Wednesday, October 31, 2012

When You Wish Upon A Death Star

An exciting new future featuring the continuation of the Star Wars movie saga was announced on October 30th, as the Walt Disney Company enters an agreement to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd from George Lucas. Backed by the global reach and brand stewardship strengths of Disney, the future of Star Wars is now under the direction of acclaimed film producer and studio executive Kathleen Kennedy, Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm. Kennedy and Disney plan a slate of new Star Wars feature films, beginning with the long-awaited Star Wars: Episode VII, targeted for release in 2015, followed by Episodes VIII and IX. Additional feature films are expected to continue the saga and grow the franchise well into the future.
Twitter just exploded yesterday afternoon when that announcement was made.  I thought it had to be a put-on when I saw the first blurb from Reuters, but it's the real thing.

Jonah Goldberg had what I suspect is a representative take at NRO, starting with fear (which, as we know, is the path to the Dark Side) and eventually rolling into guarded optimism.  I tend to agree, and although as Jim Geraghty noted, we're talking about the same studio that recently gave the world the lovely flop known as John Carter, Disney usually knows what they're doing.

Better still, Disney employs Brad Bird, who would be hands-down the best choice to write and direct the now on-again Star Wars sequels, the long gestation of which George Lucas has finally re-admitted, after a couple of decades of denying that he'd ever had any such thing in mind.

After seeing his prior work in The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, I'd probably buy a ticket to watch Bird reading his grocery list.  There's no serious question that Bird can write rings around Lucas, and his live-action debut in the last Mission: Impossible movie showed he's got the action movie chops as a director. Hopefully Lucasfilm's new Mouse overlords are smart enough to put him in charge of their new Empire.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

So, Let Me Get This Straight

The overwhelming political objective of the Democratic Party since the 1930’s has been to get as many people as possible enrolled in one government program or another, at least in part to guarantee their votes in subsequent elections: “Tax and tax, spend and spend, and elect and elect.” 

And now it’s somehow a scandal when a Republican notes that they succeeded, to the tune of nearly half the country?

Am I missing something?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Aunt Dee

Connie Dee Brown, of Albertville, Alabama, died on Saturday, July 28, 2012, in Birmingham after a brief illness, two months shy of her 97th birthday.

Connie was born on Sept. 19, 1915, in Hustleville, the daughter of Arnold Chambers and Ola Johnson Chambers. She was the eldest and longest-surviving of three sisters. She graduated from Albertville High School in 1935, and afterwards ran her own beauty shop in Albertville.

Connie married Roy Rodger Brown in 1957, and together they operated Roy’s Restaurant in Albertville for many years. Upon Roy’s retirement from the Bryant Line Furniture Company, Connie and Roy began many happy years as the most famed anglers in north Alabama, including spending every day one entire year fishing on their beloved Lake Guntersville. Roy Brown passed away on Oct. 9, 1997, after 40 years of happy marriage.

Connie was an active member of First United Methodist Church of Albertville and the Fairview United Methodist Church in Hustleville, leading Sunday School classes and church events too numerous to count. She was an avid Rook player, never missing weekly games with her close friends to the end of her life.

She was a steady and loving anchor of her family, providing care for her sisters and brothers-in-law in their own latter days.

 Connie was preceded in death by her husband, Roy; her sister, Ruby Jo Weir; brother-in-law, Joyce Weir; sister, Bernell Chambers Lowery and brother-in-law, Brelen A. Lowery; and her niece, Lynda Lowery Collier. She is survived by her niece, Lauren Elizabeth Lowery; great-nephew, William B. Collier III; great-niece, Killy Collier Mingus; and great-great-nephews, Collier and Matthew Mingus.

Aunt Dee’s family wishes to thank her many dear friends and neighbors for their aid and kindness during her long life, with particular thanks to Margie King for her devotion and care.

A graveside service at Memory Hill Cemetery in Albertville was held on Tuesday, July 31, at 11 a.m.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We Are All Afghans Now

From Jake Tapper at ABC, yesterday:

"What we fail to understand was that the Afghan people largely wanted to be left alone and they hate their government, in many cases, as much as they hate the insurgents. And when we went to them and said, 'Ah, we're coming here to help bring your government to you.' They said, 'Whoa we don't want out [sic] government!'"

All the Afghans wanted, says Chandrasekaran, was to be left alone, "and we didn't get that."
Imagine that.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

Twenty years ago, I put this quote at the front of my master's thesis in aerospace engineering:
"The stars are yours, if you have the head, the hands, and the heart for them."
It was taken from Bradbury's collection R Is For Rocket. Despite his many volumes of science fiction stories, Bradbury actually knew next to nothing about rockets or astronomy or science. That didn't matter. He knew everything about the human heart.

True then. True today. Thank you, Ray. Clear skies.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fly-Over "Journalism" From The LA Times

I have a new column up at PJ Media about the LA Times' lame attempt to report on former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman's recent failed appeal of his corruption convictions.  Here's a preview:

Much of [reporter David G.] Savage's article is downright funny (although not always in a ha-ha way) if you were previously familiar with either Siegelman or Alabama.  In attempting to explain the strange creatures from this mysterious hinterland to his La-La Land readership, Savage tosses up this doozy:
Siegelman was the rare Democrat who could win in Alabama. He had also won election as Alabama's secretary of state, attorney general and lieutenant governor. But his career ended when Republican-appointed U.S. attorneys charged him with corruption.
Well, I suppose that's one way to put it.  That is, if you either (a) don't actually know anything about the political history of Alabama, or (b) are anxious to put a pro-Siegleman spin on the whole affair. 

While all of Alabama's statewide offices did flip--and severely--to the GOP in the 2010 elections, prior to that watershed year "Dirty Don" was far from rare as a Democratic officeholder.  The state legislature had been majority Democrat for an astonishing 136 consecutive years prior to 2010.  The lieutenant governor's office, which Siegelman held from 1995-1999, has had exactly two Republican occupants (the last Democrat was Jim Folsom, Jr., who served until 2011) in the state's post-Reconstruction history.

Savage also gets plain points of fact wrong regarding Siegelman's prosecution, claiming of the first of two corruption trials for Siegelman, "To the surprise of many, a jury in Birmingham acquitted him on all the counts in 2005."

But that's not what happened.  Savage didn't even get the year of Siegelman's first trial right.
The 2004 (not 2005) case never went to a jury.  The charges were summarily thrown out by now-retired Carter appointee U.W. Clemon, an old political associate of Siegelman's, and in his day one of the most nakedly-partisan Federal Judges in the country. 

Here's the whole thing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Before and After

As an antidote to the annual spate of Leftist nonsense on May Day, check out this telling photo essay from Der Spiegel of sites in East Germany from before and after its liberation from Socialism.  An example:



All the photos are by Stefan Koppelkamm.  Go check out the whole thing.

I saw a good bit of the old DDR not long after the Wall fell, and the "before" photos confirm my memories of the East side.  As I've noted in the past, it was the most godawful place I'd ever seen.

Remember those "before" shots the next time some Occupy yahoo starts going on about "equality."

UPDATE:  Steve Green has more than a few cogent thoughts on this topic.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Check out this uber-awesome video of a Space Shuttle launch, from the perspective of cameras mounted on the solid rocket boosters. Stick with it after the boosters separate from the orbiter stack, because the re-entry is nearly as cool as the launch:

The audio is real, recorded during flight and then mastered by George Lucas' Skywalker Sound. Amazing stuff. H/T: io9.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Emily Litella on Global Warmening

Emily in The Guardian: "Never mind!"

The world's greatest snow-capped peaks, which run in a chain from the Himalayas to Tian Shan on the border of China and Kyrgyzstan, have lost no ice over the last decade, new research shows.

The discovery has stunned scientists, who had believed that around 50bn tonnes of meltwater were being shed each year and not being replaced by new snowfall.

The study is the first to survey all the world's icecaps and glaciers and was made possible by the use of satellite data. Overall, the contribution of melting ice outside the two largest caps – Greenland and Antarctica – is much less than previously estimated, with the lack of ice loss in the Himalayas and the other high peaks of Asia responsible for most of the discrepancy.

Bristol University glaciologist Prof Jonathan Bamber, who was not part of the research team, said: "The very unexpected result was the negligible mass loss from high mountain Asia, which is not significantly different from zero."

Emily in Der Spiegel: "Never mind!"
Vahrenholt: In my experience as an energy expert, I learned that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is more of a political than a scientific body. As a rapporteur on renewable energy, I witnessed how thin the factual basis is for predictions that are made at the IPCC. In one case, a Greenpeace activist's absurd claim that 80 percent of the world's energy supply could soon be coming from renewable sources was assumed without scrutiny. This prompted me to examine the IPCC report more carefully.

SPIEGEL: And what was your conclusion?

Vahrenholt: The long version of the IPCC report does mention natural causes of climate change, like the sun and oscillating ocean currents. But they no longer appear in the summary for politicians. They were simply edited out. To this day, many decision-makers don't know that new studies have seriously questioned the dominance of CO2. CO2 alone will never cause a warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. Only with the help of supposed amplification effects, especially water vapor, do the computers arrive at a drastic temperature increase. I say that global warming will remain below two degrees by the end of the century. This is an eminently political message, but it's also good news.

It's a shame that neither politicians nor "journalists" understand that "climate models" are just software, and by the very nature of trying to simulate a massive, chaotic system with vast numbers of unknown variables, software that has to include massive simplifying assumptions.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Attention, All Planets Of The Solar Federation...

Today is 2-1-12.

Lamb For Moderator

Newt Gingrich's comments this week about refusing to participate in a presidential debate if it were moderated by a standard-issue MSM "journalist" got me to thinking. While I tend to agree with Mitt Romney's sharp comeback that Newt isn't likely to have to worry about the panel makeups this fall (disclaimer: I don't particularly like anybody who's still running for president this year, and that includes both candidates named above), Newt had a point.

It's a foregone conclusion that anybody pulled out of the old three networks plus PBS would be at the very least sympathetic towards Obama, so why would the GOP nominee agree to a one-sided questioner in such an important event? And let's be honest, the Chicago crowd would not be terribly happy if, say, Brit Hume were one of the panelists, either.

So who do you choose? Nary a name in the major media leaps to mind; virtually every television talking head or major newspaper figure with television experience (and that would be a requirement for this job) would be viewed as a potential partisan by one side or the other--and in most cases, for good reason. For a couple of elections there Jim Lehrer of PBS was the default moderator, but he's long-since worn out his welcome, particularly with Republicans and/or conservatives.

What you really want for a presidential debate moderator is somebody who is trusted (or at the very least, not distrusted) by both sides , who has vast knowledge of American politics and policy, who will do their homework in extraordinary depth beforehand, and who's got solid experience as an on-camera interviewer.

In other words, you want Brian Lamb of C-SPAN. Lamb has a bipartisan past (he worked in both the Johnson and Nixon White Houses before going into broadcasting), and has assiduously pursued an utterly non-partisan stance for decades as the CEO and senior interviewer for C-SPAN. He's interviewed thousands of political figures over the years, including every president since LBJ, and I defy anybody to tell me what his personal politics are.

All you have to do it watch a couple of Lamb's in-depth interviews to know that he is meticulous in preparation and adept at getting illuminating answers out of his subjects. I would also add that unlike most of the network talking heads, Lamb is highly unlikely to pop off with "look at me" gotchas designed to show off how witty the moderator is, at the expense of an actually meaningful question and/or answer.

Lamb is currently 70 years old, and as a matter of course avoids the limelight, so he might well refuse this particular job, but I think it's well worth the effort to put his name out there now as the single most logical (and reasonable) choice to moderate the 2012 presidential debates.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Name That Party!

Freelancer Steven Adams, writing for Reuters, offers up this article about electoral shenanigans in West Virginia:
A West Virginia sheriff pleaded guilty to voter fraud in the state's 2010 primary election including illegally filling in some absentee ballots out of fear he might lose a close election, authorities said on Monday.

Lincoln County, West Virginia Sheriff Jerry Bowman admitted falsifying absentee ballots in a case stemming from an investigation by federal authorities, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

Also pleading guilty to lying to investigators was Lincoln County Clerk Donald Whitten, the U.S. Attorney said.
The article--with "Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune"--goes on for another eight paragraphs before admitting, "Both men, who are Democrats, also agreed to resign from office."

But I'm sure that's just an innocent editorial decision. Just like vote fraud is a "right-wing myth."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Previews Of Coming Attractions

Ferris Bueller, 2012.

UPDATE: This is another one of those cases where the trailer is better than the actual movie--or in this case, commercial. But if you want to see the whole thing (a Honda Super Bowl ad affectionately spoofing "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"), you can watch it here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

MegaProtectionism For The Record Companies?

Here's an interesting take on the recent government takedown of Megaupload, which had been a large-scale digital "locker" site where people could upload large files for public access. Megaupload had been ostensibly targeted because of pirated movie and music files, but Matt Burns at TechCrunch voices suspicious that the company may have been taken down because it was preparing to launch a service that would have competed directly and legally with the record companies:
Megabox was just in beta at that time with listed partners of 7digital, Gracenote, Rovi, and Amazon. Megaupload was in a heated marketing battle with the RIAA and MPAA who featured Kim Dotcom in an anti-piracy movie (5:10 mark). The site had just sued Universal Music Group for wrongly blocking Megaupload’s recent star-studded YouTube campaign. Things were getting vicious in December but the quiet launch of Megabox might have been the straw that broke the millionaire’s back.

Dotcom described Megabox as Megaupload’s iTunes competitor, which would even eventually offer free premium movies via Megamovie, a site set to launch in 2012. This service would take Megaupload from being just a digital locker site to a full-fledged player in the digital content game.

The kicker was Megabox would cater to unsigned artists and allow anyone to sell their creations while allowing the artist to retain 90% of the earnings. Or, artists could even giveaway their songs and would be paid through a service called Megakey. “Yes that’s right, we will pay artists even for free downloads. The Megakey business model has been tested with over a million users and it works,” Kim Dotcom told TorrentFreak in December. Megabox was planning on bypassing the labels, RIAA, and the entire music establishment.
Copyright protection is a legitimate problem in the digital age, but if the speculation here turns out to be accurate, the Justice Department has been used to facilitate the crib death of a legal competitor to the RIAA. If that pans out, we've got a much bigger problem than piracy to worry about.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Read This, You Knob

Rick Moranis, once better known as his Hoser alter ego Bob McKenzie, has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today:
I ran a hot iron quickly over the front of a previously worn shirt, saddened at the thought of the jolly staff at my local dry cleaner who will suffer because of my thrifty initiative and tolerance for rumpled, mildly aromatic haberdashery.

I jumped into a cab, thinking about the MTA's budget deficit and my part in not helping to reduce it.

The traffic was terrible. Here I was, going nowhere, idling in a quick-ticking metered medallion taxi, driving up the price of oil, edging the country further into runaway inflation while spewing noxious fumes into the precious air around me. I am such a horrible person.

The driver, a pleasant Middle-Eastern man who I did not suspect was part of, or supporting, any terrorist organizations, was sipping a very large cup from one of several dozen popular coffee shop locations within a three-block radius of my home. I was pleased that at least one of us was supporting the hardworking baristas of this great nation.

I wondered out loud if the driver thought the price of his beverage would be higher or lower if baristas were unionized. He told me that in his country only men could be baristas and if a woman was caught even trying to be a barista she would be roasted, percolated and covered in scalding, foamy nonfat goat's milk. He said "Only America is free. Only America is great. God Bless America."
Beauty, eh?


Jonah Goldberg:
Very soon Wikipedia will go dark for a day to protest something called SOPA. During this event — future historians will call it a “knowledge eclipse” — no one under the age of thirty will know how to confirm or disprove a statement of fact.

It’ll be awesome.

Tomorrow you should go up to a 20-something and tell them things like “the fern is the world’s most popular carnivorous plant” and “Henry VIII invented the internal combustion engine, but kept it secret to protect the environment” and they will have no choice but to believe you as they will have no idea how to use, never mind find, a “reference book.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

Can't Wait For the Bye-Ku

To the disappointment of literally dozens of people (many of them named "David" and collecting checks from media organizations), Jon Huntsman stopped running for president today.

The 99% of you who just muttered, "Jon who?", carry on. You didn't miss anything.

UPDATE: Taranto's Bye-Ku was, in fact, worth the wait.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Stephen Green, better know as the VodkaPundit, celebrates his ten-year blogaversary today.

I stumbled across Steve's site sometime in 2003 or so, thanks to nothing more than seeing the words "VodkaPundit" on Glenn Reynolds' blogroll and thinking, "That's a cool name."

It turned out to be a cool blog as well. Steve was a natural for the new media: smart and witty, with an omnivorous curiosity and an uncanny knack for sniffing out not just interesting stories, but also the various dogs lurking within them that had mysteriously failed to bark.

Somewhere along the way I dashed off an email on a topic I happened to have personal knowledge of, and we've basically been friends ever since. In early '04, just before taking off on vacation, Steve sent me a login for the site and basically said, "Go nuts while I'm gone!" I wound up hanging around as a co-blogger for the better part of the next four years.

That was an interesting week for me. From 1997 through the beginning of 2001, I'd been what would eventually be called a blogger, publishing a twice-weekly opinion column to my original site (creatively called "Will's World"). But--establishing my well-known sense of impeccably-reversed timing--I'd burned out just before blogs broke through as a feasible mass medium, and hadn't joined in with the rest of the crowd up until that point.

"I'm not a blogger," I said to myself. "I don't do this one- or two-line, 'hey, go read this' stuff--I write columns." A couple of days guesting for Steve cured me of that myopia, and I've been happily blogging ever since. I stuck around at VodkaPundit until it and Steve were assimilated into the PJ Media empire in 2008, and along the way wound up as a columnist for two national sites as well as starting two blogs of my own, and even broke through to the dreaded Mainstream Media on occasion.

And it probably never would have happened if Martini Boy hadn't had to go run off to Mexico and drink with his new bride, leaving the keys to his bar in my surprised digital palm. Funny how life works, isn't it?

¡Salud, 'mano!

Monday, January 9, 2012


I confess that I pay very little attention these days to anything written either by or about the New York Times' stable of editorial propagandists, but this Kevin D. Williamson demolition of the most recent Paul Krugman effluence is well worth a read.

Reminds me a bit of this old instance of Brad Delong indulging his inner Pauline Kael...

Crumbled Curtain

Check out these stunning photos of the Russian NPO Energomash rocket factory, just outside of Moscow. Despite the rundown appearance, it's a working operation that supplies Soyuz and other rockets for civilian and military purposes (although given the recent rash of Soyuz failures, perhaps that's not so surprising).

As io9's Jesus Diaz notes, this one in particular is amazing, it looks like Geiger concept art from an Alien movie:

The pictures were taken by a young Russian blogger who hopped over an unguarded fence, and apparently had the run of the place for quite a while. To no one's particular surprise, the Russian authorities are not terribly happy about all of this; hopefully young Lana will get some kind of commendation for revealing lax security instead of a "friendly" visit from the current revision of the KGB.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Larry Downes of Forbes has an absolutely brutal--and accurate--article on why Best Buy is a dead company walking. Shorter version: Best Buy's management is focused on making things easier for themselves, while successful companies (Amazon is Downes' example) make it easy on their customers. A sample:

[Best Buy] Management, at least, still believes it has competitive advantages–advantages that even make it attractive to shareholders. According to the company’s most recent annual report,

"We believe our dedicated and knowledgeable people, store and online experience, broad product assortment, distinct store formats and brand marketing strategies differentiate us from our competitors by positioning our stores and Web sites as the preferred destination for new technology and entertainment products in a fun and informative shopping environment."

There’s just one problem. Not one word of that, at least in my experience, is true. Their “people” are not knowledgeable; they are annoying. The store “format” is entirely generic; perhaps a little confusing. The stores and Websites are not “preferred destinations”—they are destinations, at best, of inertia, or in the case of exclusives, destinations of the only resort. The “shopping environment” is the opposite of fun and informative. It’s depressing and humiliating, as in “I can’t believe I had to go to Best Buy to get this.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What He Said

Jonah Goldberg lays the wood to the asininity of the Iowa Caucuses in USA Today this morning:
The problem with this demographic critique is that you can make a similar complaint of any state. If New Mexico had been first in the nation since 1972, we'd all be familiar with the rich democratic traditions and civic-mindedness of New Mexicans. Journalists would tell war stories about Albuquerque instead of Des Moines. D.C. would be filled with generations of grizzled New Mexico veterans selling their contacts, e-mail lists and homespun insights into the unique contours of the New Mexican political landscape. Meanwhile, people would laugh at the very suggestion that Iowa — Iowa! — be given the pride of place in our precious electoral system.

The real problem with the Iowa caucuses is simply that they confer too much entrenched arbitrary power on one state in perpetuity. For instance, without the Iowa caucuses we would never have wasted billions of dollars on environmentally damaging and economically wasteful ethanol subsidies.

It's nice that Iowa is the Saudi Arabia of corn, but there's no reason for presidential aspirants to kowtow to Big Corn's interests every four years. Even worse, every politician who even fantasizes about sitting in the Oval Office pays obeisance to the preservation of government moonshine.

Read the whole thing. It ought to be required reading for the leadership of both parties.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Early Leader

Here’s a vote for the most unintentionally (I have to assume) funny headline of the new year:

Some Iowans fear irrelevance if Paul wins

Presidents Gephart, Harkin, Robertson and Huckabee were unavailable for comment.

(H/T to Martini Boy for reminding me I ought to post this sort of thing on my blog instead of just emailing it to another blogger...)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Music Therapy at the AFLAC Cancer Center

While driving my wife-to-be to dinner on our first date not quite ten years ago, I asked her what her job was. I knew she worked at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (since mutual friends who also worked there had set us up), but I couldn't remember what exactly she did at the hospital.

"Music Therapy," she replied. My inner crusty engineer kicked in, and I immediately thought (but fortunately didn't say aloud), "That's pretty fru-fru."

Then at dinner, she told me about how that very day she'd asked the mother of a comatose kid who'd been in an awful car accident what his favorite song was. Beth picked up her guitar, started playing that song, and the kid woke up out of the coma singing it back to her.

At that point I felt like I was approximately two feet tall and covered with camel mucus. Wasn't the last time she'd get in the last word on a subject without so much as lifting an eyebrow.

Anyway, that's more than enough about me; here's a great feature WSB-TV in Atlanta did about Beth and her job over the holiday weekend:

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta is a nonprofit hospital, and music therapy at the AFLAC Cancer Center is 100% supported by private donations.