Scale Model Muscle Cars

Happy as I am to see the Camero back in production, I have to admit that I have a hard time taking these new ‘muscle’ cars seriously. Every time I encounter the ‘new’ Mustang in it’s many variants, I inevitably think “ah, a Mach II 2/3 scale model” or “there’s a 67 fastback 2/3 replica”. The Camero is just the latest in the miniature muscle car craze. The PT Cruiser really started the ball rolling, being a scaled down tribute to the ‘chopped coupe‘ that Hollywood has made famous in various period films over the years.

Nostalgia for the bygone years is great (…a gleaming Red Barchetta from a better, vanished time…) but how about we get away from re-living the past and actually see something new on the market; like a fully electric car that actually goes the distance, or some other alternative fuel vehicle that can really be relied upon, rather than another trip down memory lane that simply keeps us all stuck relying upon ‘fossil fuels‘ that get more expensive with each passing year?

Or maybe I’m the one who’s dreaming…

LOST Map?

Another screen cap worth sharing. This one is not too clear, though. No matter how many times I tried to get a clear image, I just couldn’t pull it off. ( I need a better capture card, obviously) Never fear, there are others out there with access to better equipment (or they just took pictures of the actual props, who knows) Anyway, if you click on over to “The Tail Section” they have a diagram and an enhanced image that get into most of the details of the map. There are also a lot of places on the site that deal with spoilers and potential spoilers. This constitutes fair warning, once again.

I remember the promo for this episode, “Lockdown” saying 5 things would be revealed. I only counted 3. Obviously what is being revealed isn’t of clear importance… yet.

One of the best episodes so far this season.

Vendetta

Went out and caught V for Vendetta over the weekend. I had to wait (on pins and needles) for the rest of the crew that I’ve seen the other Wachowski bros films with to find some free time (children and anniversaries. I mean, let’s get our priorities straight. This is film after all) it seemed only fitting to experience it for the first time with same group that I watched The Matrix with for the first time.

[On the subject of “the Matrix” trilogy, I find I’m the odd man out. Unlike most of the people I’ve spoken with, I actually liked all three of the films. To me, they were consistent story-wise, if not consistent action-wise. The philosophical inquiries into the meaning of life and what real is were enough to keep me interested even when the action sequences failed to move others. In hindsight, even “the Matrix” can’t live up to the mythos of “the Matrix”; much less survive criticism as a sequel to the film. I can’t rewatch it like I would like to. So many of the action sequences have been lifted and used in other action movies, that I find myself remembering where I’ve seen that bit since the movie was made, rather than enjoying the film for itself.]

I followed my usual pattern with this film. Once I had determined I was going to go see it, I avoided all reviews, trailers and websites concerning the film until I had seen it. I’m glad I did. If I had known what it was being criticized for, I would have been looking for those points in the film while watching it the first time, and that would have colored my initial impression. As it was, I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

(Those of you who think like I do, and haven’t seen the film, stop reading now or forever hold your piece!)

For those critics who seem to get hung up on the ‘promoting terrorism’ aspect of the film, I was immediately reminded of the Franklin quote from 1776:

A rebellion is always legal in the first person, such as “our rebellion.” It is only in the third person – “their rebellion” – that it becomes illegal.

In this instance, the dictatorship/regime that currently holds power (in the film) has labeled V a terrorist, but it doesn’t follow that he considers himself a terrorist. They are afraid of him, and that’s the way it should be, he is rebelling against their tyranny.

We see the world of V for Vendetta largely through the eyes of Evey (Natalie Portman) and it is a scary place to live. She unwisely goes out after curfew one night, and is only saved from a fate worse than death by the unheralded appearance of a masked man who calls himself ‘V’. As the story unfolds we discover the all too familiar trappings of a police state and it’s charismatic leader Adam Sutler (John Hurt) who is always shown in the light, while very clearly being the ‘dark’ character; whereas ‘V’ (excellently voiced by Hugo Weaving) is always in the dark, never shows his face, and yet is clearly our hero. We follow Evey through the mental tug of war that she is subjected to, as the world she thought she understood is revealed as something else entirely; growing and changing in our understanding of her world as she also begins to understand it.

There is a real temptation to draw too close a parallel to current events when watching this film. If you really want to enjoy it, I suggest that you take a word of advice from the film:

“Artists use lies to tell the truth; Politicians use lies to cover it up”

Just watch the film. Save the “what does it all mean” questions for after the credits roll.

Auto Exorcism

Driving the kids to school this morning, the car stalled out as I went to make a turn. Didn’t realize it until I looked down at the dash and noticed the warning lights were lit. I also noticed that the odometer read 66.6, the Trip Meter of the Beast.

I wonder if having the car exorcised would be cheaper than having it serviced and repaired? Well, actually the question is, would an exorcism performed on a car actually make it run better? I know a service call will. And, of course, on an entirely different level, will the exorcism save it’s immortal soul and get it into car heaven one day?

These are the questions one asks when operating on 2 hours of sleep and 3 cups of coffee. I think I need more coffee…

Important stuff

Spent the last two weeks in the final stages of getting a long-time friend moved out of her townhome and into assisted living. Well actually, I moved her stuff (as the master, George Carlin, refers to it) not the essential stuff, but the general stuff that anyone collects over the course of life. Stuff that you think you want when you buy it, but end up having no place for when it comes right down to it, because of all the other stuff you already have. Stuff that people give to you, or that you inherit, and you just can’t bring yourself to part with; because, well, it’s sort of their stuff too, right?

The final stage of the move has taken two weeks, the entire process has drug on for several months (I can’t even remember when it started, myself) and over the time I’ve spent sorting, organizing, packing and selling, I’ve come to realize one very important thing. Stuff accumulates in your life that really isn’t important stuff, but it takes the place of other stuff that is important. And that is bad stuff. So, I’m going to start getting rid of my own bad stuff now, and save someone else the trouble later.

I’m going through every item in my house and apply my old measuring stick to it. If there’s any doubt about the immediate usefulness of stuff (as in, I wouldn’t want to carry this stuff across a thousand miles of desert) then out it goes. If you don’t do this every now and then, the bad stuff will just bury you alive, apparently. And that’s not a pretty way to go, buried alive in a pile of stuff that you didn’t really need but can’t get out from under.

Misrepresenting money?

Checked the e-mail the other day and noticed that I had gotten a notice of another column from Tibor Machan over at the Atlasphere taking exeption to the nominations for the ten best movies concerning money fromForbes.com. His conclusion that money was at best misrepresented in the films left me thinking that Americans (and people in general, including Hollywood directors) need to first understand money before we can represent it properly in film.

I filed the link away on the off-chance I had time to write a blog entry on the subject. Then this column (also at the Atlasphere) showed up in my inbox. Larry Elder is another of the column writers that I usually enjoy reading, but not this time. Here he’s off on a rampage trying to discredit the viewpoint that the economy is in trouble. A misguided effort at best.

Given that the US is an economic powerhouse; given the economy (somehow) continues to grow. But, gasoline is on the rise, and will probably hit record highs before the summer even gets into full swing. Businesses have been able to absorb the higher transportation costs so far, but I doubt they’ll be able to do so through a second summer.

The problem is that a certain amount of growth is required to keep the US economy afloat. We have spent ourselves into a very large hole in the ground; it would be all too easy to get buried if business doesn’t continue in a ‘normal’ growth curve. What backs the dollar is, “The full faith and credit of the US”; which means it is entirely based on the American people’s willingness to absorb the debt, and to go into debt themselves doing it. What happens when the debt becomes too large to bear? Does anyone out there think that this can’t happen?

That Mr. Elder doesn’t point this out while he’s busy defending the economy that we are currently in (which is lackluster compared to growth in previous generations) just goes to show what I mean when I say we have to first understand money. Without a strong dollar, a ‘growing’ economy could well be a meaningless side effect of the plentiful, worthless paper money that keeps floating around.

Coincidence Conspiracy

Checked the (e)mail today (is there any other kind? That counts, anyway) and discovered that the Lincoln-Kennedy mail chain had reached my inbox again. This makes the forth or fifth time I’ve seen this particular bit of fluff since I got on the ‘net back in the 90’s. If you’ve never seen it, wander over to Snopes and check out the layman’s idea of a weighty conspiracy.

We’ll just dispense with the possibilities concerning the more recent events that could be construed as conspiratorial, or the historical evidence that backs up the possibility that these sorts of conspiracies can occur, and just get right down to it, eh?

Lincoln can be said to have been assassinated by Boothe, because eyewitnesses place him in the private booth with Lincoln when the fatal shot was fired. Many people erroneously believe that he acted alone, but the truth is that this was a part of a plot to remove several members of the union gov’t, down to a leader that was deemed to be sympathetic to the Southern cause. None of the others were successful in their attempts, so the wider conspiracy remains unknown to the average American.

After watching “Unsolved History: JFK – Beyond the Magic Bullet” (and reading some of the sites I’ve stumbled across today just trying to track down a link to the show) I might be willing to grudge the observation ‘Kennedy was assassinated by Oswald’ but it’s far from being a universally accepted ‘fact’.

In both cases it’s quite possible that the assassinations were aided by people high up in the administrations themselves (Robert Kennedy long thought that his brother’s assassin was a shooter trained in a program that he was running in another attempt to get rid of Castro) for reasons that have never been admitted to; reasons that are obvious to anyone who digs into the facts of what the president’s planned before they were killed, and what transpired after they were assassinated.

I’m left wondering whether the last link in the e-mail chain really wanted to start me off on a conspiracy rant, or was it just the Marilyn Monroe bit at the end that motivated yet another person to hit ‘send’? Something else we may just never know…

Limbaugh Lies – Why did Kerry Loose?

Listening to Rush on Thursday (I needed my blood pressure elevated. Nothing is better at that than a few hours of ol’ Joey) he goes on for most of the show in a cheap imitation of the Wendy’s commercial (Where’s the beef?!) wanting to know why “…if so many people are unhappy with Bush and the war, then why didn’t Kerry win?”

Back during the election, I went on, for several months, concerning John Kerry and his love affair with ‘W’s stance on just about everything. Went on about how I was hard pressed to tell the difference between the two…

[Anthony Gregory’s piece “Socialist Hawk vs. Warmongering Commie” pretty much summed it up for me. I also engaged in a series of bumper sticker ideas at the time “Vote for John Kerry, the guy you can feel lukewarm about!” “Vote for John Kerry, the guy you haven’t learned to hate yet!*”(*current constituents excluded) and to be fair… “Vote for George Bush, John Kerry has shifty Ayes!” I didn’t win many friends in either ‘camp’ with any of those. I thought they were pretty good, though.]

…I had Yellow Dogs dropping out of the woodwork all over the place trying to tell me how wrong I was. And yet none of them could cite any significant difference between the stated positions of the ‘major party’ candidates.

Kerry didn’t win because Kerry was never intended to win. What does that mean? The national Democrats threw themselves on a grenade for ‘W’s war policy, and nominated a candidate that would not make the war a political issue, plain and simple. The leadership went out of their way to discredit Howard Dean (who was at least a Democrat) and threw the primaries to the only candidate sure to loose to the sitting president, John Kerry; thereby giving ‘W’ another four years to clean up his war mess.

So, to answer Mr. Limbaugh; if the war is so unpopular, why isn’t John Kerry president? Because John Kerry was not opposed to the war, as he stated on numerous occasions. No candidate who was covered by the mainstream media (I know, I kept track of news stories at the time) spoke out against the war, thereby making the Iraq war an issue outside of the political process for all intents and purposes. For Limbaugh to just ‘forget’ this fact is absurd. This is just another example of ol’ Joey spinning the propaganda, one more time.

Star Trek: the Academy Years

Somebody has resurrected Harve Bennett‘s old script for Star Trek: the Academy Years over at Ain’t it Cool News; it seems the guy is really interested in the story. I hate to break it to him, but any story placing the original series crew together in Star Fleet Academy just couldn’t be considered canon; that’s not the way that the series developed originally.

[Not that this would be unprecedented. Of the entire four year run of Enterprise, only two episodes could be considered canon. That would be the “In a Mirror Darkly” two parter. Spock was established to be the first Vulcan in Star Fleet in one of the first Star Trek episodes. There is no way that T’Pol could be an officer on a Starfleet vessel in the normal Star Trek universe. In the “Mirror, Mirror” universe, however…]

I don’t understand this need to mess with cherished memories. Why does Hollywood have to re-invent every show that was ‘successful’ before? Do we really need to make a ‘Star Trek Babies’ movie? Cast someone else in the roles of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the others?

I didn’t need to see Scooby Doo as a live action film. I didn’t need to see King Kong without the stop motion animation. I didn’t need to see The Brady Bunch, Bewitched, etc. on the big screen (in fact, I didn’t) do we really have to go there with Classic Trek? Watch someone else play James T. Kirk? Someone other than Nimoy wear Spock’s ears? I won’t be paying for that, myself.

If they just have to do a Star Trek: the Academy Years do it without including the classic characters, or you can count on this classic Trek fan sitting this film out.

Image viewing and editing

One of the tech sites I frequent was asking “what editing software do you use?” I don’t have a video editor that I like (I’ve just gotten into fabricating my own PVR and I haven’t settled on an operating system yet, much less a video editor I like) but I definitely have an opinion on image viewing and editing…

Image Viewing: IRFanView

I hated this program when I first started using it. The sys-admin at one of my previous employers had loaded it as the default image viewer, and I could not understand why. After several years of fiddling with other programs, I can now tell you why.

Quick loading, and I mean FAST. Photoshop, JASC, etc, all take 10 minutes to load (or it feels like it) with IRfanview you double click and your image is right there.

Editing tools are very basic (which is why I hated the program initially) but they are more than sufficient to handle the average users requirements. Image scaling, lightening and darkening of the image, etc. If you want to major editing, get program made for editing. If you want to view images and do basic manipulation, IRfanview is the program for you.

Image editing: Gimp it

When I need to manipulate files, I pull out ‘The Gimp‘.

Why would you pay for Photoshop when this program does everything Photoshop does, and does it for less? Someone else posted this on the same thread, which sums it up for me:

I think that when you struggle for software in a particular area you should always start with free unless you are compelled. That way you can learn the technologies. the techniques, the strengths and the weaknesses. If the free software does what you need, then great! If it doesn’t, you’ll be able to look at the commercial offerings with specific questions and specific needs. This improves your chances of finding what you need on the first try without buying a lot of unnecessary software.

When I finally start taking the PVR seriously I might have a video editor to recommend. And I’ll be doing that right after I finish remodeling the house.