Archive for September, 2006

Repeat: Effective interrogation techniques

September 30th, 2006 by Reinder

I was a bit surprised to find that my blog post on Hans Joachim Scharff was two and a half years old already. Since then, the articles it refers to have vanished, and the centre of gravity of the political debate on torture in the US has shifted from labeling the sadistic scum humiliating prisoners at Abu Ghraib as "a few bad apples" to "anti-torture" being a political label for those who pretend to put up a fight against the legalisation of torture in all but name, rather than a minimal precondition for membership in democratic society. So I'd like to link to it again, and also recommend Katherine and Hilzoy's many posts on the issue at Obsidian Wings as just a starting point for those who want to know more about what is being done in Americans' names.

One article that I found in a new search for "Hans Joachim Scharff" is Truth Extraction: Honey Beats Vinegar which also describes how one American interrogator got useful information out of Japanese prisoners of war by ensuring they felt safe. That links to a longer article which is unfortunately behind a subscription wall.

You only think you hate “We Are The World”

September 30th, 2006 by Reinder

Last week, while looking for more Kate rarities on YouTube, I found this: the worst charity single ever, with a train wreck of a video to match.

Spirit of the ...foooo-rest!
Somebody out there thought that giving each celeb one line to sing was a waste of lines, and faded each celeb out and the next one in after half a line. Somebody out there thought that actually writing a tune for the project was pointless - after all, once it's been at number one for sixteen weeks, everyone's going to hate it no matter how good it is, right? Oh, wait, it vanished without a trace? Why would that be?
Kate, by the way, does get a whole line and enough space to actually do some interpretation. Shows you how big a star she was at the time. She also gets the Michael Jackson treatment of being filmed separately from the other singers, but that may be because she recorded her bit at her own studio and refused to come out for the video shoot. Unfortunately, there are limits even to Kate Bush's godlike powers, and she can't redeem "Spirit of the Forest".

Kate has notoriously withdrawn from the public eye over the past twenty or so years, and exasperated fans have often wondered why. Perhaps it was to avoid being asked to take part in projects like this one. That's well worth becoming less famous for.

Yo, stick ‘m up

September 29th, 2006 by cmkaapjes

I accidentaly came across this music video by what is apparently a musical comedy group called the Asylum Street Spankers, not known in these here parts, but possibly of some fame in the U.S. They're doing a rather interesting cross-over between Country Murder Ballads and Gangsta Rap. The song is called 'Hick Hop,' and I must say, this type of music has potential!

Hick Hop

If a bunch of talented musicians would apply themselves I bet they could make a very decent album; certainly one that I would buy.

[Reinder barges in: I've added a link for the benefit of those using the RSS feed, in which embeds don't work, and I would like to take the opportunity to show you this one:

Stick Magnetic Ribbons on Your SUV. Just in case you haven't seen it.]

Fokke and Sukke have fallen into the hands of the Americans

September 29th, 2006 by Reinder

"...Oof! And that was just the good cop!"

Just so Americans know how the world will perceive them from now on. From Fokke & Sukke.

EU doing what it’s supposed to do, film at 11

September 26th, 2006 by Reinder

Following on a theme established by Andrew Rilstone's posts on reporting in the UK newspapers the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, here's a post by Nosemonkey at the Sharpener:

Finally, in the (never-read) second-to-last paragraph, we get the real story:

“The decision replaces 25 national packaging rules and two EU directives on quantities with one single EU-wide law leaving packaging up to market forces”

So no more scare stories of our pints of milk or pounds of butter being under threat - perhaps even an end to the “metric martyrs” business - as all restrictions on how food is packaged are removed in one fell swoop. If this new law is passed and works properly, if the market calls for food to be sold in Imperial measures, food can be sold in Imperial measures.
So, were the Metro to be slightly less rabid in its following of the Associated Newspapers anti-EU line, the story should perhaps have read “The EU does what it’s supposed to do, reducing pointless and restrictive food regulations and freeing up the market”. But as we all know from decades of reading anti-EU scare stories, Brussels NEVER cuts back on regulation. Oh no…

First one down

September 26th, 2006 by Reinder

It's very late, and I've spent the evening working on Gang of Four way past the point where I hate every line of the art, but I wanted to mention that The Lazy Grind now definitely has claimed its first victim. We bid goodbye to Peacekeepers, which by the way really looks very good. I hope Ewan Baird won't be too discouraged from picking up the comic soon enough.
Ah well. That's me saved from ignominy. And now that the first one's out, there's likely to be a wave of people exhaling slowly and dropping out at the next update or the one after that.

“I loved you a long time ago….”

September 22nd, 2006 by Reinder

Just how good is YouTube?
This good:
Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush singing Roy Harper's "Another Day" for some BBC TV program in 1979. The audio and video quality aren't too good, but as I'm very familiar with the work of both performers and the songwriter, I can fill in the gaps in my mind easily. Spine-tingling stuff, this, in which Gabriel and Bush's voices play off one another perfectly. That little quaver in Kate Bush's voice? One of these days that's going to kill me.
I knew that this cover version existed but had no idea it had been broadcast. Many thanks to YouTuber JustinX30 for digging this up.


September 21st, 2006 by Reinder

Adventures in Banking update: The housing corp's rep called and waived the requirement for a deposit. He also explained that I was already getting preferential treatment as the corp usually asks for three months' worth of deposit. That would have been difficult for me to pay out of my bank balance, and a bank guarantee would have been a more proportional way of dealing with that. I was asked for just one month's worth because of my long residency in the studio as a co-tenant. So thanks to the folks at In Groningen for accomodating me.

I've started running again. Good news for those who wanted to see me take part in the 4 Mijl van Groningen, bad news for those who wanted to have me around in the Groningen 24-hour comic event. My first club training in several months went well although both my injuries began acting up a bit towards the end. I found last time around that a bit of pain at the end of a training is acceptable, as long as it doesn't get worse the next training.

My overall health, though, is not quite what it should be. Since that last flu I've had stomach and intestinal problems leading to a dramatically reduced appetite. I used to graze all the time while at the studio, but now even when the nausea abates, the brain doesn't get any signals requesting more food. I suppose I could stand to lose a few pounds, especially if I want to return to regular running, but undereating is the worst way to accomplish that. I'm also sleepier than I should be, again.

None of that is doing my paid work any good, nor my Lazy Grind buffer, which stands at 4 comics, with a fifth three quarters finished.

Adam asks me to mark my Not-Safe-For-Work posts like The Essential Bowdlerised Marvel, but where's the fun in that? Especially considering that most of my online body of work isn't work-safe anyway. I'd like to hear your opinion on this:

Not brain-safe: There is worse poetry than that of Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Wasp Court, Essex. And this has, apparently, been known for quite some time. I can see why those involved would want to keep it under wraps...

The Essential Bowdlerised Marvel

September 20th, 2006 by Reinder

Martin Wisse points to an overview of "edits" to The Essential Tomb of Dracula, a collection of Marvel schlock-horror comics, as well as some original Italian schlock-horror pocket comics. Interesting stuff, and kudos to The Groovy Age of Horror for providing us with large scans to set the record straight with.

Martin writes:

Now I'm in two minds about this. On the one hand, I dislike reprints that tamper with the original, especially when it's not done by the original creators. On the other hand, this is not like covering up Lady Justice bare breasts: it wasn't great art, just cheap titillation and little is lost by the alterations. On the gripping hand, it is indictive of the current climate in the US, that things that could be sold with no trouble at newsstands in 1979 now need to be censored to sell in bookstores!

I'm not in two minds. This is vandalism. Compare and contrast:
The original version of Viktor's experiment
Viktor, who I presume is the good guy, judging from the captions, is taking some sensible precautions in case his plan for separating the vampire from her host body fails. He straps her to his table so he doesn't get a face full of vampire if his technique doesn't work.
The bowdlerised version with boob-straps
Now Viktor is tying the vampire by her breasts, the perv. This makes him look like a complete amateur - surely that strap is going to snap loose unless those titties are made of reinforced concrete. Did the change degrade the comic? You bet it did!

Scans_daily-type snark aside, I really don't think it matters whether the censored art is cheap titillation or the expensive kinda monument for the ages. For one thing, that's for the ages to decide; for another, the people on whose behalf Marvel photoshopped away the exposed mammaries are famous for not taking "yes" for an answer: you give them an inch, they'll take a mile and then complain about being unfairly denied another mile. I can sympathise with the editors for feeling that they had the choice between bowdlerising the art or canceling the book. Perhaps I would have made the same choice in their place. But it's time for a pushback. And that begins with, among many, many other things, the people who buy classic comics knowing that they're not being offered the classic comics in their original state and refusing to stand for it.

Adventures in banking

September 20th, 2006 by Reinder

I'm in the process of becoming the main tenant of the studio I've been working in for the past five years, taking over from studio-mate Edmond. On Monday, we both went to the corp that owns the building, Edmond signed a document canceling his contract, and I signed the new one. That bit was easy.
What's not so easy is paying the deposit. Back then, Edmond just gave the corp's representative the deposit in cash and got a receipt. Since then, there have been some changes in how these things are done. The corp came with the seemingly reasonable request that instead of paying the deposit directly and polluting their books with money that isn't theirs, I give them a bank guarantee for the amount. So today, after asking about how this worked at the Postbank's desk, I went to ING bank (the same company as the Postbank, but their serious banking branch) to ask about it. I got a very nice welcome - I was asked to wait for one of their staff, who then lead me into a meeting room, gave me coffee, held an introductory talk and then eased into the business part, getting my info and explaining the arcane workings of bank guarantees to me. Including the cost.
If the song and dance weren't indication enough to me that this wasn't the sort of transaction normally handled at the front desk, the cost was. Bank guarantees come with a 60 Euro administrative fee and a quarterly provision of 1% - perfectly reasonable if you're renting an € 10,000/month office space, but not for a one-off deposit of € 287, which is what our tiny studio's rent is.
The bank guy actually told me he'd never been asked for a bank guarantee for such a low amount. I'm feeling all special now.

I'll be asking the company that recently set up in the room next to us how they worked that out. But I expect I'll be simply sending the deposit to the corp's bank account, or maybe drop sixty bales of potatoes on their doorstep. I don't know. If you want something kept off the books, potatoes are the way to go, I guess.