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

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

[Crickets chirping]

I see by touring around Blogistan that Blogger has had some problems the last day or two, which suits me all right since I've been genuinely too busy to post much. I just have a couple of goofball observations for today:

:: I don't want to know what the goal of this search was. I really don't.

:: I really really really hate the song "The Girl from Ipanema". No, I don't know why.

:: I just watched the new ABC private eye/caper show Eyes, whose pilot I found immensely entertaining and witty despite the lousy title. I've always liked Tim Daly, and the show features the return of A.J. Langer, an actress I've liked since My So-Called Life (Lord, ten years since that great show aired....)

:: The West Wing started this season incredibly weakly, but it's gradually gotten a lot better and now it's humming right along, except for the bit where they posit a pro-choice Republican winning his party's Presidential nomination. Well, the show's still a fantasy.

:: Yeah, that's it for today. Thanks for checking in, and not droning off to sleep upon reading this.

It was the doctor in the hospice with a candlestick.

PZ Myers links this entertaining transcript of an interchange between TV "journalist" Joe Scarborough and one of the doctors who examined Terri Schiavo. Scarborough basically gets his head handed to him on every single matter of fact he mentions, but I found this exchange particularly annoying:

SCARBOROUGH: You were there 42 minutes, Doctor.

CRANFORD: Yes, I was.

SCARBOROUGH: You are only one doctor that's been there. And somehow, in your 42 minutes of observing her, you have all the answers and everybody that disagrees is dead wrong, I guess.


If anyone can produce a comparable transcript wherein Scarborough displays a similar amount of skepticism toward Senator Bill Frist's ability to diagnose Ms. Schiavo without seeing her in person at all, I will eat my hat*.

* That's a figurative promise, as I do not own a hat.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

This must not stand!

Via Michael Lopez I see that some high-school kids have been caught red-handed with a secret hideaway.

Maybe they're just re-enacting their favorite scenes from That 70s Show, and the hideaway is their "set" for Red Foreman's basement. Yeesh.

Commence with the Raising of Glasses!

Well, if the birth of Elsa Ann doesn't give Krista cause to start showing her years -- hell, any years at all past eighteen, which is when I think she basically stopped aging -- I don't know what will.

But in any event, get thee hence to congratulate new father Aaron and new mother Krista on the arrival of little Elsa. Aaron and Krista are two of the finest people it's been my immense privelege to number among my friends, and I have little doubt that they're going to raise that beautiful baby into a lovely woman who will have really good musical taste and will take basically zero shit from anybody.

And remember what Toby Ziegler said to his newly-born twins. Babies are all right, because they come with hats.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

IMAGE OF THE WEEK

Well, this is probably a new low for the Image of the Week: mining the Sunday funnies. But I've come to really love Get Fuzzy, and since we share our domicile with a particularly dumb cat, today's entry struck me squarely on the funny bone. So here it is.

Trust No One! (and the Burst of Weirdness)

Via DPS, I see that David Duchovny is now blogging, and he seems to type a lot like he delivers dialogue. Look at the bulk of this post: one big chunk of text, without capital letters. It's like what Agent Mulder's FBI reports must have read like! (I wonder if that's the real reason they assigned Agent Scully to work with him -- his superiors were tired of reading his reports.)

And if you have any doubt that this is really David Duchovny doing the blogging, well, this audio post kind of settles it.

Which brings me to my Burst of Weirdness for this week: Rosie O'Donnell's blog. I can't make that up, folks, but if I had to envision a Rosie O'Donnell-authored blog, I'd have envisioned a "stream-of-consciousness incomprehensibility" format, which is exactly what she delivers. (OK, I admit it, when Rosie first started her daytime talk show, I fell for her "air of niceness", since it was really a genuinely nice little Merv Griffin-esque talk show. But then she started turning overly political and mean, and once the show was off the air, she just turned back into the weird shrieking harpy. I think she started seriously going around the bend when she had Tom Selleck on to presumably allow him to promote some new TV movie or something, and instead attacked him for being in the NRA.)

The first rule of Road-Runner is, you don't talk about Road-Runner....

If it ever seemed like the Road-Runner versus Wile E. Coyote cartoons followed their own rigid internal logic, well, you're right.

(via Warren Ellis)

Committing Meme-theft

Paul of Aurora Walking Vacation has a goofy-looking meme up here. As he explains it:

The idea is to pick a blogger who's journal you regularly read and make up ten things that you suppose could be true about that blogger. They don't have to actually be true. They don't have to be supported by any specific evidence. They just have to sound plausible based on what you know about that blogger. Just, you know, be nice.


Well, that just sounds like one of those fun things that could become terribly non-fun if a certain line is crossed, and that's right up my alley! But I'm going to change the rules slightly: Instead of doing ten things that could be true about a single blogger, I'm going to come up with one thing that might be true of ten individual bloggers. So each item here will pertain to a different blogger. Or something like that. Here goes.

1. Lynn Sislo owns a pair of pet parakeets, one of which she named "Stabat" and the other she named "Mater".

2. Before he met Krissy, the love of John Scalzi's life was a girlfriend he had in junior-high school who was named "Athena". He's spent years trying to keep Krissy from finding this out, lest she react with rage at the source of their daughter's name....

3. Jostein has memorized the dialogue of the entire episode of Seinfeld when Elaine dated an avowed Communist. "He can do whatever he wants, Jerry! He controls the means of production!"

[HOLY CRAP! Transcripts of every Seinfeld episode, here! Wow-za!]

4. Drew Vogel's real source of anger at George Lucas is his unvoiced suspicion that R2-D2 is actually based on the Daleks.

5. PZ Myers, realizing one night that his Oxford-cloth shirt and chinos wardrobe wasn't conducive to the Deliverance lifestyle he'd been praying for, decided instead to corrupt them by teaching them about Charles Darwin, and thus found his true calling.

6. Thomas Barnett is really just some guy who sits at the end of the bar that Sean visits every day after work for a few beers before going home to the twins.

7. Kevin Drum secretly blames some unnamed female blogger for the rejection of his application for Survivor a few years back, and that's why he never links women.

8. Darth Swank began to suspect he had found the love of his life when, while on a date with his future wife at the Red Lobster, she looked down at her plate and exclaimed in dismay, "Hey! This place cooks the fish!" Later, when she whispered "Oh, Swank-i-san" in his ear while on a moonlight stroll in downtown Indianapolis, he knew he'd found her.

9. Andrew Cory sometimes wakes up in cold sweat after having scary dreams about working in a bookstore when the final volumes of the Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, and Song of Ice and Fire series are all released on the same day.

10. The Unsinkable Mr. Jones still hasn't realized why the women of Washington, DC don't find his pick-up line, "Hey, wanna see my Kevin Spacey DVD collection?", particularly enticing.

EDIT: A couple of broken links are now fixed. Oops.

Little House by the Shores of Lake Erie

As I reported yesterday, we did in fact watch the first installment of the new Little House on the Prairie miniseries, and we liked it quite a bit. It wasn't at all like the original NBC series, as we expected, but it would have helped get the old show out of our heads if the folks making the new show hadn't cast as Laura a girl who looks about as close to Melissa Gilbert as you can get. I also couldn't help but notice that Erin Cottrell, the woman playing Caroline Ingalls, is absolutely beautiful. I very much doubt that the real Caroline Ingalls underwent the journey from Wisconsin to Kansas to build a new home with her gorgeous, lucious sand-colored hair flying free in the breeze, but you know what? I'm fine with it. Anyway, the new show's about as good as your basic decent family made-for-TV movie -- it's not Battlestar Galactica good, but we found it enjoyable.

Anyway, I was surprised that today's Buffalo News didn't take advantage of the airing of the new Little House to point out the Western New York connection to the books: Charles Ingalls ("Pa", for you laggards who aren't up on your Ingalls-Wilder) was born in Cuba, NY. This is a very small town in Allegany County, about seventy-five miles southeast of Buffalo. While it is no longer known just where Charles Ingalls lived during the six years or so that he lived with his family in Cuba, there are still descendents of his family living in the area. That's pretty cool.

Cuba, NY is now known not for being Charles Ingalls's birthplace but for cheese. And it's damned good cheese, too.

(BTW, Laura Ingalls Wilder isn't Western New York's only connection to Americana literature. Mark Twain lived here for a time, too.)

Can Congress investigate THIS, instead of baseball and sterioids?

There's a thread over on the FilmScoreMonthly message boards right now that's partly annoying and partly amusing.

It focuses on the music for the new film Miss Congeniality 2. Now, a standard procedure in film making is to use what's called a "temp track". What the filmmakers do is, before the time to actually score the film arrives, they assemble a "score" of sorts from various sources: cues from older films, bits of classical music, classic rock tunes or pop standards, whatever. This temporary soundtrack -- "temp track" -- is used by the film's composer to get an idea of what the producers are looking for in terms of where they want music to occur.

However, in more recent years, the "temp track" has become a lot more important: it's not just a case of "Here's where we want some music", but "This is what we want the music to sound like at this spot". And since pre-existing film music is often used for temp-tracks, this is a big reason for the general homogenization of the film music sound over the last ten or fifteen years.

So what's the problem with Miss Congeniality 2? As the initial post in the FSM thread reveals, much of the film's temp track actually ended up being used in the finished film, so that during the end credits, those cues from earlier films are actually listed along with the song credits for songs used in the film. (The poster over on FSM provides details.) So the creative folks behind Miss Congeniality 2 (yeah, I know, there's a contradiction-in-terms) have basically dispensed almost entirely with the use of new music. Talk about laziness.

And yet -- it strikes me as funny, in a way, that in a world where a film like Miss Congeniality 2 even gets made, film music fans really get their dander up about the music. Wow. But then, we're talking about a segment of fandom where it's not uncommon to hear that a spectacularly bad movie like The Final Conflict is actually a good movie because Jerry Goldsmith wrote the music.

There's no party that man won't poop.

After I completed my entry for this list-meme about books, I saw that ACD took time to pontificate at length against the mere idea of "desert island" lists. I find that ironic, since I've often thought that if I could banish a single blogger to a desert island, ACD would be the one! And he'd have nothing at all with him, having long since dismissed the very idea of such a list. Why, it would almost be like that Twilight Zone installment where some guy is locked forever in a library -- and then he breaks his glasses. Heh!

Actually, all kidding aside, I meant to link this ACD post a while back, and I forgot about it -- it's a very carefully detailed algorithm that, executed with proper input, will result in the creation of a (we are told) ideal bagel-and-smoked-salmon sandwich. I haven't made one of these yet, although I most definitely plan to (omitting, sadly, the tissue-thin slices of red onion, on the basis that I don't like red onion very much, and the cigarette at the end because I reject the notion that smoking enhances much of anything at all). What caught my eye in ACD's formula for a bagel-and-lox sandwich, actually, is this bit of instruction on the placement of the salmon on the sandwich:

Plop the lox onto the onion. Do not lay down the lox in flat slices. Plopped lox contains lots of air spaces among the folds which work wonderfully to intensify the flavor of the lox. (To get an idea of what plopped lox looks like, pick up a slice of temperature-correct lox, and hold between your thumb and first two fingers. Raise the lox slice about a foot above the cutting board, and let the lox drop. What you see on the cutting board is properly plopped lox.)


For those of you who regularly make sandwiches for consumption in your brown-bag lunches, take careful note of this advice, for it doesn't merely apply to smoked salmon on a bagel. If you make a simple ham-on-rye sandwich (with good deli ham -- there's nothing, frankly, that would save an Oscar Mayer ham sandwich) and your usual procedure is to simply stack, say, three slices of ham flat on the bread, you'll be astonished at the improvement of flavor a light folding and shingling of the ham slices will yield on your sandwich, with nothing more than the same ingredients. And if you do the same with your thinly-sliced cheese, and alternate the cheese slices with the ham, so the air pockets within the sandwich fill with the aromas of the cheese and the ham -- whoa!

(This procedure, also, reveals why you want your cold cuts to be on the thinly sliced side -- not so thin that you can't even separate the mass of meat into coherent slices, but no so thick that the folds provide a telescope-like view through to the other side of the sandwich. You want closure here, within the sandwich.)

These are the tiny cooking details that are often omitted in cookbooks, and why I miss watching cooking shows on the Food Network.

Is this what being "Undead" really looks like?

Thinking over the whole Terri Schiavo situation recently, I can't help but think that what we have here is a case of people and events falling through the cracks of morality. Dead versus alive, moral versus immoral, faithful versus adulterous -- those are all binary states, and yet, none of them seems to apply to anyone in the whole case. I wonder if that's not the root of so much discord in human affairs: our need to assign everything to one side of a binary state when it might not even be possible to do so.

:: Is Terri Schiavo alive? In one very real sense, she is: her body still draws breath, her heart still beats, et cetera. But there's another very real sense in which she is as dead as Paul Revere. The person is gone. The dreams and aspirations, the loves and fears, the highs and lows, that all combined to make Terri Schiavo the person she was are gone, and they're not coming back, short of what would be the most astonishing medical miracle in human history. Is that what matters when we speak of life and death? On the one hand, it doesn't seem so, because we can't just bury Terri Schiavo while the body still draws breath and the heart still beats.

This stuff really reminds me of some of the abstract issues we used to discuss in philosophy classes, and I guess if nothing else the whole Schiavo affair reveals that yes, we do actually use philosophy once in a while in real life. What, exactly, is a person? What is it that makes a being uniquely human? And ultimately, is there any sense of the word "human", beyond simple biological nomenclature, for which Terri Schiavo now qualifies?

This kind of thing also makes me wonder about the nature of the soul. For those who believe in souls (and I'm genuinely not sure into which camp I fall on that score), does Terri Schiavo's soul still reside in that husk of a body that's been reduced to functioning only by dint of the reflexive functions of what little brain tissue remains? or did her soul vacate her body when the persistent vegitative state began? If the former, then it seems to me to be unnecessary torment of a soul to insist that it remain shackled to this earthly realm; if the latter, then all the arguments boil down to what to do with a body that only still lives because it doesn't know enough not to.

Which, of course, leads to the question of abortion. I really see little parallel between Ms. Schiavo's plight and abortion, because the moral question of a fetus has another factor going for it: potentiality. Even if one denies that life begins at conception (a premise to which I've never subscribed), one must still admit that a fetus has the potential to grow into a person. My understanding is that Terri Schiavo has no such potential (again, barring the greatest medical miracle in human history).

So it seems to me that the case of Terri Schiavo pits people who define life by the beating heart versus people who define human life by the more elusive thing called the person, and the problem is that Terri Schiavo is dead in one sense, but not in the other.

:: I've also noticed that many consider Michael Schiavo to be an adulterer, because since Terri has entered her permanent vegitative state, he has taken the company of another woman and had two children with her. I personally do not (and without going into details, I have some personal experience in my extended family with relationships of this sort) -- or, rather, I consider the mere legal matter on whether he has committed adultery to be pretty uninteresting. I refuse to stand in moral judgement of a man who saw his first wife fall to such a fate and who refused to put all aspects of his life on hold until her physical body caught up with where her "personhood" had gone. That's not to say that I agree with the choices Michael Schiavo has made, because he's made some choices that I find distasteful. But then, so have Terri's parents, and the whole situation is one of spectacular horror. I frankly can't imagine a more nightmarish scenario to have to undergo than the one in which Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers are involved, and I honestly can't pretend that my own moral choices in that situation would be any better than theirs.

Ultimately, this whole situation is a no-win scenario in every sense of the word. There is no victory to be had here, by anyone. I find it sad that so many people are behaving as though there is. No matter which way this thing plays out, the end result is the same: Terri Schiavo is dead. Everything else is just details and trying to force human messiness into a handy set of binary states.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Is the ride sponsored by "Depends"?

Here's a series of photos of the newest terrifying attraction at the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. I love Cedar Point, but I'll probably be opting out of this one next time we're there.

The last photo in the series makes clear why. (NOT SAFE FOR WORK, and a little icky!)

The "You Don't Say!" Department

I see that there's a new TV-movie version of Little House on the Prairie debuting on ABC tonight, and yes, we do plan to watch, since The Wife and I both grew up on the books (on which the new version is said to be more faithful), and we both enjoyed the long-running NBC TV-series (with which the new version is said to have little similarity). I was doing a bit of Googling for reviews of the new version, and I found this article, bearing what must be the dopiest headline of all time:

New 'Little House' returns to the prairie without Landon

Well, I'm certainly glad they managed to make that clear. I was wondering if Michael Landon would be in the newly-filmed Little House, despite the fact that the guy's been dead for sixteen years or so. Yeesh. So yeah, I know that Landon's not going to be there. And I'm fine with it. I just hope they found a bit part for Victor French.

BTW, while I enjoyed the original TV series, I'm looking forward to a version more faithful to the books, where there's no adopted brother named Albert; where Mr. Edwards doesn't come along and marry the town widow and adopt three kids; where Mary doesn't marry a blind guy who gets his sight back and then loses her baby to a gruesome fire (that scene, with Alice Garvey shrieking from the second-floor window of the School for the Blind as she cradles the baby in her arms and the flames engulf her, is one of the more gruesome things I've ever seen in a family-oriented network TV show); where Charles and Caroline don't lose an infant son and Half-Pint, thinking that she caused the little baby's death, runs away and goes on top of the area's highest mountain so she can be closer to God and find a mysterious and kindly guy up there who looks a lot like Ernest Borgnine who gives her the spiritual lesson of a lifetime; where the townsfolk of Walnut Grove band together in the face of corporate America (such as it existed back in 1876 or whenever) and dynamite every building in their town rather then see it swiped by the local railroad or coal mine or whatever.

(Yes, I know that Victor French is dead, too.)

(And hey, was anybody else excited to recognize the guy who played the Tom Hanks character as an old man in The Green Mile as Dabs Greer, who played Reverend Alden on the original NBC incarnation of Little House? That was a nice bit of casting.)

When your region runs out of water, don't come crying to us!

Alan of BuffaloPundit fame links this Buffalo News article in which several former residents of the Buffalo region sadly shake their heads about how bad things have become in their old stompin' grounds. In general I don't blame older people who simply get tired of cold weather and move to warmer climes, I do find a bit of annoyance in a person who is all of sixty years old saying, "There's so much that could be done. If I wasn't so old...." Sixty ain't old, folks -- unless maybe you've been a four-pack-a-day smoker since you were twelve.

Generally, though, Alan has little patience for such stuff:

Come back and help, or leave. But don't lecture us from the palm trees and warmer strip malls.


I whole-heartedly agree. I'm willing, as I note above, to give elderly persons a pass on wanting to move to someplace warmer, but I get really annoyed when people right around my age -- or even younger -- say things like "I'm just waiting until I can afford to move to [insert locale south of Maryland here]", whether it's because of the economy or the snow or the wind or that Southern teams win Super Bowls or whatever.

And the last person quote in the News article just makes me want to throw up:

In sharp contrast to those who no longer live here but still believe their heart resides in Buffalo, there are other Western New Yorkers who live in the county but now can't wait to cut ties.

Kevin O'Brien, 25, grew up in Blasdell, got his bachelor's degree in Buffalo, married and bought a house in Cheektowaga a year ago.

There's a "For Sale" sign on it now.

Though both he and his wife are college educated and had planned to raise their children here, they said the county's botched budget was the last straw. As soon as their house is sold, they're moving to Arizona.

O'Brien, who has a communications degree in broadcast, said he was set to work for the Empire Sports Network before it went under. And his wife, a Social Services worker for the county, has been threatened with layoffs three times since November.

Trying to build a life in Western New York has simply gotten too difficult and too embarrassing for them, O'Brien said.

He and his wife hope to be gone by June. And unlike other expatriates from this region, O'Brien said he's never looking back.

"Sometimes you have to cut the rope," he said. "We're done."


I have a strong feeling that this guy was never long for this area anyway -- he'd have been looking for that better offer forever, and as soon as ESPN or whomever came knocking on his door, this guy was going to leave anyway. Quite frankly, people like that aren't of much help while they are here, and I'm not really all that worried about losing them. There are signs that things might start to turn around a bit here, and there's a lot of impetus shaping up; the constant sense of "Geez, what now!" is giving way to a setting of the jaw, a rolling up of the sleeves, and -- it's hard to see, by God, but it's there -- some good old-fashioned optimism. People like Mr. O'Brien, even they stay here, simply aren't a part of that. What Buffalo needs is people who want to be in Buffalo, to work in Buffalo, to invest in Buffalo, and to tell the world what's great about Buffalo. People who are just going to gravitate toward the biggest possible paycheck can be found anywhere. People like that are a dime a dozen.

So have fun in Arizona and Florida and Texas and Georgia and wherever else. When the economy in your chosen Land of Sun, Milk and Honey starts to turn sour -- and you'd better believe it will, because it always does, sooner or later -- make sure that when you look back up here at envy because things are going well again, you're at least honest enough to realize that you could have been a part of it.

"I want that ship, not excuses!"

When I gave my answers to a Star Wars survey a short while ago, I noted that while I've never owned more than a handful of Star Wars toys (and none that I've left mint-in-the-box, because in some areas of life I'm still an overgrown nine-year-old at heart and Star Wars is one of 'em), I've always wanted a die-cast Millennium Falcon. I thought nothing more of it until I saw that the Tensor had also answered the Star Wars survey, and that he also liked the idea of a die-cast Millennium Falcon -- although the one that he dug up online seems to carry a pretty steep price tag. Given the choice between, say, an iPod or a new stereo and a Star Wars toy, I'm probably gonna go with the new tech toy.

But then I said to myself, "Self! What if there was an online bazaar of sorts where someone might be selling a die-cast Millennium Falcon for slightly less than the one linked above!" And I further thought to myself, "Self! There is indeed such a bazaar!" So it was off to eBay with me, where I quickly honed in on my quarry, and a mere ten bucks later (including shipping), a long-gaping hole in my tiny Star Wars toy collection was filled:


Ha! It's mine! Now I shall be able to spend hours re-enacting my favorite action sequences from the original trilogy, as well as playing through some of the space chases and battles from Saga of a Star World, the epic bit of Star Wars fan-fiction I created in my youth. (No, don't ask. And yes, I did filch the title from the pilot episode of the original Battlestar Galactica series. Back in those days, I filched everything.)

However, I do have to note that the photo above doesn't convey quite correctly the scale of the item in question. I mean, doesn't the ship above just look massive? As though it should be hung from the ceiling that it might command the attention of all who enter my domicile?

Alas, the reality is not quite that way:


No, I'm not disappointed -- I'm quite happy with my little Millennium Falcon, and I knew exactly what I was getting (it was made under the MicroMachines toy imprint, which tells you something). This will sit alongside my MicroMachines X-Wing fighter, my Phantom Menace Queen's Cruiser, my Droid Starfighter, and my Trade Federation Battle Ship. Who knows, maybe I'll arrange them in a circle around my little three-inch Yoda figurine. Of course, that would look pretty weird -- Yoda dwarfing a set of starships -- but I figure it's time Yoda got a chance to dwarf something, eh?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Enter a Star Destroyer from the top of the frame....

It turns out that my discomfort with stealing the government's bandwidth was short lived. I like this picture, and I'm hotlinking it. Oooooh, rebellion!



Details here.

Classical Music in the Digital Music Age

I've been worrying for quite a while about the effect that the "digitalization" of music, from music storage to music distribution, is going to have on classical music -- here's a representative post of mine on that topic from almost a year ago. Now, via Lynn Sislo, I see that my fears were not misplaced.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Movin' Along....

This is one of those "Not much to say today" posts, because, er...I don't have much to say today, and I want to do a bit of writing. You know, a story or something. So this will have to do for today. (And by the way, there may be no new content here at all tomorrow, since I have plans for tomorrow evening. Oh yes. I have plans.)

:: Today's prose-tale from The Store:

The old man had poor eyesight, a weak grip, an unsteady gait, and he was armed with a shopping cart. The stand-alone display of olive oil in glass bottles never had a chance.


:: My undying enmity for the New England Stupid Patriots aside, I wouldn't wish a stroke on anybody, especially a possibly career-threatening stroke. Not even Tedy Bruschi. I hope he recovers and plays again. I really do. I even hope he plays for another ten years. (Yeah, I also hope that each one of those ten years sees the StuPats post a 2-14 record, but still -- strokes are very uncool.)

:: I didn't forget the Image of the Week last week; I just didn't find anything I really wanted to use, and I didn't just want to go help myself to Uncle Sam's bandwidth (even though I generally feel no compunctions in doing that. Heck, I'll probably do that tomorrow, if I post anything at all). But here is an image that would have taken the prize. That's really nifty. It's the type of image that I might have used had I stuck to my plan to rotate through Victorian-era pictures of women for the masthead on this blog this year, as opposed to deciding that I just can't bring myself yet to remove the luminous read-haired beauty up there right now. It's those eyes of hers -- I actually get lost in them.

(Has anyone ever gotten lost in the eyes of someone in a painting before? Am I just weird that way?)

:: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a really good movie. It's easily the best one so far, which is a bit of a pity as its director has already left the series. I love some of the camera work, which echoes the Lord of the Rings films as we move in from very long distances to tight shots on characters. And it's always fun to study the machinations of a J.K. Rowling plot. There are so many details that you don't pick up on until the Nth viewing -- such as the boggart taking the form of a full moon for Professor Lupin. Good movie. (And John Williams's best Harry Potter score yet.)

:: By way of a housekeeping notice: I'll be taking a hiatus at the end of April, probably for a week. I haven't had an official hiatus since the one in August that preceded the arrival of Little Quinn.

:: Read Chapter Six of The Promised King. And if you have a blog, link it. Do it or the bunny dies.

(Not really. There is no bunny. It's a hamster. It's two hamsters. And a kitten.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

No Vince Lombardi Trophy, no Stanley Cup, no Top-100 Skyline....

Via MeFi I see this ranking of the world's top 100 skylines, on which Buffalo does not appear. All I can say is, Damn you, Tulsa (the last American city on the list, at #99).

Sunday Burst of Weirdness (The "Oops, I forgot" edition)

I completely forgot to do a Burst of Weirdness this week. I mean, I just plain didn't think to do it.

So it's a good thing that Kevin Drum linked this collection of photos of George W. Bush rubbing the heads of bald men. And in the comments to that post, I found this even more extensive collection of such photos. This is just funny and disturbing on so many levels.

(This isn't a political statement, by the way. Longtime readers will know that I enjoy pictures of Presidents doing odd stuff. Say...that might be a fun idea...an entire book of Presidential weirdness. I mean, we've elected some weird guys to that office.)

Five Questions, take two

Andrew Cory sent me these in e-mail, and I answer them here. Behold!

1) What genera of fiction makes you all gooey-week in the knees? Which example of that genre do you think exemplifies the highest qualities of that genre? Which is of so low quality that you're embarrassed to admit you like it, and wouldn't have liked anything of similar quality in another genre?

In recent years, I've become less of a "genre" reader -- there are genres I like a lot, but none that completely captivate me, as genres-in-themselves. Likewise, I'm not against any genre; I'm more a "good book" kind of reader. A good book in any genre is more likely to thrill me than a mediocre book in a preferred genre, if that makes sense.

That said, my SF reading tastes gravitate toward big-scale space operas -- the more planets and spectacular battles and clashes with good and evil, the better. I tend to not like Military SF as much, but I did like the first two Honor Harrington novels (by David Webber) quite a bit (even if his constant infodumps are really annoying, and I hear they get even worse as the series goes on).

2) Heinlein's multiverse theory turns out to be correct. Two warring factions grab the best Admirals in all of fiction and make them face each other in an intergalactic, interdimensional war of annihilation. One side grabs Ender (from Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and sequels), the other gets Grand Admiral Thrawn (from Timothy Zahn's post-Return of the Jedi Star Wars novels). Who wins?

I haven't read Ender's Game, so I'm going to have to stick another Admiral in there. And the one that leaps to mind is one whose career as an Admiral was notable but short: Admiral James Tiberius Kirk.

To put it bluntly: Kirk would defeat Thrawn, but only after something of a pitched battle. I'm not sure exactly how he'd win, but at some point he'd make a grand speech about humanity, and at some point he'd talk Thrawn's servant droid into self-destruction by using a logical contradiction to confuse it to death.

3) Who is buried in Grant's Tomb: Why is this a trick question? What is the answer to the real question?

Well, by strict definition, no one is "buried" in Grant's Tomb, since the former President and his wife are entombed in above-ground sarcophagi. (BTW, if memory serves, this question was on one of the original Trivial Pursuit cards, with the answer reading, "Ulysses S. Grant and his wife". When people answer "Grant" but omit the wife, they get the question wrong. Suckers!)

4) What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

Geez, that's a toughie. There's the awful Beaches, which everybody swore would have me in tears by the end -- and yet, there I was at the end, glaring in anger at the screen because I was supposed to be moved to tears when some woman dies after she's spent the entire movie treating her supposed "best friend" like dirt (and vice versa). Nauseating crap.

And then there's The Usual Suspects, which annoyed me because it wasted what could have been a fascinating drama about some interesting low-lifes on the dumb "Who is Keyser Soze?" mystery, the solution of which I spotted within two minutes of the first mention of the name "Keyser Soze".

I could also mention Aliens, which I found boring as every single event that was heavily foreshadowed in the first half unfolded like clockwork in the second half.

And there's the supremely stupid Scream, which couldn't make up its mind if it was a straight teen horror movie (a genre I genuinely hate, by the way) or a parody of a teen horror movie, and didn't do either well at all.

But I guess the prize has to go with Highlander, which may be the single dumbest instantiation of fantasy I've ever seen. God, that is a bad movie, with a colossally stupid premise that wastes not one but two of my favorite actors (Sean Connery and Clancy Brown). Pure crap. Ugh!

5) Humanity is doomed. We've all contacted some horrible, horrible disease. What's worse is that it attacks scientists and medical people first, so there won't be a plucky young heroine teaming up with a beautiful young man to save us all from certain doom. No matter how amusing the antics of a certain ex-president-turned sidekick, the doom is, in fact, certain...You're at the end of the world party, and Kofi Annan reveals to you that he is in real-time communication with aliens. The aliens can use their teleportation technology to fit just one piece of artwork, and a drunken Secretary General asks you to pick the art. To make sure that no one else contract the Human Virus, the Earth's Star (Sol) will be destroyed, taking Earth with it. Whatever piece of art you choose will be _everything_ that remains of humanity. What do you choose and why?

Since we're not quibbling for size, I'd save the Sistine Chapel. (Since this is happening present-day, I assume that the Voyager Record is still intact, somewhere in interstellar space. So at least something of our music will survive.

Yet More Quizzes and Stuff

I was named by PZ Myers as a recipient of a book-meme that's whipping its way around Blogistan, and I am naturally honor-bound to answer its queries. Here goes:

(Wait a minute! Dr. Myers complains that I haven't even noticed this thing yet in an update to his post. I did too notice -- a link from him invariably causes a spike in my traffic, so welcome aboard, Pharyngula readers! -- but with my work day starting at 7:30 a.m., not ending until 3:00 p.m., and then the next two to three hours being filled with things like getting The Daughter off the bus, going to pick up Little Quinn from the sitter, returning home, opening the mail, checking e-mail, reading a few blogs, and doing Little Quinn's 5:00 p.m. feeding, I don't get around to generating new content here until at least 6:00 p.m. on the days when The Wife and I both work. I'm not one of those lucky college profs, who hold the best part-time jobs in America! (I stole that last quip from an actual, tenured college prof of my own. The same guy also quipped that in January, we have a holiday for a great civil rights leader; in February, we honor the Presidents of the United States; in March, we honor one of the great heroes of Irish history; and on April 1, we honor college administrators. That prof was an equal-opportunity offender.)

OK, where was I? Oh, yeah -- the book-meme. Here goes:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Well, assuming that I would be stuck inside Fahrenheit 451 in my current state of knowledge, I could call it a day with the screenplays to the five extant Star Wars movies. But keeping to the spirit of the game, I'm not sure. This is basically picking one book that I think needs to survive into the ages, so I'd commit T.H. White's The Once and Future King to memory.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Well, I come pretty close with Wonder Woman, don't I? But no, not really. However, I have had the experience -- several times -- of encountering people in real life who look almost exactly the way I have envisioned a character in The Promised King or in one of my stories. I haven't formed a crush per se, but I've definitely stared a bit, enough so as to suddenly become uncomfortable when I realize what I'm doing. I've often wondered whether, if I'm caught staring, my real explanation would sound like a lame pick-up line.

The last book you bought is:

The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Celtic Music, by Fiona Ritchie.

The last book you read:

Ditto. (I'll write more about that book sometime in the future, but suffice it to say that it's a really good book for anyone with a beginning interest in Celtic music.)

What are you currently reading?

Oh, crap -- this reminds me that I haven't updated that part of the sidebar in, like, forever. I'll try to do that later, but right now I'm reading Evenings with the Orchestra by Berlioz, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to the Popular Standards (whose author escapes me at the moment), and Deathstalker by Simon R. Green.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

Ah, that old chestnut. How much variety, quality, and sheer volume can I pack into a mere five works? (Of course, I cheat a bit by citing complete works, even if they require multiple volumes. Heh, heh, heh.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare
The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
Cosmos by Carl Sagan
The Oxford Book of English Poetry
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon (Never read it, and it's in three volumes)

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons)? And Why?

Well, with this thing cruising around Blogistan fairly quickly, I have to pick people who basically haven't done it yet. So on that basis, I turn it over to Darth Swank and to Morat at Skeptical Notion. I also bop it over to Jason Streed, in hopes that it will give him something to post about (it's been a month!). And since I almost always disregard constraints on answering blog quizzes, I'm going to kick this to a fourth person: Patrick of Fantasy Hotlist.

And though I'm not officially passing this quiz onto them, I wouldn't complain if Sarah, Drew, or Nefarious Neddie answered it. Heh.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Crap. Someone handed me a ten-foot pole.

I was trying not to say a thing about the whole Terry Schiavo affair, because I find the entire thing so bizarrely surreal that I can barely decide what to say about it. But I followed Bella's lead to this post by Holly Lisle -- who once speculated on a former version of her blog that the whole issue descends from a botched attempted murder by Michael Schiavo -- where Ms. Lisle insists that since Terry Schiavo never put her wishes in writing, the current case in its entirety should never have existed at all:

Schiavo's case should never have been a case. Lacking any sort of documentation stating that she wanted to be permitted to die, every effort should have been made to save her life and return her to her highest level of function. Everything -- EVERYTHING -- has been done wrong because of her husband's talent for publicizing the aspects of the case that he wanted publicized. In the end, however, this is, in fact, a no-brainer. No documentation = presumption that she wanted to live, and follow-on treatment to make that possible.


Strange that successions of Florida state judges have managed to completely miss this bit of obvious legality. Or, maybe it's not so strange after all, because Ms. Lisle is stone, cold wrong, as Dahlia Lithwick once explained:

One needn't take a position on the right-to-life/right-to-die controversy to be appalled by the events in Florida. Whether one believes that Terri Schiavo is in a "persistent vegetative state" or a "minimally conscious state" is immaterial. Whether one believes that her blinks and smiles are signs of cognition or automated reflexes is similarly not the issue. All that matters is that these disputes are governed by law, that the law says Michael Schiavo is her legal guardian, and that his decision ought to have been final.


For the actual legal background of the case -- i.e., not Ms. Lisle's legal opinion based on what somebody in nursing school said one day -- read Ms. Lithwick's entire article. The Schiavo case did not arise in a legal void, and the various judges involved did not make it up as they went along. As judges do, they followed established legal precedent, and that precedent is this: In the absence of Ms. Lisle's written documentation, decision-making power is handed to a court-appointed legal guardian, who is almost always the spouse.

As long as I'm commenting on this whole affair, I note that Ms. Lisle accuses Michael Schiavo of basically being a publicity-hound. I suppose that Mr. Schiavo may just be that, but I note that he's not the one who has the Majority Leader of the United States Senate making medical diagnoses from watching a videotape. Say what you will about Michael Schiavo, he hasn't managed to get high-profile Republicans to make medical diagnoses on his behalf outside their medical specialty without ever seeing the patient in person. And I note that for a case where Ms. Lisle maintains that Mr. Schiavo is the publicity hound, the photograph that accompanies every single story I've seen or watched on TV about this case is the one where Terry Schiavo is "smiling" to her mother. If Mr. Schiavo is the publicity genius, he's not doing too well at it.

How do they look on the radio?

Sean e-mailed me this link to people who look great on HDTV, and people who...don't.

Britney makes one of the two lists. Guess which one...heh!

Quizzes...I got yer quizzes here....

Terry Teachout has a neat-looking quiz, and as my regular readers know, my knees turn to jelly in the presence of a quiz. (At The Store, they won't let me go anywhere near the shelves where the issues of Cosmopolitan are kept.) Here's the quiz, with Mr. Teachout's answers removed and mine substituted. Because, well, reproducing his answers would be kind of dumb.

(Since this quiz seems to require a high degree of self-knowledge, I'm going to call it "The Self-Delusion Quiz".)

What is your most marked characteristic? Warmth, I hope. I aspire to chivalry.

What is the quality you most like in a man? The ability to not be willingly obtuse.

What is the quality you most like in a woman? A willingness to laugh, and a smile to match.

What do you most value in your friends? The fact that they accept my own absurdities often with little comment.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Laziness.

What is your favorite occupation? Does this have to come up in every quiz these days? Writing. Maybe I'll learn to do it someday.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? I don't know, really, but I know that it needs to be shared.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Loneliness.

In which country would you like to live? This one, right now. While I'd love to experience New York City in the 1950s -- Broadway at its height, Leonard Bernstein on the podium at the NYPO -- there's too much stuff I'd have to give up to go back there. I'm not trading DVDs to have the 50s.

Who are your favorite writers? Tolkien, Guy Gavriel Kay, Steinbeck, Shakespeare, Barbara Tuchman, Edward Gorey, Harold Schonberg, Carl Sagan, Stephen King

Who are your favorite poets? Shakespeare, Tennyson, Whitman, Robert Burns, Poe, Alan Jay Lerner, Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter (What, I can't consider lyricists to be poets? Well, it's my blog, and I'm doing it.)

Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath.

Who is your favorite heroine of fiction? Jehane bet Ishak in The Lions of Al-Rassan.

Who are your favorite composers? Mozart, Berlioz, Rachmaninov, Copland, Wagner, Brahms, Beethoven, Turlough O'Carolan, George Gershwin, Frederick Loewe, Percy Grainger, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Duke Ellington, John Williams, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa (or Rosza -- I cannot imprint the correct spelling of his name upon my brain), Howard Shore. (The question doesn't specify genre of music, so I see no reason to do so, either.)

Who are your favorite painters? John Constable, Arthur Hughes, Alan Lee, Tad Naismith, Adolph Schaller, Jon Lomberg. (I don't know many painters.)

What are your favorite names? Katherine, John, Paula, Jennifer, Maria, Eliza, Luke, Matthew -- heck, pretty much any Biblical name. There are some amazing names in that book. (Except "Obadiah" -- I never liked that one. Or "Job".)

What is it that you most dislike? Broccoli. Highlander (the movie). Britney. Ravel's Bolero. The New England Stupid Patriots. People who live in Buffalo but bitch about how much they hate living in Buffalo. People who never seem to have any inkling that maybe, just maybe, their religion isn't quite right in all the particulars. People who look down on what I read, what I listen to, what I write. I dislike all of those things.

Which talent would you most like to have? I'd like to be able to dance a bit -- especially those wonderful Irish step-dances. I could probably learn some of that stuff, if I took the time and expended the effort.

How would you like to die? Painlessly, after a long and full life. (Or not at all, until I'm throroughly sick of everything.)

What is your current state of mind? I could go for a bit of pizza. Or, less specifically, I vacillate between a sense of high optimism and a certainty of unrelenting doom.

What is your motto? "Here's a health to one and all, to the big and to the small; to the rich and poor alike, and foe and friend! And when I come back again, may my foes have turned to friends, and may peace and joy be with you until then!" (Alternatively, my motto is "I'll most likely kill you in the morning.")

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Readeth thou Chapter Six....

...and the number of the Chapter thou shalt readeth shall be Six.

Yup, it's been two weeks, and it's time to catch up on what's been going on for Our Heroine and her merry band of tag-alongs. So bop on over to The Promised King and read Chapter Six of the novel, in which some stuff happens. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll never look at life the same way again.

Remember: Chapter Six is up. Get thee hence, laggard! (I mean, really -- what are you doing reading this paragraph anyway, when the preceding paragraph says it all? Yeesh!)

Torture, Sadism, Death...all the usual cheerful blogging topics

The other day I expressed strenuous disagreement with a recent post of Eugene Volokh's, in which Volokh stated outright -- not suggested, not hinted, not said "Hey what if...", but stated outright -- that we should take a page from the book of the Iranian justice system and start using cruel and unusual punishments for heinous crimes. I figured I'd just express my strenuous disapproval and let that be it, but now I see that a blogger whose politics are quite a bit to the right of mine, but still a blogger whose thoughtfulness and, yes, adherence to reason I've respected ever since I discovered his blog, Michael Lopez of Highered Intelligence, has cast his lot with Prof. Volokh.

My intention here isn't to enter into debate on this matter, since I am personally aghast that anyone thinks that there's anything to debate here at all. Since 9-11-01, the American people have been told repeatedly, ad nauseum, that we are at war with the Islam world, and that this conflict represents no less than a clash of our "enlightened" Western values against a more, shall we say, "medieval" enemy. That we are now told that, the war aside, there are things we could learn from these medieval enemies of ours in the realm of criminal justice strikes me as a particularly ghoulish irony. Believe me, folks: I may be an admitted, and proudly admitted, liberal, but I am not a postmodernist, Western-civilization hating, "destructive multiculturalist" leftist. I do not personally subscribe to the "Good West against the Heathen Islamics" view of what's going on in the world today, but that doesn't mean that I'm an admirer of a lot of what goes on in the Islamic Middle East these days. As far as I am concerned, the less my country has in common with present-day Iran, the better. And, quite frankly, I object strongly to Michael's characterization of this view as a general Western approach to such matters as (his words) "Let's be pansies." I'm not interested in "being a pansy". I want to be better than the other guy.

I'd like to respond to a couple of Michael's other specific points. First, he says this:

That's where I think flogging and burning at the stake and so forth can be useful: as an expression by society that this criminal has forfeited the security of society, that the criminal has so violated our agreed upon behaviors, that we are withdrawing even the most fundamental protections. By torturing such a criminal to death, we are reinforcing the idea that mercy, and even such a thing as a "clean death" are punishments reserved for those who walk among us, not those who declare war on us.


That's almost persuasive -- except for one thing. Michael's claim is that a torturous, brutal death would serve as a statement by society. But a statement to whom? The criminal who has already demonstrated, by way of action, his complete apathy for any statement society might make? or is it a statement to society, a kind of reinforcement of an idea? Well, if the former, then it's useless, and if the latter, it's precisely as useless, because members of society already believe these things. I don't see where any purpose is fundamentally served by the course of action Michael and Prof. Volokh support.

Michael then proceeds to what I think is the most compelling argument against Volokhian torture: that it diminishes our humanity. It makes us lesser people. Our willingness to say to a criminal that we are prepared to do to them exactly what we abhor them having done to us reduces us, in a very real way. Prof. Volokh disputed this claim (resoundingly unconvincingly), but Michael's reponse to this idea is more troubling: he basically says, "So what?" If we grant that we become a lesser society when we do such things, well, so be it, because at least we're not as bad as the serial killer or rapist or whatever. Well, as a moral argument, the "At least we're still better than that guy" argument has never impressed me. That Saddam Hussein did horrible things to his people doesn't mean that Abu Ghraib was the right thing to do. Since I'm concerned with the betterment of society, this argument is, so far as I can see, a complete non-starter.

Underlying Michael's post is a machismo that I find more than a little odd. His general position seems to be that if we don't allow "society" to act upon criminals with brutal force, it's because we're soft, we're "effete wusses" -- again his words -- who are more concerned with our individual humanity than "protecting the institution" of society. But since society is comprised of individuals, I fail to see just how a wholesale degrading of one area of individual morality, across the board, can strengthen the society of which those individuals are its atoms.

In the end, Michael wraps up with this:

I think that the world would be a better place if we had a little more savagery in the way we deal with certain types of criminals. I think it's ludicrous that every TV reporter and panel expert I've seen agrees that it is just as likely Scott Petersen will die of old age as it is that his sentence will be carried out. But if I want to see a better world come about, I'm going to have to do some convincing. I can't just say "we'll agree to disagree" and call it a day.


Consider that: the world would be a better place if we did as the Iranians do. Again, this very thought throws me into cognitive dissonance: we can see a world right now where people do as the Iranians do. It's called Iran. Is that really the model we want for our "better world"?

I'm reminded of all the brutal forms of punishment that once existed, but are no longer used. People are no longer put in iron maidens. Neither are they burned at the stake. Sailors who commit crimes are no longer keelhauled. We in the West tend to look down on the rigid adherence to Islamic law that proscribes that women found guilty of adultery be buried to their necks and then stoned to death. (Click that link, and note the country where that's apparently still part of the criminal justice system's bag of tricks. Again: is this our model?) I would also point out that we are on the threshold of one of Christendom's holiest days -- the holiest day, in fact -- which commemorates the brutal punishment meted out upon the Son of God, and the failure of that punishment to stymie His message. I'm not sure that last is relevant, but I note the irony of timing.

And beyond just the matters of brutal punishments we don't use anymore, the world keeps making progress, doesn't it? Consider just the last 150 years or so: slavery in the West has ended, although it's got a way to go before it's eliminated worldwide. Women in the West not only can vote just about everywhere, but several Western countries have even gone so far as to entrust their highest political offices to women. No one would claim that racial relations in America, while still disturbingly troublesome, aren't better than they were just a few decades ago. Five years ago we closed out a century that saw the rise of both Communism and Fascism, and the defeat of each (well, Communism's still kicking, but not with nearly as much vitality). We've made progress in science, in the environment, we've flown and gone to space.

Would the world be a better place if we in the West went back to doing the things to criminals that Michael and Prof. Volokh suggest? I prefer to think that the world is a better place, at least in part because we don't do these things anymore.

Fly the Friendly (Niagara) Skies

The major airport in Western New York is the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, which used to be a really grungy place until the old airport, with its East and West terminals neither of which had the same architecture as the other, was basically demolished in favor of the really nice airport that services the region today. I actually tend to really enjoy airports; they're a great place to people-watch, and if you're attentive you'll witness moments of sadness as people leave their loved ones to go traveling as well as moments of happiness as loved ones return. The saddest airport moment I ever saw was while I was waiting for a flight, and at the next gate over, it came time for some poor little nine-year-old girl to board her flight to go back to her mother, having just spent a couple of weeks with her divorced father. It was a really sad scene to behold.

But anyway: the very name "Buffalo Niagara International Airport" implies that the airport is a regional one, serving the entirety of our region, and that's about right: just about all commercial air travel in these parts takes off from BNIA, and well it should. It is fairly centrally located, and unlike many regional airports, it's neither hard to get to nor an absurd distance from, well, everything.

But there's another airport in Niagara Falls, NY, that has basically been sitting idle for years. Now, it's not totally idle -- there is a small air cargo industry that operates there, charter flights use to Niagara Falls land there, and the NFIA's runway is shared by an adjoining United States Airforce Base. And it's the runway that's the most interesting thing about NFIA: it's much longer than the runway at BNIA, since it has to be able to service those gigantic aircraft that take off and land from the USAF base. Which means that the NFIA is something of an untapped resource, and there have been sporadic efforts in recent years to tap it.

First there was a bizarre attempt to lease the entire facility to some Spanish company for a very low amount of money, with the exact benefits of doing so a bit unclear -- no one knew if this company really planned to upgrade NFIA and start using it as a passenger airport or what. That deal was scuttled. Other attempts to bring in low-cost carriers to NFIA have failed, since there simply isn't enough demand for new passenger air travel into the region. BNIA serves the region's passenger air needs just fine, although charter overflow is well-directed there. And there have been rumblings about turning NFIA into the hub of a greatly-increased air cargo industry. I personally find that idea fairly compelling, although I'm really not at all convinced that it's feasible. ArtVoice, Buffalo's independent weekly newspaper, used to tout this idea with regularity, although they seem to have backed off it more recently.

The latest item of interest for NFIA is interesting indeed: it seems that Airbus needs to build a manufacturing facility somewhere in the United States, and NFIA has been submitted as a possibility. The requirements are almost perfectly suited to NFIA:

Among the specifications the prospective sites must meet are: access to an extra-long airport runway, railroad lines, and the availability of a deep water port for transfer of aircraft fuselage and wings to the production location.


I like that last part especially, since I assume that Buffalo would be the deep water port (although I suppose it could be Rochester as well). This would be a hefty shot in the arm for the local manufacturing base, as well as put the Buffalo Niagara region on the "international commerce" map.

Landing this deal is, of course, far from easy: twenty-three states are expected to submit three sites each for consideration. But I hope that our civic leaders around here, such as they are, aren't in the least bit daunted by that. We've landed Geico and we've landed Bass Pro. Now let's get the big fish on the hook and reel it in.

(Alan and Craig also like this idea.)

Move Over Britney!

With St. Patrick's Day immediately behind us, and with Celtic music currently comprising the bulk of my listening, it seems to me that it's time to elevate another beautiful woman to Move Over Britney! status, so here she is: Méav.


Méav is one of those Irish singers who sings in a pure and clear soprano, not unlike Enya but with less oversampling and heavy arrangements backing her. Her self-titled debut album is a favorite recent acquisition of mine, and her second album is high on my "Buy it as soon as I see it at Borders" list.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Accessorizing

I'm not sure why Jostein would want one of these, but then, you know those whacky European Socialist kids. They'll buy anything.

Which reminds me: back in the late 1990s, when catalog shopping was significantly more popular than it is now, I received a couple of installments of a catalog that was devoted purely to Russian memorabilia and, well, generally Russian stuff. You could buy tins of caviar from them, as well as matryoshka dolls that stood a foot tall and included upwards of twenty-five or thirty "interior" dolls. And you could also get all manner of memorabilia from the Soviet military, the most spectacular example of which was -- I kid you not -- an office desk chair fashioned from the ejector seat of a decommissioned MiG fighter jet. Wow.

Anyway, I did a little bit of Googling to see if I could find a website for that catalog, and I didn't find it, but I did locate this emporium of Russian and Soviet collectibles. I guess this is your one-stop shop for your John Le Carre novel-reenactment party needs.

Damn you, Scalzi!

Dear John:

I have work to do: kids to feed, a story to print off for submission to a market, a grocery list to compile, a trip to The Store to acquire items on said grocery list, more writing to do, maybe some laundry, and a pile of CDs for review that require me to listen to them.

So, I'd really really really appreciate it if you stop linking things like the Retail Alphabet Game, which just consumed twenty minutes of my time. (I did surprisingly poorly, given that I've spent eight of the eleven years since college in restaurants and retail.)

And while you're not linking things like that, I'd find it especially helpful if you wouldn't link stuff like this. I can't write stories in which I delve into issues of emotional despair and heartbreak and pathological angst if I'm clicking a button so I can look at one cute fuzzy kitten after another.

Your appreciation in this matter is expected, or your home shall be visited by an army of childless Confederate-fetishists.

Thank you.

Love,
Me

Eureka!, part the second.

I noted yesterday that I've managed to implement a list of previous posts on each individual post page (i.e., when reading a single post via a link to that post, you'll see the list in the sidebar, while it does not appear on the main page). I have now successfully republished the entire archive of Byzantium's Shores such that this list should appear on every post I've ever written. I like this feature a lot, and if any Blogger users are wondering how to do it themselves, well, go pound salt! BWAA-HAHAHAHA!!

And, after you're done pounding salt, see the helpful instruction on the required code here. I coupled this info with Blogger's conditional tags in order to get the list to only appear on individual post pages. It all took about a half hour of tweaking to get it to look right.

Now, if Blogger would find a way to have real TrackBacks. Not that I haven't gotten along just fine without real TrackBacks, but all the Cool Kids say that Blogger needs TrackBacks, and never let it be said that I don't want what the Cool Kids want.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Judging the book by its cover....

Jayme Lynn Blaschke has been discussing the cover art for his book Voices of Vision, most recently here. Since he mentions that he's been soliciting opinions on the cover art, I guess I'll note that I hate it. I mean, I think that's one ugly cover. I'm sure the book is terrific, but man, that picture on the cover is just ghastly.

Here's a close-up of the cover. Jayme's one hundred percent right: this image conveys neither "Voices" nor "Vision". It conveys stark horror.

Eureka!

I have finally managed to figure out how to do something I've been meaning to implement here: each individual post page on Byzantium's Shores will, starting with this post, include a brief list of links to previous posts in the sidebar. This list will not be visible on the main page, however. Hopefully such a list will encourage visitors who are coming from other blogs to stick around a bit.

I may get around to a complete republish of the entire blog one of these days, so that (theoretically) each post would have such a list, but complete republishes always take quite a while and aggravate the hell out of me (one of the cruel fates of having a three-year-old, frequently-updated weblog).

Onward and Upward!

Geek life marches on!

I've been wondering, as a nearly card-carrying geek, just what I'd have to look forward to after this summer. I mean, the Lord of the Rings movies are done, The Hobbit is currently just a dream, Star Trek is pretty much dead in the water after the stunning dreck that was Nemesis, and Star Wars is soon to end. 'Tis almost more than I can bear....

....so bring on the superhero who, in all the recent spate of comic books-turned-movies, has been left out in the cold. I'm talking about that wondrous Amazon Princess herself, Wonder Woman!!

And in better news, the new Wonder Woman project is in good hands. No Michael Bay hackery here, thank you very much: According to AICN, the task of writing and directing a Wonder Woman feature has been assigned to Buffy and Angel genius Joss Whedon. That's just great news. AICN speculates that Warner Bros., the studio backing the project, wants the Wonder Woman film ready for summer 2006. At last! Something to look forward to!

By the way, since it's been over six months since I last posted these two images, here's what Wonder Woman had damned well better look like in the movie. Believe me, folks: this is a film in which I shall have a substantial amount of adolescent fantasy invested. Don't let me down, Mr. Whedon!


And of course:


Wow-za. (Which makes me think: what actresses out there are capable of this?)

Hmmm....so far, so good....

Blogger seems to be working a bit better today than it's been working over the last couple of weeks. The Blogger service has been unimaginably glacial of late, as many have discovered, and like many other Blogger users, my recent sparse posting schedule has partly resulted from problems with the service.

I see that the Blogger folks are on the case, as I'd hope they would be. I still wish they'd be more "quick on the trigger" in updating status.blogger.com -- i.e., posting a status message there before a problem is several hours or days old -- but they have been diligent in the past in fixing stuff, even if they take a while to do it. I'm enough of a "grizzled veteran" of Blogger to know that this kind of thing happens on occasion. Usually it's not as bad as the recent spell of poor service has been, but they're on it.

(BTW, since Blogger is now reaching at least five years in operation, I wonder if it might be time for them to revisit their "Nothing is ever deleted from our servers" policy. I wonder how many old and abandoned blogs are cluttering things up over there. Maybe they should adopt a policy whereby if you abandon your blog for a year, it's deleted, or maybe stored in reduced form in some kind of archive where its content is only accessible under certain conditions?)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Yup, another bunch o' questions

Not to be confused with the "Five Questions" thing:

1. IF YOU COULD BUILD A SECOND HOUSE ANYWHERE, WHERE WOULD IT BE?

I'd like to have a first house before I get a second one. The first one would be somewhere in Buffalo's Southtowns.

2. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ARTICLES OF CLOTHING?

Overalls, henley shirts, long-sleeve t-shirts. I also like nicer sweatshirts. Comfort is the main concern of mine, with respect to clothing.

3. THE LAST CDs YOU BOUGHT?

The Aviator score album (Howard Shore's music), a live album by Dougie MacLean, "Bedlam Boys" by Buffalo Celtic band Kilbrannan.

4. WHAT TIME DO YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING?

Too damn early. Do I need to put a number on it? (OK, 6:15 on workdays, 7:00 on weekends.)

5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE?

Defining "appliance" as "stuff I plug in", it's a toss-up between the coffee maker (now ten years old and still going strong), the waffle-maker (a gift from my mother-in-law; old waffle-makers are so much better than new ones), and the crockpot. A crockpot itself isn't cool, but the food it makes sure is.

6. IF YOU COULD PLAY AN INSTRUMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I think I can still lay claim to playing the trumpet. If I had to pick a new instrument, I'd pick the Uillean Pipes.

7. FAVORITE COLOR?

Purple.

8. WHICH VEHICLE DO YOU PREFER, SPORTS CAR, MOTORCYCLE, OR SUV?

None of these. I want a nice hybrid car for my next vehicle. (Of course, by the time I can afford a new car, we'll finally have those flying cars they promised that we'd have by the year 2000.)

9. DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE AFTERLIFE?

No. But I don't disbelieve it, either. I'll find out when I die.

10. FAVORITE CHILDREN'S BOOK?

Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain series. Or Curious George. I also really enjoy reading the Eloise books to the daughter.

11. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SEASON?

Fall.

12. IF YOU HAVE A TATTOO, WHAT IS IT?

I have no tattoos. I also have no piercings. But I do have long, luxurious hair.

13. IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE SUPERPOWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Flight. Or spider powers. Or razor-sharp adamantium claws.

14. CAN YOU JUGGLE?

Balls? No. Tasks? Yes.

15. ONE PERSON/PEOPLE FROM YOUR PAST YOU WISH YOU COULD GO BACK AND TALK TO?

Either of my grandmothers.

16. WHAT IS UNDER YOUR BED?

Boxes of stuff.

17. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DAY?

Sundays. I like Saturday nights, too.

18. WHICH DO YOU PREFER, SUSHI OR HAMBURGER?

Hamburger. But I like sushi.

19. FROM THE PEOPLE WHO NORMALLY READ YOUR BLOG, WHO IS THE MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND FIRST?

No idea in the slightest.

20. ON WHICH BLOG DID YOU FIND THIS MEME?

Musical Perceptions.

21. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FLOWER?

Roses and African violets.

23. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEAL?

Pizza. Or a good Buffalo fish fry. Or Chinese take-out. Or authentic dim-sum at a restaurant in Toronto's Chinatown. Or a big-ass burger with fries. Or a good salad with lots of veggies that I like and four kinds of cheeses. Or a big pot of chili. Or pastitsio. Or lasagna. Or a Sahlen's hot dog grilled and topped with onions and yellow mustard. Or a thick Italian sausage on a bun, grilled and topped with grilled onions and green peppers and brown mustard. Or....dammit, I'm hungry now.

24. DESCRIBE YOUR PJS.

I don't sleep in pj's. I shall divulge nothing more of my sleeping habits than that.

25. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BREAKFAST?

Waffles and sausage. Or a bowl of cereal -- I like Raisin Bran and Frosted Shredded Wheat. Golden Grahams are a guilty pleasure, but they're freakishly expensive. I also try to eat a piece of fresh fruit with every breakfast -- an apple or a banana, usually.

26. DO YOU LIKE YOUR JOB?

Immensely. That I'd find so much satisfaction in being the clean-up guy at a grocery store strikes me as one of life's unpredictable amusements.

27. WHAT IS YOUR DREAM JOB?

I answered this the other day -- writing.

28. WHAT AGE DO YOU PLAN TO RETIRE?

From writing? Never.

29. WHERE DID YOU MEET YOUR SPOUSE OR SIGNIFICANT OTHER?

My college concert band -- she played the oboe.

30. SOMETHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO THAT YOU HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE.

Publish a piece of fiction in a way that gets paid. I'd also like to travel. And though I've done it before, I'd like to vote for a winning Presidential candidate.

That's why I don't read him, either.

Lileks manages to babble about Star Wars, John Williams, and even toss in a mention of Berlioz. Three great loves of mine -- and he's full of crap about each one, almost. Oy.

Oh, so THAT's why I don't read him.

I see a blog called "Volokh Conspiracy" mentioned here and there, but I've never read it, until Matthew Yglesias linked this nauseating post. If this is what passes for "reason" in Right Blogistan, leave me out of it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Musical Quote

I think that Lynn Sislo has been monopolizing the "Musical Quote" thing long enough! So, here are some words of wisdom from George Bernard Shaw:

Call no conductor sensitive in the highest degree to musical impressions until you have heard him in Berlioz and Mozart.


As a lover of Berlioz and Mozart, I find that quote sheer brilliance.

When the words flow....

Over the last week, I've written and edited an entire short story -- 2100 words. Not an amazing accomplishment, really, but ever since Little Quinn's birth the "fiction" part of my brain has been pretty much stalled. This is an interesting development. I hope it continues.

The story, by the way, is a reworking of the myth of the Selkie Mermaid, told from the point of view of the child produced by the union of the mermaid and a man. I'm not sure why this story poured out of me so quickly -- maybe it's just the impending St. Patrick's Day, coupled with the fact that lately Celtic music has comprised the major part of my music listening. Anyway, I'm not complaining.

Star Wars! Nothing but Star Wars!

As long as I'm poking around Simon's blog, I see that he posts answers to an extensive poll about all things Star Wars. And obviously, I can't allow this to go unanswered, myself, so here goes.

(First off, the significance of the title of Simon's post is that the number in question is the serial number of the trash compactor in A New Hope.)

And now, the queries:

1. Best Star Wars moment:

For me, the defining moment in the entire saga is when Luke's X-wing sinks into the swamp in The Empire Strikes Back, and Yoda chooses that moment to make his most profound object lesson. Plus, that particular scene is scored wondrously by John Williams.

2. Best Hero:

Luke Skywalker. I guess Han Solo would be the "cool" pick, but I've got to go with the guy who redeems Darth Vader.

3. Best Villain:

I'll rule out Vader and Palpatine, since they're blindingly obvious. For the rest, I'll pick Count Dooku. I love his chilling switch from trying to convince Obi Wan to join him to a more ominous, "It may be difficult to secure your release." Meaning, "We're going to kill you."

4. Best Alien / Creature:

The succession of large fish in the underwater segment of The Phantom Menace.

5. Best Minor Character:

Jango Fett. ("I'm just a simple man trying to make my way in the Universe" is a great line.)

6. Best line of dialogue:

Han Solo: "Never tell me the odds!"

7. Sexiest character:

I really don't think of Star Wars in terms of sexual themes. That said, Padme looks really gorgeous when she and Anakin arrive at the island retreat in Attack of the Clones. (Leia and the gold bikini never excited me, really. Since I dig long hair, Leia's dress in the Ewok village was much more my speed. Although I've always wondered how the Ewoks were able to sew something so perfectly for someone twice their measurements.)

8. Best costume:

Again, I have to rule out the obvious (Darth Vader). Those red-clad Imperial Guards sure looked menacing.

9. Best haircut:

Huh?! I mean -- huh?! Qui Gon Jinn, I guess.

10. Best innuendo:

OK, this is going to get me totally pilloried, but I don't care. I actually like Anakin's ham-handed attempt to be poetic ("I don't like sand....") in AoTC. Padme just kind of gets this look like she has no idea what the hell he's babbling about. I've always believed that this awful line is awful by design (it's no accident, I think, that every horrible line in that film comes from Anakin).

11. Best Lightsabre:

Luke's green one in Return of the Jedi. It's the first time we really see Luke pop open the proverbial can o' Jedi whoop-ass.

12. Best Gun:

Han's blaster.

13. Best Fight:

Should I just go ahead and name the Obi Wan/Anakin thriller that's coming in Revenge of the Sith? If not, I'll take Vader versus Luke in The Empire Strikes Back.

14. Best Vehicle:

The Millennium Falcon. Although Count Dooku's solar-sailer is pretty neat.

15. Best Title:

Attack of the Clones. It just sounds campy as all hell, which is as it should be. I find it funny that people like me get all hyper and serious about a movie series with titles like Attack of the Clones, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Phantom Menace.

16. Best Toy:

Huh. Truth to tell, I never had that many Star Wars toys. I've always wanted a die-cast Millennium Falcon, though.

17. Best Spoof / Spinoff:

This. I still watch this every now and then.

18. Best Game:

Not familiar with many of them at all. But I did like the vector-graphics 1980s arcade Star Wars game.

19. Best use of, "I have a bad feeling about this."

Anakin's, as the execution-by-horrible-hungry-beastie in AoTC begins. He managed to sound cocky and understated at the same time.

20. Best use of the Force:

Luke's trusting of the Force when he destroys the Death Star.

21. Best Poster:

The teaser poster for The Phantom Menace, in which Anakin-as-a-boy casts Darth Vader's shadow on the wall.

22. Best Trailer:

The first trailer for The Phantom Menace, which provided our first glimpses back into the Star Wars universe in fifteen years.

23. Best Death:

Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker.

24. Best Entrance:

Not really an "entrance", I guess, but when the doors open to the dining room in The Empire Strikes Back, revealing Darth Vader.

25. Best Chase Sequence:

The asteroid field in The Empire Strikes Back.

26. Best Action Set Piece:

The Battle of Hoth.

27. Best musical cue:

Hoo-boy. Here's a tough one. Seriously, John Williams has done so much amazing work on Star Wars that I'm tempted to duck this question entirely. But one cue always seems to rise to the top whenever I go on a Star Wars music listening binge: "The Clash of Lightsabers" from The Empire Strikes Back.

28. Best sound effect:

Lightsaber ignition.

29. Best visual effect:

An obvious choice would be lightsabers, so I'll go non-obvious. Like him or hate him, Jar Jar is a pretty amazing accomplishment. So are the Clone Troopers. (Did you know that in all of AoTC, there is not a single shot of a clone trooper that involves an actor wearing a clone trooper costume? They are all digital.)

30. Best expanded universe character:

Hmmmm. Grand Admiral Thrawn is pretty obvious, so I'll go with his second-in-command, Captain Paellion (my spelling may be off), who -- while being Imperial -- is competent and principled.

31. Best Gag:

Yup, the stormtrooper hitting his head on the door in A New Hope. I love that it's become a recurrent gag, to the point that for the recent DVD release of the original trilogy, George Lucas actually added in an audible "bonk" sound for the gaffe.

32. Best Planet:

Coruscant. The ten-seconds or so in The Phantom Menace depicting sunset on Coruscant are as beautiful a sight as any I've ever seen in a film.

33. Best Special Edition Tweak:

The herd of Banthas in Return of the Jedi.

34. Best Film:

A New Hope. I know that conventional wisdom has TESB taking the prize, but ANH started it all.

(35. Worst scene:)

(I'm adding this entry, just because I don't want anyone to think I'm so blinkered in my admiration of George Lucas that I think he's done flawless work, especially on the Prequels. The scene between Padme and Jar Jar in the hold of the Queen's ship in The Phantom Menace is just a horrible, awful scene. It's a "filler" scene, it feels like a "filler" scene, and it's not even a good "filler" scene.)

(36. Honorable mention Worst Scene:)

(Just to demonstrate that the Original Trilogy had its own hiccups, I point out the scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke's in the hospital bed. Here's a scene that posits "scruffy-looking Nerf-herder" as a terrible insult. Ye Gods.)

Capezzoli di Venere

In the film Amadeus, there is a scene where Constanze Mozart, the great composer's wife, goes behind his back to try and gain favor with Salieri, so that Mozart will be able to make more money. In this scene, Salieri -- who has no intention of helping Mozart at all -- gets on Constanze's good side by offering her an apparently decadent confection of Roman chestnuts in brandied sugar. The more erotic name for this item is "Capezzoli di Venere", or "Nipples of Venus", because -- well, they look like breasts.

Anyway, I did a Google search on "Nipples of Venus" on a whim, and actually found a recipe for them. Looking at the recipe, I'm not sure if this actually results in something that looks like what's depicted in the movie, but it does look pretty good. Maybe with white chocolate instead of semi-sweet?

(EDIT: I changed the link to one that uses the same recipe as the previous link, but that includes a picture of the "Nipples of Venus" from the movie.)

Five Questions, take one

Here's the first installment in my current iteration of the "Five Questions" game, with questions posed by Simon:

1. You are given free rein within a single paragraph to elucidate on the core of the appeal that Star Wars has to you. Make every word count.

It makes me wonder, it thrills me, it was the first thing that made me think of story in terms of archetype, and it was the first story that made me think in terms of good and evil. That's all I need, really.

2. You are given the opportunity to bequeath perfect health upon your son at the cost of yourself inheriting his every malaise. What do you do and why?

Nothing, because I can't predict the future for him, but I do recall one thing one of his doctors said in the NICU: "This level of brain injury in an adult would result in a complete, irreversible coma with no hope of awakening."

This probably sounds flip; I mean, who wouldn't jump at the opportunity to confer perfect health upon their child? Well, there's the nature of his illness, and the fact that for my family right now, a healthy him and a vegitative me would be far, far worse than the circumstance that exists now.

Plus, I've never been one to subscribe to the view that parents should be willing to sacrifice everything for their children. I don't understand the view that once children arrive, all of an adult's dreams and wishes and desires should suddenly be stuck on life's back burner.

(Ironically enough, Simon has a post today that's germane to this very topic. As bad as Little Quinn has it, the thing with cerebral palsy is that it doesn't get worse. The affliction Simon's co-worker's son is suffering does.)

(BTW, I often think about how stunningly sad the entire Buffalo-Niagara region is going to be when Jim Kelly's son inevitably passes away. It's hard for me not to think about stuff like this nowadays.)

3. Working at The Store is not your dream job. What is, and, more specifically, what is preventing you from realising it?

Writing, obviously – writing what I want, when I want, how I want. For the most part, I am realizing it; except that I'm not getting paid for it. So why is that? Time, possibly; I don't have enough of it. But then, neither do lots of people. So maybe I just don't have the right level of "drive" to do what I need to do to get there -- drive to write enough, drive to market it, who knows. Strangely, I'm slowly making my peace with that.

4. If you could give one piece of music to everyone in the world to listen to, which would it be?

Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2 in E-minor. Or the Jeff Beck/Rod Stewart cover of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready". I'd probably flip a coin.

More seriously, though, I don't think there's any way that having everybody listen to a work of my choice would be very effective. There are classical listeners who would eat Rachmaninov up, but there are also classical listeners who can't abide Russian Romanticism. And there are people who don't grok classical at all.

So what I'd really like to do is give every single person on Earth an iPod or some similar device, tell them all to cue up some piece of music that means most to them, and then all sit down at one time and listen. Silence would reign all over the world -- but in the inner ears of every human, there'd be music. And then a new era of peace and joy would dawn on Earth. (More likely, we'd just go back to screwing and killing each other, but man, that hour or so of silence would be golden.)

5. Finally getting around to cleaning up the clutter in your domicile, you stumble upon a time machine that you forgot you invented while in the throes of creative abandon. Which single historical event (in ANY time) do you go back to witness and not affect in any way?

Just one? Shit. I want to go to Dallas on November 22, 1963 and see just who, if anyone, was behind the fence on the grassy knoll. But I also want to be on the deck of the Titanic and see just how close James Cameron got it. I'd like to be able to see a "time lapse" of early life on Earth. I'd like to be at Agincourt and see how close Shakespeare was to what King Henry V really said. And for nerdy personal reasons, I'd want to be at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood on May 25, 1977. Oh, and I'd like to be at that magnificent Bills-Oilers playoff game in January 1993, when the Bills rallied to win after they fell behind 35-3. I'd like to see that one because...I went grocery shopping at halftime, figuring the Bills to be out of it. When I got home, they were only down 35-24.

I have another set of five questions coming soon (actually, I already have them, I just have to finish answering them and post 'em). If anyone wants me to ask five questions, leave your request in comments. And feel free to ask me five questions, if you so desire. It's a fun way to "blog outside the box".