Friday, April 30, 2010

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Eighteen

Favorite Board Game

Hmmmm. We haven't played many board games of late here at Casa Jaquandor; this is something that needs rectified. We still have never played the RISK or Settlers of Catan games that I bought almost a year ago; we gotta dust those off. RISK is lots of fun.

You know what, though? My favorite board game of the "Parker Bros" or "Milton Bradley" variety is probably Sorry. I used to play Sorry all the time with my grandmother when I was a kid and she was in town to visit, and The Daughter and I have often had a great time playing it.

Sorry, for those who haven't played it, is a "Move your piece from Point A to Point B before your opponent does" type of game. What's different is that you don't have one piece but four, so you have to manage your resources a bit. Gameplay is determined not by dice but by drawing from a deck of cards; each card tells you what to do. The name of the game comes from its "revenge" factor: since the object is to move your pieces from your "Start" space all the way around the board to your "Home" space, it stinks when something happens to send one of your pieces all the way back to Start. This happens when one of your opponent's pieces lands on the same space as yours, or when your opponent draws the dreaded "SORRY!" card from the deck.

It's a surprisingly strategic game; you have to make decisions as you go -- do you take advantage of an opportunity to knock one of your opponent's pieces back to Start, possibly buying time or just getting even for when they did it to you, or do you advance your own toward Home? The game's system of play is also loaded with little quirks -- you can only move a piece out of Start on a draw of 1 or 2; if you get a 2 you get to draw again; all cards marked 4 make you move backward 4, so if you're lucky enough to start a piece from Start on a 2 and then draw a Backward-4 on your bonus draw, your piece basically circumvents the entire navigation of the board except for eight measly spaces. A 7 card is unique in that you're allowed to split the move between two pieces. There are no 6s or 9s. A 10 card either lets you move 10, or backward 1. An 11 either lets you move 11 spaces, or switch places with one of your player's pieces. And a 12 is a whopper of a card that allows you to chew up large amounts of the path around the board.

What I always found really cool about Sorry was that whenever I played The Daughter, the game was always close. There were games when she would literally have two pieces all the way around the board and Home before I even had two pieces out of Start, and yet by the end, when the game came to an end, with the winner placing all four pieces into the "Home" space, the loser would have three pieces Home and one very close. I never once played a Sorry blow-out.

So that's Sorry. Time was when The Daughter and I played a lot more board games than we do now; we should probably revisit those days. Before Sorry we had Chutes and Ladders, and before that, of course, there was Candyland, which was maddening in the fact that once the deck is shuffled and gameplay begins, there is literally zero factor of chance in the game; the course of the game is already determined by the order of the cards and all you're doing is unmasking them, one by one, until you learn who wins. (Unless, of course, the initial shuffle results in a scenario whereby the entire deck is drawn before someone has won. Then you shuffle again. But as far as chance goes in Candyland, that's it.)

Let's see, what other board games do I like? Othello is fun. So is Tri-ominoes. Monopoly is literally only fun if you have lots of people playing it, and even then, I've never once played a game of it to completion; every Monopoly game I've ever played ended when a critical mass of people said, "You know, I think I'd rather go dust the fireplace now." As a family we used to play Trivial Pursuit a lot. I'm not sure if it counts as a board game, but my father and I used to have a good time playing Mastermind.

Ultimately, though, my real favorite board game is good old chess. Too bad I'm not very good at it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Something for Thursday

I've never been the biggest fan of Wynton Marsalis, but my favorite album of his is definitely the recording he did with the Eastman Wind Ensemble of solo pieces for cornet, light virtuoso pieces which date back to the era of concert bands touring from town to town, playing concerts in the gazebo in the park. This is the type of music the River City Boy's Band would have played, had Professor Harold Hill actually been a music teacher instead of a swindler.

Anyway, here's Wynton Marsalis playing a set of variations on Carnival of Venice.

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Seventeen

Westgate Theater, originally uploaded by figan.

A Childhood Picture

Errrr...I don't have any of my own. Honestly. All of my childhood photos are at my parents' house, up to and including my high school yearbooks. Part of this is undoubtedly due to the fact that in my family I'm legendary for taking horrible photos when I was a kid, and then later on, when I figured out how to not take horrible photos, I still thought I looked like a doofus.

So, here's the best I can do. This is the apparent demolition of the Westgate Theater in Beaverton, Oregon. What's special about this theater? Why, that's where I first saw Star Wars, at the tender age of 5. I also saw The Empire Strikes Back there. Alas, we had already lived in Western New York for two years when Return of the Jedi came out.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Mayo on burgers: yay or nay?

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Sixteen

Future Tattoos

I suppose I could change my mind, but as of right now, I have zero interest in getting "inked". No piercings, either. Boring one today, I guess!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


This week's ramblings on American Idol, as first posted to Facebook and then here:

:: I think it would be neat to see an episode of CSI: Miami where absolutely nothing happens in slow motion, where Horatio Caine makes eye contact with people when he's talking to them, and where Calleigh doesn't walk around with her blouse unbuttoned down to...well, let's not get crazy, here. First two are fine.

(Oh, sorry, that has nothing to do with IDOL. But I liked it after I said it, so here it is.)

:: Shania Twain night on Idol. Hmmmm...they really should have done Country Night earlier in the competition, since country night usually yields some pretty good performances. Might've helped some lackluster contestants out. Giddy-up!

(Usually "Country Night" happens when there are nine or ten contestants left, which is usually good because every year some of the contestants come from a much more country background than pop, and Country Night usually buys a contestant or two a few extra weeks. It's usually not devoted to a single country artist's songbook, either.)

:: Lee: He's singing a lot of notes outright flat. I still hate his voice. Will Randy tell him he was "pitchy", which he is? And now Lee's embracing his inner Siobhan, doing lots of shouting and man-screeching. Didn't like it.

And then:: Randy said he was a "little pitchy" at the beginning. He was pitchy all the way through it. Lee is this year's David Archuleta -- he can sing like crap and then get told he's doing no wrong at all.

At this point, my personal deck is so stacked against Lee that I'm probably unfair to the guy, but this is all about opinions, and I just don't like him one bit. And this week he was singing notes flat all the way through his song, and still, everyone praised him. Talk about a guy who makes every song sound the same...I think my David Archuleta comparison is pretty apt. The judges were all but ready to hand Archuleta the title the year he was on, even though all he did was one ballad after another. Lee's cut from the same cloth. Lee also decided this week that since nobody's ever going to tell Siobhan to stop screeching her high notes, he should go ahead and scream and screech his, too. His "big notes" sounded awful and unpleasant.

:: Mike: OK, I suppose. Didn't hate it (like I did Lee's), but it didn't blow me away. Ellen compares him to Luther Vandross, when blogger Ken Levine said two weeks ago that Mike makes EVERY song sound like a Luther Vandross song.

An hour later, I have little memory of what Mike did. It made no impression at all, other than it didn't outright suck.

:: Casey: This is better than last week. And he's better than Mike and Lee thus far. He's got an actual country voice and he's making it sound like a country song (I'm looking at you, Mike), and his high notes sound SUNG instead of SCREAMED (I'm looking at you, Lee).

Casey is officially my second favorite contestant of the remaining six.

:: Crystal: She Who Can Do No Wrong. She sounds SO authentic, no matter what she sings. She is Teh Awesome.

Loved her. I don't know the song she did, but she did a country version of the song that actually sounded like Country, and not Annoying Rockabilly, either.

:: Simon Cowell's contribution to the odd round of criticism aimed at Crystal might as well have started out with, "Pahdon me while I place my own head up my own arse."

Simon babbled a bit about how she sounded like a singer in a coffee shop band. Why that's bad, I don't know -- Simon's apparent belief that the only musicians worth a damn in this world are the ones selling multi-platinum records gets irritating from time to time.

:: Aaron: Teenager Sings Makes Ballad Sound Like Every Other Ballad! Video at 11:00!!! Seriously, this is just dull, dull, dull, dull, dull. This kid is a personality vacuum.

Again, in one ear and out the other. He sang this like a straight ballad, and it was boring as hell. But then the judges started to gush! Randy told him, "You're our country performer!", completely ignoring the fact that the performance had zero characteristics that made it sound country at all.

:: Siobhan: God Almighty, I am SO SICK OF HER SCREAM. I almost hate her for it. That was ninety percent of a really good performance, and then she F***ING RUINS it with that damned scream. She's like a little kid who learns a trick and won't stop doing it and shouting "HEY MOMMY WATCH ME DO THIS!!!!".

(I dread watching her take the stage now. No matter what she does, she's going to get that scream in there. It's the most annoying thing I've ever seen in an IDOL contestant. She did an up-tempo song and was doing it fairly well; I was actually enjoying it, but I knew what was coming, and sure enough, at the end, there it was: THE SCREAM THAT ATE PITTSBURGH.

When I was in high school, there was a kid a few years younger than me who was also a trumpet player in the band. By "trumpet player", I am being generous -- he was a lousy player, actually. His technique was piss-poor. But he had a parlor trick of his that for a few years had the band director convinced that he was some kind of hidden talent: through some freakish arrangement of the muscles of his lips, he could produce staggeringly high notes on the trumpet. For young trumpet players, high notes tend to be the Holy Grail; ask any young trumpet player who's at all serious about the instrument what he or she feels is lacking in their skills, and they'll almost always say "Range". But this kid could produce extremely high notes with no apparent effort. He also had no control over those high notes, though; stick a trumpet in his hand and tell him to play a high note, he'd squeal one right out for you. Stick a piece of music on his stand and tell him that at this measure on this beat he needed to produce a High D, well, he was sunk.

That's what Siobhan reminds me of. Her scream is a parlor trick, nothing more. Not only does it add nothing to her performances, it almost always detracts from it, because you know it's coming, hell or high water, whether the song calls for it or not. At least this week, when Simon told her that the scream was unpleasant, she didn't look all pouty -- maybe because the other three judges were there to shower her with their own drool.)

:: Wrapping up: Crystal and Casey. Then Mike and maybe Siobhan (until that last note). Lee and Aaron can go away any time now. I have no use for either one of them.

So who actually goes home? I'm honestly expecting Crystal to depart very soon, maybe even this week. A Siobhan-Lee finale would tax my commitment to the show....)

Ohhhh, the guilt!

I'm stealing this from Mainland Streel:

The rules of the game:

RULE 1- You can only say Guilty or Innocent.
RULE 2- You are not allowed to explain anything unless someone messages you and asks!
RULE 3- Copy and paste this into your notes or blog, delete my answers, type in your answers and tag to your friends to answer this.

The Questions:

1. Asked someone to marry you? Innocent
2. Ever kissed someone of the same sex? Innocent
3. Danced on a table in a bar? Innocent
4. Ever told a lie? Guilty
5. Had feelings for someone whose feelings you can’t have back? Guilty
6. Kissed a picture?
7. Slept in until 5 PM? Innocent
8. Fallen asleep at work/school? Guilty
9. Held a snake? Innocent
10. Been suspended from school? Innocent
11. Worked at a fast food restaurant? Innocent
12. Stolen from a store? Innocent
13. Been fired from a job? Guilty
14. Done something you regret? Guilty
15. Laughed until something you were drinking came out your nose? Guilty
16. Caught a snowflake on your tongue? Guilty
17. Kissed in the rain? Innocent
18. Sat on a roof top? Guilty
19. Kissed someone you shouldn't? Innocent
20. Sang in the shower? Guilty
21. Been pushed into a pool with all your clothes on? Innocent
22. Shaved your head? Innocent
23. Had a boxing membership? Innocent
24. Made a boyfriend/Girlfriend cry? Guilty
25. Been in a band? Innocent
26. Shot a gun? Innocent
27. Donated Blood? Guilty
28. Eaten alligator meat? Innocent
29. Eaten cheesecake? Guilty
30. Still love someone you shouldn’t? Innocent
31. Have/had a tattoo? Innocent
32. Liked someone, but will never tell who? Guilty
33. Been too honest? Guilty
34. Ruined a surprise? Guilty
35. Ate in a restaurant and got so bloated that you couldn’t walk afterward? Innocent
36. Erased someone in your friends list? Innocent
37. Dressed in a woman’s clothes (if you’re a guy) or man’s clothes (if you’re a girl)? Innocent
38. Joined a pageant? Innocent
39. Been told that you’re handsome or beautiful by someone who really meant what they said? Guilty
40. Had communication with your ex? Guilty
41. Got totally drunk on the night before exam? Innocent
42. Got so angry that you cried? Guilty

Wow, am I ever an adventurous lad....

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Fifteen

Current Grades

Ummmm...yeah. This one does not compute. I'm long past things like "grades". Isn't it funny, though, how unimportant grades can seem once you're far enough removed from school? That awful grade I got one period in Ninth Grade English sure doesn't seem nearly as important now as the teacher tried to make it seem back then. (And besides, I am still convinced is because she lost a paper I handed in, and in any event, she didn't even mention that she "hadn't received my paper" until well after the final grade for that period was submitted -- that's when that particular teacher earned her spot on my Eternal Teacher Shit List.)

If I'd had better grades, would I have a "better" life right now? Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe with better grades I get into a "better" college, or maybe I get to go to grad school on a fellowship (I was accepted to a number of grad schools, but none offered assistance, and I was not terribly interested in accruing massive amounts of debt for a Ph.D. in philosophy, so I decided not to walk through that door). But then, maybe I don't meet The Future Wife. Maybe I don't decide that I like writing a lot. Maybe I don't learn to work with my hands when I'm in my 30s and have never worked with my hands before. Maybe I have a job where I'm working 60 hours a week and thus don't learn to cook. Maybe I don't read Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen King, Christopher Moore; maybe I don't rediscover Shakespeare and Tennyson.

With better grades, maybe I'm just another person who saw college as "job training" and who demonstrated contempt and disinterest for anything I didn't think I'd need to know about "in real life". And anyway, it's not like I was a crap student, either; I was in the top 15 in my graduating class in high school and graduated college cum laude. I just didn't buy into enough of the BS to push harder, and I can't say that I regret any of that.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sentential Links #203

Time for linkage! I like links. Links rule.

This week I'm doing something I haven't done in quite a while: all of these links are to blogs listed on the blogroll at another blog, in this case, Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness. Here we go!

:: The waves were crashing on white clouds of sand. Crystal blue water tickling my feet in a choreographed dance of waves.

:: I've never had a Big Mac. (Well, let me spoil the surprise for you: they suck.)

:: The thing is, I am a part-time hippie. (I like this blog a lot.)

:: I don't like that to some people, "my paycheck is bigger than yours" means "I'm better than you." But that's just the way it is, I guess. It's too bad.

:: During college I took a music appreciation class. I am the furthest thing from a musician, but it was informative and I really enjoyed it. One of the more memorable pieces we studied was Berlioz' Symphony Fantastique. There is a part in the piece which depicts a witch and a beheading. (Don't forget that the symphony also depicts the visions of an artist after he takes too much opium!)

:: The strange thing is, in the midst of all that discussion, somehow a group of people who have trouble agreeing on anything time and time again keep coming to the same conclusions about which titles should be considered the artistic triumphs of the medium. And the funny thing is, they aren't all blockbuster games that everyone has played, and yet they keep coming up. So, in repeatedly coming out against games as an art form, he is causing those that do believe they are to become more vocal about their beliefs and in some small way, helping the community and a canon to develop.

:: I could definitely get into a "crazy dude living under the water" take on Aquaman, especially as drawn by Beaton. She certainly has a way with DC superheroes.

:: They say the clothes make the man, and that you should always think about what your appearance says about you. As of late, mine's been screaming "Bitch, you're lucky I'm even awake right now. And yeah, that's residual donut glaze on my unshaven chin -- WHAT OF IT?"

:: Since 1989, most of the world (except Ontario and Newark) have made midget tossing illegal. Though 3 years before that was quite a different story. It was the height of the sport.

:: I think I have just created a singularity of nerdiness. Pokemon + lolcats + cross stitch pillow = I am a huge geek. And I think I like it. (I've already read this one for a few weeks.)

:: Tonight I had a doctor appointment where I regressed to third grade behavior, which some of you may find incredibly disturbing. If you can't handle it, exit now. You have been warned.

:: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by Frank Miller, John Byrne, Terry Austin, Walt Simonson, Michael Golden, Fred Hembeck, Marie Severin, Marshall Rogers, Joe Jusko, and Bob Layton. Wow! How cool is that?!?!? (Wow! I remember these, actually. In fact, in the garage or basement of my parents' house, I still have these!)

OK, that's it for this week. And I only scratched the surface; Cal's got a long blogroll and I looked at well under half of them. Some great stuff there!

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Fourteen

Favorite Purchase Ever Made

Welllll...heck, I don't know.

The laptop on which I'm writing this? It's been two and a half years, and it's still going strong. The first pair of overalls, which I bought the summer after high school? They've long-since gone to Goodwill. The first car I bought? I loved that car, until it threw a rod on the 90 right by the Big Blue Watertower. (That's an actual Buffalo-Niagara landmark, believe it or not -- the junction of I-90 and I-290, the major thruway into the northern suburbs, is the location for this enormous, bright blue water tower.) The Wife's engagement ring? That's gotta be right up there. Any of The Wife's porcelain dolls? Hmmmm, that reminds me, I haven't bought one of those for her in a very long time.

And I sure do love all of my books.

And my tools, although most of those were purchased with money provided by The Store.

And this blog, which I bought with time.

I've got a lot of stuff!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Music Quizzery is Afoot

A quiz stolen from SamuraiFrog:

1. What are you listening to right now?

"The Isle of the Dead" by Sergei Rachmaninov.

2. What song(s) make(s) you sad?

"Rough Boy" by ZZTop, "Brothers In Arms" by Dire Straits, the "Liebestod" from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, "I Can Only Imagine" (a Christian song that we had performed at Little Quinn's funeral).

3. What is the most annoying song in the world?

I remember in 1994, when there was a pop version and a country version of a tune called "I Swear", and they played constantly, so whether we had the pop station or the country station on at work, I had to listen to that festering song. Ugh. I also hate "I Believe I Can Fly"; "Mony Mony"; "Spinning Wheel" by Blood, Sweat and Tears; "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison; and more than a few others. And while I don't hate it, I've read that the single most successful Beatles song is "Yesterday", which I don't like.

4. Your all time favorite band?

Ask me today and I'm saying Van Halen. Ask me tomorrow and I'll say Pink Floyd. Ask me the day after, I'll say Blackmore's Night. Day after that I'll say someone else. That's how I roll.

5. Your newly discovered band is?

The Beatles!

6. Best female voice?

You know what? I like Taylor Swift's voice. Is it the "best" voice going? Probably not, but that's what I'm going with. Or Marni Nixon. Candice Night, too.

7. Best male voice?

Dougie Maclean.

8. Music type you find yourself listening to most?

Classical or film scores first; Celtic second. Pop and rock, not terribly frequently.

9. What do you listen to, to hype you up?

Anything up-tempo. Like the Bee Gees stuff from Saturday Night Fever.

10. What do you listen to when you want to calm down?

Anything slow or meditative -- some Vaughan Williams works well for this, such as the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, or the miraculous "The Lark Ascending".

11. Last gig/concert you went to?

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

12. Band you find yourself listening to the most right now?

The Beatles.

13. Most hated band?

Despite the fact that Bret Michaels has seemed like a pretty good guy on this season of The Apprentice and the fact that he's undergoing some health problems as of this writing, I never liked Poison. And I suspect I might like Guns-n-Roses if I could get past Axl Rose's Godawful singing voice.

14. Song that makes you think?

Anything makes me think. "American Pie" has all those dense references; "Another Brick in the Wall Part II" has all that anti-establishment stuff; anything by Rush has some odd SF and other oddity going through it.

15. Band that you think the world should love as much as you do?

All of them.

16. Coolest music video?

As an avowed lover of overalls, I suppose I'm supposed to answer with "Come On Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners, but instead I'll go with "Thriller". (SamuraiFrog's answer, "Take On Me", is right up there, but the way that video is "concluded" by a-ha's subsequent video, "The Sun Always Shines On TV", really casts a pall over "Take".)

17. Music video with the most babe watch?

Not sure what "babe watch" means. Is it pretty women to look at? Again, nothing lately. I hear Christina Aguilera's working on something.

18. What do you play/would you play in the bedroom to spice things up?

Blackmore's Night.

19. Can you play a musical instrument?

I was a decent trumpet player back in the day.

20. Ever been in a mosh pit?

Never. In fact, I've never been to a rock concert of any type, unless Trans-Siberian Orchestra counts (which it well might).

21. Are you in a band?


23. Ever dated a musician?

The Wife played the oboe, so yes.

28. Do you wish yourself that you were a musician?

I often wish I'd remained one.

29. Best chick band you know of?


31. Last song that you heard on the radio/cd...etc...?

Radio? Not sure. Whatever was on this morning on the way home from church. I tend to not pay attention to the music in the car, unless it's Prairie Home Companion or some such show.

32. What do you think of Classical music?

It's my favorite music. People who don't like classical music just bug the hell out of me -- or rather, people who claim to not like it because they're clearly intimidated by it. It's just music, people. You listen to it like anything else!

33. What do you think of Country music?

Aside from the "rockabilly" stuff and the creepy Jingoistic strain of country that showed up after 9-11-01, I like a surprising amount of it. I especially love a lot of older country music; Willie Nelson is a genius, and I like Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris a lot. Of more recent ones, Taylor Swift and Jo Dee Messina make me happy.

34. What do you think of Death metal?

I flirted with it in high school, but for the most part, I prefer my metal to have some optimism to it. Or at least be epic in the sense of Iron Maiden if we're not going to be optimistic. The "Death Metal" stuff strikes me as silly, not unlike those Oakland Raiders fans who dress up as skeletons for the games. I mean, come on, now.

35. Last BIG band that you saw live?

Trans-siberian Orchestra.

36. Are you a groupie?


37. Do you listen to music in foreign languages?

Absolutely -- opera and classical in original tongues, Celtic music in Gaelic or other Celtic languages, et cetera. Cantopop in Chinese.

38. What famous musician would you like to [enjoy carnal relations with]!?

Not answering this.

39. Worst concert moment?

I don't mean to keep bitching about this, but the recent Buffalo Philharmonic concert, when I realized they were playing an edited version of Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2. This left a really bad taste in my mouth, and frankly has dampened some of the enthusiasm I was feeling for going back for more concerts.

40. Funny concert moment?

We were recording our annual Christmas program in college for Iowa Public Television when, during a soft passage, one of our percussionists picked up the cymbals, only to have the straps to one of them break. Luckily we were doing this performance for the cameras only; no audience was present.

41. Sad concert moment?

My last concert with the orchestra in college. The orchestra program there was very tiny when I got there, but grew threw the four years until I thought it was pretty good by the end. I was sad that I wouldn't be a part of it after that.

42. Best local act you can think of?

Hell, I dunno -- Ani DiFranco? The Goo Goo Dolls?

43. If you were a musical instrument what would you be?

The Uilleann pipes.

44. Do you listen to the radio?

In the car, and occasionally at home, if I'm home while Prairie Home Companion or Thistle and Shamrock are on.

45. Do you watch music TV?

I watch performances on PBS, if that's what we mean.

46. Do you follow the music charts, like the top 40?

No. I could not possibly care one whit less.

47. Have you met any famous musicians?

Former Buffalo Philharmonic music director Semyon Bychkov, and I met Wynton Marsalis. I wanted to be more impressed with Marsalis than I was.

48. Are any of your friends/family/etc. musicians?

Not that I know of.

49. Song that best describes your feelings right now?

Geez, I haven't a clue.

50. Song that describes your life?

"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"? Wow, what a boring choice. How about "Comfortably Numb"? "Love Walks In" by Van Halen?

51. Do you know the names of all the band members that you listen to?

No, I'm sure I don't.

52. Does a musician’s physical attractiveness play a role in the music that you listen to?


53. What famous musician do you want to marry?


53. Favourite movie sound track?

Star Wars. Or Lord of the Rings. Or....

55. Any musician pet hates?

I've covered this before, but in the film score fan community, I've always thought that the reverence slathered upon Jerry Goldsmith far outstrips the actual quality of a lot of his work.

56. What do your parents listen to?

I can't really say these days, but their tastes can be really eclectic.

57. What are you listening to right NOW?

"Drink Up Me Hearties" from the score to The Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

58. Do you wear band etc T-shirts?

Nope. Never have.

59. Do you cook to music?

Not usually, although I like to. There's no stereo in there.

60. Do you sing in the toilet?

I'm never in the toilet. If we're talking about the shower, I sing in the car, though.

Sunday Burst of Weird and AWESOME!

Oddities and Awesome abound!!!

:: Theworld's ugliest statues. Frankly, the Jersey teardrop and the Giant Genghis Khan don't look that bad to me. In fact, I rather like the Giant Genghis Khan.

:: Violation Report is a site where you can 'report' people for various breaches of etiquette. Most of the submissions seem to revolve around subway riders in New York City, and more than a few of them strike me as people bitching about stuff they shouldn't really be annoyed with in the first place.

:: Giant saw blade 1, Side of house 0:

Ouch! Good thing nobody was in the path of that blade when it went loose from its housing, huh?

More next week!

Ixnay's Irstfay Aftdray

So this weekend saw the Buffalo Bills run their first Draft of the Buddy Nix era. Buddy Nix is the new GM that the Bills hired earlier in the offseason after an extensive search (a day or two) in which the Bills interviewed many (well, one) candidate(s) for the job. Now, in truth, Nix does bring a nice-looking resume to the job, as he's been in football virtually all of his adult life, he was with the Bills' organization as a scout during the 90s (when the Bills didn't suck), went to San Diego for most of this decade (when the Chargers went from usually sucking to being a really good team that probably should have been to at least one of the last few Super Bowls). Last year, Nix was with the team in an advisory role, and the 2009 Draft was actually one of the better ones (and it could become even better, if top pick Aaron Maybin blossoms after a really forgettable rookie season).

So, how did they do this year? Well, parts of it were nice, other parts were head-scratching. Most folks were agreed that the major areas of need this year were quarterback and offensive tackle, and while both areas were addressed, they were addressed via late-round picks after the Bills allowed a number of top prospects at each position to pass by them, in some cases, several times. Two of the top quarterback prospects, Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy, actually dropped to the fourth round, and the Bills had two shots at drafting each. Another top OT prospect, Bryan Bulaga, was available for the Bills in the first round, but they picked a running back.

That was a pretty head-scratching move. Poor play by a revolving door of offensive tackles was a major reason the Bills stunk the place out last season on offense, and a very good player was available for them, but they instead chose a player at a position they didn't need. By all accounts CJ Spiller, the running back they took, is a very good prospect indeed, and may even give the Bills some star power that they've lacked for years (last season's flirtation with Terrell Owens notwithstanding), but it still left them in need of a tackle. They eventually took two tackles, in the fifth and seventh rounds, and maybe those players will grow into good NFL tackles, but for now, they're just prospects.

As for quarterback, there were rumors flying all last week that the Bills were working on trades that would allow them to get a second pick in the first round and thus go after Tim Tebow. Now, I didn't want Tebow at all; for one thing, everyone agrees that his throwing motion is going to require a lot of work before he'll be an NFL-ready quarterback, and the Bills may not have that kind of time. For another, Tebow to put this...well, he's a particularly in-your-face, obnoxious kind of evangelical, and he did a commercial for James Dobson's organization for last year's Super Bowl. Tebow stood up to be counted with an openly homophobic organization, and I didn't want him on that basis alone. But anyway, the Bills didn't get any trade done (in fact, they insisted afterwards that there was never any trade in the works at all), and Tebow was picked by the Denver Broncos. The Bills eventually took a quarterback, Levi Brown, in the seventh round. Nobody at all sees him as a potential Quarterback of the Future for the Bills; he might develop into a serviceable NFL backup.

So the quarterback situation in Buffalo remains almost exactly what it was last year: Trent Edwards, a guy who was once promising but who was completely screwed up by the previous coaching staff; Ryan Fitzpatrick, a guy who will never be anything more than a backup; Brian Brohm, a guy of whom no one has any idea what to think; and Brown, a seventh-round rookie. Ouch. So why are the Bills content to move forward with this quarterback staff?

As I see it, there are two possible thought processes going on in the Bills' brain trust, and those thought processes aren't mutually exclusive, either. First, they may think that Trent Edwards can be salvaged. He's only entering his fourth year in the league, and he showed a lot of promise in his first season and a chunk of his second, before the last coaching staff pretty much started undermining his confidence, installing incredibly vanilla offensive schemes, and playing havoc with an offensive line that was already not very good to begin with. Edwards's football head is totally screwed up right now, but maybe the new coaches (led by head man Chan Gailey) figure they can put Edwards's pieces back together again and discover the potential that everyone thought was there to begin with.

On the other hand, Buddy Nix and the Bills' scouting department may have simply not been terribly impressed with this year's crop of quarterback prospects and elected to focus instead on building elsewhere, under the assumption that if Edwards doesn't emerge in 2010, the Bills can pick a new quarterback in the 2011 class (which I've read should be a better, and deeper, quarterback class anyway). The upside there will be that if the new offensive linemen -- the two guards taken last year and the two tackles taken this year -- come together to form a good line, and if the Spiller develops nicely into a fine offensive weapon, and if the Bills finally put together a decent receiving corps (they drafted a promising receiver this year in the fourth round), maybe a rookie quarterback stepping in next year won't be stepping into nearly as iffy a situation as a rookie would this year.

I think that may be the scenario after all: build the best team we can through the draft, and see if Edwards can play with that team. Otherwise, next year, put an even better team around our new rookie and see what happens. We'll see.

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Thirteen

Favorite Memory

Any of these.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I think it was something I ate....

I've recently indulged in a couple of my "comfort foods" that aren't terribly healthy, but my oh my, are they ever comforting!

:: First off, here's my favorite thing to do with leftover tacos. Here in Buffalo we have a chain called Mighty Taco. It's typical fast-food tacos, but of general higher quality than, say, Taco Bell. I like to get the Super Mighty Pack when I go there. This is four of their Super Mighty tacos (which I order with medium sauce and sour cream, for anyone wondering such stuff). Since I can only really eat two of the tacos in one sitting, I then bring the other two home and over the next day or two, indulge in this.

First, you take a leftover Mighty Taco Super Mighty and put it in a bowl:

Begin with a Taco

(If you can do this without looking like a wide-eyed mad scientist lunatic, good for you.)

Then, you slather the thing with Nacho Cheese Sauce or Salsa Con Queso from a jar, like so:

Schmearing the Cheese Sauce

Now, put the thing in the microwave and cover. We have a nifty dome-thing for microwave cooking; since we got this, we've cut down our "microwave food splatter" by 90 percent, with the other 10 percent mainly coming from when I forget to use the thing or when we nuke something that we don't realize is going to splatter. Hey, there are some contexts in which I'm all in favor of food being splattered on something, but the inside of my microwave isn't one of them.

Anyway, I set the nuker for three and a half minutes. As much as I appreciate that I can reheat leftovers quickly in the nuker, I had it when there are cold spots in the middle, so I tend to nuke the living hell out of things.

And then, we wait. And you know what? Waiting three and a half minutes when you're hungry and you're nuking something you like to eat is a really long time! So how do I pass the time? Maybe I stretch a little:


Or maybe play the opening drum riff to "Hot For Teacher" on my thighs:


Waiting for the microwave is also a good time to practice one's Russian step dancing:

Try a Russian dance step or two

Or, just surrendering to the ennui entirely:


But finally, the 210 seconds do elapse, and then, the final dish!


Oh, sweet sweet molten taco-ey leftover goodness!

:: And then, there's the Chili Dog. Oh, mama.

First, of course, you have to make chili. I like to experiment with chili recipes on occasion, but for the most part, when I make my own chili, this is how I do it. Generally I make a huge pot of it and eat a few bowls of it along with fresh cornbread. And then, to kill off the leftovers, I'll either eat future servings by pouring reheated chili over a bed of corn chips (this is heavenly!), or I'll make Chili Dogs.

So: making chili. I start with meat, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, a tablespoon or two of peanut oil, a teaspoon or so of crushed cumin seed, and a pile of chili powder. If I have green pepper on hand, I'll dice up some of that and throw it in as well. We don't always have bell peppers around, though. This time, we didn't.

Starting the meat mixture

The meat in this case is Bob Evans Hot Breakfast Sausage, which makes for great chili. Sometimes I'll use ground pork. I rarely make chili with plain ground beef; I love the flavor the sausage gives, as well as the extra spice. I just pile all of that into a pot and cook it down until the meat is completely cooked.

Cooking the meat mixture

Meat mixture, cooking away

Here's the meat when finished:

Finishing the meat

Once the meat mixture is complete, I transfer it into the waiting crock pot. Next comes the addition of a bunch of ingredients that come in cans, which means a lot of can-opening. And in the scullery here at Casa Jaquandor, can-opening always results in a scene like this:


I'm trying to avoid being tripped by the cat who is winding through my legs, under the assumption that the can being opened contains tuna.

In terms of canned stuff for the chili, I use:

1 large can of crushed tomatoes
1 can of diced tomatoes (unless I happen to have fresh tomatoes on hand, in which case I'll just dice those up instead of using the canned stuff)
2 cans of beans

I like my chili to be more of a hearty soup than a stew, but if you want your chili thicker than I typically make it, this is where you'd add a can or two of tomato paste. I rarely bother, though.

By way of beans, I used to always use the canned beans that were "chili ready", meaning they came packed in a spicy sauce that you could dump right into the pot. However, I've been trying to cut down on the amount of sodium in my cooking, and canned foods tend to be loaded with salt. I've thus cut the beans down to one can of the "chili beans" and one can of regular red kidney beans.

Over the last year or so, I've seen "No Salt Added" canned vegetables showing up on the shelves at The Store. This is a major boon. I've grown terribly tired of the excessive salt in everything, and as I've cut back, I'm noticing overly salty food more and more now. It's amazing how foods taste once you've started to recalibrate your taste buds for a lower-sodium diet; there are foods now that have me sprinting for the water bottle that I didn't bat an eye at before. (By way of editorializing, I think that maybe we can put the brakes on demonizing smoking for a bit and instead direct some energy at all the unnecessary salt in American food.)

Anyway, I dump all of that into the crock pot, along with the meat mixture. (Doesn't matter if you put the meat in first and then the canned stuff, or vice versa.) Only two ingredients remain in my typical chili: a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and a nice-sized helping of hot sauce.

Here at Casa Jaquandor, there is only one hot sauce: Frank's. I've never liked Tabasco; it's gotta be Frank's. (Cholula is acceptable. But no Tabasco!)

After a bit of consideration as to just how spicy I want my chili...

Is it enough?

I go ahead and pour some in.

When to stop, nobody knows....

Note that I don't mess with the shaker cap, that allows the dispensing of hot sauce in nice little drips and drops. Nope: I pour it right in!

And I never ever ever EVER actually measure hot sauce. That way, madness lies.

Now all I do is stir the pot a bit to blend everything together, put the lid on, and walk away. If it's early in the day I'll start with the pot set on "Low", but then I'll put it on "High" at around 5:00 pm (planning on eating sometime between 7:00 and 7:30). So it crocks away, happily filling the apartment with the scent of wonderful chili.

Here's the finished pot:

The Chili - finished

As I noted above, Day One is simply bowls of chili with slices of warm buttered cornbread on the side. Day Two might be the same way. However, after that, I change things up a bit with the leftovers: the afore-mentioned chili-over-Fritos, perhaps. If I make an unusually thick chili, I might make a Chili Sandwich by putting reheated chili between two slices of rye toast. (By the way, I never reheat chili in the microwave. I just think it reheats better on the stove. I just scoop a serving into a small saucepan and heat it up on the burner.)

But ultimately, there's the Chili Dog, which is pretty easily done. It's a hot dog with chili on it, right? Well, I have some practices here as well:

First, the hot dog must have some flavor to it. My favorite hot dogs are Sahlen's (a local Buffalo brand), but my favorite national brand is the Angus Beef dogs from Ball Park. These are terrific.

Second, I will only boil a hot dog in one case: The Daughter likes Kraft Mac-and-Cheese with a cut-up hot dog in it, so I'll boil the dog in the same water I cook the noodles in. As a rule, I don't like the texture of boiled or steamed hot dogs, and I'll only accept them if I'm getting a dog from a street vendor in some city or other, and frankly, I can't even remember the last time I did that. Hot dogs are best cooked on a grill. Failing that, I'll pan-fry them in a bit of cooking spray until they've browned a bit, and then I'll pour some water into the pan to cut down on the smoking and heat them all the way through.

Third: When making a Chili Dog, I always toast the bun. This is because the bun will soak up a lot of moisture from the chili, and if I don't toast it, the bun will pretty much dissolve into the chili.

Fourth: When I make Chili Dogs at home, I make no allowances for picking up the dog and eating at as one would normally eat a hot dog. I assume that a fork is needed.

Fifth: Diced onions and shredded Cheddar cheese are a must.

So, here's the procedure for a Chili Dog at Casa Jaquandor: toast a bun, put a hot dog in the bun, smother the thing in reheated chili, and then top with diced onion and shredded Cheddar cheese. The result?

Chili dogs: yummm!

Happy eating!

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Twelve

Where Your Family Is From

Well, it's pretty obvious, isn't it?

Oh, we need a more specific answer, I suppose. Here we go!

More specific than that? OK then....

Well, since I don't know what specific streets my parents lived on as children, here's the best I can do.

Yup, we come from Pittsburgh. The Steel City. Iron City. Boo-yeah!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Eleven

Recent Picture of Yourself

Well, OK. Here are some goofy photos I took of myself during a writing session. This is what writing looks like. Kind of.

Here I'm trying to decide if a certain character should meet a spectacularly grisly demise in a skateboard accident, or become King of Westphalia:

"Should I kill that character or not?"

Here I'm trying to decide which synonym for "exsanguinate" I want to use in a particular sentence:

"Now what word am I looking for here?"

Here I've just realized that my two main characters, who have been flirting with one another for several stories, are in fact brother and sister! Who knew!!!

"AHHH! I got it!"

Here I'm starting to question the wisdom of setting my tale of star-crossed lovers who must overcome the societal bonds of class to be with each other forever on a cruise ship that is doomed to sink on its maiden voyage.

"Is this crap any good?"

And here I've finally seized upon Inspiration and am following her directions to the production of amazing prose:



Clearly, I need to start interviewing for a better muse. This one is basically an office temp with a bad attitude.

So there you have it: recent pictures of me! Hooray!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Something for Thursday

It's Earth Day. Here's Vangelis's "Heaven and Hell", the part used for the main titles of Carl Sagan's great series Cosmos:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Carl Sagan

We speak for Earth. It behooves us on Earth Day to remember that.

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Ten

Favorite Outfit

Another no-brainer question, huh?


Winter Light

At one with...the living room

DIYer at work

...and so on and so forth.

I noted some months ago how bemused I am at the whole idea that there's an industry whose job it is to determine what "looks good", clothing-wise, and that people will think something looks really good one year but then, some years later, react with horror that they ever dressed that way, and then, some years even later after that, end up wearing something pretty close to what they had in the first place. I remember seeing 1970s styles recur with a bang in the 1990s, and I'm sure that kind of thing is going to happen again soon.

From time to time I see blog posts and articles out there that opine that overalls were an awful, awful trend in the 90s and that no one older than five or who doesn't work on a farm should wear them and they're not flattering and yada yada yada. I even saw a bunch of people who weighed in on Jesse James's cheating on Sandra Bullock by saying thing like "What do you expect from a guy who wears overalls?" Ye Gods! Oh well. But I remember that overalls weren't strictly a 1990s thing; I saw them off and on pretty much from the 1970s onward. And even when they became really popular in the 90s, overalls weren't a brand new fad that no one had ever heard of before. They didn't show up when grunge music became popular, or when somebody was wearing them with one strap unfastened in some music video. They were always around.

As for overalls being "unflattering", well -- I've never really understood what "flattering" means. I do know that the prevailing fashion today, and for a number of years now, is for tight clothes that reveal every curve of the body. I don't get this, frankly, having never been a fan of tight-fitting clothes, but there it is. "Flattering" seems to equal "revealing", and overalls certainly aren't revealing. There's no denying that: overalls are more concealing than anything else.

But here's the thing, and it's why I've always thought that women tend to look so good in them (as long as they're not wearing a pair that's literally two sizes too big or anything like that). They're only partially concealing, and if they hide certain curves, they don't do so completely, and they don't do so from all angles. I find overalls flattering in the sense that they're suggestive. They're teasing and playful. That's what I like about them. Here's an example. This woman has no shirt on under them (I think), but that's the point -- you can't tell! Here's another example -- now, I grant that overalls don't do a whole lot to accentuate the female posterior, but as I'm not what they call an "ass-man" (wow, I hate that term, but it's all I got), I'm not bothered, and you still get a sense of that woman's shape without having it completely revealed by clothes that reveal every inch of her personal topography. Ditto here, here, here...well, you get the idea. Not so much here, but that's my point. There's no need to look clownish!

The hippie couple

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

KFC's new Double Down Sandwich: "Why yes, I'd try one!" or "GAHHH if I eat that I'll be able to hear my own arteries hardening up!"?

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Nine

Favorite Flower

Well, in general, I don't think about flowers a whole lot. I pick some up when I think to, for The Wife, but in general, flowers aren't that huge of a deal to me. I like flowers, but I'm no expert and I have no strong opinions.

So, for the purposes of this quiz, I'll say African violets.

(Image credits: 1, 2, 3)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Idol Thoughts

This week on American Idol it was "Inspirational Songs Week", which turned out to be less than inspirational. My annotated Facebook ramblings:

:: I got home from Panera too late to hear Casey sing, so I don't know how he did. I still hate Lee, though. I hate his neck-bobbing as though he's got a hairball, I hate his voice (until Joe Cocker dies, he's the only one who gets to sing like Joe Cocker), and I am unimpressed by his ability to sing a song whose lyrics are 60% the word "La".

Seriously, more than half of Lee's song consisted of "La la la la la la laaaaa". It was really grating. The judges gushed, but I thought it was awful. But at this point, I can't stand Lee at all and have no idea what everyone sees in him.

:: Oh, Tim, Tim, Tim, Tim, Tim. He tries so hard. He's like a basketball team of five-foot-tall guys trying to play the Lakers. Too bad the result is what you'd expect from a team of five-foot guys playing the Lakers.

Tim did some song by the Goo Goo Dolls, about whom I should really know a lot more seeing as how I'm from Buffalo. The kid has no chops at all.

:: Oh goody! It's Aaron, who I've just realized is actually Ryan from "The Office" at the age of 16. I don't care what he does with this song, because I hate this song. Not that big a fan of Aaron's, either.

Aaron did "I Believe I Can Fly", that ghastly R. Kelly ditty from the movie "Spacejam". It's a terrible, terrible song, and Aaron's an incredibly unconvincing singer.

:: All of my doubts about Randy Jackson have just been confirmed. When did "I Believe I Can Fly" become this enormous titan of a song? It's a crappy ballad from a forgettable 1990s movie with Michael Jordan. Come on, judges.

The judges all spoke of this song in reverent tones, referring to it as a "big song" that took a lot of guts for Aaron to sing. It's a mawkish and stupid song from a movie barely anybody remembers anymore and was more notable for generating lots of merchandise for sale at the old Warner Bros. Stores in the malls, before they all went belly-up.

:: Started the stopwatch as soon as Siobhan started singing. 58 seconds until she screeched. I guess this is an OK performance, but the song is crap.

She didn't screech the entire second half of her song, like she usually does, but she did some screeching. I didn't care for the song, so I didn't think much of Siobhan tonight. But then, as soon as she stopped singing and the criticism started -- with the most pointed criticism coming from Simon -- well....

:: And once again with Siobhan's "What? Criticism? Unpossible!" facial expression. And why is she getting this long a rebuttal period? Did we stumble from Idol into a Presidential Election Debate?

Whenever she gets criticized, Siobhan's face reflects her utter astonishment that anyone doesn't like what she's just done. And they gave her something like ninety seconds to ramble on and on about why she was actually 100% right to sing the song she'd chosen even though the song was crap!

It was roughly around this time that I realized that the week's theme, "Inspirational Songs", was leading to a lot of annoying and cloying and fakey performances, so I opined thusly:

:: OK, these "inspirational" songs are getting on my nerves. I wish one of these contestants would do Monty Python's "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life".

So Michael Lynch was next....

:: Michael: For the love of God, Simon's complaining about Mike doing a song from "Spiderman". Nobody said anything about that stupid-assed song from the Looney Tunes and Michael Jordan movie! Dumbasses. (Oh, and Mike was just OK. Didn't light my fire, but didn't douse the coals with a bucket of water, either.)

Apparently Mike's song was from Spiderman. This vexed Simon, for some reason; apparently songs from superhero movies are somehow lesser songs, whereas idiotic songs from movies in which basketball players interact with cartoons are Big Powerful Songs That Idol Contestants Should Attempt At Their Own Risk. Give me a break.

:: Crystal: Finally someone picks a song that doesn't suck! (Well, the Goo Goo Dolls song didn't suck either, but Aaron sucks, so that's a wash.) This is one of my favorite songs of all time.

In Crystal's little "session with the celebrity mentor" video that precedes the performance, she indicated that she was doing "People Get Ready". I was ready to crown her the night's victor at that moment. "People Get Ready" is, as I noted, an all-time fave of mine. And then Crystal sang:

:: Crystal just beat the other contestants up, took their lunch money, went back in time, invested their lunch money in Microsoft in 1979, came back to the present, cashed in her stocks, and then bought a dump truck to carry away the wreckage of the other contestants' dreams. THAT WAS THE BEST THING I'VE HEARD THIS SEASON ON IDOL.

Seriously, she was amazing. It was far and away better than any of the other performances.

To wrap up, here's the great Rod Stewart/Jeff Beck cover of "People Get Ready", from the mid-80s:

Next week...jeez, can I keep this up....

Quadrotrititcale is a high-yield grain.

Lynn is shocked that there are people in the world who have not seen "The Trouble with Tribbles". I've known of these poor souls for a long time, and it really is sad; it's like growing up without pants. How does that happen?

Anyway, one of my ever-present wishes is for someone to mention "storage compartments" to me in any context whatsoever, just so I can immediately reply, "Storage compartments? Storage compartments?"

(Just watch the episode if you don't get the joke. It's right here. We're talking about one of the greatest episodes of any teevee show ever, period, full stop, end of line.)

Blofeld should have run a movie studio

It appears that the troubled times at MGM have claimed a victim: James Bond. MGM has been on the selling block for a while, and yet no one has stepped up to buy the studio, so their ability to develop projects is pretty much toast right now.

Here's hoping this situation is resolved sooner rather than later, what with the Bond franchise having received an enormous creative rejuvenation in the last couple of films (and having found a terrific actor in Daniel Craig as Bond to boot).

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Eight

Pictures of your Room

My room? Well, the bedroom is pretty boring, and I don't take many photos in there because it's generically private, isn't it? So I've taken new photos of my office/study area at Casa Jaquandor. This is at one far end of the living room of our apartment. Right now, it's an utter disaster.

Here's the whole thing, as one approaches from the kitchen:

It looks worst from this angle

Starting with that big shelf there, we'll proceed around, left to right:

The shelves, beginning

The shelves, continued

The shelves to my left

My desk

Yeah, I need some more space. Say, Nebraska.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Welcome Mannionites!

I'm just now getting round to writing this, so if anyone has already been here and gone I hope you'll be back again, but thanks to Lance Mannion for selecting Byzantium's Shores as his favorite blog of the day. It's always gratifying to get a link from someplace else, and I've been reading (and linking) Lance for years now. So, Mannion-readers, welcome to my little corner of Teh Interweb. Feel free to stay a while. Up above, just below the masthead, you'll find links to lots of stuff I've written in the past, such as my favorite posts for each year I've been doing this (back to 2004, anyway); that's as good a place to start as any.

Stick around!

Sentential Links #202


:: Generally, the annual lice letter goes something like this:

Dear Parents,

This letter is to inform you that you a student in your child's class has lice. Please check your child's head frequently and be alert blah blah blah etc...

HOWEVER, it does not matter what is actually said in the lice letter, EVERY parent reads it like this:

Dear Parent,
Panic. Panic loudly and any language is appropriate. Flail your arms around a little. Yeah, that's the way. Good. Your child has lice.

:: Yes, it’s probably blasphemy to put the Claremont/Byrne era of the X-Men this low on the list, but trust me–when you actually go back and read them, you find that all of Claremont’s annoying little tics as a writer (his over-narration and purple prose, his borderline creepy obsession with his female characters, his habit of having everyone reiterate their major personality traits for the reader every few pages) didn’t start when he returned to the series in the 21st century. (Isn't that the truth. When I re-read the "Dark Phoenix Saga" a few years ago in the Marvel Essentials volume which contains it, along with a whole bunch of issues preceding it and a few coming after, I was struck by Claremont's tendency to have Wolverine say things like "And now to use my unbreakable Adamantium claws!", or Cyclops say things like "Whoa, that was close! Thank God I have this ruby quartz visor to contain the awesome lethality of my optic blasts!", or Storm say things like "I must be careful when I summon the fury of the weather against my foes lest I kill my teammates with the lightning that I control!" in every single issue. Maybe this was to make it easier for people just joining the story to figure things out, but wow, when you read a whole bunch of those back-to-back-to-back-to-back, it gets awfully tiresome.)

:: Nevertheless, I remain convinced that in principle, video games cannot be art. Perhaps it is foolish of me to say "never," because never, as Rick Wakeman informs us, is a long, long time. Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form. (I'm not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination, but let me say that I found Ebert's arguments on this subject unconvincing several years ago when he first advanced them, and I find them unconvincing now, mainly because in all of his eloquence, I just can't see where Ebert's criticisms of video games as art don't simply reduce to "I don't like them, ergo, they are not art." I think what's ultimately at work here is that considering games art is to open a new concept of art as non-passive on the part of the person experiencing it, and that's a big part of Ebert's discomfort -- he seems to prefer a definition of art in which a creator or group of creators produces a work of art complete in itself, and then the viewer -- or listener, or reader, or whomever -- experiences the work, complete in itself. Games-as-art requires a view of art that allows for a much greater degree of participation on the part of the player in shaping the artistic experience than has really ever been the case before in art. Unlike Ebert, I am not prepared to rule out the idea of games as art on that basis. I'm rather more interested in the idea of where that takes art in the future.

But still: can cooking be art? I've always thought it is, and yet, the diner exerts a great degree of control over their perception of the final dish, simply in the order they take the bites, how long they linger between bites, how often they sip their drink in between bites, et cetera. I'm being serious here. Cooking, to me, is art whose goal is to stimulate the sense of taste, which doesn't seem to me qualitatively different from music being an art whose goal is to stimulate the sense of hearing.

Of course, I've always worked on a pretty inclusive definition of art as "any activity whose primary goal is the provoking of an aesthetic response". By that metric, it certainly seems to me that games are art.)

:: It seems to me the entire world has learned more and more about less and less, and in doing so, we have allowed ourselves to become more and more less and less.

:: Writing about the Catholic Church feels like piling on, but it seems to me that there are a few points that some people are missing.

:: I mention all of these other issues because I believe these aren't just individual events, bloopers of a thoughtless politician or pundit, but rather a pattern of racial insensitivity that needs to be continually looked at in the broader context. (Maybe instead of having "Confederate History Month", we can just roll up every American traitor in history into an "American Traitors Month", so we can "honor" the deeds of Timothy McVeigh, John Walker Lindh, Benedict Arnold, the Rosenbergs, and all the other traitors alongside those who took up arms against their own country so their states could continue to own slaves. Seems fair to me.)

:: I left KFC feeling as though I had won. The sandwich had proved to be a much easier, tastier foe than I had imagined. Little did I know that the war was still raging on inside my stomach. Over the next few hours, stomach cramps and lethargy washed over me. My only option was a nap. (I swear to God that I will never eat one of these. I just can't bring myself to this level of culinary insanity. The Double Down shall never claim me as a victim!)

More next week!

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Seven

Favorite Teevee Show

I'll stop there.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Burst of Weird and AWESOME!

Oddities and awesome abound!

:: Wikipedia has an article on chicken hypnotism. Seriously. Make sure you scroll down to the list of famous people who have publicly discussed their preferred methods of hypnotizing chickens.

:: On the day that Albert Einstein died, a LIFE Magazine photographer took a bunch of pictures from Einstein's office and at the funeral. The photographs were never published, until now. Einstein's desk is particularly poignant to me -- the desk is covered in papers and there's still stuff scrawled all over his blackboard, but the uppermost bookshelves are already empty. The scene suggests a guy trying to get some work done before the end, and he didn't quite make it.

:: For some reason I almost never read The Onion -- no real idea why, other than that I've never formed the habit of checking it out -- but this headline, cited by a Facebook friend this morning, cracked me up. I know it's almost ten years old, but it's new to me.

:: is always a source of hilarity for me; I tend to go there once every couple of weeks so I can read a lot of new content in one shot. I particularly enjoyed 6 baffling things every teevee ad assumes to be true, and the 10 greatest fictional sports.

More next week!

Trekkin' across the Universe!

Again from SamuraiFrog. Let's talk Star Trek!

1. What is your favorite Star Trek movie? (not including STXI)?

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I love the character interactions, the Spock-as-Holmes stuff, the large-scale storyline, the tense space battle between the Enterprise and the Klingon Bird of Prey that can fire while cloaked, and I adore the sign-off signatures of the original cast members at the end.

2. What is your favorite scene in STXI?

I prefer to think of this movie as Star Trek 2009, as opposed to Trek XI. Favorite scene? The whole opening, culminating in the birth of James Tiberius Kirk, is the movie's masterstroke.

3. When were you first introduced to the Star Trek franchise?

I don't even remember. It was beginning its long life in reruns when I was born, in 1971; I do have very vague memories of the show being on in the house where we lived. For some reason, the very earliest Trek memory of mine is the end of the episode "Friday's Child"; in fact, the earliest teevee memory in general of mine might well be Dr. McCoy saying "oochie woochie coochie coo" to the baby at the end of the episode.

4. Is there anything Star Trek around the room in which you're currently sitting?

Ummmm...aside from a couple of DVDs of the movies (and I don't even own them all yet), nope. I have digital copies of the movies and the scores on my external hard drive, so that's something. I'd like to have a small Enterprise to go with all my little Star Wars ships, but I haven't seen one in stores and I haven't shopped online at all for one.

5. Vulcan ears are: A) cute, B) sexy, C) neither, D) both.

Huh. Never thought much about it. Both, I guess? On the right person?

6. If you could be any other species than human in the Star Trek universe, you would be:

Bajoran. Because I like their noses and ear-rings.

7. Which pet would you rather have: a sehlat or a tribble?

Oh, come on. Who wouldn't want a "teddy bear" with six-inch fangs? Tribbles just eat and purr and sleep. They're less-mobile cats.

8. Who might you cast in the role of reboot Nurse Chapel? Khan? Other reboot character?

Nurse Chapel should be played by...well, I have no idea. Any talented young actress would be fine. Khan? I do not want to see Khan. At all. Never again. He's been done. No Borg, either. New stories, please!

9. Kirk and Spock are:

You know, the degree to which these two characters have been misunderstood by the masses over the years is really staggering. The friendship of Kirk and Spock is not the defining character thing in Star Trek; it's the friendship of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Kirk and Spock are two-thirds of a triad. Leonard McCoy is essential; without him, Kirk and Spock are two guys.

10. If you could give any Star Trek character a chance to be captain of the Enterprise, who would it be?

You know, everybody got the Conn of the Enterprise at some point, except Uhura. That should have happened at some point.

BONUS. Think fast! Give one Star Trek quote from memory.

This has been TOS-heavy, so here's one from TNG: "If you had earned that uniform, you would know that the unknown is what brings us out here."

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Six

Favorite Song

Well, the Something for Thursday series has been all about posting my favorite music, some of which are actual songs. So I can't begin to name a favorite song, but I guess I should put something here, and since I've been doing a lot of cheating on this Challenge thing, I'll stick to the rules this once and name only one.

This is one of many favorite songs of mine, "A Whole New World" from Aladdin:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rearranging the curtains

Eagle-eyed readers may note a couple of small layout changes around here -- mainly, I finally got around to creating a few "pages" for the blog, which Blogger has allowed for a while but which I haven't found time (or inclination, really) to do until now. Now the blogroll, archives, links to my favorite posts and links to things I've written elsewhere on Teh Interweb can now be accessed via the little tabs at the top of the blog's main body, as opposed to being buried in the sidebar.


I'm grabbing this from SamuraiFrog:

Pick five of your favorite shows, in no particular order, before you read the below questions, then answer them!


1. Firefly
2. Scrubs
3. The West Wing
4. Friends
5. Grey's Anatomy

01. Who's your favorite character in 2?

The Janitor, whose name was never given -- he was simply The Janitor. I loved his long-running antagonism with JD, and some of the increasingly whacky stuff he came up with over the years on the show, such as his preferred cocktail, "jum and tonic": gin, rum, and tonic.

02. Who's your least favorite character in 1?

It took most of the existing episodes before I warmed up to Simon.

03. What's your favorite episode of 4?

"The One With the Holiday Armadillo". Ross is desperate to explain Hannukah to his son, who is psyched up for Christmas, so Ross decides to dress up as Santa in order to give the kid a Hannukah lesson. Why Ross thinks this will work is beyond me, but who cares? The costume place is out of Santa costumes, so Ross ends up dressed as a giant armadillo, the Holiday Armadillo -- "Santa's representatives for all the Southern states, and...Mexico!" I really think that, for all its popularity when it was on, Friends is underappreciated these days.

04. What's your favorite season of 5?

Believe it or not, the current one! I actually noted why a couple of weeks back. My favorite characters are all changing and growing, while my least favorite two characters are gone. (Yes, George's demise was shocking and even may have brought a tear or two, but by and large, I didn't like the guy all that much. And I have hated Izzie since Season One.)

05. Who is your favorite ship in 3?

Huh? Ship? As in, spaceship? Or "ship" as short for "relationship"? The marriage dynamic between President Jed Bartlet and First Lady Abbey Bartlet was always terrific, but Josh and Donna were done so well -- even their eventual union.

06. Who is your anti-ship in 2?

Does this mean, "relationship I would have preferred to not happen"? I think Scrubs dragged the JD-and-Elliot thing on a little farther than it probably needed to.

07. How long have you watched 1?

OK, the problem with this quiz is that I keep having to scroll back up and remember which series is which. I didn't watch Firefly all the way through until several years after its FOX-hobbled original run, on DVD. I've really only watched it all the way through once. I suppose I'm due.

08. How did you become interested in 3?

Midway through Season One. I don't recall why I didn't watch from the premiere, but when I finally caught an entire episode about halfway through ("Celestial Navigation", actually), I was hooked. I'd already been a big fan of Aaron Sorkin's, but I wasn't on board with TWW right away.

09. Who's your favorite actor/actress in 4?

Actor: Matthew Perry. Actress: Jennifer Aniston.

10. Which do you prefer: Show 1, 2 or 5?

I suppose Firefly, just because it hits so many of my sweet spots -- dialog, space opera, a cast with four terrific women....

11. Which show have you seen more episodes of, 1 or 3?

In terms of numbers, The West Wing -- it had seven seasons versus Firefly's one. In terms of percentage of the show's episodes, Firefly -- there were some episodes of TWW in its sixth and early seventh seasons that I missed, owing to the show's relocation to a bad Sunday timeslot.

12. If you could be anyone from 4, who would you be?

Gunther, the coffee house guy.

13. How would you kill off your favorite character in 1?

Well, I'm not sure, but I do know that Captain Malcolm Reynolds has to go down either at the controls of his ship, or with his revolver in his hand.

14. Give a random quote from 1.

"Well, somethin' about that is just downright unsettlin'." (Jayne Cobb, "War Stories")

15. Which character from 5 would be a good guest star on 2?

Wow, that's odd -- by sheer chance I chose shows in those spots that are both hospital-based. So what Grey's character would be good for Scrubs? Hmmmm...Dr. Cox could butt heads impressively with Dr. Bailey, right? And pairing sex-crazed Dr. Todd ("The Todd") with sex-crazed Dr. Sloan might be interesting. But it would be funny to hear the dueling inner monologues of Drs. Dorian and Grey, who narrate their respective shows. Fun wow!

16. Would a 3/4 crossover work?

I don't see how -- would President Bartlet stop in at Central Perk for a coffee? Maybe Monica could be hired as a White House chef...actually, come to think of it, there are some ways that could work.

17. Pair 2 characters in 1 that would make an unlikely but strangely okay couple.

Mal and River. Especially after the last scene in Serenity.

18. Has 5 inspired you in any way?

Maybe in the way that well-written shows (and movies, and books, and comics) inspire me to write.

19. Overall, which show has a better cast, 2 or 4?

Both shows were perfectly cast.

20. Which has better theme music, 3 or 5?

The West Wing; Grey's doesn't even have theme music of which I am aware. Grey's relies on songs -- pop, rock, Indie stuff -- for most of its "scoring", where TWW mostly uses music composed by long-time teevee composer W. Snuffy Walden (along with the occasional pop or rock song). Purely for theme music, TWW's is one of my favorite teevee themes, with its "patriotic" sound and the way it ends on an unresolved chord, suggesting that the work of State is never complete. Grey's usually opens with a long opening segment that eventually fades to the show's title, and then the credits roll over the first segment after the first commercial break.

I'm adding one final question to this:

21. Name a few "young" shows you watch now that might provisionally appear on the version of this quiz you do five years from now.

The Mentalist
The Office