Author Archives: Pax Arcana

Where the hell have you been?

Please allow me to apologize with as much sincerity as I can possibly muster for my extended absence from this space. The Krampus season was full of mirth, date cookies, and highway miles, and has disrupted my normal routines in several ways.

For example, I have been doing things other than holing up in my fortified estate typing on this blog. For one thing, I saw a movie about a white marine who sexes up blue aliens. It was called Dances with Space Wolves. I also saw another movie, about a white business guy who sexes up a white business lady and flies a lot. It was called Airplane Road Trip. It may be the best movie I’ve seen in years (note: I have not seen many movies in the past few years).

However, I have spent most of the time I would usually devote to combing the Internets for lulz and giggs worthy of my loyal followers in the pursuit of reading words that some crazy fool has stamped onto paper rectangles and glued together. My grandpa calls these things “books,” and this one in particular is riveting:

I hope to be back to my regular schedule of useless typing soon. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and hope they turn Wolf Hall into an HBO mini-series or something. I only have the one copy, so it will take forever to pass it around to all of you…

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“I had all the ambulance, and I had a pretty good time driving it”

Note to self: Never turn your back on Mindy Jones:

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Rare gorilla caught on film

In the deep, sticky jungles of Cameroon lives a rare type of gorilla — one which has been hunted nearly to extinction by indigenous peoples and has never been placed on film.

Until recently, when a camera crew spotted the gorillas hanging out high off the ground in its natural habitat:

“These gorillas are extremely wary of humans and are very difficult to photograph or film,” said Roger Fotso, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Cameroon Program. “Eventually, we identified and staked out some of the gorillas’ favorite fig trees, which is where we finally achieved our goal.”

While the video footage of the great apes is comforting to those who thought they may already be extinct, scientists still worry for the future of these beasts. Not because of encroachment on their habitat, but because these gorillas appear to be knuckledraggers in more ways than one. Witness the video:

As you can see, this rare species is in mortal peril thanks to a lack of basic self-awareness and common sense. Some researchers predict the entire species will choke to death on potted meat sandwiches. Others predict they will be electrocuted by peeing on high voltage transformer stations. Either way, the world may soon lose the last of its rarest — and most retarded — primate groups.

Most Elusive Gorilla Caught on Video [LiveScience]

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Wednesday Filler: What really happened to Silvio Berlusconi

Via the always-excellent Warming Glow

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The Necky is the perfect gift for morons

It’s a little-known fact, but cultural anthropologists routinely catalog social groups not by race, age, or geography, but based on a sliding scale of idiocy. Frantically searching for sunglasses that have been on your head the whole time actually places you in one of the upper echelons — while getting a tattoo of the Louis Vuitton logo on your bicep places you lower down the scale.

Near the very bottom of the list, nestled just under those with “These Colors Don’t Run” bumper stickers and those who drink water straight from the toilet, is a new category — those too dumb to operate a scarf.

Fortunately, one company is well on its way to improving the lives of these nincompoops. Say hello to the Necky:

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My kingdom will soon be reunited!

For men of great power, the machinations of political fortune or misfortune are most often shrouded from the prying eyes of the public — a silent, unscrupulous waltz in the inky shadows of dimly lit parlor rooms.

Sometimes, however, your political rivals simply drop dead.

So it was that Giorgio Carbone, erstwhile Prince of Seborga, died — and in doing so removed the last great obstacle in my quest to reunite the ancient thrones of Greater Paximiliano. Seborga — a tiny province nestled adjacent to the Italian riviera — is not the final step, but it has proven the most intractable, thanks to the admittedly awesome rule of Carbone:

After convincing his Seborgan neighbors of their true significance, Giorgio Carbone was elected prince in 1963. He gracefully accepted the informal title of His Tremendousness, and was elected prince for life in 1995 by a vote of 304 to 4. Voters then ratified Seborga’s independence, which, by the prince’s interpretation, it already had.

Prince Giorgio established a palace, wrote a Constitution, and set up a cabinet and a parliament. He chose a coat of arms, minted money (with his picture), issued stamps (with his picture) and license plates, selected a national anthem and mobilized a standing army, consisting of Lt. Antonello Lacala. He adopted a motto: Sub umbra sede (Sit in the shade).

While Carbone was my rival lo these many years, I plan to keep Lt. Lacala in his position. I cannot afford to lose the support of the military. I will also keep Carbone’s picture on the money and retain the national motto, because it would take forever to photoshop new Seborgan dollars and, let’s face it, sitting in the shade is awfully relaxing.

Giorgio Carbone, Elected Prince of Seborga, Dies at 73 [NYT]

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Friday Random 10: Moons Over Mars Edition

Last month we brought you the sad news that our brave Mars robot — Spirit — was stuck in some deep sand on the surface of Mars with little hope of escape. The poor guy is still trapped there, but was recently able to make even more history by taking this photograph of the twin moons of Phobos and Deimos orbiting the red planet:

As you can see from these images — the first time these moons have ever been photographed from the surface of Mars — Phobos and Deimos are plainly not made of cheese. Rather they are giant floating skulls — the remnants of a once-proud civilization of 5,000 foot tall space aliens. Just kidding. They were faked in a sound stage in Burbank.

The songs:

Brackett, WI — Bon Iver
Dominos — The Big Pink
Twilight Galaxy — Metric
Holidays in the Sun — Sex Pistols
I Won’t Be Found — The Tallest Man on Earth
On A Plain — Nirvana
Omaha — Counting Crows
Hank — Jay Bennett
Lines — Tapes N Tapes
Together — The Raconteurs

Bonus Video:

Out of the Blue — Julian Casablancas (Live at Le Grand Journal)

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.

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In Soviet Russia, gum blows YOU into bubble!

A 25-year-old chemistry student from the Ukraine (OK so technically not Russia, but still with the Bond villain accents) died recently after lacing his own chewing gum with an explosive compound. He was working in his room when his parents heard a “loud pop” and rushed in to find him disfigured and near death:

It was reported that the student used to dip chewing gum into citric acid. Police also found another substance near the body.

The news agency said investigators believe the student may have confused the two substances and began chewing on gum that had been treated with the unidentified substance.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times — if you’re going to dip your chewing gum into chemicals before chewing it, you really have to be sure those chemicals aren’t going to blow your jaw clean off of your head. It’s like my advice just goes in one ear and out the other. Which reminds me — you should also refrain from putting explosive chemicals in your ears.

Student killed by exploding chewing gum [Telegraph]

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Tiger gave everyone AIDS

OK, not that one.

Researchers say they may have traced the origins of the AIDS virus to an ancient tiger that lived either thousands or millions of years ago:

It appears the virus took on a bit of a tiger’s genetic material, scientists say, and a remnant of that cat remains in the virus to this day. That tiger, in fact, may have bitten a monkey, setting off an evolution of the virus that ultimately led to its infection of humans.

If true, these findings should do much to exonerate the monkeys we’ve been blaming for AIDS this whole time. When reached for comment, one monkey said “I told you it wasn’t our fault you hairless assholes, now throw some more bananas in this cage before I throw shit at you. By the way, what exactly is a medical testing lab? Do I have to fill out a survey or something? What are you doing with that dentist drill?”

AIDS May Date Back to Ancient Tiger [HeathDay]

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The day the (free) music (almost) died

According to Wired, today marks the 10th anniversary of the music industry’s lawsuit against file-sharing site Napster.

You may remember that Napster’s defense in the suit, before laying down and playing dead, was that it did not give away copyrighted music — rather it provided a platform for users to share their own files with each other. The RIAA’s argument was that Napster was a bunch of fire demons with cloven feet who were sure to turn the nation’s children into gay communist ax murderers.

After suing Napster for everything it had, the RIAA turned its fire on Bertelsmann, the German media conglomerate that had loaned Napster money:

The lawsuits accused Bertelsmann of copyright infringement for propping up Napster financially with loans totaling $85 million. The lawsuits claimed the firm wanted “to preserve Napster’s user base for Bertelsmann’s own commercial advantage.”

At the time of the loans, Bertelsmann’s chairman, Thomas Middelhoff, explained that “Napster has pointed the way for a new direction for music distribution, and we believe it will form the basis of important and exciting new business models for the future of the music industry.”

Bertelsmann paid millions of dollars to settle the claims. The media concern agreed in 2006 to pay the world’s largest label, Universal Music Group, $60 million to settle the allegations. EMI got an undisclosed amount in 2007, and Warner Music Group settled that same year for $110 million.

The music industry has come a long way since the original Napster lawsuit. Not only has it recognized the promotional value of easily-copied digital music files, but it has engineered a successful shift in its core business model to compensate for the corresponding decline in CD sales.

Hahahaha, just kidding — they’ve been suing the shit out of college students and stay-at-home moms.

Oh, and stiffing the talent.

Witness the saga of Tim Quirk, bassist for Too Much Joy. Recently Warner Music sent Quirk a royalty statement that allegedly accounted for digital sales of the band’s music. The statement showed that Quirk’s band had earned a grand total of $62.47 over the prior five years (which was simply subtracted from the band’s “unrecouped” advances*). This is where Quirk’s day job helped him get to work:

Here’s the thing: I work at Rhapsody. I know what we pay Warner Bros. for every stream and download, and I can look up exactly how many plays and downloads we’ve paid them for each TMJ tune that Warner controls. Moreover, Warner Bros. knows this, as my gig at Rhapsody is the only reason I was able to get them to add my digital royalties to my statement in the first place. For years I’d been pestering the label, but I hadn’t gotten anywhere till I was on a panel with a reasonably big wig in Warner Music Group’s business affairs team about a year ago.

I knew that each online service was reporting every download, and every play, for every track, to thousands of labels (more labels, I’m guessing, than Warner has artists to report to). And I also knew that IODA was able to tell me exactly how much money my band earned the previous month from Amazon ($11.05), Verizon (74 cents), Nokia (11 cents), MySpace (4 sad cents) and many more. I didn’t understand why Warner wasn’t reporting similar information back to my band – and if they weren’t doing it for Too Much Joy, I assumed they weren’t doing it for other artists.

So a major player in the industry that spent years and millions attacking its own best customers has yet to build a reliable system for reporting to the artists how much they’re selling or not selling. Then when someone pesters them for real numbers, they sit on the request for a year and send him a half-assed statement that is clearly, indisputably wrong. And they know he’s a music industry insider, so they can’t possibly think they’ll get away with it.

In conclusion, the music industry is so hopelessly stupid it makes the newspaper industry look like Google. Oops. Bad choice of words?

Dec. 7, 1999: RIAA Sues Napster [Wired]

* Here is Quirk’s explanation of how advances and the concept of recouping works:

A word here about that unrecouped balance, for those uninitiated in the complex mechanics of major label accounting. While our royalty statement shows Too Much Joy in the red with Warner Bros. (now by only $395,214.71 after that $62.47 digital windfall), this doesn’t mean Warner “lost” nearly $400,000 on the band. That’s how much they spent on us, and we don’t see any royalty checks until it’s paid back, but it doesn’t get paid back out of the full price of every album sold. It gets paid back out of the band’s share of every album sold, which is roughly 10% of the retail price. So, using round numbers to make the math as easy as possible to understand, let’s say Warner Bros. spent something like $450,000 total on TMJ. If Warner sold 15,000 copies of each of the three TMJ records they released at a wholesale price of $10 each, they would have earned back the $450,000. But if those records were retailing for $15, TMJ would have only paid back $67,500, and our statement would show an unrecouped balance of $382,500.

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