Being the Ongoing Chronicle of the Anticks, Misadventures, and Odd Deeds of an Overalls-clad Wanderer.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

From dung, a rose bloometh

The Honorable Mr. Jones, a talented writer who turned away from The Craft when he realized that he needed to, you know, eat and live under something other than cardboard, decided to try the Buffalo News's recent short-story contest, and he posts his resulting tale here. Check it out. It's under 1500 words (about four pages of a mass-market paperback), so it won't be too taxing.

I also wrote a submission for the contest, and if I don't win I'll post my own results here. (The two winning stories are to be printed in the News this Tuesday, so I'm assuming that I lost, but maybe they're waiting until tomorrow to notify winners. I can hope, can't I....) I won't claim that Matt's story and my story are better than the two stories that will actually appear in the paper, since I want to at least maintain an air of modesty, but....you know.

Too....many....identities....

Paul wonders why anyone would want to use more than one screen-name, either on AOL or any other service that allows such features. I have two reasons for doing this:

1. One is professional. When I was trying to launch my freelance copywriting business (which never really got off the ground, alas -- but I can always try that again when I have better footing), I wanted to have an e-mail address dedicated to just that, and use my "Jaquandor" address for personal stuff as well as fiction-writing related e-mail. It just made things easier to maintain.

2. Both AOL and EarthLink, my main Internet portals, offer webspace to each active screenname or e-mail address in use. This is big. It allows me space to store my own images for use in this blog (as well as the background graphics for The Promised King), and since I can basically give myself a new 10MB of web space by just creating a new e-mail address or screen name (I haven't even used a third of the total aliases theoretically available to me), I shouldn't have to worry about running out of space here for a long, long time.

3. I also have a Hotmail account that I use exclusively for my eBay-related correspondence. It's just easier to have all of that e-mail going to one place.

4. My G-mail is just a backup, although I've started checking it more religiously after twice in one month discovering e-mails sent my way a week after the fact. This isn't really an alias or anything like that, but it sort of qualifies.

So, I don't really use multiple screen names or e-mail addresses in any attempt to obscure my identity from one set of online interactions to another; it's more a bit of mental book-keeping.

(I should also note that I used to be fairly militant about remaining strictly pseudonymous, but I eventually realized that this wasn't really important. It was about the same time that I realized that I have little to worry about from "identity theft", since anyone stealing my identity will find that it gets them about as far as the nearest NFTA bus stop.)

Move Over Britney!

So I'm glancing through some of the photo galleries at the MerleFest site (see previous post), and I found a couple of shots on this site of country singer Roseanne Cash, whose voice I always liked but whom I also completely forgot about over the last ten years -- since I moved out of the parents' house, anyway. My father is a big country music fan, but the older stuff, not the newer Toby Keith "rockabilly" stuff. His tastes ran to the stuff you'd hear on Austin City Limits or, back in the day, Hee Haw. Yes, we watched Hee Haw -- I remember Saturday evenings when the local indy station would run old episodes of Maverick followed by Hee Haw. I was five at the time, if memory serves.

Hmmm...where was I? Oh yeah, Roseanne Cash. I saw her picture on a MerleFest gallery, and I suddenly remembered the she certainly is a Woman Who Takes Britney To The Woodshed To Teach Her A Thing Or Two:


Looking at Ms. Cash's official site, I like this photo a lot:


And another name goes on the "Artists whose CDs I need to track down" list. Sigh....

Aw, MANNN....

Kim at ThymeWise links something called "MerleFest", which sports what is just about the coolest name for a festival of some sort I've ever heard. And sure enough, following the link, I see that I wanna go to MerleFest. And I can't. Dammit.

Maybe next year.

(There's a strong connection between bluegrass and traditional Celtic music, and MerleFest just looks right up my alley. And my name's not even Merle.)

(Oh, and Kim and husband Scott are committed Blue Staters, and they're passing up a charity event in which they really wanted to participate to go to a music festival in a Red State. What's all this about "flyover country" and "Blue Staters looking down on Red Staters" and all that rot? Harumph!)

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Buy now! Pay later now too!

After a couple of weeks of having nothing for sale on eBay, I have a few things available on eBay. In addition to weeding out the book collection, I'm also weeding out the CDs, little by litte. So bid.

Was it Gore-Tex?

Since I learned yesterday that Vice President Cheney attended a very solemn memorial service at Auschwitz garbed in a giant parka (as opposed to the standard black wool overcoat), I've been of mixed mind: it's just not that big a deal, but I think it does speak to a certain oafishness on the part of the people who assured us, back on January 20, 2001, that "the grownups were back in charge".

But what really bugged me about this whole thing was something else, something elusive, that I couldn't quite put my finger on. But finally it came to me just a little bit ago: what bothers me is that I don't want the Vice President of the United States looking like George Costanza when he's abroad representing my country. I mean, compare:

The Vice President

George Costanza

Oy.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Did Lord Stanley have a saucer for that thing?

I don't follow hockey much; basically I root for the Buffalo Sabres out of local loyalty, but that's about it. I don't really understand the finer rudiments of the game -- I always get into it when the players are skating around and they have some good momentum going, but then they inexplicably stop completely, and the announcer says something like, "Oh, Grapinchuk crossed the blue line!" or "Grapinchuk is called for icing!" And I'm thinking, "Huh?" I even liked it when one of the TV networks had that little dot superimposed over the puck, with that laser-like special effect whenever the puck was passed or shot. It made the game easier to watch.

Anyway, hockey's quite a topic on the local sports talk shows, because (a) Super Bowl hype won't ramp up until next week (and, really, since everybody knows that StuPats are going to spank the Eagles, what's the point?), and (b) hockey is Buffalo's only sport when the Bills aren't active. So I heard a proposal on one of the shows this morning, offered by some guy who called in. I didn't catch the guy's name, but his idea -- a prescription for making the game of hockey itself more exciting -- struck me as interesting, and I thought I'd summarize it here in case any of my hockey-knowledgable readers wanted to comment.

Basically, everyone on the radio agrees that NHL hockey has become so defense-oriented that the game is boring to watch. The fast pace is apparently gone. A popular idea for rectifying this is to increase the area of the ice, but that's not really practical in most cases, since presumably few NHL arenas can accomodate a larger ice surface. What the radio caller proposed was this: if you can't increase the size of the ice, get the same effect by reducing the number of players on the ice in the first place.

He proposed that the NHL switch to four-on-four hockey, with a concurrent reduction of roster sizes. Fewer players taking up the ice would, he argued, promote the kind of fast-paced, skating-centered game that the NHL used to be.

The obvious sticking point would be that the players' union would not approve a plan that reduces the number of jobs available for players, but the caller had an answer for that, too: compensate for that by expanding the NHL to markets that have either been abandoned (Hartford, Quebec City) or new markets entirely.

Any hockey fans with thoughts on this? I have absolutely no idea one way or the other.

Worst Criminal EVER.

Go here, and scroll down to the second item (the one from New Castle, DE).

Oy.

All the Pretty Houses

It turns out that Scott of The Gamer's Nook likes Extreme Makeover Home Edition, which -- I have to admit -- I enjoy as well, although I have some nagging questions about the show:

1. Why is it always someone who's really down on their luck, preferably with some disease that requires some kind of super-odd construction stuff? It would be nice just to see them pick a nice, healthy family that happens to live in a crappy house.

2. It's cool that the nine year old son who's really into, say, monkeys gets a room decorate with monkey-stuff to the gills. But what happens when that same nine-year-old son is a fourteen-year-old son five years from now who might not so much want to sleep in a monkey-shaped bed? Or when that same kid, two years later, wants to, you know, bring one of them girls by..."Uh, on second thought Susie, maybe we should just sit in the living room and watch a movie...."

3. The big one: Just how good can the quality of construction be after building a house in seven days? In the episodes when they pour new foundations, can the concrete even be completely dry before they start erecting walls?

4. Actually, this is the big question: Why, oh why, does each episode not feature more shots of those two really attractive women using power tools?! Always remember my Second Theorem of Womanly Goodness:

Attractive Woman + Workwear + Power Tools = Happiness


For proof of the Second Theorem, have a gander at Amy Wynn Pastor, a carpenter on Trading Spaces. Yup, that's what TV needs: more women doing stuff with power tools.

(Kidding and light-hearted stuff aside, Scott also links a very worthy cause. Give if you can.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Most Shocking News Update EVER!

George R. R. Martin still isn't done writing A Feast for Crows.

In other news, J.R.R. Tolkien hopes to have time to tidy up his manuscript to The Silmarillion sometime soon, once he's figured out how to write while being, you know, dead.

By some definition of "selective"

Jamye Lynn Blaschke provides a hilarious followup to that PublishAmerica article I linked the other day. For details, go read Jayme's post, but suffice it to say that someone decided to do a bit of experimenting with PublishAmerica's claim to "selectiveness" in its purchasing of manuscripts.

"Heavy? Is there something wrong with the Earth's gravitational pull?"

I wrote some time ago about my fondness for heavy metal music, the fact of which often baffles people who know that I love classical music. (And my love of classical music often baffles those who know that I enjoy heavy metal!) And I recently read a very entertaining book about heavy metal, called Hell Bent for Leather: Confessions of a Heavy Metal Addict, by Seb Hunter. I tend to find most writing about rock music, be it just about any of rock's subgenres, very overwrought, as if the writers hope to confer upon their music the gravitas it doesn't seem to receive from serious music lovers or whatnot. I'm talking about writing like this:

Emerging like the monolith in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, a contemporaneuous influence, Black Sabbath was as irreducible as the bottomless sea, the everlasting sky, and the mortal soul.


(Yes, that's an actual living example.)

Not so Hunter's book: there's a welcome sense, even as he writes about the music that he loves, that he knows that a lot of such hyper-mythologizing is just full of crap. This book, half memoir of Hunter's experiences as a crappy guitar player ending up in a band anyway and half a history and background of heavy metal's history from Black Sabbath to Nirvana, reads almost like a metalhead's version of Almost Famous, although with less sweetness and quite a bit more sarcasm. There is a section of the book that traces the evolution of the electric guitar as used in metal; a section that describes the proper attire of a metalhead (focusing on the proper logo); and numerous sections profiling the most important bands in metal's history. And Hunter has a very pleasing writing style, with a gift for metaphors that I think that only a metalhead could come up with:

Hunter on Slayer:

Slayer couldn't do a ballad if you sprinkled their breakfast cereal with ecstasy and sleeping pills and locked them in a room with just harps. Slayer are the real deal.


Hunter on Black Sabbath:

The noise they made was instantly terrifying. If you can imagine getting on the Titanic (before it sank), stripping out all its decks and cabins and everything until you've got just the gigantic iron shell, and then in the middle of the night scraping something rusty and fetid along the bottom, for hours, then you've got the raw effect of the sound of Black Sabbath.


Hunter on metal as showcase for instrumental virtuosity:

Heavy metal has nothing at all to do with the liberating, chain-breaking, DIY, just-get-up-and-express-yourself blueprint of what rock and roll was invented for. In a way it was the next stage. It didn't need to rebel, or to wear jeans, or to feel dangerous about hair below the collar -- that had been done in the 50s and 60s. Heavy metal rock took all that for granted and assumed that you were lining up for the next challenge. And far from being the clicheed, club-footed, talentless morons of popular notion (musically), these hungry thrill-seekers set about learning to play their instruments to within an inch of their lives. You want to laugh at us? Go ahead, sucker, but I bet you can't do this.


The problem with good rock music writing is that it's really hard to find; the good news is that when you find the good rock music writing, it's really worth it. Seb Hunter sort of reads like a Lester Bangs who banged his head more, but who also didn't overdose either.

Now, if he'd only managed to squeeze a mention of Van Halen into his book...but then, everything's gotta have a flaw.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The OTHER Lord of the Ring

Via Scott Spiegelberg I see this animated version of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Actually, the site appears to be an educational site affiliated with the animated verion of the Ring, as opposed to the entire Ring Cycle itself. I've long wished for a full-blown animated version of the cycle. But not a Disneyfied version, called Siegfried! with music and songs by Alan Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice -- I'd want the entire Cycle, with every note that Wagner wrote, used as the basis for a set of animated films that would treat the subject matter with the respect it deserves. (Heck, if Disney wanted to do its own thing with the legends of the Nibelungen, that's one thing, but leave poor Wagner out of it.) I suspect that the anime world would be better suited to something like this -- especially Hayao Miyazaki, some of whose films, Princess Mononoke chief among them, use naturalistic imagery that would not be out of place in a Wagnerian setting.

IMAGE OF THE WEEK (belated, but not my fault this time)

Yes, I am late yet again with the Image of the Week, but this time I actually had an image picked out and uploaded to my own server space, ready to go -- it was Blogger that screwed me up. The service went offline for maintenance right when I was trying to post it.

Anyway, Scott of The Gamer's Nook links this stunning gallery of photos of the Aurora Borealis. And when I say "stunning", I mean, "Wow, that's stunning!" Behold:


I have only been lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis once in my life, when I was in college in Iowa. The only metaphor I can come up with, lame though it may be, is that it was as if God had put on a tie-dyed shirt. There have been several times since I've lived in Buffalo when the Aurora should have been visible, had the skies not been cloudy at the time. Ah, clouds -- my old adversary....

Authors Beware

SL Viehl takes time out from her morning regimen of 6000 words before breakfast to link this Washington Post story about PublishAmerica, an outfit that really really really tries awful awful hard to make vanity publishing not look like vanity publishing. She asks that the word be spread, so here's my small contribution.

Of course, it may seem weird for me to be spreading the word thusly, given that I'm sticking my own novel online for free (read it here!), but then, the way I see it there's a big difference between me deciding that I don't much care if I get paid by readers for this novel and me not much caring if I end up paying for readers to read it (assuming that PublishAmerica books ever make it to the readers).

A heads-up to Sean

Kevin Drum posted his take on Thomas P.M. Barnett's new book today. I haven't read the book, and I'm not really sure if I plan to, but Sean's been following Barnett for quite a while.

A cursory glance at the ensuing comment thread at Kevin's blog seems to indicate that a lot of folks are assuming that Barnett is offering more of the usual neocon "bomb 'em until they stop doing terrorist stuff" approach, but from reading what Sean's related of Barnett's stuff, I'm not sure that's accurate. But, as I indicate, I really have no idea.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Let the vomiting begin.

Well, a horrible event that comes as no surprise is no more welcome than a horrible event that comes as a complete shock, merely by virtue of it being expected: even though I predicted it back before the first kickoff of the 2004 NFL season took place, I find nothing to celebrate in the return of the New England Stupid Patriots to the Super Bowl. Not even the fact that for the first time since I started blogging, in my third set of football predictions, that I got the two Super Bowl participants exactly right makes this any less nauseating.

Here's hoping that Donovan McNabb has the game of his life. Here's hoping that Terrell Owens returns now, and in something approaching full health. Here's hoping that Deion Branch, after that little "waving bye-bye" bit of taunting he just did whilst scoring on a reverse with two minutes to go, breaks his leg in eight places. Here's hoping that Sean has enough towels in his house to soak up all of his drool as his favorite fair-weather team grasps the Ring of Power one more time.

Stupid Patriots.

(Oh, and I think Phil Simms just channeled the spirit of Joe Theissman. In talking about how the StuPats tied an all-time NFL low for rushing attempts in the game they lost in Pittsburgh back in October, he said that "The Pats didn't fall into that trap today! They stayed patient with the running game!" Uh...Phil, it's as easy as pie in the NFL to stay patient with the running game when you're leading the entire game. Jee-bus.)

"Sis-Boom-Bah"

So went one of the predictions Johnny Carson offered as a prediction for the question contained in a sealed envelope in one of his "Carnak the Magnificent" skits. I was a fan of Carson's, and I am sorry that he has died.

(The question in the envelope, by the way, was: "What sound does an exploding sheep make?")

It is possible that we march to our doom....

Greg Sandow has a list of fifteen troubling signs for classical music, and it's a fairly troubling list, indeed. But even more troubling is the sixteenth reason offered by Lisa Hirsch. We've basically decided in this country that music just isn't something that we need to be teaching our children about. And I don't think that this is just going to be a problem for classical music; I can't see how all forms of music won't suffer for the increasing lack of interest in teaching the rudiments of music in the schools. This can't be good for jazz, and I don't think it can be good for rock, either. (Serious rock, that is. Pop-stuff like Hillary Duff will keep going in its own navel-gazing fashion.)

The Turnpike Philharmonic

Why is it that every time Alex Ross mentions the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, I envision a bunch of musicians giving the audience the finger and shouting, "I got yer Sibelius right here, pal!"?

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

I have a two-fer this week, because I couldn't decide between these two items.

:: Via Eric at Streams of Consciousness I find notice of a Rip Van Winkle in reverse: this man hasn't slept in twenty years. A man going without sleep for many years was the subject of an X-Files episode called, appropriately enough, "Sleepless". The sleepless guy in the show was a government-created assassin, if memory serves. The real-world guy is just a guy who hasn't slept.

:: Via Mary Messall I find a site that almost makes me want to shave my beard. Seriously. I don't want to spoil the effect, so go look. It's one of the more demented "Alter this photo" sites I've encountered. Just wait until you see the Rosie O'Donnell pics....[shudder]

I just KNEW we shouldn't have left Syracuse....

Even though it's approaching two years since we ended our seven-month experiment with living in Syracuse, I still check Syracuse.com on a regular basis, because I did kind of like the area (despite the godawful winter there) and I'm still interested to see what goes on there. Mainly I'm following the progress, such as it is, on Destiny USA, but I also feel a certain amount of kinship with Syracuse as an upstate New Yorker.

So, even while the economic news in Buffalo seems to continue marching along in its "bad news stories outnumbering the good news ones" way (although the ratio seems to be tilting slowly in the favor of the "good news stories"), I'm heartened to see that the economic climate in Syracuse is markedly improving.

Basically, in 2004 the Syracuse economy actually added over 3,000 jobs, with the added good news that since government jobs decreased in 2004, all of the added jobs are private-sector jobs. Even better is the fact that Syracuse's construction industry registered its best year, jobs-wise, in over a decade. Construction is one of those "leading indicators": building now tends to equal jobs later, so if the construction firms in Syracuse are gearing up to do a lot of building, it probably means some even better economic news to come.

Upstate New York: Stopping the bleeding, one city at a time.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Bad drivers come in all sizes

Kevin Drum is wondering if it's normal for insurance on newly-licensed male teenage drivers to be significantly higher than that for newly-licensed female drivers. My experience is that this is perfectly normal: there's a general belief that young men are more likely to go out and do something stupid in a car than young women. Now, I have no idea if that is actually the case, but I suspect that it is, since insurance companies are in it for the money and it would therefore behoove them to study this stuff and find out where the money really is.

Of course, having said that, I note that the last few instances I can recall of encountering truly bad young drivers involved teenybopping females behind the wheel. I witnessed one such young lady pass a car in front of us on the right (on a two-lane road) the other day, and not because the car was turning left, but because he apparently was not going fast enough. And what really caught my eye about this girl is that she was turning left herself just a quarter-mile up the road, and oncoming traffic was such that she had to sit at the intersection and wait while the car she'd passed, and then yours truly, came up and went around her on the right.

And I always laugh when some young buckaroo comes flying up behind me, whips around me, and then takes off -- only to end up stopped at the very next red light at the same time that I arrive.

No real point here, I guess, except to say that I think that as a rule young drivers stink.

Wagging the tail

Scott of Archpelapogo reports that in the wake of being laid off from his office job, he's found new employment as...a dog walker. This seems not unlike a fellow getting laid off from his telesales job, being unemployed for a year, and then finding work at a grocery store.

Best to him. I always find something curiously enobling about the idea of a person finding greater satisfaction in a "lesser" job.

Star Wars Episode VII : Attack of the HUH-WHUH?!

Nefarious Neddie and Simian Farmer both link this purported Q&A session with George Lucas. It's interesting reading, but I just don't buy that this is Lucas at all. Some of the answers seem genuine, but others stand starkly at odds with other things that George Lucas has said, specifically with regard to possible Episodes Seven through Nine, which would be made sometime down the road (obviously) and whose stories would take place after the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

1. Call me crazy, but the site seems to imply that Lucas answers reader-submitted questions on an almost-daily basis. I find this very hard to believe. Can Lucas really have that much time on his hands right now?

2. Lucas seems to offer a surprising amount of details for the plots of any such episodes, which surprises me outright: Lucas has a long history of being very tight-lipped about plot stuff (although he's been a lot more forthcoming with Episode III), and since I know that Lucas is a very slow writer, I very much doubt that he has Episodes Seven through Nine ready to go in any appreciable form.

3. I doubt even more strongly that Lucas has Episodes Seven through Nine so developed that he knows the name of a major villain ("Spiden"), and that he would reveal the name of that villain so casually.

4. At one point, Lucas says that he plans to take a long break from Star Wars after Revenge of the Sith comes out. Fair enough, since he's on record as saying he wants to go back to exploring the kind of filmmaking he did when he started out as a recent filmschool grad. But then he says "The plot summaries should satisfy the fans for the time being." Again, releasing plot summaries for films that are not likely to exist for quite a few years, if ever, is not remotely in keeping with the way George Lucas has always done business.

And so on. Frankly, much of this site reads like a blend of fan speculation and easily verifiable things that Lucas has actually said in other interviews and venues. I just don't believe that these "interviews" are genuine.

Not gunshy, that one

Well, I'll say this for Michael Powell, now that he's stepping down from the FCC: he was a lot more quick on the draw than some others in the Bush Administration.

"Born Again Democrats"?

Michael Blowhard directs me to "Born Again Democrats", a group that has some of its own ideas on what Democrats should be doing, or something like that. I perused their platform (scroll to the top -- for some reason the only permalink available takes you right to their comments form, at the very bottom of the post), and while some of it seems intriguing, there's absolutely no way I'm getting behind either Numbers Four or Seven, and I think that Numbers Five and Six are examples of things that sound all well and good, but have some troubling implications in terms of actual policy. Numbers Nine and Ten interest me, although I see no compelling reason why every citizen's tax returns a matter of public record. (It's none of your business what I make or what I am worth.) I also do not support ending the Inheritance Tax, which is part of Number Eleven.

This doesn't look like any Democratic ideal I'm familiar with; it rather looks like a blend of soft-libertarianism and soft-conservatism.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Saying dumb things for the sake of saying dumb things

I just made the discovery that the afternoon lineup on PBS here in Buffalo goes right from PBS Kids' programming to Tucker Carlson's TV show. Now, obviously I'm on the opposite side of the political fence from Carlson, so it stands to reason that I wouldn't generally find his show all that appealing. (Well, it's the politics and that idiotic bow-tie of his. I hate bow-ties, and I really hate them on guys whose suits look at least a size too big to start with. It's not unlike receiving political wisdom from Pee Wee Herman.)

Anyway, in the two minutes I watched, Carlson lauded President Bush's inaugural address (which I did not watch, having been at The Store at the time, and do not plan to watch, since I find most Inaugural speeches dull, Democrats included) for its lofty goals. Loosely paraphrasing, Carlson said that "This was not a speech where you heard about school uniforms or midnight basketball, this was a speech about great and majestic goals!"

And I'm thinking, when have I ever heard about school uniforms or midnight basketball in an Inaugural Address, whether it's been delivered by a Democrat or a Republican? Never. Inaugural Addresses are not policy addresses, and they never have been -- that's why incoming Presidents (and Presidents beginning second terms) deliver a State of the Union address a couple of weeks later. Inaugural Addresses are when you hear about "Asking not what our country can do for us" and "Forcing the spring" and generally saying very positive things about the United States and its democratic tradition.

I'm willing to bet that Carlson knows this, but he said it anyway. Too bad it completely neuters the point he was trying to make. (I changed the channel before I found out what that point was.)

(Google Bomb in progress)

(In case anyone reads this far down, I'm writing this post on Monday, January 23, but I'm backdating it to Friday, January 21, so it doesn't show up to regular readers. Basically I'm Google-bombing the novel/blog project. There is no other content here of value.)

The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King

The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King

The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King

The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King The Promised King

(This self-serving Google-bombing is now complete. Thank you for your attention.)

UPDATE: This Google-bombing is now being amended to include a bombing to link my name to the novel, so the thing shows up in the event that anyone searches for my name.

Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger

Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger

Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger

Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger

Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger

Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger

Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger Kelly Sedinger

(This bout of self-indulgence is now complete. Anyone wishing to replicate this Google-bombing on their own blogs, thus helping my Grande Cause, will find themselves welcomed at the Great Hall where we shall all meet our forebears. Or something like that.)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

As a consolation prize, here's today's classifieds!

So I just watched the first episode of Season Three of The Apprentice, and something funny at the very end: when the first "applicant" is fired and shown exiting Trump Tower and getting into the cab for the airport home, the cab that picks the victim up is sporting an advertisement for Yahoo! Jobs. I found that funny.

Great Love Dialogue, #4

A selection from a book today: Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan. This book involves a complicated love story, which could possibly be a love triangle if not a love square, although that is a gross oversimplification of the tale. That love story is set in the backdrop of a fantasy realm inspired by Spain at the time of El Cid and the final departure of the Moors from Europe. Near the end of the book, Rodrigo Belmonte and Jehane bet Ishak have the following exchange:

In the darkness by the river's steady, murmurous flow, Jehane said, looking down at the water, not at the man beside her, "I was under your window at Carnival. I stood there a long time, looking at your light." She swallowed. "I almost came up to you."

She sensed him turning towards her. She kept her gaze fixed upon the river.

"Why didn't you?" His voice had altered.

"Because of what you told me that afternoon."

"I was buying paper, I remember. What did I tell you, Jehane?"

She did look at him then. It was dark, but she knew those features by heart now. THey had ridden from this hamlet the summer before on the one horse. So little time ago, really.

"You told me how much you loved your wife."

"I see," he said.

Jehane looked away. She needed to look away. They had come to a place too hard for held glances. She said softly, to the river, to the dark, "Is it wrong, or impossible, for a woman to love two men?"

After what seemed to her a very long time, Rodrigo Belmonte said, "No more so than for a man."

Jehane closed her eyes.

"Thank you," she said. And then, after another moment, holding as tightly as she could to the thing suspended there, "Goodbye."

With her words the moment passed, the world moved on again: time, the flowing river, the moons. And the delicate thing that had been in the air between them -- whatever it might have been named -- fell, as it seemed to Jehane, softly to rest in the grass by the water.

"Goodbye," he said. "Be always blessed, on all the paths of your life. My dear." And then he said her name.

They did not touch. They walked back beside each other to the place where Diego and Fernan and Miranda Belmonte lay asleep and, after standing a ong moment gazing down upon his family, Rodrigo Belmonte went towards the king's tent where the strategies of war were being devised.

She watched him go. She saw him lift the tent flap, to be lit briefly by the lanterns lit from inside, then disappear within as the tent closed after him.

Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.


If it seems that quoting such a passage from near the end of a book would constitute a major spoiler, I'm not sure it really did in this case; when I first read The Lions of Al-Rassan, I had no thought that Jehane would end up with Rodrigo. And besides, the story of Jehane and Rodrigo is far from the novel's most important storyline. That Guy Gavriel Kay would write so fine a scene for a secondary plotline is a testament to his skills.

As I wrote here, The Lions of Al-Rassan is my favorite of GGK's novels, and if I had to pick one of his books to get made into a film, this would be the one. A good thing, that, since it was announced today that a film of The Lions of Al-Rassan is in development.

The team of producer Marshall Herskovitz and director Edward Zwick are behind the project. While I've generally liked Herskovitz's and Zwick's television projects (My So-Called Life, Once and Again) more than their movies, but that's more because their TV work has been so good as opposed to saying that their film work has been of lesser quality, because they've made some awfully good films (Glory, Legends of the Fall, The Last Samurai -- although I didn't see that last one yet). These guys do thoughtful work, and I'm glad that they are the ones attached to a project that has a lot of potential pitfalls awaiting it.

Of course, the real questions are: who will play the leads, and who will compose the score?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Someday the boring blogging will end....

I had to leave work early to pick up The Daughter from school, where she was sick; she apparently has the cold that I had last week. Oops. Oh well; usually these things go the other way around and she brings home the colds. Now I'm home and dinking around Blogistan, as well as editing my submission for the Buffalo News's short story contest. Not that I think I have any hope of winning, since my story stinks. One way or another, you'll all get to read it: if it wins, obviously, I'll link the Bejesus out of it here, and if it loses, I'll just post the thing here after I allow The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction to reject it. I've had a bit of fun writing it, as the contest had a restriction of a 1500-word length. The only thing I've written that short, even remotely that short, was The City of Dead Works (which is linked over there in the sidebar -- remember, folks the sidebar is your friend!), so this was a neat exercise. Maybe I'm finally figuring out how to do "brevity". Not that you'd know it from this post.

So anyway, I'll close down today's blog activity with, you guessed it, another questionaire type thing. This one I remember from when it circulated e-mail, but since Paul answered the questions, I figure, hey, what's time if not for wasting. So prepare for some wastage:

1-WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING AT THE MOMENT?

See the sidebar. The sidebar is your friend. I also finished a really fun book about heavy metal music the other day; I'll be posting about that sometime soon.

2-WHAT IS PRINTED ON YOUR MOUSEPAD?

"Fuel Your Future -- Air National Guard", and some photos of Air National Guard stuff. Jet fighters, paratroopers, aircraft carrier guys, the like. The Daughter got it on a field trip to the Niagara Falls Air Force base. (Here's one liberal, by the way, who has enormous respect and gratitude for the US military.)

3-WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOARD GAME?

I love chess, but I'm not very good at it. (A very evil roommate of mine used to employ the weirdest openings against me, just to watch me swear before I even touched my first piece. Harumph.)

4-WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MAGAZINE?

WIRED, although their cheerleading for the "End Of Copyright Forever And All Media Distributed For Free And Even So The Artists Will Get Paid" stuff gets to be a little much.

5-WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SOUND?

A sword being drawn; a lightsaber being ignited; a basket of wings being lowered into a deep-fryer; that deep-breathing that means that the kids are sleeping fitfully.

6-WHAT'S THE WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD?

Being completely powerless to affect anything at all in one's life.

7-WHAT'S THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF IN THE MORNING?

How long to coffee?

8-HOW MANY RINGS BEFORE YOU PICK UP THE PHONE?

I use the answering service to screen every single incoming call.

9-WHAT WOULD YOU NAME YOUR FUTURE CHILD AND/OR DOG?

For some reason, I hate this question.

10-WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE?

Fulfillment. Music. Books. Art. Sausage. Family. I'm sure it's gotta be one of those....

11-WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE FOODS?

Too many to list here. So go here, where I've already listed many of them.

12-DO YOU LIKE TO DRIVE FAST?

Depends. I don't speed all that much, but I do tend to go slightly faster than the speed limit.

13-DO YOU SLEEP WITH A STUFFED ANIMAL?

It depends on how much we ate for dinner. [rimshot]

Seriously, no. I used to, before The Daughter basically appropriated all stuffed animals in the house.

14-WOULD YOU CLASS STORMS AS COOL OR SCARY?

Scary, but I like being scared.

15-WHAT TYPE WAS YOUR FIRST CAR?

Red Volkwagen Rabbit, diesel engine. The engine was still going strong, but the body just kind of rotted away. The final straw was when I was driving home and the hood blew open.

16-WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ALCOHOLIC DRINK?

Yuengling's Lager. And Cockburn's Ruby Port.

17-DO YOU EAT THE STEMS OFF BROCCOLI?

The consumption of broccoli should be outlawed by Amendment to the United States Constitution. Heck, God should stick that one in the Ten Commandments. Maybe number 4-A. (And no lectures, please, on how freakishly healthy broccoli is. I don't care. As Samuel Jackson said in Pulp Fiction, "Hey, a sewer rat might taste like pumpkin pie, but I'd never know because I wouldn't eat the filthy m*****f*****." The flavor of broccoli literally makes me gag.)

18-IF YOU COULD DYE YOUR HAIR ANY COLOR, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Red. But I wouldn't bother, more likely.

19-IS THE GLASS HALF EMPTY OR HALF FULL?

Now, wouldn't that depend on the liquid? I mean, nobody, I don't care how optimistic they are, is going to squeal about the glass being half full if it's half-full of bile, right?

20-WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?

Star Wars.

21-DO YOU TYPE WITH THE CORRECT FINGERS ON THE CORRECT KEYS?

No. But I've typed incorrectly for so many years that I don't think I'd be any faster if I knew the "right" way to do it.

22-WHAT'S UNDER YOUR BED?

Flat boxes filled with stuff we've toted from place to place for far too long.

23-WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH?

Good old American football. Keep that lunatic soccer stuff as far away from me as possible. A sport whose World Championship was once decided by a 1-0 victory on an overtime penalty kick is not one which I plan on taking seriously any time in the future. I also love figure skating (go Michelle Kwan!).

24-SAY AT LEAST ONE NICE THING ABOUT THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU:
25-WHO HAVE YOU SENT THIS TO WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
26-WHO HAVE YOU SENT THIS TO WHO IS LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND?


These questions are obsolete, reflecting as they do this quiz's e-mail origins. Pay them no mind.

27-DO YOU PREFER HORROR MOVIES OR COMEDY FILMS?

Comedy, if only because comedies that are funny are more easily found than horror movies that are scary.

28-WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF DAY?

Morning, Noon, and Night. Especially if I'm in Vienna. (Little Franz von Suppe humor there). Seriously, I pretty much like all the parts of the day equally. Except for 4:00 a.m., to which I respond as Bart Simpson did: "There's a four o'clock in the morning now?"

29-WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST PET PEEVE?

Republicans.

OK, I'm kidding! Put down the bricks! Seriously, I hate red lights and annoying driving. I'll plan routes around the fewest number of traffic lights. I also hate when drivers act like they've never seen snow before in their natural lifetimes.

30-IS THERE ANYONE YOU HAVEN'T FORGIVEN?

Far, far too many.

31-WHAT TYPE OF MILK DO YOU DRINK?

Skim.

32-DO YOU MAKE YOUR BED IN THE MORNING?

Of all the pointless human activities, this one strikes me as the most pointless. Nobody goes in there except The Wife and I.

33-HOW MANY TVs ARE IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?

Two, but only one -- the 19-incher we just took off my sister's hands -- is hooked up. The 25-incher with bad color is in a closet. (And we do have another one, somewhere, that will be escorted to Ye Olde Dumpsterre in the near future, so it doesn't count.) The Daughter will not have a TV in her room.

34-WHO PUTS THE GARBAGE OUT?

I do, usually -- unless there's a light bag and The Wife is heading out anyway, or it's a really stinky bag and I'm not home.

Today, we DUSTED! Tomorrow, the SHOP-VAC!

For those of you who think that my serial-blog novel, The Promised King, is boring (especially after reading Chapter Two), you can go read about Aaron and Krista cleaning their attic. Because that's what they're doing in their attic. Cleaning. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

(If this post isn't one of the Top Ten Most Shameless Self-Plugs in Blogistan History, I'll eat my hat. If I owned a hat.)

O for a list of stuff, that I might bold some of it....

Oh, sure. Lynn won't play my bold-the-list game, but she'll happily play someone else's. Harumph.

Oh, the game? Just take this list of first lines of poetry and replace the ones with which you are not familiar with ones with which you are. Easy. Or not. My changes are in bold.

1. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

2. Earendil was a mariner...

3. Let me not to the marriage of true minds

4. It was many and many a year ago,

5. Do not go gentle into that good night,

6. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree

7. How do I love thee, let me count the ways

8. Half a league, half a league,

9. Even the birds above the lake

10. ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Keep it coming....

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Nothing to blog....nothing at all....doo de doo de doo....hey, a "bold the items" list!

Via Dave Thomas (not the Wendy's guy), I find this: it's somebody's list of the Worst Fifty Songs of All Time, and you have to bold the ones you like. So, time for a few potentially embarrassing admissions. Remember, I like the bold ones. Not the normal ones. OK:

1. We Built This City ... Starship
2. Achy Breaky Heart ... Billy Ray Cyrus
3. Everybody Have Fun Tonight ... Wang Chung
4. Rollin' ... Limp Bizkit
5. Ice Ice Baby ... Vanilla Ice
6. The Heart of Rock & Roll ... Huey Lewis and the News (Not my favorite of theirs, but it's OK)
7. Don't Worry, Be Happy ... Bobby McFerrin
8. Party All the Time ... Eddie Murphy
9. American Life ... Madonna
10. Ebony and Ivory ... Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
11. Invisible ... Clay Aiken
12. Kokomo ... The Beach Boys
13. Illegal Alien ... Genesis
14. From a Distance ... Bette Midler
15. I'll Be There for You ... The Rembrandts (I'm a huge Friends fan, remember?)
16. What's Up? ... 4 Non Blondes
17. Pumps and a Bump ... Hammer
18. You're the Inspiration ... Chicago
19. Broken Wings ... Mr. Mister
20. Dancing on the Ceiling ... Lionel Richie
21. Two Princes ... Spin Doctors
22. Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American) ... Toby Keith
23. Sunglasses at Night ... Corey Hart
24. Superman ... Five for Fighting
25. I'll Be Missing You ... Puff Daddy featuring Faith Evans and 112
26. The End ... The Doors
27. The Final Countdown ... Europe
28. Your Body Is a Wonderland ... John Mayer
29. Breakfast at Tiffany's ... Deep Blue Something (Haven't heard it in years, though.)
30. Greatest Love of All ... Whitney Houston
31. Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm ... Crash Test Dummies
32. Will 2K ... Will Smith
33. Barbie Girl ... Aqua
34. Longer ... Dan Fogelberg
35. Shiny Happy People ... R.E.M.
36. Make Em Say Uhh! ... Master P featuring Silkk, Fiend, Mia-X and Mystikal
37. Rico Suave ... Gerardo
38. Cotton Eyed Joe ... Rednex
39. She Bangs ... Ricky Martin
40. I Wanna Sex You Up ... Color Me Badd
41. We Didn't Start the Fire ... Billy Joel
42. The Sound of Silence ... Simon & Garfunkel
43. Follow Me ... Uncle Kracker
44. I'll Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) ... Meat Loaf
45. Mesmerize ... Ja Rule featuring Ashanti
46. Hangin' Tough ... New Kids on the Block
47. The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You ... Bryan Adams
48. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da ... The Beatles
49. I'm Too Sexy ... Right Said Fred
50. My Heart Will Go On ... Celine Dion (I know, it's the most overplayed song in the history of song. But I still like it, for some reason known only to God.)

Actually, this wasn't so bad. Most of these, I genuinely can't stand.

Your daily moment of "Duh!"

Richard Hatch, the winner of the first season of Survivor, never disclosed his winnings to the IRS. I find this too funny for words.

And hey! American Idol starts tonight! Zowie!

IMAGE OF THE WEEK (belated, yet again)





The surface of Titan, as photographed by the Huygens probe last week.

It annoys me that my illness last week prevented me from taking much notice of another staggering NASA achievement, landing a probe on a moon of Saturn and having it return images. As always, for stuff like this keep an eye on A Voyage to Arcturus, where Jay Manifold continues to keep an eye on developments.

Here's a great quote I found over there, by the way:

Folks, without a dream that there is more to life and being than the squalor of our present condition, we cease being the pinacle of life. Of late, cats show more curiosity than we do. The quest for knowledge is worth every cent of what we spend. We need to keep the thing that makes us truly human, our intelligent need for answers, alive.


Obviously I disagree that the primary problem is "leftists" who believe that "The left is convinced, and astoundingly unimaginative enough to think that every free penny from workers should go to supporting those who refuse to", but I wholeheartedly admit that I often get annoyed when people object to space exploration on the grounds that the money could be better spent "here on Earth".

Monday, January 17, 2005

Passages

A while back I linked a tribute site to author Charlotte MacLeod, created by my friend Robert (from whom I have not heard in far too long, by the way). Today, I learn that Charlotte MacLeod has died.

Condolences to Robert, and to everyone else who knew her or read her books (a number that I plan to join sometime this year).

Back from Lascaux

One of the first art-related blogs I ever found, Out of Lascaux, fell silent over a year ago -- but now appears to be returning to life. A hearty welcome back to Alexandra (and condolences on the passing of her mother).

Replugging that which I plugged the day before....

To folks who may not have checked in here yesterday, two writing-related items:

:: Chapter Two of The Promised King is now available.

:: The piece I wrote for The Buffalo News ran yesterday, and is online until their archiving takes over.

Movie Meme, yet again

Here's something fun, seen most recently over at Sarah Jane Elliott's: you're supposed to pick one dozen movies that are near and dear to you, list a line or exchange from each, and then strike them out as readers identify them. Since I'm always up for a blogging meme, here we go. Identify, folks!

1. "Thy dawn, O Master of the World, thy dawn;
For thee the sunlight creeps across the lawn,
For thee the ships are drawn down to the waves,
For thee the markets throng with myriad slaves,
For thee the hammer on the anvil rings,
For thee the poet of beguilement sings."


Scott Spiegelberg picks this one; it's from the Bond film -- the best ever Bond film, actually -- On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Teresa di Vicenzo recites this poem to Blofeld toward the end, after she has figured out that the Red Cross helicopters approaching Blofeld's secret hideaway are actually her father and Agent 007 coming to the rescue.

2. "Please respect my wishes and go."
"Madam, I shall respect his."


Darth Swank picks this as being from Amadeus, and he's right. It's always amazed me how this scene, near the end of the film, makes me feel sympathy for Salieri, even though he has pushed Mozart literally to his death.

3. "On your feet, Killearn. You and I have business."

Oh, fine. I'll put Nefarious Neddie out of his misery. This line is from Rob Roy. Matt seems to have a huge hangup over Jessica Lange's chewing of the scenery in this film, and while I do grant that she overacts, I do not believe that she does so to the ultimate detriment of a film that features outstanding performances by Liam Neeson and Tim Roth, and that also features one of the best sword fights ever filmed.

4. "Monsieur Neary, what do you want?"
"I just want to know that it's really happening."


Michael identifies this one, although not in a way that makes me confident that he's seen the film in question. Anyway, it's Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

5. "Now you see, that's exactly the kind of crap that people are always trying to lay on me. It's not my fault you wouldn't play catch with your father."

This, as Chris knows, is from Field of Dreams. This used to be my ultimate favorite baseball movie, but now I flip a coin between this movie and Bull Durham.

6. "Hey, I didn't know that the Forest Spirit made the flowers grow."

This is from Princess Mononoke, as 'Wheels' demonstrates.

7. "VIRGIL BRIGGMAN BACK ON THE AIR"

Yup, it's from The Abyss, which is too often overlooked in the roster of fine SF films. In fact, I think it's far better than director James Cameron's much-admired Aliens. Sarah nails it.

8. "We are not gonna do this! We are not gonna bounce off the walls and end up right back here with the same problems!"

Before succumbing to a massive hissie-fit in comments, Nefarious Neddie identifies this film as Apollo 13. This is still Ron Howard's finest effort. I still get nervous during the splashdown sequence.

9. "You'll be fine. Just be yourself."
"Be myself."
"And compliment her shoes."
"Her shoes?"
"Yeah. Girls like that."


Leo nails this one: The American President. This movie is still my favorite thing that Aaron Sorkin ever wrote. It's one of my very favorite romances.

10. "Led Zeppelin didn't write songs that everybody would like. They left that to the BeeGees."

Leo also identifies this one: it's from Wayne's World, which I consider to be one of the best comedies ever in the "misadventures of two dumb guys" genre.

11. "You don't want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie."

Sarah also gets this one right: Sleepless in Seattle. The Rosie O'Donnell character says this to Meg Ryan in a moment of frustration with Ryan's fixation with the movie An Affair to Remember and her fixation on the guy she's only heard on the radio.

12. "You Spaniards have a gift for hospitality when your guests are in chains."

This one is finally identified, by Charlie32, as being from the Errol Flynn swashbuckler The Sea Hawk, which happens to be my favorite Flynn film of all. Thanks for playing, everybody! We have some lovely parting gifts out back, like the home version of Byzantium's Shores....

Knock yourselves out, folks!

And I'm sure their lunatic dictator has nothing to do with it....

Victor of the Dead Parrots Society offers a funny item that I find particularly relevant, given the length of my hair: the North Korean government has launched an official campaign to encourage North Korean men to cut their hair short:

It stressed the "negative effects" of long hair on "human intelligence development", noting that long hair "consumes a great deal of nutrition" and could thus rob the brain of energy.

Men should get a haircut every 15 days, it recommended.


Hmmm. I felt last week that my brain had been robbed of energy, but it turned out I'd been listening to Vivaldi. A little Rachmaninov, and I was just fine. (A little jab at Lynn, that.)

Seriously, every fifteen days for a haircut? That's absurd. Even when I did have short hair, four or five years ago (when I looked like an idiot, a state of affairs I find infinitely less desirable than looking like the axe-murderer PZ Myers fancies I resemble), I didn't get my mop cut every fifteen days. Once a month, maybe.

There's just something about North Korea that would make the country the ultimate bit of comic relief on this planet, if not for the fact that their people are starving and they've got the bomb. Aside from those two factors, it's just a hilarious place.

"When it comes to women, you're a true democrat."

The Wife and I watched Casablanca last week. Somehow, this was our first viewing of the film in nearly two years. Why this should be the case is utterly beyond me, although there is the old canard of absence making the heart grow fonder (recast in country music as "How can I miss you if you won't go away?"). I used to watch Casablanca with far greater frequency; in fact, there was a period in college, about two months long or so, when I watched the film every single Sunday evening, starting around 4:30 or so in the afternoon so it would be totally dark out by the time we reached that final confrontation on the airstrip.

Anyhow, often times when I return to a film I haven't seen in a long time, I see all the stuff anew that made me love it in the first place, and that was certainly the case with Casablanca. There was all the old great dialogue; there was the wonderful Max Steiner score (all the more remarkable for the fact that Steiner hated "As Time Goes By", and still composed one of the enduring film scores around it); there was what I hold to be the greatest closeup in cinema history (the long closeup of Ingrid Bergman's face as she listens to Sam play "As Time Goes By"); there was the wit and the humor and all the rest of it.

But when I return to films long left unwatched, that also tends to be when I find something new, or rather a new way to appreciate something old. In the case of Casablanca I realized something about halfway through: the film's complete lack of artifice. Almost nothing in the film seems fake.

Part of this, I'm sure, is the film's black and white composition, which serves to heighten all of the contrasts in the costumes, highlight the smokiness of Rick's Café Americain and the sultriness of North Africa. The sets all look perfect as well. But where the true lack of artifice can be seen is in the background performances of the crowds and the extras. This is no small thing, because even great directors like Steven Spielberg can fumble crowd shots. Consider the climactic scene of Schindler's List, when the Jews are gathered to watch as Oskar Schindler departs. As the car departs, the crowd moves as one after it, so much in unison that one senses the director sitting outside of the shot, giving them the cue to do so. This kind of thing can't be found in Casablanca at all. Nearly every shot in this film seems genuine and almost unstaged. That's what I mean by lack of artifice.

Ugh.

Ugh.

I've been suspecting that the winner of the playoff game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Stupid Patriots would produce the Super Bowl winner, and now the StuPats have gone on to win the game.

So it's down to the Steelers, the last remaining hope for all mankind for an end to Evil's ascendance over the NFL. Can they do it? I'm not optimistic, even though Ben Roethlisberger (I'm not checking to see if that spelling is correct) has already beaten these guys once before. And I'm certainly not optimistic that the eventual NFC champion can keep the stupid grin off Tom Brady's face, or keep Teddy Bruschi from doing that dumb dance of his, for another year.

I predicted it before the season began, and I can't really change now. The NFL's most vomitous franchise is going to hoist another Lombardi Trophy.

Ugh. But I said that already, didn't I?

(BTW, you can see Sean going all squealy over Tom Brady and just how dreamy he is. Rather unbecoming an Iowan, but there it is.)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

I don't read Spanish, so I have no idea what's going on here, but it appears to be famous people Photoshopped to appear as though they were dwarves. If any Spanish-speaking folks out there want to tell me what the site is all about, let me know.

(via)

Of Returning Kings

Thanks to the generosity of a friend at The Store, I spent more than four hours yesterday watching the Extended Edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and I have some brief impressions (leavened heavily with spoilers, so beware):

:: Now that I've seen both versions (theatrical and extended), I'm not sure that either final reckoning with Saruman, as filmed by Peter Jackson, works very well. In the theatrical version, Gandalf just says "Oh well, keep him locked up in his tower, he's powerless"; in the EE, there's a brief confrontation before Grima sticks him with a knife. I found interesting how the filmmakers managed to both keep the manner of Saruman's demise from the books, and yet change it utterly. But it still felt a bit anticlimactic. I can understand Pater Jackson's reasons for leaving the Scouring of the Shire out of his films, but the biggest problem with that decision is that it leaves Saruman as a giant thread just dangling out there. Alas.

:: Speaking of the Saruman scene, I found it a bit odd that Theoden would try to appeal to Grima's better nature, after all that had transpired. It was probably necessary, just to make Jackson's version of the scene work, but I had problems with it. Grima was just as much to blame for what had befallen Rohan as Saruman himself.

:: The drinking game between Legolas and Gimli just struck me as more unfortunate comic relief.

:: Denethor gets more screen time, which makes his storyline work better. But I still don't like his flaming sprint off the top of Minas Tirith, and I wish the film had revealed (as does the book) that the source of his madness is not so much Boromir's death but the fact that he's been using a Palantir. I love how, in the books, Denethor is seeing what Sauron chooses to show him, in order to create a sense of despair that is not yet warranted. This is absent in the film.

:: Faramir's story, culminating with his union with Eowyn, works a lot better now as well. I'd have liked it just slightly better had the film mentioned how their union brings an end to tension between Gondor and Rohan.

:: Speaking of that: there is apparently no guardrail or anything at the point where Denethor leaps from the highest height of Minas Tirith. So at the end of the film, when seemingly all of Gondor is gathered there, wouldn't the people standing that far back be slightly nervous? "Stop pushing! I'm a little close here! And I seem to be standing in ash. Who's burning stuff up here?"

:: The theatrical version's implication that the distance between Cirith Ungol and Mount Doom is about two miles now works a lot better, with Frodo and Sam's run-in with an orc company.

:: I'm glad that we finally find out what happens to "Captain Tumor", the orc chieftain at the Pelennor Fields who looks like a walking cancer growth. I would have liked it better if Gimli had done him in on his own, though. For all the "Lethal Legolas" stuff throughout the films, I wish Gimli had been given chance to really shine with the axe.

:: Every time I watch the charge of Rohan on the Pelennor Fields, that sequence rises another notch in my "Favorite Action Sequences of All Time" list.

:: The film (both versions) really does a great job in suggesting how Frodo's journey with the Ring is leading him to more and more parallel what happened to Smeagol/Gollum. After the opening scene depicting how Smeagol got the Ring, Gollum has a monologue in which he describes how he forgot the taste of bread, the feeling of sunlight, and his own name. And as the film progresses, somehow Frodo's eyes become bluer and bluer, more and more lamplike; and as he and Sam approach Mount Doom, Frodo admits that he can't remember the Shire or the taste of food. The irony is that the Ring, an object of beauty, will ultimately destroy all beauty in the world unless it is destroyed.

And I still like the parallel created by the fight in the Cracks of Doom: the film opens with Deagol fighting Smeagol for the Ring, and the story of the Ring ends with another such fight (Frodo and Gollum).

:: I've said this before, but it bears repeating: Howard Shore is an absolute genius, and these three filmscores might mark the emergence of the next giant talent of film music. We're talking a voice on par with Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams here. I'll know more once I start listening to more of Shore's non-LOTR work, which is a priority for me in 2005.

New York Pizza

Over at Buffalo Pundit, Alan provides a handy description of New York City-style pizza. So, if you're ever about the country and you encounter someone from NYC who pronounces the pizza of your particular locality abyssmal, and you've then wondered, "Geez, what's wrong with our pizza? It tastes pretty good to me!", this is the Platonic ideal they're coming from.

Personally, I like NYC-style pizza just fine. But then, I like all styles of pizza just fine, really. Thin, foldable crust? Sure. Deep-dish Chicago-style, with the cheese tiled at the bottom and the tomatoes on top? Great. All styles in between? Bring 'em on.

"There are more pizzas in Heaven and Earth than are dream't of in our philosophy," wrote Shakespeare. And he was right. (Although, now that I think of it, I'm not sure the Bard was talking about pizza at all. Hmmmm.)

The Mighty Quinn, an update

A commenter on the next post asks if I'm going to provide any updates on Little Quinn's condition, so here it is:

First of all, we've fired his original pediatrician.

Most of this is due to a high degree of impersonal interaction The Wife experienced when she took Little Quinn to the medical offices where the Original Pediatrician (hereafter designated as "O.P.") practices. We're talking things like being left on hold for intervals exceeding ten minutes on routine phone calls merely to schedule appointments; calling the office with questions about Little Quinn's recent respiratory distress at 10:00 a.m. and finally getting a return call around 2:00 p.m. (you'd think that an infant having trouble breathing would somehow be placed around the top of the priority list); and a general refusal to listen to our concerns and treat the problems that we see on a daily basis. Little Quinn's feedings of late have been highly difficult, his chest has become highly congested, and worst of all, in the last month he has only gained three ounces.

So, in the course of talking to a woman who works at The Store (who has a grown son with many of the same problems Little Quinn has experienced, so it's not unlike having a human roadmap), we got the name of a pediatrician who has a lot of experience in dealing with "special needs" infants. After just the first visit with the New Pediatrician ("N.P."), we have a new medication to use in treating Little Quinn's reflux issues and a referral to a gastro-intestinal clinic to see if anything else is wrong with his digestion. Here's hoping that either nothing is wrong and that the new treatments will set things on the right path, or that if something is wrong, it will be fairly easily treated and again put to right. (The cynic in me leans to the latter, obviously.)

(If I might get slightly political here for a moment, our recent struggles have pretty much convinced me that any doctor who whines about malpractice suits and the like being "out of control" can, with all due respect, bite me. Doctors are not divinely-appointed people drawn from some rarefied echelon of super-intelligent or hyper-competent higher beings; they're people who have chosen a profession. Yes, they have to be intelligent to get there, and yes, they work hard; but I have seen nothing in the last six months that leads me to believe that the medical profession is any more exempt from Sturgeon's Law than any other. To paraphrase George Carlin, they're like anyone else: a few winners, and a whole lot of losers. Well, OK, maybe I wouldn't put it quite that strongly, but mediocrity exists everywhere, the medical field included. When a physician can weigh an infant who is well below the expected weight for an infant that age, and not say a single word about it, I am not encouraged. Yes, getting sued is unpleasant. But so is being on the receiving end of malpractice. End of rant.)

What else about Little Quinn? He is undergoing physical and occupational therapy now (under the auspices of state and county-run health programs), and he is starting to lift his head more when he's lying on his tummy, he'll roll over (nothing annoys an infant more than rolling from front to back and then having an excited parent go, "Whoa, that was cool! Do it again!" and then plunking him back in the original position so he'll do it again), and he's begun to experiment with "commando crawling". Oh, and he spits. A lot. I think he's part camel.

So that's about where Little Quinn is right now.

Published Again

My submission in The Buffalo News appears today, here. I had hoped it wouldn't run on a Sunday, so that it wouldn't cost me six bucks to get three copies of the paper, but c'est la vie, I suppose.

Feeble Apologies

Thanks to everyone who has managed to keep traffic here relatively high during the last three days in which I fell silent, largely due to a nasty cold that knocked me for a loop. (For reasons passing understanding, I continued to show up for each shift at The Store, thus resulting in approximately two hundred fifty conversations in three days that started off with other concerned folk telling me, "Wow, you look awful." By the time I got home each day, the amount of brain power I had available with which to generate posts for Byzantium's Shores was, shall we say, extremely negligible. But I seem to have finally reached the final stage of my colds -- the "nasty cough that sounds terrible, but really does mean that I'm feeling better" phase -- so content should start to resemble the Content of Old in these parts.

Oh, and go read Chapter Two of the novel. Just in case you didn't see the post below this one. And if you missed Chapter One, it's there, too.

Chapter the Second

As of just a couple of minutes ago, Chapter Two of The Promised King was posted, by me. So it should now be read, by you. Failure to do so will earn you a beating, by a big guy named Vinnie.

Go here for Chapter Two.

(Chapter Three is slated to appear on the first Sunday in February, February 6, to be precise. This date also coincides with a certain annual football game, but fear not -- at least this way, the new chapter will give you something to do when the NFC Champion is down by four touchdowns in the third quarter.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The "Credit Where Due" Department

I tend to look down on the writing of Buffalo News sports columnist Jerry Sullivan, and I tend to bust on him in this space, but I have to admit that the opening graf to his column today drew from me an actual laugh. The rest of the article -- a meditation on why the National Football Conference is so much worse than the American Football Conference -- is pretty good, too. But that opening is a hoot.

Koufax? Weren't he one of them Dodgers?

To my immense surprise and gratification, I've been nominated for a "Koufax award", as "Most Deserving of Wider Recognition". So go and vote for me, even if I'm really a titanic lightweight when it comes to political blogging. I doubt I have much chance of winning this category, given the competition, but you never know.

(BTW, it seems to me that this category should be awarded to more than one winner, but that's just me. Thanks to whichever kind soul suggested me in the first place!)

Huh-whuh?!

Craig of BUFFALOg presents an interesting letter to The Buffalo News, which in turn refers to a letter that apparently presented a rather odd argument: toll barriers on the thruway are essential because they create jobs. And what jobs are created by toll barriers? What industry is served by the existence of toll barriers? The industry of toll collection, that's what. Oy.

By way of background here, Interstate 90 is a toll road for most of its length in New York State, and is designated here the New York State Thruway. However, the twenty miles or so of I-90 that traverse the Buffalo region are toll-free: there is a toll plaza at the Hamburg (western) side of the region, and another at Williamsville (the Eastern end). Drivers are free to drive the section of the thruway between these two plazas without paying tolls upon exiting.

The current problem is that the Williamsville toll plaza, where I-90 once again becomes a toll road, comes before one of the region's busiest interchanges, at Transit Road. This exit leads to several of Buffalo's wealthiest suburbs (Clarence, East Amherst, Williamsville) as well as a few less wealthy, but still important, ones (Depew and Cheektowaga). So the Williamsville toll plaza poses a substantial annoyance to people commuting to jobs in Buffalo from any of those areas. They either get on I-90 at the Transit Road exit and then have to sit through the Williamsville toll plaza to pay up, or they have to take alternate routes like NYS 33 (itself a very heavily traveled road, given that the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is on it) and deal with slower traffic. Thus a proposal to relocate the Williamsville toll plaza to someplace beyond Transit Road.

There's been quite a bit of opposition to this plan on the part of people whose backyards would probably be affected by a sudden slowdown of I-90 traffic in the neighborhood, but frankly, the benefit of moving the plaza seems pretty clear to me. And just how it would jeopardize the toll collectors is beyond me -- especially with increasing reliance upon things like EZ-Pass and the fact that the Department of Transportation doesn't even staff all of the collection booths anyway, except for peak times.

Frankly, the toll collection industry is one whose shrinkage would, in all likelihood, serve to help economic development here rather than curtail it. Not every job is a sacrosanct duty that must be preserved. Quite an admission from a liberal like myself, but there it is.

The circle is now complete....

Anyone who thinks that George Lucas is a clod who abandoned storytelling years ago and is now in it only for the money would do well to read what Nefarious Neddie has to say.

(The Store doesn't seem to carry Vanity Fair in its magazine selection. Hurg.)

Exploring the CD Collection, #10

Vasily Kalinnikov: Symphonies nos. 1 and 2
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine
Theodore Kuchar, conductor

There's always been something about unfulfilled youth that seems quintessentially tragic, the idea of a person with so much talent removed from the world before they have a chance to make their mark, before they get the opportunity to do the things they can really do. The sadness of a death is magnified by the fact that not only is the person gone, but all of the works that person was ever going to create. In classical music, the canonical example is usually thought to be Mozart, who only lived to be thirty-six years old. In truth, I've never held Mozart's early demise as all that tragic, because those staggering works of his last year -- the 40th and 41st Symphonies, the Requiem, The Magic Flute -- are so amazing that Mozart's death is almost rather like an example of a person departing the world at exactly the right time, even if that happened to be while he was still young. Better examples of composers gone too early are America's own George Gershwin -- who knows what might have come from the pen stilled so soon after Porgy and Bess? -- and the Russian romantic composer Vasily Kalinnikov.

Kalinnikov lived almost exactly one-hundred and ten years after Mozart, and died at almost exactly the same interval (Mozart 1756-1791, Kalinnikov 1866-1901). But where Mozart was probably the greatest musical genius of all time and reached musical maturity early enough to produce many great works, Kalinnikov was merely a highly talented composer who was only reaching maturity when he died. Thus his name is very obscure, and he is known almost exclusively by his two Symphonies.

These two works are full of all of the things you'd expect from a symphony by a Russian romantic: broad, lyric themes set in confident orchestrations. The first movement of the First Symphony, in particular, features a particularly catchy tune that always has me humming it for quite a while afterward whenever I listen to the work. The last movement is full of wonderful orchestral details, such as a section where the second subject is played by the low strings while the woodwinds execute a fluttering obliggato over the theme -- it suggests springtime warbling of birds, for lack of a better metaphor -- and a magical way in which Kalinnikov turns the very delicate melody from the symphony's slow movement into a powerful brass chorale. Some of Kalinnikov's transitional passages are awkward and some of his ideas seem unconnected, but overall, these two Symphonies make me wonder just what he would have produced had he lived beyond his thirty-fifth year.

This particular CD is on the Naxos label, and it's a well-recorded, muscular rendition of the two Symphonies. I also own a recording of the Symphony No. 1 performed by the Royal National Scottish Orchestra (or is it the Royal Scottish National Orchestra? or the Royal National Orchestra of Scotland? I can never remember....) conducted by Neeme Jarvi. I don't recommend that recording because it has extremely cavernous sound that makes me wonder if the performance was taped in an aircraft hangar. I'm also told that Arturo Toscanini recorded at least the first Symphony, but I haven't heard that one.