Monday, February 28, 2011


Mellon!, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

This is where I was when I sat down to read more Lord of the Rings yesterday. Those who have read the book will recognize the artwork there as the inscription upon the Doors of Durin, which lead into the Mines of Moria if one knows the password.

Today, I got up to the Mirror of Galadriel.

God, I love this book.

Tinkering under the hood....

If things have looked a little odd the last 12 hours or so here, I was messing around with fonts on the blog...only to conclude that the one I had in the first place worked best. So that's where we'll stay!

Sentential Links #239


:: Liberal media, indeed.

:: So that's where we are. A first lady campaigning against obesity and in favor of breast feeding is now the target of all-out war from the right. I imagine that if she were taking on illiteracy, teenage drug use, or planting flowers, the Republican Party would suddenly find itself opposed to reading, defending Mexican drug cartels, and in favor of vacant lots. And yet we're supposed to take these people seriously.

:: I’m kind of speechless. For what possible reason would anyone ban renewable resources? I honestly can’t think of any reason why anyone would want to do this. I can’t think of any way in which this would even provide any political benefit to the GOP. Normally, with clean coal and the like, they at least pretend to be environmentally safe. Here, it’s just “Wind power? Fuck it.”

Even the “liberals are for it so I’m agin it” principle falls flat. I got nothing.

:: And lucky for me, I got to tell the story again and again today, when people asked how I got the road rash on my face.

:: I had taught basic forensics in Junior High Science (like how to take and match fingerprints) so I knew how to deal with the strawberry milk evidence I had. I invited her over and got her to handle a glass. Then I compared the two prints by examining the matching whirls and ridges. After a few minutes, I had her.

:: I think I have an instinctive sense of balance about my blog between the personal and the other stuff (politics, popular culture, etc.). Obviously, that’s been skewed more than a little this month, and frankly, I’m all right with that. (So am I!)

:: I am sorry, so sorry. I can’t help you. I could throw you back and take off running down the beach, I suppose, but this man has been here all day waiting for you to take his lure, and you struck it, and this is what happens when you make the last and worst mistake a fish can make. Besides, whether I throw you back or not, you are done for, my silvery friend. You’ve been too long in the thin cold air.

You are never going back home to the waves.

All for this week. More next week!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

More answers!

Continuing the Ask Me Anything! 2001 cavalcade! (And I'm technically still accepting queries, hint hint!)

Quince has a couple of questions:

You mentioned you live in Western NY but I have never seen you post about Chautauqua. Do you have an opinion on the place and its mission?

He's referring to the Chautauqua Institute, which is located on the south shore of Lake Chautauqua in Chautauqua county. Yes, Institute, lake, and county all share the same name! The lake is about fifty miles due south of Buffalo, and about twenty miles or so at its western end due east of the shores of Lake Erie. It's a pretty big lake, with a big town called Jamestown at the eastern end. Lake Chautauqua is ringed almost around its entire perimeter by summer cottages and houses, and there are two very pleasant little villages -- Lakewood and Bemus Point -- that are your basic "summer resort towns". The whole place is actually very beautiful; we used to go to Lakewood every year for the 4th of July. The fireworks would be set off from a park right on the lakeside, and hundreds of boats would gather in the water around the park to see the show. This is beautiful in itself, but another even nicer tradition is how all of the people owning cottages on the water are encouraged to light red flares right at water's edge at 10:00 pm on the 4th, so the entire lake is ringed by red light.

But the question's about the Chautauqua Institution, to which I have never been. Ever. Why? Mainly because I'm usually busy in the summer with other things, and it costs money to do things there.

The Institution is, basically, a summer-long arts and education festival that takes place on grounds that, by way of design, hark back to the 19th century, which is when the Institution was founded. There are musical performances all summer long, including operas, chamber music, and symphonic music by a resident symphony orchestra. There are also adult education opportunities: lectures, classes, and the like.

The Institution doesn't seem to be a big part of the WNY consciousness; maybe that's because it's been there for over a century and shows no signs of slowing down. It's just kind of always there. That could be a part of why I've never attended any events there (and I've only been on the grounds twice); it just never strikes me as something I should investigate for a summertime activity. And part of that may be because summer is when I'm quite busy at work, we do other things as family activities during those months, and I tend to gravitate toward fall and late winter/early spring for vacations. I have no objection in principle to the Institution; in fact, far from it. I'm glad it's there and I'm glad that it's here in WNY. Maybe someday!

Given that an ideal level of debt is zero but unrealistic for most of us, how much family debt are you comfortable carrying? By comfortable I mean not caring anymore about it then say rent or a car payment.

I suppose that the best way to look at this is by percentage of income. I didn't always think about issues like this, and the results were, shall we say, less than encouraging. It took a number of years to dig out of that particular hole, and now I'm quite a bit more careful about it. Both of us are, actually. Setting aside things like rent (which we have) and car payments (which currently we do not), I would be generally uncomfortable with any debt-to-income ratio of over 25 percent. Once it reaches that point, I prefer to start focus on paying some of it down. That's just me, however. Since my job gives me small, but regular, raises in income, I find that as long as I keep my debt below a certain fixed number, the margin gets more comfortable over time to maintain.

I don't spend large amounts of time analyzing my finances, but I've made a religious practice of putting a minimum amount of each paycheck into my savings each and every week before I do anything else at all. Then I make whatever payment I need to make that week, and whatever else is left is what I have to get through the week on. This generally works out well, although I do have to budget a bit for when I want to take a few days off from work. Unforeseen absences from work can screw things up quite a lot, but I'm lucky enough thus far that those have been infrequent, and I've been building a steadily-increasing savings buffer for such events, anyway. In recent months I've revised my approach slightly; instead of relying exclusively on cash (I don't even have an ATM card), I make a weekly payment to a particular credit card and use that to make purchases during the week. My other "major" credit card is one I'm concentrating on paying down, and I'm now designating it as the "emergency big expense" card. (Like, for example, if a car needs brakes or something like that.)

Generally I view debt as a "necessary evil". It would be nice to have none, but I don't think that's realistic. I prefer a rigorous approach to keeping debt manageable and small.

Other little money-saving things I do? I used to buy lunch at work every day, but now I only buy lunch once or twice a week, and bring my own most other days. Instead of getting coffee every day ($.99 a cup for employees), I buy a box of tea bags and have green tea most days. Even if I treat myself to an expensive container of tea ($8.99 for 25 bags), that comes out to less than $.40 a cup. That adds up. So does my long-time practice of never spending my loose change. I pay for everything with bills, and the loose change every day goes into a jar. I usually redeem a chunk of the change a couple of times a year, when we want to go for a family outing someplace, like our yearly trek to the Renaissance Faire or the Erie County Fair or something like that.

More answers to come!

Sunday Burst of Weird and AWESOME!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: What happens when you stick your head in a particle accelerator? This.

:: The next wave of film marketing.

Sorry, but that's about it. Aieee!!! More next week, I promise!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Answers, the I've lost count!

Time for a few more answers to queries from Ask Me Anything! 2011. This time out I got some questions relating to the overalls, so here are a few of those.

Lynn asks: Can you remember your first pair of overalls? Wax nostalgic.

I can vaguely remember them. I was quite little, in the preschool age, if memory serves. I wore the living heck out of those things. I don't remember the brand, but I remember that for some weird reason, I liked them tight. No idea why...especially since, for as long as I can remember now, I don't like tight clothing much at all. I recall that they had the standard buttons to which the buckles fasten, and then there were two atop the bib pocket (like on the pair of Dickies I'm wearing over there, in the sidebar photo in the "Your Humble Narrator" section), and for some reason I thought that the lower buttons were where you hooked the buckles. (Hey, I was four, and I might not have been the intellectual marvel you now know. Stop laughing!) But this practice ended up in one or both of those buttons occasionally ripping off, so my mother was often sewing the stupid thing back on. Until finally they decided that I had outgrown those overalls, and got me a bigger pair. I think.

My overalls memories don't start becoming more clear until high school and college, when I started wearing them in public. That resulted in a few conversations of the "Huh, I didn't know you wore overalls" type...and then, people pretty much stopped commenting on them. Of course, this was Iowa, where seeing people in overalls isn't exactly like seeing rogue pachyderms in Central Park.

And a reader named Jenny sent in a bunch of detail-related queries:

Enquiring minds want to know:
Button fly or zipper fly - which do you prefer on overalls?
What's better on the sides of your overalls, 2, 3, or 4 buttons? Whatever
your choice, why is that better than the others.
Buttons: copper, nickel or other? Which is better?
Last question. If you were a late twenties gal like myself, who
unfortunately missed the overalls glory years of the 1990s, what brand
would you recommend which you can actually get today?

I have to admit that I don't have a whole lot of preference on details like this! The type of fly doesn't matter much to me...unless it's a fake fly entirely, in which case I've purchased a pair of overalls from an eBay seller who doesn't know a man's pair from a woman's pair. Yes, this has happened. I thought I'd scored on an awesome pair of white Lee overalls, only to have them turn out to be women's overalls. The Wife now owns those. They fit her a lot better, anyway.

Side buttons -- thinking about it, I've never owned a pair with four buttons. That would seem a tad like overkill. Most of mine have two; three was more prevalent on pairs from places like Gap and Old Navy, back in the 90s when overalls were popular. I used to own six or seven pairs from Gap, but I scaled that back when I lost quite a bit of weight a few years ago, and now the only Gap overalls that I own are the ones pictured in the sidebar pic at the bottom (the one where I'm wearing the green tie-dyed hoodie). Those have two side buttons, actually, as do my Dickies, Lee, and Key overalls. Generally I leave the top pair of buttons unfastened, for comfort reasons.

As to the metal comprising the buttons -- I generally don't care about that, either. My Gap overalls have silver hardware; my Dickies mostly have dark bronze-colored hardware; my Lee and Key overalls have gold hardware. Again, no real preference here.

I will say, though, that in general I like overalls that look functional; like they're actual workwear or could be. The "busier" they look, the less I like them (which is why I don't own any pairs by Liberty; there's just too much going on there on the bib). I just like them basic, and comfortable.

As for recommending overalls for women, well...I know they're starting to show up in stores again now, but I don't really know what brands are out there. Personally, though, I'd just recommend going the vintage route. Clothes from the 90s could be considered "vintage" now, right? I'm putty in The Wife's hands when she wears a pair of these Old Navy overalls, and my favorites ever on her are these Gap ones. Or you could go really vintage, as this blogger did, with great results.

And remember, in my opinion, overalls are "flattering" -- for a different idea of what "flattering" means.

More answers to come!

Saturday Centus

Wow, did I ever have a struggle with this week's prompt. Seriously, this was hard -- much harder than the awful dog photo of two weeks back.

I didn't really set out to approach these in the general way that I have, but each time out I've tried to take an "off-kilter" interpretation of the prompt, and this was no different...but this week, no good alternative presented itself to me. I kept running through all kinds of possibilities, and no dice; I feared that I'd have to play this one straight. Heck, maybe that would be a good challenge for me on one of these, some time down the road: write using a normal interpretation of the prompt!

But this time, I thought of something. I honestly could have done with more words this time out, but I think it turned out OK. Here's my entry, with the prompt in bold.

I shouldn’t have come to Jane’s party, Brenna thought.

She certainly shouldn't have agreed to play ‘Answer-the-Monkey’, the new party game with the computerized monkey head that read your mind and asked personal questions based on a setting from 1 to 20, with 20 being your deepest-and-darkest secrets. It was ‘Truth-or-Dare’ run by a machine. After a lot of sangria, the ladies had turned it up all the way. The ATM machine began dispensing twenties.

“Brenna,” the monkey said, “who did you last sleep with?”

Brenna glanced at the picture on the wall of Jane’s husband.

ATM was an evil game.

I dunno. I'm kind of 'meh' on this one....

Friday, February 25, 2011

"Thy dawn, O master of the world, thy dawn...."

Sometimes I change my mind about movies. Sometimes I don't. Some movies meant a lot to me, years ago, but have dropped away to the point that I've forgotten about them. Other movies, though, have stayed with me forever. One of those is On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the sixth James Bond film, which I have regarded since I was a teenager as the best Bond film ever made. In fact, I consider it one of my favorite films of all time, in any genre.

My long examination of the film, with lots of screencaps, after the page break.

Something that would have been Thursday, had I been able to get off my blogging arse

Yeah, I dunno what happened yesterday. Oh's my favorite of all of Mozart's overtures, the amazing overture to The Magic Flute (which is also my favorite of Mozart's operas).

Happy birthday my love!

Happy birthday to my beautiful wife

It's The Wife's birthday today.

Additionally, we had our first real date just four days before her birthday in 1991, which means that we've been together, in one way or another, for twenty years now. Although we're not quite there yet for her, we've at some point in the last year or so come to a spot where she's been in my life for more than half of my life. That amazes me, mainly because it just doesn't seem like that long ago. Still, we have so many memories...

A Word Cloud about The Wife

One day I should do an update of this list...maybe next year. Happy birthday, O My Love!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wisdom of the East

What a civilized practice this is!


An apology to the blogger I like enormously into one of whose comment threads I just spewed an immense amount of bile at someone (not the blogger) on the opposite side of the political fence. It may be time for me to just stop reading political comment entirely. I just can no longer act as if there's a reasonable argument to be made for "deficit cutting" that calls for sacrifices by everybody except the rich, for an economy that is built on everyone just accepting the premise that we should all count ourselves lucky to have whatever little we've managed to create for ourselves (or just hold onto), for any notion that my personal freedom would somehow be lessened by the adoption of a real national health care plan, or for the idea that Government is bad bad bad but the Market is great great great and if the Market wants to screw me with my pants on, well then, I'd best be about the business of bending over first and saying "Thank you!" after.

No, I'm not in a good mood right now. So I'm off to mark as "read" every single item in my Google Reader subscriptions. The political ones, anyway.

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

The other day, I told President Benjamin Harrison what I think of him. And now I'll put it to you, readers -- for what wild and zany reason would I be angry with a guy who was President almost 120 years ago and who's been dead for at least a century? What did President Harrison do to piss me off? Let me know, because I've been wondering myself!


Thank God the Republicans are going to save us from the enormous fiscal drain of PBS.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Back when I was active on USENET -- heavens, that era, in itself, was over ten years ago -- there was a character on rec.arts.books who went by the pseudonym "SubGenius". I never figured out what, if any, connection he may have had with the fake religion "The Church of the SubGenius", but he was a shockingly erudite character who had a highly amusing way with words. He also had a website for a while, hosted by a university in Texas (can't remember which one), where he posted a lot of things he had, in turn, posted to online fora like rec.arts.books. One of my favorite things there was this very long insult that he had crafted. As I have not found this anywhere else online and think it deserves enshrinement, I do so here. Enjoy the insult!

(And a resounding NO, this is not even partially directed at any one of my readers!!!)

Given my spiflicated state (i.e., full sheets to the wind) and your persistent nanointellectual tendencies, I'd tend to think that this matter would be solved by a `Sir, your mother, under the pretense of maintaining a bawdy house, was the receiver of stolen goods,' but, I fear, this sort of comment would send you a-scampering to the nearest dictionary for a look-up a) to see if you've been insulted and b) a quick wank in conjuntion with any of the naughty words you missed in your `curmudgeon' research.

In short, sir, I must say that in general (no pun intended, but one indeed noted [ha]) you are lacking in wit, pathetic in practice and laughable in comprehension and therefore a typical representative of the common swut poster whose idea of clever rhetoric is the bit of verse s/h/it saw on the lavoratory wall the other night and, indeed, are the sort of chap whose idea of slander was passe when the dozens became a memory. In shorter, sir, you bore me with your lack of invention, raise my eyebrows in your attempts to simultaneously lower the standards and raise the gorges of whoever might be paying attention to your random flailing and flabbergast me (rhetorical device--I am overcome with ennui at your critical flatulence) with your patheticness and patheticeousity (pardon me whilst I pixilatedly coin new words for your damnedly mediocre mendacity) in shortest, sir, you are:

A turd herder, a shit shepard, a pustule-besmirched rapscallion, a fondler of other people's wilted mothers, a knee-biter, a one-man plague, a titty-baby, the sort of lad who nods a hundred and nineteen times everytime he sees one of those `wouldn't it be great' Airhead Lite commercials, the sort of chap who one could clap about his head and shoulders and reasonably expect a handful of dead insects to spew forth from his mouth, a smidge, a forgetable simper of a coward, a clodhopper, a patsy, a fat-mouthed slob, a fop, a motor-tongue, a toothless boor, a loathsome scab, a babbler at meaningless banter, a cackler, a limp, wet fish, a conceited monkey, a tooth-chatterer, a dung-drover, a dweller in other people's bottoms, a fanny fellow, a snaggle-toothed toady, a mincing milksop, a hopeless addlepate, a conousseur of caldswallop, a slabberdegullion rogue, a paltry panty-waste, a prating gobbleblorget, a lickorous glutton for cellulite women, a slapsause scaldiwag, a non-drunken unwoysterer, a drowsey loiterer in the halls of averageness and averagitude, a forlorn snippit, a drawlatch hoydon, a negligible coxcomb, a blockish grutnol, a foolish loggerhead, a turgy gut, a noddipeak simpleton, a codshead loobie, a woodcock slangam, a fondling fop, a base loon, a freckled bittor, a mangy prating gabler, a lubbardly lout, a sousening simp, a ninny lobcock, a gaping changeling, a ninny-hammer flycatcher, a noddy meacock, a grout-head gnatsnapper, a jobbernol goosecap, a clutch calf-lollie, a kib-dotterel, an idle lusk and above all, a pathetic wimper of a apology for a man.

And, having accosted you with such defamatory epithets of such profusion and so on on several counts, I say further not to address me any further until you can comment likewise with such length (appy polly loggies to hit a raw nerve, there) and so on that rather you should content yourself with provoking pederasts and others in your league and perhaps, to gain vengance with the world, victimise an earwig or something similarly your speed.
Time for a couple more answers from Ask Me Anything! 2011.

Cal asks:

What other major cultural events (movies, books, TV shows) did you totally avoid? I know DUNE is one and I won't discuss that further. Personally I never have seen 'E.T'. I never wanted to see 'Titanic' but that one slipped through when I got caught up in the sinking of the ship. I only saw LOST the last year and caught up in a few months.

Interesting query! Cal continues to be incensed that I haven't read Dune yet, but it's on my 2011 reading list, and will probably be near the top of my batting order once I get in the mood for SF again. (I tried Dune once, ten years ago, and I got through about fifty pages or so before I finally got frustrated with having to look something up in the glossary every third sentence. It made the reading really choppy.)

But for big pop cultural touchstones that have eluded me completely? This does happen, actually -- happens quite a lot. When I went to college in 1989, I delved into my classical music studies pretty hard core, with the result that most of the pop culture from those years completely went under -- or over -- my radar. I kept up with some of the popular movies of the time, but music? Books? Forget it. There's a wonderful Internet quiz site, (Warning: that site is second only to as a timewaster) that a couple of friends of mine at work like to play on when we're on lunch. When we do a music quiz -- such as, say, "#1 Song from Each Year in the USA" -- I invariably cannot supply any answers past 1990. The vast majority of pop music of the last twenty years has passed me by.

Mostly it comes down to "Do I want to see/read/hear this? Or don't I?" And often times, if the answer is "Yes", it then comes down to "DO I want to see/read/hear it now, or can I wait a while?" Lots of times I'll simply elect to wait a while and take a "I'll get to that when I get to it" approach. The Harry Potter series was into its third book by the time I got in on the act; I only just saw The Godfather all the way through for the first time less than two years ago. I rarely decide that something is sufficiently important for me to experience it at the moment of its popularity. Sometimes this leaves me a bit at odds with the warp and weft of pop culture and the references to it that fill discussion (for instance, until just a couple of weeks ago, I had no context for the line "The Dude abides").

Ultimately, it's not so much a reaction against what's popular as just a general personal commitment to going my own way.

"Joe" asks:

If its cold in a room and a woman is not there to tell him, will a man still know?

Oh, he'll figure it out eventually...such as when the glass on his beer bottle frosts over...or when all the pets are clustered around him...or when he shifts position just a little bit, and all the warm air that's clustered around him disperses!

More to come! (And if anyone still wants to ask something, go right ahead...I'm even allowing anonymous commenting on a temporary basis.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sentential Links #238

Linkage, linkage, linkage for all!

:: How does it feel being fisted by the Invisible Hand, America?

:: Wisconsin's public sector workers have already taken a 3% cut in wages over the past two years. Maybe that's enough, maybe it isn't. But Walker has taken an already pressing problem, made it incrementally worse, and then used it not just as an excuse to bargain hard on wages and benefits, but as an excuse to gut Wisconsin's public unions entirely. (The Democratic-leaning ones, anyway.) It's just not a good faith exercise.

:: I've told anyone who'll listen, for the past 6 years or so, that Rick Perry is the worst governor Texas has ever had. If you know anything about the sorry bunch we've had in Austin for the past 150 years or so, you'll know that's saying something. Texas peaked with San Houston, ran him out of office in order to join the Confederacy, and it's been downhill from there.

:: You see, aside from "Hold On" and a couple other tracks, I found I didn't remember any of the music on this album. None of it. At all. Usually with old albums I haven't heard in years, I only think I don't remember the music until I actually start playing it, and then it comes back to me and I start unconsciously mouthing the words and anticipating the opening notes of the next track and such. Not with this album, though.

:: In the end, Rand was an elderly woman of frail health with no family to support her, the fearful burden of a husband suffering from dementia, and facing a future that their means might not be sufficient for. In other words, she was the very person government programs such as Medicare and Social Security was designed for. Equally naturally, she looked at the options and took the money. The only question is why she would still consider the fact that option even existed to be ultimately evil.

:: "Ghetto people don't own boats!"

:: Hey, I just narrowly prevented the nuclear holocaust of the eastern seaboard and made the world safe for democracy, how about a little gratitude?

More next week!

A Special President's Day Message

Today is Presidents Day, and I have a special message in honor of the occasion.

Hey, Benjamin Harrison? F*** you.

We now return to regular posting.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Journeys among the fantastic

Some thoughts on some recently seen movies at Casa Jaquandor!

:: When we were moving from Hillsboro, OR to Allegany, NY in the summer of 1981, there was one day on the trip when my mother handed me a book and ordered me to read it. The book was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and I read it in its entirety that day. We started out that day somewhere in Nebraska and ended up somewhere in Indiana. I was riding the Ryder truck with my father; my mother and sister were in the pickup truck which was towing the camper. When we finally stopped at a Holiday Inn in Indiana, my father complained to my mother that he hadn't been able to talk to me all day, so absorbed was I in the book.

Unfortunately, I never found the subsequent books in the series remotely as captivating, and to this day, Lion, Witch and Wardrobe is the only one of the Narnia books that I've actually read. So except for the first movie (previously written about), I bring no assumptions or impressions with me into the films. I actually enjoyed Prince Caspian more than I did Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe; and I actually enjoyed The Voyage of the Dawn Treader more than Prince Caspian.

Mainly, I liked it because, aside from a few moments at the very end, Dawn Treader didn't seem to take itself as seriously as the previous two films did. This one just felt like more of a fairy tale adventure than Big Important Fantasy Battle Between Good and Evil.

I don't really have much more to say about it than that, maybe because I don't count the Narnia books among my favorite things, so I'm not terribly beholden to its message or the faithfulness with which it delivers that message. I'm not invested in whether or not the movie gets its CS Lewis right, or if by extension it gets the Jesus right. I'm trying to think up more to say about the movie, but I just don't have anything. Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a genial, nice-looking, mostly entertaining fantasy adventure movie. That's fine with me.

(I could tell that the film was shot with 3D in mind, which made some of the cinematography a bit unpleasant at times. We saw it in 2D, because I think 3D is stupid.)

:: How to Train Your Dragon is a really, really fun movie. It's just a lot of fun, and it's got a lot of heart, and best of all, it does things, story-wise, that are actually surprising. I don't want to say too much about this animated tale about a young boy in a Viking village who befriends an injured dragon, but it's just a fine, fine movie. It's a pleasant piece of mainstream computer animation, but it's also a movie that doesn't fill its cast with cardboard stereotypes, opting instead for conflicts that are actually fairly complex. The story is your basic "War based on a misunderstanding" tale, but it finds some new things to saw within that framework, and the dragons themselves are a lot of fun to watch. (The main one seems to be more cat than lizard, if that makes sense.)

:: I've never been one to believe in the concept of "guilty pleasures", but damned if I don't think I have an honest-to-goodness guilty pleasure: the movie Armageddon. It's utterly ridiculous; it screens like a 150-minute rock video, with its endlessly moving camera; its story makes very little sense. All the movie really has going for it is some entertaining banter amongst the characters, and Bruce Willis in his full-on Bruce Willis mode. Oh God, Armageddon is a bad, bad, bad movie.

And yet...I watched the damn thing, yet again. Voluntarily. And I didn't feel that guilty at all. Except, maybe, in that feeling I get after I have my second slice of cake on my birthday. Of the two "giant rock hitting Earth" movies that came out roughly the same time, Deep Impact is the better movie. But Armageddon is the one I prefer to watch. Even with its horrible script, its cardboard characters, its abysmal scientific accuracy, and its relentless score that pounds away at you with all the subtlety of a brick thrown through a plate-glass window.

:: Robert Zemeckis's Beowulf is a movie I wanted to like a lot more than I did. The film actually has a very good script, by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary, and it has an excellent cast. But the film is very nearly undone by its visuals.

The Beowulf story is a familiar one, and the film depicts its world with all of the bawdiness, raunchy behavior, and brutality that one might expect from a PG-13 film. Hrothgar's hall is being attacked by a horrible beast called Grendel whom no one can kill; enter the great warrior Beowulf, who kills Grendel but then discovers that Grendel isn't actually the real beast. The story is pretty straightforward.

Zemeckis's visuals, though, are too often distracting to the point that they ejected me right out of the story. The film is made in the "motion capture" animation style that The Polar Express had formerly exhibited. A lot of people hated the look of Polar Express, particularly the eyes of the characters; I wasn't one of them, but the visuals of Beowulf really gave me a hard time. Part of it was that there really wasn't that much of a reason for the stylized look of the film; Polar Express had a "Is it a dream?" quality to it, and the visuals there were influenced by the design of the famous childrens book that inspired it.

There really doesn't seem to be any reason for Beowulf to be shot in this way, however, and the visual design of the film does a disservice to the earthy tone of the script. Hrothgar's hall should be a dirty, filthy place, and yet, the film makes it look almost shiny and spotless. Bright fires fill the movie with brilliant yellow light that seems out of place most of the time.

And that's just the general appearance of the film; Zemeckis also goes for specific shots or effects that draw so much attention to themselves that it detracts from the story. Here's a perfect example:

Of what use was the spear, sticking that far forward? Or the camera pivot to show that the spear tip is an inch from Beowulf's eye? The shot is just goofy. And then there's the supremely silly bit where we see, in flashback, Beowulf's swimming contest against another warrior. Now, this bit is unbelievably over the top, which may be because the film implies that Beowulf is embellishing this story (he's telling the tale to someone else as we watch the flashback). He's swimming at sea, neck-and-neck with the other guy, when he is attacked by a series of sea monsters, each one of whom he vanquishes by stabbing in the eye. Except for the last one, which rears its head from the sea, shudders a bit, and then dies as Beowulf literally explodes from inside the creature's eye. The whole sequence is just so gonzo, so fake, that even the story's implication that Beowulf is spinning a web of bullshit doesn't help. At this point I was actually laughing at the movie.

And there are many other scenes in the film that just look wrong, or that look as though Robert Zemeckis fell in love with things he could do with his camera without ever stopping to consider if those things were a good idea in the first place. It's a shame, really. Beowulf has a good script. If only Zemeckis had directed it.

Sunday Burst of Weird and AWESOME!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: Here's a gallery of some of the worst superhero costumes to ever grace film and teevee. Granted, some of this has the air of "picking the low-hanging fruit" -- making fun of the costumes in low-budget productions, including in one case a pilot episode of a show that never went to series -- but still, some of 'em are hilarious.

:: Do you want to abide, just like The Dude? Here's how. (Note to self: write a post about The Big Lebowski.)

:: Living in a home with cats, we're long acquainted with the attraction of the laser pointer:

Laser Brain

So it hurts me -- it physically hurts me -- that I didn't think of this:

Laser cat bowling! I gotta do this. (via)

More next week!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Centus

OK, we've got a more conducive prompt this week, thank God! Apparently Jenny Matlock selected a snippet from a song lyric. I didn't bother listening to the song for inspiration, though -- that's what coffee is for! It's inspiration in a cup.

But anyway, here's my tale, which may well establish me as the science fiction geek of the Saturday Centus crowd. But I'm pretty much already a science fiction geek, so it's fine by me!

Here's my tale, with the prompt in bold.

James and William crouched on opposite sides of the open door to the control room of Mars’s mightiest battle cruiser. Alarms were still blaring; smoke choked the corridors. Martian troopers were searching for the intruders, to no avail. Two men, seconds away from winning the war for Earth.

“Before we do this,” James said, “I gotta say you’ve been a hell of a partner, man. I’d catch a grenade for ya.”

“OK,” William said as he tossed James a live grenade and ran away.

“Martian double-agent,” James said, stunned. “Son-of-a--”


And Mars conquered Earth.

By the way, I've just figured out that Google Docs's word count function somehow counts HTML tags as words! I always write them into my text, as is my habit for writing online, but I experimented a bit: I wrote the tale, checked the word count, then I went back and deleted the HTML tags (italics and bold, actually), and checked the word count again -- which had gone down. Interesting.

Anyway, enjoy!

(And as always, or at least until I finish answering questions, Centus participants are invited to Ask Me Anything!)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Answers, the second!

Continuing the replies from Ask Me Anything! 2011 (still open to queries! Get 'em in, no question turned away! No question, turned away!), this time from Roger:

1. Do you watch a TV show/movie because one of your ROWR is in it? In particular - did you watch CSI NY before Sela Ward was on it, and do you watch it now? Also, have you noticed that she had "work done" and how do yo feel about this?

I have, occasionally. Note that I don't choose ROWR's (even now, when I choose them very sporadically -- although I'm giving thought to revising that practice, since my traffic spikes every time an episode of The Big Bang Theory airs in which Melissa Rauch appears) on the basis of just how beautiful they are, but because I saw them in something, or saw them perform something, that I really, really liked, so what attracts me to them at first (in the very mild sense of "attract") is the talent they bring to whatever they do. There are plenty of really beautiful women on shows that I hate, so I don't post about them, because I hate their shows, and that kind of "taints" them a little. (But I do make the distinction between hating the person and hating the show. That's got to be clear.)

So, the ROWR honoree has to be in something that I'm interested in watching. If Sela Ward, Melissa Rauch and Jacqueline Obradors were all cast in a new David E. Kelley legal drama, I wouldn't watch, because I can't stand David E. Kelley's shows. (I'm just picking on him because I've got him on the brain, as he prepares to destroy Wonder Woman for the new generation.)

On Sela Ward specifically: I have only watched one episode of CSI: NY since she's been on it, and I watched that one just to see what she was like on the show. But since the best opinion I've ever been able to muster for that show was "tepid" and that has cooled significantly over the last couple of years, I haven't watched any more. She was OK, but fact is, the CSI shows are basically designed to plug in any actors at all. The most character driven of them is CSI: Miami, and that's just because David Caruso has turned Horatio Caine into the most deliciously weird teevee cop of all time (excepting those on Barney Miller).

Ward has had some plastic surgery done, which does, in my view, make her less beautiful than on Once and Again, wherein she wasn't in a single scene where she wasn't radiant. But even so, Once was ten years ago, and in general, I think that the whole plastic surgery thing can be OK when it's done relatively tastefully, and I thought hers was. I certainly didn't agree at all with this Ken Levine post in which he says that now she looks like Jack Lord (I found that post in general fairly mean-spirited, actually). Plenty of women have had surgeries that make them look ghastly -- Joan Rivers is a good example, although I've always found her ghastly, so she might not be a good example).

2. If you were at dinner with George Lucas, what would you talk about, assuming that Star Wars is off limits? How would you feel if he brought up your sequel fixers?

No Star Wars? Aieee! But really, George Lucas seems to be a man with a lot of interests and who knows stuff about a lot of things, so even setting Star Wars aside, I suspect that the conversation would be fascinating.

Now, if he were to bring up Fixing the Prequels, I hope he'd be gracious about it, especially since I'm always trying to make clear that I don't write those out of a desire to bash the Prequels, but to defend them by drawing attention if I can to what's good about them. (And there's a lot.) What I suspect, though, is that he would be gracious about it. Lucas has shown quite a lot of humor over the years about his life's work; he has, to my knowledge, never really gone after any of the parodies that circulate online, nor has he gone after the various people who have done "fan edits". When Carrie Fisher took to the stage at Lucas's AFI Lifetime Achievement award and told the story where he apparently had indicated during filming of A New Hope that "there is no underwear in space", he laughed uproariously, and there is a photo out there of Lucas on the set of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull wearing a t-shirt that says "Han shot first". I have a feeling Lucas would be fine with it...but man, would that be weird. It would probably take me fifteen minutes just to pull my heart out of my stomach just to discuss the subject with him!

More answers to come! And don't forget, I'm not closing off the submissions yet, so if you want to ask something, go ahead!

A picture, in words

The woman was probably, oh, forty-ish. Her face was just lined enough to show that she'd been through some years, but not enough to make her look like all of her youthful days were behind her just yet. She sat at the cafe table, an unopened book and two coffee cups in front of her. She drank from one; the other was empty. She took an uninterested sip as she looked off, toward the front door of the place; then she put down the cup and ran her fingers through her shoulder-length brown hair. Her bangs were mostly held back by the sunglasses she had perched atop her head, but a few strands hung down, low and loose over her eyes; these she occasionally pushed aside but she mostly didn't seem to care. And so she kept looking around, looking down, looking at her book, but mostly looking toward the cafe door. She would stir her coffee, even though she hadn't put anything in it. Then she would look again toward the door.

On this went, until she finished her coffee. Then she waited five more minutes before she got up, put on her coat, and filled the empty cup that she had bought for her unmet companion before she left, book in hand and sunglasses lowered back over eyes that were filling with tears.

(Inspired by, and embellished from, a woman I saw today.)

I'll be in my bunk

Nathan Fillion says that he would play Captain Malcolm Reynolds again. Not that I think he'll get the chance, unless they somehow do a few one-off teevee movies set in the Firefly/Serenity universe, but still, there's got to be a market for more Firefly stories than the short comics we get every eighteen months or so.

Oh well....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Something for Thursday

My favorite scene from My Neighbor Totoro. The two girls here have moved to the country, and they've discovered three Totoro's living in the woods nearby. This is what happens when they wake up in the middle of the night and find the Totoros doing...something in their garden.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I know, it's not fair judging from a couple of photos, but...this bit of casting does not make me feel any confidence in David E. Kelley's Wonder Woman show.

But then, neither does David E. Kelley.

Answers, the first!

OK, it's time to start providing answers to questions posed for Ask Me Anything! 2011. Lots of good queries, as always, and I'm actually going to keep things open for questioning right up until I post the answer to the last question I receive, so feel free to keep things going! Post questions in comments to this post, or use e-mail or Facebook message.

An anonymous reader asks:

Have you ever tried a sustained use-no-electronic-gadget (banning Internet use or TV watching, for example)? If you did, what happened? If you haven't, what's your opinion of these attempts?

The closest I've come was a three month period in 2008 when I stopped blogging. I was just burned out on the whole thing, and I needed a big-time break. Those two months went quite well; I did a lot of movie watching and I did quite a bit of writing and I did quite a bit of stuff with the family. But doing without just for the sake of doing without has always seemed a pretty odd thing to do, so I've never had a "no teevee month" or "no Internet for a season" or anything similar.

I do cut down on my Internet usage on occasion, when I think I'm not getting enough done, and I've gone so far as to look for an ethernet cable with a male plug at one end and a female plug in the other, so I could disconnect the wireless router without disconnecting the Main Library Computer (named Arwen, actually), so The Wife and The Daughter can have Internet while I concentrate on other stuff. But I haven't actually found one yet.

You live in a smaller place (i.e., not a large mansion). Does your desire to collect books cause problems? Do you have to "cull the herd" every so often?

Sigh. Yeah, it does create space issues, most definitely. And I should cull the herd more often than I do. I have a lot of books left over from my philosophy-reading days in college that I must admit I am unlikely to ever read again, for instance. Culling is hard. It really is!

I don't really buy as many books now as I used to, with the exception being the quarterly library book sales, where I generally can't help myself. I suppose I could start a small used book business for myself on eBay or Amazon -- in fact, which is better? Anybody know? I've sold books on eBay before, but I tend to be less-than-consistent with it.

And so it starts! Ask Me Anything, folks! Check out my neophyte entry in Tumblr land, too!

Still tumbl'n

I continue to dip my feet in the Tumblr water. I even came up with a name for the thing, Driftwood upon the Bosphorus. Because, unlike the shores of Byzantium themselves, the driftwood that floats by on the Strait of Bosphorus is only transitory, there one moment, and then gone by with another piece floating up soon behind it. Or something like that. It sounded more poetic earlier today, when I thought of it right after my first cup of coffee.

I also came up with a masthead image, which clearly has nothing at all to do with driftwood, water, shores, or anything else nautical. But then, I haven't used nautically-themed mastheads round here in a long time, either, so there's that.

Anyhow, I think I'm kind of understanding the notion of Tumblr. A Facebook and blogging friend, Steph Waller, inquired about it on FB, and I responded thus:

It looks to me like a blogging platform that is more geared to short posts, pictures, videos, and that sort of thing than Blogger or Wordpress, which handle those things but are really intended for the posting of text. A lot of bloggers I know have "real" blogs and Tumblrs where they just post pictures and whatnot that doesn't require lots of comment. Sort of a blogging "tapas bar", to make a really bad analogy. I'm sure you can use it to market your book, though!

(Yes, she has a book to promote. Note to self: buy a copy of Steph's book.)

When I asked yesterday what to do with the thing, I got a number of excellent responses. M.D. Jackson:

Find images that stir your soul, that speak to your very core even if you can't figure out exactly why. Download them, scan them, snap a picture of them with your camera, then upload them to your tumblr to share with the world.

They will eventually form a collage that will tell people more truth about you than you will be able to tell with words.

Or you can just load it up with LOL cats.

OK! That's a good answer. Also good, and much more succinct, is Roger's answer to "What do I do with a Tumblr page?":

Damned if I know.

Maybe not helpful, but honest, which should never be discounted. From Paul:

I had heard of Tumblr, but had no idea what it was, so I did, you know, what you do: I Googled it. As far as I can tell, Tumblr can best be described as, "TweetBookFlickBlogr." Is it possible to be all things to all people? Time will tell.

Lynn suggests:

I like M.D. Jackson's idea. Or maybe you could devote it exclusively to music. The world needs more music blogs.

This sounds great, it really does, should be relatively clear to anyone who reads this blog with any regularity at all to know that I can't devote myself to exclusively anything! So Driftwood upon the Bosphorus is likely to be similar to Byzantium's Shores, and go all over the place.

Kind of like Cal:

I agree with MD. I use them to inspire posts and to collect images for posts. I look at my archive at times and I am proud of my collection and what it says about me. Sure, lots of Selena pics but that is okay.

And finally, Blue Girl says:

I have heard mumblings and rumblings from "the kids" that they really don't want tumblr going mainstream. They say no one should really talk about it so it doesn't lose its *cool* factor.

And then I saw a funny tweet a week or so ago. Something like...

Tumblr is not Fight Club. Only Fight Club is Fight Club.

Sorry, kids. Us older folks are getting our grubby hands all over your shiny toy. Huzzah!!!

Concerning pipeweed (and re-reads)

OK, so I'm re-reading The Lord of the Rings. And just in time for my entry into the book proper -- I read the Prologue last night -- I find this quote in a SF Signal post about re-reading books:

Of course there's the Lord of the Rings, which is very different when you come to it at different times of life. I go back to it every six or eight years, give or take, and part of the experience is spending time with the version of myself that read it last.

True words, those!


OK, I started one of those Tumblr things. Problem is, I don't know what to do with it. So...what should I do with it?

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Pen or pencil?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I believe I am quite ready for another adventure!

The Road goes ever on and on!, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

If I recall correctly, the last time I re-read The Lord of the Rings was in 2004; I was reading it when Little Quinn was born and during his initial hospital stay. I've generally re-read it every four or five years, so I'm actually overdue. It's time to return to Middle Earth!

Although, actually, I've already been there for a week; it's always been my practice to re-read The Hobbit first before any re-read of LOTR. A couple of years ago, when we were in Ithaca for the Apple Harvest Festival, one of my purchases at the amazing Autumn Leaves Bookstore was a pristine copy of The Annotated Hobbit, which turned out to be a fascinating read for the annotations as well as the wonderful story. It was like having a running commentary for the book, with notes on Tolkien's thought processes, various background materials from which Tolkien drew his material, and illustrations from many foreign editions of the book.

And now, it's on to LOTR, which makes me very happy indeed. I even bought a new copy of the book for this re-read. This is now my third copy of LOTR. Will I buy another for my tentatively-scheduled re-read in 2015? We'll see!

The world is changing....

Let's see how this goes....

I'm hearing some rumblings from respected sources that for some reason, Blogger's comment system isn't working quite as well as it should. So, I am going to open things back up to all comers, comment-wise. This is on a trial basis only. If I get irritated again, I'll go back to requiring Google or OpenID accounts for commenting. OK? OK. (Comment moderation will still be in effect.)

(And if anyone's refraining from Asking Me Anything! on that basis, well, here's your chance!)

A to Z

I got this quiz from Ken Levine, oddly enough!

• A-Available/Single?

Let me hear your offer first! (OK, I'm taken. Yeesh!)

• B-Best Friend?

Probably The Wife. (Crap -- I screwed that up with "probably".)

• C-Cake or Pie?

Either, really. I don't see the point of the cake/pie divide. Carrot cake, apple pie -- how could I choose? Of course, this answer assumes choosing between the two for eating purposes. I'd definitely choose a pie over a cake to take in my face...but then, come to think of it, I've never been hit in the face with a cake, so I don't have a fair comparison to make. Hmmmmm.

• D-Drink Of Choice?

I don't have a drink of choice. I'll drink coffee or tea, Pepsi or Coke, rum or whiskey, wine or beer. I go with what I'm in the mood for. (The vast majority of what I drink, anyway, is good old water!)

• E-Essential Item You Use Everyday?

My 11-in-1 screwdriver. (I have a number of answers for this, actually: my diagonal pliers, my flashlights, my cell phone, and more....)

• F-Favorite Color?


• G-Gummy Bears Or Worms?

Ick. Not a fan of the Gummi stuff. I don't like the sensation that my jaw is literally bouncing off the item I'm trying to chew.

• H-Hometown?


• I-Indulgence?

Ice cream.

J-January Or February?

January. I like when the year is new, and the football playoffs are in full swing.

• K-Kids & Their Names?


• L-Life Is Incomplete Without?

Love, laughter, et cetera.

• M-Marriage Date?

May 17. (In 1997.)

• N-Number Of Siblings?


• O-Oranges Or Apples?

I love both, I really do! I probably tend more to apples because they're less work and they go great with peanut butter.

• P-Phobias/Fears?

You want to see me flinch like nobody's ever flinched before? Get a rubber band and make like you're going to shoot it at me. Seriously. For some reason, that irrationally scares the shit out of me.

• Q-Favorite Quote?

I can't name a favorite quote, so here's a quote: "The fate of this man or that man was less than a drop, although it was a sparkling one, in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea." (TH White, The Once and Future King)

• R-Reason to Smile?

Any time David Caruso opens his mouth on CSI: Miami.

• S-Season?


• T-Tag Three or Four People?

OK, they're tagged. They just don't know it.

• U-Unknown Fact About Me?

My favorite Friend was Chandler Bing.

• V-Vegetable you don't like?

Well, broccoli isn't technically a vegetable; it's pure evil in plant form. That leaves artichoke.

• W-Worst Habit?

Not writing enough.

• X-X-rays You've Had?

Aside from the normal ones, I had x-rays when I broke my collarbone in seventh grade.

• Y-Your Favorite Food?

Pizza. Or wings. Or kung pao chicken. Or a nice salad. Or a taco. Or a big burger. know.

• Z-Zodiac Sign?


Well, that was a time-waster....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Looks like we may have hired Pluto's replacement

Science just continues to astound:

If you grew up thinking there were nine planets and were shocked when Pluto was demoted five years ago, get ready for another surprise. There may be nine after all, and Jupiter may not be the largest.

The hunt is on for a gas giant up to four times the mass of Jupiter thought to be lurking in the outer Oort Cloud, the most remote region of the solar system. The orbit of Tyche (pronounced ty-kee), would be 15,000 times farther from the Sun than the Earth's, and 375 times farther than Pluto's, which is why it hasn't been seen so far.

The idea that there may well be something that big out there that we've never known about until now is truly, truly awe-inspiring.

Ask Me Anything! (reminder the fourth)

Ask Me Anything!!!

I'll be starting to post replies later this week, but I'm still going to leave queries open for maybe the rest of the month! So if you have questions -- serious, silly, whatever -- go ahead and leave 'em in comments to this post (I do it this way just to keep them in one place; I discovered in the past that it's harder to keep track when there are questions in comments to multiple posts). Or, alternatively, you can e-mail questions to either address in the sidebar. (If you don't want to be identified when I answer on the blog, let me know; e-mail addresses will not be posted, anyway.) People on Facebook can also send questions via FB message, if that's your thing.

Sentential Links #237

Yeah, I missed last week, and I didn't even post my standard "Sorry, no sentential links this week!" disclaimer. Sorry about that...but here we go again.

:: Overall, I have to say that I like Oklahoma in general. (My life's travels have never taken me to Oklahoma. Maybe someday....)

:: So from now on, I think this is going to be part of my personal branding, right up there with "an analog guy lost in the digital age." (OK, this is pretty "meta" -- I'm linking a post of Jason's in which he links me, after I said something about him on Facebook that he liked. The brain hurts....)

:: December 9, 2011. When asked about the ongoing fiasco of the show’s pre-production, Bono says “Spider-Man? I’ve never heard of Spider-Man. What does he do, then?” Bono gets violently angry when people suggest he is in any way involved with the show, that he knows who Spider-Man is, or that he was having an affair with the late Tracy Maclough. Glenn Beck devotes a week’s worth of episodes of his show to Bono’s connection to ACORN.

:: The fact of the matter is that tyranny is a serious problem, and it calls for serious solutions and serious responses. The idea that the common man is going to use small arms to fight off a modern, 21st century military organization is ridiculous. And the idea that there’s going to be widespread household ownership of the kind of anti-tank missiles and other weapons you’d need to fight such a war is also absurd. In the real world, people stand up to tyranny with nonviolent tactics of civil disobedience that let protestors fight for the loyalty of the security services’ rank and file. (I've got to say that I agree with this. I all in favor of the Second Amendment and gun ownership if that's your thing -- I personally want nothing to do with guns, but I personally want nothing to do with broccoli, either. But whenever I hear someone actually saying that guns in the hands of the people are part of what keeps government at bay, I just shake my head.)

:: I had exactly two female characters in twelve years of roleplaying and none of them lasted very long. My gamemasters don't even ask anymore when it comes to character creation. I've been told several times that people can't imagine me playing a female, even by people who haven't played with me long. So why exactly do I do it?

:: Margaret Brundage is one of my all-time favourite pulp artists. (There's some wonderful pulp art reproduced in this post! Quite a bit of it may not be work-safe, but do look. M.D. Jackson runs a great art-based blog.)

:: If you can't get a good photo of a great blue heron in Florida, there is something wrong with you. But you can get wonderful photos of all kinds of much scarcer and shyer birds at Viera Wetlands, and the photographers all know it.

:: I don't know what I want Facebook to be now. I can't not be on it. There are people who contact me only through Facebook. There are favorite small businesses and organizations who publish their news mostly on Facebook. And BEJEWELED. The hooks are in.

(OK, on the last one, since it's an interesting topic: What I find interesting is how little overlap there is between people who are FB friends, people who read the blog, people who look at my Flickr photos, and people who follow me on Twitter. There is overlap, but I'd say the majority of FB friends I have who are friends or acquaintances in real life are folks who never, ever read the blog. Even when I set up the blog to ping Twitter when I post, which is then cross-posted to my FB wall, only a small number of my FB friends will actually click the link to read the blog post.

I have a pet theory -- a hypothesis, really -- no, even weaker than that, let's call it a "conjecture" -- that maybe Mark Zuckerberg thinks that privacy doesn't really matter because, for 99% of human interactions, nobody cares. Here's an example: except for maybe three or four people, none of the folks I'm FB friends with by knowing them from work has ever seen me outside of The Store, so they've never once seen me not wearing my work uniform. Of all those, only one has looked at my photos there and said, "Wow, you wear overalls a lot!" The only FB friends I have that read the blog are folks who I met online, or, oddly enough, people I knew from high school or a couple of college friends, and even they don't comment on it all that much. I've pushed my own personal envelope quite a bit on what I figured I could post that might cause someone to comment or ask "Hey, what's that about?", and I've come to conclude that unless you get way out there into "Too Much Information Land", people just aren't that interested. Or they're not that bothered by it, or their reaction is to note it and move on without comment.

So, it seems to me that my online life, spread basically across four main areas -- Byzantium's Shores, my Flickr photos, Facebook and Twitter -- tends to auto-compartmentalize itself, without much help from me. The areas where I get the most reaction or comment are the blog and FB; I've always been a little bummed that my Flickr photos don't get much comment at all, and my Twitter activity is probably a little too sporadic to really become reliable. But in general I find that I can occasionally post about things that I otherwise was once reticent to post about because I can, after years of doing this, be fairly confident that there's not going to be much reaction at all.

None of which is to say that I'm comfortable about posting everything, because I'm not. There is a great deal of personal stuff in my life that will never, I promise you, get posted here. And I think that's how it should be.

And now I'm not sure if that made any sense at all...hmmmm....)

Anyway, more next week!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The lady or the tiger?

I heart Lee overalls!, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

Remember the short story where the Prince aspires to the Princess's hand, so the King has the Prince stand before two doors, one of which leads to the Princess and marriage whilst the other leads to a really hungry tiger? And how the story ends as the Prince chooses his door and opens it? And how the story leaves unanswered the question as to which door he opened?


OK, forget it.

(On a more boring note, I'd love to be able to wear these overalls in public, but there's a hole in the butt. No, I didn't split them, they came that way when I bought them on eBay.)

Here's why I'm not rich

CoOkiEs, originally uploaded by ~*Denise*~.

Because I don't think up unimaginably nifty ideas like this: a coffee mug with a little spot underneath for holding cookies! One of my Flickr friends, a lovely woman named Denise, made this. How great is that! One idea like this and I am so retiring.


Reclining in the bed, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

It interests me how the LED flash on my cell-phone camera can make me look like I have some kind of anemia. I'm really not this pale!

Sunday Burst of Weird and AWESOME!

Oddities and Awesome abound!!!

:: OK, this isn't really in keeping with the usual rhyme-and-reason of these posts, but it really strikes me as funny that someone arrived at Byzantium's Shores via the Google search "the anime parts are so weird in pink floyd the wall the movie". Well, umm...yeah, they are. Yup. Bow howdy!

:: It really irritates me to note that is going to get a lot more traffic for pointing out that Toto is still doomed at the end of The Wizard of Oz than I did when I pointed out the exact same thing!

:: Bibs for your shoes. This seems like a solution in search of a problem to me, but hey, maybe there are lots of folks out there who hate getting sawdust on their shoes.

:: William Shatner may rule and all, but this may well haunt my dreams for months to come. Oh, and that link over there, the one that says "don't look down"? Please don't click that.

(Oh, you clicked it, huh? Well, I tried to tell you. Don't blame me.)

More next week!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Double Denim

Double Denim

In accordance with my complete lack of interest in what constitutes "fashion", I have apparently been committing a possible fashion no-no for years, in the form of the "Double Denim". This is a denim top coupled with denim pants. I, of course, take it one step farther by wearing the denim shirt under denim overalls (albeit hickory striped, in this case). But in general, I fail to see what this woman is doing wrong by pairing denim with denim...or this one (dance step aside)...and then there's...well, you get the idea.

Generally, I like the way denim feels, so why not pair it? Double denim rules!

UPDATE: I would later don double denim -- this same denim shirt with another pair of overalls -- for my 40th-birthday pies in the face. Double denim still rules!

Happy Birthday to Me! V: Double Denim and pies in my face

Saturday Centus

Hoo boy. I try not to complain...but wow, do I ever hate this week's prompt! This one is well and truly evil. Oh well, must make do. Jenny Matlock describes the assignment thusly:

I'm not 100% certain, but I think a lot of you probably have dreamt, albeit briefly, of being a Hallmark Superstar. It's OK to admit it. You're among friends here. How can you not want to attain the absolute pinnacle of writing success...cheesy sentiments for greeting cards!

With that in mind I scoured the web searching for the perfect romantic picture for you to create a mushy Hallmark-ish masterpiece around.

Now, with all due respect, I have to make an admission here: I have never, not once, harbored any desire whatsoever to write blurbs for Hallmark cards. I have made my own greeting cards in the past, choosing my own artwork and text, but the text I create is usually a poem of some sort, either one I've written or a poem I've liked from someone else. A standard "picture plus blurb" card, though? Nope. (Not that I'm implying that I am "above" such things, mind you; I've just never once wanted to come up with my own Hallmark Card-type of thing. My favorite store-bought cards tend to feature either funny cartoons from The Far Side, or beautiful artwork with no blurb at all inside, maybe just a generic "Happy birthday" kind of thing, with lots of space to write my own long-form greeting. That's just how I roll, greeting-card-wise.)

Anyway, we're supposed to write a Hallmark card. OK, fine. And we're given a picture to work from. Again, fine...except that this is the picture.

Oh, noes. What on Earth am I going to do with this? Now, if I was just going to caption this as a Wonder Woman reference, I'd do something like this:

"Uh, Steve? I'm not totally confident in this new plan of yours to capture the Cheetah."

But that's not a Hallmark card, unless it's a card for Comic Book Guy. What to do...well, OK, I'm stalling. This prompt is, as I said, evil. Jenny Matlock must right now be sitting in the command chair of her mountain fortress, drumming her fingertips together and chortling at the thought of the turmoil she's unleashing upon her Saturday Centus community.

OK, fine, enough stalling. Here's what I came up with:

From the rejection pile at Websters Dictionary:

OneTrueLove (n): That person who instinctively understands that there are some things we’ve done that should never, ever, EVER, be spoken of or referred to in any way.

Thank you for being my almost dictionary-defined OneTrueLove!

Best I could do, folks. Harumph.

(Oh, and a note to all the Centus participants whom I've met since I've started doing this: Feel free to participate in my twice-yearly game, Ask Me Anything! I'm taking queries all month!)

Friday, February 11, 2011

That is one lucky Department Store Santa!

, originally uploaded by retro-space.

I know this is out of season, but I only just saw it on Retrospace's Flickr stream, and it's just a great photo. So here it is.

Ask Me Anything! (Reminder the third)

Ask Me Anything!!!

Remember, folks, I'm taking questions pretty much all month for Ask Me Anything! February 2011. Any question is welcome -- serious questions, silly questions, things you've always wondered about but didn't have the opportunity to ask, things you don't care about but want to make me write about anyway, et cetera. Just post your questions in comments to this post. Or, if you prefer, e-mail is fine (addresses are in the sidebar, but best to use the Gmail one) or Facebook message, for those on FB. Bring it on! Ask Me Anything!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to drain your flagon

How to drain your flagon, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

I know, I know. Worst pun ever!

Something for Thursday

In honor of John Williams's 79th birthday just a few days ago, here is some John Williams!

May the Force be with you, Maestro Williams!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

X-Files Case Report: "The Jersey Devil"

"Unlike you, Mulder, I would like to have a life."

As I wrote in the intro to this series, I didn't become a regular viewer of The X-Files until the show was in its third season, so there are a lot of episodes from seasons 1, 2, and 3 that I have never seen. That's one primary motivation for doing this series in the first place, now that we live in a time when watching old episodes of shows that we may have missed is one of the easiest things in the world to do. I remember how it wasn't always thus; watching reruns of Star Trek as a kid, on an independent teevee station, meant that I could go quite some time without seeing a particular episode – and, in fact, there actually is one episode of Star Trek: The Original Series that I have not seen, to this very day. (It's "Dagger of the Mind".)

So, the fifth episode of The X-Files is the earliest in the series that I have never seen. "The Jersey Devil" is a pure "monster of the week" tale: there are no hints of government conspiracies or alien abductions here. Instead, we have some kind of wild thing on the loose in the woods outside Atlantic City, NJ. We first see this thing in the teaser sequence, set in the 1950s; a family is driving at night on a back road to Atlantic City, when they get a flat tire. The father is jacking up the car, says something to his wife, and while he's in midsentence gets violently yanked into the woods where he is partially eaten. Cut to the present day, when something is preying on homeless people in the back streets of Atlantic City.

Mulder, of course, immediately connects the dots between the current murders and the case from 1950-something, and immediately postulates the existence of something called the Jersey Devil, which is apparently some kind of cannabalistic beastie living in the Jersey woods and preying on people. Eventually it turns out that the current Devil is a descendent of the one from the 1950s, and is actually a female.

Along the way, Mulder ends up annoying the local police, as he so often does. This leads to a typically X-Files-ish ending as the police are intent on doing one thing, Mulder is intent on doing another, and as often happens, Mulder ends up deeply disappointed.

There's really not a whole lot to say about this episode. Part of the reason is that the show's mystery is short-changed by quite a bit of screentime devoted to Mulder and Scully's personal lives – that is, Scully's desire for a normal personal life and Mulder's lack of awareness that there even is such a thing. Scully goes to a friend's kid's birthday party; she goes on a date with some guy. The date is predictably interrupted by the waiter who comes over and says, "Agent Scully, you have a phone call." Guess who it is. (This was the early 90s, when the only person on teevee who obsessively used a cell phone was Fox Mulder himself.) At this point in my rewatch, I'm wondering how soon the show will reach the point where we stop hearing so much about their personal lives.

This episode is basically OK – not great, not bad. It's the first "meh" installment of the series. The next one up is "Shadows".

Monday, February 07, 2011


I have a hard time putting my finger on it, but the last few years, something just seems a bit smaller about the Super Bowl. Sure, they still hype the crap out of it, but it just doesn't seem like as big an event as it once was. I was rooting for the Steelers, as they're my second favorite team, but I've always liked the Packers too, so it didn't bother me that they won. But it just seemed like...a football game, with a trophy at the end. Random thoughts follow:

:: I wonder a bit about Pittsburgh's offensive game planning and play calling. In the second half, with Green Bay's secondary as banged up as it was, I wonder why they didn't try coming out in a spread formation and beat the Pack through the air. By that time, Ben Roethlisberger had his mojo back. The Pack came out terribly flat in the second half, and the Steelers just didn't put the screws to them like I thought they should have.

:: Watching a steady stream of Green Bay players heading for the locker room at one point might be the best argument against an 18-game season that can be made. Football is so physical and violent that in an 18-game season, the team that wins the Super Bowl won't necessarily be the best team, but the team that makes the playoffs with the most key players healthy.

:: Troy Aikman on scoring: "A field goal is big, but a touchdown here would be huge." Thanks for spelling that out, Troy.

:: The commercials were crap, across the board. All of 'em. I'm really starting to hate how Super Bowl Sunday is now basically a national holiday for the advertising industry. That many people actually look forward to watching advertising strikes me as indicative of something deeply wrong.

:: Yes, the halftime show was total, utter crap. But the halftime shows are always total, utter crap.

:: Christina Aguilera muffed "The Star-spangled Banner". You'd think that a professional singer could get the lyrics right, but I guess not.

:: So the powers-that-be at Cowboys Stadium screwed up the ticket sales, and ended up selling tickets to people they didn't have seats for. Oops. Heckuva job, Jerry!

:: I read a lot of articles last week by sportswriters whining over the Super Bowl not being held in a warm-weather city. I'm not sure how warm Dallas is on a normal first weekend of February, but really, suck it, sports journalists. I think that what was really behind each and every one of those articles that I read was a guy who really likes getting an expenses-paid trip to someplace warm every February, and this year, it was a trip to someplace not quite as warm as usual. Too bad. I hope they have a Super Bowl at Lambeau Field.

:: I'm really getting sick of "narrative-based" journalism. Last year, the whole thing was "Will Peyton Manning stake his claim to being the best ever!" This year, it was "Will Aaron Rodgers make Green Bay forget about Favre once and for all!" This stuff is stupid.

:: That trumpet-fanfare thing they do when the Vince Lombardi trophy is being unveiled is laughable. Forget it, NFL; your trophy is nice, but the trophy itself will never have the cachet of the Stanley Cup.

:: Speaking of which, a local sports radio personality posed the question to Buffalonians: Would you rather win the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup? True, Buffalo is hockey-crazed, and the Cup would be a sweet, sweet thing. But the NHL is a fairly small thing in the sporting life of the US nowadays. The Super Bowl, on the other hand? If the Bills won that thing, then Buffalo would be able to finally, once and for all, be able to offer an extended middle finger to every single person in the country for whom Buffalo is a punchline. No, I don't think that a Super Bowl win would have any real effect on Buffalo's economy or anything like that. But being able to say, "Hey, we won the Super Bowl, so F*** you" would be pretty sweet.

:: Next up: the draft, hopefully. If there's not a lockout first.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Ask Me Anything! (reminder the second)

Ask Me Anything!!!

Put your questions in comments here! All queries welcome on all subjects! If you don't ask a question, the Gods will weep! (And no questioning limit, either! If you think of nine questions, well then, get 'em all in there!)

A tale of two meals

It was a moderately healthy meal...

Na'an bread pizza

...and it was a freakishly unhealthy meal.

Monte Cristo sandwich

The first up there is a pizza I made using a crust of Na'an bread. I spread it with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, onto which I put some minced garlic. Then I topped the thing with a bit of cheese (an Italian blend from a bag -- I got lazy), followed by sliced plum tomatoes, onions, and banana peppers. I sprinkled a bit of basil and oregano on the whole thing, and it was just so good!

And then there's the Monte Cristo sandwich. Hoo boy.

I haven't had Monte Cristos very often over the years, as they're not the most common menu item in restaurants, and...well, they're not terribly healthy. It's probably been seven or eight years since I had one. But I got to thinking about the Monte Cristo after I watched an old episode of Good Eats on YouTube. I've been watching a bunch of these lately, and one of them had Alton Brown holding forth on a food item that is very dear to my heart: waffles.

At the end of the episode, after he'd made his perfect waffles, he said that you could top it with butter and maple syrup, but that's not his favorite waffle topping. I figured he was going to put some kind of fruit topping or something like that on there...but instead, he plunked a piece of fried chicken right down on top of the waffle! He said that he tosses the chicken with a bit of hot sauce, puts it on the waffle, and then pours maple syrup over the whole thing. This struck me as very odd.

But when I did a bit of online research as well as talked to a guy at work who knows a lot about food, it turns out that fried chicken and waffles is actually a very common food pairing down south! I love southern food, but I'd never ever heard of this. And as I thought about it some more, I realized that the fried chicken and waffles bit isn't that far off, conceptually, from the Monte Cristo sandwich.

And what is the Monte Cristo? It's a meat and cheese sandwich -- I used ham, turkey, and Swiss -- which you then dip in an egg batter on both sides and then cook in a frying pan. You then serve the sandwich with a sweet sauce to dip it in. You can use fruit preserves, if you like, or you can do what I did here: maple syrup. Of course maple syrup goes well with this; I've often had maple-cured ham or maple-cured turkey from the deli, and basically this is a sandwich made from French toast. And wow, was it awesome. As of this writing, I ate that sandwich four hours ago, and I haven't touched any food since.

(The egg batter I used was just two eggs beaten with a bit of half-and-half. I've seen recipes online for thicker batters that you smother the sandwich in before deep-frying the whole thing, but that seems like overkill to me. Most recipes also suggest dusting the sandwich with powdered sugar, but I didn't bother with that.)

So there you have it. It was a meal of moderation, it was a meal of excess; it was a meal of healthful vegetables, it was a meal of fattening meats and egg-batters and bread. But both were far, far better meals than I have eaten recently!

(If you're wondering why I'm talking like this, well, I'll hold forth in a future post about it, but this may explain things:

A Tale of Two Cities

Ach! I'm becoming Dickensian!)