Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A New Hostage Crisis

We are about to enter a new hostage crisis. The hostage? The entire United States economy.

Given the destruction and chaos in southern Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi we are already seeing a short term minimum of 2o%, and up to 40% disruption in our petroleum distillate production and distribution (things haven't stabilized enough to really know yet). It will be at least several weeks before this even begins to be mitigated, and several months (at minimum), before we are back up to where we were before Katrina.

This is already resulting in gas prices well above $3.00 per gallon in some areas after only three days of disruption, and I believe we will see an average gas price across the nation of between $3.25 and $3.50 per gallon by next week. Gas price futures jumped 13% yesterday, and gas rationing is already occurring in some areas around the country. If a media fueled gas panic sets in we may very well see $4.00 per gallon, to dire consequences.

Before I explain what I mean by" hostage crisis" any further, a few things need to be cleared out of the way.

First, the current commodity price of Oil (somewhere north of $70 per barrel) has nothing to do with it's actual wellhead price, and everything to do with speculators over the last three years. They have repeatedly driven the price up on the slightest pretext, and as the floor hasn't fallen out from under them, they will continue to do so (as is the nature of markets).

Many people have said, falsely, that the reason for the current price per barrel is that China and India are buying all the oil they can. This is true, but they aren't buying it at our commodities exchange price. The natural demand price of oil right now given the current available capacity is somewhere between $40 and $50 per barrel.

What is propping up this speculative market is psychology (as is the case with all speculative markets). The personal assumption is that turmoil in the middle east and high consumer demand will make things more expensive, therefore speculative investors buy oil futures at higher and higher prices, which makes other investors follow them in, thus fulfilling the promise of the trend at which point the trend leaders take their profits out, and then start another round of speculation. The media supports all of this by the nature and tone of their reporting on oil prices, and the difficulties in the mid-east and other oil producing regions...

Second, the current price of gasoline has little to do with the very high price per barrel of oil; and far more to do with the cost of transportation, distillation, and distribution. Even if we were buying the oil at $27 per barrel (the low of the last ten years, when average gas prices were something like $1.25 per gallon) our gasoline would STILL be near where it is today; because there is not enough refining capacity to cover our internal fuel demand, and hasn't been for about three years (massive refinery explosion, shut downs, and environmentalist actions). There hasn't been a new refinery built in the U.S. since 1976, and there HAVE been numerous shutdowns. Our total refining capacity has increased some 25-30% in that time due to improvements in efficiency, but our demand for fuel has gone up enormously (I have seen estimates ranging from 45% to 170% and I have no idea what is correct or how they were derived). Price increases are a natural result.

Again, this is the nature of markets.

Third, the other major component of gasoline prices is speculation and precautionary bumps on the part of the gasoline producers and distributors. The profit margins on gasoline are extremely thin (from 1% - 5%), so any time there is the slightest disturbance in the psychology of the markets, gasoline companies increase their prices immediately to compensate for the presumed future increase in THEIR costs. If the market will bear this increase without a significant reduction in demand, they have found a support level; and prices will not fall below this support level until demand is reduced. This does not translate into profit taking however, because the added revenues are used by the oil companies to provide additional stocks, or invest in infrastructure, which combined with long term elasticity of demand tends to stabilize prices at support levels for relatively long periods of time...

...Unless there is massive speculative turmoil and production issues as there have been for the last three years that is. Then things go all to hell. These factors feed into each other creating a speculation spiral, and effectively an oil bubble. This bubble will last, and grow bigger until one (or a combination of) three things happens.

1. The markets realize the fundamental unsoundness of the speculation, confidence falls out of the market, and there is a price collapse to the $40-50 per barrel level estimated as the demand price at the moment (that's also the price it was when the current gas price jumps started three years ago).

2. Consumer demand significantly reduces (more than 8% over the course of 90 days), causing the futures market to collapse somewhat, though probably not to demand level. 5% can be considered "noise" in a frothy market, but 8% is presumed to be an indicator, and the trend will be established for profit taking, without the subsequent speculation cycle acting as a price support. If consumer demand dropped more than 10% however, and certainly more than 12%, we would see a fall to demand level, or possibly below (in the short term), followed by a restriction of production to act as a price support.

3. Prices increase and stabilize to the point that it becomes economical to extract more oil from the VAST resources available outside of the middle east.

Of the three, I think the most likely to happen is a combination of 1 and 2.

But here is where I am worried:

The economy of the united states is a hostage to the price of fuel. Energy costs are already one of the largest components of production, distribution, operational costs for many consumer goods. These companies have thin margins as it is, and so any increase in energy costs will be directly passed on to consumers. We have a very limited capacity to accept these short term price increases, which if they occur will cause a massive slump in buying.

I believe that terrorists will use the opportunity and economic disruption caused by Katrina to aggressively strike at oil supplies and refining capacity, both in the middle east, and elsewhere. This is their moment to bring the United states down if they have the intelligence and the capability to do so.

I believe that they do, and that we will almost certainly see attempted attacks in the coming weeks.

This additional disruption in the supply chain could cause a world wide oil panic (primarily fueled by the U.S.), and result in oil prices over $100 per barrel, with gasoline prices in the US increasing to over $5 per gallon.

If prices here go over $4, we will immediately enter a massive recession, as all consumer goods become suddenly more expensive. The media will have a field day, which will cause even greater panic and disruption.

Consumer confidence will instantly plummet, thus feeding the recession cycle; until fuel demand and supplies balance, which will take months. The resulting recession could take years to recover from.

Please note that the ACTUAL impact of ANY of the events I've been talking about is relatively small in relation to the outcomes. It is the PSYCHOLOGICAL impact which has created the current situation, and could cause the panic I am so worried about. This psychological impact is fed by peoples lack of understanding of the basic market conditions, and the medias feeding that lack of understanding, as well as their desire to cause harm to the current political administration.

Now I just hope the terrorists are either too stupid, or too incompetent; or our intelligence and defensive resources are too good to let this happen.

My favorite movie...

... is the princess bride, so I thought this was cute:



My pirate name is:


Dread Pirate Kidd



Like the famous Dread Pirate Roberts, you have a keen head for how to make a profit. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from fidius.org.


HT: Eric Cowperthwaite

Rockstar INXS - Not what I was expecting.

Well this week was completely different, and not at all what I expected. Lets just go right into the songs:

Mig - Paul McCartney, "Live and Let Die": Ugh... What was that? The vibrato monster has arrived. Man he CAN screm well though. Just way too much vamping and screaming. Also the Tom Jones act doesn't do it for me. Wow he certainly can hold a note cant he (like I keep saying, he makes his living doing freddy mercury, and you have to be able to hold a note like that) I still can't believe he's straight... I don't like it, but I dunno if it'll get him a bottom nod. I THINK so, but I'm just not sure.

Jordis - John Lennon, "Imagine": Imagine Mariah Carey doing this song on prozac, with dreadlocks. Yeah that was it. Once again she manages to suck the soul and emotion completely out of a song while providing a perfectly lovely pop vocal. Oh and she looked great, but god that hair really is nasty. I'm guessing the 13 year old girl audience cohort loves it (and the band loved it too), so she's safe, but to my mind it was actually worst performance. You couldn't provide a better illustration of a cover that is wonderfully sung but completely awful.

Suzie - Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody":Well, she looked great, and she opened it well. She got the power of it, but not the delicacy. She just doesnt have the tonal quality or breath control (Mercurys breath control was amazing). She screwed up the change into the first break, and didnt really pick it up from there. Really bad sour notes on the reach and she missed the key. She recovered a bit on the second break, and the audience was getting into it pretty well. I loved her facial expressions, and her stage presence was pretty good. Solid finish... Overall half decent sliding to very good, and with the difficulty of the song that may be enough. Hell I think she'll get the encore for it.

Ty - Rolling Stones, "Can't always get what you want": Wow, that was nothing like what I was thinking. Very good though. He really made it work like the front man for a Gospel choir piece (which is actually how Mick really wanted it to sound) VERY reminiscent of Sam Cooke , and his stage performance was pretty good. Maybe a little too much vamping there for a minute but he was having fun with it which I love. Oh and great fashion choice too, even with the hair. Check out J.D. doing the Stevie Wonder impersonation off to the side there... funny stuff.

Marty - Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here":I'm probably hardest to please on this song since it's one of my all time favorites, and it is a simple but difficult song (unlike BoRap which is just damned hard); but he nailed it lyrically. He was a BIT off key, and I'd have put a little more body and bass into it, and a bit more growl (and I did when I used to sing this song on stage), but he really did a good job. He also showed INXS that he could sing the softer stuff without screaming. His vocal quality here was completely different than in any of his other performances. I think it was the best performance, though both Ty and Suzie were far more animated.

J.D. - Elvis, "Suspicious Minds ": He blew it. He could have really put every ounce of soul into this one and he didnt get it at all. Yes he was vocally competent, and he was playing to the ladies very well, but he really didnt make this the standout he should have. The vibrato monster re-appears here as well. The only time I felt the song like I should have was in the speeded up last verse and chorus. Was it good? Yeah it was, but it wasn't great, and it should have been.

Well, who I think it SHOULD be in the bottom three is very different who I think WILL be.

I think the bottom three SHOULD be Jordis, J.D. and Mig; but I think Jordis is probably safe, and Suzie will get the bottom nod simply based on the audience not liking her that much.

As to who's eliminated, it will almost certainly be J.D. He just isn't the right singer for INXS.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Reaction, Appreciation, Construction, and Morality

Brad Warbiany (Warbs) has a post today talking about this post by Bradford Plummer:

Eichmann and Lolita:
Here's an anecdote about Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita that I have never heard before (that is, I don't remember reading it in Eichmann in Jerusalem):
As Kubrick was beginning to film, an Israeli guard in a Jerusalem prison gave a copy of "Lolita" to Adolf Eichmann, who was awaiting trial. An indignant Eichmann returned the book two days later, calling it ''a very unwholesome book." The sulphurous halo of Nabokov's novel was still burning brightly in the popular consciousness of 1960 and it seems that Eichmann's guard gave the book to him as an experiment--a sort of litmus test for radical evil: to see whether the real-life villain, he who impassively organized the transport towards certain death of countless innocents, would coldly, or even gleefully, approve the various and vile machinations of Nabokov's creation.
Heh. I'd laugh harder, but this sort of thing persists to this day, depressingly. Yes, it's now "acceptable" for people to enjoy and endorse Lolita without also approving of Humbert Humbert, but that's only because the book has been designated a "classic," and only the most extreme moralists would be unashamed to denounce it. Good for people. But the confusion between the quality of a work of art and its moral character certainly lives on. If film reviews over the past year or so are any indication, apparently no one can enjoy Fahrenheit 9/11 without also endorsing its political views wholesale, and a denunciation of Che Guevara the human being suffices for an appraisal of The Motorcycle Diaries. But that's obviously wrong. Good books can be written about pedophiles. Good movies can be made that contain repugnant views on things. So it goes. Someday we'll get over this, but not, apparently, anytime soon.
On this one, Warbs and I are in concert. It is entirely possible to appreciate the construction of something, without approving of the content of that thing. In fact, some art is deliberately produced this way to provoke reactions in the viewer/reader that would play with their moral sense.

Actually Lolita is a poor example of this, because Humbert Humbert is not a sympathetic character in any way (at least in my reading of the book). Humbert is a pathetic and weak NOT-MAN, and we are meant to dislike him. The fascination is supposed to be in his obsession and moral dissolution, for which we are intended to feel both attraction and revulsion.

A far better example is that of propaganda, and this is where Warbs and I are really thinking along similar lines. Warbs cites Farenheit 9/11 as the example used by Bradford in his argument :
Bradford,
I am one of the right-wingers who can appreciate Fahrenheit 9/11 for the piece of propaganda that it is. Michael Moore is a talented filmmaker, who can craft loosely-arranged snippets of video and completely unrelated facts into a piece of work that causes most lemmings to watch it to reflexively hate Bush. It wouldn't have been such a popular film if Moore wasn't so good at it.

That being said, I still think he's completely wrong, his movie is full of deceptions and outright lies, and don't think in any way that it proves what he wanted it to prove. But that was never his point. He made that movie to make himself rich and to cause people to hate Bush. It succeeded on both fronts, regardless of such things as "facts".
Brad Warbiany | Homepage | 08.29.05 - 3:18 pm | #

I’d like to disagree just a bit, not on the basic premise (Propaganda is the perfect vehicle for demonstrating how one can appreciate the construction while disliking or even hating the content of something), but in the example used.

“Roger and Me” is a brilliant piece of propaganda, and actually a fairly decent movie upon which Moore made his reputation.

Unfortunately everything he’s done since has lacked any sort of subtlety whatsoever, as well as significant elements that are risible on their face by anyone who has been paying atention; so any hope of persuasion rather than simple reinforcement of existing views is out the window. To my mind, propaganda should serve BOTH purposes, so F-9/11 is only a marginally effective (though certainly well constructed) propaganda piece.

Of course you make more money playing to your audience, so that is what more does. It is more of a agitprop piece to stir up the base.

I believe the most well constructed piece of propaganda ever made is Leni Reifenstahls "Triumph of the will". It is in scope and composition a completely magnificent movie, about the most repugnant evil of the past century. In it we watch through wonderful cinematography, and some of the best scoring ever used in film; the most perfect example of demagoguery in modern times. Intercut with this are persoanl scenes which allow you to relate to those involved, and detach them from their ultimately evil purpose.

It is both fascinating, and disgusting, and the scale and visual impact of the film alone contrasts against this evil. In effect, and viewed from our presepective; it is a meta-analysis of propaganda itself, and as such it is a marvelous piece of film (though it's intent was anything but).

If you can watch "Triumph of the will" without at least seeing how these feelings are created, then there is something wrong with you. If you are not revulsed by them in relation to the ultimate subject of the film, then there is something even worse wrong with you.

I hate to sound like a moral relativist, but honestly, it is all dependant on perspective.

Perhaps we need a somewhat less controversial example, and one that is more relevant to most of my readers who havent seen the film.

There is a lot of music out there I dont like. I don’t like Eminem for the most part, because I generally don’t like his sound, OR his lyrics which I frequently find personally, morally, and ethically repugnant (although Stan and "Lose yourself" are just great pieces). Frequently even those pieces I do like are about extremely unpleasant subject matters (Stan, "Cleaning out my closet" etc...).

That said, I think that some of his writing is BRILLIANT.

I don’t like his music, but I can appreciate it’s intelligence, it’s structure (his use of rhythm and vocabulary to complement that rhythm is some of the best ever in the business), and it’s personal emotional expression. Eminiem is clearly writing the most intelligent and expressive rap on the pop charts today.

Oh and yes, I know there are many better than he (Atmosfear, Blackilicious Jurassic five and the lyricist lounge, Talib Kweli, Rahzel, Scarface, KRS-1, etc…) but they have not achieved the pop success that Eminem has. His music is getting out there. I suspect that for the most part it isnt being appreciated on an intellectual/lyrical level by most of his listeners... but maybe that's just me being culturally elitist.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Song Meme

This one has been around in a different format for a while, and I haven't bothered; but I kind of like the way you do it in this form, so here goes.

A.) Go to musicoutfitters.com.
B.) Enter the year you graduated from high school in the search function at the upper left and get the list of 100 most popular songs of that year.
C.) Bold the songs you liked, strike through the ones you hated, underline your favorite. Do nothing to the ones you don’t remember (or don’t care about).

1. I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston
2. Whoomp! (There It Is), Tag Team
3. Can't Help Falling In Love, UB40
4. That's The Way Love Goes, Janet Jackson
5. Freak, Silk
6. Weak, SWV
7. If I Ever Fall In Love, Shai
8. Dreamlover, Mariah Carey

9. Rump Shaker, Wreckx-N-Effect
10. Informer, Snow
11. Nuthin' But A "G" Thang, Dr. Dre
12. In The Still Of The Nite, Boyz II Men
13. Don't Walk Away, Jade
14. Knockin' Da Boots, H-Town
15. Lately, Jodeci
16. Dazzey Duks, Duice
17. Show Me Love, Robin S.

18. A Whole New World, Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle
19. If, Janet Jackson
20. I'm So Into You, SWV
21. Love Is, Vanessa Willlams and Brian Mcknight

22. Runaway Train, Soul Asylum
23. I'll Never Get Over You (Getting Over Me), Expose
24. Ditty, Paperboy
25. Rhythm Is A Dancer, Snap

26. The River Of Dreams, Billy Joel
27. I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), Proclaimers
28. Two Princes, Spin Doctors
29. Right Here (Human Nature)-Downtown, SWV
30. I Have Nothing, Whitney Houston

31. Mr. Wendal, Arrested Development
32. Have I Told You Lately, Rod Stewart (love the song, when don by Van)
33. Saving Forever For You, Shanice
34. Ordinary World, Duran Duran

35. If I Had No Loot, Tony! Toni! Tone!
36. I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That), Meat Loaf
37. Slam, Onyx
38. Looking Through Patient Eyes, P.M. Dawn
39. I'm Every Woman, Whitney Houston
40. Baby I'm Yours, Shai
41. Come Undone, Duran Duran
42. I Don't Wanna Fight, Tina Turner
43. I'd Die Without You, P.M. Dawn
44. Whoot, There It Is, 95 South

45. Hip Hop Hooray, Naughty By Nature
46. Another Sad Love Song, Toni Braxton
47. Will You Be There, Michael Jackson
48. Comforter, Shil
49. Good Enough, Bobby Brown

50. What's Up, 4 Non Blondes
51. All That She Wants, Ace Of Base
52. 7, Prince and The New Power Generation

53. Dre Day, Dr. Dre
54. One Last Cry, Brian McKnight
55. Just Kickin' It, Xscape
56. I Get Around, 2Pac
57. Bed Of Roses, Bon Jovi
58. Real Love, Mary J. Blige
59. Here We Go Again!, Portrait

60. Cryin', Aerosmith
61. Cats In The Cradle, Ugly Kid Joe
62. What About Your Friends, TLC
63. I Got A Man, Positive K
64. Hey Mr. D.J., Zhane
65. Insane In The Brain, Cypress Hill
66. Deeper And Deeper, Madonna
67. Rain, Madonna
68. The Right Kind Of Love, Jeremy Jordan
69. Bad Boys, Inner Circle
70. That's What Love Can Do, Boy Krazy
71. Do You Believe In Us, Jon Secada
72. Angel, Jon Secada
73. Forever In Love, Kenny G
74. Again, Janet Jackson

75. Boom! Shake The Room, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince
76. When She Cries, Restless Heart
77. Sweat (A La La La La Long), Inner Circle
78. It Was A Good Day, Ice Cube
79. More And More, Captain Hollywood Project
80. How Do You Talk To An Angel, Heights
81. Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat), Digable Planets
82. What Is Love, Haddaway
83. To Love Somebody, Michael Bolton
84. Give It Up, Turn It Loose, En Vogue
85. Alright, Kris Kross

86. Check Yo Self, Ice Cube
87. Fields Of Gold, Sting
88. Ooh Child, Dino 89. Faithful w/ Go West
90. Reason To Believe, Rod Stewart
91. Break It Down Again, Tears For Fears
92. Nothin' My Love Can't Fix, Joey Lawrence
93. Three Little Pigs, Green Jelly
94. Livin' On The Edge, Aerosmith
95. Hey Jealousy, Gin Blossoms
96. If I Ever Lose My Faith In You, Sting
97. Anniversary, Tony! Toni! Tone!
98. One Woman, Jade
99. Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Taylor Dayne

100. Two Steps Behind, Def Leppard
Hmmm, looking at this list I'd have to say... DAMN THAT YEAR SUCKED. Of course I already knew that having been through it. I think I was mostly listening to Metal and Classic rock at the time. I'm guessing I'd do better with music from the year of my birth actually. I mean just the fact that JOEY LAWRENCE had a top 100 hit in this year should tell you how bad it was.

HT: Mostly Cajun, who is in Southwest LA right now,

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Quickie poker

I went out to Pker with Jim, JohnOC, and my brother last night, and I was doing real well for a while. I went up to about 30k; starting out the final table+1 player big stacked with blinds at 2 and 4k.

And I blinded out.

Ayup, I didnt catch a hand for 55 miniutes. We stayed 9 handed the entire time, until finally I was down to two big blinds, and I catch A-6.

So anyway I go all in with 8k and two callers, one with just 2k who was going out anyway. He's got shit, and the other guy has K-J.

Flop comes out, 8-5-6 and I'm a happy-ish man with a pair and the over.

Queen on the turn and I'm about to celebrate.

MOTHERFUCKER gets the king on the river.

Anyway I ended up 8th with 50 points. So I'm at 850, with only 150 to go. I've still got Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to play though, and Jim made 800 points last night so we're going to try and catch it in the next three days.

Rock Star - Why do I bother watching sundays?

The manipulative editing annoys me... really all I want to see is the song selections.

That said, having them record an unreleased INXS song... Well we've been waiting for something like this for a while. We need to hear them all sing the SAME song, and have it be an INXS song to really figure out who should be with the band.

Ty is getting more irritating on a personal basis. Oh and I'm still pretty sure he and Marty are gay.

Neither J.D. nor Maryt have a studio voice, and Martys screaming outtakes show it pretty clearly. Jordis, Suzie, Mig, and Ty, are all good for studio recording so I expect they'll do well with it. The real question becomes how will their different vocal styles sound with THIS tune?

Oh and Ty's high energy performance style is definitely not going to help him here. He's going to have to rely on professionalism and ability. The same thing goes for both J.D. and martys stage presence, which has kept them alive so far (though how anyone could LIKE the way J.D. overdoes it is beyond me). But, as we saw in the songwriting competition, J.D. can actually be a much stronger competitor vocally when he ISN'T onstage.

Anyway, it should be interesting...

Suzie: Whoa, that's better than she's ever done on stage. Oh and it seems like a coold song, though not an INXS song.

Jordis: Yeah she sucked. She put no effort into it, it didnt sound right, she had no breath and tone control. Plus she pissed the Farrisses off.

Ty: A little overdone, but strong. Maybe not the right emotional message

Mig: Sounded kind of like the backstreet boys there, but good

Marty: Ok he jsut doesnt have breath and tone control. Too much scream, too little modulation, too much wandering etc... But the second take with the breathy tone... yeah that worked REALLY well. Actually it sounded almost like Michael Hutchence would have sung it.

J.D.: He kept dropping it. I think he could have had it if he had practiced; his voice could have done it right but he didnt know the song at ALL, and he didnt warm up. BIG mistake.

Heres the thing though, I think J.D. probably did better than we saw on tape. I'm thinking the producers edited it to make him look REALLY bad, because the band wasnt pissed off with him, as they would have been if he really sucked as bad as they showed us.

Also I'm almost certain they used a couple of the negative clips more than once; because his head was in the exact same position, and he took a breath in the exact same spot in the same phrase, and he dropped out in the exact same way etc... This is a common video editing trick to make you think something happens again when it hasn't.

Ok the songs:

Mig - Paul McCartney, "Live and Let Die": Mig should rock this one completely. It's probably the best song McCartney ever did after the Beatles, and it's been covered VERY well in the past. Some big shoes to fill, but I think Mig can do it.

Jordis - John Lennon, "Imagine": Let's see Jordis REALLY get the emotion into this one. Dont make it sound like a pop song, give it the real emotion. I wonder if she can sing this quietly and gnetly while still expressing herself... Honestly I don't think she'll pull it off well. Bottom Three.

Suzie - Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody": It would be SOOO unfair for Mig to get this song, since he makes his living singing it. That said, I'd LOVE to hear him do it. I think Mig would nail it, and Suzie is STUPID to want to try this song. Sure if she gets it it's a slam dunk, but I jsut don't think it's POSSIBLE for her to get it right. It's the hardest rock song in the world, from the greatest rock vocalist of all time. Bottom Three

Ty - Rolling Stones, "Can't always get what you want": I think J.D. or Ty would be great for this song, but since Elvis is in the building Ty should make this one scream. He's gonna jagger it up on stage, and the choir will just drive him higher.

Marty - Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here": This happens to be my favorite Pink floyd song. I think Marty can pull it off VERY well, but not if he starts screaming. He's got to get the soft into it or it ruins the song completely. Even in the "We're jsut two lost souls swimmin in a fishbowl" part, it's forceful, but not yelling. I think he's going to blow it and end up in the bottom three.

J.D. - Elvis, "Suspicious Minds ": Ok this is Definitely J.D.'s slam dunk. He was an Elvis impersonator fer chrissakes. I LOVE this song, it's my favorite later Elvis tune. Not only that, but J.D. is PERFECT for this, vocally and in his personal style. I have only one concern, in that the teenage girl audience isn't going to like the SONG rather than the performer. If he makes it though, I think he gets the encore.

I SOOO want J.D. to do well with this one. i think if he can nail it he can REALLY get it going and get the encore. Suzie... I think she's gone this week to be honest with you. I jsut don't see how she can do anything but die horribly with this song. I just dont think Marty is going to pull it off. Jordis.... I dunno man, this may be her death week too.

Anyway my bottom three pick for this week is Marty, Suzie, and Jordis; but we may see J.D. there instead of either Marty or Jordis.

C.Y.B.O.R.G.


Cybernetic Handcrafted Replicant Intended for Scientific Battle, Yearly Repair and Nocturnal Exploration


Kind of works for me actually.

H/T: Yogimus

What type of gamer are you?


You scored as Method Actor. You think that gaming is a form of creative expression. You may view rules as, at best, a necessary evil, preferring sessions where the dice never come out of the bag. You enjoy situations that test or deepen your character's personality traits.

Method Actor


100%

Storyteller


100%

Tactician


100%

Butt-Kicker


58%

Specialist


58%

Power Gamer


42%

Casual Gamer


8%

Law's Game Style
created with QuizFarm.com


H/T: Yogimus

Random thoughts...

Someone really should kill Paris Hilton, for the benefit of all man kind.

Aww HELL YEAH!!!












John Wayne

You scored 47% Tough, 14% Roguish, 19% Friendly, and 19% Charming!

You, my friend, are a man's man, the original true grit, one tough
talking, swaggering son of a bitch. You're not a bad guy, on the
contrary, you're the ultimate good guy, but you're one tough character,
rough and tumble, ready for anything. You call the shots and go your
own way, and if some screwy dame is willing to accept your terms,
that's just fine by you. Otherwise, you'll just hit the open trail and
stay true to yourself. You stand up for what you believe and can handle
any situation, usually by rushing into the thick of the action. You're
not polished and you're not overly warm, but you're a straight shooter
and a real stand up guy. Co-stars include Lauren Bacall and Maureen
O'Hara, tough broads who can take care of themselves.


Find out what kind of classic dame you'd make by taking the
Classic Dames Test.










My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 89% on Tough
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 38% on Roguish
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 21% on Friendly
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 18% on Charming



Link: The Classic Leading Man Test written by gidgetgoes on Ok Cupid

HT: Joan Crawford

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Liveblogging - Guns on TV - Numbers and Snipers



Interesting episode of numbers tonight (a repeat), about sniping; and I think I'm going to liveblog it.

Any time crime shows start talking about guns I perk my ears up, usually to be disgusted by massive errors and anti-gun propaganda.

Well in the first five minutes a "sniper expert" shows up, and starts talking about possibilites, skill, gun types etc...

The first thing was "There were four different calibers. In this shooting, he used a 7.62x39... he could have picked up a russian SKS for under $100, or he could be using a Blaser R93. It has interchangeable barrels, which could explain the multiple calibers, and would be an easy way to avoid having you link his gun to all four shootings". Hell he even pronounced Blaser properly (It's a very interesting gun actually. Col. Cooper has a lot to say about them, both good and bad), although I've never seen one in 7.62x39, I'm sure it's available. Of course we saw the rifle he used, which I think was a rem 700 (I didnt see it for long enough).

Not bad there; though you haven't been able to find an actual Russian SKS for under $100 in a while. At least not in any condition for 200-300 yard shot.

Next he talks about a snipers state of mind, and the human factors effecting taking a shot. Adrenaline, cramping, sweat, breath control ... spot on. Somebody actually did their homework.

Compare this to the new TNT series "Wanted", which features great gun porn, but gets all the details wrong (and this from a show that has an ATFE agent as a main character... of course if you know anything about ATF agents that may be the best thing about the show).

Other Numbers episodes have featured the "correct" weapons and frequently the correct tactics and execution for FBI agents and SWAT members involved in dynamic entries etc... So it would seem that either they have a gunny on staff, or someone is really doing their homework.

Then they move into instructing Charlie to shoot a rifle; which should be no big deal for any real cop, FBI agent etc.. but for hollywood that is a BIG DEAL, as if merely shooting a gun was a major life altering decision...

Well actually it is, but rarely in a negative way.

Back to the instruction...

They started him on an Accuracy International rifle with a nightforce scope, both very good choices in service with police and military around the world (though not exactly what I'd use to teach a beginner). Also they were shooting at 25 yards.

His first shot barely hit the paper, which is to be expected, and his brother wants to call the whole thing off, but Charlie insists on learning, so they discuss valid breath control techniques, and he makes a dead bull the next shot.

Unfortunately they gave him a total of about 30 seconds of instruction. This could have been a decent scene if they spent some time on it; and I think could have moved the story on a bit deeper, but oh well...

The episode then degenerated into pop psychology, and there wasn't any more real gun detail.

Overall it was a better depiction of firearms than we generally see, which means it was palpably anti-gun, but at least the details were mostly correct this time; and it wasnt so grossly stupid that I wanted to shut it off.

Unfortunately that's about as good as it gets from hollywood.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Wal-Mart and the free market

There are a lot of Wal-mart haters out there. Wal-mart puts small retailers out of business, Wal-mart ruins town centers, Wal-mart screws up traffic patterns, Wal-mart does this, Wal-mart does that etc... etc... etc...

I do shop at Wal-mart, even though they are the number one importer from our enemy, China (from our ally Taiwan as well). I do believe that China is our enemy, and that they will start a war with us in the next few years, and I understand that Wal-Mart helps the Chinese army build it's war machine. In fact, analysts say that Wal-Mart accounts for anywhere from 15% to 40% of all real U.S. imports from communist China (I'm not sure whose numbers to believe).

Guess what, every other retailer does it too; Wal-mart is just the most visible.

If I were to refuse to shop at businesses that did business with, or stocked products that are manufactured (or whose components are manufactured) by the peoples republic of China; I would go naked and hungry.

Actually that's not quite true, I could find other alternatives for far more money. Once I did, those alternative suppliers/manufacturers would STILL be dealing with offensive foreign governments; because our labor and environmental movements, and our government and tax system have made the economical manufacture of consumer products impossible in this country.

I fully and firmly believe that Wal-Mart has the right to do business in any way it sees fit so long as it is legal and ethical. I fully and firmly believe in a free and open market.

Wal-mart is where it is, because they used every advantage they had to obtain good market position, then used that position to compete better than anyone else. Nothing that Wal-mart does is immoral, or unethical (mean and viciously competitive is another story). They are using their size and market position as they should be, and it is completely legal and proper for them to do so; they are practicing capitalism at it's finest.

Is it fair? Absolutely. You have the same opportunity Wal-mart does. It took them 40 years to get where they are, and they didn't use any legal trickery to do it. You might be able to do the same thing yourself in 40 years.

Is Wal-mart good for consumers... well that's a mixed bag. In many ways yes, but there are some specific cases where Wal-mart is definitely hurting the consumer.

I shop at Wal-mart for certain items because it is cheaper, and more convenient (theres one two miles from my house). This doesnt bother me.

What does bother me, is that I also shop at Wal-mart because frequently they are the only retailer with an item I want (or it's equivalent) in stock. What bothers me even more, is that to some extent what I can buy at all is dictated by what Wal-Mart wants to sell.

Heres the problem: Wal-mart is HUGE; in fact they are by far the largest corporation in the world, and the largest private employer in the world (just under 300 billion in revenue, and just under 2 million employees). Wal-mart by itself is the 33rd largest economy in the world.

This size, and the power it gives them over their suppliers, creates artificial distortions in the market. Wal-mart is the flipside of the network effect; in that the fewer distribution channels of a product (in this case retail outlets), the more control those channel owners have over the product produced. This reduces the choices and options available in the market, which reinforces the original factors, and creates de-facto monopolies (or partial monopolies).

Let me explain this with a specific market segment example. Wal-Mart essentially dictates what CDs, DVDs, and video games will be released by major producers, and what will sell well; because they sell more than all other outlets for these products (in some cases more than all other outlets combined).

If Wal-Mart chooses not to carry your video game, it will fail; in fact it will most likely never even be released. Your CD or DVD? same thing (unless you are a major star). If they give your product a poor shelf position, not much shelf space, or low stocking levels, it will fail.

Wal-marts size, and low prices have pushed out so many smaller retailers that there are very few outlets left for products that are not sold at wal-mart. In fact in much of rural America, they are the ONLY retail outlet for many products, and thus, if you arent in wal-mart, you aren't in (insert town here).

This means that if Wal-mart doesn't sell it, you can't buy it (let's leave out online for now... oh and we should note that Sears was in this exact same position for many years; from the late 1890s until the developement of the interstate highway system in the 50s)

This also means that for many producers (and/or distributors), if it won't sell at Wal-mart, they won't produce it; or they will change it so that it WILL sell at wal-mart. This prevents many small but viable market positions in music, movies and video games from being filled (at least outside of local distribution), because without Wal-mart as a sales venue they are never produced or distributed.

To cite a recent example, Wal-mart told rockstar games that if they didnt do something about the "hot coffee" issue, that they would drop all Rockstar games now and in the future from distribution. This would immediately put Rockstar out of business, so of course Rockstar immediately moved to recall the game etc... etc...

All of this also means that Wal-Mart gets propietary products made just for them, that are similar to the main product line products that other retailers get, but with slightly fewer features, slightly lower quality construction, and at a slightly lower price. This reduces the total volume of sales for the main product line, which increases it's prices and reduces it's availability. It can also create incomaptibilities with the main product line.

What's worse (to my sensibilities anyway) is that Wal-mart also gets special versions of movies, CD's, books, and other intellectual property that are changed from the original versions to meet Wal-marts standards (again, this would not be a problem were it not for Wal-marts strongly dominant retail position making them the only consumer option in many markets).

Given all of these factors, Wal-mart is the priority for most manufacturers that do business with them. This means Wal-mart gets stock first, and Wal-marts special versions ship first, while other retailers are left waiting.

Let us list some other markets where Wal-Mart has similar (though not as pervasive) effects:

- Low end housewares
- Small Appliances (toasters and coffemakers etc...)
- Toiletries and sundries
- Small consumer electronics (things like hair dryers and alarm clocks)
- Discount clothing
- Low end jewelry and watches (Wal-mart is by far the #1 jewelry retailer in the world)
- School supplies (kids non-designer backpacks are a biggie, being sold almost entirely at discount stores)
- Low end bedding

In all of these markets Wal-mart has a dominant (or at least very strong) influence, because while there are alternatives, they are significantly fewer in number, they are significantly less convenient, fewer consumers have access to them, and their prices are significantly higher.

Ok, that's out of the way, now the question remains: can and should there be anything done about this distortion?

How about NO and NO? The only thing that could reasonably be done is break up Wal-Mart, and that definitely should NOT be done. There is no legal or moral justification with any legitimacy, for breaking Wal-mart up.

The only other option is to start up (or build up) a viable competitor (or competitors) that will counter these distortions, and provide an outlet for those non-WalMart products; then hope it is commercially viable. Kmart and sears are trying to do that right now. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Meijers, Target, and Kohls get together for the same reason.

So in the real world how do you compete against Wal-Mart? Well, in the case of video games, CD's and DVD's as I mentioned above, you really can't. There are only 5 major record companies, and they want to deal with the BIG retailers, so the only way to compete is to BE a big retailer or a big distributor dealing with the small places. This is why that particular market segment distortion causes a problem for me; there really is no alternative national channel

Now as to other market segments however, competing with Wally world is simple: Aim Narrower, Aim Wider, Aim Higher, and Aim Nicer

Okay being cryptic there, and aren't those things a bit contradictory? What does that mean?

Wal-mart looks to take a median to low-end position in most of the market areas it serves; they carry a relatively narrow selection of a broad range of product types, all at the low end of that product types spectrum; and they provide the minimum amount of customer service necessary to allow consumers to select a product and complete a purchase.This is how they offer the lowest possible prices on most of what they carry.

To compete, you offer consumers what Wal-mart doesn't:

1. You give customers a narrower selection of product types, more relevant to their needs
2. You give customers a much broader selection of brands, models, and options within those types
3. You give customers the option to purchase the higher end models and brands that Wal-mart doesn't carry
4. You strongly emphasize customer satisfaction, and enjoyment of the shopping experience. People will pay more for better service, so long as it's a reasonable amount more.

If you do that, Wal-mart can set up a superstore in the same shopping center as your little niche shop, and you'll just be thanking them for the foot traffic.

Let me give you a generic example that has repeated itself all across the country:

Wal-mart is the #1 retailer of firearms and ammunition in the country, mostly because they have the most locations (by a factor of at least 50) of any retailer in that market. When Wal-mart opens a new store near an exisiting gun shop, sometimes that gun shop goes out of business, but more often they see a large INCREASE in their business.

Why?

Because Wal-mart offers a low entry cost into the shooting sports, but serves a very limited section of the market, with a very limited selection of products, very little knowledge of the segment, and very little customer service.

Lets get into a bit of detail here:
  • Wal-mart only stocks 7 brands of firearms in most of their stores (They do sell about 20 brands total, but most of them arent stocked in most stores). If you don't want one of those seven brands, you need to go elsewhere.

  • Yes, Wal-Mart sells the Ruger 10/22 for $25-$50 less than most gun shops do, but it's the only Ruger model most stores carry. Wal-mart only carries a few models from each brand, and if you don't want those specific models, you are out of luck. Most decent gun shops will carry far more brands, and will carry many models per brand.

  • Most wal-marts will only carry one or two ammunition selections, in a small number of very popular calibers. If you want something else, sorry, they don't have it. Most decent gun shops will have at least one load if not two or three from every major ammunition manufacturer in the popular calibers, and at least one offering in most of the less popular calibers. If they don't have it, they will almost certainly order it for you, or they will know who does.

  • Wal-mart stocks special wal-mart only versions of many of the firearms it sells. Some of these special versions are made in China or Japan, while the standard production models are made in America. Some of these models are made to a lower quality, fit and finish, or poorer tolerances than the standard production models are.

  • Most Wal-marts only stock a few dozen guns; most decent gun shops will stock several hundred.

  • Most gun shops will order a gun for you if they don't carry it, Wal-mart will not.

  • In most gunshops you can load (generally not with live ammunition), unload, disassemble, and work the action and trigger of a prospective purchase before you buy it. In wal-mart, you can't. In fact in some Wal-marts you can't even touch the gun you are going to purchase until you leave the store (a manager carries it out to you).

  • Wal-mart doesn't sell handguns at all. If you want a handgun, you have to go somewhere else.

  • Wal-mart (obviously) doesn't sell used products. Used guns account for at least half of most gun shops business.

  • Wal-mart does not service the weapons they sell, and they don't carry parts or repair items for them. They also generally do not carry accessories for them other than scopes and rings.

  • Wal-mart doesn't stand behind the guns they sell. In many Wal-marts guns cannot be returned, even if defective; they must go back to the manufacturer.

  • Wal-mart associates generally don't know anything about guns. They generally can't give you advice on what to buy, or why.Wal-mart isn't a place where you can experience the "gun culture". You don't trade stories with the counterhand at wal-mart.
All of these factors add up to a significant competitive advantage for the specialty retailer. These advantages can apply to almost all the product categories that Wal-mart (or any other retailer) sell. No, there is no way you'll ever compete with Wal-mart on price; but if you work it right, you don't have to. In fact frequently folks will pay more for the very same product at your specialty store (like the Ruger 10/22 I listed above), because they prefer the experience of shopping with you; and because they expect and recieve better service from you.

What it comes down to, is you are meeting their need better than Wal-mart is, and this difference in value is worth the extra cost to them. That's the whole secret to competeing against ANY lower priced item.

If you don't provide better service, and better selection; then yes, Wal-mart is going to put you out of business; and I don't see how that's a bad thing.

"But.. but.. the little old lady down the road and her husband make these adorable little stuffed bears for $50 each, and the cheap $10 wal-mart teddy bears are driving them out of business, and it's just not fair"

Quit whining, that's the way the market works. You could make the best product in the world, and wal-mart can sell something that is only half as good, for 3/4 as much; but if consumers dont want to spend the extra 1/4 for your extra quality or functionality, then you will fail, AND YOU SHOULD. That's what a market economy is all about; you survive, and you succeed, by giving the customer what they want, and taking what they want to pay for it.

If Wal-mart is chopping the price out from under you, then obviously your product isn't worth the price difference to the people who are buying from Wal-mart. Either find different customers who value your products more, or increase the value of your product to the existing customers (or both, thus doubling your potential market).

At the movies...

Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle

I saw "Sky High" last week, and it was kinda fun. It was cute, and pleasant, and completely unmemorable in every way. Actually I'm wondering why it wasnt a Disney straight to video release.

The movies mentioned in the article above, Stealth, and Bewitched? Well I was actually looking forward to seeing them (Bewitched because I like looking at Nicole Kidman, and Will Ferrel is due for a movie that doesnt suck), but I never even noticed they were there. Apparently the theatrical run for the two of them was like two weeks. The dukes of hazard movie has been out three weeks or so, and I want to see it, but it's already being pulled from theaters. Hell, the dukes of Hazzard was considered a fairly big hit... for about three days after which everyone forgot about it.

The movie business has been complaining for years about declining audiences, declining revenues... (even though they made record money each year of the last five; mostly from DVD sales) everything but the declining quality of their output. They leave that last one to their audiences.

Yep, movies pretty much suck these days. Oh sure, they arent horrible, but they arent pulling people out of their houses to go see them either.

I used to be a two movie a week man. Even if the movies weren't "great I'm dying to see that", it was a part of my "entertainment lifestyle" if you will.
"Even Robert Shaye, the studio leader behind "The Wedding Crashers," one of the summer's runaway hits, shares the worry about the industry's ability to connect with audiences. "I believe it's a cumulative thing, a seismic evolution of people's habits," said Mr. Shaye, chairman of New Line Cinema.

In previous years, he said, "you could still count on enough people to come whether you failed at entertaining them or not, out of habit, or boredom, or a desire to get out of the house. You had a little bit of backstop."
Ayup, that was me. Notice I said WAS? Actually the amazing arrogance of that final paragraph could stand all on it's own as a testament to the "why" of hollywoods failure.

I think I've been to about ten movies this year total, probably 15 last year; and other than the hardcore geek movies (Sin City, Revenge of the George Lucas money making machine, Batman, F4 - horrible mistake that - etc...) I'm not sure I can even remember any of them clearly. I think there was something with Adam Sandler... ummmm.... oh and the Angelina Jolie thing... Yeah.. ummmmm....

The only movie I can say that I'm looking forward to this year is Serenity, and that's because I'm a HUGE firefly fan. Joss Whedon is my master now. I WAS looking forward to "V for Vendetta", but that was pushed off til next march for some reason.

We are constantly inundated with advertisements for movies, but are any of them catching our attention? Hell, are the movies themselves? I can't think of anything coming out this week, or next week, or...

At the recent theater industry annual convention the president of the assoc. said "Well, the first thing is, the movies arent very good" (or something like that. I read the exact quote last week and can't find it now). Yeah, we noticed. Or rather, we didnt notice, and didnt really care; we jsut didnt go to the movies.

Of course compressing the time from theatrical release to DVD release down to six weeks doesn't help either. Now they are saying that "Consumers want the option to see movies on DVD at the same time as they are in theatrical release". No, not really, we jsut dont feel like going out to see the crap you are producing, but we'll happily watch it at home for less money, and we don't feel like waiting two months to do it.

I mean why would I go and pay $30 to see a movie in the theater with my girlfriend, when two months later I can watch it on my home theater with better picture and sound, and more comfortable seats, for less money? I don't mind paying $9 a seat for a good movie, but (again other than the hardcore fanboy movies) how many of those have been out lately? It doesnt even have to be a GREAT mvoie (though one of those every once in a while would be appreciated), just a good one every now and then please?

Can't think of any offhand? Good me neither. I know I reviewed several movies as good on my blog recently, but I'll be damned if I can remember what they were.

The movies just arent good enough to bother with.

Oh and then theres the 30 minutes of advertisements before the movie. No, not the previews/trailers (those I kind of dig) I'm talking about 10-30 (I measured 26 minutes once) of actual straight up advertising before the TRAILERS started, then 5-20 minutes of trailers.

If my movie "starts" at 2pm and it's not actually playing by 2:10 I start to get irritated. By 2:25 I'm ready to leave.

Remember, all of this is coming from the guy with the 8 movie subscription at netflix, and who basically has a TV for watching movies. I'm the guy who's xbox doesnt even have controllers plugged in (I use it as my second DVD player for the bedroom TV). I'm a certified movie nut.

But not this year, or last year.. or really the year before that either.

In the last five years the only movies that stand out in my memory are the fanboy movies (which I tend to love even if they arent that great, because I know the material so well). I'm sure there were good movies in that time, but GREAT ones? Memorable ones? Ones that are worth plunking the cash down for? Few and far between.

HT: Eric Raymond, in one of his far too rare entries

Home Sweet Home

Well we pulled in at just past 11 Arizona time, after 13 hours on the road today. Subtracting 2 hours for food and fuel, and we've got 11 hours actual driving time for 775 miles.

Yeah we were cooking pretty good, expecially considering we spent over two hours either stopped, or at below 35mph because of construction delays.

Other than the scenery, which is always spectacular; and Jims repeated attemptes to kill us both (I honestly don't know why this guy still has a drivers license. He gets pulled over on average once a month, and he's one moving violation away from a permanent revocation), the only thing we saw of note was a gasoline tanker light his brakes on fire on southbound I-17 (a not infrequent occurance actually).

So the total mileage for the trip worked out to 2677, about 300 miles less than google thought it would be including the detour to Breckenridge; but about 200 miles more than jsut going straight through on 40 would have been. Hey, neither of us had seen Charlie (Jims brother) in years, so a couple hours driving and $20 of gas was well worth it.

Total Mileage: 2677
The total gas consumed: 97 Gallons
Average mpg: 27.6
Total time: 87 hours
Total average speed: 31 mph (rounded up)
Total driving hours: 45
Driving Average speed (including fuel and food stops): 60 mph

We had a lot of construction delays, or that average would have been considerably higher, but we did fairly well, and mostly we didnt push it.

Not wanting to do it agian any time soon though. Sleepy time now.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rock Star WTF???

Okay so I was right about Deanna being eliminated this week, but Deanna, Ty, and Marty on the block? Suzie gets the encore? WTF?

More and more I think the voting population is mostly 12 year old girls. Either that, or the voting is rigged for dramatic tensions cuz there is NO Ty or Marty belonged there (and the band agreed). Oh and Marty has more balls than I thought, I just wish he'd show it more.

Ok the performances:

Do we even need to have these performances? I mean we know that Ty is going to do a perfect arena rock bit Marty is going to do something different and cool and Deanna is going to make her song into a blues tune that INXS wont like.

Ty - "What You Need": This song is almost perfect for Ty (though Marty could have doen well with it too). High energy, balls out, big changes in phrasing and pitch... and he nails it.

Deanna - "Elegantly Wasted": Yeah... she's so got it, but it's not an INXS song when she sings it. Also a little off key in the harmonization, and iffy breath control. Sexy, great blues voice, but not right for INXS.

Marty - "Don't Change": I dug it. It sounded very little like an INXS song, but maybe thats a good thing. Soemtimes you want a Ripper owens, and sometimes you want a Sammy Haggar. He did tone it down a bit, and it worked for him (now if J.D. could do the same thing...)

Now will someone please tell me why Jordis and Suzie or J.D. weren't up there with Deanna? Deanna I understand, the crowd doesnt like her style, and she doesnt fit with INXS, the others... I keep coming back to thinking it was the producers creating tension.

Breckenridge...

Lemme tell you that was a long ride. Kansas City to Breckenridge... it's only like 700 miles, but the amazing boringness of Kansas makes it seem twice as long.

Oh and yeah, start time was about four hours later than Jim claimed he would do. We saw just over 30 miles per gallon, lowest gas price was 2.46 (ks) highest was 2.89 (co).

Then we get into Breckenridge, and meet up with Jims brother at a bar for a couple of beers. All is well, until this little old fat drunk next to me starts trying to pick a fight with me. No really, I'm not kidding.

I actually just turned directly to him and said "Are you actually trying to get me to kick your ass?" To which he responded "Yes, yes I am".

I just started laughing my ass off...

Anyway on to Scottsdale. 800 miles of not much but pretty rocks between here and there.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Late to the party

For some reason the performance videos werent showing up til late for me, but here goes...

First thing, I like how they were all supporting each other tonight. And they all looked comfortable on stage together... except J.D.

After listening I may have to change my prediction, I'm not sure if J.D. or Deanna will be eliminated this week.

Mig - "Do or Die" : Ehhhh.... It's a saleable song, and Mig performed it extremely well; really getting his vocal range into play. Inxs clearly liked it, I didnt really. I'm guessing with a little tweaking actually I WOULD like it, maybe an arrangement thing. That said, if he doesnt get the encore I'd be very surprised.

Deanna - "My Truth" : I like it. Not very original, pretty straight forward blues based rock, but perfect for her voice, and her performance was perfect. Also note the HUGE smile on the bands face. I'm diggin it, she's working it...

She was better than Suzie, but I'm guessing the voting still puts her in the bottom three

Jordis - Aerosmith "Dream on" : For some reason her performance video isn't available, but fmr the reviews online ("wailing mad cow" etc...) looks like Jordis is on the block.

J.D. - Foreigner "Cold as Ice": Ok a little too much elvis, and not enough J.D. The women loved it, but I was unimpressed. Bottom three definitely.

Suzie - Rolling Stones "Start Me Up": All right I was impressed. Not perfect, but she relaly got into it and it was darn good. It might keep her out of the bottom three, actually considering Jordis, it almost certainly will.

Ty - Tina Turner/CCR "Proud Mary": Like I said, a gimme. Nuclear energy, big fuckin smile.. He's solid. No encore though.

Marty - Live "I Alone": Damn, alright I was wrong about Marty not having the vocal power or presence for the song. Twas good, but not quite perfect. When he got a little wild on stage, he got a bit too screechy and lost the tone of the tune. Definitely safe though.

I got a sweetie little woman there...

I'm goin'a Kansas City, Kansas city here I come..

Or rather I'm already there; we had a little change of plans earlier today...
Jim: You know I haven't seen my brother since his wedding two years ago
Chris: Really? You know if we stay on this highway instead of turning south we'll be there tomorrow right?
Jim: What?
Chris: Yeah, it's an extra half day on the trip, (about 400 miles extra actually), you should call him up and ask if he's good to see us tomorrow...
So instead of making Tulsa tonight, we made Kansas City. We probably could have pushed on another couple hours, but theres really no point. Kansas is... Kansas. It's long, straight, mostly flat etc... (I've done the 70 run many times). The western portion of I-70 is so straight and flat you can read a book on the steering wheel while you drive through the sunflower fields.

Jim, who has only been west of the Misissipi once before (in Arizona a few weeks ago) drove across it today, in his "Five states in one day" driving tour (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas); a new personal record.

And for the record we made 620 again today, and again Jim couldnt rouse his lazy ass til I rolled him out of bed (literally) at 10 o'clock (after futilely trying for several hours beforehand). We seem to have averaged abotu 32mpg today, with a high price of $2.81 (illinois), and a low of $2.41(Missouri). Why anyone who lived withing 30 minutes of the border would actually buy gas in Illinois I'll never know.

We got on the road at 1115 and drove til 2100 local, switching time zones in the process, for a grand total of 11 hours on the road. We would have easily made another 60 miles, but we stopped to clean up with a much needed (on both our parts) haircut.

On the interesting sights front, nothing much to report today, except the usual swarm of Indiana state troopers. I swear they must have more than every other state combined... either that or all they do is set up speed traps on I-70, because we didn't go 5 miles in IA without seeing one, and we didnt even see ONE Illinois statie, and only two MO staties, over a combined road distance more than twice that traveled IA.

Oh and let me just say that this great nation of ours is filled from sea to shining sea with beautiful and friendly young women. Of course I'm sure they are mostly insane, but at least they are pleasant to look at and speak to casually.

Tomorrow we have a 680 mile run into Breckenridge, which is a straight shot on I-70. I expect we'll get in around 8 o'clock local time given what I think our ACTUAL start time will be.

Jim swears he's getting up at 6am this time... yeah, right. I'm setting my alarm for 9, theres no use in my being tired all day for nothing (like I was today).

Then Thursday we make a final run down to Scottsdale, which is gonna be a bitch (about 800 miles), but home is at the end of it, so it's doable... If I can get his lazy ass moving before noon that is...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Springfield Ohio

We were hoping to make indy tonight, but we got a VERY late start (like 26 hours late), and didn't get on the highway in Jersey til noon.

We WERE going to get going around 5am... and I got up at 4:30, but lazy ass took too many painkillers the night before and I couldn't roll his ass out of bed til 10am. After the day before you'da thought he'd learned, but no...

Ahh well, he's my best friend.

The internet map says it was 580, but the odometer says it was 620, and I trust the wheels on the ground. We've averaged just over 60mph (including food and gas stops), and right around 30mpg. So far the lowest gas price we've seen was $2.51 and the highest was $2.91 (on the PA turnpike). No dead stops on the highway yet, and I've had to pull Jimmy down from 95-100 a couple times (he goes a bit nuts on the highway sometimes. He thinks it frikken deathrace 2000 or summat).

Interesting sights along the way so far? Well early on we watched a tank carrier light himself on fire (overheated brakes); and there were a couple of OTR trucks that clearly featured a somnabulant operator, but other than that nothing too weird yet.

Anyway, by about 10:00 we were about ready to hang it up. We're going to try to get going around 6 tomorrow and hope to make it out to around Tulsa (770mi). Jim thinks we MIGHT be able to make it to OKC (880mi), but we would be pretty wasted, so I don't think that's going to happen.

I havent heard from my girlfriend, and she doesnt have a phone at the moment so I can't call her. I love you honey and I hope everyone is OK.

Well, I'm off to sleep. Long day tomorrow... and the next day, and the day after that...

In the Immortal words of Spoons

"Holy crap!

Mig is straight?!?"

http://www.thespoonsexperience.com/archives/2005/08/holy_crap_1.php

Pretty much my thought as well there hoss...
"In the midst of all this, MiG is a little disappointed with his encore reward -- a phone call from his wife in London. He's sure she's going to show up at the house and knows she's hiding somewhere. Talking on the phone, he tells her he "looked behind every wall," but, obviously, he didn't check the stairways, because she climbs up one behind him and taps him on the shoulder. The smile on MiG's face is more eloquent than words."
Man, there goes my "Mig, Marty, and Ty are all gay" theory. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Actually I posed the question to Spoons last week "I think that all three of them are gay, and as far as their rockstar future goes do you think it will matter to the public, or to the band"

Creditably, no-one thought it would matter to the band, but I think it may still matter to the public (in which case it probably WOULD matter to the band).

And theres an interesting social question in that. While in general public acceptance of gays in the arts as a whole is .. if not total, at least significant; this doesnt necessarily apply to popular music. There have only been a couple of openly gay country artists, and it has certianly hurt their careers. I can think of no successful openly gay rap or hip hop artists, and very few R&B. There are certainly a hell of a lot of gay pop, alternative, and metal artists (not a lot of folks actually gave a damn about halford for example); but for the most part mainstream rock has... at least publicly... remained straight.

Kinky and debauched certainly, but gay men pretty much not allowed. Lesbians on the other hand are a mixed bag, seemingly based on how much the perspective audience may want to sleep with and/or watch said lesbian having sex with another woman.

This is probably because mainstream rock (along with Rap which I also mentioned is almost exclusively straight) is one of the few musical markets that is strongly dominated by straight men. Most musical segments sales are actually strongest among teenage girls, who buy from two-four times as much new music as any other single group (depending on how you count the stats etc...).

Which not coincidentally is why pop music sucks so hard, and generally has throughout history. They are writing for teenage girls, whose taste is... questionable.

Anyway back to the point at hand; would the lead singer of a mainstream rock band being openly gay hurt that bands career and sales? I'm not so sure it would matter to INXS who have always been on the alternative edge of things; but what about a real rock band (none of this emo shit), not yet established, who are targeting adult males as their audience?

I can't think of any right now so I'm not including examples.

Now, as to song selection...

This week is a major "Oh shit" moment. Lesse singinging their own "original" (not very original really but hey who's counting) tunes will be Mig and Deanna... or maybe not....

Ty is doing some kind of power ballad, which the band doesnt seem to like, and Deanna is doing a straightforward blues tune.

Prediction, Deanna is eliminated this week.

Jordis - Aerosmith "Dream on" : Great tune, one of my favorites from Aerosmith (who I have seen live more thna 10 times, including at mamakins and the house of blues), but I've never heard a woman sing it properly (and I've heard a few try). Aactually this would have been a better one for deanna... I have no doubt that Jordis can do a competent job of it, but great? I jsut don't think so.

That said, I think she's safe for the week.

J.D. - Foreigner "Hot Blooded": Wow... kind of a funky choice, but I can dig it. "Foreigner.. DUDE!! ... hey man, first album.... Aaaaalright ok yeah" sorry, pop culture reference. Hot blooded could work out really well for J.D. actually, if he doesnt try and elvis it up.

I'm guessing he'll be in the bottom three though.

Suzie - Rolling Stones "Start Me Up": And she doesn't want to do the song? I think her voice is good for it, I think she's got the energy for it.. she just needs some confidence and some strut to pull it off.

She will round out the bottom three with J.D. and Deanna

Ty - Tina Turner/CCR "Proud Mary": Yeah, this ones a gimme. Just from the song selection he's gonna get the encore on this one. He'll do the Ike and Tina version on speed, and the energy will jsut be insane. I'm picturing sweat flinging about the crowd at this point, and a grin six miles wide.

Marty - Live "I Alone" : These song selections are from the message boards so I dunno how accurate they are, but I love the song... I dont know if Marty has the vocal power for it, but he can certainly scream, and I can't wait to hear it. If he does it right HE may get the encore not Ty.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Efficiency and evil

Theres an interesting rumination up over at Fran Porreto's place today: Our Secret Wish

Most of this was left as a comment on the post, but I thought I'd start a discussion here as well.
"The wise and gentle king had the best interests of his sbuject at heart; he levied just taxes, and dispensed justice with a firm but fair hand. All prospered throuought the land in his reign, and he fathered many children to continue his legacy..."
Theres an old saw: Rule by the perfect man is all well and good; but what does one do when the perfect man gets a bellyache.

The perfect man syndrome is so ripe throughout fiction that it is a joke cliche at this point. This is even more true in SF and Fantasy; to the point where actual scholarly papers have been written on the subject.

Sometimes it isn't a single perfect man, it's a race of them (Jedi, "the elves", the worm riders in Dune etc...). But it almost always comes down to a "benevolent dictatorship" of an elite class.

This is both because it is an excellent storytellers device (it does away with a lot of necessary but tedious explanations of political structure and whatnot.. i.e. "because the king commands it"); and because the "ruling elite" are interesting to write about.

Some authors, philosophers, political scientists etc.. extoll the vitrues of said dictatorship, because it is efficient. Assuming one is able to select the apropriate "perfect man" then all force of the state can be directed appropriately.

Of course the perfect man would need to have infinite time, infinite attention, and infinite memory; else the formation of beurocracies (which are the true enduring legacy of absolute monarchy). Beurocracy was created to ease a kings burden, and to excercise political control. In fact, the absolute monarchy almost inevitably became the absolute beurocracy in short order (at least for the smaller things like public works, civil courts etc...) thus to a large degree negating the single advantage the absolute ruler has.

This of course becomes an instrument of corruption, and hastens the decay of society... but that leaves out the bigger problem: There is no such thing as benevolent dictatorship. The condition of rule by one man over another is inherently corrosive to the soul of both.

Men can not be ruled by other than themselves without evil. It may be a small evil, a necessary evil, but evil it be nonetheless. The only exception to this is god, should ones philosophy allow for it.

Fucking hell ...

My girlfriend was in very bad a car accident last night. She was driving with friends up to some little town in Colorado, to pick up one of THEIR friends who is moving to Arizona, and to celebrate HER best friends birthday, which is exactly one day before MY best friends birthday who I just celebrated with and am driving home to Arizona from New Jersey with, starting today.

Kind of an odd coincidence really considering the plans were developed seperately weeks apart without consulation; and not the best of Omens..

Anyway she just called me to tell me that she hit a deer, totalled her stepmoms car, and that her best friend had a concussion and was flown to the hospital.

A few minutes before that my brother called, and my mother is getting worse (no further details).

Now, about that whole starting today thing. We were supposed to be packed on on the road before 11am so we could get a full day in (no way were we getting out earlier considering...) but my stupid drunk ass friends stupider drunker ass girlfriend threw a FIT last night when we tried to make her go home, and she and her best drunken ass friend ran off into another bar.

This is on the jersey shore, where the bars run thick and wide so to speak.

I spent the next three hours trying to recover and return home with said stupid drunk ass friends etc... Finally having to carry Jims hysterical girlfriend back to the car, and losing her best friend who had apparently gone home with some random guy.

I finally get them home at 4:30, and then spend the next five hours babysitting two drunks with alcohol poisoning.

It's noon, they just got up a few minutes ago, and I haven't had any god damned sleep ... hell in two days because I didn't sleep yesterday either (broken AC in 90 degrees and 90% humidity, on a saggy couch).

This is why I wanted to just get a cheap hotel, and make sure we didnt really go out last night after Jims birthday dinner. Instead there was no dinner involved, and vast quantities of alcohol for everyone but me (who was driving) were.

We were supposed to meet up with Geek with a .45 for lunch today, and obviously that aint happening, and now my mom and my girlfriend... Just a great way to start a trip.

Alright, I have mixed feelings about the guy...

But this is just one damned cool way to go...




http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9018348/

Writer’s ashes going, going, gonzo!
Hunter S. Thompson memorialized with fireworks

Ed Andrieski / AP

WOODY CREEK, Colo. - With a deafening boom, the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson were blown into the sky amid fireworks late Saturday as relatives and a star-studded crowd bid an irreverent farewell to the founder of “gonzo journalism”.

As the ashes erupted from a tower, red, white, blue and green fireworks lit up the sky over Thompson’s home near Aspen.

The 15-story tower was modeled after Thompson’s logo: a clenched fist, made symmetrical with two thumbs, rising from the hilt of a dagger. It was built between his home and a tree-covered canyon wall, not far from a tent filled with merrymakers.

“He loved explosions,” explained his wife, Anita Thompson.

The private celebration included actors Bill Murray and Johnny Depp, rock bands, blowup dolls and plenty of liquor to honor Thompson, who killed himself six months ago at the age of 67.
He's in Kitten Country now boys...

H/T: John Scalzis Whatever

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Primers and Liability

A reader identifying himself as "Retired Geezer" left this comment:
I would just like to recommend that nobody makes up their own "special load" for defense. Just use what the police use. I don't want anyone to hear the attorney to say "He wasn't happy with regular bullets, he had to make his own "Man Killer" bullets.
You hear this advice all the time, and for the most part I think it's good advice, but not really for the same reasons as are commonly given.

Massad Ayoob; certainly the countries premier expert witness on self defense shootings; has performed an extensive study of self defense shootings in which handloads were involved, and he has found that:

1. while your likliehood of being demonized by prosecutors is very high; that would be the case anyway, and that basing that demonization on ammo choice is a weak strategy for the prosecutor because this argument can be asily turned around on them by competent counsel and expert witnesses

2. Use of handloads in a self defense shooting seems to have no effect on your liklihood of conviction

There is one thing that WAS a definite negative, in that Ayoob found that the use of handloads made if FAR more likely that prosecutors would decide to charge you in the first place, and that a grand jury would return a true bill of indictment (as lawyers are wont to say however, a good prosecutor could indict a ham sandwhich).

Okay so that out of the way, I personally would suggest not using handloads for another reason entirely: primer contamination.

In 20+ years of shooting I have had perhaps one failure per year of the primers in quality factory centerfire ammunition. In fact I doubt that it is even that high, but they do tend to stand out in memory.

And that is the point, they stand out in memory because they are so rare. I typically fire several thousand centerfire rounds a month (at least 1000 a month minimum, and when I'm lucky several thousand a week) in various calibers and weapons. As I said, I get MAYBE one failure a year from my quality factory ammo.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said of my handloads. I am handling primers perfectly (careful to avoid skin oil and sweat contamination), and I am not using penetrating solvents etc...; but through the course of several thousand handloads (admitedly I don't load very much) I have had perhaps 10 times the rate of primer failure.

I specifically credit this to primer failure because I have pulled bullets and tested powder from several of these malfunctions, and in each case it was the primer failing to ignite the powder with a solid hit.

This has occurred with three different primer manufacturers, from different presses, and using different processes (routines). Not only that but discussion with other handloaders has indicated similar experiences.

On the range, or in the match, I absolutely trust my handloads. I won't take the chance that I screwed up, or that the primer died for some unknown reason when my life is on the line.

Stroke

My mom had a stroke yesterday... uhh thursday.. whatever day it was I left for Jersey.

Or rather she had a series of small strokes a few days before, when she was in the hospital, and they weren't sure what was wrong. They figured out it was PROBABLY TIA (mini-strokes )yesterday.

She's OK, disoriented with limited memory, and physical co-ordination, but there doesn't seem to be any additional permanent impairment.

They ARE worried about more of them, and about her unrepaired aneurysms bursting; but there's really nothing they can do.

Anyway I was waiting to write about it until I got some more details, which I did today. More tests next week.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Jersey sucks

Just as I remember it. The smell of raw sewage on the drive out from newark is not one to be forgotten... unfortunately.

But we wont be here long. Just long enough to make Jims girlfriend realize that yo9u cannot fit the entire contents of a three bedroom house into a ford focus.

Oh well, I'm off to my aunts place (shes about an hour away).

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Tonight there's gonna be a jail break

As I've mentioned before, my best friend lives in New Jersey, at least for the next three days. I'm flying out there tonight to forcibly pry him from the clutches of vile statism, an escort him to his new life in sunny Arizona.

I get the pure joy of flying in to Newark at 2am, and spending a couple days in Jersey celebrating Jims birthday, before we make a break for freedom.

We will then proceed to make a high speed run in his SVT focus (very fun to drive car, but not really an interstate cruiser) across this fine nation of ours.

(pay attention jihadi fuckwits, this could be your chance...)

We're going to take I-70 out to St. louis, then 44 down to OKC, and finally run 40 out all the way to AZ.

Total distance: About 2500 miles
Total drive time (given a 50-62mph average speed): 40-50 hours
Total Trip time: I figure four days plus or minus. I've done it in less than 3 but that was unpleasant

Lord knows I've done this trip so many times I can do it with my eyes closed, plus the American interstate system isn't exactly difficult to navigate, but Jim's never done it before.

Besides... ROAD TRIP!!!


So lesse... the list of states we'll be passing through...

New Jersey
Pennsylvania
West Virgina (for all of 11 miles)
Ohio
Indiana
Illinois (is east St. Louis the biggest shithole in the entire country? Or is it Gary Indiana)
Missouri
Oklahoma
Texas (and you can damn well be sure we're gonna hit the big texan)
New Mexico
Arizona

I expect we'll be back on Wednesday or thereabouts. We're going to make a speed run, but be will also be stopping with friends a few times along the way.

As to blogging, I'll be sure to post reports as and when possible. Obviously my internet access will be somewhat limited, though I may do some audioblogging or summat.

I took the precaution of shipping myself a couple of guns to travel with (yeah I could check them in baggage, but I REALLY don't want to go through that bullshit), and will be leaving a heavily armed housesitter, so no frikken funnybusiness.