Monday, October 31, 2005

Quiz Thing

I just found this over at Incurable Insomniac (do posts there have permalinks? I can never find any), and I figured that I should fill it in:

Feeling ________. (Tired right now, and dreading getting up at 4:15 tomorrow morning for an especially early day at The Store.)

Listening to ________. (John Madden speculate on how banged up Ben Roeythlyssbyrgyr [spelling may be wrong] is on Monday Night Football.)

Spent last night ________. (Reading the Sunday Buffalo News; watching an episode of Desperate Housewives that I'd taped [fun]; watching the Bills versus the StuPats [not fun].)

Missing ________. (Red Wolf Beer.)

Had breakfast of ________. (Coffee and an apple fritter.)

Thinking of ________. (Writing a story about a boy who lives in a lighthouse.)

Would love to ________. (See my son smile.)

Planning to ________. (Pilfer The Daughter's obscenely-abundant Halloween take.)

Working to ________. (Re-read The Novel in an effort to reintroduce myself to the characters and story.)

Favorite time of day is ________. (Night.)

Always wanted to play ________. (Beethoven's Ninth, lead trumpet.)

Dreaming of ________. (Escaping somewhere with The Wife, if only for a few days.)

A dream comes true when ________. (I speak to a particular friend of mine, who always makes me feel like the world doesn't completely blow.)

Really hate ________. (The creepy cult of personality around the current President.)

No tagging here; just grab-and-go.

Postponing the Already Postpone'd

Well, due to trick-or-treating, Sentential Links -- which used to be on Sundays, before I moved 'em to Mondays -- will now appear on Tuesday, as in, tomorrow. Sorry for the inconvenience...but then, if you're inconvenienced by something you read or don't read on a blog, then you need to get out more. I'm just sayin'.

Sunday Monday Burst of Weirdness (Halloween Edition)

I'm glad I waited a day before posting, because I was at a loss for a good Burst of Weirdness item until I visited Pharyngula a couple of minutes ago, and found this: a Halloween-based Jack Chick tract. Wow, that guy is out there. (Chick, that is. Not Dr. Myers.)

UPDATE: OK, I'm going to add a Supplemental Burst of Weirdness, even though it has nothing whatsoever to do with Halloween. Basically, I can't figure out where else to link this except for under the Burst of Weirdness, so here it goes.

Anyway, the last couple of days I've been seeing mentions of a guy named Leon Kass around Left Blogistan. The guy's got bizarre quotes being bandied about all over the place -- see Amanda Marcotte for a lengthy takedown -- but here's something that's just over-the-top, batshit crazy:

Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone - a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive.

The extended edition of this quote can be read here. Wow. I haven't read so bizarre a belief advanced by anyone since the first time I encounted the Objectivist Weirdo at the FSM Message Boards. Eating in public is offensive? I guess a trip to the pizza joint is out for Mr. Kass. Gotta be delivery, I suppose.

In a way, I wish I lived by this guy because I'd make a point of taking some food to his house and eating it on his front sidewalk every chance I had. Maybe I'd make fake-orgasm sounds too, while I was doing it.

(Actually, suddenly I remember a pretty nauseating passage from one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books -- The Long Winter, if memory serves. The family got a bunch of periodicals of some sort in the mail, something they were really looking forward to reading, and one of the parents, maybe Ma, says something like, "Well, we shouldn't read all of them at once. We should save them so we can have one per day and make them last longer", or some such thing. And Mary Ingalls pops up and says, "I think that is a good idea. It will help us to practice self-denial." What fun Mary must have been at the annual Ingalls Christmas party....)

(Link via Majikthise.)

If my heart gets warmed any more, it's gonna explode!

In what is surely the Greatest Humanitarian Story in the History of Everything, lineback Tedy Bruschi returned yesterday to the New England Stupid Patriots, after his season was initially put on virtual hold when he suffered a stroke last offseason. Now, I wouldn't wish a stroke on anybody, and I'm thus glad that Bruschi's career was apparently not destroyed by that, but really -- last night's ESPN coverage of the game in which Bruschi played might as well have been called "The Tedy Show", with only an occasional mention of anyone else on Bruschi's team, and an even more sporadic mention of the other relevant bunch of folks who were on the field last night, the Buffalo Bills. All night, whenever there was any dead air in the game coverage to fill at all, the cameras would switch to Bruschi -- whether he was on the field or not -- whereupon Paul McGuire and Joe Theissmann (ugh!) would start to wax poetic about how damned inspirational the whole thing was. At one point they even got a closeup of Bruschi on the sideline spitting on the ground, as athletes do. Great.

Anyway, in honor of the completion of the greatest single humanitarian event in the History of Everything, here's the inaugural entry in what may become a weekly event here at Byzantium's Shores, your Tedy Bruschi Inspirational Moment of the Week!

So, as I expected, the Bills lost to the StuPats. However, it was interesting to me that the StuPats, as they so often do, just didn't look that good (except for when they play the Steelers in Pittsburgh or the Colts in Foxboro). To be honest, this was the defending Super Bowl Champion team, after a bye week, at home, getting its inspirational leader back from a horrible medical problem and hosting a team with a terrible run defense and a sputtering offense that hasn't won a single road game yet this year, and the last one very badly -- and they didn't win by much, needing turnovers (caused by, yet again, ghastly Buffalo offensive-line play) to put them in position for the winning score. The StuPats should, frankly, have blown the Bills out of that stadium, and instead they nearly lost. They looked listless and, for the better part of the game, strangely unmotivated -- and this is the team led by the Master Motivator, the Ghenghis Khan of Game Planning. The StuPats gave up a huge running game by Willis McGahee, and a lot of passing yards to Kelly Holcomb. Yeah, they won, but they didn't look all that great doing it. The StuPats are in trouble, as far as I can see. Maybe not in the division, but certainly in the conference.

But I don't take a whole lot of heart in the Bills not losing by much. The Bills' O-line still failed to make important blocks at a crucial point in the game; the Bills still made a turnover at the crucial point in the game; the defense still folded at the crucial points in the game. Nate Clements, the self-proclaimed best cornerback in football, got burned on a touchdown pass by Deion Branch (if there's a single StuPat player I like, that's probably the guy). Josh Reed dropped another ball that was thrown on his numbers; that drop resulted in a field goal as opposed to a possible touchdown. On a highly crucial fourth-down play, the Bills' coaches sent in a play where Roscoe Parrish, the rookie receiver who is only seeing action in his second game after a preseason injury, is the main option (not, say, Lee Evans or Eric Moulds, who are supposedly this team's playmakers on the receiving corps). The Bills want to see this game as a valuable learning experience, but quite frankly, I'm not sure I want to see it that way. They had the defending champs on the ropes, and let them back in the game. That's not a good learning experience, as far as I'm concerned. The point isn't to learn how to not lose badly on the road; the point is to learn to win on the road.

Sure, the Bills are still "mathematically" alive to win the AFC East, but the StuPats' remaining opponents are a combined 31-34 (and when you take away their next game, against the 7-0 Colts, their remaining opponents after that are merely 24-34), while the Bills' remaining opponents are a combined 34-25. I'm not holding my breath.

Next week the Bills are off, and then they take on the Kansas City Chiefs at home, a game which I think is probably winnable. Looking at the remainder of their schedule, though, I see no reason to amend my preseason prediction of a final 6-10 record.

Other brief football notes:

:: Wow, were those Giants fired up. Now there is a team that was feeding off the emotion of the moment (and beating the hell out of its nearest divisional rival, to boot).

:: God, the Eagles are in a world of hurt right now. How any coach can be as blase about the running game, as is Andy Reid, is utterly beyond me.

:: Culpepper. Ouch. That sucks. The Vikings are plummeting, fast. (But at least the NFC North has a team with a winning record in first place now.)

:: I just gotta add this: Joe Theissmann sucks. He is the worst damn color commentator in history. Lord, he is jaw-droppingly awful.

:: When did "Hits" become a trackable statistic in the NFL? Did we need to be constantly updated on Tedy Bruschi's "hits"? WTF was that?!

OK, that's all. Thank God for the bye week.


Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday, but I wasn't feeling too great and decided to do other stuff. Regular posting should resume today. Like, now. With this post. Yup.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Traffic Babbling

Time for some inane navel-gazing about my traffic trends, since I haven't done this in quite a while....

:: It can't be good that I'm the very first result for this search.

:: It can, however, be good that I turn up for this search. Maybe it's not good, but it could be.

:: I'm getting tons of Google Image search hits lately. The biggies are for the photo of actress (and MOB! designate) Jacqueline Obradors and for the photo of a packed Madison Square Garden I linked (but did not display) here. Odd.

:: And I wasn't paying much attention, but I now see that this month has pretty much obliterated by previous record-holding month in terms of hits, from back in May. I have links from PZ Myers and John Scalzi to thank for that, as well as all of you for stopping by. So thanks for stopping by. And stick around. Just keep your hands out of my fridge. Especially that big jar in the back. Don't open that. Nothing good can come of it. Really.

Little Quinn: an update

As of this writing (about 11:15 am) Little Quinn has been home from the hospital for about half an hour, after yesterday's procedure to put tubes in his ears and scope his airway in an another attempt to ascertain why he has such trouble with secretions building up in his upper trachea.

The overnight hospital stay was more an annoyance than anything; the actual surgical procedures, which were done right about this time yesterday morning, went about as close to "by the numbers" as you can get (or so we're told), and Little Quinn was awake and doing his normal thing (which, admittedly, isn't much) by a couple of hours later. The overnight stay was "precautionary", which I must say has come, for me, to mean "on the whim of whatever doc's running things today". But enough of that.

Good news? Little Quinn's ears are cleared of fluid, and a hearing test was performed that established normal hearing in both the high and low frequencies. The mid-range frequencies were questionable; however, the docs suspect interference in the building as the cause rather than an actual hearing problem, since apparently they've had this particular difficulty a number of times before in performing hearing tests in whatever room in which they did it. Bad news? No real resolution of Little Quinn's secretions issues as of yet. He still coughs a lot, his breathing still sounds congested and junky. The next step may involve a cauterization of some of the ducts in his saliva glands, in an attempt to actually cut down the amount of secretions.

Anyway, we're all home again.

(Oh, and it turns out that Little Quinn doesn't like ear drops all that much. Go figure.)

Thursday, October 27, 2005


OK, I'm still a faithful fan of The Apprentice, in both its current incarnations (although, judging by ratings, I suspect that the Martha Stewart version won't be seeing another season, and I wouldn't bet the house on The Donald returning, either). I've got to babble a bit about tonight's episode, which I'll make hard to read in case any of my readers also watch the show but haven't seen the episode yet.

Wow, he fired four people at once. I have to admit that I found this pretty surprising -- shocking, even. Didn't see it coming. He really made it seem like Jennifer was going to get the heave-ho, but then he suddenly switched and canned everybody. (Jennifer, of course, should have gone last week, when in the course of presenting an ad campaign to a bunch of execs, she couldn't even pronounce the name of the product correctly; Trump gave her another chance for some strange unknown reason -- but I suspect her status as a leggy, pretty blonde had something to do with it.)

However, something like this had to be planned from the show's outset. The number of episodes planned is already set before production starts, but the show seemingly had more contestants participating than could be fired at the rate of one per week. So, clearly, Trump was under orders from the producers that at some point in the course of this season he had to fire multiple people at once. So I should have seen it coming.

And still, I was surprised.

Call me crazy, but I still like The Apprentice -- and believe it or not, I'm rooting for that goofy guy Marcus to go all the way. He's a goof, but somehow lately he's always tossed aside by teams wanting to change personnel -- and then his new team wins. Hmmmmm.

OK, we're done with that.

Exploring the CD Collection #12

Wow, I haven't done one of these in WAY too long.

Anyway, film composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek won the Oscar last year for his score to Finding Neverland, which I've been listening to a lot over the last few months. It couldn't be farther from the epic The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King score, which had won the Oscar the previous year. Finding Neverland is a smaller-scaled score with a tone that's more Mendelssohn than Wagner. It's also pure musical magic.

Finding Neverland, the film, is about English playwright J.M. Barrie, whose place in literary and fantasy history rests on his creation of Peter Pan. The film isn't a terribly factual biopic, though -- from what I've read, it takes considerable liberties with the historical truth of Barrie's life and is more of a "historical fantasia" of sorts. The film establishes that Barrie (Johnny Depp) is in a loveless marriage, and he becomes "involved" with a widow (Kate Winslet) who has been left with three sons. His relationship with this widow and her boys provides him with the inspiration for Peter Pan, his greatest triumph, and one of the delights of the film is in seeing the famous tropes of the Pan story pre-suggested to Barrie in fairly mundane ways (an old woman gesturing with the handle of her umbrella, for example, is the basis for a certain pirate captain's hook).

Kaczmarek's score shimmers and shifts through a lot of mood changes, but his touch is always very subtle. There is a cue at the beginning, scoring the film's opening credits which roll over footage of one of Barrie's plays opening, that forms a perfect "miniature overture" to the film, utilizing a chamber orchestra in a delightful way. This is the tone Kaczmarek generally uses for the "real world" scenes; he takes on a more dreamy sound-world for the various descents into fantasy that the film indulges. These passages sort of call to mind the work Danny Elfman has done with Tim Burton, but with more "light" and less ponderousness.

As the film progresses, the boundary between Barrie's real world of an unhappy wife and an impatient theater owner and a possibly scandalous relationship with a widow and his fantasy world of Neverland becomes more fluid, and Kaczmarek's score follows suit, reaching an emotional high in an amazing sequence in which the Kate Winslet character finally gets to see Neverland. To this point, Kaczmarek has been working with motifs and suggesting melodies without stating them outright, but here the sound of his score becomes almost spiritual in character. The score CD is well considered in this regard, reaching this rewarding climax at the perfect spot in the listening experience. The sense I get from this score isn't just one of magic, but of that special kind of nostalgic magic, of adults in a sad and real world looking back at the world of their childhoods and wondering what they've lost, and of seeking a way to get it back. Kaczmarek's ability to successfully evoke these kinds of feelings, subtly different from simple "stuff of dreams", is notable in a period when film music can not be said to be experiencing an uptick of subtlety or sophistication.

The score CD also includes several diversion-type pieces, in the form of piano improvisations on Kaczmarek's themes. I'm not certain that these are actually improvisations, but they have that feel, and they add to the general feel of the disc. This is not a score that pounds the listener with a long melody or two; instead, Kaczmarek develops a family of related motifs in a wonderful way that's similar to a leitmotif approach but less dramatically rigid. I'd also be remiss in not mentioning Kaczmarek's string writing; he has a way of achieving clarity of sound with his strings that puts me in mind of Vaughan Williams.

Returning to the contrast between this year's Oscar-winning score and last year's, if I were to make a food metaphor, I'd say that Howard Shore's LOTR work is a thick, heavy loaf of German pumpernickel bread, and Kaczmarek's Finding Neverland is a set of puff-pastry hors d'oeuvres.

Dear Blogger

Please oh Please, make "YES" the default setting on allowing new backlinks to posts! I'm tired of realizing that I forgot to switch from "NO", and having to go back and edit my posts just to allow the backlinks!


Crying Uncle

Well, Harriet Miers finally fell on her sword today, in one of the less surprising events of recent days. While I'm glad that a clearly unqualified person is not getting on the Court, the whole dynamic at play here -- either he nominates someone unqualified, or someone qualified but whose political and judicial philosophy is one that I oppose -- makes the Miers thing a Pyrrhic victory at best. Still, it was nice that the Left basically got to sit this one out and watch the Right eat its own young, as the Right is wont to do. I look forward with weariness to hearing about how this whole debacle was the Democrats' fault, and how the Right will forget this whole episode, as illustrative as it is of George W. Bush's refusal to take anything about governance seriously*, ever happened when the President offers up a good Movementarian judge for the Court. Oh well. As Matthew Yglesias notes:

In the final analysis, any situation which begins with (Supreme Court vacancy) + (President George W. Bush) + (Republican Senate) is going to have a bad outcome for the country, so it's all a question of minimizing the harm done while preparing to win in '06 and '08. The only way to get a good justice would have been to have won the previous election.

Still, I have to say that given the choice between having a brilliant Conservative on the Court and a boob Conservative on the Court, I'd at least want to have the brilliant one, if only because going up against the best tends to bring out one's best, if that makes sense. But if the right thing ended up happening here (and it clearly did -- there is no convincing argument to be made at all for Harriet Miers being Supreme Court material), then the right thing happened at least in part for the wrong reasons (i.e., she hasn't imbibed from the Keg of Konservatism deeply enough). I'm always nervous when the right thing is done for the wrong reasons, because the wrong reasons often end up serving as the basis for doing something colossally stupid later on. (See "Iraq" for any number of examples of this.)

* OK, I'll grant that from all reports, his pick this week for Fed chairman seems to be a decent one. But as Ian Fleming once wrote, "You can't sow a million seeds without reaping one potato."

UPDATE: On the new Fed Chair, Matthew Yglesias makes an interesting point:

Along with Bernanke's more obvious qualifications, Bush "wanted someone with whom he feels personally comfortable." That's a reasonable criterion for a White House aide of some sort, a pretty dubious one for a cabinet secretary, and a downright bizarre one for someone heading an independent agency. Another good Bernanke quality is that, according to Barnes, he's as slavishly loyal to tax cutting as the president.


Now, as it happens, this addled procedure generated a decent outcome. There happens to have been a person eminently qualified for the job who was also sufficiently loyal to the Bush clan, personally likeable, good at talking to idiots without talking down to them, not a Democrat, and not too well-liked by the professional Fed staff. But what if there hadn't been? Can there be any doubt Bush would have picked an unqualified nominee rather than swallow the bitter, bitter pill of choosing a Fed chair guilty of one of those deadly sins? There's a problem here.


The Seven Teams of the Beast

I have this theory -- well, it's more of an outright fantasy -- that there are certain teams whose winning of World Championships constitutes the opening of the "Seven Seals" -- you know, the seals whose opening has something to do with the Antichrist and Armageddon and the Book of Revelation and all that stuff. (I'll know more about this stuff in a year or so, but for now, my project of reading the Bible cover-to-cover is only up to the last couple chapters of Genesis.) Those teams are:

Denver Broncos (1997 Super Bowl Champions)
Boston Red Sox (2004 World Series Champions)
Chicago White Sox (2005 World Series Champions)
Los Angeles Clippers
Minnesota Vikings
Chicago Cubs
Buffalo Bills

As we now know, three of the Seven Seals have been opened. I expect at least a good plague or two, right? But hey, as long as the Bills are the last of the Seven Teams of the Beast to win their championship, I'll be a happy guy when the world ends. Right?

OK, I didn't watch much of this year's World Series at all. In fact, I don't think I watched a single inning in its entirety. Fact is, for one reason or another, I just wasn't that interested this year, even though the White Sox and Astros both had compelling stories behind them. I was nominally more in favor of the White Sox winning, if only because I'm still sore with Texas over the whole "Hey, howzabout two Presidents named Bush!" thing, but an Astros victory wouldn't have really bugged me that much, mainly because I like the name "Astros". It's cool that there's a team that takes its name from the space program.

But I've generally been fairly bored with baseball the last few years. Part of that is probably because my team, the Pirates, are rebuilding yet again (although their current crop of young talent on the rise seems to be more promising than the previous two or three youth movements they've had, depending on what you consider to be a "youth movement"), and part of it is because baseball itself doesn't seem to give a shit. No real effort is made to speed up the games, no real effort is made to make the game's economics more equitable, no real effort is made to make the game more accessible, really. I'm sorry, but the NFL gets it: except for two prime-time games each week, just about everybody has seen their team either win or lose by seven o'clock on Sunday night, and even the Super Bowl with its inflated halftime is over by ten. But there's the World Series, cranking away in the seventh inning while David Letterman is finishing up his monologue.

I found it disturbing to note that the Astros roster has no black players. It's important to note that this is almost certainly not an instance of the Astros being a racist organization, but rather that black athletes in general are turning away from baseball to such a degree that the sport's talent pool in black athletes is getting smaller and smaller to the point where teams are finding themselves in situations where none of the best players in their organizations, the guys they're promoting to the Major Leagues, are black. That's a pretty disturbing structural problem for the game, I think.

It's also telling to me that the TV networks no longer see the World Series as a threat to ratings. I remember how, not too long ago, networks wouldn't schedule new episodes of their top shows on the week of the World Series. But now, every show I watch -- except for the ones on FOX, which actually hosts the World Series -- had a new episode this week, World Series or no.

Finally, I see that Rox is asking people to name the best outfield ever. Well, I'm not sure about the best ever, but the Pirates outfield of the early 1990s -- Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke, and Bobby Bonilla -- was a kick-ass outfield. Those guys constituted the heart of the batting order, and Bonds and Van Slyke were Gold Glovers while Bonilla was no slouch in right.

So there you go. Bring on Spring Training, I guess.

Top. Men.

Awwww, geez -- AICN reports that William Hootkins has died. Hootkins was a character actor who played the doomed X-Wing pilot Porkins in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (the first Rebel casualty), and Major Eaton in Raiders of the Lost Ark (one of the two government guys who send Indiana Jones after the Ark of the Covenant), among other roles.

What surprises me is that Hootkins was only 58. Somehow he managed to look that old in the two above-mentioned roles -- well, maybe not upper fifties, but at least 40. He certainly didn't look like a guy in his early 30s, seeming as he did the grizzled war veteran of the former film and the jaded career government official of the latter.

Anyhow, here's hoping his burial doesn't take place in a gigantic government warehouse....

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Open a channel, Uhura.

Sorry for the general silence in these parts the last couple of days, but things are kind of hectic. The Wife has a nice case of strep throat, Little Quinn is scheduled for surgery on Friday morning (to put in ear tubes and to scope out his airway again), and The Daughter is, well, six. So maybe I'll be posting again more regularly soon, but also, maybe not. Light posting may be the rule here for the next week or so, until after Halloween. (I've decided to not take an "official" hiatus next week after all, since I'll most likely want to take one at Christmastime. But the next week figures to be quite busy, and my posting inspiration and/or opportunity will in all likelihood not be consistent.)

So, here's a bit of Lazy Linkage for today.

:: I hate not getting the joke.

:: Kellie has resumed posting, and she has some details on the birth of her son. It was a difficult birth, but the kid is cute. Scroll down to the post dated October 20, and read up.

:: Here's a strong critique of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that ran in The Buffalo News this past Sunday. It's a fascinating read.

:: Jayme isn't in a good mood. (Just scroll down. He's irritated.)

:: I love stuff like this: guy in a lab says, "Hey, I wonder what happens if I do this!", and what happens is something that might change life.

:: John's exploration of the U2 corpus continues.

All for now. Back tomorrow. Maybe.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Remember when Bill O'Reilly tried to sue the publishers of Al Franken's book because he thought that nobody other than FOX News should ever be able to use the phrase "Fair and Balanced"? Well, the Bush Administration is following suit: they don't want The Onion to be using the Presidential Seal, because for The Onion to use the seal implies Presidential endorsement of the contents of The Onion.

Ummm...yeah. Well, I hope that whatever joints the President's people are smoking are printed with The Seal, because that's some quality stuff they're on in this White House. Wow.


I got a couple of Google referrals the other day for "Nancy and Sluggo", which resulted from the fact that I used "Nancy vs. Sluggo" as a title for a post a while back (about the Buffalo-area political battles between former Erie County controller Nancy Naples and Erie County Executive Joel Giambra). Purely out of curiosity, I went and Google'd Nancy and Sluggo, because I was wondering if that comic strip was still around. And sure enough, it is, although it's kind of disturbingly "updated" to modern times.

But what caught my eye when I found yesterday's installment was in the way the woman who is Nancy's apparent guardian/mother figure is drawn:

Now, as I recall from back when I read Nancy as a kid, Nancy lived with an aunt named Fritzi. Is this Aunt Fritzi? Wow!

Sentential Links #22

Time again, friends, to take folks across Blogistan out of context!

:: I am the company Data Bitch. Hear me roar.

:: I sometimes feel that if the increasingly expansive view of copyright asserted today had been around a couple of centuries ago, the Supreme Court would have ruled that lending libraries were illegal.

:: The belief in this Inward Light also animates the well-known Quaker committment to peace and social justice, but that's for another post, another day. (I think I should start studying Quakerism.)

:: I just want to know why the person in the linked article thinks fake boobs are just decorative. (I'm not sure how this blog showed up in my referrals, but I liked this post.)

:: One aspect of this series that I forgot to mention is that there are ten regular season wins that separate these teams.

:: I know so many kids who loved Holes by Louis Sachar but now dislike it (sorry Louis) because it has become the class novel unit. (Tell me about it. I had one teacher choke the life out of The Black Cauldron; another who eschewd Mark Twain in favor of Ordinary People, and so on. The most enjoyable English unit I remember from high school was when my junior-year teacher basically gave us all a big list of reading selections and told us to pick a number of items from the list to read, for report later. That was fun. This blog is brand-new to me, btw.)

:: This reminds me of a story about condoms from my Seattle days. (I like this blog a lot. It takes a pretty good writer to make a "One day in my life" kind of blog interesting.)

:: To make a replica of the world, you have to be able to see it. If you see it, you can model it. A novel is as much a replica of the world as a model railway. (OK, I've just now decided that I must have been grumpy when I read one of James MacDonald's books -- cowritten by Debra Doyle -- and didn't like it, because MacDonald's posts at Making Light are always terrific. And make sure you click through on Jim's post to see the pictures on the site that inspired him here. It's amazing model work. And really, this kind of post is exactly why tabbed browsing is so damned cool. And note to self: re-read The Price of the Stars.)

:: If you've never heard of Juhl, don't feel bad. (I have, but I hadn't heard of Juhl's passing. That's very sad, and even sadder is that I didn't know about it until randomly noodling through a blog's archives. Another new blog to me, by the way -- check out his Revenge of the Sith review, which marks him as a blogger of uncommon insight and intelligence.)

:: But if there's a corrollary to one bad apple not spoiling the barrell, it isn't one good one improves the whole lot to Grade A. (Yeah, the Lance Mannion installment for Sentential Link. Yeah, I always pick him. Get'cher own blog if it bothers you.)

:: When I got home I looked around and realized that, contrary to what a curmudgeonly visitor told me a few years ago, I DO have an aesthetic sense. It's just ... based on a strange principle. (My guiding principle for decorating is, "Can I put books on it?")

Enough for this week!

(Fair warning for next week: Sentential Links may be delayed because of that thing where I dress the kid up in a costume and then go around the neighborhood demanding candy from total strangers, lest I pelt their homes with eggs or some such thing.)

Date with Destiny? How about a date with reality, first?

The Buffalo Bills traveled out west yesterday, venturing into the wonderment that is McAfee Coliseum to take on the lowly Oakland Raiders, a team that's been in disarray ever since it lost Super Bowl XXXVII in a blowout, and a team that apparently can't sell out a smallish stadium even after adding the game's most electrifying, if maddening, offensive player.

And the Bills laid a giant turd on the turf at McAfee, emitting a stench that was whiffed as far east as Strykersville, NY. (Yeah, probably farther.) The Bills managed to lose 24-17. Oh, wait -- did I say, 24-17? That was the score when I turned the game off early in the fourth quarter. My bad. The final score was actually 38-17.

If only Jim Mora were the Bills' coach, because then he would have been able to utter the simple truth in his post-game press conference: "We suck. We're a diddly-poo offense." And so on.

The strange thing is that Kelly Holcomb once again didn't play badly. He completed something like 18 of 25 for around 150 yards and two TDs, with no interceptions. Not bad; in fact, that's pretty much what the Bills wanted out of Holcomb. Manage the game, don't throw a whole lot, don't make mistakes that cost the Bills the game. Check, check, and check. Holcomb didn't do a single thing that led to the Bills losing this game.

That was taken care of by the defense, the offensive line, and the coaching staff.

:: The defense was riddled by the Raiders' running game; the D once again failed to generate any pressure without blitzing; the D gave up third-down conversion after third-down conversion. The defensive unit that was supposed to carry this team to the playoffs, in a season-long performance that some on the team said would echo that of the 1985 Bears and the 2000 Ravens, surrendered over four hundred yards of total offensive to a 2-4 team.

:: The offensive line once again failed to provide any kind of sufficient protection for Kelly Holcomb. Holcomb was only sacked three times, but he was hurried all day and never had a chance to make a downfield throw. The Bills attempted zero passes of greater than twenty yards. Good thing we've got all those great receivers here. Eric Moulds can bitch all he wants, as far as I'm concerned.

:: The coaching staff always seems to have a perfect game plan drawn up -- for the Bills' first drive of the game. This was no exception, as the Bills marched all the way for a touchdown using the game's first eight minutes. And then they looked completely discombobulated, as though they couldn't figure out which end was up. They ran short outs on long yardage downs; they called for a screen pass when they faced third-and-twenty (McGahee picked up fifteen); they called for blitz after blitz after blitz. And in the most talked-about coaching misfire of the day, the Bills faced fourth-and-goal from the Raiders' 1-yard line. They decided to go for the score, which I can respect, given the team's identity as a powerhouse running smash-mouth team. Here comes the snap, the handoff to Willis McGahee...well, no, here's the handoff to the lead blocker, fullback Daimon Shelton. Who hasn't had a carry in over five years of NFL play. He got stuffed.

The facts are clear, from where I sit: the Bills are simply not a playoff-caliber team, and this lunacy of putting in Kelly Holcomb for the "spark" that would get them over the playoff hump needs to end. Holcomb hasn't played badly at all, and it's a shame that this is the position in which he finds himself, but he was not put in for the right reasons, and the only logical thing now is for the Bills to concede that the team has too many holes to make the playoffs, pull Holcomb out, and let J.P. Losman get back to learning the damn game so that maybe he's ready next time the Bills manage to field a team that could make the playoffs. If Losman's the future, then we need to let him have his screw-ups and we need to let him learn from them. And if that means, right now, letting the Bills lose games partly because of Losman's errors rather than letting the Bills lose games despite Holcomb's lack of errors, I'd go with the former.

Here's where I stand, boiled down to the essentials: the Bills have me agreeing with Jerry Sullivan. And that makes me crazy.

Other football and sporting notations:

:: As always, I'm rooting for the Steelers in the AFC North, but it's really cool to see the Bengals being competitive again, especially with the Ravens heading downward and the Browns being, well, the Browns.

:: Looks like the NFC North is ripe for the Vikings' taking!

:: OK, maybe I'm a little more down on the Bills than I should be. After all, they're just 3-4, as are the San Diego Chargers. But does anybody think that the Bills are equal, talent-wise, to the Chargers? I sure don't. There's always some team that posts a mystifyingly poor record; I think the Chargers are it for this year.


:: I'm rooting for the White Sox, because I love Chicago dearly (even though the Cubs just make me laugh), and I have some -- but not nearly enough -- good memories of the Windy City. Plus, they do it right, and I just think Ozzie Guillen is cool.

:: When fate intrudes: I tuned in for the very end of Game Two last night. Lidge, the Astros' closer who gave up that monster walk-off shot in Game Five of the NLCS, is facing down some White Sox hitter who didn't homer all year until the ALCS. The announcers have an exchange that goes something like this:

PLAY-BY-PLAY GUY: So, does Lidge still have that taste in his mouth from that homer in the NLCS?

COLOR COMMENTATOR: No, this is the World Series. That taste is long gone by now.

Not five seconds later, the White Sox hitter takes Lidge's next pitch into the right-field stands. Walk-off homer, game over. Sox up, two games to none. Ouch. Then, a minute or two later,

COLOR COMMENTATOR: Well, I guess Lidge might have that taste again now.

Ya think?

:: Channel surfing during a commercial break, and I found figure skating on. The Winter Olympics are coming up! Go Michelle Kwan! (Although I'm not sure how realistic that is.)

OK, that's it for this week. I may not blog at all about football next Monday, given that Sunday night the Bills have a nationally televised road game against the New England Stupid Patriots. Those always end well for the Bills. Kind of like a nationally-televised colonoscopy.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Sometimes I think that Americans have taken their obsession with team sports to absurd levels; other times I think, "Nahhh, it's all just healthy fun."

And then I read something like this:

A man got a prison term longer than prosecutors and defense attorneys had agreed to — all because of Larry Bird.

The lawyers reached a plea agreement Tuesday for a 30-year term for a man accused of shooting with an intent to kill and robbery. But Eric James Torpy wanted his prison term to match Bird’s jersey number 33.

Personally, I think they should just give him a term equal in years to Bruce Smith's old jersey number (78) just because he's an idiot.

(via Andrew Cory)

Sic transit gloria mundi

In a sad but not particularly surprising development, FilmScoreMonthly Magazine has announced that it will cease production of its print magazine effective after the next issue. The magazine was launched fifteen years ago by Lukas Kendall, although from what I'm told, calling what Kendall produced in those early days a "magazine" would amount to a wholesale abandonment of the word "basement-photocopied newsletter". But that only makes Kendall's achievement all the more impressive; FSM has over the years become the main publication of the film music community, and FSM has branched out from producing a magazine to producing high-quality CDs of film scores that have been long unavailable. I myself own only a handful of FSM CDs, and there are a bunch I still want to buy.

From what Kendall says in his message board announcement, FSM as a business isn't going under entirely; the CD production and the web operation will continue. So what this means for FSM in the future remains to be seen; maybe they can remain viable as a provider of film music-related content online. We'll see.

I've never been a subscriber to FSM, but the Borders in Buffalo often had issues available, and I bought more than a few of these over the years. It's too bad that FSM is ceasing print publication, but who knows -- maybe the FSM company will be better off because of it.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Every time I read a story in Syracuse's Post Standard like this one, I wonder just why it is that the Buffalo News and our various TV and radio news outlets aren't sending reporters one hundred fifty miles down the friggin' Thruway and asking the folks there just how it is that they are consistently adding jobs while we are not. I mean, it's clearly the case that a city can be located in relatively business-unfriendly Upstate New York, and can be fighting a longterm continual loss of manufacturing jobs, and still manage to add jobs in other parts of the private sector. So what gives? What does Onondaga County have that we don't have? And why aren't we interested in find out what that is?

A penny here, a penny there....

Wow, this is going to be an expensive couple of months. We've got Christmas shopping in the offing, as well as all the attendant food because we're firm believers that a holiday that isn't an excuse for feasting as though we're English royalty enjoying the fruits of our labors (those labors being, of course, waging wars against the French and taxing our subjects to within an inch of indentured servitude). In addition to all that, though, is all the good geeky stuff coming out soon:

:: The DVD of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which comes out November First.

:: John Williams's score to Memoirs of a Geisha comes out on November 22. I'm greatly looking forward to this one, in hopes of hearing what John Williams does with Japanese motifs.

:: The really big impending expenditure for me, though, is coming out December 13: the deluxe, complete edition of Howard Shore's score to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

The problem with saving pennies is that there aren't enough pennies to go around. If I ever run for public office, my campaign slogan's gonna be, "Everybody gets more pennies". It can't miss!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Song Memes

Here's another list-type thing, cribbed from BFLOBlog. It's just my favorite songs by certain artists (left blank for artists with whom I'm insufficiently familiar).

Favorite Beatles song: "In My Life" (but, as is my usual habit with Beatles tunes, I like it better performed by someone else. In this case, Judy Collins.)

Favorite solo song by a former Beatle: "Live and Let Die", which I think would be a much better song if not for that incredibly odd "funk" thing in the middle.

Favorite Rolling Stones song: Dunno.

Favorite Bob Dylan song: "Rainy Day Woman [number something]"

Favorite Pixies song: Dunno.

Favorite Prince song: Dunno. I'm not a Prince fan.

Favorite Michael Jackson song: "Man in the Mirror" is a pretty good ballad, I think.

Favorite Metallica song: Everybody else is naming "Sandman", so I'll follow suit.

Favorite Public Enemy song: Dunno.

Favorite Depeche Mode song: Dunno.

Favorite Cure song: Dunno.

Favorite song that most of your friends haven’t heard: "Caledonia" by Dougie MacLean.

Favorite Beastie Boys song: I'm sorry, but I cannot take the Beastie Boys seriously. I don't care how many people tell me that "Fight For Your Right To Party" isn't representative of their "body of work".

Favorite Police song: "Every Breath You Take" (I'm a sap, remember?)

Favorite Sex Pistols song: I don't know the first damn thing about the Sex Pistols.

Favorite song from a movie: I couldn't possibly name one, so I'll just randomly mention "Into the West" from The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. But I could randomly cite any number of songs here.

Favorite Blondie song: "Call Me".

Favorite Genesis song: "In Too Deep". (I don't think that the Invisible Touch album gets nearly enough love.)

Favorite Led Zeppelin song: Yes, I love "Stairway". But for this purposes of this post, I'll go with "Battle of Evermore".

Favorite INXS song: Dunno. (For about the first year that this band was on my radar screen, I thought that the name was pronounced "Inkses". Whoops.)

Favorite Weird Al song: That Star Wars parody he did, whatever it was called.

Favorite Pink Floyd song: "Is There Anybody Out There?"

Favorite cover song: Tangerine Dream doing "Purple Haze". Or David Bowie and Mick Jagger's cover (for LiveAid) of "Dancin' In the Street".

Favorite dance song: "Last Dance" by Donna Summer.

Favorite U2 song: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"

Favorite disco song: OK, I actually like "Stayin' Alive" by the BeeGees. You got me to say it. You happy now? Harumph!

Favorite The Who song: "Who Are You?"

Favorite Elton John song: "Tiny Dancer"

Favorite Clash song: Dunno.

Favorite David Bowie song: Dunno.

Favorite Nirvana song: Never liked Nirvana.

Favorite Snoop Dogg song: Not a rap fan.

Favorite Ice Cube song: Ditto.

Favorite Johnny Cash song: "Ring of Fire" (but really, picking one Johnny Cash tune is like looking at a bucket of chicken wings and picking the best one).

Favorite R.E.M. song: "Everybody Hurts".

Favorite Elvis song: "Love Me Tender".

Favorite cheesy-ass country song: "Seven Spanish Angels", Ray Charles and Willie Nelson.

Favorite Billy Joel song: "An Innocent Man".

Favorite Bruce Springsteen song: "Streets of Philadelphia".

Favorite Big Audio Dynamite song: Who?

Favorite New Order song: Who?

Favorite Neil Diamond song: "Song Sung Blue".

Favorite Squeeze song: Who?

Favorite Smiths song: Dunno.

Favorite Tragically Hip Song: Dunno.

Best. Space probe. EVER.

Well, OK, Voyager was right up there. And Galileo. And the Viking landers were pretty cool. OK, all the space probes are unbelievably cool...but I really heart Cassini, which took this image of the Saturnine moon Dione:

Those skinny things at the bottom are Saturn's rings, viewed edge-on. Wow. My opinion of the space shuttle and the International Space Station aside, the part of our space program that uses unmanned ships to do good science would be a bargain at twice the price.

(Embiggened version of this image, with informatory material, here. Link via Paul Riddell.)

Of skies and the ways that cross them

I was interested by this Buffalo News article, which ran on the paper's front page, about the growing volume of the chorus of voices in Buffalo who think that the Skyway should be torn down, under the assumption that it's a major impediment to development on the waterfront.

Personally, I'm with them all the way: the thing is a giant ugly gray concrete dinosaur whose purpose can be perfectly served by ground-level streets and bridges. This thing just looms over the waterfront, casting large swaths of it in shadow for much of the day. For those not from Buffalo, the Skyway is a giant four-lane bridge that rises to one hundred feet in the air as New York Route 5 arrives at downtown Buffalo. Route 5 hugs the shore of Lake Erie, which means that the Skyway literally sits above the waterfront. Ugh.

And man, is our state government a bunch of nitwits -- they don't have to look at the Skyway every day, so they don't have to give creedence to the local notion that maybe getting rid of it's a good idea.

Get the damn thing out of here. I'm not sure if it was ever a good idea, but assuming it was, its time is past.

(Although, I have to admit that I do really enjoy the drive into Buffalo over the Skyway. It makes the city look really cool, especially on that one last rise when it feels like you're flying. But that's nowhere near a good enough reason to keep it up.)

Aww, I'm blushing....

Tristram Shandy noticed my link to him in this week's Sentential Links, and pays me a nice compliment:

[W]e'd be remiss if we didn't welcome readers from Byzantium's Shores, whose proprietor actually gives overalls a good name.

Never thought we'd say that of anyone.

That's great! It's a hard task, rehabilitating the much-maligned overalls -- see here and here for the apparent prevailing opinion -- but somebody's got to do it, right?

[crickets chirping]

Ah, bite me.

[stomps off]


Well, I'll give Michael Behe some credit: he's willing to follow his own lunacy to its logical conclusions.

Astrology would be considered a scientific theory if judged by the same criteria used by a well-known advocate of Intelligent Design to justify his claim that ID is science, a landmark US trial heard on Tuesday.

Under cross examination, ID proponent Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, admitted his definition of “theory” was so broad it would also include astrology.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

It can't be that bad....

PZ Myers sputters in dismay at reading this op-ed for a student newspaper at the University of Iowa (registration possibly required -- use, and I thought, "Hmmm, how bad can it really be?"

Well, that was a mostly rhetorical question, as whenever Dr. Myers links something and says how bad it is, it's almost always precisely that bad. And the worst thing is that it's written by a journalism major.

Every paragraph in this article is stunningly stupid, so I just picked one at random to single out, and here it is:

The school system needs a reality check; most students aren't going to be mathematicians, historians, or chemists. So why do we have to take these classes? If students know at an early age what they want to do for their careers, then high schools should offer classes in that area. This would make me feel that the time I spent in the high-school classrooms wasn't a waste.

Here's why you have to take those classes, Ms. Perk: because not taking them, or taking them but not taking them seriously, leaves you an idiot. Pure and simple. And count me among those who believe that we should not be encouraging stupidity. Maybe this is too hard a concept for her to grasp, but one need not go into a field as a profession to find worth in studying it. I know chemists who have read Shakespeare. I work for a grocery store manager whose favorite writer is Hemingway, and another who has a Master's Degree in French.

Other problems arise from the unimaginably stupid notion (and, depressingly, an all-too-common one) that school should be geared only toward preparing students for their careers. Quick answers here, folks: how many people do you know who are still working in the fields they studied in college, if they ever worked in those fields at all? And how many of your collegemates knew, at the outset, what they were going to study and how many of them stuck with it all the way through to their careers? That "If students know what they wanna do" clause is a pretty big If indeed, but of course, Ms. Perk can't begin to comprehend that.

Like I wrote a few months back:

I think the real media bias is not to the liberal or to the conservative, but to the stupid.

This is the future of the media, folks. Ms. Perk, despite her complete lack of knowledge of the world or even curiosity about it, is going to be reporting it. This vacant head will be a source of information. Whether you're liberal or conservative, it can't be comforting to think that the "MSM" may be in the hands of people with heads as closed and empty as the Rubbermaid kitchen containers in my cupboards.

I remember reading Steve Allen's book Dumbth a few years back, and thinking, "Oh come now, it can't be that bad." Sadly, it can indeed. Being smart is no longer celebrated, being curious is no longer encouraged. And here's something depressing: this is an Iowan writing this shit. Iowa. The state that celebrates education on its statehood quarter, and rightfully so; a state where I lived for four years during my own college years and met only a handful of true idiots. Ms. Perk is unworthy of being an Iowan.

I mean, if this person is so loathe to crack a book or learn something new while in college, what is she going to do when she's out?

UPDATE: Here is another good response to this article, with this bit of insight:

That role of consumer, and its attendant attitude, are pretty important here. Stacey thinks she's purchased a degree. She's a consumer buying something. Sorry, that's not it. The consumer model is highly inappropriate for dealing with higher education. You aren't a consumer you're a student.

Exactly right. Just because attending college involves a sizeable transfer of money does not make getting a college degree like getting a pizza. You're not a customer paying for a specific result, you're a student paying for a set of resources. Blaming the school for your failure to learn changes nothing: the failure is yours.

Lacking for Posts?

Sorry for the relative silence of today, but it's been pretty busy and I had a couple of reviews for GMR to finish up. So I'll try to be back in form tomorrow afternoon and evening.

(Oh, and by the way, I'm planning on a brief hiatus starting November 1 or 2, and ending November 5 or 6. Consider yourselves warned. Oh yes.)

Anyhow, here are a couple of very recent -- as in, the last twenty-four hours -- photos of Little Quinn. He's nursing a cold today and is really under the weather, but not nearly as bad as he was a while back when we had to hospitalize him for bronchitis.

This is me holding Little Quinn last night, while noodling around Blogistan. Judging by the expression on my face, I'm not reading anything political at the moment.

Here are Little Quinn and I in full-on pose, basically just to offer a good view of what his face looks like these days. He's getting pretty handsome, isn't he?

And this was taken by The Wife this afternoon, after Little Quinn's physical and occupation therapy sessions. He sleeps very well on his tummy. And, of course, there's the old adage that if you want to attract a cat, just lay out a soft blanket in a sunbeam.

In other developmental news, I'm told by The Wife that Little Quinn has actually displayed his first social smiles while undergoing his various therapies. I've not been fortunate enough to actually be here during those sessions, which leads to initial frustration on my part, and then secondary frustration on Little Quinn's part when I get home and start poking and prodding and tickling and generally bugging him in an attempt to get him to smile. But I'll get to see it. Oh yes: I will see it.

Hardtack, fatback, tackback, trackback

If any people out there are using Blogger and trying (without success) to use their new BackLink feature (a sort of trackback) after manually adding the code to their customized templates (like mine), check out this post on A Consuming Experience, which details a bit of code that is also needed to get things working. I've added the code, and now my Backlinks are working again. And I'm having more success with the ladies. And my tennis game's improved.

Monday, October 17, 2005


In keeping with the sci-fi films post from earlier, here's an iconic SF film image: Robby the Robot.

Courtesy of this site.

Incidentally, in comments to the sci-fi film list post, PZ Myers mentions that Star Wars is more fantastic than SFnal, which I certainly can't quibble with. The demarcation of SF versus fantasy is a long-debated topic in geek circles, but the best practical definition I've ever heard is this: In fantasy, to do something impossible you utter an incantation, while in SF, to do something impossible you push a button. (Of course, in Star Wars, you have both, so....)

Sentential Links #21

Once more unto the Sentence, dear friends!

:: It is my belief, that anything that happens in real life can be understood by either watching The Simpsons, or Star Trek (or both!). (This appears to be about the only thing on this blog that I can agree with, strangely enough. Hat tip to Lynn.)

:: White Christian males are neither oppressed nor a minority, so their whinging about being a minority oppressed by secularism or anything else is just so much poppycock. (Indeed.)

:: This is as close to doing porn as I'll ever get: blowing on my big white cockatoo... See how he likes it? (I'm sorry, folks. Really.)

:: The most interesting thing in the final two Star Wars movies was the suggestion that when he didn't have to drag Anakin around with him, Obi-wan was leading the life of a Jedi Philip Marlowe.

But that's another post.
(Ah, dammit!)

:: I have had only four real girlfriends, and been gone on dates with a grand total of eight women. (Wow. Compared to me, John's a player. My numbers thereof are three, and five. Oh, and he's been posting up a storm lately. Go check him out.)

:: Anyway, if you’ve been not reading Wheel of Time books of late (and who could blame you) go ahead and Read some chapter summaries and get cracking. This one was _good_... (Well, umm...)

:: Science is Made out of Metal (OK, that's a post title, but it works because it's a complete sentence. Anyway....)

:: But just Einstein? Nope. Don't think so. You lost him a long, long time ago. He's not yours anymore, especially not to deploy in the service of German self-esteem. (New blog to me. Liberal snark, but with a different voice.)

:: Another question I get is, "Fish can't feel pain, right?" It's usually phrased exactly that way, too—they aren't looking for an accurate answer, they're looking for a reassurance that casual brutality towards cold and slimy creatures is acceptable. The actual answer, though, is "Of course they can feel pain, you clueless boob! Mind if I put this barbed hook through your lip?" (Dammit. So much for having salmon tonight. I guess I'll have a burger instead. Oh wait...dammit!)

OK, that's all for this week. Tune in again next Monday. (Yes, I've officially moved Sentential Links to Mondays.)

Holcomb, Holcomb, he's our man!

Week Six in the NFL: Kelly Holcomb led the Bills to victory again, thus claiming forever the right to be the Bills' starter. Or something like that.

It was a nice win, but unlike the guy who was babbling on the Buffalo call-in radio show that I was listening to when I got home, this doesn't really put the Bills on the path to the playoffs. They still don't do enough with the passing game (Holcomb still only threw for around 170 yards), they go "pass-wacky" at weird situations (passing yesterday on third-and-one, when the running game is working beautifully), and their defense is seemingly incapable of stopping the run. Ouch. I'd like to see them do on the road what they did yesterday, and I'm not optimistic that they can -- especially with a bunch of really tough games coming up.

So I'm glad the Bills won, but I don't think it's a terribly significant win in terms of where they're going this season. Maybe Kelly Holcomb is enough to get the Bills to an 8-8 record (I predicted 6-10), but that's about it.

As for the rest of the NFL, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention, except to watch the Steelers have a number of brilliant defensive plays come to naught when Tommy Maddox threw an interception in overtime that was returned for the touchdown. That sucked. And I can't help but note that the defending champs have still yielded more points than any other AFC team, a trend which I don't think can be ignored or explained away as a statistical anomaly after six games. If not for the excellent play of Tom Satan Brady, the New England Stupid Patriots wouldn't even be at .500. And I don't think the return of Tedy Beelzebub Bruschi is going to solve the StuPats' problems. (But their next game is a home game on a Sunday night against the Bills. Why do the Bills always have to play night games against the StuPats? What's up with that?)


John Scalzi's got a new book out, Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Films, in which he talks about, well, sci-fi films. I don't know if I'll read it or not -- he mentions that he maintains his snarkiness, singling out whatever he's written on Star Wars as an example, and I'm still mad that he compared people who like The Phantom Menace, people like me, with Michael Jackson fans who cavorted outside the courtroom -- but I see that he posts a list of what he considers to be the most significant sci-fi movies ever made, and faced with such a list, how can I not follow blogging convention on such matters and reproduce the list here, bolding the ones I've seen? So here it is:

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! (God, I love this movie! I quote it all the time at work, and no one ever recognizes the quotes. My favorite quote comes from the early scene involving brain surgery: "Whoa, don't tug on that. You never know what it might be attached to.")

Aliens (I can't stand either of these movies. Or the third one. Didn't bother with the fourth one.)

Back to the Future
Blade Runner (I think this movie is stunningly overrated.)

Bride of Frankenstein
Brother From Another Planet
A Clockwork Orange (A college roommate of mine fell in love with this movie.)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Contact (I think this film is underrated to the same extent that Bladerunner is overrated.)

The Damned
Destination Moon
The Day The Earth Stood Still (Dammit! We had DVDs of this movie at The Store for under ten bucks, and to my astonishment, they sold out in a day. Been kicking myself ever since.)

Escape From New York
ET: The Extraterrestrial
Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial)
The Fly (1985 version) (Another movie whose near-classic status I don't get. It's just a big gross-out flick.)

Forbidden Planet
Ghost in the Shell
Gojira/Godzilla (To be honest, I'm not sure if I've seen the actual Japanese original, but I've seen several of the Japanese sequels, as well as the horrid Devlin-Emmerich production of a few years back.)

The Incredibles
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version)
Jurassic Park
Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
The Matrix (I like it a little bit less each time I watch it.)
On the Beach
Planet of the Apes (1968 version)
Solaris (1972 version)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (See my Star Trek Redux series, posted in the sidebar, for my views on the Trek movies. I like STII, but it's not my favorite.)

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Stepford Wives
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The Thing From Another World
Things to Come
12 Monkeys
28 Days Later
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
2001: A Space Odyssey
La Voyage Dans la Lune
War of the Worlds (1953 version)

I actually think this is a pretty good list, as "significance" goes as the main qualifier, although I'm honestly not sure I'd include The Incredibles, given how recent it is. But PIXAR's significance can't be understated, and The Incredibles is probably their only true SF film (the rest of it is pure fantasy), so I won't quibble too strongly.

UPDATE: Whoa! Welcome aboard, Phayngula readers! Stick around a while -- archives and links to other stuff about me, including my favorite posts, are available on the blog's main page -- link below, or click the masthead image at the top of this post. According to Dr. Myers, I look like an axe murderer, but I hope I don't also write like one!

Tracking my Back, or Backing my Track, or something

I learned last week, via Sean, that Blogger now has a kind of "trackback" function. They call it "Backlinks", but really, doesn't it do what Trackback's been doing everywhere else? Anyway, I think I've got it implemented here in the way it's supposed to be implemented. It seems odd to me that the default setting is to not allow backlinks for each post, so I have to individually turn them on each time -- it seems to me that "Yes" should be the default, and if I want to turn them off, that should be done manually.

(Say, why would one turn off one's trackbacks, anyway?)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sure is misty in Avalon....

Gwynwhyfar journeys to Avalon in Chapter Twenty of The Promised King, Book One: The Welcomer, now up for your reading pleasure. And remember: there are only two chapters and a short epilogue to go in Book One! If you're wondering how this part of the story ends, we're getting really close. And if you haven't bothered reading the story until now, well, what's keeping you? It's all over there.

Oh, and don't forget that I posted a complete short story the other day in this space, here. It's a fairly long piece -- novelette length, actually -- but still more bang for your entertainment buck than an episode of The Ghost Whisperer. (OK, I haven't watched The Ghost Whisperer, so I may well be dissing the best show on TV since The Rockford Files.)

(This post is, as always, anchored at the top of Sunday's posts.)

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

I found this link earlier today, but now I can't remember for the life of me where I saw it. Leave a comment if it's yours.

Anyway, Rick Moranis is now embarking on a country music career. I figure just about anything Rick Moranis did would be weird, wouldn't it? I mean, that is one weird dude.

Literary feud! Yippee!

I've seen links all over the place -- here, here and here, for example -- to a literary feud that's taking place between a writer named Steve Almond and a writer named Mark Sarvas. At first glance, I didn't think I'd heard of either of these guys, but it turns out that I've actually had Mark Sarvas's blog, The Elegant Variation, on my blogroll and didn't realize it (he signs his posts "TEV", so I didn't realize who he was), and that I reviewed one of Almond's books, Candy Freak, in this space a year ago. (I liked the book.)

Anyway, for those who haven't discovered this whole business yet, it seems that Sarvas has long maintained on his blog a hatred of Almond's writing; then, it turned out that both were to be in attendance at the same LA literary event, and Almond wrote a piece at Salon describing the encounter, to which Sarvas pithily responded on his blog. It spun out into Literary Blogistan from there. Some folks are taking sides in the whole thing, but I just find it kind of funny -- a feud between a blogger and a guy who admits, in the book of his that I read, to having a case of Kit Kat Dark's hidden somewhere. It kind of reminds me of those episodes of Star Trek when the Enterprise would happen upon a planet where two parts of the population were clutched in a long, epic, mortal war with each other, and both sides acted as though the war were the Grand Struggle Of Good Versus Evil For All Time, and Kirk/Picard/Sisko/Janeway were always like, "Yeah, and you guys are who, again?"

(Addendum for Sara Donati: a while back I found some Kit Kat Dark's packaged as miniatures, in a bag of miniature Kit Kat's. There were regular Kit Kats and white chocolate Kit Kats along with the dark ones, and I swear the dark ones were the lease numerous of the three. Not an ideal situation -- "ideal" would be, putting the full-size Kit Kat Darks right back on the damn market -- but OK in a pinch. Also, miniature Kit Kat Mint's were available last year around Christmastime, so hopefully this year will see a repeat of this.)

O where have all the pandas gone?

Congratulations to Jesse Taylor of Pandagon, who is leaving Blogistan behind to actually participate in the political process. That's fine for him, if you like that sort of thing, but I find it hard to believe that working in campaigns and stuff can be more fulfilling than bitching about it online!

But in all seriousness, I wish him all the best, and also for his candidate, Ted Strickland of Ohio. Go Democrats in 2006!

(As an aside, I note that Jesse's co-blogger, Amanda Marcotte, is taking over full proprietorship of Pandagon, which makes me wonder: is this the first time an entire blog has changed hands completely? There have been blogs that have closed, only to see their owners launch other blogs or join other collective blogs, and that sort of thing; but has an actual blog ever continued under the ownership of a new blogger when the one who launched it left?)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Pushing back the cold

What is it about candles, that lighting a few seems to make a cold room feel five degrees warmer?

My journey to self-betterment begins!

I'm doing this less for spiritual reasons and more for literary reasons, but I'm taking a plunge that I've long intended anyway: I'm reading the Bible, in its entirety. As an undertaking, this seems a bit daunting, but I did a little research and learned that since there are 1,189 chapters in the Bible (both Old and New Testaments), I can read four chapters a day and thus have the whole book done in less than a year.

I'm reading the King James Version, and as of this writing, I'm up to Genesis chapter Nineteen. The folks in Sodom and Gomorrah are about to find themselves in a world of hurt. I read Genesis 18 earlier today, and I found myself distracted by an oddly frequent use of the word "peradventure". That struck me as odd.

And if I'm being honest here, I have to note that I'm not all that fond of God yet, as a character. He seems a bit whimsical in what he demands of his followers, and a bit harsh in his response when he doesn't get exactly what he wants.

I'm also trying -- with no guarantee of success, mind you -- to enrich my reading life by getting into some "classic" book or other, at the rate of just ten pages per day. That seems doable. An entire chapter is often too much for me to read in a day (especially since I'm a fairly slow reader to begin with, and since I almost always have multiple books in progress at one time), but ten pages seems a good chunk of a challenging work. This attempt might fail completely, of course, but it may not. We'll see. The first book up for this treatment? Well, I figure I should take after my own literary Great White Whale, so here I go again into the depths of The Brothers Karamazov. It's time, I think. As I wrote last May:

I swear, this thing sits on my shelf, taunting me: "I ain't goin' anywhere, bitch!" Someday this book and I are going out into the wilderness, and one of us is coming back alive.

You're goin' down, Alyosha K. You and your two brothers.

Does it have "My Funny Valentine" on it?

One of the movies I really want to see is Elizabethtown, mainly because I've decided over the last year or so that I want to be Cameron Crowe. I just love the warmth and affection he brings to every single project he does (well, I haven't seen Vanilla Sky, so I don't know about that one.) I've read some reviews of Elizabethtown, which all seem to make the same point: the film is a big, dopey, lovable mess, which is just fine by me. It seems to me that a great chef can still just do a "Let's toss a bit of everything into the pot and see what happens after I simmer it for a while" kind of thing, and still come up with something edible.

Anyway, I read Jeff Simon's review of Elizabethtown the other day. Simon's the main film critic for The Buffalo News. I don't always like Simon all that much -- he can elevate pretentiousness to levels not usually seen in these parts -- but every once in a while he comes up with a metaphor that I just love. Here's his metaphor for Elizabethtown:

[Cameron Crowe] didn't make a movie here, he made a mix tape of sights and emotions for us and gave it to us as an open-hearted act of friendship. In other words, he threw together a lot of stuff that means a lot to him and gave it to us in the hope we can sort it out.

I like that -- and it seems to me that this metaphor might also describe this very blog! I mean, that's basically what I do: just link and write about stuff that's all over the map, with a hand-scrawled notecard saying "I hope you like this too".

Yup: Byzantium's Shores is the blogging equivalent of a mix tape. I like that.

Icelandic Beauty

Longtime readers know that I've appreciated, for several years, the photography and writing of Bára, a lovely woman from Iceland. She was always posting gorgeous photos of her home country (as well as some wonderful self-portraits) to her LiveJournal, but she hasn't done that in a while, and I was kind of missing it...until I checked her LJ profile, and learned that Bara has a Flickr account, which is full of the wonderful photography I used to enjoy from her. Go check it out; both Bára and Iceland are beautiful.


The other day I watched the pilot episode of The West Wing again. I hadn't seen it in a long time, and it still holds up pretty well.

(OK, a word to the wise here: Get to your local DVD-selling emporia and look for a display of TV show DVD season sets for $19.99. They're all Warners shows, and among the sets featured at this jaw-dropping price are the first two seasons of The West Wing. It's a deal you'd have to be a goof to pass up.)

Anyway, as much as I love Aaron Sorkin's writing when he's on, there's something that he does that's always bugged me: he tends to use jokes that are not situationally appropriate. In other words, he tends to put jokes into his work that shouldn't be possible if his characters really know the things they should know in that position.

Case in point: In the opening sequence, Sam Seaborn sleeps with a woman he meets in a bar, who later turns out to be a Washington call-girl. (This is how she's putting herself through law school.) Early in the morning, his beeper goes off, and he begins to quickly get dressed in what appears to be the time-honored manner of men who are bolting on their one-night stands. Laurie reads the message on the beeper: "POTUS in bicycle accident", and then this exchange takes place:

SAM: I really gotta go.

LAURIE: Cause POTUS was in a bicycle accident?

SAM: Yup.

LAURIE: Tell your friend, POTUS, he's got a funny name. And he should learn how to ride a bicycle.

SAM: I would, but he's not my friend, he's my boss; and it's not his name, it's his title.


SAM: President of the United States. I’ll call you.

Now, we don't learn until later on that Laurie's a Washington call girl, and we don't learn until several episodes later that she's a good-enough call-girl to provide escort service for Congressmen, but the fact remains that a high-priced Washington call-girl would know what "POTUS" means.

Later on the same episode, Sam runs into some trouble when he has to give a White House tour to "Leo's daughter's fourth-grade class". He assumes that Leo's daughter is in the fourth grade, when it turns out that Leo's daughter is the teacher of the fourth-grade class in question (meaning he's completely misinterpreted the phrase, "Leo's daughter's fourth grade class). Problem is, this isn't too believable either: it just doesn't seem plausible that Sam could work with Leo for as long as he has and not know that the man doesn't have a ten-year old daughter.

This kind of thing also cropped up in the Aaron Sorkin-scripted film The American President, which is one of my favorite films. Early on, the President (Michael Douglas) tells his Chief of Staff (Martin Sheen) that he doesn't have to keep calling him "Mr. President". ("When we're alone, you can call me Andy. You were the first man in my wedding.") Of course, the CoS has none of this, and it becomes a small running gag. But the film also establishes that its events take place in Year Three of the President's first term, culminating in his election-year State of the Union address. Is it really plausible that over two years into his term, the President will finally try to get his CoS to stop calling him "Mr. President" even when they're alone? I don't think so. (It also always struck me as odd that the Vice President is never so much as mentioned in The American President, but that's something else.)

Don't get me wrong: I still love The West Wing and The American President. But I've long been of the opinion that Aaron Sorkin excels at crafting smart dialogue, but his love of dialogue sometimes crowds out things like plot and plausibility.

UPDATE: OK, I was just looking at the Buffalo News website (looking for an article I was going to quote in an entirely unrelated post) and I found this, about the new TV series centered on the Presidency, Commander in Chief:

ABC's "Commander in Chief" would seem to be a pretty straightforward drama.

The president dies. The vice president, played by Geena Davis, succeeds him in the Oval Office. And, omigosh, she's a woman!

But there's more going on here, suspicious minds are thinking: Commander in Chief isn't just this fall's most-watched new series - it's a sinister scheme by Hollywood lefties to hype Hillary Clinton for the White House.


"Keeping with the modern liberal tradition of subliminal socialist indoctrination (through U.S. television), Commander in Chief seeks to accomplish more than prime-time entertainment," warned a writer named J.B. Williams on the National Ledger Web site, while the blogger Colossus pronounced the show "a nefarious plot to advance the notion of a Hillary Clinton presidency."

The chain of logic seems to be that, taking as given that any piece of entertainment at all probably has hidden "Leftist" agendae, any TV show, movie, novel, opera, song cycle, stage musical or puppet show depicting a woman ascending the office of President of the United States must be a stealth campaign for Hillary Clinton.

To the people out there who are so convinced that the Left's hatred of George W. Bush knows no bounds and is the only factor in the current poisoning of American political discourse, I point to the people theorizing thusly about Commander in Chief and say, "Suck it."

(BTW, Associated Press, if you're going to quote a blogger in your stories, it's not enough to give the name of the blogger -- especially if it's a pseudonym. You've got to provide a URL. Here's the quoted post, which provides more evidence that the ABC show is a Hillary stealth campaign: the guy playing the White House CoS looks like Barack Obama! Well, shit. That seals the deal. I mean, it's not like The West Wing ever had a black woman as National Security Adviser...oh, wait, it did. Well anyway, it's not like The West Wing has a guy with a history of heart troubles running for Vice President...oh, it does. As I said, well, shit.

Here's another money quote:

The thought is that if we, the submoronic television viewers, get used to seeing a woman president on TV, we'll be more inclined to vote for one in 2008. This is what the TV industry thinks. They don't view us as being rational actors, able to vote for a President based on our own reasoning, but instead as sheep to be herded and trained.

Yeah, that's it -- and it goes back farther than that! Remember in Air Force One, when the Vice President was played by Glenn Close, and all manner of 25th-Amendment stuff came up? Hollywood's been pimping Hillary-for-Prez for years! And Deep Impact was a plot to get Americans to vote for a black man for President, in the guise of a SF disaster movie. (Of course, when that movie came out, the likeliest name here was Colin Powell, which doesn't seem to stack up well on the "Hollywood Leftist" side of the ledger, but we all know that the Right has never been terribly comfortable with Colin Powell.) And The Lord of the Rings was probably a massive plot to get men all over the world to melt down their wedding rings. Because, you know, in a country that's never come close to having a woman as President, the question of "Hey, what if we had a woman President?" just can't be interesting on dramatic grounds alone.)

UPDATE: "The Colossus" responds in comments, claiming to be more reasonable than he was really trying to appear in the linked post. I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt on that one, because he actually expresses, you know, thoughts in his comments (as opposed to the "You're wrong, neener neener!" stuff that you see all over comments threads throughout Blogistan). And he claims to have received little traffic from being quoted in an Associated Press story, which I find disappointing. One should expect some bump in readership after appearing in papers nationwide, right?

The flavor of Gatorade on the sidelines will be announced at gametime, too

I'm not sure when this happened, but apparently people in the NFL have decided that rather than being a sporting event, an NFL game is a type of espionage activity. Witness Buffalo Bills head coach Mike Mularkey's refusal to announce the identity of this week's starting quarterback, along with other really goofy stuff (like never once confirming just what rookie receiver Roscoe Parrish's injury actually was). Now, everybody knows it's Kelly Holcomb, but Mularkey really seems to believe that not announcing his QB gives him a competitive edge.

Well, OK. Personally, I'd rather see Mularkey gain a competitive edge by developing and fielding a good offensive line, but hey, if we can't do that, then I suppose withholding the names of the starters is the way to go.

(As a funny aside, here's what the Bills team page at the Fox Sports website says about the "revelation" that Holcomb will be starting:

In other breaking news, Willis McGahee will start at running back, Eric Moulds will line up at wide receiver, and the team will play their home games in Buffalo.

True, true!)

World...spinning! Taste buds...changing!

I have a new food addiction: slices of apple with slices of cheddar cheese. They were sampling these at The Store a week or two ago, and while I'd heard of the idea before, I'd never bothered trying it. Imagine my shock at how the sweet tartness of the apple contrasts with, and softens, the bite of the extra-sharp cheddar cheese. Absolutely astonishing. I've had two meals in the last three days that consisted of nothing more than a New York apple, sliced up, with those slices paired with nice slices of New York cheddar cheese. Filling, and good for you!

(I'm not sure that I'll ever sample apple pie with cheddar cheese, though. Raw apples are one thing, but apples blended with sugar and cinnamon and baked in a pastry crust are something else. I'll have to remain skeptical on that front.)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Snif snif snif....

Shakespeare's Sister poses a good question: What movie scenes make you cry? Here are some of mine:

:: When Cary Grant puts two and two together in the last scene of An Affair to Remember. I mist up just thinking about that scene.

:: Ray Kinsella realizes who the guy in the catcher's gear is, at the end of Field of Dreams.

:: Wind In His Hair's shouted farewell to Dances With Wolves in, well, you know.

:: I'm always tearing up during the finale of ET, but my first bit of tears actually comes some time earlier, when ET goes into cardiac arrest and the doctors/scientists break out the defibrilators. The first time they shock him, there's this tight closeup on Drew Barrymore -- and she gives a startled jump when the shock hits, and then she starts to cry.

:: In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the moment when Gillian Guiler is reunited with little Barry.

(I may amend this post as more scenes occur to me.)

That's me, ahead of the curve!

PZ Myers links a good post in which Creationist citations of philosopher of science Karl Popper are revealed to be incomplete and therefore incorrect. It put me in mind, of course, of my similar post from six months ago. It's as though I had a crystal ball....

No, Mr. Craig, I expect you to DIE!

So what do I, a longtime lover of the James Bond movies (my fascination with which is only predated by my love of Star Wars by two years), think of the announcement that actor Daniel Craig has been cast as Bond for the next film in the series (Casino Royale)?

Well, not much, as I don't know a thing about Daniel Craig. To be frank, though, I'm more concerned that the next Bond film have a better screenwriter than the films Pierce Brosnan did. Not that I disliked those films, mind you, but the Brosnan films never really "congealed" into a vision for the character. I actually liked each of Brosnan's movies, but each time out, there was something a bit off about the atmosphere. Anyway, best of luck to Mr. Craig.

Here's a funny bit of desperate writing from the linked news item, regarding the film in production:

Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, originally published in 1953, Casino Royale is one of the few Bond adventures not to feature the MI6 gadget-maker Q.

My, that's certainly an interesting bit of information, considering that the Bond films haven't borne more than a superficial relationship to the Ian Fleming books in years (in fact, On Her Majesty's Secret Service might have been the last film to really take one of Fleming's novels as inspiration, plot-wise). No Bond film since The Living Daylights has even been named for a Fleming book or story; the ones since then have had Bond-like titles not drawn from Fleming (except for The World Is Not Enough). I seriously doubt that any Fleming-purists even exist anymore, and certainly aren't about to get huffy if Q appears in the new film.

Apparently the new film's story will take us back to Bond's first mission as a '00' agent, which sounds pretty intriguing but could be slightly problematic, given that the film series has been going since the early 1960s. The series has worked around this problem by basically taking the approach that long-running comic book series take: by basically ignoring the implications of such timeframes completely. Taking Bond back in time could "trip things up", somehow.

(BTW, links to my reviews of the entire James Bond series can be found in the sidebar under "Notable Dispatches". A teaser, for those who haven't read them: I don't think very highly of Goldfinger.)