Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Behold The Dread Scammer Horde

You can block their email addresses to no end. They just show up in your junk email three days later with the same crap and a brand new email address. You can report perpetual spammers who actually do sign a name to their comments (unlike spammers who remain anonymous and yet want to get in touch with you in their comments) in your spam comments files, and yet those same spammers keep coming back around, leaving one wondering if there's much of a point in reporting at all. Yes, the spammers are an irritation of the first magnitude, more obnoxious than the flesh eating virus. And then there are their cousins once removed, the internet scammer, sending out grammar-challenged emails to millions of people with the hopes of landing someone gullible enough to believe complete strangers want to give them huge amounts of money. Such as the following.


My name is Jason, a Trader, Auditor, Mentor, Investment Manager, Logistics Expert and General Business Man. I contact you in respect of establishing a business relationship with you.

There is a certain amount of money that belongs to me. I intend to take the money out of Germany to another location and bring back the money on a later date for investment and my own personal use. I made this money in the course of auditing a big Oil Firm in Germany and discovered this money as some excesses. 

When I discovered these funds, I discussed the issue with the Company's accountant General as well as their personal relationship banker/adviser. This company in question is a very huge company and has been doing business for a very long time, since 1950s.

In the course of genuine business over this period, the money described above has been floating in the banking system and was recently made known to the Company's Accountant General by me. The Company's Accountant General has been a close friend of mine over time. I've been one of this company's Official Auditor General for over 25 years. 

You may now understand why we need to sanitize this money by having to take it safely out of the country before spending it. Here's our plan, we intend to get a neutral individual who is willing and able to receive this money in form of investment funds to be used by the individual in infrastructural projects, real estate investment or trade etc. 

This is just to get the funds out of The Bank where it is presently, to the receiver's bank only. However, the deal is that the funds would be shared into 4 equal places and each of us would be entitled to equal parts of the funds after you receive. I'm talking about Me, You, The Company's Accountant General and The Senior Officer at The Bank who is their personal relationship banker/adviser.

We do not require any complicated paperwork or lawyer agreements etc to get this work done. Our agreement would be between 4 of us only as we require utmost confidentiality in this matter. You do not have to tell your bank the details being given in respect of these funds. All we require from you is your willingness and ability to receive the funds in question.

With all these in place, The Bank will initiate wire transfer of the funds to your account. We expect that we act according to the agreement we shall get to in respect of this. This isn't a risky operation or money laundering. Its just a simple opportunity which we intend to exploit using an absolute stranger.

Let me know if this is something you would like to be a part of. If you have any questions, please ask. We would be very glad to move forward on this immediately but require utmost and absolute confidentiality. I'm very willing to furnish you every information you might require so long you promise not to betray privileged information getting to you as a result of this communication.

Thanks for your time. I await your response.


Jason Flatt.

Well, well, well. Where do we begin? Perhaps with the name- Jason Flatt. If you Google that name, you come up with two items of note. Posts about an internet scammer are in the minority. Most of the items that show first are about a young athlete who committed suicide.

Yes, our scamming scammer just happens to be that tasteless.

Spelling isn't as much an issue as you so often see with these scam emails, but there are other tell-tales. Way too much capitalization where it's not needed- "Me, You, The Company's Accountant General and The Senior Officer at The Bank", for example. And some of the phrasing just feels off, as if we're not actually dealing with someone whose first language actually is English. Which this person is not.

He claims the usual- big amount of money he wishes to share with a complete stranger, money he found that just happens to be floating about in a company's coffers that he's been auditing. He doesn't mention how much or which company, mind you, he just says it's been in business a very long time, "since 1950s". He claims he wants to take the money out of Germany safely (as if money's not safe in Germany), and that "we need to sanitize this money". Excuse me? Sanitize the money? 

The only people who talk about sanitizing money are money launderers.

Oh, he claims this "isn't a risky operation or money laundering" while explaining his technique of trying to coax the gullible into going along with this. And then he says what is, with the exception of one word, about the only honest thing he says in this whole con job: it's "just a simple opportunity which we intend to exploit using an absolute stranger." Remove using from that phrase, and their mission statement is clear: "a simple opportunity which we intend to exploit an absolute stranger." The absolute stranger in this case being the dimwit who actually buys into this attempt at a con.

Nice try.

I've got a better idea. Why don't we take you in a helicopter somewhere far up north, far from any settlement, deep in grizzly country. We can drop you off with just the clothes on your back and fly away. Let's see how long you last.

My expectation is that you'll be a fast lunch for a bear inside forty eight hours.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Last Stand Of A Mad Scientist

You may want to read this previous post to make sense of the following....

Mad Scientist Meets His Doom After Steampunk Rampage

Vienna (AP) The threat of supervillain and mad scientist Magnus von Malice is at an end after nearly two weeks of continued global threats and demands of complete capitulation from the world’s leaders. Von Malice, the deranged graduate of the Zeppelin Von Blood Academy For The Ethically Challenged, has been known in recent years for world domination attempts, morally reprehensible science experimentation, criminal acts, and self-glorification. He escaped custody from a German prison hospital wing recently, and issued demands to the entire planet of a complete surrender to his rule, among other things.

The days following that initial video demand and narcissistic rant were followed by more video rants, each time spending an hour or so boasting about himself and his “genius mind”, in between seething vows of bloody revenge on Lars Ulrich, the Mountie who had caused him so much trouble. World leaders debated among themselves as to what to do. The French president issued white flags to be flown all over his country. The Russian president was not available for comment. The American president, if you want to call him that, tweeted up a storm. “Fake news! Magnus Von Malice is a great guy! Crooked Hillary and Lyin’ Ted and Franklin Delancey Roosevelt are to blame! Sad!”

At the UN, representatives debated endlessly. Entertainment reporters gossiped among themselves, wondering why a super villain would want the painful death of a heavy metal drummer, not realizing the Lars Ulrich in question was not that heavy metal drummer. They also speculated that sooner or later there would have to be a movie made about the fearsome Magnus Von Malice, but who would be ideal in the part? Carrot Top was the consensus for all of them- yet more proof of why entertainment reporters are pretty dumb.

As to the Mountie himself? Inspector Lars Ulrich, the world’s most dangerous and grouchy lawman, was out of reach. Mounties at his detachment refused to account for his whereabouts. The Canadian government also maintained their silence on the matter. In a detainment facility in Calgary, the former novelist and current murder suspect Jessica Fletcher, facing trial proceedings for multiple murders, issued a statement of her own. “Nobody kills Lars Ulrich but me! Do you understand??? Nobody! I want his head on a pike! His head on a pike!” The lunatic was pulled away from the visitor table at that point by guards, while her attorney told this reporter that everything she said was not to be quoted.

Von Malice, in a more recent video rant, laughed at one point about the absence of Ulrich. “He’s a coward! A coward! He refuses to take the painful death that he surely deserves like a man! But die he will, and at the hands of the greatest genius this world has ever seen! At the hands of Magnus Von Malice!” The supervillain kept laughing at this point for another five minutes, and finally calmed down, facing the camera, smirking. “Let me tell you this. My loathing for Lars Ulrich precedes his ever crossing my path and thwarting my plans! It is a blood feud that spans generations!” The supervillain glared at the screen, his hands clutching at nothing.

“Long ago, my great-grandfather, the esteemed and ruthless scientific genius Gunther Von Malice, an esteemed alumnus of the Zeppelin Von Blood Academy For The Ethically Challenged, just like me, tried to take over the Canadian West with his giant scorpion machine- which, by the way, happened a full century before that giant spider in Wild Wild West, so don’t talk to me about ripping off a bad movie. And we all know it was a bad movie, because the heroes won! Where was I? Oh, yes, Grandfather Gunther. His schemes were thwarted by another Mountie! Zane Ulrich, the great-great-grandfather of Lars Ulrich! So, you see… it’s personal. Lars Ulrich, you are going to die. Die, die, die, infinity die!”

Yesterday, the supervillain unleashed a path of destruction in the Austrian countryside. Witnesses started making panicked calls about a gigantic steampunk style mechanical scorpion stomping its way through the countryside, unleashing fireballs from its stinger, slamming into homes with its claws. At its controls above its head, behind bulletproof glass, was Magnus Von Malice himself, laughing at the destruction he was causing. Later reports and comparisons to the 19th century version his ancestor built would confirm that this scorpion was twice as big as the one used by Gunther Von Malice. And for the record- it was still a rip off of Wild Wild West, which this reporter can concede to agree with the supervillain: it is a bad movie.

Von Malice was closing in on Vienna itself, the city of dreams, with its grand architecture at risk, after six hours of shrugging off attempts by the police to slow him down. Finally, with the city itself in sight, his scorpion machine came to a halt, and the supervillain paused to see two familiar figures standing in his path. Both were cranky. Both were exceedingly dangerous. One was a Mountie. The other was a tiny but ferocious dog.

It was Inspector Lars Ulrich. And Fluffy, Destroyer of Worlds.

The two had teamed up before, to bring down Von Malice and destroy his time machine. Authorities later confirmed the two were in Europe following leads on their mutual foe and had been summoned by the Austrian government through Interpol. Now they were face to face with a gigantic scorpion and a deranged mad scientist bent on destruction. Witnesses reported that Von Malice blathered on over a loudspeaker about an immediate surrender, and then opened fire with his flame stinger.

Ulrich and Fluffy deftly avoided the fire… and then flanked the scorpion from either side, beginning to ascend the legs. What happened next astonished onlookers, who watched the pair of ferocious grouches go to work systematically destroying Von Malice’s scorpion machine and reduce the mad scientist to a state of tears, blood, bruises, and busted bones. “It’s not fair!” Von Malice managed to gripe as he was loaded into an ambulance under the watch of Austrian police and a pair of victorious grouches. “I was supposed to rule the world!”

In the aftermath of the battle, Von Malice is being monitored under tight security as he heals from bones that have been broken yet again. The French president issued a statement insisting that he really didn’t mean to surrender control of his own country. At the White House, Donald Trump issued statements by Twitter: “Unfair! Very unfair! Magnus treated very badly! I want that Mountie thrown behind the wall I’m having Mexico pay for! Sad! Fake news covfefe!”

The gigantic scorpion machine is beyond repair, something lamented by Disney executives, who mused in the battle’s aftermath about adding it to the five times daily Disney parade in Orlando. The machine itself, shattered and busted, is nearly incomprehensible to most engineers who have had a chance to look at it. “To be honest, when you’re insane like this Von Malice guy is, sometimes you create things that nobody else is going to ever sort out how to get to work,” one told reporters.

As for the victors themselves? They were seen having a drink at a Vienna bar before parting ways. Ulrich returned to Canada and his detachment. Fluffy returned to what he was doing- being the terror of Monster Island. And Carrot Top, reached for comment, said, “Hollywood has got to cast me as this mad scientist. Please, there are loan sharks coming by the end of the day for the 150 grand I owe them, and they’re going to break my legs, man! My legs!”

Monday, November 13, 2017

Murder And The Belgian Detective

“Would you mind if I join you? You’re the world famous detective, Hercule Poirot. Avenger of the innocent. Is that what they call you in the papers?” ~ Edward Ratchett 
“And are you innocent?” ~ Hercule Poirot

“Some men have a good look. All they have to do is keep their mouth shut and they can take home any prize they want. Still the mouth opens.” ~ Mrs. Hubbard

“I’m sleeping here, where everyone can see me, and where I can see everyone.” ~ Mary Debenham

“We’re surrounded by lies!” ~ Edward Masterman

“And who are you?” ~ Gerhard Hardman 
“I am Hercule Poirot, and I am probably the greatest detective in the world.” ~ Poirot

Agatha Christie remains one of the literature world’s leading lights in mystery fiction, with her works frequently adapted for stage and screen. Her creations include the iconic Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who appeared in a wealth of stories that have provided readers- and viewers- with suspenseful entertainment in a variety of ways. One of her most acclaimed tales, Murder On The Orient Express, has been previously adapted in film and on television, pitting the detective into a case of a murder on the lavish title train. It has now been adapted into a new film version by the actor and director Kenneth Branagh, with an outstanding cast.

Poirot (Branagh), the esteemed and eccentric detective, is looking to unwind and relax after a case in 1930s Europe. This being a murder mystery story, unwinding and relaxing are not going to happen, and he is summoned back to Europe on a case, boarding the Orient Express to swiftly return. He meets a number of other passengers on board, each with their own secrets and reasons for being on board. Some are wealthy and well known, others are of more common stock. One of them, Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp), asks for his assistance, fearing for his own safety. Murder ensues, and the detective finds himself caught up in the task of narrowing down suspects and identifying the killer.

The screenplay comes from Michael Green, adapting the original story by Christie. Green has been behind films like Logan, Blade Runner 2049, and Alien Covenant, and his screenplay tweaks the story with some details- nationalities of certain characters, for instance. But the screenplay follows the story’s methodical sifting through secrets, the detective’s relentless pursuit of the truth, and the tension of a situation where a murderer lingers among passengers on a train, marooned in winter. I like that the story plays those secrets close to the vest, giving the audience a chance to get used to the characters at a distance before murder and mayhem bring everything in a different direction.

Branagh comes from a background in Shakespeare on the stage, and he’s adapted several of the Bard’s works for film (he’s just about the right age now for a cinematic Macbeth). That theatricality shows itself in this film, with how he works with actors, how he stages the action, and how he performs in the lead role himself. He has a great eye for detail, which shows itself through the film- the luxury of the train is well rendered, with its furnishings providing a lavish setting for those with money to spare and a wish to be seen on one of the great symbols of class. Branagh’s crew keeps that attention to detail in other ways, evoking the period through costume and prop details; we feel like we’ve just stepped back in time and are unseen passengers on board. And Branagh’s style as a director works well with the material, slowly driving up the tension as things go along, with this machine of luxury stranded in the wilderness- while a murderer lingers among its passengers.

With a cast like this, part of the draw of the movie is just watching them at play, and Branagh goes with a diverse selection of fine actors, some of whom he has worked with before, others who are new collaborators. Depp himself has spent the last few years known for bad behavior and playing eccentrics to no end; here he plays the ill-fated Ratchett in an understated way (understated for the actor, anyway). He’s anxious, but tries to hide that behind a smarmy kind of charm, and his character is an unpleasant man whose past carries many secrets and acts of criminality. The actor plays off that well, and needs to play more subtle characters like this for awhile rather than return to over the top mischief.

Derek Jacobi has been a frequent collaborator with Branagh over the years, and this time plays a butler, Edward Masterman, whose ties to others play out through the film. Judi Dench, another occasional collaborator with Branagh, plays Princess Dragomiroff with an occasionally arrogant quality that you might expect of royalty. Josh Gad turns up as Ratchett’s assistant Hector MacQueen, turning out to be as corrupt as his boss. Willem Dafoe, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, and Leslie Odom Jr. all turn up as passengers- the professor, the missionary, the governess, and the doctor in that order- and suspects in ways that require them to play their emotions and agendas hidden. This is true of the rest of the suspects. Michelle Pfeiffer gets a lot to do as Mrs. Hubbard, the widow with her own reasons for being aboard the train, a forceful personality as the story unfolds. She brings a sultry, cynical air to her performance.

Part of the fun of a murder mystery is watching the detective prove how brilliant he is by unravelling the secrets and circumstances of the murder, and Branagh has a lot of fun playing Poirot. The character has been played before in film and television by actors like Albert Finney, Alfred Molina, and David Suchet, and Branagh slips into the eccentric, salty-mustached Belgian detective effortlessly. When we meet him, he’s eager only for rest, but a man of his skills is never allowed to relax, and Branagh plays off that sense of irritation early. He’s also a man of principle, finding it distasteful to work in a bodyguard capacity for a career criminal, and yet obliged to investigate the murder that ensues. Branagh’s take on the character is a good one, a doggedly determined and brilliant mind that works to seek out a solution, unearthing secrets as he goes along.

Murder On The Orient Express turns out to be a good deal of fun, watching an outstanding cast in a period film deal with a murder mystery. One could watch a cast like this reading the phone book and still enjoy it. It brings to life one of the genre’s great figures, as Poirot confronts an enigmatic puzzle of a mystery, and sifts through its intricate connections. Adding in a dash more action than the prim and proper Agatha might have expected, the film is a fine lark built around blood and death- and proper manners along the way.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Day In The Life Of A Cat

And now it is time for Her Regal Grace The Supreme Cat to have her say...

7:06 AM. Waking up at home. Taking a big stretch. Slept well. Dreamed of coming across the world’s biggest scratching post.

7:13 AM. Sitting on the back of the couch, staring out at the vastness of my domain. Wondering when I should go yell at the staff to wake up. Frost on the ground. Days are getting shorter, nights are getting longer. Winter is coming. That suits me just fine, as long as I’ve got a place in a nice warm house to curl up for a nap.

7:19 AM. Sounds from upstairs. Good, it’s about time. I was about to head upstairs and jump on the staff and meow my head off. 

7:28 AM. The staff finally comes downstairs. It’s about time, staff. Now then, this being a Saturday, I fully expect you to spend the day spoiling me rotten and paying attention to me at every single turn. That includes belly rubs. Oh, you don’t have to worry… do I look like the sort of cat who’d give you a good clawing out of nowhere?

7:30 AM. Watching expectantly as the staff prepares my breakfast.

7:32 AM. The staff has put down a bowl of milk, which I approve of, and a plate of chicken, which I also approve of. And yet despite my many occasions pointing out the obvious- that I dislike field rations- she’s put down a bowl of that too.

7:34 AM. Finished breakfast. Have left the field rations aside. Leaving the staff to make her breakfast in peace.

7:37 AM. Sitting on the back of the couch, looking outside. Off in the distance comes the irritating howls of that annoying dog from down the road.

7:46 AM. Making inquiries with the staff. What is the precise purpose dogs serve in this world, staff?

8:30 AM. Stretching out in a sun puddle for a nap. Staff, don’t wake me up before lunch, do I make myself perfectly clear?

10:49 AM. Suddenly roused out of sleep by the staff picking me up. Wait a minute, what did I tell you about not waking me up before lunch? Before I know what’s happening, she’s got me into the cat carrier. Oh, hold on here… I did not authorize you to do this! 

10:54 AM. The staff is taking me and the cat carrier out the front door. No good ever comes from being put into one of these things. Staff, you and I are going to have words about this later, I assure you of that.

10:58 AM. Fuming about my current situation. Assessing options. Suspecting the worst. My staff only puts me in that cat carrier for one reason, and one reason only. One of the most vile three letter words imaginable.

11:17 AM. The car has stopped, and the staff is taking the carrier out of the back seat. And I’m getting a glance at where we are. Sure enough. My suspicions are confirmed. She has brought me to the dark abode of the mistress of all evil. She has brought me to the vet.

11:19 AM. In the waiting room with my staff. Staring out through the gate at anxious dogs, and at irritated cats in carriers. Fuming. Well, that vet might want to examine me, but I won’t make things go easy on her…

11:36 AM. Summoned into an examination room. The staff greets the mistress of all evil as if the vet is a normal human being as opposed to what she really is- the embodiment of the darkness and the despicable given human form. 

11:38 AM. The vet gives me a shot. Hey! That hurt! What was in that anyway? Some kind of slow acting poison?

11:43 AM. Hissing and howling and clawing as much as I can while the staff holds me down. You are going to pay for this later, staff… oh, will you pay!

11:52 AM. Being taken out by the staff, back in my carrier. Thoroughly irritated. The mistress of all evil says she’ll see me again. Like hell you will! Meowing to the other cats and to the dogs as the staff takes me out the door. Give her hell, you hear me? Give her hell!

11:55 AM. The staff has me back in the car, while she’s driving. I am busy plotting revenge. Throwing up at home comes to mind as an opening gambit. The question is how much to throw up. Too much and she might be inclined to take me back to the vet, and that is entirely unacceptable.

12:21 PM. Back home. The staff opens up the gate for the carrier. I stalk out and walk away in a huff. I am not talking to you right now, staff! Is that clear???

3:57 PM. Slowly waking up out of a nap. The staff is stroking me under the chin and scratching behind my ears… which is eliciting a purr out of me. Oh, come on! I’m supposed to be mad at you, and you’re not playing fair!

6:03 PM. Watching the staff cooking dinner. I smell meat cooking. I approve of that.

6:36 PM. Dinner with the staff. Pork is on the menu, cut up nicely for me. I don’t know why she eats hers with sprouts. But then human beings are really weird.

8:59 PM. Contemplating the great mysteries of existence. Do vets hang upside down in the rafters at night like the vampire bats they must surely have sprung up from?

11:26 PM. The staff bids me good night. Oh, very well, staff. I forgive you. Just as long as you understand this: you will never take me to the vet again, are we clear? And that doesn’t mean you can let the vet come here, so don’t get any bright ideas.