Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tales of Canine Awesomeness: Dog in the Baltic

My position statement for this new decade is modest, but true...and also the same as the other decades of my life: Dogs are awesome. And to get things underway, here's the story of an awesome dog.

A Polish blogger claims this dog originated in the city of Torun, and he was swimming in the Vistula River, jumping on the big chunks of ice and swimming back to shore. But one time, he lingered too long and the river swept him away. (I can't confirm this part of the story, but it's too good to keep to myself.)

Well, it's not like people could ignore a dog in a river, but there were complications. In the cities of Grudziac and Kwidzin, firemen tried to make a grab for him, but to no avail, and the ice cover was so treacherous that sending out a rescue boat was impossible. So there he stayed on that piece of ice...for three days. He floated at least 75 miles during a cold snap where the temperatures dipped as low as -5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 C).

Hundo sur glacipecego

It was 15 miles off the coast, in the middle of Gdansk Bay in the Baltic Sea, that the research ship Baltica spotted him. At first, they thought he was a seal. Once they figured out what they were looking at, they lowered the dinghy.

Yep, safe and sound. At least for the moment, his name is "Baltic", and now the real trick is to find out whose dog he is. Complicating that effort is the fact that Baltic's a bona-fide international celebrity now, and the members of the crew are reportedly at the end of their patience with would-be owners. Until somebody can definitively prove otherwise, he's an honorary sailor, buddy.

And of course, he's a good dog.

La heroo de la tuta Pollando - Misiek

Who's a good dog? That's right, you're a good dog. We've got a nice soup bone for you, boy...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Countdown to February 10th: Thanks, China!

I'm sure this is totally unrelated to the upcoming Iranian protest, but the powers that be in Tehran have just taken delivery of a "gift" from the "brotherly and friendly nation" of China: crowd control vehicles, and holy cow, just look at this spec sheet!

The armoured anti-riot vehicles have a capacity of 10,000 liters to shoot cold and hot water, and three 100 liter tanks to shoot burning chemical liquids. The water is mixed with paint or tear gas that cannot be washed away. Each vehicle has two guns for shooting liquid up to a distance of 70 meters- it is controlled from inside the cabin. The price tag for each unit is 650,000 dollars. Also, a lot of extra burning liquid, paint, and tear gas was purchased.

It took four months for the delivery of the armoured vehicles, and since the Iranian regime was in a hurry, they had them delivered from China’s army organization- this is rare! China’s government was in as much of a hurry to get these to .

Well of course they're in a hurry! If the regime collapses before the check clears, they're really going to take a bath on this deal.

It's interesting (but not terribly surprising) that China is one of the few major world powers which hasn't come out against all this repression, and this little exchange of goods and services demonstrates yet again that an open market does not lead to an open everything else.

These suckers look mean as hell, but that "gift" thing still flummoxes me. Did they cash in a certificate from Office Despot?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Iran: Countdown to February 10th

A quick march through the latest information from my source: the latest word is that the Iranian government has rounded up at least 2,000 people over the past three weeks, with no word of any sort as to their fates. As mentioned last week, the operating theory is that the government is trying to terrify the people into staying home on the day of the next nationwide protest (that's February 10th, as a reminder), which seems to be a vain exercise. "More and more, the Green movement takes root in spite of the extreme suffering, captivity, spilled blood and pain. Iran is awakening."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More TOTALLY Serious News: A bomb in Tehran

And now, another break in the irrelevance for another Iran update: Today a bomb in killed Tehran University physics professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi outside of his home in Tehran. And that's about the only thing we can be certain of.

The state-run media is covering the story extensively (and from the expected angles). The reportage we're getting is all very confusing, as these things usually are, and I suspect some of it may be intentional so the Iranian government can feed their favorite narrative--that those lousy Zionists and those lousy Americans did it. To that effect, their official version says that Mohammadi was a nuclear physicist (the BBC tells us he was involved in quantum physics) and wasn't very political (although my source flatly states he was a supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi). When I checked earlier, there were even conflicting stories about where the bomb was hidden.

Nobody has claimed responsibility yet, but my anonymous blogger suspected in a post before the end of last year that a wave of "terrorism" was in the offing, with the implication that the terrorists weren't necessarily going to be outside of the government. "The bankrupt government [in Tehran] needs radicalism in order to attack the protesters." His theory is that the explosion might be used as a pretext to squelch a massive national day of protest planned for February 11th. It stops being a conspiracy theory when someone's actually out to get you...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Some Guy's Brilliant Plan To Save Both Conan AND Jay!

What guy? This guy, that's who. I'm some guy on the Internet. This is all the TV schedule version of fantasy football, so bear with me for a moment. There's a lot of preamble and first-draft ramble, so just jump to the MASTER PLAN heading if you start drifting.

The Jay Leno Show experiment, where nearly 1/3 of primetime was devoured in a quest to cling to SOME GUY, ends on February 12....and a new, terrifying flank of the campaign to cling tenaciously to The Chin like he was the last chopper out of 'Nam is now beginning. The NBC chairman has floated the idea that yes, Leno should get 11:35, and we'll just push everybody else back. The Tonight Show to midnight, Fallon to 1 AM, and Carson Daly...what, he's still on the payroll? Oh well, we'll find something for him. Maybe Early Today. In short, the guys who dug this hole are putting in a sub-basement.

Nobody who actually sits down and watches this crap were a bit surprised at the complete failure of Leno at 10. Prime time is still prime time, with its own set of expectations from the audience. 10 pm (9 central) is not 11:30, and if you can't adjust your approach accordingly, you deserve to fall to the hypnotic allure of David Caruso's sunglasses. (YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!) I tuned into Jay's show long enough to decide that it was just his Tonight Show in a new slot--which I had decided long ago wasn't for me, and then I walked away and found something new (coughcoughDAILYSHOW). As somebody else put it, Jay Leno is middle of the road to the point that he is the road, while I ride my metaphorical bike on the sidewalk.

(We could also conjecture that my rejection of Jay Leno at 10pm had something to do with NBC killing the most amazing show of 2009 in its cradle, proving that if they actually wanted to do something with real weight behind it, they could, but they'd rather just whip another round of goddamn Jaywalking on us. But that would imply that I am a deeply bitter man at how far the first American broadcast network has fallen, both as a commercial and artistic success...except on Thursdays. And maybe on Mondays, if they keep Chuck going.)

On the other hand, I have been with Conan from the first night. I've watched that show of his grow into something worth staying up for. I've developed an attachment to this 10 foot tall mutant and his gang. Yes, I'm a partisan. Shoot me, I like the stuff I like.

I also have a deep attachment to broadcasting history, especially the parts that are still in place. After all, there's less of them every year. Just like the 10pm experiment was a weak (and failed, I'll remind you) attempt to make Leno bigger than the network, to futz around with somebody else's Tonight Show, the whole "starting before 12" part, especially, just to massage Leno's feelings is to say that Leno is bigger than The Tonight Show, too. Pardon my French, but screw that noise. The Tonight Show casts a longer shadow than Leno or Conan or Johnny Carson or Jack Paar or Steve Allen because it throws all those shadows combined. It's definitely bigger than Jeff Zucker.

But I digress. The point of this whole preamble is that I think this marriage can be saved. And now, here's THE MASTER PLAN.

It's like a logic puzzle, really...let's look at the elements we're trying to mix in:
  • We need to keep Conan on the Tonight Show, because Fox is watching this situation with covetous eyes.
  • We need to keep the Tonight Show in the same slot it's held since the dawn of time.
  • We need to keep Jay happy because...well, see the above part about Fox and the greedy eyes. However, Jay has refused to do anything in daytime, and really, who can blame him?
So far, so here's what I bring to the table.
  • There's three whole hours of Saturday night prime time that's basically a dead zone.
If you don't watch NBC between 8-11pm on Saturdays...well, let's face it, why would you? As it stands now, it's a "watch this space" sign. They've even considered subcontracting it--the entire night--to outside sources. It's where contractual obligations go to get burnt off (like Freaks and Geeks and (grrrrrrrrrrrr) Kings). That's pretty much how all the broadcast networks do it.

Well, all except one. Univision, baby.

Some of you are right with me. The rest of you, hear me out.

Sabado Gigante, to give the short version, is a little bit of everything as a big three hour Saturday primetime marathon. One day in the early 1960s, Don Francisco took a look at American and Argentinian television and said "Yeah, let's do that." "Let's do what?" "Let's do all of it." And that's what he's done every week since. I'm hampered by a lack of the lingo, but there are games, talent competitions, variety elements, comedy sketches...all the energetic, boisterous things that TV does well (or used to do well) well rolled up in one easy-to-find package.

And that's what I think Jay should do on NBC. If Leno is everything you say he is, and you really believe what you say about him, then give him Saturday prime time and the Sabado Gigante format to build the first Saturday night powerhouse in years. Jay's playing to a different audience than Don Francisco (and yes, I mean an audience that doesn't speak Spanish), so it's not like you're undercutting your source.

There's a very real chance this would come out to be a legendary failure, but dreaming small is part of what got this network in the cellar in the first place. At least they'll have forgotten about The Jay Leno Show.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

More from Iran (or more about why there's NOT more from Iran)

This update isn't as frightening as the last one, but it does say something about the general situation. The Iranian blogger I've been following woke up this morning to find that the website he's been using to contact the outside world has finally hit the Iranian firewall. Fortunately, the Internet is good at routing around "damaged" parts of the network, so he was able to post that news later in the day.

While I can't pretend to have more than the barest knowledge of how things happen in the region (after all, I'm an American), his rundown of how these bans usually work demonstrates the level of mistrust the government has in the people: if any outside website gets very popular on the Iranian Internet, it's automatically locked out while the censors read the site to see if it's a "big problem." If it passes the check, they let the ban drop without any official declaration; otherwise, you end up with a total lockout (see also: not on an Iranian ISP).

The website he's using is apparently going through the first phase of the process...and again, that's why I'm not naming any names. I refuse to make the crackdown process any easier, even if my daily audience can be counted on one hand.