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

Monday, November 28, 2005

Saga's End

(For the time being, I am updating this post as further developments and events warrant.)

Very suddenly, and very peacefully, Little Quinn passed away this morning.

It is sunny and warm in Buffalo today -- but not for us.

UPDATE: Welcome to readers from Dr. Myers and from whomever else may be linking this. Of all the ways I would have picked to get lots of blog traffic, this is one that I would never have chosen. But I am truly grateful for all the support out there in Blogistan, which mirrors the support we are receiving in real life. Many lives were touched by Little Quinn in the course of his struggles, and it strikes me now, at the end, that had he been born perfectly healthy and lived the normal life of an infant and then-toddler, many wonderful people would never have entered our lives at all.

By way of details: I rise for work at 6:30 a.m., and generally leave the apartment between 7:10 and 7:15 a.m., for my shift that begins at 7:30. While I was puttering around and getting ready, I could hear Little Quinn's breathing (he's always been a loud breather, due to his many secretion and respiratory issues). However, when The Wife arose upon the chiming of The Daughter's alarm clock at 7:30, she checked Little Quinn and found that he was not breathing. She called me at work fifteen minutes later; I arrived home again shortly after that -- passing the ambulance on the road -- and waited with the phone for that final call from the ER, which came at around 8:10.

The day has offered many smaller consolations: the warm embraces and shared tears with friends new and old; the thanks given to the therapists who taught him so much, and the thanks they gave us for having allowed them to work with him; the comments by the ER docs and nurses that they could see just from the way Little Quinn looked that he was well cared-for.

As for me, this is the least angry I have felt in all the days since Little Quinn was born. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I hope it's something good.

For those new to this blog, I have links to previous posts about Little Quinn and his struggles in the sidebar under "Notable Dispatches" (this section of the sidebar only exists on the blog's main page -- click the masthead image, or the link below). Further posting this week will be sporadic at best, for obvious reasons -- but I have no intention of abandoning or closing this blog. Writing in this space has enriched my life in too many ways for me to stop now, even if right now life is very, very sad. I have to believe that one way or another, I and my family will find our way back. We're kind of pigheaded that way.

UPDATE II: Yesterday morning, when Little Quinn died, it was sunny and warm. Today, when The Wife and I went to pick his plot in the cemetery, it is dreary and rainy. If my life is a movie, I'm starting to wonder just who my scriptwriter is.

A death notice will appear in tomorrow's Buffalo News with the details on the viewing and the funeral. Between now and then, we have three different trips to make to the airport to pick up relatives, calls to make to various home health care companies to arrange the return of Little Quinn's medical equipment, and just generally alternating between embracing the sadness and beating it back with a broomstick. Oh, and tomorrow night, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is on. We're not going to make grief the centerpiece or our lives, nor are we going to eschew Christmas in favor of constructing a de facto shrine in our living room. It will hurt immeasurably to know that Little Quinn won't get to see his first Christmas tree (for various logistical reasons, we didn't have one last year), but the tree is going up, the cheesy TV shows will be watched, gifts will be exchanged, music will be listened to, and hymns and carols will be sung. There's too much life still to be lived. I find myself thinking of this exchange from The Fellowship of the Ring:

"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."


Amen.

And although this will by no means be the last time I say this, I'd like to thank everyone who has dropped by and left good wishes either in the comments or in my e-mail. Words may seem inadequate to you, but to me, I treasure each and every one of them. Warren Ellis occasionally likes to note that "The Internet is made of people", and that is absolutely true.

EDIT: Slightly edited for clarity.

UPDATE III, 30 November 2005: Little Quinn's death notice appears in the Buffalo News today, and can be found online here. At the risk of repetition, the outpour of well-wishes is appreciated greatly.

The incongruity of life's events continues to fascinate: a coworker of mine actually gave birth to a healthy boy at around the same time that Little Quinn was making his exit from this world, and just about an hour ago The Wife and I met with The Daughter's first-grade teacher for her annual parent-teacher conference. The Daughter continues to do well in school, although we've just learned that she tends to hold up the class line to and from the classroom because for some reason she refuses to step on the cracks in the tile-square floor -- that old thing about "Step on a crack, break your mother's back", I suppose.

I also had prints made of just about every photo that exists on the hard drive of Little Quinn. I'm looking at some of these photos for the first time in months, and the degree of progress he made in his short time is truly remarkable. One blessing of him having lived such a short life is that our memories of him are so much fresher, and so much more intense. Looking at all these photos, I can remember almost perfectly when each one was taken.

There are moments still when the pain suddenly rises up, seemingly out of nowhere. But it always subsides again, and I find myself able to laugh with others.

Those who have read this blog for a long time know that I tend to draw associations between my life and things I read, see in movies, hear on television, and the like. I remember this little homily, offered in an episode of The West Wing, from Leo McGarry to Josh Lyman when Josh got into a bit of trouble:

This guy's walking down a street, when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep. He can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up "Hey you! Can you help me out?" The doctor writes him a prescription, throws it down the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up "Father, I'm down in this hole, can you help me out?" The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey Joe, it's me, can you help me out?" And the friend jumps in the hole! Our guy says "Are you stupid? Now we're both down here!" and the friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out."


My point is this: we're in a hole now, but we're gonna find our way out. And if someone else falls into the same hole someday, we'll get down there with them, because we'll know the way out.

For now, the shock and initial sadness has mostly worn away, and now it's the little things: catching myself listening for his breathing, wondering how long it's been since his last feeding, thinking that I should probably get a load of diapers into the wash. But just as it's the little things that make me sad now, it's the little things that I'll take with me and will keep me going.

Stephen King once wrote that he sometimes answers the question of how he writes with "One word at a time", under the logic that the Great Wall of China was built one brick at a time. The big things in our lives, when we think about them, are just lots of little things in one big bundle.

Anyway, the family members are arriving, one by one.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

IMAGE OF THE WEEK

Yeah, I'm getting lazy again: time to steal the government's bandwidth. Here's a recent selection from APoD:


This is a star cluster which apparently features a large number of "infant" stars. Awww, they look just like their daddies!

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

For some reason, a link to this was left in my comments. I don't know why, or for what post, but there it is. I don't know what the hell it is, but it's kind of...weird. So there it is.

Behold my crafty genius!

Over at my Flickr photostream, I've posted pics of the four Christmas-themed shirts that I have made/decorated myself -- two of the tie-dyed ones from this year, to which I added more Christmas-themed decoration, and the two from last year. Enjoy.

A bit o' rantage

Listen, folks: if you're going to roll up your loose change and take it to the bank to be changed over to good old paper cash or whatever, please don't wrap Canadian quarters with the American quarters. When you do that, it poses a bit of an inconvenience to people like myself who buy rolled quarters for use in the coin-operated laundry machines, and it screws things up when a full roll works out to a specific number of loads -- which is then shorted because you stuck two friggin' Canadian quarters in there. Jee-bus.

More jiggering....

I'm dinking around with things a bit on the blog today, tightening up the sidebar a bit and changing the archives to a drop-down menu that now appears in the "Notable Dispatches" section. Why? Because I can! Kneel before Zod!

(OK, we're done now. Moving on.)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Fotos ahoy!

I've just put a couple of shots of Little Quinn up, over on my Flickr photostream. You can see him with his new favorite toy, and wearing his new tie-dyed onesie. In the latter photo, the look on his face makes him look like quite the little beatnik, I might add!

The New Look!

No, this appearance isn't permanent -- it's just a temporary thing in honor of the Holiday season. It's kind of a hodge-podge, I admit, but I'm a hodge-podge kind of guy, so it's a couple of stained-glass panes, some pine trees, and the Andromeda Galaxy. In January I will switch the graphics around again, although I'll almost certainly bring back the beautiful red-head in the grass, because those eyes of hers just captivate me.

Mr. Lucas, meet Mr. Derrida (or someone like that)

Sean sent me this link a while back, but I forgot to link it and I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. It's always nice to see an article about Star Wars that doesn't go the "Evil moneygrubber, incompetent storyteller, giant party-pooper who hates his fanboys George Lucas" route, but at the same time, I can't tell if the article -- an analysis of Star Wars on a postmodern basis -- is really insightful, or really full of bird poop.

Thanks, given

Well, the turkey came out just fine, despite having been frozen completely solid just fifteen hours before its Date with Destiny (otherwise known as, our oven). The submergence-in-water trick seems to have worked adequately. The breast meat was a slight bit dryer than usual (The Wife certainly knows how to roast a turkey the right way), which we chalk up to the less-than-ideal circumstances under which the bird was thawed. And all of the side dishes were wonderful. Earlier today I made a very small trip for the week's grocery's -- it sure helps the shopping along when one knows there isn't room for much other than this week's gallon of milk in the fridge -- and I picked up a loaf of thick, dark rye bread for sandwiches. I love a nice tall sandwich with lots of fine deli meats and unusual greens on exotic breads as much as the next person, but I also believe that life affords few pleasures so fine as a sandwich consisting of nothing but thick rye bread, lots of mayo, and chunks of turkey ripped right from the bird's carcas. It's just great.

We got some more snow, probably six inches or so where we live, while other parts of the Buffalo region got more (and while the Southern Tier got hammered). For my money, Thanksgiving is the emotional beginning of winter, so I'm fine with snow on the ground -- in fact, I kind of expect it. I certainly do not expect weather like this on Thanksgiving. Oh, those wacky Texans.

And yes, I did a bit of shopping yesterday. We left Little Quinn with his in-home nurse, and then The Daughter and I went out for a while. Target wasn't as mobbed as I thought it would be, except for the checkout counters which were utterly insane. (BTW, folks, I know that the day after Thanksgiving is a big retail day, but this always seems to result in some really odd merchandising decisions in stores, like the way Target had piles of stereos and electronics stuff sitting outside the fitting rooms in the clothing department. I suppose this is to give the guys something to look at while the ladies try on clothes, but it still looked really odd.) After getting The Daughter a new backpack for school, we went for lunch to Quiznos, and from there to Vidlers, the five-and-dime in East Aurora, where I loaded up on obscure candy bars and some new glass ornaments for this year's tree, and where The Daughter added a VW bus to her car collection. From there it was off to Media Play to pick up my copy of A Feast for Crows, and then it was to home.

And nobody got trampled. We're utterly civilized here in Buffalo.

Of Christmas Fable and Christmas Fact

I see that the ever-tiresome right-wing crusade against "Happy Holidays" is now gearing up, apparently under the undying assumption that all would be right in the world again if everybody spoke English and celebrated the exact same holidays in just about the exact same way (albeit with some folks doing bits of it in Latin). Via TBogg I see this cautionary tale:

So she [the blogger's mother] stops by her local US Post Office a few days ago then asks the man behind the counter for this year's Christmas stamps. He pulls out a sheet of something called Holiday Cookies. To know my mom is to know that she has never indulged in cutesy stuff. Every year she always selects the Christmas stamp that features a classic painting of Madonna and Child. She asks if they have any classic Christmas stamps and the man pulls out a couple of sheets of last year's Madonna and Child. Mom notices he doesn't seem happy and he says to her, "These are all I have and they'll be the last you ever see." Mom asks, "What do you mean?" He explains the USPS will not be issuing any more "religious" stamps.

Ever.

Mom is momentarily stunned. She then raises her eyebrows a bit and asks, "Are you allowed to say 'Merry Christmas' to us?"

The man's face falls and he lowers his voice in answer, "No. We can only say 'Happy Holidays,'" he tries to smile at her, "But if you say 'Merry Christmas' to me directly I will respond in kind."


Ah, the horror: the onward march of Political Correctness is now engulfing the United States Postal Service, in the form of postage stamps!

Well, setting aside the obvious possibility, seemingly missed by anyone blogging about this who's never worked in any kind of retail or similar capacity, that maybe just maybe the nice fellow at the counter didn't know what he was talking about (has no one ever encountered the person at the counter who is simply full of shit, totally mistaken, completely uninformed, or just plain "out there"?), there's enough other factual matter that I managed to find in all of fifteen minutes of Googling that gives me cause to question the immediate leap to one of the most popular shibboleths today's right wing has in its backpack.

First, there is this PDF listing of Christmas-themed postage stamps from 1991 to 2003, from just about every country in the world that has a postal service at all. Scrolling down to the United States listings, I note that in the year 2000, no Christmas or generic Holiday-themed stamps were issued by the USPS at all; secondly, when the USPS has issued Holiday-themed stamps, there has always been a mix of both a religious-themed stamp and several "secular" stamps. Also, the PDF list here doesn't describe exactly which stamps are released, so it's entirely possible that the USPS has used "rerun" stamps from one holiday season to the next.

I've also read the USPS statement on this year's stamps, which have a "Holiday Cookies" theme. Reading through this press release, I'm struck by the repeated occurrence of one word. Not "Holiday" or "Christmas", though: I'm struck by the word "Pillsbury". Yes, the "Holiday Cookies" stamps are apparently part of some kind of partnership between the USPS and the folks at Pillsbury, who make all that nice dough for, you know, Holiday cookies. Wow. That all sounds pretty nefarious, doesn't it? I mean, how dare the USPS enter into any kind of corporate partnership! My God! (And one of the "Cookie" stamps is an angel -- not the most secular of beings, that.)

Returning to the helpful sales clerk, whenever I've asked for Christmas or Holiday stamps in the past, I've always been handed the year's "secular" ones first, and I've had to specifically request the Madonna-and-Child ones. If that's an official policy, I have to say that it's not one that really bothers me that much, and I've never had a clerk bat an eye at giving me the Madonna stamps (unless they were out). I have had USPS clerks who don't even ask what kind of stamps I want, no matter what time of year I'm buying them; if I say I need a book of stamps, I get the boring standard-issue US flag ones. But that's only some clerks; others will actually open the drawer and see just what they have on hand at that time. In any event, taking what the guy at the Post Office counter seriously as a statement of official USPS policy seems to me to be about as reasonable as asking the receptionist at The Pentagon when the troop withdrawals are scheduled to start.

Oh, and if that all isn't enough, check out this bit of news from the Virtual Stamp Club's, who I presume just may know a bit more about the subject than some blogger's mother:

Other 2006 issues include The Art of Disney: Romance (Mickey and Minnie, Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella and Prince Charming, and Beauty and the Beast); boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, in a design reminiscent of a 1930s boxing poster; American Motorcycles; Holiday Snowflakes; and a new religious Christmas stamp, based on Chacón's "Madonna and Child with Bird" painting at the Denver Art Museum. (emphasis added)


And here's another corroborating source: there is be a new Madonna-and-child stamp; just not a new one this year. (Now, it's entirely possible that the new one won't appear in 2006 either, since these kinds of things tend to be tentative in nature and from what I've read, a lot of it depends on increases in postal rates that haven't been settled yet. But that, of course, raises new questions about the possible reasons the USPS might have to not have brand spanking new stamps in circulation each and every year -- questions with answers that may not revolve around political correctness.)

So before you all start charging into a new round of "Here's how the liberal ACLU PC crowd is destroying all that is good about American life", you might get your damn facts straight, people. As an anecdote, the original tale above isn't even particularly useful or illustrative of anything at all.

(Oh, and one final bit of interest: in the 90s, the USPS did try to end the Madonna-and-child stamps, but the decision was reversed by that paragon of All Things Conservative, President Bill Clinton. And the "great tradition" of Christmas stamps in the United States only started in 1962, with the first Madonna stamp coming in 1966. So the idea that this is some great tradition of old that is being crushed under the weight of New Liberalism or whatever just doesn't hold up.)

EDIT: Edited slightly for clarity.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Compositional Tables

I was going to steal this table, but Lynn stole it first. No matter. I'll fill my own values in anyway:

Handel
Highly Cool
Vivaldi
Highly Boring
Bach
One of the Titans
Johann Josef Fux
Who?
Haydn
OK
Mozart
One of the Titans
Beethoven
One of the Titans
Schubert
Highly cool
Mendelssohn
Fairly cool
Berlioz
THE Titan
Schumann
Highly cool
Brahms
One of the Titans
Wagner
The OTHER Titan
Verdi
Highly cool
Rachmaninoff
My heart melts
Sibelius
Meh.
Stravinsky
Pretty cool
Schönberg
OK until he went the "Key signatures optional" route
Ravel
Bolero? Unimaginably bad. Everything else? Quite cool.
Poulenc
Meh.
Havergal Brian
No idea.
Messiaen
On the basis of Turangalila, highly cool
Boulez
No idea
A bunch of living composers I'm too lazy to
mention
Film composers? Highly cool.
Another bunch of living composers I'm too
cowardly to mention
Some cool, some not. Or something like that.
Any University of Michigan composer
Alma Mater of Tom Brady? The place must be destroyed.
Any Ohio State composer
No idea on composers, but hey, thanks for putting Willis McGahee so far down in the draft!


The point? No point, really.

Buffalo Notes

In an effort to recapture some of my Buffalo blog street-cred, here's some Buffalo-related linkage and random thoughts about stuff:

:: Craig wonders if Buffalonians should be offended:

Just saw an ad on TV (maybe you've all seen it already) where two faceless people on a beach rip up their plane tickets back to Buffalo and lie back to enjoy a Corona.


Nah -- just as long as a couple of guys in Bills sweatshirts come wandering through with a six-pack of Labatt's and kick sand in the face of these two Corona-swilling losers. Or maybe we can have some folks sitting on a deck in ski country, enjoying the snow and quaffing a bottle of Flying Bison. Remember, folks: "If you gotta put a lime in your beer, you're suckin' on a lemon." Suck it, Corona!

:: At Craig's other blog (in which he provides more Upstate NY relevant news, as opposed to Buffalo-centric stuff), I see this curious item:

Developers and Allegany County officials say the development of an indoor water park and hotel at the intersection of Interstate 86 and Route 19 is on schedule and construction could start in the spring....The project is expected to include an enclosed water park with 35,000 feet of space in addition to a restaurant and a 100-room Comfort Suites Hotel, part of Choice Hotels International.


I have one simple question about this: Huh?!

Or, putting it more specifically, what is up with this particular location? I've driven by that interchange on Interstate 86 many times, and believe me when I tell you that there is nothing there.

Here's the Google Map of the location. That's about as far from anything in the Southern Tier as you can get without actually entering the Black Hole of Calcutta (named on most maps as "Pennsylvania"). This interchange is about halfway between Olean and Hornell, which are about the only towns in the Southern Tier of any size at all between Jamestown and Corning. At this interchange you'll find an old and rather beat-up truck stop, and...that's it. About the only things of consequence in the area are Alfred State College (but a better route to Alfred would be to get off I-86 two exits down), Wellsville (a sleepy town of about 10,000 people, about ten miles south of I-86), Houghton (an even sleepier town that has a college and nothing else), and Letchworth State Park farther north (twenty-five or so miles north of I-86). This project isn't close enough to the Finger Lakes region to capitalize on any of that traffic (the Hornell/Arkport exit is a much more logical point to get off I-86 if one is heading for the westernmost reaches of the Fingerlakes), and it's far enough from Hornell and the junctions of I-86 and I-390 to capitalize on that traffic as well, so I'm wondering just who is intended to patronize this waterpark/hotel thing.

Believe me here: I used to drive this stretch of road a lot, often on various meetings when I worked for Pizza Hut (our Area Manager operated out of Corning), and even before than when as a kid we'd often take then Route 17 (which is now I-86) east a ways as the first part of our jaunts to Philadelphia, where my grandmother lived. When you're driving westbound on I-86, the traffic is fairly thick until you reach I-390, where just about all of the traffic peels off and heads north toward Rochester, while only a handful of vehicles continue across the Southern Tier.

I really can't imagine why anyone thinks that this particular interchange is a good place for a project like this.

:: I've often wondered why the Buffalo News website is so unbelievably half-assed. The overall appearance is absurdly cluttered, with a large block of unused gray space at the right of my browser window and everything else jammed as close together as humanly possible; navigation of the site is difficult and counterintuitive; daily content is updated exactly once, and too late (9:00 am) to be of any use to early risers like myself; photos from the paper seem to exhibit some really weird colorations in their online incarnations; et cetera.

By way of specific examples of the News's web ineptitude, here's an article from today's News on the website. It is accompanied by a graphic that gives some bullet-points relating to the story, but the graphic is rather hard to read at the current level of resolution. There's a little link right above the graphic to magnify it, but if they'd actually use the entire browser window and ditch that giant swath of gray at the right of the window, they'd be able to accomodate a legible version of that graffic on the story's actual page instead of making people click through to get it.

And, of course, there's my favorite example: the "My View" column, which is a reader-submitted feature appearing daily (and which, I might add, has twice published articles by Your Humble Narrator). If you're reading today's "My View" column and you want to know how to submit one of your own, you scroll to the bottom of the column where you find this helpful bit of instruction:

For submission guidelines on columns appearing in this space, visit the Buffalo.com Web site and click on Top Stories. Then click on Opinion, My View and Guidelines; or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Opinion Pages Guidelines, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240.


Well, that's certainly helpful. Even more helpful, of course, would be an actual friggin' link to those guidelines. It's the Web, guys, and here on the Interweb, we link stuff. Here's an example:

For submission guidelines on columns appearing in this space, go here.


And that's only half the fun here: those half-assed "Click this, then click that, and then click here again" constitutes the actual instructions for finding the guidelines that appear in the print edition of the News as well, when most other print publications would simply give the URL, like this:

For submission guidelines on columns appearing in this space, visit http://www.buffalonews.com/services/contact/guidelines.asp.


The News's web operation isn't just ugly; it displays a shocking amount of ignorance of the way that the Web actually works.

Well, thanks to Alan, I now know why the News's website is so bad (as well as a lot of other bad stuff about the News). I mean, check out this Donn Esmonde article from today: does it seem odd that the website of a major metropolitan newspaper should be using Google Ads?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The giving of thanks

Well, we're kind of "stuck at home" today -- just like most folks, really, but originally we'd planned to travel into Western New York's Southern Tier to visit The Parents for Thanksgiving, but a fairly nasty lake effect snowstorm is either hitting or getting ready to hit the regions between us and them, thus making travel in that direction unwise. And since we didn't get to make this decision until yesterday morning, last night involved a bit of scrambling to get ingredients for a hasty Thanksgiving Dinner that we hadn't originally planned on making. Oh well. We are now in the process of finding out how well the "stick it in a big-ass pot of water" thawing technique works on a twenty-pound turkey. Stay tuned.

We're also watching the Macy's Parade, which we watch every year. It's always fun to watch selections from the current batch of Broadway musicals, complete with awkward lipsynching and the slightly-bored looks on the faces of the people watching these performances from the read. It's also always fun to watch the marching bands, despite my loathing of actually participating in a marching band when I was in school and despite the fact that marching bands now seem required to do these godawful dance moves. It's fun to wish Katie Couric and Matt Lauer would shut up for just one minute. It's less fun to watch the various stars of NBC TV shows dragged into the parade coverage for no other reason than to pimp their shows, but hey, what're you gonna do.

As for what I'm thankful for, here's a small sampling: her, her, him, this, this, this, this, this, these fine folks, here, these, him, him, him, him, them (yeah, even though), all the folks listed here, the wonderful people here and here, every single one of these people, these, and this.

I could fill almost four years' worth of blog posts with stuff I'm also thankful for -- come to think of it, I've already done that -- but for a short list, that suffices.

AOL, let my people go!

I tell you, folks, watching this whole AOL Journals thing unfold at the same time that I'm reading the Book of Exodus is pretty spooky timing. I'm just glad that the whole thing didn't involve plagues of frogs, rivers of blood, and the slaying of the firstborn. Now that would have been creepy.

Anyway, my original post on this matter has been updated again with a few more links to bloggers making the move from AOL Journals to elsewhere, so check them out. Judging from the reading I've done on these blogs, AOL's loss is Larger Blogistan's gain.

The face of EVIL!!!

PZ Myers is profiled by a Minnesota alt-newspaper. It's a good article, although I wondered for a bit if Dr. Myers had linked the wrong thing, given that his name doesn't appear until the seventh paragraph, but there it is. It's a nicely done profile, even if it doesn't mention the one blogger that Dr. Myers has likened to an axe-murderer. Harumph! He didn't even say that about Hindrocket!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Deja blog

I may have seen this term before, but on the off chance I haven't, I'm going to coin it now: Deja blog. This is when you get the nagging feeling that you've blogged something before. I find that it afflicts me more and more as Byzantium's Shores marches on: I find myself thinking about a possible post, or even writing it, when I realize that I think I've already written on the very subject. I'll search my archives, usually finding it, but sometimes not.

Today I found it.

Atrios has a "Ten Movies You Hate" thing, and I started to craft my own list -- when I realized that I'd already done so, nearly two years ago, with the added irony that when I wrote that post, it was also in response to a post by Atrios. What a tangled web, and all that.

Anyway, here's a repost of the list of ten movies I hate, since it's pretty much the exact list I would have written now.

1. City of Angels. The only film in which I have dozed off in the theater. There is a scene, late in this movie, that had me thinking, "Hmmm, a big lumber truck would be ideal right about now." Sure enough, there was one. If you've seen this incredible snoozer, you'll know exactly which scene I mean.

2. The Usual Suspects. The lamest trick movie I've ever seen. What started out as in interesting character study of a group of criminals detours into a "mystery" with a "staggering revelation" that I spotted a mile away.

3. Se7en. The second-lamest trick movie I've ever seen, with by far the crappiest ending I've ever had to endure. This movie was superb up to a certain event, and then it just totally derailed.

4. Scream. What the hell is this? A parody, like Blazing Saddles or Airplane!? An attempt to combine teen horror with the "Oh, we're just so jaded" irony-fetish of the mid-1990s? Either way, it's a dull and stupid movie in which nobody acts like any real person would act in any such situation. The Drew Barrymore scene is fun; too bad her scene constitutes the movie's first ten minutes.

5. Alien. Good once. Boring after.

6. Aliens. Predictable and numbing.

7. Live and Let Die. By far the worst entry in the James Bond series, with more blatant sexism than ever before and a nice dose of blaxploitation to boot. Ugh.

8. Beaches. When I saw this in a college screening, everybody around me was crying at the end, and I'm thinking, "My God, I hate both of these women! They spend virtually the entire movie treating each other like dirt, and yet I'm supposed to cry when one of them dies?!"

9. Highlander. It takes a hell of a movie to fail completely despite the presence of Sean Connery and Clancy Brown, but this one pulls off the trick.

10. Saving Private Ryan. I'll probably catch hell for this. A lot of the film is really superb (the D-Day stuff is outstanding, really), but the concluding act is one of the most staggering let-downs I've ever seen in a movie (probably the worst, if not for Se7en). William Goldman wrote an essay for Premiere that explains just how bad the ending is, and I agree completely. You can find the essay in Goldman's book The Big Picture. I couldn't put my finger on just why I didn't like this film until I read it.


Those movies add up to about a day of my life that I'm never gonna get back. I could have done something with that day, dammit!

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffin' glue....

Yesterday I was watching a couple of episodes of The West Wing's first season, and since I wanted to finish the story arc where Leo McGarry's status as a recovering addict was going public, I took a pass on the first quarter of the football "contest" in which the San Diego Chargers hosted a bunch of guys putatively from Buffalo, who called themselves the "Bills".

After I finished the episode I was watching, I flipped over to the game for the second quarter and found the Bills down 21-3. Minutes later, it was 28-3. Minutes after that, the Bills managed to find the end zone and start their historic comeback, making it 28-10. And then it turned out that the Chargers hadn't read the script, so they scored again to make it 35-10.

At that point I allowed The Daughter to watch a movie while I took a shower. I didn't watch a single play of the game after that, so I didn't see it end up 48-10. Therefore, I don't have much to say about this game specifically -- for that, go here, as this post seems to agree with everything I read in the paper, heard on the radio, and heard from coworkers at The Store -- but I do think that it's clear that the Bills are done, in this incarnation.

Tom Donahoe has had five years at the helm of this team, and the Bills have failed to make the playoffs each time and only produced one winning season. Enough is enough. Donahoe has failed. It's time for him to go.

Likewise, it's time for most of the coaching staff to go. Jim McNally and the special teams guy can stay, but everyone else is producing crappy results.

The personnel people stink. Other teams are finding diamond-in-the-rough offensive linemen in the draft, while the guys the Bills keep picking in the lower rounds evidently couldn't block Dick Butkus at this stage of his career.

Players? I'm for keeping the following: J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb (you need a good backup), Willis McGahee, Jason Peters, Lee Evans, Roscoe Parrish, Eric Moulds (maybe), Terrence McGee, Takeo Spikes, Angelo Crowell, Jabari Greer, and...that's about it. Lawyer Milloy? Gone. Troy Vincent? Gone. Sam Adams? Gone. Bennie Anderson? Gone. Josh Reed? Gone. Mark Campbell? Gone. London Fletcher? Gone. Jeff Posey? Gone. And so on.

The defense is aging and the offensive line is a complete wreck. Even if the Bills manage to stitch together an 8-8 season, this bunch of players is never going to get any better than this. We've seen the best this group can do, and it was last year's 9-7, playoff near-miss. Time to rebuild. There's a decent nucleus of young offensive talent here; otherwise, the Bills need to start rebuilding the D and the O-line as soon as the season ends.

But what scares me is that they'll try rebuilding with the same bunch of people who were in charge of the last rebuilding process -- the one that yielded one winning season in five years. Oy. It seems well within the realm of possibility that the Lions and Browns will be respectable before the Bills are again.

(Odd stat: in going 3-0 against the AFC East, the Chargers have outscored the Bills, Jets and Stupid Patriots by a 120-53 margin. In going 3-4 against everyone else they've played, the Chargers have only outscored their opponents by a 180-149 margin. Therefore, the average score when the Chargers play an AFC East team is Chargers 40, AFC East 18; the average score when the Chargers play anyone else is Chargers 26, Opponent 21. What does this mean? Absolutely nothing, of course.)

Sentential Links #26

This is the half-year edition of Sentential Links, give or take a few by way of weeks missed for vacation or whatnot. I really enjoy gathering these links, so long may the tradition continue!

:: Another long, lonely, and empty day awaits. (The woman who posted last week's heartrending single entrant in this series has posted a follow-up. I'd like to be able to say that I can't imagine the pain she is going through, but the problem is, I look at Little Quinn and realize that I actually can imagine it, all too easily. I can't express enough, though, my admiration at her bravery in writing about even the tiniest fraction of the feelings she is experiencing right now. Someday, I think that strength will serve her well, if it hasn't already.)

:: The visuals are so lush, so beautiful, so breathtaking and, in certain ways, so touching, that my mouth was agape for the entire movie, just like a kid in a movie theater of old. To put it plainly and simply, not necessarily in that order – Mr. Miyazaki makes magic. (Bruce Kimmel is an old hand of various online film music communities, and he has a long show-business career. His blog is fun to read, although I rarely know much about what he's talking about. If you're looking for an "inside showbiz" kind of blog, check him out.)

:: The White House's actions don't really make sense unless on some level they believed what they were saying -- as we can see, getting caught is inevitable when it comes to something like this -- but any information, no matter how dubious, that supported the conclusion they wanted to believe would just go right on through the pipeline no matter how many times somebody tried to tell them to slow down. (I think that the rejoinder to "How did Bush lie?" is to reply that he lied in the worst way: he and his people lied to themselves. Once you do that, lying to everyone else is a piece of cake.)

:: Look. Look up. Pony! Loomin', jumpin' pony. Hop, hippo, hop. Joy! Poop. Pumilio. Milk on my yo-yo. Loin, junk, Polk, pin, plink, plonk, hum. Oil, pomp, lumkin. (Hey look! Dr. Myers is speaking in tongues!)

:: The mere thought of wandering by a store where people stinkables are on display makes me shudder. What’s next, advertising for boner pills on television? (There's a store in a Buffalo neighborhood that sells lingerie, and displays its wares in its front window. Won't someone please think of the children!)

:: Scott pointed out to me that this gull looks like Mr. Burns. (Holy crap! It does!)

:: Too bad some 18th century medical experts did not devise an apparatus to transfuse blood from Hector Berlioz to the dying Mendelssohn to revive him with some of the Frenchman's élan vitale. Even had the experiment utterly failed, it would have produced the unintended benefit of cutting short Berlioz' career. (And thus does Mr. Himebaugh become my sworn enemy. Willingly cutting short Berlioz's career? Pshaw! Pistols at dawn, says I!)

:: Alan you are such a liar; anyone that [sic] reads this nonsense has to just laugh. You get the same comments from the same people 90% of the time. When your not around you get NO comments period because you write 99% of the comments yourself. (This is actually a comment to one of BuffaloPundit's posts. I reproduce said comment here because the grammatical and arithmetical trainwreck is just too precious to ignore.)

:: Sometimes I think about creating a website called Homicide Girls, where the subscription fees go towards funding human-hunts in the lawless wilds of the Ukraine. (Sign me up!)

:: So they call themselves Conservatives, vote Republican, complain about their taxes, tell their jokes, and then rant and rave like hell when their streets don't get plowed and their sewers back up and their grandmother's Social Security check is late and their cousin comes home from Iraq without a leg and the Army charges him for the loss of his gun.

:: Thank you for overalls... and Birkenstocks... thick cotton socks and deliciously warm wool sweaters. And a husband who thinks this is a good look. (Amen, sister -- although for me it's a wife. But then, I like the look on her too, so it's all good.)

All for this week. Look for more good sentential stuff next week!

More notes from the AOL Exodus

I've updated this post with a few more links to new blogs written by folks who are migrating from AOL Journals in protest. Check them out; a cursory glance reveals some good stuff going on. It's a shame that I'm discovering these folks when their own little town in Blogistan is being torn apart, but you know -- there are no strangers, just friends we haven't yet met. Or something like that.

AOL Journalers, you're welcome to leave URLs in comments either to this post or the original one, or e-mail them to me, and I'll link your new blogs or journals.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The road goes ever on and on....

Chapter Twenty-two of The Promised King, Book One: The Welcomer is now up. This is the last chapter of Book One, although a short epilogue will appear in two weeks in which the current state of affairs is wrapped up. But for now, if you're just dying to know how the Battles of Bedwyn and the Giants' Dance come out, and whether the Promised King even survives his first moments in Prydein after returning from Avalon, and whether Gwynwhyfar has any further role to play in the story -- well, go find out. And if you're not dying to know any of those things, well, go catch up -- all the chapters are archived there, with links in the sidebar.

Some will live, some will die, and Prydein will never be the same!

(This post is anchored at the top of this page for all of Sunday; newer content will appear beneath it.)

IMAGE OF THE WEEK

I couldn't find the image that I really wanted to use last week, so I dug up another image of related subject matter instead; and then I didn't even do an Image of the Week post last week anyway, and just tucked last week's eventual image into this grab-bag post. Not the greatest moment in the history of the Image of the Week, but there it is.

Anyway, today I managed to find the picture I wanted to use last week, of lanterns released into the air in honor of a Thai festival. This is one of the most evocative photos I have ever seen -- all that light, floating up into the air.



I wish we'd do this at my church....

New at GMR

I've had a few reviews appear at GMR the last two editions. I reviewed two CDs, Big Shoes by Dave Rowe and Tidings by Allison Crowe, two weeks ago, and in today's edition, a book review of mine is designated the "Feature Review" (which means, it gets listed at the top of the What's New page as opposed to with all of the other book reviews further down the page). This review is for Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin, an author whose work I've loved for years, even though he's fallen off my radar of late. Until now, that is.

Sunday Burst of Weirdness Guys In Capes

OK, this isn't a Burst of any kind of weirdness at all: it's the teaser trailer to Superman Returns. I am now very much looking forward to this film, which I pray lives up to the legacy of the first Superman film, which I consider to be the best superhero movie ever. The fact that they made this trailer using John Williams's music and Marlon Brando's voiceovers from that first film bodes well, I think. (I know, I know, if only filmmakers were as good at making actual films as they are at making trailers, but still -- I have a right to hope this thing is good, right?)

A flaw in his character

A while back (quite a while back, actually) I followed a book recommendation by Will Duquette and read Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart, a magnificent fantasy novel set in a mythical China-that-never-was. Now, via MeFi, I see that the first draft of Bridge of Birds is available online. The Interweb is still the coolest thing, like, ever. After Star Wars, of course.

Geek Books

Sean provides a nifty link to "The Top Twenty Geek Novels", as collated by...someone, using some kind of criteria. Or something. Sean also disses the notion of bolding items on a list (shock!) and displays a depressing lack of awareness of the fact that "Hip is a state of mind" (horror!).

Anyway, here's the list of Geek Books, with the ones I've read in bold. (Someday there'll be just a list of totally random stuff, and I'll bold parts of it.)

1. The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four -- George Orwell
3. Brave New World -- Aldous Huxley
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- Philip Dick

5. Neuromancer -- William Gibson (Actually, I've never read this all the way through. But I've bounced off the first couple of chapters so many times that I'm claiming it anyway. I just never got into cyberpunk much, even if Neuromancer boasts a stunner of a first sentence.)

6. Dune -- Frank Herbert (Gotta get back to this one. I started it once, but I got frustrated because Herbert uses a lot of fictional jargon that got in the way of the story. Yes, there's a glossary, but I didn't really like flipping back to the glossary nearly once per paragraph.

7. I, Robot -- Isaac Asimov
8. Foundation -- Isaac Asimov
(Shouldn't this include the entire Foundation Trilogy?)

9. The Colour of Magic -- Terry Pratchett
10. Microserfs -- Douglas Coupland
11. Snow Crash -- Neal Stephenson (Man, does this book crash and burn in the last four pages. It's astonishing.)

12. Watchmen -- Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (I'm due to re-read this.)

13. Cryptonomicon -- Neal Stephenson (I've never had so much fun reading a book whose content I understood at a rate of under fifty percent as I did with this one.)

14. Consider Phlebas -- Iain M Banks
15. Stranger in a Strange Land -- Robert Heinlein
16. The Man in the High Castle -- Philip K Dick
17. American Gods -- Neil Gaiman (Loved it.)

18. The Diamond Age -- Neal Stephenson
19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson (Actually, this book might be the counterexample to what I say above about Cryptonomicon.)

20. Trouble with Lichen - John Wyndham (This is the one book on this list of which I haven't heard.)

What a stand-up guy.

Roger L. Simon, that is.

If OSM fails in the end, it will be interesting to see how the participants manage to blame liberals and the MSM.

Can't...help...myself!

One of my favorite installments of The Far Side was the one set outside the Midvale School for the Gifted, where the foreground had a large sign giving the school's name, and in the background is a student pushing hard on a door marked "Pull".

Naturally, this cartoon lept to mind when I saw this:



Apparently the President was annoyed by some reporters (you know, the folks who ask questions and stuff -- it seems they still have those in other countries), and after trying to cut off the questioning and making his exit, the President discovered that the doors were locked.

The look on the President's face just made my day. That it is this President looking dumb is just gravy; I love it when Presidents of all political persuasions look silly.

(While I'm loath to track down and post an actual copy of the Gary Larsen cartoon in this space, I did find a reasonable simulacrum thereof here, along with a bunch of other goodies that I hadn't seen before. Oh, and the original item is via MeFi.)

UPDATE: Atrios has the entire sequence of photos. God, this is hilarious.

Give.

I'm not entirely comfortable blogging about this, because I feel that in some vague and undefined way it blurs the line I like to draw between blogging about specific things pertaining to my workplace, but I also want to demonstrate that contrary to Jen's enormous disappointment, I care very deeply, to the extent that I give on a weekly basis and have participated in other related events.

Read her first post, and act accordingly. It's important, and it helps.

Please...make...her...stop....

I've been watching episodes from my DVD set of The West Wing's first season, and while I'm realizing how I'd forgotten how good Aaron Sorkin's writing back in the show's first couple of years was, I'd also forgotten about what may be the greatest error Sorkin's ever made. I'm talking about Moira Kelly's character, the political consultant/public relations person named Mandy. My God, she is unbelievably annoying, and somehow she manages to drain the energy out of every scene she enters. It's not Kelly's fault, per se -- it's just the character. She's a complete drag, often serving no purpose other than to iterate something so that everyone else on the show can reject it.

Notably, Mandy was written out of the show for the second season -- but in what would later prove to be the first bit of significant evidence that long-term continuity isn't one of Sorkin's writerly gifts, rather than later, he never provided any explanation for her departure. She just totally vanished, despite the facts that she was in the first season's finale and that the second season opener picks up exactly where the previous finale left off.

If only Sorkin had reduced Mandy's screentime, and increased the screentime he allotted to recurring character Lord John Marbury by an equal amount....

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Phabulous Photos

I put up a few photos from the other day's snowfall on my Flickr photostream. Check 'em out. Or not. It's your mouse button, folks -- I can't make you click. But I can sit around and pout if you don't.

Ugh, part two

I see that AOL Journals is going through a major bit of flux right now, since AOL's corporate overlords decided to unilaterally impose banner advertising on all AOL Journals, even the ones owned by paying AOL subscribers, which are apparently supposed to be a "cut above" the free AIM model, if I've been reading this stuff correctly.

I can totally understand the amount of anger that has erupted over this, since my own experience on Blogger has tracked the exact opposite direction: when I started blogging, all BlogSpot blogs sported banner ads, which could be removed by paying a small fee (it was something like twelve bucks, if memory serves), but when Google took over Blogger and BlogSpot, first the ads switched to Google ads generated by the content of the blog itself (sometimes with amusing results -- it wasn't uncommon for a blogger to post something like, oh, "I hate Garth Brooks!" and then have the banner ad hawk some new Garth Brooks CD), and then the ads disappeared entirely in favor of a "Navigation Bar" that's really not that intrusive. (Somehow, I don't have the NavBar activated. Maybe I should? I dunno. I don't use the thing even on blogs that have it, so I don't care.)

Contrast that with AOL, a pay service that launched its own blogging community a couple of years ago, which then became a pretty vibrant blogging community in itself -- but maybe it was a little bit too "in itself", as with only a couple of very rare exceptions, I almost never encounter links to AOL Journals while noodling about Blogistan. I'm not really sure why this is the case -- maybe there's something about AOL Journals that fosters a sense of "community" that doesn't really exist for users of Blogger or WordPress or TypePad or CityDesk, which is nice if you're in the community but doesn't really help to get noticed outside it. AOL Journals seems to be an even more sequestered blogging community than, say, LiveJournal. (And don't get me started about MSN Spaces. What are those about?)

Anyhow, in reading the comments on Paul's journal and on the "flagship" journal, John Scalzi's By The Way, a common theme I see is that AOL's forcing of banner ads upon its already-paying customers will hurt the community those customers have built over there. I sympathize entirely. I also see a lot of folks threatening to leave AOL, and some have actually started migrating their journaling to other outlets. Since many of these people are likely to have distinctive blogging voices of their own, and since many of them have already been blogging on AOL Journals for a long time, it seems to me that they deserve better than to simply be thrust into the larger open environment of Blogistan, without so much as someone to say, "Hey, check out those folks over there."

So, if any AOL Journalers are, in fact, moving to other blogging tools and hosting sites, whether intending to be there temporarily (in the event that AOL reconsiders its ads) or permanently, and if those Journalers would like some kind of introductory link, feel free to let me know, either in comments to this post or in an e-mail (my e-mail addresses are in the sidebar). I can't recreate your AOL Journal community here in Blogistan, but I can at least introduce you to my small readership, and vice versa.

Here are two I found already, via the post linked above at Paul's journal:

Judith Heartsong
In the Shadow of the Iris

Good luck, folks. Just because Kent Brockman, for one, welcomed his new alien overlords doesn't mean that you have to welcome your new corporate overlords.

UPDATE I: Here's one refugee AOL Journaler:

The Peach Pages II (originally here)

By the way, a word of advice to AOL Journalers planning to leave AOL: before you pull the trigger, make sure you save to your hard drive any journal entries you've made to your old journals that you'd like to save. You can always post them again as reposts to your new blogs, but you can't do that if you don't have them available. And unless having an AOL Journal means signing over copyright of your content to AOL, they're your words, and they don't have to disappear into the cybervoid if you don't want them to.

UPDATE II: Here are a few more:

Collage of Clouded Lucidity
Where Life Takes You...
My Journey with MS

UPDATE III: Still more:

Search the Sea (formerly Midlife Matters)
The Ups and Downs of My Life
Clerical Work: A Survivor's Guide
Looking Beyond the Cracked Window

If this gets too unwieldy, I'll gather all these links onto a new post for ease of use.

UPDATE IV: A couple that have trickled in over the last couple of days:

Adventures in Juggling
Dawn Allynn
Separation Anxiety

More are welcome, of course.

Ugh, part one

I meant to post some stuff today, but I just spent a couple of hours trying to do some fiddling with the template, and I couldn't get it to work the way I wanted, so I gave up and walked away from the computer for a while. What I was attempting to accomplish sounds simple: I wanted to swap the sidebar and the main posting area, but everything I tried ended up looking very, very bad and very, very wrong.

I'm not that emotionally invested in making this change, so if I can't figure it out, I probably won't bother. I do want to change the graphics around here a bit, though, since I've been sporting this general appearance here for close to two years now. As for the sidebar-swapping thing, I just thought that would be a nice change, but as I noted, I couldn't figure out what I was doing with the HTML to get it right. I could just go with a whole new template and then re-engineer that, but that seems like a cheat, you know? So here I am. Anyway, I'll definitely be changing the look around here in the near future -- sometime in the next month or so.

(And if any HTML geniuses want to point out the incredibly easy thing I keep missing as far as moving the sidebar to the other side, well, I won't stop you. I won't pay you, either, but I'll definitely thank you for your service and maybe even send you a quality .jpg of a pony, which is the next best thing to having an actual pony.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Orange Spider Monkeys

As a usually non-political blogger, I tend to gloss over a lot of stuff that goes on in Political Blogistan -- I'm talking about the "Inside Baseball" stuff that doesn't affect me since I'm not really involved in any way. So I've been glossing over this whole "Pajamas Media" thing, basically since I've seen nothing to convince me that this isn't just a bigger, better version of TellingOurselvesWhatWeWannaHear.com, or WhyShouldFoxNewsHaveAllTheFun.org.

But anyway, over at Chizumatic, Steven Den Beste isn't too terribly enthusiastic about the whole thing. (You'll have to scroll down, since for reasons passing understanding SDB has eschewed permalinks in his post-USS Clueless blogging career.)

The history of Open Source Media (née Pajamas Media) shows missteps and mistakes which make blatantly clear that the principals are in over their heads and aren't willing to seek out people who have the skills and abilities needed to match their dreams.

I think they're making a big mistake, and I think that anyone who joins OSM for any reason other than the cynical one of "make as much money off it as I can before the train wrecks" is also making a big mistake. During the dot-com boom I saw dozens of startups which were as badly managed and ill-conceived and they all came to disaster, and ruined lives along the way. I don't like watching that and I don't want to see it again.


He has other entries on the subject farther down from that one.

(And I really like this, one of the engineering aphorisms of the type he used to employ on the old blog: "Don't start vast projects based on half-vast ideas.")

Christmas Music, revisited

John posts briefly about his collection of Christmas music, which seems to consist of a dismally small number of CDs. I adore Christmas music, and I started to think about writing a post in which I'd answer John's question about Christmas CD recommendations, but then I thought, "Hmmmm, that sounds like a subject I'm almost certain to have posted about before."

And, wouldn't you know it -- it was in an installment just about a year ago of "Exploring the CD Collection". I do not recommend the Christmas CDs by Mannheim Steamroller, however -- I like Mannheim quite a bit, but for some reason, their Christmas stuff always turned me off, off, off.

There's another CD that I liked, by an indie-artist named Allison Crowe. I reviewed it for GMR, here, and more info about Ms. Crowe can be found here. Her voice took me a little getting used to, but I found her CD Tidings to be a keeper once I did.

Still groovin'!

I noted a while back that I'd indulged my "crafty" side by doing some tie-dying of shirts for the family, and I should now report on the results. Mostly the items turned out nice, although I see some errors I made in the process that I'll rectify next time I do this. In general, I ended up with way too much "white space" remaining on the finished shirts -- well, more "white space" than I wanted. It turned out that after I twisted the shirts up and bound them with rubber bands, I wasn't aggressive enough in getting the dyes down into the interior of the fabric bundles. The result was a bunch of shirts that have lots of nifty vibrant colors at the outside, and not much in the middle. This was true of all four shirts for which I did the familiar spiral pattern, as well as another on which I did a "random bunching" technique. One shirt, however, on which I experimented with verticle striping turned out pretty well indeed.

(Oh, and once again I discovered how abysmally bad I am at judging sizes for women. I bought the shirts for both The Wife and The Daughter, and both turned out freaking gargantuan. The Daughter will, of course, grow into hers

Here are some photos of four of the items I made.

First, here's the turtlenecked onesie that I made for Little Quinn. I actually like the way this one turned out: it's not too busy, but it'll get the idea across that he's our little hippie kid.

Tie-dyed Onesie

The Daughter's shirt turned out pretty similar to this one, actually, since I used the same basic idea for hers. It's bigger, though. Way bigger. She swims in that shirt. Whoops.

Here's the afore-mentioned "vertical stripe" shirt, which is made by rolling the shirt into a tube-shape and then tying it off with rubber bands at certain intervals. The colors are scarlet and dark green, but the lighting wasn't the best when I snapped this photo, so the green looks more gray here than it really is. You also can't see the pocket on the left breast, but it's there. It's more vibrant than it appears here, but you get the idea:

Christmas Tie Dye

I'm planning to use this one as part of my Christmas "wardrobe" at The Store, although I may add a bit of decoration to it with fabric paints. I'm thinking of a little stylized manger with a Star of Bethlehem above it, maybe in gold. But the red and the green dyes came out pretty well, although the tools I had for those colors weren't the best. (I should have been using small squirt bottles with nozzles, but as I only had three of those and they were in other colors, for the scarlet and dark green I used old Poland Spring water bottles. This was not ideal.)

The next one is a t-shirt I did using a "bunching" technique, where you just crumple the entire shirt into a ball, secure it with rubber bands, and start dying. You end up with a haphazard array of color, as opposed to a definite spiral:

Christmas Tie Dye, part deux

On this one, you really see how I didn't get enough dye into the interior of the bundled shirt, which resulted in great colors in places and one large swath entirely devoid of color in the upper left. But hey, live and learn, right? I may dress that part of the shirt up by writing "Merry Christmas" or some such suitable sentiment, again in fabric paint. (But, just to indulge my geeky side, I may do it in Klingon.)

Finally, I did a sweatshirt in a traditional spiral pattern. Again, I didn't get enough dye into the folds, so the trunk of the shirt only hints at a definite spiral. But the arms turned out really nice, which I like a lot. And now, of course, I can really dress the part for those times when I'm sitting around the apartment in the lotus position:

The Lotus Position

"Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!"

Next week I'll tell you about these really cool plants I've been cultivating...the ones whose leaves turn an ordinary box mix into the best brownies I've ever had, man...whoa....

Flakes, and not the corn ones, either

Here in the Southtowns of the Buffalo Niagara Region, we just last night received our first snowfall of the year: a nice hit of about eight inches or so, in your classic lake-effect scenario.

(For those new to the blog since last winter, the "lake effect" occurs when really cold air blows across the warm, open waters of Lake Erie. The air picks up shitloads of moisture -- "shitloads" being an official meteorological term -- and then dumps its moisture as soon as it hits land. In this area, the lake effect usually sets up "snow bands" where the snowfall is particularly intense, while areas outside the snow bands receive little or no snow at all.)

Here's what it looked like outside our apartment building:



No minor dusting of a paltry inch or two to kick things off this year! Nosiree Bob, we got a nice-sized kick in the pants by Old Man Winter.

This snow posed a fairly large inconvenience for me, actually -- I was close to two hours late for work, because (a) our apartment complex didn't have the groundskeepers out plowing early enough; (b) when a guy in a plow got to our parking lot, he proceeded to get so enthusiastic about plowing out parking spaces that he went right over the edge of the pavement and got stuck in the lawn; (c) when he got unstuck, he sheepishly admitted to us that he was plowing eight inches of snow in a six-cylinder rear-wheel-drive pickup truck. Well, color me confident in the way things are going to go this winter!

Anyway, I finally got myself to The Store close to two hours after I had been scheduled (no worry, they were fine with it, as I'd called them in advance). But in the best Lake Effect Snow fashion, when I got to The Store, the snow falling from the sky was little more than a mild flurry, the snow on the ground totaled less than half of what was at home, and I could see blue sky just a mile or two to the north.

Yeah, that Lake Effect. It's just a pisser.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Brief Stuff

Between being at work at 4:00 am the last two mornings, and being in at 5:30 am tomorrow, and between writing a way overdue review for GMR and cleaning the apartment for a visitor tomorrow, I just haven't had time for generating impressive commentary for the blog. Hopefully things will start to calm down as the weekend approaches, but lately, I've been the proverbial one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

Anyway, here's some random stuff:

:: OK, this is a cheap shot, but I recently noted this photo of Condolleeza Rice at TBogg:



And I have to note that this photo instantly reminded me of this old chestnut of a political photo:



Somebody's got to tell these people to stop playing dressup. You're not fooling anyone -- either if you're grinning like you know how dumb you look, or you're oblivious to the fact that playing dress-up thusly does nothing to give you any national security street-cred.

:: Well, lookie there: JP Losman had himself a good game for the Bills this week. Of course, the standard wisdom in the NFL is that you don't lose your job to injury, but just as before, I don't see this team going on any sort of tear like they did last year. The offensive line is a shambles (the coaches are shuffling the line around halfway through the season), the defense still gives up major rushing yardage, and the schedule is still very tough from here on out. My prescription for the Bills is this: Keep Losman in there; assuming Takeo Spikes is healthy next year, ditch either London Fletcher or Jeff Posey; dump Lawyer Milloy; make Nate Clements the franchise player and then trade him for a number one pick; and then this offseason, sign every moderately priced o-line guy out there and make next year's training camp one big offensive line competition.

:: I've never been big on John Madden (while The Wife positively hates listening to him), but I've noticed two things since he moved to Monday Night Football: I like his chemistry with Al Michaels much more than I liked his chemistry with Pat Sumerall; and without that damned Coach's Clicker thing, he has to rely on normal replays to make his points, which he does very well. I now think that Madden is the gold-standard of NFL color commentators.

:: I see that Target is allowing its pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control, if the pharmacist is of the "pro-life" bent. Via Shakespeare's sister, here's an e-mail one blogger sent to Target on the subject. What I always think of whenever I read about this issue is this: do any of these pharmacists refuse to fill scripts for Viagra?

:: Michael Blowhard doesn't much like listening to music on his iPod:

Someone at iTunes' technical HQ seems convinced that the way to overcome the deficits of severe audio compression is to crank the "effects" dial 'way up. The result is that music listened to on the Shuffle seems to consist largely of weirdly heightened sonic details -- calloused fingers sliding over guitar strings, tiny catches in throats, shimmers on cymbals. Meanwhile, something else -- something crucial -- has been edited out of the mix. I search for the right words: the connective tissue, maybe. The in-between stuff. The impulse that surges through the music. The flow.

Maybe even the music itself. That's more like it: What the iPod delivers is a grabby simulation of music. I find it a remarkably unconvincing one; it leaves me wondering what has happened to the music's spirit, its feeling, its soul. Worse, it leaves me wondering what has become of my own soul. In fact, I find listening to music on the Shuffle a rather upsetting experience.



I don't own an iPod and have never heard one in action, but I too am unsettled by our headlong rush into the digital realm and I too wonder what is getting lost along the way.

:: If you drive around Western New York, you'll see all manner of once-thriving suburban shopping centers (well, OK, quite a few of them never really thrived, per se) that are now pretty much dead as old Marley's ghost. More often than not, these shopping centers were anchored by an Ames department store, before every Ames store closed up show a few years ago. Anyway, I never liked shopping at Ames -- it always felt like what K-Mart would feel like if it was staffed and frequented by the denizens of a George Romero movie -- but apparently these folks liked Ames just fine.

:: This was going to be this week's Image of the Week, had I got round to posting it, so here it is anyway: it's a photo of floating candles in a Thai festival.



A very gorgeous photo of air-borne candles appeared in The Buffalo News the other day, but I was unable to find the photo online anywhere, so I chose this one.

OK; hopefully more tomorrow. Be well, folks!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sentential Links #25

Just one:

There is no poetry in my world tonight.

I don't know this person. I have never seen her blog before. And yet, I weep.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Hey, have you ever wished there was a website devoted to photos of cats after their owners have put stuff on them? Well, wish no more: StuffOnMyCat.com is here for you!

(via)

We are watching FOX....

Some notes on the invention called television, and the shows that they show on this invention:

:: So I see that Arrested Development has been all but officially axed. Judging by the continually anemic ratings, this isn't much of a surprise. I never really watched it, mainly because it always came on when I was doing something else -- reading The Daughter to bed, mostly -- but the few times I did catch it, I didn't find it uproariously funny, although I did note that in the episodes I saw, most of the show would serve as a twenty-minute set-up for a joke that would unfold in the last two minutes, and that this "grand finale" joke would, in fact, be quite funny indeed. Maybe I'll check AD out when it hits DVD.

Here's a MeFi thread about AD, by the way. Somewhere therein a commenter makes the observation that maybe American TV should adopt smaller-scale story arcs, rather than open-ended series. I think we're already starting to see this, to some degree, with shows like 24, which even though it is now entering its fifth year it has nevertheless spent each year on a single plotline. The old formula of creating a show and then just going right on writing self-contained episodes of that show for however long the ratings hold out may be going by the boards.

:: Seventh Heaven is also ending. I have to be honest here: for about two and a half seasons, we really enjoyed this show. But after a while, we started getting irritated not with the continually upbeat and moralistic tone, but with the rather ham-handed social commentaries (wherein an episode would literally come to a stop so some character could basically deliver a monologue about some issue of the day, like teen sex or suicide or drugs or whatever) and with the show's continual reliance on a phenomenon called the "Idiot Plot". This is a plot where characters are kept precisely as stupid as they need to be in order to maintain the turning of the wheels, and where the major conundrum that's driving the plot would be resolved if someone, anyone, would just open their mouth and ask the obvious question or make the obvious observation. Whole episodes would play out like this:

RUTHIE: Simon, I'm doing something but I'm not gonna tell Mom and Dad. And you can't either.

SIMON: OK.

(later)

DAD: Does it seem to you like Ruthie's doing something?

MOM: Yeah.

DAD: Should we ask her about it?

MOM: First we should ask all her brothers and sisters about it.

DAD: Yup. Hey, Mary! What's Ruthie doing?

MARY: Errr...I dunno.

DAD: But she is doing something.

MARY: Errr...I dunno, dad. Gotta run. [Exeunt.]

DAD: OK. Oh, hi, Ruthie. Is everything OK?

RUTHIE: Yeah.

DAD: Nothing you want to talk about?

RUTHIE: No.

DAD: OK.

MOM: Hey, Ruthie. Anything you want to talk about?

RUTHIE: No. [Exeunt.]

MOM: OK.

[Enter Matthew]

DAD: Let's ask Matthew. Hey Matthew! What's Ruthie doing?

MATTHEW: Ruthie? I dunno. I have my own apartment and I'm a med-school resident. What makes you think I have time to know what Ruthie's doing today?

DAD: You're her brother.

MATTHEW: Oh. Well, no, I don't.

DAD: OK. Well, this one's quite the head-scratcher. [Exeunt.]

[Enter Simon.]

MATTHEW: So what's Ruthie doing?

SIMON: I don't know what you're talking about!

MATTHEW: Is she in trouble? Maybe we should organize a family intervention.

SIMON: Yeah...do that. Good idea.

[Enter Rickie]

MATTHEW and SIMON: Who are you?

RICKIE: I'm Rickie, Ruthie's friend. Didn't she tell you about me?

MATTHEW: No.

SIMON: Err...no.

RICKIE: Oh. Well, I'm here to do my math homework with her.

MATTHEW: OK. Simon, let's go get some pizza even though it's four o'clock in the afternoon and we've just told Mom we'd be here for dinner tonight.

[Exeunt Matthew and Simon; enter Ruthie.]

RICKIE: Have you told anyone?

RUTHIE: Just Simon, because I had to tell someone or else nobody in the family would know. But relax, there are still forty-one minutes left in tonight's episode, so the secret of your father's vapor-lock is safe.

RICKIE: Oh, good. You know, vapor-lock is no laughing matter. Lots of people think that you can't get vapor lock in today's engines, but that's just not true. Let me tell you the leading causes of vapor lock.


And so it would go, filling out the entire hour, with the occasional digression into whatever the twin boys are up to and some kvetching about what a bad seed Mary has become (one time, Mary's behavior became so delinquent that the parents sent her to live with Grandpa in, of all places, Buffalo -- and her unbelievably delinquent behavior had included things like going to the movies when she was supposed to be looking for a part time job).

And then there were episodes where I genuinely couldn't figure out for the life of me just what the "big problem" was. Oh well. At least Jessica Biel was easy on the eyes when I was paying attention to this show. And here's a snarky FAQ about the show.

:: My God, does That 70s Show need to go away or what. This show has become almost painful to watch (and yes, I've pretty much abandoned it). Part of it is the dreaded syndrome that tends to afflict any show revolving around youngsters of any age that last for more than, say, four seasons: the "Why do these seventeen-year-old characters look like they're really twenty-six?" thing. Since the show is still called That 70s Show, we should assume that it's still, you know, the 1970s -- but the show's inaugural season was set in 1976, so they've spent six years detailing all of three years of these characters' lives.

But there's another disconnect, in that the show's focus on the 1970s setting has become more and more tangential to the point where pretty much the only thing "1970s" about it is the clothing and the music. You'd think that a sitcom set in that period would make the occasional reference to things like gas shortages, Three Mile Island, President Carter, and stuff like that; but while that kind of thing did pop up in the first couple of seasons (when Red Forman lost his job when his plant closed, and when he pointedly asked Gerald Ford how he could pardon Nixon), it's been nonexistent in the last few. The problems the characters seem to be dealing with are never actually 1970s-type problems anymore; it's just a 2000-era sitcom dressed up in 1970s clothing.

That 70s Show was never a great show, by any stretch of imagination, but in its first two or three years it had a creative and quirky charm that was all its own -- the POV closeups during the characters' marijuana sessions, for instance. And I'll always value the show for the characters of Red Forman, Leo the Photo-Hut Manager, and, of course, Fes.

Preliminary Football Stuff

Whenever I watch football, I always have to inform The Daughter as to which team is which. Today it went like this:

"Who are the guys in the white shirts and red hats?"

"Those are helmets, not hats, sweetie, and those are the Chiefs. They're from Kansas City."

"Oh. And the guys in the blue shirts are the Bills?"

"Yup! We root for the Bills."

"Yeah. And I also like the Dolphins."

"Huh-whuh?!"

:: Also, you know how CBS or FOX Sports will often have a camera crew somewhere in the city they're in, so they can cut to shots of the current game's region whenever they are going to commercial break or returning from one? For some reason, the "representative shot" of the Buffalo area is always of the water going over Niagara Falls. And yeah, that's iconic and all, but would it kill them to show something else? Like maybe one of our great old buildings downtown, or the outside of the Albright Knox, or something like that? I don't know who makes these decisions, but surely we could lobby those people. Niagara's not the only thing around here.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I like bolding things....

A while back, Scott Spiegelberg took a stab at launching a film-and-music related meme-thing, since he's teaching a course on film music (and I'd love to see some blog entries from him on that subject!). Then, figuring that his original list was too long, he shrank it down, and still I managed to procrastinate about it. Well, no more. Here's a list of over two hundred films, and what I've done here is bolded the titles of the films whose scores I have heard. (Note that I do not believe that it is necessary to see a film to appreciate its score.) No, those are not Scott's original "rules", but I figure that it's a film music meme, not a film theme, per se.

(Note to self, and, er, others: Scott also links this blog, which appears to be by a fellow who has a more-than-passing interest in film music. Consider that blog bookmarked for future consideration.)

Not all of the films contain "traditional" scores as such, and I'd be interested to see what relevance some of these titles have in a discourse on film music, unless we're taking the topic to very broadly discuss "the use of music in film", whether it's diagetic or non-diagetic. Those are fancy terms meaning roughly this: "diagetic" music is music that the characters in a film are aware of, like, say, the "Cantina Band" tunes in Star Wars. Regular scoring, however, is non-diagetic -- it's doubtful that Luke Skywalker actually hears his own theme in the background as he's homing in on that thermal exhaust port. This is a tripping point for a lot of people regarding filmed musicals: music that starts off as non-diagetic, such as the underscore in Singin' In the Rain as Don Lockwood says goodnight to Kathy, suddenly becomes diagetic when the actors start singing. Some people have a really hard time getting past this.

Anyhow, here's the list. It's fairly long, obviously, so I'm shrinking the font size.


L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise
Queen Elizabeth (1912)
The Birth of a Nation [I haven't seen all of this yet]
Intolerance
The Fall of a Nation
Broken Blossoms
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Battleship Potemkin
Napoléon (1927) (I'm not sure what I heard for this film -- if it's a score that is traditionally performed for this silent film, or what. As a general rule, I know stunningly little about silent films. I would have learned more had I attended college a few years later: the orchestra director there is a big silent film buff, and after I graduated she actually led the college orchestra in accompanying silent films for a few years. I would have loved to participate in that.)

The New Babylon
Don Juan (1926)
The Jazz Singer (1927)
Sunrise
City Lights
Lights of New York
Steamboat Willie (You watch this now, and it's utterly astounding that this was the spring from which All Things Disney then flowed.)

In Old Arizona
Halleluja
Blackmail
The Broadway Melody
The Hollywood Revue of 1929
The Blue Angel
Cimarron
King Kong (1933)
42nd Street
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) (I'm claiming this one, but I'm honestly not sure about it. I'm sure I've heard it, but I can't remember where.)

The Informer
The Bride of Frankenstein
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Ahhh, Korngold!)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Stagecoach
The Wizard of Oz
Gone With the Wind
(I watched the movie a couple of years back, and I swear that the only thing keeping it from falling totally out of fashion is Max Steiner's score.)

Wuthering Heights
Citizen Kane


Things to Come
Alexander Nevsky
Of Mice and Men
Our Town
The Devil and Daniel Webster

Hangmen Also Die
La Noche de los mayas
Casablanca (To this day it amazes me how good this film's score is, spun as it is around a popular song that Max Steiner absolutely hated and almost managed to get cut from the movie.)

Laura
Double Indemnity

The Lost Weekend
Spellbound
A Double Life
Hamlet
The Red Shoes
The Heiress
The Best Years of Our Lives
An American in Paris
A Streetcar Named Desire
Singin' in the Rain
High Noon

The Man with the Golden Arm
Blackboard Jungle
Sunset Blvd.
La Ronde
Rashômon
A Place in the Sun
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Seven Samurai
East of Eden

Rebel Without a Cause
Forbidden Planet
On the Waterfront
Around the World in 80 Days
The Bridge on the River Kwai

The Seventh Seal
Big Country
Vertigo
North by Northwest

Anatomy of a Murder
Some Like It Hot
Touch of Evil
Ben Hur
Quo Vadis
The Robe
The Ten Commandments (I watched a fascinating interview with Elmer Bernstein on TV once, in which he described how, in scoring the scene when the Exodus begins, he noted the scene's heavy and ponderous pacing and wrote underscore that was equally heavy and ponderous. Cecil B. DeMille told him to redo it, saying that he'd directed the scene too slowly and it was Bernstein's job to speed it up with music!)

The 400 Blows
Hiroshima mon amour
L'Avventura
Breathless
Psycho
Last Year at Marienbad
Exodus
Spartacus (This is the most infamous title on the list of great filmscores that have not seen a really good CD release.)

The Magnificent Seven
West Side Story
Breakfast at Tiffany's
El Cid

Days of Wine and Roses
Dr. No
Lawrence of Arabia
Doctor Zhivago

Wait Until Dark
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The Hustler
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Manchurian Candidate

Tom Jones
The Pawnbroker
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Bonnie and Clyde
The Graduate
Planet of the Apes
2001: A Space Odyssey (Here's an interesting case: Many film music fans insist that the film would work better had Stanley Kubrick not discarded the score that Alex North wrote in favor of his classical music temp track, but I've never agreed with that view. The classical music is absolutely iconic.)

Midnight Cowboy
Easy Rider
Patton
The French Connection

Shaft (1971) [But I have the soundtrack]
Clockwork Orange
Dirty Harry (Huh -- did this movie even have music? Seriously, I don't remember hearing one single note in this movie.)

The Godfather
The Godfather: Part II
The Sting
American Graffiti
(Again: not a note of underscore. The film's music consists entirely of 50s and early 60s rock-n-roll tunes. George Lucas even pitched the film to Universal execs as a non-traditional musical.)

Mean Streets
The Exorcist
Chinatown
(God, Jerry Goldsmith was a freaking genius.)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Jaws (Shut up with the "Williams ripped off Dvorak!" crap. I'm serious.)
Rocky
Taxi Driver
Star Wars
(More by me on this one here.)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (The last half hour of this score is absolutely miraculous -- how Williams takes motifs which, to that point in the movie, had been dark and mysterious and recasts them in brilliant light always moves me to no end.)

Superman: The Movie (The best superhero score ever.)

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The first Goldsmith score I ever heard. Wonderful, wonderful work.)

The Empire Strikes Back (More by me on this one here.)

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
(James Horner's big break, from before Rigor Artis set in.)

Return of the Jedi
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
(I will forever wonder just how John Williams managed to channel the Will of the Gods during the period from 1975 and ending in 1984. I mean, the man wrote one stunner after another in that period. It's astonishing.)

Saturday Night Fever
Midnight Express
Halloween
Apocalypse Now
A Little Romance
The Shining
Chariots of Fire
Excalibur
(A mix of Wagner, Orff, and Trevor Jones. I like the movie.)

Blade Runner (Great score by Vangelis. Overrated movie, in my opinion.)

Amadeus (The amount of care that went into selecting the music that was heard in this film is amazing.)

Gandhi (Is this film relevant for ethnic-music reasons?)

The Year of Living Dangerously
The Right Stuff
A Passage to India
Once Upon a Time in America
The Natural
Out of Africa
The Mission
The Last Emperor
Empire of the Sun

The Untouchables
Ghostbusters
Beverly Hills Cop
Back to the Future
Witness

'Round Midnight
Top Gun (Huh?!)

Hoosiers (OK, as much as I love Jerry Goldsmith, I can't get behind the near idolatry that regularly surrounds this score.)

Lethal Weapon
Rain Man
DieHard
(Michael Kamen wrote the score, but the last bit where it turns out that Karl isn't actually dead yet is tracked with music from James Horner's Aliens, which isn't on this list. Hmmmm.)

The Milagro Beanfield War
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Batman
Glory
Dances with Wolves
Home Alone
Hook
The Last of the Mohicans
Schindler's List
Jurassic Park

Blue (from Three Colors)
Braveheart (More by me on this one here.)

The Little Mermaid
Do the Right Thing
GoodFellas
The Silence of the Lambs
Beauty and the Beast

Boyz n the Hood
Forrest Gump
The Lion King
The Shawshank Redemption
Pulp Fiction
Titanic
Shakespeare in Love

Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt)
American Beauty
Star Wars: Episode I
The Matrix
Gladiator
Chocolat
Star Wars: Episode II
Kundun
The Red Violin
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Frida
The Hours
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (More by me on all three of these here.)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Black Hawk Down
Pearl Harbor
Monsters, Inc.
Shrek
Moulin Rouge
Chicago
Spider-Man
(I think that Danny Elfman really dropped the ball with this one.)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
(Greatest film scores of the last fifteen years, as far as I am concerned.)

Finding Nemo
The Triplets of Belleville
Kill Bill: Vol. I
Spider-Man 2
Kill Bill: Vol. II
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


Whew! That's quite a list.