Thursday, May 29, 2008

Something for Thursday

Singin' in the Rain has so many great numbers, that this one always seems to get overshadowed. Here, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) has taken Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) into an empty soundstage and set the scene with colored spotlights, a ladder, a fan to make a gentle breeze, a fog machine, and a large silver spotlight to create "moonlight".

This is one of the songs I sing a lot, under my breath, when I'm working...and in my dreams, maybe once in a while I can dance like Gene Kelly. Maybe. For a minute, before I wake up.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Boldly Going

I see at AICN that composer Alexander Courage has died. He had a very long career in Hollywood, both as a composer and an orchestrator, and he had his fingerprints on a great deal of amazing film music. But what is he best known for? Something pretty iconic, I think:

Before Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Dennis McCarthy, Ron Brown, Cliff Eidelman, and others came along, it was Alexander Courage taking us into the final frontier. And now he's gone there himself.


Right now, the only thing I find more tiring than the continued spasms of the lunatics who do nothing other than read the tea leaves in everything for any sign of the Coming of the Caliphate (hey, that can be the next Indiana Jones movie! Indiana Jones and the Coming of the Caliphate!) is that their moronic spasms still seem to work.

Of course, there are doubtless those who chalk this up as some kind of major victory for Western decency or something...but the cravenness of companies viz. their advertising is well established by now. Remember that Cingular commercial that had a guy briefly sing "Jimmy Crack Corn" during a phone call?

Anyway, congratulations to Michelle Malkin, who thus gets to add another notch to her "Mighty Blogger Against the Caliphate" bedpost. I hope it was good for her.

(And since I'm getting all political and stuff, sure, I'm thrilled at the prospect of lots of tell-all books about the disaster that is the Bush Administration. But Scott McClellan doesn't get any props from me. Telling the truth five years after playing a large role in the actions that caused the damage to get done in the first place, when now the rest of the country has realized how disastrous the damage was and the polling numbers of the people who did it are in the toilet really doesn't take a whole lot of guts. So thanks, Scotty. But you can still piss off.)


Wow, is this blog getting boring...I'm resorting to more quizzes. Hmmmm.

From SamuraiFrog comes a quiz with some odd spelling in progress. Sorry about the all-caps too, but that's how it came to me. Anyway:


I'm progressing slowly through Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which is a book to savor in small doses. I think it's the literary equivalent of a box of very fine chocolates, so I'm reading it one chapter at a time. I'll also have some other novel going on, although I haven't picked one yet; it'll probably be a space opera of some sort or another. I'm also reading Patricia Neal's autobiography As I Am, on the recommendation of Sheila. I also need to return to my Moby Dick one-chapter-a-day plan one of these days. Maybe after I finish Strange and Norrell.


Hmmm. I enjoy Sorry! a good deal, although I haven't played it in a while. I remember liking The Game of Life when I was a kid, but right now we don't own that one. Maybe I'll pick it up. I love chess, although I'm not any kind of master or anything.


Burning wood or incense. Candles. Pizza in the process of baking. A freshly poured glass of beer. Coffee. Vanilla.


The realization of just how powerless you really are, and the realization that the difference between the life you should be living and the life you are living isn't very large -- but for all that, the difference is also insurmountable.


"Oh, f*** this f***ing day, so I can just f***ing sleep some more." And if waking up interrupts a really good dream, that same sentiment goes through my head with a lot more f***'s.


How much money is "a lot" of money? Enough to retire right now and live at least at the standard of living I'm at now? Or "decent winnings on Deal or No Deal" money? Maybe I'd buy a house on a nice piece of land with lots of trees somewhere in Orchard Park or East Aurora. Travel sounds nice, but we're gradually making it a complete pain in the ass to go anywhere. Maybe I'd buy a car that gets the best mileage possible. And I'd probably buy some books.


I can, at times, but generally I'm the guy who gets freaked out because I'm going eight or nine miles over the speed limit and still getting passed as though I'm the old lady on my way to pick up coffee cake for tonight's bridge club.


Cool because of the scary.


A red Volkswagen Rabbit with a diesel engine. I liked that car, until the hood blew open while I was driving.


Alcoholic? Rum, I guess.


I have the time. I just use it badly.


You know what? If God came to me and said, "I will make it so that gas is back down to $1.50 a gallon, impose universal health care in the US, see that Bin Laden is captured, and get you a healthy raise for the exact amount of work you do now, if you just eat this bowl of broccoli", I'd let the world stay as it is. If Satan were a food, he would be broccoli.




I love it when this question shows up in these blog-quizzes, betraying their origins as e-mail quizzes! Anyway, SamuraiFrog nicely posts photos of women in various stages of undress, which is always nice.


I have no idea, but wow, there's a lot of crap under there. Maybe it's time to get rid of a lot of it.


I genuinely don't know, so I live as though I'm both, which results in me being a drooling moron by week's end. (Which explains why I don't normally blog on Fridays; the results are usually not encouraging.)


Scrambled, or in omelet form. I'm not a fan of either of these two preparations.


Depends on the type of relaxation, I guess. I like sitting at my desk, or on the balcony reading, or in the armchair reading, or in bed, reading.


Hmmmm. Well, this would depend, I suppose, on the method of consumption, yes? Apple (with ice cream), or coconut cream.


Coffee. Or mint chocolate chip. Or cookie dough. get the idea.

Sheila starts a post as follows: "I wish I had a lifetime supply of:", and then a list of such items as pertains to her. What about me? Hmmm. I wish I had a lifetime supply of:

:: Yeungling Lager.

:: Gigabytes (or terrabytes, once we reach that point).

:: Candles of all sizes.

:: Green tea.

:: Printer paper.

:: Printer ink.

:: Mucinex.

:: Espresso roast coffee.

:: Mozzarella cheese.

:: Bratwurst.

:: Shampoo and hair conditioner.

Quizzes: the reason I still have a blog at all!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Oh, wow. Wow, wow, wow.

And oh yeah, WOW!

That's the Phoenix lander that just arrived on Mars the other day -- in the process of descent, via its parachute; you can even make out the tether lines. It's things like this that make me think that with everything else going wrong, we're still doing amazing things and getting things right and moving, ever so slowly, into the future. As Phil Plait writes:

Think on this, and think on it carefully: you are seeing a manmade object falling gracefully and with intent to the surface of an alien world, as seen by another manmade object already circling that world, both of them acting robotically, and both of them hundreds of million of kilometers away.

Never, ever forget: we did this. This is what we can do.


Sentential Links #141

Here we go:

:: What a small, strange world she lives in -- one in which even simple breakfast choices are fraught with peril. What are her lunch and dinner choices like? When she goes to a restaurant, does she peer into the waiters' station and wonder which servers are gays who wish to be married, peer into the kitchen and wonder which dishwashers are illegal aliens? When she makes her own meals, does she claw through the fridge and pantry like Harry Caul at the end of The Conversation, frantically searching the labels for signs of politically incorrect associations? (Yup, Michelle Malkin's on the prowl again, letting us know who needs boycotting now.)

:: Nothing says you are valued and appreciated for all you do like a lead based travel coffee mug. I can’t wait to use it.

:: Fundamental problem: Exercise and diet for its own sake is boring as hell. We geeks live in our minds and don't deal with boredom very well at all.

:: He had to be stopped, for all women were his playthings and all men his pawns. (Possibly not safe for work...but really, really funny.)

:: Seeing the fabled city in the distance, Eric muses that it would have been better for the place to have been destroyed and all its people killed than to have any contact with modernity. (Well, yeah. Prime Directive and all that!)

:: I feel that to be a teacher one has to be something of a masochist.

:: Jonah was basically a good guy who had some important work to do. But God knew that at a key moment he was likely to lose courage. So God prepared a fish.

:: They hear, in Bach's music, order, logic, control, a disciplined rightness that they associate with arithmetical sums and algebraic equations, but saying Bach's music is like arithmetic is like saying that a human being is nothing but five dollars worth of chemicals; add some water and stir. (There's a longer post in response to this somewhere in my head, but I'm having trouble teasing it out right now. I'll leave it at this: it may seem trite to point out the mathematical correctness of Bach's music, but to me it's entirely the contrary. It's the mathematical structure in Bach that allows his music to be supremely expressive of his deep spirituality. The universe at its most basic levels is mathematical, so in writing music where mathematical relationships hold sway so strongly over all other elements, it seems to me that Bach was expressing the sum of his being, and plumbing depths rarely seen by other composers as well.)

:: For me, this most cinematically intoxicated/intoxicating of the Indiana Jones pictures (the flawlessly put-together mining car roller-coaster ride adapts gags -- involving a railroad switch, a large piece of lumber, a water tank -- from Buster Keaton!) towers above the others in the series. Like the "Star Wars" trilogy (there's only one trilogy), the "Indiana Jones" films reached their pinnacle in the second installment. (No, there was another Star Wars trilogy, you goof! But I like seeing someone else who doesn't think that Temple of Doom is crap.)

By the way, I had no idea that there had been an Indiana Jones Blog-a-Thon! I always, without any exception, learn about Blog-a-thons that are on topics I'd be keen to write about afterward. Maybe one of these days I'll get in on the ground floor...but until then, a couple of links from that Blog-a-thon:

:: I'll freely admit that even to this day, it only takes a few bars of John Williams' iconic "Raiders March" to make me want to eat PB&J sandwiches and put playing cards in my bicycle spokes.

:: As an avid fan of the film and of John Williams I’ve listened to the score countless times over the past 27 years. But as a musical layman, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I noticed something clever that John Williams seemed to be doing with the Ark Theme. (Geez...I never realized that, either. Looks like an interesting blog...looks like this fellow had the same idea with that 75 things a man should be able to do thing that I did.)

:: It is no secret to anyone that Indiana Jones owes a great deal to James Bond.

:: Short Round allowed me to imagine that a kid could do more than go to school. In fact, there existed the possibility of me driving a car, jumping out of a plane, riding elephants, rescuing hundreds of fellow children and beating up some brat with a doll and a jewel hat. (I always liked Short Round.)

:: When I think of seeing Last Crusade for the first time in the summer of '89, I can't help but think of that damned girl. (Not part of the Indy Blog-a-thon, but there he is, anyway.)

And what did I think of Crystal Skull? I'll let you know when I see it.

More next week!

Monday, May 26, 2008

In Memory

Know, all who see these lines,
That this man, by his appetite for honor,
By his steadfastness,
By his love for his country,
By his courage,
Was one of the miracles of the God.

-- Guy Gavriel Kay

"The Green Field of France", by 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, May 25, 2008

Unidentified Earth 39

After taking a week off from Unidentified Earth last week, we now get back into it this week with a new entry below. However, UI 38, from two weeks ago, is as yet not only Unidentified, but not even guessed at. Hmmmm. Maybe this one was too hard? Nah, that can't be it, but as is my policy, I always start leaving hints whenever a previous installment is still Unidentified when a new installment goes live, so: some years ago, several people saw this particular location much closer up than they, or anyone, would have liked.

And now for the new one! I suspect this will be Identified in pretty short order by at least two of my readers (if not more), but still, here it is:

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

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Well, well, well....

:: We've had "Stuff White People Like", and we've had "Stuff Nobody Likes", so of course next up is pretty obvious, isn't it? Stuff God Hates. The idea of a sarcastic blog written by God just strikes me as terribly funny.

:: I had this bookmarked for use a few weeks ago, but then I had to reinstall stuff and lost the link until I remembered it just now. I don't remember where I first saw it, so I can't properly credit anyone, but somebody's blogging Things that are younger than John McCain.

You know, I really try not to be "ageist", because I know plenty of people of advanced age who are amazingly bright and competent, but there's just something about John McCain that makes me think that his Presidency would largely consist of him sitting on a rocking chair on the Truman Balcony, throwing empty cans at the kids who stop outside his fence to gawk at the fancy white house he lives in and talking about how his knee's hurtin' so there's probably gonna be some weather. (And yes, I'd think the exact same thing about the Democratic nominee if we were running, oh, Robert Byrd for President. Maybe moreso. If McCain were a young and robust 40-something, running on the exact same set of ideas, I'd still be dead certain to not vote for him.)

:: Western New York's most recent brush with national news attention came last year when an inmate at a local jail, a hood named Ralph Phillips who goes by the nickname "Bucky", escaped from jail and then spent several months on the lam until he was finally caught. The whole thing was mildly entertaining for a while until he shot and killed a state trooper, and after that, the State Police wrapped things up pretty quickly. Now, Bucky Phillips is no longer in a local jail but in the one of New York's maximum security prisons. Well, there's a story in the Buffalo News this morning about his behavior since he's been sent to the Clinton Correctional Facility (somewhere in the Adirondacks), and the lede contains an item that made me go, "Huh-whuh?!" Here's that lede; let's see if any of my readers spots the same thing that stunned me:

Ralph ���������Bucky��������� Phillips, who fatally shot one state trooper and seriously wounded two others during the biggest manhunt in state history, is a troublesome prisoner who has been sanctioned nine times for inmate misconduct, including one incident involving explosives, state officials say.

Anyone else react the way I did?

And by the way, I'm looking at the picture of Bucky Phillips in the News story, and I'm struck by the fact that he looks eerily similar to the fellow who plays Jesus in some of the videos they use at my church for the Gospel readings. You be the judge: Bucky, or Jesus?

(The actor as Jesus is a fellow named Bruce Marchiano; I grabbed this picture from here. He's OK as Jesus, but I actually prefer the guy who plays him in the Gospel of John video they use in services where the reading comes from that particular book. That's Henry Ian Cusick, who can now be seen brooding his way through the lush scenery of LOST, along with everyone else on ABC's popular serial brood-fest. It's an interesting contrast between the two performances; you have a long-haired guy with a British accent doing Jesus with a strong mystical bent, versus an American with thick but not-terribly-long hair doing Jesus-as-smiling-best-friend. I don't have a problem with the latter, per se, but just for watching the thing, I prefer the former.)

More next week, as always.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Where She Resides

It was one year ago today that our second daughter, Fiona Quinn, was born. Her life spanned little more than two hours. How I wish she could have lived the way she was supposed to have lived; she would have had a wonderful big sister to show her the way. I wonder what gifts she would have had and what loves would have been hers. Alas, now she only resides with us as memories of two hours of life in a hospital room, of memories of dreams, and as precious ashes we keep in a music box.

"On My First Son", by Ben Jonson

Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy ;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy.
Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
Oh, could I lose all father now ! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon 'scaped world's and flesh's rage,
And if no other misery, yet age !
Rest in soft peace, and, asked, say, Here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.
For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such
As what he loves may never like too much.

Happy Birthday, Fiona Quinn.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Something for Thursday

Two cues from James Horner's masterful score to Braveheart: "A Gift of a Thistle" and that score's best cue, "The Secret Wedding".

Gorgeous, dream-like, haunting music -- even if Horner used Irish uilleann pipes for his score to a movie set in Scotland, instead of the Scottish Highland pipes!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No matter what else, I had a good day.

And how do I know that I had a good day? Because I helped out a family today.

All those babies couldn't get themselves up onto that curb; they'd jump up but fall back down. A minute or two later, with me standing to one side to keep cars from coming along and taking them all out, the mama came back down and led her young to the water down over the rise.

So yeah, I helped out a family. I'm happy.

An Idol Thought

Watching the finale: wow, is Donna Summer still blazin' hot or what?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Brief "Idol" Note

I'm not liveblogging the thing, but as for the finale of American Idol: David Cook has just opened the show with a scorching performance of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For".

And just like that, I think Cook wins. Game, set, match. That Archuleta kid can't come close to anything like what Cook just did.

OK, that's out of my system.

(Oh all right, since they went right into Arculeta's first song as I was typing this, he's doing the only thing he knows how to do: a soulful ballad - "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" - and not terribly convincingly. He's a cross between Clay Aiken and Snoopy. Ick, ick, ick, ick. And of course, Randy Jackson can't possibly criticize this kid. Ye Gods. Now I'm done.)

Ten Little Things in "Pulp Fiction"

I remember when Pulp Fiction came out. I was watching Siskel and Ebert one night, and one of the movies they reviewed was this drama set in and around the LA underworld, and they gushed over its quirky twists of story and its crackling dialog. Even though at first glance the movie didn't seem like the kind of thing that would interest me, the one scene they showed really caught my attention: Sam Jackson, holding a gun to Tim Roth's face, and shouting at his girlfriend offscreen: "We're gonna be like three Fonzies here. And what's Fonzie like? Come on, Yolanda, what's Fonzie like?"


"Correctimundo. And that's what we're gonna be. We're gonna be cool."

For some reason I heard that exchange and thought, "Wow, I gotta see this movie." Apparently it had won whatever the big prize is at the Cannes Film Festival (the Palme d'Or, obviously), and it was now in wide release. I think I went to see it by myself the next day, at the multiplex in Olean, NY. It was an afternoon matinee. I was the only one there. I've seen movies before when I was one of less than ten people in the audience, but as far as I can recall, to this day Pulp Fiction is the only time I have literally been the only person in the theater. And that movie, over the next two-and-a-half hours, rocked me something fierce. I'd never seen anything like it at all: the non-linear way the story unfolds (or, I should say, the way the stories unfold), the way the dialog just whips about with each character having his or her own voice. The camera work that almost imperceptibly heightens the tension at various places. The way the movie went for laughs in horrible ways: I've never seen, before or since, successful comedic sequences that arise out of drug overdoses or accidental shootings in the face.

The next time I saw Pulp Fiction in the theater, a couple of months later, it was a late night showing at a multiplex in Buffalo, near the University. The theater was packed for that one; by this point Pulp Fiction was a pop culture sensation, and it was only weeks away from losing Best Picture honors to Forrest Gump. Weird. I don't know if I was actually one of the first people on the Pulp Fiction bandwagon, or if it just felt that way because I saw it by myself in a backwater town early in its release. But wow, what a movie.

I watched it again a few weeks ago, for the first time in several years. I have a friend at work with whom I'm always quoting the movie (we like to express frustration by either claiming to be "mushroom-cloud layin' m*****f*****'s", or "tryin' real hard to be the Shepherd"), but as far as actually watching it, I hadn't done that in a really long time. So when I finally got to see it again, a lot of stuff in it seemed new to me again.

As with any really good movie, what makes it work are, in large part, the tiny details one can find in it: the little visual or aural tics that maybe weren't even planned, but by being there, just make it all the more real. Here are ten tiny details from Pulp Fiction that I love, in no particular order.

1. Vincent's "church usher" pose. The early scene where Jules and Vincent are retrieving the briefcase from the hoods who are trying to steal it from Marcellus Wallace reaches its famous climax when Jules begins to recite his gonzo version of Ezekiel 25:17. The camera cuts from Jules to Brett (the hood in the chair who's about to die), and when you see Brett, in the background you see Vincent, gearing up for the execution. The way he does it, though, is pretty nifty. He takes out his gun, cocks it, and then holds it pointing down with his hands clasped in front of him, in a way that always reminds me of the pose the ushers strike in any church service just before they're supposed to come forth and do something (pass the collection plates, direct worshippers to Communion, whatever). It's a terrific pose.

2. Rear-projection when driving at night. There are two sequences in the movie that depict people in cars at night that are done in stylized fashion, like they used to do such sequences when making movies in the 1940s. It's obvious that John Travolta isn't really driving when Vincent is stoned on his way to pick up Mia Wallace; likewise, it's obvious that Bruce Willis and the woman playing the cab driver aren't really driving a cab during their conversation about what it felt like for Butch to pummel the other boxer to death in the ring. The rear projection in both cases is grainy, jerky, and black-and-white. But in the film's other driving sequences, when the tension is up (Vincent speeding an OD'ing Mia to the drug dealer's house for the andrenaline shot, Butch driving back to his apartment to get his watch when he knows such a move could get him killed, the unfortunate moment when Vincent's gun discharges while pointed at Marvin's face), or when there purposely isn't supposed to be any tension at all because we don't know anyone yet (the "Royale with Cheese" discussion) those sequences are shot for real.

3. When Mr. Wolf sips Jimmie's coffee, he, too, notes its high quality with a single facial expression.

4. In the film's last scene, we get to see the robbery that Pumpkin and HoneyBunny had cooked up way back in the movie's first scene. What's great about this is the way that Quentin Tarantino stages that robbery; the two thieves are wildly nervous and over-do everything, making clear that this is the first time they've ever executed a crime of this nature. And what really drives that point home? The fact that these two, who have made robbing liquor stores their previous bread-and-butter, never think to do what anyone who's robbed a restaurant before would know: to check the bathrooms.

5. Back in the "recovering the briefcase" scene, when Jules asks for a sip of Brett's Sprite, he drains it instead, right down to the slurping sound that a straw makes when the pop is all gone; and all the while he's giving Brett this stare that isn't a cold stare, but a relaxed stare that makes utterly clear that Jules is in total command of this situation.

6. But are Jules and Vincent out of practice or something? Or is their chemistry off because Vincent is just back from three years in Amsterdam and thus hasn't worked for a while? Because they walk into a situation where they admit beforehand they don't know how many guys are up there, and they too don't check the bathroom.

7. It's not in the script, but when Lance (Eric Stoltz's drug dealer) is describing to Vincent how to deliver the adrenaline shot to Mia's heart, he says something like, "But she has a breast plate in front of her heart so you gotta pierce through that." That is in the script. But in the movie, to emphasize the point, Lance mimes the stabbing motion three times, and Vincent asks: "Do I gotta stab her three times?"

8. At the end, after dispensing his wisdom to Pumpkin and HoneyBunny, when he's sitting in the middle of a crime scene, Jules is so relaxed that he thoughtfully takes another bite of his muffin.

9. Stopping to eat in the middle of a dangerous situation doesn't just happen there. I've always loved how Butch, in returning to his apartment and recovering his watch, while he has to know he needs to get out of there ASAP, stops to heat up a Pop-Tart. If he'd just left, none of the other stuff afterward would have happened, and he'd still have Marcellus's price on his head.

10. Sounds in the film: Fabian's excessive teeth-brushing. The way the first song during the opening credits is interrupted as the old-school manual knob car stereo is changed. Mia Wallace's music, on a reel-to-reel tape player. When Mia's OD'ing, we hear Vincent offscreen talking to her, and then we fade in on her drugged-out face, and we only know that Vincent's found her when we hear his reaction.

I could go on a while, but I'll leave it there. Generally, I tend to not like stories that glorify organized crime or criminal lifestyles the way Pulp Fiction does, but this film is different in its theme of redemption; the only character who gets to escape the life is the one who is given the epiphany that this isn't the life he should be pursuing. (Although, to be fair, we don't know that Jules successfully leaves the life; maybe Marcellus gets angry at his resignation and kills him? We never know.)

I suppose that one of these years I should watch Jackie Brown and Kill Bill....

Maybe it's in large print....

So I was in the new Barnes&Noble at McKinley Mall the other night with The Wife, and when looking over the Bargain stacks, I spotted this remaindered item:

I figured a book like this would be a bit shorter....

(No, I didn't buy a copy. I'm not that curious.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Because I'm still on "long weekend mode" for another few hours, and in light of the fact that the computer is still recovering from its implosion the other night, I'm giving Unidentified Earth and Sentential Links the week off. Tune in next Sunday for another new Unidentified Location (or take a guess at last week's!), and next Monday for new Sentential Links. I'll be posting other stuff during the week, though -- my usual manner of blathering. No hiatus, just taking a week off from two regular features. So there.

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

I wasn't online as much as usual this week, so I didn't see quite as much Grade-A, US Prime weirdness out there on Teh Interweb. But here are a couple of items:

:: A Beavis and Butthead movie may be on the way. I'm fine with this; I loved that show and found the original movie pretty funny. But...they want to do it live action. Huh?!

:: Nazi UFO stuff. I guess it all didn't start with Roswell, right? (via)

:: Note to self: when traveling in Japan, don't take the subway unless you have to.

All for this week. Stay weird, folks!

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Last night something went haywire with the main computer here at Casa Jaquandor, so for the second time in six months I had to re-format everything and start from scratch. Grrrrr. So, once again, all of my Firefox bookmarks are gone. I had a lot of blogs I was following in a bookmarks folder; they're all gone. I can remember some of them, but not all, so if yours is a blog I may or may not have been reading before this happened and now I won't be reading at all, sorry about that. (But hey, feel free to leave recommendations in comments.)

I have no idea what happened this time. Last time, a series of rapid-fire power outages in the middle of a thunderstorm were the culprit, but this time, something just went belly-up in the course of a restart. Luckily, in March I had to renew my subscription to Norton Security, which at the time meant upgrading to the most recent version. The current version includes automatic backing up of files to their servers (you get 2GB to start and can buy more; so far, the 2GB is fine but I may buy more later). I've been re-downloading my own files for about four hours now, as of this writing. It's about 93.1% finished now, so hopefully after that I'll have all of my old files back, except for the music and video stuff that I can just re-download anyway. (I don't keep much music at all on the main computer, since I don't use it for listening. That stuff is all on the laptop, which is working just fine.)

My next major electronics purchase, though, is almost certainly to be a portable hard drive. Then I won't have to worry about this kind of thing much at all.

(Also, I'm in the first day of a rare four-day weekend for me, so posting will be light until Sunday.)

Something for Thursday

Ignore the images (from some anime or other) and just listen to Julie Andrews singing as Guinevere in Camelot.

What a terribly sad, sad song! Lerner and Loewe manage to distill, in three minutes, the awful reality of the Guinevere-Lancelot pairing: the awful pain of unspoken love that becomes doubly painful when they can no longer bear the pain of that silence.

If only Camelot had a better book, because the songs are so stunning....

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Another Book Quiz

Here's one snagged from Steph: it's a list of books most often marked "Unread" on LibraryThing, indicating books people have copies of either so they can say they own them, or in the best intentions of reading 'em someday if only James Patterson would quit churning out must-read thrillers or whatnot. (Like I'm any different!) Anyway, the instructions are to bold the ones you've read, underline the ones you read for school, and italicize the ones you've started but not finished. I'll add another two rules: strike the ones you know you'll never, ever read and don't even own a copy of, and mark with a *star the ones you own and really, genuinely intend to read one of these days. OK? OK!

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (I'm reading this now, actually, and am halfway through it and loving it)

* Anna Karenina
* Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
* The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick (Another one in progress, very slowly.)

Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
* Pride and Prejudice
* Jane Eyre (loved this book, want to read it again)
* A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov (Grrrrr!)
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
* War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
* Emma
The Blind Assassin
* The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
* Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged (I so want back the time I spent reading this shit.)
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
* Quicksilver
* Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West (The Wife read this and loved it)

The Canterbury Tales
The Historian: a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
* Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead (What possessed me to read Atlas Shrugged after I read this and judged it insipid and idiotic, I will never know.)

Foucault’s Pendulum (Read it sophomore year of college. Loved it. Didn't understand much of it at all.)

* Frankenstein
* The Count of Monte Cristo
* Dracula
A Clockwork Orange
* Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King (Just a beautiful, wonderful book, with one of the greatest closing passages I've ever read.)

The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno (and Purgatory and Paradise)
The Satanic Verses
* Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
* One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
* Les Misérables
* The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (Amazing book)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dune (I got sick of having to look things up in the glossary once per paragraph, but I definitely mean to read it.)

The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela's Ashes: a memoir (No interest at all.)
The God of Small Things
A People's History of the United States: 1492-present
Cryptonomicon (What a wild fun blast this book was!)
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything (I've read it twice!)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter (Loved it.)
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon (I really wanted to like this, but the anti-Christianity stuff just got to be too much. Nothing against that per se; it just overwhelmed the story.)

Oryx and Crake: a novel
Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye (You know what? Meh.)
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an inquiry into values (I've read it a bunch of times, along with its lesser-noted sequel, Lila. I like these books a great deal, but there are times when I think Pirsig takes easy ways out, simply using his novel structure as an excuse to drop lines of inquiry when they prove troublesome.)

* The Aeneid
Watership Down
* Gravity's Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield (Hated it in school, but I'm prepared to admit that I didn't know my arse from the proverbial hole in the ground at the time.)

The Three Musketeers (Read last year and loved it. One of the most entertaining books I've ever read.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Note to self

Next time The Daughter brings home a slip from school written by the teacher to inform me that she didn't finish her work on time, before you flip out and start yelling, remember that it could be worse.

Ye Gods.

Skills: I got 'em

Bill Altreuter points to this list of 75 things every man should be able to do, I guess, in order to be able to really lay claim to true manliness or something. Surprisingly, Bill doesn't do what bloggers are supposed to do in such cases: reproduce the list, with specific comment on his ability, or lack thereof, to do the things on the list. Well, unto the breach I go!

1. Give advice that matters in one sentence. Sometimes you can do it with one sentence, sometimes you need more than that. I guess he's saying that you need to be able to distinguish the one from the other. That's not particularly earthshaking; don't give a sermon when a sentence will do. Check. I can do that.

2. Tell if someone is lying. Well, for this you have to get to know each person, since each person has his or her own "tell", right? An easier way is to know what you're talking about before you ever talk about it. That way, no matter what someone tries telling you, you can tell the BS as soon as it starts to fly. But the guy in the article seems to be endorsing the "All liars do this" kind of thing, which is just silly. Watch Bill Clinton and George W. Bush: they don't lie the same, do they?

3. Take a photo. I like to think I can do this, but it's usually more a matter of trial and error than anything else. I like to point and shoot.

4. Score a baseball game. Well, I don't know about this one. Sure, keeping score well requires and rewards a keen eye for the game's inner workings, but does that really translate into something every man should be able to do? Really? I don't think so.

5. Name a book that matters. Feh. Anybody can name a book, as the writer shows. I'd be more impressed if he could tell us why he thinks that The Catcher in the Rye does not matter. Hell, we'd better start with clearing up just what it means for a book to "matter" anyway. If he's saying that you should be well-read, well, duh. But if he's saying that there's some esoteric secret knowledge of what is truly good that can only be found by reading the books that "matter", well, that's where I get off the crazy train.

6. Know at least one musical group as well as is possible. I kinda-sorta agree, although I don't like the way he frames this to only include music done by "groups". Why not knowing a composer or songwriter as well as is possible?

7. Cook meat somewhere other than the grill. Sure. But why limit this idea to just meat? A man should know how to render bacon, to cook eggs to order in all degrees of doneness, to make a roux and know how to use it, to cook perfect pasta, and to be able to do all of these things with only a good set of knives and a good set of pots and pans.

8. Not monopolize the conversation. Why should this be a thing men should know how to do? I'd extend this to everybody.

9. Write a letter. Yup. I do this very well, and I wish I'd find time to do it more often. Maybe we should come up with a Blogistan-based letter exchange of some sort?

10. Buy a suit. I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to go about buying a suit. I'd find a decent haberdashery, though – an independent place that's been around for many years, hopefully even decades, with the ownership in its second or third generation, and then I'd put my shoulders back and say, "I need a suit and I have absolutely no idea how to buy one."

11. Swim three different strokes. I'm covered. I can swim freestyle, backstroke, and breast stroke; I can do a butterfly stroke if ordered to, although if my life depended on executing the fundamentals of the stroke with any degree of proficiency above that of a purely recreational swimmer, I'd be screwed. I can also do that weird underwater thing that Patrick Duffy did on The Man from Atlantis, which actually works but looks really weird.

12. Show respect without being a suck-up. Sure.

13. Throw a punch. Well, OK. Or, know how to avoid situations where punching would be a useful skill.

14. Chop down a tree. What kind of tree? If you're taking down something small, the size of a Christmas tree, fine. But if this guy's suggesting that you should know how to bring down that three-hundred-year old oak in your backyard, that's just silly. Call the professionals.

15. Calculate square footage. Everybody should know how to do this, right? Moving on:

16. Tie a bow tie. No. Sorry, but if you want to wear a bow tie, then learn. Otherwise, who cares?

17. Make one drink, in large batches, very well. I'm genuinely not sure what the point of this is. What if your one drink is one that isn't very popular with the people you're having over? This one is just silly.

18. Speak a foreign language. Everybody should be able to do this. I can't, except for an extremely basic comprehension of French left over from my high school days.

19. Approach a woman out of his league. To what purpose, exactly? Conversation? A trip to her home? I've never been the type to approach people I don't know, anyway.

20. Sew a button. Another skill everybody should have.

21. Argue with a European without getting xenophobic or insulting soccer. OK, although the soccer thing is off the table if they bring it up. Then, it's fair game. Especially if they take after baseball.

22. Give a woman an orgasm so that he doesn't have to ask after it. Wait a minute: there are guys who ask after it? A better rule would be, "Never ask. Period."

23. Be loyal. To what? And don't be unquestioningly loyal. And if you're in a position of authority and responsibility, reward loyalty rather than demanding it.

24. Know his poison, without standing there, pondering like a dope. Sure.

25. Drive an eightpenny nail into a treated two-by-four without thinking about it. Yup – and afterwards, use a nail set to drive the head below the surface of the wood.

26. Cast a fishing rod without shrieking or sighing or otherwise admitting defeat. I'm not sure if this is something every man should be able to do, but maybe that's just because I've never gone fishing in my life. There, I said it.

27. Play gin with an old guy. I don't know about gin; seems any such game would do. Like chess.

28. Play go fish with a kid. Again, why make it game-specific? Any game will do, as long as you keep up with the kid's age by not playing Candyland with a fifth-grader. (Besides, as I've mentioned before, aside from the shuffle of the deck, there is no element of chance at all in Candyland.)

29. Understand quantum physics well enough that he can accept that a quarter might, at some point, pass straight through the table when dropped. Sure. And be able to talk about evolution, plate tectonics, and astronomy. Be able to pick out constellations and name some stars.

30. Feign interest. I confess that I'm not terribly good at this. If the topic at hand is not interesting me, I can't keep my eyes from going all glassy.

31. Make a bed. I can do this. I never actually do this, but I can, which I guess is the important thing. Bed-making has never struck me as being a terribly useful or important thing, unless one is having company.

32. Describe a glass of wine in one sentence without using the terms nutty, fruity, oaky, finish, or kick. This ability goes beyond wine: if you can describe wine in more poetic terms than talking about how oaky it is on your palate, then you can probably also describe the way your co-worker's pale orange sweater reminds you of the sky just before sunrise on the first day of summer.

33. Hit a jump shot in pool. Meh. Or, just don't play pool or assume that people give a crap about how good at pool you are.

34. Dress a wound. For God's sake, everybody should be able to do this.

35. Jump-start a car (without any drama). Change a flat tire (safely). Change the oil (once). OK, that's three things, which is cheating. But anybody should be able to do this, too.

36. Make three different bets at a craps table. Oh, come on. I think this writer is making some pretty liberal assumptions as to the universality of his personal interests as applied to all men. Knowing how to make three different bets at a craps table is of no more use to me than being able to load a reel-to-reel tape deck. Less, even, since I have hobbies that could conceivably lead to me threading a reel-to-reel tape deck if I took them far enough.

37. Shuffle a deck of cards. Again, everybody should be able to passably randomize the deck.

38. Tell a joke. Maybe, maybe not. There are lots of people I know who are terribly witty and funny and who yet cannot tell a joke. If you can't, accept it and just don't make the attempt.

39. Know when to split his cards in blackjack. There he goes again. Not all men are regulars at the tables in Vegas.

40. Speak to an eight-year-old so he will hear. Or she.

41. Speak to a waiter so he will hear. Again, or she. Also, always remember that just because they're being paid to serve you doesn't make them your servants.

42. Talk to a dog so it will hear. Huh? Really: huh?!

43. Install: a disposal, an electronic thermostat, or a lighting fixture without asking for help. Sure.

44. Ask for help. Absolutely.

45. Break another man's grip on his wrist. Sure, why not?

46. Tell a woman's dress size. I can't imagine why this ability would be useful, much less so useful as to universalized to all men.

47. Recite one poem from memory. Don't stop at one. Know lots of poems. Song lyrics, too, but the good songs by the good songwriters. Especially if you have any inclinations toward writing.

48. Remove a stain. I'd extend this to being able to do laundry without ruining stuff.

49. Say no. Not a skill I've been blessed with, sadly enough.

50. Fry an egg sunny-side up. Or any other way, really. "Over easy" doesn't actually mean "flip it over and cook it to death".

51. Build a campfire. Another skill everybody should have, probably.

52. Step into a job no one wants to do. That's the entire nature of my current job.

53. Sometimes, kick some ass. OK, I suppose.

54. Break up a fight. This has never come up for me, so I don't know.

55. Point to the north at any time. Always useful. At night, be able to pick out the North Star.

56. Create a play-list in which ten seemingly random songs provide a secret message to one person. OK, now here's a skill I've got in spades. I make terrific play-lists.

57. Explain what a light-year is. I can do this. I can also explain a parsec and offer all manner of BS rationales why Han Solo wasn't full of crap.

58. Avoid boredom. One step might be to stop reading this blog! (Kidding, of course. This blog rocks.)

59. Write a thank-you note. This is a skill for everybody, not just men.

60. Be brand loyal to at least one product. For me? Yuengling Lager, Ben&Jerry's ice cream, Captain Morgan's spiced rum, Cockburn's Ruby Port, Rishi green tea.

61. Cook bacon. This falls under my category above of being able to cook lots of stuff. I don't believe in "flat" bacon, though: I like my bacon all twisted and curly, the way it gets when done on the stove in a pan. Especially if the bacon is for use in a BLT, because then the bacon curls on itself on the sandwich to make double thicknesses of bacony goodness.

62. Hold a baby. Sigh....

63. Deliver a eulogy. I don't know that I could deliver one, but I know I can write one.

64. Know that Christopher Columbus was a son of a bitch. OK, you have to click through above to read the writer's larger rationale on this one, but I think it holds for everyone.

65-67. Throw a baseball over-hand with some snap. Throw a football with a tight spiral. Shoot a 12-foot jump shot reliably. Meh. Everybody should be able to demonstrate the fundamentals of whatever sport it is that's their "thing", but doing these three things specifically? Again, meh. (probably because I suck at basketball.)

68. Find his way out of the woods if lost. A definite. I wandered off a trail once in Allegany State Park, but finding my way back to "civilization" was a fairly easy matter of continuing to always head downhill until I reached a road.

69. Tie a knot. Another one for everybody. One or two kinds of knots is fine, though, unless you're a sailor or someone who really wants to know lots of nautical stuff.

70. Shake hands. Lord, yes! You don't have to crush the other guy's hand – it's not a contest of strength, after all – but really, nothing's worse than a guy with a limp handshake. There really are few things I think are acceptable for women that aren't for a man, but a limp handshake is one of them.

71. Iron a shirt. Yup, this is useful.

72. Stock an emergency bag for the car. Another one for everybody, not just men. And "beer" does not count as an emergency item. If stocking an emergency bag for winter, don't forget candles and a large tin can, like a coffee can; a fat candle burning in a tin can puts out a surprising amount of heat. And a gun, with one bullet for each member of your party. (Oh, come on. I'm kidding about that one. Jeebus!)

73. Caress a woman's neck. Oh, yes. And speak the language of love! (Not French, either.)

74. Know some birds. I'd extend this to knowing birds and trees and rocks, to an extent. Nature walks and hikes are more rewarding if you're able to appreciate your surroundings on a deeper level than "Oooooh, pretty!"

75. Negotiate a better price. I dread large purchases, because I have little tolerance for haggling, little ability for haggling, and I don't have a hell of a lot of sales resistance, either.

I don't know what this all means about me. Aside from the goofy gambling stuff, most of this is stuff that everybody should know how to do, right?

Monday, May 12, 2008

A post in which I admit to being an occasional moron.

Following a link on a blog I read regularly, I found myself at this blog, which boasts a very pretty photo of some American city's skyline in bright daylight. I sat here for about sixty seconds, trying to identify the city. If you're wondering how this makes me a moron, go look at the masthead image in question.


They call him MISTER Shatner

Oh wow, how did I pass so much time online without hearing this? It's an MP3 of a recording session by William Shatner in which he's recording a voiceover of some sort. But when the producer guy decides to start making specific requests regarding Shatner's delivery of said voiceover, he unwittingly unleashes Shatner's Inner Jerk, with utterly hysterical results. This was played on the Howard Stern show, so after the Shatner stuff is over, there's some salty commentary by Stern and cohorts. But wow, that laugh of Shatner' can just hear him thinking, "OK, jerk-off producer guy, you want to mess with Teh Shat?"

(Found in this MeFi thread)

Sentential Links #140

Here we go!

:: You rarely see a gun, or a silencer, or a decapitation in an Archie comic. (Wow! I can cross another item off my "Things I never thought I'd see" list.)

:: GREAT balls. Bob Dylan makes DELICIOUS balls. (Oh, go look. It's safe for work, not at all what you're thinking, you dirty-bird!)

:: ART is a beautiful woman, specifically the suntanned legs that went on for miles belonging to the lady who had just left the shop in those high high heels. He stood there for a moment, and the realization dawned. I had him.

:: To the senseless captains of Electronic Arts: Fall under a bus and die, you rotten offspring of ignorance and folly. You’ll never get my money. Good luck trying to get some out of the pirates.

:: I love Iron Man because he's a superhero who isn't bitten by a spider, who doesn't come from another planet, who hasn't simply mutated. He's just a dude with a giant brain. Tony Stark finds a way to fully realize his superhero attribute -- his genius. (Long post about a bunch of topics.)

:: Anyone who wants to have my copy, let me know. Mint condition, thrown only once. (I was going to make fun of Sir Jones the Indestructible for his inability to get through a long and difficult novel, but then my copy of Brothers K popped up its head and said, "Yoo-hoo! Remember me?" Indeed I do...but one day, that book and I shall have our reckoning. Oh yes.)

:: Today, folks, I had a revelation of grand proportions. I have seen the light and discovered my life purpose... I am a kick-ass matchmaker. (I am such a sucker for stories like this.)

:: Therefore, given my need of yet another dirty, dangerous, mechanical pastime and the generally overwhelming novelty of a device that will make music completely unaided by electricity (a rare novelty indeed in this perniciously harrowing and disconcertingly electronic day and age) I've decided to use the pieces I have as the starting point and eventually cobble together a fully functional turn-of-the-last-century Grafonola; not a museum piece, but a working, running, disc-spinning, Hawaiian music-and-big band-wailing talking machine. (Wow. This sounds like an undertaking.)

All for this week. Return next week for all new stuff!

Makin' it up as he goes

Last week when I wrote my list of 100 Things That Bug Me, I included as item #32 that when the new Indiana Jones movie comes out, the criticism focused on it will credit anything good in the movie to Spielberg or Harrison Ford or the screenwriter or whomever, while anything bad in the movie will be all George Lucas's fault. The narrative about Lucas seems to be settling that whenever he manages to turn out something good, it's invariably the result of some kind of alchemical reaction resulting from the happy circumstance of the talent he's put together for that particular project, because it's been clearly established that Lucas himself, left to his own devices, produces naught but Certified Crap On A Stick. And wouldn't you know it, but I found a precursor in a post by Lance Mannion.

It seems that Lance watched Raiders of the Lost Ark with his family the other night, and while he still likes the movie as a whole, he doesn't care for the film's climax, what with the Ark of the Covenant unleashing the Power of God to melt the faces of the Nazis and make Belloq's head literally explode. If he doesn't like the ending, that's his prerogative, obviously, but look where he places the blame:

It's funny how that George Lucas, having originally conceived of the Indiana Jones movies as being full of the occult and the spook-tacular, had to have all that wedged into each movie, as if he looked at each of Spielberg's first edits and said, "Where's all the scary mystical stuff, Steven? Go back and put some in, ok?"

"Wedged into each movie"? When I saw Raiders as a kid, I thought the whole opening of the film was deliciously creepy; it didn't feel "wedged" in there at all.

Lance also backs his point by appealing to John Williams as a gigantic factor in the success of Star Wars, saying:

A third if not half of the original Star Wars' contagious joyfulness came from Williams' score. A lesser composer and Star Wars might easily have been a one-shot, a cult favorite, kept alive by repeated late night showings on the Sci-fi channel back when the superimposed cartoon aliens commented on every film.

Ouch. There you have the standard thinking on George Lucas: it's always to someone else's credit when something of his is good. Now it's John Williams keeping Star Wars out of MST3K oblivion. Not that I don't revere the score to Star Wars, because I do, but let's be realistic: there are lots of movies with great scores that have nevertheless sunk into obscurity. I don't think a score has ever saved a movie, no matter what the Jerry Goldsmith freaks at the FSM board will tell you. (The Final Conflict has a great score. It's still a piece of crap of a movie.)

This kind of thinking happens all the time. I have a friend at work who seems to loathe George Lucas, and like all such sufferers of Lucas Derangement Syndrome, he loves to toss Howard the Duck into the conversation whenever Lucas's name comes up. And he won't be dissuaded by the obvious point that Lucas neither wrote, directed, scored, nor starred in Howard the Duck: "Hey, he produced it! That means he's responsible for the whole thing!" Well, OK, but if we're going to go by that logic, then I think it's probably time we all let Michael Bay off the hook for Pearl Harbor, Steven Spielberg for 1941, Eddie Murphy for The Golden Child, Joel Schumacher and George Clooney for Batman and Robin, and...well, you get the idea. Now, there is something to be said for magic happening when certain creative teams get together, but this is by no means a sure thing. Not every Astaire-and-Rogers musical is a gem; Fierce Creatures is an entertaining comedy, but despite sharing the same four leads, it's no Fish Called Wanda.

But to return to Raiders of the Lost Ark, I've never had a problem with the ending. Lance and his commenters seem to think that the ending doesn't fit the movie that precedes it, but of course it does! The early briefing scene, when Indy and Marcus Brody are explaining the Ark of the Covenant to the two Army guys who seem to never have attended Sunday School, has Indy opening his Bible to an engraving of the Ark blasting its enemies with "Lightning, fire, or the Power of God or something"; Marcus points out "The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions. An army which carries the Ark before it is invincible." It's set up very early on that the object the Nazis are looking for contains within it the very power of God, and it's referenced again in the hold of the cargo ship when the Ark burns the swastika right off the crate, so at the end, when it's the Power of God which strikes them all down, it comes as no surprise. Nor, really, does the grisly nature of God's punishment toward those who touch his Ark seem inappropriate to anyone who has read any of the Old Testament at all. This is an instrument of the God who turned Lot's wife into salt because she looked back at where she'd come from. So yeah, melting the Nazis? I can see Old Testament Jehovah doing that.

What doesn't quite add up is Indy's sudden realization that he and Marion will be safe as long as they shut their eyes and refuse to look openly on the power of the Ark. How did he know? Was it pure intuition? We don't know. In the novelization, there's a line from that old wise man Indy and Sallah visit for the translation of the writing on the Headpiece; the line seems to be prefaced in the movie, when he says "This is a warning, not to disturb the Ark of the Covenant." In the movie that's all he says, but in the book he adds something like "He who would open the Ark and look on its contents will surely die", reading from the Headpiece. So at the end, it's that bit of wisdom that Indy suddenly remembers. That would have made the ending of Raiders make a little more sense.

I'm not sure how Lance would have Raiders end, but the Ark is the gun on the mantelpiece, and it's got to go off in Act Three. And since we're dealing with not just any gun, but God's gun, it's got to go off something fierce. What else would have done? One final big action set piece? Without the Ark ever being opened? That would have just been silly.

(And here's a thought: we all know that the Ark is locked away by the US Government by the "bureaucratic fools" Indy rants about at the end. But is that the right way to look at this? I imagine that Indy had to signal for a rescue from that island in the Mediterranean; assuming they're picked up by an American ship, they'd find a man, a woman, a golden box, and...a whole bunch of dead Nazis who have been slain in spectacularly nasty fashion. Upon returning to the US, these Army guys (one of whom is played by William Hootkins, who was the first Rebel pilot to die above the Death Star in Star Wars) learn all this, and now they've got a dilemma: Now that they have the Ark, what the hell do they do with it? If it's that powerful and indiscriminate in meting out punishment, then they can't very well use it in any meaningful sense; and they can't put it back where it was found, now that the Nazis know where Tanis and the Well of Souls are. So, they take the last option that makes any sense: they seal it away themselves, someplace secret and safe. Makes sense to me, and Indy's "bureaucratic fools" are actually doing the only responsible thing they can. How about that?)

One thing I really like about Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is that Indy is never really questing after the Holy Grail because he really wants it, whereas the younger Indy in Raiders wanted the Ark all along. At first, in Last Crusade, Indy is searching for his father; he only ends up going after the Grail because everybody else is, and he doesn't want it falling into Nazi hands. He's able to use some of the wisdom he gained in his quest for the Ark in his search for the Grail: when he realizes, for instance, how to get past the whirling blades by kneeling before God, but even moreso when he shows the insight that the Grail would not be a beautiful golden chalice encrusted with jewels, but rather a worn and dented and beat-up old cup befitting a King who showed up to claim his kingdom by riding on a donkey. That's one really good thing about Last Crusade, a movie which otherwise has quite a few problems.

Lance also seems reticent to watch Temple of Doom again. Frankly, I've come full circle on Temple; when it first came out I loved it owing to its constant action, but then I liked it less when I decided I didn't much like Willie Scott or Short Round. But even later after that, I decided that Willie and Shorty weren't quite as annoying as all that, and I really liked the film's set pieces and exploration of a whole different milieu. And I think it's cool that Indiana Jones's adventures establish as real the power of Jehovah, of Christ, and of the Gods of the Hindu pantheon. Of course, Temple is a lot more gory than Raiders and Last Crusade; in fact, if memory serves, it was Temple that was largely responsible for the creation of the PG-13 rating in the first place.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Unidentified Earth 38

The last two remaining installments have both been identified, at last! UI 35 is Elliot's house from ET: The Extra-terrestrial (it's the one with the longer driveway), while UI 37 is the Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mt Hood in Oregon. As usual, one thousand Quatloos to the winner, although that winner is proving to be the same person each time out, so either I have to make this harder or reduce the prize. Heh!

Anyway, time for the new location.

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

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

:: I'm with Lynn: I wouldn't try this, either.

:: Via Bella we see what you can do when you apparently have all of your ligaments removed from your body. Aieee!!! (There's a brief commercial first; that's not the actual video.)

:: I subscribe to Mental Floss, but I'd never much checked out the website, which turns out to be chock full of stuff you don't find in the already-fun magazine. One example: a history of Bud Bowl.

More weirdness next week.

Fixing the Prequels: The Phantom Menace (part nine)

part one
part two
part three
part four
part five
part six
part seven
part eight

(The entire series can be read by clicking the Post Label at the bottom of each individual post in the series.)

And now at last we return to our repairs on The Phantom Menace. When last we left our heroes, we had just finished discussing the Midichlorians while our heroes are en route back to Naboo for...whatever it is the Queen is planning.

At this point I'd have a quick little bit with Darth Sidious and Darth Maul:


Darth Maul is kneeling in meditation in his personal chambers on his ship when a hologram of DARTH SIDIOUS appears before him.

SIDIOUS: Lord Maul.

Maul opens his eyes and bows before his master.

SIDIOUS: You are aware of the situation, then. The political situation on Coruscant has surprisingly changed to our benefit, but the Queen cannot be allowed to claim a victory on Naboo that might yet alter the way things are proceeding here. I have signaled the Viceroy that you will soon be joining him. With your guidance, they cannot be defeated. The Naboo will fall under the armies of the Trade Federation, and you will be free to do what you must. Confront the Jedi, and destroy them.

Maul bows again. Sidious fades from view.


Maul's ship is now approaching Naboo.

After that, I'd cut back to the Queen's ship, pretty much as it happens in the movie (it's yet another well-directed scene), only with a couple of extra little bits tossed in:


SABE and EIRTAE stand behind QUEEN AMIDALA as she talks with QUI-GON and Capt. Panaka. OBI-WAN and JAR JAR watch.

PANAKA: The moment we land the Federation will arrest you and force you to sign the treaty.

QUI GON: I agree. I'm not sure what you hope to accomplish by this.

Amidala glances at Padme, who holds her gaze.

AMIDALA: I am going to take back what is ours.

PANAKA: Your Highness, we have no army! There are only twelve of us on this ship, and perhaps we can contact any resistance that has arisen, but we will still be too few.

QUI GON: Obi Wan and I can protect you, but we cannot fight a war for you.

AMIDALA: And your protection will be valued, Master Jedi. Jar Jar Binks!

A puzzled Jar Jar steps forward.

JAR JAR: Mesa, your highness?

AMIDALA: Yes. I have need of a race of warriors, and you will help me.

Next the Naboo ship lands on the planet surface, after they note the Droid Control Ship orbiting. There's a line in the original script, not in the movie, about the blockade being gone because the Naboo have surrendered. It's a simple and plausible explanation; I don't know why Uncle George cut that line out. Maybe he figured everyone else would figure that out? Anyway, I'd leave it in.

The ship lands in the forests of Naboo, and then we have this between Qui Gon and Obi Wan:


The Naboo spacecraft has landed in the Gungan swamp. TROOPS unload the ships in the background as OBI-WAN approaches QUI-GON.

OBI WAN: Jar Jar is on his way to the Gungan city, master.

Qui Gon's thoughts are elsewhere.

QUI GON: Good.

OBI WAN: What if the Queen cannot convince the Gungans to join her?

QUI GON: Then she is going to fail. But we cannot use our power to help her, when she meets with Boss Nass. We cannot coerce an entire people to war.

There is a brief silence.

OBI WAN: Master, I am sorry for my behavior on Coruscant. It is not my place to question your judgment about the boy. And I am grateful you think I am ready for the Trials.

Qui Gon smiles at his apprentice.

QUI GON: What I said was true, Obi Wan: you have little more to learn from me. I foresee you will become a great Jedi Knight.

When I first saw the movie I was confused when Qui Gon says "We cannot use our power to help her"; I didn't realize he meant using the Jedi Mind Trick to force Boss Nass to take the Gungans to war. So I clear that up above.

At this point Jar Jar returns and reports that Otoh Gunga is deserted. The original script has Jar Jar arriving there and finding the place completely empty; I wouldn't mind having that back, since the visuals of the abandoned Otoh Gunga would be markedly different from the vibrant city we saw early in the film. He offers to take the group to the 'sacred place' where the Gungans may have escaped to; and sure enough, there they all are. In the movie, this doesn't look like a giant collection of Gungans, so I'd have the visuals somehow convey the idea of an entire civilization on the run with thousands of Gungans standing around as the talk proceeds. And in this scene, the shoe drops as far as all those meaningful glances between the Queen and Padme. I actually like the way this proceeds in the movie, with one exception: I'd have it seem as though Boss Nass is really on the verge of refusing to help the Naboo before having Padme step forward and announce her identity as the actual Queen. The feeling of hope when Boss Nass agrees to help the Naboo after all would be more real that way.

In the film, there's yet another scene between Darth Sidious and the Trade Federation guys here. I'd cut it out; we don't really need to know what it is they're up to, since we already know what they're up to, and I have a little problem with Sidious micromanaging things to this extent.

So, I'd cut to the final planning scene before the Battle of Naboo, which starts with Boss Nass expressing his approval of Jar Jar's conduct while on his various exploits. I'd play this up a bit:

As the others plan for war, Boss Nass steps in beside Jar Jar and drapes an arm over his shoulder.

BOSS NASS: Yousa doin' well, Binks.

JAR JAR: Oh no, Boss Nass. Mesa doin' mostly nothing.

BOSS NASS: No! Mesa heard you fought de mechanics. Mesa heard you befriend de Naboo. Wesa here because of yousa. So, I maken yousa bombad General.

JAR JAR: What?

Boss Nass hands Jar Jar a long knife whose hilt is carved in the shape of a fish.

BOSS NASS: Takin' de Gunga-knife. Yousa a warrior now, Binks.

With that Boss Nass walks off, leaving behind a very stunned Jar Jar. Captain Tarpals comes up from behind.

TARPALS: Yousa finally gettin' yousa Gunga weapon?

JAR JAR: Uh huh!

TARPALS: Yousa still owin' mesa fifty goldshells for breakin' mine.

Jar Jar's eyes fall, and he hands his new knife to Tarpals, who takes it and walks off, chuckling.

My re-envisioning of Jar Jar's character arc, you remember, began with him being despondent that he would never be a warrior, and now he's been made a warrior.

Next there's all the planning stuff, which goes by pretty quickly and works pretty well for what it is: scene setting for what's about to come. I like this scene as well, and I've always appreciated the way Natalie Portman imbued Padme with the confidence of a Queen in these latter scenes in the movie. Her mask is down, and she is finding her way as the leader of her people. Just after this, I'd make my first major alteration to the final act of the film. We need a scene between Anakin and Padme here, just after the planning scene is done:

As preparations continue in the background, Padme comes over to Anakin, who is sitting with his back to a tree. Artoo stands nearby.

PADME: Are you all right, Annie?

ANAKIN: I'm fine.

PADME: You're angry with me.

ANAKIN: No I'm not.

PADME: Then why aren't you looking at me?

Anakin lifts his eyes, and sure enough, he looks angry.

ANAKIN: You could have told me who you are.

PADME: I wanted to. I almost did, several times. But this has been very dangerous for us all, and I couldn't risk your safety.

ANAKIN: I can take care of myself.

PADME: I'm sure you can, if you're to be a Jedi.

Now Anakin looks even sadder.

ANAKIN: I'm not sure if I'm going to be a Jedi. They said I was too old. Master Windu kept looking at me like I'd done something wrong just by being there.

PADME: Well, I imagine you are something new to them.

ANAKIN: They said that, too. (beat) So which is your real name then? Padme, or Amidala?

PADME: Padme is my birth name, Padme Naberrie. But I had to take a ceremonial name when I was elected Queen, and I chose Amidala, after the main character in one of my favorite stories from when I was a child. Amidala is my formal name. For you, I hope I am always Padme. (beat) Annie, I should have told you, and I'm sorry I didn't. But this has all been very hard for me. I am the first Queen to have to deal with something like this since before Naboo joined the Republic. If I haven't handled parts of this very well, I hope you'll forgive me.

ANAKIN: I forgive you. I just hope nothing bad happens to you.

PADME: I don't think it will. I have your gift.

She shows him that she is wearing the pendant he carved for her, and he smiles.

PADME: For luck.

ANAKIN: For luck.

Captain Panaka approaches from behind.

PANAKA: My Lady, it is time.

Padme touches Anakin's arm.

PADME: Until later?

ANAKIN: Until later.

With that she leaves, heading off for war.

ANAKIN: I guess we're stuck here, Artoo.

Artoo beeps.

ANAKIN: We have nothing to do.

Artoo beeps again.

ANAKIN: Those speeders sure have large cargo compartments, don't they?

Now we cut back to the Palace, where the Trade Federation guys are getting a bit antsy:


NUTE and RUNE are pacing nervously when Darth Sidious's hologram appears before them.

SIDIOUS: You keep summoning me, Viceroy. Can you not wipe out a tiny band of Naboo without my input on the matter?

NUTE: But Lord Sidious, she has more than a tiny band of Naboo. The underwater dwellers of this world have joined her and are massing an army in the swamps to the east of the city.

SIDIOUS: You summoned me because you are threatened by Gungans? They play at war, but they are no more warriors than you. This is an unexpected move for Queen Amidala, but it will prove foolish nonetheless.

NUTE: Then we have your approval for full reprisal?

SIDIOUS: Wipe them out. All of them.

I always loved the way Ian McDiarmid growled out that last line.

The next thing is the march of the Gungan army. I love the visuals of this brief scene, the first Gungan emerging from the mist and then the army moving onto the plains. The only change I'd make here is that the army would stop and wait, but the Trade Federation droid army wouldn't arrive...just yet:

CAPTAIN TARPALS: Deysa comin' soon, then.

JAR JAR: Wesa warriors.

TARPALS: Deysa warriors too.

Jar Jar swallows nervously as he looks at the lines of Gungans arrayed behind him.

And then I would cut to a place on the outskirts of Theed, below the waterfalls, where a series of tunnels cut into the rockface:


Six Naboo speeders approach one of the waterfalls, and then slip around the back of the waterfall and into a giant cavern hidden from view by the cascading water.


The speeders stop here, and the people inside disembark: Queen Padme Amidala, her actual handmaiden who is still dressed as Queen, Qui Gon, Obi Wan, and thirty Naboo troopers. Directly across from them a passage disappears into the rock.

PADME: These passages are never used anymore, but they will take us up to the main level of the city.

OBI WAN: I only hope Captain Panaka is able to get into position without being seen.

PADME: Panaka is very good, Master Jedi. He will be there. But we must move!

The group vanishes into the passage, leaving the six speeders alone. Suddenly one of the cargo compartments pops open, and out drops Artoo with a metallic THUD, followed by Anakin.

ANAKIN: Sorry, Artoo. I didn't think the hatch would open that fast.

Artoo whines.

ANAKIN: Well, this is your planet, Artoo. Where do we go now?

Artoo shines a light at the passage into which Padme led her people.

ANAKIN: All right, let's go.

He grabs a blaster from the compartment. Artoo beeps in concern.

ANAKIN: Don't worry, I'm a good shot. You have to be on Tatooine, with all those womp rats around. Let's go!

The point of a lot of this is to address some of the emotional stuff that should have been there in the movie but somehow wasn't, and to set up Anakin more as a character. Here he already feels a bit of disappointment in Padme in that she didn't trust him implicitly with her secret, and then we have him acting impulsively by deciding on his own to go to war. And how about that reference to bulls-eyeing womp rats on Tatooine! Am I a geek or what?

Anyhow, that's where I'll stop for now. Next time, we'll tweak the Battle of Naboo a bit, and then we'll finish the entire movie and have some final thoughts. Tune in again, Star Warriors!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ye Olde Quizze Masterre

Two quizzes from SamuraiFrog, here and here. The first looks familiar, but I've been doing these for so long, I've probably already done it at some point. Maybe I'll seek that out and, if I did do it, compare answers. Or not.

1.Name: Real name, Kelly; Internet handle, "Jaquandor"

2. Nicknames: None, really.

3. Feet size: 11, although that can vacillate a bit depending on the brand of shoe in question.

4. Do you have a crush: Sela Ward, as always; and I have the feeling that my long-dormant crush on Gillian Anderson's about to come back in a BIG way.

5. Girlfriend/Boyfriend: Wife.

6. Age you act: Twelve, probably. That's the true Golden Age of Science Fiction.

7. Where Do You Live: Orchard Park, NY, which is a suburb of Buffalo.

8. Where you want to live: Anyplace in Southern Erie County. I love this whole region so damn much.

9. Birthplace: Pittsburgh, PA

10. Favorite Salad Dressing: Extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

11. Ever gone skinny dipping? Heavens, no. Swimming clothed, yes, but in the buff? Believe me, nobody wants that.

12. What are you watching? PBS, because I'm that friggin' cultured. (OK, fine, I'm not watching PBS. I'm sitting at my desk writing this; The Wife is watching Deal or No Deal.)

13. Last person you talked to: Either The Wife or The Daughter, within the last fifteen minutes or so. Or maybe one of the cats. I don't remember the last thing I said.

14. Favorite movie: Star Wars, duh!

15. Favorite Book: The Lord of the Rings or The Lions of Al-Rassan.

16. Favorite Type of music: Classical, film music, and Celtic.

17. Favorite types of cars: The ones we haven't invented yet that don't run on gasoline because even though we've known for decades that we'd eventually reach this point we decided to be lazy about it all.

18. Favorite Saying: I say "We can only hope" a lot. My best friend likes to poke fun at me for saying that.

19. Favorite Fast Food: A jumbo all-beef from Ted's Hot Dogs or a Super Mighty from Mighty Taco. (I don't consider pizza a fast food.)

20. Favorite Ice Cream: Coffee Haagen-Dasz, although I haven't had it in many moons.

21. Favorite Alcoholic Drink: Just one? I can't pick. Big fan of rum, Southern Comfort, red wine, and various beers.

22. When Do You Go To Sleep: Generally between 11 and midnight.

23. Most Embarrassing Moment: It's so hard to pick just one, sadly. There was this time, never mind.

24. Stupidest Person you know: "Myself," he answered, displaying his famous diplomatic aplomb.

25. Funniest Person you know: The Daughter is always good for a laugh or two.

27. Favorite Food: Pizza, I suppose.

28. Favorite Song: I couldn't possibly name a single favorite, but it would probably be a Lerner-and-Loewe song if I could. So picking one at random, oh, "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" from My Fair Lady.

29. Favorite Television Show: The Office, Grey's Anatomy, Hell's Kitchen.

30. Favorite Radio Station: WNED, Buffalo's classical station.

31. Favorite junk food: Savory: burgers. Sweet: chocolate chip cookies.

32. Favorite sappy love song: For some reason, I really like "Inside Your Heaven", sung by Carrie Underwood. It was her first single after winning American Idol.

33. Favorite Drink: Water.

34. Favorite article of clothing: You're kidding, right?

35. Favorite Animal: The orca.

36. School: Went to a few.

37. How Many Kids You Want: The one I have, and the ones I lost.

38. What Kind Of Job: Maintenance.

39. Wedding song: "Unchained Melody". I would have preferred "Reflections of Passion" by Yanni, but there's nothing wrong with the Righteous Brothers. (Yes, I said Yanni. Shut up.)

40. Pets: Two dumb cats and one cat that's marginally smarter.

41. 5 years from now? Published?

42. 10 years from now? Published, happy, healthy.

Have You Ever...?

1. Done Drugs: Only by prescription. Illegal stuff, no.

2. Run Away From Home: No. I had no idea where I'd go.

3. Hit A Girl: No. I don't see anything more inherently wrong with hitting a woman than hitting a man; I just think that hitting people is generally a bad thing.

4. Lied: Sure. Not proud of any of them, but sometimes you have to and sometimes you don't.

5. Stolen Anything: In my idiotic youth, yes. Since then, just the occasional marker or pack of post-its from the office supply room.

6. Broken A Bone: I broke my collar bone in seventh grade when a local bully pushed me off my bike. Should I ever meet him again, I plan to break both of his collar bones, among some other less essential parts of him.

7. Cheated On A Test: Yeah, once or twice. Not terribly proud of that, either.

8. Cheated On A girlfriend/boyfriend: Never, not once.

9. Gotten Drunk: Yup. Not in a long time. I used to enjoy the occasional drunkenness, but last time I got good and plowed, I decided that I just didn't like the feeling anymore.

10. Been With Two guys/girls At Once: Huh?! What?! I've gotta be honest here: I find the whole menage a trois notion pretty repellent.

11. Been In The Hospital: For myself? No, except a couple of trips to the emergency room as a kid to have a broken bone set and another time when I needed tetanus shots after an unfortunate encounter involving my kayak and a barbed wire fence. (No, I'm not making that up.)

12. Let a friend cry on your shoulder: This is what shoulders are for.

13. Fell asleep in the shower/bath: No, but I've nodded off in the hot tub before. (My parents' hot tub, actually. As if we own a hot tub.)

14. Gone to Church: Yes, on most Sundays.

15. Never slept during a night: Does this mean, pulling an all-nighter? Aside from a couple of cross-country drives during the college years, only once, and that had nothing to do with studying.

16. Ever been on a motorcycle or motorbike: No. They look fun, but I think I'd be terrified in one.

17. Been to a camp: Yup, the Bristol Hills Music Camp. Two years as a camper, two as a counselor. What a great time.

18. Sat in a restaurant w/o ordering: No.

19. Seen someone die: Nope, I missed that fine honor by about an hour.

20. Gone a week w/out shaving: Well, I've had a beard since a month or two after I started working at The Store, so yeah.

21. Didn’t wash your hair for a week: Ewwww!

22. Broken something valuable: I don't offhand recall ever breaking anything valuable, but I've broken things that were of enormous sentimental value to me.

23. Thought you were in love: As opposed to actually being in love? That's kind of a weird distinction, isn't it? Anyway, I'm always in love.

24. Streaked the streets: No. And there's a reason for that.

25. Screamed at someone for no reason: Doesn't everybody?

26. Said I love you and meant it: Otherwise it's just words, isn't it?

27. Been hurt by a guy/girl you loved: Those are the hurts that hurt the most.

28. Stayed up till 4 am on the phone: No, since I generally don't like talking on the phone. But I'm open to the possibility.

29. Pulled a prank: Yes, but I'm pretty much of a low-grade pranker, and when I prank someone, I usually stand there grinning like an idiot until they discover the prank, and then I take full credit for it. I'm not the type for obscure or mean pranks left unidentified.

Which Is Better...?

1. Coke Or Pepsi: I have no real preference between the two, to be honest. By default we get Pepsi more than Coke because The Wife strongly prefers Pepsi, but I don't much care.

2. Cats Or Dogs: Cats. Duh. But a nice, big dog would be nice someday. Like Murray in Mad About You; he was a fun dog. No stupid little dogs for me, though: if the sound your dog makes can be honestly represented by the word "yip", then it's not a dog. You've got yourself a rodent. (Actually, I'd probably get a dog and then be horribly disappointed when he turns out to not actually be Satchel from Get Fuzzy.)

3. DVDs or VHS: Is this an option anymore? I love the DVDs, and I'm annoyed that now Blu-Ray is getting pushed down our throat.

4. Deaf Or Blind: If I had to pick one? I guess I'd rather be blind than deaf, because I never want to lose the ability to hear music. But to never again see the faces of certain people? That would also crush my heart like a walnut.

5. Pools Or Hot Tubs: I enjoy swimming. I also enjoy soaking in hot tubs.

6. Television Or Radio: Two different things for two different places, really. I like both.

7. CDs Or mp3: MP3s have lots of advantages for convenience, and I have to admit that it's the way of the future. But I'm still not entirely happy with the idea of divorcing content from the physical storage medium. Hard drives aren't as rigorous as CDs, and that's that.

8. Apples or oranges: Honestly, I love both. I eat an orange nearly every day at work with lunch, and I tend to eat several apples a week. My apple consumption goes up toward the fall when the fresh harvest starts rolling in. (BTW, who out there actually likes the Red Delicious apple? I've never yet met a person who claims that as their preferred apple.)

9. Strawberries or Blueberries: I adore strawberries, but I couldn't live without blueberries.

10. Gold or silver: Gold.

11. Vanilla or chocolate: Chocolate. Rich, dark chocolate. With nuts, or without nuts. With mint filling, without. Or with peanut butter. Or with no filling at all, that 72% cacao stuff that is so dark and chocolatey it's as if the gods of chocolate have bestowed their favor upon you for one brief second. (But you know what? For all my deep dear love of chocolate, I also think that vanilla is a very underrated flavor of its own. There are few pleasures in the hottest summertime better than a bowl of good vanilla bean ice cream with some fresh blueberries on top.)

12. Video or Movie: Depends, but usually it's a DVD at home.

13. Park or Beach: Parks these days, but I'd love to go to a beach again and feel the sand between my toes. We used to go to the beach frequently as a kid, during the years when we lived near Portland, OR. There are beaches on Lake Erie, but for some reason we never much get to them. I'm not sure why. I do love the seashore, though; there's something elemental when I'm standing on the edge of the ocean, something that calls to me. (I think it's the kraken.)

14. Hot or Cold weather: Given a choice between heat and cold, I take cold. I don't like heat. But who knows? Maybe as I get smaller, that will change.

15. Sunset or Sunrise: Sunset.

When is the Last Time You...?

1. Took a shower: About three hours ago.

2. Cried: It's been a few days, oddly enough. I'm probably due.

3. Watched a Disney movie: Hmmm. Been a few days on that, too.

4. Given/gotten a hug: When The Wife got home from work.

5. Been to the movies: Now that has been a while - Enchanted, maybe? We don't get to the movies much at the theater, because it's just too expensive to do regularly anymore. That seems to me a pity, since I love sitting in a theater and watching a movie.

6. Danced: I only dance when I'm alone, because I'm very, very bad at it. I think. I'd love to learn Irish step dancing, though, as a project for some unspecified time in the future when my chest more resembles Michael Flatly's than Tom Arnold's.

7. Did a survey like this: Sometimes I think that surveys like this are the only reason this blog exists!

What Is...?

1. Your Fondest Memory Of This Year: Tom Brady's slumped shoulders after the Super Bowl.

2. Your Most Prized Possession: I suppose the laptop.

3. The Thing That Makes You The Happiest: When I try to make someone smile, and it works.

4. Your Favorite Food For Breakfast: On a normal day, frosted shredded wheat with blueberries on top, with OJ. On a spectacular day, pancakes or waffles.

5. Your Favorite Food For Dinner: If they could invent a pill to counteract all its ill effects, I could probably eat pizza every night. But I also love Chinese. And burgers. And salads topped with chicken or tuna. Or black bean stew. Or chili. Or macaroni and cheese, the way I make it homemade with shell pasta and pork sausage.

6. Your Favorite Slow Song: Sam Cooke, "Wonderful World". The Platters, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes". Blackmore's Night, "The Village Lanterne". Van Halen, "Love Walks In". Ben E. King, "Stand By Me". I could go on.

7. Your Ideal BF/GF: One who's smart, caring, strong, fun to talk to, one who encourages my good insanities and discourages my bad ones, one who thinks I'm not ugly. I lucked out.

What Do You Feel About…?

1. Bill Clinton: I miss his Presidency, but the current campaign isn't doing his image any favors.

2. Love at First Sight: Yes. And no. A sight can point to a possibility, I think, but not actually the real thing. For that, you need interaction.

3. Abortion: The ugly truth is that unless medical technology gets to the point where we can literally gestate fetuses in artificial wombs all the way from conception, and unless that technology is freely available to all women, we're always going to have abortion. Thus, I think it should be legal and safe.

4. Smoking: One of the nastier things we've invented for ourselves, and I really don't have much sympathy for the smokers who complain about cigarette taxes and that they can't smoke in bars anymore. If you don't like the expense, then quit.

5. Death: Not a big fan.

6. Rap: I don't think it's artless noise, but it's not my cup of tea, either. I'm a bit dismayed by the violent nature of the rap "culture", though.

7. Marilyn Manson: I don't know anything about him, but my general impression is that he's pretty lame.

8. Premarital Sex: See, this is one of those things that depends on the situation. I've never understood the "casual hookup" kind of thing that happens between two people who literally met three hours before at some bar. But otherwise...I don't really care what consenting adults do.

9. Suicide: I'm reminded of Hannibal Lecter's line about a patient of his who met a grisly demise: "Best thing for him, really. His therapy was going nowhere." Suicide can sometimes seem like a cowardly thing to do, for those of us on the outside of the suicidal person's head, and that's the problem, isn't it: courage, bravery, and cowardice are internal qualities. None of us knows what's in another's head and heart, so it's awfully hard to pass judgment on those whose lives have taken them to a place where the only option they can find for themselves is to embrace death. Suicide, to me, represents the ultimate in mental illnesses, when the very part of us that craves life has been overridden.

And yes, I do believe there are times when death can, and should, be among one's options.

Wow, that got pretty heavy there at the end, didn't it? So, in the interests of lightening the mood, here's that old bunny with the pancake on its head!

Hee hee, bunny with the pancake on its head. That's comedy gold!