Opinions, Etc., 8/11/2004

You know, I was thinking about Fay Wray. Here’s a woman who died over the weekend at 96. She had an incredibly long career as a successful actress, starting in silents and making the tough transition to talkies, changing her image in the process as she did so. Yet all people are remembering her for is the fact that she play ingenue to an ape. They even dimmed the lights on the Empire State Building for fifteen minutes in tribute to her because of that role. This is one main reason why I never went into acting full-time (and regret not doing so to this day): I’m not the leading man type. I’m the “wacky neighbor on generic sitcom” type. The best I could get out of a career is a signature role that people would remember, combined with enough work to get me into the bottom row of the Hollywood Squares. Fay Wray was a lot more successful than that, and she got trapped in that signature role. ‘Twas typecasting that killed the beauty.

By the way, our autoposting isn’t set up for e-mail accounts linked to authors yet, so if you want to comment (and that includes the Tuesday column), just send those mails to erics@insidepulse.com.

Let’s get on with it, shall we?

THE PIMP SECTION

BAXLEY!

GRUT!

Okay, I’ll stop that.

If you don’t want to wait for the Smackdown Short Form, then Fingers has your spoilers for you.

O’Reilly polishes his big old cannon for you.

Berg finds the one good thing about EA that exists. Amazing. I couldn’t do it.

Cooling covers one type of football while Laflin covers the other and makes mention of his love for the former. And I’ll honestly get back to you on that move, Cory. God knows I’m going to be called into work early today, which is why I’m up at 7:30AM trying to knock this one out*.

Carmon doesn’t answer how No-mah can get traded to a team that doesn’t exist. Shame on him.

I’ll agree with Morse on the Titans. Too bad he missed out on the Claremont/Byrne/Austin X-Men the first time around. That’s my “influential book” to top all.

Erhardt has all of your DC answers that you require. Now ask him some more questions. And you missed one name on the Batman list: Talia.

* – And then was so trashed I went to sleep again at 8:30, then woke up at 1, forcing this Wednesday column to get finished early on Thursday morning, which turned into Thursday afternoon after the same pattern was repeated on Thursday. But I didn’t get called into work early, and after the hallucinations on Monday, I need as much rest as possible.

THE PULSE IS HIGH ON ANTI-SPYWARE

Remember, this all started because the slugs at Enigma Software dared to advertise their piece of shit SpyHunter at 411 (one of the reasons why I decided to leave, honestly). So I’m responding every single column with proper anti-spyware information. And guess what? People are actually taking this to heart. They’re asking me for help if they’re infested, or they’re writing me telling me that their browsing experience is less annoying thanks to the stuff I’ve been putting up here three times a week for a couple months now.

Big, big Kudos to the guys at the Spyware Warrior Forum for pointing out to everyone the extent of criminal activity participated in by Enigma Software, makers of the bane of advertising on this site, SpyHunter. Slimeballs extraordinare, aren’t they? And in case you need more info about what flaming bags of shit they are, try here. Suzi’s Blog has a great list of other flaming bags of shit that promote anti-spyware programs that are spyware themselves. Consult it if you have questions.

(On a side note, those SpyHunter ads started over at Reality News Online, and BFM, a contributor there, spotted them. He told the webmaster, gave him those links that I cited above, the webmaster read them, the blood drained out of his face, and he contacted his ad provider. No more ads for Enigma products on RNO, thank you. So guess what? If you provide the info, there are sites who will listen.)

One of the leading vectors for spyware is so-called free programs that contain this shit in order to “pay the bills”. No one deserves that kind of treatment. If you’ve got a question about whether or not a certain program contains spyware, head over here. It’s a nice alphabetized list of programs that do contain spyware and should be avoided at all costs.

Here’s a list of the programs you really need to help you get rid of menaces, and, more importantly, prevent them from occurring in the first place:

Spybot and AdAware. The ONLY two spyware removal tools to trust. Do NOT buy any spyware removal tools, because none of them work better than these two, and all of them except these two are suspect.

SpywareBlaster. Will nuke thousands of different potentially malicious ActiveX controls, and now has the ability to prevent a number of non-ActiveX methods of installing spyware for people who use Mozilla/Firefox.

SpywareGuard. From Javacool, like SpywareBlaster. It’s a real-time scanner for spyware. A decent first line of defense.

IE-SpyAd. Throws numerous ad-related URLs into IE’s Restricted Zone, where they won’t display or affect your system. Bookmark this one, since it’s the only one that doesn’t have an in-program update.

A few people have recommended also installing the Sun Java Virtual Machine, since it’s Windows’ buggy, half-assed implementation of the JVM that allows a lot of spyware to install (less so within the past month and a half than before). I’ve resisted putting it here because of a couple things: 1) The MS JVM was removed in XP SP1a due to the Sun court case and replaced with a Sun JVM, and I’m not sure how many people have actually patched. 2) The link above is an automatic download, and that does scare some people. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe. I wouldn’t have put it here if it wasn’t. But I STRONGLY recommend that you visit here and update your version of Java.

So many people have asked about a free anti-virus program that I’m also going to recommend AVG. Totally free, and works really, really well, as well as commercial anti-virus programs. Frequent database updates, good heuristic detection, everything you want in an anti-virus package.

Another program that I’d like to add here is a little tough to work with for noobs if it goes buggy (you need to know a little something about your Networking settings in order to debug if something should go wrong). Protowall is a supplement to your firewall or NAT system. It hooks directly into XP’s networking system to block any and all traffic that comes from URLs on a list maintained by the program (all protocols, not just TCP/UDP). It’s mainly designed for anti-P2P purposes (which will appeal to a great many of my readers), but it contains lists to block spyware and ads. Its blocklist can easily be updated using its supplementary program, Blocklist Manager. I have Protowall running and a Blocklist Manager icon on my desktop, and I use Blocklist Manager to update the blocklist every couple of days. You will have problems getting to some sites unless you shut down Protowall temporarily, like ESPN or Sports Illustrated, but it does have a tray icon you can right-click and shut down in a few seconds. It’s the third layer of anti-ad material for me, with IE-SpyAd and AdSubtract running alongside it. Warning, though: it only works with XP. I’d recommend its predecessor, Peer Guardian, for other MS OSes, but it isn’t being developed anymore, and there were still bugs in it when development stopped. You can get Protowall and the Blocklist Manager (which will also work with Peer Guardian) at Bluetack’s site.

Of course, only download them from the links provided above. And only download those programs; don’t fall for the ads that are shown here.

With AdAware and Spybot, check for updates using their internal update function at least once a week. Run them at least once a week or whenever you think you might have problems. Remember, the new version of Spybot has browser protection capabilities, so have that run at startup and leave it running. Check for updates to SpywareBlaster once a week. It only needs to be run once initially in order to establish protection. Then, after it downloads updates, just click on the line that says “Enable Protection For All Unprotected Items” and kill it. It doesn’t need to be active. For IE-SpyAd, bookmark the site and check for updates twice a week, since it has no kind of internal updater. Run the Blocklist Manager every couple of days to make sure that you keep up on the latest banned URLs. Since all it does is add Registry entries, it doesn’t eat up anything.

If you’re having trouble with spyware or a browser hijacker, or think that you do, head over to the SpywareInfo Forums, where the pros there can help you diagnose and get rid of stuff. I was promoted to Full Helper status there and ended up joining ASAP, the Alliance of Security Analysis Professionals. Look for their symbol, which I’m not going to try to link to anymore because someone at the other end keeps munging it.

The Ravin’ Cajun asks me to recommend a good client-side spam filter for MS mail programs running under Windows. Now, this is something I don’t have experience with because my ISPs have always had good spam filtering, plus, I use Thunderbird, which handles the remainder quite nicely, thank you. Some readers wrote in and recommended SpamBayes, which is totally free and supposedly works very well, so I’ll add it on to the anti-annoyance list that we’re building up here. Said Ravin’ also states that when XP SP2 comes out, it’s a good idea to grab it. Yes, definitely. If you’re not running a firewall (and you should be), the one in SP2 is extremely robust and works quite well. Also, the built-in pop-up blocking on IE will be a wonderful addition.

KEYES TO THE KINGDOM

So it’ll be Alan Keyes representing the Republicans in the Illinois Senate race this fall. You don’t know how happy I am about this. If anything can guarantee the seat for the Good Guys, it’s the presence of that loudmouth, overopinionated troglodyte Keyes. That’s two Demo senators and a Demo governor for the Ancestral Homeland, in case you’re not keeping track, and with the Senate expected to be as close as it will be in November, that may tip the balance, giving President Kerry a majority in at least one house to work with (and fifty-fifty benefits him as well, since Veep Edwards will have the deciding vote).

Of course, the Republicans got into this situation thanks to some enterprising journos who broke open what we in the SF community in Chicago knew years ago: candidate Jack Ryan’s divorce from Jeri Ryan had some very kinky elements in it. We kept silent about it in order not to hurt Jeri, since she was bringing Voyager back from the dead, and anything good for the Trek Franchise was good for SF. Journalists, though, have no such compunction. Jeri was hurt by the revelations, for which I will never forgive them, but Jack was knocked out of the Senate race because the GOP could not allow a guy who forced his wife into kinky activities to represent them at the top of the ticket in a national election of such importance as this year. It did give me some hope, though: I admitted in the super-secret writers’ forum that I would give up four Olympic gold medals for one night with Jeri, and if she’s a little bit into what the divorce papers said Jack wrangled her into, then I have a chance.

Alan Keyes is a joke. He had two benefits to the Illinois Republican Party: 1) He was willing to run after the root damage caused by Jack Ryan and 2) He’s black. They’re thinking that he can siphon off some of Chicago’s black vote into the GOP column based on skin color alone. Sorry, wrong. The black voters of Chicago are more educated and less racially-sensitive than you might think. If this was twenty years ago, yes, Keyes’ strategy in that area might have worked to some effect. However, after the Moseley-Braun debacle, black Chicagoans look more toward the issues than race of a particular candidate. In that, Keyes is found wanting. As the self-appointed voice of ultra-conservative black Republicans, he appeals to a niche market.

His statements are considered outrageous even by the right wing of the GOP, which is why he’s never garnered support in his various presidential runs. He may be too conservative for downstate partisans, who’d feel a little bit uncomfortable voting for someone who’s black in the first place (racism does live in downstate Illinois, believe me). Besides, State Senator Barack Obama is black himself. They should have gone with a white candidate in order to appeal to Democratic voters who are still embarassed about Big-Mouth Braun.

Admittedly, I should be following this a bit more than I am. But the six hundred miles of distance between me and the race and the fact that my interest in it died out the moment after Jack Ryan pussied away has caused me to set phasers on “ignore”. I just know that Obama will win this one handily, and the Senate may turn in the balance. As for the local stuff for me, I can live with Sam Brownback. He’s running against a nobody, and he’s got a good record. I’ve only broken party affiliation once, and it was in a Senate race, voting for an incumbent against a guy who’d done a stupid thing a dozen years before that helped cost the Machine the Illinois governor’s office. I may end up voting for Brownback, honestly. But my blood will probably end up running true. I just hate to be on the losing side when the loss is going to be that big.

BEHIND THE TIMES

Coming on the heels of Missouri voters accepting an anti-gay-marrige amendment during their voting (as BFM was pissed off about under the axiom of “who cares?”), the Cali Supremes decided to knock out the over four thousand marriage licenses given to same-sex couples in San Francisco on Thursday. Here’s the story from Reuters:

California’s Supreme Court annulled more than 4,000 gay marriages in San Francisco on Thursday, finding the city acted improperly in granting marriage licenses earlier this year in defiance of state law.

The mayor of the liberal city ignited a passionate nationwide debate in February by allowing 4,037 same-sex couples to wed over a four-week period before the California high court halted them as it reviewed the city’s actions.

A California law backed by a voter referendum defines marriage as a union of man and women, and polls show most Californians continue to oppose gay marriage.

“We agree with petitioners that local officials in San Francisco exceeded their authority by taking official action in violation of applicable statutory provisions,” the court wrote.

The court ordered officials “to take all necessary remedial steps to undo the continuing effects of the officials’ past unauthorized actions, including making appropriate corrections to all relevant official records and notifying all affected same-sex couples that the same-sex marriages authorized by the officials are void and of no legal effect.”

In its decision, the court focused on whether the mayor had the authority to marry gays rather than the broader arguments of whether equal protection under the Constitution must include gay marriage. Briefs in a lawsuit raising the broader issue are expected before a lower court next month.

This is only a temporary defeat, as noted. The equal-protection issue is the key, not whether the laws of the state were broken (which they were). That’s going to be the key to this one. So this one’s going to stay alive throughout the election, and eventually, gay marriage will be allowed. If you’re against it, you’re on the losing side.

THE JOE SCHMO POST-MORTEM

Everyone knows that I was a little down on Joe Schmo 2 when it started up. Well, now that it’s over, I’m happy to say that I changed my mind (and I became such an evangelist on the show that I changed Murtz’s mind about it; he and I are polar opposites: he loves every reality show except the Schmo). They did a magnificent turnaround in the last five episodes. There were three keys to the show’s recovery and improvement, as far as I’m concerned:

1) The reveal to Ingrid and her conversion: Before being let in on it, Ingrid was a complete, uptight cunt. Afterward, she was loose and ready to do anything. She came through like a real trouper, and made less mistakes than the professional actors. Of course, Tim and Amanda were vegetables, unworthy of carrying Matt’s jock (which caused the show to suffer). But giving Ingrid the offer of joining the cast and her accepting was a masterstroke. If she said no, the whole dynamic of the show would have changed. There wouldn’t have been that edge there of someone knowing both sides of the equation. The only negative was the fact that the booking on the women’s side was telegraphed. It had to be Ingrid and Amanda there at the end. But that played into the second key…

2) Eleanor’s “Shove It Up Your Ass” speech: Brilliant. Comparable to Susan Hawk’s tirade during the first Survivor. You didn’t care that it was fake. This was a breakthrough for the character, and you couldn’t help but cheer for her. Given Austin’s character, you wanted him to go shove his pearl necklaces up his ass. So kudos to both Ms. Makinson and Mr. Herzog for how they played that scene off.

3) The characterization of Bryce: The MVP of this season, much like Kip was during the first season. The creepier he got, the better the show got. All of the touches built instead of remained stagnant. But there was enough of a grey area in there to make you wonder if he was the one who really killed Montacore. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was framed by Derek, who had enough motive to kill the psycho falcon. The primal scream tribute to Piper was absolutely platinum. It was a tribute to a great character that he became the catalyst behind the final reveal to Tim and Amanda.

I’m definitely picking up the DVD when it comes out (and I’m trying to find the first season without going through Amazon or something like that). It’s a positive sign that they can work the format for one more go-around (with a group of marks, perhaps?). An Apprentice parody with a real well-known rich guy involved, maybe? This show is one of the few that actually gets me excited, and I’m pleased they were able to pull everything off with a sense of aplomb.

Well, the PGA is on, so that means that I’m distracted (I’ll make time for the Smackdown Short Form, honest). So you enjoy yourselves, okay?