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Mr. T, Star Wars, Newhart, CDC muzzled, NASA chief quits, Chuck E. Cheese cheats, Distraction!
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Published Thursday, May 21, 2020 @ 12:00 AM EDT
May 21 2020

Note: KGB Report will return on Tuesday, May 26. The Memorial Day weekend is when we traditionally clean up, reconfigure, and re-wire the office. And it's been a tough year...

Today is Tuesday, May 21st, the 142nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. 224 days remain until the end of the year.

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Among other things, today is American Red Cross Founder's Day, Ascension, Brown Bag It Thursday, Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Hummus Day, I Need a Patch for That Day, National Apéritif Day, National Memo Day, National Notebook Day, National Strawberries and Cream Day, National Waiters and Waitresses Day, Rapture Party Day, Sister Maria Hummel Day, and World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

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Mr. T is 68 today. (Video)

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On this day in 1980, The Empire Strikes Back was released. (Video)

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The last episode of Newhart aired on this day in 1990. (Video)

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'We've been muzzled': CDC sources say White House putting politics ahead of science.

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GOP fronts 'pro-Trump' doctors to prescribe rapid reopening.

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Two dam breaches in central Michigan force mass evacuations. (Video)

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Uh oh. Study shows 70% of consumers would rather watch new movies at home. 13% say they are more likely to watch at a local cinema (with 17% not sure).

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Trump threatens to withhold aid to two states over expanded voting by mail. President Trump on Wednesday threatened to halt federal funding to Michigan and Nevada over the distribution of absentee ballots in those states amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that has left more than 90,000 Americans dead.

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NASA's head of human spaceflight abruptly resigns, citing 'mistake'. The source familiar with the reason for Loverro's departure said the issue centered on contracts that were awarded earlier this year for development of lunar landers, or vehicles that can carry astronauts to the moon's surface.

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Trump announces executive order 'suspending' regulations impeding US economy. The order is about "instructing federal agencies to use any and all authority to waive, suspend and eliminate unnecessary regulations that impede economic recovery," Mr Trump said before signing it with a large black felt pen.

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Windows 10 warning: anger at Microsoft rises with serious new failure. Microsoft’s new KB4556799 Windows 10 update is causing a myriad of problems for users, including Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) crashes, deleted data, performance issues, broken audio and more. And users are not happy.

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Will government mandate COVID-19 vaccinations? The Congressional Research Service says the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that "The states' general police power to promote public health and safety encompasses the authority to require mandatory vaccinations."" And states have all exercised that authority for children, usually allowing for some exceptions. CRS also says, "Congress, as a result of various enumerated powers in the Constitution, likewise has some authority over public health matters, including regulation of vaccination."

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Chuck E. Cheese tricks Grubhub customers with sneaky new name.

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Borowitz:

Trump Fears Painting of Obama at White House would spy on him.

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Thoughts of the day:

Any government which made the welfare of men depend on the character of their governors was an illusion.
-Daniel J. Boorstin

The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting.
-Charles Bukowski

I try to avoid experience if I can. Most experience is bad.
-E.L. Doctorow

All scientifically possible technology and social change predicted in science fiction will come to pass, but none of it will work properly.
-Neil Gaiman

You have more to do than you can possibly do. You just need to feel good about your choices.
-David Allen

Distraction! (Video)




Things are really rough out there.
Please consider donating to Feeding America
.


Categories: Andy Borowitz, Bob Newhart, CDC, Chuck E. Cheese, Covid-19, Donald Trump, Microsoft, Mr. T, NASA, Star Wars, Vaccines, Windows


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Mac the Knife, the Sun is asleep, a ton of memes, and existential despair
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Published Thursday, May 14, 2020 @ 12:00 AM EDT
May 14 2020

Forward this email to a friend. They can subscribe here.

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Oops

The email version of yesterday's report said it was Tuesday. Of course, it was Wednesday. When I dusted off the old blogging software, I forgot to adjust for the fact 2020 is a leap year. I'm not blaming the software: it was strictly human error.

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Today is Thursday, May 14, the 135th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. 231 days remain until the end of the year.

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Among other things, today is "The Stars and Stripes Forever" Day, National Dance Like a Chicken Day, International Dylan Thomas Day, National Buttermilk Biscuit Day, and National Underground America Day.

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The Sun is asleep. Deep 'solar minimum' feared as 2020 sees record-setting 100-day absence of sunspots.

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Remembering Richard Deacon. (May 14, 1921-  August 8, 1984) (Video)

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Remembering Bobby Darin (May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973) (Video)

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George Lucas is 76 today. (Video)

George Lucas quotes.

Related: Carrie Fisher's family reportedly doesn't want her likeness used in Star Wars again.

Also related: Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, 68, is 'done' with the franchise. "I'm full of gratitude for what it has given me and my career but I don't want to be greedy. There are still so many more stories to tell and so many great actors to tell them, they don't need me."

Somewhat related: Coronavirus has moved visual effects work to the cloud- and it may stay there. "With this technology, you can set up 1,000 workstations in less than an hour and have people working on a project simultaneously in Mumbai, New York, Dublin and Vancouver," says Botham. "It's a seamless process."

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Robert Zemeckis is 68 today. (Video)

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Tim Roth is 59 today. (Video)

(He's perhaps more famous as the restaurant robber in Pulp Fiction, but that clip's a bit over the top.)

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On this date in 1796, Edward Jenner administered the first smallpox inoculation.

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On this date in 1948, Israel was declared to be an independent state and a provisional government was established. Immediately after the declaration, Israel is attacked by the neighboring Arab states, triggering the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

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On this date in 1973, Skylab, the United States' first space station, was launched. (Video)

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s perfect China ban, death toll myths.

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Whistleblower: US could face virus rebound 'darkest winter'. Immunologist Dr. Rick Bright makes his sobering prediction in testimony prepared for his appearance Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Aspects of his complaint about early administration handling of the crisis are expected to be backed up by testimony from an executive of a company that manufactures, respirator masks.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down state's stay-at-home order. "This isn't a game. This isn't funny. People die every day because of this virus- often times painful and lonely deaths- and the more we delay or play political games the more people die."

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As each day passes, I become more convinced he's determined to destroy the Republic: Mitch McConnell is pushing the Senate to pass a measure that would let the FBI collect Americans' web-browsing history without a warrant. The Senate is expected to vote to renew the 2001 Patriot Act, and Mitch McConnell is pushing an amendment to the law that would expand the FBI's surveillance powers.

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Atmospheric CO2 soars to record heights in spite of global pandemic. While the coronavirus pandemic has led to a decline in carbon emissions in some areas, the effect is expected to be short-lived.

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Rand Paul says secret to social distancing is making everyone despise you. (Andy Borowitz)

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The real reason Trump wants to reopen the economy. (Video)

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Vitamin D determines severity in COVID-19. Vitamin D has many functions in the human body, and now researchers claim it can also support the immune system through a number of immune pathways involved in fighting SARS-CoV-2. Many recent studies confirm the pivotal role of vitamin D in viral infections. This may be because vitamin D is important in regulation and suppression of the inflammatory cytokine response, which causes the severe consequences of COVID-19 and acute respiratory distress syndrome associated with ventilation and death.

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Get ready for a Covid-19 vaccine information war... Social media is already filling up with misinformation about a Covid-19 vaccine, months or years before one even exists.

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JCPenney gives executives bonuses ahead of deadline for possible bankruptcy filing. Well, they won't have any money afterwards, will they?

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Tired of binge-watching old science fiction movies? Use SpaceX's ISS Docking Simulator to dock with the International Space Station.

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Justice Clarence Thomas brings up Frodo Baggins during Supreme Court oral arguments. He finally speaks, and it's a Lord of the Rings reference. Related: Supreme Court appears poised to let states keep 'faithless electors' out of the Electoral College. President Trump once supported abolishing the Electoral College- he previously felt it was a "total disaster for democracy"- but since his 2016 presidential victory over Hillary Clinton, in which Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, but Trump received 304 electoral votes, he has changed his mind.

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Stocks fall as Fed Chairman Powell warns of lasting economic damage.

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House Democrats' stimulus bill rolls back $10,000 state and local tax deduction cap for two years. It's unlikely Mitch McConnell and his minions in the Senate will go along.

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Forget murder hornets. Giant gypsy moths could bring 'serious, widespread damage' to the US.

Incidentally, the fella in the photo below has been in the U.S. since the mid-1800s: the hornet moth, which mimics a stinging hornet as protective coloration. They're harmless, aside from the heart attack they induce when they land on you.

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From The Scarlet Pimpernel to Spiderman, superheroes have had secret identities. This history of that trope also explains why the practice may be disappearing.

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Astronauts could live in lava tubes on Mars. That's beginning to sound pretty attractive.

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The world's last Blockbuster remains open, pandemic and Netflix be damned.

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Topic of the Day:

Failure.

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Thoughts of the day:

I do not dispute that God speaks to you, but I am dubious that He speaks to you for the purpose of relaying instructions to me.
-Robert Brault

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
-Upton Sinclair

What people want, mainly, is to be told by some plausible authority that what they are already doing is right. I don't know know of a quicker way to become unpopular than to disagree.
-John Brunner

Hubris and hypocrisy are a deadly combination.
-Anne-Marie Slaughter

Insanity is contagious.
-Joseph Heller

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Things are really rough out there. Please consider donating to Feeding America.


Categories: Bobby Darin, Carrie Fisher, Clarence Thomas, Covid-19, Donald Trump, Edward Jenner, Electoral College, Federal Reserve, Inoculation, Israel, ISS, JC Penney, Mark Hammill, Robert Penn Warren, SCOTUS, Secret Identities, Skylab, Smallpox, SpaceX, Star Wars, Supreme Court, Tim Roth, Vaccines, Video, YouTube


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The Force has a recurring dream
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Published Tuesday, January 05, 2016 @ 5:13 AM EST
Jan 05 2016

Comparing Star Wars: The Force Awakens to the original classic is grossly unfair. The latter was a cinematic revelation. Audiences had never seen anything like it. This film is a better-than- average cgi space movie, although much of its appeal is due to familiarity with the characters and character types, and incessant callbacks to the original film series.

The locations and plot don't precisely duplicate the 1977 movie, but instead invoke an almost unrelenting sense of déjà vu. There's a desert planet, an ice planet, a planet-killing weapon, droids carrying critical information, a trench battle, and a cantina-like scene, to name the major ones. This is especially true when composer John Williams recycles specific music cues from the original trilogy, in a way letting us in on a character's relation to a character in the prior series, or the importance of punctuating a plot point without the need for actual exposition.

The only thing that bothered me was the Mary Sue-like abilities of one of the characters who apparently knows how to fly spaceships and engage in ninja-like light saber battles without any training or prior knowledge.

I must confess I'm not much of a Star Wars fan. I like the original, think The Empire Strikes Back was the best in the series, and started losing interest with the introduction of the Ewoks and the importance of merchandising over film-making. I saw bits and pieces of the prequels, none of which I found appealing.

I guess I'm sort of cgi-ed out. The original Star Wars was a landmark in motion picture history. That film still stands the test of time because its story and technical brilliance.

Still, it's interesting to remember that Star Wars happened because George Lucas couldn't get the rights to Flash Gordon. So Star Wars is a tribute to Flash Gordon, and The Force Awakens is an almost fanboy-like tribute to Star Wars.

Recursive plunge, anyone?


Categories: Star Wars


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Darth Tater...
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Published Tuesday, January 14, 2014 @ 8:30 AM EST
Jan 14 2014

...is apparently a girl.


Categories: Photo of the day, Star Wars, WTF?


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30th Reunion
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Published Friday, March 29, 2013 @ 8:39 PM EDT
Mar 29 2013

Chewy and Han, together again...


Categories: Photo of the day, Star Wars


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Presidential rim-shots
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Published Sunday, March 10, 2013 @ 4:23 PM EDT
Mar 10 2013

President Obama's one-liners from the 2013 Gridiron dinner:

Now I know that some folks think we responded to Woodward too aggressively. But hey, when has- can anybody tell me when an administration has ever regretted picking a fight with Bob Woodward? What's the worst that could happen?

Of course, maintaining credibility in this cynical atmosphere is harder than ever- incredibly challenging. My administration recently put out a photo of me skeet shooting and even that wasn't enough for some people. Next week, we're releasing a photo of me clinging to religion.

And in the words of one of my favorite Star Trek characters- Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise- "May the force be with you."


Categories: Barack Obama, Politics, Star Trek, Star Wars


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Well played, sir...
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Published Saturday, March 02, 2013 @ 9:09 AM EST
Mar 02 2013


Categories: Barack Obama, Politics, Star Trek, Star Wars


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How "White Christmas" and "The Ten Commandments" begat "Star Wars"
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Published Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 12:46 PM EST
Dec 04 2012

Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" was the first film shot in Paramount Pictures' proprietary VistaVision widescreen process. Twentieth Century Fox's previously introduced Cinemascope used anamorphic lenses to squeeze a wider image onto the film; the process was reversed during projection. When you see a film clip where everyone looks extremely tall and skinny, you're seeing a widescreen anamorphic print being projected in error by a normal lens.

The problem with all this image squeezing and unsqueezing was the effect on image quality. Distortion was introduced which couldn't be completely eliminated during projection. Color motion picture film in the 1950s was also rather grainy, and the fuzziness could be detected when the image was projected on the larger, wider screens.

Instead of using lenses to squeeze a wider image on the negative, VistaVision cameras moved the film horizontally past the lens, exposing the equivalent of two standard 35mm frames. This doubled the width of image without the introduction of anamorphic distortion and graininess. Think landscape vs portrait photo printing on your computer, and you'll get the idea.

Very few VistaVistion projectors were built, and they were used only at special previews and premieres. Since twice as much film was used to record the image, it had to move through the projector twice as fast, at a somewhat terrifying three feet per second. For regular exhibition at the local neighborhood movie house, the VistaVision negatives were printed down to standard vertical 35mm reels, while keeping the widescreen aspect ratio. A VistaVision print could be projected with a regular lens, which meant theater owners didn't have to buy special equipment or deal with switching lenses when the second movie on a double feature was shot in non-widescreen format.

Technology marched on; higher quality film stocks were created as well as better anamorphic lenses. VistaVistion's bulky cameras and high film costs doomed the format. After being used on about three dozen or so films, VistaVision disappeared for the most part in the early 1960s.

Jump cut to the mid-1970s. John Dykstra was looking for cheap motion picture cameras suitable for shooting special effects. Effects shots require multiple exposures and multiple printing steps, each resulting in increased film grain and loss of detail. The old VistaVision cameras, with double the negative size of a standard 35mm frame, were ideal-- and were dirt cheap, since no one had used them for 15 years. Even better, the lens mounts on the old cameras and printers could be modified to use readily available, high-quality Nikkor lenses from 35mm Nikon still cameras. (I vaguely recall an ad by Nikkor on the back cover of Popular Photography magazine boasting how their lenses made Star Wars possible, but the issue's long gone and I can't find the ad online anywhere.)

Dykstra bought the old equipment, added motion control hardware and software, and the VistaVision cameras that shot Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in White Christmas and Charleton Heston in The Ten Commandments (a 1956 Paramount release) became the Dykstraflex system that made Star Wars' groundbreaking effects possible. The old VistaVision equipment carried Industrial Light and Magic's multiple award-winning efforts until the replacement of optical-based special effects with computer generated imagery.


Categories: Movies, Star Wars, Video, YouTube


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Photo of the day
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Published Sunday, October 07, 2012 @ 2:58 PM EDT
Oct 07 2012

Princess Vader finds your lack of pink disturbing.


Categories: Photo of the day, Star Wars


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Where were you in '62?
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Published Friday, June 15, 2012 @ 12:19 AM EDT
Jun 15 2012

George Lucas' classic American Graffiti opened in New York City on June 15, 1973. Trivia: the high school teacher/dance chaperone was played by former KDKA Radio personality Terry McGovern, whom George Lucas credits with inventing the word "Wookiee."


Categories: Classic, George Lucas, Movies, Star Wars, Trivia of the day, YouTube


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May 25, 1977
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Published Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 12:10 AM EDT
May 25 2012

A relatively low-budget space opera called Star Wars premiered 35 years ago today. Motion pictures have never been the same.


Categories: Abraham Lincoln, History, Star Wars


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Photo of the day
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Published Thursday, April 26, 2012 @ 5:15 AM EDT
Apr 26 2012


Categories: Photo of the day, Star Wars


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Photo of the day
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Published Saturday, February 04, 2012 @ 8:17 AM EST
Feb 04 2012


Categories: Dogs, Photo of the day, Star Wars


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Political jokes of the week
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Published Saturday, September 17, 2011 @ 4:17 AM EDT
Sep 17 2011

Recent late-night political jokes, from Daniel Kurtzman's Political Humor Blog on About.com.

Dick Cheney was grilled by the women of 'The View.' So apparently he's willing to undergo torture himself to prove a point.
-Jay Leno

President Obama's re-election campaign is doing a contest where contributors can win a chance to have dinner with the president. Or, if you come in second place, a mid-afternoon Hot Pocket with Joe Biden.
-Conan O'Brien

A law signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger will soon release thousands of female prisoners. The man’s a genius. Soon thousands of women who haven’t been with a man for years will be free and thinking they owe Arnold a favor.
-Conan O'Brien

A Republican is going to be filling Anthony Weiner’s Congressional seat, but not before thoroughly wiping it down.
-Jimmy Kimmel

President Obama is determined to help the unemployed because it's looking increasingly likely that in a year, he'll be one of them.
-Jimmy Kimmel

If I was president, I'd freeze everyone in carbonite until the job market improves. It worked for Han Solo.
-Jimmy Kimmel

According to a new book, Sarah Palin slept with a black NBA player, Glen Rice, a year before she got married. I think technically this makes her a Kardashian sister. I think Sarah and Glen would make a great couple. He’d shoot 3-pointers. She'd shoot everything else.
-Jimmy Kimmel

People are blaming President Obama for Republicans winning a Congressional seat in New York, but I say, like the face of a guy who passes out at a frat party, this one has Weiner written all over it.
-Jimmy Fallon

Some Tea Party members at the Republican debate cheered the idea of a sick uninsured person being left to die. In fairness, the person in question was one of the moms from 'Toddlers & Tiaras.'
-Conan O'Brien

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that American homes are 650 square feet larger today than they were in 1980. Unfortunately, so are most Americans.
-Conan O'Brien

Threatening messages were posted on the White House Facebook page. Secret Service takes this very seriously and they're warning that whoever is responsible runs the risk of being unfriended.
-Jay Leno

There was another Republican debate on CNN. The big winner: Monday night football on ESPN.
-Jay Leno

President Obama wants to get Americans back to what we do best. He wants teachers teaching, police policing, firemen fighting fires, and the rest of us checking Facebook.
-Jimmy Kimmel

Obama says the jobs bill will be paid for. I don't like this focus on paying for things. That's what future generations are for.
-Jimmy Kimmel

My guest tonight is Al Gore, unless the Supreme Court decides it should be someone else.
-Stephen Colbert

People are saying that Anderson Cooper could be the new Oprah. And then these people are struck by lightning.
-Craig Ferguson

President Obama described himself as an eternal optimist. He then explained that he's the kind of person that sees the country as 'half employed.'
-Conan O'Brien

A man wearing an Obama mask robbed a bank. Either that or Obama has an exciting new plan to reduce the deficit.
-Conan O'Brien

Tim Pawlenty endorsed Mitt Romney, calling him a 'bedrock conservative.' When he heard this, John McCain said, 'I grew up in Bedrock, and I don't remember seeing him.'
-Conan O'Brien

In England a dominatrix is saying a prominent politician used to hire her for services. Of course, a dominatrix in England is someone who ties you down and then flosses you.
-Conan O'Brien

Mitt Romney said that President Obama does not understand that the president doesn't create jobs. Then Romney went on to explain his plan to create jobs once he's elected president.
-Jay Leno

Since Rick Perry has been governor of Texas, 234 criminals have been executed. That's the difference between Texas and California: In California, those criminals would have been given tryouts for the Raiders.
-Jay Leno

If the Tea Party cared about us they wouldn't have scheduled their debate against the opening night of football, especially the Patriots. That's something Kenyans would do.
-Jimmy Kimmel

The moderators were Wolf Blitzer and Larry the Cable Guy. Rick Santorum won the swimsuit competition. Michele Bachmann won Miss Crazyality.
-Jimmy Kimmel

According to a new poll, only 55 percent of Americans think President Obama is intelligent. Yeah, that may not sound impressive, but it's up 55 percent over the last president.
-Jimmy Fallon

His New York district is having a special election to replace Anthony Wiener. I was going to make a joke, but it's just so hard at this point …
-Jimmy Fallon

Michele Bachmann said she would do away with the Department of Education if elected president. In fact, if there's no Department of Education, it would make it easier for her to be elected.
-Jay Leno

Did you see all the Republican candidates lined up at the Reagan Library the other night? Didn't they look like it was part of Disney's 'Hall of Never-Will-Be-Presidents?'
-Jay Leno

In his speech, President Obama introduced a $400 billion plan called the 'American Jobs Act.' They would have had a more creative name, but the guy that comes up with names got laid off six months ago.
-Jimmy Fallon

President Obama said 'No single individual built America on their own.' When she heard that, Sarah Palin was like, 'Hello? Paul Bunyan?'
-Jimmy Fallon

The World Economic Forum, which ranks economies, moved the United States down to 5th place. But we're still the fattest, so that's good.
-Jimmy Kimmel

The virus in the movie 'Contagion' is based on the bird flu which came out of nowhere back in 2008. Everyone thought it was going to change the way we live and it just faded away. Wait a minute, I'm talking about President Obama.
-Craig Ferguson

Michele Bachmann is for people who find Sarah Palin too intellectual. She is pure. She is always completely fact-free. She said the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly until they got rid of slavery. So from now on Thomas Jefferson’s slaves will be known as friends with benefits.
-Bill Maher, on Jay Leno

The candidates at the Republican debate looked like a town council that was outlawing dancing.
-David Letterman

They looked like a board of directors that was lying about poisoning a river.
-David Letterman

I tried to TiVo the debate and my TiVo fell asleep.
-David Letterman

You could smell Rick Perry's cologne through the TV.
-David Letterman

Tomorrow is Bring Your Son or Daughter to the Unemployment Office Day.
-David Letterman

Rick Perry said he understands healthcare because his wife is a nurse. He also says he understands terrorism because he watched all the seasons of '24.'
-Conan O'Brien

Ultraconservative Rick Santorum said he is the son of an Italian immigrant. Immediately after the comment, Santorum had his dad deported.
-Conan O'Brien

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney squared off at the Republican debate. The only thing they agreed on was 'shampoo, rinse, and repeat.'
-Jay Leno

Don't they look like two guys waiting to audition for the same part in a soap opera?
-Jay Leno

Actually, history was made at the Reagan Library last night. I believe it was the first time Michele Bachmann has ever been in a library.
-Jay Leno

Perry used to be a Democrat. But then again, Barack Obama used to be a Democrat too.
-Jay Leno

Michele Bachmann said that she can get us back to two dollar gas. Please! The only place you can get two dollar gas is Taco Bell.
-Jay Leno

According to the latest L.A. Times poll, 75% of Californians believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. And 60% of Californians are so disillusioned, they're thinking about moving back to Mexico.
-Jay Leno

The president said we need more products stamped 'Made in America.' OK, let's get the Chinese to get a stamp that says 'Made in America.'
-Jimmy Kimmel

Tonight was President Obama's jobs speech and the NFL season opener. Which explains why Biden got confused and dumped Gatorade on President Obama.
-Jimmy Fallon

The Libyan rebels say they have Khadafy trapped within a 40-mile radius. Or as that’s also called, not trapped.
-Jimmy Fallon


Categories: Craig Ferguson, Founding Fathers, Star Wars, Stephen Colbert, Supreme Court


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Sympathy for the Devil
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Published Thursday, September 15, 2011 @ 5:18 AM EDT
Sep 15 2011

Former Vice President Dick Cheney garners sympathy from an unusual source: The Daily Show's Jon Stewart.

("The Daily Show" clip: citing Obi-Wan.)


Categories: Daily Show, Jon Stewart, Star Wars, Video


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George Lucas, you've gone too far...
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Published Tuesday, September 06, 2011 @ 2:00 PM EDT
Sep 06 2011

These Blu-Ray modifications must stop.


Categories: Photo of the day, Star Wars, WTF?


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How White Christmas and The Ten Commandments begat Star Wars
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Published Wednesday, December 22, 2010 @ 7:25 AM EST
Dec 22 2010

Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" was the first film shot in Paramount Pictures' proprietary VistaVision widescreen process. Twentieth Century Fox's previously introduced Cinemascope used anamorphic lenses to squeeze a wider image onto the film; the process was reversed during projection. When you see a film clip where everyone looks extremely tall and skinny, you're seeing a widescreen anamorphic print being projected in error by a normal lens.

The problem with all this image squeezing and unsqueezing was the effect on image quality. Distortion was introduced which couldn't be completely eliminated during projection. Color motion picture film in the 1950s was also rather grainy, and the fuzziness could be detected when the image was projected on the larger, wider screens.

Instead of using lenses to squeeze a wider image on the negative, VistaVision cameras moved the film horizontally past the lens, exposing the equivalent of two standard 35mm frames. This doubled the width of image without the introduction of anamorphic distortion and graininess. Think landscape vs portrait photo printing on your computer, and you'll get the idea.

Very few VistaVistion projectors were built, and they were used only at special previews and premieres. Since twice as much film was used to record the image, it had to move through the projector twice as fast, at a somewhat terrifying three feet per second. For regular exhibition at the local neighborhood movie house, the VistaVision negatives were printed down to standard vertical 35mm reels, while keeping the widescreen aspect ratio. A VistaVision print could be projected with a regular lens, which meant theater owners didn't have to buy special equipment or deal with switching lenses when the second movie on a double feature was shot in non-widescreen format.

Technology marched on; higher quality film stocks were created as well as better anamorphic lenses. VistaVistion's bulky cameras and high film costs doomed the format. After being used on about three dozen or so films, VistaVision disappeared for the most part in the early 1960s.

Jump cut to the mid-1970s. John Dykstra was looking for cheap motion picture cameras suitable for shooting special effects. Effects shots require multiple exposures and multiple printing steps, each resulting in increased film grain and loss of detail. The old VistaVision cameras, with double the negative size of a standard 35mm frame, were ideal-- and were dirt cheap, since no one had used them for 15 years. Even better, the lens mounts on the old cameras and printers could be modified to use readily available, high-quality Nikkor lenses from 35mm Nikon still cameras. (I vaguely recall an ad by Nikkor on the back cover of Popular Photography magazine boasting how their lenses made Star Wars possible, but the issue's long gone and I can't find the ad online anywhere.)

Dykstra bought the old equipment, added motion control hardware and software, and the VistaVision cameras that shot Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in White Christmas and Charleton Heston in The Ten Commandments (a 1956 Paramount release) became the Dykstraflex system that made Star Wars' groundbreaking effects possible. The old VistaVision equipment carried Industrial Light and Magic's multiple award-winning efforts until the replacement of optical-based special effects with computer generated imagery.


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I wonder how many batteries it uses?
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Published Monday, August 02, 2010 @ 10:58 AM EDT
Aug 02 2010


Categories: Star Wars, Video, WTF?, YouTube


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