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Bigfoot Sues New Hampshire State Park

March 9th, 2011 No comments

Photo courtesy Jonathan Doyle, via Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.

Back in September, artist and filmmaker Jonathan Doyle made a video of himself wearing a Bigfoot suit, surprising hikers along mountain trails at New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock State Park — a project Doyle says was “just a spontaneous idea and social experiment.” Mount Monadnock, incidentally, is mentioned in another social experiment, Thoreau’s Walden.

The park administration never received any complaints about Doyle, but when he returned on September 14 to shoot some more footage in the same park, Doyle was informed by park manager Patrick Hummel that he needed a $100 permit and a $2 million insurance policy to videotape there.

Now Doyle, backed by the ACLU, is suing the state of New Hampshire, claiming this requirement abridges Doyle’s First Amendment rights, in a case that’s been geting attention not just from New England news outlets but from the likes of NPR.

Says the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript:

Doyle said the group left when Hummel asked them to, but for a 7-year-old Jaffrey [NH] resident in the group who had dressed up as a pirate for the film, it was a bit of a blow.

“It was difficult to explain to him why we couldn’t go on the mountain and make a little movie. It was disturbing in itself to think about how limited his freedom might be,” Doyle said.

That’s why he decided to file a formal complaint with the [New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union], he said. His goal is to get an apology from the park and the chance to return to the mountain to carry out the group’s plans. He said he has no intention of obtaining a permit because, if he did, he’d worry what would happen to the next budding artist whose artistic process involves the mountain.

“What about people who are not professional artists, but will be and are coming into their own expression and inspiration by going to the mountain?” he said.

On Monday, staff attorney Barbara Keshen of the New Hampshire chapter of the ACLU said that Mount Monadnock is a public forum and the state park’s permitting process is vague and overbroad. She said the group’s First Amendment rights were violated when they were asked to disband because they did not have a permit.

Doyle is not seeking damages. The park administration told the Ledger-Transcript that the policy does not violate Doyle’s First Amendment rights because all staged events are required to get permits in New Hampshire state parks.

Doyle’s website, incidentally, is nycreator.com, where he showcases his videography, photography, marketing and writing business. Uh-huh.

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Bolivian Counternarcotics General Arrested in Panama

March 9th, 2011 No comments

Figure A: Bad, MMMMkay?

Bolivia is one of many nations that has a strange love-hate thing going on with cocaine. I wouldn’t know anything about that, since the United States is entirely of one mind about getting coked-out and humiliating ourselves in public; we clearly love it.

Bolivia is the third largest producer of cocaine in the world, after Colombia and Peru, and also serves as a transshipment point for white stuff from other South American nations. In fact, their current president, Evo Morales, was and is a militant coca grower. As an ethnic Aymara, he’s also the first person of indigenous South American origin to become Bolivia’s president. Morales was raised on a farm growing coca and became the representative to a region where coca growers thrive.

In the nineties, he became an outlaw when the government promised the United States total eradication of the coca crop in its coca zero campaign, which Morales and other Bolivians opposed because coca is considered part of the indigenous culture; he proposed cocaine zero instead, focusing on eradicating cocaine processing instead of the crops. A series of clashes between politically organized coca growers and the government began. Morales was beaten and imprisoned repeatedly by government forces, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 and again in 1996. After being elected to the presidency in 2005, Morales has aggressively campaigned for indigenous coca production to remain unmolested by the government, while illegal cocaine processing and shipment is opposed.

Morales’ pro-coca stance relies on educating the world about the non-equivalency of coca and cocaine — the former an important crop and part of indigenous culture, the latter an illegal substance, the world supply of which is currently being critically threatened by overconsumption. Morales’ government has a zero-tolerance policy toward cocaine, with the intention, counterintuitive as it seems, of supporting and defending coca growers.

Then there was the time the top Bolivian counternarcotics police general was arrested last week in Panama for allegedly trafficking in cocaine. Kind of a bummer.

Police General Rene Sanabria  has been publicly juggling the demands of cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration with the nationalistic and pro-coca Morales. The allegations are that he ran a cocaine-smuggling ring as the leader of “elite 15-person anti-drug intelligence unit within Bolivia’s Interior Ministry.”

As the Associated Press reported:

[Sanabria's arrest] offered vindication to the DEA, as Sanabria’s alleged crimes took place after Morales expelled the U.S. agency in late 2008 for allegedly inciting his autonomy-seeking opponents in eastern provinces…According to U.S. officials, the expulsion of the roughly 30 U.S. drug agents allowed trafficking in this landlocked South American nation to spin out of control.

In the DEA’s absence, Mexican, Brazilian, Colombian — even Russian and Serbian traffickers — have taken advantage and boosted exports from the world’s No. 3 cocaine-producing nation.

Drug-related killings are on the rise and bigger, more sophisticated processing labs equipped with Colombian technology are increasing output as new actors join the trade.

…”Cocaine is resurgent in Bolivia,” said Bruce Bagley, a University of Miami professor who specializes in drug policy. “Morales has a big problem on his hands.”

Morales’ critics at home were quick to seize on Sanabria’s arrest as proof traffickers now have the upper hand in Bolivia.

But Morales insisted Thursday he has no intention of inviting the DEA back. He alleged “interests of a geopolitical nature” were behind the Sanabria case. “They are using police to try to implicate the government,” he said, without elaborating.

[Link.]

Even the Bolivian government admits that seizures are on the rise. It says 28 tons of cocaine were confiscated in Bolivia last year — twice the amount seized in Peru, which has a coca crop twice as big.

Unfortunately for Morales, he seems to be floundering — lashing out at the Unites States for running guns to the Contras in Nicaragua. That’s old news, and not very convincing to a world community — at least, outside of South and Central America — that let it slide then and probably doesn’t even remember it now.

What’s worse, this is far from an isolated incident. It’s part of an escalating series of corruption scandals in Bolivian law enforcement, including arrests at a Brazilian border town where Bolivian cops were caught replacing confiscated cocaine with flour.

[Image: Public domain photo of cocaine hydrochloride, via Wikipedia.]

As the Associated Press reported:

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The Goth Moths

March 9th, 2011 No comments

Goth Hogwarts from the San Antnio Public Library (origin unknown).

One of the most overwrought moments in Thomas Harris’s overwrought 1999 novel Hannibal is when the faceless (literally, as in “has no face”) evil zillionaire Mason Verger makes a child cry so he can drink its tears from a wine glass.

Mason apparently thought he was being goth. So did Mr. Harris. So did Eric Cartman, when, in South Park‘s parody of Hannibal, lapped the tears off his arch-rival Scott Tenorman‘s face (that was right after Radiohead dissed him). All the best deathrock psychopaths drink tears, right?

Well, apparently the moths in Madagascar listen to 45 Grave, according to New Scientist.

A species of moth drinks tears from the eyes of sleeping birds using a fearsome proboscis shaped like a harpoon, scientists have revealed. The new discovery – spied in Madagascar – is the first time moths have been seen feeding on the tears of birds.

Tear-feeding moths and butterflies are known to exist elsewhere in Africa, Asia and South America, but they mainly feed on large, placid animals, such as deer, antelope or crocodiles, which cannot readily brush them away. But there are no such large animals on Madagascar. The main mammals – lemurs and mongoose – have paws capable of shooing the moths. Birds can fly away.

But not when they are sleeping. The Madagascan moths were observed on the necks of sleeping magpie robins and Newtonia birds, with the tip of their proboscises inserted under the bird’s eyelid, drinking avidly… But sleeping birds have two eyelids, both closed. So instead of the soft, straw-like mouthparts found on tear-drinking moths elsewhere, the Madagascan moth has a proboscis with hooks and barbs “shaped like an ancient harpoon.”

[Link.]

Cool image here, though not as cool as Goth Hogwarts.

[Via Liz Highleyman.]

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Indian Officials Deploy Hovercraft Against Rebels

March 7th, 2011 No comments

Screencap from a Griffon Hovercraft brochure.

There are well over a billion people in India, but whenever I read contemporary Indian media I find I know fuck-all about the place. Though much of the Indian media is in English, a language I often pretend to understand and even occasionally speak with some fluency, subcontinental English is packed with idioms that leave me bewildered. The language feels like a UK-English structure that’s transforming organically, ever more rapidly, to meet the the demands of a culturally unique region.

The same could be said of Indian politics. Today there’s a very brief article in the Times of India about three U.S.-built military hovercraft being deployed to attack Manipuri separatist insurgents like the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) in Loktak Lake, along the Indian border with Myanmar/Burma.

Manipuri separatist insurgents? I’ll get to that.

When it comes to the technology aspects of this (to me) very weird story, I was aware that many military outfits use hovercraft now, but I was pretty unprepared for how bizarre the damn things look. The U.S. Navy uses air-cushion landing craft, aka hovercraft, which can do some funky stuff to horrified people in bikinis. Sometimes when a USN hovercraft hits a public beach, the results are a little less catastrophic.

The Indian Coast Guard, on the other hand, uses Griffon Hovercraft, specifically Griffon’s 8000TD model, which is UK-built. (Griffon, incidentally, also makes “hovering cricket-pitch covers for Lord’s Cricket Ground.) Since Griffon now also makes hovercraft in the United States, I speculate that the 8000TD is the model the Manipur authorities are using. These 70-foot puppies have two crew and carry up to 68 personnel and more than 20,000 pounds of payload. Read more…

OMG ALIENS!!1!! Or is it Just More Fake Science News?

March 6th, 2011 2 comments

A young Richard Hoover with Werner Von Braun, 1972. NASA image.

OMG ALIENS!1!!!

Richard B. Hoover, a scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, has an article in this month’s Journal of Cosmology (reported by Fox News) in which he claims that components of CI1 Carbonaceous meteorites show evidence of bacterial life that could not have come from Earth. There are only nine such meteorites on Earth, but Hoover’s conclusion is explicit: the life came from the meteorites’ “parent bodies,” which means asteroids, comets, or other planets.

Like I said, OMGALIENS!11!!!!1, right?

Not really. Or, at least, not yet. Or, at least, “yeah maybe,” with a very strong emphasis on the mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm in “maybe.”

Y’see, some of us aren’t so convinced that this is a discovery. That bastion of technical reporting, Gawker, points out that Hoover has been made a suspiciously similar claim before, in 2004. His 2007 presentation “for the general public” described at the website of Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers seems more cautious. But Gawker calls the Fox story “fake” and adds, concerning Journal of Cosmology:

Why couldn’t Hoover place this amazing discovery in a more prestigious journal? In 1996, when NASA scientists claimed to have found evidence of bacteria life on a meteorite from Mars, their paper appeared in the most prestigious science journal of all: Science. (The discovery was later debunked.)

[Link.]

That 1996 claim, by the way, is described here on the NASA site, and the Science article is here. It has a bunch of scientists names on it, led by David McKay. The Journal of Cosmology article has ONLY Hoover’s name on it.

The paper was posted on Journal of Cosmology late Friday night, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything — but that does happen to be a very common technique in PR circles for “burying” news, since everyone wants to go home for the night. I’m not sure it really works any more, though, now that most of the news in the world is written by people in their underwear. Anyway, Yahoo News published its initial article on the report, following on the Fox article, Saturday in the 5pm hour. Yahoo called  Journal of Cosmology a “peer-reviewed scientific journal,” which it is, more or less, as if that means anything. Then they added this update:

While the Journal of Cosmology says that “no other paper in the history of science has undergone such a thorough vetting,” some highly respected names in the scientific community are challenging the validity of Cosmology, and the findings of Dr. Hoover…So there you have it — this is either reality-altering news, or the work of kooks. Our hearts believe, but our brains are kind of bummed.

The assertion that Journal of Cosmology is a peer-reviewed scientific journal may be true, but it doesn’t actually mean anything. Saying something is a peer-reviewed journal can be a red herring. “Peer” does not necessarily mean “respected mainstream scientist.” “Peer” can mean “other global warming deniers,” or “other creation theologists,” or “other Bigfoot hunters.” Some UFO journals have been said to be peer reviewed, because articles are reviewed by other UFOlogists. Just because an article contains improbable or controversial assertions does not make it the work of bad scientists, but neither does peer review per se guarantee anything at all, if you don’t know who the peers are.

Yahoo News helpfully points me at PZ Meyers at Science Blogs, who leads his post by pointing out that the story originated with Fox News, not exactly known as a bastion of accurate science reporting. Fox headlined it “exclusive” and interviewed Hoover for their article. Furthermore, Meyers has had beefs with JofC before. Wanna know Meyers’ opinion of Journal of Cosmology in general? Glad you asked!!!

It isn’t a real science journal at all, but is the ginned-up website of a small group of crank academics obsessed with the idea of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe that life originated in outer space and simply rained down on Earth. It doesn’t exist in print, consists entirely of a crude and ugly website that looks like it was sucked through a wormhole from the 1990s, and publishes lots of empty noise with no substantial editorial restraint. For a while, it seemed to be entirely the domain of a crackpot named Rhawn Joseph who called himself the emeritus professor of something mysteriously called the Brain Research Laboratory, based in the general neighborhood of Northern California (seriously, that was the address: “Northern California”), and self-published all of his pseudo-scientific “publications” on this web site.

Meyers had a beef with Journal of Cosmology back in 2009, so maybe PZ Meyers is just a dick, right? Well…if you look at the 2009 article from Meyers, on ScienceBlogs.com — note the “s” — it looks like there are a whole truckload of DING-DING-DINGs that say “asshattery” at Journal of Cosmology. This doesn’t necessarily mean the research isn’t good. But it serves as a helpful reminder that people who say “I’m a scientist” aren’t necessarily good ones.

So here’s PZ Meyers again, this time from a 2009 post:

There is a site called ScienceBlog, at scienceblog.com. Note that it is a little different from scienceblogs.com — it lacks the “s”. There are a few other differences, too: it’s a site that simply reprints press releases. Send ‘em anything, and they’ll spit it back up on the web for you.

One such example is a press release titled Life on Earth came from other planets. It purports to be a summary of a peer-reviewed, published research paper.

This one:

“Life on Earth Came From Other Planets,” by R. Joseph, Ph.D. Cosmology, Vol 1. 2009.

There are a few funny things about this article. The journal Cosmology doesn’t seem to exist. Then notice “Vol. 1″…this is the inaugural issue. It contains a grand total of one (1) paper, the aforementioned article by Rhawn Joseph.

Wait! It does exist! The “journal” exists as a web page only; go ahead, here’s Cosmology, 2009, Vol 1, pages 00000. You can read the whole article, which you know was peer reviewed, because it says so in the upper left corner: “Peer Reviewed”.

Guess who the web page can be traced to? Rhawn Joseph.

I think you begin to see a pattern here. If you can’t get your crappy paper published in a legitimate journal, invent one!

[Link.]

According to his bio, Meyers is a “biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris.” He should watch that wording, as “biologist and associate professor” could mean he is an amateur biologist and an associate professor of Russian Literature. But Meyers really is a Biology professor. Here’s his Wiki page, hata. Hoover is a real scientist, too; he’s an astrobiologist who got NASA’s 2009 SPIE medal from the Society for Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers, and is a specialist in extremophiles. But he’s made similar claims before, and it hasn’t panned out.

What does this mean?

Just that the mainstream, general-interest media doesn’t have the faintest idea what it’s talking about when it comes to science of any form. In another bogus Fox News article last week that I took to task yesterday at the NSFW TinyNibbles.com, the information is fragmentary and largely non-technical. That article is about online porn use and involves social science — behavior, that is — more than physical science, so the underlying facts carry the patina of comprehensibility to the casual reader.

With the Hoover story, we’re deluged in the Fox article and elsewhere with ba-da-bing, flibby flibby, cyanobacteria hummina!! It all sounds very good. Is it? Does the reporter have any idea?

Sure, I should theoretically be able to trust Hoover, as a “real” “scientist,” to know what he’s talking about. But this is a HUGE claim — if it is credible — to be published in a fringe journal with a single author’s name on it, instead of somewhere far more prestigious. If it is not credible, of course, well, then…that would explain why it’s published there.

I don’t trust Fox News to know the difference. Claims of “peer review” seem to be enough for them, and for most news writers.

When the media reports that something is published in a “peer-reviewed scientific journal,” they are implying that it has been published in a respected, prestigious scientific journal. Ideally, they should know what they’re talking about when they report that.

Scientists who publish in fringe publications but benefit from the media’s ignorance when that media implies that it is a prestigious source cannot then complain about the “monolithic” nature of the scientific establishment — hostile to innovation and terrified of radical ideas — something that UFO researchers, extremophile believers, life-after-death investigators and ghost hunters often do.

You get it one way or the other.

Either publishing in prestigious scientific journals doesn’t matter, because science doesn’t know where it’s at…or it does matter, and journals like the Journal of Cosmology are suspect.

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Colorado Deputy Fired for Paranormal Investigations

March 4th, 2011 No comments

In El Paso County, Colorado, a reserve sheriff’s deputy named Chuck Zukowski has apparently been fired because of his avocation for conducting investigations of UFOs, Bigfoot and cattle mutilations in his off-hours. Technically, Zukowski was terminated last month for “contradicting and being critical of official Sheriff’s Office investigations in a public forum,” but it seems pretty obvious his paranormal investigations themselves were the chief problemo. According to a story by Alan Prendergast on Denver’s Westword:

Zukowski’s offense? Telling Fox 31 reporter Heidi Hemmat on camera that local law enforcement “really isn’t trained to look at something like this” — “this” being a baffling case of horse mutilation last summer at a ranch an hour east of Colorado Springs. The official El Paso County investigation concluded that predators were at fault. But Zukowski points out that most police officers have a week or less of training on animal deaths, while he’s spent many hours in the field and with veterinarians at Colorado State University learning how to distinguish predator activity from other types of wounds.

His termination letter suggests Zukowski encouraged journalists to identify him as a representative of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. But Zukowski denies that he’s ever done that; Hemmat’s report, for example, lists him as an independent paranormal investigator. His bio on his website, ufonut.com, proudly notes that he spent eight years as a volunteer reserve officer while working primarily as an engineering consultant and microchip designer.

“I put a lot of faith in the media,” Zukowski says, “and I tell them I don’t represent law enforcement.”

[Link.]

Unexplained mutilations of livestock are thought by many paranormal investigators to be related to the alien abduction phenomenon, since mutilations reportedly seem to occur in the vicinity of reported abductions and UFO sightings. This series of mutilations occurred in Rush, Colorado, and have some pretty bizarre reports attached to them. According to the UFO Nut post on the Rush mutilation case:

Fact! Two horses found mutilated on August 11th, 2010.

Fact! Two surviving animals, one horse, one dog found with unknown marks.

Fact! High electro-magnetic field readings measured on surviving dog.

Fact! Strange “whooshing” sound heard by wife of rancher two days before mutilations. During the day time!

What happened in the peaceful area of Rush Colorado one hour east of Colorado Springs? What happened on a dark moon-less night of Tuesday, August 10th ? What caused the mysterious “whooshing” sounds heard by the rancher’s wife Glenda, on Sunday afternoon August 8th? What caused the unusual markings on two surviving animals after the incident? Well, these were the questions the UFOnut investigative team set out to try to understand. Interviewing eyewitnesses, investigating the actual mutilation sites, checking the welfare of the slightly injured animals, and collecting data, these were our tasks at hand. And now these are our notes being released to you!

Two horses were mutilated and killed in the back pasture on this particular ranch. One named “Princess”, a one year old Paint horse, and another named “Buck”, a four year old Rocky Mountain horse. Two other animals were found alive with unusual markings on them, a yearling named, “King”, and the pet dog named, “Cody”. All three horses, Princess, Buck, and King, were fed grain with apple treats. No unusual diets which would single them out from the rest of the animals.

[Link.]

Chuck Zukowski’s other avocational investigatory activities include looking into Bigfoot sightings in Colorado. He worked about 200 hours a year as a reserve Sheriff’s deputy for El Paso County. There’s lots more about him at UFO Nut, but here’s Prendergast again:

[Zukowski has] appeared on several programs on the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel dealing with Roswell, but he’s also done a series of videos of his own, dealing with everything from mutilation cases to ghosts to an alleged sasquatch stomping around Bailey. Zukowski says one sort of investigation leads to another: “Before you know it, you’re branching out.”

Talking to people upset about alien abductions or disemboweled livestock made him a better cop, he says, and helped teach him how to de-escalate emotional situations. “I’ve been more scared doing UFO and ghost investigations than with anything I’ve encountered in the sheriff’s office,” he says.

[Link.]

Check out the now former reserve deputy talking about Bigfoot investigations here:

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Thailand Archaeology Team’s DIY Paraglider

March 3rd, 2011 No comments

From James Cook University.

Queensland, Australia’s James Cook University has an interesting article up about this DIY unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) hand-developed by JCU’s Technical Manager Wayne Morris, for a JCU team in Thailand doing archaeological surveys.

The archaeology team, originally led by New Zealand’s Charles Higham,  discovered an amazingly rich trove of archaeological artifacts in a neolithic and early bronze age superburial site in Bon Non Wat, Thailand.

Now led by lecturer Nigel Chang, the team wanted to take some low-altitude, high-resolution photos of the location, a village in Northeastern Thailand that has probably been inhabited continuously for 4,000 years. The ancient trenches, apparently, can be seen from the air more easily than from the ground, so Morris set about building a cheap, low-altitude, radio-controlled UAV with an electric engine and a remote-operated camera that would let the team take hi-res pictures of the site:

“We decided to go down the paraglide route as it’s a more stable platform and flies very slowly. You can even fly it into a soft breeze and it’s able to stall and just hang there,” [Morris] said.

“This means you can take good photos because you don’t have the vibrations of motors in other devices such as a helicopter.”

The finished product can fly thousands of feet in the air and the battery pack that runs the engine lasts for up to 25 minutes. But the building process wasn’t without its trials and tribulations. Mr Morris said finding the right equipment for a project like this can be difficult.

“I had to source material from around the world. I bought the paraglider from America, for example. Half the problem of building research equipment is finding out where to get things,” he said.

“There were also some problems with wind speed – the paraglider crashes in winds of more than 10-15 kilometres. It was a great amusement to everyone when it went down on its first flight,” Mr Morris said.

“And we lost it over the top of the University Hall building. I was showing a post-graduate student how to fly it when the aircraft disappeared. Turns out it was hanging out of a big gum tree but it eventually landed safely on the other side of the building.”

Mr Morris said the aircraft has survived multiple crashes because it’s made out of very soft, flexible material so it’s not easily damaged.

“It’s pretty hard to destroy. I’ve smashed it repeatedly and it just gets up and goes again,” he said.

[Link.]

One of Morris’s other projects involves building a remote-operated vehicle that will carry a bottle of water and drop it on command to a person below. This would be useful for survival situations where a trapped person was in need of water, but more importantly it could probably be adapted to drop water balloons.

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Charlie Sheen Cartoon Roundup

March 2nd, 2011 No comments

The truth is, if Charlie Sheen was not already a cartoon character, it would have become necessary to make him one. Thankfully, the web has done exactly that.

First, as if previous perversions of The Family Circus hadn’t hurt my brain enough, some clever cat has started The Sheen Family Circus.

It’s about what you’d expect, if you’ve been paying any attention at all to the disturbing and tedious public meltdown Mr. Sheen seems to feel duty-bound to see to its sickening inevitable conclusion, if only to warn the rest of us mopes away from drugs. And by “inevitable conclusion,” I mean not an overdose or a flaming car wreck — that would be too easy. No, I mean a long stint in rehab and an eventual trip deep into the land of sanctimonious born-again Christianity, providing the foundation for Sheen to spend decades of touting the Lord’s message for all of us.

Anyway, with The Sheen Family Circus, the joke is, of course, that each of the bizarre captions comes direct from the mouth of Mr. Sheen.

His rambling and bizarre statements paired with the wholesome FamCirc images beat the dreamlike weirdness of the Kanye West Tweets / New Yorker Captioning Contest. But wait! This is the age of the mash-up, right? Popped Culture tips me off to Buzzfeed’s absolutely irresistible Charlie Sheen Quotes as New Yorker Cartoons which, even if they have the same mise-en-scene as Kanye’s Tweets, provide an entirely different view of celebrity. My absolute favorite is #4:

In case that just isn’t enough Charlie Sheen for ya, the Washington Post‘s blog has some of the highlights from editorial pages and around the web, including an amusing LOLCAT or 2, like so:

Medium Large, via the Washington Post.

Of course, this all started back in October with the Taiwanese cartoon tribute to Sheen’s hotel meltdown:

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Worldwide Rash of UFO Sightings

March 2nd, 2011 No comments

Still from "Battle: Los Angeles" from terribly-happy.com / Trailers Without Pity.

…And I, for one, welcome our new bug-eyed overlords. Late 2010 and early 2011 have seen an escalating rash of UFO sightings — and you don’t need a UFO detector to find them; a few choice keywords on YouTube will do just fine.

In the wake of January-February sightings in Utah and Chicago, reports are surfacing of UFOs in Göteborg, Sweden (February 12), Johannesburg, South Africa (February 14), Boston, Massachusetts (February 21),  Dallas, Texas and Chicago again (both on February 28). Sadly, none of it features space pirates with peg-legs and ray guns.

Some of these are almost certainly hoaxes. The big news in late 2010 was the Jerusalem sighting, which Discovery News says was “almost certainly” a hoax; there’s a series of good arguments for that, but it’s not exactly conclusive. Sculptor Andrew Smith claimed to be the hoaxster behind the January UFO sightings near Lehi, Utah, but a few haters said his claiming responsibility might be a hoax to promote his sculpture — especially since Smith refused to provide any details about how the hoax was achieved, other than “helium and LED lights.” ParaNikki at Paranormal Utopia calls bullshit on people who claim to “I hoaxed something but I won’t tell you how” — and so do I. Tracy Parece at the Examiner thinks the Dallas footage looks sort of like a set of Chinese lanterns, which is what some people said about the UtahFO’s.

Others are surely just misidentifications or overreactions; it’s pretty damn hard to get a sense of space and context from an online video. The truly bizarre New Year’s Eve footage from Boston is some of the most unconvincing UFO evidence I’ve ever seen — I can’t tell WTF I’m seeing, though I guess that does qualify it as “unidentified.” However, whatever it is, it seems entirely different to me than the Chicago, Utah and Johannesbug UFOs. The February 21 Boston footage is even weirder — it looks, to me, like nothing at all. So do the February 19 and March 1 sightings over Portland.

All of these look, to me, like either optical artifacts (effects created by reflections or refractions in the camera) or misidentified airplanes or satellites. None of it — including the Utah footage — really looks like it would have to be hoaxed to explain it.

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A Moment of Pause

March 2nd, 2011 No comments

Image from Chicago Theater Blog.

This is very old news; it happened last June. But that’s the great thing about the internet; even if we miss the great events of history  the first time, they may come back around to haunt you if you’re ever foolish enough to do a Google image search for “newspaper headline alien invasion.”

From the Irish Times:

A fancy dress party in one of Dublin’s best known gay bars took a sinister turn when a woman attacked her ex-girlfriend Adrienne Martin in a row over a dress-up sumo wrestler’s suit.

After a year of acrimony following their bad break up, Sandra Talbot (32) assaulted Martin with a bottle hidden under her costume in a fit of rage at the George pub.

A Dublin court heard that Talbot lashed out at Martin in a row that began over the wrestler’s suit that Talbot was wearing. The row escalated as the victim waved at a man dressed as a Snickers bar, the court heard.

[Link.]

While my compatriots continue to sanctimoniously deride the many assaults on gay marriage by philandering, publicly-masturbating wing-nuts, I will be over here in the corner feeling like a heel for laughing at an incidence of violence. I must now state  publicly that I consider quite a few things not really okay to laugh at, or at least not funny, and same-sex domestic abuse is, frankly, one of them.

But she waved at a man dressed as a Snickers bar. That is all.

A fancy dress party in one of Dublin’s best known gay bars took a sinister turn when a woman attacked her ex-girlfriend Adrienne Martin in a row over a dress-up sumo wrestler’s suit.

After a year of acrimony following their bad break up, Sandra Talbot (32) assaulted Martin with a bottle hidden under her costume in a fit of rage at the George pub.

A Dublin court heard that Talbot lashed out at Martin in a row that began over the wrestler’s suit that Talbot was wearing. The row escalated as the victim waved at a man dressed as a Snickers bar, the court heard.