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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: What I said, and when I said it

Here is my yearly compilation of what I consider to be worthy stuff posted here over the last twelve months. Enjoy. Or not.

First, a couple of notes on various posting series from the year. I stalled a bit on Fixing the Prequels, about halfway through Attack of the Clones, but that series will continue quite soon. I also started a new "label" for posts that rely heavily on photographs to convey their content, called Photo Posts. Most of those will be individually linked below, but the label's there for those interested. Also, I went through and personally rated each of the fifty "Statehood Quarters". I also had a series of posts of photos of myself, responding to dramatic moments from Season 7 of 24, called, creatively enough, "Watching 24". While I watched the entire season, I didn't get through the entire season of posting reaction shots, mainly because the season really petered out in the back third of episodes. I'll still be watching the impending Season 8, though, mainly because of my massive new crush on Annie Wersching.

Speaking of photos, I posted a lot of stuff to Flickr this year; here's a mosaic of my favorites from the year (but I easily could have chosen more):

2009: a year of snow, festivals, gifts, trips, food, and overalls!

Click through for the "annotated" version, with links to the actual photos themselves.

Finally, there was Ask Me Anything! 2009. The 2010 version is coming up next month, yay!

January

Twenty Years of Shiny Discy Goodness
The "Five Questions Game" returns!
NFL 2008
Alas, Ricardo....
A moment long awaited
My mother-in-law passes
Flying: not a big fan
The Facebook "25 Things" meme that ate the world

February

Twenty Men I admire
Twenty women I admire
My favorite newspaper comic strip panel from 2009
On "comfort food"
The Proud Tower: an illustrative historical tale in this, the Era of the Constant Filibuster
Dollhouse, episode one (and I've never watched any of the subsequent episodes!)
The "Trilogy Meter"
Behold...the Philanthropist! (And yet, no one ever took up my call for an origin story....)
Commenting on a list of fantasy movies
A grim realization
On George RR Martin and productivity
The Wife's birthday
What's a pie in the face among friends?
Preparing to re-read all of Guy Gavriel Kay

March

Guy Gavriel Kay: where to start?
On Jack Bauer and "enhanced interrogations"
A quiz on faith
From the books: Robert and Clara Schumann
Chicken Wing Soup, version 1.0
I can't help noticing that all the would-be John Galts didn't go anywhere....
Thinking about Galactus
My Geek Life (a questionnaire)
From the books: Dungeon, Fire and Sword
The 11-in-1 screwdriver: The Excalibur of hand tools!
Chicken Wing Sour ver. 2.0
(The two Chicken Wing Soup posts are, by far, the most frequently-hit posts via search engine on this blog!)

April

My so-called High School Life (a quiz-thing)
My first foray into the wonderful world of power-tool injuries
Thoughts on the end of ER
An appreciation for Genesis's Invisible Touch
On being seat at bad tables in restaurants
The Teabaggers: seriousness in action!
A night at Panera Bread
A very odd passage from a very odd book

May

On the short Starfleet career of Lt. Saavik
Eight things (a quiz-thing)
Thirty Fantasy Movies (!)
On romances and teevee

June

Music and Children
Used Book Sales
A Book Quiz
Children and Music: more thoughts
International Talk Like Jayne Cobb Day!
Love and Hate (a quiz-thing)
First impressions of The Mentalist
People who annoy me when I'm driving
Twilight really sucks

July

On Steve McNair
Little Quinn's finer moments
Trains: I like 'em
A Taste of Buffalo
Remembering Walter Cronkite
Earlier versions of WD-40
From the books: Carl Sagan on the legacy of the Apollo missions
No hard feelings, JP Losman
The Annotated Stars and Stripes Forever
The coming of TRON 2.0

August

Best movie marquee EVER
Michael Vick returns
Taking an author's politics into account?
Favre: still an arse
On design and Star Wars
Reflecting on Magnum, PI
Further errors on design and Star Trek

September

A really yummy sandwich
In defense of the word "Moist"
Remembering Erich Kunzel
Colin Cowherd is a giant doodie-head
A brief detail from Star Trek IV
Previewing the 2009 football season
Finding things at the Library Book Sale
The darker side of sports fandom
On the liking of crap
Overalls: on the way back?
Ten Filmscores (a starting point)
Kicking the Patriots!

October

On the birth of my nephew Jaxon
On the passing of Gourmet Magazine
Ten Tools I use a lot
On "Nutraloaf"
Farewell, Soupy Sales!
Ten Captains
An Alphabetical quiz-thing
Thoughts on The Office

November

On the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street
Not watching the Bills anymore!
When the Berlin Wall fell
On Darth Belichick and fourth-down conversions
A pretty random quiz thing
Why the Bills continue to suck
On animated movies
My 50 movies from the Aughts
Things I'm thankful for
The "Dumbass Quiz"

December

Riding the Christmas Train
Sausage Baked Beans (a recipe)
Western New York in Winter
Pass the Bill!
A Walk in the Woods
An enormous Christmas quiz

Fiction from 2009

The Balance in the Blood, a serialized novelette
(posting began in 2008)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Only Begotten Son
Partita for the End of the World

Book-specific Posts

Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqualine Carey

Twilight sucks.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Rereading The Fionavar Tapestry

Bookhunter by Jason Shiga, The Arrival by Shaun Tan, the Flight anthologies

A few more thoughts on The Fionavar Tapestry

The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Tigana

The Ghost Brigades, John Scalzi; Moon of Three Rings, Andre Norton; Space Viking, H. Beam Piper

Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck, Christopher Moore

The Terror, Dan Simmons

The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers

A Song for Arbonne, Guy Gavriel Kay

The Player of Games, Iain Banks

The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, Scott Lynch

Firefly in comics

Bone, Jeff Smith

The Zero Stone, Andre Norton; In Conquest Born, C.S. Friedman

Year of the Cock, by some guy (I hated this book a lot.)

Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Mark Richardson; The Ridiculous Race, by Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran; A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson

Pirate Curse by Kai Meyer; Starcross and Mothstorm by Philip Reeve; Westmark and The Kestrel by Lloyd Alexander

It, by Stephen King

Infrastructure, by Brian Hayes; The View from the Bridge, by Nicholas Meyer; Made from Scratch, by Jenna Woginrich

Water Baby by Ross Campbell; House, by Josh Simmons; Madame Xanadu, by Amy Reeder Hadley and Matt Wagner; Cairo, by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker

The Price of the Stars by Debra Doyle and James MacDonald; Pandora's Star, by Peter F. Hamilton

Last Words: a Memoir, by George Carlin; The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History, by John Ortved; Across the Face of the World, by Russell Kirkpatrick

Film-specific Posts

Far From Heaven

Once

Charlie Wilson's War

Bull Durham

Atonement

Kingdom of Heaven

Random thoughts on Casablanca

The Indiana Jones films, with particular focus on Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Cousins

Sabrina

Star Trek, first thoughts

Sunshine

Thoughts on The Godfather

Thank God It's Friday

The Abyss

Fame and Alien

The Black Hole

More thoughts on Star Trek

Elizabethtown

3:10 to Yuma

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

On Pixar's recent films: Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, and Up

2009: The best of times, the meh of times

Well, here we are again, at the end of another year, in Blogistan and out of Blogistan. How to sum up? With my annual quiz, of course. I fill this quiz in every year, and here's the 2009 edition.

Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Well, kinda-sorta. More "kinda" than "sorta", though. Oh well. I fell of the wagon a bit as far as healthier eating and living over the last couple of months, but that's easily rectified. I didn't do nearly enough writing. I never rode my bike to work. So those are all failed resolutions. But I did keep up somewhat on those things, I read a good amount, I watched some really good movies, and I'm very happy with the progress I've made at The Store, learning the tricks of my trade. (How odd is it that my day job is one at which overalls would be ideal daily wear...but I can't wear them because they're not part of my official uniform! Aieee!)

However, I do plan to do those things and more in 2010. I plan to focus a good portion of my reading and film-watching time on things related to Shakespeare, and I may even launch a new blog to keep track of such things. I plan to cook more, diversifying into some of the ethnic cuisine cookbooks I own; I also plan to rely a lot less on pre-packaged "convenience" items like bagged salad mixes and pre-shredded cheese.

I also resolve to stop listening to old wax cylinders of Gustav Mahler conducting Debussy. As I'm sure that no such wax cylinders exist, I figure this resolution should be easy to keep.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

My sister-in-law gestated and delivered a healthy baby boy in October. Huzzah!!

Did anyone close to you die?

Last year I noted that the Reaper only seems to strike us in odd-numbered years of late. Less than a month later, on January 26, my mother-in-law died. Ugh. And just a short time ago, a very dear friend of ours passed away after a brief fight with cancer. (When I say "brief", I mean exactly that -- diagnosis to death took all of six weeks. It was awful -- every time we got an update it was worse than the one before.)

What countries did you visit?

I renewed my acquaintance with Fionavar, Tigana, Arbonne, and Al-Rassan (from the books of Guy Gavriel Kay). I hung out a while in Derry, Maine (via It), and on a whole slew of planets in Pandora's Star. And many others.

As far as real countries, I went nowhere. We're making it a sufficiently large pain in the arse to travel in this country that I'll have to be a lot more affluent before I ever much bother.

What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

My mother-in-law; more money; a $1000 gift card to Home Depot.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I cited them above, I guess.

What was your biggest failure?

I listed those, too. (And let's not talk about The Promised King, OK?)

What was the best thing you bought?

The Wii!

Whose behavior merited celebration?

I usually cite The Daughter here, and I see little reason to alter that pattern. I love the way she's turning out.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

I was going to launch into a big rant here, but we'll just say the entire Republican party and the entire Teabag "movement".

Where did most of your money go?

The usual: my stomach, my gas tank, my creditors, and my bookshelves.

What did you get really excited about?

Buying the Wii! And the inauguration of Barack Obama. (Thus far I give him a B-minus.)

What song will always remind you of 2009?

"In My Life", by the Beatles, and "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson.

Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

Both, but more happier than sadder. (Wow, that was some bad grammar.)

Thinner or fatter?

Fatter, but not wildly so -- just a few pounds heavier. They'll come off. Oh yes, they will come off.

Richer or poorer?

Strictly speaking, about the same, I guess...but maybe richer because I've started saving money finally? Baby steps and all, on that score.

What do you wish you'd done more of?

Reading, writing, exercising, family stuff.

What do you wish you'd done less of?

Third year in a row: worrying about stuff I can't control, and controlling the stuff I wasn't worried about. I also think it's time to scale back my reading of political blogs and political news. I tire of the whole thing.

I also wish I'd had to replace less ceiling tile at The Store. I just don't like working with the stuff; 'tis a pain in the arse, and I swear I could do the job wearing a full astronaut's space suit, and I would still get a particle of tile in my eye.

How did you spend Christmas?

Reading, a little writing, playing Wii, eating, visiting Little Quinn's grave, and so on.

Did you fall in love in 2008?

My stock answer: I fall in love on a daily basis!

How many one-night stands?

If Sela Ward isn't going to tell, then neither am I. Tina Fey isn't returning my calls anymore, I'm sad to say.

What was your favorite TV program?

The Office, Grey's Anatomy, The Amazing Race, Once and Again, Firefly. (Nobody said I had to limit myself to shows currently running.) We've also taken a shining to Castle and The Mentalist.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

As I note each year, I don't like hate. But there are people who annoy the living heck out of me. To name one, Glenn Beck.

What was the best book you read?

Obviously re-reading Guy Gavriel Kay was a high mark this year. For new stuff, Dan Simmons's The Terror and Stephen King's It were high marks.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

I didn't really do a whole lot of new musical exploration this year, but I dug more into things I either already liked or had already started shifting my opinions of. The big one was my continuing epiphany regarding the Beatles, and my realization that I really like the Bee Gees.

What did you want and get?

I got: a Democratic President, a hammer drill, several different new flashlights, a Wii, tools to do my own oil changes, two new pairs of diagonal pliers (because I wear them out a lot snipping stuff), a belt pouch for tools, a pocket-hole jig, lots of books, a couple of nice travel mugs, a wireless router, a multimeter, bottles of wine and rum and beer that are now long empty, new ornaments for the tree (we're going to need a bigger tree, kind of like Quint's bigger boat), some movies, and some other stuff. I also got to sit behind The Wife on an airplane and watch a Canadian guy hit on her; I got up hyper-early for work (at what we like to call "Oh-dark-thirty") a bunch of times; I got a lot better at the day job; and I even got pied! Not a bad year, actually.

What did you want and not get?

Published. And I didn't want any, since I have a ton already, but it's now two years and counting since the last time I bought a new pair of overalls.

What were your favorite films of this year?

Never a good question for me, as I don't get to the movies much anymore, preferring to wait for DVDs in most cases. The only 2009 releases I saw in 2009 were Star Trek, Up, and The Men Who Stare At Goats. I liked all of these.

What did you do on your birthday?

The Wife and I traveled to the Apple Festival in Ithaca, NY and had a good time. Then we came home and ate Chinese takeout and vanilla bean cake while watching Castle.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?

No change to report here: I'm still the overalls-clad hippie. (Except during the warmer months, when I'm in shorts.)

What kept you sane?

My friends and my family; wine, beer and rum; books and movies; liberal bloggers.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Robin Tunney (on The Mentalist); Stana Katic (on Castle); and the usual suspects (Gillian Anderson and Sela Ward and so on). My man-crushes on George Lucas and Nathan Fillion continue.

What political issue stirred you the most?

The health care bill, I suppose.

Who did you miss?

Those who died.

Who was the best new person you met?

Lots of folks online -- there's a funky little community of overalls-clad folks gathering, and my policy of "friending" everyone on Facebook who asks (unless I screw up and delete the request in one of my mass-deletion binges, which happens more often than I'm comfortable admitting) has led me to meet some really terrific folks, such as a local actress/singer. Pretty cool. Also, my church got a new pastor after the previous one hung up his robes for good after many years of pastoring. The new guy is frankly terrific, so we'll see how this goes.

I should also mention all of the fine folks from high school and college with whom I'd lost track over the years whom I rediscovered in 2009, mostly via Facebook. It's truly wonderful to see how some of these lives have turned out -- marriages and children and careers and the like. People I loved back in the day and now I see them again -- that is just awesome.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008:

Cut to the waste side. Very important, and one of those basic things that's best learned the hard way -- as in, making your cuts and then discovering that each piece is an eighth-inch too short. Ouch!

And keeping the ones from years past: The Internet is made of people. Punting is for losers. Democracy works, eventually. Not all tears are an evil. Whipped cream is a miracle substance. So is ice cream. Use your library; limiting your reading to only those books you can afford to buy is madness. OpenOffice rules. Buy good tools, take care of them, don't lend them out, and they'll last forever. Savory or sweet, eaten or worn, from pizza to apple to coconut cream, pie is wonderful. Screw fashion; if it's comfy, wear it. We're not meant to be alone. No object fits in your hand so perfectly as your wife's hand, and no object fits so perfectly on your shoulder as your child's head. Let it be, and all you need is love.

And keep smiling, because you never know what life will throw in your face next!

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

My favorite Beatles song, for years, has been "In My Life". I've tended to favor various artists covering it over the Beatles themselves playing it, but I've come to appreciate the original a great deal. It's a great song, and even though it doesn't relate specifically to anything from 2009 for me, I'm naming it my personal Song of 2009.



There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I'll love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I'll love you more


2009: In the books.

Something for Thursday

Dougie Maclean....

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Aftermath of a Gift Explosion

Christmas has come and gone for another year. I like that it fell on a Friday this year; the week had a really nice rhythm to it, with my work week ending on Christmas Eve, so I basically left work, segued right into Christmas, and now have two days of "regular weekend" ahead. That's pretty cool.

In a bit we're off to check out a few after-Christmas sales, which ought to be slightly entertaining. We're also planning to buy a new cabinet/desk for our main computer (for which I also need to find time this weekend to install a new power supply and two sticks of memory), and then go out for dinner later on. Tomorrow? Who knows. We'll see what we feel like doing.

What did we get for Christmas? I gave the Wife a new ceramic travel mug, a stack of books, and a pearl necklace. The Kid got several books, three new Webkinz (we have an appalling collection of them now), three movies (Harry Potter IV and V, Ever After), and a few small toys. I received a couple of gift cards, an aluminum travel mug from Panera Bread, and a Dinosaur Barbecue cookbook.

And Santa brought the family a Wii. Yeah, that ought to help spike the blogging frequency 'round these parts!

(Content will probably be light until the New Year arrives, but for now, I'll still be updating a bit. I hope everyone enjoyed the Daily Dose of Christmas.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of my readers, past, present, and future. May the season bring to you all that you wish.





Thursday, December 24, 2009

A puzzlement, solved!

Updating my plea for information the other day, I've found out -- via a friend on Facebook -- just what those mysterious decals are. They are truss signs, which are required by law in New York State (and others). They are there to inform firefighters, in the event of a fire requiring them to enter a burning building, of the type of construction used in the building. That information would undoubtedly help them to avoid falling debris, I suppose.

The one pictured in my post indicates "Type II construction, Roof". I'm not entirely certain what that means, but my guess is that the only trusses to be found there are on the roof, and they're Type II.

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Blackmore's Night has been one of my favorite bands for quite a while now. From their Christmas album of a few years ago, here's their original song "Christmas Eve".

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

If ever a list of the Top Ten singing voices of all time was to be collected, Judy Garland would make the cut.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I sense memery afoot, Watson!

I saw this Christmas quiz-thing over at SamuraiFrog's place, but I noticed that apparently the thing has a huge number of questions, which caused him to pare it down a bit. I, on the other hand, tend to be weirdly obsessive about quiz-things (even though I'm noticing that fewer interesting ones seem to be making the rounds these days), so I Googled a bit and dug up the entire thing. And boy howdy, is it big. Ye Gods! However, I am undaunted, so here we go. (I got it from Knitting is my Boyfriend, by the way. Never seen that blog before, but I'm indebted all the same.)

Favorite Christmas...
01. Non-Jesus-related song?

God, I love the music of Christmastime. That's why I'm doing the "Daily Dose of Christmas" on the blog this year. Picking just one (which hasn't yet come in the rotation, but it will), I'll go with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" -- but it must have the original lyrics:

"Someday soon, we all will be together
if the Fates allow;
Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow."

That lyric gives the song a wonderfully elegiac tone that the nonsensical "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough!" completely destroys. And that lyric change was all Frank Sinatra's fault. I love Sinatra, but he really screwed the pooch on that one.

02. Jesus-related song?

I honestly can't pick one. Seriously, I can't. "Angels We Have Heard On High", "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing", "Silent Night", "Joy to the World" -- any and all of these fill my heart. I'm not that big a fan of "What Child is This" (I keep wanting to sing the words to "Greensleeves"), nor do I much like "Away in a Manger", because of that line about baby Jesus not crying. Why wouldn't he? If God really came into the world as a human, why wouldn't he, as an infant, cry?

I've been kicking around an idea lately that so many Christmas songs are beautiful and eternal because so many of them revolve around the most basic building blocks of Western music, the major scale (what's the first line of "Joy to the World" except a scale in a certain rhythm) or the major triad (a major component of "Silent Night" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"). I'd have to do more work on that notion to flesh it out, though.

03. Santa-related song?

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", I guess.

04. Fictional character?

Billy Mack. (From Love Actually, my favorite Christmas movie.)

05. Dinner’s main course?

Depends. Some years turkey (as it will be this year), other years it's ham. And one year The Wife got sick, so I made pastitsio.

06. Dinner’s dessert?

Whatever we feel like, I guess. No real tradition here.

07. Scent (pine, gingerbread, candles…)?

Pine, peppermint, baking stuff.

08. Animated movie?

Movie? Ruling out the teevee specials, then? The Polar Express. I've never found the animation in that movie creepy at all, not even the characters' eyes.

09. Non-animated movie?

Oops, tipped my answer above: Love Actually. Which reminds me, I'm due to watch it. I'm also due to renew my once-annual tradition (missed the last couple of year) of watching My Fair Lady every year around this time, even though it's not a Christmas movie, per se.

10. Personal memory?

Lots. Second grade Christmas at Disney World; getting my first stereo in fourth grade; first gift exchange with The Girlfriend (now The Wife) in college; The Daughter's first Christmas; lots and lots of memories.

11. Story/Fairy Tale?

"The Gift of the Magi"; Luke Chapter 2.

This or That

12. Candy cane or peppermint patties?

Both. I adore mint in all its candied forms.

13. Sugar or gingerbread cookies?

Both.

14. Tinsel or beaded strands?

We don't use either, actually. Not a conscious choice, but once we have all the lights and ornaments up, anything else seems overkill.

15. Multi-colored or same-colored lights?

Both. Our tree is pre-installed with colored lights, to which we add one strand of white lights.

16. Flashing or still lights?

Still. Not a big fan of flashing. Those lights with the little vials of liquid that bubble are super-neat, though. Gotta buy one of those one of these years.

17. Wreaths or mistletoe/holly?

Wreaths.

18. Rudolph or Frosty?

Rudolph. I was never completely sold on Frosty, and while the Rudolph sequels that are rarely seen anymore aren't all that great, the Frosty sequel -- which is shown every year -- is Godawful.

19. Sledding or snowball fights?

Sledding. I prefer different missiles for "fights" of the throwing variety.

20. Snow or ice/icicles?

Snow. Icicles are cool to look at, though.

21. Snow hat or earmuffs?

Hat. I just got myself a nifty knit hat:

Chapeau!

22. Getting or giving?

Giving, but getting can be nice, too.

23. Snow days or plow trucks?

I work for a living. Plows.

24. Stockings or presents?

We never did the stocking thing, to my recall.

25. Cookies & milk or letter to Santa?

Cookies and milk. Or cheese and beer.

26. Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

Both. We do all of our family gifts on Christmas Eve, and then we save a few big items for The Kid on Christmas Day.

27. Log Burning Channel or real thing?

We have no fireplace, and we have no cable. But if the choice were mine to make, the real thing.

28. Cards or emails?

Either.

29. Shoveling or cleaning off the car?

Both of these tasks suck. I'm the person who only clears enough snow to enable enough visibility for driving. The person driving down the street whose car looks like the head of a comet because all the snow is blowing off the roof? Yeah, that's me.

30. The Inn’s manger or the animals?

Not sure what I'm being asked here.

31. Mary & Joseph or The Wise Men?

Mary and Joseph, I guess.

32. Hot cocoa or eggnog?

Hot cocoa. I'm not the biggest nog fan, although I do like it.

33. Jack Frost or Little Drummer Boy?

Little Drummer Boy.

"Yay!" or "Ugh":

34. Holiday shopping? Yay!

35. Icy roads? Ugh.

36. Limited driving visibility? Epic ugh.

37. Christmas carolers. Yay!

38. Mall Santas? Yay!

39. Salvation Army Santas? Yay!

40. Blizzards? If I'm at work, Ugh. If I'm at home and I don't have to go anywhere, Yay!

41. 24/7 Holiday radio? Yay!

42. Freezing cold? Yay! Cold weather is overalls weather.

43. Setting up the tree? Yay!

44. Wrapping presents? Ugh. I stink at it.

45. Visiting/seeing family? Yay, if we ever did it...but they live on the other side of the country, so it's hard.

46. Ad-Lib on “Rudolph…” (like Monopoly!)

Everybody does it, and the song is never really sung in any kind of situation which would make the ad-lib inappropriate, so I'm fine with it. Yay.

47. Free mint red/white candy?

Yay!

48. Belief in Santa Claus?

Yay!

49. Chocolate advent calender?

We never do this, but I wouldn't say "Ugh", either. Maybe I'll get one next year.

50. Peeking at your gifts (or by accident)?

When I was a kid and thought I was clever, Yay! Now that I'm trying to hide gifts from the kid who thinks she's clever, Ugh!

51. Making out with Santa under the mistletoe?

I'm a guy, so I'm going with "Ugh".

52. Decorated houses?

Yay!

53. Extreme decorated houses?

Big Yay!

54. White Christmas morning?

Yay!

55. Searching for ornaments in the attic?

No attic here, just overstuffed closets. We always know right where our stuff is, so not a big deal.

56. Santa knowing when you’re sleeping and awake?

Ugh! (Although I suspect this is poetic license in the song.)

First Thought That Comes To Mind When You Hear…

57. Snowflake!

The yummy latte we have at the coffee bar at The Store.

58. Pinecones!

Uhh...sharp?

59. Elves!

A Elbereth Gilthoniel!

60. Sleigh!

Ride!

61. Presents!

I want some!

62. Cookies!

Awesome!

63. Mistletoe!

Kissing under it...which I've never done....

64. Rudolph!

Nureyev.

65. Blizzard!

1977. (Even though we didn't live in Buffalo back then.)

66. School’s Canceled!

Crap...do I have to miss work because The Kid has no place to go?

67. Ice Skating!

Not nearly as much like rollerblading as I'd thought.

68. Santa’s Lap!

A place I don't want to be.

69. Black Friday!

Jeebus, you people are warped

70. God’s Son!

The obvious.

71. Melting Snow!

Spring in WNY. Gray, melty and muddy.

72. Lumps of Coal!

There's a company that makes a popcorn ball that's dipped in chocolate; they call it a Lump of Coal. That's what I think of.

73. Nutcracker!

Sure wish the Chinese Buffet had more of 'em, for those pesky crab legs. And the ballet that I want to see one of these years.

74. Ho Ho Ho!

Green Giant!

75. North Pole!

Soon to be ice free!

What’s a Winter Activity YOU Do…

76. …In the snow by yourself?

Walking and sledding.

77. …Inside by yourself?

Reading, writing. Year-round activities, actually.

78. …In a public place?

Shopping, walking, sledding.

79. …With friends/family in the snow at home?

Same stuff as above.

80. …With friends/family inside at home?

Teevee, movies, read, cook....

Grade/Rate Holiday Movies A – F

81. A Christmas Story.

B. It feels like an episode of The Wonder Years, but with a rifle instead of Winnie Cooper.

82. How The Grinch Stole Christmas?

C. Not my favorite.

83. The Santa Clause?

B-minus. I kind of liked it. Never saw the sequels.

84. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer?

A-minus. I'm always bugged by the way the coach cheerfully joins in the ostracizing of Rudolph.

85. Frosty The Snowman?

C-plus. Jimmy Durante's awesome, but this show always feels really slight to me. And that sequel? GAHHH, that is some awful teevee.

86. Home Alone.

C-minus. Don't care much for it. Culkin's not cute, the slapstick antics aren't that funny, and it's got one of the few John Williams scores I don't like.

87. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

B. I think it's funny.

88. Elf.

Haven't seen it.

89. Miracle on 34th Street.

B, I guess. In truth, I haven't seen it since I was very young.

90. A Charlie Brown Christmas.

A-plus. It's a human-made thing, so it's got to have a flaw in it somewhere, but I'm damned if I can spot it.

Christmas At My House… (one or the other)

91. Tree is fake/real?

Fake.

92. Tree is under/above 4′?

Above.

93. Open presents Christmas Eve/Day?

Answered above.

94. House/entire yard is decorated?

Apartment, so no.

95. Amount of presents under the tree?

Right now, zero. We gotta get on the ball here.

96. Snowman is a male/female?

Since Calvin and Hobbes? They're neither. They're deranged mutant killer monster snow goons.

97. Go for Santa/Jesus?

"Go for"? What does that mean?

98. Homemade/delivered/takeout?

Homemade.

99. Bedtime is before/after midnight?

Before.

100. Wake-up is before/after 7am?

It's whenever we hear the kid going "Oh, wowww!"

101. Go/don’t go to church on Christmas?

Christmas Eve, the candlelight service. I'm interested to hear what the new pastor has to say this year.

102. Pray & sing Happy Birthday/do nothing before bed?

Neither.

103. Do shopping before/after Thanksgiving?

I used to start in October, but now I'm lucky if I even have some ideas by Thanksgiving.

104. Low-key/over the top decorations (inside and out)?

A tree and that's about it, for right now.

105. Last minute preparation or long in advance?

Closer to last-minute than otherwise.

106. Errr...oh wait, that appears to be the end. Wow, that was exhaustive, wasn't it? Oh well, enjoy!

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

This is surely one of the oddest, but most magical, duets ever. Here are Bing Crosby and David Bowie:



That's a lovely little thing, isn't it?

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

Up the ravine

Yesterday I had several hours in the afternoon during which I was alone: The Daughter was elsewhere, and The Wife was at work. So I decided to go back to Chestnut Ridge Park, where we spent some time last week. It's a place that deserves to be nearer and dearer to my heart than it is, because it's so beautiful and close and yet I don't get there all that often.

Chestnut Ridge is a park run by Erie County in the "Southtowns" region, where the terrain starts becoming more hilly as one moves away from the flatlands that surround Lake Erie. The most famous feature of Chestnut Ridge is its giant sledding hill, but it's a very beautiful natural place, with lots of hiking, riding, Nordic skiing, and snowmobiling trails. Somewhere within its boundaries there is a natural "eternal flame"; that's high on my list of things to see next year when it starts getting warmer.

Yesterday, I went to a part of the park I'd never been in before. The road follows a ravine to the left, although the ravine is behind a ridge and can't really be seen from the road. I came to a parking area, where another road split off to the left and went down toward that ravine. The road was gated shut, although quite a few folks were walking past the barries anyway; I suppose the road was only closed to motor vehicles so that the park people could save money by not having to plow it.

That road dropped down to a steel-deck bridge that spanned the ravine. The view above is the upstream side of the bridge; here's the downstream view.

Just downstream of the bridge

One thing that always amazes are the signs of life, even in the midst of a wintry forest. Such as this sapling:

Sapling - Chestnut Ridge

I was only out there for about an hour, but what a wonderful hour it was!

Eyes forward!

A puzzlement....

A few months ago I started seeing this decal on doors into stores, and I'm seeing it more and more now:



Could someone tell me just what the heck this decal means? I have absolutely no idea!

Thanks, folks.

No sentential links until 2010

Yeah, I'm just going to stop doing Sentential Links for what will be the last two Mondays of 2009. The weekends are too hectic, and the last thing I want to do on a Sunday night when I'm tired is gather a bunch of links. So this feature will return in 2010.

(Content in general may be sparse between now and the end of the year, but I'm not going on hiatus at all, except for maybe a few days come December 30 or so. We'll see.)

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Yo Yo Ma, Natalie MacMaster, and Allison Krauss team up on "The Wexford Carol".

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Losing! Whiskey! Sexy!

The Buffalo Bills have, a short while ago, lost 17-10 to the New England Patriots. That's their second loss to the Patriots this year and something like their 18th since 2000. Wow. Although they did break their usual pattern of playing the Pats tough the first time and then get blown out the second; they played tough in both games. Same result, though. Whee!!!

The loss today is notable in that it's also the ninth of the season, which means that the Bills are officially playing a losing season. That will be their fifth consecutive losing season. It's also the seventh losing season since their last playoff year (1999). It's also the ninth non-winning season in the same period (since they have two 8-8 finishes, and .500 ball is neither winning nor losing).

Bad franchise, bad team, just plain bad.

(Also, I read yesterday that the way George Bush structured his big "tax cuts for rich people" bill back in 2001, there will be no estate tax in 2010. So if Ralph Wilson dies next year, does that mean he can leave the team to his kids and they would not have to sell the team in order to pay the inheritance tax? Hmmmm....)

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Oddities abound!

:: One of my Facebook friends posted this, and boy howdy, is it perfect Burst of Weirdness material! Behold the ninja...monkey.

:: You know, folks, just because you can make a Nativity scene out of just about anything doesn't mean that you necessarily should make a Nativity scene out of just about anything.

:: I haven't linked anything from Neatorama lately, so I'm just going to take a minute as the site loads in another tab, scroll down to the item I like best on their front page as of this writing, and link it accordingly. So hold on...

checking...

...dooby dooby doo...

Ah, here we go: a good old religious controversy involving a billboard that I, on my honor, found pretty funny.

:: I'm always pleased by a nice video of somebody receiving a pie in the face, so here's a good one involving two ESPN managers, their mutual allegiances to the Yankees and Red Sox, and the bet between them. That's how to lose a bet with grace!

More next week.

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Well, I spend much of this blog airing my grievances, so on to the Feats of Strength!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pass it. Now.

I see, in various places, that deals are now in place to secure the 60 votes needed to end debate on the Health Care bill in the Senate. Setting aside the staggering insanity that we've now reached a place where the Senate requires a supermajority to do anything more than go to the bathroom, it's time to lock down and get this thing done.

My take on the bill? It's nowhere near perfect. I'd frankly like to see the French system adopted in the United States, but...well, I'm not in the mood to write a long post about what I want. The current bill doesn't go far enough, and the process has been very ugly (Joe Lieberman is, in my mind, one of the vilest people in American public life), but it seems on the brink of having produced a bill that does get some good things done. I also note that the bill is, and should, in no way be the final word on health care in this country, just as the first Civil Rights bill in the 1950s was in no way the final word on that topic. If you can't get everything you want, then it seems to me that at least getting some of what you want, or moving in the general direction of something that you want, is the clear course of action.

Some folks say "Oh, just kill the bill and start over". That sounds great -- well, no, it doesn't, especially considering the stark reality that if this bill fails, there will be no "starting over". There will be no rolling-up-of-the-sleeves, "Let's get a better bill". There will be blame, recriminations, head-shakings galore, triumphant nonsense by the Teabaggers...and then health care will again be seen as this toxic thing that no one dare touch for another sixteen years.

We got nowhere with this when I was 22. I'm 38 now, and I'd like to get somewhere, because if we go nowhere again, the fact is that it's almost certain the topic won't come up again until I'm well into my 50s. "This bill or a better bill" is not an option. The only option is "This bill, or no bill."

So pass the damned bill.

Now.

(And for the love of God, start rewriting the Senate rules to get rid of the filibuster. It's just nonsensical.)

Tell you 'bout them Saabin' women....

I don't really have an opinion one way or the other about the end of Saab, but I did want to use that pun as a post headline about it. So there you go.

And of course, I can't make that pun without honoring Howard Keel, so here he is:

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

OK, we can't be serious the entire time we're doing this, right? The video here is awful (the YouTube user posting it indicates that it's from a well-used VHS tape), but the sound is passable. I actually saw the telecast on which Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon, and Doc Severenson did this when it originally aired, and I've remembered little bits of it ever since. Here's a divorcee's take on "The Twelve Days of Christmas".



"...and the place on the south of Italy!"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Your Daily Dose of Christmas Cthulhumas!

Well, it can't be all serious Christmas stuff all the time, right? So here's a carol for those who worship the Old Ones.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Diabetics should not watch this abridged episode of The Brady Bunch.



Yeah, I warned you. If you're writhing about on the ground from a case of insulin shock, don't blame me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Brief Book Notes

A few short notes on some stuff I've read of late:

:: Last Words: A Memoir is the autobiography of George Carlin. Apparently he collaborated over quite a few years with writer Tony Hendra to write this book; after Carlin's death, Hendra apparently put his notes together and produced this book. I would have liked to quote a few passages -- Carlin's wonderful way with words shines forth in this book -- but I already returned the book to the library, and anyway, I'm not sure which passages I could quote and still keep this blog PG-13. Oh well. In brief, let me just note that this is a great read for anyone who liked Carlin and would like to hear some insight as to the evolution of his comedy over the years. What struck me throughout was the optimistic tone of the book, which stands a bit at odds with more than a little of the content of Carlin's work over the last seven or eight years of his life. To go by what he recorded on his albums and in his HBO specials, Carlin became very bitter and cynical toward the end; but to go by this book, he was not really bitter or cynical at all, or at least he wasn't the cranky persona he had on stage in real life.

It's always a bit strange to read these autobiographies of people who were writing them at the time they died. There's no real sense that they're trying to sum things up; they merely figure that they've lived a good long while and want to get some of it down on paper before they go right on living. Carlin refers to a Broadway project he was starting to think seriously about; he refers to continuing to work and record and revise his material. I was reminded of the memoirs of Sir Georg Solti, which were likewise published shortly after Solti's death; at the end of the book, Solti talks about his plans for years to come and pieces he planned to conduct and the like. Performances that never came to pass.

:: One of the cleverest bits of cover art graces the new book The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History, by John Ortved. The picture is a chalkboard, on which some kid -- presumably Bart -- has had to write, "I will not write an unauthorized, uncensored history of The Simpsons. I will not write an unauthorized, uncensored history of The Simpsons. I will not write...." Pretty funny.

This book is mostly transcribed audio history, told in extended quotes from people who have been intimately involved in the making of The Simpsons over the twenty years the show (and, before the show, the shorts on the Tracey Ullman Show). The book is endlessly fascinating (especially for me, a longtime Simpsons fan), and it's truly amazing to note the sheer number of creative people who have come through the show's writers' room. This is a show that's been around for two decades, so there are a lot of people to talk to.

Interestingly, there isn't that much backstage drama with The Simpsons. Sure, there are clashes of personality and conflicts, but nothing really major. People come, work on a beloved show for a while, and then leave. And if they're on the show during the last bunch of years, they do this while constantly hearing how their work isn't nearly as good as the work of those who were there before.

Readers hoping for lots of comic insight into the show may be disappointed. The book is almost exclusively "Inside Baseball", and mostly only mentions specific episodes in passing. One notable thing that I never knew was that the episode in which there's a delusional character who thinks he's Michael Jackson was actually voiced by Michael Jackson. The story behind how this came to be is the type of thing one finds in this book. It's well worth reading.

:: In a disappointing note, I have to report that I bounced off a fantasy book called Across the Face of the World, by Russell Kirkpatrick. I set it aside after about the 120-page mark. It was shaping up to be your typical Fat Fantasy kind of plot; the book opens in a small village in a distant corner of an ancient kingdom (or set of kingdoms), as word is received of a great malevolence arising off to the East. Our main hero is a kid who, I suspect, turns out to be far more than a farm boy. The characters just weren't grabbing me, unfortunately.

I wanted to like this book, on two bases: first of all, the cover art is terrific. It's offbeat, different from the normal kind of thing one sees on the cover of such a tale. Second, the maps in the book are drawn to very impressive detail, with lots of topographic detail given. If only I'd felt any degree of sympathy or interest for the characters! (But I've often bounced off a book only to come to love it on a re-read years later, so we'll see.)

And that's all for now.

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Real tree or fake tree?

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Here's a different version of "The Night Before Christmas", as befits its narrator, John Cleese:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rats, Robots and Retirees, oh my!

I know, I know – Pixar Studios has yet to make a bad movie, and their least effort is merely really good. I know. But after finding their work amazing as everybody else did for several years, I've been disappointed by their last two films, WALL-E and Up. And yet, both of these films seem to generally receive almost unanimously high praise. Odd. In each case, though, I was entranced by the early part of the film and let down by the latter part. Each film left me with the odd sense that the filmmakers just didn't have the total confidence they needed to keep following the threads of their stories in the directions they wanted to go, so each film, after a remarkable start, settles into something a lot more familiar and a lot more routine. Neither film seemed as good to me, as strong, as the previous films in the Pixar canon - Ratatouille, The Incredibles, and my favorite Pixar film to date, Finding Nemo.

(Yes, I omit Cars from that pantheon -- I like that movie more than most, but I do have to concede its problems, especially in the area that we fantasy lovers call "worldbuilding". As finely done as Cars is, it's often just a bit too hard to really buy into the world of the movie. Hard enough to accept that these sentient cars live in a landscape that is so clearly human in its design – I constantly found myself wondering things like "Why would cars build hotels that look like hotels?" and "In a world where the dominant lifeform is the car, what possible purpose do tractors serve?". Even more damaging, though, were the automobile-related physical landmarks in the film, like big rock ridges shaped like radiators and tail-fins. Things like that really kept me, at least in part, outside the film for most of the time. And still, it's a really likable and watchable movie.)

So: Ratatouille, which I watched in its entirety for the first time just a few weeks ago. I'd already seen lots of it, perhaps eighty percent of it, in bits and pieces on nights when The Daughter watched it. I loved this film a great deal, when I finally watched it from beginning to end. Its strengths are the same as all of the great Pixar films: character and story, of course, but I also think that the best Pixar films also achieve something visually that most, if not all, of the other animation studios only scratch at: visual beauty. Ratatouille is a gorgeous film. Setting the film in Paris, the animators imbue every frame with a glowing appearance, befitting Remy (our rat hero) and his view of Paris as ultimate land of culinary dreams come true. Even in the scenes set in dark places, the film has "pockets" of light, such as the rooms, and the tableaus within, that Remy briefly looks down upon as he runs through the floorboards and plumbing ducts of the great city.

More than that, Ratatouille, as a film, has the courage of its convictions as it plays out. This is important, and it's a big reason why I was somewhat unsatisfied by Wall-E and Up.

In the first case, we have the story of the "little trash robot that could". I've got to be honest: the first half of that movie is utterly engrossing, and it's all the more engrossing because it all plays out without dialog to explain things along the way. All we hear are ambient sounds as Wall-E does his daily routine in his world (which is our world, after we've piled it so high with garbage that we've literally abandoned it). Onto his world arrives another robot, this one clearly feminine and far more advanced than Wall-E, and there's a very gentle kind of thing that goes on in the movie next as the two robots get to know each other. Or, rather, as Wall-E tries to get to know Eve, who at first doesn't seem terribly interested in Wall-E at all.

Eventually the movie brings us back to the world of humans, which is roughly where I felt the film deflate a bit. A lot of the film's magic seems to go away when the humans are around. The notion is that we've become so technologically advanced that we need literally do nothing for ourselves, so we've all become a very fat and sedentary species. In fact, the greatest human accomplishment depicted in the movie is when one particular human actually stands up. The old "dangers of technological reliance" chestnut is a very old SF plot; we've seen it many times before and will doubtless see it many more times to come. In Wall-E it's just OK, but to be honest, every time our attention in the movie is directed to the humans, I found myself thinking, within seconds, "Can we get back to the two robots?"

I think it's because the scenes between Wall-E and Eve are so good that the other stuff ends up feeling perfunctory, and I started to suspect that maybe the Pixar folks just couldn't bring themselves to do what I wish they'd have done: made the two robots and their love story the entire movie, with no human presence at all. At no point did I wonder where the humans were or if they'd ever come back to Earth; I didn't need to know how the terraforming of our own home planet would come to pass. All I wanted to see was the interaction of the trash robot and the sleek explorer robot.

The scene where Wall-E and Eve "dance" in space is one of the most magical things I've ever seen in a movie, but that scene almost seems to max out the movie's magic quotient.

That brings me to Up. Again, I felt let down by Pixar about halfway through the film, when for no reason I can discern, they took a captivating narrative that had been casting an irresistible spell over me and went instead in a much more conventional direction.

Up begins with a sequence that has been lauded by nearly everyone I've heard comment on the film. We meet our hero, Carl Frederickson, as a young boy who is obsessed with the exploratory adventures of one of those Charles Lindbergh-types who used to go around the world, into the unexplored places of our planet, and come back with thrilling tales of wonderment, until he too disappeared. Carl meets a girl with the same obsession, Ellie, and over the next few minutes the film takes us through Carl and Ellie's life together – as childhood friends, then sweethearts, then husband and wife. The film depicts, with little or no dialog, the day they move into their house, the day they lose their baby, the days they spend quietly together while still nursing thoughts of adventure in their minds, and finally, Ellie's fatal illness. By the time we get to the meat of the story, Carl is an old and somewhat bitter widower.

The sleepy street he lives on has become Development Hell, and the developers want him to move so they can finish their big skyscraper or something like that. They seem to finally get the upper hand on him, forcing him to abandon his house (and, by extension, his life with Ellie) and move to an old folks' home – but Carl ties thousands of helium-filled balloons to his chimney, lifting the house free from its foundations. Thus does he set his sights on South America, where he hopes the find the almost mythical locale that eluded the disappeared adventurer from his youth. It's just Carl and his house, floating southward beneath a giant bunch of balloons. Carl settles himself into his favorite armchair for the journey, when there's a knock at his door. It turns out that when the house had broken free of its moorings, a local boy scout named Russell, who needs to get that last badge to complete his training for whatever the next level up happens to be, was on his porch about to knock the door when the house took flight. The film is now a tale of an unlikely friendship that is slow to develop as Carl must start to set aside some of his bitterness, now that this kid who is young and earnest but prone to screwing up is along for the ride.

All of this is wonderful stuff. Really, it is; the way the film doesn't shy from some of the darker aspects of life and the whimsical manner of Carl's escape from his old life in precisely an effort to grab the last bit of his old life he has left to him struck me as reminiscent of a Roald Dahl story. Don't like where you are? Then float away to somewhere else in your own house using a bunch of balloons! That's a totally Roald Dahl-ish kind of story to tell. Likewise, the friendship between an old man and an awkward young kid put me in mind of another favorite kid-lit author of mine, John Bellairs. I loved the movie pretty much up until the inevitable moment when it's finally revealed what became of the adventurer whose exploits Carl and Ellie had worshiped as children.

To be fair, I didn't hate what ensued from that point in the movie. The talking dogs are pretty funny, after all. And the film's use of flight as a motif seemed to be a nice homage to the work of Hayao Miyazaki. The problem I had is that until we meet the old adventurer in his old zeppelin, everything in the movie seems new and fresh, while everything that happens after that just seemed routine. All of the film's magic and whimsy disappears as it becomes another race-against-time, chase-the-bad-guy-before-he-can-do-something-awful kind of flick. It greatly disappointed me that a movie as astonishingly good in its first half, so full of imagination and spirit, has an ending that involves fisticuffs and heroes dangling precariously above terrifying heights while the villain cackles. If only the filmmakers had had enough imagination to give Up a conclusion that didn't let the first half of their film down so far.

I'm not down on Pixar per se, but I must admit that their recent films haven't thrilled me as much as they have many others. I'm rooting for them to return to form. Perhaps they'll surprise me with Toy Story 3, a sequel which just doesn't strike me as particularly necessary. We'll see. As I said, Pixar has yet to make a bad film.

The Ball of the Foot

Some random babblings 'bout football:

:: Wow, the Steelers really have this suck-good-suck thing going on, don't they? They're awesome and win the Super Bowl, then they suck, then they get better, then they win the Super Bowl again, and now they suck. Weird.

:: I admit that I thought for sure that Brett Favre would start to stink up the joint at some point, and aside from that one game against the Cardinals, he hasn't. But then, the Vikings' schedule has really helped him out, hasn't it? First, they play in a bad division (even though the Packers seem to be catching on finally); second, they're in a dome; third, with just two or three exceptions (which are almost all behind them anyway), it seems as though each time they face a good teams, they're at home, and their road games have been mostly against bad teams. I don't know, but I don't see them beating New Orleans on the road. But then, eleven years ago I didn't see Atlanta beating Minnesota on the road, either....

:: Kurt Warner is a Hall of Famer, and I'll have strong words with anyone who says he isn't. I love that guy.

:: If nothing else, I'll always love the 2009 season for giving me this scene:



:: I heard quite a bit of talk radio chatter today about Randy Moss, who is apparently in a bit of hot water in New England right now because he might not be squeezing out maximum effort. Well, no one has a right to be shocked about this at all. I recall one sports pundit writing this, shortly after the Patriots' not-quite-undefeated season thudded to a close:

And then there's Randy Moss, who somehow gets credit this year for being on his best behavior, which is his history as a player, when he is winning. If Moss re-signs with New England, and he's still with them in two or three years, let's see how happy he's acting if the team is 10-6 and making an early exit in the playoffs. I have a strong feeling that we haven't seen the last of the "I don't play hard all the time" Randy Moss.


That was me, by the way. Boo-yeah!

:: This time of year brings many things to football fans. If you're an NFC East team fan (aside from the Redskins), you're rooting for a playoff run. If you're a Colts fan, you're thinking about selling your tickets to the remaining home games because they're going to be on autopilot until the playoffs get here. And if you're a Bills fan, you debate your fellow fans on the issue of whether it would be better for the team to lose out, and get a better draft pick, then keep trying to "fight the good fight" and pick up a meaningless win or two. I can sort of understand the sentiment, but to me, this thinking is somewhat wrong-headed.

Consider that teams like New England, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh have been good for years now, despite rarely picking in the top five of the draft, if ever. How do they do it? Those franchises have GMs and front offices that know how to evaluate talent and how to make the most of the draft choices they have. Those franchises are constantly picking guys who develop into studs, and they don't need to be in the top five of the draft to do it. That's what the Bills lack, and have lacked, for years.

The Bills are likely to pick somewhere around tenth this year. Maybe they'll get as high as seventh. At that spot, they can still get a good player, or even trade down to add picks later in the draft. But they desperately need a new front office to make this work.

Put it this way: would I rather have the Bills' current brain trust running the draft if they had the top pick in each round, or would I rather have a clone of Bill Polian running the Bills' draft if they were only picking twentieth? Yeah, I'm gonna go with the latter. So, losing or winning right now doesn't matter, except for the possibility that winning their way to 7-9 or even 8-8 might cause Ralph Wilson to conclude that the front office is just fine, even though these are the guys who traded up for JP Losman and John McCargo, took Aaron Maybin over Brian Orakpo, decided that Haloti Ngata wasn't as big a stud as Donte Whitner, and so on. That would be disaster.

A lot of thinking, given that I haven't even been watching football lately!

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

As this year was The Year I Embraced the Beatles, here's John Lennon.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Western New York in Winter


Chestnut Ridge (5), originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

The other day we took a trek up to Chestnut Ridge Park, a county-run preserve in the hills south of Buffalo. We don't get there all that often, for reasons passing understanding, since the park is about fifteen minutes from Casa Jaquandor, and that's if you hit all the red lights. The place is gorgeous in winter, and was the scene last weekend for an annual Christmas-themed event, with crafts and cookies and hot chocolate and Santa and sledding and "hayrides" (involving a big passenger wagon pulled by a big pickup truck).

After we completed our run through the activities in the big building (called the Casino) at the main gate of the park, we took a quick drive up into the park and back, and as we did so, I rolled down my window and snapped a bunch of photos. This one was taken as we approached a bridge over one of the streams that runs through the park. It was a really beautiful winter day.

(The rest of the photos are on my Flickr stream.)

Sentential Links #192

Linkage! Get your linkage here!

:: When whatever industry it is that comes to dominate the American economy in the 21st Century the way the auto industry dominated the 20th comes to the realization that it is faced with cripling liability exposure as a result of a tort system rooted in the economics of the 19th Century we will either see change, or the collapse of that industry. It is only a question of time.

:: So if I was as young, good looking, rich, famous, and talented as Tiger Woods, my role model wouldn’t be Tiger Wood.

It would be Warren Beatty.

If you’re going to be a selfish, narcissistic, philandering jerk, you ought to at least be a gentleman about it.


:: I first met Lester Bangs via the telephone. I was a bored teenager. Growing up in South Florida in the early 70's, there weren't many people who liked the Stooges and the Velvet Underground. I read Creem and Rock Scene and zines like Who Put The Bomp, Back Door Man, Denim Delinquent, The Rock Marketplace, Gulcher, Punk (the original Punk from Buffalo which predated the New York mag by two years). I used to call the Creem offices in Michigan around midnight every couple of weeks. Lester was always there, usually speeding away, editing and writing. Sometimes he was drunk, or high on cough syrup. I remember him playing me a test pressing of Patti Smith's Horses over the phone in its entirety. (Fascinating post on the great rock critic Lester Bangs.)

:: Bing Crosby always reminds me of Christmas. And not just because of his famous movie and song, White Christmas (of which Otis Redding brilliantly covered), but because he encapsulates everything about Christmas -- the dreams, the hopes, the sentiment, the lights (linger on...your pale blue eyes, Bing), the well meaning and the holiday, and yet, the haunted quality of tradition -- the Shining like reminder of times gone past. Like Christmas, Bing carries eerie memories and an underlying dysfunction. And in real life, Bing was no saint.

:: Well, this sucks: it seems the Orient Express, the famed Paris-to-Istanbul train that's been the setting of so many fictional mysteries and thrillers, will cease operation as of this Monday. Like so many other relics of a more elegant age, it's been made obsolete by faster and more convenient alternatives. (No more Orient Express? This is well and truly turning into a world I don't want to live in anymore. Yeesh.)

:: What does a half million galaxies look like?

:: One of my favorite feelings of Christmas Time is remembering the past.. when we were all very small and innocent and 'truly Believed' ...all the magic of the world lived within our hearts ... With every twinkly light we saw...we made secret wishes...and believed they would come true...because someone Magical 'heard' our wishes...what a time it was. (How true!)

More next week.

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

This comes from one of my favorite Christmas albums, by the Japanese New Age musician Kitaro.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Oddities abound!

:: CBS needs to work on its public service announcements, I think. Wow, what a tone-deaf ad.

:: Other networks suck, too. I, like SamuraiFrog, noticed that something was amiss with this year's ABC airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Little did I realize how much was amiss. Time to get a DVD and stop relying on ABC each year.

:: I recently had a few people on Facebook take me to task when I suggested that, despite its status as the Coolest Weapon Ever Conceived Whether It's Fictional Or Not, the lightsaber may not actually be the best item with which to carve a turkey. (I think it would vaporize a cross-section of the meat equal to the thickness of the blade, as well as leaving behind a charred surface, instead of succulent and juicy turkey.) And obviously, real lightsaber chopsticks would be silly. But I still want the fake ones.

:: Ever wonder what to get that one friend of yours? You know, the one who's a Jewish Star Trek fan? Wonder no more.

:: I sometimes thumb through Popular Mechanics at the library, and on that basis, I found this selection of some of the goofiest notions to ever grace their cover highly fascinating and amusing. I'm not sure if my favorite is the "skiers pulled by helicopter" one, or the "Nerd from Happy Days on his ocean-going bicycle" one.

:: Apropos of a continual subject of interest on this blog, it turns out that overalls are not good attire for surfing. I'd have never thought to even try it, but I'm glad someone did! If my occasional experiences with standing outside in overalls on a very windy day are any guide, I suppose that turbulent currents in and out of surfing waves and whatnot can yank one around a lot, especially when the bib fills with water. (Seriously -- if it's windy enough, you can angle yourself outside so that the bib of your overalls fills with air and yanks on you like a sail. It's an odd feeling. I learned this years ago when I stopped to buy gas in Buffalo on a winter day...I stepped out of the car, without my coat, and almost got turned around in the wind. I am not making this up.)

All for this week. I loaded up a bit because I expect to be fairly busy and thus not doing much noodling about Teh Interwebs the next week. We'll see.