Wednesday, March 28, 2007


The first annoying vegan.

(Are there any other kind?)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

What an interesting disappointment Stranger than Fiction was. Yet, the premise is just golden: a guy starts hearing a voice that seemingly narrates his life. Is his life a fiction - is he Neo from The Matrix, essentially - or is he real? Sounds like a lot of fun.

The first half hour IS fun, but then it gets lost in a plot device that would probably only work in a novel - if even there. (More on that in the spoilers section, below.)

There's even a neato special effect that depicts Harold Crick's (Will Ferrell) obsessive compulsive mental mechanics as he's thinking or working - sorta like John Nash's (Russell Crowe) visualizations in A Beautiful Mind. I loved it when it first popped up, because it's not explained, but becomes apparent later. To me, it was a quality gag, and usually such things only appear in movies that have been lovingly thought out.



Y'see, first Crick goes to see a psychologist, which is appropriate, but she tells him he's schizophrenic. He doesn't accept that and goes to see - get this - a Professor of Literature! See, he's being talked about as though he's the character of a story, so naturally he'd go see an expert on the same.

But what an asinine development!

Well, maybe it would have worked had it been done in a playful manner - say have the prof. be half nuts or so distracted s/he would give advice without really taking it seriously, or didn't take is seriously at all, but gave advice as sort of a lark. But no, we have an arrogant prof. who claims to know every story ever written, and yes he can help.

Look, nothing against profs. - if I had the brains, I would probably have gone in that direction. However; I am - at best and forever - a solid "B" student. Real profs. would have me for lunch, daily, had I attempted that career course.

But I think even if I were, I'd find this movie embarrassing.

Believe it or not, the next direction it takes is they embark on a voyage to discover if Crick is in a comedy or a tragedy, based on the events that occur during his day. Why this matters, we don't know.

It comes out that the woman writing his life kills every one of her characters at the end; it's like her big thing. Crick actually finds her and after they talk, she takes the novel to the prof., who's a big fan, natch. After the prof. reads it, he tells Crick that he needs to die because "it's her best one yet."

Fer crying out loud.

THEN Crick reads it and AGREES!

Fer fuck's sake, anyway.

Who would EVER think this is plausible?

Judas on a vespa.

**** SPOILERS END ****

All the best jokes are in the trailer, too.

Short version: the Joe Jackson song is still the best offering amongst the various media that bears the same title.

It's deeper, too.

Maybe someone, say Adam Sandler who has a deft touch with this kind of stuff, will remake it as a truly funny movie in the near future. One can hope. The premise is just too good to waste.
Recent Music Discoveries

Finally, finally, finally Los Lobos has released a greatest hits set worthy of their talent and career.

Wolf Tracks, Best of Los Lobos doth rock. It doth roll as well.

There are a couple of their early hits which are traditional Mexican music, though they still swing since Los Lobos is the band playing. And there's the oddity "Kiko and the Lavender Moon" that if it was ever truly a hit anywhere, I'd be surprised. The only interesting thing about the song is it's largely performed on an Optigan, and it sounds like it. (We had one of those monstrosities in my house growing up, and I actually could drone out a few songs on it.)

Other than that, it's a great rock and roll album. Were we back in the days when good compilations like the Eagles Greatest Hits and Elton Johns Greatest hits would dominate the charts forever, this album would join that pantheon.

This baby's about 2 year old now, so I'm a bit behind the curve, but Collective Soul's Youth is a solid offering. Not a bad tune on it. "Better Now" is probably one of the best songs they've recorded thus far.

For folks who haven't heard them (or haven't realized they've heard them - they had a bunch of hits back in the days of radio), they're the kind of tuneful, slightly bombastic rock that drives most music critics bugfuck. Which means most music lovers dig them.

You pair this with their greatest hits and their first album, you've got yourself a great set of songs.

To me, the Indigo Girls albums can be spotty. They usually have two or three great songs and the rest are forgettable. (Of course, rabid fans of theirs would disagree with me, I'm sure.) Even their hits compilation, Retrospective, doesn't really capture all their really good songs. I hope that in the future, they release an anthology that captures the hits and the great songs that didn't chart. (If anyone who's involved in that read this, please make sure "Peace Tonight" is on there.)

Well, for once, one of their discs is solid all the way through. Despite Our Differences is a nice set of songs. Swear to God, Emily Saliers has one of the most beautiful voices ever, imvho.

Standouts are: I Believe In Love, Fly Away (not the old John Denver, Olivia Neutron Bomb song), Rock and Roll Heaven's Gate, and Little Perennials.

This is not a CD recommendation, because I'm sure you already have some CD with Dave Brubeck Quartet's “Take Five” on it.

Stylus Magazine, who provide online music and movies reviews, have a list going this week of their favorite one hit wonders. (Most of their criticism is in the useless, snotty vein that pretty much all popular music criticism has decayed to.) But, in amongst the list of one hit wonders was this little trivia nugget:

39. Dave Brubeck Quartet – “Take Five”
A little-known fact: "Take Five" was not composed by pianist Dave Brubeck, but rather by saxophonist Paul Desmond. Following the song's massive success, Desmond went out to start his own group, and fearing that he would use the sonic blueprint of "Take Five" to great future success, Brubeck contractually prohibited him from using a piano in any of his future musical endeavors. As a result, "Take Five" was forever relegated to one-hit wonder status, best remembered (and wrongfully accredited to Brubeck) for the title's clever nod to its time signature. It should instead be treasured as the finest indication of Desmond's possibilities, whose sax had the slink of a Cheshire cat, the gliding ease of a seagull, and the voguish symmetry of a dry martini.
[Tal Rosenberg]

What a kick in the nards, eh? Makes me revise my mental image of Brubeck as a sweet, but somewhat square jazzguy.

I'm a hyphenate!

While checking that I'd spelled "lutefisk" correctly in order to comment on D. Blowhard's post on a Lutheran pastor waxing political on the pulpit, I came across the term "Nordic-American."

Mwa-ha-ha-ha. I'm using that at every opportunity I can from now on.

I also came across "Scandinavian-American," but it just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Happily, I also encountered a few troves of Ole, Sven, and Lena jokes along the way. These are the stock characters in our Nordic-American (I love that) funnies.

Here's a little history and a couple good ones. Here's another trove (on an atheist site, oddly - usually they're quite humorless, with apologies to my atheist buddies who aren't).

And here's one of my favorites that I didn't see on either of those sites:

Ole and Sven are out hunting when Ole has to pee. "Sven," says Ole, "I'm going over here to pee." While Ole is peeing, a snake bits him on the tip of his thing.

Ole runs back to Sven holding his member yelling, "Sven! Sven! I've been bit by a snake! Go into town and ask the doctor what to do!"

So Sven goes to the doctor and asks him how to treat a snake bite. The doctor says, "Well, Sven, take out your hunting knife and cut across the bite holes like this, making an 'X', then suck the poison out, and then bring him here."

Sven goes back to Ole, and Ole says, "Sven! What did the doctor say?"

Sven says, "Ole, the doctor says you're going to die."

Friday, March 23, 2007

A long, long time ago...

This guy put together a fun article trying to evoke how long human history really is and how little of it we really know in relation. I recommend it; it's a nice read and does the intended job. (Via Kottke)

And you know with that setup you're about to see a bigger but than evidenced in any part of the video for "Baby Got Back."

This is way outside of the point of the article, which uses the Bible principally as a way to represent a time-slice, yet we read:
[I]f you have a grand view of the Bible's contents, that's fine, those few pixels should then conjure up your memory of historic events and aspirations and people who loved and raised families and created art and fought for what they believed in. And for those of us with less romantic visions of the Bible, it represents thousands of years of war and folly and pain and loss.


Uh, what did you say?

"[The Bible] represents thousands of years of war and folly and pain and loss."


I'm always flabbergasted by someone who is that ignorant of the overwhelmingly positive effect that the Judeo/Christian traditions and cultures have brought to the world. It's nearly impossible to overstate that we wouldn't have a world or Western culture that even remotely resembles what we have were it not for the Bible and those who wrote it and believe in it.

There's so much to explain in that regard that literally several bookshelves would be needed to hold all the relevant books to even attempt to do so.

Y'know, it would make a swell graduate dissertation whose topic was the pervasiveness of a subculture that's sprung up almost exclusively on the web made up of engineers (both computer and the various branches of mechanical and electronic) and biologists who tend towards being Randian Libertarian atheists whose exposure to history and religion is limited to opinions and summaries they've read on the web (usually written by someone of the same persuasion), and who are also overly impressed with their own obvious intelligence enough to never arrive at the truth that intelligence and knowledge aren't the same thing. These are guys who probably just assume that Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilisation is about beer, or maybe potatoes.

You create anything in a vacuum and the most impressive achievement that can possibly result is that you were able to create the vacuum in the first place.

Oh well.

Contemplating this article also made me think of how cool it would be to see the same comparison of the time between the last dinosaur keeling over with a rattling gasp to the first time a proto-human first walked around on two legs wondering about something a little more abstract than eating or screwing (that last one's a stretch - I know).

Which whips me back to another question I get on the Bible sometimes: how come the Bible doesn't talk about dinosaurs? If you look at the timelines presented in that article, and then sorta swag the dinosaur timeline, that's part of the answer (to wit: some time had passed and it wasn't all that relevant). The other part is that the Bible is the history of a specific people that began not all that long ago in the cosmological flow of things. The Bible goes from creation to mankind in the space of a few words. It's kind of like that famous cartoon:

Yeah, it would be nice if it were more explicit in step 2 (imagine the arguments that would never have to occur), but the Bible really is not concerned with dinosaurs and primitive peoples, it's about our relationship with God.

Maybe when Moses asked God about that stuff, God said something like, "In a few thousand years a man named Michener will be born. I'm going to let him write about that stuff. You just worry about those tablets, dude." (Not to presume to speak for God, mind you.)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What's Wrong with this Picture?

"Years ago, I spent half the night chatting up a very beautiful woman. I managed to get her to come back to my place, to undress her and get her into bed. Then when I woke up the next day, I realized that she was dead. Before we had a chance to do anything."

-- Jay McInerney on the worst date he's ever had. Via Salon via NY Dailynews

Oh, bummer she's dead, but he didn't get to BANG HER! What a loss!


Though I think Bright Lights, Big City is a great book, one worthy of trotting out in Lit. classes, if only for the successful pulling-off of a second-person narrative, most of McInerney's work (including "Bright Lights") kinda hint at the possibility that his psyche is a narcissistic wasteland dotted with shrubs of brilliance. I think he's gone ahead and removed all doubt.
Dumb and Rather Moronic

That's my view of DRM.

This guy was trying to play by the DRM rules and got burned. (Btw, Rhino used to be a great company, but then Warner Bros. bought them and it practically changed within a week.) Steve Jobs famously said DRM should go away.

I've always preferred to have the actual album if I like a song, primarily for the convenience of being always able to play it right now, because when I get a craving for a song it must be satiated or I drive those around me nuts by humming the two or three bars stuck in my head over and over. Rainman would be moved to tell me to shut the hell up. My family members are saints in this regard, as they only go that far once a week.

The other reason is I like reading the credits. I get a bang out of knowing who did what, if there were any guest musicians I know, who wrote the songs, and the goofy stuff in the thanks area.

Finally, I want the artist to get some green, of course.

That aside, I will not purchase music that has DRM on it. Period. If you buy the song, you OWN a copy, as far as I am concerned. Copyright law agrees with me, btw.

Imagine if you bought a famous painting, and later you decided to move to another house. You try to hang the great painting on the wall, but not only will it not go on the wall, the canvas has suddenly gone blank. That's essentially what DRM does to music. It's stupid.

Yes, there is going to be some piracy. Yes, people in love will still make "mix tapes" for their significant others - though it may take the form of a burned CD, or a set of MP3s on a flash drive (how romantic!).

For the most part, though, people will pony up a reasonable purchase price for a product, particularly music, because they want to have a good-sounding version, and if they like the artist, they want him or her to be able to continue to follow their muse.

I like what Ricki Lee Jones has done on her current release. She actually includes high resolution, DRM-free MP3's of all the songs on the album. How cool is that? There're many reasons why she's known as the Duchess of Cool.
You Won't Let Those Robots Eat Me

Seems there's yet another Yoshimi fan out there.

Artist: Mike Maihack

From the 3.9.07 offering on Drawergeeks.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The (lack) of Wonder of It All

My wife says that the primary source of most tension in relationships is unmet expectations.

Well, I had a bad relationship with the last two things I've read.

First was Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business by David Mamet.

I mean, this is Mamet. One of the better movie and stage writers of our age. How could it not be good on some level?

It veered between opaque and tedious, once in a while taking a side trip into annoying. Mamet, here, seems to be more impressed with his command of five-dollar words and not so much with his ability to actually convey anything with them.

I'll recuse myself in that some forms of academic prose are as jumbled to me as a recently vomited bowl of Alphabits; my brain just isn't wired to read that kind of Möbius strip, jargon-ridden verbosity. So there may be those of you out there who Mamet's prose style connects with. 'T'weren't me.

I didn't really get one piece of take-away knowledge, either, other than "follow the money," which means if a big star is cast, give him or her most of, or all of, the best lines. Well, how often is a script-writer involved in casting?

He even has a section on "writing for women." Gotta tell ya, if there's one cat out there who, in my opinion, has not a single clue about the fair sex, it's Mamet.

Oh well. I thought it was turgid. I'm keeping the set of steak knives and sticking to his movies.

Next on the plate was The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong by Barry Glassner.

There's a lot of good info in here, but it's an effort to push forward through all the ephemera to get to the wisdom. If I were a wealthy executive, this is one of those I'd have an underling bash out an executive summary of.

The short version is the vilification of specific types of foods is largely misguided. The point is that if you eat enough variety in appropriate proportions, no food is really off-limits to you, barring allergies. There are some man-made things that are bad for you, like Quorn and foods made from genetically altered crops and animals - which the FDA has allowed to be used without any indication on the label (in the USA, anyway, in Europe it has to be labeled). But the things you would assume are bad, like fatty pork, artificial strawberry flavor (as opposed to actual strawberry parts), whole milk, butter, (real cane or beet) sugar, and potatoes, are actually benign or truly beneficial when eaten in conjunction with a balanced diet. Irradiated food is vastly safer than most organic foods, too.

Since all this stuff about food and dieting (which, as we understand "dieting" you really should NOT do) is really the satellite that orbits the true (supposed) issue - obesity - the book has some interesting stuff about that.

Seems that your genes and your stress level have way more to do with obesity and lifespan than diet (barring, again, common sense things like not eating sticks of butter or having a daily sugared tub-o-soda from 7-11). On top of that, being slightly chunky is often more about aesthetics than it is about health. There is not much of a correlation between carrying a few extra pounds and lifespan. There is a small subset of people who can control heart disease with diet, but nearly everyone else who eventually drops from a clogged ticker can really blame stress, particularly job-related stress, as the culprit.

And what's the cause of most job-related stress?
Another large body [har har] of evidence points in a different direction, to changes in the American Economy. During the decades when Americans' weight shot up, so did levels of economic hardship and insecurity. In the 1980s and 1990s, more Americans lost their jobs than at any time since the Great Depression, and those who did have jobs worked longer hours. About a third of the population became poorer during this period, and millions more had difficulties maintaining their lifestyles because the raises they received did not keep up with inflation.

A key link between the obesity epidemic and economic hardship is chronic stress. Stress provokes the body to produce less growth hormone, a substance that reduces fat deposits and speeds up metabolism, and more of what are called stress hormones, which provoke cravings for soothing substances like glazed donuts and chocolate fudge ice cream.

Y'know, when anyone I know talks about jobs anymore, along with the pay and desirability of the job, they talk about how layoff-proof the job might be. It's one of the top considerations anymore. Methinks a new labor movement is afoot.

The final, larger theme is that you're better off eating things that you like in reasonable portions, because you're most likely to be sated, not cheat or overeat, and you'll absorb the food better. Basically, if momma's meals didn't make you fat as a child (and assuming you like your mom's cooking), you'd probably benefit from that diet as an adult. (Though I think I'll make sure I don't repeat my passion for the retina-melting hot pink sugar coated Pink Panther Flakes with extra carcinogens. They're not made anymore for that reason, but I've seen a couple recent new cereals that certainly look as toxic.)

And, of course, find a job that doesn't kill you and pays you enough. We'll all see how easy that is when the predicted economic depression that's been predicted in the near future hits.

So, I liked the information in the book, but reading it was a chore. Kinda like eating tofu stir-fry when you really wanted chicken stir-fry.
This Would Spell the End, IMVPO'dO

Because of the fact we have a toddler, we currently see no movies in the theatre, with the exception of one of us 'rents taking the 10-year-old to the latest kiddie epic.

When we can return to the hallowed auditoriums, if they start doing this where I live, I'll never darken the door of a theatre again:
How the MPAA killed the movie theater experience: a first-hand report. (Via Digg.)

Even though the efficaciousness of the tactics have been questioned, I at least understand the justification for standing shoeless, holding my beltless pants up as I hobble through the metal detector at airports. But endure that kind of cavity-search security screening to watch the latest Hollywood opus? Hell fucking no, dammit anyway.

Half the kids who work at our local theatre are so stoned I barely trust them to transport my popcorn the 3 feet they have to traverse to do so. (Back when I worked a candy counter, we were shown that we always pull the popcorn from the top so as not to fill the bag with old maids. Half these kids scrape along the bottom of the bin as if they were panning for gold, and sure enough, by mid-bag you've got to eat the mashed-up popcorn crumbs as gingerly you would a pheasant that had been brought down by three separate blasts of buckshot.) If I have to trust these yahoos with my cell phone, or allow them to paw through my wife's purse, fuhgeddaboudit.
Bashing Psalms

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of dialup,
I will fear no lag: for thou art with me;
Thy lights and thy bandwidth they comfort me.
Thou preparest a website before me in the presence of mine boredom:
Thou anointest my ports with data;
My hard drive runneth over.
Surely fast surfing and low access rates shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of cisco systems for ever.


Punctuation aside, I think that's pretty freakin' clever.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Bashing Linguistics

As Daffy Duck once said, "It is to laugh."

Malagmyr: This linguistics professor was lecturing the class.
Malagmyr: "In English," he explained, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative."
Malagmyr: "However," the professor continued, "there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."
Malagmyr: Immediately, a voice from the back of the room piped up: "Yeah..... right...."
The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years

Via Syaffolee, who referenced Tikistich (I'm beginning to feel less self-conscious about my goofy web moniker anymore) and PZ Myers.

Pretty good list, though I wonder why all of Harry Potter isn't included as one item.

Everything in bold I've read. (And now I have some new additions to my "to read" pile. Yay!) Comments on specific ones follow the list.

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Dune, Frank Herbert
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
Cities in Flight, James Blish
The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
Gateway, Frederik Pohl
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
Little, Big, John Crowley
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
On the Beach, Nevil Shute
Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
Ringworld, Larry Niven
Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Timescape, Gregory Benford
To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley - I read this back in the day where I'd finish reading things I didn't like basically because they'd been so acclaimed (a side-effect of my English major). I always wanted to see if I was missing something. I've done this enough now to know that it's almost never the case that you're missing anything if you don't like what you're reading by, say, 100 pages. I hated this one. This retelling of the Arthurian Legend basically takes gender feminism (read "man-hating" feminism) and Wicca (which, of course, didn't exist back in the day) and mixes them into a bitter brew that climaxes by taking a swipe at the Catholic Church that would make Dan Brown hoist an eyebrow. Perhaps the only tome that does a more mean-spirited takedown of previously heroic people is Michael Moorcock's (I've always wondered if that was a wink-wink, nudge-nudge pseudonym given the nature of his subjects) Behold the Man where a time-traveler goes back to find Jesus, only to discover that Jesus is a retarded man birthed by a prostitute named Mary whose label of "virgin" was meant to be ironic; he ends up being crucified in Jesus' place. Yuk.

The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett - Couldn't get past the first chapter. I just don't get this guy's humour. Don't think I made it to the end of the first chapter.

The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson - Like many, I was so put off by the vicious rape of an innocent girl by the supposed hero of the story that I couldn't continue.

The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien - Long-running series and corporate mascots are kept consistent by a "bible" that gives all the back-story and do's and don't's for the franchise. This is essentially Tolkien's version of that for his books and reads like one. The very first section describing the creation of the universe is lyrical and stirring, but then the leaden detail and histories deliver nothing but endless chasms of boredom. (With a nod to Earl for that wondrous phrase.)

Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson - Another acclaimed "must read" book for the cyberage, but the writing is precious and way too "meta" for my tastes. Even though it's spun as a farce, a future world in which delivering a pizza in time is more important than the lives and property encountered en route struck me as a joke a 14-year-old would find funny, but not anyone else. Also, William Gibson owns cyberspace stories in the way that Tolkien owns sword and sorcery. Anyone else has to do a scooch better to even be worth the read. I got to my requisite 100 pages and chucked it back in the library return bin. However, I loved, loved, loved Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. That's HIS classic that no one will ever match. (Btw, M. Blowhard, you would love Gibson's Pattern Recognition, about a woman who has visceral pleasant or allergic reactions to logos and product branding so as to become the top consultant for the same; she visits the land of logo overload - Japan (think Bladerunner). Hilarity ensues.)

The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks - Like I said above, any sword and sorcery has got to outdo Tolkien and this just doesn't do it. When the Tolkien renaissance began, this was the only other thing out there, so I think it benefited by a ride on coattails. It's kinda cutesy, too, if I recall. I abandoned it early.

The ONLY contender to the Tolkien throne is the Belgariad by David Eddings, Volumes 1 and 2. Eddings creates vivid and memorable characters that outshine not only those in the genre, but in fiction in general.

Finally, Asimov's Caves of Steel is good, as are all in that robot series, but Robots of Dawn (the 3rd book) is by far the best. It's one of the few novels that has it all: romance, mystery, humor, robots, sex, and tragedy.
A hotel turns away a bunch of school kids seeking shelter during a tornado.

Let's all channel Joe Bob Briggs together and say, "I'm surprised I have to explain these things," but how f*ck'd up is that?

Almost worse, though, are some of the commenters on Digg who either side with the hotel, or turn it into a political thing by snarking about the fact "The Consumerist" reported it. (For the record, I have no idea what spin the Consumerist supposedly has, but facts are facts no matter who reports them.)

I think all bloggers pine for higher traffic, but every time I read one of Dooce's hilarious hate mail posts, I am glad that I only have you few, dear readers. I remember some clod snarked at me because I had the temerity to complain about some bad experiences at Disneyworld, and thought what a poltroon s/he was for that. I can't imagine fielding the flaming lumps of hatred she apparently gets regularly, especially the ones that take vicious digs at her personally. What's wrong with these people?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Not sure...

...if I should be impressed or concerned.

This woman went around repairing broken spiderwebs.

Apparently one of the spiders didn't like her repairs and pulled them off.

Can you imagine that scenario? Spider wakes up, wanders out on to the web still kinda sleepy, steps on the non-sticky thread, stops, says the spider equivalent of "What the f.....?"

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Dingleberry Swings Again

I've carped about the Newbery Awards before. (I affectionately call them the Dingleberry Awards.) Since I can no longer find that post (easily), here's a summary: The Newbery Awards consistently give awards to the very books you might not want your children to read, as they are filled trauma, loss of parents, violence, death, abuse, identity politics racial hatred, and other unsavory topics that don't necessarily belong in children's fiction.

There's a new scuffle because a recent (heh) "winner" talks about genitalia on the first page. See, in The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron, this orphan girl (ah ha! parents dead already!*) overhears boys talking, and one informs the other that he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog on the scrotum (ooo, pet violence, child witnessing the act, and a nutsack reference). Using a quote from the article which quotes the book: "Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much," the book continues. "It sounded medical and secret, but also important." (And we have a clean sweep with a gross-out moment. You can see how they could not pass up giving this gem the award.)

Other Dingleberry award winners are (both made into movies):
Bridge to Terabithia - Where a main character (a child) dies on said bridge to magical, imaginary land. All the kids say (about the movie), "It's good, but very sad." Do kids need to go to a flick to be bummed out?
Holes - Where orphans and "bad kids" are forced to dig holes looking for treasure on a property owned by adults who are abusive to the kids. My whole family loathed this movie.

The beauty of the Dingleberry Award is that it clearly delineates the mine-field of possibly inappropriate children's fiction out there. They do the work for you! Any book that wins the award prominently displays it on the cover, so it's not even necessary to look it up on the Award's web site. Could that be any handier?

Now, as with all things, it's not black and white because some books (and subsequent movies) that got the award have been good. For instance, Ella Enchanted was a runner-up, and the movie is one of the better kid's movies out there. (Obviously honored because of Ella's identity politics activism work fighting discrimination against Ogres, who eat people.) I've not read the book, so I don't know if they sanded off any edges from the book. One of Beverly Cleary's "Ramona" books, Ramona Quimby, Age 8 made the list, too. (And I wondered why, as they are usually sweet and funny, so looked it up on Amazon. Ah ha, poor Ramona vomits during class. You've gotta have at least one mind-numbing children's fear played out in a Dingleberry winner.)

Also, when I originally gave the Dingleberry a wedgie here on my blog, Syaffolee said she's read many that were good, and I trust her judgment.

Therefore, I use it as a warning, not as a complete guide to pusillanimous pustules of plottitude. For instance, I now ask every the teacher at the beginning of each school year which Dingleberry award winners she's going to use, so I can preview them and be ready when my child asks what felching is.

*TLD: One of our family favorites is the live action version of Peter Pan. In it, one of the pirates is all excited because he's ended up in one of Wendy's stories. He glows, "You hear that Capn.? I'm in a story!" Capn. Hook promptly shoots him. We cut to Smee, who says, "How exciting! Two dead already!" It's a fabulous laugh line. Even if you don't have kids, you should treat yourself to this version of Peter Pan if you've not seen it. And then, if you haven't seen it either, make it a double-feature with Finding Neverland, the story of J.M. Barrie, the playwright who wrote Peter Pan, and his inspirations for the same. You'll probably dial through the entire range of emotions by watching both movies back to back, so I recommend that you not operate heavy machinery directly afterwards.
How MP3 came into being.

I find it wild that the primary inventor's name is Brandenburg. The wiki doesn't mention if he's related or not.

I just get off on trivia like:
- The a cappella version of "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega was the Everest of digital music compression. To invoke Alanis Morissette's version of irony, it amuses me that Vega, who has as limited a vocal range as Lou Reed, is the creator of a song that chokes digital compressors. (Though come to think of it, most of Reed's work after Warhol's band was also dynamically rich. A theme, perhaps?)
- Supposedly Beethoven's 9th Symphony was instrumental (koff) in determining the length of CDs.

If you, too, love trivia of accidental discoveries and seemingly unrelated ephemera that coalesce into a greater whole, check out A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. It's nirvana for that sort of thing.
Cheese-eating Jail Monkeys

France outlaws the filming of violence by anyone other than a journalist. Via Slashdot.

So, basically, the folks who happen to film a crime will most likely be doing time right alongside of the people who perpetrated it. That'll make for some interesting jailhouse rock, donchathink?

And since when did we lend out Dick Cheney for consulting to other countries?

This kinda reminds me of some of the brain-deadedness of our (USA's) drug war where we spend so much time throwing potheads in jail for life that we sometimes don't have time to get around to murderers and rapists.
Garrison Keillor on parents hiring pros to do dioramas for their kids.

This is all too true. I've seen the very same thing in my eldest daughter's class. Some kids haul in museum-worthy dioramas, lacking only the glass viewing case. It's a hoot.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Recent Media Consumption - 03/06/207

Read Exile on Main St.: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield, and what a freakin' waste of time. Only the third section called "Aftermath" has anything worthwhile, even though in the first or second paragraph Greenfield sniffs that anyone expecting an examination of the actual music on the album itself needs to look elsewhere to "lesser" music writing. Christ, what a prig. So, if you're a fan, read the first few pages of the last section while standing in the book store.

Finally saw Little Miss Sunshine and to be honest was expecting it to be a slog. I mean if you have a drug-addict grandpa, the obligatory gay character, and square boorish dad trying to make it in the world in a can-do indie film, it doesn't bode well. But this little sucker was kinda funny. And for once it made the gay character a person and not a cipher. MILD SPOILER: I was shocked that the ending was directly lifted from the much better About a Boy, and not once review I read mentioned that.

We tried to watch Man of the Year with Robin Williams, but none of us could summon the interest to continue after the first 15 minutes.

I watched Miami Vice by myself because I'd read a lot of "on second thought this is a decent film" kinda recommendations. I was not really impressed. It had the tone of the TV show, except it was darker (and no I'm not talking about the pastel clothes in the original), and of course has more splashy violence and sex. Meh. The show was still better. The romance was completely unbelievable.

A friend lent me a copy of an old Boz Scaggs album that's out of print called "Dig", and I kinda wondered why. It wasn't necessarily something that represented his tastes, and Boz Scaggs? Yeah, I love "Lido Shuffle" and think the guitar solo on "Breakdown Dead Ahead" is still one of the best ever. I was just kinda stumped until I gave it a listen. Every song on it is at least good. If you were or are a fan, this is one of those that got away, so give it a listen.

All the good Electric Light Orchestra albums are now remastered. Thank you, cosmos. (A New World Record, Time, Face the Music, and Out of the Blue) Yes, they sound great.

Finally, I am a total an unrepentant slut when it comes to good bubblegum powerpop (think "Mickey" by Toni Basil and "Trouble" by Pink), and holy cow has Avril Lavigne concocted an irresistible nugget of fun. Check it out: "Girlfriend"

Friday, March 02, 2007

Over There

Linking to a post on a blog that gets more traffic in a day than I do in a year often feels like the flea trying to draw attention to the dog, but just in case you don't read her regularly, Dooce has a post up about the six year anniversary of her web site.

She asks in comments what regrets people have or not. I've been enjoying them and will probably collect a few to share with my daughters as they grow up.


Warning, though, there's a lot of heartbreak. A few comments stopped me cold and just made me want to make it all OK for them, if only I could.
You've probably heard this one...

This is making the rounds on email right now...

Three women, two younger, and one senior citizen, were sitting naked in a sauna.

Suddenly there was a beeping sound. The young woman pressed her forearm and the beep stopped. The others looked at her questioningly. "That was my pager," she said. "I have a microchip under the skin of my arm."

A few minutes later, a phone rang. The second young woman lifted her palm to her ear. When she finished, she explained, "That was my mobile phone. I have a microchip in my hand."

The older woman felt very low tech. Not to be out done, she decided she had to do something just as impressive. She stepped out of the sauna and went to the bathroom.

She returned with a piece of toilet paper hanging from her rear end.

The others raised their eyebrows and stared at her.

The older woman finally said, "Well, will you look at that... I'm getting a fax!!"