Thursday, July 30, 2009 Random Image: Blood Was Running Like Water

From the Consumerist's Top 10 Ironic Ads from History, via If you wondering why this is ironic, head over there for an explanation. Be sure to follow the links for some interesting activism by the Yes Men on the matter as well.

And dammit, now I'm in the mood for some Revolting Cocks. Come to think of it, I should still have You Goddamned Son of a Bitch on VHS around here somewhere...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 Curse of the Pink Panthers

There's a ring of international jewel thieves operating right now, striking in exotic places like Dubai and Monaco and making off with millions in loot. Except they don't wear skin-tight sneaksuits like Val Kilmer, drive cool little Mini Coopers, or dodge laser alarms by gyrating on the floor like Catherine Zeta-Jones trying to find her husband's last Viagra after it rolled under the couch. In fact, like with all real-life supervillians, there's nothing cool about them at all - except for the fact that they actually exist.

From the July 29th edition of the Los Angeles Times:
Balkans' Pink Panther jewel thieves smash their way into myth

Members of the unglamorous gang, which has hit boutiques in Paris, London and Dubai, are heroes to some in their war-ravaged native Serbia. 'I hope you rob the U.S. Federal Reserve,' one fan writes.

By Jeffrey Fleishman
July 29, 2009

Reporting from Belgrade, Serbia -- So let's get this straight. A guy in the raspberry business from western Serbia smashes and grabs his way through a heist eight time zones away in Tokyo and scoots off past shopping centers and sushi bars with a $31-million necklace known as the Countess of Vendome.

It happens.

Djordjije Rasovic graced arrest warrants, a thief with brazen nerves, part of an international Balkan crime gang known as the Pink Panthers. He and one of his accomplices, Snowy, another name too whimsical for the harsh impulses of the former Yugoslavia, brought a bit of high jinks to a land haunted by war criminals and atrocities.

The Panthers, a collection of 150 to 200 Balkan bad guys and a few women, have stolen about $140 million in jewelry and watches over the last decade from 100 luxury shops around the world, including boutiques in Paris, London, Monaco and Dubai.

They come in rough, swinging hammers and axes, shattering glass, flashing semiautomatic pistols and an occasional grenade, and vanishing with gems in satchels lined with toilet paper to prevent scratching.

They're untailored and uncoiffed, preferring black leather jackets and ball caps to cashmere and cuff links, a kind of "Ocean's 11" minus the panache. But they're disciplined and fluent in many languages, and they strike with precision.

Their heists usually clock in at 90 seconds, and when one of them gets arrested, like, say, Rasovic, another takes his place in an organization that has grown wiser since the early days, when its members were so brash they didn't bother to conceal their faces.

"They've become more than pure criminals, they're heroes," said Dragan Ilic, a morning radio talk show host in Belgrade, the Serbian capital. "They're violent but they haven't killed anyone. It's as if they're saying, 'We can beat the technologically superior West with our raw power and intelligence.' They're feeding the Western myth of the dark, tribal Balkans -- these criminals coming from those wars and woods."

Panther lore has crept into chat rooms and elsewhere in cyberspace. One of them skied in the French Alps before knocking off a nearby jewelry store; others case shops for months, buying watches and trinkets and befriending managers.

On the website of Blic, a popular Serbian tabloid, a man giving his name as Markus wrote: "I hope somebody from the Pink Panthers corporation reads this message and invites me to join their team. You have become myth and you're still alive. I'm crossing my fingers for you. I hope you rob the U.S. Federal Reserve."

The Panthers lead hidden lives among Europe's Balkan diaspora of refugees, former paramilitary fighters, opportunists and laborers who watched Yugoslavia splinter throughout the 1990s. Working in hospitals, bars and restaurants, they're summoned by messages to join comrades and hatch robberies on streets that glow with designer names.

Some law enforcement officials suggest the Panthers work for the Italian or Russian mafias; others say they're an independent syndicate whose money is sent to the Balkans to buy real estate.

They've become so proficient that they've inspired copycats, and the aura of the Pink Panthers lingers around crime scenes like the infectious theme from the 1963 movie that is their namesake. Scotland Yard came up with the nickname after police found a blue diamond ring worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in a jar of face cream -- similar to a scene from "The Pink Panther."

Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau would be stymied by the likes of Dragan Mikic, a former soldier, taxi driver, used-car salesman and business manager who, with two accomplices, headed for the Courchevel ski resort in France and walked into the Doux jewelry store at 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 31, 2003. Dressed like tourists and brandishing fake guns, the thieves made off with jewelry valued at several million dollars. Mikic was arrested the next day after a clerk identified him while he was buying a train ticket with a 500-euro note.

Described as one of the group's masterminds, Mikic rarely goes quietly to his cell. In 2003, he escaped from a French courthouse. He was captured, but two years later he was sprung from prison when fellow Panthers fired Kalashnikov rifles at guard towers while he hustled down a ladder. In 2008, he was convicted and sentenced in absentia for the Courchevel robbery and heists in Saint-Tropez, Cannes and Biarritz.

"It's audacity," said Monaco criminal investigation chief Andre Muhlberger. "Difficulty doesn't stop them. . . . When you've lived through the atrocities of war, and especially a civil war, you don't have the same fears as you or me."

The story continues on at the LA Times' website.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a screenplay to write. It's about the hijinks that ensues when a bumbling French detective starts trailing the wrong group of Pink Panthers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 Ghostbusters 1954

Via, here's a mock movie trailer that mashes up two of my favorite films.

That bit at 45 seconds in - all props to Dino, but Hope did the line much better in The Ghost Breakers! And I can't help wondering what Bing's cameo would have been like.

Sunday, July 26, 2009 African Goatsucker

From the New Era (Nambia):
Mysterious Beasts Torment Villagers

by Helvy Tueumuna
21 July 2009

ONGWEDIVA – Unknown creatures that reportedly devour and suck blood from livestock are haunting villagers at Onheleiwa, Oidiva and Oikango of Ongwediva constituency.

Over 20 goats have been killed at Onheleiwa and Oidiva villages and an unknown number at Oikango, where the situation is said to be worse.

Villagers are convinced that the creatures have something to do with witchcraft. They are now accusing an elderly man who has a house at Onheleiwa village and his sister who has a house at Oikango village of being the owners of these strange, blood-sucking beasts.

Oshana Police spokesperson, Christina Fonsech, said the police were called at Onheleiwa last week where they followed the creatures’ footprints.

According to her, the creatures’ footprints are bigger than a dog’s footprints, and police could not identify the creatures.

“We followed them but they walked until a spot where they just vanished. It’s difficult to explain what happened to those footprints because they looked as if they climbed onto something but it was in an open space, so we don’t know what happened,” she said.

Olivia Shikongo had her whole kraal wiped out by the creatures, leaving her with only two kid goats.

According to Shikongo, on July 3 five of her goats were eaten up. All that was left were traces of hooves and heads of some of the goats, while other goats had their stomachs cut open and had no intestines or liver.

“Last Wednesday they came to the kraal again. When I heard the goats making noise, I started to scream. It seems that they could no longer kill the goat that they had bitten so they left. When we went to the kraal in the morning, there were only three goats. One goat, which is the bigger one, was fighting for its life. There was no trace of five other goats that were also at the kraal the previous night,” she explain

According to her, when she and other villagers looked around all they could find were the footprints of the unknown creatures while her five goats seemed to have disappeared into thin air.

Shikongo lost a total of 11 goats in two nights.

“I’m only left with two small goats that we now lock up inside a room in the house,” she said.

Another villager who also lost a goat said he saw the creatures when he ran to the kraal after he heard his animals making noise.

According to him, he found four animals at the kraal but when they saw him, they ran away.

The villagers that claim to have seen the unknown creatures, said they look like tigers. Although the community members are also scared for their lives, they said they understand that the animals do not attack human beings.

“If you find them at night, they just sit still on the side of the path and wait for you to pass by,” said another villager.

Saturday, July 25, 2009 The Awesomeness of the Music Played Havoc with the Focus

I was supposed to go out last night, but everyone canceled. And I'm supposed to catch a friend's gig tomorrow night, but it looks like I won't make it 'cuz I can't find anyone to go with. And I'm still out of work, despite another friend's efforts to hook me up. And I'm out of my placebo cure for depression, and I can feel the misery building and roiling like storm clouds in the distance.

Time to get drunk.

I'm not having any pity party, though. I realize that almost all of my troubles are my own damn fault. I just need a little booze to help choke down the irony.

Thus, the theme song for tonight's alcoholic excess should be both jaunty and jaundiced. The random mode on my mp3 player has obliged, pulling up a miserable little tune that also perfectly describes every weekend of my youth - the Jazz Butcher's "Partytime". Here's a clip of band playing the tune for a bunch of inattentive Belgians:

And hey! I found the lyrics! If you'll excuse me, it's time to put on my headphones and annoy the neighbors.
This is partytime
And we're all having so much fun
This is partytime
I could look at all the girls that are in this room
This is partytime
I could think of what would happen if one took me home
This is partytime
I think I'll have another of those

You always act so stupid
You always talk so dumb
But this is partytime
And you've got to say its better than a war
This is partytime
And its better than a cold bath with someone you dislike
This is partytime
And its good to drink for free when you haven't any money
This is partytime
Oh, she might just possibly take me home

But she always talks so foolish
She always acts so dumb
Its only partytime

This is partytime
And its not polite for you to muck around
This is partytime
Naw, you know you'll only go home in a taxi and disgrace
This is partytime
And you know you won't be spending it here again
This is partytime
It's an exceptional way to make friends

But you always act so foolish
You always talk so dumb
But this is only partytime
It doesn't matter anymore
It isn't funny anymore
It's only partytime
Oh lord have mercy on all our souls

PS - Post title taken from the description of another version of "Partytime" on YouTube. I must now direct a concert film just so I can call it this.

Thursday, July 23, 2009 Danger! Pregnant Tortoise!

From today's UK Metro:
Girl hit by plummeting tortoise loses memory

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Chinese girl was lost her memory and had to be taken to hospital after she was hit on the head by a pregnant tortoise.

Cheng Cheng, 12, was walking with her aunt Ling Lang at Chongqing in China when she was struck by the plummeting tortoise. Lang said: 'I was walking and suddenly I heard a scream from my niece who was behind me and I looked round to see her lying on the ground covered with blood. 'There was a tortoise lying beside her and I could see it had hit her on the head.'

Cheng Cheng is treated in hospital for her tortoise wound

The owner of a grocery store who witnessed the incident said they saw the girl was hit by a falling black object travelling at speed and fell onto the ground unconscious. When he ran over, he realised the object was a tortoise. The local children's hospital said Cheng Cheng was diagnosed with concussion, and was awake and conscious but very quiet. Doctor Zhuo Xuan said: 'She does not have any memory of what happened to her or anything about her. We believe the amnesia will only be short lived but at the moment she can't remember anything.'

Locals say the tortoise initially survived the fall, and was placed in a cardboard box where it had laid several eggs. Sadly, however, it then died from its injuries.

The dead tortoise has been frozen pending forensic examination, and police are investigating the incident. A police spokesman said: 'Given the force of the blow, this tortoise, which weighed three pounds, must have been thrown from a reasonable height. We have questioned 16 flat owners all of whom have denied responsibility.' The injured girl's father, Liu Xingbing, said: 'I am furious at this irresponsible behaviour. If I do not have a confession from the guilty tortoise thrower I will sue everybody in the building.'

And now, Evil Fozzie Bear with a commentary:

"Aww, that poor girl looks shell-shocked! Get it? SHELL-shocked? Wakka-wakka!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 Mexican Midget Murder Update: Beware La Gorda!

Via the BBC:
Mexican midget wrestlers arrest

A woman has been arrested in Mexico over the deaths of two midget wrestlers - twin brothers - discovered in a hotel room last month.

Prosecutors allege she was one of two women who spiked the wrestlers' drinks with eye-drops as part of a robbery.

The 65-year-old woman denies the charges. The police said they were searching for her alleged accomplice, known as "The Fat One".

The wrestlers were part of the popular Lucha Mini wrestling circuit.

The brothers, Alejandro and Alberto Perez Jimenez, 35, fought under the names El Espectrito II ("The Little Ghost") and La Parkita ("Little Death"). Many professional Mexican wrestlers wear masks as part of their adopted characters.

Prosecutors say the suspect met the two wrestlers in the centre of Mexico City and agreed to go back with them to their hotel room.

There, it is alleged, she and her friend put eye-drops into the brothers' alcoholic drinks.

Surveillance cameras showed the two women leaving the hotel. The suspect held by police was allegedly traced through calls made on one of the wrestlers' mobile phones.

The prosecutors say female gangs have been drugging men to rob them. The suspect and her accomplice, they allege, failed to take into account the wrestlers' small stature, and gave them too big a dose.

She admits meeting the wrestlers but denies drugging or killing them, telling prosecutors she stayed in their hotel room for just 20 minutes.
Well, that kinda sucks. I had thought the "knock-out nipples" trick was the province of young hotties who'd rather rob their johns than sleep with them. Not to get all ageist or sizeist, but I took a bit of comfort in the the thought that little guys got to spend their final moments with a couple of babes. Let's hope the mini luchas were really into GILFS.

Is the Eclipse Gone?

Is it safe? Can I come out from hiding yet? Do I have superpowers now?

Saturday, July 18, 2009 Not Flesh-Eating Robots, We Swear

From, a press release in response to people worrying about the military financing flesh-eating robots:
POMPANO BEACH, Fla.– In response to rumors circulating the internet on sites such as, and CNET News about a “flesh eating” robot project, Cyclone Power Technologies Inc. (Pink Sheets:CYPW) and Robotic Technology Inc. (RTI) would like to set the record straight: This robot is strictly vegetarian.

On July 7, Cyclone announced that it had completed the first stage of development for a beta biomass engine system used to power RTI’s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR™), a Phase II SBIR project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Defense Sciences Office. RTI’s EATR is an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling.

RTI’s patent pending robotic system will be able to find, ingest and extract energy from biomass in the environment. Despite the far-reaching reports that this includes “human bodies,” the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips – small, plant-based items for which RTI’s robotic technology is designed to forage. Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI.

“We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission,” stated Harry Schoell, Cyclone’s CEO. “We are focused on demonstrating that our engines can create usable, green power from plentiful, renewable plant matter. The commercial applications alone for this earth-friendly energy solution are enormous.”
Nice try, but anyone who's ever seen a horror movie knows what to expect when the grass clippings and wood chips run out.

If you're not freaked out yet at the idea of folks creating machines that feed on flesh, here's a tidbit (*ahem*) from the New Scientist:

Loads more info and pictures at the New Scientist's gallery on the subject.

Friday, July 17, 2009 Alaskan Shoggoth Update

Put down those Elder Signs, it's just algae. At least, that's what they want us to think. From the Anchorage Daily News:
Black goop floating off Arctic coast identified as algae

ALGAE: Still, experts don't know why there's so much of it.

Anchorage Daily News
Last Modified: July 17th, 2009 07:25 AM

A sample of the giant black mystery blob that Wainwright hunters discovered this month floating in the Chukchi Sea has been identified.

It looks to be a stringy batch of algae. Not bunker oil seeping from an aging, sunken ship. Not a sea monster.

"We got the results back from the lab today," said Ed Meggert of the Department of Environmental Conservation in Fairbanks. "It was marine algae."

Miles of the thick, dark gunk had been spotted floating between Barrow and Wainwright, prompting North Slope Borough officials and the Coast Guard to investigate last week. A sample was sent to a DEC lab in Palmer, where workers looked at it under a microscope and declared it some kind of simple plant -- an algae, Meggert said.

The goo fast became an Alaska mystery. And the new findings still leave questions unanswered: Why is there so much of it in a region where people say they've never seen anything quite like it?

Local hunters and whalers didn't know what to make of it. The Coast Guard labeled the substance biological, but knew little else. The stuff had hairy strands in it and was tangled with jellyfish, said a borough official.

Terry Whitledge is director of the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He hasn't had a chance to look at the DEC's sample yet, but a friend with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration e-mailed him a picture of the gunk.

"Filamentous algae," he concluded.


"It means it's just stringy."

Whitledge said he doesn't know why an unprecedented bloom of algae appeared off the Arctic coast.

"You'll find these kind of algae grow in areas that are shallow enough that light can get to the bottom ... If you had a rocky area along the coast, you could have this type of algae."

It could have been discharged from a river, he said, flushed out by runoff from spring breakup and melting ice. But that's just speculation, he warned.

The North Slope Borough took samples of the stuff too, for a separate round of testing, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Hasenauer.

The results of the state's analysis came in at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. It was the last day on the job for Meggert, the retiring on-scene coordinator.

"Had it been petroleum, then we really would have had our work cut out for us," he said.

That was the initial fear -- that an oil spill had appeared in the Chukchi Sea, or maybe the blob was oil bubbling up from a sunken vessel or underwater seam.

The goo didn't fit any pattern that made it easy to identify from afar, Meggert said. "First of all, it was at the end of the Earth. Pretty hard to get to.

"While we've seen some algae bloom from time to time, we really haven't seen something quite like this."

The color, in particular, didn't make sense, he said. You might expect to see green or reddish algae but not this black, viscous gunk. Whitledge, with the university, said one possible explanation is that the algae has partially decomposed into a darker hue.

He looks forward to the university examining the sample too, to identify exactly what kind of algae it is.

It's worth noting that Alaska Natives in the region reportedly hadn't seen anything like it before, he said.

But asked if the blob's surprise appearance could be connected to global warming, Whitledge hesitated to draw a link.

"The water's actually very cold this year compared to other years," he said.

Thursday, July 16, 2009 Sarah Palin Summons Shoggoth, Fails at That, Too

From the Anchorage Daily News via
Huge blob of Arctic goo floats past Slope communities

IT'S NOT OIL: No one in the area can recall seeing anything like it before.

Anchorage Daily News
Last Modified: July 15th, 2009 02:02 PM

Something big and strange is floating through the Chukchi Sea between Wainwright and Barrow.

Hunters from Wainwright first started noticing the stuff sometime probably early last week. It's thick and dark and "gooey" and is drifting for miles in the cold Arctic waters, according to Gordon Brower with the North Slope Borough's Planning and Community Services Department.

Brower and other borough officials, joined by the U.S. Coast Guard, flew out to Wainwright to investigate. The agencies found "globs" of the stuff floating miles offshore Friday and collected samples for testing.

Later, Brower said, the North Slope team in a borough helicopter spotted a long strand of the stuff and followed it for about 15 miles, shooting video from the air.

The next day the floating substance arrived offshore from Barrow, about 90 miles east of Wainwright, and borough officials went out in boats, collected more samples and sent them off for testing too.

Nobody knows for sure what the gunk is, but Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Hasenauer says the Coast Guard is sure what it is not.

"It's certainly biological," Hasenauer said. "It's definitely not an oil product of any kind. It has no characteristics of an oil, or a hazardous substance, for that matter.

"It's definitely, by the smell and the makeup of it, it's some sort of naturally occurring organic or otherwise marine organism."

Something else: No one in Barrow or Wainwright can remember seeing anything like this before, Brower said.

"That's one of the reasons we went out, because in recent history I don't think we've seen anything like this," he said. "Maybe inside lakes or in stagnant water or something, but not (in the ocean) that we could recall ...

"If it was something we'd seen before, we'd be able to say something about it. But we haven't ...which prompted concerns from the local hunters and whaling captains."

The stuff is "gooey" and looks dark against the bright white ice floating in the Arctic Ocean, Brower said.

"It's pitch black when it hits ice and it kind of discolors the ice and hangs off of it," Brower said. He saw some jellyfish tangled up in the stuff, and someone turned in what was left of a dead goose -- just bones and feathers -- to the borough's wildlife department.

"It kind of has an odor; I can't describe it," he said.

Hasenauer said he hasn't heard any reports of waterfowl or marine animals turning up.

Brower said it wouldn't necessarily surprise him if the substance turns out to be some sort of naturally occurring phenomenon, but the borough is waiting until it gets the analysis back from the samples before officials say anything more than they're not sure what it is.

"From the air it looks brownish with some sheen, but when you get close and put it up on the ice and in the bucket, it's kind of blackish stuff ... (and) has hairy strands on it."

Hasenauer said the Coast Guard's samples are being analyzed in Anchorage. Results may be back sometime next week, he said.

The two Coast Guard experts sent up to overfly the area with the borough said they saw nothing that resembled an oil slick, Hasenauer said.

"We brought back one sample of what they believe to be an algae," he said, and a big algae bloom is one possibility.

"It's textbook for us to consider algae because of all the false reports of oil spills we've had in the past. It's one of the things that typically comes up" when a report turns out not to be an oil spill after all.

But, he said, "there's all types of natural phenomena that it could be."

Meanwhile, the brownish-blackish gunk is drifting along the coast to the northeast, Brower said.

"This stuff is moving with the current," he said. "It's now on beyond Barrow and probably going north at this point. And people are still encountering it out here off Barrow."

For the most part, the mystery substance seems to have stayed away from shore.

"We did get some residents saying it was being pushed against the shoreline by ice in some areas," Brower said, "but then we get another east wind and it gets pushed back out there."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 More Genie Trouble

Via Yahoo! News:
Bangladesh crackdown on 'kings of genies'

Mon Jul 13, 2:12 am ET

DHAKA (AFP) – Police in northern Bangladesh say they have arrested dozens of swindlers who conned people out of money by calling them on mobile phones and pretending to be genies with supernatural powers.

"It has become an epidemic here," said Farhad bin Imrul Kayes, police chief of Gobindaganj district.

"In the last three months alone we have arrested 24 of these so-called 'kings of genies', some of whom have even become rich in just a year," he told AFP.

The scammers would gather personal information about their victims beforehand, call them and speak "in a tone similar to Arabic," Kayes said.

Claiming to be genies who had descended from the sky, they would tell people to send money to a specific location, threatening a family tragedy if they disobeyed.

"Many of the these cheats are illiterate but they are very smart," said sub-inspector Abdun Nur, who led several clandestine operations against the fraudsters.

"During the phone talks, they would describe themselves as kings of genies who recite Koranic verses, inject fear of Allah among their victims and pretend to know some of their family secrets," he said.

The police cracked down after receiving numerous complaints and used phone taps to identify Gobindaganj district as the source of all the calls.
"Kings of Genies" is a great name for a band that wants to be murdered by angry mobs during their first world tour.

Saturday, July 11, 2009 Site Update

Note to those interested in the CBC radio production of Pontypool: I created an mp3 out of the streaming audio and added it to my previous blog entry. It's my first attempt at doing this, so I apologize if the quality isn't perfect. Robin Lustig's voice sounds a little fuzzy during the intro, but it sounds that way in the streaming audio, too. The play itself sounded just fine on my mp3 player.

When I went to edit the Pontypool post, I saw that ImageShack "lost" some of the images I host there. Again. I'm really tired of this, so I am giving Photobucket hosting a try. I'll be updating previous entries to the new linage hosting site over the next couple of weeks.

Finally, I don't know if it's one of them there memes, but I came across another Muppet Watchmen cartoon I liked:

I Blame the Djinn Parents

From the BBC
Saudi 'genie' sued for harassment

Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Saturday, 11 July 2009 12:30 UK

A family in Saudi Arabia is taking a "genie" to court, accusing it of theft and harassment, reports say.

They accuse the spirit of threatening them, throwing stones and stealing mobile phones, Al Watan newspaper said.

The family have lived in the same house near the city of Medina for 15 years but say they only recently became aware of the spirit. They have now moved out.

A local court is investigating. In Islamic theology, genies are spirits that can harass or possess humans.

"We began to hear strange sounds," the head of the family, who come from Mahd Al Dahab, told the Saudi daily. He did not want to be named.

"At first we did not take it seriously, but then stranger things started to happen and the children got particularly scared when the genie started throwing stones."

He added: "A woman spoke to me first, and then a man. They said we should get out of the house."

A local court says it is trying to verify the truthfulness of the claims "despite the difficulty" of doing so.

Many Westerners know the term genie from the tale of Aladdin and the magic lamp, or the 1960s American sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie.

But the BBC's Sebastian Usher says genies, or jinn, in Islamic theology can be a lot more sinister.

They are believed to be normally invisible but with the ability to assume human or animal form, and are often said to be motivated by revenge or jealousy.

There is a lingering belief in genies in the Muslim world that predates Islam, our correspondent says.

Yapple Dapple!

Friday, July 10, 2009 Jim Henson's Watchmen

Stumbled across these illos Darren Calvert (aka DMAC) posted over on the Atomic Think Tank boards. With the upcoming release of Watchmen on DVD, I'd though I'd share.

That's just inspired casting for the Comedian - I swear, I'm going to have a t-shirt of that made. And Darren states that Dr. Manhattan is actually played by two Muppets, which you should be able to spot if you look closer than you really want to.

But the best part? Jim Henson's Watchmen would have eventually led to Jim Henson's Watchmen Babies. God, I'd so watch that a million times before I'd ever re-visit Snyder's film.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 The Triffids Walk!

A recent conversation got me thinking on The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham's most famous novel and the archetypal "cozy catastrophe" tale. It tells of a world-wide event that leaves most of humanity blind and vulnerable to the predatations of a carnivorous, mobile breed of plant life. Wyndham's protagonists not only have to fight off killer weeds and rapacious humans, they also take it upon themselves to restore civilization as best they can.

The novel was famously adapted as a film in 1962 and as a BBC television serial in the early 80's; while the movie seems to linger in DVD limbo, there are Region 1 and 2 releases of the tv series, which is miles better than the film and well worth a rental at least. Following on the success of their Doctor Who and Survivors revivials, the BBC has announced a new adaptation of Triffids for screening in 2009.

Triffids was also produced several times for BBC radio. I have copies of the 2001 version and what is purported to be a 1960 version according to my sources. However, Wikipedia does not list a 1960 radio production in its entry for the novel. The cast listing does not match that given for the 1968 version (though it appears Giles Cooper may have directed both), so perhaps what I have is a repeat of the 1957 series. Who knows. Adding to my confusion is the certainty that I've owned and listened to a third BBC version, most likely the '68 adaptation, but lost it during a hard drive crash some years back.

Of the two radio serials I'm sharing here, I prefer the 1960 version. It does a better job of capturing the feel of Wyndham's novel, stodginess and all, and is much more successful at setting up the triffids as a threat. The 2001 series does have a few modern flourishes, but it relies so heavily on narration that it's almost an audiobook. Still, they are free, so download them both and decide for yourself.

Monday, July 6, 2009 Cash Paid for Unwanted Souls

From Yahoo News:
Would you pledge your soul as loan collateral?

Fri Jul 3, 11:53 am ET

RIGA (Reuters) – Ready to give your soul for a loan in these difficult economic times? In Latvia, where the crisis has raged more than in the rest of the European Union, you can.

Such a deal is being offered by the Kontora loan company, whose public face is Viktor Mirosiichenko, 34.

Clients have to sign a contract, with the words "Agreement" in bold letters at the top. The client agrees to the collateral, "that is, my immortal soul."

Mirosiichenko said his company would not employ debt collectors to get its money back if people refused to repay, and promised no physical violence. Signatories only have to give their first name and do not show any documents.

"If they don't give it back, what can you do? They won't have a soul, that's all," he told Reuters in a basement office, with one desk, a computer and three chairs.

Wearing sunglasses, a black suit and a white shirt with the words "Kontora" (office) emblazoned on it, he reaches into his pocket and lays out a sheaf of notes on the table to show that the business is serious and not a joke.

Latvia has been the EU nation worst hit by economic crisis.

Unemployment is soaring and banks have sharply reduced their lending, meaning that small companies offering easy loans in small amounts have become more popular.

Mirosiichenko said his company was basically trusting people to repay the small amounts they borrowed, which has so far been up to 250 lats ($500) for between 1 and 90 days at a hefty interest rate.

He said about 200 people had taken out loans over the two months the business was in operation.
Wiktionary translates "kontora" as "administrative department, office, bureau". Just the sort of nondescript name an emissary of Hell would favor.

R.I.P. John Keel

Noted Fortean author John Keel passed away on July 3rd at the age of 79. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has posted an in-depth memorial for Keel on his Cryptomundo blog.

I first read Keel's classic work, The Mothman Prophecies, in the mid-80's. Keel's "ultraterrestrial" theory helped inspire one of the best RPG campaigns I have ever run, and it still influences a lot of my creative endeavors to this day. It also scared the crap out of me. The idea that there exist malevolent intelligences not subject to our laws of time and space... that's a hell of a lot creepier than ET's with anal fixations.

I discovered Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger around the same time. It seemed to me that both men were experiencing the same phenomenon from different points of view; Wilson believed the intelligences were benign if not outright supportive of humanity, while Keel's ultraterrestrials were cruel tricksters at best. (Being naturally pessimistic, I sided with Keel on the matter.)

Later on, I encountered the works of Jacques Vallée, F.W. Halliday, and others who all have their own experiences and opinions regarding the so-called interdimensional theory. But Keel's Prophecies remains the pinnacle work on the subject as far as I'm concerned. It may not be as scholarly or even as thoughtful as the books that followed in its wake (including some of Keel's own) but it's certainly the most accessible. Whether you approach it as fact, fiction, or outright hoax, it's a cracking good read, which no doubt leads to its continued popularity.

During the day, I steadfastly hold that the UFO experience is a social and psychological phenomenon. At night, however, alone in my rooms, I dread the coming of the ultraterrestrials. Damn you, John Keel! And thanks.

Saturday, July 4, 2009 Pontypool: The Audio Drama

Pontypool is the latest not-really-zombies-honest movie. Based on a novel by Tony Burgess, it's the story of a brash radio host broadcasting during an outbreak of a "verbal virus", spread through the use of certain words, that turns the infected in murderous not-really-zombies-honest. Although Pontypool has received some pretty good buzz, it only received a very limited release in the US. The DVD is due out next month, but I've got something to tide us over in the meantime.

During the film's production, Pontypool was also commissioned as a radio play for the CBC. Given the nature of the story, it may even be better suited for the audio medium than for film. The radio version of Pontypool was broadcast as part of the BBC World Service's Worldplay series, and can be heard as streaming audio on the BBC website via the link below. I don't know how long it will be up for, so listen while you can.

UPDATE: I've tried my hand at creating an mp3 off of the streaming audio. For those of you who'd rather listen to the play on your mp3 player (or if you want to save it for later), it can be downloaded from RapidShare via the link below.

Friday, July 3, 2009 Daring Super-Villian Escape Plan Foiled

From Reuter's:
Police foil radio control zeppelin jailbreak

Fri Jul 3, 2009 1:30pm EDT

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish police said on Friday they had foiled an Italian drug trafficker's plan to break out of jail in the Canary Islands using climbing equipment and a four-meter-long zeppelin.

"The plan consisted of using a remotely controlled zeppelin to bring him night-vision goggles and climbing equipment with which to escape," a National Police statement said.

The prisoner, named as Giulio B., 52, was in jail after being caught piloting a seaplane taking 200 kg (440 pounds) of cocaine from Mauritania to the Canaries.

Police said they had arrested three people outside the jail who were preparing the escape, and had intercepted a package sent from Italy containing the balloon, night-vision goggles and climbing gear.

House searches on Grand Canary island had also uncovered a tent and a telephoto lens the gang had used to observe security details at the jail from a hill 600 meters away, as well as plans drawn by the prisoner.

The plan was for Giulio B. to climb out of the prison and meet a driver who would smuggle him off the island, said police, who have been investigating the plot since February.

"They would then have gone abroad to lie low while waiting for forged papers and to continue arranging the shipment of narcotics into our country," the statement added.
People, we need to encourage such larger-than-life and relatively harmless plots, not crush them! We need to replace the boring, brutal thugs we have now with imaginative criminals that use zeppelins to pull heists, and we aren't going to do it if we don't allow their ridiculous schemes to pay off now and then.

Hookers Take Down Luchador Midgets

Pour a forty on the curb - or, more appropriately, two twenty's. There's been a lot of celebrity deaths this week, but I think we can all agree that this has been our most significant loss.

From the online edition of July 2nd, 2009's Daily Mail:
Murdered Midget Wrestlers Killed by Female Robbers

Two midget wrestlers found dead in low-rent hotel room were 'murdered by female robbers'

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 4:44 PM on 02nd July 2009

Two professional midget wrestlers have been found dead in a low-rent hotel room in Mexico City.

La Parkita (Little Death) and Espectrito Jr -in real life brothers Alberto and Alejandro Jiménez - had been entertaining two prostitutes on the night of their death.

Police believe the women gave the pair, both 35, a fatal drugs overdose before fleeing with their belongings.

Witnesses saw two females leaving the hotel room shortly before the bodies of Espectrito Jr and La Parkita, who fought wearing a skeleton costume, were discovered by a cleaner.

She found the pair laid out on their beds.

Police are interviewing two suspects but believe the wrestlers were dosed with a lethal combination of alcohol and eye drops.

Prosecutor Miguel Angel Mancera said that gangs of female robbers are experienced at using drugs to knock men out and rob them, but they may have used too strong a dose.

That may have been because of the wrestlers' small stature, although larger men have also died in similar crimes.

The bodies were found at a hotel a short a short distance from the Arena Mexico wrestling venue.

Midget wrestlers had a huge following in the 1950s and 60s but its popularity has died out across much of the world.

However the sport still has a huge following in Mexico.

Stories like this are why I will never frequent prostitutes. Or sleep with midget wrestlers.

Thursday, July 2, 2009 Raleigh "Sewer Monster" Just a Mess of Worms

Apparently, the intertubes are a-buzz over video footage of a strange creature lurking in a North Carolina sewer.

The footage is pretty damn cool. Sadly, however, we aren't looking at a hideous creature from outer space, but merely a hideous cluster of sludge worms.

From the website via the Forteana mailing list:
Mysterious 'sewer creature' sparks curiosity

July 1, 2009

Raleigh, N.C. — It's reminiscent of something from the 1958 science-fiction film, "The Blob" – a beating, pulsating, mysterious, slimy mass that has grabbed widespread attention across the Internet.

And it's growing and living in the sewer below Cameron Village in Raleigh.

A 2-minute video of the clusters, taken in April, was posted onto YouTube a few weeks ago and has quickly made its way onto other social networking Web sites. The broadcast industry publication TV Week ranked it Wednesday as the No. 1 viral video on the Web.

Speculation on YouTube as to what it might be ranges from a marketing ploy to promote a new alien movie to undocumented life form to a sewer monster.

But a sewer monster, it is not.

The city of Raleigh says the video – of a 6-inch sanitary sewer line – was taken in April during an inspection of a privately maintained sewer line in Cameron Village.

Ed Buchan, an environmental coordinator with the city's Public Utilities Department, says the mass is believed to be tubifex worms, which form clusters or colonies of about a half-inch to 1-inch in diameter.

Also known as "sludge worms," they are normally found in sediment of ponds and are sold as fish food in both live and dried forms.

Thomas Kwak, a biology professor at North Carolina State University's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, however, says the so-called monster is actually a cluster of invertebrates called bryozoan, which are commonly found in both the sea and fresh water environments.

It's unclear how they got into the sewer system, but Kwak said it isn't surprising. The bryozoan feed off bacteria and thrive in cold, dark environments. Those in the video are smaller than a fist, but could grow as large as a watermelon, he said.

"These organisms are completely harmless," Kwak said. "It's another interesting aspect of nature that we don’t' get to see every day."

Buchan says that because the worm-like creatures don't pose a threat to the city's water quality, the city isn't requiring York Properties, which manages the system and Cameron Village, to remove them.

York did not return calls seeking comment, and it's unclear if it plans to remove the colonies.

For the "tl;dr" crowd, here's a video version of the same story, also from the WRAL site:

And so we are safe again. At least for the time being.