Thursday, April 30, 2009

And They Have a Plan

A friend forwarded this to me with "It Has Begun" as the subject line.

From The Local:
Robot attacked Swedish factory worker

A Swedish company has been fined 25,000 kronor ($3,000) after a malfunctioning robot attacked and almost killed one of its workers at a factory north of Stockholm.

...The incident took place in June 2007 at a factory in Bålsta, north of Stockholm, when the industrial worker was trying to carry out maintenance on a defective machine generally used to lift heavy rocks. Thinking he had cut off the power supply, the man approached the robot with no sense of trepidation.

But the robot suddenly came to life and grabbed a tight hold of the victim's head. The man succeeded in defending himself but not before suffering serious injuries.

Read more!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Live By the Photo Op...

Tell people about it beforehand? No, that's what they'd be expecting us to do (ominous music).

Plane stupid: Mayor Bloomberg outraged over military photo-op involving low-flying presidential jet

...A perfect storm of idiocy led to a frightening 9/11 flashback for thousands of New Yorkers Monday when a jumbo jet and an F-16 fighter jet buzzed lower Manhattan without warning.

A "furious" Mayor Bloomberg denounced the dunces who dreamed up the stunt - and the NYPD officials and bureaucrats who never told him about it.

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Desperately Watching Susan

YouTuber "truvelocity" actually posts a video showing ONLY her reaction to the Susan Boyle performance. The end is near, I can feel it.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Homeward Bound

Jacoby Ellsbury steals home to score against the Yankees (with bases loaded and two outs no less). Regardless of team affiliation, the act of stealing home plate, when the pitcher is actually throwing the ball TO the catcher right next to the batter (who is hopefully paying attention), is an amazing thing to watch.

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Better Never Than Late

The good news, one of my entrees finally made it to the finals of the New Yorker "cartoon contest" (189).

I submitted this:
The bad news is that this is a little too obvious because someone else got the same entry in before me.

  • "Gesundheit." - gets my vote (the lucky bastard!)

  • "Congratulations—it's a porcupine." - that's just gross.

  • "Most people are reassured after three or four." - nice try, no cigar.

Read more!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pot Meet Kettle

I hope Nancy Pelosi argues as hard for an investigation on herself as she has for others.

From the Washington Post (12/9/2007)
Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002

In Meetings, Spy Panels' Chiefs Did Not Protest, Officials Say

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.

Read more!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blame Canada!

Janet Napolitano kinda looks like South Park's Mrs. Broflovski.

From CTV.CA:

U.S. security boss clarifies comments about border

The U.S. Homeland Security chief has clarified earlier remarks that suggested the 9-11 terrorists entered the U.S. through Canada.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made the comments during a media interview earlier this week, much to the chagrin of Canadians on both sides of the border.
BTW, I just caught the funniest line: "...and that bitch Ann Murray too!"

Read more!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fresh Air, Times Square

In honor of "Earth Day" AND Eddie Albert's birthday (which many cite as the reason why April 22nd was chosen as the date for "Earth Day") I've posted the lyrics to the opening theme of Green Acres.

There's no YouTube, but you can hear it at Television Tunes.

Green acres is the place to be
Farm living is the life for me
Land spreading out,
so far and wide
Keep Manhattan,
just give me that countryside.

New York is where I'd rather stay
I get allergic smelling hay
I just adore a penthouse view
Darling, I love you,
but give me Park Avenue.

The Chores

The Stores

Fresh air

Times Square

You are my wife. Goodbye city life.

Green Acres, we are there!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sounds Fishy to Me

Once again I took the bait and entered the 188th New Yorker "Cartoon Caption Contest."

I won't complain too much as my submission is a horrible pun:
"No one can say my Steinway is out of tuna."
But, none of the winners smell like a rose either:
  • "This song goes out to the one that got away." - Ugh!

  • "And every year they return to my piano to spawn and die." - This can't be one of the top three funniest

  • "Any requests before I tell you about tonight's specials?" - Not bad, not good either, but not bad

Read more!

Monday, April 20, 2009

What'choo talkin' 'bout Alfie

YouTubber "MontyPropps" puts a Hitchcockian spin on the Different Strokes titles with new music because, as he claims, he was "bored on Friday."

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Be Cool

Global Warming: the new millenium's "killer bees."


Antarctic ice is growing, not melting away

ICE is expanding in much of Antarctica, contrary to the widespread public belief that global warming is melting the continental ice cap.

The results of ice-core drilling and sea ice monitoring indicate there is no large-scale melting of ice over most of Antarctica, although experts are concerned at ice losses on the continent's western coast.

...Ice core drilling in the fast ice off Australia's Davis Station in East Antarctica by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-Operative Research Centre shows that last year, the ice had a maximum thickness of 1.89m, its densest in 10 years. The average thickness of the ice at Davis since the 1950s is 1.67m.

A paper to be published soon by the British Antarctic Survey in the journal Geophysical Research Letters is expected to confirm that over the past 30 years, the area of sea ice around the continent has expanded.

Read more!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Moving Violation

This is a useless, yet perfect, story: one of the neighbors who complained about this couple's loud love-making was partially deaf and the husband "escaped prosecution because he was less noisy than his more enthusiastic wife."


Noisy sex recordings played in court

A WOMAN has been slapped with an Antisocial Behaviour Order after magistrates were forced to sit through tapes of her loud love-making sessions.

Caroline Cartwright, 47, was also fined £515 after being found guilty of breaching a noise abatement notice served on her after 25 complaints to police about her marathon sex romps with husband Steve.

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For What It's Worth, I Loved "Sky Captain"

Ben Connelly's ambitiously titled: "The Ten Most Influential Films of The Last Ten Years" from

"Are these the ten most influential films of the last ten years? I think they might just be. Disappointingly, I really don’t like four of them. I’ve also cheated and only included English language films."

While I don't buy into to ALL of it, he raises some good points. The Sixth Sense is, perhaps, a big omission. Likewise, the first entry in the "reboot" genre: Batman Begins.

But, how can I argue with someone who says "if you think there was a single original idea in The Matrix, you’ve been had."

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
"Sky Captain is on the list for kick-starting green-screen mania."

The Bourne Ultimatum
"exemplifying and honing two different things: the ‘running man camera’ action scenes, which is now the norm; and the rapid-fire cross cutting between an alarming amount of different angles."

"popularizing a narrative paradigm I think we’ll be seeing a lot of"

My Big Fat Greek Wedding
"is on the list for its release strategy and resulting success...The pseudo-indie wings of studios would probably never have taken flight without this particular puff of wind."

Polar Express
"motion capture is now here, and is not going anywhere"

"stamping Wes Anderson’s style, in its most successful form, onto the broad pop culture"

The Matrix
"badly repackaging the good ideas and techniques of better films and filmmakers (that means you, Gondry and Fassbinder and Cronenberg and… and… and…) and rendering them cliché."

Children of Men
"taking several elements, be they separate shots or FX pieces, and sewing them together into long, seemingly unbroken ‘takes’. "

The 40 Year Old Virgin
"the acorn from which the grand Apatow oak has grown"

"The most exciting thing about stereo cinema, I’d say, is not that extra dimension creates a 'more real' reality but that it gives even more ways to control this reality to the filmmakers."

Read more!

Fouts Doesn't Flout

Winner of the "Restore My Faith in Human Nature" award.

From The Detroit Free Press:

Warren mayor wanted a speeding ticket, and he got it

While most drivers would welcome a warning instead of a ticket after getting nabbed for speeding, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts felt slighted.

So the first-term mayor, after mulling over the verbal warning, insisted Warren Police issue him a ticket for speeding to City Hall in his new Dodge Charger on Monday.

"Government officials aren't above the law," Fouts said Thursday. "There's a perception that it's not what you know, but who you know. If I don't respect the law, how can I expect others to?"

Fouts paid the $100 fine Wednesday for driving 5 m.p.h. over the speed limit on 12 Mile Road near Ryan and pledged to "watch my speed while driving."

Read more!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Now THAT'S a Law Suit


From the Associated Press:

American Apparel slams Woody Allen's sex life

A clothing company known for its racy ads is fighting a $10 million lawsuit brought by Woody Allen, arguing that it can't have damaged his reputation by using his image because the film director has already ruined it himself.

The 73-year-old Allen started the fight against American Apparel Inc. when he sued the company last year for using his image on the company's billboards in Hollywood and New York and on a Web site.

..."Certainly, our belief is that after the various sex scandals that Woody Allen has been associated with, corporate America's desire to have Woody Allen endorse their product is not what he may believe it is." [American Apparel's lawyer, Stuart Slotnick]

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One for You, Nineteen for Me

In honor of today's tax filing deadline, I'm proudly posting The Beatles "Tax Man."

For what it's worth, I won't be at any tea parties. BUT, I'd love to get a protest going against the new federal tobacco tax. Send me any number of cigars and I'll personally make sure that they are SLOWLY burned in effigy. FIGHT THE POWER!

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Ths s Rlly Fnny!

My idea would be "Uno." One word tweats.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Somali Syndrome

This Reuters story on the dramatic rescue of the Captain Richard Phillips from his pirate captors bugged me.

For the most part it was a straightforward account.
U.S. Navy rescues captain, kills Somali pirates

The U.S. Navy shot dead three Somali pirates and rescued cargo ship captain Richard Phillips on Sunday from a lifeboat off the coast of Somalia where he was being held captive, ending a five-day standoff.
But near the end, the article almost seems to be lamenting the end of the "peaceful pirate" era (bold added):
Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Program, said the rescue would change the stakes in future pirate attacks.

"This is a big wake-up to the pirates. It raises the stakes. Now they may be more violent, like the pirates of old," he said.

So far, pirates have generally treated hostages well, sometimes roasting goat meat for them and even passing phones round so they can call loved ones. The worst violence reported has been the occasional beating and no hostages are known to have been killed by pirates.
The "occasional beating?"

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Plowshare is Mightier Than the Sword

In the 1960's, the U.S. government created "Project Plowshare" a program tasked with the investigation of peaceful uses for nuclear explosions such as: canals, mining, space exploration, and (no joke) disposing of nuclear waste itself. (From

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Thursday, April 09, 2009


I think that Obama should fire the "aide" and hire whoever quipped: "“He wasn’t bowing . . . he was ducking in case someone threw a shoe.”

From Chicago Sun-Times:

Did Obama bow to Saudi king?

A photo of President Obama apparently bowing in front of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is stirring a royal-size controversy.

...An Obama aide speaking anonymously denied that the president was bowing.

It wasn’t a bow. He grasped his hand with two hands, and he’s taller than King Abdullah,” the aide was quoted as saying by Wednesday.

Read more!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Rain of Terror

Here's another idea: Admiral Nelson could have the Seaview fire rockets at the Van Allen radiation belt.


Obama looks at climate engineering

The president's new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth's air.

John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table."

Read more!

Turf War

Racist? No. Stupid? Yes.

Hairy uproar over drugstore Obama

New Yorkers may soon get a chance to say hail to the Ch-Ch-Chia Obama at local drugstores.The grassy-headed figurine of President Obama was pulled from Walgreens shelves in Chicago and Tampa after some people called it racist and company brass decided the new collectible was wrong for their image.

...[founder] Pedott said he was stung by suggestions that there was something racist about Chia Obama, which, if left untrimmed, appears to give the 44th President a healthy, if very green, Afro.

"Since when is an Afro racist?" asked Pedott, a Republican who voted for Obama. Owners can trim Chia Obama's "hair" to any length they want, he added.

Read more!

Monday, April 06, 2009

So Shall It Be Written...

Except for the 2nd one, the winners of The New Yorker "Cartoon Caption Contest" #186 should be banished to the desert for 40 years.

Moses is CLEARLY holding up a Chinese restaurant menu.  Thus, my entry:
"So, we just have to obey five commandments from column A and another five from column B, right?"
However, all but one of the finalist missed that point:
  • "And for you goats—thou shalt not marry a dragon or an ox." - WTF?

  • "And Commandments Eleven to Twenty are the same as One to Ten, just with tofu instead of meat." - can't complain, at least he got the menu thing.

  • "Read quickly. These are really heavy." - the New Yorker cartoon judges really suck!

Read more!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Winston Smith's Diary

Not that anyone noticed, but yesterday, April 4th, was the twenty-fifth anniversary of Winston Smith's first journal entry in the dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell.

My friends over at The House Next Door allowed me to commemorate the "occasion" with this post:

Last Night to the Flicks: 1984

"April 4th, 1984. Last night to the flicks. All war films. One very good one of a ship full of refugees being bombed somewhere in the Mediterranean. Audience much amused by shots of a great huge fat man trying to swim away with a helicopter after him, first you saw him wallowing along in the water like a porpoise, then you saw him through the helicopters gunsights, then he was full of holes and the sea round him turned pink and he sank as suddenly as though the holes had let in the water, audience shouting with laughter when he sank."
So begins the diary of Winston Smith, arguably one of literature's most famous journals, from 1984, written by Eric Blair—whose better-known pseudonym was George Orwell...

(Full post at The House Next Door)

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

I Prefer NAPping

I love the acronym: WILB ("workplace Internet leisure browsing"). I guess they couldn't come up with one for SCREWING AROUND.

Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.


Facebook, YouTube at Work Make Better Employees: Study

Caught Twittering or on Facebook at work? It'll make you a better employee, according to an Australian study that shows surfing the Internet for fun during office hours increases productivity.

The University of Melbourne study showed that people who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about 9 percent more productive that those who do not.

Study author Brent Coker, from the department of management and marketing, said "workplace Internet leisure browsing," or WILB, helped to sharpened workers' concentration.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sour Apples

WAY back in September of 2007, I blogged about the iPhone early adopters who were miffed over it's sudden drop in price not long after its introduction. Ever the cynic, I got a chuckle out of it and singled out Jeremy, a self-described "savvy consumer," who posted a comment on Apple's discussion forum.

Apparently, someone who claims to be that same Jeremy (I have no reason to doubt it, I just can't verify it) found my post and replied to it the other day. How he found it I'm not sure. I can only guess that he googled his name.

To be fair, I've copied the entire comment below (bolds added). I only have three things to say in response.
  1. I don't think I'm an "ever-so-cool blogger". Smart ass, yes. Cool, no.

  2. I still manage to survive without an iPhone.

  3. The worse part of this entire episode is that when I googled Jeremy's name, my blog didn't show up until the THIRD page. Now THAT makes me feel screwed.

Here's Jeremy's comment:

Apple isn't the typical gadget company who intros a product and then drops the price. It was a total shock to see them do so, enough that Steve Jobs had to release a statement and give everyone some cash back. Apple has not before, or since, done the same thing with a product. I didn't buy the iPhone to be 'the first on my block' - and this is my problem with people like you. You assume everyone else is a sheep while you, the ever-so-cool blogger are fighting the herd by going your own way.

I've been a fan of Apple since 1986 when I used my 1st Mac. The iPhone was YEARS in the making (and waiting) for people who knew Apple could do 'the phone' in a way no one else could. As device convergence grew in demand, the desire grew for Apple to do what they do best... INNOVATE. The iPhone was one of those things that you always hope for, but realize might not ever happen. Sort of like hoping your favorite sporting team will win a championship... you often wait YEARS for the chance to be part of that. Or they finally get there and blow it (as a guy living in Ohio, I can
attest to that.). A couple times. In a row.

LOL - I love the title of your "article". iScrewed. Too funny. In addition to being an early adopter and getting to play with a phone that is WAY ahead of it's time 2 years ago, I also got a letter from the CEO apologizing for the sudden drop in price and an Apple Gift Card to make up for it. I'm waiting to hear what other company on the
planet would have done the same for their early adopters.

The only one who ended up getting screwed were people like you who made fun of everyone else while cheating yourself out of what is now the standard for handheld communication. - Jeremy

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Military Industrial Simplex

(posted as part of the 3rd Annual White Elephant Blogathon at Lucid Screening)

Automatons - 2006 (B/W - 83 mins)
Director: James Felix McKenney
Writer: James Felix McKenney
Christine Spencer (The Girl)
Angus Scrimm (The Scientist)
Brenda Cooney (The Enemy Leader)

No sooner had I submitted my post for last year's "White Elephant Blogathon" that gave my reasons for why I thought Only the Strong was a bad film when I received this scathing comment from an apparent fan:

WOW! you are one harsh SOB aren't you?? Is there ANYTHING that you DO like? Let's see you go out and make a movie and let US tell you what we think about YOU! Let's see if you can do it better !!
While this really didn't change my opinion, it did remind me that, regardless of merit, certain films have blindly loyal followings.

So, before I watched Automatons, a low budget sci-fi flick replete with battling robots, I had to take a deep breath and try to cleanse my mental palette. Being selected as a "White Elephant" entry is no doubt a pejorative. I wanted to let the film soak in without any preconceived notions. Complicating things was the fact that I had just seen the Battlestar Galactica finale where the skirmishes between humans and Cylon toasters (both old and new style) reached epic, state-of-the-art computer generated proportions.

I tried to keep an open mind. I really did. But, alas, after the dust had settled (literally), Automatons left me unmoved. I give the film an "A" for effort and enthusiasm, but still a "C-" for execution (that's grading on the curve too).

The plot, as summarized on the Automatons site (yes, there's a website) is as follows:

Somewhere in the distant future, The Girl (Christine Spencer) is alone. She is the last of her people, the others having died in a generations-long war that she continues to fight with the assistance of a group of antiquated robot helpers and soldiers.

Her only connection to her long-dead people is a collection of recorded journal entries made by the scientist (Angus Scrimm) who cared for her as a baby. His is the only friendly human face she’s ever seen. The regular transmissions from her
enemy’s leader (Brenda Cooney) are always filled with threats and taunts. The girl responds to these invasions by attack of her own, carried out by her mechanical soldiers on the contaminated surface where no human can survive.

Men started this war. The machines will finish it.

It's clear that director James Felix McKenney was operating on a shoe-string budget. And he makes good use of it for the interiors. Just as Night of the Living Dead cleverly employed news broadcasts to advance the narrative, Automatons, which (except for the miniature exteriors) takes place entirely in an underground robot workshop, employs a similar device. The girl watches log recordings from her dead scientist mentor in which he outlines the history of how mankind ended up in its current state. Angus Scrimm does a great job with these mini monologues and his appearances work quite well as a film within a film. The manner in which he changes demeanor with each subsequent entree effectively captures the mood of the progressing storyline.

As director McKenny says in a press kit for the film (yes, it has a press kit), he was clearly inspired by 50's sci-fi outings:

AUTOMATONS is the robot film as I imagined it: men in robot suits combined with primitive models duking it out in a post apocalyptic wasteland. It’s in black and white, with bits here and there that are a little hard to see, just like on my TV set as a kid. And of course, there’s the bad dubbing and the low budget look required of every
B-movie. As with the many classic genre film is (sic) emulates, AUTOMATONS has a message about humanity’s tendency toward self-destruction and a cast of new and familiar faces.
The workshop scenes did indeed have the feeling of those old movies I used to watch as a kid on rainy Saturday afternoons. The production design even evoked memories of the original Outer Limits series (high praise indeed).

The problem I had with Automatons is that it really doesn't go anywhere and takes a LONG time doing it. Besides the video diaries (which, I repeat, worked great), we basically watch "the girl" soldering parts for the robots and fending off random electronic attacks from "the enemy leader" that cause the automatons to go buggy for a few seconds. By the time the "surprise" is revealed, that the war was the result of a big misunderstanding and really shouldn't have been fought in the first place (sort of a cross between The Huffington Post and Famous Monsters of Filmland), my interest had already faded.

BTW, the surprise is revealed to the audience through one of Scrimm's video logs that the girl happens to miss while her attention is elsewhere. The plot problem I have with this is WHY didn't she just watch ALL of the videos at once. Instead the girl rations them one at a time like someone with a low-end Netflix account. Had she viewed them all, she would have realized the folly of her ways and avoided the disastrous robot battle at the end. But then again, had she done that, she would have realized the folly of her ways and avoided the disastrous robot battle at the end. Which is why McKenny said he made the film in the first place.

This brings me to the title characters. The robots are WAY too cheesy looking to take seriously. To be fair, I sympathize with McKenney for not having the budget to do better. But, gee whiz! They look more like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz than killer machines. And the miniatures don't come across much better (see trailer below). McKenny lingers way too long on each shot. I was reminded of a high budget sci-fi film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. There's a scene where Astronaut Bowman uses the mechanical arms of the pod to open an airlock door that seems to go on forever. Every one of miniature exteriors in Automatons is paced like that. Just not as pretty to look at.

Once the final battle outside is over, the girl and her bots siege the enemy camp. Which looks like another underground workshop. The automatons sadistically slaughter the human inhabitants with spikes, saw arms, death rays, etc. For a film whose message is ostensibly about the horrors of war, there seemed a bit too much of an "ain't it cool" celebration of it.

Ultimately, the enemy leader finds herself pinned to a wall with a giant metal pipe sticking out of her chest. Yet, she musters up the strength to explain to the girl how much of a dupe she's been for waging the robot war for so long. I mean, it was a pretty serious looking pipe she has sticking out of her midsection and she's wasting time yelling at the girl. Anyway, as a last ditch effort, the pinioned combatant brandishes what looks like the control unit to a motorized race car set and threatens to unleash an electronic disruptor that will shut down all the robots unless the girl withdraws. As expected, the girl doesn't withdraw, fires a shot instead, and the enemy leader pushes the button. The dead enemy leader gets her final revenge as all of the machinery shorts out and stops. This includes life support equipment that the girl needs to survive in the toxic atmosphere. Of course, I'm still not sure why the girl didn't just wait. From the looks of her injuries, the enemy leader only had a few minutes to live. Did I mention there was a GIANT metal pipe sticking out of her chest? The last shot shows the poor doomed girl in the dark looking out a window at the barren landscape (actually, that shot worked pretty well).

Having said all of that, could I have done better? I dunno. But I do know this: for all its faults, Automatons is still WAY better than Only the Strong!

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