Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Upstate Police Blotter

The Story

Two charged in safe-nabbing, police say
Updated: Saturday, November 15, 2008 2:40 AM EST

GLENS FALLS - A complaint that a man had stolen a small safe late Thursday from the garage of a Ridge Street home led to the arrest of the man who took it and the man who owned it, police said.

The strange caper began at 11:55 p.m. when Donald L. Johnson, 42, of 171 Ridge St., called police to report that someone had gone into his garage and taken a safe hidden in a cabinet, said Glens Falls Police Sgt. Keith Knoop.

As police looked into the complaint, they determined that Johnson had actually invited the man into his garage to smoke marijuana, then left to walk his dogs, only to return to find the man running away with the safe in which the marijuana was kept, Knoop said.

Johnson told police he didn't know the man's name, but Glens Falls Police officers Shawn Lovelace and Dan Habshi determined he was Rodney M. Degnan, 35, of 116-1/2 Bay Street, Knoop said. The safe was recovered at Degnan's home, with nearly 3 ounces of marijuana inside, according to Knoop. Johnson told police there was also $900 in the lock box, but no money was recovered, Knoop said.

Degnan was charged with the misdemeanors of petit larceny, fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and fourth-degree criminal mischief, police said.

Johnson was charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, police said.

Police learned the two had been drinking together at The Daily Double bar on South Street before going to Johnson's home. Johnson was released pending prosecution in City Court, while Degnan was arraigned in City Court and released on bail bond.

The Sequel
Police: Mower driver on drugs
Glens Falls Ride on lawn tractor brings charges for two men
Updated: Sunday, November 16, 2008 1:52 AM EST

GLENS FALLS -- A Glens Falls man who was arrested Thursday night in connection with charges that he had a safe full of pot stolen from his home was charged early Saturday when police found him driving downtown on a riding lawnmower while under the influence of marijuana, police said.

Donald L. Johnson, 42, of Ridge Street, drew police scrutiny because he had a man riding on the hood of the tractor as he crossed Glen Street near South Street at 12:09 a.m., said Glens Falls Police Sgt. Keith Knoop. Glens Falls Police Officer Seth French approached the men, and found that Johnson appeared intoxicated and admitted he had smoked marijuana, Knoop said. So he was charged with driving while ability impaired (DWAI) by drugs, a misdemeanor, and issued 10 traffic tickets, Knoop said.

Among them were third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor, which was filed because Johnson's driver's license was suspended for failure to pay child support, police said. He also was ticketed for driving an unregistered and uninspected motor vehicle, not using headlights and not wearing seat belts, among other violations, Knoop said.

The man riding on the hood, Carl W. Critelli, 49, was ticketed for not wearing a seat belt, Knoop said.

A tractor is considered a motor vehicle when it is taken on a public highway. A blood sample was taken to determine if there were any drugs in his bloodstream, police said.

Johnson told police he was taking the tractor to The Irish Pub on South Street, where he planned to sell it for $200, Knoop said.

Johnson also was arrested on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge Thursday night after he reported a man had stolen a safe from the garage of his home. Police determined the lock box was taken by a man he had smoked marijuana with earlier in the evening, and it was recovered with nearly 3 ounces of marijuana.

Both Johnson and Critelli were released after Saturday's encounter with police.

The Punchline
The safe owner and lawnmower driver is represented by one John Stonner Esq.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mighty Aphrodite

If you like Woody Allen movies, this one is good. It's actually fairly typical of Woody Allen movies, dealing with troubled marriage and loss of passion... but as usual, Woody brings his own neurotic flair to the subject, so it's fun and entertaining while dealing with a fairly mundane but uneasy subject.

The thing that makes this movie most interesting is his use of a Greek Chorus. Throughout the movie they keep cutting back to an ancient Greek outdoor auditorium where the masked chorus chants in unison, moving the plot along just like in classic Greek theater. It's a nice and unique touch.

Tuner Classic Movies

I've been trying to watch some old movies from the 30's, 40's, and 50's on TCM. Some are great, some not so much. Here are a few comments....

Nancy Drew and the Secret Stairs
There is a whole series of Nancy Drew movies with a cute little 15 year old spitfire playing Nancy Drew. I never read Nancy Drew, but I was a bit shocked by this G rated movie. Nancy, with a heart of gold, convinces the two old ladies to donate their mansion to the local hospital. However, they don't officially own the mansion for another two weeks, during which time one of them must remain in the home every night (as per the family will). If they move out before this time, they won't be able to donate the house. Well the neighbor next door wants them to leave the house so a race track will be built on the property, thus making his property more valuable.

Sooo, the neighbor murders the old ladies butler and threatens that they are next if they don't move out. But Nancy, with her heart of gold, tries to convince them that the butler really committed suicide, and there's no reason for them to be affraid and to move out. So she has her friend write a fake suicide note and drops it where the police can findi it.

Call me new-fashioned, but isn't that a bit creepy for a sweet innocent girl to be a) convincing old ladies that a murder was a suicide, and b) planing false evidence for the police.

Similar weird stuff goes on through the whole movie, where sweet little Nancy Drew does ridiculously illegal things that should get her thrown in prison. She also abuses the heck out of her boy friend (well, friend who is a boy... no real romance) and gets him arrested 4 times during the movie. Again, I think it's odd that their is virtually no romance or anything hinted at sexual overtones, but the kids are involved in really evil stuff... and this is all looked at as sweet innocent fun.


There was a short made entirely of dogs dressed up in human clothes. They use cut frames, probably w/ food or gum in the dog's mouth, and voice overs... sort of like a dog's version of Lance Link Secret Chimp. It was a spoof on the old hard boiled detective genera. They had a flashback to a dog wedding, where a dog was dressed in a wedding gown, a dog was a priest, and dogs were in tuxedoes. They had a series of shots where the detective dog was interviewing witnesses, and each witness was a stereotype... they had a chinese dog, a football player dog, a british dog, and a really effeminate artsy dog... and then the detective dog says "I DON'T BELIEVE IT... A PANSEY !!!" Finally the detective had to rescue a dog who was hooked up to a Rube-Goldberg device that was gonna eventually drop a 2 ton weight on the victim. Unfortunately, the detective dog arives just too late and the victim dog is squashed. The detective just says "Awe... too bad." and they cut to the credits.


There was a cool Marijuana movie where the one girl is jealous of her older sister who is more beautiful and who marries a sucessful man. She begins to hang with a bad crowd, starts to smoke marijuana, and eventaully becomes the drug kingpin... and is a heroine addict. She gets herself knocked up, and her dealer mobster boss convinces her to sell her baby on the black market. Later, for revenge against her older sister, she kidnapps her sister's daughter asking for a big ransom. Eventually she finds out that it was really her own daughter who her sister bought on the black market. So she kills herself.

The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I have nothing but high praise for the movie Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The music, the imagery, and the acting all came together in a perfect culmination of horror and dark humor. Tim Burton was the right choice to create this piece of art. His is unrivaled in the fine art of cinematic imagery. Once again Johnny Depp delivered a spectacular performance... and who knew he could sing?

This was an adaptation of the play, of which I was fortunate enough to see. Not to belabor the differences of the two media, I would like to compare and contrast a few aspects worthy of note.

The play was an Operetta, so virtually all of the dialogue was sung rather than spoken. I was pleased to find that they kept the score written by Stephen Sondheim and minimized the spoken words. The sophisticated timings of his music create the perfect uneasy feeling necessary for this film. The irregular starts and stops envoke a suspenseful aura around the listener.

The only thing I missed from the origianl score from the play was the main Sweeney Todd them where the chorus chants "The tail is told of Sweeney Todd... the demon barber of fleet.... street." Again, it's all bout the timing.

The play got great acclaim for it's scenery. It was a breathtaking stylized view of old London with scenery wheeled on and off stage via mechanized tracks. This was extremely innovative and revolutionary at the time. Thankfully, Tim Burton stepped up to the challenge by recreating his own version of the dark, dank, smokey old world.

One small detail they skipped which which had a big impact at the end of the play was when the boy emerges from the sewer after seeing the most frightful things imaginable. In the play, he comes up with white hair... which I'm told is actually possible in extreme cases of fear. Burton didn't bother with this, and probably didn't need to... but I liked that touch in the play and I think it could have worked here as well.

It should be mentioned that the film is far more gory than the play. There may have been a spurt of blood at one time in the play, but mostly there was only a thrust of the arm w/ the razor in hand accompanied by dramatic lighting. In the film, there are fairly long shots of open throats with blood gushing from the wounds. Perhaps a bit gratuitous, but it works.

And finally, I want to mention Helena Bonham Carter who plays Mrs. Lovett. While last week I didn't know she existed, she has now officially caught my attention. Apparently I've seen her in many roles before, often playing creepy characters, many of which were in Tim Burton creations. She was the bride in the animated Burton film Corpse Bride, was in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Big Fish among others. But perhaps her most important role is the evil villainess, Bellatrix Lestrange, in the Harry Potter series.

Sweeny Todd rates high on the list of all time greatest movies. It stands on its own and also holds up proudly when compared to the original play.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The woman behind the man

No, not Michelle Obama, but Valerie Jarrett. One of the most important people you never heard of.

Click for Wiki

Hired Michelle Obamain 1991, who then introduced her to her fiance Barack.
Was Financial Cair for Obama 2004 Senate campaign.
Is now co-chair of the transition commitee.
Obama is quoted as saying "I don't make any major decisions without asking her about them."

She will be a major influence on national policy, either behind the scene or as a cabinet member.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lando Chewbacca 08

That's '08 from a long time ago and a galaxy far far away...

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

McCain gets served...

Happy Election Day

I stuck to my guns and didn't vote for president.

Enjoy the videos. RIP George.

From 1999... I especially like the poem that starts about 2:30 into this clip...

Friday, October 17, 2008


I just saw Bill Mahr's movie, Religulous. I thought it was great, but probably not worth running out to the theater to see. I went just to show support for him, but there's nothing "big screen" worthy.

It's exactly what you would expect from Mahr. A few clips from his comedy routine, a few more biographical clips about HIM, and mostly him going around the country and into Europe (including Israel) to challenge religious people. Mostly, he just asks the obvious questions... do you really believe in a litteral Adam and Eve, do you believe in the "End Times", do you believe in the virgin birth, do you believe God hates gay people, is the Rock in Mecca a meteorite, is Islam a religion of peace, etc. Some people get mad at him, some kick him and his crew off their property, some try to answer his questions. Some do a better job at answering his questions than others.

There was nothing really revelational about this. No new questions, no new answers, no surprises.

Interestingly enough, two of the most rational people were Catholic priests. Both had a very modern and liberal interpretation of the scripture. One was head of The Vatican Observatory. (Yes, the Vatican has an observatory) He stated clearly that the Catholic Church agrees with the scientific evidence that the world is round, that it is billions of years old, and that life evolved from common ancestors. He says that the mission of the observatory is to find verifiable truth... not to find the Aliens and baptise them before the Methodists get their hands on them.

The other priest was a representative of The Vatican who agreed wholeheartedly that The Vatican itself (the building) is pompous, and obviously antithetical to the teachings of Christ. He agreed that Adam and Eve stories, Heaven and Hell stories, and worship of saints are stupid ideas. He even said that there was a pole in Italy where they asked people who they pray to when they need help or guidance, and of all the saints and angels and the like, Jesus Christ was SIXTH on the list.

Also, the guy who plays Jesus in the Florida Theme Park was actually very well schooled in bible theology and was able to come up with somewhat reasonable answers to all of Bill's questions. Bill sort of admitted that to the camear while driving away in the car... but still said that his answers were bullshit. I think that was a cheap shot on Bill's part, getting in the last word without Jesus dude there to answer the challenge.

Soooo... see it if you like Bill Mahr and find his humor entertaining. But you probably want to wait for cable. Or don't see it, you won't be any more or less enlightened.

And finally SPOILER ALERT !!! Don't read any further if you don't want to know the funniest part of the movie....

So Bill goes to Amsterdam to speak to a guy who's religion is Canibas worship. The guy actually says he does not worship Canibas, but uses it to have a religious expirience. The whole interview takes place in a groovy looking den with low lights, comfy pillows, and lots of candles. During the interview they light up and get toasty high (not a surprise, Mahr is open about his pot smoking). You can totally tell that they are both toasty. So Bill does challenge the guy about the religious conotations to getting high. Then all of the sudden Bill screams "Look out, you're head's on fire". For a split second you think he's messing with the guy, but really, this stoned dude leaned back to far and his hair had caught on fire from the candles.

Life on Mars

No, not a news flash... I'm talking about the TV show.

For some reason, I'm completely fascinated by this show, even though it's a pile of crap sitting on another pile of crap. The plot is simple enough, although it makes absolutely no sense. A modern day NYC police officer, Sam, gets hit by a car while tracking a serial killer. He instantly wakes up in 1973, still a cop in the same precinct... but with groovy clothes. He's still the same age, he's just transplanted 35 years into the past.

He may be lying in the hospital in 2008, and this is all a psychological apparition... but that's not entirely clear. Certain phrases and memories of his modern life keep manifesting themselves in his 1973 life. Also he has glimpses of modern things, like a remote control model of a Mars Rover which he catches out of the corner of his eye, but then disappears.

So, assuming this makes any kind of sense, it should now be a hard boiled "Quinn Martin" type cop show set in 1973. Sort of Dirty Harry meets The Streets of San Francisco in New York. Or, is it a comedy where we get to goof on how silly the fashions and trends were back in the 70s? Or is it a Sci-Fi time travel story? Well they seem to be trying to do all these things at once... and it doesn't work. The cops are stereotypes of the hard boiled 70's mentality, using brutality, planting evidence, making their own rules. There are two famous actors playing cops... the Lieutenant is played by Harvey Keitel, and one of the cops is played by Michael Imperioli of Sopranos fame ("Christafuh").

My biggest problem is w/ Keitel's character, who is such a stereotype... always drinking from a flask, always punching people in the stomach (first thing he does when he meets Sam is punches him in the gut to show who's in charge). But in this episode they have a silly fight where they sort of "bond" by beating each other up. It was just silly... even set to hokey music... so it takes away any semblance of a serious hard hitting show. The only thing that possibly makes this acceptable is that these characters AREN'T REAL... they're just some aspect of Sam's psyche... what he projects onto the 1970's. In which case, I guess un-realistic and inconsistent characterization is actually OK. Or is it? I don't know, I'm just sooo confused.

Of course Sam is dumbfounded, and is still getting used to life without cell phones, or computers, or DNA testing, or any of the modern CSI techniques available. (e.g. "We should have the finger print reports back in four or five weeks, and we'll go from there.")

So why am I bothering with this show? Well it's only the second episode so far, but from a technical point of view, they did some AMAZING work at recreating NYC in 1973. The black and white cop cars w/ the single flashing light on top, the uniforms (including the Police Woman uniform), the cars, the buses, the street lights, the store fronts, the clothes, the old radios... every single detail is spot on. I have no idea how they did it... maybe a sound stage in Canada... but they actually re-built 1973. It may be the ONLY thing this show got right... but boy they got THAT right.

And finally, the show is called "Life On Mars" which was a sweet dreamy David Bowie song, and that tune is a recurring theme in the show. And they keep featuring other songs from that bygone era which peek my attention. No, not Led Zeppelin or The Rolling Stones which you might still hear on the radio today, but The Sweet's "Little Willy Won't Go Home" and Mott the Hoople's "All The Way to Memphis". Stuff that was huge for like six weeks back in 1973 and was never to be heard again.

I'll provide some links to the tunes... also on their official web site they have a "Life on Mars Radio" which streams some tunes from the show. I haven't checked it out yet, but I'll let you know.

So I can't recomend this show, but I will probably keep watching until it gets canceled, which might be in a few weeks. Enjoy these videos anyway...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The SciFi Boys

I just watched a a documentary called "The SciFi Boys" and I highly recommend it.
Click for IMDB

It covers the field of special effects in the movies through interviews with some of the most accomplished creators of this generation. It is held together through some common themes. Most importantly is the fact that all of the effects wizards, as young boys, were fans of a magazine called "Famous Monsters of Filmland" which was produced by a man named Forrest Ackerman, or known to his readers as Uncle Forry. This gave a voice to the SciFi special effects world with articles about directors, producers, and even makeup artists from the Monster Movie genera. It had a letters page and a section in the back which published photos from the fans who were making their own movies with their mom's 8mm cameras. To a large extent, the film is a tribute to Uncle Forry.

The interviews are great, but even better are the examples of some of the works these geniuses were making as kids. Eventually the primitive works of these children would blossom into Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Terminator, and all the rest.

Being that these people were kids in the late 50s and 60s, they were inspired by the likes of King Kong and all the Ray Harihousen films. As such, much of the content is from that era.

My only issue with the film is that it was hyped as staring George Lucas and Steven Speilberg, while these guys only have about 45 seconds of screen time each. Peter Jackson does have a large part, though. But mostly it's about the hands on technicians who really did the innovative work. It's not a technical "how to" movie, but it does take you into the minds and passions of the special effects artists.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Man Who Saved the World

This is a great story I found last week.

The Man Who Saved the World

by Joel Durham Jr.
Oct. 2, 2008

Somehow it took more than twenty years to honor a man who saved us all.

If you were alive on September 26, 1983, when I was 12 years old, you almost didn't make it through the day. If you are too young to have lived that day, you were almost never born.

Accounts vary, as the facts of historical events often become jumbled over the years. What we believe we know for fact, if there is such a thing in history, is that there was a man in a bunker whose inaction saved the world from a full scale nuclear war. His name is Stanislav Petrov, he was a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defence Forces.

The Soviets, whose scientists were considered extremely honorable and elite human beings, had recently put into place a new system to detect missile launches—first strike type missile launches. The system was largely untested, but with the arms race constantly escalating during the paranoid time of the Cold War, there wasn't always time for second guessing. The Soviet Union and the United States were both desperately keen on keeping the upper hand—as well as maintaining the sickening notion of "mutually assured destruction." MAD. The most appropriate acronym ever in all of history.

Lieutenant Petrov was in a bunker monitoring for what every Soviet feared: a US first strike. To his surprise, it happened. A missile. Another. More. A total, according to some accounts, of five nuclear warheads were dashing toward the Soviet Union.

There were protocols to follow. There were buttons to push. There were launch officers to alert—the only appropriate response to a US first strike was full scale retaliation. As hundreds of Soviet missiles filled the air, the US would have countered with everything it had.

The survivors would be the unlucky ones.

Against Protocol

But Petrov realized something with that new detection system was faulty. His training had taught him that if the United States launched on the Soviet Union, it would launch a massive, devastating barrage. Five missiles did not make sense. The tech, in Petrov's quick and ultimately accurate judgment, was failing.

Petrov didn't push any buttons. He didn't follow protocol. What he did, to save my life and yours and the rest of the world population, was nothing.

He did file a report. According to some accounts, he was to be honored by the Soviet government, but the lobby of scientists realized that such an honor for Petrov would, by proxy, cause a dishonor of the scientists who created the faulty detection system.

So whoever had the power to do so made it all go away. Petrov was reassigned. The launch detection system was repaired. Everything that happened was classified. The man who saved the world left the military on early retirement and quietly settled down with no fanfare.

In 1998, another man who'd been in the bunker with Petrov, Yuriy Vsyevolodich Votintsev, published his memoirs. Word of Petrov's cool headed, nearly action-free heroism finally became known to the world. He's received honors and awards from groups like the Association of World Citizens and even the UN, and there's evidently an independent film about his (in)action that saved us all.

Of course, accounts differ. Some military experts of the former Soviet Union claim that a single man could not start or stop a nuclear war. The militaries of both the US and the USSR had too many checks and balances. Still, it's hard not to shudder if you imagine that Petrov had done what he was supposed to do and reported the launch to his superiors as the faulty detection system evidenced, and the non-event escalated into, well, let's not think about it anymore.

Twenty five years ago last week, a Soviet lieutenant took no action and quite possibly saved us all. When you think of your heroes, remember Stanislav Petrov.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ah sweet justice

Richard Fuld punched in face in Lehman Brothers gym

Richard Fuld, the disgraced head of Lehman Brothers, was punched in the face in the office gym amid the bank's collapse.

By Jon Swaine
Last Updated: 9:14AM BST 07 Oct 2008

Mr Fuld, who has been testifying on the financial crisis before the US House Oversight Committee, was attacked on a Sunday shortly after it was announced that the banking giant was bankrupt.

Following rumours that the incident had occurred, Vicki Ward, a US journalist, said "two very senior sources - one incredibly senior source" had confirmed it to her. "He went to the gym after ... Lehman was announced as going under," she told CNBC. "He was on a treadmill with a heart monitor on. Someone was in the corner, pumping iron and he walked over and he knocked him out cold.

"And frankly after having watched [Mr Fuld's testimony to the committee], I'd have done the same too."

"I thought he was shameless ... I thought it was appalling. He blamed everyone ... He blamed everybody but himself."

Lehman Brothers, which was particularly badly hit by "toxic" mortgage debt, filed for bankruptcy last month. Its assets were later bought up by Barclays.

In a robust performance in front of the committee, Mr Fuld said that he would wonder "until they put me in the ground" why the US government had not rescued the 158-year-old firm. He said that regulators were fully aware of its plight well before its collapse.

Mr Fuld said: "I want to be very clear. I take full responsibility for the decisions that I made and for the actions that I took based on the information that we had at the time."

However he faced angry questioning from the committee's members. Henry Waxman, a Democrat, asked: "Your company is now bankrupt, our economy is in crisis, but you get to keep $480 million (£276 million). I have a very basic question for you, is this fair?"

Mr Fuld said that he had in fact taken about $300 million (£173 million) in pay and bonuses over the past eight years.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Biggest Bailout in US History is Passed

It's official... signed, sealed, and delivered. Did it save the US economy, or did it ruin us with additional debt? History will be the judge.

Congress OKs historic bailout bill; Bush signs it

By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and DAVID ESPO, Associated Press Writers 5 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - With the economy on the brink and elections looming, Congress approved an unprecedented $700 billion government bailout of the battered financial industry on Friday and sent it to President Bush who quickly signed it.

"We have acted boldly to help prevent the crisis on Wall Street from becoming a crisis in communities across our country," Bush said shortly after the vote, although he conceded, "our economy continues to face serious challenges."

Underscoring that somber warning, the Dow Jones industrials, up more than 200 points at the time of the House vote, had fallen into negative territory an hour later. They fluctuated as the afternoon wore on.

The final vote, 263-171 in the House, capped two weeks of tumult in Congress and on Wall Street, punctuated by daily warnings that the country confronted the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression if lawmakers failed to act. There were 58 more votes for the measure than an earlier version that failed on Monday.

"We all know that we are in the midst of a financial crisis," House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said shortly before casting his vote for a massive government intervention in private capital markets that was unthinkable only a month ago.

"And we know that if we do nothing, this crisis is likely to worsen and to put us into an economic slump like most of us have never seen," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the bill was needed to "begin to shape the financial stability of our country and the economic security of our people."

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson pledged to begin using his new authority quickly, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank would work closely with the administration.

Wall Street welcomed the action, but investors also were buffeted by a bad report on the job market. The Labor Department said employers slashed 159,000 jobs in September, the largest cut in five years and further evidence of a sinking economy.

At its core, the bill gives the Treasury Department $700 billion to purchase bad mortage-related securities that are weighing down the balance sheets of institutions that hold them. The flow of credit in the U.S. economy has slowed, in some cases drying up, threatening the ability of businesses to conduct routine operations or expand, and adversely affecting consumers seeking financing for mortgages, cars and student loans. Some state governments have also experienced difficulty borrowing money.

The House vote marked a sharp change from Monday, when an earlier measure was sent down to defeat, largely at the hands of angry conservative Republicans. A total of 33 Democrats and 25 Republicans switched from opposition to support. Several of the Democrats were members of the Congressional Black Caucus who said presidential candidate Barack Obama had pledged to support legislation easing the burden on consumers if he wins the White House.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain also lobbied for the measure, according to aides who declined to release a list of lawmakers he called.

Following Monday's vote, Senate leaders quickly took custody of the measure, adding on $110 billion in tax and spending provisions designed to attract additional support, then grafting on legislation mandating broader mental health coverage in the insurance industry. The revised measure won Senate approval Wednesday night, 74-25, setting up a furious round of lobbying in the House as the administration, congressional leaders, the major party presidential candidates and outside groups joined forces behind the measure.

In addition, the measure was changed to broaden the federal government's deposit insurance program, and the Securities and Exchange Commission loosened a regulation to ease the impact of the distressed assets on the balance sheet of financial institutions.

Despite occasionally strong criticism of the added spending and tax measures, the maneuvers worked — augmented by a sudden switch in public opinion that occurred after the stock market took its largest-ever one-day dive on Monday.

"No matter what we do or what we pass, there are still tough times out there. People are mad — I'm mad," said Republican Rep. J. Gresham Barrett of South Carolina, who opposed the measure the first time it came to a vote. Now, he said, "We have to act. We have to act now."

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., another convert, said, "I have decided that the cost of doing nothing is greater than the cost of doing something."

Critics were unrelenting.

"How can we have capitalism on the way up and socialism on the way down," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, a leader among conservative Republicans who oppose the central thrust of the legislation — an unprecedented federal intervention into the private capital markets.

It was little more than two weeks ago that Paulson and Bernanke concluded that the economy was in such danger that a massive government intervention in the private markets was essential.

White the main thrust of their initial proposal was unchanged, lawmakers insisting on greater congressional supervision over the $700 billion, measures to protect taxpayers and steps to crack down on so-called "golden parachutes" that go to corporate executives whose companies fail.

Earlier in the week, the legislation was altered to expand the federal insurance program for individual bank deposits, and the Securities and Exchange Commission took steps to ease the impact of the questionable mortgage-backed securities on financial institutions.

In the moments before the vote, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, pledged "serious surgery" next year to address the underlying causes of the crisis.

If anything, the economic news added to the sense of urgency.

The Labor Department said initial claims for jobless benefits had increased last week to the highest level since the gloomy days after the 2001 terror attacks. The news of the payroll cuts came on top of Thursday's Commerce Department report that factory orders in August plunged by 4 percent.

Typifying arguments the problem no longer is just a Wall Street issue but also one for Main Street, lawmakers from California and Florida said their state governments were beginning to experience trouble borrowing funds for their own operations.

Pelosi said, "We must win it for Mr. and Mrs. Jones on Main Street."

One month before Election Day, the drama unfolded in an intensely political atmosphere.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus credited Obama with changing their minds.

Reps. Elijah Cummings and Donna Edwards, both Maryland Democrats, were among them. They said Obama had pledged if he wins the White House that he would help homeowners facing foreclosure on their mortgages. He also pledged to support changes in the bankruptcy law to make it less burdensome on consumers.

Obama's rival, Republican Sen. McCain, announced a brief suspension in his campaign more than a week ago to try and help solve the financial crisis.

Republican Rep. Sue Myrick of North Carolina, who switched her vote to favor the measure, said, "I may lose this race over this vote, but that's OK with me. This is the right vote for the country."

The vote on Monday had staggered the congressional leadership and contributed to the largest one-day stock market drop in history, 778 points as measured by the Dow Jones Industrials.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Jousing in Fort Tryon

I took a walk up to Fort Tryon Park this afternoon to see if I could catch the tail end of the medieval festival. I got there at 4pm and was in plenty of time to see some fun entertainment. Lots of people in costumes, Irish folk singers on the flat bed truck (No Nay Never !!! No Nay Never No MOOOORE !!!), a fenced off area where a falconer had his birds on perches w/ the hoods over their eyes (and a couple of dachshund dogs scurrying around to scare off stray birds I guess), even a guy strumming his guitar singing Irish shanties near the food line.

I got to the main jousting area in time to see the end of one act... a funny exhibition of tortures and executions. They had a guy on a bed of nails, and they put a melon on his chest and sliced it in pieces w/ a sword... and the swordsman was blindfolded at the time.

Next up was a Pipe and Drum team who should have played a lot more... they just marched around the area once... took about 3 minutes. Then out came a Celtic dance team of about 7 lasses. Very graceful and lovely in their period costumes and rings of flowers in their hair. Funny thing was before the act, I saw one of them walking along the path signaling to the sound man that she's got something... there she was in full costume at waving her iPod w/ the RCA cables attached. A bit of an illusion breaker, but what the hell... it's NYC after all.

And then finally the main event... the Joust. Oh, but no... that had to wait until a bunch of MORONS in suits got up to the podium to give their thank you speeches, thanking the Mayor (who was not there), the local council members, the parks department chief, etc etc etc. At least four people came up to prattle on to a crowd that just wanted to see the horses. One jackass started telling stupid medieval riddles... "Where to you park your camels? Camelot. Why was King Arthur's table round? So nobody could back him into a corner." Yeah... it was THAT BAD. And it wasn't one or two jokes, this guy kept it up for five minutes.

Finally the joust got under way. I'm glad to see that Professional Wrestling was alive and well back in the middle ages. The balsa wood lances all split according to plan, the bad guy snuck up on the good guy and whacked him across the back w/ a big stick, and finally the good guys triumphed in the end. The whole joust, including target whacking and ring catching, didn't take more than 20 minutes... but it was enough action for everybody to see what they needed to see in a joust.

It was a bit awkward at the end, as the horses are trotting out, and all the actors are leaving, a few actors came out and did a bit of a fight that didn't seem to fit in w/ the rest of the show. It was cool though... a young female swordsman was fighting a heavy guy who looked like a dark wizard. He was in black, w/ a black cape and an evil looking armor helm. He blocked and parried her attacks with the help of his shield, but finally she got him in the gut. But before he went down for the count, he "used the force" to throw her backward, and was about to go in for his own crushing blow when another young swordsman jumped in and took him out. Then two more poeple came out and said they would take him prisoner and everybody walked off the field. It was soo wierd, because there were "squires" packing up the lances and the jousting grear all over the place, as if the show was over... and they were not even acknowledging this wizard/swordsman battle right next to them.

So.... all in all it was a great two hours in the park. Luckily there was no more than a quick drizzle of rain while I was there.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Just finished Matt Ruff's book, "Set This House in Order". I did not like it as much as his other three books, " Sewer, Gas, @ Electric ", " Bad Monkeys ", and Fool on the Hill ". The main character in this book has multiple personalities. I have always found this topic fascinating. In this book, rather than try to reintergrate the various personalities into one dominant primary one the character has opted to create a house in his mind where the souls can dwell together if not happily, than at least peacefully. It was written well enough, but the story never really gelled. The complexities and pain of this disorder is dealt with, but often it seems plot driven, and occasionally in a facile manner. It wasn't a bad book, but not as good as his other ones.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Marriage/Relationship In Trouble? Get A DVR!

Well J-man told me that his DVR and the toothpaste tube with the built in cap saved his marriage.

Study: DVRs save relationships

By Andrew Wallenstein

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Digital video recorders don't just save TV shows, according to a new survey; they save relationships.

Some 79 percent of 1,000 DVR owners reported that the technology has improved their relationship, according to the NDS DVR Report.

The statistic was just one of many presented by NDS, a manufacturer of DVR technology, suggesting the machines are becoming increasingly integral in U.S. households.

For instance, DVRs were cited as the second most essential household technology item they can't live without, second only to the mobile phone. Among non-technological household items, DVR was beaten out only by washing machine and microwave oven.

"The results show how fast the DVR has become an indispensable part of many people's lives in the US," said Steve Tranter, vice president, broadband and interactive delivery, NDS Americas. "It's one of those technologies that, once you use it, it makes you wonder how you coped before."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I cannot recommend the show Penn & Teller's Bullshit enough.
Not only is it really informative, it's really funny. If you don't have HBO or Showtime or whatever the hell it's on, go to
and pick one...anyone. I just watched the show on Global Warming and it was fascinating, as usual. Oh, and really, really vulgar. Penn curses up a storm. Very funny as well. One of my top 5 favorite shows, just because nothing is sacred, which I appreciate.

Raising The Bar

Can we PLEASE raise the bar on the courtroom drama? If you listen carefully, I think you can actually hear Perry Mason crying.

OK I admit it. I'm a fan of the courtroom drama genera, and I like most of Steve Bochco's work, so I had to give this one a look see for myself.

Gag... barf... puke... spit... choke...

Even this cutie Latina doesn't scratch the surface of making this show watchable.

If you really need an explanation, it's a re-hash of the old and tired LA Law theme, except set in New York and DUMBED DOWN... which is a feat in itself. The characters are all stereotypes... the selfish judge (played by Malcolm in the Middle's mom), the corrupt District Attorney who will do anything for a win, the young good looking lawyers who are starry eyed and naive and are disheartened by the corrupt system... which is apparently run by Cruella DeVille and The Heat Miser.

One young lawyer is willing to be put in jail for contempt of court while the judge and DA swear that if his client wasn't guilty of this, he must have been guilty of something else. Oh yeah... and all the pretty lawyers are fucking. And then the zinger... the evil judge's handsome clerk is also her boy toy... but unknown to everybody... he's gay. OH THE IRONY !!!

At least LA Law, The Practice, and the Law and Order shows would explore some interesting legal concepts in a gray world... not this one. All is black and white, the evil are running the asylum and the pretty young lawyers are the innocent inmates. Hell at least Boston Legal is self spoofing. And even they tackle some real issues that have some ambiguity. But this show seems to be taking itself seriously.

Damn, I even liked Zack-boy when he was on NYPD Blue, but now he's working with scripts that make Saved by the Bell look like William Fucking Shakespeare.

... and now with his douchebag hipster hair cut... all I can say is sorry dude... so sorry for that credibility you were trying to muster...

"He may be arrogant and abrasive... but he's a DAMN good lawyer !!!"


Flee... don't watch... delete... erase... do what you have to do... just MISS THIS SHOW !!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Big Brother squashes free speech

And Obama isn't even in office yet.

Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.

Police on the scene refused to tell ABC lawyers the charges against the producer, Asa Eslocker, who works with the ABC News investigative unit.

A cigar-smoking Denver police sergeant, accompanied by a team of five other officers, first put his hands on Eslocker’s neck, then twisted the producer’s arm behind him to put on handcuffs…Video taken at the scene shows a man, wearing the uniform of a Boulder County sheriff, ordering Eslocker off the sidewalk in front of the hotel, to the side of the entrance.

The sheriff’s officer is seen telling Eslocker the sidewalk is owned by the hotel. Later, he is seen pushing Eslocker off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, forcing him to the other side of the street.

A police official later told lawyers for ABC News that Eslocker is being charged with trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order. He also said the arrest followed a signed complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel.

During the arrest, one of the officers can be heard saying to Eslocker, “You’re lucky I didn’t knock the f..k out of you.”

Eslocker and his ABC News colleagues are spending the week investigating the role of corporate lobbyists and wealthy donors at the convention for a series of Money Trail reports on ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson.”

Here's the video
Here's the article

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

For Better or Worse comic strip reboot

I suppose this has been done in comic books, at least to an extent. But this is an interesting event for a syndicated comic strip.

Lynn Johnston's Drawn-Out Adiu to Cartooning

'For Better or for Worse' Starts Over

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 27, 2008; Page C01

Cartoonist Lynn Johnston can't bring herself to abandon her fictional family. For years, the "For Better or for Worse" creator mulled retirement, then lightened her workload by creating flashbacks and repurposing the archives of her popular comic. Finally, she knew she needed to conclude the Patterson family's 29-year saga.

his Sunday's cartoon is an adieu of sorts to readers, but not a final farewell. She announced this month that she would retell her strip's narrative, beginning Monday, by taking her continually aging characters back to 1979, but creating new artwork and some dialogue. Her syndicate says it's the first time a mainstream cartoonist has set out to tell the same story twice.

What the reflective Johnston, 60, realized was that after decades of her identity and creativity and livelihood being linked to a comic strip, she wasn't ready to give it up.

"It's in your blood -- it's part of your life. I don't want to quit being a cartoonist," Johnston says by phone from her Toronto studio. "It's tough to put it down -- you still think of gags. And at the same time, I knew I'd be looking at material that I'd want to improve."

She will keep scrawling dialogue into a pad, keep inking her fluid lines, keep living in the intricate world of her characters. But this is not life as she would have drawn it up.

"I thought I would now be a retired woman with my Tilley hat and sitting on a cruise ship and going to the Galapagos," Johnston says. But that was before the recent dissolution of her 32-year marriage to the man many readers chose to see as John Patterson's inspiration and doppelganger.

"I really wanted to be happy as a couple and make everything right, but things became more stressful. . . . It made me look again at my career."

Which is why, on Sunday, the strip's fans will read Johnston's heartfelt salute as she comes to the endpoint of her characters' lives. (In the final chapter, for example, the original Patterson kids, Michael and Elizabeth, will forever remain grown and married.)

And which is why, on Monday, the strip will time-travel back to 1979 and do it all over again, but with new drawings, new conversations, new wrinkles. (And in some cases, fewer wrinkles -- John and Elly Patterson will return to parenting tykes.)

"It's going back to the beginning when Michael and Elizabeth were very young," Johnston says of the approach, which she is dubbing "new-runs." "I'm going back to do it how it should have been done. . . . I'm beginning with all this knowledge, so it's a much more comprehensive beginning. I only have an insular world of characters [from 1979] to work with."

As far as Johnston knows, "new-runs" -- in which a strip's continual story line is retold -- have never been attempted by a syndicated cartoonist ("Nobody has done it before -- most people die or the strip ends," she says).

"All of September will be brand-new material," Johnston explains. "In October, it will be [a ratio of] 50-50. The color Sunday comics will be all-new material. . . . I think it will be 50-50 for the first year, at least."

More info here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Another canonical installment in the Star Wars saga is in the theaters now. This one is 100% computer generated imagery. The images are great, although pretty much what you expect to see in a decent modern video game... at least in the intros and cut scenes.

It seems to take place somewhere between episode 2 and 3, where Anikan is still a good guy and is still partnered up with Obi Wan. Duku is still alive and Palpatine is still big man in the senate. Yoda deems that it's about time that Anikan get's his own padawan.

There's plenty of action to keep you on the edge of your seat, including some tech warfare, light saber duels, kidnapping, and deception. The plot is good, in a juvenile Star Wars kind of way. There are appearences from lots of your favorite characters and races, as well as lots of cool ships and vehicles. No Wookies, Jar-Jar creatures, or Ewoks... though there are Jawas. Lots of little details are completely consistent within the existing framework.

Must see for Star Wars fans.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Okay I made it. At least I think I did. Gosh this is so exciting. Just read Matt Ruff's " Bad Monkeys ". It's would be hard to type this book, but it could be called SF in the vein of Vonnegut, with some cyber punk sensiblities. The premise is a woman who is in a police interview cell being held for the crime of murder. She is being examined by a psychologist due to her claims that she works for an super secret organization that kills evil people. It proceeds in flashbacks as she tells how she first came to their attention and was later recruited. As the story proceeds the examiner uses records to show that events she has recounted either did not happen or happened in different ways that would support why she would create such a delusion in the first place so you don't know what to believe as she claims that the organization has the power to alter public records. It's a real page turner and not a long novel. I reccomend it. I'm also reading " The Judgement of Paris ", which describes itself as an account of the revolutionary decade that created impressionism. It's very readable and fleshes out the bare bone textbook paragraphs that you might be familar with. It gives a good feel for the people and politics in Paris and France at the time, and Emperor Napolean 3. If this is a topic that you're into this is a good book.

Tax Credit ?

Here's a note I just got from Newegg.com:

Dear Valued Newegg Customer,

As a result of recent changes in New York State tax law requiring certain out-of-state retailers to collect and remit sales taxes to the State of New York, we began collecting applicable sales tax for all orders shipped to New York addresses starting June 1, 2008.

After careful review and consideration, we are pleased to inform you that we have stopped collecting New York sales tax, effective August 21, 2008. This decision was driven by your direct and candid feedback and our continued commitment to you as our valued customers.

We appreciate your patience as we worked through this process, and would like to reiterate our commitment in offering our customers the broadest product selection, competitive pricing, fastest shipping, and award-winning customer service.

We look forward to continuing to provide you with the premier online shopping experience for all of your IT and consumer electronics needs.


Bernard Luthi
Company Spokesperson and
Vice President of Merchandising

Disclaimer: While Newegg no longer charges sales tax to its New York customers effective August 21, 2008, you may still have an obligation to pay New York State use tax on your purchases. Newegg cannot offer you any tax advice, so please refer to applicable law if you have any questions about use tax. Nothing in this email shall be deemed to approve the validity of any New York State law, including but not limited to section 1101(b)(8)(vi) of the New York State Tax Law, which purports to require Newegg to collect and remit New York State sales tax on its sales to residents of that state.

Hoisted by their own petard?

What's a petard anyway?

Whatever it is, it seems that at least one food manufacturer is getting some poetic justice. There is a note posted at all the registers in my local supermarket stating that the 14.5 ounce jar of Skippy peanut butter, recently downsized, is not approved by WIC. So in an attempt to save money, apparently Skippy cut off a portion of their business, namely those using food stamps.

It's also interesting to note that, apparently, there are some checks on the use of food stamps since the store is enforcing the edict.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Two Movie Reviews

Here are a couple of movie reviews for you. This time I'm staying in the art house.

I recently saw two classic foreign films, Solaris and Wild Strawberries. Both had English subtitles.

Solaris is a Russian SciFi flick from the sixties. It was a drudging 3 hours long. Lots of time was taken up by shots which establish imagery rather than move the plot along. There are scenes of landscapes, flowers, a fish pond, and one pretty cool scene (about 5 or 6 minutes) showing the point of view of a guy driving a car through from the countryside into a Russian city. Longs scenes of going through tunnels and under concrete overpasses, with buildings in the background. I believe this was to establish "modern" Russia as a futuristic landscape.

The actual story was sort of reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Russian scientists find some sort of intelligent life force in space. It looks like a vast ocean. They establish a space station nearby to study it. As people go near the "ocean", live beings comprised of unstable neutrinos are created from their memories. These beings look like their dead wives or children or some other creepy memory. It generally causes madness or suicide.

The imagery could be described as "groovy", but falls short of "psychedelic". The plot was slow moving, and might have been depressing if you cared about the characters... which I didn't. There is a "Planet of the Apes" mind blower at the end, but probably not worth the wait to get to it. I'd give this one a "miss".

On the other hand, Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries was depressing surrealism done right. It's a stroll though the life of an elder Swedish professor who is receiving a prestegious award from a university. Because of a foreboding dream, he decides to take an all day road trip to the university instead of taking the quick flight. Taking along his daughter in law, and picking up a few hitch hikers on the way, his past and present are revealed through conversations and day dreams.

This is only the second Ingmar Bergman film I have seen, but it is clear to me that he was a genius in the art of film making. His movies are filled with angst, tension, and awesome imagery done with simple lighting and camera work. As boring as the plot may sound, it is captivating, and at times humorous.

I give this one a "see".

OK, apparently I'm illiterate. I just spent some time correcting my spelling errors and rewording this post as I'm not sure who will be reading it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Longest Journey Begins with a Single Step

Hello World !

OK, maybe not the most original thought, but it is a traditional one. And who am I to scoff at tradition?

The plan is to see if we can get this blog up and running with multiple people adding content, and allowing the general public to comment.

Right now I have no expectations whatsoever, so if anything comes out of this... anything at all... I will have surpassed my goals.