January 31, 2007

Long Live The Nanny State

I live in the Soviet Union.

For the record, I stopped using incandescent bulbs years ago. In my case, the free market worked. But what about photographers, who can't use flourescent bulbs? Does every single thing in the universe need to be legislated?

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Wednesday is Bad Poetry Day: Fly Guy

An original composition, by Fly Guy. Freak y'all, into the beat y'all.

A hat tip to some blonde chick.

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January 29, 2007

Google TV Is No Hoax

I got Google TV, and they're paying me 40 large just to watch it.

Here's a screencap:

googletv.jpg

The only program available is some weird show with two aliens stacking boxes. It hurts my eyes a little, but it is kind of addicting. And anyways who cares, I'm getting paid 40 big ones to watch.

[I realize that by combining two extremely obscure references in the same post, the population of readers who will get it is basically nil.]

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January 28, 2007

Hillary Said

While campaigning in Iowa today, Hillary said:

The president has said [the Iraq War] is going to be left to his successor. . . . I think it's the height of irresponsibility and I really resent it. . . . This was his decision to go to war, he went with an ill-conceived plan, an incompetently executed strategy and we should expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office.
It sounds as though she doesn't feel she's up to the task. One might add that Bush should resent her husband for having left Osama Bin Laden to deal with.

But in a way, I do agree with Hillary's statement, at least as far as the poorly executed strategy goes. We should expect President Bush to extricate our country from the Iraq War before he leaves office. My only qualification is that we should leave through the "victory" door, not the "abandonment" door the Democrats keep pushing us towards.

Finally, despite all the talk about the new "Rules of Engagement," I'm sick and tired of hearing about shit like this. Keep your ears open for more stories about the ROE's and whether or not they really have changed (I'm skeptical). That will tell you whether our leaders are serious about winning or whether they're just playing out the clock for Hillary.

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The Second Annual AJFF

It doesn't seem like a year since I completed the First Annual Annika's Journal Film Festival, but it has been. If you recall, last year the honoree was Oscar winner Goldie Hawn, who has yet to send me a thank you note. I had a lot of fun watching and writing about those movies, even if I only got three comments the whole month.

I racked my brain to figure out whom to honor during this year's festival. It's quite an investment of my time: ordering the movies on Netflix, setting up my archaic screen capture procedure (don't ask, it involves lots of cable, 3½ inch floppies, my early '90's crappy laptop, and lots of running back and forth), finding and editing the pictures and then figuring out what to say about each movie.

Under consideration were fellow blonde favorites Steve McQueen and Ryan O'Neal. However, since the Oscars inspired this whole boondoggle in the first place, I decided that I should limit my choices to Oscar winners. I also wanted to pick someone whom I'm not that familiar with, because I really had a lot of fun discovering new movies during last year's Goldie Hawn event.

I reviewed eight movies last year, and so I've picked eight again for this year. That's two a week, if I want to get it done before the Oscars on February 25th; a tall order so if any of you want to help me out, let me know.

And this year's Second Annual Annika's Journal Film Festival honoree is: Elizabeth Taylor, the Sixties movies.

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January 26, 2007

Old Celebrities

What the stars will look like when they get old.

Especially check out Tom Cruise, George Clooney and Angelina. David Schwimmer is hilariously grotesque.

And I think somebody mistakenly included a picture of Nick Cage as he looks today.

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Yet Another Bogus Study Being Trumpeted By The Anti-American Media

You may have heard recently that the United States is the world's unfriendliest nation for international travellers. I'm calling bullshit on this bogus study.

The United States is the world's most unfriendly country for international travellers, a survey suggests.

The global survey showed the US was ranked "the worst" because of rude immigration officials and long delays in processing visas.

More than half of the travellers surveyed said US immigration officials were rude and two-thirds said they feared they would be detained on arriving in the US for a simple mistake in their paper work or for saying the wrong thing to an immigration official.

Twice the percentage of travellers nominated the US as unfriendly, compared with the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent.

The survey, of 2,011 international travellers in 16 countries, was conducted by the polling firm RT Strategies for the Discover America Partnership, a business-backed group launched in September to promote travel to the US and improve the country's image abroad.

"The entry process has created a climate of fear and frustration that is keeping foreign visitors away," said Geoff Freeman, executive director of the Discover America Partnership.

"The survey shows there is more fear of our immigration officials than of terrorism or crime."

What is the premise of the survey's results? That travellers to the United States encounter more unpleasantness than in any other country in the world.

Complete bullshit.

Just look at the U.S. State Department's travel advisory for Saudi Arabia, just to pull one example of a worse country from the many that come to mind.

American citizens who choose to visit or remain in Saudi Arabia despite this Travel Warning are strongly urged to avoid staying in hotels or housing compounds that do not apply stringent security measures including, but not limited to, the presence of an armed guard force . . .
Not just a security guard, but an armed guard force!
. . . inspection of all vehicles, and a hardened security perimeter to prevent unauthorized vehicles from approaching the facility. American citizens are further advised to exercise caution and maintain good situational awareness when visiting commercial establishments frequented by Westerners or in primarily Western environments. Keep a low profile, varying times and routes for all required travel, and ensure that travel documents and visas are valid. American citizens are also advised to exercise caution while driving, entering or exiting vehicles.
And that's not just paranoid advice from a xenophobic American agency. If you want to talk about unfriendly to tourists, here's some advice from Saudi Arabia's own government website:
Important Instructions:

If a woman is arriving in the Kingdom alone, the sponsor or her husband must receive her at the airport.

Every woman must have confirmed accommodation for the duration of her stay in the Kingdom.

A woman is not allowed to drive a car and can therefore travel by car only if she is accompanied by her husband, a male relative, or a driver.

All visitors to the Kingdom must have a return ticket.

Here's more anecdotal info about the hassles one may encounter in the Saudi Kingdom, from the Lonely Planet's website:
There are NO visitor visas. It's not even possible to have a Saudi sponsor apply for the visa on my behalf. Visitors can ONLY visit to work, or for a religious visit.

Speaking of religious visits, people who do this who are muslims, can ONLY visit Mecca and Medina, and that's it. Travel to other Saudi cities is not allowed.
Anon, Canada (Mar 03)

One thing Anon from Canada didn't mention is that only those of the Islamic faith are allowed to set foot in Mecca or Medina. The rest of us are unclean or something, I guess. Not that I have any desire to get trampled to death in their crappy holy city anyway.

Back to the Lonely Planet:

WOMEN: We wear the abeyya so we get left alone. But even this doesn't work. We get stared at constantly and sometimes things are said. More so now after the September 11 disaster. I have never been barred from any establishment or had to leave because of prayer. Stealing wallets or purses out of expats handbags or backpacks as they walk around is common. We are not allowed to use the public transport.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Sure, film and cameras are everywhere. But, go and try to do a shoot around Jeddah. You will stop traffic, draw untold attention to yourself and if you are really lucky, the police will stop you and then the Matawwa [Saudi religious police] maybe will turn up which is what happened to me. You cannot take photos of people, any Palace or any government building. Now, as all three are everywhere, photography is difficult and not a delight.

. . .

MATAWWA: If they are around, they will ask all women to cover their hair and generally have the police with them, so this is enforced. I have friends who did not have their scarf with them one night in Balad and the Matawwa made them go to a shop, buy one and put it on while they waited outside until the girls did. Jeddah is not as strict as Riyadh.
Alanna Lee, Saudi Arabia (Jan 02)

It gets worse. Here's what the British Embassy in Riyadh says about travel to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country in which Islamic law is strictly enforced.

The public practice of any form of religion other than Islam, or proselytising, is not permitted.

Islamic codes of behaviour and dress are also enforced rigorously. You should respect them fully.

Homosexual behaviour and adultery are illegal and can carry the death penalty.

The penalties for the possession of, or trade in, alcohol are severe. Both result in prison sentences. The punishment for importing drugs includes the death penalty. You should not arrive in Saudi Arabia under the influence of alcohol: the consequences could be serious. You should carry with you a doctor’s prescription for any medication you have with you. The importation of pork products is also forbidden.

While the Saudi authorities say they accept the private practice of religious other than Islam, religious books (apart from the Qu’ran) and artefacts imported for personal use may be confiscated. Also, importing larger quantities can carry severe penalties as it will be viewed that it is your intention to convert (proselytise) others.

The possession of pornographic material, or of illustrations of scantily dressed people, especially women, is prohibited.

The Saudi legal system differs in many ways from the UK. Suspects can be held without charge and those detained have in the past not been allowed legal representation. The Saudi authorities have detained witnesses and victims of crimes. If you require consular assistance our staff will seek to visit you as soon as they are aware of the case. However, in some instances they have not been permitted to do so immediately or have had limits applied to access once granted. We have raised our concern about reports of mistreatment of some suspects during their detention.

Photography of government buildings, military installations and palaces is not allowed. You should avoid photographing local people. It is illegal for women to drive.

Anyone involved in a commercial dispute with a Saudi company or individual may be prevented from leaving the country pending resolution of the dispute.

Passports are often retained by sponsors or government bodies for official purposes. You should carry a photocopy of your passport. Make sure you have included in your passport details of those who should be contacted in an emergency.

It is illegal to hold two passports in Saudi Arabia: second passports will be confiscated by the immigration authorities if they are discovered.

. . .

On occasion, Saudi visas have been refused when passports have reflected travel to Israel or indicated an Israeli birthplace.

Women visitors and residents are required to be met by their sponsor upon arrival. Women travelling alone, who are not met by sponsors, have experienced delays before being allowed to enter the country or to continue on other flights.

Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country, or in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. . . .

Foreign women married to Saudi nationals require permission from their husbands for themselves and their children to leave Saudi Arabia.

Bunch of backwards-ass dickwads. On any type of objective scale you'd want to use, Saudi Arabia has to be among the world's most unfriendly places for international travellers. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather deal with a rude customs guy than risk getting my head chopped off because I was wearing a sleeveless tee.

So how did the Discover America Partnership get it so wrong, when they decided that the United States is the most unfriendly nation for tourism? Simple, they didn't survey any visitors to Saudi Arabia.

Here's the list of Middle Eastern countries their survey compared to the United States:

1. United Arab Emirates
That's right, they only included one Middle Eastern country in their study. So when the above linked article claims "Twice the percentage of travellers nominated the US as unfriendly, compared with the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent," that's a bit misleading. Besides the fact that the U.A.E. might be the most westernized of any Middle Eastern nation besides Israel, how many respondents traveled there, compared with the the United States? Poor methodology, but you wouldn't know it from reading the headlines.

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Big Hair Video of the Day

Oh, yeah! More Flirts!

(I wouldn't have done this if one of annika's 6MB readers hadn't mentioned 80's music. Blame him.)

UPDATE:
A different video of this song (with the same lip-synching) can be found here and it's worth watching just for the way the male VJ totally checks out the girl sitting next to him.

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January 25, 2007

"Mahdi Militia Gettin' Their Asses Fuckin' Handed To 'Em"

Via Jawa:

Gotta love the FFAR.

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Since All The 6MB Commenters Have Gone To Sleep

I'll just send you over there.

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January 24, 2007

Sacramento Native Was Among Executed Contractors

From the Bee:

A reserve Placer County sheriff's deputy was among five U.S. security contractors killed after their company's helicopter crashed in central Baghdad this week.

Art Laguna, 52, was working for the private security firm Blackwater USA when he was killed Tuesday.

Two Sunni insurgent groups claimed responsibility. One posted several identity cards on a Web site, including two belonging to Laguna.
Sell It Yourself

Laguna lived in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova and was a reserve deputy with the Placer County Sheriff's Department.

He helped establish the department's air wing in 1995 and spent hundreds of hours volunteering to train the department's pilots. He also assisted with rescues in the Sierra Nevada, said Capt. David Harris, who commands the air unit.

"We'll definitely miss his expertise, we'll miss his flying abilities, and of course we'll miss him as a friend," Harris told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "He was a wonderful guy."

Laguna began assisting the sheriff's department while he was flying Black Hawk helicopters on medical evacuation missions with the California National Guard out of Sacramento's Mather Field. He worked with the department for nine years and visited when he was in the U.S, Harris said.

The circumstances of the helicopter crash in Baghdad remained unclear Wednesday. The Black Hawk was headed to help a U.S. Embassy ground convoy and was flying over a raging gunfight in a Sunni neighborhood at the time it went down.

An Iraqi military official said it was downed by a machine gun, but a U.S. military official in Washington said there was no indication of that. A U.S. defense official said four of the five people on board the helicopter were shot execution-style, in the back of the head.



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Whatever Else You Might Say About Hillary...

... I think she deserves a thank you from all of us, for this.

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Wednesday is Poetry Day: Sharon Olds

Reading a Sharon Olds poem is like drinking a very fine brandy. It'll go down like pink lemonaide, then knock you on your butt when you don't expect it. I once mentioned Sharon Olds to a poet friend, and she remarked Ms. Olds, "...doesn't waste a word." Nope, not a bit, even when most of them are given to her. In The Father, Ms. Olds learned something new about her father.

His Stillness

The doctor said to my father, “You asked me
to tell you when nothing more could be done.
That’s what I’m telling you now.” My father
sat quite still, as he always did,
especially not moving his eyes. I had thought
he would rave if he understood he would die,
wave his arms and cry out. He sat up,
thin, and clean, in his clean gown,
like a holy man. The doctor said,
“There are things we can do which might give you time,
but we cannot cure you.” My father said,
“Thank you.” And he sat, motionless, alone,
with the dignity of a foreign leader.
I sat beside him. This was my father.
He had known he was mortal. I had feared they would have to
tie him down. I had not remembered
he had always held still and kept quiet to bear things,
the liquor a way to keep still. I had not
known him. My father had dignity. At the
end of his life his life began
to wake in me.

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January 23, 2007

State Of The Union 2007

sotu07.jpg

Wouldn't it be funny if the Sergeant at Arms announced the president with a Sling Blade voice? I think that would be really funny.

Pelosi really looked good tonight, and even though I don't like her, I was touched by the recognition she received.

When Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo was honored, my boyfriend and I looked at each other and simultaneously exclaimed: "Who wants to sex Mutombo!" It was a very hilarious moment.

In closing, I didn't expect much from President Bush tonight. I was pleasantly surprised. The speech was one of his most enjoyable. I sensed some genuine good feeling in the House, though I know it's only a temporary thing, but I liked it. I also thought he did as good a job of explaining his foreign policy as he's ever done. Of course, as a lame duck, there's no pressure for him to persuade anyone anymore. He either succeeds or he doesn't.

And now that's over, it's time for the biggest tv event of the night: American Idol.

P.S. Oh I forgot to mention Nancy's non-stop blinking towards the end of the speech. What was up with that?

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600 Enemies Nabbed

But, as we all have learned, the trick is not in the capture. It's in resisting the inevitable chorus of idiots demanding that we release the bad guys.

In a major crackdown launched in the past few weeks against the Mahdi Army -- the militia headed by Sadr and now considered the biggest security threat to Iraq by the Pentagon -- more than 600 fighters and 16 militia leaders have been detained, the military said.

"There are currently over 600 illegal Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) militia in detention awaiting prosecution from the government of Iraq," a statement said.

It said Iraqi and US forces had also detained 16 high-level militiamen and killed one commander in a series of operations against the Mahdi Army, known for its fierce anti-US stance.

"The detainees are responsible for attacks against the government of Iraq, Iraqi citizens and coalition forces," the military said.

Combined Iraqi and US forces have carried out 52 operations in the past 45 days focused on the Mahdi Army as well as 42 operations that targetted Sunni extremists, it said.

The operations against Sunni extremists led to the capture of 33 cell leaders in Baghdad, the statement said, charging that the detainees were mainly involved in facilitating the entry of foreign fighters into Iraq.

The US military has accused the Mahdi Army, which is believed to have up to 60,000 fighters, of being heavily involved in the sectarian killing of Sunni Arabs in Baghdad and other regions of the country.

US and Iraqi forces aim to take down these fighters as part of a Baghdad security plan announced by US President George W. Bush earlier this month to crush the sectarian fighting that killed tens of thousands of people last year.

h/t Bluto at Jawa.

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Crap!

As if there isn't enough to worry about these days. Now this.

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Coolest Shoe Shopping Site

Girls, check out the search functions on this shoe shopping site: Endless.com. They let you search by style, brand, color, size, width and price all at the same time. I'm not a big fan of buying shoes without trying them on, but free overnight shipping? You've gotta be kidding me. I love the cool magnification tool too.

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24 Blogging

I so wanted Jack's dad to be played by Donald Sutherland, but no. They got the guy from L.A. Confidential.

Actually, tonight's episode was pretty lackluster. Jack's HK didn't even make an appearance. Other than revealing that Rocket Romano is Jack's brother, the storyline wasn't advanced very far. I nodded off near the end a couple of times. If you had to pick one episode to miss, so you could watch Heroes, this would be the one. Fortunately, I have DVR now, so I don't have to miss either.

Oh, and I think tonight's helicopter crash brings the series total for downed aircraft to about 73.

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January 22, 2007

Fuckin' John Warner

I never did trust that guy.

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January 20, 2007

Hillary Chat

Hillary sez:

I am going to take this conversation directly to the people of America, and I'm starting by inviting all of you to join me in a series of web chats over the next few days. . . . I need you to be a part of this campaign, and I hope you'll start by joining me in this national conversation.
Okeydoke. I imagine when I log on Monday, the conversation might go a little bit like this:

more...

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