Tuesday, July 31, 2007

We're Kinda Back

Sigh, seems fitting that I should follow my most productive month of blogging to date with my worst, doesn't it? In the best traditions of my blogging forerunners, let this music clip speak for my inner most feelings:

It's with a heavy heart that I say...PSYCHE! You thought it was over? It's not over.

Yeah, I'm not quitting. I've just been busy with other stuff.

I could regale you with tales of staying on the phone all day trying to save internet radio and the republic (Long story short, saving internet radio worked, sort of, as the parties reached an 11th hour compromise. Things are still up in the air – something about royalties - so the fight's not over, but at least stations are still broadcasting. On trying to find out under what circumstances my congressional representatives would consider impeaching someone in the administration, I was less successful. Nothing but press release bloviation from the staffer I spoke with but, oh well.). Spin a yarn of art fairs I've seen, from both sides of the stall. Of computer crashes. Speak of lost files and jury-rigged machines. Of heading to the east coast to chill while my brother checked out a job offer. Tell you about all the adventures I've been having that make it hard to chain myself to the keyboard long enough to write my typical rambling, overlong post. But the sad truth is that the reason I've been silent for so long is the still the same from when I went originally went dark – math class is kicking my ass.

I actually did well on the test I was preparing for oh those many days ago. Even better on the one after that. And the one after that. It's pretty much been a test a week. And a mountain of material to cover and homework to get done. If I don't do it, then I fall behind, and that means I'm that much less prepared for that day's lesson and sliding down that slippery slope to cluelessness. It's a lot of work, I'm saying, and by the time I get done with that and with class and with my daily writing, I'm beat. Just no energy to sit down and post up a storm. And, you know, missing one day of posting makes it that much easier to miss the next, and the next, and the next...twenty. Damn, has it really been that long?

That's right, by the way. Still working on finishing my Frenzy script. We're on revision 3 since the final horn sounded. And I'm juggling preproduction on a further two scripts. Plus working on my NaNo outline. Oh, yeah, that's right, it's not for a few months yet but I'm already working on it. I've got some ass to kick when the crazy train stars boarding again. Try to put in at least a few hours a day on it all, rain or shine. But I'll get into a groove, keep writing way past when I intend to, until I look up and, whoops, it's time to go to bed or start dinner or head to class or whatever else I have to do, so I put the posts I'd been meaning to write to the side.

Anyhow, it should be getting better soon since class is all but over and there's only the final left, which is this Thursday. Unfortunately, I'm probably not going to be back to full-time blogging any time soon. I've finally found some work. Not good work but, hey, I'm not picky at this point. And those responsibilities are a further drain on my resources and time. I'm already feeling the strain and I'm just not sure I'll be able to keep all the balls up in the air.

So, here's the plan: I've been meaning to do this for a while now, but I think this old blog could use to scrubbing up. When I started, I was just chugging along, not really worrying about a lot of the little details. Letting those go was fine, at first, because the whole point was just to have a place to talk, to think, to express myself outloud, as it were. It might sound a bit strange, but I'm not a very talkative person. I live inside my head a lot and the idea was having a blog, having to post day in and day out would help me out to get my thoughts down. To get, in so many words, the pen moving. Not in my head, but on the paper where it belongs. And I think it's been a resounding success there. But what I want to work on now is consistency. On not just having rambling, tangential thoughts, but actually seeing them through to completion. More polish. Less amateur hour stuff. That sort of thing.

I want to post less but post better, if that makes any sense. At the same time, I'm sick of starring at this template, this layout. It was fine when I just grabbed it off the rack but, bleh, I've been wanting to change them for the longest time but messing around with them would have taken away from the posting. But it really needs doing. I've procured (Don't ask how) a guide to such things – since my web design skills are more than a little rusty – and I'm hoping that once my class is done, I'll be able to sit down and really dig into that text. Don't be surprised if the site goes wacky in the next few days as I fiddle with widgets and template codes. And while I'm at it, I might as well take the opportunity to do some spring cleaning around this place. Clean out the blogroll, add some things I've been thinking about, figure out some ongoing series I can maintain, all the stuff I've been avoiding doing.

I think I've discovered a few new content streams, though, so hopefully things won't be too quiet around here. But, for now, I've got a final to study for.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

No, We're Not Back Yet

Random link time: This story is ancient by the standards of the intersphere but still hilarious. Headline's a modern day classic, too.

Anyhow, the weather has broken and returned to manageable levels. I no longer, have to wonder “how much can I get done before it's too flipping hot to think?” It's not that I don't get things done when it's hot outside so much as the pace slows down. When even just stepping outside is an effort to swim through the muggy, humid, boiling air, well, it saps away some of the energy.

Unfortunately, while the weather might have changed, the calender hasn't. Still have that math test coming up tomorrow so I'm in full-on study mode at the moment. Which means I'm tossing out a wealth of amazing (to me) ideas, I just lack the time to flesh them out. I'm determined, though, not to bomb on this test the way I did the last one. I'm not too worried, though, since we're once again right in my wheelhouse and I've done plenty of example problems and all so far. But tomorrow I must batten the hatches and expel all needless distraction in the hopes of getting that crucial last bit of knowledge into my head. So, no bloggy today. No bloggy tomorrow, either, unless by some miracle I come home from class and have a sudden burst of creativity.

Monday, July 9, 2007

We're Still Not Back

For the record, yes, it is still officially too damn hot to do anything except line the bathtub with ice cubes and pray for the next Ice Age to start. Soon.

Got my last math test back today. And the news was not good. 80%. Which, I suppose, for some people is perfectly adequate but, for me, is well below par. Goign through it there were a lot of stupid little mistakes, too, which show, to me, that I just didn't have enough practice doing those sorts of problems. Since I was Frenzied at the time, that makes a lot of sense.

Now, why that matters is because there's another test coming up this Thursday. I thought I had another week but, nope, it's right there on the class schedule and everything. So, I'm once again in cram mode. I have to go over all the stuff from the last exam and make sure I have it down, of course, because it's essential to doing this exam's problems. And I have to study up for this week's exams, too.

So, that's what I've been doing. Instead of, you know, writing blog posts. Although I have been trying to keep on keeping on with my script(s). It's probably going to be like this for a little while, though. I'm sure my lack of commentary on, among other things, the pardon issue or Guild Wars' new mission pack is deeply felt.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

And We're Not Back

It was a lovely little holiday. Despite my many attempt, I was unable to hook up with any lesbian bike gangs. Even worse, sadly no gourmet burgers at the family picnic. Imagine hand ground meat tenderly sprinkled with a mellow blend of spices. Then take a piece of blue cheese and fold it into the middle of the patty. Now you know why I'm bummed about my uncle being on a health kick. Instead he served “bratwurst burgers” which were premade sausage patties on a bun. The varied abundance of salads brought from all corners by members of the dynasty, though, more than made up for it. I'm talking pasta, wheat berry, pesto, fruit, potato, you name it we probably had it. Even the plain mixed greens came from my cousin's garden and were, thus, about four or five kinds of awesome. I was let loose mixing drinks and while there was no cachaca to make my beloved caipirinhas with, I made do with some rum. As anyone who does but taste of the ambrosia becomes enthralled by the taste, it went over well but I also tossed together some mojitos with some mint plucked from a neighbor's back yard (My uncle said it was okay, they share that sort of thing all the time, but as this is the same man who was showing off the bicycle he “found” leaning against the wall while walking home, I have my doubts. I'm just saying, I think my relative is a dirty, dirty thief.) and even a mint julep or three.

And I stuck around for a bit, did some visiting with some old friends who are still hanging around the U. That sort of thing. I love visiting Ann Arbor. It's so...refreshing. One of these days, I'll wind up living there. Not just yet, even though there's a house for sale (One of the benefits of the burst housing bubble and Pfizer pulling out of the town. One of the very few.) in my uncle's neighborhood. The commute would be a bit much at the moment, and all.

But now I've rolled back home. I did manage to jot a few things down in my laptop – mostly working on various scripts and stories and the like, but I hope to have them up eventually. For the moment, though, well, when I left the weather was nice and mild but it seems to have taken a turn somewhere into the bowels of hell. It's hot, you see. I opened up my door and it was like stepping into an oven. And my crappy AC appears to be on the fritz again, at the moment. I have no desire to do anything but sweat at the moment. And sitting in front of a computer pumping out heat is not exactly what I plan to do. Hopefully, I'll be able to post up some things tomorrow but, if anything, tomorrow's supposed to be even hotter out. I have to do a week's worth of yardwork, too, because I don't want this to happen to me.

So, no promises.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Sadness, Sadness, Sadness

I think I completely bombed on my math test. I know I messed up horribly on at least question. And there's really no excuse because I'd studied that kind of problem, looked at it right before leaving for class, but when I turned the page and read the question I went completely blank. Just couldn't remember how to do it. Even though I'd seen it not thirty minutes before. Argh.

Oh well. Nothing I can do about it now.

Nothing I can do about anything, really.

I'm just completely exhausted, I've been charging so hard the past few weeks – through purgatory and the frenzy and this test and everything else – and I'm about ready to collapse. So, I'm going to call it a night. Tomorrow I'll be traveling for the holidays – last minute gathering of the dynasty in the distant hills of A Squared's been called and I'm not going to pass up a chance at my uncle's gourmet burgers – and my current thinking is that I'll be traveling at least through Friday. Maybe even the whole weekend.

I'm going to bring my rickety laptop along so we'll see what happens but no promises.

Until then, enjoy the 4th. Go to a picnic. Get some sun. Enjoy the bounty of this great nation. Unless you're one of those godless Canadians, in which case, take off you hoser, eh? Honka honka.

Cal Thomas Can Suck My Nuts

This column by Cal Thomas appeared, like a sudden illness, in my morning paper. And it's been grinding away at my soul all day since.

For one, it's amazing that we've come to such a place that it needs pointing out that liberals and conservatives might actually posses patriotism in equivalent amounts. For another that it comes from a man who once proposed a truth and reconciliation commission for people who'd doubted the wisdom of the Iraq War.

But, no, what rankles is the false equivalence. The Republican administration, the conservative political machine, has spent the past decade or more muddying the waters, lowering the level of discourse, and poisoning the well of co-operation. And now, now that the bitter fruits of their harvest are finally coming ripe they're going to start saying, “You know, maybe we were wrong about you filthy hippies. You're not so bad after all. Why, you're almost as patriotic as we are! Our bad”?

Mr. Thomas reaches out the hand of friendship, the hand offering brotherhood and forgiveness. And you know what? Fuck him. I slap it away. You don't get takebacks when you've spent the past six years questioning my patriotism, my commitment to liberty, and underhandedly tarring me and everyone like me with the brush of treason. You don't get to unilaterally declare an armistice in the cultural war you've proclaimed. Not when you've raised the stakes to unconditional surrender.

So, yes, Mr. Thomas is wrong when he writes, “My liberal friends love America as much as I do. We don't. We love it more. Because we aren't trapped in the symbols and signs, we cherish the ideas and concepts of our founding fathers not the totemic fetish of flag-waving. Because when we hear someone like Mr. Thomas propose a “cultural war crimes tribunal” we chuckle. While Mr. Thomas and his ilk are serious. Because we never asked you to start measuring our patriotism against each others. For these reasons and more.

But, above all, because of things like the comment thread at the above link. Which I hesitated to make because, you know, don't feed the beast. But, no, a quick check and it quickly descended into the same partisan bickering and backstabbing that Mr. Thomas warned about. This is where we've been brought to as a country, as a people. And now you want to turn back the clock? Where were you years ago when making this kind of argument might actually have had an effect? When it might have actually meant something to stand up for these principles before they became drained of all meaning? What were you doing then?

Happy 4th of July.


One of the biggest talking points handed out under whatever rocks and in whatever muck filled ponds that conservatives congregate in the wake of the Libby commutation is that it's alright because Libby was tried and convicted because of partisan politics. That the whole process was politicized from start to finish and that somehow wipes the facts clean from the record. Or at the very least obscures them enough that those with their Republican goggles on can ignore them. Well, it's hard to see how a process involving Bush appointed judges and prosecutors and begun well before the Democrats held any Congressional power could be so unduly influenced. But, you know, so what if it was? The Democrats politicized the process for their partisan gains. They twisted, bent, and tortured the rules of the game to press their advantage home.

Doesn't feel so good when the shoe's on the other foot, does it?

Because perverting, corrupting our system of government is something the Republicans have been doing for years now. We know, thanks to careful, patient, and painstaking investigation of the Department of Justice alone that it's been turned inside and out to further the conservative agenda. And there's been plenty of smoke coming from other places. It won't be surprising when we find the fires where the Constitution is being used as fodder.

If the conservatives, if the Libby defenders want to say, “Well, what about Marc Rich?” Well, it cuts both ways. They've been smashing a bottle on the counter-top and screaming at the rest of us “You want to get nuts?” for the longest time. And I, for one, am sick of it. You want to get nuts? You want to see just how far we can drag each other into the muck? You want to see who can kick, claw, and scratch the hardest down there in the cold, cold dark where no one can see? Then, lets. Lets see just what happens when we use any and everything we can find to screw you over.

Because we have yet begun to fight.

It's Being Brought

Yesterday, the President delivered his latest stunning fuck you to the legal system. Demonstrating, again, his contempt for the rule of law just days before the most patriotic of holidays.

And yesterday I recalled that it was also the anniversary of his infamous quote:

There are some who feel like -- that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation. [Emphasis mine.]

Possibly not the stupidest thing to pass through out great leader's lips but certainly the one that most encapsulates his boundless arrogance.

Well, I've tried all day to think of an appropriate response. To someone weave the correct words, the properly scathing tone, and the sheer emotional fury wholecloth into a post for the ages. But ever time I've tried to set those words to paper, I've failed miserably. I just can't do it. I lack the will. I lack the talent. I lack the energy to rail once more against the iron wall of indifference and apathy.

But that's okay. Because I'm not the only one who heard the call. And there are some others who are hurling the lightning bolts from the bare reaches of the soul that I just can't manage. Here are some of my favorites:

Mr. Greenwald works the head.

Mr. Horton works the body.

And, as ever, what Digby said.

In Their Own Words


“If there’s a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is…. If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of.” [Emphasis mine.]

Now we know what he meant.


I don’t believe my role [as governor] is to replace the verdict of a jury with my own, unless there are new facts or evidence of which a jury was unaware, or evidence that the trial was somehow unfair.” [Emphasis mine.]

Good thing he's President and not a governor anymore.

Bush on Karla Faye Tucker:

“Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, `don't kill me.'" [Emphasis mine.]

But that's because she wasn't one of our people. Don't you know we have different rules for them?

DOJ guidelines for commutations:

Section 1-2.113 Standards for Considering Commutation Petitions

A commutation of sentence reduces the period of incarceration; it does not imply forgiveness of the underlying offense, but simply remits a portion of the punishment. It has no effect upon the underlying conviction and does not necessarily reflect upon the fairness of the sentence originally imposed. Requests for commutation generally are not accepted unless and until a person has begun serving that sentence. Nor are commutation requests generally accepted from persons who are presently challenging their convictions or sentences through appeal or other court proceeding. [Emphasis added.]

A guideline that the President can and did willfully ignore.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Grr. Argh.

Well, I enjoyed my brief respite yesterday but we're right back at it again tonight. I have a bunch more stuff that I'd like to get around to posting (I was hoping to polish them up tonight but, well, Bush commuted Libby. That kind of set me off.) because I've just got to get the words out of my head. Unfortunately, we're in full on cram mode for my math test looming tomorrow. Skipping a few weeks worth of homework and readings seemed like a good idea at the time but is returning disappointing results at the moment. Also, I'll be traveling for the holiday and potentially through the weekend thereafter (Haven't quite firmed up those plans yet or anything but they exist in potentia.) so I'm not sure just how much I'll be posting in the coming days. Looks like I just might have to treat my readership to the deafening sound of silence again.

On the Pardon

Although we're dealing with a commuted sentence here and not a full Presidential pardon, we're really treading in the same water. And that's the traditional, constitutionally approved, power of the executive to grant clemency. Which, you know, seems like an open invitation for abuse. Especially when you have a pack of cheats and liars in office who want to cover-up their crimes and/or reward their political friends. I'm not even talking about today but about things like Iran-Contra or the one-foot-out the door pardons that closed out the Clinton presidency. I can remember it being used several times but never for anything like the public good.

And in light of today's psuedo-pardon there are, understandably, going to be a lot of calls for abolishing or restricting the pardon power (One I've liked suggest that the President be unable to pardon anyone he appoints to office. Doesn't stop things like Ford pardoning Nixon but, you know, it's a start.) but I remain skeptical.

Just like the law would prefer to free a hundred guilty persons in order to preserve the liberty of that one, unlucky innocent one the pardon is there not for all the cases when it's used wrong but for those few cases where it can be used right. The idea of clemency exists because sometimes human agencies get it wrong. The courts convict the wrong person, the legislature writes the wrong rules, situations arise that no one anticipated so far outside the boundaries that there's no good, legal way to handle them. In those cases, the pardon is a safety valve. It persists to stop abuses in other areas.

Take, for example, the ticking bomb scenario. Now, many people have used this to justify torture and shredding our laws and traditions in order to cope with the extraordinary circumstances of having an unco-operative suspect with the knowledge to stop an event with only a limited time to extract that information and act on it – I've typically heard it constructed as a nuclear bomb located somewhere in the city, primed to detonate in minutes if not hours, and you've got your hands on someone who knows where it is. It's been argued, again, that we need to have our laws allow for the kind of desperate methods that would no doubt be made by prudent, responsible guardians of our law and safety (Not that I think torture would work under such circumstance, that's a whole different post. Just that I think it's reasonable in that case that someone would at least suggest it.). Methods that would, under normal circumstances, be unthinkable and which we've drafted laws and signed treaties to restrict. But we don't need to. We've never needed to. Because we have the pardon. If, say, Jack Bauer had only minutes to disarm a nuke that his daughter and a puma kitten were strapped to and felt the need to force the evil terrorists to listen to Barbara Streisand in order to force the location from their lips in the face of common decency and the law then he doesn't have to worry about being punished for it. If he really does save that many lives and prevent that much tragedy then there's not an executive in the land that doesn't issue a pardon. Even if a court's hands are tied and forced to prosecute based on the letter of the law.

Jack Bauer can always be pardoned for doing something extraordinary in an unlikely situation that the law doesn't adequately cover. And so can anyone else.

It's for reasons like that we still have a pardon.

And it's because the pardon can be so easily abused that we try to be extremely careful about just who we let wield it. If you don't like the way people have used the pardon in the recent past then there's a much easier fix that tinkering with one of the cornerstones of our political system: Stop letting people like that get elected to office.

And if you don't like the way the people in power currently are using it, there's a perfectly good mechanism for solving that, too. As for what that is, well...

If you want to talk about fixing that, well, I'll listen.

A Shorter Version of the Previous Post

Someone said it better, faster.

Fitzgerald did, too.

Mr. Marshall, as well.

And, of course, what Digby said.

Even More On Libby – Bring it On

Still filled with rage over the news. Seething, really. Not just because the news hit as I was sitting down to class, meaning I missed out on it for a full few hours of the cycle – including being able to call and leave a response at the white house as Sen. Biden suggests here, they've since taken the line down.

No, I've just realized how arrogant and imperial this move by President Bush really is.

Oh, I mean, sure, just the act of commuting Libby's sentence is flipping the bird to everyone who believes in the rule of law. Who thinks obstructing justice is a serious offense.

But you have to remember this is the same Presidency that's about to go to the mattresses on executive privilege over subpoenas in the Gonzales affair. The same Presidency that's attached hundreds of signing statements onto the backs of legislation. The same Presidency that includes a Vice President who argues with a straight face that he's a member of the Executive when it's convenient and a member of the Legislature when it's not. The same Presidency who's advisors wanted to create an ongoing conservative empire.

It's an administration that knows no checks on its power, that will tolerate no bounds on its ambitions, that contains no shred of decency at its black heart.

Because, when a sentence is commuted, the underlying conviction remains. It's not forgiving it, it's not excusing it, it's merely saying that the imposed prison term is an unnecessary, even unduly burdensome, punishment. It's something you do when, say, you have someone on death row and discover they're dying of cancer.

Here, what Bush is saying is not that Scooter Libby is innocent, not that he was convicted of a crime he didn't commit – commuting the sentence means the conviction stands (unless it's reversed on appeal, of course, but when you're not supposed to do so while it's still under active appeal. Not the case here but that's because this is Bush waving his “King George” wand to make everything right with reality again.) - not that he didn't obstruct justice. But that the punishment for doing so is too big.

Think about that for a minute.

Who decides if punishments are just? Well, you have the legislature who write up the statutes. And you have the judiciary which applies them. Bush is the executive. He doesn't – no matter what he might think – get to decide whether a sentence is fair or just or anything of the sort. Doing so is trampling over the authority of the legislature and judiciary to do so. And that's exactly what Bush is doing here.

He's not trying to split hairs. He's not playing a third-rate Solomon. This isn't a political compromise that does best by doing the least harm for everyone involved. This is the same heavy handed shit he always pulls.

He's saying that no matter what the law says, no matter how the system is supposed to work, he's the Decider. He's the one who gets to determine the outcome.

A commuted sentence, by the way, doesn't give someone immunity from prosecution if they were, saying, called before Congress to testify. Libby can still take the fifth.

This is Bush standing before the gathered throng and saying that he, alone, has the all the power.

Today, four years ago Bush said the infamous “Bring it on,” line. Well, he just looked Fitzgerald, looked Congress, looked the American people in the eye. And said it again.

More On Libby

Because he was convicted in federal court, the President commuted his sentence. That means no jail time but he still pays a $250k fine and two years probation.

I'm just stunned, I guess. Because now Paris Hilton's served more jail time than Libby. And spare me the bullshit that keeping the fine and the rest intact actually matter here. This was always about accountability and having some well-connected, well-heeled politician cut a check while not facing jail time is not as effective a deterrent.

And, yes, spare me the bullshit that there was no crime here. No underlying crime. You know why there's no proof of an underlying crime? Because Libby obstructed justice so that we'll never know. Which is a crime in and of itself. The gravest sort of crime for a public official because it doesn't just thwart the pursuit of justice it undermines the very institutions they've been sworn to uphold and protect.

And, again, spare me the idea that there was no cover-up here. That Libby's just as addled an amnesiac as, say, the Department of Justice. The past week's relevations of just how far and how deep the roots of corruption have sunk in the Vice President's office would seem to put the lie to that particular narrative. But, you know, when have facts got in the way of a good talking point?

File This Under: You Knew It Was Going To Happen

Bush commutes Libby's sentence. Liberal blogosphere erupts in righteous indignation. Press corps continue to advance the narrative that this was all the end result of a partisan witchhunt that swept up a kind and gentle innocent. Washington pundits chuckle to themselves at late night cocktail parties and slap themselves on the back while penning columns about blogosphere “incivility”. Libby gets a cushy job somewhere in corporate America.

Where on the timeline are we again?

Script Frenzy: MATHS!!!

You know I love the statistics. Anyhow, with the latest missive from the High Holy Temple of Frenzy, we get some numbers to play around with. According to the aforementioned post there were 7876 participants. And of those 1072 “won” by entering a 20+k into the word counter (Like my own slightly fraudulent but impressive looking 24k. Oh, I wrote that much. I just didn't write a finished script.). That's, as the post mentions, about a 14% success rate. Or 13.6 something percent rounded up. And, indeed, that's underpar from historical NaNo levels which tend to hover around 18% no matter how many people sign up. That 20k word count is seductively deceptive, I'm telling you. We won't know until some more in-depth numbers are released whether people who enter any amount into their word counter, donate, or even just post on the forums are more likely to succeed. But I suspect the historical trend that such factors have some correlation to success rates will hold true there as well adjusted for the new environment.

But, also from the official site we have the overall word count. Which stands locked at a staggering 29,496,834 words. The Young Writer's Program says they've got another 219k. So call it 30mil. And with the few precious data points we have we can extract some other information. Such, each of the nearly 8k people involved in the contest wrote nearly 3.75k of the nearly 30 million word total. The average participant, then, got only just under a fifth of the way there. About 18~19%, really.

The donation picture, by the way, is much improved although still not exactly rosey from a few weeks earlier when it stood at about $20,000 out of a $120,000 budget. It's up to over $30k now. So, still, each dollar of the budget has underwritten something like 1k of the word count. And each of the nearly 8k people involved has donated, on average, about $4.

The GoodSearch total, by the way, stands at a staggering $40.59. That's pretty good at a penny a search. June ended with $34.84 in the bank but, keep in mind, we started on the 20th with a mere $0.60 and made roughly 350 searches a day since then (I search a lot but not that much. So somebody else out there is putting some change into the jar, so to speak.). We've earned $5.75 already in one and a half days already this month, so at about that same rate. Carry that out over a full month and you'd have around $100. Over a full year, that's $1200. At a penny a search. So, not exactly going to solve the problem, but not exactly chump change, either.


Been waiting for this though I missed it in the last throes of the Frenzy. There's a new video out for Kanye “President Bush Hates Black People” West's awesome Stonger. Here's a brief synopsis: Daft Punk. Akira. Hot chicks. Explosions. Katakana. Take a look.

It would be possible to squeeze more things that I am inordinately fond of into the space of four minutes or so. But only just barely.

It occurs to me, though, that this song is nostalgia. Late 80s, early 90s nostalgia (I knew I was tapping into something there with my first Frenzy script.). You've got references to celebs like OJ Simpson and Kate Moss in the lyrics. Even Prince and Appolonia. And then you've got the whole Akira and Daft Punk vibe in the video. Plus the sample is straight out of the “Best of” 90s dance/techno/whatever file.

I originally took the lyrics to be stunningly bad. Containing all the subtlety of an anvil. But, now, I'm not so sure. But Mr. West is a professional singer and this is a polished recording, those words don't get there by accident. The important theme might not be in the chorus – that's just the lovey lovey stuff that's needed to sell records. But the key lyrics could be the throwaway line that comes early on in the song, “Damn, they don't make them like this anymore”. With the context of when things were made coming from the rest of the song. Fascinating. Probably reading too much into things, though.

Apparently there's a chain of hat tips here that stretches to the very dawn of the internet. Maybe even the very dawn of mankind itself. I found it at Mr. Church's, though. Because a comics blog is the first place I check for my musical fix. But the reason is, yeah, I really could do without the “Me Likey”, too.

This Blog Is Rated!

I knew I should have written that post about Dick Cheney sniffing cocaine off the erect cocks of gay prostitutes while having his own penis fondled by an underage slut during the weekly Congressional orgy. That's the kind of smut filled talk that really earns you some bloggo-cred. But, since I haven't yet for future reference this blog is rated:

Online Dating

That's going to hurt us in the crucial pre-teen demographic, you know.

Seriously, as you can tell from the comment thread at Mr. Yglesias's where this little thing was found, it's extremely touchy and prudish. Just like the real MPAA! I got an R by using “dead” four times, “hell” three times, “punch” twice, and “gun”. I'll note that the use of “gun” came during the phrase “smoking gun”. And one of the uses of “dead” is in the, I'm sure, bone-chilling phrase “a dead run” in one of my script excerpts. Actually, most of the objectionable content seems to come from those snippets. But, you know, not the most accurate rating scheme ever.

Where Dreamgirls Fails: The Sad and Tragic Tale of Florence Ballard

There's a lot of weird messages in Dreamgirls. As I said when I briefly touched on it before it's a movie that, because of the source material it's appropriating, is really, really deep. You're talking about the Motown scene and that carries everything from the Civil Rights movement to payolla to urban blight to the 12th Street Riots with it. It's an attempt to recreate a time and a place and that's the Detroit of the 60s and 70s. And that's a volatile place and a heady time to be talking about. And the movie just can't carry through with the emotional depth needed to confront all the issues and legacies it brings up. It really betrays its Broadway roots because it feels like the scenes of people talking and interacting are just there to bridge between the songs. Indeed, if you watch the extras on the DVD copy I had you can see that there's a cut of the movie out there that's a lot more like a traditional musical – I've never seen the stage production but comparing the two, there's some songs they dropped from the movie in favor of more...actorly moments. But I don't think they went far enough. For a movie studded with great acting it never gets up into the characters talking to each other, just talking at each other. For a movie about Soul music, it doesn't have a lot of soul.

And, to me, nothing illustrates this more than what the film does with the heartwrenchingly tragic tale of Florence Ballard. An original member of the Supremes, Florence Ballard was pushed out of the group for the same reason Effie leaves the Dreams in the film – she was too black, too big, too fat for the group to crossover. Even though she was a better, stronger singer than Diana Ross who maps to the Beyonce role, Deena. And, like Effie, she sank back into the poverty she originally came from in Detroit. Rapidly blowing through the massive payout she received from Motown (As in the movie, where Effie mentions having lost half a million dollars by drinking it away) and having her musical career crushed thanks, in part, to interference and contractual strictures from Motown Records (She couldn't, for example, mention in advertising that she was a former member of the Supremes.). She wound up with several children, on welfare, a single mother. In the movie, Effie is saved because she's the sister of the Smokey Robinson stand-in. She manages to take back her career and her destiny from the Motown analog of Rainbow Records by recording a hit single and lawyering up.

Well, that's also what happened, more or less, with Ms. Ballard. Although she never had a final showdown with Barry Gordy that I'm aware of – it's a movie and you need some resolution, not to mention a villain so the character Jamie Foxx plays was a broad and sinister character – but she did have an unexpected legal windfall that led her back into singing. Over the years she appeared with the Supremes, she started doing concert appearances. It looked like she might be on the road back. And that's where the movie ends with Effie starting again with a new recording label, with her brother, with her friends, following in her lead. You know, your typical Hollywood happy ending.

But in real life, Florence Ballard died just months after hitting the comeback trail. Heart attack. Dead at the age of 32.

If the script had the courage to end like that, it might have really been something. If it was able not just to tap into the spirit of the times but to show the tragedy of them, too, it might not be so hollow.

My mother, who's been pushing me to watch the film for months because she's a Motown nut – she grew up in the Detroit of the 50s and 60s and I can only imagine how this film resonates with her – has a slightly different take. She say that it's the story of Diana Ross, really (Which, if you follow the 17 minute rule, is right.). That it's about how R&B music had to become, well, whiter to move into the mainstream. And the movie does a very accurate job of portraying that as well as the pain, the suffering, the moral quandries it causes the performers involved. But it also tries to have the message that this abrogation of cultural heritage is a bad thing. That the soul at the heart of the music, of the musicians, is important and it loses something when it's taken away. And the film rings hollow because it says they can put that soul back into it and still expect to be successful. That you don't have to conform, that you can hold onto your dreams without compromising them. But people forgot Florance Ballard. They still remember Diana Ross. It's a Disneyfied version of reality, then, where people who wish long enough and work hard enough can right any wrong. But the weight of the real history woven into the story just crushes that notion flat.

Report to the Gravel Pit

Right, so, Gravel Pit is awful, isn't it? Reads like the Wu saw acts like Biggie and so forth getting massively paid and decided to throw a random R&B singer into the mix. Like they decided to chase some radio play with a dancehall hit. It's like everything bad about the East Coast rap scene at the time rolled into one song. And the video featuring the WuTang in Bedrock with a kung fu fight at the end? If there's a point where the group "jumped the shark" for lack of a better term, that had to be it. Because it just doesn't have the same impact, the same raw power of, say, C.R.E.A.M. or, say:

Or even this from earlier on the disk:

Or this from Iron Flag:

It's kinda sad, then, but I actually prefer this era, this sound to the rest. That song and the album it comes from are my favorite of the Wu Tang catalog. Probably says something unflattering about me, but there you are.


You thought I was finished, didn't you? You thought we were going to run silent, run deep, but run nothing in this space for a few weeks again, huh?

Well I got news for you. It ain't over. It ain't even over.

Yesterday was my day off.

Today's the jump off.

Yeah, that's right, this crazy train is still rolling.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Toggle Stance

Have to drop a quick burst of GW information so you get the title reference. In Guild Wars, there's a certain kind of buff or bonus known as a stance. There are a few wrinkles to them, like an instant casting time, but the biggest one is that you can only have one active at a time. The biggest of them is Frenzy. The archetypal IAS. It lets a Warrior crank just about everything they do up to 11. Damage, adrenal gain, special skills, pressure, harassment, disruption, they all become better when you're swinging faster. A Warrior, at least when the game first came out, wanted to keep Frenzy up and swing away constantly – and they become a pain train when they do. Most threatening character on the board. The catch to using Frenzy, though, is that when it's active you take double damage. Just flat-out anything that hits you is doubled. No way around it. So if you Frenzy at the wrong time you can find yourself sucking dirt quickly. But you want to Frenzy as much as you can. And your opponent was looking to catch you hitting Frenzy to punish you for it. What was a good Warrior to do? Well, what happened is that players started slotting another stance on their bars. Typically a run buff like Sprint or Rush but anything with a low cooldown would work. That way you could hit Frenzy when you wanted but if someone started to rage in your face while you were going off on theirs, you could hit that other stance and it would cancel Frenzy. Boom, instant you press that button, you're no longer taking double damage and with a Warrior's heavy armor your enemy was likely wasting a lot of time and effort targeting you. That second stance, then, became known as your toggle stance. It's what you used to switch your Frenzy off and on as needed, like toggling a checkbox in your options.

Right, so, June is over and I'm toggling out of my Frenzy. It's been a blast, I'm glad I took this trip, I'd do it again in a heartbeat, and if it's back next year I'm going to be standing at the head of the line to get back in on it. But I need to switch gears and get some other stuff done. I have, for example, a math test coming up on Tuesday. And aside from taking notes in class – most of which are covered with doodles and plot outlines – I haven't cracked the book at all since my last test. I need to get moving on that. I need to get moving on a lot of things, really.

But, man, did I have fun. I really wish I could have finished off my script. And I'll be kicking myself for not working harder to get it done for some time to come. But now I have the time to do it right. Unlike the end of NaNo, I'm not sick of it at all. I want to keep working on it. And now I can edit and revise it into something even better. You might ask why I'm so keen on the idea and I'll give you a little hint. I wrote it as a screenplay. And I'm probably not likely to get together the ten or so actors, dozens of extras, and about $30~40 million for special effects I'd need to film it right any time soon. But there are plenty of other mediums that call for a script. Mediums with a much lower barrier of entry. With a polished script in my hands and flush with some newly free time...

I'm a little worried, though, that without the driving force of the Frenzy I'll start to flag. I held onto the lingering glow of NaNo for about a month or two. But then I got wrapped up in Guild Wars and other stuff and really tailed off writing. It could easily happen again here. You never know.

As a hedge against that, though, I've downloaded Celtx. At the beginning of the Frenzy, I swore off getting a dedicated script writing program because my harddrive is already cluttered with word processors. Just like a kitchen, you can find all sorts of gadgets and gizmos to write with. And I love trying them out. But I've learned, also like a kitchen, the best ones are the ones that can do a lot. The uni-taskers, the gadgets that only do one thing no matter how well they do it, are just going to wind up taking up space. Maybe, I thought, if I wrote a lot of scripts, I'd find the need for something like FinalDraft but I've never done this before, I'm not sure if I like it, and I'll stick with what I've been using lately (Which is the highly recommend OpenOffice, by the way.).

But, this month, I've learned that I really like writing scripts. I've got not just my current script to finish but ideas for a good four or five others trying to clamor for attention. And I find the focus on dialog and...cinematic storytelling, I guess I'd call it, to come naturally for me. Every time I've switched scripts, whether to write a new one or to revise a current one, I've gotten better at it. I'm going to keep it up.

Celtx is going to be great. I can already tell. Not only is it free, which is nice, but if you use Firefox, like I do, it's pretty intuitive. Comes loaded with a sample script so you can refer to it for formating and the like. But it also lets you keep all your notes and characters and outllines in a neat little box as you're working. Since I tend to suffer from document creep, that innate organization is going to help me out a lot. I've just spent the past couple hours converting the sadly unfinished Unbound from a text document with uneven formating into a pretty snazzy little project file with multiple drafts, character bios, outlines, and more. It's even got a way to pin images to references that makes me want to dig my scanner out of storage so I can play around with all the maps and sketches I've been making.

Sure, I could have been using that time to get a few more scenes salted away but organizing the film like that has helped me spot a lot of places that I wouldn't have just typing away. My creative muscle's shot anyway. To extend my tortured GW metaphor even further, yesterday I toggled out of Frenzy to sprint towards the finish line. But while my script was kiting away my Rush ran out when I was stuck between lines and I couldn't gain any adrenaline. I've been out of it ever since.

Anyhow, it's been a great month. Looking around at the blog, I blew past my previous high water mark for posts in a month. We've also jumped over 500 total for the year, which means my yearly goal of a thousand posts is well within reach. And I've been really happy with the quality of some of the posts I've been writing lately. I want it to last forever. And I'm going to try my best to keep it going. But, you know, all good things must end. And next month's going to be different.

But, hey, this blog is about Evolution. About change. About an iterative process of value neutral decision making. So, you know, it might just be different better. I won't know until I try it and see. But, though the Frenzy might be over. My adrenaline is all charged up.