Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hi, everybody! I'm still around, just been lazy. Unemployed at the moment, waiting for the results of my drug testing and physical, so while I've had plenty of free time, I also haven't been paid to sit in front of a computer for eight hours, so I imagine that's to be blamed for my non-blogging. I've been running regularly (even drove up to San Marcos to check out some of the running trails up there), I've been cleaning out my storage locker (I've meant to do this for about a year, but am now doubly motivated knowing that the owner of A-1 Self-Storage was a leading supporter of Proposition 8) and I've been using the hell out of my Netflix subscription. For two reasons.

First, Netflix is finally dropping HD-DVD on December 15th. Can't blame them, they announced they were going to phase it out in January. But I have about thirty movies in my queue in HD-DVD, so I'm trying to get through as many as possible. Which is difficult, since I spent a week and a half trying to get a copy of The Wild Bunch that works. I got two defective discs in a row, and today I received another replacement disc, which was cracked in half. So I gave up; The Wild Bunch is available on their Watch Instantly service, so I'll watch it that way, high-def be damned. I should say, I don't blame Netflix, I imagine problems with the condition of their remaining HD-DVD stock drove their decision to finally drop the format completely. I can't expect them to last forever.

The second reason Netflix has been dominating my attention is that the new xbox update, with streaming movies from Netflix Watch Instantly, is now live. I'd been watching Netflix movies on the Xbox via unofficial software and Vista Media Center, but that stopped working a few weeks ago (since I knew the official solution would soon be available, I didn't bother trying to fix it). But now I have a simple, smooth means of watching streaming movies on my HDTV. And I've been very happy with the final product, mostly. I know the selection could be better, but I have 500 items on my Watch Instantly queue, so I can't complain. I like the focus on indie film and documentaries, and the addition of Starz content is a nice plus. Picture quality, under ideal conditions, is great. There are even a small number of films available in high-def, including a few films that were already near the top of my list, like the new John Sayles movie Honeydripper. No one would confuse the picture quality with Blu-Ray, but I was impressed. But again, that's under ideal circumstances. Which means before 6 PM or after midnight. During the peak evening movie-viewing window, I go from four-bars quality (the best), to three or two bars. I stopped watching one movie, the quality was so bad. I don't know if this is because my cable internet connection is slowing down on my end or if Netflix's servers are being hammered (I suspect the former), but it's disappointing. But for the most part, even the lower-quality streams are acceptable, and when all goes well, it's DVD quality or better. And it looks like Netflix just renewed it's deal with the BBC, a lot of their stuff that was scheduled to expire at the end of the month no longer is, so that's a plus; it looks like I'll still have time to watch Yes, Prime Minister once I finally finish watching Yes, Minister.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008

So, it's been an exciting week for me, and not just due to the epochal election results. I put in my notice at work, and accepted a full-time position with the county library. I've been volunteering with the library for over a year now, and have been eager to get started with them in a paying position, so I'm very excited to have finally gotten my foot in the door. The bad news is, despite being eager to leave my current position because of the commute to La Jolla, I accepted a position in San Marcos. Which extends my commute about fifteen miles each way, and subjects me to I-15 traffic. But I made the drive Saturday, for research purposes, and it only took 35 minutes. And I think I'll mostly be driving against traffic, so it shouldn't be too bad. And I'm willing to put up with it to get myself established with the county. And the drive will give me a chance to work my way through my This American Life podcast backlog.

So, my last day at the aquarium is a week from tomorrow, and I'm supposed to start at the library that Friday. I don't know my schedule yet, I have to go through the background check and physical and all that before they talk to me about my schedule. But it's a full-time position, so I look forward to actually having an expendable income again, and not having to feel quite as guilty when I buy stupid crap I don't need. And like I said, I scouted out the commute this weekend, and checked out the library, it's very nice. And San Marcos isn't quite what I expected, less developed, pretty. So while the commute makes me a bit nervous, overall I'm very excited by this new opportunity. I will miss the aquarium, but it's nice to again have a job I can consider a career.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Oh, crap. Yma Sumac, dead at 86. Studs, Yma...they say these things come in threes, and two people I admire as immensely at these two makes me scared to think just who might be next. has a good selection of her music. She also has her official web presence. And, of course, there's YouTube:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Studs Terkel, dead at 96. On Oral History: "When the Chinese Wall was built, where did the masons go for lunch? When Caesar conquered Gall, was there not even a cook in the army? And here's the big one, when the Armada sank, you read that King Philip wept. Were there no other tears? And that's what I believe oral history is about. It's about those who shed those other tears, who on rare occasions of triumph laugh that other laugh."

I remember the epigraph that opened Coming of Age, taken from A. A. Milne, which stuck to me at the time and seems well-suited to Terkel (I'm going from memory, so don't quote me here):

Sometimes when the fight begins,
I think I'll let the dragons win.
But then again, perhaps I won't,
Because they're dragons, so I don't.
The latest Japanese technology for escaped rhino attacks: Rope netting and wooden sticks.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

With Intelligent Design's reputation in tatters, creationists seem to have a new strategy: revive Cartesian dualism.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Opie endorses Barack Obama:

Monday, October 06, 2008

Friday, October 03, 2008

I'm speechless.

UPDATE: The imbedded video was working, but doesn't seem to be working on my computer right now. In case it's still not working, here's a direct link. And if things are working, enjoy the Russian sequel to the video:

Is the Prosperity Gospel to blame for our economic woes?
Nick Reynolds, dead at 75.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

An addendum to yesterday's post about Netflix adding the Starz catalog: The picture quality sucks. A lot of the films are pan-and-scan, which is bad enough, but the poor picture quality is far more serious of an issue. I'm hoping it's a bandwidth issue, that lots of users are trying out the new movies, putting a strain on the server and forcing it to stream lower-quality videos. So we'll see if picutre quality still sucks in a week. I will say that I've looked at a few sample movies, and there is some variation in quality, and newer releases seem to look slightly better than back-catalog films, from my very limited tests. But right now I'm watching The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and not only is it pan-and-scan, but the picture quality reminds me of watching streaming video through RealVideo about five years ago.

I'll give it a week or two and see if it improves, but if not, at least Netflix labels all the Starz movies, so I can avoid them in the future.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Netflix partners with Starz to expand its "Watch Instantly" line-up. Going through the list, I found quite a few movies worth watching (that's right, Netflix finally has films from the Ernest series available--though I must ask, would it have been to much to ask that Ernest Scared Stupid be included, with Halloween right around the corner?). I think the ultimate proof that this addition is a very good thing, for me at least, is that two of the three movies I currently have on DVD from Netflix (Duck, You Sucker and Tremors) were amongst the additions. See the whole list here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

House rejects bailout plan. The Republican alternative, as I understand, is to insure the bad bonds instead of a government bailout. Which seems like buying insurance after your house burns down. But it's okay; if the government won't save us, the LOLcats will.
Haile Gebrselassie breaks marathon record, finishing in 2:03:59.
The New York Times looks back at This American Life's subprime mortgage expose "The Giant Pool of Money." This weekend, the show is revisiting the issue with "Another Frightening Show About the Economy."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Online poker site allowed cheaters to exploit their site for three years. Software hidden on the server enabled cheats to see every player's hole cards. I had heard about this story, along with the Absolute Poker cheating scandal, but had no idea it went on that long.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Jack Handey explains how to find a bookstore's humor section.
Speaking of Talk Like a Pirate Day, Medium Large keeps the occasion up-to-date.

I found this documentary about Stan Rogers on Google Video. I've only been able to watch the first half (keeps crashing Safari on my computer at work), but it looks like a good introduction to him, with some wonderful music. Playing it at work, my coworkers thought it was my contribution for Talk Like a Pirate Day, but to me every day is made for Sea Shanties.

Oprah picks The Story of Edgar Sawtelle as her new book club selection. I totally called this weeks ago, if by "called this" you mean "read what other people cleverly deduced and agreed with them."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Some classic Conan O'Brien: A 1997 interview with Norm McDonald. I don't know if I should admit that the last-minute zinger in the first clip had me in tears, mainly because Conan has to segue from that to an AT&T plug. But if you're only going to watch one clip, make it Norm sitting through the second interview, with Courtney Thorne-Smith, who had just left Melrose Place to do a movie with Carrot-Top:

Monday, September 08, 2008

The bizarre encounter of Pearls Before Swine and Hi and Lois has blown my mind. I disagree with the Comics Curmudgeon, though, as I would say it's slightly more likely as not that this was planned. Pearls Before Swine often singles out old "classic" strips (too often, I'd say; it tends to lose it's impact with repetition, though I always do respond in a Pavlovian manner regardless), and I could see whoever does Hi and Lois these days reaching a mutually-amicable agreement with Pastis, after running into him at the weekly cartoonist bowling league or something, lest he come up with his own hi-larious (see what I did there?) parody, perhaps casting Lois in an inappropriately sexual light.
A look at the history of the spelling reform movement, and their protesting of the National Spelling Bee. Note that the already well-funded movement might have been quite the political powerhouse had George Bernard Shaw's will been allowed to stand.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Monday, September 01, 2008

'Captain' Mike Ambrose, dead at 69.
One thing I forgot to mention in my previous post, is that my running has benefitted, I think, by an effort to run outdoors as much as possible. I used to not even consider a treadmill an option, but over the years I've gotten more and more dependent on the treadmills at the gym for the bulk of my running. It has the advantage of being lower-impact than running on hard street surfaces, but it's dull, dull, dull. And they always have the TV at the gym on the news, which I'd rather not have to try to ignore. And on cold days, they crank up the heat to an uncomfortable degree (on hot days, at least, it's very pleasantly cool). But I tend to put off my runs until after I've digested my dinner, when it's dark, and I don't have too many options. Or I'll plan a morning run, and sleep in until noon, and not want to run in the mid-day sun. But I've been making an effort to run the majority of my runs outdoors, since just spending time outdoors provides incentive to run, and increases the immediate benefits of the run as far as mood enhancement. Most of my runs have been after work, on my way home, stopping off at Mission Bay. Even on hot days, there's a nice sea breeze keeping things cool (the recent humidity hasn't spared the bay, though, I'm afraid). The path through the park there is concrete, which isn't a very good running surface, but there's lots of grass, so I spend the majority of my time off the path. And while I don't consider the section of Mission Bay I typically run particularly beautiful, just being in proximity with such a large body of water is soothing. Not as soothing as the view from work in La Jolla, but nice. (I plan to run in La Jolla today after work, and will include the Scripps Coastal Reserve, since there are few better views in the city)

Closer to home, I enjoy trail running in Mission Trails Regional Park, but there's no shade to be had there, and it's been a bit to warm to run there recently (and I'd like to build up some more leg strength before tackling some of the hills there). So I've been settling for Lake Murray, which is technically part of Mission Trails, but certainly doesn't have the same vibe as as the rest of the park. More like a wide asphalt road available for running, with some sort of puddle next to it. I tend not to really take in the sights of the lake while I run, though I enjoy looking at the hawks overhead and squirrels scurrying across my path. In my mind it's mainly just a practical outdoor running path when nothing better is available. I did run there around dusk a few weeks back, though, and as my run came to an end back at the parking lot, the sun was beginning to set and a lone duck was swimming across the lake's surface, and I realized that, considering it's less than five minutes from my house, I'm lucky to have such a pretty place so readily available. Uncharacteristically, I took my iPhone instead of my iPod with me, so I had a camera phone with which to snap a few shots. Not what I'd call profoundly beautiful, just the sort of everyday loveliness it's easy to take for granted, and just one more reason I'm glad I'm out there running.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Today is the last day of the month, and as good a time as any to reflect on my recent running experiences. I usually wait until January, to declare the year a failure and set some goal for the new year, that I will declare a failure twelve months out. But instead, this time, I think I will say now that most of this year was a failure, fitness-wise, but that last month was pretty good. A few more successful months, and I might even get the pleasure of taking back my declaration of failure.

In August, I ran 33.9 miles. Considering my milage for the year is around 92 miles (I was remiss in keeping my log current in January/February, but doubt I ran more than 15 miles or so the two months combined), that's well over a third of my annual running-to-date condensed into one month. A bit over a mile a day, which isn't bad for someone trying to get back into the swing of things. I still have a ways to go to get where I want to be, but I'm at the point now where I can start building up mileage. But just getting that base in place is the most important thing. Getting into the habit of running four days a week, regardless of how far. Not that I don't want to gain speed and endurance and increase my mileage, but the greatest gains come from doing nothing to doing something, so while 8/9 miles a week isn't all that impressive compared to my training at my peak, that's still a major improvement to my lifestyle. I intend to improve from where I am now, but further benefits will be incremental. The important thing is to keep up the consistency, make running a habit again. And I seem to be on track there.

So while things are going good, I should ask myself, why do things always go wrong? I tend to say injuries, but there was really only the one bout with plantar fasciitis, and otherwise I've been injury-free (nothing that didn't go away after taking it easy a day or two, anyway). The plantar fasciitis still stands out, since I was pretty much at the top of my game at that point, and never really got back to the point where running was a habit after that hiatus. But looking over my notes, I see the factor that's consistently to blame for my bad years is illness. I get the flu in September or October, and never quite shake it completely until January or so. So this year, I'm doing what I should have been doing for years, and getting a flu shot. I work in customer service at a family-friendly tourist attraction and volunteer in a library, so I'm exposed to lots of people, including lots of snotty kids, so it's no surprise I get sick a lot. And endurance exercise has a tendency to lower one's immune system a bit. So while I've always been slightly skeptical of flu shots, next month I'll be lining up to get my injection. And hopefully that will help assure that I'm able to line up at the starting line of the next 5K I decide to enter.

Agricultural department can ban meat processors from testing for Mad Cow Disease. Because if one butcher tests, it may force others to test, too. And that, apparently, is a bad thing.
Pima and Maricopa Indians reach record settlement on water rights, hope to return to healthy lifestyle of past. The tribes hope a return to a more traditional diet will lead to a reduction in obesity and diabetes; the Pima have the highest rate of diabetes of any population on earth. And at over 650,000 acre-feet a year, the water should provide economic prosperity, too.

This especially caught my notice because Ira Hayes, of "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," belonged to the Pima tribe. So had he not drowned in a ditch, he probably would have lost his feet to diabetes by now. In any event, it seems like some small solace that the water has been returned to his land.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Librarian assistant fired for writing book about patrons. I'm of two minds on this one; as the fired author notes, libraries are supposed to be realms of free speech, but they're also supposed to be realms of privacy. It's hard to argue that patron records should be shielded from FBI intrusion when you're writing snarky books about said patrons. And its not hard to see how reading a lightly-fictionalized version of yourself in a librarian's memoirs might be upsetting, sort of like hearing yourself as the subject of ridicule in the teacher's lounge. "I've got no friends, so I confide in Willie!"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How the West Was Won will be screened in Cinerama September 7th. I just bought my tickets, and got the day off work to head up to L.A. I've long wanted to see a movie in the dome in authentic Cinerama, and now I have my chance. They're also showing 2001: A Space Odyssey from a 70mm print the same weekend. It's assigned seating, so if you're planning on attending, don't dilly-dally. (Thanks to DVD Savant for alerting his readers)

I went to see The Dark Knight recently, and drove up to Mira Mesa to see it in the IMAX theater. While the screen was smaller than I anticipated, it was still well-worth the drive and additional cost. It was the first Hollywood film to actually use an IMAX camera to film several scenes, and those scenes just look amazing. As for the movie itself, I liked it. Not as much as I loved Batman Begins, so it was disappointing in that sense. But it was still a first-rate action movie. See it in the theaters if you can, and if your community has IMAX, go for it.

Today I came upon yet another article about ultra-cheap music downloads for sale at This one caught my attention because it mentioned Hayes Carll's new album being on sale for $1.99. From what I've heard, he seems to try a little too hard to hit all the right alt-country notes for my taste, but it's worth a listen. Which is why I had my name on the wait-list for the CD at my local library. But instead I paid $1.99 for the digital album. Meaning the label got a cut of the $1.99 off of my interest, instead of nothing (actually, probably more than $1.99, as the consensus seems to be that Amazon is taking a loss on these promotional prices). So it seems to me that pricing music to encourage impulse buys seems a smart move.

In addition to the Hayes Carll album, this week's special $5 albums are also some great choices. In particular, I'd be remiss in not noting that Pink Martini's Hang On Little Tomato is $5 this week. So if you don't already have that album, don't spend too much time feeling ashamed, just rectify the situation by laying down $5 at Amazon.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Getting caught up on some RSS feeds, I came across this mention of Johnny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music which premiered last week on PBS, as part of the P.O.V. series. Seemed about my luck, but checking the listings, I found my local affiliate is rerunning it tonight. So woo-hoo to me.

Oh, and yeah, I'm alive and everything, just lazy, I'll get some pictures and thoughts about Comic-Con up soon.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Comic-Con 2008 is in full swing. Crazy, crazy, crazy. I'll recap things once it's all over, but for now, let me just say, I'm getting old. By the end of preview night Wednesday, I was already exhausted. And tonight I'm feeling quite drained. I went out back at one point to eat lunch, and decided to read a book for an hour or so, rather than go back out on the exhibit floor. And I've decided to sleep in tomorrow, and head out after lunch (no panels I want to attend until 3, so no big hurry). Still having fun, but the place is packed. The line for preview night stretched across the front of the convention center, serpentined through an adjacent part, and then stretched back behind the convention center onto the embarcadero. Still, once the line started moving, I was inside within about a half-hour. Considering the crowds, Comic-Con is very well-run.

The book I chose to read, incidentally, was A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon, which was almost as good as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is high praise indeed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Estelle Getty, dead at 84. I must admit, if you had told me when I was in elementary school, watching The Golden Girls in it's initial network run, that the first Golden Girl would not die for another 20 years, I would have called you a liar.

Monday, July 21, 2008

At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper looks to be on its last legs. A shame, though I pretty much stopped caring once neither Siskel nor Ebert were still on the show.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Oscar Pistorius fails to qualify for the Olympics in his final attempt. He was gracious in failure, justifiably proud of his personal-best results. Then he became a whiny baby, threatening to sue after a senior track and field official expressed his opinion that Pistorius shouldn't be on the South African relay team. The guy has every right to his opinions, which seem reasonable to me, a Pistorius supporter. It's certainly worth considering the safety aspect; I'd be interested in hearing more about Pistorius' past relay experience. I'd hate to think he was taking a spot away from a talented relayer just because his story was more media-friendly.

In other sports news, the Badwater Ultramarathon was earlier this week. 135 miles, through Death Valley and to the trailhead to the peak of Mt. Whitney. I used to see it on TV occasionally, Wide World of Sports or something like that, but I haven't been able to find anything about it being televised this year. The webcast is archived, though.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Final Fantasy XIII coming to Xbox 360. My god. This is the best news ever. This saves me close to $500. Well, no, I guess it only saves me the $400 I would have paid for a PS3, since I still need to pay for the game itself, regardless of system. But yes, I would have bought a PS3 just to play Final Fantasy. Just like I got my first Sony system, the original Playstation, just to play Final Fantasy. And just like I got a PS2 just to play Final Fantasy. And if I hadn't already had one, I would have bought a DS to play the Final Fantasy remakes. So this is great news to me. No need to overcome my strong desire for Sony to fail and buy a PS3 (Sony called the Wii an expensive niche product today, even though it's sold more units and costs less than the PS3. Now that they don't even have a Final Fantasy exclusive, what is the PS3? Expensive without a niche?)

And as reports come in, it looks like the release will be day-and-date with the PS3 release. Holy fuckin' shit, indeed. Honestly, did this leak out at all? I hadn't heard any Final Fantasy XIII port rumors in a long time, am I just not following the video game blogs as obsessively as I should? Or did my inattention actually make this happen?

Other than that, nothing too groundbreaking, but some cool stuff still came out from Microsoft's E3 presentation. Portal: Still Alive coming to the Xbox arcade, pretty much a port of the original Portal, with a few extra levels. This would have been exciting at launch, had it spared me purchasing the Orange Box just to get Portal, but too late for that now. I'll probably buy it again, though, as long as they add a reasonable amount of new content to the single-player mode (new online modes don't interest me). A massively-multiplayer online version of 1 Vs. 100 has the potential to be awesome, especially with real prizes on the line. And at last the Netflix partnership we all knew was in place is official; I'd be more excited if I wasn't already streaming Netflix Watch Instantly to my Xbox with an unofficial plugin, but it will be nice to have an official solution that actually works well (vmcNetflix is great, but freezes up a lot).

But, yeah. Final Fantasy XIII. Wow. I've been getting bored with these big new product presentations, like the last couple Apple announcements, because there's no surprises. And then, bam, Final Fantasy XIII goes multi-platform. Amazing. I recently started playing the original Final Fantasy, with the intention of playing through the entire series. Now that will be a lot cheaper to pull off.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

iPhone 3G launch a mess; Apple's phone activation system crashes. Apparently lots of people tried to activate their phone at 8 AM this morning; who could have expected that? Apparently some stores are letting people activate the phone at home, which means that's still possible (though the article mentions that didn't work, either).

I browsed the iPhone app store last night, downloaded some free programs that I can load on my iPhone when I get home tonight and upgrade the firmware, which was released this morning. Streaming Pandora on my iPhone sounds pretty sweet. Some nice-looking paid programs available, too, I'm sure I'll be sporting crosswords and sudoku on the phone soon.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Star Trek: The Experience to close. A real shame, I really enjoyed it. The original motion ride was a lot of fun, especially since (I suppose I can include a spoiler now) at the end you are transported to "modern" Las Vegas, which still included the Desert Inn and many other casinos that have since bit the dust. The newer Borg attraction was more elaborate, but probably not as accessible for people unfamiliar with the show. I didn't care for the museum, but the rides were well worth the admission cost, considering half-off tickets were readily available. See it before it closes, if you can.
The New York Times Magazine looks at impulsive suicides. Apparently, just creating small obstacles to suicide can produce dividends; In Britain in the 1970s, they switched from coal gas to natural gas, which has very little carbon monoxide, and suicides fell by 1/3. The article's purpose seems to be to refute the "they'll just find another way" opposition to suicide barricades on bridges. They also suggest that keeping guns locked up, with ammunition in another room, may give a suicidal person just enough cooling off time, though this is undermined by the fact that the suicide survivor quoted in the article had to go out and purchase the gun she used.

The most interesting thing I found in the discussion about the difference between impulsive and planned suicides, is that those whose suicide is preceded by well-documented mental illness and multiple warning signs choose hands-on methods, like pills and slitting wrists, while the impulsive choose to jump from great heights or use a gun. Yet it is the impulsive methods that are most successful; "The natural inference, then, is that the person who best fits the classic definition of 'being suicidal' might actually be safer than one acting in the heat of the moment — at least 40 times safer in the case of someone opting for an overdose of pills over shooting himself."

I, personally, was of the "they'll just find another way" mindset on bridge barricades, but it makes sense that one might impulsively jump to one's death. I am not in a habit of randomly falling over in my day to day life, but I'm always convinced, when I find myself near a railing, I'm somehow going to accidentally clear the jump and plummet to my death. I have dreams where I'm up at a great hight and resort to crawling on all fours to avoid falling, and I still manage to take a fall. More a fear of heights than suicidal impulse, but it still helps me understand how such things happen.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Yes, that is the greatest thing you have ever seen or ever will see. But the upcoming documentary about the Rock-afire Explosion looks pretty sweet, too:

I've never been to Showbiz Pizza Place, I don't think; it was all about Chuck E. Cheese around these parts. But they had a similar act, and I did have a huge crush as a child on the purple Hippo, who was based I believe on Dolly Parton. She sang "Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair," and I just thought that was hilarious, because you wash shampoo out of your hair, not a man. Silly hippo. I'd watch her over and over again. So I wish it was her instead of the Rock-afire Explosion that was enjoying a Renaissance, but I'll take what I can get.

Anyway, I did some internet research, and my first true love was named Dolli Dimples, and while the name obviously came from Mrs. Parton, she's more cabaret than country:

All of which just goes to show, sometimes you think there's no reason to get out of bed in the morning, but then, bam, you find something that makes life worth living.

Jesse Helms, dead at 86. Yet again, we see that only the good die young.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Unshelved Book Club last week featured Sharp Teeth, the first time a text of recent origins was featured which I had already read. Made me feel all hip and ahead-of-the-curve. I recommend it, even if the ending was rather anti-climactic.
Oscar Pistorius falls short of Olympic qualifying time. He has three more chances, but Pistorius himself seems pessimistic: "I let myself down. I’ve got to be realistic. I’m chasing something that may be unattainable. It’s starting to look impossible."

Failure, here, would actually be a form of vindication. His opponents argued that allowing him into the Olympics was tantamount to permitting the use of jet packs. If his prothesis is such an advantage, how come he can't qualify? It's almost as though there might somehow be some disadvantages for a runner to have only one leg. Who would've thought?

Still, though, I hope he does manage to qualify. I understand that, even should he not qualify, he might compete in a relay event; I'm not sure if his awkward starts are more or less of a disadvantage in a relay setting, but I would assume he's not particularly well-suited to the format. But in any case, good luck, Oscar.

Ticket to Ride vs. Ticket to Ride vs. Ticket to Ride. Once the novelty of Grand Theft Auto IV wore off, I've found myself getting my video game fix playing Catan virtually exclusively. But with the release of Ticket to Ride, that's where most of my video game time is now being channeled. I think long-term I'll stick with Catan, but Ticket to Ride is certainly addictive. Especially the neat little train graphic that reveals your final score. Unlike Catan, I've never played Ticket to Ride in its original board game format, but I imagine scoring might be a minor nuisance (not as bad as Carcassonne, I'm sure). But since it's release last week, a day has not passed when I did not play multiple games of Ticket to Ride (I've gotten in a few rounds of Catan, too). It helps that a game is relatively short, 15 minutes or so playing off-line. I'm sure online play probably doubles the time needed; I haven't played yet online, I wanted to get the basics down pat, first.

One complaint I have, is I have lost multiple games because I got colors confused. Nothing's worse than saving up red cards and suddenly realize you're trying to build an orange line. Ditto purple and blue. I notice they mention this at the above-linked review, so it might be an issue above and beyond my color-blindness. Early on, I also made some mistakes about city locations; the name of the city would appear right above a dot, and I wouldn't realize until it was too late that the label actually applied to the dot towards the left. But I soon got that figured out, and even the color issues aren't as bad now that I'm aware of the problem, and since the colors are static, I've pretty much memorized the more troublesome routes. Catan, to its credit, has a color-blind mode, optional offline and standard to ranked online matches, which helps me out.

But yeah, if you have an Xbox 360, check out both games, if you haven't already. I always feel a little silly, having bought an expensive video game console, only to spend most of my time playing simple board games on it. But they're hella fun, and Catan in particular is brilliantly executed, and the computer AI makes for a skilled opponent, mostly.

Game & Watch, a retrospective. Hard to imagine that those things cost $53 when they first came out. I don't think I ever owned one myself; I held off on joining the hand-held gaming revolution until the Game Boy Advanced. But had this super-keen ad ran in the States, I just might have taken the plunge:

UPDATE: You can enjoy some Java-based classic Game & Watch gameplay here.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Netflix relents, account profiles to stay. I'm relieved I won't have to follow-through on my threat to go down to the one-out-at-a-time plan.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The applications are in from the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas class action settlement: 2,676 claim to be offended. Personally, I printed out a settlement form, because I was in the class covered by the lawsuit, but I decided it wasn't worth the loss of self-respect that would come from lying under threat of perjury and claiming to be offended. Of course, I was only getting $10; had I somehow been able to find my receipt and could have collected $35, I might have gotten over my reservations.

My favorite part of the article is on page two, talking about the depositions of the game-buyers who did claim to be offended. Brenda Stanhouse, negligent mother, claims to have not been aware that the game features prostitutes, or that you can kill said prostitutes and steal back the money you paid them for sex acts. "I'm aware that there is killing in the game," she explained, "I wasn't aware of the stealing." Good god, stealing, you say? Next, they'll be dancing!

According to the article, a lawyer is trying to get the settlement thrown out. And I wish him good luck. The part I object to was having to affirm that I was in fact offended. If I bought the game, I should get the money. Just leave it at that.

I wonder if Brenda Stanhouse's son got GTA: IV.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A fourth Helix High sex scandal emerges.
A collection of photographs of Twin Peaks filming locations, then and now. Which reminds me: since the second season came out on DVD, I've repeatedly said I'm going to watch the series from beginning to end, and usually get distracted by a shiny object or something about four episodes in. I'll have to give that nother go.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What killed the semicolon? Paul Collins suggests that the telegraph didn't help, as it priced the semi-colon at $5 a use. But the Semi-Colon will always have a place in my writing: Collins notes, "The semicolon allows woozy clauses to lean on each other like drunks for support."

In any event, I'm just grateful this blog's semicolon label is getting some use; I'd hate to think I created it for naught.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Netflix eliminating user profiles September 1st. In other news, I will be changing to the one-out-at-a-time plan September 1st. I added my mom to my plan a month or so ago, a sort of Mother's Day present, and she really enjoys getting movies in the mail and picking out stuff on her list (she's making her way through Nero Wolfe right now). And now they forced me to go in the other room and break my invalid elderly mother's heart. For shame. If I wasn't so fond of the "Watch Instantly" service, I would cancel entirely and use the library and BitTorrent for all my movie needs.

So I'll be going to the one-at-a-time plan. And, of course, being on the one-at-a-time plan will make me more conscious of time, and the need to return movies promptly. As things stand, I am rather lax about returning movies; I recently watched Mutiny on the Bounty (on HD DVD), after it had sat in my den for two months. Sundays in the Park With George has been here almost as long, as I haven't been in a musical mood, I suppose. But now, it'll be all about the turnover. I'm confident I'll cost them more money, but my monthly fee will be halved. Great business plan, Netflix.

And to add insult to injury, I was just informed Mom's Nero Wolfe DVD is defective. My goodwill towards Netflix has evaporated overnight; if that was their goal, congratulations, mission accomplished..

Monday, June 16, 2008

FCC censorship dashes plans for Bloomsday. I suppose I should read Ulysses one of these days...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert, dead at 58. He is survived, of course, by Big Russ.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Drive-in Theater turned 75 this week. Finding a functioning Drive-in may be getting more difficult, but it's easier than finding a functioning automat, the first of which opened 106 years ago today. Don't know why I long to experience the automat; I've had a similar experience, eating sandwiches from highway rest stop vending machines, and that was about one step above drinking out of the toilet. It's the architecture, I suppose.
Bob Dale, San Diego broadcaster, dead at 83.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Video released of hit-and-run of elderly pedestrian. It is interesting to watch and see in action the bystander effect we learned about in my psych class this quarter, but I think the inaction of the witnesses, as discussed in the extensive media coverage, is being exaggerated. The cars that witnessed the accident and drove away deserve scorn, of course (and I wish nothing but suffering on the two cars that caused the accident, passing on a city street, and whose failure to stop may well bring them a murder rap, should the victim die). But it appears to me that the pedestrians did what they could. They reacted in horror, some apparently called the police, as police arrived in approximately 60 seconds. Sure, they probably should have directed traffic around her, but they saw how effectively traffic circumvented the victim; I can understand their hesitancy to leave the curb. It's not like there's any first aid to administer, as the fact that you shouldn't move a victim of this sort of trauma is well-known to just about anybody. Besides, the video itself is difficult to watch; no doubt witnessing the accident in person was quite traumatic. Under difficult circumstances, people did the best they could, as imperfect creatures. And given that, as I said, help arrived in about one minute, it's hard to see how any different actions could have made a difference in Angel Torres' prognosis.

I witnessed a rather gnarly bicycle accident a few years ago, and I did stop. But had I not personally witnessed the accident, had I passed by after the fact, and had I seen people on the scene, I certainly would not have stopped. And had I been on the sidewalk in Hartford last week and witnessed this accident, I like to think I would have had some more composure, and gone out in the street to direct traffic, but I probably wouldn't have. And I probably would have felt ashamed afterwards, and lost some sleep over it. But it needn't be so, as I don't think the pedestrians did anything wrong here.

Oh, and I watched this tape about a dozen times, and waved my co-workers over to watch it with me. What does that say about me? It's probably more damning than the behavior of the pedestrians in the video.

UPDATE: On subsequent viewing, I realized that the car immediately behind the hit-and-run vehicle, who appears to drive away, actually stops at the intersection where the assailant turned, and is presumably trying to get a license number or description. So that's one more person off the shit-list. I'd say people's ill will would be put to much better use directed at the driver who actually crossed the center divide, ran over a 78-year-old man, and drove away.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Website offers to send post-rapture messages to friends and family. I've heard of similar services in the past, but this one has a new twist; users are encouraged to upload their financial data (bank accounts, passwords, etc.), so those left behind will have financial resources. I understand that "the victim was so stupid, they deserved to be ripped off" isn't a valid legal defense, but in the case of people who will give their bank password to a website because the owner says he's a Christian, I think it should be.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's been over two weeks since my computer died, and things are only just now approaching normalcy. Lots of hassles, most of which seemed to trace to Vista security settings. I did get Windows Media Center set up, so I could stream Netflix movies to my Xbox 360, which is a very nice thing to be able to do, so that made me feel somewhat better about upgrading to Vista. But lots of things were a pain in the ass. Especially recovering my music from my iPod, which was doubly frustrating as I had just recently had to do it on XP. I had trouble getting the recovery software to even find iTunes, and then the default location for my iTunes library kept arbitrarily changing. Only when I disabled security settings could I finally get it to work (had to do the same thing to get Media Center to work with Netflix). But even with such settings disabled, I had lots of trouble getting access to files on my old hard drive (I discovered my backups were a lot less comprehensive than I thought: Jungle Disk did not do a very good job updating files that had been changed, and Windows Live OneCare backed up a lot of random shit I didn't need, while missing some crucial files--whether these problems are due to flaws with the software or my failure to properly set up said programs is not yet clear).

Anyway, things are almost back to normal. A few programs won't work with my 64-bit version of Vista, but no huge loss. DVD43 won't work, but I'm thinking, now that I have a 750GB hard drive in my computer, I might use my 1TB external hard drive to rip DVDs to, then convert that raw data into a format most appropriate for my iPhone or Xbox. No point copying a film ill-suited to watching on a tiny screen to H.264, when I'd rather want to see it on my HDTV. This is especially an option now that my computer is not so painfully slow; converting one hour of footage off a DVD into H.264 used to take about 70 minutes, but now takes only about 10.

So, my opinion, now, with some hands-on time, is that, if you experience an equipment failure or for whatever reason now need a new computer, you might as well go with Vista. But if you don't need to, you'd be nuts to upgrade.

I should also note that, the weekend I first set up my computer, I was sick, Tanner got sprayed by a skunk--again!--and I found out, only too late, that the annual sea shantey festival on the Star of India was that very weekend (the highlight of my year, and I missed it!). The festival was moved from September to May, for some reason. I take some small consolation in that it was a very hot day, and there's not much shade on the boat. But a tribute was planned to mark the anniversary of Stan Roger's death, which I would have liked to hear. I suppose the wait will make next year's concert all the more sweet, but missing this year's was a bitter pill. All of which is to say, that was a crappy weekend.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sharon Stone apparently believes in the Hillary Clinton style of non-apology. I especially like that she made the offensive comment at an AIDS benefit; what better way to memorialize those lost to the disease by appropriating the "AIDS is God's punishment" argument for one's own means.
Grease theft a rising problem. Yet again, The Simpsons was years ahead of the times. I even recall Homer being intimidated by the grease establishment; the grease bandit in the article was himself undone by a legitimate grease purveyor.
Earle Hagen, Andy Griffith Show theme song composer, dead at 88. Also dead at 88, Alexander Courage, composer of the Star Trek theme.

The two composers are also joined together by this fun fact: Both are most famous for instrumental theme songs that actually do have lyrics (though the lyrics to "The Fishin' Hole" were apparently written after the fact by a separate artist, and Star Trek's lyrics were written after the fact because Gene Roddenberry was an asshole).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Syndey Pollack, dead at 73. I recently saw They Shoot Horses, Don't They? for the first time; if you're looking for a good movie, and don't mind soul-crushingly depressing fare, there you go.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Helix High's response to the teacher-student sex problem? More training. I'm sure, had anyone told him that having sex with a 16-year-old was wrong, Mr. Wilcox would have refrained.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Clinton's current plan for winning the nomination: Obama getting assassinated. Clinton's spokesperson found it "outrageous" that anyone would be upset that Clinton invoked assassination in a purely political discussion, but later Clinton issued a non-apology apology, regretful "if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive." She also explained that the assassination reference came up because, with Ted's illness, the Kennedys were in her mind. Which means she was apparently thinking about Ted Kennedy's brain tumor in March, when she first referenced the assassination.

I should be happy, as Clinton's national political ambitions are completely dead, but I'm just disgusted. Keith Olbermann laid it all out on his program tonight; when I find a video of it, I'll add it here.

UPDATE: Here's the Olbermann video:

R. Kelly's defense hinges upon the absolute believability of the Wayans brothers' movie Little Man.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ars Technica aquired by Conde Nast. The New York Times looks at the fashion publisher's moves to adquire a tech empire.

Not sure how I feel about this, but for now I'll keep an open mind.

The New York Times looks at gender issues and Hillary Clinton. The first thing that jumped out at me was the photo of a "young Clinton supporter" of about the age of five, holding a sign that read, "I plan to be the 2nd woman president." Not to pick on a little girl, but assuming a parent or guardian largely responsible for the text, I'll go ahead and say, what the hell? She's a toddler, which of course means she won't be eligigble for the presidency for fourty years or so. There is a pretty good chance I'll be dead before she is eligible for the presidency. So is this what the Clinton campaign stands for? One woman president, then we let the men get back to work for a few decades? For Clinton herself, yes, probably. She's shown no interest in the long-term best interests of her party or her country, why should she have any nobler asperations for her gender? But I would hope the country as a whole could aim higher. A Clinton supporter in the article describes Obama as patronizing, but what's more patronizing than suggesting that, once Clinton's elected, we can go back to the status quo for a few decades?

That said, I will concede the first paragraph of the Times artile is patronizing: "With each passing day, it seems a little less likely that the next president of the United States will wear a skirt — or a cheerful, no-nonsense pantsuit." You know, with the possible exception of "cheerful," I think it's an absolute certainty that's how the next President will dress, even if McCain wins. Unless McCain decides to start wearing bermuda shorts around the Oval Office, he'll probably elect to don a pantsuit, as he and virtually every male politican always had and always will. The fixation on Clinton's wardrobe is unfortunate. But I also doubt it had a bearing on her defeat.

Hateful bigot Geraldine Ferarro shot off her nasty, racist mouth, describing Obama as "terribly sexist," without explaining why. I guess because Obama supporters took umbrage to her speaking the bold truth about the advantages the black man has in our society, living the "fairy tale" life, as Bill Clinton put it. And a group called "Clinton Supporters Count, Too," is forming to campaign against Obama in November. Of course Clinton supporters count, too. They each count for one vote. And unless Obama's supporters don't count, that means Clinton's campaign is doomed. Edwards supporters count, too; does that mean we should just let Edwards be the president, as to not hurt their feelings? Let everyone be president, don't want to not count someone.

Which goes back to the charge of being patronizing. Clinton's supporters are begging to be patronized, demanding it. Suggest Clinton should drop out, considering she lost the election? How dare you! She can run for as long as she want. But if you say that she can still run, you're being patronizing. Yes, Clinton has the right to run for as long as she wants. Ron Paul is still running, and people aren't calling for him to drop out. And that's because he doesn't demand constant validation. Anyone can run for president, and no one can force you to drop out. That doesn't mean you should, or that people have to pretend that you can win. Clinton supporters seem to be buying into a Special Olympics version of politics, where we have to be nice and supportive and everyone's a winner. Which is fine, and in fact a wonderful and beautiful thing, for the Special Olympics. But it's just not how politics work.

So here's my main suggestion for those Clinton supporters who feel patronized: Stop demaning validation. Yes, she can run. Anyone can run, it goes without saying. When people call for her to drop out, there saying what they think she should do. They have every right to speak their mind, too, and that, too should go without speaking. So Clinton, run if you want, but stop fanning your supporter's outrage whenever anyone suggests you can't win or shouldn't be running. And be more sparing when you cry sexism in how the Clinton campaign was treated. Yes, there were elements of sexist to be found, and she wasn't always treated fairly, I'll concede that. But when one of sixteen female Senators is running against the only African-American Senator (only the third black senator since Reconstruction), blaming every setback to sexism while belittling Obama's achievements is both counter-productive and shameful (that's why your reputation is now in the toilet, Geraldine Ferarro).

Friday, May 16, 2008

A few weeks ago, my external hard drive became corrupted. The data itself was still there, I think, but the registry was corrupted and the data was inaccessible. I attempted several efforts at restoration, but ultimately concluded that it would be easier to reformat the drive and recover what data I could elsewhere. All I kept on the drive was music and video, and the music was easy enough to recover from my iPod. Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of my video library is on my iPhone at any given moment, and while I'd considered various means of backing up that large amount of data, I never got around to it. So most was lost; since this is mostly video I ripped from my own DVDs, it's not a catastrophic lost, I simply have to rerip the video.

So that sucked. I had access to my music on my iPod, but still the loss of the hard drive really threw me off my rhythm. As I attempted to recover my data, I stared at my computer monitor numbly, my expression I believe reminiscent of the way Tanner looked at me after I picked him up from the vet, without his testicles. Once I accepted that I had recovered what I could and what I hadn't was lost, I was able to move on, and have regained something close to normalcy. And I purchased Jungle Disk and started backing up online to Amazon's S3 service. For the time being, I was relatively whole again.

And then today, my computer wouldn't turn on. I believe it's given up the ghost. Which, I suppose, was to be expected. But again I find myself unmoored, my digital dock obliterated by the hurricane of, um, static electricity or something. I dunno. All I know is it's time to buy a new computer. This is the one I picked. A bit more than I wanted to spend, but I feel the extra money was well-spent. I'll pick it up from Best Buy this evening; unfortunately, only the Chula Vista store had it in stock, but if I wait for traffic to die down, it shouldn't be too bad a drive down to pick it up. I was hoping to delay the transition to Windows Vista as long as I could, but I'll survive. And it will be nice to have a machine that can handle multimedia better than my old system. In the long run, a new computer will be a good thing. But I'll be feeling lost for a few weeks, methinks.

Simpsons Ride opens Monday.
Oscar Pistorius eligible to compete in Olympics. Or at least not ineligible, as he still needs to qualify.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tip to all you Clinton supporters out there: If you're going to make an argument about what someone's dead father must be thinking, up in heaven, about her campaign, make sure the guy's father is dead:

UPDATE: Colbert has some comments on this; he points out it wasn't a slip of the tongue:

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bob Barr running for president.
Tanner got sprayed by a skunk this weekend. I've known that skunks have been in the neighborhood for some time. Just a few days before this encounter, I stumbled upon a skunk in the garage, eating food meant for the local stray cats. And a mere hour or so before the incident this Friday night, I was going to the gym, and saw the skunk skulking around in front of the garage door. Adorable looking guy, very sweet, if I didn't have to worry about Tanner getting a snoutful of nastiness, I'd gladly let him stay in our yard. When I got home, Tanner was agitated, like there was something in the backyard. So I looked outside, to see if I could see a skunk lurking around the periphery, but didn't see anything, and let Tanner out. He, of course, makes a bee-line to the skunk, brazenly sitting smack tab in the middle of the yard. I see Tanner snip at him, and I see Tanner quickly turn tail and saunter into the house, head held low. It takes a few seconds for the odor to hit me, but he was definitely skunked. I don't think it was a direct hit, because the smell was not as overpowering as I expected. But it was unpleasant. And Tanner immediately spread it throughout the house.

Looking online, it seemed that baking soda and hydrogen peroxide was the preferred treatment, so we tried that, and it helped a little. The next day, I went to the pet stores and eventually found some deskunking agent, which helped a bit more. But Tanner still stinks. In fact, on Saturday, the entire house stunk like hell. Fortunately, we seem to have almost gotten the smell out of the house, and now it's only really noticable when you get some face time with Tanner. I'll give him another treatment or two with the anti-skunk spray, and another bath or two, and hopefully the smell will dissipate more. But I imagine he'll have a hint of skunk for some time.

As for the skunk, when I went outside later to clear the yard so Tanner could go potty, I saw the skunk scurry through a hole in the fence. The next day, I blocked off that hole, and stacked some bricks where it looks like he was coming around from behind the shed. I hope that, along with the fear Tanner put into him, will keep the skunk away. And needless to say, no more food out for the cats at night. They'll have to eat while I'm out there to supervise. Which is probably a good thing; Sable hasn't been around like she used to be, so I think the skunk might have been chasing her out.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Weekend stubble discusses the peculiar feeling of seeing your book translated into a foreign language. The occasion is an author discussing his book being translated into Chinese, and the author discovering a new introduction with an epigram by Tomb Raider's Lara Croft. But it was the mention of Jimmy James' retranslated masterpiece Jimmy James: Macho Donkey Business Wrestler that sent me straight to YouTube (actually, straight to Hulu, but their edited clip of the episode is inexplicably missing the line about the Super Karate Monkey Death Car, which captures the inescapable truth of the human condition as well as any Lara Croft quote could):
Michel Gondry entertained for days by new cardboard box.

Friday, May 09, 2008

I haven't talked a whole lot about Wii Fit, which is odd, considering how excited I am about it. I suppose that's because the last game I wrote a lot about was Jenga, and I ended up not even purchasing that one. But no fear with Wii Fit, I've already pre-ordered it from Amazon (and in an unprecedented, for me, move, I paid extra for two-day shipping). Which is a good thing, because it looks like if you didn't pre-order, you ain't getting it. I checked my local Target, and they weren't taking pre-orders. The guy behind the counter said it would be one of those "under-the-radar" games, to which I could only shake my head and have pity for him. Hope he remembers that conversation when he sees the mob at the door on May 19. I don't like dealing with Gamestop if I can help it (though to their credit, they do carry some relatively obscure stuff), and ditto for Circuit City and Best Buy, so I decided to go the Amazon route instead of picking it up on release day.

Anyway, I suppose the takeaway is that Wii Fit is going to be huge. It really taps into the needs of Nintendo's target audience of non-gamers, and fills a real need of the typical gamer (a point well-illustrated in the hilarious video found here), and looks to be a lot of fun. I'm not convinced just how intense of a workout it will deliver; I suspect it will be underwhelming on the cardio front, while I fully expect the yoga component to kick my ass (EA has already announced a more Western-fitness-based game for the balance board). But in any case, at least there's the crazy-Japanese-wackiness factor to consider:

I'll be sure to share my opinions when I actually have the game.

I don't always watch The Colbert Report all the way to the end credits, seeing as my DVR often cuts off the final seconds, so sometimes if the guest bores me, I just delete it and move on with my life. Guess that's how I missed the Colbert/Rain dance-off:

Knowing Colbert's tendency to call out people he knows he can get on the show, it makes me wonder if J.D. Salinger might be making an appearance (though that joke seems to have been a one-off, or at most a two-off)

Eddy Arnold, dead at 89.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The New York Times on Dolly Parton's subversive message. She's performing at Humphrey's this year; at $125, I will not be attending. The cheap seats at her Los Angeles concert, by comparison, are $42.50.

Looking at the Humphrey's lineup, there's not much worth seeing, and what is is overpriced. Lyle Lovett at $85 is tempting, but I think I'll pass.

Monday, April 28, 2008

"Topless" photos threaten Hannah Montana juggernaut. I shouldn't have to explain this, but here goes: Topless = nipple. If you can't see the nipple, she's not topless. She has a sheet as a top. To claim otherwise is to sink to Sam the Eagle levels of ridiculousness (see his Discourse on Nudity, quoted on the linked page). And speaking of ridiculousness, in what way does this demonstrate Cyrus being a bad role model? Are teenage girls going to show their bare backs in Vanity Fair? I think the worst possible ramification might be that young girls (or anyone, for that matter) might read Vanity Fair. If anything, it appears to me that she has a reasonable amount of meat on her bones, which would probably be a very good example for her target demographic (at least her humerus is not exposed).

All I know is, even though that girl I grew up watching on Saved By the Bell made that naughty movie, I turned out okay; I think this generation will somehow cope, too.

The New York Times looks at Randy Newman's "Louisina 1927" and its evolution via the folk song tradition. While the song's prominence after Hurriane Katrina was hardly surprising, it did strike me as slightly odd, or ironic, that a song about people being flooded to save New Orleans, or New Orleans' reputation, would be coopted to be about the destruction of New Orleans. But as this article shows, that's to be expected, given the towns tradition of reinventing songs. And certainly the callousness of authority to the destruction is the same.

In other Randy Newman news, apparently he can't outrun the damn paparazzi. LEAVE RANDY ALONE! Actually, though, this makes me wonder if I shouldn't leave a piano in my front yard, maybe it will attract Randy Newman.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"Through Weegee's Lens": The New York Times has a profile today of photographer Jill Freedman.

Friday, April 25, 2008

More info on the shark attack. After fielding phone calls about this all day, I can finally go home and watch the news and actually find out what happened. I was surprised by just how ape-shit the media went (which helps explain all the calls). Though I suppose I shouldn't be; It is very shocking news, not something you'd expect here in San Diego.

I was surprised to see how many people were in the water at La Jolla Shores. It would be silly to retreat from the water forever because of this one freak incident, but I still wouldn't get in the water the day of the attack, between the location of the attack and the sea lions at the Children's Pool.

Breaking news: Fatal shark attack in Solana Beach.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Clinton, Obama, John Edwards all on The Colbert Report Thursday night. Hillary's bit just wasn't funny; Obama at least seemed to engage Colbert a bit. But it was John Edwards who stole the show; it's a shame that politicians can only be likable when they're out of the running.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Chris Gaffney, dead at 57. Only saw him perform once, at the Belly Up, opening for Dave Alvin with the Hacienda Brothers, and later playing with Dave.
Hazel Court, dead at 82. I watched her in The Raven just the other night.
The Nazi origins of the Olympic torch relay. Leni Riefenstahl staged the first torch relay, to "create the myth the Greeks never got around to telling." Sad, that in all the coverage of the torch protests, I first learned of this history not from the real news, but from The Daily Show (which led Jon Stewart do boast, at the end of his show, of his ability to open on a dreidel joke and close on a Hitler joke):

Ollie Jonston, Disney animator, dead at 95.
Padres lose in 22-inning overtime. After the 18th inning, sprinklers came on in the Park at the Park.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I saw a high school production of Urinetown: The Musical last weekend. Once I got over the awkwardness of being the only person in the audience not enrolled at or employed by the school, or related to someone who was, I had a grand old time watching one of my favorite musicals. Now I see that my college has a production of the selfsame musical this weekend, so I figure I might as well see it two weeks in a row. Perhaps Urinetown can be my Friday night thing, or if that's too difficult, just urine in general.
Slate looks back at the photograph "The Soiling of Old Glory," from Boston's 1976 busing crisis. The slide show also includes a chilling photograph of a woman and child falling from a fire escape; it reminded me of a segment on This American Life's television program about the photographs mentioned here, which I can't find reproduced online. Of course, the only possible moral ambiguity in the falling women photograph would be voyeurism (at the forefront of my mind, as I watched Peeping Tom last night), as it is more obvious that there was no action the photographer should take (and he did avert his gaze before impact).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Monty Hall problem hits research into cognitive dissonance. That article had a link to a vintage New York Times article from around the time of the Marilyn vos Savant controversy, where Monty Hall himself tried to settle the matter. Really emphasizes Hall's role on "Let's Make a Deal" as a skillful huckster. There's a documentary, Deal, with a behind-the-scenes look at "Let's Make a Deal." Not all that great a documentary, overall, but seeing all that Monty Hall had to juggle during a taping was impressive. And, as a part-owner of the show, every penny he avoided giving to a contestant was money in his pocket.
People like people with the same name. We like things that remind us of ourselves. So why does the new Mike Myers movie look to me like a piece of shit?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

So, I finally got around to returning to the library the VHS cassette trapped in my VCR. Returning it still entombed, of course. I hoped maybe it came up enough that the librarians might have some pointers as to how to remove it, but no such luck. Some patrons actually had some useful information as to how the mechanism holding the cassette works, but the gears they indicated we should turn weren't going to budge. The librarian seemed concerned with not damaging my VCR, which as this point I didn't care about. But even handling it a bit rougher, he didn't have any more luck than I at removing it. So he renewed the video for me, sent me home with my VCR, and suggested I try a little more to remove it on my own. So when I got home, I took out a hammer, and tried to pry off the metal cover of the cage holding the cassette, and it popped of with almost no effort. I'd failed in previous attempts, so apparently the combined stress of various attempts finally loosened it enough that it came off without a fight. Continuing to use the claw of a hammer, I then tried to break off the plastic pieces holding the cassette in place, without damaging the cassette itself. I couldn't break the plastic bits off, but I did manage to stretch it just enough that I could work the cassette out of the VCR and to freedom. So a half-hour later, I headed back to the library, returned the cassette (no visible damage, though I wouldn't recommend watching it), and at last my library record was unencumbered.

It did occur to me, driving home, that I should have waited until today to return the cassette. I came in with the cassette stuck in my VCR, no idea what to do; they tinkered with it for awhile and sent me on my way. A half-hour later, the tape is free. That sounds suspicious, as though I had some sort of electronic Munchausen by Proxy, getting things stuck in my VCR only so I can remove them and be hailed a hero. So hopefully my library record has not been flagged for deviancy. In any event, I don't think I'll be checking out any more VHS cassettes, no point tempting fate.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Colbert announced the other day that he won a Peabody this year (he thanked the Peabodys and their boy Sherman); now I see Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me also won a Peabody. Apparently, I am on the Peabody Award committee, and didn't realize it. If it turns out the Sirloin Steak and Egg Burrito at Jack in the Box also won a Peabody, that'll be all the proof I need.
Grand Prix head assures the public his orgy did not have Nazi undertones. No, sir, it was your typical, mom-and-pop, meat-and-potatoes orgy.
A look at the film D.O.A.. Included is a promotional piece suggesting theaters host an essay contest, with the theme of when a man is justified in hitting a woman. I remember being disappointed in the film when I saw it years ago, but amused by the doctor with about the worst bedside manner I've seen on film. "Geez, tell a guy he's got 24 hours to live, and he gets all worked up or something."

Greenbriar Picture Shows is also where I found this post about pre-code marketing, including an interesting ad for Freaks: "Tonight and Thursday with shame our screen unfolds the worst picture ever made! Don't See It! And be assured you missed nothing!"

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Seuss sez: Stop making movies of my books.
Charlton Heston, dead at 84. People thought that the Supreme Court's upcoming hearing on the D.C. handgun ban would be an important milestone in the history of the Second Amendment, but now, with Heston's hands cold and dead, the issue seems to be moot.

In all respect, I should say that Touch of Evil is one of my favorite movies, and Heston deserves thanks for managing to play a Mexican in a manner as inoffensive as possible, considering he was Charlton Heston playing a Mexican.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

This American Life being simulcast live to theaters nationwide. Good idea, but $20 seems a bit steep for what is apparently a commercial for season two of their television show. I like the idea of these live events being broadcast to movie theaters, but the pricing seems out of whack. People are accustomed to paying $10 at the most for a movie, and they (or I, at least) won't pay much over that for a live event. At $12, I might, $15, I'd consider, but any higher than that and I feel like I'm being taken for a chump. I'd rather just donate $20 to public radio.
Wayne "Frosty Freeze" Frost, dead at 44.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

So, I've been filling in some gaps in my cultural education, watching Vincent Price horror movies. Some, like House of Wax, are on DVD, but for some films, I've had to go back to the old standby of VHS cassettes from the local library. And tonight, I tried to watch one, The Comedy of Terrors. But the cassette wouldn't go into the VCR. It would go half-way in, and then the VCR would spit it out. My VCR is, of course, old, so I wasn't sure if it was the tape or the unit, so I went into the back bedroom to give that one a try. The cassette went in fine, but then nothing happened, and it wouldn't eject the tape. I tried to force it out, but I could feel the film wrapped around the tape head or whatever inside the VCR. I tried disassembling the VCR, and got the case off of it, but couldn't get the cassette-holding portion open to remove the tape. So tomorrow, I'm taking my VCR to the library to see what they suggest. I figure this must happen from time to time, maybe they have some tips. I think the tape was defective, but if I have to pay for it, I'll live. As long as they aren't dicks about it (I got the tape from the city library, not the county library where I volunteer, so I don't have any special connections to rely on here).

Anyway, in light of this setback, I decided to watch The Tomb of Ligeia instead. But it appeared that whoever last checked it out was far from kind, so I would have to rewind. But every time I tried to rewind it, I heard the VCR's motor revving for a moment, but then the unit shut down. If I pressed play, I could rewind while the feature played, but then it rewound at an extremely slow pace. I had a feeling this cassette was defective, too (which would explain why the previous viewer didn't rewind), and didn't want to risk another incident like Comedy of Terrors, so I removed the cassette from my VCR unwatched.

Cursing the antiquated technology, I decided the safe bet was to watch a film in the ultra-high-tech HD DVD format. I've had Talk to Me at home from Netflix for like two months, and decided I should finally watch it. I even chuckled to myself, thinking that, given my luck this evening, I'd probably end up getting the Red Ring of Death watching it on my XBox 360 HD DVD add-on (I actually had Talk to Me out from Netflix when my XBox red-ringed, and returned it unwatched while my unit was repaired). But I never got to that point. When I removed the disc from its Netflix envelope, it came out in two pieces. Talk to Me was released in a hybrid format, with an HD DVD on one side and a standard DVD on the other. Apparently they're just glued together or something, because they came right apart on me. I thought maybe I could still play just half a disc, but given my track record for the evening, I decided not to experiment.

So three films, three strikes. The good news is, eventually, I was able to watch My Kid Could Paint That without incident. Okay documentary, and if you're interested in my opinion, the kid didn't paint the paintings, certainly not in the manner the parents claim. To say that a four-year-old painted every painting, from the first one on, with no assistance, implies that the parents are awful people. "No, sweetheart, you have to do that alone. You're four years old, we can't coddle you forever!" Of course they helped. As one curator, who rejected a Marla work submitted to her art show before Marla's rise to fame, noted in an outtake included on the DVD, who picked the canvases? Are we to believe a four year old decided on her own she wanted to paint a triptych? Also included with the special features, which I watched with judicious use of the fast-forward button, was a Q&A session, in which one supporter of Marla basically explained to a questioner that, since he never himself was a painter, his opinion didn't matter. Of course, since he was once four years old, and no doubt dabbled in finger-painting, his claim as an artist is as absolute as Marla's. For some reason, that lady's comment really pissed me off, and angried up the blood. So, fuck you, old lady. But I digress. Interesting film, but I don't know what the take-away from it is. The filmmaker intended, before the question of authenticity was raised by "60 Minutes," to make a statement about modern art, but the unanticipated shift in the narrative muddies things a bit too much. And ultimately, I was surprised just how little I cared. It's hard to get worked up about parents exploiting their child, when she's having a fine time and now has a six-figure college fund. Perhaps there's a message to be derived from the owner of the gallery promoting Marla's work. When she has her fall, and her work stops selling for awhile, he seems glad that, at last, he can openly gloat in his big "fuck you" to the modern art community (his own work is in the photorealism genre). But when her work starts selling again, it's like that conversation never happened. So what does that mean? The business of art is driven by both spite and pragmatism? Some people are tools? Photorealism ain't where the money's at? Food for thought, I suppose.