Thursday, August 31, 2006

Beware The Killer Chicken!

I was just looking at Fandom Wank to see what's new there.(Rather than explain Fandom Wank I'll just let you find out about it by looking at it.) They currently have a thread going about writer Terry Goodkind, who is apparently upset that his "masterworks" are shelved as fantasy and not with Nabokov or whoever. In the course of the thread someone mentioned one of Goodkind's books featuring an evil chicken. Fortunately someone was good enough to post some examples. Somehow I suspect Goodkind would not be happy at me laughing at his description of the evil chicken. It seems to me a long enough piece of wood would soon end the menace of the killer chicken, but what do I know? I've never encountered a demonic chicken before.

Now I'm thinking I should go to the local KFC....

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I'm 292,019th!

At least according to Technorati. Compare that to Pharyngula, which Technorati lists as 176th. Given some of the crap that PZ Myers gets as a result of Pharyngula he probably occasionally wishes he was as low on the blog totem pole as I am.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Question of Priorities.

I'm skeptical of claims of media bias. For every claim that the North American media is a bastion of liberalism(in the modern American abuse of the word, of course) I could find you a claim that it's a tool of the corporate elites. But I'm far less skeptical of accusations of exploitation and sensationalism. A classic example occured tonight at the start of local CTV affiliate CFQC's six o'clock news broadcast. They pushed aside what was obviously intended to be their top story, a report on how a local taxi driver helped police capture a robber, to give us "breaking news" about the JonBenet Ramsey case. Why? The story has no direct relevance to the citizens of Saskatoon. It didn't even occur in Canada. Yet CFQC's news department decided this was so important a story that it should be covered immediately. Call me cynical, but such a move seems a rather blatant example of pandering to prurience. Of course it's just the latest example of what's been going in with the Ramsey case for ten years. Some of the coverage over the years has seemed pretty damn close to abuse of the poor girl. And why? It's safe to say dozens of little girls were murdered in the US in 1996, yet that case was the one that got all the press. But one assumes most of those cases didn't have various elements that made for easy use by the media, like the artfully done photos, video footage, and so on of JonBenet Ramsey, the odd to outsiders world of child beauty pageants she was involved in, and other details that have made for tabloid fodder, whether it was the actual tabloids exploiting it or not.

Hurry, Before It's Too Late? Yeah, Right.

"These commemoratives may well be among the most historically meaningful collectibles you will ever own."

This line comes from this ad for National Collector's Mint's World Trade Center Commemerative. Funny, but I would think a "historically meaningful collectible" would be something a bit more than a kitschy gold coin with a centre bit that stands up. The silver is supposedly from a vault recovered from under the WTC, thus supposedly making the quantities limited. Therefore you can only order five. Sounds like there must have been a lot of silver in that vault given how many potential customers there will be. Of course the text uses the word clad, which of course means the coins aren't solid gold and silver, so the actual amount of silver used on each of these things is probably pretty small. Indeed it should be pretty obvious by the price they're offering these things at that they aren't solid gold or silver, but who knows whether some folks will be foolish enough to think they are.

I have no idea how the collectable coin market treats these kind of things. But I suspect they're far more interested in things that have true historical significance and/or novelty, like coins minted in a short lived government mint or what have you, not mass produced gimmicks.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Iris Is Closing.

I just found out tonight that the Sci Fi channel in the US is cancelling Stargate SG1. Unless I missed it I don't think it got any coverage in the local paper. In any case as you might expect there have been the inevitable calls for petitions and so forth to be organised in an effort to save the series. Good luck to them, but personally I think the series has probably had a long enough run. They recently aired the 200th episode of the series on Sci Fi, and ten seaons and more than 200 episodes is a great run for any series, let alone a science fiction one. The producers are reportedly still interested in followup made for TV movies or a miniseries, so it may not be done yet. But a clause in their contract with Sci Fi makes its appearance on another network as a weekly series unlikely.

The spinoff Stargate Atlantis series will continue. But some fans are speculating the death of the parent show may mean its days are numbered as well.

With the series ending I may have to work up an idea for a commentary that came to mind recently.

The series has made Amanda Tapping a familiar face to untold numbers of sci fi fans, but my first encounter with her was Canadian TV ads. I can still remember the Advil ad she did all those years ago. Not a surprise really given that I found her a very attractive young woman at the time.

Those two pictures at the top of the post? They're of Swedish poker player Bengt Sonnert and of actor Michael Shanks, who plays Daniel Jackson on SG1. Maybe its just me, but to my eyes Sonnert looks a lot like Shanks, which I found kind of amusing when watching Sonnert compete in the Monte Carlo Millons poker tournament on TV. I'm sure it's pretty obvious which is which, but if not I've proven my point.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A&B Sound Saskatoon, RIP.

I found out from today's Saskatoon Star Phoenix that tomorrow will be the last day for Saskatoon's A&B Sound outlet. Financial troubles have lead to the BC based company deciding to concentrate on its Alberta and BC outlets. They had an ad in the paper this morning for their going out of business sale which must have been quite effective, as very little was left when I went there this afternoon. The fact that the ad made no mentioned of CDs and DVDs being on cheap, which is why I went there, makes me suspect that those are either going to be shipped back to their labels for credit, or will turn up as stock in the surviving A&B stores elsewhere. Whatever the case the CD/DVD section of the store was inaccessable. I bought a lot of CDs from them over the years because their prices were probably the cheapest overall in this market. It's sad to see them go, but sadder for the folks who have been laid off.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Maynard Ferguson, RIP.

Another jazz great has passed away. Trumpeter/bandleader Maynard Ferguson has died at 78 after a brief illness. Ferguson was born in Montreal, and got his start as a teenager playing on the CBC in the early '40s. Ferguson was an active performer until the end of his life, having played several sold out gigs in New York in July.

"Repeat, Repeat."

Peter Baumann first came to public attention as a member of Tangerine Dream. Betcha most fans of his work with TD were rather surprised at the single "Repeat Repeat," from the 1981 album of the same name. I'd never heard the tune before stumbling across the video on YouTube, but I quite like it. The real question is how much of Baumann's intent was to do a straight techopop tune, and how much of it was a poke at the frequent repetitiveness of pop songs. It's certainly a better tune than his cover of "Strangers in the Night," which you can also find on YouTube.

Does Racism Drive September 11th Conspiracy Theories?

This question came to mind when listening to CBC Radio One's The Current this morning. This morning they were reading letters in response to a segment last week on conspiracy theories. Today's segment included a brief talk with Barry Zwicker, a Canadian freelance journalist who has been promoting the theory that 9/11 was a US government plot. He claimed that the idea Osama bin Laden could have pulled off the September 11th attacks from a cave someplace with a laptop is the least credible theory. Others have made that statement as well. But why? Does it have anything to do with the fact that bin Laden is an Arab? I can't help but think of various theories that ancient peoples didn't build the great works such as the pyramids and so on, that instead it was mysterious "others" who did. I often get the impression that those theories are sometimes driven, even if only subconciously, by racist ideas since those ancient wonders were built by "brown" peoples. I've never heard of anyone trying to claim ancient Greek and Roman wonders were built by aliens or the inhabitants of Atlantis, and I would guess in many cases this is because they're seen as "our" anscestors, are perceived as being "white."

Would we be hearing as many "they couldn't possibly have done it" claims if 9/11 had been pulled off by Japanese cultists, say Aum Shinrikyo? After all the Japanese have a society and economy seen as directly equivalent to Western industrial ones. I haven't seen conspiracy theories about Aum's attack on the Tokyo subway, claiming say that someone gave them the nerve gas they used, and this is probably for the obvious reason that people expect there would be some kooks in a highly industrial and technological country like Japan with the education and skills to cook up nerve gas in their kitchen. Compare this with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, which are perceived as primitive and ignorant backwaters. This of course ignores the fact that bin Laden was of the monied class in Saudi Arabia, the kind of folks who get access to Western technology and education. Bin Laden himself has degrees in civil engineering and economics/public administration. In other words this is not some hick who doesn't have a clue about anything other than being violent, and we know the kind of damage even those kind of people can cause. His educational background sounds exactly like the kind of thing that would make coming up with a plan like the "offical" version of 9/11, and making it happen, completely plausible. It certainly sounds more plausible that theories that for example would require sneaking tonnes of explosives into the structure of the World Trade Center without anyone noticing something very weird was going on.

Addenda: It should also be noted that bin Laden probably wasn't hiding in a cave before the US attack on Afghanistan, given that he was there as a guest of the Taliban government.

Monday, August 21, 2006

One Name, Three Products.

It was a picture of a car and a guitar together that seems to have got me thinking about how one product name can be used for very different products. Ask most people to name a product called Mustang and they're likely to immediately name the classic Ford Mustang. The car was introduced in 1964, and racked up more than 2 million sales the first 2 years of production. The name continues to be used by Ford to this day, with its galloping horse logo probably as well known as the actual body shapes its gone through over the years.

Ask a guitar player and they may think of the Fender Mustang. One of the last products developed by Leo Fender before CBS(yes, that CBS) bought Fender in 1965 the guitar was very obviously named after the car, just as earlier Fender guitars had been given names evoking the cutting edge broadcasting and aerospace industries. Fender made the connection even more obvious when they introduced the Competition finishes in 1969, which featured racing stripes on the body. Although the sleek little instrument was intended as a student model its turned up in the hands of many pros over the years. The bass model was also quite successful, and turned up in the hands of musicians such as Rolling Stone Bill Wyman.

Then there's the Colt Mustang. In 1986 Colt introduced this pistol, which is chambered for .380 ACP calibre round, also know as the 9mm Short. Its intended to fulfull the role of "pocket pistol," in other words an easily concealable weapon you might carry in a pants or jacket pocket, and is based on John Browning's classic Colt Model 1911 .45 ACP calibre pistol. Like many Colt products this gun has a prancing horse logo on both its slide and on medalions on the grip plates, which might make one think of Ford's Mustang logo.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Poor John Hattig.

In my last post I mentioned that John Hattig was about to become the first citizen of Guam to play in the majors. Today was his first game, as he was brought in to play third base in the bottom of the fourth, replacing Troy Glaus. Too bad for him his debute happened to be during a horrible game, with the Baltimore Orioles beating the Jays 15-zip. It's not the worst beating the Jays have ever taken, but damn embarrassing nonetheless, especially given the Orioles aren't exactly world beaters these days.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Two Bags Short.

As they have for several years VTech is having a contest in connection with Toronto Blue Jays games broadcast on TV. If any Blue Jay hits for the cycle some lucky entraint will win one million dollars. Every time a Blue Jay hits a home run they give away a free cordless phone. Thursday night they came within two bags of giving away that million. The unlikely almost hero for the contestant in question was Jays catcher Bengie Molina. He missed getting a double in his final at bat to complete the cycle. The idea that Molina would hit the cycle is pretty wild, as Molina is probably one of the slowest runners in baseball. Like most catchers he doesn't run fast, which comes from years of spending half the game kneeling down behind the plate. His first at bat saw the amazing sight of Molina getting a triple, the hardest part of the cycle to get. I was sitting watching the game and had to jump to my feet and run over to the TV as this happened. Knowing his slow speed I shouted "What are you doing?" as he went past second on his way to third, and was amazed when he beat the throw. This is only the 3rd triple of Molina's career, his first since 2000. Molina's later home run in the 8th inning was a two run shot, helping to insure a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

There have been two Jays who have hit for the cycle. Kelly Gruber did it first back in '89. Jeff Frye pulled it off in 2001, albeit with a bit of controversy when he stopped at first base to get the single when he all but certainly could have taken second. Ironically Gruber happened to be in attendance that day.

The Jays have just pulled off another milestone. They've called up John Hattig from Triple A. Hattig will be the first major league player from Guam. The Western Pacific island is an organised unincorporated territory of the US with a population of 170000, and its citizens are US citizens.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hello Iroquois Falls!

You're the location of my latest Where's Willy hit. My Ontario hits are slowly creeping up.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More Thoughts On Mr. Kotkin.

Thanks to everyone who's visited as a result of Orac's link here in his post on David Copperfield. Don't forget to click on the other links here, the linkees would likely appreciate the traffic.

Since making my last post I've read a number of comments elsewhere that Copperfield's "Fountain of Youth" tale may just be a publicity stunt. This is a reasonable guess. If so he still gets a slap on the wrist from me for possibly following the dubious dictum that any publicity you get is good as long as they spell your name right. Personally I'd rather he not do things that promote irrational thinking or get the hopes up of the desparate who might think they'll benefit from his supposed discovery.

On the other hand this isn't the first time in recent memory Copperfield has apparently made a bizarre, paranormal oriented claim. Last year he told a German publication he was going to make a woman pregant onstage, without sex. I can just imagine the cringing his legal representation must have gone through, fearing the statement would lead every kook and con woman in sight to claim they were made pregnant by Copperfield's magic. I haven't heard if he actually claimed to have pulled this off or not, assuming it wasn't some misunderstanding by an interviewer.

Of course some wags would argue that magic is the only way he could make a woman pregnant, as rumours have long persisted that Copperfield is gay. His six year relationship with German supermodel Claudia Schiffer? Just a scheme to hide his sexuality the claim goes, for which Schiffer was paid. Of course the question arises why Schiffer, hardly a slouch in the income department in the '90s, would do something like that, and why Copperfield, if he felt a need for a "beard," wouldn't engage the help of a presumably much cheaper to pay Hollywood starlet or two.

If Copperfield has fallen for paranormal nonsense he wouldn't be the first big name magician to do so. The late Canadian illusionist Doug Henning retired from magic in the mid '80s to devote his full time to the Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi and his Transcendental Meditation movement. This included running for office in the Canada and the UK as a representative of the TM backed Natural Law Party. Although I have no proof I have often suspected that Henning might have been intended to be the Mahareshi's public successor if he hadn't passed away. There were stories Henning was considered a comeback tour in the months before his death in February of 2000, which is sad if true.

As for the title of this post Copperfield's real last name is(or perhaps was at this point) David Kotkin. I have no idea why he adopted the last name of a Dickens character as his stage name but it was probably a good idea. At the time his star first began to rise the American mentalist The Amazing Kreskin was quite popular. Given the minor similarity between the two names it's not hard to imagine some confusion resulting if Copperfield had performed under the name Kotkin.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What's With David?

Is David Copperfield going nuts? The well known illusionist has bought a group of islands, the Exuma chain, for 50 million bucks. (I didn't know he had access to that kind of money.) Musha Cay in the chain is a private resort that rents for up to 300 grand a week, the other islands in the chain serving to shield the island from nosy onlookers. But my questions about ole Dave's sanity come from the fact he claims one of the islands holds the legendary Fountain of Youth. He claims the waters it contains cure illness and so on. Well, it's either figure Copperfield is going around the twist, or suspect he's up to some scam to fleece the ill by offering quack health treatments. You'd think someone who deals in making the impossible seem real through carefully designed illusions and lots of practice would be able to spot trickery if someone is trying to dupe him.

Do You Have Them?

Officials at NASA are a bit embarrassed right now. It's been revealed that they don't know where the original video tapes of the first landing on the Moon are. They've been hoping to use the tapes to see if they can be treated using modern technology to produce better images of the landing, but a year's worth of searching hasn't turned them up, although they are sure they're still there, someplace, in the archives.

It's screwups like this that display the silliness of government conspiracy theories. We're supposed to believe the powers that be can cover up the truth about the Kennedy assassination, or that some nefarious government plot was really behind September 11th. Yet the folks at NASA haven't been able to keep track of the tapes of their most important triumph. Indeed one might wonder why NASA still had them, and not the US National Archives or the Smithsonian. This and other similar mistakes make most folks roll their eyes and mutter about the incompetence of government. But dispite such things conspiracy theorists cling to their warped faith in the power and competence of governments to create and run elaborate schemes involving large numbers of people conducting nefarious deeds, often on very short notice, and get away with them.

There is one group that will have their beliefs strengthened by the missing tapes, the Moon landing conspiracy nuts. They'll no doubt claim the tapes are missing because they provide the "smoking gun" that proves the Moon landings were faked. Of course the obvious question for such people is why NASA is claiming to have lost the tapes when it would be far easier to simply claim the tapes had deteriorated too much to be usable, which ironically may be the case even if they are found. Unfortunately common sense tends to have little effect on the true believers.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Feet On The Beat.

This week the Saskatoon Police Service welcomed a group of new constables to the force. Listening to the police frequencies tonight its not hard to see they need more personnel. They've been quite busy tonight, including looking for a man reportedly walking around with a pitchfork. Of course it doesn't help that the Fringe Festival and Saskatoon Exhibition are on tonight,which is probably spreading resources thinner.

It rained heavily here early this morning, and at times looked like it would do so later in the day. It seems that if the Ex is on there will be rain at some point, even though it now takes place in August instead of July like it did for years.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Anonymous Ones.

Anyone who pays more than a vague bit of attention to poker probably knows that the Big One, the World Series of Poker main event, has been going on for the past few days in Las Vegas. Tomorrow is the final table, with the winner set to take home 12 millon bucks American, minus the US taxes, of course. Even the 8 players who don't win will make at least 1.5 million a piece. Not bad for a few days of work. The final table players are Richard Lee, Erik Friberg, Paul Wasicka, Dan Nassif, Allen Cunningham, Michael Binger, Doug Kim, Jamie Gold, and Rhett Butler. Even many casual poker fans will notice something about this group, namely that none of the really big names are at the final table. No Chris Moneymaker, Howard Lederer, or Phil Helmuth. Last year's winner Joe Hachem didn't come close to the final table. Of this year's final table players Allen Cunningham is probably the closest to being a poker celebrity, a seasoned pro who already has four WSOP bracelets. That's what makes poker so appealing to many, the idea that maybe, just maybe, with some luck and some good play they too might be at that final table someday. After all they're watching a bunch of guys that most folks have never heard of duke it out for the top honor in poker, while the famous figures of poker have to sit back with the rest of the world and watch.

I'm Still Here.

My output here has dropped quite a bit the past couple of weeks, but I am still around. It just seems I never get around to posting thing while they're running through my head. I could blame the hot weather, but it was somewhat cooler on the weekend. Boy, is it hot and sticky in here tonight. There's no fan in the computer room, and not much of a breeze through the open window. I'm sure this summer is more humid than last.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I'm Surprised.

I was just checking out the reviews for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby over at Rotten Tomatoes. The ratings are 75% positive, swhich surprised me. Frankly the ads made me think it's a turkey. After all you usually stick some of the best bits of the film in the ads and trailers to get attention, and if those are some of the best bits the film looks bad to me. Admittedly the film isn't one I'd have much interest in seeing anyways. I'm neither a Will Ferrell nor a NASCAR fan. Given that NASCAR is largely an American fandom it will be interesting to see how well the film does outside North America. Apparently sport films tend not to travel well outside their home markets, which isn't a surprise. For example a German audience wouldn't have much familiarity with American football, and hence have little interest in seeing a comedy revolving around football players.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Woo Is A Girl's Best Friend?

On Fridays Orac has started having regular posts on "woo" he's encountered. I would think this story would fit the category. Canadian singer Sherrie Lea Laird claims to be the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe, something she supposedly first realised when she was 12. She is now the subject of a book Marilyn Monroe Returns: The Healing of a Soul. Written by California pyschiatrist Adrian Finklestein it chronicles her "past life regression" and the supposed details it reveals about Monroe's life, such as that she wasn't murdered, as has often been speculated.

Laird claims she's not doing this for publicity, and that it might "ruin" her career. That's doubtful. Plenty of entertainers believe in equally flaky things without apparent career harm. Just ask Tom Cruise. The fact that Laird is 43 and a rock band singer might make one a little bit skeptical of such a claim, as it's not hard to see this as an attempt to bolster a career that's getting a bit long in the tooth. The fact that she'll get a cut of the sales may be a better reason to be cynical, as Marilyn Monroe being the focus is sure to make this book much more likely to be a hit than if she claimed to be the reincarnation of some lesser known figure. Rather convenient for both Finklestein and Laird. You can bet that many of the details supposedly found via hypnosis actually came from Laird, and for that matter Finklestein, being exposed to the tonnes of Monroe material produced over the last 40 some years.