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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

National Tau Day?!

Mathematicians want to dethrone pi. I hate this idea. First they took Pluto, and now they want pi? What's next? Some half-baked notion that humans and apes come from common ancestors? Suck it, Science!

Something for Thursday

In honor of the 100th birthday of film composer Bernard Herrmann, here are a few selections. First, the Love Music from Vertigo:



The theme from North by Northwest:



For the Fallen (a wartime elegy):



Herrmann was one of the very greatest of all film composers, and his legacy stands proud more than thirty years after his death.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

War Horse

Steven Spielberg has a movie coming out this winter that I didn't even know existed until just this morning. Here's the trailer for War Horse:



This screams out "Movie that will have me crying like a little girl at the end".

(It also strikes me as odd that, when I watched the trailer on YouTube, it was preceded by an advertisement that is...a trailer for another movie. I have to watch a trailer before get to watch a trailer? Really?)

I'll take "People You Wouldn't Want To Hang Out With" for $500, Alex

Ye Gods:

Amherst police may think they’ve seen everything, but they’ve now arrested a 68-year-old woman accused of trying to stop someone from performing the Heimlich maneuver on a man in a crowded Niagara Falls Boulevard restaurant.

The incident occurred June 18, a Saturday night, when a 43-year-old man was choking and someone began to perform the Heimlich maneuver on him.

“Leave him alone. Let him die,” the woman reportedly yelled out, according to police reports.

She then allegedly tried to grab the phone from a restaurant employee who was calling 911, police said.

Unfortunately, her plans were thwarted; the guy was fine by the time EMTs showed up.

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

If you have one, who is your favorite teevee chef?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bucky T. Katt?

Bucky of Get Fuzzy fame has a real-life doppelganger!


(via)

I can see why they love her....

Michele Bachmann: Liar or idiot? Or both? Hmmmmm....

"A pirate's life for me!"


Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is, to hear most folks tell it, not a very good movie at all. Most reaction I've seen has ranged from tepid to outright negative, but then, I've seen very little reaction to this movie from people who didn't hate Dead Man's Chest and At World's End. I've almost got the impression that folks are teeing off on On Stranger Tides because they didn't get enough chance to talk about how much they hated those two films as well, but never mind that.

I thought On Stranger Tides was terrific. I enjoyed the living hell out of it, and I've been trying to figure out why my reaction to the film is so different from everyone else's. I suppose a big part of it is simply that I love these characters sufficiently that I'm more willing to go where they take me than others. I further suppose it's partly because I don't really see these movies as telling any kind of ongoing story, and certainly not the ongoing story of Jack Sp--Captain Jack Sparrow. I don't think that Jack Sparrow has an ongoing story.

This is contra, for example, Michael May, whose thoughts I deeply respect, but who was disappointed in the film:

The movie is very silly and cartoony, but that might have been forgivable had it actually done what it was supposed to do: continue the story of Captain Jack Sparrow. When last we left Jack, he’d become a kinder pirate and we do see that reflected in On Stranger Tides. But that’s what he grew into in the last trilogy. For his story to be worth continuing, he needs to go somewhere new.

The journey promised by At World’s End is Jack’s quest for immortality. He died in Dead Man’s Chest and was terrified of repeating the experience. It drove everything he did in At World’s End and made sense of his quest for the Fountain of Youth. But as Stranger Tides opens, Jack’s pretty much given up the quest and has to be pulled back into it. There’s no personal urgency to his finding it. Instead, he fills a role much like he did in the original trilogy: running around making things more interesting for the characters who actually have story arcs.

See...I'm not sure that's right. I don't think that Jack was terrified of death (beyond a normal sense of self-preservation). What's always motivated Jack has never been immortality; if he wanted that, he could have pocketed a coin from the Aztec treasure at the end of Curse of the Black Pearl and enjoyed his immortality that way. Of course, the movie established that that kind of immortality sucked, but then, he was hip to try to take Davy Jones's place as Captain of the Flying Dutchman. Why was this? He'd be immortal, right?

But he didn't want to be Captain of the Dutchman because he wanted to be immortal. He wanted to be Captain of the Dutchman because what always motivate Jack was freedom, and he defines freedom as being the Captain of a ship. Jack wasn't trying to avoid death in DMC and AWE, so much as he was trying to avoid being pressed into Davy Jones's servitude. He owed Jones a century of servitude; if he wanted long life, he could have simply taken Jones up on the offer. After all, a hundred years is unheard of for someone in Jack's line of work, right? So why didn't he just do that?

Because Jack wanted to be free, and that meant being Captain and having a ship.

There's a moment in AWE that illustrates this. Jack indicates to Will Turner that he wants to stab Jones's heart and become Captain of the Dutchman, to which Will responds, "But then you have to do the job, Jack. You have to ferry the dead, or you become like Jones." Jack's response is less than enthusiastic, so even that isn't ideal, because even though he'd be Captain, he still wouldn't be free. Jack is all about total freedom. Of course, at the end of AWE, he is willing to do the deed anyway, because it's the only way he'll ever be free of Davy Jones...until he realizes he must do something selfless and let Will Turner stab the heart.

Jack certainly does fear death to some degree, but when he realizes that there's no other alternative, he embraces it head on: he puts his hat back on, says "Hello, beastie!", and charges the Kraken. That's interesting to me, as is the scene in AWE when he is clearly sad that the Kraken is dead. Jack Sparrow is sensibly scared of death. But he's terrified at the prospect of living a life without freedom, living on someone's terms other than his own.

So, then, is Jack really planning to go after the Fountain of Youth at the end of At World's End? Maybe, maybe not. I'm not sure it really matters. What matters is that he already figures that Captain Barbossa is going to ditch him again. Is he going after the Fountain, or is he only keeping the charts as future leverage? We don't really find out, but in On Stranger Tides, Jack isn't really motivated by a desire to find the Fountain at all, except as a way of getting himself away from the current batch of miscreants who have literally shanghai'd him into their service. Jack finds himself in servitude aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge, which is once again an intolerable situation – so he immediately begins to plan a mutiny.

As On Stranger Tides ends, Jack is once again without a ship and planning on how to get one. Some have complained about this, but I rather like it. I'm coming to see Captain Jack Sparrow not as a character whom I need to see growing and changing all the time; I see him more as a character whose situations simply don't allow for him to grow much at all. I see him in similar light to James Bond. Aside from a very few films, James Bond doesn't grow or change much at all in the course of the series, and that's fine because no one expects him to, and when he finally does, the result is extremely notable. I like the usual trajectory for Jack Sparrow: he's cleverer by far than the people around him, but he's still somehow always watching his ship sailing away without him, or being dragged to the bottom of the sea by a Kraken, or being shrunk down so it can fit inside a bottle. I'm just not sure that I want to see Jack Sparrow changing; I'm not sure that I need to learn in great detail about what motivates him. I don't think he's that kind of character, any more than James Bond is, or, to take another recent pop-culture Jack, 24's Jack Bauer. Now there's a guy who is in similar circumstances to Jack Sparrow: he can never escape his lot in life, and he's constantly being dragged into adventures that maybe he'd just as soon not have. Of course, Bauer's a lot more morose about it than Sparrow.

Another similar character is Brad Pitt's Tristan Ludlow, from Legends of the Fall; Tristan doesn't change much at all over the years of his story, either, and at film's end, our narrator describes him as "the rock that everyone broke themselves against". That's Jack Sparrow.

So, on its own, how is On Stranger Tides? I, personally, loved it. I found it full of good old swashbuckling fun, and I loved that it didn't take itself nearly as seriously as its immediate two predecessor films did (as much as I loved those). The way the film gradually pulls us into its story was terrific – there's an impostor in London, claiming to be Captain Jack Sparrow and recruiting sailors. Obviously Jack is intrigued by this and investigates, in the course of freeing his first mate Mr. Gibbs from the gallows and escaping the King's men and finding himself in audience with the King himself and escaping the King's men again. As is typical, Jack does all this with varying degrees of success. Soon he's in a race against other pirates, the King's royal navy, and the Spaniards for the Fountain of Youth – which Jack isn't that enthusiastic about seeking out to begin with.

The film's major weakness is a subplot involving a captive Catholic priest on board Blackbeard's ship, and his love story with a mermaid who is captured because it turns out that in order to take advantage of the Fountain of Youth, one needs a freshly-shed mermaid's tear. I loved that little detail, but the film is so stuffed full of other things going on that the priest is only along to save the mermaid at the end. His character is pretty expendable, and he really could have been set aside; maybe Jack could set the mermaid free, thus showing us his usually-hidden selfless side. I also liked that the mermaids are really quite strange sea creatures, but aside from a single set-piece, they really don't amount to much in the film. I'd have liked to have seen more of them.

And then there's Angelica Malon, played by Penelope Cruz. She's an old flame of Jack's, who has turned to piracy for reasons of her own. As underdrawn as the Catholic priest is as a character, Angelica is perfectly pitched. She's almost a female Jack Sparrow, trustworthy at times and untrustworthy at others, and strongly motivated. The film leaves her fate wide open, and I do hope that she features again in the adventures of Jack Sparrow.

A couple other random notes about On Stranger Tides:

:: The score isn't as good as AWE, but it does add Spanish guitar to the proceedings, which is a nice touch. I've grown to really like the music for these films, which show that you don't need to take a Korngoldian approach to scoring a pirate movie.

:: The Pirates films are all beautifully photographed, and this one's no different. Rob Marshall takes over directing responsibilities for Gore Verbinski this time out, and he did a pretty good job, especially in the action sequences. I've come to really appreciate directors who are able to shoot action in such a way that you can tell what's going on. Verbinski was very good in that way, and Marshall keeps that going.

:: If the Black Pearl was sunk in battle, I really hope that sailors Pintel and Ragetti either survived or weren't on board. (Those are the short bald guy and the tall thin one-eyed guy from the first three films. The piratical C-3PO and R2-D2, in other words.)

:: Nowhere in On Stranger Tides does anyone mention rum; nor does Jack ever inquire as to why the rum is always gone.

:: I don't really care that the Pirates films cheerfully do whatever they want with the geography and geology of the Caribbean.

:: I wonder what seafaring bits of lore will be mined for the next Pirates movie? Maybe Jack Sparrow can have an encounter with a giant white whale. I suppose he could find Atlantis, or maybe the lost Templar fleet. Who knows?

(By the way, I can't recommend highly enough Michael May's thoughts on Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man's Chest, and At World's End. Those are terrific posts, on the subject of character development in the first three PotC films. He has interesting thoughts as to who the main character of that trilogy is, and I'm inclined to agree with him.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bad feelings, and the people who have them

What haven't we done in this space in quite a while? Why, rant about someone's inability to understand Star Wars, that's what!

Cracked.com, always one of my favorite websites, has a piece up today called "5 Movie Fan Theories That Make More Sense Than The Movie". There's a bit about, you guessed it, Star Wars. Here it is:

Star Wars: Obi Wan Kenobi is OB-1, Clone Warrior

One of the most intriguing aspects of the original Star Wars trilogy was the brief mention of something called "The Clone Wars" -- in the first film, those three words alone are enough to change Luke's perception of Obi-Wan Kenobi from "cave-dwelling old creep" to "badass space warrior." The thing is, in those early movies they never actually told us what exactly the Clone Wars was, which somehow makes it sound even more epic: For over two decades, literally the only thing fans knew about it was that it involved clones and warring.

Of all the wild theories fans came up with during those cold, lonely Star Wars-less decades, there's one that stands out ...

The Awesome Fan Theory:

The "clones" were artificially grown Jedi, and Obi-Wan was one of them -- thus the clone designation "OB-1."

Picture this: Millions of cloned Jedi Knights battling across planets and spaceships in a badass whirlwind of laser-force space death. A "star war," if you will. It makes sense: If you had to clone someone to create an army of warriors, a powerful Jedi would be the most logical choice.

According to this theory, the name Obi-Wan Kenobi is actually a transliteration of his serial number: OB-1, first in a line of star-warring space wizards. In the first movie, Obi-Wan uses the alias "Ben Kenobi," supposedly because he's hiding from the Empire, but that doesn't really make sense: Why would you keep the same last name if you didn't want to be found? This would explain where the alias came from: It was the name of the original Jedi he was cloned from (and therefore his "father").

Oh, and it closes a gigantic plot hole in the prequels: The reason the old man Obi-Wan doesn't seem to remember any of the events of the prequels (such as not remembering having ever seen the droids before, or that Darth Vader built Threepio) is that the old man is just a clone. Also, imagine the awesomeness of the surprise ending they could have included in Episode II, in which the future Darth Vader starts his march toward evil by pushing the original Obi-Wan Kenobi off of one of those high walkways they apparently design into every spaceship.

What We Got Instead:

In Episode II: Attack of the Clones, we find out that the Clone Wars was actually a war between some crappy robots and ... an army of Boba Fetts. The Jedi are sort of standing in between, and then they're all killed by the Boba Fetts. Yeah.

Oh yeah. These guys are way cooler than an endless apocalyptic horde of Jedi.

As for Obi-Wan, he forgot all about R2-D2 and C-3PO after spending three whole movies with them because ... you know what, at this point we don't even care.

This is the first time I've ever heard this "fan theory" in action. In all honesty...it's a pretty cool idea. But I have to admit that I was never really traumatized by not knowing what the "Clone Wars" were all about. Sure, I wanted to know, but I didn't devote a whole lot of thought to it. I figured it was a bunch of wars. Involving clones. Why worry about it?

But the rest of this is awfully wrong-headed. Surely it's not that difficult to pay attention to details? Starting with the question of why Obi Wan would use his original last name when he's in hiding, it should be remembered that he's not in hiding on Coruscant or some other heavily-populated central world. He's hiding on a sparsely-populated planet way out on the Outer Rim, a planet that isn't really even part of the Empire yet. There's no real reason for the name "Kenobi" to be particularly troublesome; the only people who really know about him are the Emperor and Darth Vader, and neither of them really has any reason to be concerned with events on Tatooine. In fact, Vader himself may be subconsciously intending to avoid that planet entirely, since it's where he grew up and met Padme.

And really, for all we know, "Kenobi" is like "Jones" in the Star Wars universe.

But the Cracked.com commentary goes off the rails when the writer assumes that the fan theory would fix a major "plot hole" in the Prequel Trilogy. The statement that "Obi Wan doesn't seem to remember what happened in the Prequels" is just silly. First of all, he never said that he had never seen the droids before. All he said was, "Don't seem to recall ever owning a droid." Owning. And he hasn't. He's worked with droids, but none has ever really called him "Master".

Second -- well, he's got to be careful, doesn't he? When the droids show up in his life again in A New Hope, he can't possibly expect them, and he can't just start babbling at them: "Hey, R2! I haven't seen this little droid in twenty years! And C-3PO! How's it going!" He can't do those things because Luke is right there, and Luke has no idea who he is or what he represents. And it's not like they have time, over the ensuing course of events, for Obi Wan to give Luke a lengthy recitation of the events of the Clone Wars. What does Cracked think that Obi Wan is supposed to do?

And third, of the two droids specifically -- it's well-established in Star Wars that astromech droids (R2-D2) and protocol droids (C-3PO) are pretty much a dime a dozen. It's also established that Obi Wan doesn't think too highly of droids in his early life. And there's just no real reason for Obi Wan to even know that Anakin built C-3PO. Maybe he knows, maybe he doesn't. Cracked is assuming that the characters know as much as we do, and there's no reason to make that assumption.

There. Been a while since I ranted in defense of Star Wars -- I'd forgotten how good it felt!

Sentential Links #251

The road to 500 of these posts continues!

:: Can I just say that I'm really surprised and impressed that the world of A Song of Ice and Fire fans seemed to collectively, unconsciously decide not to spoil [spoiler excised] for the viewing audience who hadn't read the book? (I have a friend at work who watched the series, and talked a lot with me about it. He hadn't read the books, so he had no idea what was coming; that will be ending, though, because while he's not a reader, his wife is, and she's plowing through the series right now. I was careful not to spoil things for him, although he would ask things like "Does Daenerys's brother stick around a long time?", which I vaguely answered, "His exit comes sooner than you might expect." But I have to bite my tongue at other times, such as when he speculates on which characters are obviously going to be around for the length of the entire story. And speaking of Game of Thrones, I haven't watched more than the first episode yet, mainly because...well, there are scenes where people act so horribly that I'm not sure that I want to see them acted out. I found it hard enough reading about Cersei's framing of Sansa's direwolf, and I had a very hard time reading the scene where Joffrey has his servant beat Sansa. Seeing those scenes onscreen might prove...difficult for me. I've got them downloaded, so we'll see.)

:: I will miss Dunn's wild behavior, but can not feel sorry for someone who didn't care about his own life's worth. (I have to admit to feeling little sympathy for Ryan Dunn, myself. I don't even care if he was drinking -- operating any kind of motor vehicle at speeds the likes of which Dunn was at the time of his crash is a staggeringly unsafe thing to do, and the main blessing I can find here is that he only killed himself and whatever idiot was dumb enough to ride with him. Had there been other cars on the road at the same time, he could have killed them, too. I'm reminded of a couple of recent local accidents here -- one, a year or two ago, on one of the rural roads, involved some kid who loved driving his car really fast on those two-lane roads. He, too, joked with friends that he'd probably die at the wheel of his beloved car...which he did. With three other kids in the car with him.

Another was a motorcycle accident on Interstate 290 in Amherst, NY. That's one of Buffalo's northern suburbs. The Wife has told me that she'd be driving home on that road from work at around 10:30 pm, when she'd suddenly be passed by a gang of folks riding crotch-rocket motorcycles are ridiculous speeds. They'd be going so fast that she didn't even know they were there until they passed her. Well, a couple weeks ago, one of those groups was whipping along at over 100 mph when one of them lost control of his bike and wiped out. He and his passenger skidded across the pavement, right underneath a semi truck. The passenger somehow managed to not get run over; the bike driver wasn't so lucky. No alcohol there; just a moron who liked going fast.)

:: It’s very common to see familiar things in random patterns. We see faces in clouds, Jesus in a tortilla, and smiley faces everywhere.

:: Can we define science fiction and fantasy so as to clearly separate them? (That is, of course, the ultimate question. I think the answer is No, but I've been wrong before!)

That's all for this week. More next week!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Query for Macintosh Users

My mother just stopped by with her Mac laptop to ask my help with something, and after an hour or so of futzing around and Googling, I couldn't figure out the solution. Maybe one of you can offer some guidance!

The problem: there is a webcam from Hawaii that she likes to have up when she's online. (Specifically, this one -- apparently that's the beach she and my father stayed on when they vacationed there last.) At some point recently, though, the webcam has stopped working. No image loads, no nothing. (The webcam does work on my computer, though, which gave me temptation to be able to say to a Mac user, "Get a PC!" Those types of situations almost never present themselves...and when one does, I can't go for it because, you know, it's my mom.)

Anyway, below the webcam window is a link to a Windows Media Player plug-in that you're supposed to install if the thing isn't working. So I go through the proper steps to run said plug-in -- specifically, this plug-in -- but when I restart Safari, still nothing on the web-cam. I restart the Mac, and still, no web-cam.

So I start tinkering around, and in the settings for said plug-in, I find an option that says something like "Use this plug-in for Windows Media Player content". However, that option was grayed out, so I could neither check nor uncheck its box. Googling a bit more, I find that apparently when Safari is running in 64-bit mode, it can adversely affect the functionality of certain media-related plug-ins. A-ha!, thinks I, as I then look up how to set Safari to run in 32-bit mode instead of 64-bit mode. It turns out that there's a simple way to do this: you access certain settings for Safari in the "Finder" thing, and then just check the box that says "Run Safari in 32-bit mode". Only problem?

No such box exists on my mother's computer. As far as I can tell, her version of Safari will only run in 64-bit mode. No other option is available. So, I'm stymied and unable to get her web-cam to show her pretty pictures of a beach in Hawaii. Anybody out there got any suggestions?

(And Justin Long said that things just sorta work on Macs. Yeah, right!)

Sunday Burst of Weird and AWESOME!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: When a half-marathon runs by his house, what's an energetic young dog to do?

:: A while back I posted a video of a space shuttle launch from the vantage point of a solid-fuel rocket booster. Here's a similar video.

It's not that interesting a video for the first minute or two, because of the vantage point of the camera, but then we reach the point (at about the 1:50 mark) where the booster rockets separate and fall back to Earth, and it becomes amazing. You gradually see the second booster recede until it's invisible...and the Earth just circles around lazily, getting bigger all the time...and then the other rocket booster comes back into view. And if you freeze the frame at exactly the 4:28 mark, you can actually see the thrust exhaust contrail making a giant bow all the way from the launch pad to the other booster, still free-falling back to Earth.

The screen goes black at about the 5:38 mark; stick with it, though, because the video switches to the perspective of a different camera at that point. Which camera? Watch!



:: A Twitter followee of mine posted this: The world's ten geekiest houses. It'll be obvious which is my favorite, but they're all really amazing.

More next week!

39-37

As of this writing, the Pittsburgh Pirates are 39-37. They're close to entering July with a record at or over .500. That would be amazing.

I was thinking about the Pirates' 1992 season, which started amazingly -- they charged out of the gate, playing five or six games and then going on a nine-game winning streak -- and ended with the most heartbreaking end to a sporting event in which I had a rooting interest that I've ever seen. Seriously: the Francisco Cabrera hit in the bottom of the ninth in Game Seven of the NLCS that year was more gutwrenching than even Scott Norwood's miss in Super Bowl XXV. While the Bills were on the edge the entire game of that Super Bowl, the Pirates really looked like they were going to break through to the World Series after two consecutive years in which they lost the NLCS. They took a 2-0 lead to the bottom of the ninth, only to see a nightmare of an inning unfold in which the Braves put up three to win the pennant.

I watched my fair share of Pirates games that season, whenever I could. ESPN had the Pirates a lot, and I'd watch them play the Cubs on WGN and the Braves on TBS. One of those Braves games stands out as one of the most hard-luck games I've ever seen a team lose. I remember the Pirates pitcher, Danny Jackson, for whom they had traded despite his awful record at that point in the season because they desperately needed left-handed pitching, throwing a masterful game but losing, 1-0. It was worse, even, than that, however. I was able to do some research and track down the actual box score from that game, and Ye Gods! Jackson pitched seven innings, and a reliever tossed the eighth. Between the two of them, they combined to throw a one-hitter. But that one hit was a solo home run by David Justice, and that one run would be all the Braves would need.

The Pirates actually had a great chance to score. I don't recall if anyone was on base at the time, but center fielder Andy Van Slyke hit a ball deep to center field. Deep to center field. In fact, he hit it out of the park for a home run -- or, rather, it would have been a home run had Braves CF Otis Nixon not run to the wall, jumped up, stuck his glove about a foot over the fence, and hauled in the ball. It was an astonishing catch, truly (you can watch it here), and one of the biggest "Oh, come on!" moments I've ever experienced as a sports fan.

Oh well. But apparently the Pirates are getting good again! Huzzah!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Centus

This week we're limited to sixty words, not 100.

Dear John,

I made it back. Why didn't you?

Tom

(One of many notes tucked lovingly into the space between the granite panels at the Vietnam Wall in Washington.)

Overalls weather!


Overalls weather!, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

Usually, from June to mid-September at the earliest, I might get to wear overalls a handful of times, because it's just too warm for them. Not that overalls are especially hot, per se, but the bib and the back part do tend to rest where...well, where I tend to produce the most sweat. I'm better at dealing with heat now than I used to be, but I'm still not up to wearing overalls in summer.

I'm not sure how the rest of this summer is going to play out, but so far in June, we seem to have a pattern going where it will get seasonably warm (or even a bit warmer) for a few days, say five or six days, and then we'll get two or three days of unseasonably cool days that lots of folks whine about but which I find highly pleasant and refreshing. This weekend is one of the cool weekends -- highs in the low 60s, which is not usual for June in these parts! So I get to wear overalls this weekend, huzzah!

Will this pattern hold? I doubt it, but I'd love it if it did. I'd love to be able to wear overalls to the Erie County Fair, but it's always too hot by Fair time. We're knocking on the door of July, which is always my least favorite month (mainly because of the heat), so we'll see.

By the way, that plant in front of me is one of two ivy plants that we have. That one is actually grown from a cutting I made off the original plant, which you can't see because it's behind me (except for one tendril sticking out from, well, behind my arse). Usually our ivies shed most of their leaves over the winter, even though we bring them inside, but that didn't happen this year, so both of them are doing abnormally well for being this point in the summer. Also note the hummingbird feeder -- we have three, The Wife loves hummingbirds -- and the hummingbird light next to the feeder. It's solar powered, so it charges through the day and lights up at night.

I like our balcony, and I wish it got enough sun that we could have a real producing tomato plant. That line of trees there, on the right side of the photo, keeps going well past where the camera is, giving us nice shade but also enough shade that tomato plants will grow but not produce fruit. Oh well.

"She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time."

Peter Falk died the other day, after living a good, long life of acting. Of course his most famous role was as Detective Columbo, and naturally I saw a whole bunch of variations on his standard "Oh, yes, one more thing..." quirk as Columbo on Twitter and Facebook yesterday. I love Columbo as well, although I was a bit too young to really enjoy it in its first run; I came to know Columbo through re-runs in syndication years later and through ABC's resurrection of the character in the late 80s. (One episode I recall had William Shatner as the murderer, who was also a Rush Limbaugh-type talk radio loudmouth. Shatner and Falk played off each other pretty well in that episode.)

As much as I like Columbo, though, Peter Falk's iconic role for me is -- and always will be -- the Grandfather who reads to Fred Savage in The Princess Bride. All he does is sit in a chair and gruffly read a book, but it's just so pitch-perfect a performance. The final line of The Princess Bride is, for my money, one of the best closing lines to a movie ever, and the movie gives that line to Peter Falk. The line? It's just three words, and Falk delivers it perfectly.

Here's a video I found, with Falk's entrance in the first scene and his exit in the last scene of The Princess Bride, complete with that oh, so perfect final line.



Thanks for the entertainment, Peter Falk!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rainbow over New York


Rainbow over New York, originally uploaded by JaredsEyes.

The New York State Senate passes a bill that, when signed into law by the Governor, will make it legal for homosexuals to marry in this state.

I've been very bitter and discouraged on the political front lately, for a lot of reasons, so it's awfully heartening to see that yes, we do get it right once in a while. New York's state legislature usually resembles a tire fire that's been dropped on top of a train wreck. That they managed to make this happen is nothing short of astonishing.

Connecticut.
Iowa.
Massachusetts.
New Hampshire.
Vermont.
New York.

Forty-four to go. Who's next?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Correspondence of a Class Clown

Here's a love letter someone wrote to his beloved:

My own sweet bright light, Sally:

These trees are still young and new but already strong and sturdy -- and with a long life-span ahead of them. JUST LIKE OUR LOVE

They are also bathed in a golden glow -- as I am, when I'm in your presence. Your love bathes me in warm, golden wonderfulness.

Here's another, from the same fellow to the same lady:

The King loves his Queen -- and decrees that she shall receive all his kisses, touches, hugs and love forevermore

In return, he wants her to hold him in her heart for every moment they're apart

This same love-sick gentleman left notes for Sally, on post-its and index cards:

It you were any prettier, the Sun would be embarrassed that you outshone him.

I'm so in love with you I could burst -- but I promise to clean up the mess.

They're not all like that, though. Some of them are a bit more adult in tone, and some are downright dirty.

You're the Queen Kong of my heart.

You can climb my skyscraper anytime!

So, who is this guy? Who on Earth could have written love letters and notes like that? Well, by way of a clue, on the very first letter up above, I omitted the fact that he signed it "Pumpkin Balls".

Turns out, it was this guy:


George Carlin wrote these, and many many more, to his second wife, Sally Wade. Carlin's first wife (of more than 30 years) passed away in 1997; a year later Carlin married Sally Wade, and he remained married to her until his untimely death in 2008. Apparently they met in a bookstore, when Sally Wade's dog Spot hit it off with Carlin (who loved dogs and once claimed that "Life is a series of dogs"). Carlin would then apparently express his love for her by constantly writing her little letters, notes, postcards, and whatever else he could get his hands on.

A lot of it is goofily sentimental; a lot of it is downright odd; and a good portion of it is -- well, you still can't say a lot of that stuff on teevee. Wade has gathered a lot of this together in a book called The George Carlin Letters: The Permanent Courtship of Sally Wade. It's all very sweet, and very Carlin. What's nice about this book is that the actual notes are reproduced, in Carlin's writing (which is sometimes very difficult to read), along with occasional doodles. Read in sequence, the book forms a portrait of the other, non-public side of Carlin's final decade. I personally found it more pleasurable to dip through the book at random.

Carlin's humor took a decidedly darker tone in his later life, but he wasn't all gloom and doom, as this book shows.

Something for Thursday

I've been on a big SF-reading kick lately (memo to self: blog about books), so here's some SF music: Michael Giacchino's end-credits suite from Star Trek 2009. I wasn't sure what to make of this score when I first heard it, a few weeks before I saw the movie, but it really grew on me to the point where it's one of my favorite scores from the last ten years of film music. It's just big, brassy, explodey-spaceshippy space opera music. I especially love how right off the bat he uses Alexander Courage's famous theme from Star Trek: The Original Series; and at about the 1:00 mark, he blends in the main theme that he composed for this film.



Of all facets of the 2009 Trek, it's the music that I think is most successful in capturing the tone of Original Series Trek at its best -- intelligent space adventure that is optimistic about our future.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sigh....

New York State's awesome legislature has today addressed a long-standing issue that needed resolution...by making corn the state vegetable.

Corn is, of course, a grain.

I am more and more reminded of George Carlin discussing news media reporting on Mickey Mouse's birthday: "No wonder nobody takes our country seriously anymore; we spend valuable television time informing our citizens of the age of an imaginary rodent."

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

I did this on Facebook, but the response was less than stellar. So let's try it here! It's really simple: just quote a movie villain for me.

See? Simple!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

OMG.

Suddenly, a trip to Oklahoma has become a much more desirable thing....

Monday, June 20, 2011

This was NOT a boat accident!


(It's an animated GIF, but it doesn't show up animated on the main page. Click through to see it in motion! Image via.)

So-and-so wants to be friends.


I watched The Social Network a month or so ago, and going into it, I had high hopes. I used to count myself among Aaron Sorkin's biggest fans, but he started to disappoint me midway through the third season of The West Wing (and after rewatching Season Three recently, I'm even clearer in that conviction -- post to come at some point), I found Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip ultimately disappointing, and Charlie Wilson's War didn't really impress me a whole lot, either. But when the reviews for The Social Network were almost unanimously raving, I hoped that Sorkin had recaptured some of his earlier mojo. Alas...I was entertained, but ultimately, again I was not terribly impressed. I wonder if I'm over Sorkin completely.

I don't have much to say about the story of The Social Network. Nor do I have much to say about the characters, because I'm starting to wonder if Aaron Sorkin has lost his ability to create characters with their own distinct voices. Or, putting it slightly differently, I'm wondering if he ever really had the ability to create characters with different voices, and instead relied on actors to give their characters voice. My problem is that everybody in this movie sounds the same – and they all sound the same as other characters in other Aaron Sorkin movies and teevee shows. It's frustrating for me, wanting to like each new Sorkin project, and only end up hearing the same tropes he brings to every bit of dialog.

What do I mean? Things like: characters speaking in sentences that are longer than sentences found in nature. Conversations that loop back and forth, in which characters will refer back to things said earlier in the conversation using the exact same wording. The only affirmative response to any question being "Yeah." One character will be stuck on a certain part of whatever project it is they're working on, and then in the middle of a conversation on a completely unrelated topic, another character will just happen to say something that leads the first one to the breakthrough on the problem they're stuck on. Sharp debates on issues will be somehow won by one side or the other, often without the benefit of an actual argument being made. Supremely arrogant characters will defend their arrogance on various grounds. Someone will say something along the lines of "X isn't going to happen because of Y. X is going to happen because of Z."

I was trying to cut the movie some slack along the way, trying to get involved, but the Sorkinisms just kept coming and kept coming and kept coming, until I finally had to admit that I just couldn't get involved at all. The one that finally ejected me from the movie was during one of the court deposition scenes. The lawyer is following a line of questioning that Zuckerberg planned to cheat his onetime partner out of ownership of Facebook out of jealousy, and Zuckerberg fires back thusly:

Ma'am, I know you've done your homework, and so you know that money isn't a big part of my life, but at the moment I could buy Mt. Auburn Street, take the Phoenix Club, and turn it into my ping-pong room.

This is supposed to make Mark Zuckerberg look confident and dismissive of the entire proceeding under which he is being sued for ownership of Facebook, but hearing that, all I could think of was another court deposition scene, almost identical in tone, from the Sorkin-scripted movie Malice, in which Alec Baldwin delivers his noted "You ask me if I have a God complex? I am God." speech.

Ultimately, I just didn't care about the people in this movie as I was watching it. I just didn't. The creation of Facebook is probably one of the most important cultural events of the 2000s, but The Social Network, for all its long and circular speeches and its whiplash dialog, just didn't make the behind-the-scenes story all that interesting to me. Nobody in this movie is sympathetic; nobody in this movie was anyone I really cared to know anything about. In Aaron Sorkin's best work -- The West Wing, The American President, A Few Good Men -- there are characters to care about. In the things he's done that didn't impress me -- Studio 60, The Social Network -- all there is are people who say lots of neat-sounding things but whose problems don't involve me one whit.

The film's first scene has a girl telling Mark Zuckerberg that he's an asshole, and that is ultimately the problem with the movie. Everybody in it is an asshole. And an asshole with lots of great speeches to give is still, in the end, an asshole.

Sentential Links #250

Wow...two hundred fifty of these! Amazing! Incredible! Or...something.

:: To me, the depictions of people trying to break free of whatever and whoever were holding them back, and to escape what wasn't working, to have the opportunity to find something better and more fitting, even from the oh, so woeful adolescence I thought I was experiencing, were stories, ideas and feelings I had never experienced before. I had never been reached like this by a rock band, hell, any kind of band, before, with such intensity and meaning, such power and understandable message. And, hey, having a saxophone as a key instrument and Clemons an upfront member were vital to this then-tuba player. (A fine tribute to Clarence Clemons, by Buffalo writer Kevin J. Hosey. Check it out!)

:: I was hoping to see some compilation footage of all the people that were tazed. I do so love to see the rioters try to run away but are not fast enough to outrun the tazer darts.

:: Interesting thing about about my mother’s interment this year is that it became the first time that my daughter had had the opportunity to see where my father was buried. She has seen pictures of him, and she talks about him fairly regularly, surprising considering the fact that she never in person. Somehow, it seems as though he became a bit more real to her. And this made me happy. (I love the look on the kid's face in the first picture on this post -- it's like she doesn't quite believe that Pop-Tarts are food.)

:: Turns out margaritas make my throat hurt, but all that other stuff sounds good. I could use something right this instant, actually.

:: Lesson of the day: let go and stop worrying so much. I have spent a crazy amount of time worrying my ass off about things that never came to fruition. Truly, the big problems are the things that hit you suddenly that never crossed your mind in the first place. (This is a relatively new blog to me. I can't remember if I've linked it yet.)

:: Either something is natural — that is, part of the Universe — or else it doesn’t exist.

:: I am a woman. I write science fiction.

More next week! The second half of the road to 500 of these posts begins!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I stand in awe....

UPDATE: I forgot to include a link to the article I quote. Fixed!


See the older fellow in the middle, there? That's a guy named Trygve Trooien. He's a farmer in South Dakota, and he collects overalls. He owns more than two hundred pair of them!

“It kind of started by accident,” said Trooin of his bib overall compilation. “I’m a packrat. I save everything, including my old overalls. And when you live in a house that has 18 rooms you have a lot of space to store things.”

About a dozen years ago, Trooin realized that his compulsion for saving had inadvertently resulted in an extensive bib overall collection. A friend of his suggested that Trooin put on a fashion show as a way to share his bib overall collection with others.

“It seemed like a good idea,” said Trooin. “I now have over 200 bib overalls in my collection. There are 80 different kinds that include 42 different brand names.”

Wow. Two hundred pairs! This puts me to absolute shame. Last time I counted -- as part of Ask Me Anything! August 2010 -- my collection topped out at between 25 and 30 pairs. That struck me as a lot, but wow, does Mr. Trooien ever have me beat. That's absolutely amazing.

I actually have not purchased a single pair of overalls in several years, but now I'm wondering if I don't need to start up again! I do still check eBay once in a while, mostly for vintage pairs -- I'd love to find a white painter's pair that has a "traditional" chest pocket, as opposed to the big triangular pocket that most painter's pairs have -- but I'm rarely tempted, and even when I am, the bidding quickly shoots up higher than I have any interest in pursuing.

What cracks me up is that Mr. Trooien displays his collection by having "fashion shows"! He gets a bunch of women together, and then they apparently walk a runway showing off his overalls. This is awesome!



More photos here. Long live Trygve Trooien! He's a big damn inspiration, I tell you what!

Sunday Burst of AWESOME!

No weirdness this week, just awesome, in honor of saxophone great Clarence Clemons, who passed away yesterday. This is my favorite Bruce Springsteen song: here's "Born to Run".



In truth, I don't know Springsteen's oeuvre all that well; he's always been one of those people whose work I eternally mean to explore more without ever actually doing it. I think it may be time. I always thought Clarence Clemons was all kinds of terrific. May his work be remembered for decades to come!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Centus

We're back to 100 words this week. I decided to experiment with a bit of free verse. I tend to not like my own poetry all that much, but...well, you be the judge!

In Britain there is a cave,
and therein lies the wizard.
Trapped there by a woman he was,
some say by through treachery,
and others by love.

The wizard brought a King once,
a once and Future King;
a King who will return again,
but when that day may be,
is for none save the Wizard
in his cave to say.

So the world awaits the future King,
and wonders about the wizard
in the cave. Will Arthur not
return one day, and free Merlin
from his tomb within the stone?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

X-Files Case Report: "Fallen Angel"


Hot on the heels of the lackluster "Space" comes an episode that marks a serious improvement: "Fallen Angel". This is a terrific episode, one that establishes a surprising amount of background for the mytharc that would come to dominate the series.

In eastern Wisconsin, a police officer is patroling a rural route out in the middle of the woods when he sees a large fire in the distance. Meanwhile, a military air-traffic monitoring station is tracking something that is traveling very fast and on an erratic flight path. This something disappears from their screens in eastern Wisconsin, and the commanding officer immediately places a phone call to his superiors that they have a "fallen angel". Something has crashed in those woods. Our intrepid cop is investigating, but we see POV shots of something stalking him, and the last thing we see before cutting to the credits is the cop's death screams.

When we return, Mulder is already on the scene, trying to infiltrate what is now a military operation in the woods there. Through flashbacks, we see how he learned of the crashed aircraft: Deep Throat told him. Mulder is taking on considerable risk, as he is going far off the FBI's standard jurisdiction and methods. He gets in close enough to get a look at what's happening, and it's quite clear that this wasn't an Iraqi jet crashing (the cover story put out, which is pretty silly, as Mulder points out – an Iraqi jet over Wisconsin?!); he takes photos of what is no airplane we've ever seen. But of course he's discovered and captured, and his camera is confiscated and his film destroyed. (Yes, we're still pre-digital cameras here.) A somewhat bad-ass military officer threatens Mulder with everything under the sun after putting him in some kind of ad-hoc lock-up, which is where Mulder makes the acquaintance of a guy named Max Fenig.

At first glance, Max is an obsessive hippie-type of UFO enthusiast, wearing a baseball cap with the NICAP logo (National Investigative Committee of Aerial Phenomena). Max has been tracking this case, and it turns out that he's part of an underground UFO community for whom Mulder's work is legend. Max also has some issues of his own, though; poking through the trailer which Max drives around the country pursuing UFO reports, Scully notices that he is taking very power anti-psychotic medications. Is Max Fenig for real? Or is he a crank whose UFO experiences are simply a result of pre-existing psychological conditions? Well, this is The X-Files, which means that our answer is...a bit of both.

I was also interested by the depiction of the alien itself. We never see "it" directly; there are shots from its point of view as it moves very quickly across open spaces, very near to the ground, and in long shots, the alien is only "visible" as a transparent distortion of the air that quickly moves by. Very early on, The X-Files was clear to establish that its aliens were not all of one stripe. They weren't all "grays" with the big heads, giant eyes and tiny slits for mouths. Sometimes they were something much more menacing.

"Fallen Angel" establishes a good many tropes that will be part-and-parcel of the show's UFO-based mytharc over the next seven seasons: government awareness of the UFO threat; possible government encouragement of the UFO threat; Mulder's status as a possible hero figure to shadowy groups that wish to investigate the UFO threat; military involvement in operations to keep the whole thing secret; and the very fact that Mulder is not as rogue an element as he might think himself to be, but that he and Scully are themselves pawns in some larger game they cannot understand.

"Fallen Angel" ends with Mulder and Scully on the receiving end of harsh criticism from an FBI higher-up, who is this close to pulling the plug on the X-Files project altogether, when he is called off the attack by none other than Deep Throat himself. This is where questions start to pile up on top of questions: just who is Deep Throat? What is his interest in supplying Mulder with information? Why is he seemingly encouraging Mulder and at the same time acting as an obstacle? When the FBI guy protests, Deep Throat says: "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." It's a fairly chilling end, because someone we've been led to see as an ally of Mulder's is now claiming to be an enemy.

It's hard not to look back on "Fallen Angel" (and, I suspect, a lot of the early mytharc stories) in light of the fact that the mytharc lost a great deal of focus as the show went on several seasons past its shelf life. But at the time, "Fallen Angel" stood out as a major early turning point in the mytharc, and now it stands out as a major early episode in terms of its sheer quality.

THIS can't end badly at all....

Saw this on Tumblr and had a good laugh. Although, I had to wonder just what Professor X could possibly have been thinking, even entertaining such an idea....

Something for Thursday

It's getting hard to remember if I used things before or not, but in this case, I don't care, because it's one of my favorite works of classical music. I was a trumpet player, and in that vein, my favorite work -- by far -- is this concerto, written by the Armenian composer Alexander Arutiunian. It's dramatic, lyrical, and redolent of Eastern Europe. After years of playing things like the concertos of Haydn and Hummel and earlier works from the Baroque period, to discover the Arutiunian was a breath of much-needed fresh air.

This is a terrific performance, even if the soloist looks utterly bored by the proceedings. His playing, however, indicates that he is not.



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Oh, James Newton Howard, NO!!!

I'm listening to James Newton Howard's score to Green Lantern, and...well, I really hope that the rest of the movie rises above the music Howard has written for it.

Howard is one of the more respected composers active today -- quite a few of the "Goldsmith was God" freaks at FilmScoreMonthly, for instance, seem to view Howard as Goldsmith's heir apparent. But not on the basis of Green Lantern. Boy howdy, this score is awful.

Like many scores nowadays, this is a blend of orchestral and techno elements. I have no problem with this at all. What I do have a problem with is how depressingly conventional this score is. There is literally nothing distinctive about it. There is no sense of epic scope, to suggest Green Lantern's blend of space opera and superhero genre. The action music could be slotted into nearly any action sequence in any film of the last twenty years; the "wonder" music for when Hal Jordan first flies as one of the Green Lanterns sounds like any other "wonder" music out there.

And worst of all, there is virtually no melody to be found here. None. There are some motifs that I heard several times, but nothing that ever develops into anything of substance. I recall when superhero flicks had themes. John Williams wrote one of the most famous ones of all time for Superman. Danny Elfman did a fine theme for Batman. Jerry Goldsmith wrote a good theme for Supergirl (it's virtually unknown these days because, like most Goldsmith scores, it accompanied an absolute dog of a movie).

But these days? There are no big melodies, no big themes, just subdued motifs that you have to study the score to find and which aren't remotely memorable when you do.

God, what a crashing disappointment. James Newton Howard can do so much better than this. He has done so much better than this. I truly, deeply hope that melody can make a triumphant return to film music one day soon. Michael Giacchino can't do it all by himself.

Unrealistic Expectations

The Buffalo Chow food blog has shut down. They've posted their reasons, but for me, there are several things worth noting here:

1. This is the second time they've shut down in the space of two years. The reasons given the first time were largely similar to the reasons they gave the second time.

2. They seem to genuinely believe that one blog could change the dining patterns of an entire city, in a fairly short time. Maybe I'm being uncharitable there, but I honestly can't think of any other way to parse the fact that a single trip to Olive Garden destroyed their desire to write about food.

3. I wasn't a terribly big fan of theirs, anyway, because of the tone of their writing. I didn't get a sense of a true love of food. The tone there was almost always of the "Don't worry, you heathen masses, here I am to show you The Light!" I hate that. No matter what the subject -- music, movies, books, food, hand tools -- I can't stand it when people work from the assumption that I am in desperate need of the "voice of reason" to show me the error of my ways. Give me food writing like Anthony Bourdain -- not in terms of voice, but in terms of passion and love of the food. Don't give me a food blog that reads like it's being written by Joe Bastianich.

4. For folks who seemingly intended for their reviews to serve as a resource for those in the area who want to look up reviews of local restaurants, removing all that material entirely is just a crappy thing to do. Don't want to write anymore reviews? Fine. Delete them all and salt the earth where they once grew? Give me a break. (UPDATE 6-18-11: They've restored all previous content.)

5. Finally...well, that's about it. Oddly enough, I didn't realize that the Buffalo Chow folks were on Twitter until just last night, so I started following them -- just in time to learn that they'd picked up their ball and gone home again. Oh well. But as I posted to Twitter immediately after I stopped following them again, people who assume that because I don't care about something in precisely the same way that they care about it, I must not care about it at all bore me.

I'm reminded of a similar incident from years back, when I was active on the rec.music.movies newsgroup. One of the regulars at the time was a guy from Quebec who was getting his doctorate in music composition. It was nice to have an actual trained musician on the group -- for a while. But very quickly, a tone started to infect his posts that became deeply annoying, very quickly. He would get curt sometimes, if not downright angry, at dissenting opinions from his own. If you liked a film score that he didn't like, he'd get pouty about your failure to defer to the wisdom of the trained composer. (That the folks who wrote the scores he didn't like were also trained composers never seemed to enter his mind.)

Then he decided to take it upon himself to educate the denizens of the newsgroup, and started a series of posts about classical music for film music fans. It was all very condescending and arrogant and insulting, and as soon as he realized that everyone wasn't lining up to thank him for having descended to our level to toss down his pearls of wisdom, he got very angry indeed, wrote a few more posts flaming everyone there (including me, which was odd because I hadn't even responded to his posts in a while), and stomped off, never to be heard from again.

That's what this was like. "A few years of blogging, and yet, Olive Garden is still busy!" Well, shit. Welcome to the real world. As Stephen King said in On Writing when he noted that Americans don't tend to value their creative folk all that much, "it's a case of tough titty said the kitty, 'cause that's the way things are."

And frankly, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if their fellow diners at Olive Garden actually liked their dinners just fine and didn't want to admit it in front of their foodie companion.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Under the hood....

Last week I reported on a problem with Blogger publishing. Now I've discovered another glitch: uploading photos stopped working. After some digging through Blogger's help forums, I found this procedure which worked for me:

1) Go to Settings, Basic, scroll down and select the Old Editor and save your settings.
2) Then create a new post and upload a photo. You can save this test/new post as a draft, no need to publish it.
3) Then go back to Settings, Basic, scroll down and select the New Editor and Save your Settings.
4) This should hopefully now enable you to post/upload photos again with the New Editor.

I have no idea why this works, but it worked for me.

Hee hee hee....


I'm not going to lie: I love that the Miami Heat lost the NBA Finals. I love that, after crowning himself "King James", LeBron the Great was pretty much of a non-factor. I love that the supreme arrogance displayed when these guys put themselves together and declared that they were going to win seven championships came to naught.

Mostly, though, I loathe LeBron for the way he handled himself in leaving Cleveland last year. I don't hate that he left Cleveland, in principle; star players leave their original markets all the time, for various reasons. Some leave because of money. Others leave because they just don't feel that the management of their original team has a plan to improve and win. Still others leave for personal reasons, like when Chris Drury left the Buffalo Sabres four years ago. It happens. It sucks when you're a fan and your team's very best player leaves, but sports fans for the most part accept that it happens.

LeBron James could have left Cleveland in a classy way a year ago, but he chose not to. He chose to toy with Cleveland, and act like there was a chance he might stick around, and he refused to reveal his decision until several weeks into the free agency period, after most of the top free agents had already been signed around the league. Then he announced his departure. It was very hard to escape the impression that James did all these things because he wanted to rub Cleveland's nose in it.

I also could have done without the comparisons of James to Michael Jordan. Now, to be fair, James himself wasn't the one making these comparisons. But still -- any such talk is silly. Maybe James is a better technical player than Jordan; I have no idea, but maybe, just maybe, he is. But the difference in the "intangibles" is so marked that it can't be denied. Jordan is one of the greatest "clutch" athletes in the history of not just basketball, but sport itself. Jordan didn't wilt in the spotlight; he didn't disappear in the tough moments when the next basket or two might decide who takes home the trophy. And Jordan never left the final game of the NBA Finals without taking the trophy with him. LeBron James has done that. Twice.

This morning, James said something to the effect that all of his "haters" didn't matter to him because they'd all be getting up in the morning with the same personal problems, and he'd just live with his family and make money and yada yada yada. Well, that's true. But I got up this morning without most of the country engaging in schadenfreude at my expense. I got that going for me.

Which is nice.

Sentential Links #249

Here we go!

:: I would have thought that the price of a comic book increasing over 1000% over the past thirty years, or short-sighted decisions allowing comics to lose 99% of their retail outlets over that same time, or the increased emphasis on violence and gore, or bizarre editorial mandates to continually reboot their product might have had a heck of a lot more to do with downward sales. Nope, it's actually the fault of fans who care about the stories they're told. Mea culpa. (Interesting thoughts on the DC Comics reboot. I like that he mentions the "dream season" of Dallas. I was a fan of the show at the time, and boy, did it feel cheap. The worst aspect of it was that in the last four or five episodes of the "Dream Season", the writers had started a storyline that they'd intended to continue in the next season -- involving an old ranch hand coming to work at Southfork who may or may not have actually been Jock Ewing with a different face -- but since the season had been rendered a dream, that storyline was cut off. But the writers really really really liked that idea, so what did they do in the new, non-dream season? They started that same storyline over again, to the point of using the exact same actor as the old ranch hand who may or may not have been Jock Ewing with a new face. All they did was change the name of the character!)

:: And I did love it—even more than Ender’s Game. It has aliens and spaceships and an intelligent computer. It has distance between the stars measured not in kilometers but in years. It had the fascinating comparison of human, ramen, and varelse. I wish I still loved it, I really do. But you can’t unsee the man behind the curtain.

:: If fantasy and science fiction movies like 2001 and Lord of the Rings and Star Wars can feature classical music scores-some existing, like the Strauss Also Sprach Zarathustra for 2001, or some created, like Howard Shore's gorgeous compositions for LOTR-then why is classical music missing in novels? This is the question that begins a lot of panels on the topic of music in speculative fiction.

:: Now of course, some of you will point out that Sam Raimi wasn’t making that movie for kids, that he was making a serious and mature Spider-Man film for grown-ups and I have no business showing it to a little kid and expecting her to be entertained…but before you do, take just one minute to think about the implications of trying to argue that kids should have no right to watch a Spider-Man movie and be entertained by it. Okay? Okay.

:: For someone who professes to disdain Internet writers, Richard Schickel is one hell of an effective troll.

:: Draped between the doorknob and the sink, blocking the door so it couldn’t open very far, was a diamond-patterned rope, like one of those very thick velvet ropes that blocks movie theater entrances. A rope? A slimy rope with scales? In my bathroom? What? No, it wasn’t a rope; it was...moving! My brain was trying to register what this thing was in my doorway. My hand was mere inches away from it, my fingers on one side of the door knob, his body wrapped around the other. It moved again. I was moving too. FAST. In the opposite direction. And screaming. LOUD.

:: I also had to smile about the fact that I am currently at war with dandelions in my lawn, yet one of the sweetest memories of my life is seeing my first born boy at about six months old grinning from his kingdom of dandelions many moons ago. (1975 to be exact!) In one case they were a beautiful field of precious yellow flowers. In another setting they are evil devil blooms I must eradicate.

:: But I find I do remember that melancholy little scene fairly often, usually when it's late at night -- as it is now -- and I starting thinking about the open road, with all the promises and disappointments it embodies. The American mythology, Kerouac's seductive road, along which you might reinvent yourself or find your true self. Or you might find nothing more than a lonely young man and a stray cat each hoping for a little company beneath the unearthly glare of a florescent light... (Posts like this are why I hope blogging never dies out completely.)

More next week!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: You know, next time someone makes me a weiner dog out of a balloon, I'm going to be drastically disappointed.

:: Do check out this amazing gallery of photos of the space shuttle Endeavor docked to the International Space Station. Great stuff there. Via.

:: The Lord of the Drills.

More next week!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Centus

Wow -- we get two hundred words this week! It's like that episode of Seinfeld when Kramer adopts a highway, and decides that means he can make his highway all roomy and luxurious by removing the center stripe. Two hundred words! What luxury!

Anyway, it's back to science fiction this time:

Norah looked down at the waves lapping gently at the base of the wall. Here, it seemed rather prosaic – almost Earthlike – but there were other places along this wall's length where enormous waves, born from fathomless depths, smashed each day against the wall's foundations with more force than any wave that had ever been recorded back on Earth.

"How old is the Wall, Professor?"

"The Wall was built long ago. Those who built it would be like gods to us."

"Why did they build it?"

"No one knows."


Why would they build such a thing? What possible use could there be for a wall running the entire length of a planet's equator, restraining all of that world's oceans to its northern hemisphere? The magnificent majesty of it! The sheer arrogance to attempt a construct like this, and the staggering skill to actually do it.

Back on her ship, Norah wept. The Wall was beautiful. But the Prophet of Mars had spoken:

"Only God may remake worlds."

Norah pressed the detonator, and flew away without looking back as the oceans surged through a thousand breaches. God's will be done – but she'd remember the Wall intact.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Something for Thursday

Sticking with songs pertaining to all our fine local watering holes, here's one of my favorite country songs. I'm not a big fan of the Oak Ridge Boys, but "Y'All Come Back Saloon" is really pretty terrific.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

I posted this on Facebook yesterday, and I thought I'd try it out here, too. So:

Neil Diamond is the William Shatner of popular music.

Discuss!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Huh....

OK, that was weird. I wrote that last post, but then the "Publish" button in Blogger wouldn't work. At all. I clicked it a dozen times, and my post just sat there in the Edit Post screen, staring at me. Very strange.

After digging a bit into Blogger's help screens, I found the following advice, if anyone out there is having similar trouble: Go into your blog's settings, and then, in the "Basic Settings" tab (the left-most tab, should be the one that comes up first when you click into your Settings), scroll down to near the bottom, where you can choose which version of the Blogger editor you're using. If the radio button for "Old Editor" is selected, change this to the "Updated Editor" or whatever it's called. Publishing will then work. (Also, you'll be using a new version of Blogger's editor, so things will look a tad different. But that's a small price to pay for being able to actually post to one's own blog!)

A Final Teevee Report

Some final thoughts on the teevee season just completed:

:: The only new show I ended up liking enough to mostly watch all season (I missed a couple of episodes) was Mike and Molly. There's not a thing about it that's original; it's just a typical sitcom about two people who meet and fall in love and meet each other's circle of lunatic friends and family. The "spin" of the show is that our leads are obese. The first few episodes were heavy on the fat-jokes, but they backed off a bit on that, and mostly kept the "fat" humor aimed at Mike and not Molly. It's not a great show, by any means, but it's a pleasant sitcom with likeable people in it. Which makes it a marked contrast to its lead-in show, the ongoingly awful Two and a Half Men.

:: I finally became a committed fan of How I Met Your Mother this season, although my impression remains the same as when the show debuted: the lead character, Ted, who is narrating the events of the show to his kids, is the show's least interesting character. He really doesn't need to be there at all.

:: The Office probably should have ended entirely on Michael Scott's departure. This show has lost a significant amount of steam. The biggest mistake, I think, was in allowing Dwight to get the upper hand on occasion. I consider that a colossal blunder on the part of the writing staff.

:: We didn't watch Grey's Anatomy at all this year. We'll likely watch this season over the summer.

:: I've already bitched about Survivor, which I didn't watch. Rob should never have been there, period. I don't care how much Kool-Aid he managed to get his competitors to drink; he should never have been brought back at all. I'm probably done with Survivor.

:: The Amazing Race was kind of unexciting this last time. I do wish that they would come up with a way around the fact that each year it seems like one of the final three teams ends up out of the running because they get a cab driver who can't find the McDonald's that's closest to the airport, much less the destinations they have to reach.

:: I watched the first episode of two of Celebrity Apprentice, but then Donald Trump decided that he really wanted him some Teabagger Love, so the hell with him and his show.

:: CSI: Miami is as goofy fun as ever. I haven't watched either of the other two CSIs in several years, but Miami still entertains me with its gonzo Shatner-on-quaaludes acting by David Caruso.

:: Hawaii Five-0 was OK. I wasn't wild about it, but I did like it enough to catch most episodes. The cast developed chemistry as the season went on, and the finale episode was a hell of a cliffhanger. In fact, the cliffhanger was so good that it might be one of those cliffhangers with no satisfying resolution. I wouldn't be surprised if next season starts off with some hand-wavey BS. But that finale was a pretty riveting hour of teevee.

:: The Mentalist was mostly entertaining, and it turned in a fantastic season finale, in which Patrick Jane came face-to-face with Red John. If it was Red John. We'll see. Even if it was Red John, there are still lots of questions out there -- such as, how did this serial killer inspire so many people to assist him in his crimes with such loyalty that they would all kill themselves rather than betray him? Next year will go into some interesting places, I think.

:: American Idol was boring, boring, boring. I can count on one hand the number of times the judges actually provided any real criticism of the contestants, so what happened was that each contestant settled into a particular comfort-area and stayed right there. There was Pia Toscano, who only sang nothing but big-voiced love ballads, Celine Dion style; there was a guy named James who, aside from one song, did everything as an arena-rock anthem; there was another woman who was very proud of her Latina heritage and therefore sang one verse of every song in Spanish; there was eventual winner, Scotty McCreery, who aside from one or two songs, did nothing but slow country tunes in his freakishly low voice. It was a dull, dull, dull year. Blech.

:: I hate Glee. Hate it. Absolutely hate it. But I'll say this: Glee sure is a fun show to hate. It's total crap. What do I hate about it? Well, the characters, for one. This is one of those shows that makes me constantly say to myself, "Nobody would ever act this way in real life!" In one episode, the Jane Lynch character played a sex-tape or something like that made by the glee-club director over the school's PA system. I don't know if that was supposed to be funny, but someone does that in real life, and they're almost certainly suspended from their job by the end of the day. Ugh. I also hate how the show's musical numbers are all the same: person starts singing while everyone else sits around, staring at them in rapt amazement. I hate how the show constantly implies that only singers are musicians of any worth -- no lip service at all is paid to the incredibly talented instrumentalists who are never seen rehearsing or practicing, and yet who provide perfect -- and anonymous -- accompaniments each week. I hate the show's reliance on cliche, from the flamboyant gay character to the way the season finale, set in New York City, opened with glittering shots of Times Square while the opening bars of Rhapsody in Blue played. Glee is ghastly garbage! (Why do we watch it? The Kid likes it.)

:: And then there's the best damn thing on teevee, by far: Castle, which just continues to get better and better. This year featured some amazing episodes, and they managed to advance the relationship between Castle and Beckett without bogging it down. (Admittedly, though, I don't think they have much more room to stretch things out without having them either wind up together or...not.) The ongoing tale of Beckett's search for her mother's murderer took some interesting twists and turns, none more so than what unfolded in the show's brilliantly-written and acted season finale. Castle is the one show that has me wishing that late September was closer than it is.

And now we have summer teevee -- Master Chef (never my favorite Gordon Ramsay vehicle), the eventual return of Hell's Kitchen, America's Got Talent (which is really only interesting in the first weeks, during the auditions, and before it ends up being a de facto singing competition). And, of course, movies!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Sentential Links #248

Linkage! The first bunch are comics-related, as DC announced last week that it's doing another reboot of its entire universe. Or something like that. Who can keep track of these things?

:: The heart of the matter is that this is a very top-down, corporate approach to marketing DC comics, completely in keeping with Dan Didio’s editorial style for years now. The publisher doesn’t do what’s best for each individual title or character; rather it tries to apply one idea to all the titles and characters at once.

:: At the very least, if they're out of ideas they can kill the next few years reintroducting all the characters again from the starting point. It's a great opportunity.

:: "Imprisoned for centuries, Nostradamus persevered until (Isaac) Newton's son Leonid released him in time to witness a violent battle between and a time-traveling Leonardo da Vinci."

:: This got us thinking... who would be in a science fiction version of the Justice League?

:: That's what DC has started clarifying. Not a reboot, the launch of the new DC Universe. Ah. What does that mean?

:: For those who don't know what that is: on a sci-fi show, technobabble is what we call pseudoscientific dialog like "I'll have to run a level four diagnostic on the antimatter inversion matrix to be sure."

:: A few weeks ago this was a tree.

More next week!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: Cracked.com has yet another fine item up: a list of the Five Most Excessively Manly Hobbies In The World. I'd seen one of them before -- the "skysuit" item -- but the other four caught me unawares. I'll only spoil one of them: Glacier surfing. This is when you use a surfboard to ride the enormous waves that occur when giant chunks of glacier ice break free and fall into the ocean.



:: Here's an amazing series of time-lapse photographs showing the Milky Way rising over the landscapes of South Dakota.

Plains Milky Way from Randy Halverson on Vimeo.



(via)

:: Guy goes outside to wave at his kid's schoolbus when it goes by, every morning, the entire school year. With costumes. And the kid is sixteen years old. Guffaw.

More next week!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Saturday Centus

I'm doing the Centus on time today! Huzzah! This week we're limited to 25 words, plus the prompt. Hmmmm.

The End

"Now what?" said Prince Charming.

"That dragon carcass is gonna smell," said the Princess. "You oughta clean that up."

Silence....

"Why'd I rescue you, again?"

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Something for Thursday

I've probably used this before, but I don't care. Sometimes only Mr. Sinatra will do, so here's "One For My Baby (and One More for the Road)".

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Let us have no more!

Kinda-sorta meta-political rant below the fold. And concealed, so highlight the text if you really want to read it. (I do not recommend this.)

100 Teevee Memories

Rapt attention, from below

I had a great time putting together my list of 100 Movie Memories last week, so doing the same thing with teevee seems an obvious follow-up. As before, this is a collection of memories about teevee watching, memories of teevee shows, thoughts on the teevee experience, and so on. Yay, teevee!

(I'm watching teevee in the photo, I swear. It's not meant to force my readers to stare up at my nose.)

This post is pretty long, so it's after the fold.