Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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The House Always Wins

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Photo Credit: David July — Over the past few months, several new specialty businesses have opened in Tallahassee. With names like Sands Internet Café and Dino Dino Internet Café, one might conclude these new shops are catering to people without home internet access or those telecommuting to work. The primary business, however, is a new form of gambling becoming popular in Florida and other states: the computer-based sweepstakes. After purchasing time on a computer, patrons can play casino-like games and win prizes including cash. Since the prizes are awarded to predetermined sweepstakes winners and not by chance, these establishments take advantage of a loophole in many jurisdictions' gambling laws. As they become more prevalent, the sweepstakes cafés are not going unnoticed by some local officials. Mike Carmolingo, City Commissioner in Deltona, Florida, recently oversaw the unanimous passage of an ordinance prohibiting new internet cafés from opening for six months. "What they really are is gambling houses," he told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. He is hoping the Deltona ordinance will eventually lead to an outright ban, like in North Carolina where internet cafés become non grata on 01 December 2010. Earlier this year the Independent Weekly gathered information on the demographics of sweepstakes cafés in that state. Their research revealed that many of the burgeoning cafés exist in low-income minority neighborhoods of Durham, Raleigh and Burlington. Senator Floyd McKissick, Jr. (NC-D) expressed his concern about gaming rooms masquerading as internet cafés saying, "...we need a way to identify businesses that are exploiting vulnerable populations who are using their limited resources on gambling." Not all public officials are against the new ventures. Three months ago in Fall River, Massachusetts, City Councilor Leo Pelletier opened the New England Internet Café or "Leo's Place." It is apparently one of the few sweepstakes cafés in the state, having garnered little if any negative attention. Says customer Diane Zumuda, "We come here, go on the Internet, play some games, hang out. It's a fun thing to do." Photo Credit: "Florida" at Urban Tallahassee — Sweepstakes/internet cafe in the Tallahassee area Back at home Pat Fowler, Executive Director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, says the businesses are "hitting the state in huge numbers," which is of concern to the group. Fowler told the Tampa Tribune they have seen a sudden increase in calls over problem gaming to which they attribute the proliferation of sweepstakes cafés in the Sunshine State. In Hernando County, for example, at least fourteen have opened in recent months. There are at least four here in Tallahassee. The first to catch my attention was Sands Internet Café at 4176 Apalachee Parkway. Formerly the location of Smokie's Barbeque, Sands appears to have the typical setup including "internet café" and "sweepstakes" signage outdoors. I do not know their hours of operation, but I drive past Sands every Sunday morning between 0200–0400 and the parking lot is always busy. A mile west is Dino Dino Internet Café, 3618 Apalachee Parkway, occupying the former Gas Mart convenience store. Within walking distance of that, a new sweepstakes banner recently went up at NYK Internet Café, 3404 Apalachee Parkway. Finally, someone at the Urban Tallahassee forum reports the opening of Lucky Hit Internet Café last month at 3839 North Monroe Street. So just where do these businesses stand legally? In May 2010, the New York Times reported the Florida Attorney General's position "that while it considers sweepstakes cafés to be in violation of state law, it is up to local law enforcement to decide whether illegal gambling is indeed taking place." The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulates sweepstakes, which by definition in Chapter 849 Florida Statutes cannot have an associated purchase or entry fee requirement. The statute also requires agency notification of prizes greater than $5,000, meaning this is likely the highest possible winnings amount at these cafés. Furthermore, as devices that accept coins and paper currency are expressly prohibited, players exchange cash for electronic points and cards used for gaming. Photo Credit: Bob Self/The Times-Union — Customer Lou Andino from East Arlington plays one of the electronic sweepstakes games at Royal Times Sweepstakes, Jacksonville, Florida As more state legislatures take up the issue, some local law enforcement agencies have been reluctant to act while others are taking active measures. Casselberry, Florida Chief of Police James C. Ruf cites the lack of "clear direction from anyone" as one of his frustrations in trying to deal with the new businesses. Meanwhile, police in Roanoke and Virginia Beach, Virginia as well as Lynn, Massachusetts have raided and closed businesses citing violations of promotional sweepstakes laws. At the same time, poker rooms at Florida pari-mutuel facilities are seeing record revenues due in part to the July 2010 law that eliminated buy-in limits and increased the permissible hours of operation. Legal wagering of this type is allowed at the several horse tracks, dog tracks and Jai Alai frontons operated statewide as well as at all seven Seminole casinos. In April 2010, Governor Charlie Crist signed the Seminole Tribe Gaming Compact into law, which in addition to pumping $1 billion into the state's coffers, grants exclusive rights to operate slot machines, blackjack and baccarat games at some of their facilities. Back in North Carolina, the Chadbourn Town Council is leaving nothing to chance. They will hold a public hearing in early December on an ordinance regulating gaming cafés, just in case the statewide ban is later overturned. It is an uncertain future for the likes of Sands and Dino Dino. Until state or local officials decide their fate, it looks like the house will continue to win. We can only hope that the proprietors of these businesses will encourage responsible play and not blindly enable those experiencing tough financial times to flush what little they have away, all for the chance to "win it big."

The Capital Sanctuary

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Photo Credit: David July — Abraham Lincoln (1920) marble sculpture by Daniel Chester French at the Lincoln Memorial (1922), Lincoln Memorial Circle, District of Columbia, 01 November 2008 Remember the scene in Logan's Run where Logan and Jessica, played by Michael York and Jenny Agutter, wade through the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool believing they have arrived at Sanctuary? The entire area has returned to nature. Familiar sights like the United States Capitol and Lincoln Memorial, long since forgotten by the people, are covered with sprawling vines and brambles. Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — Logan's Run (1976) It was the only thing I could think of earlier today when I saw the image broadcast from a traffic camera at Blair Stone Road and Park Avenue. It certainly looks like the roadway has been completely overwhelmed by post-apocalyptic foliage. Photo Credit: City of Tallahassee — Traffic Camera 001 at 1549 EDT, 16 October 2010 While I am on the subject of Logan's Run, be sure to check out Keith Goldman's fantastic LEGO recreations of scenes from the 1976 film.
Photo Credit: David July
Logan's Run © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Photo Credit: City of Tallahassee

The 30 Century Man Returns

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Photo Credit: David July — Looking up the Marriott Marquis exterior, Atlanta, Georgia, 03 September 2010

In one twenty-four hour session over the Fourth of July holiday weekend in 2008, fueled by the excitement of watching Bender's Big Score, I made a music video for 30 Century Man by The Jigsaw Seen (see original article).

The DVD movie was the first of four and their popularity eventually lead to the return of the series to episodic television, an occasion which I recently marked by making the Planet Express Fail Whale.

I am not sure why Futurama seems to bring out my creative side but the music video, despite being my first attempt at such a thing, turned out quite well and received positive feedback from many people including The Jigsaw Seen's co-founder and lead guitarist Jonathan Lea.

Unfortunately after 231 days, 13,515 views, 56 likes, 53 comments and 2 favorites, the automated forces at YouTube that scan for and block potentially copyright infringing material silenced the video on 21 February 2009.

I did not go through the dispute process, but I thought I had a decent case for fair use: the character of the use was personal and non-profit; only a small amount of the work was used; and if widespread, the copyright owner would not lose money. In fact, I think the video promoted their product, if anything.

Therefore by popular demand and in celebration of creative fans worldwide, I am proud to present the 2010 re-release of "30 Century Man." The video has been slightly updated and re-rendered in high quality. I hope you enjoy it!

30 Century Man
Performed by The Jigsaw Seen
Written by Scott Walker
Directed by David July
Download MP4
127.7 MB    

UPDATE 2012-04-25: Jonathan Lea wrote me today to let me know that they have uploaded the video to their official YouTube page. I am honored!

UPDATE 2015-01-14: I recently discovered that the video has been blocked on the band's YouTube account as well. It therefore seems natural that I revisit this project once more to render a fresh, unedited version. Although the source is not in high definition, I rendered this cut at 720p as an MP4 video. Finally, as the technology has proliferated into the mainstream since 2008 and 2010, I am releasing this MP4 only—the WMV, FLV and MOV trifecta are retired.

30 Century Man - Performed by The Jigsaw Seen, Written by Scott Walker, Directed by David July, Futurama Bender's Big Score © 20th Century Fox, 10 October 2010
Photo Credit: David July

The Planet Express Fail Whale

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Photo Credit: David July — Planet Express Fail Whale featuring Yiying Lu and Gedeon Maheux, 21 September 2010 Between the reincarnation of Futurama and seeing Billy West, Phil LaMarr and John DiMaggio at DragonCon 2010 (see pictures from the panel), I was compelled to create this celebratory image to comment on the cancellation and subsequent return of the show. → Planet Express Ship from "Transit Authority" by Gedeon Maheux → Birds and Waves from "Fail Whale" by Yiying Lu
Photo Credit: David July