Thursday, November 29, 2007

Unidentified Earth 25

I kind of figured that LC Scotty would get Unidentified Earth 24, but I didn't figure he'd beat it up and take its lunch money! His comment was gold, so I'll let him have the last word on that one:

Oh, I so efffing have this one!!!! It's Halona Cove, on the Eastern side of Oahu-made famous as the beach from From Here to Eternity. I can't believe I got one!!

Interesting tidbit: I went SCUBA diving there when I was stationed at Pearl Harbor. On our way back in, well after dusk (read well into shark feeding time) there was group of locals on the point at the south end of the cove. When we surfaced they started freaking out. When we heard what they were shouting, we beat a real hast retreat to the beach. Their cries? "Chum in de water, Brah!"


So there you have it.

And now, on to the new installment.

Where are we? Rot-13 your guesses, please!

I'm just a kid who's four, each day I grow some more!

In an odd moment during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, when the Dora the Explorer balloon floated by, The Daughter voiced her strenuous dislike of Dora. This took me by surprise, because time was – and not too long ago, either – when The Daughter liked Dora a great deal. But now? Not so much. She insists that Dora is for babies and she's not a baby, so no Dora for her anymore, thank you very much.

But she still likes watching Caillou, whose appeal is, I think, even more limited than Dora's.

For those who haven't seen Caillou, he's a four-year-old boy who lives with his parents and his toddler sister somewhere in pseudo-urban Canada, where he basically does all the normal stuff a four-year-old kid does. He plays with his toys, he gets upset when he's left home with a babysitter but ends up having fun, he pouts about doing chores until his Mommy finds a way to make it fun, he helps Daddy wash the car (which consists of sitting inside it pretending to drive while Daddy does the work). Now, I personally don't find Caillou all that objectionable, but I know that a lot of folks find him unbearably whiny, which I can certainly understand. I like that the show's not grounded in any kind of fantasy or magical make-believe at all (although no explanation is ever offered as to just why if is that Caillou is as bald as a stone whilst every other member of his family has a nice thick head of hair). It does get annoying that every problem this family ever has is so easily defused and that the parents always know exactly how to fix any conflict or say the right thing or whatever.

Anyway, last time I was in the room whilst Caillou was on TV, I thought it would be funny if everyone in the Caillou-verse aged except Caillou himself. Imagine Caillou as an eternal four-year-old, reacting to stuff!

Caillou, Daddy, and the Three-Day Bender!

Daddy walks in. His ever-present green sweater is ripped at the hem and has some spots of brown goo on it. Daddy's face is slightly green, his cheeks sport three days' growth of beard, and his eyes are bloodshot.

CAILLOU: Mommy, Daddy's home! Where have you been, Daddy? It's Friday and you haven't been home since Tuesday.

DADDY: Ooooooggg... (runs into bathroom)

CAILLOU: Daddy, you don't look so good.

MOMMY: Maybe you should leave Daddy alone, Caillou. Maybe tomorrow when he feels better you can help him look for a new job by cutting out some of the want-ads for him!

CAILLOU: Was Daddy fired, Mommy?

MOMMY: Sometimes bosses and employees don't agree on things, Caillou. And sometimes bosses are skinflint bastards who only care about the bottom line.

CAILLOU: Mommy, you told me not to call people 'bastards'.

MOMMY: Yes, I'm sorry, Caillou. Hey! Can you come downstairs and help me bake some cookies?


Caillou runs downstairs. Meanwhile, the sounds of retching come from the bathroom.

Caillou, Rosie, and Sneaking Out At Night!

Caillou knocks softly on Rosie's door. Rosie, now a teenager, is putting the finishing touches on her Goth outfit, dabbing black lipstick on her lips and getting the chain around her neck just the right tightness.

CAILLOU: Rosie? I can't sleep!

ROSIE: Go talk to Mom, Caillou. I'm busy.

CAILLOU: I knocked on their door, but Mommy's moaning a lot and Daddy threw a shoe at the door.

ROSIE: Well, maybe you should leave them alone, Caillou. Adults like to be alone sometimes.

CAILLOU: Not Mommy! She loves me. We're going to bake cookies later!

ROSIE: Yeah...well, why don't you go down to the kitchen and start getting the stuff for cookies ready? That way it'll all be out when Mommy gets up to get a glass of water in about fifteen minutes.

CAILLOU: Okay Rosie! Are you sure it will be fifteen minutes?

ROSIE: That's usually how long it takes them.


Caillou runs out, singing something about cookie baking with Mommy. Rosie shakes her head, puts own her black leather jacket, opens her window, and jumps over to the oak tree that's her usual means of nocturnal escape.

Caillou Looks For Gilbert the Cat!

Mommy and Daddy are in the kitchen. Mommy is doing dishes, while Daddy reads the paper, smokes a cigarette, and drinks coffee. Caillou can be heard offscreen, calling the cat.

CAILLOU: Gilbert! Gilbert! Come out wherever you are!

Caillou comes into the kitchen. Daddy quickly stubs out his cigarette and stuffs the butt into his pocket.

DADDY: Uh, hi there, Caillou!

CAILLOU: Hi Daddy. Wow, it always smells smoky in the morning in here.

MOMMY: That's the garbage disposal, Caillou! The motor is breaking. I keep telling Daddy to get a new one.

DADDY: Yeah, but I just like that smell so much!

CAILLOU: I can't find Gilbert anywhere!

DADDY: Really? He was just here. I think he went that way! (points to living room)

CAILLOU: Here I come, Gilbert!

Certain that he's on the trail for sure this time, Caillou goes running out of the room.

CAILLOU: Come out wherever you are, Gilbert!

MOMMY: You know, most families tell their kids some lie about the cat going to live on a farm or a petting zoo.

DADDY: (pulls out his cigarette butt) Just shut up and get me another match, will you?

Caillou's Uncle Timmie and the Magic Brownies!

The living room in Caillou's house. Lots of people are around. Everyone's wearing black, except for Caillou, who's in that eternal yellow shirt of his. Everyone's crying too, except Caillou.

CAILLOU: I didn't know they made boxes big enough for people, Grandma!

Grandma pretty much ignores Caillou completely.

CAILLOU: Will you need help pushing Grandpa's box upstairs, Grandma? He's pretty fat, you know.

Some guy we've never seen before, a long-haired guy who has paired a black suit with a tie-dyed necktie, appears beside Caillou and steers him away from Grandma.

UNCLE TIMMIE: Hey, little dude! Why don'tcha come outside with me, eh?

CAILLOU: Okay, Uncle Timmie!

Caillou follows Timmie to the kitchen, where they find Mommy and Daddy, who are standing over by the fridge in very close proximity to one another.

MOMMY: My, darling! You haven't been like this in six days!

DADDY: You should wear black more often, dear! It makes your chest look so--

TIMMIE: (loudly) Oh, well, we'd better go outside, Caillou!

MOMMY: Oh Caillou! Yeah. Go outside. We'll be out ourselves in a while. First we have some stuff to do upstairs.


MOMMY: Hee hee hee....

Caillou follows Timmie outside.

DADDY: Should Caillou spend so much time with Timmie?

MOMMY: Forget Caillou for once! I'm so sick of baking cookies with that kid!

Outside, Timmie sits down on the stoop with Caillou.

TIMMIE: Say, none of the people in there are cops, are they?

CAILLOU: No. Why, Uncle Timmie?

TIMMIE: Oh, nothing. Here, hold Uncle Timmie's flask for a few minutes. (hands Caillou his whiskey flask) Oh, and hold this too.

CAILLOU: (takes a ziploc bag from Timmie) This looks like what Mommy puts in the lasagna.

TIMMIE: Ha! Well, this stuff wouldn't taste too good in lasagna, Caillou! But it sure makes for some great brownies!

CAILLOU: Brownies? I love brownies!

TIMMIE: Me too, kid!

CAILLOU: Did you bake brownies with this stuff with Grandpa?

TIMMIE: (laughing) One time, yeah. He kicked me out of the house after that.

CAILLOU: He did?

TIMMIT: Uh-huh. Say, why don't you show Uncle Timmie where Mommy keeps her baking supplies? I'll let you lick the beaters when I'm done mixing the batter!

CAILLOU: Yayyyy!

(I know, I know...the subject of this post is sure to come up when I'm sitting down for my one-on-one Life Performance Review with Saint Peter.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Two years ago

Little Quinn's Grave II, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

It was two years ago today. Part of me feels as though it was twenty years ago...another part feels like it was two hours ago.

From The Two Towers:

Through Rohan over fen and field where the long grass grows,
The West Wind comes walking, and about the walls it goes.
'What news from the West, O wandering wind, do you bring to me tonight?
Have you seen Boromir the Tall by moon or by starlight?'
'I saw him ride over seven streams, over waters wide and grey;
I saw him walk in empty lands, until he passed away
Into the shadows of the North. I saw him then no more.
The North Wind may have heard the horn of the son of Denethor.'
'O Boromir! From the high walls westward I looked afar,
But you came not from the empty lands where no men are.'

From the mouths of the Sea the South Wind flies, from the sandhills and the stones;
The wailing of the gulls it bears, and at the gate it moans.
'What news from the South, O sighing wind, do you bring to me at eve?
Where now is Boromir the Fair? He tarries and I grieve.'
'Ask not of me where he doth dwell - so many bones there lie
On the white shores and the dark shores under the stormy sky;
So many have passed down Anduin to find the flowing Sea.
Ask of the North Wind news of them the North Wind sends to me!'
'O Boromir! Beyond the gate the seaward road runs south,
But you came not with the wailing gulls from the grey sea's mouth.'

From the Gate of Kings the North Wind rides, and past the roaring falls;
And clear and cold about the tower its loud horn calls.
'What news from the North, O mighty wind, do you bring to me today?
What news of Boromir the Bold? For he is long away.'
'Beneath Amon Hen I heard his cry. There many foes he fought.
His cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought.
His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest;
And Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, bore him upon its breast.'
'O Boromir! The Tower of Guard shall ever northward gaze
To Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, until the end of days.

Be well, Little Quinn, wherever you are.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A random photo

Flower Festival, originally uploaded by Beto e Rosalia.

I just spotted this photo by chance on Flickr, and it caught my eye. Do I need a better reason than that? I think not!

Still going to Middle Earth

I've been listening, off and on, to my recently-acquired The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: The Complete Recordings set. Interestingly enough, this still isn't the end of the major descent into the world of LotR music: Doug Adams, the guy who wrote the liner notes for the Complete Recordings releases, is working on a book about the music for release sometime in late 2008, and this book is supposed to include yet another CD of "rarities", meaning, out-takes and un-used musical concepts and demos and all that sort of thing, in order to highlight the compositional process of Howard Shore. And he's started a blog on the topic of that book. Check it out!

Yub yub!

Over at SFSignal they're discussing just when Star Wars jumped the shark. Of course, I'm of the opinion that it hasn't, but I seem to be in a minority on that. Fine by me.

But it's the opinion of the poster linked above that it was the Ewoks that did it. Again, fine by me; I don't hate the Ewoks, but most people do. (I like them and think they just weren't savage enough. Too comedic.) However, I wonder about this, which is become something of a shibboleth in Star Wars crit:

That's right, the moment Lucas decided to put merchandising above storytelling, the shark was well and truly jumped. Not only did we get cute, cuddly Ewok toys and the execrable Ewok adventure movie, we were also cheated out of seeing the Wookies kick some Empire butt during the fight to eliminate the shield generator.

Because Lucas saw $$$, the Wookies were relegated to a bit-part in Episode III, and the Ewoks took their glory, and we got the shaft. Episode VI could have been so much better without Ewoks, too bad Lucas was eying the killer fish in the water in front of him.

My question is simply this: is there any evidence at all for the belief that Lucas was going to have the Wookiees in Return of the Jedi until he got the idea of marketing Ewok teddy bears? Where on Earth did this come from, anyway? Everything I've read on the subject indicates that Lucas decided on Ewoks because he wanted a non-technological race to play a role in defeating the Empire in the final battle, and he'd already depicted the Wookiees as being quite technologically proficient. That makes sense from a story standpoint, so why do people believe that Lucas just made whatever he thought would sell the most toys? I genuinely don't understand this.

After all, it's not like he couldn't have simply made Wookiee toys in the same vein as the Ewok ones. There could have been Wookiee plush toys and Wookiee tree village playsets. Those two Ewok TV-movies? Sure, he could have made a Wookiee TV movie. In fact, he'd already done so, and maybe that was part of the problem, since when RotJ was on its way to theaters, that Holiday Special was a lot fresher on the brain for Star Wars fans.

Unless someone can point to an interview in which George Lucas specifically states something along the lines of "I thought Ewoks would sell better for Kenner", I see no reason to take this line of thought. It seems awfully cynical to me.

But for the Grace....

Imagine turning on the news and seeing photos of your former residence, burning to the ground. Wow.

(Note to self: Buy her new CD!)

Jaguars 36, Bills 14

Well, at least we finally got some definitive answers about one of the Bills' quarterbacks in this game!


:: Yeah, I got nothin'.


:: The offensive line. I know, I harp on this all the time, but it's still an issue, isn't it? They do OK in pass protection, but the run blocking is terrible. They still don't overpower guys off the line of scrimmage, so Bills running backs are either doing too much east-west running or having to push their way through crowds at the line for any positive gain. The line's gone from jaw-droppingly-bad a couple of years ago to "Meh", which I guess is an improvement, but Melvin Fowler's just an awful center. I wonder if in spending so much energy wondering who the next Jim Kelly's going to be, we've lost sight of the fact that this team won't be a great team until we find the next Kent Hull.

:: Josh Reed whiffing on a pass toward the end of the game. At this point, the outcome was pretty much set, and the pass was way too high, but Reed should have gone up for it. It did, however, look to me that Reed may have had the sun in his eyes when he turned for the ball and whiffed on it because he just couldn't see where the heck it was.


:: It's over, folks. JP Losman's era in Buffalo is done. He had his chance this year, and frankly, he blew it. I find this a bummer because I like the guy, but his inability to hit receivers on the numbers no matter how open they are, coupled with his inability to hit receivers in stride (every catch of a Losman pass seems to come when the receiver has come to a dead stop) and his generally bad decision process means that he's just not going to get it done. It's time for Trent Edwards.

:: Defensive line. They play hard, but without a large body in the middle to clog lanes and occupy multiple blockers, the smaller guys on the ends just get lost. Aaron Schobel has just 2.5 sacks so far this year. Ugh.

Like last year, this year has become about letting talented youngsters emerge and finding out about Losman. Maybe next year can actually be about getting good again. I think it can happen, but they have to get better at the line of scrimmage. Please oh please.

(Oh, and a giant raspberry to the Philadelphia Eagles, who toyed with my emotions last night in nearly knocking off the New England Baby Seal Clubbers, but instead allowing the Evil Ones to escape with the win. Ugh!)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Heading behind the dark side of the moon....


Hey folks! I hope you're all having a fine weekend. And for those of you who were out early shopping yesterday morning, What on Earth is wrong with you??!!

Anyhow, this blog will be on kinda-sorta-hiatus for an undetermined time, due to an annoying change in circumstances -- specifically, our DSL connection has decided to go on something of a vacation. Thus we have no Interweb at Casa Jaquandor. Oh noes!

Of course, I will be doing everything humanly within my power to fix this problem, because not having Interweb is like not having...oh I don't know, coffee? Milk? Toilet paper? But obviously, until the Interweb is restored at Casa Jaquandor, posting here will be pretty much nonexistent.

I will be writing posts and saving them to disk and flash-drive so that when I am back online, content will flow again. I will be able to check my e-mail during my breaks while I am at The Store, so I won't be completely incognito. There are, however, a number of folks out there to whom I owe longer responses on some e-mails and comments left on old posts here; I hope you folks (who likely know who you are!) won't mind waiting for those responses.

Meantime, be excellent to one another! We'll be back as soon as we can.

UPDATE 11-25-07: Well, the problem appears to be fixed for now. I say "for now" because I'm not totally sure it's fixed, but after I last night put some recommendations I got from an Earthlink rep into place, our connection has been a lot more solid, only going off for a couple of minutes at a time, here and there, and it hasn't gone out at all in several hours as of this writing. Here's hoping.

(For the tech-heads out there, I'd feared that our DSL modem had conked out, and thus we'd be offline until I could get a new one. However, the Earthlink guy suggested removing the DSL filter between the modem and the wall-jack and just plugging the modem into the phone jack directly, and that seems to be working just fine. So instead of having both the phone and the DSL connection plugged into the same jack and using a filter to split the signal -- and leaving our other phone jack unoccupied -- I have the phone plugged into one, using a filter, and the DSL directly into another. I've also moved the modem the recommended distance from anything else that's electrical, although I never took that action in the first place, so I'm not sure if that has anything to do with it, but hey, why not.)

As for the blog, I'll remain quiet until tomorrow afternoon. The Burst of Weirdness will return next week. I'll also skip a week on Sentential Links, so that won't be running tomorrow afternoon either. Unidentified Earth will return to its Thursday schedule. And so on. (All this is, of course, contingent on our Interweb working right from here on out.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Answer me these questions three eight!

Another quiz-thing from Erin, who didn't specifically tag me but rather tossed out an open invitation. It's "Eight Things" of various sorts. I'm also adding a new category, at the very end. Here we go!

8 things I am passionate about:

1. Pizza in all its forms
2. Good writing
3. Science Fiction
4. Fantasy
5. Liberal politics
6. Workwear
7. The proper use of the English language
8. Ice Cream

8 things I want to do before I die

1. Watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended editions) back-to-back-to-back.
2. Watch the Buffalo Bills win the Super Bowl. The Buffalo Bills. Not the Toronto Bills, the San Antonio Bills, or any other Bills.
3. Write something that gets read widely.
4. Travel to Great Britain and see various locales related to the Arthurian legends.
5. Go to New Zealand and walk the Milford Track.
6. See the populations of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and other Upstate New York locales start to go up again.
7. Meet more of my favorite blog-friends in person.
8. Thank George Lucas in person.

8 things I say often

1. "For the LOVE of GOD!"
2. "Yeah, that's a good idea."
3. "Oh, my, my, my my my. What a mess."
4. "Oh noes!"
5. "Yeah. I'll get right on that."
6. "Lester, DOWN!" (often repeated several times, while Lester mulls over whether I'm addressing him or some other cat named Lester.)
7. "So do you have homework tonight?"
8. "Ahhh, f***." (I admit it. This tends to be my first utterance upon hearing the alarm clock in the morning.)

8 books I’ve read recently (Some of these I've blogged about here, but I'm not going to dig through archives for links to posts just now.)

1. The Griffin and Sabine trilogy, Nick Bantock
2. The Morningstar trilogy, also Nick Bantock
3. A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs
4. The Rest is Noise, Alex Ross (still reading it)
5. Fray, Joss Whedon
6. Kingdom Come, Alex Ross (the other Alex Ross)
7. The Nasty Bits, Anthony Bourdain
8. The Bible (Genesis and Exodus thus far. An ongoing project.)

8 songs I could listen to over and over

1."Fernando", Abba (Seriously. I love this song. There was something in the air that night, the stars were bright, Fernando!)
2."On the Street Where You Live", Lerner and Loewe, from Brigadoon My Fair Lady. (How on Earth did I type Brigadoon? Yeesh! But for a Brigadoon song, there's always "There But For You Go I".)
3."I'm All Right", Jo Dee Messina. I'm not a big country fan, but this song just sticks in my head in a big way.
4."People Get Ready", Curtis Mayfield. (I especially love the Rod Stewart-Jeff Beck cover from the 80s.)
5."Into the West", Howard Shore, from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Sung by Annie Lennox.
6."Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", the Platters.
7."I Dreamed a Dream", from Les Miserables.
8."Scythe Song", Dougie MacLean.

8 things that attract me to my best friends

1. Ability to get my more obscure jokes
2. Their interesting things to say
3. Their reliability
4. Their loyalty
5. Their refusal to pass judgment on things
6. Their steadfastedness
7. Their laughter
8. Their dislike of the New England Stupid Patriots (OK, this isn't necessarily a dealbreaker. But it helps!)

8 (or more) things that I am thankful for this year

1. Books.
2. Music.
3. Movies.
4. The Store.
5. Coconut cream pie.
6. Pizza.
7. Yeungling Lager, chilled almost to the point of freezing.
8. Spiced Rum.
9. Vanilla Rum.
10. Coconut rum.
11. Chocolate.
12. Overalls.
13. Friends, in real life and online.
14. This blog.
15. The readers of this blog.
16. A roof above my head.
17. Paper to write on.
18. Stories in my head to tell.
19. The Wife and Daughter.

By way of a meta-blog note, posting will be light over the weekend. Happy Thanksgiving, and may the Force be with you all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's my's my curse

According to AICN, Lance Henriksen may be in the new X-Files movie...which means that we may not have seen the last of Millennium's Frank Black. I'm not sure what to make of this, really; I never much liked the idea that Frank Black operated in the same universe as Mulder and Scully.

Millennium was such a great show -- for two seasons, anyway. I should watch it again one of these days.

Fixing the Prequels - The Phantom Menace (part three)

part one
part two

Continuing our re-imagining of The Phantom Menace, we are now at the droid invasion of Naboo and the rescue of the Queen.

Before I begin, a couple of points that have occurred to me since I posted the first two installments of this series:

:: The words "Roger Roger!" should never be uttered by a battle droid or anybody else. First, "Roger" as a response to a command is way too Earth-reminiscent for a Star Wars movie. Second, "Roger Roger!" makes me think of the classic scene in Airplane!. You know the scene I mean. All we need is a droid named "Oveur" and we're all set.

:: In comments to the last post, Jason makes the point that the Gungan's use of a pidgin form of English doesn't work; he'd just give them an alien tongue of their own and use subtitles, the way most alien species in Star Wars are handled. I suppose that's a fair point, but for the most part, the pidgin thing never really bothers me (except in places where it gets too hard to understand), and if we subtitle the Gungans, we'd have to explain how everyone understands them or have protocol droids standing around to do translating or whatever.

OK, onto the movie. The droid army has landed in the forests of Naboo and are now advancing on Theed, the capital city. This whole sequence is pretty effective, I think, except that we don't really get a sense of the population of Naboo. This is actually a more generic problem I've always had with TPM; there's just not that much of a sense of the Naboo society. As the battle droids and their machines enter Theed (the capital city of Naboo), we should see the citizenry being rounded up and taken to the "camps" that the droids refer to. Now, this being Star Wars and all, this doesn't have to be a Schindler's List type of thing; it doesn't need to feature brutal violence a la the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto. But there isn't that much sense of a forced invasion in the finished movie. There should be some shots of battle droids rounding up normal people, forcing them out of their homes, little kids being forced apart from their friends and toys, and the like.

There's a brief shot of Queen Amidala standing at a window watching sadly as the droid armies enter her city. At this point, I'd add something like this:

Queen Amidala watches as the droid armies approach the palace. In the distance, her citizens are being rounded up and led away. A transport approaches, and Nute Gunray disembarks. Captain Panaka comes up to her from behind.

PANAKA: My Lady, we must take you into hiding.

AMIDALA: I will not go into hiding. My fate will be that of my people.

PANAKA: My Lady, please.

AMIDALA: Go, Captain. I will come when I am ready.

Panaka recognizes that he will not win this argument and leaves. Amidala turns to one of her handmaidens, who is standing nearby.

HANDMAIDEN: Your Majesty?

AMIDALA: We must do what we discussed before. We have very little time.

HANDMAIDEN: I will serve you well, My Lady.

And then we'd cut to the Bongo emerging from the water, in the middle of the river.

Seeing this the first time, we of course wouldn't know what plan the Queen is hatching, but it would establish that there is a plan. Thus, in the third act of the film when the Queen reveals that she has been "hiding in plain sight" all along, using her handmaiden as a decoy, we'd already be prepared for it: the old idea of Anton Chekhov's that the gun that is fired in the third act needs to be on the mantelpiece in the first act. Also, from a standpoint of character, we'd get a hint that maybe this young girl of a Queen isn't quite as naïve and overmatched in the face of superior force than we've been already led to believe.

OK. The two Jedi and Jar Jar arrive in the middle of Theed and come ashore. In the original script there's some stuff about their narrow escape as their sub is pulled over a waterfall (this was actually filmed and can be seen as a deleted scene on the TPM DVD). No, I wouldn't restore this; it doesn't really add much. I would add a small bit of dialogue after the Jedi have come ashore:

OBI WAN: We're too late, Master. The droid army is already here.

QUI GON: We must still find the Queen, and if she is already a prisoner, we will free her and take her to Coruscant. (turns to Jar Jar) Go in peace, Gungan. Your debt to me is paid.

JAR JAR: But where will mesa go? Mesa does not know--

QUI GON: (waves hand) You will go someplace else.

JAR JAR: Mesa go someplace else.

Jar Jar wanders off; Qui Gon and Obi Wan run off in another direction.

QUI GON: In a large city like this, the largest streets will lead to the Palace. That is where we must go.

There's a scene where the Queen and her entourage are escorted as prisoners out of the Palace; Nute Gunray says something like "In time the suffering of your people will compel you to sign the treaty." All I'd change here would be to add something to Gunray's line like, "You should have given us permission to use your trade routes when you had the chance. Now you will all pay a heavier price." I'd only add that in order to give some small idea as to what the dispute here is, in the first place.

We would then see the Queen's entourage being led away from the Palace, while they would be shadowed by Qui Gon and Obi Wan, who are waiting until they reach a perfect secluded place to spring their attack. Before they attack, I'd have them observe the approaching party using a pair of macrobinoculars, mainly because the view through macrobinoculars is one of those iconic visuals of the original trilogy. And I'd have an exchange like this:

OBI WAN: The Queen – she is a child!

QUI GON: She is young, but hardly a child. Judge her not by her age, young padawan...she is the same age you were when you accompanied me against the uprising on Ord Mandell.

OBI WAN: Yes, master.

Why do this? Well, it would disarm the whole "They elected a teenager to rule their whole planet!" thing a bit, and even better, it would predispose the audience to take Anakin Skywalker more seriously when we meet him later on.

When their attack on the droids finally comes, I'd have them jump down from the balcony as in the movie, with Qui Gon leaping forward to engage the battle droids on his side of the fight. Meanwhile, Obi Wan would do the same – and, referring back to his failure earlier (see previous post) to seal his lightsaber before going underwater, he'd try to ignite his saber only to see the blade flicker and fail. I'd have the action sequence progress then with Qui Gon doing his "tiptoe through the battle droids" thing, but with Obi Wan having to evade blaster fire and fight the droids without the benefit of his lightsaber. He'd use the Force to toss one droid into another, to dodge laser blasts, and the like. He'd have to think fast, of course, and get creative with the Force, and maybe he'd even be overmatched at first before he gets his bearings and figures things out until Qui Gon saves him:

OBI WAN: I am sorry, Master.

QUI GON: You did well using the Force, young Padawan. Just have more care in the future. The Force will guide you. Always trust it.

SIO BIBBLE: [this is the white-haired governor guy, one of the Queen's main advisors] Who are you?

QUI GON: I am Qui Gon Jinn, and this is my apprentice, Obi Wan Kenobi. We are the Ambassadors, sent by the Chancellor to force a settlement.

HANDMAIDEN: (the same one as before) The Chancellor sent Jedi Knights as his ambassadors?

The Queen silences the handmaiden with a glance.

PANAKA: Your negotiations have failed, Ambassador.

QUI GON: Our negotiations never took place. The situation here is far more explosive than even the Chancellor predicted. Your Highness, we must take you to Coruscant and meet with Chancellor Valorum.

PANAKA: Leave Naboo? With the Queen gone, the Federation army will only tighten their grip on the system!

OBI WAN: There seems to be little we could do to prevent that, even if we stayed.

QUI GON: If the Federation takes you, they will destroy you.

SIO BIBBLE: They wouldn't dare!

PANAKA: They need her to sign a treaty to make their occupation of Naboo legal. They can't afford to kill her.

QUI GON: They have dared much already, sir. They have dared to blockade your system's trade routes, and they have dared invade a fellow sovereign system of the Republic. Their actions are not those of a powerful Federation embroiled in a simple trade dispute with a small and peaceful system. There is no logic to what they have done here, unless something else is at work that we do not yet know. Your Majesty, my feelings tell me they will destroy you if you stay.

The Queen glances at her handmaiden, who nods.

HANDMAIDEN: We go where you go, Majesty.

AMIDALA: Then we will go to Coruscant and plead our case with the Senate.

Sio Bibble nods.

SIO BIBBLE: With you at his side, Senator Palpatine may be able to convince the Senate to help us.

QUI GON: Do you have a ship?

PANAKA: In the main hangar. This way.

He gestures to a passage that leads through a tunnel beneath a larger building. However, as they begin to move, two battle droids emerge from the shadow and level their blasters at the party.

BATTLE DROID: Freeze! Hands up, prisoners.

Qui Gon's lightsaber is in his hand instantly, but even as he ignites the blade and moves forward, a giant stone flowerpot drops from a balcony above and crushes the battle droids. All eyes look up to the balcony to see a grinning Jar Jar, who has pushed the flowerpot from its ledge.

JAR JAR: Hello!

Jar Jar drops nimbly to the pavement.

JAR JAR: Mesa tried to find my way back to the forests, but mesa got lost...and then mesa heard fighting, and since wesa Gungans are warriors--

QUI GON: Well done, my friend. You may be a warrior yet, and I see now how hard it truly is for anyone to banish you.

Jar Jar grins.

QUI GON: Now, your ship, Captain?

PANAKA: Grab their weapons. This way.

His men take up the blasters of the dead battle droids; the currently weaponless Obi Wan grabs one too. Then they run off into the city.

I like how Lucas has one of the handmaidens speak up in his original scene, a bit out of place; this ends up making sense later on when we learn that she is the Queen after all. I'd emphasize that, just a little, by having it happen more than once. Also, note that there's a reason now for Jar Jar to be tagging along, and he's even proven his worth a little. (Also notice how he's always getting cut off in mid-sentence.)

I also like how Lucas made the situation on Naboo rather confusing, putting the Jedi off their game a bit because of the seeming lack of a point behind what's going on.

Now we'd cut to the hangar bay, where the Queen's entourage would enter, led by the two Jedi:

PANAKA: We need to free those pilots.

OBI WAN: (brandishing blaster) I'll take care of that.

Qui Gon approaches the battle droids guarding th ship's entrance, while Obi Wan approaches the droids guarding the captive pilots.

QUI GON: I am an ambassador to the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. These people are under my protection, and I am taking them to Coruscant.

BATTLE DROID: You are under arrest!

The fight would take place pretty much as in the film, but with Obi Wan using the blaster he's commandeered instead of his lightsaber to dispatch the battle droids guarding the pilots. Ric Olie, the head pilot, would start warming up the ship's engines as the others board. Then, as Qui Gon and Obi Wan stand at the bottom of the entry ramp, keeping an eye out for other battle droids, I'd add this exchange just before they board the ship themselves:

OBI WAN: No destroyer droids. This is going well.

QUI GON: Droids are slow to react to the unexpected. The blockade ships will be ready for us, though. Come.

They turn to board the ship, but just before doing so, Qui Gon turns back to his apprentice, takes the blaster from his hand, and tosses it aside.

QUI GON: When we've escaped into hyperspace, please fix your lightsaber. You're a Jedi, not a Corellian.

OBI WAN: Yes master.

And then the ship would blast off into space.

In our next installment, we meet some really important folks: Darth Maul, R2-D2, and a kid named Anakin Skywalker who will have an important role to play in the entire Star Wars tale. Also, in the next installment we'll fix the single worst scene in Star Wars history. Tune in!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tears in Rain

This is turning out to be quite the Holiday Season for Geek Music Stuff:

:: The Lord of the Rings Complete Recordings: The Return of the King is available as of tomorrow. Mine should arrive via UPS the day after tomorrow. I can't wait to spend a big chunk of Thanksgiving Weekend journeying by music back to Minas Tirith, and through Mordor, and thence to the Grey Havens.

:: Intrada Records has issued the complete score to Alien, music by Jerry Goldsmith, on a two-disc set. I don't know if I'll pick this up or not; I'm not that big a Goldsmith fan, and I'm definitely not an Alien fan.

:: I probably will pick up the three-disc Blade Runner score release, though. I'm not the biggest fan of that film, but the music by Vangelis is wonderful stuff, and I look forward to hearing it in full. (I'll probably also get the new version of the film on DVD, albeit not the superduper one that comes in a briefcase or something like that.)

Sentential Links #119

Dispensing with the pleasantries:

:: When I was in the 5th grade, I got my very first handbag.

:: A chilly morning and the crows are cawing overhead as they fly out for a day of adventure before coming home to roost and talk about it together.

:: At any [rate] it seems clear to me that even the "optimistic" scenarios for Iraq now amount to promising to bear huge costs for a smallish chance at an unclear payoff.

:: Aging and retirement hardly resemble the "golden years" one often sees and hears.

:: The reason I wouldn’t call it [Firefly] the best science fiction show is because it isn’t science fiction. It’s space opera. (BZZZT! Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction, not something separate entirely.)

:: Think about that, won’t you; eat one piece of fruit and suddenly you’re responsible for the inevitable heat death of the universe. God’s kind of mean.

:: They've got our future, damn it.

It's not the shiny future of jet packs and food pills — oh no, that's not what Japan is about. Nevertheless, they've got it and they're living in it, damn them. They've got express trains that run on time and accelerate so fast they push you back into your seat like an airliner on take-off. They've got skyscrapers with running lights, looming out of the sodium-lit evening haze — a skyline just like the famous nighttime scene from Blade Runner except for the shortage of giant pyramids (and they're building one of those out in Tokyo bay). And they shave their cats.

:: Ah, if there’s one thing that’s going defuse a violent situation and calm down a dude who’s got a gun out in his boat, it’s condescendingly tousling his hair, then pumping him full of caffeine. That’s just the sort of crowd control techniques you learn at Mountie Academy!

:: I turned fifty a couple of months ago, and this is my first letter to Santa since I was five, so I have a long list: (Lots of snark here, and salty language. Also, it's a weird hybrid of blog and message board.)

OK, that seems like a good place to stop. Tune in next week!

New England Satanic Puppy Eaters 56, Bills 10

Lord, now that was a steamrolling. Holy crap. I'm still not sure that Belichick's Boys of Ultimate Evil are going to go undefeated, but yeesh, they've probably got a better shot at it than anybody has in years.

Why am I not convinced that the Foxborough Hitlers are going to go 16-0? Because of the way the standings work out. They'll clinch the AFC East with just one more win (probably this weekend), and assuming Indianapolis doesn't lose again, they'll clinch the top seed with four more wins, which would leave two meaningless games at the end of their schedule. Now, their last two games are one at home against Miami (no problem), but then on the road at the Giants, who may need that game for either playoff position or possibly even a division crown. And they could end up playing meaningless games sooner than that, if Indy loses again. So, you never know.



:: Kevin Everett is out of the hospital.

:: The game ended.


:: Al Michaels and John Madden, who acted like Buffalo's City Hall is the single largest City Hall they've ever seen in their lives. Come on, guys. It would have been nice to hear them say, "That's Buffalo's City Hall, and let me tell you, that is one beautiful building, and this city is full of 'em."

:: Again, JP Losman. It's official, folks: I have given up on him. Not that I expected him to beat New England -- that would have required, oh, some kind of event involving two snipers on the roof of Ralph Wilson Stadium, the ritual sacrifice of six goats, and a DVD of a Jerry Lewis movie -- but can't he at least complete short passes to open receivers? Apparently not, sadly enough.

Losman strikes me as a terrific guy, which makes this kind of sad for me. I didn't just want him to succeed here because he was here, but because he's genuinely likable. But sometime you just wanna win, you know?


:: Smuggy McBrady left the game with his knee intact. What somebody needs to do is send all eleven guys after him, on the game's first play from scrimmage. Come on, remaining 2007 opponents of the New England Genghis Khans! Take him out! Do it for the children!

Next up: the Bills go to Jacksonville. Apparently JP Losman is still the starter, and Marshawn Lynch may still be out. Whoopee.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

World Without Writers

Hee hee:


Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Two items this week, snagged from MeFi:

:: First, an apparent call to customer service (warning: salty language) of Jimmy Dean Sausage regarding their apparent execution of the old "reduce the package size but keep the price the same" retail maneuver. I say "apparent" because some folks on MeFi seem to think this may be a viral marketing kind of thing. Assuming it's a real guy voicing a real complaint, I kind of see his point, but geez, breakfasts in his family consist of fried eggs, T-bone steaks, and sausage? With what else?

:: Second, remember the kindly Grandpa Joe character from Willy Wonka? Well, according to these folks, he's less than kindly. Hmmmmm.

:: And from TNH, we have action figures of Jesus, in the act of performing in...I'm not making this up...extreme sports.

This reminds me of a lame joke I once heard:

Jesus, Moses, and an old man are playing golf. Moses tees off and plops his ball right in the water, so he walks over, parts the water to where his ball is and putts out of it. Then Jesus tees off and also lands in the water, but he merely walks across the surface of the water until he gets to where his ball is, where, finding it quite shallow, he putts it out and onto the green. Now the old man tees off and hits his ball toward the same water. But the ball bounces off the shell of a swimming turtle, and then arcs wildly toward the woods, where it caroms off the back of a bird in flight back onto the green, where it rolls the rest of the way to the hole. Moses grunts, turns to Jesus, and says, "You know, I really hate playing golf with your father."

I know, I know. But tip your waitress anyway, folks.

Time to start embiggening my words

There's a widget going around Blogistan that tests your blog's readability level. So I plugged my own URL in to see, and here's what happened:

cash advance


Not that there's anything wrong with this, mind you -- Lloyd Alexander wrote at an elementary school level a lot of time, and it served him rather well -- but I wouldn't mind having some notion of methodology here.

Anyhow, moving on....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Unidentified Earth 24

It's the twenty-fourth installment! Woo-hoo! Or something. Anyway, Unidentified Earth 23 was identified fairly quickly. It's the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa, Italy. That smaller, lopsided-looking building at the lower right of the image I used? That's the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

OK, here we go again. Let's see how we do with this one!

Where are we?

Rot-13 your guesses!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Ah, I see that Erin has tagged me with the vicious Seven Things Meme, wherein bloggers are supposed to provide seven facts about themselves. For a long-lived blogger like myself, this meme gets harder every time it comes around, since I run through a roster of facts in my head and rule them all out on the basis that I'm really, really sure that I've already posted them before in a previous iteration of Seven Things. So, here we go:

1. My idea of an ideal vacation these days consists not of journeying to some far-flung and exotic locale, but simply packing some clothes, getting in the car, and driving somewhere, with only these rules: No driving on Interstates or expressways of any kind, and No eating at chain establishments (except for local chains that you'll only find in a single city, like Ted's in Buffalo). The Wife and I recently took such a journey, and it was as magical a weekend as I can remember. The best way to find good food? Drive into a town and eat at the place whose parking lot is full. Especially if the windows all have neon beer signs and the place's name includes the word "Inn".

2. I'm not sure what my objection is, but I can't stand Dancing with the Stars. I literally hate that show. I was on the fence about it for a while, but then I decided that I really can't abide the show in any form. I suspect that this is because the show tried to convince me that Mario Lopez is sexy.

3. Despite living in the Buffalo area for seven years now (minus winter of 2002-2003, when we lived in Syracuse), I've never eaten at Louie's, and I hadn't eaten at Mighty Taco until just two years ago. Why? I dunno.

4. The Wife's first gift to me, back when she was The Girlfriend, was, if memory serves, a teddy bear with a lavender ribbon around his neck. I think she doused him with perfume. He's still around the apartment somewhere, although the ribbon may be gone; The Daughter probably has him in her stash of animals. I named him Bertrand, after Bertrand Russell. (I was a Philosophy major; what do you expect?) We ended up with a number of stuffed animals together, and we named a lot of them, although I only remember two: Bertrand the bear, and Barry the stuffed bison that we bought at the gift shop near Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. (Barry for Barry Bonds; this was 1992, when he was leading the Pirates to their third straight NL East title and well before any hint of steroid use.)

5. My first gift to The Wife was a little Laughing Buddha figurine that I bought at the gift shop at the mall in Olean, NY. That gift shop isn't there anymore. (In Olean, most things aren't there anymore.)

It wasn't quite what she expected for a first gift from a still-new boyfriend. I bought it for her while at home for spring break; we'd been dating for little more than a month, and I got a bit of a freakout when I tried to call her at the house where she was staying (in our Iowa college town; I was at home in WNY), and was informed by her landlord that there had been a death in her family. I worried a bit before I remembered that she had told me that her grandfather had been quite ill, and that's who it ended up being. The upshot was that I returned to college from spring break and immediately met my future in-laws. That was just slightly less nerve-wracking than some of the musical auditions I'd done in my life to that point.

6. In high school, I went on exactly one date. It was an OK date, I suppose; some girl (wow, I don't remember her name!) I met while playing in the All-County Band and I went to see some movie with Nick Nolte in it and then we went for ice cream at Friendly's. Not a disaster, but I clearly didn't make much of an impression, since the next couple of times I tried calling her for a follow-up date she said she was busy each time. How naïve was I? It took me that long to recognize that for a brush-off. Whoops!

7. And there was the girl that I didn't ask out. She was a very sweet person, quite short with lovely red hair and a terrific smile. I had a monster crush on her, and yet I never asked her out, although I did give her a rose at Valentine's Day. Yes, you read that right. I gave her a rose. On Valentine's Day. Didn't ask her out. Yeah, I've kicked myself ever since for that one – not out of any dissatisfaction with how things eventually turned out for me, love-wise, mind you! Just out of a "Wow, you were a putz back then!" older-me-wanting-to-kick-younger-me's-ass kind of thing.

A story about that girl (whose name I do remember, although I'm not going to post it here): I once got her in trouble in Trig class, and I felt a bit bad about it afterward, although she thought it funny and laughed it off. She sat in the seat ahead of mine, and we'd gab a bit in the off-moments in class and discuss our mutual disdain for the Trig teacher (whom I loathed, because while this particular teacher was wildly popular amongst the kids, she got that way by choosing one or two kids per class who'd be the brunt of her every joke, and guess who got to be one of her designated class clowns that year). But anyway, on the day in question, I actually fell asleep in Trig class. (Nothing against the teacher on that score, really; I can count on one hand the number of times I fell asleep in a class in high school. Now, in college, I slept through a lot of classes, but not in high school.)

So anyway, I slept through about fifteen minutes of class, and then I came to, just in time to be called on by the teacher. I, of course, had absolutely no clue what the hell the question was, to say nothing of the actual answer. I glanced from the teacher to my friend, the lovely red-head, who was grinning ear to ear as she beheld my expression of total horror. I just kind of gaped like an idiot, not saying anything, until the teacher moved on to asking someone else the question, at which point I tried to hide behind my book as my friend the lovely red-head began giggling. And she continued to giggle, and giggle, and giggle, until finally the teacher took note of her giggling and chewed her out.

That may be the angriest I've ever been toward one of my teachers.

Anyway, that particular class session couldn't end fast enough, and I was pretty well mortified and planned to get upbraided pretty harshly by the lovely red-head for getting her in trouble; but to my pleasant surprise, as soon as she came into the hall she dissolved into the laughter that she had to get out of her system. She wasn't mad at me at all.

I've always wondered whatever became of her. And I've always wondered if she ever thought along the lines of, "Geez, why doesn't that doof ask me out? He gave me a rose, for Pete's sake!"

So there we are, and now I must tag people. Yeesh. I, I don't know. I'll tag Steph and Nettl -- but each has to post seven things about the other! Heh! (Other than that, go ahead and tag yourselves, folks.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Beers! Blogs!

UPDATED below and UPDATED again:

Yup, it's coming up, folks: the official Holiday season social gathering of navel-gazing keyboard pounders known as a Christmas Bloggercon! The date is December 8, the place (since no one's strenuously argued for another) is Buffalo Sports Garden, and the time? I'm guessing around 7:00, unless anyone thinks it should be later, around the 8:00 range. Bloggers, commenters, lurkers, and families thereof are welcome to attend. Given that this is a basic sports bar joint, I'm guessing that it's simply a "show up and see what's going on" type of thing. The Sabres do play that night, at San Jose, so it's a late game; we won't be battling a crowd on that basis.

For those who have never come to any kind of blogging get-together, well, I've only been to two of 'em myself, but my experience is that we don't actually blog while we're there. Because that would be, you know, lame. And we're not lame in Buffalo, are we?

UPDATE: Well, it seems that Jennifer can't make the 8th, so if everyone involved wants to move the meetup to the 9th, I'm fine with that. (I'm also perfectly fine with a change in venue; it's not like I had my heart set on that sports bar or anything, having just tossed that out there and not heard any suggestions otherwise!)

UPDATE II: OK, all this damned waffling on my part isn't helping the cause at all, is it? So I'll be at the afore-mentioned location at the time also afore-mentioned, on the 8th, as originally planned. Sorry for all the cock-ups on this thing, and if anyone wants to show up just to tell me how bad I am at event planning, well, I'll plead guilty as charged! And I hope to catch everyone else at another blogger event in the future.

Autumn's Last Moments

October 07 011, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

Winter can't be far away now. This is Cazenovia Creek, at one of my favorite "secret spots" in the region. It's a "blink and you miss it" kind of view.

I never blink.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sentential Links #118

'Tis time for the one hundred eighteenth installment. Wow. That's a lot of these. It's weird how blog-time works, isn't it? I still feel like I've been doing Sentential Links for a relatively short time -- and yet, when I started this series way back when, Star Wars Episode III hadn't come out yet and my son was still alive. Wow.

Anyway, here we go with this week's linkage:

:: Remember these props. The coffee and the Pepsi. They're Chekhov's gun, the one he said that if you bring it on stage in Act One has to go off in Act Three. (Why can't I write stuff like this?)

:: I'm trying to reformat how I use food so it becomes something that NOURISHES me, not a means of self indulgence. (The health practitioner I've been seeing of late has a poster on his wall that reads: "Americans are overfed and undernourished." I'm trying to focus more on nourishment these days, and not just with food, either.)

:: Americans really need to ask themselves some questions about how comfortable they are with things being done in their name.

:: So I finally saw Spider-Man 3. I expected to be entertained but disappointed - all the stuff I read about the film had me expecting to find the film overstuffed, with a weak plot, not enough depth, and generally just glossier and less textured than the second film. So of course it's my favorite of the three Spider-Man films. (Crikey! Now, I didn't dislike the movie, but there's no way it's better than Spiderman 2.)

:: Libertarians -- glah. What can you say? I'd like to live utterly independent of everyone else, too, with every transaction that occurs between myself and others being an entirely volitional one in which I have full bargaining power. But the real world has never worked like that and never will, and libertarianism will always remain an adolescent fantasy due to this.

:: Listen, I get it. You love free markets. So do I. I just know that they weren't designed by Jesus. They're not perfect, and sometimes you need a union not out of any high moral stance, but just to maintain fair business practices.

To paraphrase a previous post -- I live with the tiger, I love it, but I respect its teeth and instincts. Stop asking why I don't just pet the kitty.

:: After all the maniacs, torturers and zombies of our times, who is the scariest person of them all? The cornered little man with no scruples.

And that'll do it for this week.

Bill 13, Dolphins 10

I didn't see all of this game; in fact, I pretty much missed the entire first quarter and the first few minutes of the second. Turns out I didn't miss much, as the Bills waited until the fourth quarter to pretty much do anything at all in beating the worst team in the NFL. Seriously, Miami is a total mess of a franchise.


:: After that disastrous 0-3 start to the season, the Bills are actually above .500, and at 5-4, they've matched my predicted win total for them this season. (Remember, I'd picked them to go 5-11.)

:: Ryan Lindell made a game winning field goal at the end, with the score tied at the time. Everyone who insists that despite his accuracy he's still not a "clutch kicker" is now lacking a bit of ammunition for their argument (such as it was).

:: Clutch defense. They gave up a 100-yard rusher today, but still made some big plays when it counted.


:: JP Losman. Look, I'm rooting for the guy, but he couldn't do much of anything at all against the league's worst defense? This was the kind of game we'd hoped for out of him last season, but this isn't last season. Losman is now a veteran, and he should be able to go into the house of the worst D in the NFL and do better than 12 of 23 for 157 yards, no TDs, and a pick. Yeesh. Losman's been in the league for as long as Ben Roeythlissburgerr (pretty sure I spelled that wrong), but Losman's still "developing" while Big Ben's won a Super Bowl, been to two AFC championship games, and currently has his team at 7-2? Oy.

I accept that Losman's time here is nearing its end, and that we're awaiting the official beginning of the Trent Edwards era. At least Losman could go out swinging, and enhance his trade value. Games like today aren't going to help much.

:: The offensive line. We were told in the preseason, "Wait for the rebuilt line to gel, and then you'll see good things." Instead, we're still seeing Marshawn Lynch run 19 times for only 61 yards. God, I hope Marv Levy uses next year's draft to bring in some young O-line talent.


:: One first down in the first half? A third quarter score of 3-2? Huh?

There wasn't a whole lot to love about this game. It was a game. Dull. Boring to watch. A game to have on when you're in a cafe with free WiFi, so you can blog while halfway paying attention.

Next week? Smuggy McBrady and the rest of his nest of coiled vipers come to town. I can't wait. (Well, yes I can, because let's be realistic: this game is highly unlikely to go well for the Bills. I do hope that if the Forces of Evil start running up the score, throwing long passes and going for fourth-down conversions while up more than three TDs in the second half, the Bills have more moxie than the Redskins did and actually take some shots at Smuggy McBrady.)


"The Green Fields of France"
Eric Bogle

Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride,
Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
And rest for awhile 'neath the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the great fallen in 1916,
I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that faithful heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Enshrined then, forever, behind a glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

The sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in stand mute in the sand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man,
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

And I can't help but wonder, no Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did they really believe when they answered the call,
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain
The killing and dying, was all done in vain,
For young Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Items of note:

:: Great. The temptation to do this at work may prove irresistible.

:: And I really wish this was a real poster.

Well, that's about it. Not a whole lot of good weirdness, this week.

Free the Sigma Six!

Here in Erie County, we just elected a new County Executive, who takes over a county that's been pretty much of a mess for years. The incoming Exec, Christopher Collins, is a local businessman, new to politics, who pulled off one of those "Political newcomer who will run government like a business" campaigns. This, coupled with a fairly uninspiring candidate on the other side, led to his election. All this is pretty run of the mill stuff. People are always coming along, running for office on the basis that they'll run government like a business. I'm always a tad skeptical of such talk, since it always strikes me as talk that sounds good, but it's generally hard to tell what it really means. Governments aren't businesses, their focus isn't profit generation, and so on. To me, "run government like a business" is little more than feel-good rhetoric, right up there with Rudy Giuliani's "stay on offense in the War on Terror" and Al Gore's "Social Security lockbox" and all the rest.

However, we do have some idea of how County Exec Collins is going to run things like a business: he's planning to implement something called "Six Sigma", which is, according to WikiPedia, "a set of practices originally developed by Motorola to systematically improve processes by eliminating defects." That's all well and good, but of course, Six Sigma or no, that's what any good manager tries to do: improve the way things are done by figuring what's not working so well and ditching it. So Chris Collins is going to use Six Sigma to get his "Run Erie County like a business plan" going. Fine, I suppose; but if you're like me, and you've spent as much time as I have in the company of various management types, you've heard this sort of thing before. If there's one eternal skill that business types have, it's dressing fairly simple ideas up in "golly whiz" terminology. Spend any time in corporate America at all and you'll hear stuff like this constantly. Some people will be diehard adherents of the system in play, while for others, Six Sigma will be "that thing we tried back in 2007".

All this is fairly harmless stuff. Looking through some stuff on the web about Six Sigma, it all seems fairly innocuous, and in competent hands, it may even work well, although I'm always less inclined to credit the new "Gee whiz!" business tool with the success than the competent people who implement it. I've been around the block a little bit, folks, and believe me, the competent person who flies by the seat of her pants will usually beat out the inept person with a system in the end.

So what's my problem? Why am I posting this, and what's with that picture heading this post? There's an aspect to Six Sigma that strikes me as colossally silly. Apparently there are levels of proficiency depending on training and focus, and those levels are titled as the levels in the martial arts. So when Chris Collins talks about hiring a Six Sigma person to come in and help him out, he isn't hiring a consultant or an expert or something like that. No, he's hiring a "Black Belt".

Well, sorry, Six Sigma devotees, but that's where I get off the bus. This kind of terminology makes it nearly impossible for people like me, who just want to see the damned local government stop sucking quite so much, take things seriously. Now, instead of seeing serious people take a serious approach, I'm wondering if becoming a Six Sigma Black Belt requires making a big circle with the left hand to get the wax on, and a reverse circle with the right to get the wax off. Over in this BuffaloPundit thread about Six Sigma coming to Buffalo, someone asks how one becomes a Six Sigma Black Belt. With a title like that, it disappoints me to learn that it has nothing to do with single combat between office workers using staplers as nunchucks.

One of the things that makes The Office such a brilliant show is its skewering of management-speak, the jargon-heavy way that managers talk and the whole cottage industry of management consulting that has sprung up in the business world. And when we start drawing parallels between expert consultants and black belt karate masters, the only reaction I can muster up is a healthy snigger.

None of this, by the way, should be construed as skepticism that a Six Sigma approach can help with Erie County's governmental problems. However, here's an interesting article suggesting that the bloom is off the Six Sigma rose. A cursory glance through some links relating to Six Sigma conveys the strong impression that there's not really anything new with it; rather, it's a new way of codifying an old idea. And take it from me, there will always be a new way of codifying old ideas. In twenty years, Six Sigma will be in the management history books, and some other nifty new program utilizing the same notions of quality improvement will be all the rage. And maybe then the consultants will carry titles like "Padawan".

UPDATE: Pundit follows up, here and here.

Shop the Southtowns!

Some local retail stuff:

:: Well, I finally made it into B is for Books the other night, after several consecutive weekends of meaning to get there but not managing to do so (running low on funds one week, The Daughter being under the weather the next, and so on). Let me tell you, folks, this is just a terrific place. Please don't let its location, in outlying Orchard Park, be a deterrent to coming here! It can easily be made part of a Southtowns shopping excursion, especially if you're going to the stores at Quaker Crossing; central Orchard Park is about a ten minute drive away from Quaker Crossing, and by extension, about fifteen minutes from the McKinley Mall area. And it's one of those local, independent businesses we're all supposed to be keen on. Small business, locally owned. Entrepreneurship, in nigh-Socialist Erie County.

The store itself? It's a bright and airy place, for one thing; lots of room to browse. Plenty of places to sit and look through the books, or to sit and read to your kids, or whatever. The selection is pretty impressive as well; overall the store is about twice the size of the childrens section at your local Borders or B&N. The analogy I'd make is that this is the bookstore equivalent of Clayton's in Williamsville.

So yeah, we're big fans already, and I really hope this place succeeds. Indie bookstores aren't exactly a growth industry these days.

:: We haven't been there yet, but The Good Toy Shop is a mile from Casa Jaquandor. It's as though the Gods are actively scheming ways to part me from my money, but for some reason, they're not alternately scheming ways to give me more money to part with. What's up with that? Anyhow, once we've scoped out The Good Toy Shop, I will report on its offerings. (Can it be coincidence that it's three doors down from my favorite liquor store?)

:: I can't vouch for them at all, but there's a custom computer joint called Technophobia that's been open for a while now. I drive by it every day on my way to The Store (it's on Orchard Park Road in West Seneca). What I can vouch for is that they took an old eyesore of a house and renovated it to house their business, complete with new paint job and everything. I'm always happy to see old structures used for new businesses, as opposed to the constant construction of new McPlazas that end up sitting empty with the "Leasing Now!" sign out front.

:: Does anybody besides me think that the Buffalo area really needs a blog like the Syracuse Post Standard's Store Front? Hmmmmm....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Joss! Joss! He's our man!!! (again)

Jason points out this post by Joss Whedon on the Writer's Strike. I know I just posted about the strike fifteen minutes ago or thereabouts, but this deserves its own entry. Here's the kernel that makes me stand up and cheer:

It’s necessary, though. We’re talking about story-telling, the most basic human need. Food? That’s an animal need. Shelter? That’s a luxury item that leads to social grouping, which leads directly to fancy scarves. But human awareness is all about story-telling. The selective narrative of your memory. The story of why the Sky Bully throws lightning at you. From the first, stories, even unspoken, separated us from the other, cooler beasts. And now we’re talking about the stories that define our nation’s popular culture – a huge part of its identity. These are the people that think those up. Working writers.

Storytelling is the most basic human need. What a great thought that is.

At last!

Unidentified Earth 21 has finally been Identified! I suspect that part of the problem was that, as I admitted in a subsequent post, I had cropped the image of the location so that only half of the really famous part was showing, which made it harder, of course. Because I'm just devious, I'll tell you what! Here's the entire location:

Yup, it's Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, Georgia. Hence the hints I dropped: "Tomorrow is another day", a line from Gone With the Wind, set in Atlanta; an allusion to Atlanta's water supply problems; "Quit stonewalling, people!", a reference to Stonewall Jackson, one of the guys depicted in the carvings on the mountain.

So congrats to reader VMH, who earns fifty thousand Quatloos to be spent at Misty Max's Den of Despair on Rigel Seven. (Interstellar transportation not provided.)


Roger has some good linkage relating to the Hollywood writers' strike. SamuraiFrog also has some pithy observations, mostly relating to Michael Eisner, who said something dumb.

Obviously, I support the strike, for whatever that's worth. (I imagine all those picketing writers suddenly letting loose a whoop and holler of delight upon learning that some blogger from Buffalo who gets about 300 hits a day is on their side.) Once you've read William Goldman's books Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell?, you quickly realize that Hollywood management is largely comprised of people who would steal the coins from a dead man's eyes. So yeah, a pox on their house.

Pay your writers, guys. They're why your actors have stuff to say when the camera's pointing at them.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Fixing the Prequels - The Phantom Menace (part two)

part one

As we continue fixing The Phantom Menace, we have reached the point where Qui Gon and Obi Wan have escaped death on the Trade Federation ship and are sneaking down to the surface of Naboo. There's a scene where Queen Amidala speaks to Nute Gunray, and this scene is followed by the Queen conferring with her highest counselors. I would change none of this. I like the mystery here as it's unfolding: the Queen's belief that the ambassadors have arrived and commanded the Federation to make settlement, while the Federation insists that the ambassadors have never arrived. Likewise, the scene in the Naboo throne room is well done, and I'd leave that alone completely. Where I'd start tweaking things is when we reconnected with the two Jedi.

Remember, Qui Gon and Obi Wan have stowed away on separate ships and plan to meet somehow on the planet surface. Nute Gunray warns his battle droid captain that the two Jedi are no longer aboard the ship in orbit, and that they are therefore almost certainly stowing away. This sets up a bit of sneaking around for the Jedi, but this sneaking around didn't happen onscreen, which is a bit of a pity. In reality, the original script has things going slightly differently as was filmed. As the droid army ships land, we see Obi Wan pop his head out of a pond, look around, and then disappear again beneath the water. Then we'd cut to the Viceroy warning the droid captain that the two Jedi have escaped the orbiting ship and are therefore likely on the planet. And after that, we meet Jar Jar Binks.

Okay. Before getting to specifics, let's discuss Jar Jar in general. Basically, Jar Jar is probably the single most hated facet of the prequel trilogy. While I never hated him – in fact, I rather like him – he's got some serious execution problems. He gets a bit too much screen time, and he's almost uniformly the goofy screwball for the entire time, not getting a moment where he can just stand there are quietly talk until late in the movie, by which time it's too late. So that's a place to begin with fixing Jar Jar.

It's also interesting to note that Jar Jar isn't just along for the ride; he has a definite character arc, mainly in TPM but also in the remaining PT. Jar Jar is the annoying kid who screws up a lot, but who has a lot of heart and ends up doing fairly well by himself and by his people. Where Lucas errs, then, is in not showing us early enough that Jar Jar has quite a bit of potential.

When we first see Jar Jar, he's among the creatures running wildly in fear away from the giant droid army transports that are literally plowing their way through the forests of Naboo. Qui Gon is among these creatures, and finds Jar Jar directly in his way. Jar Jar, panicking, grabs onto Qui Gon and falls down, dragging the Jedi master to the ground with him, where they lay still as the droid transport moves right over the top of them. How to make this better? Well, I'd show a dispirited, lonely Jar Jar wandering lonely through the woods, searching for food – maybe he'd find a worm and reject it for taste – when he'd suddenly note an animal running by...and then another...and another, until it's a full-fledged stampede. Then he'd see Qui Gon coming.

After the droid transport passes, I'd revise the ensuing dialog a bit:

QUI GON: You almost got us killed! Are you brainless?

JAR JAR: I spake.

QUI GON: The ability to speak does not make you intelligent. Now get out of here!

JAR JAR: No! No...mesa stay with you. Mesa help. Mesa Gungan. Wesa warriors.

QUI GON: That won't be necessary. Now go...

At this point, Obi Wan comes bursting out of some nearby vegetation, closely pursued by a battle droid on a floating attack vehicle. Qui Gon quickly dispatches the battle droid, and attention once again turns to Jar Jar. However, in the shooting script, there's a bit that answers the question of why Obi Wan didn't just destroy the battle droid himself. It seems that he got his lightsaber soaked and now the battery's dead. I like this, and I'd keep it. Here's the gist of what I'd do:

QUI GON: I see you're wet...did you seal your lightsaber before going under?

OBI WAN: (sheepishly) I forgot, Master. I was near to being discovered, and --

QUI GON: Indeed.

He takes Obi Wan's lightsaber and tries to ignite it; the blade fizzles and shorts out.

QUI GON: It'll dry out in time, although it won't work perfectly until you replace the crystal. Remember, Padawan, this weapon is your life.

OBI WAN: Yes, Master.

Reading through the shooting script, I find a lot of little touches that I really think would have enhanced the final product. I wish that George Lucas had been a bit more willing to indulge longer running times in the PT. Another benefit of including this bit would be to presage an exchange in the next film, and to further establish the teacher-student relationship between Qui Gon and Obi Wan.

Anyway, we move on to Jar Jar's statement that the Jedi should go to the Gungan city, the hidden city. Here again I'd have Jar Jar point out that the Gungans are warriors. In fact, I'd drive this point home, the idea being that Jar Jar's big problem is that he's a failed warrior in a civilization of warriors. Other than that, I've always liked the entire bit with Jar Jar first saying that the Jedi should go to the Gungan City, then saying that he can't take them there because he's banished, and Qui Gon and Obi Wan manipulating Jar Jar's fears to convince him to take them to the Gungan City after all: "Do you hear that? That is the sound of a thousand terrible things headed this way." "And if they find us, they will smash us, crush us, and grind us into oblivion!" I like that exchange a great deal.

So we're at the lake where Jar Jar points out that they are going underwater. Here again I'd have Jar Jar point out that the Gungans are warriors, maybe in noting that the Jedi shouldn't expect a warm welcome – something like, "Gungans are warriors and no liking strangers, so don't expecting a warm welcome."

And as long as I'm going into detailed stuff about TPM, I frankly think that the first sight of the Gungan city, as they swim over an underwater cliff and see all those golden bubbles hanging there before them, is one of those beautiful sights that fill each of the Star Wars movies. That's one of the visuals that makes me a Star Wars fan.

The scene with Qui Gon and Obi Wan requesting aid of the Gungan rulers doesn't really work as well as it should. First of all, that facial tic of Boss Nass's – the one where he suddenly shakes his head and wobbles his jowls back and forth – needs to go. I'm not really sure what that's all about.

Second, the scene should play the differences between the Gungans and the Naboo up a little more, and again, accentuate the "warrior Gungans" thing a bit more:

OBI WAN: When the droids have taken control of the Naboo, they will come after you.

BOSS NASS: Wesa no think so. They not knowing wesa are here. And wesa warriors! We can fight them if they come.

OBI WAN: But you and the Naboo form a symbiont circle. What happens to one happens to the other. You must see this.

BOSS NASS: Dissen not true. Wesa no need the Naboo, wesa no care about the Naboo, and the Naboo no care about us. Yousa must leave now.

QUI GON: (waves his hand) Then speed us on our way....

And so on. When we get to Qui Gon's intercession on Jar Jar's behalf, I'd again alter the dialogue slightly:

QUI GON: What's to become of Jar Jar Binks?

BOSS NASS: Hesa been banished three times, and hesa come back each time! So hesa to be punished.

I especially like here the benevolent smile Boss Nass gives when he indicates that Jar Jar is to be "punished", followed by Jar Jar's swallow of fear. The rest of this scene plays out all right, and then we're into the whole transit through "the planet core".

Now, I know that they're not really going through the planet's core. And I have no problem with that, OK? So no complaining about that. The entire underwater sequence of TPM has actually always been one of my favorite parts of the movie, and the only changes I would make would be mostly cosmetic. Jar Jar, for example, talks too much through the whole sequence.

There's a line in the script that isn't heard in the movie; Obi Wan asks of Qui Gon something like, "Master, why do you keep dragging these pathetic life forms with us?" I don't know why that line got cut, since its echoing line later on the movie (on Tatooine) is still present. I suspect that it makes Obi Wan too much of an egoist jerk, but I'd rather that line have stayed. As they pilot the sub away from the Gungan City, something like this:

JAR JAR: Through the Core? In a bongo? Dis is nutsen.

OBI WAN: Why do we always end up with some pathetic life form tagging along with us?

QUI GON: All life is bound by the living Force, young Padawan, and even the strongest Jedi needs allies.

JAR JAR: Where we going?

QUI GON: You're navigating, aren't you?

JAR JAR: I no go through the Core in just a bongo! We get crunched dere!

QUI GON: Well then, the Force will guide us.

The sub steers into a deep hole, followed by a giant fish.

OBI WAN: Why were you banished, Jar Jar?

JAR JAR: Dis a longo tale but small part be...mesa clumsy.

OBI WAN: You were banished because you were clumsy?

Jar Jar looks sadder and sadder.

JAR JAR: Mesa never be Gungan warrior now.

In the actual script (and the film), Jar Jar goes on to describe some of the clumsy things he's done. The problem is that it's hard to understand what he's talking about in the first place (what's a "heyblibber"?), and it only serves to fill up some time while the big fish looms behind them. I think it works better if it's just left at Jar Jar being clumsy, something we already know, and the unexplained nature of his banishment serves to better underscore his disappointment in himself (enhancing his character arc) and the manner in which he's not representative of most Gungans.

Anyway, now the big fish attacks. I'd like to have seen this drawn out slightly before the even bigger fish attacks the big fish, freeing the sub. That said, Qui Gon's sage observation that "There's always a bigger fish" is a good line.

There's a brief scene next on the bridge of the Trade Federation ship, where Nute Gunray reports to Darth Sidious that the invasion is going well. But he omits any mention of the Jedi who escaped, and when his second-in-command points this out, Gunray replies, "No need to report that to him until we have something to report." I like this scene, and wouldn't change anything about it.

Back to the sub, where they're cruising along through the water when they lose power. I'd add an observation here as to the cause – "The smaller fish did some damage before the bigger fish got him, Master" – and then let it play out as in the movie. I like Jar Jar's shrill panic, especially when the get the lights back on and find that they're right in front of some other beastie. In fact, I'd have milked that a bit, and had Jar Jar's shrieking go on a few seconds more before Qui Gon conks him out with the Jedi Nerve Pinch. (Well, that's basically what it is, right?) However, instead of having Obi Wan say "You overdid it" – was Qui Gon not supposed to conk Jar Jar out? -- I'd have Obi Wan simply say, with great relief, "Thank you!" For freakishly obsessive Star Wars fans, this would echo a similar moment between Han Solo, Princess Leia, and an incessantly-talking C-3PO in The Empire Strikes Back.

After they'd escape the second beastie to another bigger fish, I'd like to hear something like this:

QUI GON: We're getting closer to the Naboo City. I can feel it in the Force.

OBI WAN: Good. I don't know how many more bigger fish are going to save us, down here.

JAR JAR: (moaning from his sleep) Are wesa dere yet?

So there we have it: a beginning to the redemption of Jar Jar Binks. Next time, we'll look at the invasion of Naboo, the rescue of the Queen, and the beginnings of Padme's subterfuge.