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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

[Ack! I thought I'd published this...turns out I'd only saved it in draft and not realized it until now. Oops!]


You are allowed by the Gods of Time to attend any sporting event in history. Which one do you see?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sentential Links

Let there be linkage!

:: Wife is at a rock concert tonight. I’m watching cable TV at home. Thus are illustrated the differences between us. (John Scalzi, home alone, with a Lord of the Rings marathon on the teevee and a Twitter account logged in. Hilarity ensues. Really.)

:: We had a great time that summer and wrote to each other for years afterwards before losing touch. I wonder if she makes sure that her kids have comics in their backpacks when they leave for school in the morning. I like to think that she does. (OK, there's a great movie to be made out of Cal's story here...young love, fostered by a mutual love of comics! Great post.)

:: This is the side of me that surfaces when something grand comes from my writing. I weep for my characters. I fall in love with them and mourn the fact that I will never meet them outside the confines of my mind. This is the side of me that drinks too much wine, listens to too many love songs, and never seems to adequately express itself. Sometimes when I write, my soul weeps. (I'm the same way...the characters in my stories are real to me, as real as anyone, and even as I get to know them better than anyone, they still manage to surprise me as much as anyone in 'real' life. Of course, there is the odd circumstance of knowing that a certain character is going to die...but this person may manage to squirm their way out of doom's way....)

:: Facebook. How else would I know when former high school classmates have bagged an 8-pointer or when someone I barely know is thinking of buying new boots? (Kerry lists things she's thankful for. Somebody's gotta be thankful for Robert Pattinson, I suppose.)

:: I'm constantly worried about reading a particularly good bit and having it worm its way into my subconscious, only to sneakily reappear later, masquerading as my own original thought. (I worry about this stuff as well...I often wonder where the line is between outright copying and employing a particularly fine bit of technique, much as I like to do when I observe a particular carpentry or maintenance technique and file it away in my memory bank for use in a project at work. Am I plagiarizing Norm Abram when I measure twice and cut once (but not measure at all if I can help it)?)

All for this week. Tune in next week. Or don't. Your call, but I warn you not to underestimate my powers...ummm...yeah.

And now for something completely different....

I know that last post was rather somber, so here's something from Tumblrland that isn't.



I kinda wonder who threw that pie...not Reed Richards, obviously; that guy has no sense of humor. Hmmmm....

Monday, November 28, 2011

On That Day


Hippie Quinn


On that day, it was bright and sunny. It was a Monday, the one just after Thanksgiving. I got up and got ready for work; I heard him breathing. I left.

On that day, I got to work and bought a bag of tiny Christmas bows, which I would use to decorate my nametag. I didn't even get to open the bag, because I got paged about ten minutes into my shift to pick up a call on the outside line. It was too early for such a call.

On that day, I heard the words "He's not breathing" uttered for the first time in real life, in reference to a human being. Somehow I had the presence of mind to ask if she'd called 911. A coworker drove me home. I remember two, and only two, things from that drive: passing the ambulance going the other way, and saying, "I'm not ready for this."

On that day, I wasn't ready. Part of me had known, since very shortly after his birth, that a day like this was almost certain to come. His life was too ephemeral; every day was too much a struggle for it to not come to a point when the struggle just had to end. But I wasn't ready, on that day. How the hell could I have been?

On that day, The Daughter slept through it all. She missed a school field trip, but she slept through her mother's panicked attempts at CPR, though paramedics, and through three police officers who stayed there to wait for me to get home. She slept while I let the cops leave, and while I sat in the armchair – the one where I'd often held him during feedings and naps – and waited for the phone to ring.

On that day, I discovered that when you know what the news is going to be, there is no more piercing, shattering, world-destroying sound as the phone ringing. I answered it before the ring had even finished. It was a nurse who nicely and professionally told me that she was going to hand the phone to my wife. I heard the words then, the words I'd known were coming – "He's gone".

On that day I learned that the words you know are coming can still blow everything in your life away.

On that day I called work and told them I wouldn't be back in. I tried to tell them why without saying the goddamn words "He died", but no amount of euphemism was getting through to the person I was talking to, so I had to fucking say it. That was the first time I was angry through it all. It would not be the last.

On that day I awoke The Daughter and told her that we had to go to the hospital. "Is he sick again?" she asked. "Yeah," I said. We drove down there. We had to wait at the desk for the attendant to come back to show us to the room where The Wife was waiting. There were a few other people there, a Catholic chaplain among them, being so nice and supportive and there. I finally kicked them all out. I was damned if we were doing this in front of a bunch of damned strangers.

On that day, I was pretty rude to that Chaplain. Later she offered a prayer, to which I brusquely responded, "Our pastor's coming. He can do it." Not a fine moment, and looking back, I don't think I had much of an excuse. Not even that was a good excuse for snapping at someone who was genuinely trying to be a source of comfort. I realize that that Chaplain has probably seen worse, and like as not, she has no recollection now of that day. But I remember it.

On that day, we had to talk to a county coroner's office employee who was very professional and about as kind as he could have been as he explained to us that by County law (or maybe it was State law), an autopsy would be performed, because it had involved cerebral palsy. He said we could stop it with a court order. We didn't have a lawyer, though, or much inclination to fight that particular battle.

On that day I learned that if you die with a breathing tube in your throat, it stays in there until the body is released. I'm sure there's a logical reason for this. I'm not sure there's a good reason for this.

On that day, we had to tell The Daughter that her little brother had died. I can think back on nearly every minute of his life that I remember and not cry, but this moment...I can't think of it without tears. I was worried if she even understood death all that much, but she immediately began to cry and said, "I didn't get to say goodbye." She understood it just fine.

On that day, The Daughter was robbed of being a sister. We left her later on with a friend so we could do some things...or maybe this was the next day...the friend later told us that, referring to his g-tube, The Daughter asked, "Will the angels know how to feed him?" We got her a necklace a short time later, with a pendant on it that read, "Special Sister", because she was. But as far as I know, she has never worn it. I wonder often how the scar of that day and the ones that followed will affect her the rest of her days.

On that day, I realized that I have questions that will never be answered. I came to a deep anger at a God who may not even be there. I came to questions like, "What, our prayers weren't good enough?" and "What about your plan is so important that this was essential?" and "If this was your plan all along, then what was the point of the praying?". I began to feel a deep contempt for platitudes such as "He works in mysterious ways." Someone told me that maybe God put him with us, knowing that we could take care of him, with his cerebral palsy, and my immediate thought (which I had the good sense not to speak out loud) was, "Or, God could, you know, just not have him born with CP in the first goddamned place." I still struggle with this. I don't expect this struggle to ever end.

On that day I lost any chance to redeem myself. In truth...I wasn't the best father for him.

On that day, the sun shone bright and clear as I drove home with a family that was smaller than it had been the day before.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Jets 28, Bills 24

I have no idea what happened in this game, except for a couple of small details, because we chose as a family to go see The Muppets instead of watch the atrocities on the football field. Apparently the game was exciting, with the Bills holding a 24-21 lead late in the fourth, but their defense was unable to produce one last stop. Or something like that.

Also, apparently Stevie Johnson did something dumb and/or dropped a big pass, and Aaron Maybin had two sacks (big accomplishment there, racking up two sacks against the banged-up offensive line when he's playing on a team that has the best secondary in football and only asks him to rush the passer on third downs -- basically, Maybin still sucks as a player). Oh, and in his first start, according to the stats, CJ Spiller didn't really accomplish anything impressive. Also according to the stats, Ryan Fitzpatrick managed to slop his plunge from 'good QB' in 'GAHHH get him out of there!!!'.

But still, a loss. Meh. I got to see The Muppets! (Which I will write about later in the week.) Next up for the Bills: home against the Tennessee Titans. I don't even know it it's sold out yet. Doesn't matter; I've got quite a backlog of movies ready to go for the reinstitution of "Instead of the Buffalo Bills Theater"!

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome

Oddities and Awesome abound!!!

::  Snark-filled comment on Twilight is always welcome, so here's some, with scenes re-enacted with action figures.

::  Want to read some hilarious offensive parodies of The Family Circus? Sure you do!

::  Hmmmm... I wonder if writer John C. Wright is still bringing the crazy? Let's go to his LiveJournal and find out....

Those of you who believe that republican government can exist on Earth without the prop and lantern of Christian faith, have a faith in mankind which neither history nor reason confirms, nor any authority worthy of our ears. The non-Christian democracies of the world have long since become bureaucratic welfare-states, nanny-states, and to watch their histories unfold is to watch the activities of a slave-market, where, generation by generation and year by year selfish and anile strumpets sell their liberty in return for ease, for favors, for false promises, or for nothing at all, until they are citizens in nothing but name, subjects in all but name, or wards, or cattle.

How to react to that...yeah, here we go.





(Yes, this was an excuse to use the video of J. Jonah Jameson giving the 'belly laugh of haughty dismissal'. But few writers bring the Batshit Crazy like John C. "Within fifty years homosexuality will be considered a mental illness again, huzzah!" Wright.)

More next week!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Centus

Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later...I missed one. I filed away last week's entry to mull over a bit, but then, with the busyness of Thanksgiving week, I pretty much forgot about it entirely. So, apologies to all Centusians...but maybe I can start a new streak with this week's prompt, right?

"Always remember," Bob the manager had said, "never ever ever EVER forget to suggestive sell. I want you to get to the point where suggestive selling is in your blood. I want it to be an instinct with you, more than breathing. Suggestive selling is your LIFE in this business!"

Joe certainly got the message. He didn't suspect that he had gone a bit too far until the woman standing before him stared at him with a stunned expression when he asked "Would you like fries with that?"...

...after letting her sip from the Communion chalice.

By the way, any Centusians wondering what I'm thankful for this year (and not just this Thursday past) may refer to my partial list of thankfulness. I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgivings!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Page One: 'On Writing'


Page One: 'On Writing', originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

Steven King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is the writing book I return to the most often. (In fact, looking at my shelf of books on writing, On Writing is the writing book I pretty much return to at all, anymore.

It's not a long book, by any means, but King puts so much into it...half the book is biography, in which King is not afraid to make himself look like an ass when merited (his frank discussion of his various addictions, for example), and only half the book is given to discussing actual writing. The book is half-memoir, half-craft, but the 'craft' stuff is so neatly folded into the 'memoir' that you can't really have one without the other. And that is certainly King's point. Stephen King is one of those people for whom to talk about their life without talking about their vocation would basically reduce to a list of times they went to McDonald's for breakfast or popped into Target because they needed socks.

One of my favorite parts of the book deals with plot and plotting, an area where my own notions tend to line up with King's.

The situation comes first. The characters -- always flat and unfeatured, to begin with -- come next. Once these things are fixed in my mind, I begin to narrate. I often have an idea of what the outcome may be, but I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it's something I never expected. For a suspense novelist, this is a great thing. I am, after all, not just the novel's creator but its first reader. And if I'm not able to guess with any accuracy how the damned thing is going to turn out, even with my inside knowledge of coming events, I can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a state of page-turning anxiety. And why worry about the ending anyway? Why be such a control freak? Sooner or later every story comes out somewhere.

In the early 1980s, my wife and I went to London on a combined business/pleasure trip. I fell asleep on the plane and had a dream about a popular writer (it may or may not have been me, but it sure to God wasn't James Caan) who fell into the clutches of a psychotic fan living on a farm somewhere in the back of the beyond. The fan was a woman isolated by her growing paranoia. She kept some livestock in the barn, including her pet pig, Misery. The pig was named after the continuing main character in the writer's best-selling bodice rippers. My clearest memory of this dream upon waking was something the woman said to the writer, who had a broken leg and was being kept prisoner in the back bedroom. I wrote it on an American Airlines cocktail napkin so I wouldn't forget it, then put it in my pocket. I lost it somewhere, but can remember most of what I wrote down:

She speaks earnestly but never makes eye contact. A big woman and solid all through; she is an absence of hiatus. (Whatever that means; remember, I'd just woken up.) "I wasn't trying to be funny in a mean way when I named my pig Misery, no sir. Please don't think that. No, I named her in the spirit of fan love, which is the purest love there is. You should be flattered."

Tabby and I stayed at Brown's Hotel in London, and on our first night there I was unable to sleep. Some of it was what sounded like a trio of little-girl gymnasts in the room directly above ours, some of it was undoubtedly jet lag, but a lot of it was that airline cocktail napkin. Jotted on it was the seed of what I thought could be a really excellent story, one that might turn out funny and satiric as well as scary. I thought it was just too rich not to write.

I got up, went downstairs, and asked the concierge if there was a quiet place where I could work longhand for a bit. He led me to a gorgeous desk on the second-floor stair landing. It had been Rudyard Kipling's desk, he told me with perhaps justifiable pride. I was a little intimidated by this intelligence, but the spot was quiet and the desk seemed hospitable enough; it featured about an acre of cherrywood working surface, for one thing. Stoked on cup after cup of tea (I drank it by the gallon when I wrote...unless I was drinking beer, that is), I filled sixteen pages of a steno notebook. I like to work longhand, actually; the only problem is that, once I get jazzed, I can't keep up with the lines forming in my head and I get frazzled.

When I called it quits, I stopped in the lobby to thank the concierge again for letting me use Mr. Kipling's beautiful desk. "I'm so glad you enjoyed it," he replied. He was wearing a misty, reminiscent little smile, as if he had known the writer himself. "Kipling died there, actually. Of a stroke. While he was writing."

I went back upstairs to catch a few hours' sleep, thinking of how often we are given information we really could have done without.


King goes on to describe the writing of Misery, which in King's original concept would have ended very differently from the way it eventually came out: Annie would force Paul Sheldon to write the final book in the 'Misery' series, just for her, and then...she would kill him and use his own skin as the binding for the only existing copy of the final 'Misery' book.

But what happened as King was writing is that the two characters, Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes, took on new life in his mind, and the story took a new life as well for all that, eventually coming out in a very different place indeed. This wouldn't have happened had King created a plot outline and forced the characters to act within its confines.

I tend to approach things the same way. I rarely 'outline' my stories, although I have done some outlining for Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title). Not a lot of outlining, to be sure, but just a few notes here and there to help me kinda-sorta keep my way. But even as I've been writing, I find the characters saying and doing surprising things, and I find myself learning things about my own universe that I had never planned until the moment that I wrote them -- including one idea that just popped unbidden into my head at once, but which I now see could very well drive the stories of a number of future volumes in this series.

Conversely, some time ago I was grinding along for several chapters, the book feeling increasingly lifeless, until about halfway through Chapter 13 I finally could no longer ignore the chorus of my characters screaming at me, "This isn't what we should be doing! Go back, and we'll show you what actually happened!" So I scrapped three whole chapters and went back to Chapter 10 -- retracing to that missed left turn at Albuquerque, as it were. Now I'm on Chapter 18, and so far, no signs of having taken a wrong turn.

So, it's always cool to reflect that I'm approaching things in a similar manner to Stephen King...even if I don't have any of his success. At least the process feels right to me.

(And, like King, I hate adverbs and do whatever I can to not use them!)

Four blokes waiting to cross a street

I'm not sure what's so interesting about this. It's literally just four guys getting ready to walk across a street.


(via)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankfulness

My annual grab-bag of stuff I'm thankful for. This is not an exhaustive list.

Cheddar cheese so sharp it makes you pucker
Sesame crackers
Our azalea plant
Our ivy plant
Cats
Get Fuzzy
My blog
Other peoples' blogs
George Lucas
Star Wars
My dining room table
Klein screwdrivers
LED flashlights
William Shatner
Sela Ward
Mary Stewart's Arthurian trilogy (on the roster for a re-read)
Stephen King

The hardware store in my old hometown
Angle grinders
My new jigsaw
The glory years of the Buffalo Bills
Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation every night at college
Surprising The Daughter with a new Webkinz
Ms. Pac-Man
Sergei Rachmaninov
The Beatles
Van Halen
Baked pasta dishes
Pizza
Cookies
Harry Potter
Guy Gavriel Kay
Space opera
Planetary Romance
Chestnut Ridge Park

Big, thick poetry collections
Jerry Sullivan, Buffalo News sports columnist
Small, artfully illustrated poetry collections
My drill
Schopp and the Bulldog (Buffalo sports talk radio guys)
Fried chicken
Italian sausage
The music of Les Miserables
That in 2012 I will finally get to see Les Miserables
That in 2012 I plan to read Les Miserables
The Amazing Race
Canada and Canadians -- you folks rock!
Pseudo-ethnic cuisine that I love because it tastes good, and which doesn't bother me for its lack of authenticity

Brian and Stewie on The Family Guy
Everyone who ever acted in a Harry Potter movie, at all, ever.
Elections
Aaron Sorkin when he's on his game
Steak
Chess
Comics
Big breakfasts that leave me full until mid-afternoon
Light breakfasts that take the edge off until a nice lunch
Firefly
The Mentalist
Tasting something good at a restaurant and figuring out how to make it at home

Ice cream at the roadside place down the road
The County Fair
Libraries
JRR Tolkien
Route 20-A in the fall
Sandals
Using the scissor jack at work
Blue denim bib overalls
Hickory-striped bib overalls
Pie with ice cream on the side
Seeing a pie in the face
Receiving a pie in the face
Monty Python
Aquariums and science museums
The Origin of Species
Complete collections of Shakespeare
Thick, fuzzy socks in the winter
Two thriving ivy plants, one grown from a cutting off the original, which we've had since The Daughter was born

Eggs
Watching the Super Bowl
Watching figure skating
Discovering new authors
Liking books on the re-read that I didn't like the first time
Daniel Craig as James Bond
George Lazenby as James Bond
The Y
My MP3 player
My cell phone
The Burchfield Nature and Art Center
The Daughter learning the string bass
John Williams
Hector Berlioz
Toronto
Pittsburgh
Dremel rotary tool
Having already purchased The Wife's Christmas present
Castle and Beckett
Nathan Fillion
Stana Katic

Dr. Sheldon Cooper
"[knock knock knock] Penny? [knock knock knock] Penny? [knock knock knock] Penny?"
A Tale of Two Cities
Thin-mint Girl Scout Cookies
Roast turkey
Chicken wings
Coke Zero
Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title.)
Anthony Bourdain
Rachel Maddow
George Carlin
Hayao Miyazaki
On balance, President Obama
Zooey Deschanel
Using my wok more this past year than all the years prior, combined
Anyone who reads this blog
Baby Fiona
Little Quinn
The Daughter
The Wife

I'm sure I've missed a veritable ton of stuff...but hey, I'll add some more next year. Happy Thanksgiving, faithful and constant readers!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

With a Dream



I've been a follower and online friend of SK Waller for years now, through a lot of incarnations of her blog and through a lot of her creative endeavours. Her current project is a book trilogy which she is publishing herself, called Beyond the Bridge. I recently read the first volume, With a Dream.

The trilogy apparently follows the life of rock-and-roll musician Gordon Hammond, as he makes his way through most of the history of rock-and-roll itself. Covering the years 1966 through 1971, With a Dream introduces us to guitar 'legend' Hammond and then depicts the formation and eventual end of his band, Tuppence. Along the way Hammond meets a model named Felicity, who rapidly becomes the love of his life. Their relationship, however, is deeply turbulent and troubled, mirroring the time itself. I actually wish that the book spent a bit more time on the relationship between these two; the tragic nature of the love between these two, the feeling that their couplehood is doomed from the start, could have been played for a lot more emotional pathos. But the Gordon-and-Felicity love story comes to its end in a manner that I found surprising, and I look forward to seeing how it shapes Gordon's life to come.

With a Dream ultimately reads like a love letter to the rock-and-roll era itself, using a fictional musician as a way to explore rock without delving into it too deeply. The idea here is to try and illustrate what it might have been like to live through that era on the inside, and the overwhelming impression formed is that it was just a turbulent time for the musicians as it was for the fans, the record-buyers, the listeners, the groupies, and whomever. Hammond is active sometimes and oddly passive at others, and as the book marches on – depicting the sad way life can spin out of control for someone who really, at heart, only wants to write songs and play his guitar. It's perhaps this nature of Hammond's character that results in the book making surprisingly less mention of the politics of the time than I might have expected otherwise. For a book set in the 1960s music scene, there is an interesting lack of politics.

The novel has an interesting structure. There are standard chapters of narrative, but there are also interviews with Hammond and the other members of his band, who are all colorful characters in their own right. Waller has an interesting tightrope to walk here: she has to show that Hammond and his Tuppence bandmates are a part of music history, but she can't make them such a big part of music history that it ends up unbelievably warping what we know about music history. She has to have a band that is able to hobnob with the Beatles and the Stones, without having them usurp some of the success of the real-life bands. She is mostly able to make this work, although I do wonder how she'll continue walking that tightrope in the next two books. 

I'll find out when I read them, though!

(As I'm writing this, I now see that Book II, With a Bullet, is available on Kindle.)

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

What animal or animals freak you out?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Who are we?

Political comment below the fold....


Well-manicured


Actor John Neville, of Baron Munchausen and X-Files fame (wherein he played the 'Well-manicured Man', one of the conspirators and ally of the Cigarette Smoking Man), has died. He was a fine actor and will be missed, even if he did help pave the way for the alien colonization of our planet.

Classics in 2012!!!

Over at Book Scorpion's Lair, Jedediah points out a nifty-sounding thing called the "Classics Challenge", which I will sign up for in 2012. Huzzah!

Here's how it works:

Read seven works of Classic Literature in 2012
Only three of the seven may be re-reads


Instead of writing a review as you finish each book (of course, you can do that too), visit November's Autumn on the 4th of each month from January 2012 - December 2012.

You will find a prompt, it will be general enough that no matter which Classic you're reading or how far into it, you will be able to answer. There will be a form for everyone to link to their post. I encourage everyone to read what other participants have posted.

So, the next step is to pick out my seven books. Which ones? After some thought, I've arrived at the list below. I think I may be taking a more liberal definition of "classic literature" than some others, but here are my chosen books:

Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters
The Arabian Nights, adapted by Jack Zipes from the Richard Burton translation
Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
Watchmen, by Alan Moore and (re-read)
Dracula, by Bram Stoker

So, I only have one re-read listed. I think that everything here qualifies as "classic literature", in some way or other, even Watchmen, which is indisputably a classic of comics (or graphic novels, or 'sequential art', or whatever you want to call it). I also have different genres represented, and there is a classic work of poetry in the Spoon River Anthology. I also have mixed up my lengths of books, with three legit doorstops (Arabian Nights, Count of Monte Cristo, and Les Miserables) mixed with shorter works. Variety rules!

I will be reading these books concurrently with other stuff – my usual genre reading, nonfiction stuff, and whatever else trips my trigger as the year goes on. But there's the plan for 2012. Now, to track down my copies of all these books! I'm not sure that I own Spoon River Anthology or Heart of Darkness. It'll take some digging into the archives to find them, if I do....

Monday, November 21, 2011

Whoa....


Sentential Links #270

Linkage....

:: If the United States truly is, as I've always been told, the richest country on earth, the best country on earth, how can we in good conscience abandon a human life in this way? The dirty truth behind our for-profit insurance industry is that insurers are more concerned with the dividends of their shareholders than the needs of their policy holders. People carry insurance as a hedge against anything really bad ever happening to us, but if anything really bad does happen, the insurance companies fight like hell to not actually help you, and that is just wrong. No... it's obscene. (Stuff like this sickens me. Not doing the obvious thing about health care in this country because we've been conditioned to have this infantile fear of "the government" will be judged harshly in the light of history.)

:: If you’re flying on an airline that doesn’t have reserved seating never sit next to anyone who is already eating or reading Ann Coulter. (And speaking of Ann Coulter, I wonder what she's been up to lately....)

:: Note to cable television bookers. This is not humor. This is not commentary. This is eliminationist rhetoric from a career white-supremacist. This is not a fit person to bring into the public discussion of anything. This is a vicious evil woman who would sell her grayhaired granny to the Somali pirates for 15 minutes worth of airtime. This is someone who should be shunned, permanently, by anybody with a sense of human decency. (Well, that answers that, doesn't it?)

:: One of my long time pet peeves… No wait, this is more than a peeve; it borders on outrage. This really pisses me off, folks. What I’m sputtering about is the lack of different inseam lengths in women’s pants. (I've been clothes-shopping enough with The Wife to know that the way womens' pants are sized is madness.)

:: Now if there’s one employee ID card out there that’s likely to summon less immediate respect from yours truly, or carry less moral weight, it’s one that says I’m a stock broker down on Wall Street. And take that how you will. And this guy was showing this not just as a badge of honor but a means of intimidation. Like “little old drink maker me” should be shaking in his boots.

:: Do I know style or do I know style? (Errrr....)

:: Embrace the change. Go all-star. Produce nothing but brilliant, compelling, gotta-have-a-copy work. Make or develop stars, yes, but do so in an enlightened manner, as fairly, equitably, honestly and intelligently as possible. Go for or real talent, not flavor-du-jour or one-hit-wonder people. Use the small companies as your farm system,or start one of your own. Do not publish anything except the best of the best.

More next week....

Sunday, November 20, 2011

International Overalls Day!


Today was International Overalls Day, which is a day set aside by various crazies afflicted with the enjoyment of bib overalls to...well, wear overalls and commiserate with one another online. This year's event was less eventful than last year's, but hey, any day in overalls is a better day than a day not in overalls. Or something like that.

(I'm not at my most eloquent today, I'm noticing.)

Anyway, I chose to go with vintage Lee overalls today. Here's to next year!



More images on Flickr.

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome

Oddities and awesome abound....

::  What to do when your fiancee calls off the engagement and returns the ring? Why, this, of course!

::  The 12 most baffling genres of stock photographs. The kiwi-slices-on-the-eyes thing is just weird.

::  Reproducing the world's first analogue computer...which was built twenty-two centuries ago.

More next week!

Dolphins 35, Bills 8

Yeesh. The Bills don't mess around with small things, like replacing brake pads or putting a new muffler on. No, when things go wrong for the Bills, we're talking "all four wheels fall off at the same time the engine throws two rods" bad. This is starting to spiral out of control.

:: Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing poorly. This is a combination of a number of things. First, it must be admitted, he's not the most physically talented guy under center in the NFL. He's good, but he's not that good.

Second, he's not throwing to that great a group of receivers. We have to admit this. Every week now we're seeing large numbers of passes that really should be completions either being missed by the receivers or, worse, bouncing off receivers and into the arms of defenders (this happened twice today). Now, maybe he could do better at putting the passes right on the numbers, but he does put the ball where they could catch it. And they don't.

Third, the Bills, either by design or not, have little to no deep passing game. This means that defenders can come up nice and close to the line of scrimmage.

Fourth, the offensive line has sustained so many injuries that now guys are being moved all over the place in an effort to just field a line of any kind, at all. As a result, blitzes are getting through with ease, forcing Fitz to throw the ball before he's ready.

All of this adds up to Fitzpatrick having a very rough time of it.

:: The afore-mentioned offensive line problems are making the running game a lot less effective.

:: On defense? They're just playing badly. Across the board. Once again, the Bills generate no pass rush, and they don't cover very well. That is a foolproof recipe for continued disaster. I remain convinced that the Bills' primary need in the draft needs to be the very best pass rusher available when they pick, whether that's a defensive end or a linebacker.

Other than that...the game looked awful, and the Bills are on the road yet again next week to face the Jets, who thumped them two weeks ago at home. Ugh!

Oh well, enough of that.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A thousand words, indeed


occupy PPB, originally uploaded by ocmsrzr1.

Talk about a photo saying it all....

A random observation

We're watching a UK-edition episode of Kitchen Nightmares on Netflix right now. It's amusing that the swear words aren't bleeped. It's even more amusing that I often don't even recognize the swear words as swear words, owing to pronunciations and accents. I hear these folks say things like "Give me the fookin thing", where 'fook' rhymes with 'book', and I wonder, "What is a 'fookin' thing"?

Anyway....

Friday, November 18, 2011

Something for Thursday (Friday edition)

From Kismet, here's "Stranger in Paradise" (which is based, in turn, on a melody by Borodin).




Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We are....

Gregg Easterbrook writes in typically overwrought fashion about the Penn State scandal -- he opines that PSU should just terminate its football program, which seems over the top even to me, and I'm about as disgusted by this as one can get -- but I did like this:

[Interim PSU President] Erickson closed the commercial by declaring, "We are Penn State." Supporters of Penn State have used this phrase for decades, commencing at a time when the words reflected well on the college. How can the phrase be appropriate here, if Penn State acted dishonorably?

In recent years the "we are" formulation is best known from "We are Marshall" and "We are Columbine." In neither case, the 1970 Marshall plane crash nor the 1999 Columbine mass murder, was there any moral failing on the part of authority at either school. By contrast, at Penn State several people in high authority stand accused of criminality and substantial moral failings.

For the college's interim president to say "We are Penn State" expropriates a noble expression in order to suggest that the Penn State of today deserves the kind of empathy accorded to Marshall and Columbine, or to Penn State when it opposed segregation. Unless it is shown the Penn State charges are false, and the school's own interim president appears to believe the charges are true, Penn State has no business wrapping itself in the language of nobility. If the charges are true, "We are Penn State" should be replaced with "We are ashamed to be Penn State."

I've been troubled by the solidarity PSU folks are showing throughout this whole thing. On the one hand, it's got to be traumatic to have your school thrust into this kind of spotlight, and it's got to be even tougher at a place like PSU, which seems to be one of those schools that inspires a larger than usual amount of pride in the people who go there. And there really is the truth that you can't really hold any of this against, say, some junior who is majoring in architecture.

But here's the thing. First, it's going to get worse before it gets better. Things like this always do. We haven't heard everything, and it's going to get a lot uglier. There's an extent to which the whole "college is a world in itself" thing is good, but it really tends to go too far, and this whole affair is a result of that mindset.

And secondly, nothing happened TO PSU. Penn State has zero claim to victimhood here; or rather, if it does, it is of such order of magnitude less than the actual victims of Sandusky's alleged sexual assaults that it's as if we took time from prosecuting a murder to feel sorry for the guy whose front lawn got chewed up when the murder suspect drove across it.

Some folks are taking the "Oh come on, you don't know what you would have done" tack here, but I find that entirely unconvincing, on several levels. First, I have a pretty good idea what I would do if I walked into a shower and saw what was going on. Second, even if that's true and there's an actual strong chance I'd cover it up too, what does that say? Is this whole collegiate-omerta thing supposed to be a good thing now? Are we really to believe that this is an actual mitigating circumstance? "I would have done the right thing, but...." still reduces in the end to "I didn't do the right thing."

Another good article on PSU, this one by Charles Pierce:

It no longer matters if there continues to be a football program at Penn State. It no longer even matters if there continues to be a university there at all. All of these considerations are trivial by comparison to what went on in and around the Penn State football program.

(Those people who will pass this off as an overreaction would do well to remember that the Roman Catholic Church is reckoned to be a far more durable institution than even Penn State University is, and the Church has spent the past decade or so selling off its various franchise properties all over the world to pay off the tsunami of civil judgments resulting from the raping of children, a cascade that shows no signs of abating anytime soon.)

There will now be a decade or more of criminal trials, and perhaps a quarter-century or more of civil actions, as a result of what went on at Penn State. These things cannot be prayed away. Let us hear nothing about "closure" or about "moving on." And God help us, let us not hear a single mumbling word about how football can help the university "heal." (Lord, let the Alamo Bowl be an instrument of your peace.) This wound should be left open and gaping and raw until the very last of the children that Jerry Sandusky is accused of raping somehow gets whatever modicum of peace and retribution can possibly be granted to him. This wound should be left open and gaping and raw in the bright sunlight where everybody can see it, for years and years and years, until the raped children themselves decide that justice has been done. When they're done healing — if they're ever done healing — then they and their families can give Penn State permission to start.

If that blights Joe Paterno's declining years, that's too bad. If that takes a chunk out of the endowment, hold a damn bake sale. If that means that Penn State spends some time being known as the university where a child got raped, that's what happens when you're a university where a child got raped. Any sympathy for this institution went down the drain in the shower room in the Lasch Building. There's nothing that can happen to the university, or to the people sunk up to their eyeballs in this incredible moral quagmire, that's worse than what happened to the children who got raped at Penn State. Good Lord, people, get up off your knees and get over yourselves.

Yup. "We are Penn State"? Really?

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Did you notice last week when I forgot to do one of these?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

All heckling to be done by Statler and Waldorf, of course.

Apparently there's a grassroots movement afoot to get the Muppets brought in to host the Oscars. I endorse this without reservation, because it would be awesome.

Occupations

Kevin Drum has a great post on Occupy Wall Street. Here's the money shot:

None of this is easy. But the truth is that it's increasingly impossible to sell people transparently self-promoting fairy tales that plainly don't reflect how the real world works. If you want them to believe that hard work and discipline are important, then hard work and discipline have to really be important. Not just modestly helpful. Not mere drops compared to the obviously undeserved piles of so many of the super rich. If we want people to believe, we have to believe too. We have to believe that America should be a country where everyone prospers, not just the cognitive elite and the super lucky. Until we all believe this — until conservatives believe this — the notions of responsibility and discipline that conservatives talk about so much are probably going to continue fading. In recent decades they've simply dedicated too much of their lives and too much of their energy to patent unfairness to be surprised any longer that belief in being fairly rewarded is on the wane.

That's the lesson of Occupy Wall Street.

Read the whole thing.

The Prez abides, man

I have a long love of photos of US Presidents looking goofy, and this one's a classic. President Obama looks like he's stoned here and is seeing the most amazing thing any stoner has ever seen:


"Whoa! Those Legos are awesome! Hey, didja know I work in an office with no corners? Hey! Do you like Cheetos?!"

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mr. Williams

Check out this list of Top Ten John Williams filmscores, which actually picks some very interesting scores, including a couple from Williams's very early career. I haven't even heard all of them! There are two here that are completely new to me.

The list's writer, Matt Zoller Seitz, does make a couple of minor errors along the way, but in his defense, only a true film music geek would catch them. (Ahem.) In discussing Superman, he says this:

Williams revamped this score in “Superman II” and “Superman III.” Alexander Courage (“Star Trek: The Original Series) stepped in for “Superman IV” but based his work around Williams’ familiar themes.

This is actually incorrect; Williams had nothing to do with Superman II or III; instead, in a cost-cutting move, the producers had a composer named Ken Thorne come in and provide scores based substantially on Williams's themes from the first film. (With a much smaller orchestra, also, which is why the score to Superman II sounds, well, really bad in my ears.) Thorne would get to do some more original work for III.

And then, in praising Williams's score to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Seitz says:

Greater still is the moment where Anakin becomes a hero (and the Sith lord Palpatine’s latest catch) by piloting the emperor’s crumbling starship back to Coruscant. Williams superimposes “Duel of the Fates” — the prequel cue that expresses the tension between the dark and light sides of the Force — over the optimistic “The Force Theme,” which we associate with Luke in chapters IV-VI; this cue foreshadows both Anakin’s moral failure in the second half of “Sith” and his belated redemption in the “Return of the Jedi.”

What's wrong here is that the music in question was actually written for The Phantom Menace, and was re-used for this scene in Sith. There are several places in Attack of the Clones and in Sith where music is tracked in from TPM (and come to that, there are a couple places in Return of the Jedi which use tracked-in music from The Empire Strikes Back).

But those are mere quibbles. Check Seitz's list out -- it's a good selection of Williams, and it doesn't always stick to the obvious stuff.

An image that fills me with a quiet sensation of unease


(via)

Sentential Links #269

Targets acquired. Linkage commencing.

:: In the meantime, I’m thankful to first person shooters, not only for helping me write the novel that put me on the map, but also for giving me a way, at the end of the day, to shut off my brain, run around and shoot the crap out of everything I see. (I love this ongoing series that John Scalzi has going on: a Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, wherein he writes about one thing each day that he's thankful for. Great stuff!)

:: We'll see about that -- I've been hearing my whole life that a manned Mars trip was only a few years off -- but after all the melancholy and apparent loss of direction that accompanied the end of the shuttle, it's good to hear somebody talking seriously about a human presence up there in the black... (You can't take the sky from me!)

:: Snow Canyon is truly an undiscovered jewel. It's close to a few national parks and because of this, people just pass right by. If you are ever in southern Utah, it's a must see.

:: That is why I have decided to call my first draft a 'discovery' draft from now on. It is much more encouraging. (Ah yes, I need to do a writing update. I hope to find out how well I relate to this in a month or two, once I have a completed draft of a book to process!)

:: It's a good strip! And it's funny! Maybe this is it, guys. Maybe this is where it all turns around, and Funky Winkerbean steps away from the abyss. Maybe things are finally looking up! (Three guesses as to how this turns out, and the first two don't count.)

:: One hopes that he remains so focused on her that he doesn’t notice Billy making a wholly inept attempt to summon up the Prince of Darkness by reading the hymnal upside down. (Wow, I didn't even notice that. I confess to reading Family Circus religiously in hopes of seeing what it is that Comics Curmudgeon will mock it for!)

:: Physics! It’s not only cool, it can also save your $100 billion science project.

More next week!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

All in all it's just another brick in the wall....


Writing Update, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

It's been exactly two months since my last writing update, so here's where things stand on Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the final title). Basically, I've produced nearly 19,000 additional words since then, huzzah!

Cranking the math and assuming sixty days since Sept 13, I've hit my personal 500-words-a-day quota 38 times. Actually, I know it's less than that, because I've had a lot of days when I've written more than 500 words, and there was one day where I cranked out more than 1500. I didn't get any work done during my vacation at the end of September, so I don't hold that against myself, but I do think I could have generally been more productive.

My problem tends to be, unfortunately, my tendency to time-waster addiction, which was bad enough before I added the Facebook Scrabble-game "Words With Friends" to my list of Things I Do When I Should Be Writing. But I've started the last week on a new way of doing things.

For years, I've been getting up on weekdays (unless I'm on vacation) at 6:00 am, because my shift at work starts at 7:30. Usually I'd take a leisurely time having breakfast, noodling about online, and then getting ready for work. What I'm doing now, though, is getting up at 6:00...and writing for at least half an hour. With that little distraction going on, I find that hitting my 500 words is, well, really easy.

Of course, the big lesson here is that productivity tends to soar when I finally close out the Web browser. Imagine that! The Internet can reduce productivity! Oh, well. I'm turning off the browser more consistently now. Next will be establishing a time limit for browsing at night.

As for the book itself, it's going pretty well. As far as I can tell, from the rough outline in my head, I'm about to enter the book's third (and final) act. I've got some revelations to drop, villains to unmask, and some set-up of future books in this series to do. Yes, I'm thinking 'series' here. The story I'm writing now implies a huge world -- a Galaxy, actually -- and years' worth of stories. I actually had a brainstorm the other day, one of those moments when The Muse decides that I've been behaving myself and thus decides to throw me a bone, in the form of a throwaway line that I immediately recognized as a possible key to the entire rest of the series. Those moments are gold, folks. Gold, Jerry, gold!!!

When this draft is done, my plan is to let it sit for a few months and not look at it, before I sit down to re-read it and start the editing process. The question I'm starting to wonder is, what do I do in the meantime? Not write anything? or go the Anthony Trollope route, and plow right into the next book? I've had an idea for a fantasy novel rattling about in my head for several years now...and in fact, the only reason I'm not writing that book is that the idea for this one has been rattling around my head longer.

Anyway, that's where I am. Back to Princesses In SPACE!!! (again, not the real title).

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome!

Oddities and Awesome abound...at least I like to think they can still be found, lurking about somewhere in the darkness...out of the light, where ordinary mortals fear to tread...umm...where was I? Oh yeah:

::  Oh those whacky Japanese: Burger King Japan will be offering a burger the size of a pizza. You know, for parties. What will they think of next? (Nevermind, I don't wanna know.)

::  Oh those whacky Japanese, take two: a font that is comprised of...nah, you gotta go look on this one. I can't spoil it for you.

::  When earnestness meets smart-assery on Facebook. (Naughty language alert.)

More next week!


Cowboys 44, Bills 7

Well...yeah, that score says it all, I guess. There was really nothing good about that game, right from the opening drive when the Cowboys drove for a TD in five or six plays. The Bills' defense turned in one of the single worst defensive performances I've ever seen today, and they've fielded some bad defenses the last ten years. How bad was it? Well, it was about eight minutes into the second quarter before Tony Romo threw his first incomplete pass.

A lot of the Twitterverse was exploding about how "the real Bills are back", but I dunno...I was never on the "Wow, the Bills are really good now!" bandwagon (heck, I'm not sure there was that much of a bandwagon to begin with), so I don't plan to get on the "Wow, the Bills are still a cesspool of suck!" bandwagon either. They're a better team than they were last year, but that doesn't translate to much yet...except the obvious fact that they need to seriously upgrade the defense in the coming offseason.

Next up, they're at the Dolphins, who are bad but not that bad, maybe, so...well, who knows.

Saturday Centus (Sunday edition)

A day late again...sorry, folks. This time we take the same photo as last week, but we have to write from the POV of one of the orange-meloned soccer kids. OK then:

Agent Triple-Zed glanced out the window of the minivan. "Surveillance in building across the field," she said into the microphone on her shoe.

"Understood," said her shoe. "Employ disguise 4-delta."

"Roger that." Triple-Zed slipped the red wig over her hair. "Do we abort the mission?"

"Negative," said her shoe. "Operation Chuck E. Cheese still in effect."

"Understood. Provide back-up at final location."

Triple-Zed jumped out of the minivan and ran onto the field screaming, "Yay, TEAM! Go Carrotheads!", trying not to think about the success probability of a mission that hinged on a half-dozen red-headed soccer youth.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans

Page One: The Once and Future King

"The fate of this man or that man was less than a drop, although it was a sparkling one, in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea."

During my college years I formed a deep passion for the legends of King Arthur, and over a couple of years I piled up a small but reasonably impressive library of Arthurian books -- novels that retold the legends, novels set in and around the legends, short fiction collections, and a bunch of nonfiction works pertaining to various aspects of Arthuriana and the Celtic legends and mythology that came before. I'm not now the Arthurian that I used to be, but I'll always have a special place in my heart for the Matter of Britain.

I'm not sure if a 'definitive' telling of the Arthur stories has ever been written -- certainly no definitive Arthurian film has yet been made -- but I think that's due to the nature of the legends themselves, which are basically a big collection of stories, many of which aren't really related much at all. The focus is deeply difficult to get right -- is the important part the Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot triangle? Is it the Round Table and the dream that Camelot represents? Is it the Grail, which is often the hardest part of the story to get right (which is why a lot of retellings leave it out entirely)? I'm not sure.

But one big candidate for the title of "Definitive Arthurian Retelling" is TH White's The Once and Future King, which is just a wonderful, wonderful book. It occurs to me that maybe I'm due for a re-read...and I am planning a whole lot of fantasy reading this winter....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Something for Thursday

It suddenly turned cold overnight and there may be snow, so here's a bit of Debussy. "Maiden with the Flaxen Hair".


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

X-Files Case Report: "Gender Bender"



"He's the ultimate sex-magnet". (Fox Mulder)

Insular religious sects are always a good breeding ground for tales of supernatural suspense, so it was just a matter of time until The X-Files got there. "Gender Bender" is that episode, and it's...well, I literally could not decide if I liked it or if I didn't.

A man picks up a woman at a dance club – or she picks him up – and they return to a hotel room for a bit of action. Unfortunately for the man, the bit of action turns out to be fatal...and then the woman leaves the hotel room...as a man.

The oddness of the case leads to the summoning to Agents Mulder and Scully, who show up to do their investigative work. A bit of dirt on the victim leads Mulder to conclude that there is some connection between the murderer and a specific area in Massachusetts, an area noted for being the home of a hyper-secretive religious sect called "The Kindred". Mulder and Scully approach some members of the Kindred on the street – they are clearly modeled on the Amish, only a lot creepier – and while Mulder gets nowhere, Scully manages to get one of the Kindred men to open up a bit, by showing concern for their horse. A very odd moment happens then, when the man seems to almost seduce Scully right there, in the middle of the street.

What follows is a delving into some very strange stuff involving the Kindred, their practices when one of their own dies (rituals involving catacombs beneath a barn, slathering the dead with white clay, and holding the bodies in what can only be described as 'gestation tubes', whereupon the dead man starts to acquire the features of a woman).

It turns out, of course, that the murderer is an escapee from the Kindred, and that the Kindred desperately want to maintain their secretive way of life, which means that they want to handle the lapse of one of their own themselves, without the aid of the FBI. This is eventually what happens, when Mulder and Scully track the killer and corner him, only to have the Kindred show up and then disappear with him. When the agents return to the Kindred farm, they find it completely abandoned, with the catacombs sealed with white clay, and a freshly-made crop circle in the field.

Like I said above, I can't decide if I like this episode or not. The standard X-Files creepiness-through-atmosphere is in full force here. And the acting is really top-notch, especially the guy who plays Brother Andrew, the Kindred member who seduces Scully. It was a good choice, casting a guy who is not particularly handsome, as a guy who apparently oozes enough sexual energy to bend Scully to his will. It's eerily believable, in some way.

However, "Gender Bender" offers even less by the way of answers than most episodes of The X-Files, and that's really saying something. Most times we're told, or at least led to suspect, what has been going on, but here...I got nothin'. A religious sect that somehow regenerates its members, changing genders in the process? And they all give off enormous amounts of pheromones? And what is with the crop circle? Were they aliens? I think they basically tried cramming too much into this episode. Supernatural murder through sex is a fascinating concept that could have been explored well on its own (and maybe it was, later on in the series...I don't recall offhand), but here there are too many elements to really be dealt with in any kind of satisfactory way. The Kindred themselves are potentially fascinating, but again, they're in and gone from the series too quickly to say.

I don't know. "Gender Bender" is a typically well-made episode...but it's an atypically unsatisfying one.

Say it ain't so, Joe

Warning: profanity-laced rant below the break.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Teevee

I tend to write teevee reports at regularly irregular intervals. What this means is that I generally wait until SamuraiFrog writes one, which then reminds me that I need to write one, too. Hooray for lemming-like blogging practices!

But anyway, most shows (minus a few FOX shows that were put behind due to baseball and lots and lots of X-Factor) are now anywhere from one-quarter to one-third of the way through their seasons, so it's a good time to see what's going on.

:: The gold standard for teevee at Casa Jaquandor continues to be Castle, which has lost exactly none of its touch. I was a bit afraid that after last season's grim and intense (but great) finale, that this year the show would veer too strongly in the direction of that tone, but they've still been able to maintain their just-right mix of seriousness and goofball comedic cops-and-criminals that made the first three seasons so great. I just love this show to absolute pieces.

Now, having said that, I am still concerned about the ongoing storyline about Detective Beckett's pursuit of her mother's killer(s). I continue to believe that for best effect, the Castle producers really need to put that storyline to bed this season. They've gone to the well infrequently enough that it hasn't become old hat yet, but in my view, they are getting ever closer to the point where it just won't be believable to keep having Castle and Beckett pull back the curtain only to find another curtain. There is now no possible way that Castle and Beckett themselves don't end up together in a romantic capacity, and I don't think that can really feel right as long as there's this very dark and tragic loose end dangling out there.

Still, Castle continues to be just fantastic. The Halloween episode was incredibly well-done, and I loved the episode that had Castle and his mother as hostages in a bank robbery, a very nicely-done break from the show's usual routine.

:: Sticking with the "police procedural" thing, The Mentalist has been a slog this year. Last season ended with Patrick Jane shooting Red John to death right in the middle of a shopping mall, which promised for some possibilities for really interesting storytelling. How would a guy like Jane react to having achieved his revenge? How would he find it at all satisfying? How would he react to now being a killer himself (no matter how justified)? How would his cop friends react to him? How would that affect his investigative skills? And as for Red John, how is this serial killer able to inspire so many disparate followers who are literally willing to die for him with nearly religious intensity of belief?

Alas, The Mentalist explored none of these possibilities. They instead took the lazy path that I had feared all along: that the guy Jane gunned down wasn't Red John at all. Which means that we'll get more Red John murders (which involve very bloody killings and a red smiley face drawn on the wall in the victim's blood), more Red John followers, and more lathering, rinsing, and repeating.

Even worse, The Mentalist has now, in the space of eight episodes or so, managed to completely waste two wonderful guest stars in Bradley Whitford and David Paymer. Whitford played the guy that Jane gunned down. It was a terrific scene, but what if Whitford had lived to stand trial as Red John? They could have really used that...but instead it was ten minutes or so of neat character interaction, and then, BANG! As for Paymer, he played a blogger whom Jane came to believe was a serial killer, and again, there was some potential for some great cat-and-mouse stuff with a recurring character. Instead, Jane taunts Paymer's character into badmouthing Red John (whom everyone believes to be dead) on live television, an act which leads to Paymer getting to be the victim Red John uses to announce to the world that he's very much alive. (Now, I must admit, this last was a twist that I genuinely didn't see coming and it was really quite well done.)

So, the Mentalist writers are in a similar position to the Castle writers: they need to wrap Red John up this year, or else it's just going to get boring. Their problem, though, is that they simply aren't as good a bunch of writers as the Castle bunch, so I have a lot less confidence that they can pull it off. We'll see.

:: I recently decided that The Wife and I needed a new show to watch, so I downloaded a few episodes of Person of Interest, the James Caviezel show that has him playing an Iraq War vet who is recruited by a mysterious guy who has developed a computer program that can crank so many numbers that it can predict when crimes are about to take place...but it can't predict how or when. All it can do is spit out the social security number of someone who is somehow involved in something bad, whether they know it or not, whether they're the criminal or not. We've watched two episodes and we're intrigued enough to keep watching.

And I, for one, would love to see Caviezel one day try to star in some kind of goofy, dopey sitcom. That would be hilarious.

:: I'm still watching New Girl, but subsequent episodes have not lived up to the promise of the pilot. It's almost like the producers put all of their effort into the pilot, and now, having been picked up, are now saying, "Oh geez, now what?!" It didn't help that they had to recast one character right out of the gate (an actor from the pilot had to bow out of the show when his old show got a surprise renewal, so his contract was still in effect). The show is still good for a few laughs each week, but...well, it's just slightly above "Meh" right now. (Of course, from my perspective, New Girl could restore some goodwill by having Zooey Deschanel don the overalls from the pilot episode again. Seriously, she may be the single cutest woman to ever wear overalls in history.)

:: The Big Bang Theory continues to be fantastic, although their (apparent) conclusion of Leonard's fling with Priya was pretty ham-handed. I have a hypothesis about that...but for now, the show's strength continues to be the simplest of all models: they've created an entire group of interesting and memorable and whacky characters, and they just stick them into interesting and memorable and whacky situations. Big Bang Theory is the most character-driven show I know of right now, and I still love it. The gentle implications that Amy Farrah Fowler is actually quite a bit more interested in sex than Sheldon generate tons of hilarity, and the slow morphing of Bernadette into Howard's mother is a masterstroke, as Howard clearly loves his mother but also clearly can't figure out how to get away from her.

As for Leonard's breakup with Priya: it really wasn't handled well at all (assuming that it's a done deal and Priya's gone), and in watching some reruns, I note that his earlier breakup with Penny wasn't handled all that well either. I really think that the Big Bang Theory writers have a high level of distaste for writing "bummer news" stories like breakups, and when they find they have to write one, they do the minimum amount of work required and surround the breakup with all manner of other farce (which is why the Leonard-Penny breakup happened during an "Evil Wil Wheaton" episode). Plus, Priya never came off...well, I'm not even sure how she was supposed to come off. They obviously couldn't write her super-nice, but they weren't able to really pull off writing her as a bitch, either.

:: I really want to like How I Met Your Mother more than I do. It's funny, it makes me laugh, and I like all of its characters but one. The one I don't like, though, is the main character. I just have zero interest in Ted Moseby and I don't give a crap if he ever meets those kids' mother.

:: Two Broke Girls, however, amuses me greatly. It's just a basic "odd couple" kind of sitcom, and those always hinge on the characters and their actors. Here it works pretty well.

:: For dumb fun, I still turn to CSI: Miami and Hawaii Five-0. They're really pretty much the same show – they even look the same, with the same styles of photography. The CSI: Miami premiere, which had Horatio Caine staggering through an entire crime investigation despite a bullet wound in his stomach (sustained in the last moments of last year's finale), was over-the-top fun, as was the "Miami hit by a tornado" episode. I love these shows, even though neither is to be taken the slightest bit seriously.

:: Reality shows? I'm pretty much down to The Amazing Race, which is the same as always. I was annoyed that they brought in two Survivor winners as a team, but those folks got eliminated very early on, so it didn't bother me much at all. They've also thrown in some bizarre twists to mess with the racers, like the one where at the roadblock (the second of each episode's two challenges), they had to earn some money and then donate it to an orphanage. At the donation table, there's this little sign off to the left – incredibly easy to miss – that reads, "You MUST donate ALL of the money in your possession." Team after team missed the sign, donated just the money they'd earned in the roadblock, and then walked a mile or so to check in at the Pit Stop...only to have Phil tell them, "Go back and give them ALL of your money." Oops.

:: X-Factor is American Idol with a different black guy in Randy's chair, a different fourth person in Kara/Ellen's chair, a less-drugged Paula in Paula's chair, Simon in Simon's chair, Pepsi cups instead of Coke ones in front of the lot, and some British guy instead of Ryan Seacrest presiding over the whole thing, as we judge acts of wider age ranges and including groups. That's it. I watched two episodes or so and then said, "Yeah, I've seen enough of this." If these kinds of singing competitions are your thing, then rock out, but I've had my fill by now. I'm still undecided as to whether or not I'm even watching the upcoming season of Idol.

:: Still enjoying this go-round of The Office; I think that being freed of Michael Scott has in some ways reinvigorated the writing. James Spader's corporate boss guy is really weird, though.

:: As for the various highly-touted shows that run on cable networks, I watch exactly none of them. Frankly, they all sound really grim and dour and I just don't want that all that often, which is why I'm unlikely to ever bother with stuff like Breaking Bad or The Wire or Sons of Anarchy. I just don't much feel like watching that sort of thing.

OK, that's about it. I'll report back later in the season....

Stop the Scourge!

It's Election Day all across America, folks, so remember to vote and to also do your best to help prevent the horrors of VOTER FRAUD by staying vigilant at all times! Keep an eye on shifty-looking brown people who may be trying to vote twice. Take it into your own hands to demand that such folks present two (2) forms of photo identification, and if they can't, well, you just go ahead and intimidate the shit out of 'em! We can't be too careful, and the threat to Democracy and Life As We Know It is ETERNAL!

On a less facetious note, today in Erie County we hopefully elect a new County Executive, after four years of near-dictatorial government by Chris Collins, a fellow who ran four years ago on that most idiotic of platforms, a promise to "run government like a business". As I wrote in a comment on Alan Bedenko's blog:

One question that keeps coming to mind every year around election time, in my mind, is this: when did “running government like a business” become a desirable idea, and on what basis did it become so? When did “running a business” become synonymous with notions of competence, fair play, rewarding merit, and a general notion of a streamlined operation as opposed to a bureaucracy? I’ve seen lots of businesses — successful ones, even, if a business is to be judged successful by the only metric that seems to make sense to Americans anymore, i.e., whether it makes money — that are run in PRECISELY the way that Collins has run his state government. Businesses run by dictatorial fiat, businesses run by favoritism, businesses that are as listlessly bureaucratic in their customer interactions as any DMV office in the country — they’re out there. Chris Collins HAS run the government like a business, and that’s the problem.




I've never understood the American fetishizing of "business", as if to run one is to have done what is Best In Life. Nor have I ever understood the notion that running a business somehow makes one qualified to influence a vast area of public policy.

Bill Altreuter wrote scathingly several days ago about Chris Collins himself:

I find that I have not been particularly critical of Erie County Executive Chris Collins in these pages, (although I was probably critical enough, in some sense). Please allow me to rectify this omission: Chris Collins has been exactly the sort of small-minded creep he promised to be when he ran for the job, and now that he has had four years to prove it only two sorts of people should consider voting for him. Those would be people who are, like Collins, so rich that they are completely disconnected from reality; or people, like Collins, who are narrow-minded bullies who believe that narrow-minded bullying is a valid philosophy of government.

[good graf containing specifics of Collins's crappy governing snipped, but worth reading...follow the link!]
He's a bad guy, is what I'm saying. This Tuesday we have a chance to stand up to a bully, and I am looking forward to it, but not just because it is a chance to vote against someone so despicable. In his time as Comptroller Mark Poloncarz has demonstrated time and again that he is an honest, hard working guy who appears to be, in almost every respect, the anti-Collins. It will be a pleasure to vote for him.
That about sums it up.
 
(And as a bonus quote, you can't get too much more illustrative of the perverse nature of Libertarianism than this, from the same comment thread on Alan's blog linked above:
 
Perhaps if Greece falls, leading to Italy and France next, the economic meltdown will totally engulf our country, setting up the conditions that appear to be necessary for people to regain their sanity regarding the proper role of government. Yes, that will lead to extreme hardship and pain for many people, but that seems to be the only way we are ever going to set up a decent future for the younger generation.



A worldwide depression? If it makes everybody suddenly decide that we need to trust our fates to the same free markets that have screwed us for years already, Huzzah! Viva la Ayn Rand! Wow.)

Get out and vote, people. For liberals and Democrats, preferrably.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Sentential Links #268

Time for linkage....



:: Because we have a history of breast cancer on both sides of our family, getting a mammogram this morning felt like a step toward acknowledging my own mortality. In my mind, the girls -- and my sister's -- are like ticking time bombs. Very small ones, in my case, but dangerous nonetheless. And I hate that. (What gives me pause in Kerry's post – beside the fear for her own kids and her sister's – is that she relates finding out about her mom's first occurrence of cancer, which came right about when I first knew her and her big sister. I never had any idea their family was pretty much dealing with cancer scares the whole time I knew them. That scares me, for some reason.)


:: Is it possible, then, that those proponents of gay marriage looking for their hypocrite-of-the-week could look elsewhere? Because, and I am not going to say this terribly often, this time Kim Kardashian deserves better treatment. (On the one hand, I'm not sure I buy MGK's argument here. On the other...I don't really care all that much. I only link it because it's kind of interesting.)

That's about it for this week. (Not because blogging suddenly sucked this week, but just that I'm pressed for time as I'm gathering the links as I'm doing this. More next week!)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Jets 27, Bills 11

Well, that sure sucked. I don't have a whole lot to say about it, but here are some points:

:: If the Jets weren't so sloppy and undisciplined, they would have won this game 41-11 instead of 27-11. They made a lot of dumb mistakes that kept the Bills in it until the D just couldn't hold the Jets down anymore.

:: The offensive gameplan didn't look like it was very creative, innovative, or much of anything. Look, I know that Darelle Revis is the NFL's best cornerback, but you can't act like he's some sort of superhuman with godlike powers of coverage. If you can't figure out how to beat the other team's best player, then you don't belong on the same field.

:: The Bills' offensive line basically got pushed around all day. They didn't open up many holes for the run, they didn't block well for any screens, and they sure didn't pass block very well. At least that piece of crap Maybin didn't get a sack...at least I don't think he did, hold on while I check the boxscore...doo de doo de doo...nope, no sacks. In fact, the Jets didn't record a single sack today, but the game sure felt like a big-old sackfest.

:: The Bills' corners aren't that good. I hope they go to the free agent market for some secondary help in the offseason.

:: All in all, hey, it looked like a game in which a young team that is on the upswing but still has some holes and lacks overall experience got beat. It happens. And it doesn't really mean anything huge as far as the season, outside of division record and tie-breaker stuff. They're still halfway to 10-6, which would be a better record than they've finished with in twelve years.

Next week, the Bills launch a stretch of three consecutive away games with a trip to visit the Cowboys. Yee-ha!

(Oh, and Miami won, thank God, giving them a setback in the Draw of the Luck. Keep losing, Colts!)

Saturday Centus (Sunday edition)

Yup, I'm a day late. I had a job figuring out this week's prompt, and I was pretty busy yesterday, anyway. We're given a photo prompt...but what we're supposed to do is write from the point-of-view of a person standing at the window indicated by the arrow.


Hmmmm....okey doke!


"Home One, Agent Niner-five-alpha reporting in. I'm in position. Over."

"Acknowledged, Niner-five-alpha. What is the current status, over?"

"Looks like a soccer game, over."

"Can you identify the target, over?"

"Negative. Our opponents have decoys in play. Repeat, decoys in play, over."

"Niner-five-alpha, did you say, 'decoys', over?"

"That's affirm. Seven, with red hair. Target is apparently disguised as an eight-year-old youth. I cannot identify target from this distance. Require instruction, over."

[pause]

"Niner-five-alpha, retreat from your position and reacquire target at the next location. Understood, over?"

"Understood. Proceeding to Chuck E. Cheese. Over."

"Acknowledged. Report when target acquired. Over."

So...which one of those carrot-topped kids is really a diminutive secret agent? Errr...I have no idea, actually. Pick one!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Something for Thursday

Hey, who's up for some light orchestral music, melodic and exciting, from the Romantic era? Here's Franz von Suppe's overture to Poet and Peasant.



Von Suppe's overtures were staples in concert band repertoire when I was in school; they tend to transcribe wonderfully and are musically meaty enough for young students to enjoy while also tending to be technical enough to give them a nice challenge. I don't know if this is still the case in band programs in this country, but I hope that schools are still playing this stuff.