where I created synthetic spreadsheets that would tell the displayed spreadsheet what to place in each cell. I also got to create my own spreadsheet formula and cell recalc code, which was a lot of fun to actually see work. My synthetic spread is faster than the spreadsheet control we use and more dynamic in that the data could be poured into any sort of grid or collection of controls and still work the same way.

The people I worked with were very good and I hope to work with some of them again in the future at some other endeavor. But in the past year or so, the management of my department and the business unit we support had radically changed for the worse. It really started in 2005 when we were forced to begin using off-shore resources in India (Indymac uses so many off-shore resources that it is often joked that the company should change its name to Indiamac). The first project sent to them was a million dollar disaster. They spent the entire budget and delivered almost zero usable code. Worse yet, the design of the project had been given over to them as well and they had not a clue as to what they were doing. My management brought us in to fix as much as we could while they did a wholesale firing of the off-shore group, only to hire a new off-shore group that was not much better. Of course there was no budget for this, so costs were hidden in other projects making it look like we were now a problem group as our standard work was now seemingly taking much longer and costing much more.

As a group, our IT department never recovered from the bad PR; bosses never admit that they fudged the numbers to hide their mistakes you know. And so, our customer began not to trust us, and where our drive had always been to work in partnership with the business unit to make their work easier and faster to perform, all thought of a partnership suddenly ended. Where we once listened to their needs and found the best solution for them, we were now relegated to implementing solutions developed by non-technical people, even when we knew they were mistakes. Our motives for doing or suggesting anything were suddenly in question and to put it bluntly, all the fun completely drained from the job.

But even then I wasn't about to give up on the company or my customer. Unfortunately, they gave up on me.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Flash #173

Flash #173 (On Sale: July 20, 1967) features another great cover by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. Great to see Jay Garrick in action on a Flash cover!

"Doomward Flight of the Flashes" is by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Sid Greene. While battling the Domino Gang alongside Kid Flash, the Flash suddenly vanishes in a bolt of light. Kid Flash returns to Barry Allen's house where he meets Jay Garrick and his wife Joan who have dropped by to visit from Earth-2. Jay joins Kid Flash on a search for Barry. Then Kid Flash is also teleported away by a flash of light.

Kid Flash awakens on an alien planet next to his mentor where they meet an alien mutant called Golden Man who claims responsibility for teleporting them to his planet. He is far more evolved than other beings from his planet and has teleported the Flashes there to provide a hunt. Flash and Kid Flash are then forced to outrun their captor to stay alive.

Golden Man secretly has another motive for the hunt. He plans to use the super-speed energy expended by his opponents to evolve the rest of his race. Then he can rule over them as a dictator. However, Flash is lost in a pit of quicksand. Since his plan requires two speedsters, Golden Man returns to his laboratory with the unconscious Kid Flash.

Golden Man then teleports Jay Garrick to his world. However, Jay's internal vibrations allow him to remain conscious upon arrival. Jay and Kid Flash try to defeat Golden Man, but are captured again. Then Barry Allen arrives, having survived the quicksand by vibrating through the planet's crust.

The three Flashes are then able to defeat Golden Man. In a last ditch effort to succeed in his world domination plan, Golden Man activates an experimental machine.Reprinted in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #2 and Crisis on Multiple Earths:Team-Ups Vol. 2 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Nancy Pelosi is Wrong

"Nancy Pelosi is wrong. Nancy Pelosi is disregarding her oath of office. She should change course now. And more importantly, members of her caucus and responsible Republicans should step up. It is not enough--"

-John Nichols

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Teen Titans #11

Teen Titans #11 (On Sale: July 18, 1967) has a nice Nick Cardy cover. Missing are the Go-Go Checks and ugly logos that marred Nick's previous TT covers. Robin is pushed to the back to spotlight Speedy's return. Note how in just a few issues the TT's have gone from looking 12 or 13 to looking 17 or 18.

Inside we have "Monster Bait" by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy. Speedy returns to help the Teen Titans when they go to the aid of boy genius Willie Gregson, whose summer job is that of assistant to famed scientist Dr. Simon Finley. A criminal gang tries to blackmail Wille, whose father, now a respected businessman, is an ex-convict, forcing Willie to steal Dr. Finley's secret nerve gas formulae for them. The Titans tangle with scuba divers and a fake sea monster in this book-length story. Reprinted in DC Super Stars #1.

Edited by George Kashdan.

There is No Place Like Home

As I type this my mother is being driven home by my wife, finally released from the hospital. It looked like it may never happen.

This morning my father called to say that the doctor had just OKed my mother's release and could I pick him up and take him to the hospital. I emailed work and let them know what was going on then headed off for San Bernardino. By the time I got there and had my father in the car, things had changed. Shortly after getting the OK for release my mother's heart started beating rapidly. It seems her new pacemaker only quickens a slow heartbeat, but does nothing for a fast one. When we got there they were starting a number of new drugs to try and slow down her heart. After a half hour or so we left and I returned home to start working.

A few hours ago my dad called again to say that they had OKed my mother for release. My wife went this time, only it wasn't quite true, but eventually it was and she is now home (my wife just called). I know my mother is glad to be back in her own home and we are glad that at least for the moment, the problems with her heart are all in the past.

The "I" Word

"Let's start to use the 'i' word. Impeach is a useful word. It is a necessary word. The founders in the Constitution made no mention of corporation or political parties or conventions or primaries or caucuses. But they made six separate references to impeachment. They wanted us to know this word, and they wanted us to use it."

-John Nichols

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tableaux Vivants

The art form is known as tableaux vivants, or living pictures, and it originated in Europe over a thousand years ago. It was often staged to welcome a visiting dignitary. For 75 years The Pageant of the Masters in Laguna has offered spectacular reenactments of tableaux vivant of famous painters. Like an idiot, I have never gone, until this past weekend. Staged in a beautiful outdoor amphitheater under the stars my wife and I were mesmerized from beginning to end.

I didn't know what exactly to expect, just how much like a painting would it look, but the first tableaux came and went before I realized I was not looking at a picture of the artwork. The effect is stunning. Take for example, the Renoir above. The women are actors and for the minute or two the piece is lit, they do not move. Like I said, stunning.

The Pageant does not limit itself to paintings, they do tableaux vivants of statues, figurines, chess sets, furniture (King Tut's burial throne) and buildings. It is one amazing vista after another accompanied by a 30-piece orchestra, an interesting narration and inspired production.

They set up one of the pieces in front of the audience, so we could see how the effect is achieved. Also, from time to time the stage would be in partial light as a set would be rolled into place and you could see the performers moving into place. The stage would go black and when the fully lit piece was illuminated again the magical effect was in full force.

The theme for this year was a Young at Heart and featured works by Winslow Homer, Maxfield Parrish, Edvard Erkison, Pierre Renoir, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Francisco de Goya, Edward Hopper, Marc Chagall, N.C. Wyeth and Leonardo da Vinci, the last piece being da Vinci's Last Supper.

We were there on a Sunday night and the pageant was sold out, and not the kind of sold out where there are no more tickets, the kind of sold out where there is not an empty seat to be found. The Pageant of the Masters runs through August 31st nightly at 8:30, but tickets are only available for August 20th and beyond and then they are very, very limited. Still, it would be worth you while to get whatever tickets you can. Simply amazing!

The Heart of the Matter

"The Scooter Libby affair gets to the heart of what I think an awfully lot of Americans are concerned about with this administration and with the executive branch in-- general, that it is lawless, that-- it can rewrite the rules for itself, that it can protect itself.

And, you know, the founders anticipated just such a moment. If you look at the discussions in the Federalist Papers but also at the Constitutional Convention, when they spoke about impeachment, one of the things that Madison and George Mason spoke about was the notion that you needed the power to impeach particularly as regards to pardons and commutations because a president might try to take the burden of the law off members of his administration to prevent them from cooperating with Congress in order to expose wrongdoings by the president himself. And so Madison said that is why we must have the power to impeach. Because otherwise a president might be able to use his authority and pardons and such to prevent an investigation from getting to him."

-John Nichols

Find Your Candidate!

Over on the Tony Board, Steve Leavell pointed us to the American Presidential Election Selectors over at SelectSmart.com. Why guess which candidate is yours? Answer 25 questions and the selector will tell you who supports what you believe in.

I gave it a shot and these are my results:

1. Theoretical Ideal Candidate (100%)
2. Dennis Kucinich (84%)
3. Barack Obama (82%)
4. Hillary Clinton (77%)
5. Joseph Biden (77%)
6. Wesley Clark (not announced) (76%)
7. John Edwards (75%)
8. Al Gore (not announced) (74%)
9. Christopher Dodd (71%)
10. Alan Augustson (campaign suspended) (70%)
11. Michael Bloomberg (not announced) (70%)
12. Bill Richardson (65%)
13. Mike Gravel (not announced) (58%)
14. Ron Paul (45%)
15. Elaine Brown (41%)
16. Rudolph Giuliani (33%)
17. Kent McManigal (campaign suspended) (32%)
18. Mike Huckabee (27%)
19. Tommy Thompson (27%)
20. John McCain (27%)
21. Mitt Romney (19%)
22. Chuck Hagel (not announced) (19%)
23. Sam Brownback (13%)
24. Newt Gingrich (not announced) (13%)
25. Tom Tancredo (13%)
26. Jim Gilmore (withdrawn) (9%)
27. Duncan Hunter (8%)
28. Fred Thompson (not announced) (7%)

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Presidential Toolbox

"On January 20th, 2009, if George Bush and Dick Cheney are not appropriately held to account this administration will hand off a toolbox with more powers than any president has ever had, more powers than the founders could have imagined. And that box may be handed to Hillary Clinton or it may be handed to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or someone else. But whoever gets it, one of the things we know about power is that people don't give away the tools. They don't give them up. The only way we take tools out of that box is if we sanction George Bush and Dick Cheney now and say the next president cannot govern as these men have."

-John Nichols

That Steady Pinging You Hear is Just My Mother

They had to squeeze my mother in today, between other scheduled surgeries. We got there about 9:00 this morning, stopping to pick up my father along the way. They finally took her to a surgical waiting room at 3:09 this afternoon. They came and got me at 5:14. So far it looks like she came through with flying colors! When we left the hospital about 6:30 she was back in her room and eating dinner. She was very tired and forgetful (asking the same questions over and over) but said she felt great. And her heart was pinging along at around 65 beats a minute. She may go home tomorrow and I may go out again to see that she gets home OK.

We also have some concern about their microwave oven. It was one of the first ones on the market, weighs about 200 lbs. and sits on their kitchen counter. We are not convinced the thing is shielded as well as the ones they make today and we sure don't want anything interfering with her shiny new pacemaker. I may go out and buy them a new one tomorrow as well.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mother Update I

My mother's surgery is now scheduled for tomorrow sometime.

1952 Comic Predicted Bush/Cheny Iran Policy

Over at BoingBoing, cartoonist Jay Kenney posted the following:
T-Man comics #3 from 1952. I just happened upon it by chance and - Holy Smokes! - all was revealed. We can now grasp the origins of the Bush administration's foreign policy! It was all there in T-Man #3, 55 years ago! Perhaps Cheney read this comic in his youth and just bided his time until he was in a position to actualize it in real life.
Thanks to Brad Walker for bringing this to everyone's attention on the Tony Board! Like all pictures on this blog, click to get a better view of this amazing find.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My Mother

My mother has had an irregular heartbeat for the past six or seven years. Every so often it starts fluttering and she ends up in the hospital for a few days, after which they send her home. It had gotten to be such a regular occurrence that my parents don't even tell us kids anymore till after it happens. Well, this time was different. My mother went in for a kidney test of some sort on Thursday and her doctor gave her an EKG. He looked at the results and said, "I think you are having a heart attack right now."

Somehow, and getting a coherent story out of my parents is sometimes really difficult these days (my dad is 86 and my mother is 83), it was hours later before she got to the hospital and even more hours later before she was actually admitted. My dad called us on Friday morning and while he usually has a blase, "here we go again" attitude regarding Mom's hospital stays, this time he was worried; I could hear it in his voice. I still worked on Friday but spent a good portion of the day on the phone with my brothers and sister around the country keeping everyone informed as to what was going on. Mom thought she was going to go home on Friday, but her blood pressure was erratic as was her heartbeat.

Today we went over there (San Bernardino, about 30 miles away), had lunch with my dad at home and then headed off to the hospital, thinking we would assist in getting Mom home sometime today. It didn't happen and when they began feeding her dinner at 5:00 we all left. We took my father home and while sitting in their driveway bringing a brother up to speed on the cell phone my father waved my wife into the house. Mom was on the phone.

The cardiologist never showed up today, but had been kept informed of all her readings all day long. Right after we left the nurse came in and told my mother that the cardiologist had decided that the medications they were using to stabilize her heart were not working and he is going to schedule her for a pacemaker implant for sometime tomorrow. Kind of scary but my mother was actually campaigning the doctor for a pacemaker since she arrived on Thursday, so she is happy about it.

Me, I'm scared, but if it solves the recurring problem, it needs to be done.

Friday, July 13, 2007

How Much is That Corpse in the Window?

Ah, who cares. The really important question is just how much is that body you are inhabiting once it becomes a cadaver? Are you worth more dead than alive? Fellow blogger Tony Collett provides the link that will let you in on the worth of your own rotting corpse.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Bomba the Jungle Boy #1

Bomba the Jungle Boy #1 (On Sale: July 13, 1967) as a cover I would not have guessed is by Carmine Infantino and Charles Cuidera.

Inside we have "The Jaws of Doom" written by George Kashdan and drawn by Leo Sommers. I remember Sommers work from Warren, but did not know that he did any work for DC. Apparently, this and the next issue of Bomba contain the only DC artwork by Sommers.

Bomba the Jungle Boy was first published in 1926, was one of the earliest and most successful of the many Tarzan imitators. , Authorship was credited to Roy Rockwood, a Stratemeyer Syndicate pseudonym, but the actual author for most of the series was probably John Duffiel), The books were popular and sold well, as indicated by the number of titles in the series, the longevity of its time in print, and the number of spin-offs into movies and comics.

Monogram's Bomba the Jungle Boy film series was inspired by the adventure-book series. Johnny Sheffield, formerly "Boy" in the Tarzan pictures, starred as Bomba. Economically produced, and not one of their best efforts, Bomba the Jungle Boy turned out to be one of Monogram's most successful series. In 1962 a 13-episode syndicated series, "Zim Bomba" was produced by editing down footage from the Monogram films. This might be what the cover blurb, "TV's Teen Jungle Star!" is referring to. I don't think I ever saw the series or read the comic books.

Some of the stories from these comics were later reprinted with minor art and lettering changes as Simba stories in DC's Tarzan comics.

Edited by George Kashdan

The Editor In Chief!

So last week the first draft of the Iraq Interim Progress Report revealed that the Iraqi government had failed to meet 18 out of 18 benchmarks. Once the Editor-In-Chief, President Shit-for-Brains, got his hands on the report though it is released this week saying that the Iraqi government has been satisfactory on eight of the 18 benchmarks, eight not satisfactory, two, a mixed bag. Editing the truth out of bad news is pretty much standard procedure for SFB, but how Republicans can believe a word this lying sack says is beyond me.

Fortunately, Congress has already told the White House what it thinks of the Iraq report, the House voting yesterday to approve legislation that would require the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq beginning in 120 days.

The $165,000,000 Question

Do you want to buy a house? It's a nice one. Not a fixer-upper. Plenty of room for guests. Makes a great conversation piece. Good neighborhood. Swimming pools! Movie stars! Four homes plus an apartment and security staff’s cottage! 6.5 acres! Twenty-nine bedrooms! State-of-the-art theater! Disco! Famous previous owner. Kennedy honeymoon spot! Godfather "horse head in the bed" location!

A steal at only $165,000,000.

Who says this is a depressed real estate market?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Granny No More!

Cartoonist Robert 'Buck' Brown, the creator of "Granny" for Playboy Magazine died Monday at the age of 71. I don't know why, but was surprised to learn that Brown was African-American. Brown had been drawing for Playboy since the 1962 and had done over 600 cartoons for the magazine. Over the years he created many characters for Playboy, but the most popular was 'Granny,' a naughty little old lady who graced the pages of Playboy for decades.

He never named the character. As his daughter, Tracy Hill related, "She was just an older woman my father drew," she said. "But every time he would go into the Playboy offices, the receptionist would laugh and say, 'I love that little granny of yours.' And the name stuck."

Granny first appeared in 1966, in Brown's first color cartoon for the publication. Granny's trademark sagging torpedo tits were as much an icon of Playboy as the bunny logo. His latest cartoon for Playboy is in the August 2007 issue.

Brown's work also appeared in Ebony, Jet, Dollars and Sense, the New Yorker and Esquire magazines and in the Chicago Sun-Times. His work was filled with social commentary about the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Though most famous for his cartoons, Brown also was a noted painter of what he called "soul genre paintings" — humorous, slice-of-life images.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Favorite Short Stories -- The Barbie Murders

Over on the Yahoo! DC History group Ed Bebee asked the question about the plot of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #105, "How do you disguise yourself when everyone looks like you? I suppose you could just claim to be someone other than the original. Getting out the disguise kit sounds futile."

I thought the same thing when I read the comic synopsis and it reminded me of another of my favorite short stories by John Varley: The Barbie Murders.

The set up is simple and neat. There is a city on the moon, set up by the Temple of the Standardized Church of Luna. All members of the sect have had their bodies surgically altered so that they all look exactly alike. To join the church you give up your possessions, your identity and sex, as all of the members look like Barbie dolls; no nipples, no external genitalia. They all have the exact same physical traits: height, weight, hair, eyes, face, etc. They all wear the same clothes, all have the same haircut and none of them have a name.

Now in this mass of standardization one Barbie has killed another Barbie. You are the detective; figure out who did it.

This is one of the first Varley short stories I ever read. It was nominated for a Hugo and won the LOCUS Award for best novelette (sounds like a real fancy name for a short story to me). It presents many of the concepts of Varley fiction that I admire, particularly his refreshingly frank and open approach to human sexuality. The story is also a nice little puzzle piece.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #105

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #105 (On Sale: July 11, 1967) has a Curt Swan and George Klein cover.

Inside we have "The World of 1,000 Olsens" by Otto Binder and Pete Costanza. Jimmy Olsen learns that Professor Worthington has discovered a new asteroid near Earth. Before Worthington can explain why he has named it the Olsen asteroid, the professor is killed by a disintegration ray. Jimmy checks the professor's research and finds evidence that the asteroid is inhabited by duplicates of him. Then a spacecraft lands which offers him a ride to the asteroid.

Jimmy takes the ship to the asteroid and finds many varieties of Olsens. Some are normal in appearance while other mimic some of his freakish transformations. Some of the Olsens are good while others are evil. When Jimmy claims to be the real Olsen he is arrested.

Jimmy escapes from jail by disguising himself. He is then aided by one of the good Olsens. He discovers that Tempus the clock maker is responsible for the asteroid and the Olsen doubles. Tempus plans to destroy Earth by crashing into it with the asteroid.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Kerwin Mathews, Dead at 81

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was one of my favorite Ray Harryhausen films and I remember Mathews vividly. He made a dashingly handsome Sinbad. In reading his obituary in the Los Angeles Times today I couldn't help be struck by the fact that DC Madam customer Senator David Vitter of Louisiana had saved us from the scourge of a promiscuous deviate homosexual like Mathews, who unlike Vitter knows nothing of the sanctity of marriage. If you don't believe me, ask Mathews' partner of only 46 years if Kerwin Mathews knew anything about commitment between two people in love.

Oh, on second thought, never mind.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New Pastels

Make that Nupastels. Actually they are also new pastels, as I mentioned before, given to me by my wife for my birthday. On my long pieces I am using these Prismacolor Nupastels for the under painting, then finishing with my Unison pastels, but on my quick stuff at Stout's, I am using them for the whole piece, as they are relatively sturdy (for a pastel anyway) and easier to transport than the Unisons. I did this one this wieek.


It wasn't a game, it was a major ass-whupping on national TV. The Los Angeles Avengers were scoreless in the second half of a 52-20 ass-thumping by the defending ArenaBowl champion Chicago Rush last night.

It was about as ugly as it sounds. It was one of those "Coach, what did you think of your team's execution tonight? Sounds like a good idea!" kind of games. At every position, at every level they failed miserably. The first play of the game was a long bomb from Sonny Cumbie to Lenzie Jackson that would have given us first-and-goal at the two. The ball was in Lenzie's hands as he went to the ground, where he promptly dropped it. Two plays later Sonny is intercepted and it is run back for a touchdown. I see that as a 14-point swing in the first two minutes of play against the Avengers.

The next time we get the ball Kevin Ingram gets hit so hard on a crossing route and was so motionless on the field so long I saw Al Lucas (the Avenger player who died on the field in 2005) all over again. Though we tied the game on that drive, Ingram was not the same after that hit.

The most consistent kicker in AFL history, Remy Hamilton, missed half his kicks. Our much heralded defensive-line got to a hobbled Chicago quarterback only twice the entire night. I was shocked late in the game when they mentioned one of last week's heroes Robert Quiroga; I could of sworn he wasn't playing he was so not a part of the game.

I could go on and on about what went wrong; it is much more difficult to name what went right. Defensive back Damen Wheeler might be the only guy on the field who played passably well.

Over the years the Avengers have played some pretty piss-poor games, but I think this is the absolute worst they have played as a team. Sonny needs to work on the high arc pass into the corner of the end zone, our defensive secondary needs to gel better, Remy needs to return to being Remy, coach Ed Hodgkiss needs to mix up the offense a bit, Ingram and Lonnie Ford just need to get healthy, most everyone on the team needs to come back next year because despite last night's effort, the team is making progress and getting better.

The Avenger fans need to put this debacle behind them and remember how well the entire team played last week when they won their first playoff game. I'll be back next year; I already have my season tickets renewed.


"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried. The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds. The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party."

-Dr. Richard Carmona, U.S. Surgeon General 2002 until 2006


We saw Michael Moore's SiCKO the weekend it came out and have to say it is his best film to date, a bold and uncompromising look at the American health care system. Moore has much less of a screen presence this time out, spending the first half of the film mostly off camera in narration only. By the time he does show up you are so disgusted with American health care that even if you don't care for Moore, you want to hear what he has to say.

Moore has been trashed repeatedly in recent years for his films as expected on Fox, but also unexpectedly. on CNN. Here is Moore's recent appearance on CNN where he is ripping Wolf Blitzer a new one. Actually, more like a dozen new ones, as Blitzer is spanked by Moore for current and past discretions.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Self Destruction

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

-Abraham Lincoln

Don't Let the Bastard Breathe!

Today's Los Angeles Times has a front-page article on Drew Westen, a psychologist and brain researcher who is working with Democrats to win the hearts of voters. It's a fascinating read. I was particularly taken by the first example in the article of how Westen says the Democrats have blown opportunities to win over voters:
Example: When President Bush recently refused to allow Karl Rove to testify under oath about his role in the sacking of federal prosecutors, Westen said, Democrats blundered. Instead of insisting Rove testify under oath, they simply should have said (over and over), "Mr. Bush, just what is it about 'So help me God' that you find so offensive?"
I like that approach; rather than crying that the White House is dishonest as the day is long and does not play fair with the laws of the land (pretty much a givens these days), it puts them on the defense in swearing to God to tell the truth. And the important part of course is the "over and over" again aspect. Hit them in the gut, hard and often, or as Mickey said to Rocky, "Don't let the bastard breathe!"

It will be interesting, hell, a lot more than just interesting, to see if Westen's methods work for the Democrats; just about everything is on their side already.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Modern Medicine

An Israeli doctor said, "Medicine in my country is so advanced, we can take a kidney out of one person, put it in another and have him looking for work in six weeks."

A German doctor said "That's nothing! In Germany, we can take a lung out of one person, put it in another and have him looking for work in four weeks."

A Russian doctor said, "In my country, medicine is so advanced, we can take half a heart from one person, put it in another and have them both looking for work in two weeks."

The American doctor, not to be outdone, said "Hah! We took an asshole out of Texas, put him in the White House and half the country was looking for work the next day."

Favorite Short Stories -- The Persistence of Vision

The Persistence of Vision by John Varley is actually my favorite short story of all time. This is a Hugo Award and LOCUS Award winner as a novella (hell if I know what determines which category it competes under) and can be found the collections: The Persistence of Vision and The John Varley Reader.

A man hitch-hiking across the country stumbles across a commune of deaf, blind, mutes in the New Mexico desert. There he discovers that a new form of communication, a new form of community and new form of humanity is evolving. A unique and touching look at human evolution beyond what we can currently comprehend. I must confes that I cry every fucking time I read this story and that it was with much releaf that I read in Varley's introduction to the story in The John Varley Reader that, ".,, it pretty much wrote itself, and by the end I was crying, and I don't know why."

I can't tell you why I cry at this story either; if I told you the many reasons I think I cry, I would be giving away too much of the story, and I do not in any way want to ruin your experience of this tale. For it is an experience to read it; for the first time and repeatedly.

Tom Clancy has said, "John Varley is the best writer in America." If this story does not convice you of the truth in those words, nothing ever will.

Calls for a Quantum Leap Increase

Cindy Sheehan, the soldier's mother who galvanized the anti-war movement, said Sunday that she plans to seek House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's congressional seat unless she introduces articles of impeachment against President Bush in the next two weeks. I think the Democrats have grossly underestimated the disdain of the American people for the two criminals infesting the White House. As noted here before, the majority of Americans now want Cheney impeached and the the number who want Bush impeached as well is fast approaching the majority status.

A Quantum Leap Begins With But a Single Step

This pretty much speaks for itself. After viewing it you may want to visit this website.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"No Home Game For You!"

Well, the Colorado Crush lost to the San Jose Sabercats, so that means even if the Avengers win on Monday night, we will not play another home game this year. Too bad, and the Crush ought to look at their head coach very carefully. The difference in the game rests solely on their coache's shoulders. He pulled their quarterback, who was having an almost perfect game, twice near the end zone to put in a rookie QB who fumbled the ball both times he touched it and that is the only reason Colorado lost. Gives me some hope of the Avengers beating the Sabercats next week it we can win on Monday. For the first time in a while, San Jose looks beatable.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Quantum Leap

There is a movement growing in this great land. A Quantum Leap-like movement, to put things right that once went wrong.

Can you feel it growing?

Can Nancy Pelosi?

Can Harry Reid?

I can, and apparently, so can the polls.

iPhone: The Musical

This came down the TiVoCaster to my box this afternoon, courtesy of the New York Times. This is the kind of stuff you get daily from TiVoCast. Damn this is funny!

Jericho Returns Tonight

CBS is rerunning the entire first season of Jericho starting tonight. If you didn't watch it last season, you missed a terrific show. See what everyone was raving about starting tonight! It begins with a BANG!

Next week CBS will broadcast "Return to Jericho" which will recap the first 11 episodes, immediately followed by episode 12, "The Day Before." The rest of the summer will see all of episodes 13-22 rebroadcast, leading up to the return of Jericho for the new season.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- House of Mystery #169

House of Mystery #169 (On Sale: July 6, 1967) has a Dial H for Heroine! cover by Jim Mooney.

"The Terrible Toymaster" is the Dial H for H.E.R.O. story written by Dave Wood and drawn by Jim Mooney. In it Robby Reed uses his H-Dial to become Velocity Kid and track down the costumed crook the Toymaster. His girlfriend Suzy witnesses the transformation and follows Robby. When Velocity Kid is defeated by Toymaster, Suzy comes to his aid. She explains that she has learned Robby's secret. Despite his protests, she demands to use the dial herself. When she dials H-E-R-O-I-N-E, Suzy becomes Gem Girl.

Gem Girl pursues Toymaster while Robby waits for the dial to recharge so that he can become a new hero. Suzy succeeds in finding the Toymaster's hide-out, but she is captured.

The back-up feature is "The Manhunter Monster" starring the Martian Manhunter and it's by Jack Miller and Joe Certa. Martian Manhunter learns about two upcoming robberies planned by Vulture. At the first robbery, he witnesses monsters committing the crime. The monsters have flame breath which weakens the Manhunter. To avoid the danger, J'onn shapeshifts into the form of one of the monsters, but he is unable to change back.

Edited by Jack Schiff.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


About a year ago TiVo launched TiVoCast, a melding of TV and Web content. Initially I didn't find much of interest in the product they had available for downloading. With TiVoCast you subscribe to a program and when a new "episode" becomes available it is downloaded from the Internet to your TiVo box through your wireless network connection. If you don't have a broadband connection for your TiVo, you don't get TiVoCast.

You select TiVoCast from the Find Programs screen of your TiVo, which then presents you with a list of TiVoCast programs to choose from. Once a program is selected any "episodes" of that program will be automatically downloaded to your TiVo box when they become available. There they look like and act like any other recorded show. TiVoCast shows are usually short, from between one minute and 15 minutes long.

Thought the initial offerings were not my "cup of tea" I have over the year added to the TiVoCast channels I subscribe to. I started with CNET, which gives me a weekly 15-minute look at technology. I always find it interesting. As a diabetic, I also subscribe to dLife, a program of short three- to five-minute shows on living with diabetes. These come sporadically, sometimes once or twice a week, sometimes once a month and the quality and usefulness of the program differs greatly from show to show.

I also subscribe to the New York Times, which puts out a number of interesting programs, on topics as wide-ranging as food, relationships, technology and movie reviews. The newest channel I have added is The Onion, which features two or three clips a week of outrageous humor.

If you don't have a TiVo with a wireless broadband connection, you can't get TiVoCasts, but if you do I think they add to the enjoyment of the TiVo product and are another reason to buy and actual TiVo rather than rent a standard DVR from your cable or satellite company. I actually look forward to the small TiVoCast programs to which I subscribe.

All This and World War I

Wow, another great shot! Another of the postcards my mother's Uncle Bross purchased while serving in WWI. These British tanks are pretty strange looking.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

This film was very hard to come by for years but is now on DVD and VHS. I got a bootleg copy of it one year from my brother for Christmas, years before it was available. I don't know where he got it from. I saw the film the day it came out and had no idea what it was about, just that Zeffirelli was directing and, as I mentioned previously, Donovan was singing.

The day before I was in a J.C. Pennys at the mall in San Bernardino and I saw the soundtrack by Donovan. I picked it up and looked at it but didn't buy it because I hadn't seen the film and didn't know if I would like it or not. The next evening I go see the film (also in the mall) and afterwards I go directly to Pennys to buy the soundtrack, only, they don't have it anymore. The album had been pulled from he stores that morning due to some fighting between the church and Donovan over who owned what (the music was by Donovan but the lyrics were based on the writing of Francesco). Long and short of it, the Donovan soundtrack was out for one day and I had it in my grubby little paws and I didn't buy it. A few years later I had a friend who swore he had a copy of it packed up in a box of albums back in Ohio, but I never saw it. I guess a few years ago Donovan released his own version of all the songs on iTunes.

Here is the title track by Donovan. Simply wonderful, it depicts the moment God spoke to Francesco.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Wonder Woman #172

Wonder Woman #172 (On Sale: July 5, 1967) has a fairly dull Irv Novick cover. Also, the word "New" is added to the logo this issue, but it disappears after this, then reappears on issue #175 as "The New," only to disappear on issue #177.

Inside we have "A Day in the Life of an Amazon" by Robert Kanigher, Irv Novick (who replaces Ross Andru begining this issue) and Mike Esposito. Wonder Woman answers a letter about how she spends her day. She explains that while shopping for a birthday present, she stops a hold-up by some bandits. Next she is asked to watch a baby by Professor Dinwoodie. The baby has been given an experimental growth formula that causes it to become a menace. Wonder Woman subdues the threat, then helps a restaurant owner whose waitresses failed to show up for work.

Wonder Woman then flies to Paradise Island to visit her mother. On the way she intercepts an alien scout ship.

The backup story "The Amazing Amazon Crime" is also by Robert Kanigher, Irv Novick and Mike Esposito. Wonder Woman visits a museum which features a lifelike statue of her. When she meets the sculptor, he seems familiar. The sculptor is the brother of a former crook, now serving a long prison term after being captured by Wonder Woman. The man has now vowed to get revenge for his incarcerated brother.

That night, the statue comes alive. It is really an android capable of movement. The Wonder Woman android knocks out a janitor and robs the museum before returning to its original position. The janitor then blames the real Wonder Woman for the crime.

Edited by Robert Kanigher.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


We can step outside our house and, from our vantage point on the hillside, see the fireworks of La Verne and, in the distance, Pomona. Tonight we noticed ones we had never seen before. Are the "smiley face" and "cube" fireworks new, or have the been around for a while?

A Soldier's Dream

Over on the Tony Board last week my friend Jim Guida asked for a list of three films that we thought people should see, but hadn't. I gave my three and then added a fourth: Franco Zeffirelli's Brother Sun, Sister Moon. It is the story of a rich merchant's son, Francesco Di Bernardone, and his transformation into St. Francis of Assisi. It is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, with an astounding score by Donovan. I'm going to talk again about this wonderful film, but or now, just enjoy this, the opening sequence and song, A Soldier's Dream.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Not Lost in Translation

Headline: Bush won't rule out full Libby pardon

Translation: Bush reserves right to tell all Americans to go fuck themselves



Keith Olbermann tonight put it in the words that have failed me.

Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on what is, in everything but name, George Bush's pardon of Scooter Libby.

"I didn't vote for him," an American once said, "But he's my president, and I hope he does a good job."

That -- on this eve of the 4th of July -- is the essence of this democracy, in seventeen words.

And that -- is what President Bush threw away yesterday in commuting the sentence of Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The man who said those seventeen words -- improbably enough -- was the actor John Wayne.

And Wayne, an ultra-conservative, said them, when he learned of the hair's-breadth election of John F. Kennedy instead of his personal favorite, Richard Nixon in 1960.

"I didn't vote for him but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job."

The sentiment was doubtlessly expressed earlier.

But there is something especially appropriate about hearing it, now, in Wayne's voice:

The crisp matter-of-fact acknowledgement that we have survived, even though for nearly two centuries now, our Commander-in-Chief has also served, simultaneously, as the head of one political party and often the scourge of all others.

We as citizens must, at some point, ignore a president's partisanship. Not that we may prosper as a nation, not that we may achieve, not that we may lead the world -- but merely that we may function.

But just as essential to the seventeen words of John Wayne, is an implicit trust -- a sacred trust:

That the president for whom so many did not vote, can in turn suspend his political self long enough, and for matters imperative enough, to conduct himself solely for the benefit of the entire Republic.

Our generation's willingness to state "we didn't vote for him, but he's our president, and we hope he does a good job," was tested in the crucible of history, and earlier than most.

And in circumstances more tragic and threatening.

And we did.... that with which history tasked us.

We envelopped our President in 2001.

And those who did not believe he should have been elected -- indeed those who did not believe he had been elected -- willingly lowered their voices and assented to the sacred oath of non-partisanship.

And George W. Bush took our assent, and re-configured it, and honed it, and shaped it to a razor-sharp point...,and stabbed this nation in the back with it.

Were there any remaining lingering doubt otherwise, or any remaining lingering hope, it ended yesterday when Mr. Bush commuted the prison sentence of one of his own staffers.

Did so even before the appeals process was complete…

Did so without as much as a courtesy consultation with the Department of Justice…

Did so despite what James Madison -- at the Constitutional Convention -- said about impeaching any president who pardoned or sheltered those who had committed crimes "advised by" that president…

Did so without the slightest concern that even the most detached of citizens must look at the chain of events and wonder:

To what degree was Mr. Libby told: break the law however you wish -- the President will keep you out of prison?

In that moment, Mr. Bush, you broke that fundamental com-pact between yourself and the majority of this nation's citizens -- the ones who did not cast votes for you.

In that moment, Mr. Bush, you ceased to be the President of the United States.

In that moment, Mr. Bush, you became merely the President… of a rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party.

And this is too important a time, Sir, to have a commander-in-chief who puts party over nation.

This has been, of course, the gathering legacy of this Administration.

Few of its decisions have escaped the stain of politics.

The extraordinary Karl Rove has spoken of "a permanent Republican majority," as if such a thing -- or a permanent Democratic majority -- is not antithetical to that upon which rests: our country, our history, our revolution, our freedoms.

Yet our Democracy has survived shrewder men than Karl Rove.

And it has survived the frequent stain of politics upon the fabric of government.

But this administration, with ever-increasing insistence and almost theo-cratic zealotry, has turned that stain… into a massive oil spill.

The protection of the environment… is turned over to those of one political party, who will financially benefit from the rape of the environment.

The protections of the Constitution… are turned over to those of one political party, who believe those protections unnecessary and extravagant and quaint.

The enforcement of the laws… is turned over to those of one political party, who will swear beforehand that they will not enforce those laws.

The choice between war and peace… is turned over to those of one political party, who stand to gain vast wealth by ensuring that there is never peace, but only war.

And now, when just one cooked book gets corrected by an honest auditor…
When just one trampling of the inherent and inviolable fairness of government is rejected by an impartial judge…

When just one wild-eyed partisan is stopped by the figure of blind justice…
This President decides that he, and not the law, must prevail.

I accuse you, Mr. Bush, of lying this country into war.

I accuse you of fabricating in the minds of your own people, a false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

I accuse you of firing the generals who told you that the plans for Iraq were disastrously insufficient.

I accuse you of causing in Iraq the needless deaths of 3,586 of our brothers and sons, and sisters and daughters, and friends and neighbors.

I accuse you of subverting the Constitution, not in some misguided but sincerely-motivated struggle to combat terrorists, but to stifle dissent.

I accuse you of fomenting fear among your own people, of creating the very terror you claim to have fought.

I accuse you of exploiting that unreasoning fear, the natural fear of your own people who just want to live their lives in peace, as a political tool to slander your critics and libel your opponents.

I accuse you of handing part of this Republic over to a Vice President who is without conscience, and letting him run roughshod over it.

And I accuse you now, Mr. Bush, of giving, through that Vice President, carte blanche to Mr. Libby, to help defame Ambassador Joseph Wilson by any means necessary, to lie to Grand Juries and Special Counsel and before a court, in order to protect the mechanisms and particulars of that defamation, with your guarantee that Libby would never see prison, and, in so doing, as Ambassador Wilson himself phrased it here last night, of becoming an accessory… to the obstruction of justice.

When President Nixon ordered the firing of the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the infamous "Saturday Night Massacre" on October 20th, 1973, Cox initially responded tersely, and ominously.

"Whether ours shall be a government of laws and not of men, is now for Congress, and ultimately, the American people."

President Nixon did not understand how he had crystallized the issue of Watergate for the American people.

It had been about the obscure meaning behind an attempt to break in to a rival party's headquarters; and the labyrinthine effort to cover-up that break-in and the related crimes.

And in one night, Nixon transformed it.

Watergate -- instantaneously -- became a simpler issue: a President overruling the inexorable march of the law… of insisting -- in a way that resonated viscerally with millions who had not previously understood - that he was the law.

Not the Constitution.

Not the Congress.

Not the Courts.

Just him.

Just - Mr. Bush - as you did, yesterday.

The twists and turns of Plame-Gate, of your precise and intricate lies that sent us into this bottomless pit of Iraq; your lies upon the lies to discredit Joe Wilson; your lies upon the lies upon the lies to throw the sand at the "referee" of Prosecutor Fitzgerald's analogy… these are complex and often painful to follow, and too much, perhaps, for the average citizen.

But when other citizens render a verdict against your man, Mr. Bush -- and then you spit in the faces of those jurors and that judge and the judges who were yet to hear the appeal -- the average citizen understands that, Sir.

It's the fixed ballgame and the rigged casino and the pre-arranged lottery all rolled into one -- and it stinks.

And they know it.

Nixon's mistake, the last and most fatal of them, the firing of Archibald Cox, was enough to cost him the presidency.

And in the end, even Richard Nixon could say he could not put this nation through an impeachment.

It was far too late for it to matter then, but as the decades unfold, that single final gesture of non-partisanship, of acknowledged responsibility not to self, not to party, not to "base," but to country, echoes loudly into history.

Even Richard Nixon knew it was time to resign

Would that you could say that, Mr. Bush.

And that you could say it for Mr. Cheney.

You both crossed the Rubicon yesterday.

Which one of you chose the route, no longer matters.

Which is the ventriloquist, and which the dummy, is irrelevant.

But that you have twisted the machinery of government into nothing more than a tawdry machine of politics, is the only fact that remains relevant.

It is nearly July 4th, Mr. Bush, the commemoration of the moment we Americans decided that rather than live under a King who made up the laws, or erased them, or ignored them -- or commuted the sentences of those rightly convicted under them -- we would force our independence, and regain our sacred freedoms.

We of this time -- and our leaders in Congress, of both parties -- must now live up to those standards which echo through our history:

Pressure, negotiate, impeach -- get you, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney, two men who are now perilous to our Democracy, away from its helm.

For you, Mr. Bush, and for Mr. Cheney, there is a lesser task.

You need merely achieve a very low threshold indeed.

Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9th, 1974.


And give us someone -- anyone -- about whom all of us might yet be able to quote John Wayne, and say, "I didn't vote for him, but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job."

Good night, and good luck.