Gringo Manaba

Adventuras y Fantasias or Fantastical Adventures


  • March 2007
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Archive for March, 2007

Whitey Bulger Busted in Berlin

Posted by glasscastle on 31st March 2007

MILAN— Infamous Boston mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger was arrested Wednesday night at the Heavenly Acres trailer park in Milan where he has been hiding for the past three years.

Striking in the middle of the night, FBI agents set up barriers and surrounded the modest trailer. Bulger’s longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig immediately surrendered, running out of the trailer with her hands over her head, dressed in a skimpy green negligee.

Bulger, however, refused to give up. He kept police at bay for several hours but finally surrendered after agents set up loud speakers and blasted Barry Manilow tunes at the building.

As the alleged leader of the Boston-based Winter Hill gang, Bulger is alleged to have been involved in scores of killings and is wanted for murder, racketeering, money laundering, narcotic distribution among other charges.

On the FBI’s ten Most Wanted List, Bulger was the inspiration for crime kingpin Francis “Frank” Costello, played by Jack Nickerson in the movie ‘The Departed’.

Bulger had successfully eluded authorities since 1998 but in the end the aging gangster’s body gave him away. A nurse at Androscoggin Valley Hospital official saw the 77-year old Bulger’s picture on America’s Most Wanted and recognized him as a former patient who had undergone minor surgery at the facility for hemorrhoids.

She notified authorities and is in line to cash in on the $1 million reward.

Burger and Greig locally went by the names Tony and Carmela Alto. Neighbors at Heavenly Acres described them as a quiet couple who enjoyed barbecuing on their Weber gas grill.

“They seemed so ordinary – just like regular folks,” said Mary Smith, who asked that her real name not be used. “Although come to think of it, they never had much company. And when they did it was always strange-looking guys with names like No-Neck and Li’l Antony.”

Another neighbor said the two did a lot of walking and Bulger was fond of the fried haddock plate at Northland Restaurant. He occasionally attended mass at St. Anne Church where he liked to pass the collection plate. Church officials said receipts for masses that Bulger worked were about 20 percent lower than usual.

The pair were regulars at Sunday night Bingo at the V.F.W. Club. One volunteer worker described Bulger as polite and said he liked to play a lot of cards. The worker, however, recalled an incident in which Bulger knocked over the card of a player sitting next to him after the player had called Bingo before him.

“It was apparent Bulger was mad the player had reached Bingo before him. He had been waiting some time for one letter and it was a big jackpot. He had a killer look in his eyes,” the volunteer said.

After his arrest, Bulger was taken before Berlin District Court Judge Ann Wallace for bail hearing. The mobster, rumored to have been a ladies man during his years in Boston, winked at the judge and asked if she remembered him. The judge was not amused, noting that the balding Bulger was hardly someone she would let under her robes.

That comment elicited an angry outburst from Bulger who had to be physically restrained. As he was dragged from the courtroom, Bulger yelled, “I can have you killed. You’ve messed with the wrong man.”

from the Berlin Daily Sun

Well, it’s about time. Just like that wiley SOB to be hinding right under our noses, in a trailer park bunker in Berlin…..

Posted in Wacky News | 8 Comments »

High Holy Days

Posted by glasscastle on 31st March 2007

In Israel they won’t be passing many dubbies this Passover. The country’s pro-pot Green Leaf Party ("Aleh Yarok") has sent a mass e-mail to its members warning that hemp-related products may be a no-no for those who keep Kosher during Pesach. According the party’s spokeswoman, "we are considering announcing a ban on everything containing hemp just to be on the safe side. We are going with the rabbis on this. People should remove all cannabis and hemp from their homes." Oy Vey!

from the Washington Post

What! Israel has a pro-pot political party? Who knew? Actually, when the Dowbrigade was there last, 37 years ago, nobody was smoking pot. They were too busy smoking hashish.

But apparently times have changed, and cannabis is not Kosher during Passover. But wait, this is Israel, and these are the Chosen People, and things are never that simple. One of the good points of Judaism, to an independent cur like the Dowbrigade, is that it, like Islam, has no Pope. No ultimate authority, Papal edicts, definitive ruling or excommunication. Just like the factitious schools and sects of Islam, in Judaism every Rabbi has his or her own opinion, which carries weight directly proportional to his or her reputation and respect in religious circles. We decided to investigate further.

The first thing we noticed when we arrived at the marijuana story page at the Jerusalem Post was the huge banner ad at the top of the page for Rudy Guliani. Interesting, that the ex-mayor of NYC is courting cash and favor in the Holy Land. What’s up with that?

Anyway, the JP reports that :

Of the dozen rabbis whom The Jerusalem Post questioned on this issue, none offered a conclusive statement about how hemp should be classified for Pessah. As Rabbi Daniel Kohn of Bat Ayin explained, the issue ultimately boils down to an individual decision by each rabbi about whether hemp seeds themselves could be considered edible. If a rabbi decides that the seeds are edible, then hemp – and, by extension, marijuana – would not be considered permissible for Pessah.

"There is no problem with hemp clothing, and of course, anything that is taken for medicinal purposes would be fine," said Kohn. "Many would look at it like cottonseed oil. There are a variety of opinions. If one considered it edible, then it is included in kitniyot."

from the Jerusalem Post

Ya gotta love it. As in any true system of relativistic morality, it all depends on how you look at things. If you consider the seeds edible, then it is not kosher. But hashish has no seeds, consisting of the resinous excretions of the unfertilized female plants. Even when pat is cooking into brownies, cookies or cake, the stems and seeds are meticulously removed, and only the leaves and buds are cooked and eaten.

Furthermore, it is unclear whether the prohibition applies only to eaten cannabis, as opposed to the smoked variety. Of course, if it is not Kosher, you are supposed to remove it from your house. Does that mean you can go out and smoke it in the bushes?

Obviously, the Rabbis can go ’round and ’round on topics like this one. It could keep the Sanhedrin buzzing for weeks. Any Rabbis who are also members of Aleh Yarok could get lost in the discussion for the rest of their careers.

Everyone knows that Jews love to argue. No one could argue with that, except Jews.

As far as the old Dowbrigade, it sure brings back memories. There one particular hash house we remember, in a run-down section of Jaffa, an ancient Arab port city a few klicks south of Tel Aviv. From the outside it looked like one more squat, one-story cement storefront, no windows and no signs, crowded in among tire patchers and spice sellers and unidentified doorways guarded by darkly dangerous dudes.

When you knocked on the heavy wooden door with its stained but oiled steel bolts and hinges, a steel slat slid back at about eye level, and you’d get the once over. If you passed muster, you passed inside, and for a minute you were blinded by the change in ambient light level.

After your eyes adjusted to the dim, smoky atmosphere, you noticed that every available surface, walls, floor and ceiling, was covered with fabulously intricate and tightly woven rugs in deep wool colors, earthen browns and dark molten reds, geometric designs which would become become orders of magnitude more fantastical by the end of the visit.

Spaced out around the room, in the corners and along the walls, were rough circles of pillows, made from an assortment of richly woven silks and wools. Typically, 2 or 3 of the circles would be occupied on a lazy weekday afternoon, each with 5 or 6 assorted Arab gentlemen, some seemingly in their teens, young and voluble although respectful, some seemingly the ancient grandfathers of the same teenagers, but all dressed in similar long white flowing robes.

In the center of each circle was an elaborate four-foot high hookah, cast bronze, with multiple hoses snaking their way to the assorted smokers. The hoses were wrapped in rich, dark velvet sewn with leather straps, and tipped with solid silver mouthpieces. Some of the groups were smoking tobacco, some were smoking hashish, and some were mixing or alternating.

Smokables and steaming sweet tea were brought to the customers by a pair of 10 or 11 year-old boys. An order for hashish was served up in the form of "fingers" of reddish Lebanese resin. A "finger" was a tootsie-roll sized and shaped chunk of congealed cannabis concentrate weighing it at about 7 grams and costing, in those days in Arab Israel about 5 or 6 dollars. According to our sources. An order for tea was served up in chipped white porcelain mugs.

These dens of indigenous iniquity were open from around lunchtime until the wee hours of the morning, seven days a week. As far as we can remember, they didn’t close for Passover.

Posted in Friends and Family | 4 Comments »

The Dog Ate It, Doc

Posted by glasscastle on 28th March 2007

A Chinese woman escaped jail after she cut off her husband’s penis and threw it out of the window.

The man drove himself to hospital – but doctors couldn’t reattach the organ as it had been eaten by a dog, reports Jinling Evening Post.

Yao Fengfang was given a three year suspended jail sentence after her husband, Li Gengbao, asked the judge to be lenient.

Li, a taxi driver in Nanjing city, said he wanted his wife to keep her liberty so she could look after him for the rest of his life.

Yao suspected her husband, of having an affair with his ex-wife and confronted him after seeing his taxi parked outside of her house.

On the way back home, Yao threatened to ‘disable’ his husband but he thought she was bluffing. Li went to bed early but he was woken at midnight by a sharp pain.

He said: "My wife was holding a large part of my penis, and I pleaded with her to send me to hospital immediately, but she refused firmly, and when I pleaded with her to give me back the cut penis, she threw it out of the window."

Li wrapped his wound with a pillow cover and drove his taxi to Nanjing City First Hospital.

The hospital carried out emergency surgery and sent staff to look for Li’s severed penis, but found it had been eaten by a neighbour’s dog.

from Ananova

Posted in Wacky News | 5 Comments »

Geek Conference Head Denies Terror List Link

Posted by glasscastle on 20th March 2007

As previously reported, the Dowbrigade spent the past weekend at BarCamp Boston 2, the "unconference" for tech types this time held at MIT’s Stata Center. The GQ (Geek Quotient) was off the chart, and we stood little chance of understanding most of the presentations or even the hallway chatter.

However, we have never let ignorance or lack of credentials stand in our way of making a fool of ourselves, so we donned our Cultural Anthropologists cap and set out on a field expedition to study the grooming and mating habits of the American Geek in his natural habitat.

First of all, we must say we were a bit disappointed in the interior of the polemic Stata Building itself. After the mind-bending lines and reflective surfaces of the exterior, we expected the interior to be positively Daliesque, with melting plastic drips and drabs creating a phantasmagoric work environment. Actually, aside from a few off-kilter beams and acutely angled windows, the inside is pretty normal. Or so it seemed.

As to the presentations themselves, we did a pretty good job of selecting sessions where at least the participants and presenters were using English. Amanda Watlington’s session on attracting traffic to embedded audio and video files, and Adam Weiss’s session on Podcasting stand out.

Kudos to everyone involved in organizing this gig, especially Mike Walsh, Sooz (of Exploit-Boston) and Shimon Rura, featured in the accompanying video trying to explain why he was late for his own conference. Thanks to sponsors and participants the damn thing nearly broke even. Our only complaint; we’ve been to two of these things now, and we still haven’t found the BarCamp Bar.

Bar Camp Boston Web site

Shimon Rura interview

Posted in Technology | 1 Comment »

Does Rover Know She Has a Name?

Posted by glasscastle on 19th March 2007

While perusing the Sunday paper, an odd scrap often catches in the old cranial craw, requiring rumination and later regurgitation. Case in point, from that paragon of American journalism, Parade Magazine:

Nancy Cassidy, from Falls Church, VA, asks Ms. Smartypants, aka Marilyn von Savant, the Smartest Woman in the World, as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records, "Do pets really know they have names?"

While we have a great deal of respect for Ms. Smartypants, primarily because she has managed to turn her off-the-charts I.Q. into fabulous fame and fortune rather than an early grave or a trip to the nuthouse like most super-geniuses, in this case her answer left much to be desired:

"No. The repetition of a pet’s "name" merely provokes a learned response, depending on how the owner vocalizes the name. To a pet, it might mean anything from "come along, now" to "time for dinner". Try saying your pet’s name disapprovingly, and he may hang his head unhappily as if he’s done something wrong."

Well, duhh. So how does Rover hanging her head after we point out she has crapped on the doormat indicate she doesn’t know we are addressing her alone when we start an utterance with "Rover"? Not only that, but when we disapprovingly say "Fluffy" because the CAT shat the mat, it is the cat who raises his head in feigned incomprehension, while Rover wags her tail, pleased to see our displeasure directed towards her rival for our affection.

We are sure that on those bleak Arctic afternoons when Lance Mackey was madly mushing his way towards the finish line of the 34th Iditarod dog-sled race last week in Alaska, that each and every one of his 12-dog team knew its own name, and probably the names of its harness-mates.

And we know for a fact that dogs understand a lot more language than just their names. When we were a wee tyke and walked to our neighborhood primary school, every morning Rover would sadly see us off, stoically prepared for six hours of boring loneliness until our return. Before leaving we would tell her where we were going that afternoon upon our release. Either right back home, or to best friend Bobby Horowitz’s house on the next block, or to our Grandmother’s house on Highland Avenue, near the school. Inevitably, Rover would be waiting at the designated destination before the final school bell rang.

Rover, in fact, was smarter than most of the people we have known in the intervening 50 years, although probably not smarter than Marilyn…..

from Parade Magazine (content appears on-line one week after publication)

Posted in Weird Science | Comments Off on Does Rover Know She Has a Name?

Y J-OnE Kant Rede

Posted by glasscastle on 17th March 2007

We’ve been hearing this crap for far too long. American education is going to the dogs. Test scores are down across the board, in Reading and Writing and Rithmatic. On a list of Average National Test Scores the US is stuck somewhere between Liberia and Lesotho.

As an educator, parent and keen observer of youth culture, the Dowbrigade can testify to the ridiculous inaccuracy of these dire pronouncements. Kids today are beau coup smart.

It’s just that the standardized tests they’re using aren’t catching the overt manifestations of the skills and smarts that our kids are developing.

American adolescents today have mad skills, and are able to do tons of things the authors of the disparaging articles and the tests themselves couldn’t dream of, or perhaps even understand. They have mastered text-messaging, instant messaging, multimedia messaging, and are working on telepathy. They can not only program VCR’s, but also TiVos, microwave ovens, remote controls and telephones so complicated that they leave adults with multiple advanced degrees in tears. They can whip an alien starcraft around a wormhole, and switch between a plasma rifle and a rocket launcher in the blink of an eye.

Today’s educational system does not teach them any of these skills, and the standardized tests do not measure them. Now, we are not advocating that high schools start teaching video game skills. But the fact is that our entire educational system was designed in the 1960’s to focus on and evaluate what in 1960 was the operant definition of literacy – Reading and Math.

Today, in 2007, being a literate, participatory member of what our society and culture have become requires considerably more than that.

Despite numerous well-intentioned renovations, curriculum updates and government initiatives, the basics of primary and secondary education have remained unchanged for 40 years. What is needed is a complete overhaul, starting with a reconsideration of what is important for every citizen and resident to know, and what skills are needed to survive and thrive in the 21st century.

Like most teachers and parents, we have noted with alarm a marked decline in reading skills, reading speed and comprehension, familiarity with the classics of literature and simple reading for pleasure. At the same time, the reasons for this are abundantly clear; the intense media competition for available brain cycles.

When the Dowbrigade was a kid, there were a total of three channels on television, almost all of the programs sucked, and the stations closed up shop at 11 pm (with the Star Spangled Banner). The closest thing to video games we had were an Etch-a-Sketch and Magic Rocks. If you think today’s tubers are mindless zombies, you should have seen us watching Magic Rocks grow multicolored moss. It took days.

Quite simply, we became an inveterate reader because most of the rest of our life in a bland, white middle-class suburb in Upstate New York was insufferably dull. We burrowed under our covers after bedtime with a flashlight and a book because we were starved for entertainment and intellectual stimulation which only Isaac Asimov or Ian Fleming could provide.

We are absolutely certain that if we were that age now, we would be consuming alternative media at an astounding pace and reading little if anything,

Which is not to say that having strong reading skills is not still a desirable condition, or that familiarity with the classics is not a sign of culture and education. But having worked one’s way through A Farewell to Arms or A Tale of Two Cities is no longer a prerequisite to understanding our world in 2007. Rather, it is more a sign of sophistication, like knowing how to play croquet or cook a souffle

Posted in Prose Screeds | 3 Comments »

Half-Assed Belly Dancer Sues Doc

Posted by glasscastle on 16th March 2007

A German belly dancer has been awarded

Posted in Wacky News | Comments Off on Half-Assed Belly Dancer Sues Doc

OED Claims to have Invented WIKIs – 150 years ago!

Posted by glasscastle on 16th March 2007

LONDON — If you think "wiki" doesn’t sound like English, you are right. But it’s English now.

This word born on the Pacific Island of Hawaii finally got an entry into the latest edition of the online Oxford English Dictionary along with 287 other new words.
It has earned it.

"Words are included in the dictionary on the basis of the documentary evidence that we have collected about them. A while ago this evidence suggested that wiki was starting to make a name for itself," John Simpson, the dictionary’s chief editor, said in a statement.

"We tracked it for several years, researched its origins and finally decided it was time to include it in the dictionary,"

But "wiki wiki," meaning "quick" in Hawaiian, has a very different meaning in its new host language: a type of Web page designed so that its contents can be edited by anyone who accesses it.

That the word acquired a new meaning is attributed to the fact that commenting and editing on Internet websites became faster, said the dictionary’s principle editor of new words, Graeme Diamond.

"There was no delay in submitting a comment," Diamond said.

The most famous example is the popular Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia. Diamond said the Internet-age concept of "wiki" fits well with the 120-year-old dictionary’s own methods.
"Its long tradition of working on collaborative principles means it has welcomed the contribution of information and quotation evidence from the public over 150 years," he said.

from the Boston Globe

Posted in Comics | 2 Comments »

Say Goodbye to Radio Free Interent

Posted by glasscastle on 15th March 2007

Music maven and Berkman blogger Sooz made the Globe yesterday, on the front page of the Business section. While this was not where we expected to find Sooz in the paper (Local? National? Arts? Sidekick?) it introduced us to a previously unglimpsed side of her personality.

Sooz, it seems, has her own internet radio station on the popular Live365 streaming audio site. As it happens, Live365 is one of the few premium services that the professionally parsimonious Dowbrigade actually pays for, listening to obscure channels like Momo Radio (Brazilian Funk) and LoungemasterLondon (electronic/chill), so we will add Sooz’s Exploit.Boston channel (Boston indie bands) to our favorite channels list – for as long as it lasts.

The gist of the article is that due to a substancial rise in ther fees internet broadcasters are forced to pay for the rights to use the music. This is not a problem for Howard Stern and satrad, but if it goes into effect it will effectively shut down poor Sooz and her "dozens" of loyal listeners.

We expect to see Sooz this weekend at Barcamp Boston II, a free (registration required) Un-conference to be held at the MIT Stata Center, one of the most discussed recent additions to the local architecture here in Beantown.

This bizarre building is the latest excretion of controversial Canadian architect Frank O. Gehry. We really like what he did with the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, but the Stata Center reminds us of a particularly unpleasant STP trip we took in 1972, at least from the outside.

Hopefully, we will soon get a chance to post from the conference, and get to see what the inside looks like. Pictures and report to follow.

article from the Boston Globe

Bar Camp Boston

Posted in Comics | 1 Comment »

Spring in the Air – a Waft of Teargas

Posted by glasscastle on 13th March 2007

Local action in Boston concerning the Homeland Security Gestapo-style raid on the defense-contractor leather factory in New Bedford seems to be percolating up from the grass-roots level. The Dowbrigade position on immigration is that people ought to be able to live and work wherever they want and can find a job.

Folks should be able to move from one country to another as easily as they can move from one state to another – and for the same reasons. A better job, better weather, better sports teams…..People shouldn’t be condemned to lives of moral, political, religious or economic opression by accidents of birth. Most people would stay where they were born and raised, just as they do in the United States now, but like-minded people will congregate in different regions.

Won’t things get too crowded? Will there be enough jobs for everyone? We believe there are enough resources in the world for all of the people alive on earth today to live a lifestyle as rich and rewarding as that of the average American citizen, if available resources were distributed efficently. Perhaps not as energy-intensive, but with comparable standards of mobility, entertainment and consumer choice, and superior levels of health, education and economic opportunity.

Plus, believe it or not, billions of people around the world, don’t think is US is Paradise. They live in, or know of, other places which offer more of what is important to them. To each his own.

Our history consists of immigration – and opposition to immigrants. In the end, Immigration is the most American of experiences. After all, its the only thing we all have in common.

Today there is a rally at Trinity Church in Copley Square (5-7 pm):

Action – 5pm – 7pm Trinity Church Copley Plaza, 206 Clarendon St., Boston there will be a rally to support New Bedford workers and their families. Come hear from the workers and families directly affected by the raid in New Bedford. More information call CSIO at 617-742-5165. (from MIRA)

And tomorrow there will be a protest in front of the JFK Federal Building in Government Center (4-6 pm):

Posted in Comics | Comments Off on Spring in the Air – a Waft of Teargas

Beer Cat – Watch the Spray

Posted by glasscastle on 8th March 2007

RALEIGH, N.C. — When John Cornwell graduated from Duke University last year, he landed a job as software engineer in Atlanta but soon found himself longing for his college lifestyle.
So the engineering graduate built himself a contraption to help remind him of campus life: a refrigerator that can toss a can of beer to his couch with the click of a remote control.

"I conceived it right after I got out,” said Cornwell, a May 2006 graduate from Huntington, N.Y. "I missed the college scene. It embodies the college spirit that I didn’t want to let go of.”

It took the 22-year-old Cornwell about 150 hours and $400 in parts to modify a mini-fridge common to many college dorm rooms into the beer-tossing machine, which can launch 10 cans of beer from its magazine before needing a reload.

from the Charleston Daily Mail

Video: see the Catapult in action (from Metacafe)

And Dukies wonder why they are anually overlooked in the Rhodes Scholarships awards…..

Posted in Comics | 1 Comment »

Symptomatic of Steroid Abuse?

Posted by glasscastle on 8th March 2007

Captain America, a Marvel Entertainment superhero, is fatally shot by a sniper in the 25th issue of his eponymous comic, which arrived in stores yesterday. The assassination ends the sentinel of liberty’s fight for right, which began in 1941.

The last episode in Captain America’s life comes after the events of “Civil War,” a seven-issue mini-series that has affected nearly the entire line of Marvel’s library of titles. In “Civil War,” the government began requiring superheroes to register their services, and it outlawed vigilantism after supervillains and superheroes fought during a reality show, accidentally killing hundreds of civilians. The public likened the heroes to weapons of mass destruction that must be controlled.

The registration act polarized the superhero community. Captain America (whose true identity was Steve Rogers) considered the legislation an erosion of civil liberties; Iron Man, on the other side, believed that training heroes as the military, firefighters or the police are trained would only benefit society. When the factions came to blows and caused more destruction, Captain America chose to fight his battle in court.

from the New York Times

So, it has come to this. The mighty Captain America reduced to relying on Media shysters like Johnnie Cochran, Maria Lopez and Alan Dershowitz. Well, payback is a bitch. Captain America was never one of our personal favorites, even back before we tuned in, turned on and dropped out. A tad too fascist, gung-ho and creepily earnest, in a Ted Haggert sort of way. Him and that sacrilegious spook Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.E.I.L.D. (a thinly disguised C.I.A. clone) running around offing people and overthrowing governments with absolutely no Congressional oversight. Even back in the day, the pre-teen Dowbrigade was more into slackers like Dr. Strange and the Silver Surfer.

Getting back to the recently deceased Captain America, when did he get so ripped? We seem to remember that when he came into the league in 1941 (Justice League of America, that is) he was considerably slimmer. He really seemed to bulk up in the 90’s. Plus, if you compare issues from 60’s and the 90’s you can see that his head size has definitely increased. Now, we are not saying that one of America’s patriotic icons was using steroids or any other performance enhancing drugs, and God knows it’s too late to do anything about it now, but perhaps the time has come for obligatory drug testing for crime fighters. They are, after all, role models.

On the other hand, that Cap sure does look good for an 87-year-old guy, doesn’t he?

Posted in Comics | 1 Comment »