Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sentential Links #51

Click 'em while they're hot, folks:

:: What I really want to say is director Brett Ratner is a club, and the X-Men are a baby seal. (I love it when Mr. Jones dislikes a movie. And one of his sub-points about X3 -- his view that it's overstuffed with characters -- is something that's really got me concerned about the next Spiderman flick, which from what I've read will include just about every character who ever appeared in an issue of Spiderman, possibly minus Jean DeWolff.)

:: There was a time when you couldn't throw a brick in Concord without hitting someone carrying a fresh letter of acceptance from the Atlantic Monthly in their pocket. (I had a hard time picking between two particularly good posts of Mr. Mannion's this week.)

:: Then there's the sound of a father shaking out a blanket to spread over the boy and then the noises of a computer ordered to boot itself to the ready and now just the sound of typing. (The hell with it. It's my blog, so here's the other of Mr. Mannion's posts.)

:: To those who object to the use of da Vinci since it's a prepositional phrase, I have an example for you to consider that might convince you to soften your position. Ready? (I do love a good "Why didn't I think of that!" moment.)

:: The problem is, these yahoos have managed an ugly trick. They have turned criticism of the policies of Bastards in Suits into criticism of The People in Uniform Getting Shot At. This, of course, is completely wrong, as one can easily tell the difference between the Bastards in Suits and The People in Uniform Getting Shot At. One group is in Suits, and Not Getting Shot At, while another is in Uniform, and Getting Shot At. Please, try to grasp this. Not the same. (via TBogg)

:: And excuse me if this puts you off, Mr. Web 2.0 writer, but could we maybe retire the phrase "former Star Trek actor?" (Geez, that former Stand By Me actor is pretty touchy, isn't he?)

:: Worse, Ringo has a taste for sex games and fantasies of a sort I really dislike, and after showing a certain amount of restraint in the previous book he lets himself go again here. (Happens every time I get tempted to try a John Ringo book, someone brings this up....)

:: The rain has begun. Out to the deck and the hot tub, to be immersed from all directions. (Ahhh, hot-tubbin' in the rain. But you know what's better? Hot-tubbin' in the snow.)

That's it for now. Join us next week and stuff.

How to Temporarily Cure Bad Kitties

If your domicile is home to a couple of nice and loving but occasionally very naughty kitties, just find a way to jack the heat and humidity inside way up. It sucks the naughty right out of 'em!

(Upper 80s and humid in Buffalo before June. This weather sucks, folks.)

Tinkering underneath the hood

OK, folks, I've just ripped out the code that was powering the old YACCS commenting system. I'd left the old threads available for a while on the off chance anyone wanted to add anything, but it's been long enough. They're gone.

And since occasional YACCS outages tended to drag down the loading time of this blog, hopefully regular readers will experience more reliable response in the future.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Same image I used last year:

Thank you all. I hope we're still worthy of your sacrifice.

(In an unrelated note, it was six months ago today.)

Sunday Burst of Weirdness Explosive Destruction

Last week saw the demolition of a nuclear power plant's cooling tower in Oregon. You can watch it here. I found this interesting not just on the "blowing stuff up" account, but because I remember driving by this particular nuke plant when I was a kid and we lived for a time in Portland.

(I frankly don't get the whole anti-nuclear power vibe, by the way. Surely we can do it safer by now, right? And as scary as Three Mile Island was, we've never come close to having a Chernobyl, which wasn't exactly the best design for a nuke plant in the first place. But then, maybe I'm full of crap and nuke power is still inherently dangerous and I've just been lulled by the fact that Homer Simpson's been working at a nuke plant for years without any ill effects. Well, except for that one time...and that other time...and the time that Homer....)

Operas we'd like to hear

Here's an illustration of one of the problems with classical music these days. The LA Opera is set to premiere a major new work by composer Elliot Goldenthal, Grendel, which is based on the Beowulf legend but is told from the point-of-view of the monster. Goldenthal is one of the finer voices to emerge from Hollywood film scoring over the last fifteen years. His is a very distinct voice, and he has a gift for orchestration that goes well beyond the traditional. Goldenthal loves to use unusual instruments in unusual combinations, and for a noted film composer to get an assignment such as this, where he's basically set free of the formal limitations of film scoring, is an exciting prospect.

Too bad it's likely to be years before I can hear this work, because due to union re-use fees it will simply be too expensive to record Grendel in the United States. So unless I can find a way to travel to a city where Grendel is staged in the future, I'm unlikely to get to hear this work until a recording surfaces. It would probably have to be recorded in Europe, which I suppose might be more likely since Grendel is a major new work being premiered by the opera company of one of America's largest cities, but how much other new music is never heard much because not only is it already not performed much by orchestras who are in thrall to "the standard repertoire", but also because union costs preclude recording?

The union cost issue is one I've run into a lot in the film music fandom community. Because the union rules require that musicians get paid for their work whenever recordings are issued, it's often the case that the revenues expected from releasing a film music recording are less than the union costs. This results in lots of film music never getting released. I hadn't realized that the union costs can harm the cause of the promulgation of new classical music as well.

(On a somewhat related note, I was surprised to read via Alex Ross that John Adams's famous opera Nixon in China has never been performed by either of New York City's major opera companies. That doesn't help the cause, either.)

Links, with Minimal Comment.

Here's some stuff I've found on which I don't have a whole lot to say in addition:

:: Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson gave a commencement speech at his alma mater in 1990, and here it is.

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it's to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

Read the whole thing; it's worth it (even despite a few obvious transcription errors). I have to admit, though, that while I admire Watterson's ability to keep his creation "pure" and to walk away from it while it was still fresh, I am bothered by the fact that a man with such insight has pretty much chosen to withdraw from a world that desperately needs it. Oh well.

:: Along similar lines, this woman has found fulfillment as a pizza delivery driver. I've done that too -- never actually as an official driver, but as a shift manager, it was occasionally my responsibility to go out and run some pizzas around, back in the day. I wouldn't say I found it fulfilling, but it was sometimes a pleasant diversion, getting to drive around and listen to the radio while the restaurant was getting its ass kicked. Of course, there was high annoyance as well -- people who would stiff the drivers on the tips, the unpleasantness of running deliveries on hot summer nights when the car's A/C was on the fritz, running deliveries on Halloween night, realizing too late that I'd gone down West Washington street when my customer lived on East Washington. But if this woman is really happy doing that, then more power to her.

:: Along the lines of comic strips mentioned above, here's an article which describes some of the approaches academia has taken with regard to Peanuts. Not the most interesting article in the world, but I did learn that Snoopy's famed battles against the Red Baron only took place in the strip while the Vietnam War was raging.

:: And along the lines of Peanuts, we've just this weekend watched the 1969 movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown, which was made way back in 1969. It's really quite good, and yet it seems to have slipped through the "cultural awareness" cracks. Most kids now only know the Peanuts gang through the Christmas and Halloween/"Great Pumpkin" TV specials. This film is something else. Its story, involving Charlie Brown's participation in a spelling bee and his upward trip to the National Finals, basically serves as backdrop for a whole lot of Peanuts digression and some really trippy weirdness. For example, there's a frankly amazing segment that wouldn't have been out-of-place in the Disney film Fantasia, accompanying Schroder's playing of Beethoven's Pathetique piano sonata (second movement). Here's a review of the film by Drew McWeeny (AICN's "Moriarty"). It's quite a film, really. I had no idea it even existed until I read Drew's review a few months ago, and I spotted the DVD in the bargain bin at The Store yesterday, strangely enough.

:: When I was a kid I briefly dabbled in stamp collecting. It's a fascinating hobby, and the main reason I never kept up with it was basically that it got crowded out by other interests. Here's a story about an ultra-rare stamp that was recently "reunited" with the letter whose postage it provided. The letter was a love letter, appropiately enough.

One of the rarest stamps in the world, the Blue Boy sold for $1 million in 1981 and is estimated to be worth many times that now. Still, many wondered why this stamp -- an Alexandria postmaster provisional printed on blue paper before U.S. government stamps were commonplace -- survived when all others like it were lost or destroyed. If the envelope had been saved for sentimental reasons, did the letter also exist? If so, what did it say?

:: It seems that wiser heads have prevailed at NBC: sitting on Aaron Sorkin's new Studio 60 at the Sunset Strip show, and noting that the show would get unmercifully clobbered at 9:00 on Thursdays (against CSI and Grey's Anatomy, they have moved it to Mondays at 10:00 (up against CSI: Miami). This means that I can still execute my original plan of watching CSI and taping Grey's, and then watching Grey's at 10:00. Whew.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Let's see Tom Hanks in THAT role....

The Da Vinci Load.

Not work-safe.

Wingin' It

Via this MeFi thread, I see that someone has "invented" a dipping-sauce cup "specifically designed" for the dipping of chicken wings. Now there's a problem that desperately needed solving! Those little round cups or ramekins of blue cheese just weren't getting the job done! Now we have a wing-shaped ramekin so we can immerse the entire wing! (The point of which, of course, escapes me -- now you're getting blue cheese all over your fingers, and you're dipping parts of the wing you're not going to eat, anyway, like the ends.)

But the important thing is this: surely there's a MeFi member in Buffalo who can set them straight on the fact that "Buffalo wings" were actually invented in Buffalo (toward the bottom of the thread, one poster tells the well-known Anchor Bar tale, but omits the name of the bar and speculates that the tale might be an urban legend).

If you're wondering how to make authentic Buffalo-style chicken wings, I described the method a long time ago, but it's worth reviewing, for folks who are in the unfortunate habit of calling pretty much any dish involving fried chicken wings as "Buffalo wings". Now, I'm not a "chicken wing purist"; I think that the wing is a wonderful thing and there are many beautiful ways to prepare them. But I am a Buffalo wing purist. Put it this way: there are many, many ways to crush the juice from grapes and make wine. But there's only one way to do it and make Champagne.

My favorite wings in Buffalo are the ones at Duff's; there's also a pizza place in Orchard Park called Capelli's that we like a good deal. Good wings there. And I have to admit that the Quaker Steak and Lube chain has some terrific wingage. (The nearest one is in Erie, PA.) I've tasted wings prepared in any number of ways -- breaded, unbreaded, barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, all manner of sauces -- and they're always wonderful. But eating the genuine Buffalo wing is always like coming home again.

(I know, the Champagne metaphor above isn't perfect, but it works well enough. No lectures, please!)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

When bloggers hibernate

Sorry for the lack of posting this week, but I've had a number of earlier-than-usual mornings at The Store for special projects. But hey, all is still well, and I can now add "stretch steel cable between two brick pillars" to my skill set. That's me, Handyman to Blogistan.

Anyway, tonight I'm watching Live from Lincoln Center's clip-show. If you think that clip-shows suck, you haven't seen Live from Lincoln Center do one. Wow. Now this is a clip show, and it's wrapping up with that old chestnut that always gets my heart going pitter-pat, Luciano Pavarotti singing "Nessun Dorma" from Turandot.

A little while ago I read a summary of the Lost season finale, and something struck me, even though I gave up on actively following the show a year ago: it's the TV show equivalent of those surreal computer games Myst and Riven. You've got desert islands that may or may not constitute the entire world, you've got lots of strange stuff all over the island that may or not mean something relevant, you've got strange numerological puzzles and weird mixtures of nature and technology. Someone should get J.J. Abrams in an interview and ask him if he was a big Myst fan a decade ago. (For the record, I loved Myst and Riven, but I never played the third one.)

Oh, and here's an article that makes the pro-American Idol case. Now I don't have to feel all dirty and stuff about loving the show...and heck, with the hippies winning The Amazing Race and now Taylor winning AI, I'm wondering if the old "things happen in threes" might apply and have the Sabres win the Cup.

Well, that's it. Hopefully this weekend I'll get back up to full blogging strength.


Sometimes on the Interweb all you wanna do is click stuff and see what comes up.

So go here, and just click stuff and see what comes up.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This is Hicks Country

Yup, it's season finale time for American Idol, and my fave Taylor Hicks has made it all the way to the end, up against Katherine McPhee, who is almost always decent but who never really excites me much. (I don't care how many people gush over it; that arrangement of "Over the Rainbow" is total crap.)

Anyhow, I had Taylor picked out way back in February, when I posted:

This may be the earliest year I've picked my "horse" on American Idol: I'm pulling for Taylor Hicks, the gray-haired blues singer. In all honesty, I don't think he's got a chance, but you never know.

That's right: you never know. The guy's proven to be a lot more confident, versatile, magnetic, and just plain fun than I had thought possible. I'm rooting for Taylor, hard.

My track record with Idol is 1-2. I didn't watch year one; I rooted for Clay Aiken in Year Two (he lost to Ruben Studdard, but has since done very well); I rooted for Fantasia Barrino in Year Three (she won, defeating Diana DiGarmo); I rooted for Bo Bice last year (he lost to Carrie Underwood). So we'll see.

I'm also going to shout out right now to the folks who have been hanging out over at Idol Tongues, a blog where we all have infected the comments threads with tons of snark each week. (Warning: if you peruse the threads there, be prepared for naughty words!) I wouldn't call myself a political soulmate of any of these folks, but that doesn't matter one bit, does it? So thanks to Beth, Ian, Timmer, Chris, Tammy, and anyone else from previous nights of Idol-istic snark. And thanks to Michele for creating Idol Tongues in the first place.

Go Taylor!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sentential Links #50

Woo-hoo! Halfway to the century-mark for Sentential Links! Here we go:

:: The phone doesn't ring in our house. Sure, folks call us. But the phone doesn't ring. Ayup. Seven or so years ago, I turned off the ringer, and I haven't looked back. (Amen, sister! We use an online answering machine thingie, and just leave the computer's dial-up connection on all the time. I never answer the phone unless I note that they're someone I really want to talk to at that moment. I've never understood the "Answer every call" thing that some folks have, as if life has to be placed on hold at the very second someone decides to call us.)

:: For the very first time, a photographer has managed to
capture on film the bubble in which President Bush lives.
(This gentleman does nothing but write snarky captions to photos. If you're on the political left, they're often funny. He e-mailed me the link to his blog some time back, and I, ever the model of politeness, proceded to lose the link. Oops....)

:: What is the root word in the word "antidisestablishmentarianism"? (On a whim, I plugged "antidisestablishmentarianism", that wonderful word which for some reason exists only to excite us with its sheer length, into Google's Blog Search and this is the first post I found that was interesting in a way other than "Heh heh, that's a long friggin' word!" way. Looks like an interesting blog, but man, is that color combo hard on the eyes.)

:: Now I've got one more bottle to go and I'm scared. What if I actually start to like the stuff? (From the "Everything can be turned into a Simpsons Reference" file, I'm reminded of when Homer crossbred tobacco and tomatoes, coming up with "tomaccos" that were addictive and tasted like shit.)

:: My life has always been a little left-of-center. (Tell me about it....oh, and check out Incurable's new permalinks and URL!)

:: Jennifer Love Hewitt shows off her new hairstyle; it's called the 'is this a wig? No, it's the suburban mom/i have a ginormous head' cut.

:: And if she was the one to endure both the gestational and birthing phases of our two boys, it was left to me to ensure there would be no more than those two boys. So then, needs must there be some tamperin' with my own boys.

:: A lot of people want classical concerts — both on stage and in the audience — to be livelier. (I think it's the "museum" aspect of classical music performance: when touring an art gallery, one silently looks at a painting or sculpture and solemnly studies it, saying nothing or as little as possible. Ditto the classical concert. Emotional involvement isn't to be shown. It's a shame.)

:: Hold on a minute: They're saying a whopping percentage of (at least technically literate) Brits now believe the pseudo-biblical "revelations" in "The Da Vinci Code" are true? I suppose it's no wonder millions of people in the modern world claim they believe in the bible, "Intelligent Design" and astrology -- even when they admit they know virtually nothing about them. In so many ways, we still live in the Dark Ages. Just let me say that if you are so credulous that a novel (fiction!) or Hollywood movie can upend your comprehension of one of the most dominant religious traditions in the world, then you are possessed of all the faith (and reason) you deserve.

:: It occurred to me this morning that I have spent the past year consuming one self-help or spiritual book after another in a frenzied, prolonged binge intended, I suppose, to induce enlightenment.

:: The suspenders on bib overalls over t-shirts on pretty girls can be cute and flirtatious. (Over nothing at all, they are Omigod.) (I just blogrolled PrairieMary in the last week or so, and here she is, uttering words truer than which have never been spoken!)

:: Is there a Louisiana-based novelist who is the equivalent of, say, Florida's Carl Hiaasen? Let's hope so, because the undoing of Democratic Representative William Jefferson - nailed by the Feds in a bribery investigation - has the soul of a Hiaasen book: petty greed, graft, official malfeasance, all dusted with unintended humor and a generous sprinkling of incompetence. This is the stuff of paperback fiction.

All for this week. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I guess eternal vigilance doesn't buy as much as it used to....

[WARNING: Political snark below]

It looks like the Republicans are starting to amp up their tried-and-true "terrorist bogeyman" electoral strategy. Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, responded to fears that the prosecution of the "War on Terror" is usurping civil liberties:

"I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties," Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) remarked at yesterday's Hayden confirmation hearings, "but you have no civil liberties if you are dead." (emphasis added)

So here we go again: be afraid. Don't think twice about giving up your civil liberties, because if you don't you might end up dead dead dead dead!

Matthew Yglesias has a pretty good rejoinder to talk like this. I'm frankly disgusted by this kind of rhetoric. It's disrespectful of the sacrifice made by the men and women who died in all those wars from the Revolution to now, and we have civil liberties in the first place precisely because of the deaths of those people. I suppose that Senator Roberts and his ilk think that the thing these people died for is just some quaint notion:

Remember, this is the party that has made its unoffical anthem that song by Lee Greenwood. Guess they'll have to change the lyrics a bit:

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free I'll get my freedoms back when all the terrorists are dead.

And I won't I'll conveniently forget the men who died,
who [temporarily] gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up cower,
next to you beneath my bed and defend her still today not question anything the President says.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

Yeah, 9-11 changed everything, all right.

Sunday Burst of Weirdness


After two decades of searching for her authentic self — exploring New Age theories, giving away cars, trotting out fat, recommending good books and tackling countless issues from serious to frivolous — Oprah Winfrey has risen to a new level of guru.

She's no longer just a successful talk-show host worth $1.4 billion, according to Forbes' most recent estimate. Over the past year, Winfrey, 52, has emerged as a spiritual leader for the new millennium, a moral voice of authority for the nation.

Er...OK then....

Friday, May 19, 2006


Sticking with the geek stuff for a moment, Jayme Lynn Blaschke points out the top 75 heroines of SF, fantasy and horror. Like all lists like this, it's primarily designed to provoke discussions of the "No way X ranks higher than Y" type.

So far be it from me to abstain: No freaking WAY does Ripley from those shitty Alien movies beat out Agent Scully, Wonder Woman, Lady Eowyn, San from Princess Mononoke, Queen Amidala, or Princess Leia!


Did Vader have a head cold that day???

One of the famed bits of Star Wars lore is all the deleted scenes from the first three films, few of which have ever seen "official" light of day. Most notorious of these are several scenes from the first act of A New Hope that establish Luke Skywalker's character quite a while before the point where we meet him in the finished film.

He's in the "fields" of his farm, working on a malfunctioning evaporator unit when he looks up and sees flashing lights in the sky. Using his binoculars, he sees a space battle taking place (which we know to be Vader's Star Destroyer pursuing Princess Leia's blockade runner). Then he goes to Toshi Station (where he'd later wish to go to "pick up some power convertors") to let all his friends know about the battle, where he meets his old friend Biggs, who had left the year before to go to the Imperial Academy. Biggs, though, has other plans: he's going to join the Rebel Alliance. Luke, however, is despondent that he'll never leave Tatooine.

Later on, of course, Luke meets Biggs as he suits up with the Rebel pilots to attack the Death Star. A portion of the scene at the end of the film was restored for the Special Edition in 1997, but the earlier Tatooine stuff was left out of the movie. In truth, that's a wise narrative choice, but it's still cool to see those deleted scenes on the Web.

The best of these is this trailer to a projected called Deleted Magic, which purports to be a feature-length "research film" comprising deleted scenes, unfinished sequences, and alternate takes from the original trilogy. Being a trailer, it's meant merely to whet the appetite, and that it does. But it's still cool to see a bit of what might have been (Han telling Leia that she should "wear girl clothes more often"), and it's supremely funny to hear David Prowse reading Darth Vader's lines before James Earl Jones could be dubbed in.

Apparently the entire Deleted Magic project can be found here when their bandwidth isn't getting hammered. I plan to check it out as soon as I am able. I'd frankly like to see Darth Vader's attempt to telepathically contact Luke at the beginning of Return of the Jedi....

Thursday, May 18, 2006

We call it...life! (Or was it "maize"? I can never remember!)

Via Kevin Drum, I see that the energy industry is working hard to come up with its own propaganda response to the very idea the global warming could be a problem. They've got ads out that tout the wonders of carbon dioxide, using a bizarre kind of "Some of it is good for the planet, therefore, there can never be a possibility of too much of it that might be bad for the planet" logic or something. You know: "The human body needs salt to survive. Therefore it is impossible to eat too much salt."

Anyway, the ads make me think of those industry flicks that used to feature actor Troy McClure. You may remember him from such informational videos as "Mommy, What's Wrong With That Man's Face" and "Man Versus Nature: The Road to Victory". A sample:

The film starts. "The Meat Council Presents: `Meat and You: Partners in
Freedom'. Number 3F03 in the `Resistance is Useless' series." Open on
cattle country.

Troy: Nothing beats a stroll in cattle country. Hi, I'm Troy McClure. You may remember me from such educational films as "Two Minus Three Equals Negative Fun" and "Firecrackers: The Silent Killer".

Jimmy: Mr. McClure?

Troy: Oh! Hello Bobby.

Jimmy: Jimmy. I'm curious as to how meat gets from the ranch to my stomach.

Troy: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down Jimmy. You just asked a mouthful. It all starts here, in the high density feed lot. Then, when the cattle are just right [swipes his finger along the top of a cow and licks it] Yum...it's time for them to graduate from Bovine University.

A klaxon blares out a siren and the cattle begin moving up a conveyor
belt into the meat packing plant.

Troy: Come on Jimmy, let's take a peek at the killing floor.

Jimmy: Ohhh!

Troy: Don't let the name throw you Jimmy. It's not really a floor, it's more of a steel grating that allows material to sluice through so it can be collected and exported.

They walk throught the door of the plant accompanied by the sounds of
moo-ing and startled cows. Electricity noise sparks in the background
as the camera pans down the length of the factory to a truck marked
"Meat For You" being loaded with raw chunks of meat. Troy and Jimmy
emerge, with Jimmy visibly pale and queasy.

Troy: Gettin hungry Jimmy?

Jimmy: Uhh, Mr. McClure? I have a crazy friend who says its wrong to eat meat. Is he crazy?

Troy: Nooo, just ignorant. You see your crazy friend never heard of "The Food Chain". [Flash to a picture of "Food Chain", with all animals and arrows pointing to a silhouette of a human.] Just ask this scientician.

Scientician: [Looking up from a microscope.] Uhhh...

Troy: He'll tell you that, in nature, one creature invariably eats another creature to survive. [Images of various wild carnivores attacking and eating others appear.] Don't kid yourself Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!

[Image of a cow quietly chewing cud.]

Jimmy: Wow, Mr. McClure. I was a grade A moron to ever question eating meat.

Troy: [Laughs.] Yes you were Jimmy, yes you were. [Briskly rubs his hand on Jimmy's head.]

Jimmy: [Timid] Uhh...you're hurting me.

These have to be hard times for satirists....

And God said....

Well, looky there -- Pat Robertson has publicly opened his mouth again, this time to warn us that God personally told him some bad stuff was going to happen to America.

I was going to keep this conversation secret, but after asking the Big Guy, I've got the "all clear" to report some stuff that God told me this morning:

:: At some point during the next year, Pat Robertson will enjoy a very large and very spicy burrito, some jalapeno poppers, and three bean quesadillas. But on his first trip to the bathroom following this meal, Mr. Robertson will discover too late that his stall is out of toilet paper.

:: Mr. Robertson's Tivo will cut off the last three minutes of every episode he attempts to record of Grey's Anatomy, The OC, and 24.

:: When Mr. Robertson's car suffers a flat tire whilst on a lonely stretch of highway in Nevada, the only motorists who will drive by will be Ellen DeGeneres, Al Franken, Tommy Chong, and a busload of Wiccan evolution teachers.

:: What Mr. Robertson interpreted as a tsunami striking the US will turn out to be merely his above-ground pool bursting at the seams when he attempts an ill-advised belly-flop. The surging water will, sadly, sweep Ralph Reed away and he will never be seen again. Ensuing media coverage will make much of reports that Mr. Robertson is wearing a bikini at the time.

Of course, God could have been making all that up. It turns out that God's quite the kidder.


According to the Blogger stats, this is the five thousandth post at Byzantium's Shores.

Thanks to all who read this stuff on a regular, quasi-regular, sporadic, semi-sporadic, drive-by, or whacked-out-Google-search basis.

As a five-thousand-post celebration thing, feel free to hop into Comments and try to capture, in one sentence, the essence of this blog. The winning entry will be -- deemed to be the winning entry.

Oh, and always remember: Mahna mahna!

Greatest Race EVER!

[Spoilers for The Amazing Race]

My faith in television has been restored, thanks to the wonderment that is The Amazing Race. What a thing this was -- and the ending, with those wild and whacky hippies winning it all after courting certain disaster all along, was the greatest display of cosmic justice in human history. This show was so good that I think I can safely eschew series TV for life now, and if not for the fact that I need something to watch Star Wars on, I'd sell the TV right now, for nothing else I watch will ever capture the absolute joy of seeing B.J. and Tyler win that thing.

Long live B.J. and Tyler!

(Yeah, this post is purposely over-the-top, but in all seriousness, it just makes me happy to see those goofy guys win. They won me over several episodes back when one of them uttered the immortal line, "Don't touch the termite mounds, dude! They'll eat all the wood in your body!"

And from a pure production standpoint, TAR is just incredibly well done. It's beautifully shot, it's got terrific pacing, and it's full of the "sense of wonder" that's a hallmark of all the best travel writing. What a good show.

(Way to go, Alan. Next thing I know I'll be buying a diesel car.))

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ah, Mr. Floor! Please meet my good friend, Mr. Jaw.

As if I needed more evidence that the libertarians of the world tend to be really kooky, witness this article on the immigration problem by Vox Day, in which he makes this rather startling analogy:

If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn't possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don't speak English and are not integrated into American society.


And I wonder why he could refer to President Bush as "Dear Jorge".

But anyway, setting aside the unfortunate emotional component of this analogy -- one isn't going to make a convincing case with a lot of people by favorably citing one of the greatest acts of state-sponsored evil in history -- Day clarifies things in this blog post:

Actually, I compared it to what the National Socialists did between December 1941 and June 1945. Perhaps you've never heard of concentration camps - really death camps - such as Dachau and Auschwitz. Before they killed the Jews, the National Socialists had to identify them and transport them. The point, as seems to have escaped you and many other morons, is that it is quite clearly possible to enact deportations on the scale required.

Setting aside the odiousness of the rhetoric here and focusing purely on the analogy which poses the whole problem as a simple matter of classification, it really doesn't work.

First, Day's dating of the Holocaust is suspect. The "Final Solution" wasn't codified until late 1941, but Day's use of the date implies that up until that moment, the Jews were perfectly free to wander about Germany at will. This is false. Many historians actually date the "official" beginning of the Holocaust as Kristallnacht, two years earlier and two years before the beginnings of the death squads. The Kristallnacht was possible because the Germans had already been doing years of groundwork. The first concentration camps, for "undesirables", were built in 1933, eight years earlier.

Second, Jews tended to be highly concentrated and were easily distinguishable from Teutonic Germans, due to racial characteristics. The locations of Jewish villages and Jewish ghettos in cities were well known. This won't apply to the "illegal immigrants", who may not tend to assimilate with American society, but who do tend to be less-than-distinguishable from perfectly legal Latino communities and who don't tend to live in exclusive ghettos and villages. One reason the Germans found it so horrifyingly easy to kill six million Jews is because they already knew where they were, and it didn't take a massive Government operation to find them. The Jews were living in places where they had lived for decades, even centuries. Telling a Jew from a German was quite a bit easier than telling a legal immigrant from an illegal one.

Third, consider the problem of scale. Germany isn't nearly as big as the United States. True, the greater concentration of illegal immigrants will be found along the US-Mexico border, but remember: the four states that directly border Mexico themselves comprise over twice the geographical area of Germany.

Fourth, Day doesn't consider for one moment the fact that because the Jews were slated to be killed, the means by which they were transported to their doom were fairly horrifying in themselves. They packed the Holocause victims, en masse, into rail freight cars. That's a big reason they were able to do all this in four years. If Day wants to accomplish what he thinks to be a similarly scaled mass deportation in a similar period of time (setting aside the fact that the two tasks would actually not be similarly scaled), is he really suggesting that we pack illegal Mexicans into freight cars on trains bound for Tijuana?

Finally, there's the uncomfortable fact that the Holocaust wasn't the sole product of the German government. The German people were, sadly enough, more than willing at that time to scapegoat the Jews for the difficulties they had experienced. The Holocaust was perpetrated not merely by a government, but by a culture that was willing to perpetrate it. Anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States is a pretty powerful and vocal thing, but it doesn't match the force of the German anti-Semitism of a hundred years ago.

(Link to Vox Day's article via Digby.)

Sentential Links #49

Linkage, linkage, lots and lots o' linkage. Click and enjoy:

:: The local Furniture Graveyard, however, never lacks for corpses, rudely ejected from someone's flat, somewhere here abouts, at some ungodly hour. (This person found me today and left a comment.)

:: For the final chapter, Savage makes a trip to New York City just a few weeks after 9/11 to see if he can get all seven sins accomplished in one weekend while contributing to the (underground) economy per President Bush’s wishes. (Ditto. I love it when random people end up here!)

:: But what if home is the storm? (Yet another new visitor from this week. It was a good week.)

:: Contrary to a popular American stereotype, most Australians do NOT wear hats decorated with crocodile teeth or sell Subarus. That was just a phase Paul Hogan went through before he found Goth.

:: I again implore you to visit the Oregon coast. It's groovy. (Groovy it is. I want to go back there, quite badly.)

:: This bohemian, gypsy artist......

the woman of rather.... ahem....

alternative dress code

(for 42 years).........

.........now owns...........

.......... slacks.
(Say it ain't so! Don't fall into the clutches of the Docker-clad! Nothing good can come of it!)

:: The funny thing about Doug Flutie, who announced his retirement today, is that nobody in the NFL could ever quite figure out how to use him. (I'm not sure I agree with that -- the Bills figured him out pretty well, toward the end, but that was pretty much the end of his effectiveness. For all the "You'll be sorry!" chanting that occurred when Flutie was pushed out, his 2001 Chargers only went 5-11, compared with the Bills' 3-13; and a major factor wasn't just that the Bills had to find out if Johnson was the guy -- which they did have to do -- but also John Butler's earlier, bizarre decision to give both guys big contracts. By the time Butler's tenure ended, the Bills couldn't afford to have so much salary tied up with one QB. Flutie was tough and tenacious, but he was small, and, even in his second year as the Bills' starter, he couldn't muscle the ball to the outside on the deep routes, so his production dropped dramatically. I'd also note that Homerun Throwback might have happened no matter who was the starter, and Rob Johnson did everything he had to do to win that game. I'm still somewhat surprised, seven years later, that the fiery Rob Johnson of the Homerun Throwback game, who late in the game completed a crucial pass despite losing his shoe in the course of taking the snap, turned out to not be the real Rob Johnson, who never seemed to give a shit about playing football again.

I also don't have a problem with Flutie in the Hall of Fame, except that Canton tends to completely ignore leagues other than the NFL. Jim Kelly's passing statistics vault him into a very high echelon if his USFL days are factored in -- but they're not.)

:: Over the last month, I've been fortunate to receive links from four big bloggers, and I thought it might be interesting to analyze the traffic that resulted from each link. (This is an interesting read about not just how links help blogs increase traffic, but also how different kinds of links affect traffic. Not that I would know, seeing as how I haven't been "lanched" in a while. I'm just sayin'.)

:: The media's adulation of McCain is genuinely stupefying. The straight talker does some garden variety political pandering by agreeing to speak at Falwell's university, but somehow that doesn't affect his straight talking reputation. He gives a bland, uncontroversial speech so as not to offend anyone, and that somehow adds to his straight talking reputation. No matter what he says, he's a straight talker. It's a miracle!

:: My position is based on the fact that I love music. I want to learn as much about music as I can, which means that I have to be open to learning new things. (That's my position, too. I divide music into two categories: "Good" music and "Bad" music, and that's it. It's just too facile to say that classical music is inherently superior to all other forms of musical expression, because what does that really mean, anyway? Sure, Beethoven's Seventh Symphony is a towering masterpiece of human art, but I have to concede the possibility that Abbey Road is, too; and besides, we can compare specific cases until the moon falls out of the heavens, but what would be the point? We're talking genres here, and it seems clear to me that "Stairway to Heaven" will be beloved for a far, far longer time than, say, any of Franz Berwald's symphonies.)

That's it for this time. Tune in next week for more.

The Path to Self-betterment!

I just saw this on MeFi, and I'm intrigued by the idea. What you do is create a list of 101 goals that you wish to achieve within 1001 days. That's just shy of 2.75 years, which on one hand sounds like a lot of time, but on another seems awfully brief (I can't help but think of 2.5 years, or thirty months, as two of Little Quinn's lifetimes).

I may do this, or I may not. We'll see.

Destination: Vega!

My great space opera reading project has at last begun, with the Poul Anderson novel Ensign Flandry. This is actually a book I received for review from GMR, so my thoughts about it will appear in that venue as opposed to here.

I am still welcoming additional suggestions as to what to read in this SF subgenre. Feel free to e-mail me or leave comments in the original post (but use the Blogger comments, not the old system, please -- even though there are quite a few comments in the old thread).

(As I progress into the wonderful world of space opera, this will become a posting series.)

Damn you, Thought Vampire!!!

Because The Daughter likes watching it for the goofy games the contestants have to play on the beach, the last couple of iterations of Survivor have become staples in our household. Usually I read or do other stuff, because I've never much liked Survivor and the way it bestows a massive financial reward on people whose behavior would make me despise them in real life. But I actually got interested this time, because a guy named Terry did something pretty remarkable: he won five consecutive "immunity challenges" -- i.e., those stupid games on the beach -- to stay alive to the final three. This meant that if he'd made the final two, he'd have been able to claim to the jury that he played everything straight up. In other words, he would have become the first Survivor contestant to be able to look those people in the eye and say, "I didn't get here by screwing at least one of you."

Alas, Terry lost out, and the final two ended up being two little shits that I'd probably hate if I knew them in person.

Stupid Survivor.

(And really, I've never liked the show much, but don't regular fans get tired of the exact same formula, each time out? Sure, the "hidden immunity idol" adds a dash of spice, but not nearly enough, and you end up with the same thing: about halfway through the show's run, at the "merge" of the tribes, the bigger tribe just picks off the smaller tribe one by one; and by the tenth or twelfth time we've been through all this, how many subtitled scenes of whispered conversation do we need? And don't the locations all look the same by now? Why not go somewhere besides remote tropical islands, like deep in the northern Rockies or, gasp, to a cold-weather clime?)

(Oh, and thanks a lot, NBC, for putting Aaron Sorkin's new show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip up against CSI next year. Idiots. I'm sure the show will do fine in that timeslot, but now I gotta tape one and watch the other. Why not just do the humane thing and take ER out back and shoot it, thus freeing up a timeslot for Sorkin's new show?)

(Oh, and one more thing: I really like Grey's Anatomy, but Dr. McDreamy needs to get f***ing dope-slapped in the worst way. My God, that guy is annoying and completely undeserving of the love of two beautiful women!)

(And would someone please explain to me how it is that on Desperate Housewives, Bree can [head explodes])

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The West Wing: liveblogging the finale

I've never liveblogged a thing before, so why not start right now?

(Spoilers, obviously!)

Teaser Sequence: Dammit, I cheered when Josh rolled over in bed and then Donna's hand came down and caressed him. And I teared up at the sight of Toby's red rubber ball, the only thing left in his former office, when Will Bailey picked it up and bounced it.

In answer to Abbey Bartlet's question of who in their right mind would hold an outdoor ceremony north of the Equator on January 20, that honor goes to the Congress and state legislatures that ratified the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, which sets noon on January 20 as the beginning of a Presidential and Vice Presidential term of office. Before that, Presidents and Vice Presidents were sworn in on March 4.

Act One: Christ, just pardon the guy already! And the last-minute hiccup in the plans, the ice storm in New England, is something Aaron Sorkin would have done. Cool!

Act Two: The wrapped gift from Leo. I have an idea what this is, but we'll see.

"WWLD". Great touch, that.

Bartlet walking around, talking to staffers. Whatever happened to Ginger and Bonnie? I liked them. And a final scene between Bartlet and Charlie -- dammit, where are my kleenex? Remember the second season episode "Shibboleth", when Bartlet gives Charlie a carving knife for Thanksgiving, the one that had been made for the Bartlet family by a Boston silversmith named Paul Revere? Ah, those were the days.

That wrapped gift from Leo again. I'm guessing it's the bar napkin on which Leo had scrawled "Bartlet for America" a decade before? The one that Bartlet had kept and then framed and given to Leo back in Season Three?

Ah, he pardoned Toby. About time!

And if there's one series of letters from history that I'd like to read, it would be the handwritten letters that outgoing Presidents traditionally leave in the Oval Office for their successors.

Act Three: Wow, Stockard Channing is looking really good again. I didn't think she looked that great in the fourth through sixth seasons, but wow.

Funny exchange about the Inaugural speech: Santos says, "I got a couple good lines, no 'Ask not what your country can do for you,' but it's OK", and Bartlet responds, "Yeah, JFK really screwed us over with that one."

Oops -- President Bartlet and the First Lady are arriving on the Inaugural podium, and the band isn't playing "Hail to the Chief". He's still the President until noon! That's what you call a "production flub".

Santos has a blues guitarist playing "America the Beautiful" at his Inaugural? That rules! Personally, I think that song should be our anthem, anyway -- either that or "This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land".

Another oops: The oath goes "I, [name], do solemnly swear...." Pretty bittersweet moment, though.

Act Four: This is it, the last twelve minutes or so. Josh walking into the same West Wing he knows, but it's a totally new one. He's seeing it through new eyes.

Debbie Fiderer showing her successor around the Oval Office secretary job was another great moment. I love the awestruck look the new secretary got when she realized that door went into the Oval Office.

Charlie slipping out unnoticed.

(OK, I've got to comment on Mary McCormack's hair in this episode. She looks like she's in a 1960s James Bond movie, not The West Wing.)

C.J. at the podium, one last time. Man, they're really doing this right.

Donna, from a cubicle to an office big enough to play a life-size game of "Risk".

President Santos at the desk...C.J. walking out, a face in the crowd...President Santos at work at last.

"What's next?" He got it in there!

Bartlet on Air Force One -- and I was right about the gift.

Abbey: "What are you thinking about?"
Bartlet: "Tomorrow." -- what a perfect final exchange, after all. Hopeful, bittersweet, and it even echoes something of real life, with President Clinton's "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow".

This was a magnificent final episode: touching without being maudlin, full of little touches to remind us of the show's heritage, and that wonderful sense that it's not so much ending as just a series of pages in a bunch of lives being turned.

Thank you to Aaron Sorkin, John Wells, Thomas Schlamme, Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Alison Janney, Janel Maloney, Rob Lowe, Dule Hill, Josh Malina, Jimmy Smits, Alan Alda, Stockard Channing, Richard Schiff -- dammit, everybody connected with this show.

Long live Josiah Bartlet.

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

I wasn't sure what to post here this week, but then Lynn came through with the Star Wars Helmet Archive, a gallery of fan-made Star Wars costumery. Some of these are beautiful labors of love that must be seen to be believed.

(Oh, did I say "beautiful labors of love"? Whoops! They're all hilariously hideous.)

Crap! I'm rewriting Robert Jordan!

Kellie points to a couple of quiz-things (here and here) that test out one's fantasy-novel-in-progress to see how clicheed it is, and I figured, heck, why not jump through the paces with regard to The Promised King.

First, there's a quiz to test one's heroes for clichees. On the "Hero" side, I checked all the marks for Gwynwhyfar that are in any way applicable (in my opinion), and she came out with a score of 60, which is held to be unacceptably clicheed. Funny thing is, I only checked off about ten total boxes in the entire list (and it's a long list), so the ones I did check off must be pretty weighted. I'd differ with a few interpretations, though: for instance, if your character is female, you're supposed to check off if she "belongs to a religion that glorifies the sacred feminine". Well, Gwyn's actually preparing to enter the Sisterhood of Dona, the Goddess, so that counts. But, in my world, this isn't some secret female-cult open only to women, and there isn't a lot of tension between this sect and the "male sect" that's devoted to a male god. There are male priests, "Brothers", who serve Dona as well, so I'm not comfortable with the weight assigned to checking this mark. Also, the questions about the character's sex life don't even apply, because I just haven't thought about it at all. I don't know if Gwyn is a virgin or not, because it just isn't important to my story.

Anyway, onto the villains. The Promised King has several villains, operating at different levels (and eventually their own goals will turn out to not be totally aligned, either), but I went with the one we see most often, as opposed to the evil God who lurks behind it all. That would be King Cwerith of Gwynedd. He comes in at a 44, which appears to be dangerously clicheed. Again, not sure I buy this -- I had to mark that yes, in all honesty, he does hail from a "dark, imposing keep", but that keep is never an actual location of any of the events in my story, so why count it?

Finally, there's the fantasy novelist's exam, which is a series of yes/no questions. Scoring here is simple: answering any question in the affirmative constitutes failure and determines that the book-in-progress is crap. Well, OK, then. Of course, the quiz pretty much rules out just about the entire Epic Fantasy genre, so if we're trying to cull out the Jordan-esque crap, I don't think we're doing anybody any favors if we jettison the George R.R. Martin's of the genre as well.

But specifically, a few questions here bug me. Several refer to the common fantasy thing where older, mystical characters speak in vague, riddle-like terms about what is to come. Yeah, I have characters that do that -- but most of them actually admit that they speak like that because they have no idea what the prophecies really mean. That's something, isn't it? I'm also pleased that my book has only two "races", and none of them are elvish in nature; the "Fair Folk" are, well, basically humans who are a bit more magically endowed, and that's it.

So all in all, I think I come out fairly well. I'm not claiming in any way that TPK isn't derivative, since it's an Arthurian fantasy and all, but at the very least I can pride myself in not just transcribing in purple prose the events of one of my former AD&D campaigns.

I heart Al Gore

Al Gore on Saturday Night Live last night. Every time I think SNL is dead in the water, they pull something like this out and earn a stay of execution.

(When Gore actually hosted the show a few years back, my favorite sketch actually wasn't any of the political ones, but one in which Gore played the miserable accountant at the Wonka Factory who had to explain to Mr. Wonka how expensive it is to mix the chocolate by waterfall and to make Everlasting Gobstoppers and the like. "You hear that, Willie? We're oompa-loompa-doompity-screwed!")

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Who'da thunk it!

Huh. It turns out that a majority of Americans might not actually think that the government gathering information on everybody's phone calls is A-OK. Damn -- and the Right had that ten-point bump of George Bush's already spent. That's a shame.

But seriously, the more I hear about things like this, and the more defenses of them that I see, the more I think that the Right has just recycled all of its twenty-year-old "It's OK as long as it helps us beat the Communists!" arguments, and just crossed out the word "Communists" and written "Terrorists" in its place.

UPDATE: Hoo-boy...it seems that the country wishes the last guy was still in charge. That's gotta hurt.

Whoa, we're halfway there....

To win the Stanley Cup, a NHL team must win sixteen games in the playoffs.

As of about five minutes ago, the Buffalo Sabres have eight of those wins under their belts.

We're always pointing out in these parts that there's no silver bullet that will solve Buffalo's problems. But I'm starting to think that a big silver Cup might just help things out considerably....

It's...so...beautiful! (snif snif)

The Wife called me at work the other day to report on something she'd seen whilst out and about, something she knew I'd want to know about. I was excited by what she'd told me, but I kept it in until today, when I went out and saw for myself, just to make sure she hadn't misinterpreted what she'd seen.

She didn't.

It's true.

Borders is coming to the Southtowns. Specifically, to Quaker Crossing, the new shopping center right off Milestrip Road in my own hometown.

For the first time, I won't have to drive across the Buffalo metro region, at least to Cheektowaga, to go to a good bookstore. In fact, the distance is such that if doing so didn't involve crossing at least two major four-lane thoroughfares, I could walk to one.

It's the Southtowns, bitches!

The Organization of Too Damn Many CDs

John describes his filing system for his CDs, and so I shall do the same. Because, well, why not?

The largest unit I own has seven shelves (you can see it behind me in this photo). Part of the top shelf is used currently for items that don't fit in the other units, like double-disc sets of filmscores and the like. Next comes the Celtic music collection, which takes up about two-thirds of one shelf (currently about 70 or so discs). These I arrange alphabetically by artist, with multiple discs by artists arranged in order of release. After the single-artist CDs come the compilations, which are arranged alphabetically by title.

Next comes classical. These are arranged alphabetically by composer, starting with Leroy Anderson and going all the way down to Meredith Wilson. Within each composer's ranks, works are arranged roughly by type: symphonies first, followed by concerted works and then chamber music or instrumental solos, with operas, oratorios, cantatas, and large-scale choral works coming last (but not least).

At the end of the "main" classical section comes discs that aren't themed by composer, but by type of album. Here I have orchestral compilations, followed by wind ensemble/wind band compilations. Then there are the chamber compilations, followed by solo instrumental compilations, and finally solo vocal compilations.

Now, one problem that arises with classical is what's a compilation and what isn't. I have a CD, for example, of Van Cliburn performing two piano concertos: the Rachmaninov Second and the Beethoven Fifth ("Emperor"). Since it's only two major works on the disc, it doesn't really feel like a compilation -- but then, where do I put it? With Beethoven, or with Rachmaninov? My general approach with CDs like this, when the two or three works on the disc are of comparable heft (in terms of running time on the disc), is to go by the first work on the disc. In this particular case, that means I keep the disc with the Beethoven CDs. (Of course, the trouble that arises is that I sometimes forget that this disc has the Rachmaninov on it, so I don't listen to Van Cliburn's Rach Second as much as I do either of my two versions by Vladimir Ashkenazy.)

Sometimes this is pretty easy, though: if a CD has a long work by one composer paired with a short work by another, it goes under the composer of the long work. Multiple operas are filed in alphabetical order by title.

That takes care of the freestanding unit. Beside this unit I have a plastic spinning unit that is designed to hold two hundred CDs. However, this design assumes that one uses the little grooves in the unit to store them flat; I discovered that it actually will hold even more if I ignore the grooves and just stick the CDs in there upright. Here is the bulk of my film music collection, arranged alphabetically by title. (The discs in this unit start with scores that begin with the letter 'C'. The A's and B's are found elsewhere. More in a bit.) Now, I'm a bit loose with the "By title" bit: I group the three CDs of the Omen Trilogy scores together, even though in strict alphabetical-by-title fashion, I'd split them up with the second one first, the third one second, and the first one last. But for the most part I stick to the titles. At the end of those, I have more compilation albums. These I split out into single-composer compilations, filed by composer, and then into multi-composer compilations, which are filed alphabetically by title. (Lots of film music fans, like John, arrange filmscores by composer. I don't do this, although not for any real reason -- I've just always done it this way.)

Then I have two cruddy "sliding drawer" boxes. These contain my "New Age", jazz, and "vocal" selections, as well as the A's and B's of the film music. I rarely buy any New Age or jazz anymore; ditto the "vocal" stuff (here's where I keep my Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Bing Crosby, and the like). There is also a free shelf on the entertainment center where all of my specifically Asian music resides: Asian classical music, anime soundtracks, Canto-pop, and the like. Tucked away on the same shelf, but behind the Asian stuff, is the Christmas music.

Finally, I have a bunch of CDs that are currently sitting haphazardly on the bookshelf beside my writing desk. These are special favorites of mine, for which I want to find a very special location near my writing desk so I'll always be able to stick them into the Discman while I'm working. I haven't come up with anything yet, so there they sit. Among these discs are my Lord of the Rings recordings, the Star Wars scores (along with several other John Williams favorites), my Solti Der Ring des Nibelungen, the live Colin Davis Romeo et Juliet and Les Troyens by Berlioz, and the like.

And none of this takes into account the CDs that I have laying about in an unfiled state.

So there you go. And to think, when I went to college for my freshman year, my CD collection consisted of a grand total of nine discs.

So THAT's what Marv was talking about

When Marv Levy was named General Manager of the Buffalo Bills last January, he made it very clear that "character" was going to be the main factor he used in deciding which players to bring on board the team through free agency and the draft. "Good talent plus poor character will lose", he said. Clearly, then, he didn't approve of the kinds of individuals his predecessor, Tom Donahoe, had brought aboard.

So this week, apparently Willis McGahee, the current starting running back and the unquestionable crown jewel of Donahoe's tenure, opened his mouth in an interview and demonstrated some good character:

Q: Do you think you'll always live in Miami?

A: I think I'll always come back to Miami. I don't know about live in it. I need to get out of it because I'm bad.

Q: Would you describe yourself that way?

A: No, I've calmed down a whole lot.

Q: Was there anything that made you calm down?

A: My kids. I got two kids.

Q: How old are they?

A: One of them is 15 months and the other is five months.

Q: So far, what's the most difficult thing about fatherhood?

A: Nothing right now. Not for me. Just dealing with the mother. That's the difficult part. After that, everything is cool.

Q: What's more troublesome, an ex-wife or a baby momma?

A: A baby momma.

Q: Why?

A: Because they feel like they should be a part of your life for 18 years. An ex-wife, you can get away from her. A baby momma, you can't get away from her until the child is 18 or older. They're going to constantly ask you for money. They just want to nag you for no reason, just because they can. (Willis has never been married.)

Now, there's not a lot of context here, so it could be the case that McGahee fathered two children with women who are, well, not of particularly good character themselves. But even if that were the case, and the mothers of McGahee's two children were golddiggers who were constantly hitting on him for money, well -- one still wouldn't say that in a print interview, right?


And by the way, Mr. McGahee: the mother of your children is in your life for a lot longer than eighteen years. Parenthood is a "for life" kind of thing.

(via BFLOBlog)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Small place, this Blogistan....

So I hopped over to Lynn's place, and read this post, in which she writes about a new Burger King ad or some such thing. Haven't seen the ad yet, but knowing my own sense of humor, I'd probably find it funny too. But she links a Pandagon post in disagreement. Pandagon's been on my blogroll forever, but I missed this particular post, so I checked it out -- and found LCScotty, a Buffalo blogger and regular reader here whom I've actually met in person, in the comments!

I don't have any real point here. I just think it's cool to follow links around and randomly encounter people I already know.

Will we find out whatever happened to Mandy?

This Sunday will bring us the final episode of The West Wing. Unlike many, I don't think the show suffered mightily when Aaron Sorkin left, mainly because I thought Sorkin was running out of steam in that fourth season anyway. The fifth season took a long time to find its tone, but it had its moments, and the show got genuinely interesting again with the campaign to succeed President Bartlet. Now, since the whole election storyline ended, the most recent episodes have felt somewhat rushed, as though the writers are trying to plow through everything that's left, with some strange results:

1. Josh hasn't been in either of the last two episodes, but don't you think he'd have something to say about President-elect Santos's appointment of Arnold Vinick as Secretary of State?

2. If Sam Seaborn was going to be doing what Josh would have been doing for Santos had Josh not been on vacation, then why haven't we seen anything at all of Sam?

3. Stipulating that the answer to that last question hinges on the producers' inability to get Rob Lowe to break himself free from his packed acting schedule (please add sarcastic tone, if reading aloud), why wouldn't one of the other characters comment on Sam's presence? Something like:

CHARLIE: Hey, CJ, you see Sam's back in town?
CJ: Yeah. Santos's deputy chief. Good for him, huh?
CHARLIE: Yeah, but he'd have had that if he'd just stayed here.
CJ: Yeah.

4. The state of affairs of having a winning Vice Presidential candidate die on election night is pretty special, right? Seems to me that finding a new VP would have warranted a more prominent storyline.

5. We've seen almost nothing of the Bartlets. Sure, a new guy's coming in, but the old guy's going out, and frankly, he's the one we're emotionally invested in as longtime viewers. We've had lots of screentime devoted to what CJ's going to do after she leaves the White House. We've seen nothing of Bartlet's plans. Here's a guy who got pushed into running by his best friend, got elected even though he never thought he'd even be nominated, suffered a massive scandal over his MS, lost his beloved secretary, got re-elected, lost his best friend on election night...and we've seen almost nothing of him since.

I think they probably should have wrapped up the election a bit sooner, and left more time to do the transition right, especially since they had the foreknowledge that the show was ending.

The final episode looks to focus on the Inaugural, by the appearance of the preview. Frankly, I would have liked the Inaugural to be the second to last episode, and have the actual finale contrast the first days of the new Administration with Jed and Abby Bartlet settling in at home in New Hampshire again. Maybe this for a final exchange:

Abbey joins Bartlet on the porch of the farmhouse.

ABBEY: Did you forget how cold the winters are up here?

BARTLET: Nah. But I forgot how much quieter our porch is than the Truman Balcony. And you know, it's a lot nicer view without that big obelisk in the way.

ABBEY: I read in the paper that Josh is apologizing for something he said to Mary Marsh.

BARTLET: Yeah. The more things change, eh?

ABBEY: Yeah. (beat) We should go inside now.


Bartlet puts his arm around her, and together they walk toward the door.

BARTLET: What's next?

Fade out.

Or maybe something else...but I really hope that John Wells knows this show well enough to know that the very last line ever spoken on The West Wing just has to be "What's next".

(BTW, a few years back I posted about my favorite West Wing episodes. Not much has changed since I made that list.)

Attention Buffalo Bloggers!

Check in with Jennifer, who's taking names and counting heads for the next Buffalo BloggerCon, which will almost certainly take place at Chestnut Ridge Park in the glorious and quaint settlement of Orchard Park.

I plan to definitely attend!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Flushing things out....

Folks, when one has a head-cold and is stuffy and mucousy and oozy about the nose and sinuses, rinsing all that crap out of the lower sinuses with a Neti pot is sweet, sweet relief. It sure beats waiting for the Dayquil to kick in, anyway.

A very public service message.

OK, folks, I've decided that manually approving every comment to this blog is a pain in the ass, and it didn't really help matters anyway. It was, in all likelihood, and impediment to any conversations that might have taken place here, and I still had to manually delete spam comments anyway. Hopefully Blogger's word-verification thingie will be more effective.

I'm leaving the old comment system up for a while longer, probably a week or two, just to let the old threads remain accessible. But please do not comment on the old system anymore, as I'll be monitoring it less and less frequently, and thus comments would only get approved when I got around to checking in over there. I've set things up so that anyone can comment here, although it frankly is easier if you have a Blogger account. I'd recommend setting one up, as they're free, but anonymous commenting is allowed here. Just make sure you sign who you are, if that's the way it works.

YACCS was a good system, and it served me well for more than four years of blogging, and I thank them for their service.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sentential Links #48

Time again for some linkage to good and readable stuff!

:: Now, some magicians do magic with their speedy hands. Some contort their bodies in difficult ways. Some make you laugh. David Blaine is the only one I can think of whose tricks generally consist of him doing absolutely nothing at all. (Tell me about it. I'd rather watch an old Doug Henning act than any of Blaine's "passive Evel Knievel" crap.)

:: So in fact, Reynolds has managed to fit five units of wrongness into only four declarative statements! This is the hackular equivalent of crossing the Chandrasekhar Limit, at which point your blog cannot help but collapse in on itself. It is unknown at this point whether the resulting end state will be an intermediate neutron-blog phase, or whether the collapse will proceed all the way to a singularity surrounded by a black hole event horizon. We may have to wait for the neutrino signal to be sure. (There's just something cool about astrophysicist snark.)

:: The West is a haunted place where the new ghosts push the old ones a little farther back in memory all the time, even as the writers return them to life once again.

:: I don't know that I have ever been in a bar as divey as even a reasonably nice OTB-- I don't think a bar could be that divey, or an opium den, either. OTB is a step above crackhouse on the glamour scale-- barely. (Ouch.)

:: "She'll always be Ensign Ro to me," he concluded. Maybe this won't be so bad after all. (Blog found by Lynn.

:: Joss Whedon has the most persuasive and stunning vision of evil in all of popular culture. (You gotta like a blog that's unafraid of a bold statement or two! Also via Lynn.)

:: Remember, it's Monday. Everybody's incompetent at 7 o'clock on a Monday morning.

:: There we were, cruising along nicely, and some doofus in the trumpet section came in two beats too early. (Shit, been there, my friend. One of the movements of Percy Grainger's Lincolnshire Posy has these giant, smashing brass chords, like six of them, all in a row. One time I lost count and added a seventh. All by myself. Really loud. Well, if you're gonna screw up, make it a big one, eh? BTW, this blogger's having a rough time lately. Give him some love.)

:: The big advantage that writing (and especially written fiction, my preferred art form) has over other media for conveying experience is that the writer can try to incorporate bits of other, imaginary minds in their serialized stream of consciousness. Writing isn't just a camera, or even a technicolor camera with Dolby surround-sound recording: it's a camera with flickering, blurry, black-and-white, routinely-malfunctioning telepathy bolted on the side.

All for now. I'm off to shove something bristly up my nose and into my sinuses.

Stupid cold....

So I managed to get through the entire winter without getting sick, and now I have a cold. Stupid germs. I hate them so much....

Anyway, as promised yesterday, I've put a bunch of photos from my family's outing to the Tifft Nature Preserve up at the Flickr photostream. That is one nifty place, folks -- all Buffalonians should check it out.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A rare display of Rampant Purism

I'm not much of a purist about anything, but I have to say that it really annoys me that Gatorade has a commercial airing right now that has an instrumental of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" accompanying footage of soccer.

(I've got to admit that I pretty much find soccer to be about as interesting to watch as the air-drying of oil-based paints. I don't care if the rest of the world is gaga over it; every time I've watched it, I've come away thinking, "How can everybody else be so into this?" I mean, so far as I can tell, The Simpsons pretty much nailed what soccer's like.)

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Mr. Sun has composed several rounds of poetry on the theme of...his allergies. Round One, round two, and round three.


Perspective, again

I only read Snopes.com about once a month these days, as that's about as often as I need to do so in order to catch up with them. (Not that this is a complaint about Snopes.com; just a statement of how I read them.) So yesterday I was reading along, and I found this item. Putting it succinctly, it turns out that as of at least a short time ago, the grave of Casey Sheehan -- the son of now-famous anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan -- was unmarked, even though Casey Sheehan has been dead for quite some time now. And yes, lots of folks are trumpeting this as some sort of indictment of Cindy Sheehan.

Well, I'm not the biggest fan of Cindy Sheehan around, but let me say this: if you're going to tag her as a bad mother or bad person because she hasn't put a stone on her son's grave, then you'd best tag me as well, for the exact same reason.

There is no stone yet on Little Quinn's grave. Sure, a stone is expensive, but we could come up with the money if we considered it to be an essential thing right now, and frankly, it's just not that big a priority with us. We know where he is, and more importantly, we know where he isn't. The carved stone is just window dressing. It is, by far, the least important part of the whole death thing, and the lack of a stone on Casey Sheehan's grave says far less about Cindy Sheehan than the trumpeting of that lack of a stone says about those who would demonize her for any reason they can find.

Perspective, folks

Longtime readers will know that I was a big fan of Barry Bonds up until it pretty much became unquestionable, probably about a year ago, that he had taken steroids. Sure, there was suspicion, but the weight of testimonial evidence didn't really become conclusive until then. It took me a long time to give up on the guy, even if I eventually did. He used illicit substances to get more out of his body than his body was capable of producing and then lied and stonewalled about it. That the guy is a premier sports villain now is, I think, beyond dispute.

But is he really the number one villain in sports? When Bonds's actions are juxtaposed with the runners-up on that list, it seems to me that Bonds comes out as less the villain than some of these other guys. Hell, the person named as an "honorable mention" strikes me as being a worse guy than Bonds -- but then, I tend to think that a person who willingly commits assault is a worse person than a jerk who takes banned substances to get ahead. Maybe it's just me, but in terms of sheer jerkness, Bonds is small fry beside Bobby Knight.

And really, when I look at this list and see just how much many of these folks are still revered in some circles, it saddens me to realize that the whole high-school attitude of "Let the jock be the biggest jerk he wants, as long as he takes us to State" doesn't end when we graduate high school. If I did the equivalent of some of this stuff in my job, I wouldn't just get fired. I'd go to jail.

See, this here is where we type stuff.

Sorry about the long delay between postings, Gentle Readers! Yesterday was a day of domestic goodness (laundry, grocery shopping, going to the library, etc.), and Friday was -- well, I just didn't have much to say on Friday.

We just got back from an outing to the Tifft Nature Preserve, which is one of those free-to-attend treasures that nobody seems to know exists around here. It was a great time; we took a picnic lunch and then spent a couple of hours wandering the trails, covering only about half of them. I'll have pictures up on Flickr either later today or tomorrow evening (more likely tomorrow evening), but until then, here's a tree that we passed on the way out and found particularly striking:

Tree on the Tifft Preserve

What's especially amazing about the Tifft Preserve is that it's almost literally in the shadow of downtown Buffalo: from certain places within its boundary, one can see the HSBC Tower looming. The natural environment and the built environment don't have to be seen always as diametrical opposites.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Han shoots first!!!

The original versions of the first three Star Wars films are to be released on DVD, due to "overwhelming demand". Unless I find these on sale someplace really cheap at some point, I doubt I'll bother buying them; I've never been terribly fixated on the faults of the Special Editions, and in a number of cases, I actually prefer them. I just hope I don't hear a fresh round of "Look at Lucas the moneygrubber" talk as he bilks his fans yet again. Just about every major movie these days sees multiple DVD releases, and that's not even taking into account any new formats that are coming down the pike.

Anyway, that's that. Han will shoot first again. Big whoop.


God, is there any bullshit story they won't try?

Blank-filling, in progress

John tagged me with this:

I am pretty tired now that the end of my work week is approaching.
I want reform in Albany that will allow Upstate New York to stop dying on the vine.
I wish my son was still alive.
I hate hot weather.
I love my family, my friends, my workplace, and Star Wars.
I miss the feeling that another Star Wars movie was in the offing.
I fear direct confrontations.
I hear Maya and Miguel on PBS Kids.
I wonder what the setting will be for Guy Gavriel Kay's next novel.
I regret nearly every minute spent not writing, and waiting until my current age to start developing handy skills.
I am not nearly as skilled with hand tools as I wish to be. (But that's changing.)
I dance only when alone, although I'd love to learn Irish step-dancing and how to do a real, good waltz.
I sing constantly when I'm alone -- mostly showtunes.
I cry havoc, just before I let slip the dogs of war.
I am not always as thorough as I should be with certain tasks.
I make with my hands pretty good macaroni and cheese, pastitsio, fried chicken, and hushpuppies.
I write the songs that make the whole world sing....(Well, OK. I write the things I feel like writing. No more, no less.)
I confuse "rein" with "reign", which makes for some hilariously parsing sentences in my book wherein the main mode of transportation is the horse.
I need to lose a bit of weight. The overalls have been snugger than usual lately. Luckily, it's the right time of year for it.
I should write more.
I start laughing, and then I often can't stop.
I finish The Promised King this year. No more excuses.
I tag no one. Freebie here, folks.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A query

A reader e-mailed to inform me that the YACCS commenting system here is, well, a pain in the ass. Is this the general opinion of the readership? I've been considering switching over to Blogger's commenting system anyway, since it's kind of annoying to have to approve each individual comment. With Blogger's system, I could just use the "funky word verification" thingie. Thoughts, readers?

A stumper

ACD asks:

Why is it that activist zealots are almost always left-of-center types, and why is it that they're all so paranoid-loony (not to mention almost always in error)? [Emphasis added]

Huh. Good question. I just don't know. It's quite the head-scratcher.

(Not that the item ACD links isn't pretty damned kooky, mind you. Come on, folks. Four college students versus Microsoft? Yeesh.)


As long as I've been reading him, Alan has been touting the reality TV show The Amazing Race, which I've avoided watching, until this season, when I watched an episode a few weeks back just to get an idea of what the show was about.

Now I'm friggin' hooked on the damn show.

I'm rooting for BJ and Tyler, the hippies. They just crack me up: "Dude, don't touch the termite mounds! Those termites will eat all the wood in your body!"

I scream

John listed his top ten ice cream flavors, so how can I not do the same?

10. Cookie dough. This is a good, reliable favorite. I wish the major manufacturers would include larger dough chunks.

9. Peanut butter cup. I don't get it as much as I used to, but I loved the rock-hard peanut butter swirl in the chocolate ice cream.

8. Pumpkin. Just great. As John notes, it just tastes like autumn.

7. Cookies-and-cream. Oreos and ice cream? Damn straight.

6. New York Brownie Super Fudge Chunk, by B&J. Totally amazing.

5. Heath Bar Crunch. The bigger the Heath Bar chunks, the better.

4. French Vanilla. In the late summertime, I love a couple of scoops of this with a mess of blueberries on top. It's also nice with chocolate or butterscotch syrup, or for use in a root beer float, or served with cake. But really, vanilla tastes wonderful on its own. The flavor of vanilla is anything but bland, folks.

3. Peppermint stick. A wonderful treat that's mainly available at the Holidays, sadly enough.

2. Mint chocolate chip. There can be some really disappointing versions of this. The best, usually, are not tinted green.

1. Coffee. In recent years, it's become a lot easier to find wonderful coffee ice creams, but my favorite will always be Haagen-Dasz, which is just sublime. I only have it once or twice per year, lest it become commonplace; this miracle substance was once the object of a midnight college road trip for myself and a few friends.

Here in Buffalo, spring is always welcomed by the opening of the roadside ice cream joints. These places always have cones and such with regular old hard ice cream, but I tend to always get a soft-serve delight, usually whatever the local euphemism is for the Dairy Queen Blizzard. I like a variety of them, but my favorite flavors therein are usually Reese's Pieces, Butterfinger, or Heath Bars.

Ice cream: Yeah, you could live without it. But what would be the point?

We all have our little faults. Mine's in California.

The trailer to Superman Returns is really cool. I am really looking forward to this movie. (Oh, and Verbal Kint is a pussy. Kevin Spacey was born to play Lex Luthor.)

And in other movie geek news, Mr. Jones reports that in the Star Trek prequel movie (whose apparent premise I dissed a couple weeks ago), the role of James T. Kirk may be played by Ben Affleck.

Strangely, I'm not all that bothered by that casting, if it happens. Affleck seems to me to be the same kind of scenery-chewer that William Shatner was, although obviously Affleck will never compare to "the Shat" for sheer ham. I'm still more bothered by the idea of the movie itself: if they have to do more Star Trek, I'd rather it be new. But I'm still unenthusiastic about the idea that we need any more Star Trek at all.


I just got in from a brisk afternoon walk around the neighborhood, which is something that used to be an integral part of my life but fell by the wayside during Little Quinn's lifetime. The trees are starting to leaf out in earnest; people are getting home from work and going out to do stuff in their yards; and kids everywhere are setting up in the street to play pick-up games of...hockey.

Sabres fever, baby!

Monday, May 01, 2006

I'll take door number three, Monty

For some reason, The Daughter's taken a liking to this NBC game show Deal or No Deal. If you haven't seen this show, it's about the simplest premise I've ever seen for a game show. You know those really brief pricing games on The Price is Right, where you're offered two items and all you have to do is put the displayed price on the right item? That's about the level of sophistication with Deal or No Deal. There is no trivia quiz, and no real approach one can take to playing this game aside from playing odds once the "endgame" comes around. It's a pure guessing game.

Basically, Deal or No Deal has a bunch of numbered briefcases, each one of which contains some amount of money from $.01 up to $1,000,000. A contestant picks one of these cases to be "her case", and then picks out other cases to be opened and the contents revealed. As the dollar amounts are revealed, they are "removed from play", and periodically, as the number of "amounts in play" diminish, a person called "the banker" calls down to the stage with an offer of money to "buy back the contestant's case". The idea, then, is to get the banker to pay a lot of money for a case that hopefully doesn't contain much money at all. (If one plays all the way to the end, one gets whatever is in the original case. That hasn't happened yet.) When the Banker makes an offer, the contestant can either accept it, ending the game, or play on, opening more cases in hopes of picking the small amounts of money and driving up the future offers. At first, one has to open five or six cases without getting an offer, but as the game goes on, the offers start to come after every case.

Got all that?

The game is pure, one-hundred percent guesswork and gambling. There are no hints given as to which case may contain the million dollars. As a game show, the game is so inherently uninteresting that the show would be painfully dull to watch if not for the "human factor". You really get a good sense for how people talk themselves into believing what they want to believe, for how they insist on applying logic to situations in which they have almost no facts on which to base their beliefs, and more than a lot of plain old superstition. As the game gets more intense, the stakes rise; and when confronted with five cases from which to choose, the contestants will often say things like "My first child is twelve years old this week, so I'll open case number twelve!"

There's some kind of psychological insight to find in shows like this. I'm not sure what it is, but it's there.