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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hatin' on the Barbies

I'm having difficulty with The Amazing Race, because we're down to four teams, three of which I can't stand, and the one I like (the single mothers from Alabama) I really can't see winning because they seem utterly incapable of running with any kind of speed, and this seems to be the part of the race when the ability to run your ass off becomes fairly important.

But as long as the Barbies, or the Beauty Queens, do NOT win, I'll call it good. We're talking about two ladies who have demonstrated such geographical ignorance that they pronounce "Kiev" as "Keev" constantly, they misread a clue way back in the Thailand episode and ended up just paddling their boat around the islands of the South China Sea looking for Phil (and somehow still not coming in last), and so on. And this past week, they finally came in last -- only to win a stay of execution, since it was a non-elimination week. Gah!

I also recently read that the next iteration of TAR will be an "all-star" edition, which will apparently feature among its contestants the famed Rob-and-Amber, the people who have already been on Survivor twice and TAR once. Why doesn't CBS just give them a million bucks? Geez.

Felicitous Timing

The other day, Glenn Greenwald reported on a massive crybaby-fit thrown by Ann Althouse over the use in Blogistan of the word "Christianist".

So wouldn't it just be delicious if some pompous ass right-wing pundit sent out a column that is a perfect example of Christianist thought?

Cue Dennis Prager, who apparently thinks that "Freedom of Religion" is all fine and dandy so long as one still genuflects to the trappings of Christianity.

I think I'll run for office someday, just so I can watch Dennis Prager's stupid, empty head explode when I take my oath of office with my left hand on a leather-bound copy of The Origin of Species.

False alarm. As you were. Nothing to see here.

It's not Jennifer's birthday. Whoops. Way to go, Automated Birthday E-Mail Thingy!

Red wine with fish.

I've updated the James Bond quiz from last week with answers. Only one person seems to have undertaken the quiz! Aieee! (But that one person did pretty well!)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

One Year



The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

-JRRT

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sentential Links #76

I didn't do a whole lot of blog-surfing this week, but there was some good stuff nonetheless:

:: Yesterday, while shopping at Target, I noticed the Jones Soda Co. had their Turkey n' Gravy soda for sale again. (Gack....)

:: A refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom - I honestly don't know why they are made any other way! (Never have I seen such a thing! Wow! This is the spiritual-life focused blog by the same author as Mind-muffins, which I only learned this week.)

:: Would I be grateful if I won the lottery? I already did. I was born into the middle class in the west during the second half of the 20th century.

:: Come to think of it, Star Wars prequels aside, have there even been any spaceship movies in recent years? (Well, there was the amazingly bad Star Trek Nemesis, which probably doesn't count. Firefly and its Serenity movie sequel definitely count. Animated films include spaceships in Titan AE and even Lilo and Stich, although that last doesn't take the whole spaceship thing all that seriously. Ditto Treasure Planet. I guess spaceships aren't cool anymore? That makes me sad.)

:: So, there we were. The smoke was visible from about half a mile away (nice blue-sky clear New Hampshire afternoon). When we arrived we found a garage that had pretty-much collapsed. It looked like a big bonfire. I wish I’d taken a camera with me to show you. (You know, I love deep-fried stuff as much as any good American, but after watching some videos of what can go wrong, I just can't think that deep-fried turkey tastes that good.)

:: Whenever I get into a Comments spat with somebody who's just quote-farming and spitting circular arguments -- almost always the "I'm a lawyer" or "law professor" comes up. (Which reminds me: over at FSM, the Objectivist Weirdo is at it again [dig into it a few pages], complete with threats of lawsuits and everything! What is it with lawyers on the Interweb? Not necessarily that all lawyers on the Interweb are weirdos, but rather that weirdos often turn out to be lawyers. Odd.)

All for this week, although I have the nagging feeling I missed a few...anyway, tune in next Monday.

The Incredible Wrongness of Being

John Scalzi opines that both of Timothy Dalton's Bond films were bad, and then quite a few of his commenters agree. This is, of course, colossal claptrap (both of those films are, to me, high points in the series, and both are superior to the unimaginably overrated Goldfinger), although I agree with John that Pierce Brosnan has been given a lot of bad credit for his time in the role.

Also, I'm frankly surprised that John didn't try to take a self-portrait of himself-as-Blofeld, since he's got the hair and a fluffy cat. (Not the right color fluffy cat, but who's counting?)

Anyway, I'll post about Casino Royale sometime this week.

Borders (and not the bookstore either)

For the first time in...well, years, actually, the Family and I took a little overnight trip somewhere else. The somewhere else we chose was Toronto, for which we departed on Saturday morning. Our plan was to see the things we wanted to see, stay overnight somewhere, take the Daughter to Niagara Falls on Sunday (since she hasn't been there since she was a baby, and thus has no memory of them), and then return home sometime Sunday afternoon.

Toronto was, of course, magnificent. If I had to pick a city other than Buffalo to call home, that would probably be the one. We went to the St. Lawrence Market first, for some shopping and lunch. That place is staggeringly cool and I wish I'd known to go there years ago: two levels of food and art vendors, street musicians, craftsmen, and just general amazement abounded. From there it was off to Casa Loma, another Toronto tourist landmark that is nevertheless a great place to visit; we passed a couple hours there before heading farther north to the Yorkdale Mall, where the Rainforest Cafe resides. We love the Rainforest Cafe. Not because the food's any better than any other chain theme joint, because it isn't, but because the decor is so inherently cool. Yeah, it's overpriced claptrap. Sue me.

Then it was off to find a hotel, and we ended up at a place outside St. Catherines, Ontario, that had formerly been a Days Inn but was no longer a Days Inn despite still having the Days Inn logo on the ice buckets. (And no cable TV, either -- what the hell kind of hotel doesn't have cable?!) Sunday it was off to the Falls, for lots of oohing and aahing and picture-taking on our new camera (I'll get 'em on Flickr sometime later this week), and then at about 12:30 we left the Falls for the Lewiston Bridge back to the US, and then home.

Well.

The Lewiston Bridge was backed up. Badly. We rolled to a stop about 1.5 KM short of the bridge itself, whereupon we spent the next three hours slowly inching forward, closer and closer to the bridge, then over the bridge, and finally to the Customs checkpoint into the US.

Three hours. About two miles total distance. I am not making this up: minutes after we first braked to a complete stop, I tuned in the radio to hear the kickoff of the Bills game. Ryan Lindell's game-winning field goal, kicked as the last three seconds of the fourth quarter expired, split the uprights when we were still four cars shy of our customs inspection. This was a combination of the heaviest border traffic I've ever seen (holiday weekend, duh) and customs checks that seemed to be averaging about five minutes per vehicle.

When it was our turn, the agent demanded our identification, which we provided (our drivers' licenses, and The Daughter's birth certificate). First I had to explain why the address on my license doesn't match the address on The Wife's (The Wife has renewed her license since we've lived in our current home, where I haven't, since my license doesn't expire until 2009). Then I had to explain that no, the vehicle we were driving wasn't registered in my name (it was my parents' minivan). Then I had to explain why we had my parents' minivan (we borrowed it while The Wife's car is in the shop getting repaired after a fender-bender). Then I had to explain why we just didn't take my car for our trip (overnight trip with family: 2003 minivan versus 1994 Plymouth Acclaim -- a tough decision, that).

And we were just getting started:

AGENT: Where do you work?

ME: I work for ______. (naming The Store)

AGENT: And what kind of business is that?

ME: It's a grocery store.

[Clearly an attempt to suss out falsity on my part; no way anybody lives and works in this area but doesn't know the name of one of the two big grocery chains in this area.]

AGENT: When did you cross into Canada?

ME: Yesterday morning.

AGENT: Where did you cross?

ME: The Peace Bridge.

AGENT: Where did you go in Canada?

ME: We went to Toronto to do some sightseeing.

AGENT: And what was the purpose of your trip?

ME: [a tad confused since I've just indicated the answer to this] We went sightseeing, at the St. Lawrence Market and Casa Loma and the Falls.

AGENT: The Falls aren't in Toronto.

ME: [Huh?!] Well, they were on the way home.

AGENT: How did you get this van from your parents?

ME: They drove it up for us.

AGENT: From where?

ME: They live in ______. [naming the Southern Tier town in which they live]

AGENT: And how did they get home?

ME: Well, they drove up in two cars and then returned in one.

AGENT: That sounds like a lot of driving. Are they retired?

ME: My mother is. My father teaches at ______. [naming his college]

AGENT: Hmmmm. Are you bringing any food back into the US?

ME: Just some candy we bought for our daughter.

AGENT: What kind?

ME: Licorice and Gummi Bears.

[Thank f***ing God she didn't point out that both of those things are available stateside. Also thank God she didn't ask me to specifically name the St. Catherines hotel at which we stayed, because I can't remember it for the life of me. They only had one sign, and it faces Toronto-bound traffic, not St. Catherines-bound traffic like us.]

AGENT: Shut off your vehicle and give me the keys.

ME: OK.

[I comply. Agent goes to the back of the van, pops the back, and starts looking through our two small suitcases.]

AGENT: When did you enter Canada?

ME: Yesterday morning.

AGENT: Where?

ME: The Peace Bridge.

[Clearly an attempt to see if my story is changing. Either that or she's got the worst memory of any person working for Customs.]

AGENT: Where are your daughter's clothes?

ME: They're right there in the same suitcase.

AGENT: There are only three sets of clothes here.

ME: That's right.

AGENT: Whose jeans are these?

ME: [What the f***?!] Ummm, they're either mine or my wife's. [I couldn't see the jeans in question.]

AGENT: Seems like you're packing kind of light.

ME: We only stayed one night. [by some miracle I avoid saying something like, "How many f***ing clothes do you think we f***ing need for one f***ing night in a hotel, you over-officious jerk?!"]

AGENT: Do you have any other luggage?

ME: I have my bookbag here.

[Nevertheless the Agent doesn't show any interest at all in my bookbag. Instead she rifles through our insulated drink carrier bag and randomly taps on the walls of the van on the inside, looking I guess for the secret compartments which I use to conceal myself when I am infiltrating Imperial battle stations. Then she closes up the van, returns to her little booth, gazes at the licenses some more. Then she hands me the IDs and the keys back. I look at her. She looks at me. I look at her. She looks at me. I am terrified of speaking one more syllable in her presence, but the silence finally becomes too awkward....]

ME: Are we OK?

AGENT: Have a nice day.

ME: Thank you.

[I can't roll that window up fast enough, nor can I start the van or get the hell out of there fast enough. I'd been about to ask her if she knew of a nearby place where I could exchange the $45.00 in Canadian money I still have in my wallet, but decide against it. I'll figure that out another day. I pulled away, thanking God for getting us through without being ordered to pull over to where they really inspect your vehicle.]


I know, I know -- this is life in America after 9-11, we can't be too careful, yada yada yada. But I'm getting awfully tired of being made to feel guilty for exercising those freedom things we tell ourselves we hold dear. If nothing else, surely the agents can do their jobs without sending a clear message "Yeah, you'd better think twice before leaving the country ever again, jerk-off. You can spend your money right here."

Anyway, the experience with the Customs Agent made me completely forget why it might not be so good an idea to take the route home that passed closest to Ralph Wilson Stadium, where an NFL game had let out just ninety minutes before. Oops.

And in the "It could always be worse" department, it certainly can: while inching our way across the Lewiston Bridge, we had to change lanes to go around some poor slob whose car actually broke down at the exact middle of the Bridge. That had to suck.

Back

Yup, the hiatus is over. For now, I guess.

It used to be that when I'd take a hiatus from blogging, I'd find myself encountering all kinds of things along the duration of the break that would make me think, "Wow, I gotta blog that...except I'm on hiatus." This time, though, my main thought upon encountering bloggable stuff was pretty much "Meh", with just a few exceptions. I don't know if that means anything. Probably that the hiatus wasn't long enough.

Anyway, the blog is active again, for whatever that's worth.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Exeunt.

OK, folks, that's it for one week. I haven't decided when I'll return to blogging, but it will either be one week from today (Monday the 27th) or one week from tomorrow (Tuesday the 28th). Until then, be excellent to one another, keep on truckin', may the Force be with you, remember the Alamo, don't stop thinkin' about tomorrow, Clear Ether, Happy Thanksgiving (for Americans), have a nice Thursday (for non-Americans).

UPDATE: Yeah, how can you miss me if I don't leave? But feel free to leave questions and/or posting suggestions in comments here. Also, I posted two close-ups of my bookshelves on my Flickr stream (link in sidebar at left), so if you want to gaze at a portion of my reading tastes, there you go. OK, now I'm really leaving.

OH yeah, one more thing. Don't forget to [ten-ton weight dropped on his head]

Seven Wonders

Mary points out this site, which is taking votes on the "New Wonders of the World". The whole "Seven Wonders" concept has been applied in a lot of ways, actually: here's the Wikipedia page, which lists a number of such lists, starting with the traditional, and probably most famous, list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

But all of these kinds of lists always revolve around built things, don't they? How about made things? How about Seven Wonders of the Artistic World? I'm going to think this over a bit. Maybe after the hiatus I'll have something to say about it.

(Lots of other good linkage at Mary's post, by the way.)

How about a Bartlet coin?

It looks like the US Mint is going to try something again that didn't work the first two times, because they never did it right: dollar coins. The reason the Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea dollars never took off wasn't inherent in the coins, but in one simple fact: the Mint left the dollar bill in production. Get rid of the bill, replace it with a coin, and voila: acceptance of the dollar coin. Duh!

(And for those who are going to complain about the weight of their pockets, come on! Other than servers in restaurants, who walks around with large amounts of singles? I rarely have more than five or six on me at any given time, mostly because I gain them in the course of a few transactions for coffee and such -- and I spend those fairly quickly. And if we go the Canadian route and have a two-dollar coin as well, that would ease the coin burden too. I just don't understand the affection for the dollar bill, especially when a coin makes far more sense.)

Anyhow, apparently the new dollar coins will rotate through their images, using the Presidents at a clip of four Presidents per year, until we get to the living ones, because a President has to have been dead at least two years before he or she can be on a coin. So it's unlikely we'll see the Clinton or GWB dollars when we'd expect. And another quirk in the coinage law states that a President who serves more than one term, but non-consecutively, gets a coin for each term. So we'll have two different Grover Cleveland dollars! Weird, eh?

Here's a MeFi thread on this item, which contains, as do most MeFi threads, some info and some snark. This line made me laugh out loud:

Envision, for a moment, the religious fervor with which Republicans will greet the Reagan coin. I susect we'll never actually see one in circulation. Unless, of course, they trickle down from somewhere . . .


Heh. Indeed.

I hear boiled leather is coming back into fashion

In this grab-bag post from the other day, I noted that I'm starting on George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows, but that my memory of the events of the first three books was pretty hazy; I further requested any readers to send along any sites that may contain synopses of the first three books so I could get back up to speed. Well, a reader named Daniel came through, alerting me to this site, which is exactly what the doctor ordered. Thanks, Daniel!

(And you know, just reading the summaries makes me want to punch Joffrey in the mouth. What a shit he was!)

Sentential Links #75

Once more unto the links, dear friends!

:: You can now transmit high definition tv from a whole two hundred and twenty miles away, showing us exactly what it’s like to live in a small room with only an airflow fan to save you from the smell of your own farts.

:: If you aren'?t a fan of CSI: Miami, trust us, you will be after one round of Caruso playing. (An older post, linked in comments on yesterday's Burst of Weirdness. A CSI: Miami drinking game! Hoo-boy! Thanks to Laura for the link.)

:: He was staring at me, and I decided to stare right back, a sign of aggression, and generally coming from an opponent that does not want a call. (Aaron's trying to communicate with me, I know it....)

:: Even so, the results of the Lancet study, combined with what we know about the limitations of other attempts to count the dead, suggest that the war in Iraq has already claimed hundreds of thousands rather than tens of thousands of lives.

It is rather striking, moreover, that critics of this research have mostly avoided calling for additional, independent studies that could provide a scientific basis for either confirming or refuting its alarming findings.


:: Why on earth should a well-known art museum keep a bunch of fusty old Greek and Asian objects cluttering their galleries when they can trade the junk in on shiny new stuff by ... oh, whoever seems hot his week. (Buffalo's arts scene makes the national news, and not in an especially good way, perhaps: our major art museum is selling off a number of antiquities in order to raise money to acquire more modern art. Roger actually e-mailed me this story, but I haven't been able to formulate a strong opinion either way on this. Buffalo has more than one museum, but nothing else with the scope of the Albright Knox. I fully understand the logic of the decision, but I'm not sure I'm happy about it. One thing that's certain is that I haven't been to the A-K in far too long.)

:: Well, we're off to Egypt tomorrow, and won't be back until late on the 19th. (Wow, a popular week for going to Egypt -- someone else just got back, too.)

:: I have absolutely no idea what the people advocating for "one last push" in Iraq, with an influence of however many additional troops can be temporarily "surged" into Baghdad are thinking. One last push for what?

:: Please, please, someone explain this to me. Because otherwise it would appear that Aaron Sorkin -- via one of his characters, speaking with 100% earnestness, as though she were saying something truthful and meaningful -- has authored the single most idiotic statement in the history of mankind. (God, I hated that whole storyline in that episode. In fact, I suspect the show would benefit immeasurably if Harriet were to disappear completely. However, the episode airing tonight is much, much better.)

:: The only thing missing is music. In its place, Mr. Schönberg force-feeds us three hours’ worth of chattery non-melodies that sound as if they’d been written by a woodpecker on a xylophone.... (Ellipses in the original. Damn; I love those melodies!)

:: Of course the classics will never go away, just as we won’t stop going to museums to admire paintings and sculptures of old masters. However, none of us visits the museum continuously, unless we happen to work there. My belief is that the concert scene will return to what it was several decades ago. Orchestras did not work full time, and their musicians usually did something else on the side. Recitals were far more varied than today, and it was customary to hear a soloist play a concerto with piano accompaniment. Thus there wasn’t the same need to go listen to an orchestra concert in order to hear one's favorite violin composition.

:: Cole is our first child and was due on 12/6/06, so his arrival on 11/16/06 was a bit of a surprise. (Huzzah!)

That's all for this week. Sentential Links will probably occur next week, but more likely on Tuesday rather than Monday, since I'll be coming off a hiatus. Or I may just not do them at all. I'll decide then.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Ahhh, what a wonderful week for high weirdness on the Interweb! Here are the two best things I found:

:: PZ Myers points out this heretofore unknown collaboration between Stan Lee and Jack Chick.

:: Warren Ellis links this montage of David Caruso moments from CSI: Miami. I love this show, mainly because it's so unimaginably campy that it's amazing fun. I have a hypothesis that David Caruso is his generation's William Shatner, and that his CSI: Miami work parallels Shatner's TJ Hooker phase.

And here's a bonus David Caruso moment, one of my favorite things he's ever done on CSI: Miami. In the course of crime scene investigating and whatnot, they find a car that's wired to explode in four minutes. Horatio (the Caruso character) can't defuse it, but he can certainly drive it to where it can safely explode -- like, say, a vacant beach in Miami. Because Miami abounds with vacant beaches where cars can be exploded without fear of injuring the vacationers or the drugrunners whom the show seems to indicate constitute well over half of that city's population. Watch this clip, even though the sound slips out of sync slightly about halfway through. This is awesome stuff, folks.

Very nice, Mr. Bond

UPDATED 11-29-06 with Answers! Highlight the yellow text after each question for the answers.

The Indestructible Mr. Jones reports on this James Bond quiz, on which I too scored a double-0 score. (Meaning, I would be a Double-0, not that I got 0 questions right.) I found the quiz slightly unsatisfying, though, so I figured, hey, why not come up with one of my own?

Answers to come...oh, when I feel like it. Ha!

1. Name the first Bond film in which M travels out into the field to brief Bond on his mission details.

You Only Live Twice. After faking his own death, Bond is brought onto a submarine in China where M briefs him. At least I think it's China, since Bond was actually "killed" in China -- but then Bond is fitted in Scuba gear and fired out a torpedo tube, so are we to believe that Bond swims all the way to Japan?



2. Which is the only Bond novel to be written in the first person?

The Spy Who Loved Me. (I should have specified the Ian Fleming novels, since other authors have written Bond books since then, and I have no idea about them. I never read Spy Who..., but I know that like many of the books that were "filmed" late in the series, the film bears almost no resemblance to the book.



3. We all know that James Bond is based in Europe, so: name the first films in which he is shown doing spy stuff in Asia, North America, South America, and Africa respectively. (There may be a little wiggle-room for the Asia answer, actually.)

Asia: You Only Live Twice (although I'm not certain if Bond does any work on the part of the Istanbul region in From Russia With Love that is across the water, on the Asian portion of Turkey).

North America: Goldfinger. (Unless one counts Jamaica as part of North America, from Dr. No, but I don't.)

South America: Moonraker. (The location for the Goldfinger precredits sequence isn't directly identified, as I recall; I take it to be one of the Central American banana republics, which are technically in North America.)

Africa: Diamonds are Forever. About fifteen seconds of that film's precredits sequence takes place in Cairo. The first film that has Bond spending a significant amount of screen time in Africa would be The Spy Who Loved Me, which also takes place in and around Cairo.



4. What rank does the first M hold? (The M played by Bernard Lee. I have no idea if Robert Brown or Judi Dench, the subsequent M's, hold the same rank.)

Admiral.



5. What rank does Q hold? (The Desmond Llewellyn one.)

Major.



Complete the following code phrases:

6. "Do you have a match?"

"I use a lighter." (Which is followed by, "Better still", to which one finally says, "Until they go wrong".)



7. "The snow this year is better at Innsbruck."

"But not at San Moritz."



8. "In London, April is a spring month." (Wiggle room here.)

"But in St. Petersburg we're freezin' our butts off." (The scene makes clear that Bond's ally here isn't terribly concerned with giving proper responses to British agents, whom he thinks should just "drop it".)



9. At whose hands did agents 002, 006, and 009 all die, respectively? (One of these has two possible answers that I know of!)

002 was killed by Francisco Scaramanga, the "Man with the Golden Gun". I had thought that the next 002 was killed by an unnamed assassin on Gibraltar during the precredits sequence of The Living Daylights, but upon further review, 002 isn't killed in that film: he's shot with a paintball by an SAS officer, removing him from the simulated wargame.

006 is thought to have been killed during a mission to a Siberian munitions factory with Bond, but it's later revealed that he survived and turned villain, whereupon Bond himself kills him.

009 is killed by one of the two knife-wielding twins in Octopussy.



10. True or false: James Bond is a fan of the Beatles.

False, at least as far as Goldfinger indicates, when Bond indicates that drinking Dom Perignon at the wrong temperature is like "listening to the Beatles without earmuffs".



11. Excluding Dr. No and From Russia With Love (since those two tend to stand apart from the later established formulae), what is the first Bond film in which a woman Bond beds doesn't later die?

Diamonds are Forever. In Goldfinger, Jill Masterson is killed after Bond beds her. In Thunderball, Bond does the dirty with Fiona, who later dies in his arms (good thing, too, because she's a bad one!) In You Only Live Twice, Aki takes poison that is meant for Bond and dies. And, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Tracy Bond dies. Yes, in Diamonds, Plenty O'Toole is killed, but Bond never sleeps with her. (He's interrupted before he can.)



12. Who calls James Bond a "stiff-assed Brit", a "back end of horse", a "limey", and "Boy", respectively?

In order: Wade in GoldenEye, Kara in The Living Daylights, Felix Leiter in Dr. No, and that irritating sheriff in The Man With the Golden Gun.



13. Only three Bond film have not featured a song whose lyrics contain the title of the film. Name them.

Dr. No, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (although the film's instrumental main theme carries that title), Octopussy (for obvious reasons). It turns out that Casino Royale also fits the bill, but I hadn't seen the film at the time that I wrote this quiz.



14. For which film was a version of the James Bond Theme recorded by Eric Clapton, and then not used? (This has never been released, dammit! I'd love to hear it.)

Licence to Kill, with music by Michael Kamen, whose scores for the Lethal Weapon movies featured a lot of Clapton.



15. Which film's title contains a word in its British spelling, as opposed to the American English spelling?

Licence to Kill ("Licence" versus "License")



16. In The Living Daylights, Bond and Kara take in an opera. What opera is it?

The Marriage of Figaro.



17. What Bond girl appears in two different films?

In Dr. No and From Russia With Love, Bond has a "girlfriend" back home named Sylvia Trench. She's never seen again.



18. What actress plays different Bond girls in two different films?

Maud Adams is the ill-fated Miss Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun, and then Octopussy in, well, Octopussy.



19. For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy both feature an assistant in Q-branch named Smithers. The actor playing Smithers actually played a much more famous role around that same time frame. What role was that?

Jeremy Bulloch played Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Bulloch also appeared in Revenge of the Sith as "Captain Colton" (no idea who that is) and has a blog!



20. The actor who plays Bond accomplice Vijay in Octopussy would later appear in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as the Captain of what Starfleet vessel? (The fact that I know this may make me the biggest geek of all f***ing time.)

The Yorktown. Geez.

21. Plenty of women Bond sleeps with eventually die (see related question #11). But how many times does Bond himself kill a woman he's already bedded?

Two, that I count: Fiona in Thunderball (yes, I count whirling her into the path of a bullet meant for himself as killing her, but he had to do it eventually anyway) and Elektra in The World is Not Enough (which might have been a great Bond film had Denise Richards not been involved with the project in any capacity).

OK, that's it. I may have answers tomorrow, or I may wait until next week when I come back from hiatus.

The Path to Enlightenment (or, how to make very tasty chicken)

I know I've posted this before, but I know it's been a while and it's a cooking tip that's always worth revisiting, so here goes: the easiest and tastiest chicken recipe I know.

Just marinate your chicken in a mixture of the following ingredients, using equal portions of each: sesame oil, soy sauce, and honey. Then grill or roast the chicken as you see fit. That's it. This is astonishingly easy, and it's astonishingly good. I generally use a quarter cup of each ingredient, which makes plenty for a package of chicken containing two split breasts and two leg quarters, but if you're doing an entire bird, you might want to up that to one-third or even one-half cup. Basting during cooking isn't necessary, but I do it anyway.

Oh, and don't salt the chicken before marinating or cooking. The soy sauce will make it pleasantly salty enough.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

No head for heights

OK, I've got to nip this in the bud, because I've seen it twice in twenty-four hours: For Your Eyes Only cited among the worst and most cartoonish of Roger Moore's run of James Bond films. Lance tags it as the "worst", actually, which I'll grudgingly accept as a matter of taste, but Harry Knowles cites FYEO as "cheese" along with The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, and dammit, Knowles should know better.

It may be a matter of opinion that FYEO is the best of the Roger Moore films, but it's a simple fact that the film is far less cartoonish than the Bond films of the 1970s. Gone are the freakish henchmen like Jaws, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, and Nick-Nack. The film is almost devoid of Q's gadgets. The villains aren't just evil for the sake of being evil, or possessed of bizarre motivations to rule the world; instead the plot revolves around cold-war intrigue (for just the second time in the series, surprisingly enough when one really thinks about it), in which the identity of the main villain isn't even known until about two-thirds of the way through the movie. The various supporting characters around Bond -- the girl Melina, the ally Columbo -- all have histories, and genuine motivations for their various allegiances. Sure, there's some broad humor (mostly involving the annoying figure skater), but there's broad humor in every Bond film. FYEO puts Bond in some very real predicaments in which he can't just survive by pushing a button on his wristwatch or by flipping a switch on the dash of his Lotus, and there's a scene in which Bond executes an assassin in which Roger Moore is as ruthless as Sean Connery ever was.

It's also worth noting that the turn towards cartoonishness didn't start with Roger Moore: Sean Connery's last Bond film (until 1983's "outside the franchise" Never Say Never Again), Diamonds are Forever, is as cartoonish as anything that Moore would do in his first four films as Bond, which I think makes it clear that maybe it's not Moore who played Bond as a cartoon character, but the people who wrote and directed the Bond films of the 70s who made things that way.

Oh, and Octopussy is a very good film too. And A View to a Kill even has its moments, much more so than Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, both of which are truly bad (although LaLD does have a nice moment when Bond thinks he'll get out of a scrape by the use of his gadget-of-the-week, only to be thwarted).

(On the topic of Casino Royale, I'm hoping to see it next week while I'm on blog-hiatus. But welcome back, Mr. Bond!)

Bonus Burst of Coolness



I found this on a message board the other day, and I just had to link it here, because I just love stuff like this: the little things that used to fill the peripheries of our lives, tiny details that companies would incorporate into their products for no other reason than it was cool to do so: beer bottle caps with puzzles printed inside them. I love the idea of some working-class guy sitting on a stool at the bar of his preferred watering hole after his shift had ended, sipping a cold one and solving the rebus printed on the liner of his bottle cap.

Of course, today if some warm body from the marketing department actually suggested something like this at a meeting of the execs of today's mega-breweries, that poor soul would almost certainly be laughed out of the room.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.

Stuff:

:: I've spent much of the past week or so getting over a cold that wasn't particularly nasty as colds go, but has packed a particularly annoying punch in the "lingering congestion" department. And it turns out that phenylephrine decongestants, which have replaced pseudophedrine in OTC remedies like NyQuil and Sinutab and the like, suck. I spent three days listening to the world as though I was at the bottom of a diving bell before I realized that phenylephrine sucks, and that I was going back to pseudophedrine. So, anyway, Mucinex is my new best friend.

(Yes, I still do the Neti pot religiously, but it can only do so much.)

But I've passed the time reading blogs a little and reading books and magazines, some of which turn out to contain blog-like material! Who'da thunk it! I read A Night to Remember, the classic book about the sinking of the Titanic. Somehow I'd never read it before -- but it's a riveting read. I still love the James Cameron movie about the sinking (fashionable backlashes be damned!), but A Night to Remember fascinates by not only putting the small details from the actual tale of the sinking used in that film into context, but it's also a surprisingly taut read, with almost no preamble before the horrible events begin to unfold. (The lookouts spot the iceberg on page two.)

Now I'm reading a new book of essays on food and restaurant life by Anthony Bourdain, The Nasty Bits. This is my first exposure of any sort to Bourdain, who comes off in this book as a fascinating soul. A representative passage:

But is fast food inherently evil? Is the convenient nature of the beast bad, in and of itself? Decidedly no. Fast food -- which traditionally solves very real problems of working families, families with kids, business people on the go, the casually hungry -- can be good food. If you walk down a street in Saigon, or visit an open-air market in Mexico, you'll see that a quick, easy meal, often enjoyed standing up, does not have to be part of the hideous, generic sprawl of soul-destroying sameness that stretches from stip malls in San Diego, across the USA, through Europe and Asia and around again, looking the same, tasting the same: paper-wrapped morsels of gray "beef" patties with all-purpose sauce. The unbelievably high-caloric horrors of beef-flavor-sprayed chicken nuggets, of "milkshakes" that contain no milk and have never been shaken, of "barbecue" that has never seen a grill, "cheese" with no cheese, and theme monstrosities for whom food is only a lure to buy a T-shirt, is not the way it has to be.


Preach on, brother!

:: I've also started in on George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows. I found Storm of Swords a bit grim for my tastes, although the shocks came fast and furious -- the Red Wedding was a particular jolt. I haven't read any of the Song of Ice and Fire books since Storm came out, and that was four years ago or more, so my memory of what's going on in Westeros is a tad hazy. Can anyone recommend an online synopsis of the first three books, so I can get up to speed again?

(Tyrion's not in this book. Bugger.)

:: The comic strip For Better or Worse will end next year. I read it every morning, mainly because I enjoy the characters on a soap-opera basis. The strip is rarely funny, but it's generally endearing in a way, even though I sometimes perversely wish that the Pattersons would have to deal with some real shit, like having Michael lose his job without blundering into a better one, or something like that, but that's just mean, eh?

:: A new review of mine ran in GMR, of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana. Read the review, but better yet, buy the book. It's amazing.

:: Can't remember where I saw this linked, but it's a list of the ten most racist TV commercials of all time. Some of these are awful.

:: NBC's doing that "Supersize comedy shows" thing again, in which they basically stick even more ads into their shows. NBC sucks.

:: Verify range to target, one ping only. Check out these photos! They're amazing. (via)

:: Screw you, ABC! I didn't spend all those years hating Emmitt Smith and everything he stood for as the star running back of the Dallas F***ing Cowboys just so I could end up rooting for him on some dancing show! But I could not, in good conscience, root for the guy who once tried to steal Kelly Kapowski from Zack Morris. Betrayer most foul!!!

:: A brief Office liveblog: Jim and Pam are back in the same office. All is right with the world. Kum-bay-yah.... And oh God, Dwight has a rival. This is awesome.

:: People are camping outside stores for a new PlayStation? Huh? Come on, folks. Camping outside for a videogame system is just lame. Acceptable things for camping outside are: Sabres tickets, new Star Wars movie tickets, Super Bowl tickets, and the latest models of Dewalt power tools. PlayStations? Feh!

:: If you've ever wondered what the greatest cat toy ever is, look no further: it's a laser pointer. Seriously. They chase that red dot everywhere.

:: Finally: I will be going on a blogging hiatus beginning next Tuesday, and probably ending a week later. This Monday's posts will be the last for that duration -- but I'll probably solicit posting suggestions for my return, along the lines of the old "Ask Me Anything!" game from a while back.

:: Oh yeah, since I never posted anything about the Bills game the other day: I'm rapidly coming to the view that JP Losman may be a bust, and the O-line still sucks major rocks. And I didn't even get to see Peyton Manning light it up. Ugh.

Oh well, at least the StuPats lost in a game in which the last play was Tom Brady fumbling. That was a nice consolation prize!

Monday, November 13, 2006

To sail the seven winds....

Two years ago I reviewed a book for GMR called Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel, which is a steampunk-kind of adventure novel which postulates a world around the beginning of the twentieth century where the predominant form of long-range travel and shipping was not by sea but by air, in giant airships kept aloft by a gas called "hydrium". You can go read the review for more, but basically, the book was a thrilling adventure yarn.

I've just read the sequel, Skybreaker, in which our hero, Matt Cruse, reunites with the heroine from the first book, Kate Devries, in a quest to find an airship that was "lost at sky" forty years earlier, and to gain the riches of the lost ship's reclusive owner.

I know, I know, it sounds all goofy, but these two books are about as fun as adventure yarns get. Seriously, reading them makes you want to pop up some popcorn and fill in the narrative blanks with music by Max Steiner or John Williams. The world Oppel creates is pretty snazzy, too; there's a realism to the pseudo-nautical culture he creates for his airship "sailors", and I loved how the ship that is designed to sail to very high altitudes is crewed by Himalayan sherpas.

Sentential Links #74

This week's links are brought to you by the letter "F". Why "F"? I dunno. F just called and said, "I wanna sponsor the Links." And you know, when F calls, you gotta listen.

(Yes, I'm aware that the above makes absolutely no sense.)

Anyhoo....

:: Someone needs to tell the New Atheists that Modernism is dead. (I'm linking this in hopes that Sean will connect the dots a bit, because I have no idea what he means here.)

:: So, after years of ragging after Hillary Clinton’s uncertain hairdoes and clothes, we have a new woman politician to check out.

:: They are one of hundreds of great stories across the City of Buffalo. Our economic diversity, unique space, pool of talent, and entreprenuerial spirit were the focus of our marketing efforts during Buffalo Old Home Week and offer the best bet for our economic revival.

:: He's like a jazz pianist version of Mahler. (Again: great quip, if only I knew what it meant.)

:: I've seen so many, particularly those burdened with the heavy invisible backpacks of liberal guilt, including myself, quickly amend their anti-war sentiments with an automatic "of course, I support the troops, 100%." Really? Always?

:: A nursing mother was thrown out of King Ranger Theatre in Seguin last night. Because she was nursing her child. (GRRRRR!!! The owner of that theatre deserves to have his ass sued off; and shame on the police for refusing to enforce the law in that instance.)

:: She has seen joy, sadness, tragedy, and miracles - and travelled each of those roads with great dignity and poise.

All for this week. Tune in next week, for a very special episode....

(No, not really. Just more links next week. Unless they're really special. Or something like that.)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Stuff

Quick notes:

:: Trips last Tuesday afternoon to three different brick-and-mortar music-selling establishments proved fruitless, so I had to order the complete Two Towers score from Amazon. It arrived on Thursday. I have only been able to listen to the first of the three discs thus far, but once again I'm astounded at the scope of Howard Shore's conception, and the way all of his motifs effortlessly mirror other ones, creating one of the most unified sound-worlds I've ever heard in a filmscore. Just magnificent. I'm glad it'll be a whole year to The Return of the King, because I have three hours of Two Towers music to study. I do wish that Doug Adams's book on the LOTR music was forthcoming sooner, though.

:: Via MeFi I learn that one should probably not scrub one's kid's face with a Magic Eraser, a cleaning product that is designed to remove from walls things like magic marker. Who'da thunk it, eh?

:: When last I updated the space opera reading project, I noted that one of my selections was a work written in the 1930s by Jack Williamson, who was as of that writing still alive. That is now no longer the case: Williamson died on Friday. He was 98; his last novel was published in 2005, with his first published work dating 77 years before that. What a career. I salute you, Mr. Williamson: Clear ether!

That's what's going on today. Snore.

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Jonah Goldberg:

I think James Baker and Dick Cheney should take Bush out to the woods around Camp David. After 24 hours in a sweat lodge, he should be given only a loin cloth, a hunting knife and a canteen of water. Bush should then set out to track and kill a black bear, after which he should eat its still beating heart so he can absorb its spirit. He should then fly back to Washington in Marine 1. His torso still scratched from the bear's claws, his face bloodied and steaming in the November chill, he should immediately give a press conference at which he throws the bearskin on the front row of the press corps, completely enveloping Helen Thomas, declaring, "I'm not going anywhere."

This will send important messages to Democrats and well as to our enemies overseas, who are no doubt high-fiving as we speak.


Ummmm...yeah. Because the guy you want as your Manliness Mentor is Dick Cheney, the guy who indulges in canned hunts where he still manages to mistake fellow old white men as fattened grouse.

(via TBogg)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ick....

Still don't feel much like blogging: big doin's at The Store tomorrow (involving a visit by the very folks whose name is in big letters on the side of our building), for which we've worked very hard all week; fatigue from all the impromptu dancing I'm doing whenever I remember that the Democrats beat the snot out of the Republicans on Tuesday (guess that loony Howard Dean knew what the hell he was doing with that 50-State-Strategy of his, eh?); and general tiredness from putting up with a cold for the last few days.

So, just some more quick stuff:

:: Interesting stuff, as always, by Matthew Yglesias on the myth of Karl Rove (noting that Rove has often made errors of electoral strategy that always came close to failing, and finally failed spectacularly) and the myth of this election as a rise of Democratic conservatism (noting that in just about every case, Republicans were beaten by someone to the left of them, which can only serve to ultimately push the political tone in this country to the left).

:: If you haven't been reading Shamus's "DM of the Rings" comic, you really gotta. In this installment he notes that for a role-playing game fanatic, a new set of gaming dice is always a new event. It's like getting a new box of Titleist golf balls, I guess. Even though I haven't played AD&D in over a decade, I still have my dice in my desk somewhere; they're in one of those nifty little drawstring bags that those small bottles of Crown Royal whiskey used to come in.

But my favorite dice were my DM's. His dice all had pointy vertices, as opposed to the rounded ones like the ones that adorn the masthead of Shamus's blog. With those pointy dice, you could hold the D8 between two fingertips and spin them like tops.

:: Film composer Basil Poledouris has died. He was a sadly underrated composer, and he will be missed.

That's all. More blogging when I feel like doing more blogging.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sentential Links #73: The Vote Democratic Edition

Oh, the hell with it. I had a bunch of links from fine liberal blogs ready to go, but I'm now just sick of the whole damn thing. You can go read those blogs via the main blogroll, of course; that's why they're there. But while I don't avoid politics here as an iron-clad rule here anymore, I don't find much fulfillment in writing about it, even when it's the main thing on my mind. So just one non-political link, just to remind myself of what's really important tomorrow:

:: So it's like listening to a symphonic story. You are introduced to all of the cast, shown all the sets, and then listen to them wander around for three CDs. It's Peter and the Wolf on steroids.

Yup.

Carlin on Voting

I posted this four years ago on Election Day, but it's always worth re-visiting. Here is George Carlin's take on the whole "Democracy" thing:

You may have noticed that there's one thing I don't complain about: Politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says, "They suck". But where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality. No, they come from American homes, American families, American schools, American churches, American businesses, and they're elected by American voters. This is the best we can do, folks. It's what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out.

....I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way: I don't vote. On Election Day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain", but where's the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain.

I, on the other hand, who did not vote -- who did not even leave the house on Election Day -- am in no way responsible for that these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created.


Do I agree? No. Of course not. Well, not really. Maybe a little. You know, part of me. Half of me, actually. Or more than half. I just think it's fun pulling the little levers.

A shocking revelation

With the exception of the NYS Comptroller's race, I'll be voting for Democrats across the board tomorrow. In that particular race, I'll be voting Green since the incumbent Democrat is a crook. (I may actually vote Green for Governor as well, seeing as how Elliot Spitzer can't possibly lose but the Green Party would benefit from getting as many votes as it can, but I won't make that decision until I'm standing in the booth.)

Lots of people say that voting a straight party ticket is bad, but I don't really see that, except in extreme cases (if there wasn't a Green candidate for Comptroller, I'd probably abstain). When confronted with an incompetent Democrat versus a competent Republican, I either abstain or vote for the nearest convenient liberal party, and for me, I don't think my interests are served if I help elect someone whose stands on the issues don't mirror mine. So for me, primary day is the time to exercise my distaste for incumbency.

And besides, I'm generally of the view that the national Republican Party is a cesspool, and my antipathy towards them extends downward, since today's local Republicans are tomorrow's national Republicans. So it's all Democrats for me. I don't put a whole lot of stock in independence as a voter. I'm a Democrat because there are certain things I believe and certain things I value and certain things I want my country to do and to be, and I cast my votes accordingly, and with the full knowledge that I'll never get everything I want, because nobody ever does.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

You know, I've actually come to look forward to the ads Elliot Spitzer is running on TV in his campaign for Governor of New York, just because they're all incredibly positive ads. (He has this luxury, of course, because his Republican opponent has zero chance of winning. If Spitzer were in an actual race, he'd be running as much muck ads as anybody else.)

Anyway, the main ad Spitzer's been showing has him listing his "To Do list" upon taking office: he's gonna reform Medicaid, and reduce property taxes, improve our schools, and so on. (I can't help but watch that ad and think, "Shit, why didn't anybody else think of that!")

But anyway, I wonder if maybe Spitzer's first task upon taking office shouldn't be to hire some new typists in Albany, after a typo has resulted in the state's drunk driving law being currently unenforceable. Oops.

Quick Shots

Not really feeling much like blogging the last few days, so here are some quick links to stuff.

:: After a very long fallow period, I've started offering merchandise again on eBay. There is a link in the sidebar to all of my auctions. Currently I'm offering a number of books, but some music may come later. No, I do not currently plan to sell any of my overalls.

:: Paul has a cyber-stalker.

:: Guy Gavriel Kay has another movie deal: he will be doing his own screenplay adaptation for The Last Light of the Sun, which is his most recent novel (at least until Ysabel comes out early next year). Of course, this means that GGK's main focus over the coming year will be that screenplay as opposed to prepping another book. Sigh. (GGK's The Lions of Al-Rassan is the other of his novels currently under movie development.)

:: I keep forgetting that Mrs. M-Mv posted a while back about St. Crispian's Day, made famous in the greatest pep-talk ever written, the speech put in the lips of King Henry V by William Shakespeare in the play cleverly entitled, Henry V. She recommends watching the Kenneth Branagh film of the play, and I second that recommendation; but failing that, you can hear Branagh giving that speech here. (I've linked AmericanRhetoric.com before, but it's been a while and it's a great site full of speechy, oratorical goodness.)

:: Apologies to the Bears and Vikings fans among my readers, because I'm really gonna miss Brett Favre when he retires. I love watching that guy.

:: Another reason why my job is cooler than your job: this week I got to do a lot of jobs in which one of these was my primary tool.

:: I'll say more about it some other time, but for now let me just note that last night I finally found a movie with a final line that's as good as Casablanca's "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship": The Wind and the Lion, which ends with Sean Connery saying to a friend: "Is there nothing in your life worth losing everything for?"

:: During the week of Thanksgiving, this blog will be on hiatus. I'll make an official announcement then, but regular readers should be aware, because I'll probably kick off December with a second installment of Ask Me Anything!, and the week I'm off will be query-submission time. So start thinking! (Heck, you can even start asking stuff if you want, but no answers will be forthcoming until after that hiatus.)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Buffalo Bleg

Hey, Buffalo readers: what restaurants in this area do Thanksgiving dinner? Restaurants in the Southtowns or in Cheektowaga are preferred. Thanks!

(I moved this post up because no one commented! Come on, Buffalo bloggers -- surely someone knows a restaurant that does T-giving dinner!)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On Football

[Updated Below]

I'm almost ready to give up, folks. It's not that I want to drink the Kool-Aid, God knows, and it's not that everyone else is drinking the Kool-Aid. It's just that the damn Kool-Aid won't go away, and all I want the Kool-Aid to do is go away.

I'm almost ready to just go ahead and admit that, yes indeedy, Bill Belichick is God and Tom Brady is his prophet.

The other night the Stupid Patriots beat the snot out of the Vikings, but that's not what got me. The next morning, I'm on the way into work, and I tune in briefly to our local sports-radio station to hear a snippet of Belichick at his press round-up after the game. Noting that his team had just racked up something like 600 passing yards and nine TDs -- well, not quite, but that's what it always feels like when these guys are playing -- Belichick said, about as matter-of-factly as any coach has ever said anything, something along the lines of "Yeah, we didn't think we could run on these guys, so we just figured we'd throw it a lot."

There's a salty adage about how some folks can fall into a bucket of shit and come out smelling like a rose, but somehow the Stupid Patriots never even fall into buckets of shit. It's like the buckets turn into rosebeds before their feet ever hit them.

Yeah, I'm ready to give up.

As for other football stuff, we're at roughly the halfway mark in the season, which is usually when the playoff races are starting to shape up and when a number of teams have already fallen completely out of contention. And that means, as much as I might not want to admit it, that it's time to start comparing my pre-season predictions with what's come about. Oy.

Here are the teams that would make the playoffs today, with my predictions in brackets:

AFC East: New England (New England)
AFC North: Baltimore (Pittsburgh)
AFC South: Indianapolis (Jacksonville)
AFC West: Denver (Denver)
AFC Wildcards: San Diego, Cincinnati (Indianapolis, Cincinnati)

NFC East: NYGiants (Dallas)
NFC North: Chicago (Minnesota)
NFC South: New Orleans (Carolina)
NFC West: Seattle (Seattle)
NFC Wildcards: Atlanta, Minnesota (Philadelphia, Tampa Bay)

Well.

Only three teams that I picked to win divisions are actually leading divisions right now, although if the playoffs started today, six of the teams I picked to make the postseason would be there. Not very good. (It's also my usual level of prediction success, which puts my football prognostication skills in pretty harsh light.)

My Super Bowl prediction was Carolina versus Jacksonville. Currently, neither of those teams make the playoffs, and the Panthers look especially troubled after the way they fell apart against the Cowboys the other night. I have trouble believing the Saints are going to last, but the Panthers would also have to leap-frog the Falcons. I also didn't think that the StuPats would be that great this year, and that they'd win the AFC East with a likely 10-6 record or thereabouts. Instead, they're on pace again for 12-4 or better. Oy.

And I'm astounded that the Bills have the same record right now as the defending Super Bowl champions.

(How are the Bills doing, by the way? They're at 2-5, which has them roughly on pace for the 5-11 neighborhood. Since I projected them at 6-10, they're right about where I thought they'd be. But I hoped they'd be playing better football, and losing more because of inexperience than because of a lack of heart and a continued emphasis on always making the stupid play when a smart one would work better.)

And now, about the NFL in general: What would I do if I became Commissioner? What things would I "fix"? Hmmmmmm!

1. Do something about rookie salaries. This is insane. In every other sport, you have to play a while before you get the huge money, but in the NFL, you get huge money right out of college if you're a high draft pick. That means that bad teams that are trying to rebuild instead end up with huge salary cap hits when they pick high in the draft. It's bad enough if you get a mega-superstar, but it can hurt you even worse if that high draft pick is a bust. The Bills are still feeling the pain for drafting Mike Williams five years ago.

The big difference here is that we're talking about football, which is by far the most physically harmful game of the major sports. I've read that the average tenure of an NFL player is only four or five seasons, so there's an argument to be made that these guys need to make their money a lot sooner than your typical NBA or MLB guy. But still, the whole thing is out of whack. I'd have some kind of salary structure where you got certain money based on where you're drafted, and that's it -- and that all players enter with two-year contracts only. Therefore, rookies would have incentive to play well and compete for starting jobs.

2. Preserve replay. I have no problem with the way replay works right now.

3. Change the Safety as follows: if the tackle is made while the ball is still in the end zone, the offensive team would still have to do the free kick on the next play, but the two points would no longer be awarded. Why? Well, I hate the two points because this is football's only scoring situation where points are awarded even though nothing is done with the ball. Instead, it's a function of where the ball is when forward progress is halted. Ick. A touchdown exists when the ball crosses the goal line, or when a legal catch is made inside the end zone. Simple. Ditto the field goal: the ball goes through the uprights, it's three points. But on a safety, points are awarded due to a failure to do something with the ball? I don't like that.

Second, two points on a safety screws up my overtime fix.

Which brings me to:

4. Overtime. I'd eliminate sudden death (at least at the outset of the OT period), and I'd eliminate the coin flip. (In fact, see below!) The visiting team would receive the ball first, and regular play would resume with the game being decided thusly: the first team to have the lead after each team has completed one possession of the ball would win.

Let's assume the Bills are playing the Dolphins, and it's 20-20 as the 4th quarter ends. OK? So, in OT, the Bills kick off to the Dolphins. Assume the Dolphins get a field goal. Now the Dolphins would kick off to the Bills, and now the Bills must score at least a field goal to keep the game alive.

Now, we're 23-20 in OT with the Bills getting the ball. What happens? Well:

:: Bills score a touchdown, making the score 26-23. Game over. Both teams have had possession.

:: Bills score a field goal, retying the game at 23-23. Game continues, with Bills kicking off to Miami again. Now we're back into sudden death. This seems fair to me, because the Bills had a chance to score a touchdown and win outright, didn't they? And here they can still win; just now they have to keep Miami off the board entirely.

:: Bills commit a turnover or lose the ball on downs. Game over. They couldn't convert their opportunity to score.

Of course, you can still have some funky situations here. In our hypothetical 20-20 Bills-Dolphins game, suppose on their first snap on their first OT possession, the Miami quarterback throws an interception that's returned for a touchdown. The game would end right there, because both teams will have had possession, and the Bills will have the lead!

(And here's where awarding two points for a safety screws things up. If Miami gives up a safety in my OT scheme, and then free-kicks to the Bills, the Bills have the ball and the lead in OT, which means they should win the second they recover the free kick! Clearly that makes no sense.)

5. Eliminate the coin toss. The coin toss is stupid. Basketball and hockey have "up-for-grabs" situations, but clearly that can't work for football. I prefer baseball's approach: the home team bats in the bottom of every inning, and that's how it is. So I'd have the visiting team always receive the game's opening kickoff, and have the home team always receive the second-half kickoff. This might help local TV ratings on some games, as well; even when the Bills are getting spanked in the first half I always at least watch the first drive of the second half, to see if they're able to do anything. I'd also eliminate this business of picking the goal to defend. I'd have every stadium designate one end zone as the "Visitors" end zone, and that's the one they defend to start with.

6. Cut preseason to two games. Four games is stupid in this day and age when teams are constantly practicing. This isn't the days of yore anymore, when teams would only convene for minicamp and then training camp during the offseason.

7. Compensate for eliminating preseason by extending the regular season to eighteen games. Yes, this would mean more wear-and-tear on the players, so I'd compensate there by increasing rosters to 65 players, from 53. Surely that would make the players' union happy?

8. Prohibit the networks from using Niagara Falls as their standard 'local color' shot from Buffalo during Bills games. The TV people always have a camera set up somewhere around the locality they're in for any given game, and they cut to the 'local cam' during station-breaks and other television timeouts. Here in Buffalo, they almost always show Niagara Falls. We've got other stuff here, and sixteen times a year, we've got a national TV crew showing it off to some other locality! They know about Niagara Falls. How about showing them something else???

And thus would the NFL cement its position supreme in American sports for decades to come!

UPDATE 11-3-06: The point is made in comments that the two points are awared in a safety to make the yielding of a safety more unpalatable. If no points are awarded, teams backed up to their own goal lines would voluntarily give up the safety in order to regain field position when the free kick takes place from the 30 yard line. That's a good point, one which I failed to appreciate. But since I still don't like awarding points to a team that doesn't have possession of the ball, I'd adjust for this by moving the free kick back. No two points, but free kick from the goal line itself. That would make resulting field position very bad indeed for the team giving up the safety; the opposing team would likely have, at most, twenty yards or so to pick up just to move into field goal range. So: no points, but free kick from the goal line. That ought to make a safety bad enough that teams won't want to give it up.

I don't care what John Kerry said.

[Updated below]

Literally: I don't give a shit.

These kinds of inadvertent gaffes happen all the time in politics, and they generally fall into two camps: statements that are ill-considered but mainly harmless, and statements that are genuinely revealing of something the speaker believes. I think that Kerry's gaffe falls into the former category; his "botched joke" explanation rings perfectly true, given that the wording of the actual joke is so close to what actually came out of Kerry's mouth. Another famed example, I think, of gaffes that don't reflect what the speaker believes is Gerald Ford's "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe" in his 1976 debate with Jimmy Carter; ditto the diastrous Ronald Reagan joke that we were about to start bombing Russia in five minutes.

Gaffes that are actually revealing of character? Well, Trent Lott's idiotic paean to Strom Thurmond leaps to mind, as does Dick Armey referring to Barney Frank as "Barney Fag". And of course, there's a third category: gaffes which were never gaffes at all, but which thanks to relentless pressing of talking points and a passive media that presents talking points as news, come to be seen as gaffes. Here we have Kerry's old "I voted for it before I voted against it", and Al Gore's "claim" that he had "invented the Internet".

So I don't give a shit about what John Kerry said. What I do care about is how much ink is being spilled over it, and the media's fascination with it. I actually don't have a problem with Republicans pounding it; that's the way the game is played. But it pisses me off that the media just lets this non-story become a huge story. Really: how much consideration should Kerry's tongue-tripping be given by a voter in, say, Virginia, when said voter comes to pull the lever for George Allen or Jim Webb? Obviously, none whatsoever.

Serious things are decided by our elections -- and yet, here we are, acting like kittens who have just seen a ball go bouncing by. Ugh.

UPDATE 11-3-06: In comments, Lynn states that she thinks Kerry was indeed voicing how he actually feels about the troops (i.e., that they're stupid). This is an unbelievable stretch, given that there is no evidence at all other than this gaffe that Kerry believes any such thing, and given that the actual prepared remarks of the speech contain the joke as it was supposed to have been read. What's more plausible, then? That Kerry simply mangled his prepared text, or that he mangled it in such a way as to reveal something simmering deep in his subconscious? Note that Kerry himself enlisted in the armed forces after graduating from an Ivy League institution, so it would be a bit odd for him to believe that enlisted men are dolts who only go into the armed forces because they can't do anything else.

On a related note, Kevin Drum notes how weird it is that so experienced a speaker as John Kerry would botch a prepared text like that. But that's not weird at all! Remember all those "blooper" shows that used to be on TV, all the time? The ones that would consist of nothing but clips of newsreaders mangling prepared texts that were right in front of them? Remember Ronald Reagan, when reading from a prepared text in greeting Prince Charles and his wife, addressing Diana, Princess of Wales, as "Princess David"? Remember George H.W. Bush, reading from a prepared text, tripping over the line "We've had setbacks" and saying instead, "We've had sex"? Remember the 1980 Democratic National Convention, when in his acceptance speech, Jimmy Carter paid tribute to a long line of historical Democrats, which went very nicely until he got to Hubert H. Humphrey and called him "Hubert Horatio Hornblower"?

People screw up prepared texts all the time, whether they're Great Communicators or tongue-tied peanut farmers. That's one reason public speaking scares so many people. That's why the scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral when the Anglican Priest completely bungles his first-ever trip through the marriage liturgy ("Father, Son, and Holy Spigot") is funny. That we're making this big a deal out of Kerry bungling his speech says far more about us than it does about John Kerry.

UPDATE II: I'm shutting off comments on this post now. There's really nothing useful to be gained in hashing over the degree to which John Kerry is an arrogant SOB, after all. He's not on any ballot this year, and should he end up on a ballot in 2008, nothing I say here is going to convince anyone that Kerry doesn't secretly loathe the men and women in our armed services.