The winter of 2015

Not as much snow as our northern friends, but no less beautiful...

The artwork of Cameron Hobbs

A young artist to watch out for.

Tammy the Pup approves of new look!

Semi-psychotic pooch gives two paws-up to The Knight Shift's overhaul.

Movies I've Never Seen: THE BIG LEBOWSKI

"It really tied the room together."

Catherine Rose: genius, pioneer, mother

A story of love, creativity, and perfect timing.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fini

This blog is closing down. Possibly for good.

I can no longer afford, at the present time, to maintain it as actively as I would like.

Long story short; my personal life has become a shamble.

I have hurt a lot of people. Including those closest to me.

I was so busy fighting the big battles, that I neglected to fight the ones that matter most.

I became so engaged in trying to serve God, that I forgot how to seek God.

It has cost me more than I have every lost in my life.

I am now in a very dark place. The darkest that I have ever been in.

I can't run from that.

I can't go into another room and pretend that it is not there. I must own up to it.

I have destroyed a lot of peoples belief and trust in me. And I would do anything to get it back. I don't know if that is possible.

The only thing that I know to do, all that is left to me, is to come before God as a broken and humilated man, ask Him for mercy and grace, and pray that He will guide in rebuilding my life.

Perhaps in time, the restoration that I have literally begged for will come. And if not, then I must pray for strength to move forward. According to His will, what ever that may be.

To those I have hurt; I am sorry. This was my fault. I was not as strong as I should have been. I can't ask for your forgiveness this time. I have to earn it. I like to believe that already God has shown me the away to begin doing that.

No matter what happens, I will still love you all.

To everyone who has visited this blog over the past five years; Thank You. I hope that your time here was entertaining, edifying, and maybe even educational. Maybe someday we can do this again.

God Bless, and Farewell.

Friday, September 12, 2008

This blog just got a visitor from Galveston, Texas

Whoever you are, I hope we have the pleasure of meeting someday.

But until then, get the flying f--- out of there.

(In case nobody has heard the news, authorities are telling people who for whatever reason choose to stay behind to write their names and Social Security numbers on their arms with Sharpies, so that the bodies/parts can be identified later.)

The integrated circuit is 50 years old today

Fifty years ago today Jack Kilby, an engineer at Texas Instruments, demonstrated what is today known as the first microchip. It wasn't much to look at (click on the picture on the left): some circuitry etched in a germanium medium, sandwiched between glass. But Kilby's little gimmick not only worked beautifully, it ended up revolutionizing the world. Everything from the computer on your desk to the television in your living room to the iPod in your pocket has a heart of silicon that is a lineal descendant of this odd blob of materials.

Click here for Custom PC's story commemorating the occasion of the integrated circuit's birth.

Running gas prices update post

In an update to the earlier story, a friend has told me that gas is now just over $7 not far over the line in South Carolina. Which makes it all the more interesting considering that South Carolina's gas tax is lower than North Carolina's and a lot of people along the border fill their cars up there if they can.

I'll be adding on more prices as they come in.

I don't believe at this point that this has anything to do with Ike, and everything to do with over-zealous speculation.

EDIT 6:13 p.m. EST: Fox 8 WGHP is reporting that most gas stations in Greensboro are now out of fuel. Average price seems to be about $3.90 in the area. The local Wal-Mart Supercenter just down the road from us in Rockingham County is tapped dry of juice.

A source has passed along word that the Colonial pipeline - which runs from Houston east and up the Piedmont region of the eastern seaboard, including through this area and on to New York City - is now operating at less than half of its usual capacity.

Four bucks and up for regular gas in Raleigh at this hour

A trusted source in the Raleigh/Durham area here in North Carolina called to let me know that the price of regular gasoline there is now $4.89, with premium at more than five bucks and a lot of stations limiting purchases to ten gallons. It's also been reported that at many stations the cars are lined up to the streets.

Also, I'm now hearing that this now how gas is going for this afternoon in Greensboro (about a half-hour south of where we are) and that some stations have already run out of the precious juice.

(If you're one of this blog's many foreign readers, this is more or less related to Hurricane Ike in the Gulf of Mexico, although how much of this is serious distribution shortage and how much of this comes from speculators going nutzoid on the oil markets, is anyone's guess.)

I hope this doesn't turn into another thing like what this blog went through with Katrina three years ago. As I said the other week, I'm still burned-out from that experience...

EDIT 2:04 p.m. EST: WRAL is reporting that the state's price-gouging law is now in effect, and has this photo from a gas station in Zebulon illustrating how jacked-up the prices have become...

Y'all down in Texas are in our prayers today

Barring some meteorological miracle, Hurricane Ike is set to be one for the ages.

We've got a lot of friends and even some family down that way. Hope all of you in the path of the storm will be safe.

(By the way Jonathan, looks like you're going to get to experience a hurricane before your sister does :-)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

John McCain and Sarah Palin in APOCALIPSTICK NOW

Yeah, I had way too much time on my hands this evening...

With kindest regards to Bob Peak, who did the amazing poster for Apocalypse Now for its 1979 release.

Wish I could have found a pic of McCain with water dripping down his face, to match the effect of the original poster.

My belief on politics and religion in a nutshell

We do not need any more elected officials who believe that God is telling them to change the world.

What we need and cannot get enough of are elected officials who are letting God change them instead.

(And if more common folk would be willing to let God control them instead of trying to control the world for God, this would be a much happier place anyway...)

The September 11 Television Archive

NBC, September 11, 2001, from 8:31 am to 9:12 a.m. EST:

That's what I happened to have been watching that morning, after I turned on my TV following one of the most unforgettable phone calls I ever got from Mom.

I switched to the ABC affiliate in Asheville not long after. The moment that has most haunted me from that day begins at around 33 minutes in this clip.

"Oh my God..."

-- Peter Jennings, ABC News,
after the collapse of the second tower of the World Trade Center

The September 11 Television Archive - hosted by the terrific Internet Archive - has documented practically every moment of major network broadcast television from that horrific morning seven years ago today, stretching into the afternoon and evening of 9/11. If you want to study the events as they happened while they were being covered by NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN and the BBC, this should prove to be an immensely rich trove of information.

POPCORN SUTTON UPDATE: Sentencing delayed three months for famed moonshiner

World-renowned moonshiner and American folk hero Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton (shown at left, along with one of his finely-crafted distillation apparatuses) has had his sentencing delayed until December 15th in U.S. District Court in Greeneville, Tennessee.

Popcorn Sutton, you may recall, pleaded guilty in April following a raid by them meddlin' revenuers on his "likker makin'" operation in Cooke County, Tennessee. Widespread belief among Popcorn's many fans (and I consider myself one of them) is that if he had stuck with brewing the "white lightning" in his hometown of Maggie Valley, North Carolina, he would still be in operation today. Crossing the state line was a big mistake and now he's looking at a 15-year prison sentence and half-million dollar fine. Which is ridiculous because (a) Sutton is practicing a form of art that isn't necessarily immoral, and is deeply rooted in the heritage of Appalachia, and (b) if you know anything about Sutton's methods, you know his 'shine is probably the safest and cleanest to be found. No, I've never had the pleasure of touching the stuff... but ever since hearing about him a few years ago I've heard from plenty of folks who swear by his product.

It's just another example of a government too big for its britches, come to step on one of the darned few unique individuals still dotting the American landscape. I guess if it can't be bought at a Wal-Mart or can have a tax imposed on it, it is automatically prohibited.

The people who are prosecuting Popcorn don't have a clue. Here is America the way it used to be standing in their courtroom in a floppy hat and bib overalls... and they can't see that, they're so lost in their own elitism.

FREE POPCORN! And if you want to see the master in action, check out these videos on YouTube:

"Makin' Likker with Popcorn Sutton, Part 1"

"Makin' Likker with Popcorn Sutton, Part 2"

NOTE: The above photo of Popcorn Sutton is the property of Appalachian Traveller, used with permission.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gordon Freeman is at the Large Hadron Collider!

popgive.com found this photo of some scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (which began operation this morning and it's yet to destroy the world), including one in the group that bears a very striking resemblance to Gordon Freeman, the protagonist of the Half-Life video game series.

Just an odd coincidence, I'm sure. But if that guy shows up in any more photos and wielding a crowbar, it might be a good idea to stock up on some rations and shotguns.

Price Ueber Alles: School board member attacks Richard Moore, who is subsequently endorsed by Jeff Sykes (what the...?!)

I'm not going to even begin to attempt to recap everything that's taken place over almost two years now regarding Ron Price, the Rockingham County Board of Education member who stole all those campaign signs on the night before the 2006 election. Hit the above link if you want to know what's been going on.

I will say though, however belatedly, that very many people shared with me how ridiculous and even foolish it was when Price endorsed EVERY incumbent in this year's Board of Education election, including those who are going to be running against each other in the same district race.

Anyway, back to the issue at hand, which a lot of folks have been e-mailing me about...

This past Friday, Price used his blog to launch a scathing attack on Richard Moore, local bookstore owner and candidate for Rockingham County Board of Commissioners, who had previously been the target of a well-publicized lawsuit by Price. You may recall that Richard Moore and his wife tried to hold Price accountable for stealing the Brad Miller signs. Price filed a frivolous lawsuit (that I wound up being called in as a witness on, mostly to look at pictures of a Christmas parade... no I'm still not gonna bother with posting some links, look it up yourself) against the two and a few months later, since it was going to be laughed out of court anyway he dropped the whole thing.

Here's the full text of Ron Price's diatribe, since items on his blog have a tendency to get flushed down the "memory hole" on a regular basis...

Friday, September 05, 2008
Richard Moore

Editorial on Richard Moore, candidate for county commissioner: As we approach the 2008 Elections the importance is renewed that we consider all the factors associated with the candidates for office. Most of the candidates have many good qualifications for office that they have revealed to the Newspapers, during interviews and on TV appearances. However, there is one who stands out for concealing his platform and goals. Richard Moore is a perennial candidate, who tells the public nothing about his agenda for office. We do know from his previous actions at City Council meetings, County Commissioner meetings, School Board meetings and his published information that he offers little or nothing in the way of constructive ideas. He is a scoffer and a scorner, cynical of all local government agencies. He has revealed through his commentaries that he is highly prejudiced and a racist.

RM is a crass and vulgar person who creates acrimony, discord and derision. He subtly reveals that he is a promoter of decadence and pornography and if he is elected we could expect that he will promote these as a commissioner. If Rockingham County is to move ahead we need to elect those who will work constructively and in harmony with the public and elected officials. As with any individual the party to which a person belongs should not be the only criteria in determining ones vote. We need to verify that the person’s platform is in accord with the party platform and the values we personally want to promote.

posted by Ron Price | 12:54 PM

Richard Moore posted a response on his own website, The Tammytown Tattler...


DENIED, DISOWNED AND DISAVOWED
Guess who's not invited to the Rockingham County Republican Party Picnic. Hint: It's one of the candidates for County Commissioner who is running on the "diverse" Republican Party ticket. Here's the answer. Notice who appears in the photo in the upper left-hand corner of the page. Jeff Sykes occasionally appears on the page on the right side.

To: Tom Schoolfield
Rockingham County Republican Party Vice-Chair
Ref: Notice of television appearance and discussion

In fairness, I want to let you know I will be appearing on television one day next week to discuss Ron Price's editorial about how evil I am. I'm sure you've read it, it's located at ronprice.blogspot.com if you haven't. I'm hoping I can schedule my appearance between 6 and 7 PM on Wednesday Sept. 10 You need to let as many people as possible know about the show, especially local Republican Party stalwarts.

I will be appearing on WGSR, which is channel 5 on Time-Warner cable in Rockingham County. The program will also be shown in Henry, Pittsylvania, and Caswell counties, and on the internet at www.wgsr.tv Approximately 500,000 people are in the WGSR viewing area.

The majority of the show will be devoted to Mr. Price's editorial. However, in light of the fact that I have apparently been disowned by the Rockingham County Republican Party, I also intend to address that issue. I suspect Mr. Price and my banishment are connected and indeed I will raise that suggestion during the program. I tell you this because you and/or other local Republican party officials may want to call into the show to confirm or deny my suspicions, and/or defend your decision to disavow my candidacy.

Thanks for your consideration and I encourage you to watch the program. I believe it will have an impact on the November election and the Rockingham County Republican Party.

Richard Moore

Update: After a few days I finally heard from Tom Schoolfield. According to Mr. Schoolfield, the Rockingham County Republican Party executive committee decided not to invite me to the picnic because they had heard I dropped out of the race and that I had no interest in the Party's help. Schoolfield said Party Chairman Dan Zeller had called me many times, but I never returned any of his calls. Mr. Zeller might have considered using the U.S. Mail, or email, or smoke signals, or tried calling my home phone rather than calling my business number which has been unattended for 5-1/2 months while the BOOKSTORE was closed. Schoolfield indicated Ron Price's editorial screed was his own and that Price had not been assigned to be the local Republican Party's hatchet man. I will take Mr. Schoolfield at his word, but I can't think of anyone better than Ron Price to be a hatchet man for the Republican or any other party.

Notice to Ron Price: Ron, be sure to have your VCR warmed up and ready to record. It's going to be a show that you and your lawyer will want to watch many, many times. I've called my lawyer and he thinks this one will be a bases-loaded homerun for me

Yes, all of this involves infighting among fellow Republicans in Rockingham County, North Carolina. I'm almost tempted to scream out "APE HAS KILLED APE!"

Anyhoo, tonight at 6:30 Richard Moore went live on WGSR: a place that I've already told plenty enough people that I wouldn't set foot within again while Charles Roark is general manager even if I was dying of cancer and they were handing out free chemo in the studio. But because Moore was going on to address this latest in the Ron Price situation, I tuned in for that much.

Moore said that he supported Ron Price's freedom of speech (even though most of it is unfounded and could even be considered libel), and that as an elected official who took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, that Price should know better. I doubt that Price would take it to heart when he heard it (just as I've no doubt that Price and his lawyer Doug Hux were recording ever minute of it) but I thought that Moore's comments were exactly what needed to be said.

Then came the moment that I dont think anyone expected to happen...

Jeff Sykes - the former editor of the Reidsville Review who was fired following a "phony quotes" scandal, and who for over three years now has been known as the sworn enemy of Richard Moore - called in... and endorsed Richard Moore for county commissioner!!

I don't think it was a stunt at all. Sykes, at the very least, sounded sincere and serious and one thing he said during his conversation with Moore: that he had "matured" over time. And from where I was sitting, it did come across as a heartfelt thing to say.

Like I said: I don't think it was a stunt. And if Sykes has had a change of heart enough to do something like this, as hard as it might have been, then I won't be ashamed at all to say that his stock in my eyes has gone up considerably. He's shown a lot more capacity for growth and maturity than some people in this area have demonstrated (cough-cough charlesroarkjohnnyrobertson cough-cough...). It was definitely one of the stranger episodes of local politics that has happened in these parts.

So as of tonight: Republican Ron Price, who is on the school board, has published an editorial damning fellow Republican Richard Moore and calling on voters to disregard him at the polls, and then on live television Moore's longtime nemesis and also fellow Republican Jeff Sykes publicly endorses Moore for county commissioner.

Only in America...

Ron Paul says there's no difference between McCain and Obama

Today U.S. House member Ron Paul, who has been a candidate in this year's presidential election, called on voters to end the "charade" of the two party system and look to traditionally third parties for leadership, citing that there was no fundamental difference between Democrat candidate Barack Obama and Republican contestant John MCcain. Paul also announced that he had refused to endorse McCain, a fellow Republican.

From the CNN story...

Instead, Paul will give his seal of approval to four candidates: Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney, Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr, independent candidate Ralph Nader and Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin.

Paul said he's supporting the third-party candidates because the two major parties and media had "colluded" to avoid discussing issues and falsely presenting the difference between McCain and Obama as real.

"I've come to the conclusion, after having spent many years in politics, is that our presidential elections turn out to be more of a charade than anything else, and I think that is true today. It is a charade," he said.

Paul offered an open endorsement to the four candidates because each signed onto a policy statement that calls for "balancing budgets, bring troops home, personal liberties and investigating the Federal Reserve," an aide to the congressman said.

Paul said a strong showing by the third-party candidates would express the public's frustration with the current system.

"I have no doubt that the majority is on our side," Paul added, citing public opinion polls. "We represent the majority of the American people."

I don't doubt that. Most Americans do want solid principles and moral integrity in their public officials. But there are a myriad of obstacles that get in the way of people who are serious about serving others from doing so. Neither the Republican or Democrat party leaderships have an interest in allowing the truly selfless and competent from having a shot at high office... or low office for that matter. In fact, as the past few elections have demonstrated, the Republicans and Democrats prefer to have, well... idiots as their front-runners! They're the ones who promise to uphold the status quo the most, without "rocking the boat" too much. The corporate press? That's why it never gives any serious consideration or airtime to the third party candidates either: because it's grown too lazy and content, and it prefers a dumbed-down citizenry than one encouraged to think and stand on its own. Candidates like Ron Paul would mess up what has been too good a thing for them.

But the bigwigs in the two major parties and the mainstream media are blind to the fact that without a serious infusion of new blood, America is withering and dying in our own generation.

I see Barack Obama, and I see a man who is stuck in the same mindset as the Sixties, and he's trying hard as he can to channel the memory of John Kennedy toward his own favor. I see John McCain, and I see a very bitter man lacking any confidence (remember, he left his wife just so he could have a younger woman... which screams out feelings of inadequacy in my book) who is still a prisoner of Vietnam.

Neither of these men - or their running mates - is going to bring America to the bright and shining future that our children and theirs deserve to have. They are going to keep us stuck here, with no clear vision or identity besides "we aren't that other party..."

We can't keep playing this kind of game anymore: the one that expects us to believe there's a real difference between the Democrats and Republicans. We can't afford it any longer.

The alternative is to keep "voting for the lesser of two evils" until a rotten and decrepit America is finally driven into the ground. At that point, will it matter who happened to have been at the wheel when it did?

This is a candidate for President?!

So this afternoon my good friend Bmovies sends me an e-mail about a new post that he had made on his blog and that I should check it out. So I go to his link and read how he's not supporting McCain or Obama for President in this year's election either. Instead, Bmovies tells us, he's found a candidate that he does support. And there's an embedded video with a news story about whoever this person is.

I figure if Bmovies thinks well enough of the guy/gal, that I should find out more about them too. So I watch the video.

The first words out of my mouth were "What the...?!?"

Here, see for yourself:

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

New QUANTUM OF SOLACE trailer is online

A few minutes ago Phillip Arthur e-mailed me, and he seemed unusually ecstatic about a new trailer for the upcoming James Bond movie Quantum of Solace. Here's the link to where you can check it out.

I agree with Phillip: It "Looks pretty gorram good!", whatever the heck a "gorram" is :-P

Large Hadron Collider: Scientific marvel or portal to Hell?

This one is way too wacky to pass up commenting on...

The Large Hadron Collider is a few hours away from getting turned on for the first time. This is a humongous particle accelerator (also happens to be the biggest machine yet built) that scientists are hoping will help answer some questions about the fundamental nature of physics.

All well and good. Except some people are afraid that the Large Hadron Collider (or LHC) is going destroy the planet. The biggest fear is that it's going to spawn a black hole that'll suck down the entire Earth. At least one lawsuit has been filed on those grounds, seeking to impose an injunction against the LHC's activation.

And then there is the tale going around that the LHC has an even more nefarious purpose. That it is going to be used to open up a portal to an unknown dimension. Or even a known one.

Namely, Hell itself...

Yup, some folks are claiming online that when the guys at CERN in Switzerland get the Large Hadron Collider going, the "bottomless pit" talked about in the Bible's Book of Revelation is going to throw out the welcome mat and all kinds of unholy terror is going to come forth, just like in the videogame Doom.

Personally, I doubt it.

Because I'm betting that the LHC will either...

1. Work just fine, and perhaps even be used to find the elusive Higgs boson.

or

2. As the award-winning documentary film Hellboy has shown, it will open a doorway to the realm of the Ogdru Jahad, which will bring about the end of the world.

Did Apple "Rock" today? Not really...

Gizmodo has the full rundown of what went on at Apple's "Let's Rock" keynote address by Steve Jobs in San Francisco today. In what has become an annual event - and perhaps the most-watched PowerPoint presentation in history - Jobs unveiled the coming year's new iPod models and whatever features that die-hard Appleholics should be lusting after.

So what new ubercoolness has the Jobs Mob for us this time? Frankly: not much. Jobs officially unveiled the new iPod nano, but if you've been paying attention to the rumors over the past few weeks this wasn't unexpected at all. The new iPod nano goes back to the "tall" design that existed before the "fat" one last year, and displaying a widescreen movie means watching it with the iPod nano sideways. It also features an accelerometer, which among other things lets you violently shake the iPod nano and it automatically goes into shuffle mode. And it'll be coming in a psychodelic array of new colors.

But that seems to have been it for any innovation that Apple followers might have been hoping for this year. Jobs also showed off the second generation of the iPod touch: basically the same but with the same tapered re-design as the nano, bigger storage (now all the way up to 32 gigs of flash memory) and an accelerometer (oh yeah and Niki+ built-in). The 80 gigabyte iPod classic (which is what I'm a proud owner of) is getting an "update" to 120 gigs and the 160GB model is being discontinued. iTunes 8 is coming out today (and is probably available even now) that has a new "Genius" feature which somehow figures out the kind of music that you like to listen to. NBC is making its shows available on iTunes and for $2.99 you can buy television episodes in high definition.

Not really all that much to get excited about, if you ask me. I still don't understand why Apple can't or won't engineer user-replaceable batteries into at least the classic and touch iPod (and the iPhone for that matter): they would make a huge amount of money from people who would gladly pay to have a spare battery or two in their pocket or purse or backpack for their iPod. I can think of at least two or three ways that Apple could engineer their appliances for replaceable batteries without sacrificing the products' aesthetic. So why isn't Jobs and crew taking up that challenge? It's the only real innovation left to pursue for the iPod/iPhone (in addition to beefier flash storage, and that's coming in the next few years anyway). There wasn't anything during today's product reveal that would compel me to upgrade to a newer iPod from the one I already own.

But I probably will be getting Lisa one of those new iPod nanos, if she can decide which color she wants :-)

Monday, September 08, 2008

SPORE Loser: Players outraged at game's DRM

Here's a screenshot I just made of the Amazon product page for the new video game Spore, which came out yesterday for Windows and Mac computers...

How does a video game simultaneously occupy #1 on Amazon's sales rank, and get hundreds of one-star reviews?

In three words: "Digital Rights Management". People who purchase Spore can only install it on three computers. And apparently the DRM that is installed is continuously running in the system's background even when the game isn't being played, sucking up resources that could be used for other processes. I don't think that BioShock's DRM last year was that bad (incidentally, 2K eventually removed the DRM from BioShock altogether).

And now Electronic Arts is being targeted with a massive protest by Spore players who have unleashed a wave of negative reviews for the game, in spite of the very favorable press the game has received from professional journalists.

Can't say that I blame the players. Spore doesn't look too much like my cup of tea (although it was created by Will Wright, the mastermind behind SimCity) but this kind of DRM for what is an online multiplayer game, however innovative, is ridiculous. Games like Guild Wars and World of Warcraft have never needed such draconian measures before, and they have remained profitable by a substantial margin. Why then is Electronic Arts doing this?

They need to strip this out, and fast. If only because at least in the blogosphere, there is still a working semblance of a free market and a free press. Electronic Arts has honked off both with this move.

Want to read the first review of the HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE movie?!

Here it is, courtesy of Ain't It Cool News.

It sounds terrible.

How terrible? According to this person, who saw an advance screening in Chicago over the weekend, the funeral scene is not in the film (yeah there were two funerals in the book but if you've read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince you know which one I'm talking about). It also has the Death Eaters attacking the Weasley house at Christmas (?!?) and apparently makes several other significant deviations from the novel.

Not jazzed at all about this movie now. I'm tempted to say that the Hogwarts Express has jumped the track on this one.

Maybe Warners should just wait a few years and "reboot" the film franchise with a clean start, now that we know where the story is going and how it ends, instead of mucking it up with the current series.

DMCA Abuse: 4,000 Anti-Scientology videos pulled from YouTube

During the past few days American Rights Counsel LLC has forced YouTube to pull more than four thousand videos that are critical of the Church of Scientology. At this time it's unclear whether American Rights Counsel are representing the cult and did so at the behest of Scientologists. What is known is that a butt-load of Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices went out from the firm over a period of twelve hours this past Thursday and Friday, and YouTube had no legal alternative but to immediately yank the contested clips.

The affected YouTube users have already begun responding with DMCA counter-claims (which might explain why this blog has been registering a ton of visits to how I filed my own counter-claim a year ago against Viacom). That is indeed a wise step to take in fighting back.

But YouTube users shouldn't be forced to deal with this anyway. I've said many times since my own dealings with Viacom: the DMCA has turned out to be horrible legislation, rife for all kinds of abuse. Think about it: if anyone currently running for office wanted to, he or she could simply deluge YouTube with fraudulent DMCA infringement notices, and YouTube would be obligated to remove every video that's critical of that candidate... and maybe even official campaign ads from the opposition. And YouTube would have to do it without consideration or oversight.

Isn't that what's happening now with the Church of Scientology?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Google is ten years old today

It was ten years ago today, on September 7th, 1998, that Sergey Brin and Larry Page took some investment capital and a database algorithm and from it spawned Google: the search engine that more than anything else transformed the Internet from a technological novelty into an indispensable application.

I used Google on the first day it was announced, in one of the computer labs at Elon. Even then I thought this was the most superior search engine of the lot that I'd been using up 'til then. In a few months Google supplanted those. And there hasn't been a day that's gone by whenever I've had to use the Internet (which is most) that I haven't employed Google.

Back then it ran on four computers. Today Google has a vast campus in California and data centers all over the place. The company has developed its own operating system, is about to roll out a cell phone, and has just applied for a patent on what many are calling the "Google Navy". All that innovation might make Google, on the basis of a ratio between ideas attempted and ideas that are profitable, the most successful company in American history.

Here's a story at ABC News about how far Google has come in its first ten years. Maybe in another ten we'll be able to teleport to the Google Space Station to join the festivities for the twentieth anniversary.

Friday, September 05, 2008

U.S. federal government set to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Read the story here.

This is, by an order of some magnitude, a much more important story than McCain versus Obama right now.

It's also one of the reasons why I don't believe it really matters which candidate or party wins in the November elections. If Obama wins, he's going to immediately face a ruined economy the likes of which have not been seen since the Depression and if he stays true to the policies he's running on, he'll likely make the situation that much worse. If McCain wins, the state of America's finances is going to be an automatic indictment against not just him and Palin but on the previous eight years of the Bush Administration.

Oh yeah, and another bank - this time it's Silver State in Nevada, with $2 billion in assets - failed today. That's the 11th big bank this year to go under. And so far as I know they've always been announced on Friday evenings.

If there's going to be a bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, I cannot recall that there will have been a bigger measure taken in United States history. This is going to hurt the taxpayers like all get out.

Amazing first screenshots from FUEL

I'm just now hearing about Fuel for the first time. Created by British game studio Codemasters and due for release in 2009, Fuel is an open-world racing game featuring five thousand square miles of navigable terrain: if you can see it in the game, you can drive right up to it. Fuel takes place in a near future where the environment has run amok and global supplies of oil are running out: sorta like Mad Max meets Grand Theft Auto.

Here's the image that made me take notice and decide that I might have to add Fuel to my library...

In addition to tornadoes, players will also have to deal with snowstorms, driving rain and a realistic day/night cycle.

Click here for more Fuel screenshots.

GHOSTBUSTERS III is officially in the works!

Variety is reporting that Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky - the producers and writers of NBC's The Office - have been tapped by Columbia to write the script for Ghostbusters III. And the aim is to bring back the original cast of Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson.

Presumably this means that we could expect to see the movie coming out for the summer of 2010: twenty-six years after the original Ghostbusters premiered in 1984 and over twenty since 1989's Ghostbusters II.

Incidentally, Ghostbusters: The Video Game was supposed to be out in time for the 2008 holiday season, but corporate takeover politics has pushed it back to possibly 2009 and the quarter-century anniversary of the first movie. The Ghostbusters game features a script written by Ackroyd and Ramis, and features all four of the core Ghostbusters actors lending their voices (in addition to William Atherton and Annie Potts coming back).

I'll be keeping my eye on this new film project, 'cuz in over ten years of speculation this is the closest I've seen it becoming a reality. There was a third Ghostbusters movie being planned as far back as 1996, which would have had the Ghostbusters dealing with Hell itself and have Chris Farley playing a new team member. The first movie has held up amazingly well over the years (and Ghostbusters II seems to be more appreciated today than it was on its first release). If done right, Ghostbusters III will make for a terrifically fun transition for the franchise into the modern era.

(I just hope that Rick Moranis is up for returning...)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Finally caught all of Sarah Palin's speech from last night

And there is no way, no how, that I would now feel comfortable voting for her as part of any ticket.

Palin's address at the Republican National Convention was, in my opinion, whiny and shallow. There was nothing of substance or vision that I found in her words. All I really got was that she's a mom, her kids play hockey, and she doesn't like her "opponents".

And that's it.

I've heard speeches with more passion at the... nah, nevermind. Don't want to go too far this morning (and I might be already anyway).

What happened to the great political speeches that we've come up reading about in the history books? The two last truly great ones that I can remember being given by a leader of this country were from the day of the Challenger disaster and then the 1987 "Tear down this wall!" speech in Berlin, both made by President Ronald Reagan.

When was the last time that a political convention speech was made about ideas and conviction, instead of being vindictive rhetoric? Or is it simply too much to hope for another William Jennings Bryan to come with a "Cross of Gold"?

Something terrible has happened to this country over the past few decades. American intellect has become anemic of ideas. And I cannot avoid the suspicion that there will be a terrible price to pay for our retreat from enlightenment.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

PEANUTS animator Bill Melendez has passed away

This is the third death that I've had to report in the past day or so. Hope this is not about to become a trend...

Bill Melendez has passed away at the age of 91. He was an animator who began work at Disney, and then moved on to Warner Bros. But it was a 1959 meeting with cartoonist Charles M. Schulz that would propel Melendez to everlasting fame. The two became fast friends after Melendez was hired to work on a series of commercials featuring Schulz's Peanuts characters. And after that, Melendez was the only person that Schulz gave permission to animate Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus and the rest of the Peanuts gang. A few years later Melendez collaborated with Schulz to produce A Charlie Brown Christmas: forty years later it remains a seminal classic of the holiday season.

In addition to the various Peanuts movies and television specials, Melendez also was involved with commercials using the characters (like this terrific spot for Regina vacuum cleaners featuring Pigpen: the only time he was ever depicted as clean!) and Melendez even contributed his voice for that of Snoopy.

Apart from his Peanuts work, Melendez was involved with animated versions of the comic strip characters Garfield and Cathy. And he also was part of the production of the 1979 animated The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: to this day one of the most enchanting things that I ever saw on television.

Melendez earned 19 Emmy nominations for his work, and won six awards.

A conservative case against Sarah Palin

In case anyone's wondering: currently I'm registered as a Republican. I helped a friend run for statewide office this election season as his treasurer, running on a platform of parental choice in education. Prior to that I ran for office myself, partly regarding issues of fiscal conservatism. In my opinion Ronald Reagan was the last real President that America has had and I'm very thankful that I got to drive to Washington D.C. a few years ago to pay my respects as his casket lay in state at the Capitol.

I never vote for the party though. I've voted for Republicans and Democrats and Libertarians and independents and a lot of people in between since I first registered to vote several years ago (the day after my eighteenth birthday).

I would never vote for Barack Obama. The man's social spending ideas are a catastrophe waiting to happen. Neither can I ever vote for John McCain: this is a man bankrupt of any principle and I absolutely cannot believe that so many professed "conservatives" are now lining up to support him. This was the Senator who pushed through McCain-Feingold, fercryingoutloud. And as I've said before: any man who dumps his wife just so he can have a younger woman, does not have the moral fiber to be given the responsibility of the most powerful office on Earth.

Now y'all know where I'm coming from. Which brings us to the matter of Sarah Palin. A woman who I have had great admiration for.

Until now.

And trust me: this has nothing to do with what is going on with her family at this moment.

When McCain announced that Palin would be his running mate, I didn't know what to make of it. That Palin, who had previously expressed support for Ron Paul (a candidate as unlike McCain as there's apt to be) would now hitch her wagon to McCain didn't make any sense to me. And after considering it at length, my first assumption was that Palin is a very good governor, who has no idea what she is being drawn into and is perhaps not ready for this at all.

Let me put it another way: I thought that Palin was being used as a tool by the McCain campaign. As one friend put it, Palin as a running mate was analogous to putting lipstick on a pig. She's got a tremendous reputation and is by widespread acclaim "easy on the eyes", but she does nothing to change the fact that John McCain himself has a horrible record on so-called "conservative" issues. Palin, many have told me over the past few days, is only meant to be a distraction from the real John McCain.

Then I started, for the first time, to take a seriously hard look at Sarah Palin's record as mayor of Wasilla, and then governor of Alaska.

And you know what?

There's no way that I could support Sarah Palin now, even if she were to run for President herself (which I earlier had suggested I wouldn't mind happening).

In fact, the notion about Sarah Palin being a heartbeat away from the most powerful position in the world, is now downright scary.

It was her record as mayor of Wasilla that sent the first red flag popping up in my mind. When she was sworn in after being elected in 1996, the town of Wasilla, Alaska had no debt. When she left, the town was twenty-two million dollars in the hole. We're talking a town with a population of about five thousand souls. My own hometown has about three times that amount, and I don't think it's ever been that much in the red.

Where did all that money go on Palin's watch? Much of it went to a new sports and entertainment complex. A bit went to a new park. None of it apparently went to actually improving the infrastructure of Wasilla or toward urban planning. I'm now hearing plenty of horror stories about how the town is a cacaphonic sprawl of bad streets, run-down buildings and big-box retailers like Wal-Mart.

But think about it: Wasilla went from owing no money, to owing $22 million during Palin's tenure. Does that sound like sound economic conservatism to anyone?

Then the tales came out Palin's dictatorial style: how she set down a policy that no city employee could talk with the press without her permission, and how she fired the town's respected librarian and lost a police chief (in addition to several others who she tossed out) because she believed they weren't "loyal" enough to her. So forget financial discipline: now we're dealing with matters of personal discipline and humbleness as a public servant. Palin apparently thought that since she was now mayor, she could be "the decider" of Wasilla. She quickly filled the vacant positions with people that she had previous relationships with. It began a pattern of cronyism that continued into her time as Governor of Alaska and is now come back to haunt her in the form of a state trooper firing scandal.

Maybe some of this could be attributed to being "young" and "fresh" on the job. Some eagerness to over-excel. Kinda like how Barney on The Andy Griffith Show is always getting in trouble because he wants Mayberry to be like a big city rife with organized crime. That's a heap of fun if we're watching a Sixties-era television comedy... but in real life, when the pattern persists from small-town mayor to state governor, it stops being funny or excusable.

It was how Palin became mayor of Wasilla in the first place that finally convicted me to no longer be able to give her any credence as someone I would ever want to be within a hair's breadth of so much power. In what is usually a non-partisan, friendly election in small town America, Palin injected her mayoral race with "wedge issues" like abortion. She received heavy backing from the Alaskan state Republican Party. At one point she was apparently making it out that she was going to be Wasilla's "first Christian mayor".

How is abortion possibly an issue for a sleepy burg of five thousand people tucked away in a valley in Alaska? That's like trying to teach A.P. history in what's supposed to be a high school woodshop class.

Palin's campaign for mayor of Wasilla had little to do with actual issues, and too much to do with exploiting people's emotions. That's how she came to elected office to begin with: not by appealing to intellect, but by playing off of base psychology.

Which brings me to the final reason that I will share for now about why I cannot ever support Sarah Palin being in the Executive Branch of the United States Government...

...namely, that the Book of Revelation is not a foreign policy manual.

Understand this about me too: I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. I've been a Christian for going on a dozen years now. And even before then I saw how having a faith in God is not something that is supposed to be used as a weapon against other people or other countries. In my opinion, God has not blessed America because America doesn't care about God anyway. Too many self-proclaimed Christians in this land think nothing of exploiting God for their own temporal motives, however. That's something that I not only cannot stand, it scares the hell out of me.

So now witness Sarah Palin, as Governor of Alaska, speaking before a church service and telling the congregants that the war in Iraq is a "task that is from God"...

Anyone else see that movie Jesus Camp? Anyone else think that Sarah Palin seems way too much of that same mindset?

As Christians, we are supposed to represent the Kingdom of God to those that we come in contact with. We are meant to do so by loving them, in spite of their beliefs or what their opinion is of us. We are called to love even our enemies. That doesn't mean that we don't defend ourselves when we must, because I believe that is a moral right for individuals and families and nations. But we were never given an ordained duty to seek out and destroy our enemies in the name of Christ! That's just more of the world's way, and not God's at all. And it is the absolute height of arrogance to assume that God's plan is our own plan enough that we have a license to believe He will grant a blanket blessing on all of our endeavors.

The more that I read of Sarah Palin, the more that I cannot but believe that the woman is an adherent of Dominion Theology. As a theology professor of mine put it ten years ago, that's something that "will beat a path straight to Auschwitz". And as I've studied it since then, the less that I've been able to deny that he was right.

If for no other reason, this alone is why I cannot trust Sarah Palin. God Only can judge her heart, but in my mind the woman is way too infatuated with the power of God and not nearly enough with the love of God.

That won't deter a lot of the so-called "evangelicals" from adoring her, from supporting her without question however. I've even heard a few of them quite seriously declare that Palin is a modern-day "Deborah for America". They're the ones who still believe that America has a special place in God's divine plan for the world. They're also the ones who tend to hold that God allowed George W. Bush to be elected so that it would "help" to eventually trigger Armageddon.

Don't think that I don't know what I'm talking about here. I used to attend a school that was eventually taken over by such apostles of the Apocalypse. And Sarah Palin, now that I've examined her, is precisely the kind of politician that they have been hoping and praying for. Maybe... maybe... even more than George W. Bush turned out to have really been.

These people have forgotten that what makes America special is her virtue. And in the name of God, these people - who should have been the most virtuous - gave up their virtue for sake of a little power in the fleeting span of their lifetime.

And now it is a question of whether there is any virtue left for their children, and their children's children.

And it looks like they're ramping-up to sacrifice even more.

Suddenly, the idea of a John McCain presidency, which I've always felt would be a disastrous continuation of the policies of Bush, threatens to become something much worse than most of us have yet imagined.

There is nothing "conservative" about Sarah Palin, I must sadly conclude. If anything, she seems cut from the neoconservative cloth that espouses bigger government and glorious empire. To her credit, Sarah Palin seems very much to be an all-American wife and "action mom". I certainly respect her strong stance for the Second Amendment. But her track record as an elected official indicates that if given far more power, she would continue the precedent that the current White House administration has set for detaching the American government from the American people.

There is nothing about that which is the least bit conservative.

That's still not enough to prompt me to vote for Obama, however. Nothing could possibly entice me to do that. So this election year I'm either casting a write-in vote for Ron Paul, or writing in what is rapidly becoming the most sensible alternative to the mess that this country is hellbent on becoming...

"A glass of whiskey, a gun and two bullets".

Viacom v. Knight at the Citizen Media Law Project

A few days ago was the one year anniversary of that very strange situation between multi-billion dollar multimedia conglomerate Viacom (owner of CBS, Paramount, Comedy Central and many other brands) and Yours Truly. If you're fairly new to this joint here's my first post about what happened and here's the list of all the news articles that I could find about it. Long story short: that wacky first TV commercial that I made for my 2006 school board campaign was broadcast on VH1's Web Junk 2.0, which even though neither VH1 or its parent company Viacom asked for permission I was still fine with it, 'cuz I thought it was pretty hilarious.

Anyway, I posted the short clip of my commercial on Web Junk 2.0 on YouTube, 'cuz I was so proud of it and that Rockingham County, North Carolina got such a shout-out. A month and a half later YouTube yanked the clip at the demand of Viacom 'cuz... get this... Viacom claimed that I was violating their copyright! Well, I filed a protest and the whole thing got some notice, and two weeks later Viacom acquiesced and the clip was restored. Here's the clip that caused so much trouble, including very many less-than-polite comments aimed at Viacom made by other YouTube users, which for reasons that shall be left to myself, I am not choosing to delete.

A few months ago Jim Ernstmeyer wrote me. He's at Harvard Law School and is involved with the Citizen Media Law Project. It aims to be a very extensive database of law pertaining to ordinary folks who - willingly or no - find themselves on the front lines of copyright litigation. The centerpiece of the project is the Legal Threats Database. Ernstmeyer asked for some information about what happened between me and Viacom, which I was more than happy to oblige him with.

And now, Viacom v. Knight is an entry at the Citizen Media Law Project! Which kinda officially makes it legal history. The entire site is well worth checking out for anyone with an academic interest in digital copyright or (like me, unfortunately) comes under the gun of bigtime corporate legal action.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

They love Big Brother

April 4th, 1984, Big Brother on the telescreen at the Ministry of Truth in London, Airstrip One, from the film Nineteen Eighty-Four (the 1984 adaptation of the George Orwell novel)...


September 2nd, 2008, George W. Bush on the telescreen at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, in real life...

Jerry Reed has passed away

Singer/songwriter and actor Jerry Reed, who had a string of successful hits in the 70s and 80s but will perhaps be best remembered for "East Bound and Down" from the movie Smokey and the Bandit (which he also appeared in), has passed away at age 71.

Reed was a beast on the guitar! Check out this clip of him from about thirty years ago...

Think I'll pop in Smokey and the Bandit on the DVD player tonight in his memory.

Is it just me...

...or has the 2008 electoral race for President of the United States suddenly turned into a Blake Edwards movie?

Don LaFontaine, "King of Voiceovers", has passed away

Don LaFontaine, whose work made his one of the most-recognized voices on the planet, especially for all the movie trailers that he contributed to, has passed away at the age of 68 from complications stemming from a collapsed lung.

Here's a bit of a documentary showing LaFontaine at work and others discussing his prolific vocal talent...