January 30, 2009

Wait, 5 to 7, or death? Let me think about it...

The first two paragraphs of the Sun-Sentinel story say it all:

The defendant faithfully attended every court hearing, and was pleasant to the judge. On Friday morning, when he entered Courtroom 7750 at the County Courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale, he fully expected charges against him would be dropped.

Instead, the judge revoked bond for John Ross and ordered him into custody. As he was about to be handcuffed, the father of three fled, jumped into the New River and drowned within minutes.

He seemed polite for an escaped prisoner:

Ray Castellanos, 35, was working on a boat docked along the river when Ross appeared."He stopped right in front of me and asked if he could get on."

The very sad part is that his lawyer really thought he had a good case, and would be able to get Ross off.

January 29, 2009

With a name like VENOM, you sold this stuff?

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_c1t1l1uNie0/SGkMmONTUvI/AAAAAAAAAG8/i13HwJr12LY/s320/Venom_Hyperdrive_3.0_90_Capsules_By_ALR_Industries_From_ALR_Industries.jpgSo here's the first sentence of the article in the Miami Herald's Action Line column:
The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to take Venom HYPERDRIVE 3.0, a product sold as a dietary supplement...

... substantially increase blood pressure and heart rate, and may present a significant risk for people with a history of heart disease, heart failure, irregular heart beats or stroke.

Hmm. Venom. Even though I'm pretty sure what that means, I'm checking Merriam-Webster:
ven*om (noun) poisonous matter normally secreted by some animals and transmitted to prey or an enemy chiefly by biting or stinging: material that is poisonous.
Yeah, that's what I thought.

There are two disturbing things to consider here:
  1. Someone thinks that naming a dietary supplement "Venom," which is simply a synonym for "poison," is a Good Idea.
  2. A bunch of people apparently thought it wise to take a pill actually labeled "Venom," which is simply a synonym for "poison."
The company who makes this stuff has a website full of pictures of pumped up musclemen, which leads me to conclude that the name of their product is a reference to, of all things, Batman. Or more precisely, one of Batman's villains, Bane.

Bane, in his original origin story (they keep revising it) was a prisoner who was the subject of a scientific experiment. An evil experiment.

The mad government (not ours) scientist injected the slight and sickly Bane with a drug called Venom, and he instantly bulks up into a crazed powerhouse. The corrupt prison warden basically makes a bargain with Bane; they will keep him hopped up with Venom, and he will basic destroy anyone or anything that the warden wants destroyed. Faced with life in prison as a 98 pound weakling, Bane agrees. He is fitted with a device that administers the drug directly into his skull (pretty!). He can increase the dosage by tapping a button on his wrist; the more venom in his system, the stronger he gets.

Of course, in addition to making Bane stupidly powerful, it's also more addictive than anything on the planet. And like any addictive drug, you eventually need more of it to feel even a minimal amount of effect.

Ultimately,Bane is defeated by being forced to take too much Venom. The results are, shall we say, messy.

So let's review the marketing points:
  • The word "venom" is another word for poison.
  • A comic book bad guy gained power by using a drug called "venom."
  • The drug in the comic book was hideously addictive.
  • The villian, pumped up on Venom, breaks Batman's back.
  • The villian is eventually defeated by being forced to take waaay too much with, um, messy results. (hint: "pumped up.")
I guess I just don't understand marketing.

Anyway, the company made a product called Venom that - surprise! - can kill you.

BTW, the company has the recall notice up on its website - prominently - and is offering a new version; without the narcotic. And they dropped Venom from the name. Now it's just "Hyperdrive 3.0."

Get it?

When it had "Venom" in it, it could kill you, and after they removed "Venom," it won't.

Maybe it's really 'truth in advertising.'

Why Johnny Can't Read

Forget everything you've read previously. The real reason Johnny can't read? Because his parents think watching the Superbowl is more important than his education, and schools agree. From a WTAE 4 story:
Classes in the Pittsburgh Public Schools will be pushed back from the normal start time on Monday. The district is hoping to reduce absenteeism after Super Bowl XVIII on Sunday night.
That's right kiddies; forget about responsibility. Showing up on time? Totally unnecessary! Stay up late, stay out, party 'till the cows come home! Deadlines? Why, that's so 20th century!

Remind me to avoid hiring people from Pittsburgh; there's no guarantee they'll show up.

January 25, 2009

A Rose By Any other name...

... would still smell like a rose. A thing is defined by its nature, not its name. Conversely, calling skunk cabbage "swamp roses" wouldn't do much to alter the stench.

Which is why the upcoming film featuring Robert Downey Jr. might be entertaining as all hell, but it won't be about Sherlock Holmes.

First, some background;

Sherlock Holmes is the fictional character created by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887. In his first adventure, A Study In Scarlet, we learn a great deal about this unusual hero, as Doyle sets up the world inhabited by Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.

Watson, initially, is shocked by what Holmes doesn't know:
His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing.
Holmes himself explains these particular gaps in his knowledge:
“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
He is also described by other characters in the story:
“Holmes is a little too scientific for my tastes — it approaches to cold-bloodedness."
But it's after Watson reads an article in the paper that we learn what Sherlock Holmes purports to be:

“What ineffable twaddle!” I cried, slapping the magazine down on the table; “I never read such rubbish in my life.”

“What is it?” asked Sherlock Holmes.

“Why, this article,” I said, pointing at it with my eggspoon as I sat down to my breakfast. “I see that you have read it since you have marked it. I don’t deny that it is
smartly written. It irritates me, though. It is evidently the theory of some armchair lounger who evolves all these neat little paradoxes in the seclusion of his own study. It is not practical. I should like to see him clapped down in a third-class carriage on the Underground, and asked to give the trades of all his fellow-travellers. I would lay a thousand to one against him.”

“You would lose your money,” Holmes remarked calmly. “As for the article, I wrote it myself.”

“But do you mean to say,” I said, “that without leaving your room you can unravel some knot which other men can make nothing of, although they have seen every detail for themselves?”

“Quite so. I have a kind of intuition that way."
Doyle referred to Holmes' occupation as "consulting detective" and "armchair detective." Most of his work was cerebral, although there were occasions where he visited the scene of the crime himself.

So what am I fussing about? An article in the New York Times, describing the new movie titled "Sherlock Holmes," starring the aforementioned Robert Downey, Jr.
Sure, he will still be smarter than everyone within a three-planet radius, and he will retain his uncanny ability to intuit whole life stories from the tiniest speck of dust on a shoe. But he will do those things while being a man of action, a chaser, shooter and pummeler of criminals — “like James Bond in 1891,” Joel Silver, one of the film’s producers, said last fall.
Don't get me wrong: I enjoy James Bond as much as anyone. But when I want a Bond adventure, I turn to a Bond story.

It gets much worse:
Lionel Wigram, who conceived the story and is also a producer of the film, said that reinventing Holmes as an action hero made perfect sense. “I never agreed with the idea of the fairly stuffy Edwardian-type gentleman,” Mr. Wigram said. “It wasn’t my idea of Sherlock Holmes.”
First, Sherlock Holmes was a Victorian gentleman, and in the original stories he was far from stuffy. But Holmes would not have been at all impressed with James Bond. The entire point of Sherlock Holmes is to have a detective that relies more on logic and knowledge than physical strength to solve crimes.

Second, no one gives a shit about Lionel Wigram's "idea of Sherlock Holmes." He didn't create him. Sherlock Holmes has remained popular for over a hundred years; when Mr. Wigram has been selling books, records and films for that long, his opinion on the subject might possibly gain some merit.
Susan Downey, a producer on the film and Mr. Downey’s wife, said Holmes is “a bit of a ladies’ man, a bit of a brawler,” adding: “He has a gambling problem. If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan who is in love with the original stories, then you’ll appreciate him.”
Those of us who are fans of Sherlock Holmes understand that Holmes was neither a womanizer nor a gambler. And while it is certain that Holmes could carry his own in a fight, it's out of character for him to look around for brawls as a form of amusement.

The thing is, we don't need anyone to re-invent Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle gave us all we ever needed for him. If you're going to make a movie about Sherlock Holmes, you'd damned well better stick to the history. We don't need re-invention. We need re-discovery.

And we need considerably less of these Hollywood assholes debasing perfectly good stories so they can brag about how they pissed all over it to give it their own stench. If Wigram wants to invent an action hero set in Edwardian or Victorian England, then that is what he should do. He shouldn't steal someone else's signature creation for his movie and give us something entirely different.

I have no doubt that it will be an entertaining movie. But if you're putting Sherlock Holmes in the title role, I'd better get Sherlock Holmes, and not some testosterone-crazed poser.

January 21, 2009

Belt and Suspenders

This CNN story illustrates why I like Obama:


President Barack Obama takes the oath of office -- his second in two days -- in the White House on Wednesday.Can you doubt for a second that W's response would have been "I don't need to re-take the oath because I know I'm president?"

Obama was sure, but took the oath again, anyway.  Maybe it wasn't necessary, but it didn't hurt, either.  Better to be sure, better to ensure that all the t's are crossed and the is dotted, than to push ahead in blind arrogance.

Ahh.  We have a good president.

The Sun-Sentinel Becomes Even LESS Relevant to South Florida.

A few months ago, the Post, Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald made a deal to increase their ability to cover news in South Florida.  The Post and the Herald have made good use of it.  The Sun-Sentinel, on the other hand, has used it to make themselves increasingly irrelevant.

As you know, I also keep a theatre blog, and a key element is finding all the reviews of plays and linking to them.  I do this because primarily because newspapers have started to use reviews as filler instead of featured articles.  That means that the review won't appear in a logical place, but wherever the idiot editor thinks  believes it belongs will solve his space problems.  The Sun-Sentinel has been the chief offender.

What the Sentinel has done to make themselves irrelevant is to also use reviews from the other papers.  Which basically means that the Sun-Sentinel is getting out of the business of covering the arts.

I have two problems with this: first, we need multiple points of view on subjective matters such as art and entertainment.  If a reviewer doesn't like, say, comedy, they will tend to downplay the quality of a funny play.  They may not pan it outright, but neither will they be able to give it an accurate review.  A second reviewer may LOVE comedy, but that may cause him to spin every comedy into a good light.  By comparing BOTH reviews, we can better determine how a given play compares to others.  The more points of view we can access, the clearer the picture of the play becomes for the theatre patron.  Of course, to be able to learn the bias of the reviewer, the same reviewer must be sent to all the plays, or concerts, or whatever.  We can't develop a baseline if it's a new writer every week.

The Sun-Sentinel is no longer providing us with a unique perspective.  It's regurgitating the views we already have.  And that makes the Sun-Sentinel absolutely worthless to the theatre patron.

My second issue is that it robs the paper of a chance to have unique content. 

In may polls, people say they don't read or watch news because "it's depressing."  They want to hear positive things.  Theatre, and the arts, provides the opportunity to provide news stories that are uplifting, refreshing, and unique.  And guess what?  There's always a new play, concert, performance or gallery opening to cover.  You can't count on a puppy saving the baby from the piranha infested canal, but there's a play opening this weekend, and every weekend.

Of course, people also are interested in TV shows and movies, but these NATIONAL events get NATIONAL coverage.  Once we know that Roger Ebert or Rex Reed like it, who cares what Joe Schmoe in Podunk thinks?  With the rare exception, the local arts scene is reserved for local coverage.

The news media in general is being run by people who no longer understand the market.  The Sun-Sentinel is a prime example of it, although virtually every news outlet is making the same mistakes.

So here are five things the Sun-Sentinel, and everyone else to a lesser degree, needs to understand if they intend to stay in the news business..

1. No one buys a paper to read the ads.  Ads are not content.  Ads are intended to bring down the cost of the paper, so that more people can afford to buy the paper.  The ads are not now and never have been the reason to publish a newspaper.  Even the classifieds are not as important as the news.

2. People buy newspapers to find out what is going on in their towns.  Yes, it's nice to read about the national elections, but let's be real: when that plane went down in the Hudson, no one rushed to the Sun-Sentinel to find out about it.  We turned to either a NATIONAL news outlet (CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews) or a news source on the scene (the NYT, NY Post, or the various TV station websites in NY).  We're not stupid; we know that the Hudson River is outside the beat for any South Florida paper.  Now, the stories that reveal the South Florida angle?  That's what we want.  But we also want to know why our office lost power for three hours on Tuesday, and whose house burned down over in the next development.  I really don't care about police corruption in Denver, Colorado.

3. We want to know who we're dealing with.  Who is "staff writer?"  Where did they study?  When we watch the news on TV, we know who's reporting.  Once upon a time, people would look at the bylines.  Why did we stop? Because the newspapers stopped featuring quality reporters.  Now the tendency is to send out whatever warm body is available.  No one gives a s**t what a bench warmer has to say.

4. Quality Editing is important.  It's excruciatingly obvious that editors are no longer vetting the stories.  Or if they are, they are so incompetent that the stories might just as well not have been vetted.  Who, what, when, where, why and how.  Key West is not in Miami-Dade county. If a story as a fish in it, you'd better tell me how big it was, and what kind of bait, the time of day it was caught, and where he was hooked.  A SCUBA diving story isn't complete if it doesn't include the depth they were diving to.   Trains don't swerve out to clip cars.

5. Headlines MatterIf the headline says "Mystery Solved," the story should reveal the solution.  If the only thing determined is what didn't happen, the mystery is NOT solved.  A possibility has been eliminated, nothing more.  The headline needs to be accurate as well as interesting.

And one last thing?  The new "front page" of the Sun-Sentinel sucks ass. If you are too ashamed to put your name in a banner across the top of the front page, it's time to shut down. And if you hired some snot-nosed MBA with a Blackberry who told you different, kick him in the nuts and dump him in the Everglades.


And don't forget to tell us how long the gator was.


January 17, 2009

Don't say I didn't warn you!

The Sons of Confederate Veterans wants its Florida specialty license plate.

Remember, I warned about this last year. So who's going to start the process on the FSM plate?


I want to proclaim my love for His noodly Goodness!

Jim Naugle Spits on Civil Rights - AGAIN.

Let us start from the point that we should always start at, when dealing with people saying things we don't like:

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

This is the very first of our 'self-evident' rights our founders chose to enumerate for those of us who can't perceive what should be evident to everyone.

Before anything else, our founders decided that Americans should be able to pursue whatever path to enlightenment we choose to follow. And that Americans should be free to discuss whatever they choose. And finally, to be able to criticize the government and demand it to adhere to the principles outlined in the Constitution.

Which is why every man, woman, and child in the United States should be offended by statements made by an official who was elected under the auspices of the Constitution.

''The County Commission needs to park these buses this weekend and remove these advertisements.'' - Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle

And what are the advertisments that Jim Naugle is demanding the removal of?

50 Broward County buses, which for weeks have been driving with the following message plastered to their exterior: "ISLAM: The Way of Life of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.''

The advertisments were placed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). It's an advocacy group that's trying to educate Americans on the core beliefs of Islam, in order to promote understanding and justice.

Enough of this idiocy!" demonstration organizer Joe Kaufman demanded. "Take down the Hamas message off our tax-funded buses now."

Joe Kaufman, chairman of the organization Americans Against Hate, believes the advertisements to be an inflammatory message. He also asserts that the ads suggest that Abraham, Moses and Jesus followed Islam.

I take issue with that assessment. The fact is that Islam follows the teachings of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Just as Christianity built itself on the foundation of Judiasm, Islam built itself on top of Christianity, which means it also built on Judaism. Is Islam Christianity? Of course not, just as Christianity isn't Judaism.

In some ways, Jesus might have been more comfortable living in an Islamic household than a modern Christian household: Islam follows the kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws. In other ways, both Islam and several flavors of Christianity are diametrically opposed to his teachings: abhor violence and killing for any reason, prayer should be done in private, and that God's law can withstand examination.

I bring this up because one of the few legal recourses that the County has to violate its contract is on the grounds that the ad was placed for fraudulent purposes. If the advertise claims something that isn't true, or can lead a consumer to harm, the County would have some legal grounds to pull the ads.

But since the ads are neither false nor misleading, it would be a violation of the contract, AND a clear violation of the First Amendment.

Not that that bothers Joe Kaufman. Rather than accept that Muslims have the right to promote their religion, just like Christians and Jews do, he's trying to convince people that the ads are promoting terrorism, and that CAIR specifically supports HAMAS.

Let's examine the message again:

ISLAM: The Way of Life of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad

Hmm. Nothing about guns. It doesn't mention violence.

And in fact, despite his claims and the claims of other radical groups, I can't find any evidence to support the allegations that CAIR supports HAMAS. It's like claiming the Pope supports Terrorism because the IRA has Catholics in it.

CAIR's primary purpose is to get us to see Muslims as human beings instead of "towel-heads." Are some Muslims terrorists? Sure. So are some Christians. So are some Jews. CAIR isn't excusing them, any more than the Jewish Anti-Defamation League is excusing the actions of the radicals of their faith who broke the law for selfish ends.

Joe Kaufman, of course, can voice any opinion he chooses. However, he does have the responsibility to back his accusations with facts, and so far, he hasn't done so. Vehemently believing that CAIR supports terrorism does not mean that CAIR does any such thing, any more than vehemently ascerting that Zionists are trying to rule the world proves that Jews are evil.

By his actions, I find it hard to differentiate Joe Kaufman from David Duke, and his vitriol only underscores the need for an organization like CAIR. The fact is that there is a great deal of anti-Islam sentiment in the United States, and most of it is unwarranted.

Jim Naugle, on the other hand, is an elected official. His actions betray his oath of office, and everything we Americans should expect of our elected leadership. He is supposed to support and enforce the laws of the land, and time and again he has acted out against our Civil Rights. We deserve better leadership than this bigot who continually lashes out at those who fall outside his narrow defintion of humanity.

The County needs to keep the advertising on the buses, and remove Jim Naugle.

Holy $%@!!


January 16, 2009

Dictionary Fun with Dave Engle

Dave Engle should read a dictionary. Assuming he can read of course, which is a huge leap of faith, given the breadth of ignorance so far displayed in this article.

He recently visited the Kansas City Zoo. While visiting the asian-themed section of the park, he noted a pair statues of Buddha. He angrily wrote the park's management and accused them of idolatry.
idol·a·try: the worship of a physical object as a god
KCTV5 has a photo of the statues; they are standing on either side of a walkway. No one appears to be bowed down before them in worship, nor is there any sign of sacrifices left at their feet.

In fact, they appear to be little more than decoration.
dec·o·ra·tion: something that adorns, enriches, or beautifies : ornament
You see, David Engler is misreading the 2nd commandment, which states "You shall not make for yourself an idol."

See that little bit of text I emphasized there? The ten commandments are meant to be a code for the individual believer.

In fact, Mr. Engler seems to be violating the 9th commandment (You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor) and the 10th (you shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.)

If Mr. Engler spent more time reading, he might have a chance of saving his own soul. But right now, it's not looking so good for him.

January 15, 2009

Well, That's Just...Stupid.

PETA takes stupidity to dizzying new heights with their latest strategy to save animals from harm, according to this story from WPBF.

They sent a letter to the president of Palm Beach Atlantic University, requesting that an alteration to their school mascot. 
"If Sailfish became Sea Kitten and everyone in town started calling fish sea kittens, fewer of these gentle animals would be violently killed for food, painfully hooked for sport or cruelly confined to aquariums," said PETA's "Save the Sea Kittens" campaign coordinator
Ashley Byrne.
No, they're really serious.

PETA urged the school to change its mascot from the Sailfish to Sea Kitten "to reflect the gentle nature of its current marine namesake."

Yeah, they're cut and cuddly.

They are beautiful. But they are a top predator, and "sea kitten" just doesn't cut the mustard.

January 13, 2009

Forgive me...

..reader, for I have sinned. It has been 7 days since my last blog. I've had knowledge of current events. I haven't folded my laundry. I started a flame war with an actual drama queen, and I paid my rent late.

Actually, I've been blogging like a maniac mad man on South Florida Theatre Scene. I think there's a producer who's considering "taking out a contract" on me. I'll just say that if any of my readers are interested in the gig, get cash up front.

Anywho, I stepped out of the office this evening, and the temperature had finally started to fall. It's a delightful 70 at the moment. So I figure with the change in weather, I can use that as an excuse to start getting more blog entries happening here.

January 6, 2009

Is the City of Miami Extorting its citizens?

Here's a worrying story from the Coconut Grove Grapevine. Apparently, Code Enforcement has been sending out fraudulent notices of violations. In the case the Grapevine cites, there were no signs of any violations.

The most disturbing report comes from the Fire Extinguisher service:
They then asked if we were in the City of Miami. I told them yes. They then told me that they have received many, many calls about this from City of Miami residents, and no one who was cited has been in violation.
Perhaps we need to have the FDLE take a look into this. Or 60 Minutes.

January 3, 2009

Dusty tells it like it is.

My friend Dusty, aka JD Rhodes, Esq. aka the author of the Jack Keller series, takes Alberto Gonzales to task for complaining to the Wall Street Journal about his post-Bush43 employment difficulties.
Let's be real clear on this, Alberto: You are not a fucking victim of
anything but your own arrogance and cowardice. You're lucky not being
able to find a job is the biggest thing you have to worry about.
It's really worth reading.

January 2, 2009

More Airline Toilet Humor

You got to love a headline like this: another entry for the "I'm really not making this up department."

Man Covered In Feces Attacks Flight Attendant

Passengers said the man left the plane's bathroom covered in his own waste on the Dec. 26 flight.

The man was not arrested, but was turned over to mental health professionals from a care center in Iowa where he reportedly lives.