Thursday, June 28, 2007

Caution: Starburst fruit chews may be chewy

According to this story on Faux News (found at News of the Weird Daily), a woman injured her jaw eating a Starburst and is now suing Mars Inc. for $25,000.

Apparently, she believes that the candy should have come with a warning that it's chewy. I guess in America, it's not enough to call your candy "fruit chews," you have to warn people that your chews might be, um, chewy.

Because otherwise they might not realize that a "chew" is "chewy," and they could hurt themselves. And that would be all your fault, for not warning them... according to this lady and her lawyer, anyway.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"The working class and the employing class have nothing in common"

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJune 27, 2007, is the 102nd anniversary of the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW, the "Wobblies."

The IWW has been perhaps the most radical of American labor unions. The preamble to its constitution reads in part:

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.

Maybe those aren't words that have a lot of resonance in societies as affluent as most of ours are. "The few" no longer have "all" the good things; they just have a lot more of them. And there are plenty of union-related abuses, especially in big, entrenched unions. But next time you take a coffee break, next time you have a weekend off, the next time you get paid sick leave or employer-paid health insurance, remember that even if you don't need to belong to a union yourself, you owe a large part of that to unionism. Remember that there were once people who actually gave their lives so that one day the rest of us could earn a decent living. And while you're remembering, think about maybe even buying a cool T-shirt and support a union that's still trying to help people who need it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

One Sentence Movie Reviews: "Full Metal Jacket," "Star Trek: First Contact," "Rebecca"


Rebecca (1940, NR)
8/10

Rampant sexism and Olivier's cold persona keep his character from being as sympathetic as intended, and censorship takes some of the edge off the plot, but this is still very good Hitchcock.

Star Trek: First Contact (1996, PG-13)
8/10

This time-traveling, Borg-invading, Data-assimilating action potboiler is the second-best Trek movie (and the last good one, unfortunately).

Full Metal Jacket (1987, R)
9/10

The boot camp sequence is one of the best things ever in any movie, while the Vietnam part is just very, very good.

Weird dream of the year (so far): The Adventure of Just Needs a Good Shagging Girl

I had a weird dream last night. I don't remember much about how it started, but I was in rural Japan, in one of the areas I was in on my mission. Then I was flying to Tokyo on a jumbo jet. The Danite and somebody else was with me. But there was something wrong. The plane was flying very low and getting lower. There were trees taller than the altitude we were flying at. I said, "Isn't this plane flying freakishly low?" [I specifically remember using the word "freakishly." I don't know why. I mean, I kinda like the word, but it doesn't seem apt as a description of an airplane's altitude.]

Then terrorists were shooting at us. There were explosions all around. A small plane blew up, but we were so low that we safely flew right under the explosion and debris. Unfortunately, though, at this point the Danite fell out the back of the airplane. (He wasn't injured, though, just sort of confused-looking.) "What a stupid dream," I thought. "How the hell can somebody fall out the back of a plane?" [A lot of my dreams are semi-lucid like that.]

Next thing I knew, the plane had landed and I was in Tokyo. I was in the subway station trying to get to my train, but more terrorists were attacking. It was one of those giant stations with dozens of platforms and all sorts of intricate pedestrian tunnels connecting them. Then all of the sudden it wasn't terrorists anymore, it was a Super Villainess. She didn't have a name or anything in my dream, but she wore a sort of dominatrix costume with thigh-high shiny leather boots and carried a javelin. She was blowing
up stuff in the tunnels and all, so people couldn't get to their trains. They were still trying, though.

The Japanese cops were there, but they weren't doing much of anything. I asked them for a gun so I could go after the Super Villainess. The Head Cop asked me how much experience I had with guns. I was trying to figure out how to answer without lying but still get a gun, and then my daughter M was there. She asked the cops for a gun so she could take on the Super Villainess. It was only natural that she be the one to try, because she was the only person around with roller blades, which would give her a speed advantage.

The cops gave her a pistol. It looked like a 9-mm semi-auto. The Head Cop showed her how to use it. It had two switches, a safety and a switch to set it to full-auto. I looked at the switches, but had trouble finding the safety. The Head Cop handed M two clips of ammo. They looked like regular clips, but they were fat at the bottom, like the battery pack of a cordless drill. I asked him to give her more ammo, but he only had two clips. M took the gun and the clips and skated off.

I waited around for awhile. I don't remember if I was doing anything. People kept coming up the stairs and escalators and out of tunnels looking like refugees or something. Finally, I decided that it was taking too long and that I had to go get the Super Villainess and help M. I went down some stairs, and my spouse was with me, but she saw an old friend she hadn't seen for a long time and stopped to talk to her, so I went on alone. I went down more stairs, escalators, ramps, and so on, through doors, in and out of buildings. I saw lots more refugee-looking people, walking around with blankets over their heads to keep debris from killing them.

It was much farther and more complicated getting back to where the Super Villainess was then it had been getting away from her. I was getting frustrated and worried about M, when finally I heard the sound of roller blades, so I knew I'd found her. She came skating up a ramp with some refugees around her. The Super Villainess was coming up behind her, except it wasn't a ramp anymore, it was an escalator.

I tried to hide behind a chair that was at the top of the escalator [odd place for it] so I could surprise her, but I couldn't quite fit behind it. So I just said the hell with it and stood up and grabbed the Super Villainess by both wrists. She was kind of laughing at me because I couldn't hide behind the chair properly. She didn't have her javelin anymore.

I asked M why she hadn't shot the Super Villainess. She said, "I missed." I was a little disappointed in her, but I realized that, seeing as how she was shooting at a Super Villainess, it probably wasn't her fault, so I was careful not to be critical.

I turned my attention back to the Super Villainess. She looked just like some starlet who used to be on TV when I lived in Japan. [I can't quite remember who, though. It might have been Ai Iijima, because I just saw a video with her in it. And if you happen to know who Ai Iijima is, no, not that kind of video.] She wanted to get my daughter for shooting at her. I still held her wrists and pleaded with her not to. "Please don't hurt my daughter. I'm begging you." That would sound pretty natural in Japanese, but since we were speaking English, I thought, "Man, that sounds kind of obsequious."

I'm not sure what the Super Villainess was going to do, but then I realized that I was stronger than she was. And I knew why. I gave her neck a little nibble. "You're losing your powers," I said. I gave her breast a little squeeze and rub. "You lose your powers whenever you're attracted to a man." She just sighed and didn't say anything. [I guess her Super Villainess name should have been "Just Needs a Good Shagging Girl."] I scooped her up in my arms. There was an angry mob of people standing around. "I'd better get you out of here," I said. "Without your powers, these people will beat you to death."

I didn't actually mind all that much if they did, but I figured that if I let her get beaten by an angry mob, naturally she'd stop being attracted to me. Then her powers would come back, and then we'd all be in for it. But by rescuing her, I'd make her even more attracted to my manly protectiveness. And it worked. She rested her head on my manly chest, and I carried her out of the subway and into a police station.

THE END

It's hard to be humble, when you're Richard Dawkins in every way

Probably few if any people have noticed that my sidebar has a little "Books" section, with "Now reading," "Finished last week," "Books I've read in 2007," and "Next up" links. But anyway, since I have The God Delusion on hold at the library, I needed a link. What I found was the "God Delusion" page at Dawkins's own website. And it's one of the funniest things I've seen on teh interwebs lately.

According to the page, Dawkins is a "preeminent scientist" and "the world's most prominent atheist." He writes with "rigor and wit," examining God "in all his forms," and "eviscerates the major arguments for religion." The book "makes a compelling case" and "offers exhilarating insight." The Wall Street Journal says Dawkins's "literary craftsmanship" is "awe-inspiring." (The New York Times Review of Books, though, merely "hails" him. Wankers.)

Now, if these little hagiographic nuggets were found on the book publisher's website, for example, I would already find them a rather over-the-top. But remember, this is Dawkins's own website. This means that, in essence, the person praising Dawkins to high heaven (pardon the expression) is Dawkins. I mean, there's promoting yourself, and then there's blowing the lid off the Unintentional Comedy Scale. And this lavish self-praise proves Dawkins to be a, um, "preeminent" lid-blower.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Find him, bind him, tie him to a pole, and break his fingers...

...to splinters, drag him to a hole, until he wakes up, naked, clawing at the ceiling of his grave..."

No, it's not Rudy Giuliani's reaction when he heard Fred Thompson would run for president, it's some lines from my new favorite song, "The Mariner's Revenge Song" by the Decemberists.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Time to quit his day job

Paul Potts, the cell-phone salesman who sings opera, is the winner of "Britain's Got Talent." He wins £100,000 (about $57, I think) and a chance to sing in front of the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance in December. And, no doubt, he'll be making a record real soon.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

One Sentence Movie Reviews: "God's Army," "Play Time," "Borat"


Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006, R)
8/10

Is funniest movie film comedy in all of One Sentence Movie Review.

Play Time (1967, NR)
8/10

Who knew that French surrealism could be so funny?

God's Army (2000, PG)
7/10
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
If you've ever wondered about the lives of those guys who annoy you by knocking at your front door, this is an interesting and generally realistic portrayal of life as a Mormon missionary.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Well, yeah, but...

I showed the "Britain's Got Talent" opera guy video to my kids, and they loved it. So I showed it to my spouse, H, and the following conversation ensued.

H: "Well, I don't think his voice is that great."

Me: "What! But..."

H: "Well, that other guy's much better, isn't he?"

Me: "What other guy?"

H: "That Italian guy."

Me: "Italian guy... you mean Pavarotti?"

H: "Is that his name?"

Me: "The fat Italian guy with the beard?"

H: "Yeah, him. He's much better."

Me: "But this guy is a cell-phone salesman."

H: "I know."

Me: "And Pavarotti's the best tenor in the last 50 years, maybe the best ever."

H: "Yeah, he's much better."

Me: "Well, yeah, but..."

H: "I'm just sayin'..."

I really love H, but sometimes I think she's just a wee bit too practical.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The best singer at Carphone Warehouse

So, this dumpy-looking guy comes out on "Britain's Got Talent" and says he's going to sing opera, and...

Oh. My. Freakin'. Gourd. How the hell is this guy not already a professional singer? And how can he sing like that and have so little confidence? I mean, look at him when he finishes -- he blows the judges away (Simon Cowell was actually grinning, for crying out loud), the audience goes wild, and then he stands there with this look on his face like, "Was that all right? Do I get to go on to the next round?" Amazing.

Update: His name is Paul Potts. I think we'll be hearing more from him.


Dumb sneaky bastards in the UK: Global Sweepstakes scam

Update 6 (3/24/2009):
It looks like this scam is actively using the name "Global Sweepstakes Prize Inc." again, so I'll put the most important information here at the top:
Global Sweepstakes Prize is a scam. Do not give them any personal information, especially not your bank account number. Do not under any circumstances send them any money. If they sent you a check, it's fake. Read the full post and the comments for details on how the scam works and where you can report it.
--------------
I got some interesting mail today. Mixed in with the usual bills and junk mail was an actual letter.


But it wasn't an ordinary letter. It was from the UK. It had a "Royal Mail" postmark and everything.



This was quite a puzzler, because as far as I know, the only people in the UK who know my name and address are Curmudgeonly Yours and IslaSkye, and I couldn't think of any reason they would send me a letter instead of just e-mailing me. Besides, the letter looked kind of strange to be personal. There was no return address, and the address was a printed label with my last name first. So if not Curmudgeonly and Isla, who could it be from?

Well, of course I opened it up, and much to my surprise, I found a letter saying that I had won $250,000. (Click the picture for a little bigger view.)



According to the letter, "Global Sweepstakes Prize Inc." enters "250,000 names from different International census databases worldwide including North America," and their "network server" indicated that I was selected as a prize winner.

Now, there are a couple of things just in that first paragraph that are silly if you think about it. First of all, what kind of sweepstakes goes around selecting random people as winners? Where would the money come from? There are only two ways to pay for a sweepstakes: either from people buying tickets, as in a lottery, or through product advertising and sales, as in the Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes in the USA. Second, why would a "network server" choose the prize winner? Network servers run networks (duh). They don't generally choose prize winners. I guess it was supposed to sound "technical" or something. But wait, it gets better.

The second paragraph tells me what my "lucky numbers" were. Of course, this begs the question of why I needed "numbers" if they were using my name from a database. Why not just use my name, or assign it a number between 1 and 250000? But at least they avoid coming right out and asking for a fee. In fact, they say I'm "guaranteed" payment at "no extra cost to [my]self" (emphasis theirs). This is a lie, of course. Once you respond to them, there will be obstacles, red tape, fees, taxes, just a little more that needs to be paid and then the $250,000 is yours. [Note: see the updates and comments below for the actual mechanism of the scam.]

The third paragraph really kicks things into gear. They "would like to explain to [me] the Federal and International regulations governing the personal collection of cash prizes." Gosh, that sounds official. I'd better do exactly what they say. But speaking of "regulations," apparently the UK only has two legal lotteries (neither named "Global Sweepstakes Prize" -- go figure) and it's illegal to play foreign lotteries from the USA anyway. I guess I was supposed to take their word and not look up that kind of stuff on teh interwebs. Anyway, they set up the foolish to be badgered for fees and taxes by referring to an apparently non-existent law, the "United Kingdom Non Resident Tax Act 2003" (section 22).

The fourth paragraph is even better, though. This is classic: "For security purpose and clarity, we strongly advise that you keep your winning information confidential until your claims have been fully processed and your money remitted to you." In other words, "Don't tell anyone we're robbing you until after we've finished." And they shamelessly go on to say, "This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claims and unwarranted abuse of this program by some nominees" (my emphasis this time). Because talking about the "program" makes it more likely that the "nominee" will report the sneaky bastards to the authorities. "Bloody cheek" I believe one might say in the UK.

The letter's ending is the best of all. It refers the nominee to contact an "Anthony Wright." But the letter is signed by "Clara Clayson." And take a look at the signature:



I can't tell what the heck that's supposed to say -- it looks like "Cethi Beraley" or something -- but I can tell you one thing it doesn't say: "Clara Clayson." It's obviously scanned in and has no relation to the name under it. And what the heck is that a picture of?

So that's the cover letter. There was also a form to fill out (click the picture for a bigger view):



Fill it out, and they have your complete contact information, your bank account number, and even the contact information for your "next of kin," so they can harass them for money too. Unbelievable. But apparently there are actually people who know no better than to fall for this whole thing.

UPDATE:
I followed this up with another post, but it doesn't look like many people are finding it, so I'm moving the text here:

I've been getting a lot of hits from people googling "Global Sweepstakes Prize Inc.," so let's make this perfectly clear: Global Sweepstakes Prize is a scam. Do not give them any personal information, especially not your bank account number. Do not under any circumstances send them any money.

Apparently, the way the scam works is, if you contact them, they will send you a phony "cashier's check" for $2,500. They will tell you to deposit it and then wire $2,500 to a "tax officer." But the check is fake, and of course the "tax officer" is not a real tax officer. The idea is to get you to send money before the bank can process the check and find out it's phony. So if you send the money, not only will you have wasted $2,500 of your own money, you will have passed a bogus check to your bank (which won't immediately know it's not intentional and might even call the police on you).

Here are some tips on how to recognize scams or fraud.

Here are some places you can report this attempted fraud.

UPDATE 2:
This scam is apparently also going out under the name "Skye Sweepstakes." Here are some other common lottery scam names.

UPDATE 3:
Here's a scan of the "Skye Sweepstakes" letter that a visitor e-mailed me. It's higher-pressure than the "Global Sweepstakes" letter that I got, because it claims that time is running out and "your file will be closed" if you don't respond in 14 days. Click for a bigger view.
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UPDATE 4:
Apparently, the Skye Sweepstakes scammers are sending out phony cashier's checks in some of these mailings, without waiting to be contacted first. According to a Treasury Department bulletin, the fake checks use the name of Hiawatha National Bank, a legitimate bank in Wisconsin.
The bulletin lists some places you can report this attempted fraud:

Consumers who receive a counterfeit item and associated material should file complaints with the following agencies, as appropriate:

Federal Trade Commission (FTC): by telephone at 1-877-FTC-HELP or, for filing a complaint electronically, via the FTC’s Internet site at www.ftc.gov.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Canadian Scams): by telephone at 1-888-495-8501 or via e-mail at [info@phonebusters.com]. Their Web site, www.phonebusters.com, provides additional contact numbers.

Better Business Bureau – The BBB system serves markets throughout Canada, Puerto Rico, and the United States, and is the marketplace leader in advancing trust between businesses and consumers. The international Web site (www.bbb.org) offers contact information for local BBBs, objective reports on more than two million businesses, consumer scam alerts, and tips on a wide variety of topics that help consumers find trustworthy businesses and make wise purchasing decisions.

If correspondence is received via the U.S. Postal Service, file an on-line mail fraud complaint form with [the United States Postal Inspection Service or contact them by by phone at 1-877-876-2455 or snail mail at CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS SERVICE CENTER, ATTN: MAIL FRAUD, 222 S. RIVERSIDE PLAZA STE 1250, CHICAGO IL 60606-6100]

Additional information concerning this matter that you believe should be brought to the attention of the OCC may be forwarded to:

E-mail: occalertresponses@occ.treas.gov
Mail: Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Special Supervision Division, MS 6-4
250 E Street, SW, Washington, DC 20219
Fax: (202) 874-5214
Internet: http://www.occ.treas.gov

For additional information on this and other types of financial fraud, please visit OCC’s anti-fraud resource at: http://www.occ.treas.gov/fraudresources.htm.


Update 5:
A recent new name: ukeuro onlinelottery promo (UK Euro Online Lottery Promo)

Update 6:
See the top of the page

Update 7: (1/15/2011)
More fraud resources

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Help me build a classical music library

Lately I've been building up my music library, but I've been neglecting the addition of classical music -- it's fallen well below 10 percent of my total collection. I want to add more, but I don't really know where to begin -- or where to continue, I should say. I have quite a few works (see the list below), but there's nothing systematic about it.

So classical music lovers, please help me out. Glance over my list and give me some suggestions. I'm sure there must be some glaring omissions, things that make you sneer and say, "How can he call that a classical music library when he doesn't have such-and-such by so-and-so?" What are they? What are the must-haves that I don't have?

Here's the list (I realize that some of it isn't actually "classical music"); what's missing? Or, even if the list is too much trouble, please tell me what you think some "must-have" classical works are.

Anonymous 4:
American Angels
English Ladymass
Love's Illusion - Music from the Montpellier Codex
Noel

Bach:
Air on the G String
Complete motets
"Jesu Joy Of Man's Desiring" from Cantata No. 147

Barber:
Adagio for strings

Beethoven:
Fur Elise
Piano Concerto 5 "Emperor"
String Quartet No. 2 in E minor
String Quartet No. 3
String Quartet Op. 132 in A minor
String Quartet Op. 135 in F major
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 6
Symphony No. 8
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61

Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos:
Chant

Bizet:
Carmen (suites 1 & 2)
L'Arlesienne (suites 1 &2)

Borodin:
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3

Brahms:
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3

Britten:
Peter and the Wolf

Bruckner:
Symphony No. 4 "Romantic"

Chopin:
Piano Sonata no. 2
Piano Sonata no. 3
Piano Concerto no. 1
Piano Concerto no. 2

Dvorak:
Symphony no. 9

Einhorn:
Voices of Light

Elgar:
Pomp and Circumstance

Gershwin:
An American in Paris
Rhapsody in Blue

Granados:
Danzas Espanolas

Handel:
Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon

Holst:
The Planets

Jarre:
Lawrence of Arabia

Mahler:
Kindertotenlieder
Ruckert Lieder
Symphony no. 2

Mendelssohn:
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64

Mozart:
Complete works for flute
Concerto for Two Pianos K. 365
Concertone for 2 Violins and Orchestra in C major, K.190 (186E)
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik Kv 525
Serenata Notturna in D Kv 239
Divertimento in B Kv 287
Rondo alla Turca
Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra in E-flat major, K.364 (320d)
Sonata for Two Pianos K. 448
Violin Concerto no. 2
Violin Concerto no. 3
Violin Concerto no. 4
Violin Concerto no. 5

Mussorgsky:
Pictures at an Exhibition

Orff:
Carmina Burunda

Pachelbel:
Canon in D (Here's a bonus for looking this far)

Pavarotti:
Some Christmas music (O Holy Night, Ave Maria, etc.)

Penderecki:
Symphony no. 3
Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima
Fluorescences for Orchestra
De Natura Sonoris II for Orchestra

Rachmaninov:
Isle of the Dead
Piano Concerto no. 3
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Ravel:
Bolero

Rimsky-Korsakov:
Capriccio Espagnol
Scheherazade

Schubert:
Quintet for Piano and Strings "Trout"

Schumann:
Dichterliebe

Shore:
Lord of the Rings

Strauss:
Blue Danube
Also Sprach Zarathustra

Strauss:
Metamorphosen
Tod und Verklarung

Stravinsky:
Rite of Spring

Tan Dun:
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Tchaikovsky:
Symphony no. 6 in B minor "Pathetique" Op. 74

Verdi:
Requiem

Vivaldi:
The Four Seasons "Spring"

Saturday, June 09, 2007

"Anna Nicole's mama said that I won't wanna see Anna fall down again"

"Yellow Ledbetter" is one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs, especially now that finally I know what the lyrics say.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Separated at birth


Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Muppet Guy Smiley, "America's favorite game show host"

Idea from Slate.com

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

One Sentence Movie Reviews: "Oldboy," "Seven," "Pan's Labyrinth"


Pan's Labyrinth (2006, R)
8/10

A little girl travels between mundane, ugly, and brutal Fascist Spain and a magical, beautiful, and brutal underworld to seek her destiny in this fantasy.

Seven (1995, R)
8/10

Grisly and gripping thriller with a savage twist at the end.

Oldboy (2003, R)
9/10

Inventive and original, shocking and repugnant, beautiful and redemptive (yet twisted even in its redemption), this is a marvelous work of art for people who can stomach it.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The best ever... at anything

Pele... the G.O.A.T.
(There's a lot of swearing in the first background song, so maybe NSFW.)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Um... whoop-de-doo?


The new iPhone is out and it's pretty, the touch screen is nifty, and iTunes is convenient, but it's far from revolutionary. They've had phones that can do all that and more for at least five years in Japan and other parts of Asia, and they cost well under 100 bucks now.

From an Asian perspective, it's pretty much a run-of-the-mill phone but five times as expensive. What's to get excited about? It makes me kinda sad that we're stuck with such crappy phones here in the States that people are stoked about something this routine.

Saturday, June 02, 2007