Tuesday, May 31, 2011

X-Files Case Report: "Space"

It's a bit of lore in UFO circles that astronauts saw strange things outside their spaceships during their flights in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo days, although – of course – nothing really "official" has ever come of it. This is the basis for "Space", which is a kind of odd-feeling episode. In one way it feels overstuffed, and in another way it feels undercooked. I'm not really sure what to think of this episode, except to note that it's the first real misfire of the series.

The teaser sequence opens in the 1970s as the first images of the Viking Mars Lander come back, revealing fascinating stuff about Mars such as the oft-cited "Face on Mars", a mountain that is said to look like a sculpted humanoid face. (Of course, the official explanation by NASA and most scientists is that the mountain is a natural formation that bears little, if any, actual resemblance to a face and is only similar to it in the Viking survey photos owing to issues of light and resolution limitations in the camera. But of course, that's exactly what they'd want you to think, isn't it!)

Cut to the "present day" (meaning, 1993), when one of the early astronauts is now running Mission Control in Houston. And there's something weird about this guy, in the way his face seems to shift when he is alone in his hotel room, shifting so it looks like the Face on Mars. He flashes back to his spacewalk during a Gemini mission, a spacewalk during which he reported something coming straight at him. Will this thing rear its ugly head now, during a space shuttle mission? Naturally!

But even so, this episode's approach toward the paranormal element is kind of odd. It's understated to the point where Mulder doesn't even really hypothesize about something "possessing" this astronaut hero of his until the very end of the episode; during much of the show, Mulder and Scully are mainly doing actual FBI-type investigating.

I really don't have much to say, ultimately, about "Space", because...well, it's not that good of an episode. Nor is it really a bad one, either; it's the first one I've watched in this project that feels to me like a filler episode. Oh well; you can't win 'em all.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Remembering (a repost)

Tomb of Unknown Soldier

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

-- Guy Gavriel Kay

"The Green Field of France", by Eric Bogle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Bookstore, originally uploaded by testpatern.

I like to look at photos like this because it makes me feel a little less bad about the teetering stacks of books all over Casa Jaquandor.

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: Check out the world's first ever triple backflip performed on a BMX bicycle.


:: This is utterly creepy: LED eyeshadow. Ugh. What a stupid idea.

:: Wow, I sure wish I'd known about this back when I was the fat kid in school! (No, not really. Because it sounds idiotic.)

More next week!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Centus

OK, so I messed up last week -- but I went ahead and did it anyway, because who's gonna stop me? That's what I thought. Heh!

And now, on to this week's prompt. Obviously the prompt was inspired by the upcoming Memorial Day, but I guess I had food on the mind:

Alright, listen up, folks. Sign says "The Legacy of Heroes". Sign says that because I made it. Hung it myself a week before I opened the place. Because they're called "heroes". That's what they are. You want one, you gotta call 'em that.

So stop comin' in here and askin' for your Hoagies 'cause you ain't getting' one. No po-boys either, got it? I ain't servin' no subs, no Wedges, no Blimpies and no Bombers. The only Grinder you'll see here is the one I use to make sausage. I make Heroes. Get it right.

'Kay? 'Kay.

So. Whaddaya have?

Saturday Centus (the "Last Week" edition)

Oops. I wrote it last week, I swear. I just forgot to post it.

Joe staggered, cursing, into the bathroom. Getting up at six for a construction job? How had his life come to that?

"Oh yeah, that's how," he thought as he looked down at the newspaper wadded up in the trash. "Scarpoliti Guilty", the headline read. Poor old Nick Scarpoliti was goin' up the river, and partly on Joe's say-so. He'd taken the offer of a new life to sing the Feds a nice song about old Nick.

Joe looked up at the reflection in the mirror. Guy behind him, gun already lifted. "Witness protection," Joe thought as Nick's guy whacked him.

And to think, I don't even like mob stories....

Friday, May 27, 2011

"A hickie from Kinnickie is like a Hallmark card."

Actor Jeff Conaway died today. Here he is, in one of the funniest scenes ever on the show Taxi. (He's the one in the leather jacket.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

T-minus zero

This is amazing: a shuttle launch recorded by a camera mounted to the shuttle's solid-fuel rocket booster. The camera records the entirety of the rocket booster's voyage, from launch to separation to splashdown. If I'm not mistaken, when the ship is far above the clouds but before the separation, you can see the shadow of the launch thrust contrail on the top of the planet's cloud cover, trailing off to the left.

I was never a huge fan of the shuttle; it was the only game in town for far too long, and now we're in the disappointing position of having no game in town because we seem to have collectively decided that space is basically a place for satellites to make communications easier and monitor climate change that most of us annoyingly don't think is happening anyway and...well, that's about it.

But it's still thrilling to see a ship launch for space. I hope this is a momentary interruption in our explorations, and not the start of our abandonment of space.

Something for Thursday

I enjoy jazz, and many times I've wished I had more of an ear for it. I gave jazz a game effort in high school and college, but I inevitably had to conclude that from a performing standpoint, I just wasn't cut out for it. But no matter -- I can still listen to it.

Here's One O'Clock Jump.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Well, we all can't come and go by bubble!"

Last week, the family and I saw Wicked at Shea's in downtown Buffalo. What a wonderful, fun, amazing show it was!

The Wife read the book a few years ago when I bought it for her for Christmas, and she liked it so much that Gregory Maguire has become a "buy in hardcover" author for her. I haven't read the book (or any of its sequels), but I knew the basic thrust of the show: it's the life of the Wicked Witch of the West, from that standpoint that maybe she had reasons for being, well, "Wicked".

It's clearly not meant to be a revisionist take on The Wizard of Oz, but an addressing of themes of good and evil told by cleverly shifting the vantage point of a deeply familiar story that originally sprang from an era with a much more simplistic view of good and evil. Wicked takes into account the fact that we're all basically the heroes of our own story, and creates a Wicked Witch who is intelligent, funny, and motivated by real concerns.

I knew next to nothing about Wicked as a show when I went in, other than the story idea, but the whole thing was a delight. The songs are actually memorable and well-written (with one of them, the Act I finale showstopper "Defying Gravity", having been in my head ever since the show ended), and I loved the show's "book" (Broadway-speak for "script"). I didn't discover until intermission that the book was written by Winnie Holtzman, whose work I have long-admired (Holtzman being one of the main writers of the brilliant Once and Again). I also liked the production itself, with backdrops depicting the workings of a clock.

Wicked is a lot of fun for many of its Wizard of Oz in-jokes and references ("Lemons and melons and pears? Oh my!"), and the second act mostly takes place literally during the events of the movie, not unlike the second Back to the Future movie. The entire show sparkles with genuine wit and charm and good humor. I can't recommend it highly enough.

UPDATE: When we saw the show, the lead actress in the traveling production was out, and the role of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) was taken over by an understudy named Mariand Torres. Her performance was fantastic, and if she's the understudy, I wonder how good the lead is!

(My next Broadway production at Shea's will likely be Les Miserables, when it comes to Buffalo next February. I expect that to be an emotionally overwhelming experience.)

Bring this on!

Longtime readers know that I love a good romantic comedy, and the trailer for this one makes me want to be there on opening night.

I can't wait!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Look, Mommy! Mommy, look! I'm doin' it by myself! Look, Mommy!!

The greatest force for evil in the sporting world, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, has apparently just discovered water slides.

God help me...there's just something a little bit endearing about this. There really, truly is. Of course, whatever it is that's a little bit endearing about this is totally outweighed by the colossal wrongness of this, but it's there.

(St. Tom the Overrated is having quite the time on this "organized-team-activity"-free lockout. First bad dancing, and now this!)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sentential Links #248

Linkage! Sorry to be so late with this tonight. But you know, stuff happens. And so on.

:: In Field of Dreams, Annie gets to be a dreamer, too.

:: If you saw this building in Miami you'd shrug, but in Buffalo it stands out.

:: We shouldn’t make the mistake of turning Jack into a hero though. Not in Black Pearl at least. He always acts selfishly in that film; it’s just that his goals tend to align with Will and Elizabeth’s. He’s a good guy by association. And because we like him. (It's so nice to read something about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies that isn't written from the standpoint of "first one good, all after suck".)

:: Here are several facts about Wildroot Cream Oil: (Wow, now there's a substance I haven't thought about in many a moon!)

:: On the whole, this is another reason why music and music collecting has such a hold on me.

:: Speaking of chickens, I don't know which is worse or more depressing- losing a hen to a hawk or keeping them in the coop all day. Why is it so important to me to have my chickens scratching about my yard? I don't know but it just gives my heart such joy to see them.

:: In a better world, audiences would have flocked to see Serenity giving it a much larger box office and leading to a series of movies. Alas, we only got one film. But what a hell of a film. (A spoilerific appreciation of a great film!)

More next week!

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: A helpful commenter (I think!) left this here the other day.

I've never watched Paula Deen or read anything by her, and on the basis of this video, I don't believe I will. Not because I have anything against oxtails or someone who finds erotic pleasure in eating oxtails, but because I can't deal with someone who uses the word "romantical".

:: I don't tote book bags around, but if I did, this would be a candidate.

:: On a sudden whim, I typed "Star Wars Yiddish" into Google and went with the first link I found. That would be this video, which appears to be the "Luke meets Yoda" scene from The Empire Strikes Back, dubbed into Yiddish, I assume for a school project. I don't speak a single word of Yiddish. I wonder how the translator accommodated Yoda's signature speech pattern?

More next week!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Drain. Very important.

I'm stealing this from MeFi, but it's awfully funny.

First, read Paula Dean's recipe for English Peas. Then, click through at the bottom and read the comments.

That is all.

Young Democrat!

P040211PS-0200, originally uploaded by The White House.

Longtime readers know of my love of goofy photos of Presidents of the United States. I'm not sure who's the goofier-looking person here, the baby or the guy smirking at the camera on the other side of the President.


I haven't seen Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides yet, but I plan to. We're big fans of the Pirates movies here at Casa Jaquandor, and we're looking forward to this one.

However, I'm reading a lot of tepid-to-hostile reviews of the movie, which might give ma pause, except that many of these reviews are clearly written by people who probably shouldn't be seeing the thing in the first place.

Example, from Associated Press

With the (unexplained) absence of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley this time around, Depp's Sparrow is now front and center -- he's almost the voice of reason -- rather than the bejeweled and eyelinered clown riffing in the corner, commenting on the action.

"Unexplained" absence? It's only "unexplained" if you didn't bother paying attention to the ending of the previous movie.

And there's this, from Roger Ebert, whom I almost always respect:

Before seeing "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," I had already reached my capacity for "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, and with this fourth installment, my cup runneth over.

Look. I don't care if it's your job to review movies or not, but if you can honestly lead off your review by saying "I never wanted to see another of these again", then maybe you just should have recused yourself from reviewing it for your paper this time out. This kind of thing is as mystifying to me as when newspapers run reviews of science fiction books written by people who state up front that they don't much like reading science fiction.

And the other thing I see a lot is referrences to the previous two Pirates films as too confusing and hard to follow, complaints for which I have absolutely no sympathy. In fact, if you couldn't follow those two movies, then I have to wonder just what kinds of movies you can follow.

I don't know if I'll like On Stranger Tides or not, but that's not the point. I'm just tired of seeing movie reviews like these, which will stake claims to being "objective" in their assessments while betraying a clear ignorance of the subject matter on one hand, or an outright chip-on-the-shoulder on the other, both of which give the lie to so-called critical "objectivity".

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Planets ending with 'is'

Time to talk about some books I've read recently.

:: Somehow, in my life as a science fiction reader, I'd never read Dune until just a few weeks ago. Now, that's nothing really abnormal; there are lots of SF classics I haven't read. I haven't read Dhalgren. I haven't read The Book of the New Sun. I've read only one of Banks's Culture novels. I still haven't read A Canticle for Leibowitz. And I haven't read...well, you get the idea.

Dune by Frank Herbert

So, why not Dune? I actually started it, ten or eleven years ago, but it either didn't grab me or something else came along that I wanted to read more. I do recall that my first attempt at Dune flummoxed me a bit because I had to flip back to the book's glossary so often that it threw me out of the book a lot. Still, I always intended to return to Dune, and I finally have.

This just in: Dune is a great book. Water, also, is wet.

Again, as before, it took me a while to get into Dune, and this time I just generally found a certain coolness to the overall emotional tone of the book. Everything felt like it was at a distance, somehow. This isn't a criticism per se, but I found myself admiring the book more than really getting involved in it. But still – it's a great book.

What makes the book great are a combination of factors. First, the setting, the desert planet of Arrakis. Yes, I've seen desert planets before, but Dune was there before all of the ones that I've seen, and Herbert imbues this world with an impressive sense of scale and an even more impressive sense of importance. Whenever you depict a world where conditions are about as harsh for humans as can possibly be, you need to create a reason for them to live there, and this Herbert accomplishes impressively. (The reason is, of course, the spice called "melange", which is important because...well, that's beyond the scope of this post.)

Even better is how Herbert is able to depict the society that lives on Arrakis, the nomadic-bedouin-like Fremen. Herbert brilliantly depicts just what the effects upon society would be on a world where water is as precious as it is on Arrakis, as people have to wear special suits that reclaim every bit of moisture their bodies excrete, and Herbert has thought things through to the point where an act that we on Earth wouldn't even think twice about – like spitting – is deeply significant on Arrakis. Herbert's attention to detail is superb, and he packs a lot of detail into the book.

Oh yeah, and sandworms. Sandworms are all kinds of awesome. I won't say anything more than that.

As noted above, I wasn't as emotionally involved in the book as I like to be, but the book's other strengths compensated for this. Part of the problem was the glossary-flipping I had to do a lot of this time around as I did the first time; another part is Herbert's structuring the novel by including quotes from fictional texts of his world before his chapter. This device does create some dramatic tension in one key respect – establishing that one particular character is a horrible traitor well before the treason happens – but in other ways, those text quotes were sometimes distracting.

I'm not sure if I will read Herbert's sequels to Dune. I own them all, having picked them up at library book sales, but the general consensus out there as I've sussed it out seems to be that the sequels aren't nearly as good as the first one and that they drop in quality each time out. We'll see.

(Seriously, folks. Sandworms.)

:: I suppose that most casual SF fans are only aware of Leigh Brackett, if at all, as the writer of the first draft of the screenplay to The Empire Strikes Back. Brackett was a prolific SF writer during the middle of the 20th century, though, and she produced a lot of fine space opera and planetary fantasy stories. In fact, Leigh Brackett is required reading for anyone interested in those strongly-related SF subgenres, and not least because she was simply a fine, fine writer.

I've only read a little bit of Brackett thus far, but I've loved everything of hers that I've read to date, and I can now add to that list of titles her novel The Starmen of Llyrdis.

starmen of llyrdis

A human male, Michael Trehearne, is approached by a beautiful girl who tells him that he looks like one of the Vardda, a race of humanoids who are the only beings in the galaxy who can travel between the stars. This gives them a monopoly over all interstellar trade, and most of the planet-bound species in the Galaxy hate them for it.

Trehearne is brought into the fold as a Vardda, but at the same time, he is viewed with suspicion by them, a suspicion that manifests throughout the book in betrayals and schemes and plots against him. Eventually Trehearne learns a deep secret of the Vardda: the fact that many years before, one of their scientists had figured out how it is that the Vardda can travel the stars, and how to give that ability to other species. Trehearne is now at the center of events that could change the galaxy forever.

Brackett's writing is poetic and beautiful as she weaves a tale of adventure and galaxy-spanning mystery that even has a few action set-pieces. The story is a bit heavily skewed toward the male end of the spectrum, as might be expected of a book written in 1952, and in terms of style, there's not a lot of humor in the book. But those are quibbles that are better taken in the context of the era in which Leigh Brackett wrote, and The Starmen of Llyrdis is a fascinating and entertaining space opera.

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Worcestershire Sauce: wonderful ingredient, a few drops of which turns a dish into an absolute delight? or a stinky liquid that overpowers everything in its path?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Swan Song!

Swan Song, originally uploaded by retro-space.

I love Retro-space's Flickr stream -- it's an ongoing love-fest for stuff like this. I don't own this book myself, but I do own a number of books with similarly trippy covers.

Fourteen years

Wife 2, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

On May 17, 1997 I married this beautiful woman. We're still going strong, after some good times and some bad times and some more good times and some awful times and some more good times. I remain eternally grateful to whatever cosmic forces are out there to be at her side and to have her at mine.

Happy Anniversary!

Unfortunately, I work today and she works tonight. Fortunately, night after tomorrow we're going to see Wicked. Huzzah! Let there be rum! Drink up me hearties, yo-ho!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

This just in....

Heavens, actual high-speed Internet is fantastic!

That is all. Moving on!

(Oh, and anyone inadvertently spoiling me on what happens on tonight's season finale of Castle will suffer an awful, awful fate. You have been warned!)

Sentential Links #247


:: When it is unexpected, uncontrolled, and unwanted, two days without Internet is two days in hell. (Ahhh, but when you know it's coming, it's really not bad at all! New blog to me, by the way. Via.)

:: The violin piece also got me thinking about the violin that's been sitting in my downstairs coat closet for over a year. Brand new. Never played. A story for another day. I know I'll never learn how to play it but it gets me thinking about my life as an instrument. What good is having an instrument if you never learn to play it? (Another new blog to me. I really do prefer "ordinary life" blogs these days, as well as blogs that geek out about particular subjects.)

:: It was just nice, really nice, to be out on a Sunday afternoon with Becca, like we used to be able to do, just enjoying ourselves. Getting a burger for lunch, going to a show... being normal. It felt really, really good. (SamuraiFrog's ongoing personal victories are really encouraging.)

:: Of course, now I have a huge, 14-year sleep deficit, but I'm going to enjoy trying to catch that up!

:: You might find this strange but I actually sort of like grasshoppers so it’s easy for me to think of them as being “lucky.” (I had to escort an enormous grasshopper out of The Store a couple weeks back...it had come in with a batch of produce of some sort. Guy was just sitting there, hangin' out on a display. I got him into a box and took him outside. Thing was huge.)

:: There are certain truths that cannot be ignored. 1. Grown men getting knocked in the nads is funny, 2. Small, fluffy things can sell almost anything, and 3. If you make a temperature finder that looks like a gun and has a laser on it you can entertain a group of middle-aged men for quite some time. (I own a Ryobi version of this tool. Mine probably doesn't have the same temp range of this one, but still, useful and fun!)

:: I’ll be honest: I’m more of a medium-to-high energy guy than radio guy. (Well, I'm glad he set us straight on that!)

More next week!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"OK, Mr. Mariano, I got you a win. Can I have my naked pictures back, please?"

So, apparently "Boston Rob" Mariano won Survivor. Well, hell, he should have. It was, after all, his fourth appearance on the show. Coupled with his two losing appearances on The Amazing Race, Rob was 0-5 in million-dollar-prize CBS reality shows going into this one. Now he's 1-5, which is actually a worse winning percentage than the Atlanta Braves posted in World Series appearances in the 1990s (they were 1-4 at winning the Series).

I was actually excited for this season of Survivor, because I thought that the twist they had come up with -- "Redemption Island" -- was a fascinating one that could very well do interesting things with the psychology of the game. But then, CBS turned around and played down the "Redemption Island" aspect by insisting that what the world really needed to see was Rob versus Russell again. I, already filled with dislike for both guys, decided that I had no interest in watching this season until both were gone.

Now, Russell was gone very quickly, and I figured that if the castaways were smart, they'd eliminate both of them on general principle. Seriously: if I went through the audition process, got picked for the show, and then showed up for the first day of competition only to then find out that two of the other castaways had been on the show a combined five previous times, with each one never winning, I would have made getting rid of them both Job Number One. Apparently these folks didn't think like that, but then, I have zero idea as to what they were thinking, as I stuck to my guns and didn't watch the show at all.

Hey, if Rob "played the game" and everybody loves that, great. My opinion isn't based on his game play this time around. I'm not saying he shouldn't have won because he'd had his shot before; I'm saying that he shouldn't have been there at all because he'd had his shot before. And even though I hate Rob and think he's a colossal douchebag, it's not just about Rob. I liked Rupert a lot each time he was on, but he's had three shots and should never show up again. In fact, I'd pretty much cap everyone off at two possible appearances, period. But then, it's not my show.

I'll say this: I'll be extremely surprised if Rob isn't on Survivor or The Amazing Race yet again at some point in the next three years. I don't think that CBS or Mark Burnett can quit this guy. Winner or no this time, Rob is not going into the sunset. He'll be back. So, I strongly suspect, will Russell.

And I won't watch then, either.

An observation....

I should have stopped reading political blogs a long time ago.

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: I've seen this a bunch of places this week, and I can't help but link it: National leader announces the death of a prominent terrorist. I'm so conflicted....

:: I'd love to try this spice mixture called "Ras al Hanout", which you add to coffee before brewing. It's a pretty extensive recipe, though, and a lot of the component spices are things I wouldn't want to have around in quantity, because I'm not sure I'd use them for anything else but this. I wonder if there's a spice outlet in Buffalo where one can buy teeny portions of spice? Anyone?

:: Oh, how I'd love to see this: the world's largest model airport. Make sure to check out the photo galleries! Wonderful stuff here. This is some seriously great model work.

More next week!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"I'll see you...out there!"

The Borg seem to be what most people remember, but for my money, the best thing that Star Trek: The Next Generation gave us was Q.

Saturday Centus

Owing to connectivity issues during the first part of the week and the Blogger outage the second half of the week, I wasn't able to do last week's Centus. I thought I'd just miss one...but then I decided to cheat and do last week's Centus and this week's Centus at the same time! So, here we are: 200 words in which I use two different Centus prompts. Heh!

“Daddy, where are you taking me?” asked a blindfolded Princess Th’ron, as her father the King led her by the tentacle.

“It’s time for your birthday present!” replied King Fr’xon.

They slithered a while through the corridors of the ship before finally stopping.

“All right, here it is!” said Fr’xon as he reached up with a third tentacle and removed the blindfold from his daughter’s eyes.

“What--?” she said. They were on the observation deck, overlooking one of Earth’s conquered cities. Smoke still belched into the sky from the burning buildings, and the thousands of pathetic humans who still lived all knelt before the ship, under fear of vaporization. “Daddy? You conquered Earth?”

“You wanted a world, Darling, so here’s a world! Happy birthday!”

“I didn’t want a whole world!”

“Yes you did. You said, ‘I'd like to teach the world to sing.’ Well, here’s a world. Teach it to sing, just like you do with that beautiful voice of yours! Go ahead! Start with that song your mother always sang to you.”


“Sing it!”

Th’ron sighed. Daddy had conquered Earth for her. Amazing. So she sang.

Hush little baby don’t you cry, Mars will make those Earthlings die....”

“Maybe another song would be better,” her daddy offered.

“Yeah,” she said.

"You know what they say, Frank: Speed kills!"

Well, folks, a long national nightmare has come to an end. After eight years of EarthLink, we have switched to Verizon FiOS here at Casa Jaquandor. I don't recall ever seeing an Internet this fast -- maybe back in the days when there were no pictures, everything was text based, and USENET and Gopher were how you "surfed the Net". Anyway, no more glacial load times! Huzzah!!

Oh, and I think a few comments that may have been left here a couple days ago have vanished. It seems that Blogger had a massive outage due to something that went awry while the Blogger folks were tinkering underneath the hood, and not only was Blogger down for more than a day, but it seems that some comments left during that time are incognito. I have no idea if they'll show up again...but if you left a comment here and now you don't see it anywhere, that's what happened. I haven't deleted any comments here lately!

But for now, I shall breathe the free air of the Internet again! It's like Gandalf has pushed Saruman out of me and I can grasp my sword! WHEEEE!!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Holding Pattern Delta

Sorry, folks, but once again, the Internet connection here at Casa Jaquandor has gone to shit. This time, however, we are actually in the process of switching over to FiOS, so hopefully this will be a thing of the past quite soon. I expect this process to take a few days, but I'll post when I can.

EarthLink: Your days at Casa Jaquandor are numbered.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ahhh, Buffalo...time has ravaged your once youthful looks.

I have a hard time taking this video, made ostensibly by the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitor's Bureau to market the city, seriously in any way.

The photography is excellent, I'll admit: the video really makes Buffalo look beautiful. And really, Buffalo has a lot of beauty going for it. (Trouble is, it's often hidden and hard to find because it's behind some ugly stuff.) And I really like the logo they've come up with for Buffalo, which comes onscreen at the very end.

But everything else about this is crap.

Mostly, it's because of the tone of the damned thing. There's no hint of any excitement, and future, about Buffalo in this video. This is "Hey, have you ever wanted to live in a Ken Burns documentary? Move to Buffalo!" It's Buffalo as the Land of Wilford Brimley, where every day starts with a big bowl of Quaker Oats before we slowly walk off to slowly work at our jobs before going home slowly to live our slow lives. Buffalo: where everybody always knows when Matlock is on.

I just hate the approach here -- the constant drumbeat of "Buffalo is awesome because we've got loads of old stuff" that one listens to around here, for one thing, which is Exhibit A in this video. Look, when you're Athens, Greece, you can play the "Come here for our awesome old stuff!" card. But when you're a two-hundred-year old city in America, well...there's old stuff everywhere.

I also hate hate hate hate this whole "Real America" business. To be fair, I hate "Real America" stuff in any context, whether it's trying to sell a city or trying to sell a Republican candidate for something. I really dislike the attempt to sell the city on the basis that we appeal to the white-picket-fences mindset (with the only nod to non-white America being "Oh, and there's a really old jazz club here, too").

Someday Buffalo's going to get it right. It has to. No losing streak lasts forever...right?

UPDATE: Oh, by the way, the Convention and Visitor's Bureau has a really bad website. What an awful mishmash of stuff they have there. Wow.

X-Files Case Report: "Ice"

"We are not who we are."

Back when I was watching X-Files episodes on VHS releases that only included six episodes from each half-season, the episodes in those packages were chosen for either story (being part of the mytharc) or quality (being judged by the producers as particularly good). "Ice" was one of those episodes in the first set of tapes, and it's a very memorable episode indeed, even if it too ends up being pretty derivative of an earlier film, in this case John Carpenter's The Thing.

We open at an ice core research station way up in the Arctic, on a glacier-bound spit of land on the north coast of Alaska. Everyone in the station is dead, save two men, who are beaten and bloodied; these two end up with their guns trained on one another – before they each lower their guns. And then, still staring at each other, they both lift their guns to their own temples. Cut to an outside shot of the station, as we hear the two gunshots. After the titles, Mulder and Scully are sent with a doctor, a biologist and a geologist to find out what happened to the expedition. What drove the original group of scientists to kill one another? And whatever that may be, is it still there?

Well, this is The X-Files, so we already know that the answer to that second question is going to be "yes". What results is a finely-crafted episode that follows the tried-and-true formula of locking our heroes in a small place, secluded from any possibility of rescue, and then giving them reasons to not trust one another.

It turns out that the scientists there had been drilling ice core samples from the glacier, which turns out to be on top of a meteor impact crater, and that something was in the ice: a worm-like parasite that invades a host and then causes it to become paranoid and aggressive. This thing got into the scientists and drove them to kill one another, and of course it's still alive and kicking. This is made quite clear by the infection of the seaplane pilot who flew our heroes up there in the first place, when he is bitten by the dog who is the only remaining living thing in the station. Thus the episode plays out as "Who is infected, and who isn't? Who can be trusted to still be themselves, and who cannot?"

"Ice" was written by James Wong and Glen Morgan, a duo who were behind a lot of the best X-Files episodes of the first few seasons, and who went on to be the main force behind the second season of Millennium and the creators of the Final Destination series of horror films, among other things. Their work is marked by excellent character writing and snappy dialog, and they manage to create just the right air of distrust among the principals, even between Mulder and Scully. Notable also is the episode's supporting cast, featuring teevee stalwarts Xander Berkeley, Felicity Huffman, and Steve Hytner (later Banya on Seinfeld).

"Ice" is a terrific episode, one of the best of the first season and of the show's early run.

Monday, May 09, 2011

If you don't watch this video, I will fight you.

That's no lie.

That little girl is the daughter of two very dear friends of mine, whom I've known since college. In fact, I've known Krista longer than I've known The Wife! Anyway, they've made this video as an entry in some contest where they can win a trip to Disney World if their video gets a sufficiently large number of hits and comments. So, watch it. Watch it several times. You don't really even have to watch it; just click it and let it play while you do something else. YouTube doesn't know if you're sitting there watching the video. But it is cute! And Aaron and Krista are awesome.

So watch. Do it for the child. (Literally. It's for the kid!)

PS: If anyone else you know is entering this contest, well, screw them. This is war, people!

"You don't become great by trying to be great."

xkcd today:

I love this. It's a perfect rejoinder to something I invariably hear every single time another "Women's History Month" or "Black History Month" rolls around -- the complaint that "Gee, we should get to have a white history month." So much greatness has gone before us, paving our way, that we don't even know about. We're lucky enough to realize that we stand on the shoulders of giants, but we'd do even better to make better effort to understand on whose shoulders we stand in the first place.

Now, if we could just get a zombie Carl Sagan to start enlightening us too....

Sentential Links #246


:: Even now, it stirs a little outrage in me, that teachers get judged not by the quality of their work and their positive effects on their students, but how well they fit the conventions of the most closed-minded members of the community, by people, even, who despise good educations that raise kids to think independently.

:: When critics complain about superhero movies becoming soulless, that’s what they mean. These movies don’t advance the story: they’re about “let’s make a Thor movie that’s just like what the comics would be if they were a movie!” And that’s kind of a shame.

:: People talk a lot about how Star Trek inspired astronauts and scientists throughout the years, but for me, I think it inspired interest in classic literature just as much.

:: Just in case you've never been in an airport past 10 PM, let me tell you... things get kinda weird. People tend to let their hair down a bit more than they might when broad daylight is streaming through the skylights above.

:: If Jim Caviezel is to be believed, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a jobbing actor to play Jesus and continue to eat lunch in Hollywood. (This seems odd. As I started reading the article, I thought of a number of actors who played Jesus and then went on to other stuff.)

:: It’s a weird thing, working from home. I’m learning a lot. I learned very early that it is important to wake up, shower, and put on some sort of outfit just as if you were going into an office. The fantasy of lolling about in your pajamas as you do your work wears pretty thin and makes you feel like an insane person circa 3 p.m. every day.

:: Well, I don't know. Seems like one more corpse on the pile to me. Sorry, but this war, this decade of war has made me cynical. It's made me not believe in just government on any level, and made me wary and gunshy of my fellow citizens' glee. If we're dancing in the streets either the Lakers won or someone's dead. (I don't really agree with this sentiment entirely, but I am able to sympathize with it.)

More next week!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Sunday Burst of Weird and AWESOME!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: According to some gonzo thing put together by a team of scienticians, men with longer ring fingers than index fingers on their right hands are better looking. Science finally establishes that I'm good looking. That would have been a useful scientific finding back when I was getting rejected by women on a regular basis!

:: This is fascinating:

Scientists have long wondered why the sherpas of the Tibetan Highlands can negotiate with ease elevations that cause some humans to become life-threateningly ill. Tibetans live at altitudes of 13,000 feet, breathing air that has 40 percent less oxygen than is available at sea level, yet suffer very little mountain sickness. The reason, according to a team of biologists in China, is human evolution, in what may be the most recent and fastest instance detected so far.

Evolution rules. I love evolution!

:: The last known combat veteran of World War I is dead. So ends at last one of the stupidest damn wars in history.

More next week!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Racehorse Names I'd Like To See

Today was the something-somethingth running of the Kentucky Derby, a sporting event that seems so civilized even though it involves guys getting on the backs of four-legged animals and then whipping their arses until they run really fast in a big circle. But anyway, I've always thought the names given to racehorses are kind of odd. I mean, who names their pet cat or dog "Animal Kingdom", "Super Saver", "War Emblem", or any other multiple-word name? I've never understood this, but I was inspired to go on Twitter and rattle off a bunch of racehorse names I'd like to see.

Wants To Kill You
Slept With Your Mom
Owns A Burmese Sweatshop
You Killed My Father Prepare To Die
Han Shot First
Pooped In Your Backyard
iPhone Users Are Losers
Kirk Kicks Picard's Ass
Spittle-Beflecked Rapscallion
Dreams Of Trampling Puppies
Begin The Zombie Uprising
Who Controls The British Crown
That Old Sumbitch
Beans Beans The Musical Fruit
Nathan Fillion Kicks Ass
My Jockey is A Drunken Thief
Amanda Hugginkiss
This Underwear Chafes My Backside
Bob Barker Says Spay Your Pets
Everything Is Better With A Bag Of Weed

And last but not least:

Only Dorks Wear Overalls

100 Things I Love About Movies (a collection of memories)

IOD: In the Screening Room

I love movies. I always feel like I don't see enough movies, but I have seen a lot of movies, so I don't think I'm a complete blockhead about movies. Anyhow, Michael May and Jason Bennion both did this, so I need to do this as well. It's just a list of one hundred memories I have from movies. Some are from specific movies; others are specific movie-related memories I have. This is not a "Top 100", though, and the numbering is just an organizational thing, not a ranking of any kind. (Although not entirely...I'm sure, as I start writing this, that Number One will end up being related to Star Wars in some way.) If I write this list again tomorrow, I am sure that I could come up with another 100 things I love about movies. Movies rule!

Here we go....

100. "I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts!" (When Harry Met Sally....)

99. "How did you manage to give me flowers and be President at the same time?"

"It turns out I've got a rose garden." (The American President)

98. The couple in front of The Wife and I at Titanic. The guy was sitting still, but the lady was all over him. It was really bizarre, the contrast of her enthusiasm for making out with his apparent ambivalence.

97. Puss-in-Boots throwing up a hairball in Shrek 2. (You can't tell me that movie wasn't written by people who live with cats!)

96. The Ride of the Firemares from Krull:

95. Sean Connery as King Richard I (the Lion Heart) at the end of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

94. "I don't understand pressure? Well, flip you!" (The edited-for-teevee version of The Breakfast Club, with "flip" substituted for "f***".)

93. At the end of Witness, when the cops are all there on the Lapp farm sorting things out, an emotionally and physically exhausted John Book is leaning against a police car smoking a cigarette.

92. In ninth grade English class, we did a unit on mystery stories, reading, among other things, The Hound of the Baskervilles. I talked my teacher that year into showing Dial M for Murder in class. At first, my classmates tittered and giggled a bit at some of the "old movie" type stuff, but they got engrossed pretty quickly...especially when Grace Kelly grabbed the pair of scissors....

91. Seeing Pulp Fiction the day after I watched Siskel and Ebert rave about it on their show, but before word-of-mouth had taken hold of the movie: the theater was empty except for me. Seeing Pulp Fiction again, three weeks later, when word-of-mouth had done its work: the theater was packed.

90. Many, many hours spent perusing film music sections at record stores.

89. Movie scenes putting me in the mood for specific foods. One example: there's a scene in The Fugitive where Harrison Ford is studying evidence he's gathered over a carton of Chinese takeout. I went straight to my local Chinese joint after the movie ended.

88. Speaking of food: popcorn! Glorious, wondrous popcorn. My love of popcorn knows few bounds. I can barely process the notion of a movie without popcorn. (In an episode of Good Eats, Alton Brown was snortingly dismissive of the kind of popcorn popper that I own. Well, as much as I love Alton Brown...screw him! I love the popcorn my popper makes, and if that means that I own a one-task kitchen gadget -- something I usually try very hard to avoid in my kitchen -- so be it. Harumph!)

87. "I would never hurt you, Margaret." (Dead Again, a wonderful thriller from 1991 that nobody seems to talk about much these days. Just a delicious film that I watched over and over again in college, each time making sure that someone was in the room who hadn't seen it, so I could watch their reactions to the film's revelations as it went on. Love this movie!)

86. "Desolated, Mr. Bond?" "Heartbroken, Mr. Drax." (Moonraker, my first ever James Bond movie. I wanted to see it because it was set in space and had laser pistols. I ended up being a James Bond fan for life.)

85. Seeing The X-Files: Fight the Future. I liked the movie a lot, but it's particularly memorable because it played in my hometown at a theater which I refused to frequent (because the theater sucked). So The Wife and I came to Buffalo to see it...and experienced stadium seating in a theater for the first time.

84. I can't remember what movie I saw that day, but once I was exiting the theater after seeing an afternoon show, and on my way out, I overheard a theater customer demanding her money back from the manager, not for any technical mishap or service-related issue, but because she hated the movie she had seen. I thought that was pretty amusing; my attitude on such things has always been, "You takes your chances."

83. The Palace Theater in Olean, NY. It was probably a gorgeous place at one time, but by the time we moved to the area, it was a run-down dump. I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark there for the first time. The Palace was eventually demolished when it was determined that it would take Trumpian levels of money to bring the building back into any semblance of compliance with local code. I can't remember what's on the site now -- there's a boring Eckerd's or Rite-aid or some such thing near there, but I can't remember if that's the site where the Palace was or now. The Palace was also the one theater I can recall where I never once had popcorn during a movie, because their popcorn was dispensed by an ancient-looking vending machine.

82. The morning after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom came out. I hadn't been able to go the night before (because I was being punished for having done something stupid that I don't recall...but I probably deserved it). Of course, every one of my damn friends who had seen it had to tell me how awesome it was. Jerks, all of them. Jerks!

81. The look on Charlie Allnut's face when he wakes up and realizes that Rosie has poured all of his whiskey out into the river. (The African Queen...which I really really really need to see again.)

80. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Still my favorite of the Original Series films. I saw this in college opening night, with a couple of friends and The Girlfriend (later The Wife). But on that night we'd had a concert in Cedar Falls, IA -- the second installment of Wartburg College's annual Christmas with Wartburg pageant. When the concert was over we changed very quickly and high-tailed it to the theater in the nearby mall. I loved the movie, and I got positively misty at the end, when the film closes with the signatures of the original cast members appearing on the screen, one by one, ending with William Shatner's.

79. The nerdy kid trying to buy a pint of liquor in American Graffiti.

78. The first time I ever realized, while watching it, that I was seeing a crappy movie: some flick with Gary Coleman as a homeless kid who could predict horse races. I'm not bothering to look up the title.

77. The first foreign film I ever saw was a Fellini picture called Ginger e Fred, which is about a once-popular dance duo (who made their name impersonating Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) reuniting thirty years later for a teevee variety show. We saw it at an art-film house in Pittsburgh. I don't really recall the movie much at all, but I don't remember disliking it.

76. "Stop blowin' holes in my ship!" (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)

75. "Why didn't you tell me who you were?"

"Because I knew what would happen. All 'mergers and acquisitions', no 'lust and tequila'." (Working Girl)

74. The second time I saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, there was a guy in his 50s in the theater a few seats away from me and up a row or two. He had the best time seeing that movie I've ever seen anyone have. He was laughing at the funny parts, he cheered the "hero" parts, and when the bad guy shoots Henry Jones Sr., he yelled out, "Get him, Indy!" It was hilariously awesome, seeing someone enjoy a movie that much.

73. When the Star Wars Special Edition re-releases happened in 1997, there was a guy at the ticket counter demanding a refund because he didn't realize that these were re-releases of the original movies. He'd thought he was about to see Episode One or Episode Seven or something.

72. Sophomore year of college, the second time I watched Casablanca. Roger Ebert has long held that the second viewing of Casablanca is always more effective than the first, and I tend to think that he's right. I liked the movie the first time I saw it, during summer between my freshman and sophomore years. Watched it again four months later, though -- and was so blown away that I would watch it every Sunday, after the early football game, for the next month and a half.

71. "We grew up in peacetime." (Hear My Song. A movie I really need to see again.)

70. My single favorite expletive of all time: "Oh, fuck-wank-bugger-shitting-arse-head-and-hole." Delivered with sterling perfecting by Bill Nighy in Love Actually, a movie which I love to the point that if you say something bad about it, I will fight you. That's no lie.

69. If you don't think this is the best song ever, I will fight you. That's no lie. (I'm of the opinion that Will Farrell could read aloud from an automotive parts ordering book and make it comedy gold.)

68. The Daughter was all of a month old, if that, when we went to visit The In-laws. The Wife and I decided to take advantage of a bit of free babysitting to actually go see a movie by ourselves, so we went to see the Disney Tarzan. Not a great choice for two new parents who are still skittish about the whole baby thing, because in the first five minutes of the movie, there's a baby whose parents are killed horribly, and two parents whose baby is killed horribly.

67. "Well, there's something you don't see every day." (Dr. Peter Venkman on the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, Ghostbusters)

66. Demi Moore in Ghost. And not just the scenes where she's wearing overalls, either. Loved her in that movie.

65. Buffalo Bill stalking Clarice Starling in his basement, seeing her through the night-vision goggles...and when his hand enters the frame, reaching out for her, from his POV. I've never heard so many people scream at once in a movie theater.

64. Se7en, which is a masterpiece until the ending, when it flies off the rails more spectacularly than any movie I can ever remember.

63. "Are you Hootie?"

"No, I am not Hootie." (Jerry Maguire)

62. "I like to think that the last thing that went through old Norden's head, other than that bullet, was to wonder how in the Hell Andy Dufresne ever got the better of him." (The Shawshank Redemption. I could probably do a list of 100 Things I Love About The Shawshank Redemption.)

61. I first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey at a science fiction convention in Portland, OR. I was nine years old, and I didn't really understand the movie all that well. Or so I thought. Later on I would realize that I had understood quite a lot of it and just hadn't realized that I'd understood quite a lot of it. This was my first experience with science fiction that wasn't space opera. I still prefer space opera, but there's room in my SF life for the other stuff.

60. I wasn't all about space movies, sci-fi, and action-adventure as a kid. I went to see Coal Miner's Daughter with my mother because I genuinely wanted to see Coal Miner's Daughter. And I liked it, even being eight or nine at the time. I remember being terribly upset that the nice lady who helped Loretta Lynn early in her career, a Patsy something, died in a plane crash. That's not fair, dammit!

59. Across the Universe. I adore this film.

58. Another sign that I was the weird kid: I saw Gandhi in theaters when it came out, twice. It made quite the impression.

57. Other movies I remember seeing at the afore-mentioned Palace Theater in Olean, NY: Blade Runner, The Right Stuff, La Bamba, The Princess Bride, Roxanne.

56. "Lina, you've never looked lovlier!" (Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) to Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), after Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) has missed Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) with a cake and thrown it into Lina's face instead, in Singin' in the Rain.)

55. The swordfight at the end of Rob Roy.

54. All the scary scenes in The Exorcist, most of which are set in a brightly lit room. Who needs dark to be scary!

53. At the end of my junior year of college, The Girlfriend (now The Wife) and I went to see Far and Away for our final date until later that summer. (She stayed in Iowa because she had a job; I went home.) That's the cheesy Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman "Irish immigrants achieve the American Dream" flick. I still have a soft spot in my heart for that movie.

52. I remember the crowd in the theater cheering at the sight of Cowboys coach Barry Switzer glowering after his team lost to the Cardinals at the end of Jerry Maguire. Heh!

51. I was dead set against going to see The Karate Kid. It looked so stupid and cheesy. I was angry at my mother when she dragged me to see it. And then I loved it. Oh well....

50. "People don't commit murder on credit!" (Dial M for Murder)

49. "That guy's cropdustin' where there ain't no crops." (North by Northwest)

48. "It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. You take away everything he's got and everything he's ever gonna have." (Unforgiven)

47. Watching Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke more than a year after I fell in love with its score (by Joe Hisaishi).

46. "You guys have dropped enough sonar buoys in the North Atlantic that a man could walk from Greenland to Iceland to Scotland without gettin' his feet wet, so can we dispense with the bull?" (The Hunt for Red October -- perhaps the best script, dialog-wise, ever written for an action thriller.)

45. The impromptu "Tiny Dancer" from Almost Famous.

44. Drew Struzan, poster-artist extraordinaire:

43. "Oh, you English are sooo superior, aren't you? Well, do you know what you'd be without us, the USA, to protect you? The smallest f***ing province in the Russian Empire!" (A Fish Called Wanda)

42. "Both knew this was a one way ticket
I love you wife"
(The Abyss, which I will forever hold to be a criminally underrated SF movie masterpiece.)

41. Dori speaking Whale in Finding Nemo (still my favorite Pixar film).

40. "I Sing the Body Electric", from Fame. (What Glee could be, if it had any guts at all.)

39. "Leave the gun. Grab the canoli." (The Godfather -- I'm not a fan of the "Mob flick" genre, but this is indisputably an amazing film.)

38. Bob Peak, poster artist extraordinaire:

37. "You Can Fly", from Peter Pan

36. The first half of Braveheart, up to and including the Battle of Stirling. (The second half is very good, but the film does lose a bit of steam after that first huge battle.)

35. John McClane makes two bullets count at the end of Die Hard.

34. Jerry Goldsmith.

33. "Kirk, I thank you. What you have done--"
"What I have done, I had to do."
"But at what cost? Your ship, your son."
"If I hadn't tried, the cost would have been my soul." (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)

32. "I'll be right here." (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial)

31. "Was that over the top? I never can tell!" (The Riddler, Batman Forever -- which is my favorite of the first group of Batman films.)

30. John Wayne in Stagecoach, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, True Grit.

29. Superman smiles at the camera, at the end of every Superman movie. (The first Superman is still my favorite superhero movie, ever.)

28. I don't care if you laugh. I liked The Notebook.

27. Salieri takes dictation from Mozart, in Amadeus. An amazing scene.

This scene is astonishing -- the way Salieri is both taking advantage of Mozart and providing him a service; he's doing both good and evil at the same time. And the way he still has to struggle to understand what is, for Mozart, as clear as day -- perfectly illustrative of the film's theme of mediocrity contrasted with genius, and Salieri's curse of being just good enough to know how bad he is.

26. "There's a war on! How is it you are headed west?"
"Well, we face to the north and then real subtle-like turn left." (The Last of the Mohicans)

25. "You don't want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie." (Sleepless in Seattle)

24. The first appearance of Adult Tristan (Brad Pitt) in Legends of the Fall.

23. The last ten minutes of As Good As It Gets.

22. John Barry.

21. "What do I tell the kids?"
"Tell them I've gone fishing." (Jaws)

20. The opening credits of Saturday Night Fever, which are done in the same font as American Graffiti and Happy Days, but in garish red instead of the happy yellow of the earlier film and teevee show, set in more innocent times.

19. "Go get 'em, Tiger!" (Spiderman 2)

18. "Spiderpig, spiderpig! Does whatever a spiderpig does!" (The Simpsons Movie)

17. The pod race, The Phantom Menace

16. Obi Wan Kenobi, private eye, Attack of the Clones

15. The first time we see Jack Sparrow. Captain Jack Sparrow.

14. The time warp: It's just a jump to the left! (Rocky Horror Picture Show)

13. Miklos Rozsa.

12. Joe Hisaishi.

11. Yoda and Obi Wan, last of the Jedi, take on the two Sith Lords in Revenge of the Sith.

10. Luke Skywalker comes this close to turning to the Dark Side in Return of the Jedi.

9. "We're the only ones who know! The only ones!" (Close Encounters of the Third Kind)

8. Howard Shore.

7. All of The Empire Strikes Back.

6. The Lord of the Rings. All of it. I could write a 100 Things post about LOTR alone. (Hmmmm...there's an idea....)

5. "I love you. I know I'll never find another girl like you. Will you marry me?" (On Her Majesty's Secret Service.)

4. "I Could Have Danced All Night" (My Fair Lady).

3. Casablanca, and as far as I'm concerned, the greatest single long close-up in movie history.

2. John Williams.

1. Was there any doubt?

Thursday, May 05, 2011


Wavy, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

The bib of my vintage Lee hickory striped overalls lay in such a way as to make cool wavy lines. No real point here, I just thought the effect was pretty cool.

The Central Terminal

The Central Terminal, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

Here is Buffalo's Central Terminal, a gorgeous old monolith of a building that stands, unused and (somewhat) neglected, on Buffalo's East Side. The trains don't run there anymore, and the building fell into much disrepair over the decades it stood there; but in recent years, it's been the focus of a volunteer restoration effort that has done a lot of great work there.

When there was a brief push for high speed rail as part of the stimulus package a few years ago, folks wondered if maybe the Central Terminal could serve as Buffalo's HSR terminal, but apparently this is not possible. Oh well.

Long live the Central Terminal!

Sunday Stealing (Thursday Edition)

I'm looking for something to post, so here's a quiz from Sunday Stealing.

1. If your lover betrayed you, what will your reaction be?

I can't imagine The Wife "betraying" me in any way more serious than, oh, eating the last piece of leftover pizza for lunch when I'd been looking forward to having it for dinner. My reaction to this would be to pout a bit.

2. If you can have a dream to come true, what would it be?

For George Lucas to come to me with his story notes for Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII and IX and tell me, "I'd like you to write the scripts."

3. What is the one thing most hated by you?

Broccoli. Foul, vile weed!

4. What would you do with a billion dollars?

After setting aside enough to take care of my family for the rest of our natural lifetimes, I'd give big chunks of cash to various institutions in the Buffalo Niagara region. Or something like that.

5. Could you fall in love with your best friend?

I did that already. Married her, too! Yay, me! (This is getting sappy. I'm already regretting this quiz.)

6. Which is more blessed, loving someone or being loved by someone?

Loving someone. Being loved is pretty cool, too.

7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you really love?

Twenty minutes. Then I'm out of here!

8. If the person you secretly like is already attached, what would you do?

Use my political or financial power to coerce his superiors to send him off to someplace dark and distant, at which time I would take her to my bed. Or something like that. (If I had no political or financial power with which to coerce his removal from the scene, I suppose I could kill the unlucky SOB. Or, more likely, just glower at him every time I see him, the stupid jerk with his receding hairline and complete lack of a chin....)

9. If you'd like to act (movies, stage) with someone, who would it be?

I'd like to be that guy in the tavern who says portentous things and is called "Old-timer". If I have an onscreen death, I'd like it to be bloody and in slow-motion.

10. What do you expect of your loved one?

Put up with my annoying tendencies, cook me dinner regularly (but not always -- I like to cook too), watch at least some of the things I like a lot with me, either wear overalls with me or just accept that I wear them, go with me to bookstores and let me go with her to craft stores, give me the occasional pie in the face. You know, the usual stuff.

11. How would you see yourself in ten years time?

I'd probably use a mirror. [rimshot]

12. What’s your fear?

Learning that I am related by blood to Tom Brady.

13. Would you rather be single and rich or married, but poor?

This question sucks.

14. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

On a work day: Glare at the alarm clock and say "shit". On a weekend: Look around, go back to sleep.

15. Do you ever hold back in a relationship?

Nope. I'm a "full speed ahead" kind of guy.

16. If you fell in love with two people simultaneously, how would you pick?

I would require each to engage in a series of challenges to prove who loves me the most. The challenges would be increasingly absurd and odd and, eventually, demented and life-threatening.

17. Would you forgive and forget no matter how horrible a thing that special someone has done?

Sure. (Except for December 2, 1998, when The Wife ate for her lunch the piece of pizza I'd been saving for dinner. I will be avenged! Avenged, I say!)

18. What are your three most important expectations in love?

Understanding, laughter, food. Not necessarily in that order.

(Some of these answers may not have been serious answers...but the quiz was pretty gonzo, so I feel no guilt about this.)

Something for Thursday

For some unknown reason, The Daughter has been listening to this song a lot the last week or two. I wish I knew why...but the damn thing is stuck in my head, and I figure the best way to get it out of my head is to get it stuck in yours. So...oy...here's Tiny Tim.

No, I do not apologize. Suffering is best when shared!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


Random thoughts on the NFL Draft and the Buffalo Bills' participation thereof:

:: I was terrified that the Bills were going to take Cam Newton, if he was still there when they came up with the third pick. Luckily, the Carolina Panthers took him first. Newton is a fantastic athlete with tremendous physical gifts and he had a stellar final year of college ball, but that year pretty much constitutes his entire body of work, for the most part, and one-year-wonders have not borne out well in the past. Instead the Bills took Marcell Dareus, whom everyone agrees is awesome.

Now, he could turn out to be a bust, just like Mike Williams did back in 2002 when the Bills took him with the fourth pick overall. While that pick is often cited whenever the discussion of recent Bills draft disasters comes up, I've never really blamed them for that one; Williams was seen at the time as an elite prospect who was dead certain to go to someone in the top five. That it was the Bills sucks, but those things happen. You hope they don't, but they do.

My great dream for this draft was that Newton would drop to the Bills' spot, and then the Bills would trade down and pick up a pile of extra picks to someone else who wanted him. Obviously that didn't happen, and all reports are that the Bills actually loved Newton, so if he had dropped to them, they would have taken him. So, I'm actually thrilled with the Dareus pick. I hope he can help the Bills by generating pass rush, either on his own or by disrupting opposing offensive lines sufficiently that other guys can get to the quarterbacks.

Boiling it down: for the first time that I can remember, I don't feel like I have to talk myself into liking the Bills' first pick in the draft.

:: They kept drafting defense, taking a cornerback in the second round (a guy who is apparently really big for a CB and can play safety) and a highly-regarded linebacker in the third. I love the focus on defense, which is the big reason the Bills went 4-12 last year; the D couldn't get off the field, which basically meant that most weeks the Bills needed to win a shoot-out if they wanted to win. Now, the D is obviously not going to automatically be good or even great; the rookies will need their time to grow and learn. But this draft really feels like a draft that bodes well for the future.

:: While most commentators I've read give the Bills good marks for their draft this year, there's a small but vocal minority that rips them for "ignoring" the quarterback position. Well, they have a guy in Ryan Fitzpatrick who is (a) still young and (b) coming off what was a pretty good year. There's no reason to panic over finding a "franchise quarterback". Frankly, after seeing the Bills invest four 1st round picks, one 2nd, and one 3rd on "quarterbacks of the future" in the last sixteen years, I'm ready to watch them wait year after year until they feel they're in a position to grab a guy they're convinced is the guy. (The QBs? Todd Collins, 2nd round, 1995; Rob Johnson, acquired by trading a 1st rounder to Jacksonville, 1998; Drew Bledsoe, acquired by trading a 1st rounder to New England, 2002; JP Losman, 1st round in 2004 using a pick acquired by trading the 1st rounder in 2005; Trent Edwards, 3rd round, 2006.)

Some of the same commentators rip the Bills for not drafting a tight end. Look, I'm as frustrated as anyone by the Bills' complete lack of tight end production ever since Pete Metzelaars retired (don't try telling me that Jay Riemersma was a good tight end), but the fact is that you just can't fill every hole your team has in the Draft when your team has as many holes as the Bills do. Maybe Shawn Nelson finally shows what he can do this year (if he can truly do anything). But a good tight end -- an actual pass-catching tight end, and not some damned blocker like they always get -- needs to be here, sooner or later. Especially if they pull the trigger on a "quarterback of the future" soon, because a good pass-catching tight end can really help out a young quarterback.

:: The Patriots are the greatest geniuses in the history of the NFL Draft, ever ever ever, for all time. This is just simply given. I think it's funny that they drafted Ryan Mallett, though; every Pats fan I've ever spoken to thanks God that Drew Bledsoe, the tall strong-armed QB who couldn't run to save his life, got hurt so that St. Tom the Overrated could become their starter. And now they've got Mallett as his potential back-up (and maybe guy for the future). Mallett is a tall, strong-armed QB who can't run to save his life. The adjective I've seen used the most to describe Mallett is "Bledsoesque". Ouch!

But then, I don't think Mallett is meant to really be a potential QB of the future for New England, anyway. I continue to think that St. Tom's physical decline is closer than most people realize, but my conspiracy theory is this. It seems that every year, the Pats go into the Draft with two picks in the 1st Round, and they always use one of those to trade down for extra picks and another 1st in the next year's Draft. I think that Bill Belichick is waiting for a year to come when he knows he needs to draft St. Tom the Overrated's successor, at which point he'll use both of the 1st-rounders in his pocket to trade up and grab a guy. That's my theory, and I'm sticking with it.

:: Jake Locker in the top ten. Not sure what to make of that.

:: Christian Ponder in the top twelve. Not sure what to make of that, either.

:: But I'm sure glad that quite a few teams will likely be out of the QB market at next year's draft.

:: Boy, the Falcons better be right about that receiver they really wanted, because they traded away a lot to get him.

:: I have zero idea what the Seahawks were doing in this draft.

:: I wonder what the draft order in 2012 would be if the labor dispute ends up causing the cancellation of the entire season...would they just repeat the draft order from this year, or come up with some kind of lottery to determine the order?

:: One of Buffalo's sportstalk guys was predicting that the NFL would go to a lottery for the top pick in the draft at some point in the near future. I hope this doesn't happen. I'm not a big fan of lotteries and much prefer teams picking players in the order of how badly the teams sucked.

Welcome to Buffalo, rookies of 2011! The one of you that brings me the head of St. Tom the Overrated will be my favorite player for the duration of his stay on the Buffalo roster. That is all!

X-Files Case Report: "Ghost in the Machine"

"The machine's a monster, Scully! It's already killed two people."

Looking back on some of these early episodes, it's surprising to me to see how derivative some of these shows were of other, earlier stories from movies and teevee. "Ghost in the Machine" gives us a computer run amok, a computer that's been given so much authority and sensory input that it achieves sentience and acts in self-defense. Our main villain here is the COS, or "Central Operating System", but while watching this episode, I kept thinking back to earlier computer villains: the Master Control Program (MCP) from Tron, HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the M5 from Star Trek's original series episode "The Ultimate Computer".

This episode is pretty straightforward, then, and there's really not even any ambiguity in the way it unfolds, so we're not even watching the mystery unfold for ourselves as Mulder and Scully investigate things. We know, right from the teaser, that it's the computer that's doing it all, and the rest of the episode is mainly waiting for Mulder and Scully to get there, too.

It's not a waste of an episode, by any means. The production values are typically excellent, although the episode does, by virtue of its subject matter, seem a lot more dated than some of the other episodes I've already watched. This was still the age of computers being gigantic machines in rooms, with lots of blinking lights for no reason; the word "Internet" isn't mentioned at all. Mulder's informant, Deep Throat, shows up to add some helpful paranoia about the government's interest in a computer that can defend itself, which is really when the episode starts to become more than simply a boilerplate story of technology gone haywire.

The other notable aspect of the episode is the introduction (and fairly quick dispatching) of one of Mulder's old partners, a guy who has fallen on hard times in the FBI – not unlike Mulder himself – but for different reasons. There's an interesting dynamic between these two characters, and it's a shame that the writers basically introduced this guy to provide a personal connection for Mulder's involvement in the case later on when he gets killed off.

Sorry to make this entry so short, but I'm really hard-pressed to come up with anything much to say about this episode. It's just kind of "there".

Monday, May 02, 2011

Sentential Links #245

Only one link this week.

:: But ours is one of those friendships that no matter how many years pass between our visits, we always pick up right where we left off. I have absolutely no doubt that we’re going to have a wondrous reunion the next time we see each other.

More next week.

Two Headlines

Two Headlines, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

I still have my copy of the Buffalo News from September 12, 2001. Now I have another to keep with it.

No, I'm not delusional enough to believe that Osama bin Laden's death "ends" anything. It may mark a turning point in some ways against a particular enemy, but history is long, isn't it? Yesterday's events sprang from that awful day almost ten years ago, but bin Laden was out there before that; he was created, in a sense, by the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War.

And the first Gulf War came about, in part, because of American support of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s...and that came about because of British Imperialism...and that came about because...well, it all goes on. In a way, yesterday's events can be traced back to Suleiman's victory at the Horns of Hattin, and before that.

But at least Osama bin Laden exists now only in history. No, he won't be forgotten. But he's another name for the history books now.