Showing posts from March, 2012

US civil law: Beyond Law & Order

[Edit: This post has been edited from its original publication. See here for details.]

I've noticed that a lot of hits on my blog in re: the recent internet gossip scandal are coming from outside the US. While I am deeply puzzled as to why people in Lithuania seem to be passing my posts around, and not interested in debating the identity of the author involved (at least not until things have settled down some -- try me next year), it occurs to me that a lot of people not from the US or Canada have probably learned most of their American law from the television we export. Don't feel too bad about this -- frankly, a lot of people in America have learned most of their American law from television, which the police here find alternately funny and annoying.

BIG DISCLAIMER: None of this is to be construed as legal advice. I am not a lawyer. I am not in law school. I have never even been inside a law school, although I walk past the Harvard Law COOP on a pretty regular basis if that …

Oh for the love of pete: The last I am going to write about "Himmmm", seriously

[Note: This post has been edited from its original publication. See here for details.]

Apparently someone -- implied to be [someone]? Maybe? the commenter doesn't say -- is sending out cease and desist letters to people who've commented on the "Himmmm" thing online. I have not gotten one, but I would like to make something abundantly clear: Nothing I have posted is anything other than an amateur attempt at forensic document analysis, and a little social psychology. I think the other blogs commenters have shown me are consistent with the writing style of "Himmmm", but as someone who respects the ethics of people who do conduct professional forensic examinations of this stuff, I cannot say that it definitively is the same person. Nor do I personally have any evidence that it belongs to the guy other people are pointing at, although I have dutifully reported that other people are saying it without weighing in one way or another. I am not personally interested …

The game is afoot!

I mentioned in a previous post that I am a Sherlockian. This tends to strike people as being a bit bats, a little like being a scholar of the history of Middle Earth, whilst pretending it wasn't made up out of whole cloth. The idea is that, from one counterfactual premise -- that Holmes and Watson were real people, with Doyle being Watson's literary agent -- you jump off into a huge game of recreational research and logic, where you try to figure out where and when the cases happened, in what order, who some of the "disguised" names might really have been, etc. Sherlockians, in fact, call it "The Great Game", which if you've been watching the BBC's modern series Sherlock you'll note they used as the title of the finale of series one. It's loads of fun if you're the sort of person who reads academic papers in your spare time, which I am -- I have a lot of anecdotes that start with sentences like "It was Friday, so I was drinking and …

Indian heads and Carole Hersee

I am ridiculously sentimental about old media. The history of broadcast and recording is a source of endless fascination for me. I'm not entirely sure why, except I think there's something magical about being able to capture a performance at one moment in time and carry it forward so that millions of people -- some of whom weren't even born when the performance took place! -- can experience it for themselves. Virtual time travel, albeit slow unidirectional virtual time travel.

Back in the days of yore, televisions were very temperamental. The worst we deal with now is figuring out how to make our movies display in widescreen, so they aren't full of pencil-people. Early televisions were wholly analog, and there were an infinity of ways the horizontal alignment, vertical alignment, convergence, retrace, and maybe a thousand other things could be faintly, but irritatingly, off. There was actually a point to having a TV serviceman, who would come to your house and fiddle w…

Fun with confused and sometimes creepy people

I tend to binge on podcasts when I get bored. I do a lot of walking, and there are generally half a dozen of the things on my MP3 player. Lately, I've been listening to Dan Savage's Savage Love podcast, dragging through the archives from the beginning. I go on and off of Savage Love; I listen for a while, get distracted, and eventually get back around to it and remember, hey, I think I liked this one! The content is not a problem for me; when you go into the social sciences, out of sheer necessity you develop the ability to do things like listen to people ask some guy on the internet how to find the best brand of anal lube for a bisexual threesome where one of the participants is a virgin with gluten allergies on the subway during rush hour without batting an eye.

Dan Savage is a Gay. I phrase it this way for two reasons. One, I have an irrational hatred of those who incessantly push 'person-first' terminology. I have a friend who has, hands down, the most non-standard…

In which I explain a silly multi-lingual in-joke

I keep domesticated rats as pets. One of my roommates in Flagstaff used to play Pokémon games when she was otherwise bored out of her mind and had time to kill. Apparently, there's this guy in one or more of them who, whenever you came into contact with him would ask, "Have I told you about my super-cool Rattata? He's in the top 1% of all Rattata!" -- a Rattata being a kind of Pokémon that basically amounted to a big purple rodent in a Pokéball.

We thought it was hilarious to wander around the apartment, waving rats at each other and asking this, mostly because we did have one that was probably in the top 1%, if "sheer fatness" counts as a ranked category. His name was Aramis, but we mostly called him the Corpulent Ratball. He ate the exact same diet as the other two, normal-sized rats, but he was so excruciatingly lazy skilled at hoarding calories that when he hunkered down he became an almost perfectly-spherical wad of rat fur with a pointy face stuck on …

The how and why of "Himmmm"

[Note: This entry has been edited from its original publication. See here for details.]

A commenter on another entry asks:

"Any thoughts on why Himmmm would give some in-depth details on RDJ in a sympathetic way, then pretend to be him, even though it could get RDJ in trouble?"

Well, the obvious one is that he's a fan and he didn't think that far. I don't think it's especially suspicious that he defended RDJ first. A lot of people have done, over the years, some of the loudest being people who know him personally. Hell, I would, and all I did was watch some movies and spend like three days going through Google. As far as I can tell, some other commenter guessed that was who was behind "Himmmm" sometime last March, and "Himmmm" responded with a lot of comments that played off of Downey's recent success with the Sherlock Holmes films. It was slightly later, when he was really involved in the game, that he "confirmed" that he was…

Yeah, you knew this was coming

I lost interest in "Himmmm" after the internet pretty much proved to me that it was a random obsessive nutter, rather than a famous obsessive actor nutter. The famous obsessive actor nutter is way the hell more awesome to watch, so for the last few days I've been prodding YouTube and Google to cough up what they have on Robert Downey, Jr.

First things first: Dude is weird. And I say this in a completely value-neutral way. It is completely independent of the drugs and the acting and the living in Hollywood, and has apparently been a lifelong thing. Everyone who personally knows him agrees that he's weird, without otherwise appearing to care. His wife will say it directly into a microphone, to his face, in front of an audience, with a grin. Downey just smiles back. I'm guessing this is a Thing with them. Watching them together makes it pretty obvious to me that he adores her. Downey credits falling for her with being one of his biggest reasons for cleaning up; I be…


For anyone who's life is short on photos of furry things, I started a tumblr full of pet pictures. I fed it a bunch of photos and told it to post from the queue of pictures on a regular basis, so there should be a steady stream of wiggly little rats, should you ever need one.

Dear Google, ILU

I just found Google Play.

Google Play gives you 20,000 tracks of storage for free. Not a space limitation, a limitation on the number of songs. That is horrifyingly brilliant and I'm kind of ticked nobody had thought of that before.

You can also buy music straight from Google Music on Google Play. Which you can then download from your cloud storage whenever, because you bought it, you should be able to play it on your gadgets. I like this idea, mostly because fuck iTunes, fuck it a lot. The only machine I've ever had that liked it is the Mac I'm typing on now. It crashes like a loaded starlet in a red Camaro every time I try to start it on the Windows machine. And DRM can just wither and die.

I've also been recently setting up an Ubuntu partition on the Windows machine, and have discovered, while updating Chrome on everything, that if I log into Chrome rather than just logging into Google, then my browsing history and extensions and a zillion other things follow me fro…

The mystery of "Himmmm": Solved to my satisfaction

I've finally dug myself out of a load of other stuff and looked at Jezebel again, and apparently someone has finally told RDJ what was going on. Hilariously, he does not seem to care that the world thought he was a bored internet gossip. The actual answer was his rep assuring us that, "Robert's a much better writer than that."

I have no reason to doubt it, personally; he seems pretty on the ball when he's speaking. But there's no way for me to know without actually having seen something he's written, ideally something fairly long. (If anyone knows of him having written an op-ed for a paper or a blog, or even a lengthy sarcastic letter to the editor that got published, please kick it over so I can have a look at it, because I'm curious now.) The thing about forensic documents examination, which is basically what I was doing here, is that you can get a limited amount of information from the document in question without having some known samples to compa…

Yet more about "Himmmm"

[Note: This blog entry has been edited from its original publication. See here for details.]

Whee. Whirlwind of gossip this week.

One of the more recent posts by "Himmmm" thanks [someone] for basically falling on his sword to 'protect my career/privacy'. Whether this is real or just a couple of frantic guys with a lot of sock puppets, it's kind of hilarious. Seriously, it's just like the infamous Something Awful thread, "Solve the Mystery of the Internet Whore! Win a Fabulous Prize!" Only better, because this one involves me "investigating" by sitting down and watching YouTube videos of Robert Downey, Jr., being a complete smartass to people who are unwisely trying to conduct a serious interview with him. Yannow, he's not the first person I ever would have thought of for Sherlock Holmes, but if you really want an actor who knows what the world looks like from the wrong end of a two-week coke binge, you could do way worse.

My semi-exper…

Come, my minions, and recommend things!

Okay. Here's the deal.

I have hair. A lot of hair. Like, three feet of hair. It is very popular hair. "I love your hair," is sort of a background noise that follows me when I leave the house.

I love my hair. I want to be nice to my hair. I generally am; I don't own a blow dryer or any kind of styling iron, and I have no intention of ever buying one. It's stupid-easy to get beach waves or sleek-straight, just by sleeping in braids or combing it flat before I go to bed at night. I wish to keep this friendly relationship with the stuff on my head.

On the other hand, I haven't had a haircut since I was five. I trim it myself, with sharp scissors, and the last time I trimmed it into a sort of a hime-cut, only less severe and without the bangs. I would like to find someone with some training and much nicer scissors than I can personally afford to give me some sort of proper layered cut.

I just want a cut. No color. No styling. I want to keep the bulk of it as long …

A note about "Himmmm"

[Note: This entry has been edited from its original publication. See here for details.]

The whole kerfuffle about "Himmmm" and who he is and whether any of the stuff he says about starlets and their parents and skeezy on-set tutors is true has unfortunately overshadowed a lot of the things "Himmmm" has actually said.

First off, as I said the first time, what the current commenting "Himmmm" says sounds legit like someone who has had serious drug/alcohol problems and has, through rehab and support and a hell of a lot of stubbornness, come out the other side of them. And probably even used the experience to make goddamn sure he is a better person now than he was then. There's a lot of detail in his descriptions, a lot of personal investment in his writing, and a sort of black sense of humor peeking around the edges -- all things you get from actual ex-rehabbers. Not saying it can't be faked -- almost anything can be faked on the internet -- but my be…

The mystery of "Himmmm"

[Note: This entry has been edited from its original publication. See here for explanation.]

The gossip blogs are alight today with the breaking news that some dude who leaves a lot of comments at a site called Crazy Days And Nights under the screen name "Himmmm" is "really" Robert Downey, Jr. Nobody has any proof, of course, and there has been no comment from RDJ -- possibly because the story is too new, possibly because it's true and he'd rather not have to lie, possibly because it's not true and he thinks it's too funny for words.

Normally, I just laugh at these things, because really, who the fuck cares beyond the entertainment value? But one of the more interesting things about "Himmmm" is that he seems to have made it a point to go after people who have done Really Bad Things. He's most famous for popping in and letting other commenters play 20 Questions about who's being talked about in the most recent blind item, and  confir…

Why feedback is important

I found this thread on the Straight Dope Message Boards, where I periodically lurk. It was started in the designated forum for rants, by a lady who sincerely believes she is ugly, and that this has resulted in maltreatment at the hands of society. Having not seen the lady, nor having witnessed the course of her life, I can't testify to the veracity of this assessment; going farther into the thread, I note that someone eventually gets her to give a physical description -- no photo -- and it's generally agreed that, while life is probably easier for the beautiful, there's nothing about her that sounds particularly hideous.

I've met people like this. People who are perfectly acceptable human beings, at least physically, and have absolutely no idea. I know that a lot of people screech about media and Photoshop and unrealistic ideals and so forth, and they're probably not entirely wrong. But I really can't help thinking that some of the blame should be shared with t…

A little context would be nice

Have you ever noticed, that all of the online and magazine tutorials that are meant to teach you how to apply makeup, assume you already know all about how to apply makeup?

"Dust some translucent sifted neutrals across your highlights," they say, "for that perky Poughkipsie-girl look! Or for evening, try a deeper harmonizing tone (a coral-y brown for autumns, mauve undertones for spring) drawn down the center of your ridgeline with a 1/4" whelk-whisker slant-tip details pointer ($45 on clearance at Sephora)."

This is not a goddamn help. It effectively locks out people who missed all the standard girl-lessons while growing up, and are now the first (or only) person in their circle who wants to start learning this stuff. I write this stuff assuming most of the interested parties are women, because statistically that's my better bet, but it's even worse on guys. Unless you know someone in the theater, or a non-geeky girl, it's near-impossible for a du…

And the years go by as seconds

Found on Jezebel/Gawker, as I find many unintentionally interesting things.

What I find curious is how much chattering there is in the comments about the time she shaved her head. Apparently that's a huge sign of crazy for many people -- goes to show how much of a woman's social capital is contained in her appearance, if she's perceived to have lost any talent or skill or personal value she might have previously had. Beauty is the last refuge of women who feel like they have nothing else.

Personally, I think shaving her head was quite possibly the sanest, smartest thing she did during her entire breakdown. She wanted to express how she was feeling, and jolt whoever was in charge of her into goddamn changing something. A lot of people have found a lot of ways to externalize that feeling, and most of them are seriously damaging to themselves and others. To be sure, she did a lot of those -- it's just that shaving her head wasn't one of them. It's hair. It grows …


For the past week or so, I've been testing a Lindows setup on my personal laptop. I was pretty dedicated to Windows for a long time, having cut my teeth largely on MS-DOS and Windows 3.1; my only exposure to other OSes was aging Apple ][ and Mac Classic computers in the school system, which may have been revolutionary when they were purchased, but impressed no one by the time I got to them. I assume schools bought them because of Apple's reputation as the home of all the most awesome edutainment software (so many hours bickering with my classmates over whether it was my turn to play Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? or Oregon Trail), although if any of them knew anything about computers the reason would actually have been that there has always been about 300% less having to open the case up, either metaphorically or literally, and bang on shit to make things work on a Macintosh.

Back then, of course, there were real gaps between what the various platforms could do for you…

Vistas of the imagination

Visual designer Ralph McQuarrie has just passed away, aged 82. I relayed this fact to my roommate when I read it on io9.

"Do I know him?" sez he.

Oh yes. Yes, you know him. You just don't realize it.

There are not a lot of visual designers known to the public. It tends to be a behind-the-scenes job, where if you're lucky some guy might someday ask you a few questions for the DVD release extras, and if you're really lucky they'll even spell your name right on the captions. Ralph McQuarrie was an exception. Even if you don't know the name, you most certainly know his work.

He was responsible for Darth Vader's distinctive armor. His story boards illustrate key scenes from all of the Star Wars films. His matte paintings provide backdrops for many locations in the films, one of the most beautiful being the wide vistas of Cloud City on Bespin.

He worked as a visual consultant on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. He designed the alien ships in Close Encounters …


Google говорит мне, что некоторые из моих читателей из России и Украины. Вы реальный человек, или просто спам? Мне любопытно.

But who will play the tambourine now?

On February 29th, Davy Jones was found in his car, complaining of sudden chest pains. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead of a heart attack the same day.

I wasn't born until 1981. My entire experience with the Monkees has been an exercise in cultural hindsight. Still, they were a part of my childhood -- you can't listen to a classic rock station anywhere without hearing "Last Train to Clarksville," "I'm a Believer," "Valleri" and "Daydream Believer" in the rotation. I know the words, because everyone knows the words, because if you were born in America you've been exposed to these things constantly since the mere idea of you occurred to your mother during her fourth tropical margarita.

It wasn't until I was an adult with access to cable TV and file-sharing services that I discovered the hilarity of TV made by stoners, for stoners. See, the Monkees were put together by people who watched the Beatles and…

When adorable things happen to adorable people

I use this blog to bitch. A lot. I feel like every so often I should spotlight things that don't piss me off. Here's one of them.

I am a huge Doctor Who fan. Screaming, really. Old and new. One of my most favoritest Doctors ever is Ten, played by David Tennant:

Tennant is a classically-trained dude with serious Shakespearean chops; his version of Hamlet with Sir Patrick Stewart is phenomenal, and I recommend everyone watch it. I don't even like Hamlet, and I like this one. He has furthermore starred in the funniest version of Casanova's story ever, with Peter O'Toole, and does an assortment of great voice work with audiobooks and as supporting characters in Big Finish productions, and so on and so forth. The short version is, he's kind of awesome.

Another of my most favoritest Doctors ever is Five, played, right around the time I was born, by Peter Davison:

Five is thoroughly adorable, boyish, charming, and frequently kind of confused. Davison is a favorite of …