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

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: The Year That Did Not Suck

Well, we're less than six hours away from a new year, as I write this. It's tradition here at Byzantium's Shores for me to end up a year's posting with this quiz, so here we go...but all things considered, 2010 was not a bad year for me, at all. Some things could have been better, but that's always the case, and on balance...I like where I am heading into 2011. (I'm gamely resisting the fact that in general, it's been the odd years lately that have been offering up various arse-kickings...but I'm not the superstitious type.)

So, the annual quiz for the end of the year!

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

Some yes, some no. Which is pretty much the way it always is. I learned more about the technical aspects of my job, and I have hopes that this will position me for a "jump up the food chain" at work sometime in 2011. I read quite a bit, but I never feel like I read enough. And I fell off the wagon a bit in terms of the "fitness" thing. But that's a wagon easily reboarded, I think.

The one area I'm disappointed in myself is writing. I did not write enough, not by a longshot. That needs to change. I do have a new project, though, which is nice.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

You know, try as I might, I can't think of anyone who did! Weird, huh? No one really close, anyway. I do have online friends who had babies. But no major births in the immediate vicinity of the Family Unit.

Did anyone close to you die?

No. This is where I tend to get nervous about the upcoming odd year.

What countries did you visit?

In the real world, the USA and that's it. In lands of imagination, I visited lands far and wide. Worlds far and wide, actually! And that's the way I like it.

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

As noted above, I'd like to finally take the "next step" in both my career at The Store and with my writing "career". I'd also like a router. (The woodworking kind, not the computer kind. Got one of those.)

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

This wasn't a year for big achievements. It was, instead, a year for keeping the ball in motion, all the time. I think. I'm not actually sure where I'm going with that metaphor...hmmm....

What was your biggest failure?

Maybe one of these years I'll just admit to myself that The Promised King is never going to be "finished"...but I don't want to admit that, so I'll keep pretending that it's just on a hiatus and that I haven't really moved on to stuff I'd like to do more than this story notion that I've nursed since college.

What was the best thing you bought?

I didn't buy anything major at all this year! Just little stuff. Like the dragon incense burner that's on my desk right now; that thing is crazy cool. (I'll take pictures.) I bought quite a few books. Maybe the best thing I bought was a Christmas gift for The Daughter. She absolutely loved the movie The Phantom of the Opera, so I went to eBay and tracked down a replica of the actual music box from the movie/show. That was pretty cool.

Whose behavior merited celebration?

The Wife and the Daughter, obviously.

And the 2010 Buffalo Bills, whom I expected to be awful and who probably were (they're 4-11 going into the final game), but they proved to be scrappy and tough and hardworking, all the things I was hoping they'd be. Except for winning.

And soon-to-depart-her-current-office House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She made a lot of great things happen. Yes, as a lifelong liberal Democrat I had hoped for more, but I have to admit that they did get a great deal of amazing things accomplished.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Tea Partiers: that coalition of standard Republicans and...standard Republicans. They are a scary, scary bunch of people.

Where did most of your money go?

Food, bills, books.

What did you get really excited about?

Guy Gavriel Kay had a book come out! Carl Paladino did not become Governor! The Wife and I took our annual trip together to Ithaca! The Family and I took a trip to Pittsburgh!

What song will always remind you of 2009?

Well...OK then. Watching last season's Celebrity Apprentice made me like Bret Michaels a whole lot, and then he had some major health problems. And then, he won Celebrity Apprentice. And then, two days after that, on the finale of American Idol, this happened:



This moment made me cheer...and I don't even like "Every Rose Has Its Thorn". But that song will be forever associated with the year that Bret Michaels came back in a big way.

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

Happier, I think.

Thinner or fatter?

Sigh....

Richer or poorer?

About the same.

What do you wish you'd done more of?

Writing! And reading. And listening to music. And watching movies.

What do you wish you'd done less of?

I probably should have eaten less. But it was all oh, so good....

How did you spend Christmas?

Opening gifts, going to church, eating a turkey dinner, watching Elf and episodes of The Big Bang Theory.

Did you fall in love in 2010?

I fall in love every day!

How many one-night stands?

As if I'd tell. I'm a gentlemen. (And it was zero, anyway. I'm married, don't you know!)

What was your favorite TV program?

Castle, The Big Bang Theory, The Amazing Race, Survivor (damn show finally wore me down), and Arthur. Because Arthur is awesome, and I'll have words with anyone says otherwise. (And still Firefly, Star Trek, and I'm rewatching The X-Files.)

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

I don't hate. Hate is a bad emotion. But there are sure a lot of Teabagger-Republican types with whom I could have happily dealt never knowing about....

What was the best book you read?

GGK's Under Heaven.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

This wasn't really a year for musical discoveries. Maybe Alexandre Desplat, a film composer who has come on the scene the last bunch of years.

What did you want and get?

I wanted books, and got 'em. I wanted pizza a whole bunch of times, and got it! I wanted time with The Wife, and got it (although not nearly enough). I wanted some new hand tools, and got 'em. I wanted to hear the Buffalo Philharmonic live, and I got to do that; I wanted to make more food from scratch or at least try new recipes, and I got to do that. I wanted to hold The Wife's hand, have The Daughter teach me to play videogames, laugh a lot, wear overalls, learn more about carpentry and other maintenance jobs at work, read more space opera, and go sight-seeing around the very town in which I live; I got to do all those things. And I wanted pies in my face, and I got those, too.

What did you want and not get?

Well, we're starting to feel as though it's time to look beyond apartment living. That's all I want to say about that. And my car, faithful and trusty steed that it's been, is a 1992 granny-mobile. I'd love to be able to replace it soon.

What were your favorite films of this year?

Of films that came out this year -- Unstoppable and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. I rarely see movies the year they come out anymore.

What did you do on your birthday?

We celebrated my birthday with our annual trip to Ithaca for the Apple Harvest Festival. This wasn't actually on my birthday, but a week later. Had we gone to Ithaca for the Apple Harvest Festival on my birthday, the Festival would have been disappointing, as it wasn't held on my birthday. Hence the delayed celebration.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?

Oh, come now. All overalls, all the time. Well OK, not all the time. But my manner of dress hasn't changed much at all in years, and I see no reason to change it now. I have zero use for what is "fashionable".

What kept you sane?

Laughing; reading; writing; discovering that even though we've been together in one way or another for almost twenty years, I still have ways of getting to know The Wife; singing loudly in the car when I'm by myself; torturing The Daughter with awful puns (something my father did to me, coincidentally enough!); geeking out to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. And take it from me: if you ever feel that maybe you're taking yourself too seriously, have your spouse or significant other hit you with a pie. It's awfully hard to take yourself seriously when your face is dripping whipped cream and coconut custard.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Stana Katic. Melissa Rauch. Jenna Fischer (although her show is limping along). Tina Fey. Lisa Edelstein. Hugh Laurie. Crystal Bowersox. Jeff Probst. Nathan Fillion. Barack Obama. And that woman in the Geico commercial, the one with the little piggy that cried "WEEE WEEE WEEE" all the way home. Seriously -- she's on screen for something like eight seconds total in that ad, and she totally and convincingly conveys her enormous weariness with driving this annoying shouting pig around.

What political issue stirred you the most?

The health care bill, I suppose. Global warming, too.

Who did you miss?

I miss everybody who's gone, even for a little while. I miss you folks when you don't comment for a bit, or when my traffic's down, or when I'm in a posting funk and not writing much. And I miss my characters when I'm not writing about them.

Who was the best new person you met?

I "met" some fantastic folks online this year. I won't list them, but I wager they'll know who they are. Some are part of the goofy community of "overalls wearers" that has sprung up online; others are hardware bloggers; some blog food, others geek culture. And I met some great people in person, too. Cool people rule -- be a cool person!

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:

I'm not sure it's a "life lesson", but I've become less afraid of screwing up this year. Sometimes you just have to plow ahead and deal with any negative consequences later. Besides, I've always loved learning and I've believed for years that we learn best by screwing up, so...bring on the screw-ups! Embrace your inner FAIL! It'll make you better in the longrun.

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:

Here's a song I like a lot. I like a lot of this guy's songs a lot. It's "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" by Jimmy Buffett.



I took off for a weekend last month
Just to try and recall the whole year
All of the faces and all of the places
Wonderin where they all disappeared
I didn't ponder the question too long
I was hungry and went out for a bite
Ran into a chum with a bottle of rum
And we wound up drinkin all night

Its these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane


Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places Ive been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again
If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall
Good times and riches and son of a bitches
Ive seen more than I can recall

These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
Through all of the islands and all of the highlands
If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane


I think about paris when Im high on red wine
I wish I could jump on a plane
So many nights I just dream of the ocean
God I wish I was sailin again
Oh, yesterdays over my shoulder
So I can't look back for too long
There's just too much to see waiting in front of me
And I know that I just can't go wrong

With these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of my running and all of my cunning
If I couldn't laugh I just would go insane
If we couldn't laugh we just would go insane
If we weren't all crazy we would go insane


Excelsior, 2010! And bring on 2011.

(Oh, and if you've hung on this long, thanks for reading, whether you've read this blog for a long or a short while!)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: Closing the Books on another Year

It's that time of year again: time to do some looking back before taking a big leap forward. Hooray, end of the year! So herein we have my annual summation of what I think are some pretty good posts along the way. I like to think that I had a typically good year here at Byzantium's Shores; and as always, I met a bunch of cool new people along the way. That's what it's all about!

I'd call attention first to a couple of ongoing posting projects. It took a while, but I finished up with Fixing the Prequels: Attack of the Clones, and I did Ask Me Anything! not once, but twice. (And we'll do it again in February 2011, huzzah!) I also started a rewatch of The X-Files. I'm not that far in yet, but we'll get there in 2011. And there was The Beatles Song of the Week, which I did not do weekly. But I did a Thirty Day Challenge in thirty consecutive days! Huzzah!!

But anyway, it was a pretty fun year, and I hope that showed up in the posts!

So, let's get to the retrospective.

2010: The first half


The 2010 photo montage, part one!

Click for larger version with annotated links to original photos.


January

Seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra
100 quotes every geek should know
Ringing in 2010
A Quiz of Questionable Politeness
Recipe: Straw and Hay
My tool cart: a brief tour
Recipe: Pulled pork
Ben Shapiro is an idiot
All Aboard the Chan-wagon!
Things I'd say to certain people
A Quiz on Writing
National Pie Day!
A Negative Quiz
Pepsi Throwback: I love it!

February

A Dizzney Quizz
My favorite new appliance of the year: the corn popper!
Cat plus Laser equals FUN FUN FUN!
The View from Inside My Head
Thoughts on Super Bowl XXVCIIMLFJJIII
Nutella: it's awesome!
Ten Cinematic Kisses
Vintage hickory-striped Lee overalls: I love 'em!
Angry driver is angry.
The Orchard Park railroad station: stepping into history

March

When magazines go bad
http://byzantiumshores.blogspot.com/2010/03/rossini-ravel-and-eighty-percent-of.html
How I spend break
Homemade Shamrock Shakes, and other delights
The BPO takes the Spanish Main
The "Ten Things" quiz
An appreciation of those who fly the Millennium Falcon
Pie versus Cake
Remembering Vincent's Pizza in Pittsburgh
A tale of mechanical frustration

April

Ten posts I will never write
To Pittsburgh!
Signs you're in a good local lunch establishment
Maple Syrup and other delights
A Teevee Quiz
A Star Trek Quiz
Wherein I wax poetic about Bib Overalls
Chili, and other delights
A Music Quiz
Guilty, or innocent?

May

A Comics Quiz
Fried rice, Chiavetta's chicken, and other delights
OMG my life has been taken over by USB cords!
My second Air Force One flyover
I love Castle and I don't care who knows it!
Thoughts on the finale of Survivor: All-stars
Thoughts on the finale of American Idol

June

Some random observations
I still think that Selig should have given that guy a perfect game.
100 Characters
Wondering about a Wonder Woman movie
On beating Super Mario Bros!
The Library Book Sale: June edition
On the passing of Al Williamson
The BPO does the Beatles
On the passing of Dr. Warren Schmidt
I consume a Twinkie, and live to tell the tale


2010: The second half


The 2010 photo montage, part two!

Click for larger version with annotated links to original photos.


July

How America was Born (or, Why it's a good thing I didn't try to major in History)
Coming up with names for an SF book: not easy.
A big book quiz
Lebron James: King of the Douches
Homemade pizza, homemade burgers, and other delights
Remembering the Bristol Hills Music Camp
MarioKart!
I really like Breakfast.
100 Science Fiction books everyone should read
A short morality play

August

The Buffalo News's decline in quality control
Maybe they think overalls should only be worn over hair shirts....
My friend Matt Jones gets married!
I have an "ilk"!"
Best Boss Ever!
More SF books everybody should read!
A Horrific Quiz!
Overalls and the iPad: a match made in Heaven!
Our day at the Erie County Fair
The "Things I've Done" quiz
On the passage of Bill Roosa, my high-school band director
Gregg Easterbrook, uncorking his bottle of stupid

September

Olympic Pie Throwing?!
Photographing Green Lake in Orchard Park
Yes, I love Arthur, and I'm not afraid to admit it!
Rachael Ray takes overalls mainstream!
On fake swearing
The Behaviors of George Costanza

October

Talking to my younger self: a quiz-thing
55 questions about books
I tried. I really did. But I don't like Glee.
The Pirates continue to be really bad....
A Halloween quiz
Lisa Edelstein: ROWR!
Mary Poppins, the stage show

November

I won! I won! I won! I won!
100 Tweets about Overalls
A word picture
Papa John's is here! (so what?)
How I spent International Overalls Day!
On cheating (the academic kind, not the marital kind!)
Things I'm thankful for
Little Quinn, five years gone....
Black Friday: a day of shopping, eating, and taking pies in my face.

December

A Star Wars quiz
The antidote to annoyance: seeing people getting pied.
Remembering John Lennon (a bit, anyway)
My year in Facebook statuses
Wow, there have been a lot of animated movies....
Melissa Rauch: ROWR!
On the nature of blogging comments
Christmas at Casa Jaquandor
Boom de yada!
An unexpected overalls sighting!
The year's new Christmas ornaments


Book Posts

The Color Trilogy, Kim Dong Hwa

Cordelia's Honor, Lois McMaster Bujold

Empire Falls, Richard Russo

Fool, Christopher Moore

Gentlemen of the Road, Michael Chabon

Grease Monkey, Tim Eldred

Jaran, Kate Elliott

Judas Unchained, Peter F. Hamilton

Justice League: A League of One

Kushiel's Chosen, Jacqueline Carey

The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession, Allison Hoover Bartlett

Moby Dick, Herman Melville

Napoleon's Pyramids, William Dietrich

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Spiderman: Reign

Sports From Hell: My Search for the World's Dumbest Competition, Rick Reilly

Wolverine: The Brotherhood

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle

You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation, Susannah Gora

14000 Things to be Happy About

Movie Posts

Avatar

Battle Beyond the Stars

The Battle for Terra

The Dark Knight

The Empire Strikes Back (a 30-year retrospective)

The Fugitive

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Howl's Moving Castle

Independence Day

Jurassic Park

Krull

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon 2

The Lost World: Jurassic Park
The Mask of Zorro

The Men Who Stare At Goats

Nixon

O Brother Where Art Thou?

The Phantom of the Opera

Ponyo

Spiderman 2

Star Wars Revisited

Starcrash

Unstoppable

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Does he still wear that stupid bow tie, by the way?

Tucker Carlson on Michael Vick:

"I'm a Christian. I've made mistakes myself. I believe fervently in second chances," Carlson said. "But Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did in a heartless and cruel way. And I think, personally, he should've been executed for that. He wasn't, but the idea that the president of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs? Kind of beyond the pale."


You know, I don't like Vick either. I hate what he did, and if he were to end up on the Bills' roster, I would end my fandom almost immediately. But execution? Come on, now. And to advocate execution in the same breath of claiming to be a Christian? Tucker, I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Vick did a horrible, disgusting thing. But he also paid the price that our legal system decided to exact from him. Saying he should have been executed? That's just silly. But then, Tucker Carlson is a pretty silly person.

The Lucas Itch

I love me some John Scalzi, but that creates problems for me because as much as I loves me some John Scalzi, I loves me some George Lucas way more. And John Scalzi most certainly does not love him some George Lucas much at all. Today Scalzi responds to someone who is responding to a four-year-old post of his, which leads me to look at that four-year old post itself. And now I really wish I hadn't. Because...well...it's crap. Crap of the "My opinion of [Item X] is fact" crap. And I think, largely, that Scalzi wrote the original post because he thought of a new way to speak negatively about Star Wars, which is a pastime he rarely fails to engage in when the opportunity presents itself.

How else to take this statement:

Star Wars is not entertainment. Star Wars is George Lucas masturbating to a picture of Joseph Campbell and conning billions of people into watching the money shot.


He goes on to describe the entirety of Lucas's output in Star Wars in lots of negative ways, including maintaining his "masturbation" imagery by use of the adjective "Onanistic". OK then.

Here's the thing, though -- Scalzi seems to make some odd assumptions regarding the concept of "entertainment". Take this, for example:

There is nothing in the least bit “popular” about the Star Wars films. This is true of all of them, but especially of Episodes I, II and III: They are the selfish, ungenerous, onanistic output of a man who has no desire to include others in the internal grammar of his fictional world. They are the ultimate in auteur theory, but this creator has contempt for the people who view his work — or if not contempt, at the very least a near-austistic lack of concern as to whether anyone else “gets” his vision. The word “entertainer” has as an assumption that the creator/actor is reaching out to his or audience to engage them. George Lucas doesn’t bother with this. He won’t keep you out of his universe; he just doesn’t care that you’re in it. To call the Star Wars films “entertainment” is to fundamentally misapprehend the meaning of the world.


There are an awful lot of assertions here, with no evidence or citations to back them up. No working definition, for example, of what we're even talking about with respect to "entertainment" is forthcoming. But on what possible basis can George Lucas be said to not be "reaching out to his audience to engage them"? You can argue all you want that he's not successful in his efforts, but that's not remotely the same thing as saying he doesn't try at all.

Or take that word "popular", in Scalzi's first sentence above. Again, no definition is given, so I have no idea what Lucas could have included in a Star Wars film that would satisfy Scalzi's desires here, but...well, as far as I can see, this is still false. Sure, Jar Jar Binks was a deeply unpopular character, but is that because Lucas openly decided to include something unpopular, or was he trying to include something that he hoped would be popular? Given that the "goofy sidekick" has been a standard element in storytelling since, well, forever, I think the latter is more likely. Ditto in Attack of the Clones, when Lucas tried to include another trope that has been deeply popular throughout the years, the youthful romance. Again, you can argue that Lucas failed -- but failure is not synonymous with not making the attempt in the first place. (Again, I'm assuming Scalzi's meaning here, because he doesn't clarify matters at all.)

Then there is this:

What’s interesting about mythology is that it’s the residue of a teleological system that’s dead; it’s what you get after everyone who believed in something has croaked and nothing is left but stories. Building a mythology is necrophilic storytelling; one that implicitly kills off an entire culture and plays with its corpse (or corpus, as the case may be). It’s one better than being a God, really. Gods have to deal with the universes they create; mythmakers merely have to say what happened. When Lucas started Star Wars with the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” he was implicitly serving notice to the audience that they weren’t participants, they were at best witnesses to events that had already happened, through participants who were long dead.


I'm sorry, but this is deeply, deeply silly. It just is.

Storytelling is, by its very nature, not participatory. At all. I have never, not once, been a "participant" in any movie I've ever seen. I wasn't a "participant" when I saw Casablanca. I wasn't a "participant" when I saw Titanic. I wasn't a "participant" when I saw The Lord of the Rings. I wasn't a "participant" when I saw 3:10 to Yuma. I wasn't a "participant" when I saw...you get the idea. And this isn't just true of movies: how would I "participate" when reading The Pit and the Pendulum? How would I "participate" in Rendezvous with Rama? How would I "participate" in The Once and Future King? or Maus? or Pride and Prejudice? or Old Man's War? Was I supposed to think of myself as a "participant" in any of these?

To my knowledge, there's only one form of storytelling right now in which you can participate, and that is the video game. (Which is why I think that games are a pretty exciting development in artistic terms.) Yes, there are arts and entertainments in which you can participate. You can act in a play, for instance. Sing in a choir. But there is nothing about The Bourne Identity that is more "participatory" than any Star Wars movie. The notion makes zero sense.

And besides, the disdain Scalzi is showing here for the "Once upon a time" storytelling trope here is pretty troubling. Was Walt Disney not an entertainer, then? How many of his movies start off with "Once upon a time" and follow Campbellian storytelling tropes that have been around for thousands of years? For many years, Westerns were one of the most popular film genres. And yet, every single Western ever made, by definition, was about characters long dead doing events that were over years and years before. So, come to that, is every historically-set movie ever made.

And besides that, why can't there be multiple reasons to do something? Can't George Lucas want to spin a story from mythological cloth and entertain at the same time? I'd bet that if you were to ask George Lucas if he wanted to entertain with his Star Wars movies, he'd likely consider it silly that anyone ever assumed otherwise. I've read the interviews and heard the commentaries, and I've heard nothing that rules out the notion that Lucas wanted to make films that would entertain people. But Scalzi's entire argument assumes that the films do not entertain. Or, in other words: Scalzi's entire argument assumes Scalzi's own opinion of the films as fact.

Unfair? I don't think so. There's this:

Now, hold on, you say: If the Star Wars films aren’t meant to be entertainment, how come so many people were entertained? It’s a fair question; after all, there’s not a single film in the series that made less than $200 million at the box office (and those are in 1980 dollars). I’m happy to allow it’s entirely possible to be entertained by Episodes IV, V and VI, due to their novelty and the intervention of hired guns who aimed for entertainment even as Lucas was on his holy quest for mythology. Even then, however, Return of the Jedi was pushing it. I defy you to find any person who was genuinely entertained by Episodes I, II and III. Episode I in particular is an airless, joyless slog; in the theater you could actually hear people’s expectations deflate — a whooshing groan — the moment Jar-Jar showed up. After the first weekend of Episode I, people went to the prequel trilogy films for the same reason so many people go to church on Sunday: It’s habit, they know when to stand and when to sit, and they want to see how the preacher will screw up the sermon this week. You know what I felt when Episode III was done? Relief. I was done with the Star Wars films. I was free. I’m not the only one.


That line there -- "I defy you to find anyone entertained by the Prequels" -- now reminds me that I have read this post before, and responded to it. But I must have skimmed it before, because so much of this is silly, condescending, or both. Now I know that Scalzi's not suggesting that all churchgoers go to church out of just "habit", but I wonder what percentage of churchgoers he thinks do. Still, the whole exercise reeks of some kind of desperate reaching: "Since I've already established that Star Wars isn't entertainment, I must come up with some other reason why people keep seeing the damn things. And that means that I must argue that millions of people are doing something for some other reason completely."

That last bit -- "I was so relieved after the last one came out! I was free!" -- is just stupid. Scalzi could have been "free" of Star Wars any time he wanted to be. I decided that I was "free" of The Matrix after the first one; I never bothered watching the next two. I've stopped watching many a teevee series after I decided that I didn't like it anymore. Good example: ER. I loved that show for years, but then it lost me, so I stopped watching it. It went on another five seasons after that. Did I feel "free" when ER finally went off the air, five years after it stopped entertaining me? No. Because I had, you know, stopped paying attention. The notion that people were going to Star Wars movie after Star Wars movie out of some robotic notion that they had to is just nonsensical.

But I've heard arguments like that before. Another good example is Titanic, a movie that has suffered as vicious a backlash since it was beloved in its initial release as I've ever seen. Now it's not uncommon to hear people say that the movie wasn't popular because lots of people liked it; no, it's because of armies of thirteen-year-old girls who went to the movie over and over again to drool over Leonardo DiCaprio.

Maybe I'm being unfair to Scalzi, either by misreading or misrepresenting. But I don't think so. His whole argument hinges on assumptions as to George Lucas's intentions and a definition of "entertainment" that I don't find well-taken. Ultimately it boils down to saying "Star Wars isn't entertainment because I didn't find it entertaining."

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

The Kennedy Center Honors telecast aired last night. Who do you hope is honored in years to come?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Oh, man up, you little twerp.

Buffalo is hosting the World Junior Hockey Championships right now, and one of the visiting players went on Twitter and said that Buffalo is "the worst city ever". Now, it could be argued that he does have some small beef here -- namely, it's not exactly clear what there is to do in Buffalo when you're a teenager visiting from out of town and you're staying downtown, a place that, aside from a few hot spots, isn't known for being Activity Central. But still, it was pretty insulting. You get a trip that's paid for and then rip on your perceived lack of entertainment? Yeah, pretty rude. So screw that kid.

Especially after he offered up a lame apology:

"My point to get across was not to put down a great host city like this. I know a lot of people put in time and effort to make this thing possible."


So what possible rationale could there be for this kid's Tweet other than to rip on a city he felt was boring him to tears when he wasn't on the ice?

Lord knows, Buffalo isn't the greatest hotbed of activity. Especially not downtown. And maybe the organizers could have factored that into the age considerations of the people they were hosting; I don't know (Alan Bedenko has been covering this beat today). What I do know is that this kid's a boorish ass who can't even man up and own the words he himself put out there, so I for one don't really care if he's bored or not.

This reminds me of when Willis McGahee was with the Bills and was bitching about the lack of clubs around for young black men. I remember thinking, "Gee, Willis, you make a pretty nice paycheck -- why not open such a club yourself?"

Ornaments 2010

Tanenbaum


Every year, we acquire new Christmas ornaments. Not a whole lot of them, but we pick up four or five each year. We do an "eclectic" Christmas tree, with ornaments of all types and sizes and shapes. We have traditional ball ornaments, painted-glass Santas, ornaments made by The Daughter in various school grades, novelty ornaments bought over the years at different stores that no longer exist, ornaments that have been gifted to us through the years. I've never understood the folks who do an entire tree in one color or motif or theme or whatever.

Christmas ornaments, to me, are only partly about putting pretty things on a tree. They're also about memory. Each ornament puts me in mind of something or someone special to me and my family, and as we unpack them each year, I get to revisit those people and places in my memories. That's what Christmas ornaments are about.

Anyway, as I said, we get new ones each year. It's getting harder and harder each year to find room enough on the tree, and it may become necessary one of these years to get a bigger tree to hold them all. As it is, we find ourselves sadly relegating some ornaments to "back of the tree" status, where we can't see them. But do we stop acquiring them? No way. Here are the notable additions to our tree this year.

The first three are from my parents, who took a trip to England earlier this year and brought these back for us. This is Queen Elizabeth I, who on our tree looks nothing like Flora Robson, Cate Blanchett, or Dame Judy Dench.

Good Queen Bess


Here is Ann Boleyn. Look how bright her eyes are, as she looks forward to long and successful marriage to King Henry VIII! It's almost like she has no idea that her head will, not too many years hence, be separated from her shoulders. Oh, those whacky English Royals through the centuries!

Ann Boleyn (with head)


And here is the King of the Britons himself, the Majesty of England, the Once and Future King, Arthur Pendragon:

It is I, Arthur, King of the Britons!


Ahhh, Arthur, I've missed you so. I should reacquaint myself with King Arthur one of these years. Heck, I had a book in progress about him, once upon a time....

Maybe the Christmas tree wouldn't be the first place you'd expect to see a bizarre matchup of fantasy hero versus sci-fi villain, but that's what's unfolding on our three this year:

Sith Lord vs. the Once and Future King!


Arthur doesn't seem aware of the danger that lurks behind him! Turn around, Arthur!

A few weeks ago, The Daughter and I took a trip out to look for new ornaments. Every year I let her pick a few, in honor of the brother and sister that she lost. For the latter, she chose this pair of birds.

Taking flight....


And for Little Quinn -- whose "official" color we always took to be red -- she chose this.

Little Quinn's ornament, 2010


So there they are, the new additions to the tree for this year.

(You can see more of our ornaments here, here, and here.)

I'm not the only one!!!

I don't do this sort of thing very often at all...in fact, I almost never do it. I'm talking about sneaking photos of complete strangers when I'm out and about...and especially not when I'm at work. It just always seems a bit underhanded to do that, although lots of folks do it so maybe it just falls under the category of "people watching". But anyway, I was at work the other day, wandering about The Store taking care of maintenance issues, when I saw these two guys doing their shopping, I suppose for stuff for Christmas dinner or some such. And, well, my jaw dropped, because...well....

I'm NOT the only one!!!


It turns out that I'm not the only long-haired wearer of overalls in the Buffalo area. Huzzah!!!

(Yeah, could be they were just in town, visiting from someplace else. It's not like I was gonna charge up to the guy and start quizzing him, because I'm not a creepy stalker type. Unless George Lucas, Gillian Anderson, or Sela Ward walk in. Then, all bets are off.)

Boom de ya da!

Yeah...I'm trippin' on the classic Discovery Channel commercial again. This time I'm discovering cool parodies!

The original, for reminder's sake:



But I didn't know that the Discovery Channel did a newer version:



And a few take-offs....















I could listen to that friggin' song all night. Boom de yada!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Meg and Miles

Post corrected below.

Regarding a bit of recent reading:

:: Some years ago -- I don't recall how long -- I read the first few volumes in Lois McMaster Bujold's series of books on the adventures of a man named Miles Vorkosigan. I'm not sure that the series has an "official" name, so for my purposes, I'll call it the Vorkosigan Chronicles. I'd been hearing about these books for years; it consists of a long series of self-contained novels about Miles Vorkosigan and the people around him, and every time a new book in the sequence would come out, I'd see a flurry of discussion in various forums online as fans of Bujold's books devoured her latest offering.

This is one of those series where there tends to be a bit of diverging opinion as to the "best" order in which to read the books. One can read them in "story order", meaning, reading the books in the order that the events within take place; or, one can read them in the order in which the books were published. In truth...I'm not sure which order I went with. Baen Books has reprinted the novels over the last few years in omnibus editions that gather two or three at a time, making it easy to read the books more-or-less in story order, or so I think. Anyway, I started with Cordelia's Honor, which gathers two novels, Shards of Honor and Barrayar, which tell the story of how Miles's parents come together and have their famous son. So I read a book consisting of two books, out of publication order.

You can see how this gets a bit confusing.

Anyway, this was the second time I had read Cordelia's Honor. The first time, I liked the book just fine...but I wasn't sure I understood the wild love that fans have for the series. I found it genial enough, but I wasn't overwhelmed. I later read The Warrior's Apprentice, the first actual book about Miles himself, as part of the omnibus Young Miles. That one, too, I enjoyed...but wasn't overwhelmed.

So why did I decide to return to the Vorkosigan Chronicles? Well, even though I wasn't wowed by it, I did like it, and always meant to get back to it. But I'd waited long enough that I figured I pretty much didn't remember enough of it to keep going, so I figured I'd best start over at the beginning. Which meant going back to Cordelia's Honor. And this time, I was wowed by the book.

I'm finding that this happens a lot for me when I return to books some years later, especially SF books that I either didn't dislike but also didn't find fantastic the first time around. I chalk this up to the fact that I'm a more experienced SF reader now than I was even five, six, seven years ago. I find it easier to pick up on certain SF tropes now than I used to, which makes it a lot easier to read some of these books.

But maybe this shouldn't have mattered so much in the case of Cordelia's Honor, as the book is very character-driven. At no point did I get a feeling that I was reading the unfolding of a plot, but rather following the actions of a group of characters, some of whom are deeply sympathetic and some of whom are...deeply not. As the book opens, Captain Cordelia Naismith is commanding a scientific expedition on some planet when her group is attacked by soldiers from the militaristic world of Barrayar. Left behind by her fleeing co-workers, she finds herself depending on the similarly-stranded Barrayaran officer Aral Vorkosigan for her survival. Cordelia is from Beta Colony, a rival world of Barrayar, and as the two work together to survive, they discover plots afoot...and increasingly complex feelings for one another.

I don't want to give away much, since the story twists and turns in a lot of fascinating ways, but it's no spoiler to note that eventually Cordelia gives birth to young Miles Vorkosigan, who will be the hero of all the books and stories in the series to come. Miles, though, is not without his own set of challenges; for reasons outlined in Barrayar, Miles is born with his growth stunted and with extremely brittle bones that are constantly breaking. In short, Miles is the last kind of son a man would wish to have in a heavily militaristic society. I look forward to reading how Miles overcomes these challenges in the books ahead; just from the two volumes presented in Cordelia's Honor, I can tell that Bujold's approach is to create engaging, sympathetic characters and then put them through hell.

:: Another book that I probably should have read long before this is Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, which was published in 1962 and won the Newbery Award. [CORRECTION: Until just today, I always thought that the famed award for Childrens' Literature was spelled "Nerberry". It's actually "Newbery". Thanks to the reader who pointed this out -- that reader being none other than my retired librarian mother. Thanks, Mom!] I had no idea at all what to expect from this book, but even so, it defied the few expectations I had. I expected fantasy, but the book is much more strongly science fictional than fantastic in nature (even taking into account the forever-shifting dividing line between SF and fantasy). As with many books involving children as protagonists, the heroes are misfits -- generally unpopular at school and not understood by anyone except for a couple of their peers. They are whisked away on an improbably adventure, this one to rescue their father, who has been missing for years and whom most believe to have basically run off, either with a mistress or for some other reason.

What makes A Wrinkle in Time compelling, in addition to well-done characters, is the ominous tone struck throughout the book, and the fact that it's so overtly SF. Among books published today, I don't see a whole lot of SF for kids, but there's so much in Wrinkle that is SFnal that I end up wondering anew when it was that kids turned away from SF, or had SF turn away from them. Nowadays, it seems that the only real SF-type stuff kids ever see aimed at kids are a lot of Star Wars materials and superhero stories.

Anyway, I'm not sure how A Wrinkle in Time managed to elude me all these years, but I'm glad to have it off my "I should read that sometime" list. Now to track down the others in the sequence.

:: Way back when we were in college, The Girlfriend (now The Wife) bought a goofy book called 14000 Things to be Happy About. And that's exactly what it is: a giant list of 14000 things you should be happy about.

Things to be happy about


Obviously you don't just read this thing cover to cover. That way, madness lies. Instead, you dip, here and there, finding things you're already happy about, or that you should be happy about, or things that you'd be happy about if you were certifiably insane.

Of course, I'd be silly to read anything into this, but it tickles me nonetheless to see two of my favorite things on the same page, out of 14000:

Two of my favorite things...on the same page!


Of course, I'm ambivalent about unbuttered green beans, and I'm not sure why I should find appeal in the rattling of garbage cans, but bib overalls and pie throwing? I'm there!

More book notes, as always, as I read more books....

Sentential Links #233

The final Sentential Links of 2010. Enjoy!

:: On Wednesday, I pulled into the gym parking lot on my lunch break. As I was gathering my stuff together to get out of the car, a gym rat strutted slowly by. We all know the type, thanks to “Jersey Shore.” Oversized muscles, tanning-bed-orange in hue, ripped sweatshirt hanging off one shoulder. He ambled with self-importance toward his vehicle, which was a truck.

:: Part of the difficulty with this Christmas is that The Daughter did not seem to want to give up anything she already has. Games and toys, especially stuffed animals, that are well past her presumed age range she holds onto like a canteen of water in the desert.

:: “MONSTER. END.”

:: I'm building. I'm building up to being a person again.

:: And I have to use Christmas as the only example here, because in my experience, no one ever gets made at you for assuming that they aren’t celebrating Ramadan, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, etc. — no, it’s only Christians who get self-righteous when you’re polite enough to not make assumptions about their religious beliefs. (Yes, two links to the same blogger...but they're writing on different blogs, so it's OK. And I cannot stand it when people argue that we've somehow "lost something" as a society because we're slowly becoming aware, as the years go by, that "Freedom of Religion" means exactly that, and we're never going to be living in 1953 again, when "Freedom of Religion" meant "pick your favorite brand of Christianity".)

:: Dammit, they always leave something out that I want to hear! (Looks like SDB has learned the frustrating truth about film music collecting.)

:: With my decidedly non-judgmental stance how could I ever be an authority when it comes to wine and pie pairing? The most I could say is all wine goes with all pie. (Well, sparkling wine tends to go well with just about anything, in my opinion!)

:: I always cry a lot this time of the year , never sadness tears, even of those I have loved so and lost along the way …those tears are special to me and each represents my own personal connection to those that made me who I am. The regular Holidays tears I always consider my yearly ‘soul cleansing’ …tidbits of sentimental and emotional chaff that builds and then releases upon the hearing of the first Christmas Carol of the year…and then does not stop until Auld Lang Syne is heard…. ("Soul cleansing"...what a nice way to think of the holiday sadnesses that come along!)

:: The feeling comes from within and you all know that. The Gold and Green….a lovely way to share with the world how we feel.

:: Tonight, somewhere in the world, a new father is passing out cigars, a child is receiving a new puppy, a daughter is feeding ice-chips to her dying mother, a man is putting flowers on his wife’s grave, a family is celebrating a new job in a new city, a couple is breaking up.

Tonight – God gathers all of our hopes and fears, all of our joys and sorrows- and God says, “I want to be part of this. I want to be there with you.”
(Kris is an old friend of mine from college, and she has written here the single most beautiful Christmas sermon I've ever encountered, either by reading or by hearing.)

All for this week. More next week!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Season

Christmas at Casa Jaquandor


Christmas has come and gone for another year, as it always does. As always, it was full of a lot of beauty and a little stuff that wasn't so beautiful, but we'll concentrate on the good, OK? Because I'm sure that none of you were naughty this year.

Santa Jaquandor suspects that you've been naughty.


Or something like that....

Sunday Burst of Weird and AWESOME!

Oddities and Awesome still abound, even in the Christmas season! Heck, they may abound even more this time of year than any other.

:: When I finally decide to take the plunge into my Life of Crime, if I am captured by justice in Glasgow, Scotland, I at least hope that this is my arresting officer:



Because she's a Jedi.

:: I am glad to note that I do not own any of the 50 worst Christmas albums of all time. I am, however, somewhat intrigued by nos. 2, 8, 21, 33, 38, 43, and 50. But only somewhat.

:: The Universe is very big. Except for when it's very small. Check out this interactive tool to discover relative sizes of things in the Universe. (Yes, it's similar to the famous educational movie Powers of Ten.)

:: This won't really be of interest to anyone in particular, but wow -- here, in a single thread at the FSM Board, is why I no longer bother to interact with film music fans except for a couple on a one-on-one basis. The fact that a thread like that can crop up on Christmas Day is pretty illustrative, and it's all there: the kvetching over the jerks in the "community"; the jerks acting like they've bagged themselves a big prize in the fox hunt; other people still trying to cling to the notion that their particular little forum is still somehow better than all the other forums out there; someone else suggesting -- and, it seems, being ignored completely on the point -- that since this type of thing happens at most places film music fans gather, then maybe, just maybe, there's a problem inherent with "the community". And, amidst it all, one of the bigger jerks over there, who has taken great pride in being a jerk there for years, gets a stern warning from the board owner. But will the jerk get banned? Of course not, because nobody at FSM has the guts to actually pull the trigger and ban anyone, no matter how obnoxious they get.

The film music community: Sturgeon's Law in action.

More next week!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Something for Thursday











Merry Christmas and/or a glorious Holiday Season to all who read this!

See you back here on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Yeah, I'm late with this. So, for my tardiness, propose a penalty. (But keep it nice...no making me watch Glenn Beck or listen to Rush Limbaugh.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hmmmm....

The Daughter has outgrown a lot of stuff. She'd rather read in bed by herself than be read to; she doesn't remember ever liking Dora the Explorer. But one thing she has not outgrown is that wonderful sense of torture she feels from seeing wrapped presents under the tree that she can't open yet.

And if she's anything like me, she won't be outgrowing that until she's at least...oh...thirty-nine.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Teevee Notes

Some thoughts on teevee shows:

:: It's taken me a while to finally get hold of the show -- it seems to have been eternally scheduled against something I watch on another channel -- but I am now a certified huge fan of The Big Bang Theory. I love this show. It walks a pretty fine line, occasionally tempting us to laugh at its socially awkward characters, but for the most part, Big Bang Theory genuinely likes its leads and treats them with respect. Even Sheldon Cooper.

:: I have to admit that I'm enjoying Mike & Molly. The first few episodes really put the pedal to the medal on the fat jokes, but it seems as if the writers have dialed that back a bit and instead focused on the burgeoning relationship between two likeable characters and the big bunch of quirky folks surrounding them. When done well, this is a pretty good formula for sitcom success. I do wish that the writers would push the humor a bit more toward edginess. I like that the show's tone is generally warm, but a little bite now and then would be welcome. (And as SamuraiFrog points out, Melissa McCarthy is really a beautiful woman.)

:: This season of Hell's Kitchen was really disappointing. It just seemed totally lackluster, the whole way through. I know that they purposely choose lunatic contestants to make the show more fun, but they went way too far this time, and the whole feeling, almost all the way to the end, was that the show would be won by attrition more than by skill. That's pretty much what happened. Nona really did do well in the last few episodes, but even she was there, getting kicked out along the way. Russell turned out to be an angry, arrogant jerk, rather like Benjamin from the previous season but with the anger turned way up. I hope the next season is better, though. This year tried for entertaining craziness, but it ended up just seeming to plod along.

:: The Amazing Race was solid. Not great, but never bad. Just solid. Two all-female teams went into the finale (three teams make the finale each season), and one of those teams won it. It wasn't the team I was rooting for, but this was one of those seasons when I didn't dislike any of the teams that were racing for the million dollar prize at the end. As usual, it was just fun watching the various challenges and all of the locations. I was glad to see that the producers put more of a clamp down on things like paying locals to drive you to where you need to go; a few seasons ago, there was a team I hated -- two blondes named Dustin and Kandace -- who would land in some country, bat their eyes at some local guy, and get driven right where they needed to be. The next season apparently brings back teams that were popular in their first Races but who weren't winners. I see that Margie and Luke -- the mother and her deaf son -- who were faves of mine a few seasons back are along for the ride. Bring it on!

:: Survivor wasn't as much fun as a few previous seasons, but it ended up pretty good toward the end. Since the finale aired just last night, I'll white this part of my comment out, if any of you are planning to watch it on DVR.

Once again I was stunned, during the finale, to see contestants saying that the way one contestant reached the final -- by staying under the radar, never letting himself under the axe, and winning challenges at strategic points -- isn't a strategy. During the last "argument session" in front of the jury, there were two guys, Chase and Sash, who had done the "weasel and lie and conspire with alliances" method of reaching the finale, while the other guy, a kid everyone dubbed "Fabio" in the first episode, did the "play nice" thing. And at one point, Chase and Sash both argued that their way of playing Survivor is the real way to play Survivor. This is, of course, total nonsense (as I argued here). Getting to the finale and being able to say "I didn't screw any of you, but these guys did!" is huge, and enough people have won it by now playing precisely this way to prove the point. Because Fabio won, and one of the two guys, Sash, didn't even get a single vote in the finale.

OK, that's all for Survivor. (Oh wait, it's not. Two contestants actually quit the game in the same episode toward the end. They got ridiculed for being quitters, but they were still allowed to sit on the jury and vote for the winners! That's absurd. If you quit, you should be out. All the way. The producers should bring back the contestant or two voted out right before jury selection began, and put them on the jury. (And as I'm writing this during the live reunion show, Jeff Probst has just announced that they've changed the rules for the future for just this reason.)

:: I'm really enjoying House this year. The writers are doing a great job with the relationship between House and Cuddy; they're not making it easy on them and keeping the characters consistent. The show is still very well done, week-in and week out.

:: CSI: Miami is glorious, glorious trash. It's just so goofy. I can't hate a show that ends an episode like this.

:: Castle still rules. It just does. It's simply the most competent show on teevee right now. And only Castle can end an episode like this!

:: Let's see, what else? The Office is becoming a testament to "Meh". It's just lifeless and dull. None of the antics make sense anymore. The show is still funny on occasion, but a lot of the time it's just painful. Undercover Boss is entertaining. We still like The Mentalist, although the Red John thing is really starting to wear out its welcome.

OK, that's about it. More teevee notes to come as shows return to new episodes!

Sentential Links #232

Those who seek linkage, shall find it. Ommmmm....

:: My co-workers are scavenging through it like lions over a baby wildebeest.

:: So I say, let's get back to the good old days, the old time religion of the Aztecs. Sure, it had some gruesome bits, but it still beats having to go through Christmas every year.

:: By the time February rolls around we are all sick of of cold, snow and dark-- why not celebrate Christmas then, when everyone's spirits use some brightening up?

:: Though I generally don't believe in other people's mysterious ailments, I do believe in my own, which happily now has a name, seasonal affective disorder, but which has filled me with horror, despair and a feeling of infinite bleakness since I was a kid and they hadn't invented it yet.

:: “Yes, just about everyone in the world knows the story of the birth of Christ … except for children, who couldn’t care less about our Lord and Savior and instead worship a bastardized, commercialized version of an ancient Germanic deity, the greedy little pagans.”

:: James Bond isn’t just a franchise, it’s an institution.

:: Me: I HAVE NEEDS.

Outpost31: Please do tell.

Me: WANTS. NEEDS. I have them.

Outpost31: This is starting to sound sexy. What do you need?

Me: RED VINES AND DR. PEPPER.


:: Did the oughts have their own distinct culture? Or was the whole decade just a mash-up of the culture of other decades, with a little bit of September 11th and some iPhones thrown in?

More next week!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bumping

OK, I'm tired of my John McCain rant being at the top of the page, so here's a fuzzy kitten.

Cyoot Kitteh of teh Day: Palmful of Sleepy Squee


Awwwwww!

Thanking Barack

My general opinion of Barack Obama is, I think, kind of middle-of-the-road among people on my side of the political fence. I do think he could have accomplished more in his first two years had he done things differently, but I'm not unhappy with, or unaware of, the surprisingly large roster of things that he and his administration have gotten done. I'm not wild about some of the stuff he's done or left undone in the area of personal liberties, executive power, or the wars overseas, and I hope he betters his record in those areas in years to come.

But I will say this: if Obama was such a dud in the White House that he accomplished absolutely nothing else other than denying John McCain the Presidency, well...I'd owe Obama some thanks just for that, alone. I never liked John McCain to begin with -- his "Maverick" bullshit always struck me as preening for political effect, and not terribly reflective of actual thoughts on issues -- so I, unlike many in Washington, am not surprised to see McCain tossing aside all of his goodwill and firmly embracing his true role of angry, bitter old man. But it can still be pretty breathtaking to see the depths this man is willing to plumb. John McCain is a mean, useless son-of-a-bitch, and the sooner he is out of public life, the better. Hell, I'd settle for the Washington media establishment to start the process along by not acting as though McCain is some kind of insightful voice on any issue at all.

Imagine if this guy had actually become President. So, thank you, Barack Obama.

(comments deactivated)

Sunday Burst of Weird and AWESOME!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: I'm usually willing to suspend disbelief with various movies and teevee shows, but one area where they really test my ability to do so is when our heroes are investigating an image or snippet of video that doesn't show them what they need to see...so they use the Magical Power of Computers to enhance the image!



The worst examples of this I've ever seen come from CSI: Miami. In one case, they found a photo of the victims taken moments before their deaths, and discerned that the killer must have been taking the photo. So they blew up one victim's eyeball and enhanced the reflection of the killer. And in another episode, they discerned again that the killer was the one behind the camera, and they further realized that the blotched-out area in the upper corner was the killer's finger partially covering the lens, so they were able to enhance and sharpen the image to get the killer's fingerprint. And Horatio Caine did all this whilst putting on his sunglasses.

(via)

:: I alluded to this in the post immediately preceding this one, but I've just gotta share it: Willie Nelson singing "Frosty the Snowman".



Hooray, Willie!

:: Squarely in the "awesome" category is this post by Sheila O'Malley, in which, referring to the "old" New York City -- before it got all cleaned up and saw porn theaters replaced by Disney stores -- she says, "I have to say, I miss the smut." I've only been to NYC a couple of times in my life, and when I do go, it'll be as a tourist rather than as a dweller, so I'll probably appreciate the cleaner stuff more. But...well, I can't find the things she displays in her photos totally repellent, either.

More next week!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sunday Stealing

Last week it was "The Ninja Meme, part 1". This week it's...guess what!

26. Whose responses to Stealing do you want to read the most?

Aside from Roger, I don't know of anyone else who does these regularly. SamuraiFrog does them occasionally...probably the same way I do, checking to see if the questions are interesting and acting accordingly. I probably should peruse the links at the end of each S.S. quiz, though.

27. What color shirt are you wearing?

It's a light gray sweater with bits of colored yarn (blue, brown) scattered throughout.

28. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?

I'm not sure I've ever slept on satin sheets. I suppose it would be OK.

29. Can you whistle?

Yes, but not terribly well. I can produce tones by whistling, but I've never developed my whistling skills sufficiently to producing actual music. This is probably because I find whistling generally irritating. (Except for a cat my parents once owned, a beautiful Himalayan named Tribbles, who would come when my father whistled "The Impossible Dream". And only "The Impossible Dream".)

30. Favorite colors(s)?

Purple! And then red, blue, yellow, green...I really tend to like all colors, with the main exception of brown, which doesn't really do anything for me.

31. Could you be a pirate?

Sure, I guess. But probably not a very good one. I'd be like this one pirate in a scene from The Simpsons, when the pirates are all burying their treasure; I'd say, "Hey, Cap'n! Suppose instead of burying the treasure, we used it to by things! Things we like!" And on the show, the guy who says that gets shot by the Cap'n. But yeah, I'd be that guy.

32. What songs do you sing in the shower?

I don't sing in the shower, really. Maybe once in a while. When I do it's probably a show tune of some sort.

33. Favorite girls name?

The Daughter's.

34. Favorite boy’s name?

Quinn. Also Anakin.

35. What’s in your pocket right now?

Nothing. I don't carry a lot of stuff around in my pockets.

36. Last thing that made you laugh?

Well, when we got in the car to come home from church earlier, we had the radio tuned to a station that's doing all-Christmas, all the time. The song that was on when I turned the key was "Frosty the Snowman", sung by Willie Nelson. I had no idea he did "Frosty". I laughed with delight, because Willie Nelson rules.

37. Best bed sheets as a child?

I had a set of Star Wars blankets and whatnot at one point. I don't recall if there were sheets. I do recall the blanket.

38. Worst injury you’ve ever had?

I sustained a broken collarbone when a local bully pushed me off my bike. That dude is high on my "fantasy revenge list".

39. Do you love where you live?

Absolutely. I just wish the governance around here wasn't so messed up.

40. How many TVs do you have in your house? How many HDTVs?

Just one, in the living room. For bedroom viewing, we use my laptop for watching movies or downloaded programs.

41. Who is your loudest friend?

No idea at all.

42. How many dogs do you have?

Zero. Our current living situation is not conducive to dog ownership.

43. Does anyone have a crush on you?

I have no idea. I rather doubt it, though.

44. What are the most fun things you ever did?

Whale-watching with The Wife; roller coasters and the Giant Wheel at Cedar Point with The Wife; Disney World with The Wife; road-trips to Ithaca and Pittsburgh and Toronto with The Wife; cooking with The Wife; getting pied by The Wife; Christmas shopping with The Wife; seeing Star Wars movies with The Wife. Sense a theme here?

45. What are your favorite books?

I'm not listing 'em here, since books are a major subject of this blog.

47. Favorite Team?

The Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Because I like teams with long, rich traditions of winning...that were followed by long, poor traditions of losing.

48. What songs do you want played at your funeral?

"Into the West" by Howard Shore, sung by Annie Lennox. And "People Get Ready" by Curtis Mayfield. And "Last Dance" by Donna Summer. (I guess. I've never really thought about this before.)

49. What were you doing at 12 AM?

I was probably dropping off to sleep.

50. What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up?

"Stop pawing at my hand, you idiot!" Our cat Lester likes to drape himself across the back of The Wife's pillow and wait to be petted in the morning. But when he decides he's waited long enough, he'll start pawing around, looking for a hand. Often-times he finds mine.

OK, that's it. Huzzah!!!