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July 2009 Archives

Mad Ken

Fun marketing campaign for Mad Men, that awesome show about advertising at the start of the 60s from AMC. You can make a Mad Men character. Here's me! You can go make your own!


And yes, I am totally oblivious to Joan's eyeing while I hit on Peggy Olson. :D

Hotel Utah

I went to see my friends The Bad Beginning play at Hotel Utah. Here's the full photo set. My two favorite photos of the night, though, are of the other bands. On the left are The Party Fouls, and on the right is DoubleDouble. DoubleDouble's fans ripped up and tossed newspaper bits all over the stage, and it gave the place a post-apocalyptic look I liked.

The Party Fouls @ Hotel Utah   Post-apocalyptic rock! (DoubleDouble @ Hotel Utah)

Again, you can see the rest of the pictures here.

More Adventures in Jury Selection, or: How I Lost All Faith in Our Criminal Justice System

My friend the Info Glutton blogged about the Prof. Gates and Sgt. Crowley incident recently. I grew up rather sheltered, and the gap between police and the black community in this country really sunk in for me during a jury selection process I witnessed a few years ago:

Some facts: Someone was shot (but not killed) in Chinatown during a fight. The defendant is being charged with the shooting, attempted murder, I believe, along with a litany of related charges like weapon possession and such. The defendant is Latino. For the record the prosecutor is a white woman, and the defense attorney is an Asian man..

How jury selection works: There's a pool of a 60 or 70 prospective jurors (of which I was one). They need a jury of 12, plus 2 alternates, but they call up more than that, about 18 I think. The two attorneys ask them questions, and a few are dismissed "for cause" if they have a conflict of interest or a good excuse to skip jury duty. Then each attorney has a chance to dismiss one juror for no cause. If they do, the opposing attorney gets to do the same, and so on. If they both pass consecutively, the selection process ends.

So here's how the question goes: Prosecutor says some police officers will be testifying, and asks every black juror if they have anything against cops. Defense attorney objects and points out that the cops arrived on the scene after the shooting and didn't actually witness anything, so the defense won't be arguing against anything the cops say anyway; the cops' testimony won't be crucial. Prosecutor proceeds to ask every black juror about cops anyway.

Now for the dismissal phase. The prosecutor dismisses a black juror. The defense attorney objects. The two lawyers approach the bench. The judge allows it. The defense attorney passes on his turn. The prosecutor dismisses another black juror. The defense attorney again objects. The judge again allows. The defense attorney again passes. Some of the black jurors had said they have no problems with cops. Others had said things like, "To be honest, if I see a cop coming, I walk the other way." Regardless, the prosecutor doesn't stop until every black juror is gone.

The instant the last juror is gone, the roles reverse. The defense attorney starts dismissing jurors seemingly at random, while the prosecutor passes. The defense attorney dismisses jurors until there are well under 12 total, so they have to re-fill from the pool. As far as I can tell, his only goal is to get another black juror up there.

This process continues for most of two days. The prosecutor asks the black jurors if they have problems with cops, and then, regardless of their answers, kicks them all out. The defense attorney then randomly kicks out just about everyone until they have to refill from the pool again, and there is another black juror.

Finally, the prosecutor leaves one black juror in the pool. It is an elderly woman, who had said she had no problems with cops, and the prosecutor leaves her in. Both attorneys pass. Everyone in the room breaths a sigh of relief. I am still sitting in the pool, unselected, among only half a dozen others, if that. They had dismissed some 50 people! The judge asks the jury one last time if anyone has any reason to think they might not be able to be impartial. The elderly black woman raises her hand. She tells her tale.

Around ten years ago, she was driving along when the cops mistook her car for a reported stolen vehicle (of the same make). They surrounded her car, guns drawn, and screamed at her to turn off the engine. She did so. They screamed at her to roll down her window and toss her keys out. She couldn't, because she had power windows. So she made gestures to ask if she can turn on her engine, and they cops were like, no way. She asked if she can open the door, and they cops were like, no way! She couldn't open the window to throw the keys out, and she couldn't open the door, either! She was paralyzed and afraid she was going to be shot. Finally, she ever-so-slowly cracked her door open and tossed the keys out before promptly passing out. Upon waking her, the cops asked if she wanted a ride to the hospital, and she said no way. Everyone is stunned and horrified at the experience she had.

So. Prosecutor immediately moves to dismiss this woman. The defense attorney objects, saying, the prosecutor already passed. The prosecutor says that was before the new information surfaced. They approach the bench. Judge calls a recess. When we get back, the elderly black juror is still in her seat, and the jury selection process is finally over. I get to go home.

I never found out what happened to that case, but here's what I learned: Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney must have believed that black people have a high chance of finding against the side of the law, even if the defendant isn't even black, as in this case. (Keep in mind that criminal trials require a unanimous verdict, so all you need is one dissenter.) It was easier to fault the prosecutor for dismissing all the black people, but it was just as cynical of the defense attorney not to accept any jury unless it had a black person. They were both smart people just trying to win their case, so their predictions about how black jurors act must have been at least statistically true.

It was sad to me that the jury selection process for criminal trials is so blatantly based entirely on race and no other factor. It made a mockery of the whole process. How can there be justice? This process also made me sad because, if black jurors really are that much less likely to find in favor of the law, it really shows how deep the divide must be between the black community and law enforcement. I never saw it so vividly as I did those two days.

Funny how you never see this stuff on Law & Order, eh?

Our criminal justice system is a joke.

Fujifilm announces consumer stereoscopic ("3D") camera

This came out of nowhere! Take a look at their press release. They're releasing a dual-lens, dual-sensor compact digital camera that can take stereoscopic ("3D") images. The LCD will allow you to view it with the naked eye, as will an 8" display that they will be selling that can play both stereoscopic stills and movies, again viewable with the naked eye. You'll also be able to get stereoscopic prints from Fujifilm.

I bet it'll be kinda expensive for early adopters, but this is exciting! It's something totally new, at least in the consumer market. I don't think there's ever been a way for consumers to easily create "3D" images before. Props to Fujifilm once again for truly outside the second dimension thinking! :)

There Is No Bus Full of Zooeys

Here is my review of the movie (500) Days of Summer, titled, There Is No Bus Full of Zooeys.


Gas station video display scares the crap out of me

So I'm minding my own business, getting a fill-up at a local gas station. I swipe my credit card, enter my zip code, put the pump in my car, and hit the 87 octane button. Suddenly, from behind me—

"Hi! Welcome to—"


Scares the crap out of me! It was the video display, which proceeds to run some perfectly innocuous commercials. I don't mind the commercials, but I think they really need to change up that sudden "Hi!" Phase it in with some music or something, people! Give me some warning!

"Cuz for y'all it's just a show, but we live in this movie."

I started contributing to a music/movies group blog my friend Radhika writes for. My inaugural post is a double-review of The Hurt Locker and Gunner Palace. Go read it there!


"We completely understand the public's concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission."

Best press release ever?

Senators who turn people on

Listened to a few minutes of Judge Sotomayer's confirmation hearings: A heckler interrupts a question about property rights. Sen. Leahy (D-Vermont) denounces all interruptions regardless of party/position. Questioner Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa) cracks a joke: "People always say I have the ability to turn people on." Senators and Judge alike laugh and bond. It probably helps Sotomayer a little.


This is the most brilliant formalist comic I've read in a while. Man, my brain hurts when I try to figure out the elf's point of view...

Update July 13: OMG I just figured out the elf's timeline. It's AWESOME!

Parachute Parachute Parachute Parachute!

Here is the operational diagram for NASA's new Max Launch Abort System (MLAS) (for ejecting astronauts from a rocket at the launch pad if something goes wrong). They deploy parachutes no less than 4 times, for a total of 9 separate parachutes! :)


This system is different from the old Launch Escape System (LES) in that the old system involved a rocket above the capsule instead of below it. Each has its pros and cons. See the MLAS Wiki article for details. The MLAS had a successful test launch yesterday (using a dummy capsule), so you can see the parachute parade in his full live glory! If you're impatient, skip to the 2 minute mark in the video below:

YouTube link

Lunar Loneliness


Moon [IMDb] [Ebert]

Toast Toast Toast and a half

If, like me, you like hard science fiction but find it somewhat rare in the theaters, you should go check out Moon while it's still playing. Sam Rockwell plays a technician on a lunar helium-3 mining station who's there to help out the mostly automated station. He's nearing the end of his three-year contract, and his only company is Gerty, the HAL-esque resident robot. He's lonely, and things start getting a bit confusing for him...

The trailer is a bit spoilerful, so if I've already convinced you to see this movie, you should skip it. But if you insist, here it is. The trailer actually gave me somewhat false expectations for the movie, actually. I thought it would be more like Solaris, a trippy psychological thriller of some kind, but it was actually rather rational and cerebral. Hm. Well, that's not quite true. It is psychological, but Sam Rockwell just does a wonderful job of portraying his mental state the old-fashioned way, through acting, without the need for excessive bizarre camera angles and slow motion. Moon maintains a believable setting and a hard science fiction feel, very much in the vein of Sunshine, but without the ridiculous ending. Come to think of it, that's probably why I liked it so much: I expected it to start sane and end up craaaaaazy; instead, it starts out a little crazy but ends up logical. I appreciate that in my science fiction. :)

There's another reason I liked this movie: They totally stole my idea of a robot using an emoticon as a face! Check out this post of mine from 2004 on this very blog. Here's my sketch:

Now take a look at the robot on the right from the screenshot above. :) I really liked the robot, but again, I can't say too much about him without giving things away. Let's just say it's an inventing twist on a familiar trope.

Okay, enough blabbing. If you're a fan of "real" science fiction, go see this movie! (Or, if you're a Sam Rockwell fan, go see it, too! And finally, if you like him in this, you should also check out Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, because he's on-screen 90% of the time in that, too.)

Oh, and did I mention Moon is the directorial debut of David Bowie's son?(!)

Credit sequence art

I discovered a wonderful site the other day: The Art of the Title Sequence. It's devoted to animated title sequences from movies, usually accompanied by an HD video, and sometimes an interview with the artists. The WALL·E entry doesn't have a video, but it comes with a bunch of high-res stills. Here are a couple. Aren't they gorgeous? Let's lobby for a Best Credits Oscar!



Webcam choreography music video

This is the coolest music video ever, featuring webcam choreography...

[YouTube link]

About July 2009

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in July 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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