29 February 2012

Anonymous, being nice

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post Civil War for the day:
Best wishes, I’ve been hunting for understanding of this amazing area for a long time and also your own is the greatest I’ve found thus far. Having said that, everything that regarding the financial well being? You might be constructive over the supply?
Rico says he has no idea what "everything that regarding the financial well being? You might be constructive over the supply?" means, but anyone who wants to subsidize the Rant is welcome to do so...

Scam for the day

Rico says it's another overly-detailed attempt (written in incredibly bad English) to get your money:

Yeah, sure, like he'd say he lost...

Josh Voorhees has the story in Slate:
As you may have already heard by now, Mitt Romney held on for a crucial win in Michigan's GOP primary. But it's starting to look like that victory, while significant in the larger election narrative, may not translate to a big win in terms of delegates for the GOP front-runner. The Wolverine State divvies up all but two of its thirty delegates proportionally, with the winner of each of the state's fourteen new congressional districts winning two delegates.
While the Michigan GOP is still doing the math, the partial results suggest that Romney and Rick Santorum may both walk away with fourteen delegates apiece from the pool of 28 handed out by district. (Although, we should note, that Santorum is leading two districts by very narrow margins, meaning a 16-12 or 18-10 split for Romney is still very possible.)
The final two delegates will be awarded based on the statewide totals, although it is not clear if they both go to the winner or if they too are handed out proportionally.
The way Santorum's camp sees things, an even delegate split would mean their candidate fought Romney to a tie in the state where he was born and raised, which in turn would represent a loss for the current front-runner. (If you're keeping track of the spin, they somehow are turning a loss into a tie into a win.)
"It’s highly likely this is is going to end up being a tie, based on the data that we have," Santorum adviser John Brabender tells the Washington Post. "I don’t know how you look at that as anything besides this being a strong showing for Rick Santorum and anything short of a disaster for Mitt Romney." Brabender added: "If we can do this well in Romney’s home state, this bodes well for Super Tuesday."
Mitt Romney pulled out a critical primary win in his native state of Michigan, the same night he also earned all 29 of Arizona's GOP delegates.
NBC News and the Associated Press called the Wolverine State for Romney shortly after 10 p.m. eastern standard time, more than an hour after the last polls in the western portion of the state closed. Earlier in the evening, Romney was declared the victor of Arizona's winner-take-all primary.
With seventy percent of Michigan's precincts reporting, Romney had 42 percent of the vote, followed by Santorum with 37 percent, Ron Paul with 12 percent, and Newt Gingrich with 7 percent. Gingrich and Paul, both resigned to their fates, addressed their supporters before the final polls had even closed. The former spoke in Georgia, the latter in Virginia.
Romney's win in the heavily-contested primary is a major face-saving victory for the former Massachusetts governor, whose campaign has a larger infrastructure and bigger bank account than Santorum's but that has nonetheless been so far unable to deliver the decisive blow in the GOP race.
The networks wasted little time earlier in the evening quickly calling Arizona for Romney, who had entered the day with double-digit leads in the most recent batch of state polls there. But even with his win in the Grand Canyon State, a loss in Michigan by Romney would have likely dominated Wednesday's news cycle given that is the state where Romney and Santorum invested more of their time and money.
As it is, there will likely be plenty of grumbling from some conservatives that Romney was only able to muster what appears to be a relatively narrow victory, despite being born and raised in Michigan, a state where his father was a popular governor.
Romney backers will likely make the case that his victory would have been larger if it weren't for so-called "mischief votes" from Democrats looking to prolong the Republican nominating contest to bolster President Obama's chances come November. According to a CNN exit poll, ten percent of those casting votes in the Michigan GOP primary were self-described Democrats, half of which pulled the lever for Santorum.
Michigan awards nearly all of its GOP delegates by congressional district, so the final delegate tallies won't directly mirror the final statewide percentages. While unlikely, it is possible that Santorum could ultimately win more of the state's thirty delegates than Romney, despite his overall victory in the state. Regardless, with Arizona's delegates in the bank, Romney is assured that he'll end Tuesday with a larger delegate lead than he entered the day with.
Rico says he could care less who the Republicans nominate, but Willard the Lame would be better than Rick the Rabid...

Maybe peace will break out

Abby Ohlheiser has the story in Slate:
North Korea has agreed to suspend nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment and nuclear and long range missile tests, according to American and North Korean officials.
In exchange, the country will receive 240,000 metric tons of much-needed food aid.
The State Department says that North Korea will allow International Atomic Energy inspectors to monitor compliance with the moratorium. According to the Associated Press, the announcement follows the first US-North Korea talks since the death of Kim Jong-il in December. Before his death, the countries were reportedly close to an agreement. North Korea released a statement from Pyongyang that confirms the agreement.
The news appears to meet the preconditions to start up the six-nation talks on disarmament for aid that were suspended three years ago.
While the somewhat surprising announcement is encouraging, as AFP notes, many are skeptical of the staying power of the agreement. North Korea has a history of going back on its word when international tensions increase.
Rico says that starvation is a powerful motivator... (And why not a Korean Spring?)

A great one steps down

Rico says he was always a fan of hers (even if she was a Republican), but Josh Voorhees has the story in Slate:
Republican Senator Olympia Snowe will not seek reelection in 2012.
The Maine lawmaker is widely considered one of the most moderate members of the upper chamber, and was often a key target for Democrats looking to make a bipartisan deal. The 65-year-old stressed that she is in good health and was prepared to run a reelection campaign, but said that she was swayed by the current polarization and partisan gridlock in the Senate.
“Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term," Snowe said in a statement. “So, at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail."
The Washington Post reports that Snowe's departure is likely a blow to Republicans' hopes of regaining a majority in the Senate, because she was one of the few lawmakers thought to be able to appeal to Maine's traditionally Democratic electorate.
Rico says the Republicans lost a bet when they didn't convince her to run this year...

Another one gone

Ankita Rao has the story in Slate:
Whether you’re a daydream believer, homecoming queen, or just caught that one episode of the Brady Bunch, you probably know Davy Jones.
Entertainment Weekly reports that the 66-year-old Monkees singer died of a heart attack in Indiantown, Florida. Authorities are still investigating his death.
Fans remember Jones as the main teen heartthrob on the hit 1960s NBC television series The Monkees. The four actors, who resembled The Beatles, didn’t actually play music on the show at its start, but went on to display their musical talents a few years into the series.
Jones performed at the BB King Blues Club and Grill in New York earlier this year:
Rico says he, personally, loathed The Monkees, but the guys' dead, so ya gotta be nice...

Why is this man smiling?

It's an old line (from Nixon in Esquire, as it turns out), but it applies to Mister Gates. Ankita Rao has the story in Slate:
Microsoft is looking to dust itself off and prove that its newest product, Windows 8, still has game in a world now dominated by Apple and Google.
The software company has struggled to compete in the portable technology sector for the past couple of years but Reuters reports that shareholders hope that changes with the release of Windows 8. Microsoft released a beta version of the latest incarnation of the iconic operating system, giving the public its first look at it. If all goes well, the official release will come later this year.
The Associated Press reports that Windows 8 is "radically different from it’s predecessors", even leaving behind the PC staple, the Start menu. The new design, that Microsoft has dubbed Metro, mimics app-friendly buttons and tiles you would find on a smart phone. The tiles for mail and Facebook update in real time, so you don’t have to refresh for notifications.
One version of Windows 8 will run on phones and tablets made by ARM Holdings Plc., which has lent chip designs to the iPad, Samsung products, and Texas Instruments. The other is a standard option compatible with Intel chips in laptops and desktops.
Rico says he still feels some responsibility for Gates continued existence, since he didn't whack the guy in Steve Jobs' office when he had the chance... (Yeah, yeah, he's going good things with his foundation, but Windows is still his bastard child.)

Rico wishes he'd thought of it

Ankita Rao has the story in Slate:
A group of conservative leaders are demanding that the Huffington Post remove a satirical column, penned by a former Simpsons writer, that dubs Catholicism a Jesus-eating cult.
The author, Larry Doyle, had already posted a follow-up explaining that his original column (which was published in HuffPo's comedy section) was not meant to be taken at face value, but instead was a "ridiculously over-the-top broadside against Roman Catholicism" aimed at highlighting what he sees as "the type of vicious religious ignorance and intolerance I too often see coming from too many so-called Christians," especially Rick Santorum.
That clarification, however, has done little to appease social conservatives, including Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell and National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown. They sent a letter to HuffPo founder Arianna Huffington (obtained by Fox News) demanding a public apology for the "bigoted and unacceptable" column and for the "trash" to be deleted from the site.
In the original column, Doyle hyperbolically references his own Irish Catholic upbringing, saying that he "managed to escape" the rites and texts of the religion. He writes that Santorum’s adherence to Roman Catholicism could push him to wrongful violence or supporting paedophilia.
Rico says he has no doubt that Santorum would support paedophilia, if he thought it would help him get elected... But  a Jesus-eating cult? Now that's a classic...

History for the day

Macy's was founded by Rowland Hussey Macy. Between 1843 and 1855, he opened four retail dry goods stores, including the original Macy's store in downtown Haverhill, Massachusetts, established in 1851 to serve the mill industry employees of the area. They all failed, but he learned from his mistakes. Macy moved to New York City in 1858 and established a new store named R.H Macy Dry Goods on Sixth Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets, which was far north of where other dry goods stores were at the time. On the company's first day of business, on 28 October 1858, sales totaled US$11.08, equal to $297.09 today.
From the very beginning, Macy's logo has included a star (shown) in one form or another, which comes from a tattoo that Macy got as a teenager (debate exists whether it was on his hand or his back; Rico votes for the back, as shown below) when he worked on a Nantucket whaling ship, the Emily Morgan, later lost in the ice in Alaska.
Rico says that, when he lived on Nantucket in the early 1970s, both the Husseys and the Macys were still famous families, with their ancestral homes on the 'tour':

Now you're talking

Time has an article on the Top Ten Nude Magazine Covers:
The list of 'naked on the cover' issues:
Dixie Chicks on the cover of Entertainment Weekly
Janet Jackson on the cover of Rolling Stone
Lindsay Lohan on the cover of New York
Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley on the cover of Vanity Fair
Kim Kardashian on the cover of W
John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the cover of Rolling Stone
True Blood on the cover of Rolling Stone
Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair
Serena Williams on the cover of ESPN The Magazine
Jennifer Aniston (photo) on the cover of GQ
Rico says that, rather than provide you with the salacious material here, you can go there and see them all... Well, okay, one, just because she's hot:

Our pal Joey

Howard Altmand & William Bender from the Daily News have it:

Even as Joseph S. "Skinny Joey" Merlino was settling into a South Florida halfway house last summer after twelve years in prison, the FBI issued a confidential alert warning law-enforcement officials that the former Philadelphia mob boss might try to set up shop in the Miami area with some of his old associates.
The memo was contained in the first batch of some five million emails being released by the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks, including several FBI alerts obtained by a Texas-based private-intelligence firm on topics ranging from biker gangs to al-Qaeda's English-language website.
"As of March of 2011, former Philadelphia crime family boss, Joseph 'Skinny Joe' Merlino, appears to be restoring and developing significant relationships for a potential South Florida crew," read the Situational Information Report put out by the FBI's Miami office last June. "Reportedly, he may become involved in illicit gambling and bookmaking activities again."
Merlino was sentenced to fourteen years in prison in December of 2001 on racketeering charges that included extortion and gambling. He spent two years in prison awaiting trial, then served time in Illinois, Kentucky, Texas, and Indiana, where he apparently lifted a lot of weights.
Released from prison in March, Merlino, 49, did six months at a halfway house in West Palm Beach, Florida. One of his attorneys, Lucille Bongiovanni, said that Merlino was "moving on with his life and enjoying his family".
The Feds suggest otherwise. Merlino is believed to be working at a flooring company in South Florida, but sources say that he may be re-establishing a foothold in Philly's mob through longtime associate Steve Mazzone.
Mazzone, convicted with Merlino in 2001, is believed to be running the organization while mob boss Joseph Ligambi and other mob members are in jail awaiting trial on racketeering charges.
The Miami FBI's "potential criminal activity alert" was among material released by Wikileaks, which had obtained the emails from Stratfor, an intelligence firm in Austin, Texas. The memo had an "unclassified/law enforcement sensitive" security classification. In a statement, Stratfor said that "thieves" had broken into its email system. The company is not commenting on individual emails. James Marshall, a spokesman for the FBI's Miami office, declined to comment on the alert.
"The allegations that Joe is assembling a 'South Florida crew' and involved in illegal activities in Florida are completely false," Bongiovanni said. "The FBI alert is nothing more than guesswork and a recitation of past charges. Joe's Florida activities are completely legitimate."
The June alert, which was "shared for informational purposes but has not been fully evaluated, integrated with other information, interpreted, or analyzed," names several men with ties to Philadelphia organized crime that Merlino might contact in South Florida.
They include Phillip "Disney" McFillin, who "had a role during the Bruno/Scarfo era of the Philadelphia Crime Family" and was former mob boss Nicky Scarfo's "best friend," according to the alert. McFillin and Ligambi confidant Anthony Staino Jr. reportedly were involved in Florida real-estate transactions and were "kicking up" proceeds to Ligambi, the alert states.
John "Jack" Manfredi, another Merlino associate from Philadelphia, recently relocated to Hallandale Beach, according to the memo. Manfredi "used to be involved with Merlino's crew in Philadelphia, and is currently operating a betting website called Getitinnow.com," the memo states. Manfredi "is actively looking for investors for ATMs that he would like to install in strip clubs and massage parlors. Allegedly, much of this activity is for generating income on Merlino's behalf." Manfredi could not be reached for comment.
The alert also speculated that Merlino "may reach out to" Anthony Accetturo Jr., a soldier in the Lucchese crime family's New Jersey crew, for "muscle".
Merlino, who is married with two teenage daughters, is making new friends in Florida as well, according to the alert. "Merlino is building a relationship with an identified, wealthy, and well-connected individual who is allegedly getting a Rolls-Royce for Merlino," according to the alert. "The same individual is purportedly going to buy a one million dollar home in West Palm Beach for Merlino."
Merlino is on federally-supervised release for three years and is prohibited from associating with known felons. That means that if Mazzone is Merlino's puppet in Philadelphia, they'd be wise to keep the strings hidden.
The Miami report apparently wasn't shared with Philadelphia-area law-enforcement officials, one of whom yesterday doubted the scenarios it laid out. "I would expect him to reconnect, but those names strike me as not very fruitful," the official said. "The whole thing sounds off-base."
Rico says it's not fair to blame Italian-Americans for this shit; there are corrupt and evil men in every ethnic community... (But most of them don't have movies made about them.)

If ya gotta go (which you do)...

Rico says his friend Tex sends this photo, with the notation: This is the headstone of Russell J. Larsen in the City Cemetery in Logan, Utah. I wonder if he died knowing he'd won the 'Coolest Headstone' contest?

Imagine if they'd done it in Afghanistan...

Rico says it shows, yet again, that there are the excitable people of this world (like the Afghans), and then there are the rest of us:
The mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware disposed of body parts of some victims of the 11 September 2001, attacks by burning them and dumping the ashes in a landfill, an independent panel said in a report released to the Pentagon.
The startling new disclosure was the latest to tarnish the reputation of Dover, hallowed ground for the military and the entry point for the nation’s war dead, and is likely to create further anguish among families of the 11 September victims.
Mortuary officials had already been under fire for what the Air Force termed “gross mismanagement” for losing the body parts of two service members in 2009, repeated failures of command, doing little to change sloppy practices, and sawing off the protruding arm bone of a dead Marine without informing his family.
The method of disposal of the 11 September body parts was limited to what the report said were “several portions of remains” that could not be identified from the attack on the Pentagon and the crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The report said the remains were cremated and placed in containers provided to a biomedical waste disposal contractor, which then incinerated them and put them in the landfill.
Air Force officials said they could not confirm all the information about the 11 September remains and were trying to clarify details on Tuesday night.
Lisa Linden, a spokeswoman for the families of United Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, said in a statement: “This is impossible to believe. The remains from the Flight 93 crash were under the care and control of the Somerset County coroner, Wallace Miller. He has said that no remains were sent to Dover.”
The practice of landfill disposal was also used for some unidentified remains of war dead, a fact first disclosed late last year. The practice has since been stopped and the ashes are now put in urns and buried at sea.
The review, which was ordered by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta after the problems with lost body parts were made public last fall, indicates that problems at the mortuary were more extensive and go back further than previously known.
It mentions, but does not elaborate on, a 2005 internal mortuary investigation that found that “human remains were misrouted in a fashion constituting dereliction of duty”, a 2009 fraud investigation that is still open, and a 2008 settlement of $25,000 paid to a Marine spouse for “mental anguish and medical costs due to the loss of personal effects”.
John P. Abizaid, the retired general who led the panel, acknowledged the problems. “I will readily admit that there were a series of investigations that took place within the mortuary,” he said, adding that “corrective actions were not taken” as a result of the inquiries. General Abizaid, a former commander of American forces in the Middle East, concluded that the mortuary’s leadership at the time was a “dysfunctional, isolated chain of command.” General Abizaid said he did not know how many remains of the 11 September victims passed through Dover. Although the mortuary is primarily for war dead, it has also handled the remains of civilians in large catastrophes.
The disclosure about the 11 September remains was embedded deep in the panel’s report, in a few paragraphs on page six, and then in two brief mentions in the appendix. The two top Air Force officials insisted that they were taken by surprise by the revelation and, like General Abizaid, offered no additional details.
“You got the report before we did,” the Air Force chief of staff, General Norton A. Schwartz, told reporters in the Pentagon briefing room as he stood next to the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, after both had returned from a Congressional hearing. “We’ve both been on Capitol Hill for the last four hours. Allow us at least the opportunity to go through the report ourselves.”
For his part, General Abizaid said the focus of his report was not investigating the past, but offering recommendations for the future. He called for more oversight, training, and inspections at Dover, and said improvements at the mortuary, which has handled the remains of thousands of military men and women over a decade of war, were already under way. He also praised the new mortuary leadership.
Representative Rush Holt, a Democrat from New Jersey, said that he had been “appalled” to learn last year that the mortuary had put the remains of some service members in a landfill. Holt, who has a constituent whose husband’s remains were disposed of in a landfill, added, “I suspected, as General Abizaid’s panel has now confirmed, that these practices had been going on for many years.”
The Air Force, in the meantime, put off a decision until mid-March on whether three top mortuary officials should have been fired for the problems at Dover. Last fall, Colonel Robert H. Edmondson, who commanded the mortuary at the time the body parts were lost, received a letter of reprimand, effectively ending any further promotions. Trevor Dean, Colonel Edmondson’s former deputy, and Quinton R. Keel, the former mortuary director, both civilians who were in their jobs when the body parts were lost, were demoted and moved to lesser jobs at Dover. The Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that investigates whistle-blowers’ complaints, said last fall that the three should have been dismissed.
In a letter to the White House, Carolyn N. Lerner, the head of the office, said that Keel and Dean had exhibited a pattern of “negligence, misconduct, and dishonesty” and that there had been a “failure of leadership” by Colonel Edmondson.
Last month, the Office of Special Counsel released another report saying mortuary officials— though it did not name them— had retaliated against four employees after the employees raised concerns about the mishandling of service members’ remains.
Rico says it was the military who coined 'clusterfuck', after all, for just this kind of situation...

History for the day

On 29 February 1968, President Johnson's National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (also known as the Kerner Commission; photo) warned that racism was causing America to move "toward two societies, one black, one white: separate and unequal."

Scam for the day

Rico says it continues to boggle him that anyone falls for this shit:
Our Ref: UNO/SNT/RAL/1534098

I am directed to inform you that your payment verification and confirmation is completed,  therefore we are happy to inform you that arrangements have been concluded to effect your payment as soon as possible in our bid for transparency.
In line with the United Nations millennium development goal to eradicate  poverty and hunger by the year 2015. It is our pleasure to inform you that ATM Card with Number: 54280500110044232 has been approved in your favour, The ATM Card value is FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND US DOLLARS ($500,000.00).
Kindly be informed that you are to provide a delivery fee of $95.00 USD for the delivery of your package to you and be informed that the delivery will be made to your address within 48 hours (2 days) after we have confirmed your payment  of the delivery fee. The delivery fee receipt will be attached to the delivery documents to avoid being delayed by Customs.
Kindly provide the details below for delivery:
1. Valid delivery address
2. Name
3. Phone Number
4. Occupation
5. Sex/Gender

Email: humanitarian.office@postafiok.hu

Treat as urgent and note that your ATM Card is ready and available for dispatch to you.

Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Under-Secretary-General, UNITED NATIONS.
Rico says the email country code would indicate Hungary as the source of this, and thus the Hungarian mafia as the culprits...

Apple for the day

Rachael Levy has the story in Slate:
iPad fans, rejoice: Apple may release its newest version of the popular tablet computer as early as next week.
The BBC reports that the consumer tech company has scheduled an event on 7 March for some kind of iPad-related announcement, which naturally kicked the online rumor mill into top gear. While Apple won't comment on what exactly will be unveiled at the San Francisco-area event, its invitation told lucky recipients: "We have something you really have to see. And touch."
Already, some observers are speculating (or maybe just hoping) that, not only will Apple unveil the new iPad 3 at the event, but that the new gadget will also hit stores as soon as the following week.
Meanwhile, Gizmodo points out that the newest iPad incarnation may already be in plain sight for anyone holding an invitation to the Apple event, since the iPad featured on the invite looks slightly different than the iPad 2. The tech blog points out that the tablet's screen on the invitation has better definition and features slightly different typography, for example.
Apple's iPad has been widely successful in pulling in customers, but its dominant position in the tablet market has been challenged most recently by similar products powered by Google’s Android system.  Microsoft will likely introduce a new challenger in the tablet wars, as well: Industry experts say that the company will introduce a Windows 8 operating system later this year, according to the BBC.
Rico says he will have to impoverish himself, somehow, to acquire one... (Android and Windows 8? Don't make Rico laugh.)

28 February 2012

Nice comment

Fantastic internet site, determined several something totally new! Subscribed RSS for later, aspire to see a lot more updates exactly like it.

No, stupid, the other eye

Rico says he has belatedly (and, yes, stupidly) and finally acted upon the awareness that his eye surgeon, Dr. Carrasco (the young-Sarah Palin-look-alike) had installed two different lenses when she fixed the cataracts in his eyes.
Here he's been struggling for a year or so to figure out what reading glasses to wear to use his computer, when all the while all he had to do was not use his left eye (with its walking-distance lens) and use his right eye, which, he's discovered, is perfectly in focus (without any other correction, so no reading glasses) at arms' length, which is where the monitor sits.
Always was slower than the other children...

Not a Rico problem, fortunately

Rico says that, among all his other medical issues, reptile dysfunction isn't one of them. That's his pun (sorry, that's a disease for which there is no cure) for that all-too-common men's condition that has given rise (pun intended, of course) to a whole slew of little-blue-pill solutions.

Sounds familiar

Rico says this would be funnier if it weren't happening to him; his mother sends this, with the note: "I just love this":
Ron feared his wife Peggy wasn't hearing as well as she used to, and he thought she might need a hearing aid. Not quite sure how to approach her, he called the family doctor to discuss the problem.
The doctor told him there is a simple informal test the husband could perform to give the doctor a better idea about her hearing loss. "Here's what you do," said the doctor. "Stand about forty feet away from her and, in a normal conversational tone, see if she hears you. If not, go to thirty feet, then twenty feet, and so on, until you get a response.'
That evening, his wife was in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he was in the den. He says to himself, I'm about forty feet away, let's see what happens. Then, in a normal tone, he asks: "Honey, what's for dinner?"
No response. So the husband moves closer to the kitchen, about thirty feet from his wife, and says: "Peggy, what's for dinner?"
Still no response. Next, he moves into the dining room, about twenty feet away from his wife, and asks: "Honey, what's for dinner?"
Again he gets no response. So he walks up to the kitchen door, only about ten feet away: "Honey, what's for dinner?"
Again there is no response. So he walks right up behind her: "Peggy, what's for dinner?"
"For goodness sake, for the fifth time, chicken!"

Gee, is there a pattern here?

Rachael Levy has the story in Slate:
Here's some news, possibly more appropriate for the Costa Allegra, whose name in Italian means "merry": a French fishing vessel has arrived at the fire-ravaged cruise liner and is currently towing the vessel to the Seychelles, reports NBC News.
The ship, which had been left powerless and floating adrift in the pirate-infested Indian Ocean after a fire broke out in its generator room recently, is carrying 212 Italian, 31 British, and eight American passengers. Four of the passengers are children aged three or younger.
An earlier report by the Associated Press claimed that Somali pirates, infamous for trolling the Indian seas, had never attacked a cruise ship. The MSNBC report, however, notes the contrary: "In 2009, an Italian cruise ship with 1,500 people aboard fended off a pirate attack in the Indian Ocean far off the coast of Somalia."
But it would appear that the ship, for the moment, is heading toward a hopeful horizon; photos released via the Seychelles showed the vessel upright and amid calm seas, with hundreds of passengers milling about the decks.
Looks like there will be some even rougher seas ahead for Costa Crociere SpA, the Italian cruise line operator whose Costa Concordia capsized in the Mediterranean six weeks ago.
The Associated Press reports that a fire erupted in the generator room of sister ship Costa Allegra. There were no reported casualties, but the blaze was apparently so severe that it has left the ship and its more than a thousand passengers and crew floating adrift in the pirate-infested Indian Ocean.
The Costa Allegra was reportedly on its way to the Seychelles, a nation of islands and atolls, from Madagascar, when the fire broke out. The cruise liner is now floating off the coast of Tanzania amid reported five-foot waves and in a region infamously known as a haven for Somali pirates.
The Italian coast guard has said that anti-piracy military personnel aboard were armed and ready for an attack.
Rico says he doesn't know for sure how you say 'clusterfuck' in Italian (though gruppo di cazzo is the best that Google Translation can do), but this is starting to look like one...

Dinner guest

Rico says his friend Tex forwards this amazing story:
The extraordinary scene was captured by photography student Casey Gutteridge at the Santago Rare Leopard Project in Hertfordshire, England. The nineteen-year-old, from Potters Bar in Hertfordshire, who was photographing the leopard for a course project, was astounded by the mouse's behavior. He said: "I have no idea where the mouse came from; he just appeared in the enclosure after the keeper had dropped the meat in for the leopard. He didn't take any notice of the leopard, just went straight over to the meat and started feeding himself. But the leopard was pretty surprised; she bent down, sniffed the mouse, and flinched a bit like she was scared. In the meantime, the mouse just carried on eating like nothing had happened..." But even a gentle shove (middle photo) does not deter the little creature from getting his fill... "It was amazing, even the keeper who had thrown the meat into the enclosure was shocked; he said he'd never seen anything like it before."
Sheena was brought in to the Santago Rare Leopard Project from a UK zoo when she was just four months old. She is one of fourteen big cats in the private collection, started by Jackie's late husband Peter in 1989.
Rare Leopard Project owner Jackie James added: "It was so funny to see... Sheena batted the mouse a couple of times to try to get It away from her food. But the determined little thing took no notice and just carried on." The mouse continued to eat the leopard's lunch and show the leopard who was the boss, which just proves no one can push you around without your permission...
Rico says some things require no comment...

Political joke for the day

Rico says his friend Tex sends along this one:
A biker is riding his Harley by the zoo in Washington, DC, when he sees a little girl leaning into the lion's cage. Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the collar of her jacket and tries to pull her inside, preparing to slaughter her under the eyes of her screaming parents.
The biker jumps off his Harley, runs to the cage, and hits the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch.
Whimpering from the pain, the lion jumps back, letting go of the girl, and the biker brings her to her terrified parents, who thank him endlessly.
A reporter has watched the whole event. Addressing the Harley rider, he says: "Sir, this was the most gallant and brave thing I've seen a man do in my whole life."
The Harley rider replies: "Why, it was nothing, really, the lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger and acted as I felt right."
The reporter says: "Well, I'll make sure this won't go unnoticed. I'm a journalist, you know, and tomorrow's paper will have this story on the front page. So, what do you do for a living and what political affiliation do you have?"
The biker replies: "I'm a Marine and a Republican."
The journalist leaves.
The following morning, the biker buys the paper to see if it, indeed, has news of his actions, and reads this headline on the front page: US Marine Assaults African Immigrant and Steals His Lunch

History for the day

On 28 February 1993, a gun battle erupted near Waco, Texas, when agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms tried to serve warrants on the Branch Davidians; four agents and six Davidians were killed as a 51-day standoff began.


Rico says his friend Tex sends this cautionary note:
Eric Bolling of Fox Business Channel's Follow the Money, test drove the Chevy Volt at the invitation of General Motors.
For four days in a row, the fully-charged battery lasted only 25 miles before the Volt switched to the reserve gasoline engine. He calculated the car got 30 mpg, including the 25 miles it ran on the battery. So, the range including the nine gallon gas tank and the 16 kwh battery is approximately 270 miles. It will take you four-and-a-half hours to drive 270 miles at sixty mph. Then add ten hours to charge the battery, and you have a total trip time of 14.5 hours. In a typical road trip your average speed (including charging time) would be twenty mph.
According to General Motors, the Volt battery holds sixteen kwh of electricity. It takes a full ten hours to charge a drained battery.
The cost for the electricity to charge the Volt is never mentioned, so he looked up what he pays for electricity.
He pays approximately (it varies with amount used and the seasons) $1.16 per kwh.
16 kwh x $1.16 per kwh = $18.56 to charge the battery.
$18.56 per charge divided by 25 miles = $0.74 per mile to operate the Volt using the battery.
Compare this to a similar size car with a gasoline engine only that gets 32 mpg.
$3.19 per gallon divided by 32 mpg = $0.10 per mile.
The gasoline powered car cost about $15,000, while the Volt costs $46,000.
So they want us to pay three times as much for a car that costs more than seven times as much to run and takes three times as long to drive across country? Ridiculous.

Right on time

Rico says his arch-perv friend Dave checks in with this:
Due to the  global war on terrorism, many terrorist organizations have had their finances frozen. Consequently, they have resorted to counterfeiting. The Canadians have decided to redesign their currency to prevent radical Muslims from even touching it.  It is hoped it will have a  positive effect  on tourism.
Rico says Canadian feminists would never allow it, but it's a hell of an idea...

Nah, they just look like aliens

Rico says his father, not as well-known for salacious material as Rico's arch-perv friend Dave, sends this:
Alien Women Are Invading Earth!
Female aliens are invading the earth and kidnapping sexy, good looking men who are great golfers and have large peckers....
You, personally, are not in any danger. I just emailed to say goodbye.

Darwin Awards, yet again

Rico says his friend Bob sends a classic list (if not the most recent) for the Darwin Awards:
Nominee Number One, from the San Jose Mercury News:
An unidentified man, using a shotgun like a club to break a former girlfriend's windshield, accidentally shot himself to death when the gun discharged, blowing a hole in his gut.
Nominee Number Two, from the Kalamazoo Gazette:
James Burns, 34, a mechanic from Alamo, Michigan, was killed in March as he was trying to repair what police describe as a "farm-type truck". Burns got a friend to drive the truck on a highway while Burns hung underneath so that he could ascertain the source of a troubling noise. Burns' clothes caught on something, however, and the other man found Burns "wrapped in the drive shaft".
Nominee Number Three, from the Hickory Daily Record:
Ken Charles Barger, 47, accidentally shot himself to death in December in Newton, North Carolina. Awakening to the sound of a ringing telephone beside his bed, he reached for the phone but grabbed instead a Smith &Wesson .38 Special, which discharged when he drew it to his ear.
Nominee Number Four, from UPI in Toronto, Canada:
Police said a lawyer demonstrating the safety of windows in a downtown Toronto skyscraper crashed through a pane with his shoulder and plunged 24 floors to his death. A police spokesman said Garry Hoy, 39, fell into the courtyard of the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower early Friday evening as he was explaining the strength of the building's windows to visiting law students. Hoy previously had conducted demonstrations of window strength according to police reports.
Peter Lawson, managing partner of the firm Holden Day Wilson, told the Toronto Sun that Hoy was "one of the best and brightest" of their two-hundred-member lawyer association.
Nominee Number Five, from the The News of the Weird:
Michael Anderson Godwin made News of the Weird posthumously. Having spent several years awaiting South Carolina's electric chair on a murder conviction, before having his sentence reduced to life in prison, while sitting on a metal toilet in his cell attempting to fix his small television set, Godwin bit into a wire and was electrocuted.
Nominee Number Six, from The Indianapolis Star:
A cigarette lighter may have triggered a fatal explosion in Dunkirk, Indiana. A Jay County man, using a cigarette lighter to check the barrel of a muzzle-loader, was killed Monday night when the weapon discharged in his face, sheriff's investigators said Gregory David Pryor, 19, died in his parents' rural Dunkirk home at about 11:30 PM. Investigators said Pryor was cleaning a .54-caliber muzzle-loader that had not been firing properly. He was using the lighter to look into the barrel when the gunpowder ignited.
Nominee Number Seven, from Reuters in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada :
A man cleaning a bird feeder on the balcony of his condominium apartment in this Toronto suburb slipped and fell 23 stories to his death. "Stefan Macko, 55, was standing on a wheelchair when the accident occurred," said Inspector Darcy Honer of the Peel Regional Police. "It appears that the chair moved, and he went over the balcony," Honer said.
The winner, from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette:
Two local men were injured when their pickup truck left the road and struck a tree near Cotton Patch on State Highway 38 early Monday. Woodruff County Deputy Dovey Snyder reported the accident shortly after midnight Monday. Thurston Poole, 33, of Des Arc, and Billy Ray Wallis, 38, of Little Rock, were returning to Des Arc after a frog-catching trip. On an overcast Sunday night, Poole's pickup truck headlights malfunctioned. The two men concluded that the headlight fuse on the older-model truck had burned out. As a replacement fuse was not available, Wallis noticed that the 22 caliber bullets from his pistol fit perfectly into the fuse box next to the steering column. Upon inserting the bullet the headlights again began to operate properly, and the two men proceeded on eastbound toward the White River Bridge. After traveling approximately twenty miles, and just before crossing the river, the bullet apparently overheated, discharged, and struck Poole in the testicles. The vehicle swerved sharply right, exited the pavement, and struck a tree. Poole suffered only minor cuts and abrasions from the accident but will require extensive surgery to repair the damage to his testicles, which will never again operate as intended. Wallis sustained a broken clavicle and was treated and released. "Thank God we weren't on that bridge when Thurston shot his balls off, or we might be dead," stated Wallis.
"I've been a trooper for ten years in this part of the world, but this is a first for me. I can't believe that those two would admit how this accident happened," said Deputy Snyder.
Upon being notified of the wreck, Lavinia, Poole's wife, asked how many frogs the boys had caught, and whether anyone had gotten them from the truck.
Rico says he wonders why the winners always seem to be from Arkansas...

27 February 2012

Movie review for the day

Rico says that, every once in awhile, a movie lives up to its promos, and Act of Valor is certainly one of them. Made with real SEALs, using real equipment [everything from a nuclear submarine (photo, top) with a SEAL Delivery Vehicle to Swift boats with chain guns and HALO jumps (photos, center) to the Bonhomme Richard (photo, bottom)], this is one hell of an action movie. (Must be nice, as the director, to have all these great toys to play with; somebody got seriously in bed with the Navy on this one.)
It started out slow, with a rescue of a CIA hostage from a bunch of terrorists, then sped up and zoomed through ops on three continents, with a whole range of bad guys, from the Mexican mafia to Ukrainian smugglers to crazed Chechen jihadis.

Your tax dollars at work

Rico says his friend Tex sends along some photos of Davis-Monthan AFB outside Tucson, with these notes:
If you are ever in the Tucson area, weekly tours are still given through the Tucson Air Museum, located just south of Davis-Monthan AFB. It's difficult to comprehend the size of the 'Bone Yard' and the number of aircraft stored there. Of course, the important thing to remember is that they are all capable of being returned to service if the need ever arises. Remember that each one of these babies had a multi-million-dollar price tag!
Even if you have seen this before, look again.The third largest Air Force in the world is sitting on the ground here. It's the only unit in the U.S. Air Force that actually makes a profit...

Movie review for the day

Rico says there's a bunch of things he doesn't like in a movie (scary-woo-woo shit, creepy sadistic guys who like to hurt women, etc.), but given that Taking Lives starred Angelina Jolie (photo, right), Ethan Hawke, Keifer Sutherland, Gena Rowlands, Jean-Hugues Anglade (known for, among others, La Femme Nikita), and the inestimal Tchéky Karyo (photo, left, also in La Femme Nikita), how bad could it be? (Especially because we get to see Angelina's tits, too)
Well, 103 minutes later, you find out...
Pretty bad, as it turned out. It had all of those bad things, along with one-too-many plot twists (you think you know who the bad guy is, but you're wrong). Fortunately, in the end, Angelina ends up being smarter than the bad guy, and he buys it the hard way.
Does Rico recommend it? Well, if you like creepy guys who kill people, sure, but otherwise there's plenty more out there worth seeing...

Scam for the day

Rico says that, besides the obvious delusional quality of the email, there are two addresses shown, one at Cox.net and the other in Qatar. (Not that that should make you suspicious...)

My name is Richard Ahmed, a merchant in Malaysia and in the UK. I have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. It has defied all forms of medical treatmen. I want you to help distribute my funds of 18,000,000,00 GBP to charities. I have set side 30% for you and your time.

Yours truly,
Mr.Richard Ahmed

They have no sense of humor about stuff like this

Russia and the Ukraine foiled plot to kill Putin
By Vladimir Isachenkov of The Associated Press
Russian and Ukrainian special services have arrested suspects linked to a Chechen rebel leader for allegedly plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, state television reported, less than a week before elections he is all but certain to win. Channel One said the suspects, acting on instructions from Chechen warlord Doku Umarov, were preparing to kill Putin in Moscow immediately after Sunday's election.
The station said the suspects were arrested in the Ukraine's Black Sea port city of Odessa after an accidental explosion on 4 January while they were trying to manufacture explosives at a rented apartment.
The Ukrainian Security Service said on 7 February that it had detained three suspects on terrorist charges in Odessa on 4 February, but it said nothing at the time about them being linked an anti-Putin plot. Its spokeswoman, Marina Ostapenko, said that the announcement in Moscow came now only because the Russian special service was conducting its own investigation.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the report to the ITAR-Tass news agency, but refused to comment further. Russian and Ukrainian special services wouldn't comment.
The station said the source for its information was Russia's Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor agency dealing with domestic security. It was impossible to independently verify the claim.
Opinion polls show that Putin will likely take a first-round victory in the presidential vote despite a series of mass protests in Moscow against his rule that have undermined his image as a powerful and popular leader. He has managed to recoup some of the losses thanks to blanket daily coverage by state-controlled television stations that cast him as a defender of Russia against foreign plots.
Putin has counted the victory over Chechen rebels as one of the key achievements of his rule, and the report about the alleged plot is likely to further boost support.
Channel One said two of the alleged members of the group arrived in the Ukraine from the United Arab Emirates via Turkey with instructions from Umarov, the top military leader for the Chechen rebels. One of them, a Chechen, was killed during the accidental explosion in Odessa and another, Kazakhstani citizen Ilya Pyanzin, was wounded in the blast and arrested.
Pyanzin led the investigators to their liaison in Odessa, Adam Osmayev, a Chechen who previously had lived in London, the report said. The television station showed some footage of Osmayev's arrest in Odessa with black-clad special troops bursting in and a half-naked, bloodied Osmayev on his knees, his head bowed down.
Speaking to Channel One from custody in the Ukraine, Osmayev described the group's mission: "Our goal was to go to Moscow and kill Prime Minister Putin... Our deadline was after the Russian presidential election."
Both of Osmayev's hands were bandaged, and his face was covered in green dots from an antiseptic used to treat his cuts, He said he wouldn't have become a suicide bomber, but another Chechen who was killed in the accidental explosion might have agreed. Osmayev added that they considered using powerful military mines that would make a suicide mission unnecessary.
Umarov claimed responsibility for a January 2011 suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport, which killed 37 and injured more than 180, warning that many more such attacks would follow if Russia did not allow the Caucasus to become an independent Islamic state governed by sharia law.
Umarov also has claimed responsibility for an array of other terror attacks in the past, including the double suicide bombing of the Moscow subway system in March of 2010 that killed forty people. He is seen more as an ideological than a military figure, as many militant cells operate autonomously and shun centralized command.
Umarov and other rebels have so far been silent on the arrests. Channel One said Osmayev had led the investigators to a cache of explosives near a Moscow avenue that Putin uses to travel between his office and a suburban residence. A Russian security officer told the station that the suspects also had videos of Putin's convoy taken from different angles to prepare for the attack.
Pyanzin also was shown saying that they were to sabotage economic facilities and then try to kill Putin.

Idiot for the day

Delco guy picks a fight at a police station
By Kenneth Stewart of the Philadelphia Inquirer
A man walked into the Upper Darby police station early Saturday morning, demanding that his girlfriend be released from custody. This sparked a wrestling match with officers in the lobby and served as a frightening reminder of a fatal 2004 shooting in the same place. In that encounter, a local man was killed and a police officer wounded.
No shots were fired in Saturday's incident, which occurred around 12:30 a.m., but the gunman and two police officers suffered minor injuries, Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said.
On Sunday, Chitwood was reassessing security at the police station on West Chester Pike. "This is a police station, and we want to have an open environment for the community," he said during a news conference. "We're going to have to reevaluate the security. A guy like this guy could walk around with a gun. It's a dangerous situation."
According to Chitwood, Kenneth Stewart, 22, of Glenolden, and his girlfriend, Denise Pepe, 27, of Drexel Hill, had been drinking Friday night at Playhouse Lanes in Upper Darby. Pepe had been taken into custody on charges of public drunkenness and disorderly conduct, Chitwood said. At the police station, Stewart scuffled with Officer William Sides and insisted on Pepe's release and was told she would stay in custody until she was sober, Chitwood said.
When Sides tried to arrest Stewart, he resisted and both men fell to the floor and continued to struggle, according to Chitwood. Officer Michael Begany then entered the lobby and saw Stewart pull a 9mm pistol from the waistband of his pants, Chitwood said. Begany wrenched the gun from Stewart's grasp before it could be fired. A bullet was ejected from the chamber but was not fired, Chitwood said.
"These two officers were fighting for their lives," he said. "It was kind of like a mortal-combat situation."
After Sides and Begany managed to subdue Stewart, they had to Taser him because he continued struggling. He spit blood at them once he was put in a holding cell, Chitwood said.
Stewart was arraigned on charges of attempted murder of two police officers, aggravated assault, and weapons violations after his release from Delaware County Memorial Hospital, where he underwent treatment for minor injuries. The injuries to Sides and Begany did not require medical attention, Chitwood said. Sides returned to duty, and Begany, a military reservist, resumed training with his unit.
Stewart was being held on $250,000 cash bail. At the time of his arrest, he was also wanted by Upper Darby police on an outstanding warrant for allegedly threatening a man with a gun on 30 December.
"It's kind of concerning when the lobby of a police station can be a battleground," Chitwood said. "We probably get thousands of people that go through that lobby in the course of a week."
In the 2004 shooting, Fundador Torres, 22, of Upper Darby, entered the station with a .357 Magnum and 75 rounds of ammunition. After brandishing the weapon, he was killed by police gunfire. Police said Torres, who was drunk and reportedly had recently lost his job, never fired his weapon.
Then-Lieutenant Anthony Paparo, now a captain in charge of the patrol division, was struck in the shoulder by a bullet fired from another police officer's weapon.

Adios, Assad

Rico says that we want the Assad government (such as it is) to stop killing its own people. One way to do that, of course, is to kill Assad himself, on the assumption that 1) the lesson will not be lost on the rest of the clowns running Syria, or 2) that, in the resulting chaos, the people can successfully rise up and complete the revolution, thus achieving the same effect.
How to do that?

Well, we do have one or two cruise missiles available (the one above is known, sweetly, as the Delilah version), and one could certainly take out Assad wherever he is...

And the winner is...

...The Artist, for Best Picture.
The producer, Thomas Langmann, and the director, Michel Hazanavicius, accepted the award. Hazanavicius said  he wanted to thank three people: Billy Wilder, Billy Wilder, and Billy Wilder.
The film also won awards for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Score, and Best Costume Design.

Of course, some people had to pose on the red carpet, including:
Penélope Cruz, who can wear anything (or nothing, if Rico had his way) and look great. and
Sacha Baron Cohen, who just has to be outrageous...

Dave Itzkoff at The New York Times said: Tom Cruise presented the last award of the night, Best Picture, to The Artist (as was widely anticipated). Thomas Langmann offered a thank you "from the bottom of my heart", as Uggie the dog made his first stage appearance of the night. And that's the show, folks...
The Oscar for Best Actor went to Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, who edged out Viola Davis in The Help, and, perhaps, the last genuinely up-for-grabs category of the night.
Melena Ryzik at The New York Times said: As expected, The Artist took best picture, and the French filmmakers and stars behind it provided some of the genuine movie moments the Academy was after: the overarching enthusiasm, emotion, and love of film.
And the winners are:
Best picture: The Artist
Actor in a leading role: Jean Dujardin for The Artist
Actress in a leading role: Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady
Actor in a supporting role: Christopher Plummer for Beginners
Actress in a supporting role: Octavia Spencer for The Help
Director: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Short film, animated: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Short film, documentary: Saving Face
Short film, live action: The Shore
Screenplay, original: Midnight in Paris
Screenplay, adapted from another medium: The Descendants
Original song: Man or Muppet
Original score: The Artist
Visual effects: Hugo
Feature, animated: Rango
Feature, documentary: Undefeated
Sound mixing: Hugo
Editing, sound: Hugo
Editing, film: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Film, foreign language: A Separation
Makeup: The Iron Lady
Costume design: The Artist
Art direction: Hugo
Cinematography: Hugo

26 February 2012


Rico says he was watching Heartbreak Ridge, with Clint Eastwood (photo) as Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway (with the sound off so as not to disturb the ladyfriend), and the morons doing the captioning keep spelling it Gunney...  (Hell, even IMDB got it right.)
They're lucky they don't know a Gunny, like Rico does, who'd square them away quick, like Highway himself:
My name's Gunnery Sergeant Highway and I've drunk more beer and banged more quiff and pissed more blood and stomped more ass that all of you numbnuts put together. 

Scam for the day

Rico says a friend (who should know better) sent him a link to this. Only when you read through mounds of bullshit do you get to the part where you have to send them a hundred bucks before you can enroll in their 'money-making' scheme...

Touchy stuff

Stefan Anton, who's in the business, sent a video of the fuel loading at Diablo Canyon in California.

Familiar faces

Rico says he was watching The Devil Wears Prada, because there wasn't much playing on what, in his youth, was called Date Night Number Two (as the ladyfriend won't watch any of the Pawn series, nor WWII in HD...). Point of the story is that there were several men in the film who've gone on to other things:
Simon Baker, now starring in The Mentalist
Stanley Tucci, now starring in ER
Adrian Grenier (below, left), who's a dead ringer for Timothy Olyphant (below, right), starring in Justified

Deutschland, these days

Rico says his father sent this to Rico's friend Stefan, who is German...

Shouldn't that be Nillywood?

It's another 'who knew' moment, but Andrew Rice, a contributing NYT writer and the author of The Teeth May Smile, but the Heart Does Not Forget, has an article in The New York Times about the film industry, such as it is, in Nigeria:
Kunle Afolayan wants to scare you, he wants thrill you, he wants to make you laugh, but most of all, he would like you to suspend your disbelief— in his plots, yes, which tend to be over the top, but also about what is possible in Africa. He bristles if you call him an “African filmmaker”— a phrase redolent of art-house cinema, which his work assuredly is not. He wants to make huge, explosive, American-style blockbusters, and he wants to make them where he lives: in Nigeria. His ambitions may sound implausible. Nigeria lacks even a reliable supply of electricity. But it does contain a chaotic creative energy that has made it the world’s most prolific producer of films. Twenty years after bursting from the grungy street markets of Lagos, the five-hundred-million-dollar Nigerian movie business churns out more than a thousand titles a year on average, and trails only Hollywood and Bollywood in terms of revenues. The films are hastily shot and then burned onto video CDs, a cheap alternative to DVDs. They are seldom seen in the developed world, but, all over Africa, consumers snap up the latest releases from video peddlers for a dollar or two. And so, while Afolayan’s name is unknown outside Africa, at home, the actor-director is one of the most famous faces in the exploding entertainment scene known, inevitably, as Nollywood.
On a continent where economies usually depend on extracting natural resources or on charity, moviemaking is now one of Nigeria’s largest sources of private-sector employment. Walls around Lagos are plastered with posters reading: Actors/Actresses Wanted. Nollywood stars are everywhere, from billboards to glossy tabloids filled with pictures of red-carpet events. The African Movie Academy Awards, held each year in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, have become a lavish spectacle, drawing visitors like Forest Whitaker and Danny Glover. Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, has recruited Nollywood stars to campaign with him, while Afolayan and others have lent prominent support to a protest movement called Occupy Nigeria.
And yet most of the movies themselves are awful, marred by slapdash production, melodramatic acting and ludicrous plots. Afolayan, who is 37, is one of a group of upstart directors trying to transcend those rote formulas and low expectations. His breakthrough film, the 2009 thriller The Figurine, was an aesthetic leap: while no viewer would confuse it with Citizen Kane, to Nigerians it announced the arrival of a swaggering talent keen to upset an immature industry. Unlike most Nollywood fare, The Figurine was released in actual theaters, not on cheap discs, playing to packed houses next to Hollywood features. “Many observers,” Jonathan Haynes, a scholar of Nollywood, recently wrote, “have been waiting a long time for this kind of filmmaking, which can take its place in the international arena proudly and on equal terms.”
In contrast to Nollywood’s chiseled leading men, Afolayan is stout, speaks with a laid-back drawl, and has a noticeable scar on one side of his face from a car accident. But he has undeniable charisma— a quality his admirers say he inherited from his father, an actor and legendary playboy. One sticky August night, I accompanied Afolayan on a prowl through Lagos, weaving through the metropolis in his monstrous pickup truck. We ended up at an open-air nightclub called King Sized, where heads turned as he made his entrance with a boisterous entourage. In West Africa, a famous presence demands recognition, so the resident highlife band swiftly shifted into an impromptu praise song. Kunle Afolayan, the vocalist began to trill, Kunle Afolayan is here!
As the singer celebrated his name, Afolayan nonchalantly sipped from a sweaty beer bottle. This was a scripted ritual; the entertainment didn’t come free. The chorus reached a crescendo as Afolayan, dressed in faded jeans and bursting from a sheer white shirt, came forward with a huge stack of Nigerian banknotes. He began to dance, shaking his hips and moving his feet, casting off bills with fluid flicks of his wrist— a tribute Nigerians call “spraying”. A band member crawled around, scooping up cash, while Afolayan delighted in the adulation.
When I visited Lagos, Afolayan was preparing to start shooting his follow-up to The Figurine. He told me he hoped to emulate his hero, Mel Gibson, another actor-director from a remote English-speaking land with outsize appetites and ambitions. “It’s sad,” Afolayan said of Gibson’s recent self-destruction. “I love Mel and I’m such a fan of his work.” He was quick to distance himself from Nollywood and its streetwise art of “guerrilla filmmaking”. “Their mind-set,” Afolayan said, “is totally different than mine.”
For all of Afolayan’s grandiose talk, however, the economic realities of African filmmaking conspire against an improvement in quality. The consumer base is huge— there are more than a billion Africans, 155 million of them in Nigeria alone. But access to those buyers is controlled by the clannish merchants who congregate on the outskirts of Lagos at the Alaba International Market, the distribution hub of the African movie business.
To visit Alaba is to catch a glimpse of entertainment in its Hobbesian state, where few laws restrain profiteers, piracy is rampant and all creative calculations yield to the lowest denominator. The market’s cramped concrete stalls are piled high with video CDs packaged in garish paper envelopes. Men pulling carts laden with boxes jostle through unpaved alleyways, passing under flapping banners advertising new releases like Mama’s Girls and Demonic Attack. Castoff plastic discs, the detritus of digital replication, litter the muddy ground like seashells.
This may not be quite what Jean-Luc Godard had in mind when he recently declared that with digital cameras, “everyone is now an auteur”. But it certainly represents a vision of what the future could hold— and not just for Nigeria— if the practice of making entertainment ceases to be rewarding to professionals. Even as Afolayan tossed off cash for his song, he faced a vexing challenge in making his next film: who was going to pay for his work? When everyone is an auteur, who values artistry?
On a Saturday afternoon, in the last hour of precious daylight, Osita Iheme was ready to work. A dwarf popularly known as Paw Paw, and the star of a string of politically incorrect hits with titles like Baby Police, Iheme is one of Nollywood’s most bankable actors. In his latest film, an ensemble comedy set in cramped slum housing, he was playing the lecherous son of a landlord. The director, working with a single Sony digital camera, watched the scene unfold on a beat-up television monitor. It involved a scatological sight gag, a confrontation with a gaggle of female tenants, and lots of screaming. Iheme set his face in an exaggerated glower as the actor playing the landlord wagged his finger and bellowed: “You have turned my place into a market square for madwomen!”
Nollywood’s bawdy humor (or fright or fantasy) appeals to a public seeking escape from depressing living conditions. The industry itself was born out of economic desperation during the early 1990s, a period of military dictatorship, low prices for Nigeria’s oil and Western-mandated “structural adjustment” of its economy. Actors and cameramen were out of work because of budget cuts at the national television station. Movie theaters were closed because no one wanted to venture into the dangerous streets at night. According to legend, the first Nollywood movie was made by a small-time electronics trader named Kenneth Nnebue, who, stuck with a large shipment of blank videotapes, decided to unload them by making a movie about a man who sells his soul for wealth. That movie, Living in Bondage, sold hundreds of thousands of copies and established Nollywood’s archetypal plot elements: martial discord, greed, a conflict between Christianity and juju, as the occult is called in West Africa. From these accidental origins, a cultural phenomenon emerged.
Other merchants, overwhelmingly members of Nnebue’s ethnic group, the Igbo, followed him into business. They literally made things up as they went, shooting movies in just a few days, based on vague scenarios instead of scripts. Directors approximated tracking shots by pushing their cameramen around in wheelchairs. Quality was shaky, but the buying public didn’t care. Between 1994 and 2005, production in Nigeria went from a handful of feature movies a year to more than 2,500.
“We watch these Africa films like Blood Diamond and The Last King of Scotland— they’re always from the perspective of the Europeans,” says Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, who has directed more than 160 features. He was the subject of a documentary called Nollywood Babylon, which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, and he told me that, when he went to the festival, he was shocked to discover that some American directors had been working for years to make just one movie.
Kenneth Nnebue quit Nollywood a few years ago, retiring to his village to devote his life to preaching the Bible. But the industry he established remains tightly controlled by the same group of Igbo businessmen, an insular guild sometimes called the Alaba cartel.
Afolayan’s father, known as Ade Love, was a leading man in the Nigerian film scene of the 1970s, until it was ruined by economic collapse. Up to his death in 1996, he warned his son away from show business, pushing him into a stable career in banking, and although Afolayan eventually went against his father’s wishes, he absorbed the bitter lesson that artistic aspirations mean little without a sustainable business model. As things stand, moviemakers must sell a huge volume of discs, very quickly, in order to turn a profit. Pirates— taking advantage of the same mass-replication technology that made Nollywood possible in the first place— almost immediately rip off any popular new release. So the black market effectively sets everyone’s prices.
To make the more costly kind of films he envisions, Afolayan has been compelled to devise a strategy that goes around Alaba. “They’re just businesspeople,” Afolayan says dismissively. “They could not really care less about content.” In an evolutionary inversion, his strategy depends on theaters, which have returned to Nigeria along with democracy and the global oil boom. Movie tickets have become a fashionable indulgence for Lagos’ expanding population of prosperous professionals. It is in this privileged world— not the slums— that Afolayan’s movie The Figurine takes place. Since its sensational release, people have begun to speak of an emerging movement— the New Nollywood— that has captivated a new generation of would-be filmmakers.
My visit coincided with a month-long program, conducted by the New York Film Academy, that was training 250 Nigerian students in the rudiments of professional technique. I sat in on a shoot for Awakening, being made by some earlier graduates of the program, well-educated strivers in their twenties, some of whom had quit good jobs at banks or telecommunications companies to devote themselves to the project. The director, James Omokwe, said that he had seen The Figurine twice and wanted to follow its lead into the theaters. “We don’t have the money to finish the movie,” Omokwe added, cheerfully. “But we will definitely do it somehow.”
Many established Nigerian directors are also making big plans for the big screen, with big budgets, and they all seem to have a part for Danny Glover. One night I took a glass elevator up to the Silverbird Cinema, an American-style mall multiplex in a nouveau riche section of Lagos. After paying about seven dollars— an exorbitant sum in Nigeria— I watched The Mirror Boy, a hot New Nollywood release. It was about an African boy, raised in Britain, who returns home and ends up on a long quest through the jungle, accompanied by a ghostly guide, played by Osita Iheme. The production values were far superior to anything I had seen on video, but the movie still climaxed in Nollywood’s customary blaze of sorcery, inspiring one audience member to shout out: “Africa!”
Nollywood movies, both old and new, often play on traditional African beliefs about magic and spirits. The Figurine is about two young university graduates— rivals for the same woman’s affections— who stumble on a shrine and uncover the statue of a god. The figurine is supposed to grant seven years of good luck, followed by seven of misfortune. Afolayan’s character brings it home to Lagos, wins the girl and great wealth, at which point the plot takes a horror-genre turn.
“That’s the figurine,” Afolayan said one day at his office, pointing to a carved wooden prop on his shelf. By this point, I was starting to wonder about the fortune it had brought Afolayan. His follow-up film, Phone Swap, was supposed to be shooting. But just a few days before, one of its stars, a beloved character actor named Sam Loco Efe (photo), dropped dead while shooting another movie. The newspapers were filled with condolences, as well as speculation that the veteran actor might have been killed by overwork.
Phone Swap was supposed to be a humorous and commercially appealing diversion. Instead it was threatening to become a debacle. As usual, Afolayan had to contend with the absence of vital equipment, decent roads, and reliable electricity. He had abruptly dropped his leading man for cantankerous behavior. Now came the untimely death of Sam Loco. “I was just so devastated,” Afolayan said, telling me that the day before he had quit work early to curl up and watch romantic comedies.Afolayan also handles the financial side of his productions, and Phone Swap was conceived with an eye toward product placement, though the cellphone company originally involved had backed out. The story involves a pair of opposites, a free-spirited single girl from the country and a serious Lagos businessman who end up enmeshed in each other’s lives after they mix up their phones. The plot was made to appeal to Nigeria’s new elite, for whom the BlackBerry is a totem as powerful as any figurine. Sam Loco was supposed to play the female lead’s father, an Igbo farmer.
One morning, while he considered replacements for Sam Loco, Afolayan assembled his key crew members to scout locations in the town of Badagry, near the border with Benin. We left before dawn to avoid Lagos’ paralyzing traffic jams. Badagry sits along a route often used by smugglers, and there were police roadblocks along the way. But Afolayan blew right through them in his big truck, shouting “Are you crazy?” at one cop who tried to step in front. The town, an old slaving port, was meant to stand in for an Igbo village. From the back seat, the art director Pat Nebo, an Igbo, gave a lecture on the group’s customs and agricultural practices, lots of painstaking talk about palm oil and kola nuts. “Don’t forget this is a comedy film,” Afolayan gently reminded him.
We came to the small concrete house that would serve as the set of the farm. “It’s so dirty,” Afolayan said happily. Everyone walked through its dank main hallway, which smelled of smoke and fish, into a sandy backyard where laundry flapped in the wind. “Fantastic, this is brilliant,” said the cinematographer Yinka Edward, as he began conceptualizing an ambitious crane shot.
“The house becomes a major character of the film,” Nebo pronounced, before heading off to scout for appropriate livestock.
Afolayan’s budget for Phone Swap, around half-a-million dollars, was tiny by Hollywood standards but Spielberg-sized for Nigeria. Before embarking on the project, Afolayan went to potential investors with a thirty-page business plan, discussing everything from plot details to the fees for equipment rentals and actors. He managed to entice an investor to pledge $1.5 million, enough to finance his next three films. But as deadlines neared, the money still had not appeared. He handed over his BlackBerry so I could read a series of progressively more frustrated email messages. “Most of these investors, they just think business,” Afolayan said. “They don’t really understand the ethic of production.”
Of course, profit motives drove the development of the medium long before pretensions of artistry. The first American movies were disdained by respectable society, but the price of admission— five cents, hence the term nickelodeon— made them popular with working-class audiences. One day in 1906, an unemployed clothing merchant named Carl Laemmle, who was thinking about starting a five-and-dime, happened to walk into a packed Chicago nickelodeon. “It was evident that the basic idea of motion pictures and Woolworth’s innovation were identical,” Laemmle later wrote, “small-price commodity in tremendous quantities.” Laemmle started his own theater, and eventually expanded into producing content, founding Universal Pictures
The businessmen behind Nollywood have followed a similar path from upstart to mogul. In the absence of strong legal institutions, Nigeria’s movie marketers formed a guild to govern their industry, colluding to regulate supply and production costs. The guild has resisted all attempts by actors and producers to push for a larger share of revenue.
“We created the industry,” Gab Okoye, a marketer who goes by the name Gabosky, proudly said one afternoon. We were standing near the red carpet outside a Lagos banquet hall, where the local chapter of the guild was about to inaugurate new officers. To celebrate and pay homage, all of old Nollywood had turned out in its flashiest finery, lots of bright ankara cloth and dark sunglasses. Gabosky, who was wearing a hip-hop-inspired ensemble, told me he felt disrespected by the new filmmakers like Afolayan. He called them “houseboys” who had forgotten their place. “He’s started complaining about his master,” he said, “who was giving him a job yesterday.”
Inside, the powerful guild president, Emmanuel Isikaku, took the stage. “Nollywood is still alive,” he told the audience. “Nollywood is still great.” The defensive tenor of his declaration was indicative of the marketers’ mood. They had built an entertainment enterprise without precedent in Africa, and yet they felt unappreciated and besieged. The government was trying to crack down with increased fees and oversight. The event’s written program warned of the calamity of regulation and maligned Nigerian actors as “lazy”. When stars become too demanding, marketers deal with them ruthlessly. A few years ago, they put several prominent actors on a blacklist, and none were allowed to work, according to a guild official, until they begged forgiveness.
The marketers say they can’t afford the extravagances of talent. The production budget for a typical Nollywood movie ranges between $25,000 and $50,000, less than a tenth of what Afolayan was proposing for Phone Swap. The marketers contend that spending more would be foolish, because the low price of Nollywood movies is part of their appeal. “You must first identify who your primary market is,” Isikaku, a shrewd and sinewy operator, told me. “If your primary audience is the elites and the middle class, the people that can go to the cinema, fine, well and good. But there are some programs that are meant for the people on the street.”
Richmond Ezihe, the guild boss at Alaba market, tried to explain Nollywood economics to me. We met one afternoon in front of the stall that serves as the base for his company. Pasted to its metal door was a poster for a recent feature, Palace of Blood. When Ezihe, who is the financier and executive producer, comes up with the concept for a movie, he gives it to a couple of screenwriters he keeps on retainer, and then hires a director to hurriedly shoot it, having the film ready for sale on the Alaba market within a month or two.
Ezihe has a number of ways to monetize his product: there’s a satellite television station, an overseas DVD market catering to the African diaspora, and even a Netflix-inspired website called Nollywood Love. But most revenues still come from physical sales. It costs less than twenty cents to burn a blank VCD and package it, but the wholesale price for movies is so cheap that a marketer might need to sell 100,000 copies just to make a decent return. The average Nollywood movie has a shelf life of about two weeks before the pirates get hold of it. In Nigeria, an estimated five to ten illegal VCDs are sold for every legitimate one, and the police make no serious effort to deter the trade.
“It really has eaten deep into our finances,” Ezihe said, claiming— as did every other marketer I met— to be mystified about the identity of the troublesome scofflaws. “They’re hiding,” he said. In fact, clues as to the pirates’ whereabouts were strewed all around Alaba, where American movies and television series, rap music, and video games of doubtful provenance were selling next to the latest Nollywood hits. Many of the movie marketers originally got into the business by pirating Hollywood movies, a practice that continues to flourish. “Piracy is not a problem with the system,” said Jade Miller, an academic at Tulane University who has researched Nollywood’s economics. “It is the system, essentially.”
The legal and illegal industries continue to operate in parallel, within an opaque system of relationships and rules set by the Alaba cartel, Emeka Mba, head of Nigeria’s efforts to regulate the film industry, told me. “The pirates, they know them— it’s part of them,” he said. The marketers seldom use lawyers, accountants, or written contracts; when they make a film, it is often unclear who even holds the copyright. When Mba’s agency tried to impose some legal order, for instance mandating that marketers register under a postal address, he met brutal resistance. Anti-piracy raids, though rare, have sparked violent uprisings at Alaba.
Isikaku did not deny that there were pirates in his membership’s midst, but he claimed that guild leaders were trying to confront them, sometimes physically, sometimes with persuasion. But the reality is that when everyone is stealing, you have to price like a pirate.
Carl Laemmle might have recognized the marketers’ situation. When he started Universal, he immediately came into conflict with Thomas Edison, who held patents on movie cameras and projectors. Edison had been waging a legal battle against “dupers”, unauthorized copyists who would take a film and redistribute it, often just snipping off the copyright frames. As Edison saw it, his intellectual property rights gave him a monopoly on all film production. He went after Laemmle, too, filing some 289 lawsuits against him and dispatching goons to break up his film shoots.
Laemmle responded by organizing some other “independents”, a handful of mostly Jewish movie producers who operated out of New York. In 1917, they defeated Edison in the Supreme Court. But, by that time, the independents had already moved en masse out to California, where they could shoot in sunny weather, away from the chill of legal scrutiny. “They were pirates!” says Bic Leu, a Fulbright fellow who has studied Nollywood. “They moved to Los Angeles to get away from Thomas Edison.”
One evening at a hotel bar, I happened to run into a Nigerian-born actor named Wale Ojo. We got to talking, and he said that, after scraping by for years in London, he returned to try his luck back home. A few days thereafter, in a true Nollywood twist, I met Ojo a second time, when Afolayan introduced him to me as the new lead actor in Phone Swap. Afolayan had us over one Sunday evening to drink wine by his poolside, along with some friends from the industry and a couple of international film buffs.
“Black British actors are cheap right now,” Ojo said.
“Good,” Afolayan replied. “Because I don’t have the money to pay you.”
Afolayan had also come up with an actor to take Sam Loco’s role, so everything was in place for Phone Swap except the financing, which remained frustratingly elusive. The director kept offering self-confident assurances that his backer would come through. But anyone could tell that, all quips aside, he was anxious.
Perversely, the rise of video, which had given Afolayan the ability to practice his father’s craft, had also robbed it of its value. His career represents a possibly rash wager: that even in the most lawless marketplace, talent is still worth a premium. When he started to make The Figurine, announcing on Facebook that he planned to spend fifty million naira, roughly $350,000, the universal reaction was incredulity. Afolayan told me: “Everybody started writing, saying: ‘How will you make your money? You want to commit suicide?’ ” To pay for The Figurine, Afolayan took out a bank loan for half the budget, pledging his house as collateral, and subsidized another third of the movie through product placement.
Kunle was out to make a statement, that it was possible to make a good film in this country using local hands,” Yinka Edward said. When he ran out of money at one point, stalling production, Afolayan borrowed from family and friends and asked his cast and crew to keep working on good faith.
His efforts appeared to receive vindication in the box-office performance of The Figurine. But the triumphal narrative breaks down when you examine the financials. For all its acclaim, Afolayan said that The Figurine had yet to turn a substantial profit. The movie showed to packed houses, but there are just seven major theaters in Nigeria, and it grossed only around $200,000 in its initial release, not enough to cover Afolayan’s investment.
To maximize revenues, Afolayan made a deal with an independent entertainment company that was having encrypted DVDs of The Figurine shipped in from China for mass distribution. The executive handling the project told me that his plan was to simultaneously release a huge number of copies across the country, so as not to create scarcity, which encourages piracy. Then he drew a diagram of his network, each strand of which ended with some regional marketer. There was just no way to circumvent the unyielding force of the cartel. Emeka Mba, the government regulator, told me that he saw Afolayan’s efforts to devise a new distribution system as an inspirational experiment. “Here’s a guy who wants to do things differently,” he said. “Here is a guy who is brave.”
After weeks of waiting for his nervous investor, Afolayan called his editor and sidekick, Steve Sodiya, into his office and said he had decided to move forward. “I want to start with my own money,” Afolayan told him. “We have to start the shoot. I’ve been making a backup plan.” It involved some financing from product placement, and a large personal endorsement contract from a cellphone company. His production company’s office, sleepy for days, was suddenly abuzz with frantic preparation: costumes, casting, equipment rentals. Afolayan spent an afternoon in last-minute negotiations to knock down everyone’s fees. “You think I am not resourceful?” he shouted at one resistant crew member.
In the final week of August, Phone Swap finally began shooting in Badagry. Afolayan presided over the shoot from a canvas director’s chair. The week before, local meteorologists warned of an epic rainstorm, but this time luck was with him. One evening, on the shabby farmhouse set, Wale Ojo, who was playing the uncomfortable city slicker, positioned himself for his first scene, and Afolayan shouted, “Action!”
Weeks later, after shooting wrapped, Afolayan emailed me a clip of the rushes and informed me that he was “dead broke”. A trailer, featuring a scene in an airplane cabin painstakingly recreated by Pat Nebo, built anticipation when it hit YouTube in November. The movie is scheduled to have its premiere over the next two months in Lagos, Accra, and London. Already, though, Afolayan is planning his next film, which he calls a passion project. He told me something about it while I was in Lagos. Sitting in his unlit office one rainy day, he excitedly explained that it would be about a dead man who walks the earth, refusing to admit his condition. He said he hoped to land Danny Glover for a big part. “I’m creating two worlds,” Afolayan told me. “The land of the dead and the land of the living.” It seemed impolite to interrupt to ask when the office’s electricity might return.
Rico says it sounds a lot like his predicament with Zone of Fire...

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