Sunday, September 30, 2007

Holding Pattern Delta!

I'm not sure what "Holding Pattern Delta" involves, but it sounds cool, so that's what I'm going with!

Anyhow, regular life this week still has lots of stuff in the hopper, what with The Wife's vacation, family stuff, and various other activities planned, so posting here will still be sporadic for probably a week or so. I'll try to have some Sentential Links and a Burst of Weirdness at some point, but they may not appear on their standard days.

By way of a progress report of sorts, in conjunction with my recent birthday (last week, for you lazy stragglers!), The Wife and I took a one-night trip into the Fingerlakes region (a few photos of which are available on my Flickr stream, accessible through the "Flickr Badge" thing in the sidebar). We took a scenic drive during which we did not enter a single four-lane, limited exchange highway, either the NYS Thruway or any other such expressway, which is really still the best way to see places. There was birthday cake and birthday pie, there was an Apple Festival in Ithaca (holy used bookstores, Batman!), one of the best toystores I've ever seen (don't tell The Daughter! One of her Christmas presents is in our closet!), and other nice things done. And today we're going to Pumpkinville...and I'm planning another round of tie-dying this week...and in between all that, I'm escaping to the planet Barsoom to adventure alongside Captain John Carter.

So anyway, keep checking in!

(Oh by the way, nobody still has made any guesses on Unidentified Earth 18, so I'll keep narrowing it down. It's in Oregon, folks. Come on! Somebody's gotta know what that thing is!)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Unidentified Earth 19

Wow. One week, and last week's entry is still unidentified, despite the hint from yesterday. So I'll leave this one unidentified for now, but here's another hint: it's in the Pacific Northwest.

Meantime, staying right on schedule, here's the next entry:

Where are we?

Rot-13 your answers, folks!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Here I go, again on my own....

Actually, I'm not sure what that post title has to do with anything, but it's what leaped to mind, so there it is. Some notes:

:: Exactly fourteen years ago today, I turned twenty-two years old. Good times, those were! I remember it as though it was...fourteen years ago.

:: Happy Birthday George Gershwin, wherever you are! S'wonderful, s'marvelous, she should care for me....

:: Things may look a little weird around here for a while. I've exceeded the bandwidth limit on where I keep my graphics, and I don't have time to try to fix it until later.

:: Only one guess thus far at last week's Unidentified Earth, so apparently a hint is in order? Pictured therein is the only municipally operated one of these in the United States.

:: Here's an article about the twenty greatest spaceship captains. It's pretty good, up until the final five, when it gets the rankings horribly, awfully wrong.

:: EW, a magazine I wrote off years ago because I finally couldn't take the insufferably smug tone of its critics, has a fairly non-smug selection of the Top ten episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. They're all superb episodes, and their Number One episode is also my Number One episode, which is nice. (Both these links from SFSignal.)

:: The women of SWILL have created a calendar which they are selling in order to raise money for Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Buy one here.

:: October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. More info here. Consider lighting a candle that night at 7:00 pm.

On a meta-blogging note, posting will be light for the next few days, and possibly even a week. The Wife starts a much-needed vacation tomorrow, and I'll be taking a couple of days off from work in order to spend time with her and with The Daughter and do stuff that doesn't involve a keyboard but may involve large amounts of Cool-whip. Behave, folks!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sentential Links #112

One hundred twelve. That's the number of times so far this NFL season that, collectively, the Buffalo Bills medical staff has uttered the words, "Oh, shit."

Anyway, onto the links:

:: I swear, I've eaten half my family's dinner like this. And I had to force myself to stop before eating it all.

:: Village rule number one: You can't employ a play on words that any Republican might be able to use as an excuse to run to the fainting couch and have a good old-fashioned cry. Democrats must be as bland and technocratic as humanly possible in their political rhetoric. If they can put their audience to sleep within the first five minutes, so much the better. But that doesn't mean Republicans and the media can't have loads of nasty "pun" at the expense of Democrats.

:: We don’t need to think in terms of mending our holes. We can simply go on (or stay firm in our place on the earth?) with the holes. And maybe they can even help us through troubled waters.

:: This is, once again, Rudy the wind-up doll. He's got a small supply of stock phrases (9/11, lower taxes, crime fighter) and he just hauls out whichever one seems handiest for the moment. Actual knowledge of anything necessary to be president? None.

:: I'm on record here on this blog as saying that I'm okay, at least in principle, with updated versions of Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and Logan's Run. I love the original versions of these, but revisiting them doesn't bother me. However, the thought of a new Day the Earth Stood Still turns my stomach. So how do I reconcile these opposing viewpoints?

:: Save the vowels!

:: That's the recipe for building an environment that fosters moral behavior. It doesn't involve gods or even belief in gods. It is completely independent of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, or atheism. It works — religion is irrelevant to morality. The surest way to create moral individuals is to build a stable society where desirable behaviors are rewarded, and the hoop-jumping frivolities of religion are not a requirement to accomplish that.

:: What I've depicted isn't really what northern Manitoba looks like, really...but I didn't want that, anyway. What I wanted was what Canadians see when they close their eyes and think of Canada. (Interesting interview with a comics creator I'd been previously unaware of.)

:: Driving around in recent weeks, it’s been common to see people standing with their backs to the side of the road, poised in odd positions. Stretched. Squatting. Contorted in some game of imaginary Twister… all in pursuit of the most amazing blackberries imaginable.

:: When I started the Silk Road Project, I began to understand the geographical and musical connections between all these incredible cultures — all these ‘other’ classical musics, the Persian classical music and Indian classical music and mugam in Afghanistan and so on. I got a sense that at one time these connections were much closer and over time that certain things got split off and developed independently, in the way that the French spoken in Louisiana and Quebec broke off from the original. (Alex Ross interviews Yo Yo Ma on his blog. This is required reading, folks. Yo Yo Ma is so much more than the best cellist going today.)

All for this week. We'll be back next week, as always!

An odd question

Am I the only person who's watched the old Steve Martin flick The Jerk and come away wondering why nobody's really followed up on the notion of "Pizza in a Cup"?

Stupid Patriots 38, Bills 7

You know, I find football fans to be an amazing lot. Before the season started, I'd hear lots of fans on sports radio shows and in regular life saying things like, "Geez, with this schedule, we'll be lucky to be 6-10" and "Wow, they're gonna open up 0-4" and stuff like that. Now that the Bills actually are 0-3, suddenly we're all shocked -- shocked! -- that the team is struggling mightily. Of course, that's probably a function of how the team is struggling mightily; most fans expected a team that would lose games by scores like 28-20, 38-24, 45-27, and the like. No one expected a team that would, after three games, have two offensive TDs on the year.

JP Losman's effectiveness was questioned strenuously by fans after both the first two games; I was unimpressed by him, although I didn't call for a pulling of his plug, and I feel slightly vindicated by what happened today. Losman was injured on the very first series and came out of the game after the third play, leading to rookie (third-round pick this year) Trent Edwards, who had a couple of good drives in pre-season which was somehow enough to sell a lot of people on the idea that he's bursting with intangibles. Which isn't to say that he isn't bursting with intangibles; I just think that one doesn't want to estimate a rookie quarterback's intangibles based on a fourth-quarter drive against the Detriot Lions in a pre-season game. But that's just me.

I'm also weary of hearing youth and injuries cited as reasons this team struggles. I think it goes to drafting and coaching. The greenest players each year, the ones who are really marginal NFL talents at their positions, always manage to make NFL rosters by virtue of special teams play, and the Bills' special teams units are always well-prepared and they almost always execute well on the fundamentals. Today, a perfect downing-of-the-ball on a punt was executed by a rookie (Josh Wendling, a fifth-round pick this year), and in making that play he looked like he'd been doing it for years. That's coaching. Funny how Bobby April manages to get so much more out of the same general batch of inexperienced youngsters than any of the other coordinators and coaches on the Bills' staff, isn't it?

Anyway, let's move onto more pithy replies:


:: The Bills have a very good punter.

:: The Bills had one very good drive.

:: Bill Belichick challenged two calls within five minutes in the second quarter; both went against him. I remember when those calls would probably have gone his way. I wonder if there's some quiet bit of punishment for the whole Belicheat thing going on.

:: I got the floor vacuumed in our apartment! Woo-hoo!


:: The announcers for this game weren't very good. They made odd points, like "Dick Jauron's had success wherever he's been", and "The StuPats have been good because they've had continuity at coach and quarterback, where the Bills haven't." I've heard that latter point a lot lately, not just in reference to New England, but to teams like Indy and Pittsburgh. The point seems to me exactly backwards: success doesn't come as a result of continuity in the coaching staff and the roster; rather, continuity comes as a result of success. Does anyone think the Bills would have had any better a recent history if we were on Year Seven of the Gregg Williams/Rob Johnson era? Or Year Four of the Mike Mularkey/Drew Bledsoe era? Winning comes first, then continuity.

:: Chris Kelsay did a better job tackling. The defense continues to play really hard. They don't make big stops or big plays, but they can't be said to be lacking in the area of effort.

:: Marshawn Lynch. Not "Meh" for his effort, just "Meh" that he's so potentially good on so ugly a team.


:: Longtime readers know I harp on this every year, but it wouldn't be a Bills post of mine if I didn't complain about the Bills' constant lack of command at the line of scrimmage. Screw the quarterback situation; this team's focus has to be getting better at the line of scrimmage.

:: Well, this game sure can't be blamed on JP Losman. Trent Edwards completed fifty percent of his passes for under 100 yards, no TDs, and an interception. I'm not knocking Edwards, but this team is fundamentally bad in the trenches.

:: Maybe the Bills should just eliminate all their tight ends and sign some new linemen, since the TEs are useless here anyway.

:: Maybe it's just my rabid hatred of the StuPats talking, but there's no way Wilfork wasn't gunning for Losman's exposed knee on that play.

:: More injuries. What did the Bills do to so alienate the football gods? Now, rookie linebacker Paul Posluszny has a broken arm and will be out for quite a while. JP Losman will probably miss some time. About the only thing that can be hoped now is that some youngsters who would otherwise have never seen the field somehow turn out to be diamonds in the rough.

Well, that's about it. Next up: the New York Jets, at home. The Bills usually play the Jets tough. But then again, once Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay and Donte Whitner all get hurt next week on the same play, the Bills will be fielding seven guys on defense.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ahhh, the memories of Marvel Team-Up!

Michael May's Adventureblog provides this fun meme-thing:

First, select ten fictional characters (from any medium) by whichever method you like best.

1. Diarmuid dan Ailell (from The Fionavar Tapestry)
2. Obi-Wan Kenobi
3. James Bond (the Lazenby, Dalton, or Daniel Craig incarnations)
4. Wonder Woman
5. Captain Malcolm Reynolds
6. Jehane bet Ishak (from The Lions of Al-Rassan)
7. Agent Dana Scully
8. Hermione Grainger
9. Lady Eowyn (from The Lord of the Rings)
10. Han Solo

Divide the list up by even and odd.

OK. Team One: Diarmuid Dan Ailell, James Bond, Mal Reynolds, Agent Scully, Lady Eowyn.

Team Two: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Wonder Woman, Jehane bet Ishak, Hermione Grainger, Han Solo.

Which group of five would make a better Five Man Band (like a Power Rangers team)? Who would you slot in each position: Leader, Lancer (second-in-command), Big Guy, Smart Guy, The Chick?

Hmmmm! I'm guessing Team Two.

Leader: Obi Wan Kenobi
Lancer: Wonder Woman
Big Guy: Han Solo
Smart Guy (girl, in this case): Hermione Grainger
The Chick: Jehane bet Ishak

Just for the sake of completeness, here's how Team One would break out:

Leader: Mal Reynolds
Lancer: James Bond
Big Guy: Diarmuid Dan Ailell
Smart Guy (also a woman in this case): Agent Scully
The Chick: Lady Eowyn.

The roles in Team One would be a lot more fluid, I suspect; while Diarmuid is often portrayed as a fun-loving rogue, whenever the chips are down in those books, the guy rises to the occasion and provides some serious leadership. Bond also tends to be a loner a lot of the time, so he'd probably switch in and out of the lancer role, maybe even taking three roles at times (Big Guy and Smart Guy). Lady Eowyn's also got some strength and leadership skills, and of course Agent Scully is no pushover either. Team Chemistry would be a problem here, I think; a lot of strong-willed people would end up butting heads.

If you think the team would be improved by swapping one character between the even and odd groups, which ones would you switch?

I don't think I'd switch anyone. Team Two seems pretty strong, in my mind, and any trade into Team One wouldn't reduce the problems noted above. So no trades; these are the teams.

Gender-swap 2, 8 & 10. Which character would have the most change in their story arc? Which the least? Would any of these characters have to have a complete personality change to be believable as the opposite sex?

OK: Obi Wan Kenobi becomes a woman, Hermione Grainger becomes a man, and Han Solo becomes a woman. Hmmmmm.

I suspect that Obi Wan could have been made a woman with almost no trouble at all. Hermione probably wouldn't have been believable in the slightest as a boy/man; since the whole dynamic of the Potterverse is set by the trio of heroes being two boys and a girl, I don't think three boys would work at all, so there would have to be a girl, which in turn would lead to Ron being a woman. Or something like that.

And Han Solo as a woman? That would make his (her) relationship with Leia fairly interesting, would it not? However, aside from that love triangle, I'm not sure this would really impact the story in a very large way. Nothing in Star Wars makes a female analogue of Han Solo unthinkable.

Compare the matchups of 1 & 8 and 5 & 9. (Ignore canon sexual preferences for the moment.) Which couple would be more compatible?

1 and 8: Diarmuid dan Ailell and Hermione Grainger? The Hermione of the actual Potter books wouldn't even be a blip on Diarmuid's radar, since he's a fairly sexual adult and she's just a kid, finding her way. Now, an adult Hermione might well catch his eye, as he is clearly attracted to strong-willed, brave, and intelligent women.

5 and 9: Captain Mal Reynolds and Lady Eowyn? Eowyn's all about duty and her country, while Mal's all about freedom. I can't see them being compatible at all.

Which couple would be more plausible to people from either principal's home culture?

Definitely Diarmuid/Hermione. They both come from worlds of magic and myth. A space traveler in Edoras? Not happening. On a genre mash-up basis, that couple's a total non-starter.

Your team is 3, 4 & 9. The mission consists of a social challenge, a mental challenge and a physical challenge. Which team member do you assign to each challenge?

Bond, Wonder Woman, and Lady Eowyn. Well, obviously Wonder Woman gets the physical challenge, just because she's got some super strength. (Which isn't to say that's the only kind of task she'd be good for. We're limiting to just the focus of this question.)

Bond would get the mental challenge, I think. In the best of all Bond stories, he has to do a lot of figuring stuff out.

Which leaves the "social challenge" to Lady Eowyn. Now, I'm not entirely sure what a "social challenge" actually is, but her role in the books is at least partially social, a leadership role, so that's what she would get here. I think.

7 becomes 1's boss for a week in some plausible fashion. How's their working relationship?

Agent Scully as Diarmuid dan Ailell's boss? That's an odd picture, I must say! Scully would find their working relationship frustrating, I suspect, although his sardonic nature might well mirror her partner Agent Mulder's, albeit with more overt humor and wit. For his part, Diarmuid would do what he's told, since underneath his sardonic exterior beats the heart of a man who takes duty very seriously. In fact, not only would Diar do his duty, but he'd have killed anyone who refused or balked at doing theirs!

2 finds him/her/itself inserted into 6's continuity. As far as anyone other than 2 or 6 is concerned, they've always been there. What role would 2 be presumed to have had in 6's story, and could they fit in without going wonky?

So we'd have Obi Wan Kenobi in The Lions of Al-Rassan? Well, if he actually had a lightsaber, he'd stand out like Manute Bol in the land of the Munchkins. However, there is certainly room in that mythos for a band of monastic knights a la the Jedi -- especially if we expand Jehane's "continuity" to include the other novels set in that same physical world, The Sarantine Mosaic and The Last Light of the Sun.

3 and 5 get three wishes. The catch is that they have to agree on all three wishes before they get the benefits of any of them. What three wishes would they make?

James Bond and Mal Reynolds? Agreeing on wishes? Again, this one's tough because of the genre mashup -- spy thriller meets space opera/western. So what would they wish for together? Crikey, that's hard. Personally, I'd expect that they'd sit down and play three games of cards, one wish going to the winner of each game.

1 and 2 are brainwashed by a one-time artifact that works even on people immune to mind control to attack and kill 4. They keep their normal personality, skills and competence level, except any Code vs. Killing has been turned off. Can 4 survive? How?

Diarmuid and Obi Wan have to go after Wonder Woman. If they could somehow part her from her Lasso of Truth, they just might be able to pull it off. Diarmuid would have to accept this as a suicide mission, and Obi Wan's powers would be severely tested. However, if Wonder Woman has the Lasso with her, Diar and Obi Wan are screwed. If she ropes them with the Lasso of Truth, that might cause the effect of the brainwashing to wear off!

6, 7, 9 & 10 must help an orphanage full of small and depressed children have a merry Christmas. Who does what, knowing that at the very least the kids will be expecting a visit from Santa?

Jehane, Agent Scully, Lady Eowyn, and Han Solo? I guess the ladies would do the shopping and set-up, and then they'd force Han to put on the Santa costume.

3 and 8 are challenged to circumnavigate the Earth in eighty days or less, using only forms of transportation invented before 1900. Can they do it, or will they be fatally distracted by sidequests or their own personality conflicts?

James Bond and Hermione Grainger? Yeah, they'd probably do it; I'm sure Hermione's read books on the operation of hot-air balloons and sailing vessels, and James Bond can operate any vehicle at all. As for personality conflicts, I suspect they'd get along fine, unless again we're talking about adult Hermione, who might then find herself in bed with Mr. Bond.

And I guess that's it! Fun quiz. No tagging.

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Hey all, sorry for the recent lack of posting. Nothing disastrous going on, I've just been busy and not feeling too much like blogging.

Anyway, some weirdness and funny stuff:

:: Our local PBS station often airs movies on the weekend evenings. Since most movies won't fill a two-hour timeslot exactly, the station is usually left with some remaining airtime to fill before the next hour or half-hour, and they generally fill this time with short films or other kinds of short programming. Such is how I first encountered, some time ago, a British parody of cooking shows called Posh Nosh. Only nine episodes were made, and each one is about nine minutes long. Here's the list, with links to the episodes I've managed to find online:

Fish and Chips
Birthday Parties
Beautiful Food
Bread and Butter Pudding
Comfort Food
Grilled Sole

Enjoy! I love this little show, with its subtle wordplay and nifty comedic chemistry between the two leads.

:: Some guy followed every rule in the Bible for a year. I don't really see the point, but there it is. (And by the way: it's Gandhi, not Ghandi. It's disheartening to see that mistake in a professional news magazine.)

:: Aieee!

An error in paperwork sent a man in Venezuela, who was knocked unconscious in a road accident, for an autopsy.

The confusion occurred after ambulance workers reached the scene of the accident, between a lorry and a car.

Officials completed a form requesting an autopsy rather than one requesting treatment for injuries, and the man was sent to the morgue.

Venezuela's highways police confirmed that the two hospital forms look almost identical and can be easily confused.


:: Given previous rants about cell-phone users that I've posted on this blog, I suppose it will therefore seem like quite the Burst of Weirdness that...I now have a cell phone. It doesn't play MP3s or videos, it doesn't make a mean cup of coffee, and it doesn't wash my car, pick a lovely bouquet of wildflowers and baby's breath, keep my plants watered, or cook a nice dish of Clams Casino. It does, though, make calls and take pictures of stuff.

Here's something I wonder about cell phones: had Star Trek not depicted its communicators as such, would "flip" phones ever have been invented?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Unidentified Earth 18

Here we go again! Last week's answer will be familiar to anyone who has ever driven Interstate 90 westbound across South Dakota, and read the hundreds of billboards along that road: Wall Drug, of Wall, SD.

And now for this week's puzzler:

Where are we?

Rot-13 your answers!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Stupid is a force of nature

Oh, my God.

And looking at Sherri Shepherd's website, I find this quote:

To those of you who prayed... let me tell you ... PRAYERS WORK! Because it is a miracle of God that I am now a co-host on The View.

What an appalling sentiment. What a cheap, lazy, and boring view of God she must have. This kind of crap makes me want to vomit. What kind of nauseatingly simpleton must God be under this view, to use His omnipotent powers to pick the host of a damn teevee show?!


You can't tell a day from a knight without a program!

Hey, male readers! If you ever find yourselves stuck in the Middle Ages with your wife, and you get that, you know, loving feeling, and you're wondering if you can, you know, roll in the hay with her and not be immoral whilst doing so, use this helpful flowchart:

Enjoy! Good luck storming the castle!

(Found via Mr. Sun.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sentential Links #111

AND away we go!!!

:: J.P. Losman is not a good quarterback. Or, to please the Branch Losmanians, he is not playing in a manner in which a good quarterback plays, which leaves room for the myriad of excuses and overly-optimistic yet vague statements of “he’s improving, but the Bills need to do (enter magic bullet excuse here).” (I haven't given up on Losman yet, but too many more days like yesterday and I will, I'm sad to say. Mainly I'm linking this because "Branch Losmanians" is pretty funny.)

:: I double-checked the Constitution, and yes, I remembered correctly: the legislature is discussed in Article I and the executive branch in Article II, suggesting that Congress should have important role in the governance of the country. Guess some folks have forgot.

:: Once in a while - not too often, mind you - once in a while... I like to listen to Bach on the piano. (Shoot me now, Ye Purists: I prefer Bach on the piano. Mainly, because I don't like the sound of the harpsichord, and I've never been convinced that the harpsichord sound is essential to understanding Bach's musical language, which is all about counterpoint.)

:: About once a year the Wicked Witch of the West and her Flying Monkey make a fly-by. (I'm not a big fan of IP-blocking, but then, I don't have any cyber-stalkers, either.)

:: And then it all came back to me. And I realized we'd just spent nearly four hours on a bus driven by someone who both hates noise and has mommy issues. And possibly a few heads in his freezer at home. Awesome.

:: My first memories of what would become a lifelong love affair with musical theater are of, as a toddler, being extremely taken with those "operetta" episodes (or maybe it was one episode repeated) they did of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I remember being very excited by them, and by the very basic notion, intrinsic to all musical theater, of people singing to each other instead of talking. (I used to look forward to those episodes too! According to Wikipedia, there were thirteen "opera" episodes. In various film music forums, I often encounter people who insist they can't enjoy musicals because they can't grok people bursting into song. I've never had that problem at all. Now I wonder if that's because of Mr. Rogers.)

:: Al Gore is the only man who’s won an Oscar and now an Emmy and they’re both considered consolation prizes.


It’s not fair that producers who have to turn out 22 or 24 hour episodes of drama a year must compete with producers who complete 13 episodes in a year and a half.
(Heh, on both counts. I couldn't decide which to use for the link, so there's both of them. Oh, and Katherine Heigl won for Grey's Anatomy? Ugh! Nothing against Ms. Heigl, who is lovely and all, but I hate her character, and for my money, that show's tone is set by Chandra Wilson as Dr. Bailey.)

All for this week.

The Wheel stopped turning

Fantasy author Robert Jordan has died. I wasn't a fan, but lots of readers are. Condolences to family, friends, and fans.

R Stillers 26, Bills 3

Heavens, this was one of those games where you're left scraping the bottom of an incredibly low barrel to find good things to say. Yeesh, that was bad. Oh well, at least my second favorite team, the Steelers, won.


:: Terrence McGee runs the kickoffs back nicely.

:: The Bills at least play hard. What always bothered me when they stunk up the field during the Gregg Williams/Drew Bledsoe era was the way they just looked lethargic when they were getting clobbered. The current crop of youngsters actually look pissed when they're getting beat down badly. Not that this augurs anything in particular for their future, but hey, I'll take Lee Evans losing his cool in the waning moments of the fourth quarter and committing two consecutive unsportsmanlike conduct penalties over Drew Bledsoe's monotone insistence in the postgame interview that he's "so mad he doesn't know what to do".

:: Brian Moorman's a good punter.


:: The Bills' offensive line. Pass blocking was still bad, run blocking was occasionally adequate. The Jason Peters/Derrick Dockery side was supposed to be very strong, but they allowed lots of pressure to get through.

:: Defensive effort. "Bend but don't break" will eventually get you killed, if your offense can't put points on the board, but those guys put forth the best effort they could. Sadly, it's not even close to enough because their talent level just isn't up there.

:: JP Losman. Again, he wasn't a factor one way or the other. He didn't have a bad game, he didn't have a good game, I'm not sure that he even had a game. The guy has got to start making plays once in a while. Two games, and aside from a couple of nice runs, no plays made from QB. Right now he looks worse than he did last year, if only because he doesn't look any better. If this keeps up, we may be looking at some extended playing time for Trent Edwards before this year is out.


:: Defensive results. I praised their effort above, but a boss of mine used to say, "Don't confuse effort with results". They got pounded hard, giving up over 400 yards for the second straight week. Rare pressure on the opposing QB, and when they do get pressure, it rarely results in a sack. The middle of the field is always conceded to opposing receivers. Sure, they work hard, but the results are more than 400 yards and 26 points yielded.

:: Offensive results. Three points, which resulted from a drive that began in Steeler territory after a McGee kickoff return. Receivers don't get open. Losman can't find anyone, and seems more and more to lack the finesse needed to make those really difficult throws. No good tight end play. The offensive line still falling apart and never looking to really exert any kind of control over the line of scrimmage.

Next up: the Bills travel to New England, which will likely be able to take a week off from cheating in order to beat up on this team. Somehow Aaron Schobel will get his usual two or three sacks of Tom Brady, since he always seems to play well against Brady, but that will be that.

Wow, this is shaping up to be a bad year.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

000 302, originally uploaded by Cherie Priest.

Found this photo via Warren Ellis.

Also see this surprisingly elaborate prank some guy played on his friend. It's fairly mean-spirited, but I couldn't help but watch how this played out. Five hundred bucks for a prank? Wow, I wish I had five hundred bucks to blow on practical jokes.

One Hundred Movies!!! (81 through 90)

So it's time to continue my countdown of my 100 favorite movies, or the 100 movies that would be considered the greatest movies ever if I were the Grand Exalted Ruler of the Entire Freaking Universe, or whatever. This time, we count down from #90 to #81.

90. Henry V

The Kenneth Branagh version, actually; I've only seen a small part of the Lawrence Olivier version, so I can't do a direct comparison. Branagh's is wonderfully done; Derek Jacobi does terrific work as the Chorus, introducing the film from an empty soundstage, and when Branagh delivers the Bard's signature St. Crispin's Day speech, I'm ready to storm a field too. Patrick Doyle's score is a virtual classic of Shakespearean film music.

Signature moment: The afore-mentioned Crispin's Day speech. (Text and audio link here.)

89. In the Line of Fire

This taut thriller got overshadowed in 1993 when it came out -- that year's juggernaut hit was Jurassic Park, and the brilliant The Fugitive also stole some of Line of Fire's thunder. This one stars Clint Eastwood as an aging, near-to-retirement Secret Service agent who gets drawn into a game of cat-and-mouse with an assassin (John Malkovich) who is openly plotting the assassination of the President. It's an extremely well-made and entertaining film, with first-rate performances all around. (Fred Thompson plays the White House Chief of Staff.)

Signature moment: When Eastwood figures it all out.

88. Tron

I'm not sure how well this movie plays to people who didn't grow up at that exact moment of history, the early 80s when computers were first starting to become personal objects and when video games were all the rage. I watched it again a few years ago, and it still holds up for me. It's not a source of great acting or anything -- the "real world" sequences are fairly dull -- but the stuff "inside the computer" is just wondrous, as good an example of a movie creating a visual world as I've ever seen. Interesting electronic music by Wendy Carlos (with a strangely out-of-place song by Journey over the end credits).

Signature moment: Is there any other choice possible? The light-cycles, obviously!

87. American Graffiti

I was completely baffled by this movie when I first saw it. I was seven or eight years old, and the film was in re-release. My parents took me to see it -- they wanted to go, and I ended up along for the ride. My problem was that the film's opening titles are done in the same font as those for the TV series "Happy Days", and Ron Howard was in it too, so on some level I thought I was watching some kind of big-screen episode of the TV show, rather than a movie that preceded that show by several years. Anyway, I watched it again when I was in college and found it funny, bittersweet, and full of charm and wit as well as love for that era of automotive and rock-and-roll history. I recently read somewhere -- I think it was a blog, but I'm not sure -- that American Graffiti came out in 1973 and made people feel nostalgic for a time just eleven years in the past; can you imagine a movie coming out right now that would make you nostalgic for 1996?

Signature moment: Paul Le Mat's soliloquy in the junk yard.

86. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

This always feels to me like three-quarters of a great movie. Disney had a real chance to do a tragic and dark ending here, but the farthest they could stretch themselves in that direction was to not give the hero the girl. Still, it's a nicely ambitious film, with lots of large-scale numbers.

Signature moment: The introductory number, "The Bells of Notre Dame".

85. Beauty and the Beast

This is definitely the finest of the "Silver Age" of Disney animation (i.e., the era that started with The Little Mermaid). Its story is perfectly paced, the animation is beautiful, and the musical numbers are the finest to come from the legendary team of Menken&Ashman. It's just an outstanding film, one on which I'm hard-pressed to identify any blatant flaws.

Signature moment: "Be Our Guest" is the more famous number, but the introductory "Belle" is my favorite as it weaves together a whole bunch of separate goings-on from the town into a wonderful bit of scene-setting.

84. An Affair to Remember

Sure, it's totally sentimental, but this film sports a nearly perfect first hour, followed by a bit of losing the way, and then ends with a scene that always makes me blubber like a little girl. Seriously, when Cary Grant suddenly puts two and two together and realizes just why Deborah Kerr wasn't there for their Empire State Building rendezvous, I always start to lose it -- and then he opens the bedroom door and finds the painting. Sigh. The film sags a bit in the second half, what with a horrible musical number involving some kids and some very unconvincing stuff with Cary Grant as a starving artist.

Signature moment: I think I just described it....

83. Die Hard

What a blast of a movie. What a total, absolute blast. And I've just realized that I haven't watched it in several years. Why not? Because I'm lazy. What makes it so great isn't just the production values and the editing -- although all that is sublime -- but the fact that it makes the hero and villain pretty much of equal intelligence. John McClane doesn't just bowl his way through all the bad guys; he actually has to figure stuff out and take huge risks, and in reacting to McClane's activities, Hans Gruber also has to figure stuff out and take huge risks of his own.

Signature moment: Hell, there are so many from this film, aren't there? For me, the most blood-pumping sequence is when the two helicopters are arriving on the roof.

82. The Music Man

And no, not just because I went to college in Iowa! I loved this movie well before I ever even thought of going to Iowa. So there. The Music Man never seems to get enough love when the subject of the great musicals comes up, and I can never figure out why. It's really extremely good, full of wit and hilarity and some absolutely beautiful songs.

Signature moment: My favorite musical number here is "Ya Got Trouble", when Prof. Harold Hill launches his own personal brand of flim-flam in River City.

81. Brigadoon

It's not long enough, jettisoning too many numbers from the Broadway show (two of them because of risque lyrics). Its focus is more on operatics than on typical Hollywood musical production numbers, befitting Gene Kelly's more ballet-influenced style of dancing than Fred Astaire soft-shoe. But I adore its tale of the cursed town that only awakes for one day each century, and the love story that unfolds there.

Signature moment: "The Heather on the Hill".

And there we go for now. Look for another installment whenever I get around to writing one!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Domestic Scene in Three Parts

Part One: The Other Day.

I'm sitting at my desk, going through some stuff. The Daughter is playing on the computer. I've just picked up a shopping bag.

THE DAUGHTER: Where's that bag from?

ME: Barnes&Noble.

THE DAUGHTER: Ooooooh. I hate their commercials.

She resumes playing her game. I mull over what she's just said.

ME: Huh?!

Part Two: Last night.

We're driving past McKinley Mall.

ME: Interesting...I'll bet that big area of construction there next to JC Penney is where the new Barnes&Noble is going in.

THE DAUGHTER: Ooooooh. I hate Barnes&Noble! I hate their commercials!

ME: Huh?! What commercials? I've never seen a Barnes&Noble commercial in my life!

THE DAUGHTER: Yeah, they have that creepy bald guy.

ME: Uhhhh...OK.

Part Three: Our bedroom this morning.

The Wife and I are talking about lots of stuff.

ME: And what was up with her rant about Barnes and Noble's commercials? Have you ever seen a Barnes&Noble commercial?

THE WIFE: Nope. Can't say that I have.

ME: And it wasn't just that -- she described the commercial! She said it had a creepy bald guy!

THE WIFE: Bald guy? Ooooooh!


THE WIFE: (triumphantly) Cellino and Barnes!


ME: Oh, wow....


Messrs. Tosy and Cosh hold forth on a list of 100 Best TV shows, so I'll do a similar thing -- but instead of color-coding shows I like, I'll just bold shows about which I have an opinion, one way or the other. Unaltered titles are shows I'm not familiar with. Occasional commentary, of course.

And now, the list!


60 Minutes (I don't much watch this anymore at all, but it was a staple in our home as a kid.)

The Abbott and Costello Show (I've always liked what I've seen of Abbott and Costello, but their show was before my time.)

ABC's Wide World of Sports (I miss this! I remember once watching with keen interest a log-rolling competition on WWoS.)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents

All in the Family (Brilliant show, obviously. I didn't get the social comment aspects at the time, since I was a kid.)

An American Family

American Idol (I'm totally hooked, even if I thought Melinda was robbed.)

Arrested Development

Battlestar Galactica (Wait a minute -- which one? The new one, or the original? I liked the original, but I've only seen the pilot of the new one. I was favorably impressed by that, I admit. I also watched several episodes of the original a couple of years back on DVD, and I was surprised that I didn't find the show to be the campy crap most people believe it to be.)

The Beavis and Butt-Head Show (I loved this! It was clever and funny, not just juvenilia. There's an episode where the guys participate in the school fundraising candy sale, and instead of selling all of their candy bars to other people for two bucks apiece, they just keep selling their candy bars back and forth to each other, just exchanging the same two bucks over and over again. That was hilarious. Plus, the commentary on music videos which in its way presaged MST3K. And you know what? After a very late night closing a Pizza Hut, there's nothing better than Beavis and Butthead at two in the morning.)

The Bob Newhart Show (Hi Bob!)

Brideshead Revisited
Buffalo Bill

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (A special case. I always figured I'd like it, and I watched a couple of episodes during its run and was always impressed. But its timeslot didn't work for me, and I never felt driven to invest myself in getting up to speed on the show's backstory.)

The Carol Burnett Show (You know, I miss the old sketch and variety shows!)

The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite

A Charlie Brown Christmas (We will watch this yearly until we die, and probably after that, even.)

Cheers (What can I say? Just an amazing show, with a greater track record for consistent laughs than just about any American show ever produced, in my opinion.)

The Cosby Show

The Daily Show (But not until Jon Stewart took over. I never cared for Craig Kilborne.)

Dallas (Loved it, and I'm not afraid to admit it! I know they're doing a movie version of it, with John Travolta as JR, and I'm ambivalent about that; I wonder if they're doing something like the Brady Bunch movies where it's more spoof than anything else. Personally, I think a fairly compelling movie could be made out of the Dallas backstory, where John Ross Ewing and Digger Barnes meet, wildcat for oil together, and fall for Miss Ellie. CBS did a TV movie of this, years ago, but I think it would make a neat story for a feature film.)

The Day After
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Ed Sullivan Show
The Ernie Kovacs Show

Felicity (Meh. My general antipathy toward JJ Abrams starts here. Never got the fuss. Keri Russell is really cute, though.)

Freaks and Geeks (I saw one episode of this. And I loved that episode. So why have I never come round to watching the rest of it? Because I'm lazy and slothful, that's why.)

The French Chef

Friends (One of my most beloved of shows, even if now I re-watch the first season and notice some of the creaks and growing pains and generic sit-com stuff. I didn't dislike the last season, but the show did noticeably run low on steam, and probably should have ended a season earlier than it did. But I loved it just the same, and I almost think that in its whole "representative show of Generation X" persona or whatever, it's almost become underrated as just a good comedy show. There were some inspiringly funny things that happened in its episodes, and many of them were ingeniously character-driven moments. For my money, the greatest punchline to a sitcom episode ever comes in the episode where Ross finally learns of Chandler and Monica's relationship.)

General Hospital (Huge fan when I was a kid! How fun it was, watching Robert Skorpio and friends struggle to thwart the plans of the evil DVX! And I still remember how mad I'd get when they'd do their once-a-week episode that caught up all of the other storylines, the boring ones about which doctor is in love with which nurse or the latest fight between Alan and Monica Quartermaine or the current doings of the people living in "the Brownstone". I never thought Laura was all that beautiful, though; Finola Hughes as Anna Devane was more my speed.)

The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show

Gilmore Girls (I should watch some of this sometime -- I've heard lots of good things about it.)

Hill Street Blues
Homicide: Life on the Street

The Honeymooners (One of the NYC TV stations we received when we finally got cable -- either WOR or WPIX -- used to run this, late at night. And it was always hysterical.)

I, Claudius

I Love Lucy (I was never that big a fan, for some reason. I've seen lots of re-runs, and while I don't dislike it, I've never quite understood all the fuss.)

King of the Hill (I haven't seen this in a long time, but it was a favorite for a while. I still cannot drive by a place that sells propane and not think things like "I sell propane and propane accessories" and "Lady propane is a clean-burning fuel, I tell you what!")

The Larry Sanders Show

Late Night with David Letterman (NBC) (Why not the CBS years, as well? He's done inspired stuff on both incarnations. I love Dave!)

Leave It to Beaver

Lost (Awesome production values. Extremely well-made show, with more craftsmanship than you'll find on lots of feature movies. Sadly, though, a story and characters that completely leave me cold. My antipathy toward JJ Abrams continues.)

Married... With Children
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
The Mary Tyler Moore Show

M*A*S*H (Either side-splittingly funny, or self-important windbaggery. Still, the series's last half hour never fails to move me, when I see it.)

The Monkees

Monty Python's Flying Circus (I could spend an entire series of posts waxing poetic about my love-affair with Monty Python. Maybe I will someday. Suffice it to say, "wink wink nudge nudge know-what-I-mean!")

Moonlighting (Mildly amusing show that I found wildly overrated. I actually put off seeing Die Hard because I generally hated Bruce Willis's character on this show.)

MTV 1981-1992 (If only I'd channeled those hours into something useful!)

My So-Called Life (Ahhh yes, and it's being re-issued on DVD this fall. Gotta pick it up. It's brilliant. I watched every episode in its initial run.)

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Who doesn't love this?)

The Odd Couple (I used to watch it in re-runs when I was a kid, and I thought it very funny. I haven't seen it in years, though.)

The Office [American] (Often brilliant, but there are times -- more frequently last season -- where my credulity is strained such that I can't see how Michael could possibly keep his job doing some of the things he does, no matter how good his sales record is.)

The Office [British]
The Oprah Winfrey Show
Pee Wee's Playhouse
Playhouse 90

The Price Is Right (Sure!)

Prime Suspect
The Prisoner

The Real World (I only watched the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London incarnations, and I enjoyed each. The London season annoyed me a bit, because of that lazy kid from Portland who spent three months living in London and basically never left the flat.)

Rocky and His Friends

Roseanne (Hated it. Unfunny, loud, boorish. Ugh.)

Sanford and Son (I used to watch this in re-runs with my father. Good times, those!)

Saturday Night Live (It comes and goes, doesn't it? BTW, the guy they have who does George W. Bush right now is awful.)

Second City Television
See It Now

Seinfeld (The first couple of seasons are tough to watch now, but everything else after is gold, Jerry! Gold! Even the much-derided Season Nine.)

Sesame Street (Yup. Nothing else to say, really. Although nowadays...Elmo makes me want to hit the bottle.)

Sex and the City
The Shield

The Simpsons (I think this may be the reason television was invented in the first place. And animation.)

The Singing Detective
Six Feet Under

The Sopranos (I have no interest in this show.)

South Park (I haven't seen it in seven or eight years, but I often found it quite funny back then.)

SpongeBob SquarePants (This makes me laugh a bit...but I'm never quite sure why. I suspect this show is designed to be watched while drunk.)

SportsCenter (I was watching the day Charlie Steiner lost it after they played the clip of someone singing the "Star Spangled Banner" very badly. That's it, really.)

Star Trek (See the "Star Trek Redux" posts, linked in the sidebar.)

St. Elsewhere

The Super Bowl (and the Ads) (I watch it for the games, and use the commercials for blogging, grabbing food, going to the bathroom, etc. Usually the next morning I haven't even seen all of the ads.)

Survivor (I don't like it much, although we did watch two seasons because for a time The Daughter liked the games they'd do on the beach. But the constant footage of people whispering to one another about who they're voting off gets boring very quickly, and I find that it's hard to root "for" these people, because it seems that the kinds of personality traits that enable one to win Survivor are traits that would make one a complete jerk in real life. Really, who on Earth would want to spend quality time with Richard Hatch?)

Taxi (I remember liking it a lot. I don't remember much of why. It's been a very long time since I saw it at all.)

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (Johnny Carson was always class.)

The Twilight Zone
Twin Peaks

The West Wing (First two-and-a-half seasons were amazing; Aaron Sorkin started to peter out a bit for a while. The election episodes in Season Four were pretty dull. The fifth season, the first without Sorkin, was a mixed bag, with some very good stuff scattered into some very boring stuff. But the sixth and seventh seasons were excellent again, I thought.)

What's My Line?

WKRP in Cincinnati (I loved this show. Another favorite from re-runs as a kid.)

The Wire

The X-Files (I've discussed it before in this space. I hung in there a lot longer than most fans, but it did go on two years longer than it should have.)

Your Show of Shows

---end of list---

OK, that's all the shows on the list. There are some, of course, that seem to be missing, as is always the case with lists like this. ER should be there, I think; its quick-fire storytelling was quite the thunderbolt when it first arrived in 1994, and no matter how bad it has become in the last few years, it was very good for most of its run before that, and often brilliant. (And it's the only show I can think of to have not one, but two, "jump the shark" moments. That's pretty notable.) I'm always bummed out that Barney Miller doesn't get enough love, and ditto NYPDBlue. Recognizing the Super Bowl is well and good, but in terms of remaking the TV landscape, it seems to me that Monday Night Football is more significant.

Anyway, there it is. I watch too much teevee.

But I wanted to be...a LUMBERJACK!

Stolen from Jason, I followed these instructions:

1. Go to

2. Put in Username: nycareers, Password: landmark.

3. Take their "Career Matchmaker" questions.

4. Post the top ten results.

OK, so here are my top ten results:

1. Technical Writer

2. Anthropologist

3. Writer

4. Market Research Analyst

5. Critic

6. Print Journalist

7. Translator

8. Communications Specialist

9. Political Aide

10. Activist

Most of these come as no surprise, I must admit -- look at all the writing careers! Yay! Not so sure about technical writing, given my lack of expertise in technical stuff, but there's a learning curve there, I suppose. Also "translator" -- I'm not sure how that came about, seeing as how there were no questions about languages (and my non-English speech is limited to what little high school French I remember). I also don't know how good a political aide I'd be, given the high level of frustration I often feel with politics as it's practiced in this country.

Being a print journalist would be cool -- I could put the "liberal" back in "liberal media"!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Unidentified Earth 17

And now we're back in the swing of things! Before we go on, though, the unofficial entries from the other day are the Fox Plaza in Los Angeles (which served in Die Hard as the Nakitomi building), and the West Wing of the White House (you can see the oval roof of the oval office).

That aside, time for the new entry. Here it is:

Where are we?

(Rot-13 your answers, please!)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Christmas in Blogistan? (part quatre)

I haven't mentioned this in a few days, but hey, Buffalo bloggers (all those who haven't already weighed in), pencil in December 8 for a Buffalo Blogger Christmas Con, or Buffalo Blogging Festivus, or whatever we want to call this gathering. My suggestion for a venue is this place. Yes, it's in the Southtowns (Aieee!), and you can't see the HSBC Building from their parking lot (thus guaranteeing that Mary Kunz Goldman* won't be in attendance), but it's quite easy to get to (I-90 to 219 South, 219 South to Milestrip East, Milestrip East to Southwestern Blvd/US20 East, two miles or so to BSG). I have no idea if we'd need to "book" the place in advance, but it looks like a pretty big place anyway, and as I mentioned in a previous posting, the Sabres have a late game that night (they'll be on a west coast trip, puck dropping at 10:00 or thereabouts our time).

Spread the word. Otherwise, it's just Jen and I looking awkwardly across the table at one another, and me saying stuff like, "So. Mark. How's that workin' out for ya?"

Previous posts on this subject here and here. Alan mentioned it, to the sound of chirping crickets; Paul mentioned it and got a couple of responses. Let's get the word out, people! That bar's 15 teevee's aren't gonna watch themselves!

* I kid! She's been producing some nice writing on classical music lately, such as this interview with Van Cliburn. Actually, she's always produced nice writing on classical music.

The Road goes on and on


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Complete Recordings will be released on November 6 of this year. It will include four CDs (the releases for the previous two films had three each) and a DVD containing the entire score in really good sound (I take their word for this).

At some point in the future, film music expert Doug Adams will have a book out on the subject of these films and their music. I can't wait for that, either.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Howard Shore's accomplishment on the LOTR films represents one of the towering masterworks of all film music.

Et tu, Belichick?

Friends, Romans, NFL fans, lend me your ears!
I come to bury the Patriots, not praise them.
The games that they win live after them;
the things they do to win those games are oft interred with their bones.
So let it be with the Patriots. The noble Belichick
hath told you that the Patriots are noble,
and Belichick is an honorable man....

Well. Well, well well. Well. Ahhhh...well.

This may be unseemly on my part, but...heck, I don't care. I've long made absolutely no secret how loathsome I find Bill Belichick and his whole merry band of cohorts in New England, and once again, they prove my point through arrogance and, now, unmasked misdeeds. I've always been flummoxed by the mystique surrounding Belichick (and Tom Brady), and now quite a lot of it is explained: it turns out that Belichick's greatness is at least in part a function of the fact that the guy's just a weasel.

It suddenly seems a lot less mysterious, doesn't it, how Belichick's managed to carve out his reputation as a guy who can somehow elevate the most marginal of players into terrific performers.

It suddenly seems a lot less mysterious how all of those players who thrive under Belichick fail to thrive when they go someplace else.

It suddenly seems a lot less mysterious how Belichick's former assistants go on to their own coaching jobs and end up not doing quite as well.

It suddenly seems a lot less mysterious how it is that the Patriots always struggle against the Bills in their first meeting of the season, and then blow them out in the second.

And it suddenly seems a lot less mysterious just how it is that New England always seems to just happen to have the exact right play drawn up in every situation.

I'll admit it: I'm happy this came out. I like that the hallowed New England mystique has taken a major hit. I like that people are now seeing that franchise more the way I've seen them for years (pretty much ever since that incredibly phony stunt of theirs at the outset of Super Bowl XXXVI, when they eschewed individual player introductions in favor of "being introduced as a team"). For a number of years now, questioning the Anointed status of Belichick, Brady, and the Patriots has been the NFL equivalent of walking into a Catholic church during Mass and denouncing the Pope with a bullhorn.

Well, it now seems clear to a lot more people that the halo on the New England organization is actually a brass hoop held up by a bit of coathanger.

What to do, then? I personally would like to see the Patriots stripped of their first and second round draft picks next year, as well as have the league invalidate any trades they might make to acquire new picks in those rounds. And then I'd require Belichick to wear a three-piece suit on the field during all game days. That ought to hurt 'em!

(OK, gloating's over. Back to the more reasoned tones you've all come to expect here!)

UPDATE: I love it. A taste:

Only Belichick’s lack of throwing furniture and his omnipresent monotone keeps his reputation from completely spilling over into Bob Knight territory. He’s a jerk, but not one you hear screaming a lot. Belichick might not completely disdain the comparison to Knight, a good friend of Belichick’s former boss, Parcells. Knight was never one to rush to apologize for his actions, and Belichick doesn’t openly, Nixon-style, declare “I am not a jerk,” instead issuing vague responses that sound like they were written by Alan Greenspan.

But one other thing about Knight. For all of his flaws, he was all about fair play. Belichick is about gaming the system as much as you can.

That's from this article by Bob Cook, reprinted at

I wonder how long this has been going on. This seems, frankly, worse to me than Barry Bonds's steroid use; this potentially could put an asterisk next to the results of three Super Bowls. Ouch.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"The City of Dead Works" (a repost)

I guess this is as close to a tradition on this blog as I have: I re-post this story every year on this date. I wrote it within months of the original event.

"The City of Dead Works"

There is never any rest for me, the Ferryman of the Dead.

I pole my barge across the black waters and up to the pier. So many wait this time, many more than usual. I wonder what has happened, what event has sent me this many. "Come aboard," I say. "I will take your coin for passage." One by one they file past me, each handing to me the coin that they never knew they had. It is the coin which determines where they shall be taken to rest, its metal shaped and determined by life. The coins of these dead are gold, every one of them purest gold. Six thousand come aboard my barge, and each has passage for the farthest and greatest of destinations. In that moment I know that something truly dark has happened; the gold coins are always forged in moments of darkness. I am the Ferryman. I can give them no answers to what lies behind their haunted, questioning eyes. I can only take them on this, the last of all journeys.

When they are all aboard I take up the pole and push away from the pier. The barge always feels the same, no matter how many stand upon its decks. Whether six or six thousand, it is all the same to me. I guide us out onto the River Styx. Some of the people look worried, but there is no need for fear. This river can do them no harm. They are already dead.

This is to be a long journey, I know – it always is, to this destination. As I guide the barge through the black waters, I look on the faces of those who have come to me. As different as these people all look, they all have the same expressions of shock, disbelief, and withering sadness. Here is a man of business, talking into a cell phone. He is trying to call someone, anyone, who will tell him that it’s all a dream, that it didn’t happen, that he didn’t die in a blast of fire, smoke, glass and steel. There is a mother who is explaining to her daughter that they won’t be going to Disneyland after all. And there, a group of firemen stand together, realizing that soon they will meet all their brothers-in-arms who have gone into the infernos before them. So many now – colleagues once in business and now colleagues in death, people who have never before met but now have the gravest thing in common. As the current takes hold, I look back at the pier. There are more gathering there. There are always more. They will wait. Time does not exist for the dead.

"Please," a young man says as he turns to me, "I have to go home to my daughters."

"You are going home now," I reply. "To the home where all eventually return." Two black rocks slide past on either side, the rocks that mark the passage of the circling Styx.

"This can’t be," a woman cries out. "My mother needs me."

"She will be with you soon enough."

"When?" Her voice pleads, and yet there is no solace that is mine to give.

"I cannot say," I reply. "The Ferryman has no hand in Fate."

The tears come then, tears from the six thousand that run over the gunwales and into the river which has been fed by tears for centuries. All tears are born in the River Styx.

"Where will you take us?" someone asks.

"To the place you are promised," I answer. I recall the words of a poet: Will there be beds for all who seek? Yea, beds for all who come.

One our left we approach the Hills of the Damned, an endless stretch of shattered lands which reach away into the blackness. The waters echo with the cries of all those who have been taken to the Hills for the agony they have brought on the living. I consider the bag of six thousand gold coins, and I realize that I will have to journey to the Hills this day. There will be a person, perhaps more, who will pay me with a coin of black tin; but not on this journey. As the hills recede behind us, the unending cries of the damned become fainter and fainter until they are drowned out by the lapping of the waters upon the sides of the boat and the marker stones that we pass. The six thousand fall silent, each realizing that it is not a dream. I would offer solace, but as ever I cannot. I am the Ferryman.

We come around a particularly dark bend, and before us lies a very wide expanse of water, as if the Styx has become an ocean – which in some sense it probably has. And beyond that expanse are the thousands of twinkling lights that I have come to know so well. One man, a fireman, sees them too. "What is that?" he asks.

"It is the City of Dead Works," I reply. The lights of the city glow on the horizon, and every one of the six thousand turns toward them as the Styx impels us onward. As we come ever closer to the city, the glittering lights reflect off the black water.

"I don’t understand," someone else says. "The City of Dead Works?"

"Aye," I reply. "Behold!"

From behind us, golden light: the Sun of the Dead is rising as it always does when the dead come near the City. Above us the firmament is turning purple, then blue; soon the light of the Sun will illuminate the City of Dead Works. As the sky lightens, the true scope of that city becomes plain: it stretches away into the land, farther than any eye could see. Not even the highest-soaring raven, cavorting in the breezes and zephyrs of the dead, could take it all in. It is bigger by far than any one city ever built by the hand of men, because it encompasses some part of all of them. Perhaps it is bigger than all of the cities ever built. Now the sun’s first rays come up behind us, and the first buildings can be seen down by the water.

"That one looks Egyptian," a woman says.

"The Great Library of Alexandria," I tell her. "Once the greatest repository of learning the world had ever seen, now only a memory to the living and a reality only to the dead."

A man points to a building high upon a rock. I nod.

"The Temple of Solomon," I say.

"There are ships in the harbor," says another. Thus for him I name the ships: Arizona, Indianapolis, Lusitania, Bismarck, Wilhelm Gustloff, Cap Arcona. And many, many others. I scan over the impossibly vast city and spot Dresden, as it was; and beside it the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And how many smaller villages, tucked into the hills beyond the City? None can say. The Sun of the Dead shines upon those hills now, and the great stone statues in the likeness of Siddhartha Gautama.

"I don’t understand," a young man says. "Why this City? Why here?"

I only shake my head as we continue to float by the City. I do not point out the fairly small, nondescript office building that sits near the water. It is not a particularly remarkable building; nor was it, really, until the fuse was lit. The six thousand almost don’t recognize it.


Not one word is uttered as we slide past the Alfred Murrah Federal Building. Then we turn away from the City of Dead Works, and head again down the waters of the Styx toward distant hills and the place where these people will join their brethren.

"Who lives in that city?" It is a priest in a fireman’s coat.

"No one lives there," I tell him. "The City of Dead Works is not for people. It is for the buildings and the ships. It is for the books and the music, the sculptures and the paintings which are gone forever. It is for everything destroyed by craven people in the name of foolish wars, for everything judged forfeit in the face of transitory desires."

The Styx takes us into the Golden Hills. Soon we will be there, and the six thousand will go where they belong. And then the Styx will complete its circle, taking me back to the pier where more dead await.

"We will be there soon," I say. "Soon we will be at the Elysian Fields, where all heroes go – for that is what you all are. It is what you have bought with your lives, with the shaping of your coins into gold." No one replies. We near the last bend now, and before us lie the Elysian Fields, where peace reigns and where heroes dwell; where all is light and voices are always raised in song. The Sun of the Dead shines warmly on Elysium.

But they do not see it. They, the six thousand, all gaze back behind us upon the City of Dead Works. It will soon be behind us forever as we round the last bend of the River Styx into Elysium. I know they all need one last look upon that City, and I do not grudge them that. For myself, I do not look back; the eyes of the Ferryman are ever forward. But I know. I know that the City of Dead Works is different now. I know that it has changed. I know that the people who come with me now to Elysium, the dead around me, look back on the two soaring towers of steel that now rise above the City where there had been no towers before.

I know these things.

I am the Ferryman of the Dead.


Monday, September 10, 2007

There but for the Grace

Kevin at BfloBlog has a rundown on the latest details on Bills tight end Kevin Everett, who suffered a very bad spinal injury in yesterday's game. I don't have much more to say than this...but what a horrible thing to happen.

The thing about the whole incident is that the hit that ended Everett's career and may have paralyzed him for life wasn't that big of a hit, by NFL standards. This wasn't one of those "Cringe when you see the replay" hits. And yet, Kevin Everett may never walk again. Hell, he may even die from this.

Sentential Links #110

After a couple of weeks without Sentential Links, the world looks darker...more evil...oh wait, that's just the NFL team from New England taking the field again. Oops!

Anyway, here are some new links for your clicking pleasure! (More political ones than usual, by the way. My inner liberal is kind of annoyed right now.)

:: And such is the war in Iraq as seen through neocon lenses. Mistakes are always in the past. The current policy is always working. When the mistakes are being made, those who point out the mistakes are tarred as near-treasonous. Then, after another year or two of pointless, futile bloodshed, it's conceded that mistakes were made in the past. But now we're right on track. And the liberals, once again, just don't get it. (I am so sick of "Victory is finally at hand!" talk, of "The Surge is working!", of all of it. This war sucks, it's not going to accomplish a damn thing other than the creation of lots of new terrorists, and it's time for it to end.)

:: The Petraeus-Crocker testimony is the kind of short-lived event on which the Administration has relied to shore up support for the war: the “Mission Accomplished” declaration, the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein, Saddam’s capture, the transfer of sovereignty, the three rounds of voting, the Plan for Victory, the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Every new milestone, however illusory, allows the Administration to avoid thinking ahead, to the years when the mistakes of Iraq will continue to haunt the U.S. (Not a blog post, actually, but a good article nonetheless. This war has been four years of violence leading to nothing at all, punctuated every so often by some kind of moment that the pro-war crowd can use as fodder for cheerleading the continuation of the war.)

:: Anyone who has looked at a medical bill with his name on it and compared the cost to what he pays for the other necessities of life might experience a memorable moment of terror, even if he is at the moment protected by the blessing of insurance. Health care coverage is, for a lot of us, contingent on employment, and in this groovy entrepreneural era we have learned to think of job security as a joke. Having carried post-employment COBRA payments myself, I know how the nervous feeling increases as one drifts further from the corporate zone of protection.

:: We look, after Moore’s propaganda film, like people who can’t quite let go of the other propaganda we’ve had sowed in our brains since birth: That the government can’t do anything right, and the market does everything better. Ask yourself if that’s true the next time you find your COBRA running out. (We saw numbers printed on pieces of paper during and after Little Quinn's life, numbers that bugger the imagination. We once thought that we should maybe bop out somewhere and buy a few extras of those plastic tubes through which we poured his every meal directly into his stomach -- until we discovered that they cost over one hundred dollars apiece. Navigating the morass of medical professionals who were necessary just for that kid's basic care was hard enough without placing those withering costs on our heads, or making us resort to some kind of shopping process, all in the name of "market competition", as though procuring medical care is or should be akin to purchasing a new refrigerator.)

:: Sitcoms are still getting numbers. TWO AND HALF MEN still beats HEROES and 24. THE OFFICE and 30 ROCK manage to hold their own even though they’re in the death slot against GREY’S ANATOMY and CSI.

:: After making this comic, I doubt I’ll ever be able to watch them again, but I will give Peter Jackson credit for doing a tough job for a demanding crowd. (And so ends DM of the Rings. Bummer. Shamus is on to a new comics project now, though, so check it out.)

:: Today, Route 60 is nearly transcontinental after all, traveling from Virginia to Arizona, and Route 62 goes from one border to the other, but Route 66 gets all the attention and the big travel bucks from road-tripping tourists ("big" is relative, of course). Because history is weird that way.

:: We all manage. We do well. We make memories. Life goes on. But each of us -- and most especially I -- look forward to the return of the "unrelenting" 24/7/365 nature of what we do and what we have here in the little house in the tiny woods on the prairie. (One day I hope to feel like this.)

:: I am the entertained owner of three Buckeye pullets (young hens who don't yet lay eggs). (There's a specific word for hens who haven't begun laying eggs? The things you learn!)

All for this week. Enjoy, mere mortals!

Broncos 15, Bills 14

Well, that sure sucked! Expecting one's team to go 5-11 doesn't make it any more fun when one of the eleven predicted losses turns out to have been as winnable as this game was. For what it's worth, I saw from the Bills today pretty much what I expected to see today: some promising stuff, and some other stuff that made me wish for December.

Anyway, here are my reactions to various stuff, categorized into three areas depending on how I feel about them.


:: Marshawn Lynch. This was the first time I saw this guy in action, since I didn't watch anything in the postseason. I didn't realize how large he was, and he looks like he's going to be a really good one as he gets better and more experienced. On his touchdown run, he literally pushed a Denver defender into the end zone in front of him.

:: Roscoe Parrish. Great kickoff return, obviously.

:: Paul Posluszny. I liked him a lot. Now, if someone else on the defense would make plays.


:: JP Losman. Look, I didn't think he looked bad in the game. Nothing he did seemed really cover-my-eyes awful, like he once did last year. But he didn't seem to step forward at all, did he? Losman's at a stage in his career when he should be able to make more plays than he did yesterday. He didn't step it up. I don't think Losman made any mistakes that cost the Bills the game, but he didn't take control, either. I don't think he took a step backward -- but I didn't see any evidence of a step forward. At this point I think he should be showing some of those "intangibles", now that his raw mechanics seem to be OK.

:: Bills defense. We knew it was going to be a bad defense, and it played like it. Sure, they only gave up 15 points, but it seemed like every time Denver needed to make a big conversion, they either made it or gained enough yardage to turn a long yardage situation into a short yardage situation on the very next down.

:: Offensive line. I was, on balance, favorably impressed by this unit. But we're talking, roughly, fifty-three percent impressed versus forty-seven percent shaking my head in dismay. I like to think the unit will get better as the year goes on and the chemistry develops. They weren't getting blown off the line by the Denver defenders, and a few times they actually seemed to exert some will over the Broncos. But they weren't consistent.


:: Injuries. Holy crap. Coy Wire, Ko Simpson, and Kevin Everett: all hurt today, with Everett's sounding potentially career-threatening. (Not like Everett's had much of a career, but still.) The Bills are already weak at all the positions at which guys got hurt today.

:: Tight ends. It was maddening to me that Jay Cutler always had this big, strong target roaming the middle of the field to grab his dump-off passes (Javon Walker -- not technically a TE, but still), and Losman didn't. Robert Royal? He provided a catch. So did Everett before he got hurt on a special teams play. Two catches. None of Losman's receivers could get open in the middle, and the Broncos did a great job in taking downfield away. Ugh.

:: Peerless Price. One catch. Drawing a lot of salary that could otherwise have gone to a better receiver or a tight end or a defensive lineman or someone who could make a contribution.

:: Dumb mistakes by players. Josh Scobey either missed or ignored a signaled fair catch, and leveled the Denver player who was going to catch a punt. The resulting penalty and re-kick resulted in a net change of nineteen yards of field position.

:: Playcalling. I really hope it comes out who was responsible for trying a deep pass play when there's 2:30 left in the game and you're holding a two-point lead. What a horrible, horrible idea that was; it's only defensible in that goofy NFL-speak way where "You're a genius if it works and a goat if it doesn't." But if that play had simply been a run up the middle for no gain, it would have run fifteen or twenty seconds off the clock that were left on the clock otherwise by the incompletion. If everything else had been exactly the same from that point, the Broncos' rally for the winning FG would have run out of time well short of FG range. As it played out from that point, the Bills didn't even have to convert the third down.

Worse, that call sends a horrible message, doesn't it? If that came from the coaching staff, it seems to indicate a total lack of confidence in the defense. Granted, the D had not played very well all day, but they'd kept Denver to a low score. Calling for the home-run at that point basically says, "There's no way our young guys on D can preserve the two-point win once the other guys get the ball back." It could have been, "OK, youngsters, win the game for us." Instead, it was "God, we need more points." Bad, bad, bad move.

Next up: the Bills visit the Pittsburg Stealers. They should be able to bounce back against...oh crap, it's the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ach, I have a bad feeling about this.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Some video goodness for this Sunday!

:: Star Wars? Singin' in the Rain? Two of my absolute favorite movies. What a mash-up!

Thanks, Shamus!

:: I recently remembered that goofy song "In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry, and I wondered if it had any kind of proto-video from back in the day. Sure enough, it does:

What a gloriously un-PC song this is, from its advice that you should "have a drink, have a drive" to its notion that if your date is rich you should "take her out for a meal", while if she's poor, you should "do what you feel".

:: This isn't actually "weird", but another fun exercise is the "then and now" thing with various singers or pop bands. Here's the Starland Vocal Band with "Afternoon Delight", back in the day:

And here they are again, more recently:

I always find something a bit endearing about one-hit wonder groups who reunite years later to perform that one hit again.

(I also seem to remember that I loved that song when it was the hit of the day, back when I was all of five or six years old. I wonder how much amusement my parents derived from this, since I never realized what the friggin' song was about until I got a copy of it on a 70s hits compilation CD sometime in the mid-90s. I played it the first time, actually listened to the lyrics for the first time in my life, and suddenly realized, "Hey, this song is about teh sex!")

:: In a non-video vein, Belladonna points out that if you have old 3.5 inch floppy discs sitting about, you can make stuff out of them, like your own starship Enterprise. Now that's useful! In a similar vein, some folks actually collect AOL cds.

:: Germany wants your dead.

:: I have seen my own future...specifically, my future clothesline....

:: It bums me out that currently, I can't find a video online of Marv Levy singing the fight song he wrote for the Bills in the mid-90s. "Go Bills, for we are here to cheer for you!"

Notes from the Southtowns

Some stuff going on in my neck of the Niagara Frontier, if anyone's interested:

:: They don't have a website yet, nor is their physical location even open yet, but there's a new children's bookstore coming to Orchard Park, called "B is for Books". The signage says that they're "coming this fall", so hopefully they'll be open soon. I'll report back when they are. There's also a sign that says they'll do birthday parties as well, so that might be a nice alternative to the Chuck E. Cheese kind of thing.

:: Have any of my readers taken advantage at all of these new "Meal Preparation Stores"? I only just heard of this concept last week, when I read this article in the Buffalo News*. The idea is to allow for "home cooked" meals, but not at home: these places apparently provide you with ingredients and cooking space based on a menu you've chosen, and then you get to use their facilities to prepare the meals and then take them home for use during the week or whatever. Interesting idea for people who are really busy but who don't want to rely on take-out constantly. I don't think I'd get much use out of a service like this, since we do tend to have time to cook, but anyway, apparently these places are springing up all over.

And the newest one's literally on my streetcorner, in what used to be a 7-11. It's called Dinner Dilemma, and they have a pretty informative website up already. If this kind of service appeals to you, and you live in the Southtowns, check it out. (Obviously, for those of my readers who live in places like Albany (NY), Tulsa (OK), Chandler (AZ), or other points 'round the globe, you might want to look into a Meal Preparation Store more convenient to your locale. But then, you already knew that, because my readers are smart folks. Which makes me wonder why I've just typed all this. I need coffee.)

:: Also right around the corner from me is a neighborhood where one house is home to someone who has a logo for on the driverside door of their SUV. Ever curious, I checked it out, and it turns out to be a site for a blossoming paintball business. I don't know the first thing about paintball (other than it looks like fun), but, well, there it is.

* Apparently the News has discontinued "First Sunday", the Buffalo-centric lifestyle magazine that always came with the paper on the first Sunday of each month. I know, they want to revamp lots of the ways they provide content over there, what with the Interweb and declining circulation and all, but I liked "First Sunday". Oh well.

A publishing-type question

For any readers who know stuff about the publishing biz: since the Goldman family now holds the rights to OJ Simpson's book If I Did It, does that mean that all royalties go to them as well?

If so, that might make buying the book a bit more palatable.

Save the Books!

Yesterday was my favorite quarterly event: the Book Sale at my local public library. I adore this sale! And as usual, my haul amounted to under ten bucks. Here is just the stuff I got for myself:

I'm not sure how much, if anything, of today's haul represents a find that I can hawk on eBay. I was able to sell two of the volumes I picked up at the last book sale for more than twice what I paid for that entire haul, which was nice. We'll see. Those O. Henry collections may go nicely, as may that TPB edition of Antartica (which turns out to be a British printing). I don't know if I'll sell that Tolkien volume; I already have both of those tales in another volume, but that paperback is in outstanding condition, save for the original owner's signature inside the front cover. We'll see.

What's always kind of bittersweet at these kinds of sales is reading the cover copy on the books themselves, with blurbs along the lines of "Another breathtaking classic from one of our very finest authors!" or "Certain to be read for many years to come!" These kinds of notices adorn books that no one much remembers at all today. How many stories have come and gone, almost completely vanishing, their only hopes at revival being on the shelves of a library sale where the paperbacks go at the rate of five for a buck? When I see so many volumes whose contents will almost certainly be gone forever in just a few more decades, I wonder how true it is that the cream rises to the top. Far more likely, it seems to me, that authors who rival the finest still read -- the Jane Austens, the Henry Jameses, the Eudora Weltys -- have come and gone without ever being realized. No, the cream doesn't always rise to the top. Sometimes it just gets washed away, right down the sluice drain.

OK, that got a little depressing, didn't it? Anyway, if you like to read, there's really no reason to not frequent your local library's book sale. They need the money, and the books need to be read.