Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

Not in peninsular Florida, no. The peninsula is essentially a vast sand bar with a stone spine.

But near the town of Mineral, Virginia, you're part of the ancient Appalachian Range. The Appalachians date back to before the dinosaurs, back when Europe and North America were one big landmass. The formerly active and lively faults under the mountains are fairly quiescent.

I said "fairly." A big (7.9 or so) hit Charleston, South Carolina back in the 1880s. Some of the houses in the historic district still have huge steel bolts in them, put in there to reinforce them after the earthquake.

Near the town of Trinidad, Colorado, on the other hand, you're near a far younger range of mountains, the Rockies. Tremors are more prevalent there, as the faults and tensions are much younger and livelier.

Early yesterday a magnitude 4.3 quake hit near Trinidad, causing minor damage to buildings but no major injuries. The Rockies and the West get tremors quite a bit of the time, as the Pacific Plate keeps nuzzling up against the North American Plate like an affectionate puppy.

Yesterday afternoon a magnitude 5.8 went off a half mile under the area of Mineral, Virginia. Since the Spotsylvania Fault is ancient and part of a very dense, rocky area, its effects were felt - not merely detectable, but felt - as far west as Detroit, as far south as Atlanta and as far north as Maine and Toronto.

The epicenter of the quake was located in Rep. Eric Cantor's district. The Republican is notable mainly because he advocates cutting funding for the US Geological Survey, NOAA and the National Weather Service. Kind of looks like a false economy now, doesn't it Eric?

A nuclear power plant is near the epicenter as well, regarded as the 7th most likely to be damaged in a quake. Interestingly, its earthquake safeguards were removed back in the Nineties as a cost-cutting measure. False economy again, and Dominion Power is still set on adding a third reactor to the complex.


The top of the Washington Monument has a crack in it, some plaster fell off the ceilings in the Capitol, and cell phone networks were swamped as people started asking, "What the hell was that?" The 5.8 was the strongest since 1944, according to NBC, so quite a few people can probably be forgiven for acting in a panicky mob.

But the earthquakes in Trinidad and Mineral aren't the only natural phenomena, oh no siree. Hurricane Irene has spooled up to a Category 2 as it boils its way up the Bahamas. The current track shows it will probably hit between Virginia and North Carolina.

Which - imagine that! - means that H Irene might hit Erica Cantor's district.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Critic's Dungeon - "Conan the Barbarian"

What is best in life?
To destroy your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.
That is good, that is good.

Those are iconic words from the 1982 sword-and-sorcery flick Conan the Barbarian, starring the well-oiled Arnold Schwarzenegger and the properly crazy James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom.

You won't hear these words spoken on the 2011 remake, starring Jason Momoa in the lead role. There are also a shortage of bizarre foreign accents (apart from a weirdly tattooed guy who ends up on the business end of a trebuchet).

Now, Dustin Rowles over at has recommended that you need to see this movie only after drinking heavily. I disagree with the properly scathing Mr. Rowles; scenes like this can be viewed sober (clip is NSFW for truly Peckinpahesque amounts of blood and violence):

With a caveat, of course. That caveat is the advice once found in the introduction to Mystery Science Theater 3000: "Repeat to yourself it's just a show, I should really just relax."

This film is rated R for extreme violence, so I went in at a noon matinee prepared to peel back my mammalian forebrain and let the craziness soak into my reptilian hindbrain. I was aghast, of course, at the $15.80 that it cost me to get in (along with a small soft drink and a paltry box of Sno-Caps). But that being said, I settled into a comfy seat to soak it up.

The scenery was great, although the actors kept getting in front of it. The CGI effects were fun (I didn't see it in 3D; my imagination is sufficient). There was enough tits and ass to satisfy the fanboys and fangirls, including a non-gratuitous shot of Momoa's well-muscled ass. There was sex - just a little, like a dab of picante sauce added to a feast of bloody rare meat.

And there was a lot of blood, I have to tell you. Ron Perlman, looking all craggy and shaggy, plays Conan's father until he dies in a rather original way. The chief baddie's a mensch named either Khalar Zym or Old Hardass. His daughter Marique is creepy as a child, and even creepier as a twenty-something, with a weird incestuous vibe going on. Midway through the movie I found myself wishing for a crossbow so I could take her out myself.

I found one glaring continuity error (just one? you ask), and it has to do with the weird-ass Mask of Ultimate Evil that Zym's searching for. See, the original was broken up and squirreled away in bits to keep assholes like Zym from putting it back together. Why didn't they try to destroy it? It seems like that would be easy, based on the last fight scene.

The Critic's Dungeon echoed with the screams of the tortured, the clank of chains greased with human fat, and my own manic laughter as I thoroughly enjoyed this little nugget.

Verdict? The Critic's Dungeon gives the Conan the Barbarian remake three whips out of five. It's not To Kill A Mockingbird, but then it's not The Sword and the Sorcerer either.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


The Iowa straw poll is now history, and now that the dust and bits of straw and chaff have died down a bit I will stand back and take a look.

What I find is pretty damned bad, albeit predictable.

Mad-Eye Michelle Bachmann came in first, pretty much neck-and-neck with Ron Paul. Now, the Iowa straw poll really doesn't mean all that much in terms of figuring out who the eventual GOP nominee might be. Based on the people who show up and actually vote in the poll, it's more a test of how crazy the candidate might be. Based on this, Bachmann and Paul lap the rest of the field.

Coming in a sick third was Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out this afternoon. A queasy staff, piss-poor funding and a general lack of enthusiasm did T-Paw in.

For the rest of him, I will let the late Sir Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart recite Pawlenty's eulogy:

So, there were eight, and now there are eight again, since Secessionist Governor of Texas Rick "Big Boy's Hair" Perry decided to listen to the voices in his head and start running for the Presidency. Perry is a decidedly scary reactionary buttfucker, and has some potential.

The rest of the field includes McCotter, Santorum, Gingrich, Cain, Romney and (as far as I know) Rosalie the Flatulent Spaniel. The true tests will come in about six months, when the actual caucuses and primaries begin to winnow out the chaff.

And believe you me, there's a lot of chaff to winnow.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What I Take Away From The Debt "Crisis" Circle Jerk

1. President Obama is not particularly good at arguing from a position of strength. He was in a position to flog the Republicans unmercifully for running the economy and the nation into a ditch, but instead frittered it away, again in search of a pipe-dream illusion of bipartisanship. News flash, Barry: Ever since you were elected, these people have sworn - in public, with the cameras rolling - to say No at every opportunity and destroy you and your Presidency. It's too late now, but you should have started flogging them on January 21st, 2009.

2. The Democratic Leader of the Senate, Senator Harry Reid, was supposedly a boxer when he was younger. You can't prove it from the way he fights in the Senate - he acts like someone's old granny with severe arthritis. That's actually an insult to grannies; my late maternal grandmother was a mean little Irish lady who talked down a guy with a gun years ago.

3. Republican Speaker John Boner - er, Boehner - claimed victory, saying that he got 98% of what he wanted. Since he got 98% of what he wanted, he can also own the fallout from the debt agreement. And his Party, in both houses, shares in that stupid declaration. Way to go, you fucking Oompa-Loompah.

4. We can pretty much ignore Standard and Poors, even after their mystical downgrade of our credit rating from AAA to AA+. We have to recall, folks, that these were the scumbags who assured us on a stack of Korans that the mortgage derivatives and securities swaps and other pieces of paper with strange cabalistic designs on them were actually AAA-rated, solid gold and crusted with diamonds. S&P and Moodys all needed to be rounded up and shuffled off in manacles to Gitmo as economic terrorists.

5. As long as the Republican Party continues to totally and utterly fail to face reality when it comes to raising revenue (and the Democratic Party is more than happy to drop trou and bend over for them) the economy will remain in a ditch. Chances are excellent that our troubles will exacerbate the queasiness of the economies throughout the rest of the world.

6. In the Great 2011 Debt Crisis Circle Jerk, the targets of the bukkake were all of us.