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December 29, 2005
Apparently a Las Vegas bodybuilder and his wife killed their personal trainer, put the body in the trunk of a Jaguar, and set the vehicle ablaze before fleeing to Boston. I heard the story on the last night's news.
I knew that whole "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" slogan was a bunch of crap.
December 28, 2005
The family and I spent Christmas and a few days thereafter at Ma and Pa Baldwins. Here's the wrapup.
* * * * *
For weeks there have been signs posted around my neighborhood, urging the citizenry to get all fired up for an upcoming "Holiday Parade." Well, last Saturday that promise was fulfilled, and it's a good thing I happened to be standing right by the window when it happened or I would have completely missed out on the yuletide revelry.
The parade consisted of four vehicles: a fire engine adorned with tinsel in the lead; two SUVs in the middle -- the first covered in Christmas lights, the second with paper snowflakes in the windows; and, as the caboose, a pickup truck with one of those motorized, wicker reindeer in its bed. They drove by at about 35 miles an hour. The only way I knew that I was watching the actual parade (as opposed to a bunch of vehicles en route to the parade) was because, every half block or so, the driver of the firetruck would ring its bell.
I was so filled with the holiday spirit that it's remarkable I didn't swell up like a tick on a basset hound.
* * * * *
On Christmas I made up a joke.
Q:How do you know when an owl has to go to the bathroom?I ran this by a focus group consisting of my niece, and I can predict with confidence that this witticism is going to be big with the highly-coveted 5-7 year, scatology-obsessed demographic.
* * * * *Over Christmas dinner my mother told her favorite seasonal story:
When your sister was three we took her to go see Santa at the mall. When it was our turn we started to approach Santa, but she got a little scared, stopped walking, and let go of my hand. Suddenly -- and without asking me -- this elf swooped down out of nowhere, picked her up, and carried her up to Santa. She was silent for a moment, but then she let out the loudest, most bloodcurdling scream I have ever heard. It just echoed and echoed inside the mall. Shoppers rushed over to see what was going on; patrons at a nearby restaurant dropped their forks in alarm and swiveled their heads to watch the spectacle.Honestly, I think all the great Christmas stories contain the phrase "kneed Santa in the balls."
* * * * *
We felt bad about leaving the cats on their own for four days, but when we got home we discovered they had celebrated the holidays in our absence.
And they left us a Christmas gift as well. I don't want to go into too much detail, but if anyone had bought me the Cuidado: Vůmito de Gato danger sign I'd asked for, it would have gotten some use today.
December 22, 2005
Holiday Survival Guide For Slackers 2005
My annual Holiday Survival Guide For Slackers appears today in The Morning News. Please go read it and guffaw somewhere in a vicinity of four or five times.
Thanks to the many people who sent in suggestions, especially to Ryan (gold-plated slinky), Mel (NASCAR Crockpot), Adam (iAttire), Mike (Pretender Call Breaker), remlapm (Flip Flap), and machaus (Vomito de Gato sign).
December 20, 2005
Talkin' Bout A Revolution
The Squirrelly's new favorite game is "kittycat," though he tends to leave out the "ee" part of "meow" when playing. All of the sudden he'll leap to his feet and start marching about the living room shouting "Mao! Mao!" like he's trying to foment his own little cultural revolution and overthrow our bourgeoisie household.
Fortunately, I think we're safe. Lord knows we haven't engaged in any arts or intellectualism recently. Not since the child was born, at any rate.
How To Watch Revenge Of The Sith
Long, long ago, in a childhood far, far away, I was a child obsessed with Star Wars. By the age of twelve I already had every available piece of Star Wars trivia crammed into my head (diameter of the Death Star? 120 kilometers), including the knowledge that there would be nine films in total. Once, after gushing about the series to my grandmother (who couldn't have cared less), I was struck by a sudden, sorrowful realization, and blurted out "it's too bad you won't be alive to see them all."
Well, Grammy got the last laugh: Lucus truncated his series to a meager six films and the matriarch is still around. But if the thought that grandma would not live to see all of the Star Wars films was a major bummer to me at the time, the truth would have been devastating: That, by the time the final film rolled around, I would be so disinterested in the whole franchise that I wouldn't even bother to see it in a theater.
I tried to psyche myself up Revenge of the Sith by rewatching the first two films in the trilogy -- and, as an aide to readers who wanted to do likewise, I even gave tips on how to fast-forward through the boring and stupid parts. (See: How To Watch The Phantom Menace and How To Watch Attack Of The Clones.) And it actually worked -- for a few days, there, I was vaguely fired up to see Episode III, especially since everyone kept raving about how it was "the best in the series since The Empire Strikes Back" (pretty faint praise, when you think about it). But when The Queen and I found ourselves with an evening free we had to choose between Revenge Of The Sith and Batman Begins, and we opted for the latter. I like to think that my twelve year-old self would have taken some comfort in the fact that we still saw a movie about an awesomely cool awesome guy in a black cape and mask, albeit one unable to choke people to death with his mind.
Anyway, last weekend I finally watched Revenge of the Sith. And yes, it was quite a bit better than the other two, although that's akin to saying "Moe was the funniest Stooge."
My two previous "How To Watch" guides were so people could cram in anticipation of Sith without having to endure the full 4+ hours of Episodes I & II, so doing breakdown of this film might be pointless. On the other hand, I'm sure there's someone out there who, like me, wants to watch Episode III just to get the whole thing over, and wouldn't mind being steered away from the superfluous stuff. And so, here we go again: How To Watch Revenge Of The Sith:
Total time saved: 35:39.
Analysis: Yeah, not bad. It would be considered a fairly mediocre movie if it didn't have the whole Star Wars cachet going for it, but it certainly hurdles over the bar that was set so low with Phantom Menace.
Many people told me that Sith was all action, with little plot. I didn't find this to be the case. There was plenty of story in there, but, unlike Phantom and Clones, it all served to move things forward (instead of, as was often the case in the prior two films, plot being introduced via infodump, where one character halts the action and launches into a soliloquy wherein he explains some long and convoluted aspect of galactic history or politics).
The midichlorians ultimately amounted to nothing. It seemed as if Lucus introduced them in Episode I to explain something that didn't need explaining (The Force), but wound up generating more questions than he answered. So Anakin didn't have a father? And he was maybeconceived by the midichlorians, somehow? And Darth Sidious' former master may or may not have had something to do with that? I did a little poking around on the web to see if maybe all this stuff was addressed in the novelization or something, but, alas, no. Thanks to the midichlorians these prequels have more loose ends than a yarn store, and Lucus makes no attempt to tie them up.
But while I was researching the midichlorians, I looked up a couple of other questions I had about the story. Here are the answers.
Why, of all the Jedi, did only Obi Wan and Yoda disappear when they died? I got my Revenge of the Sith DVD from NetFlix, which means it came sans bonus disc. If I had all the extra goodies, though, apparently I could have watched a deleted scene that made sense of this. You know how, at the end of the film, Yoda tells Obi Wan about "one who has returned from the netherworld of the Force to train me, your old Master, Qui-Gon Jinn"? Well, there was a scene before that where Yoda explains that Qui-Gon Jinn had contacted him from Beyond, and revealed, among other things, that he had learned how to become so attuned with the Force that one could actually merge with it upon his death. This imformation is imparted to Yoda and, somewhere between episode II and IV, on to Obi Wan as well. That seems like a fairly significant plot point to omit, if you ask me.
What was the "Prophecy" again, and why didn't Anakin fulfill it? The Prophecy is mentioned often in the prequels, but nobody ever tells us exactly what it says. The closest we get is this exchange:
OBI-WAN: With all due respect, Master, is [Anakin] not the Chosen One? Is he not to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force?Later, after defeating Anakin in combat, Obi Wan shouts "You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would, destroy the Sith, not join them!"
My interpretation was that Anakin does fulfill the prophecy -- three films later when he kills the Emperor and himself in the process, thereby reducing the number of card-carrying Sith in the universe to zero. But in searching USENET for other people's opinions, I found many arguing that Anakin fulfilled the "balance to the Force" part of the prophecy in Sith by setting into motion the events which left an equal number of Sith (Vader and Sidious) and Jedi (Obi Wan and Yoda) alive.
The problem is that The Prophecy is never clearly stated anywhere -- not in the films, not in the novelizations, not in the voluminous additional Star Wars material that exists, and not in any interviews with Lucus. And the two things we know about The Prophecy -- that the Sith get destroyed and the Force gets balanced -- seem contradictory (how is the Force "balanced" if all the Dark Side guys are dead?) My conclusion: The Prophecy is just a plot device, and only a fool would waste any time trying to figure it out. WISH I'D KNOWN THAT 15 MINUTES AGO!!
Jumpin' jehosephat, are those actually Hayden Christensen abs?! At at 31:08, Anakin saunters out of his bedroom shirtless adorned with abs rarely seen outside of a Captain America comic book. Frankly they looked a little too perfect to be true, and I couldn't help but wonder if maybe Lucus had added a little computer-generated definition. Unfortunately, this proved rather difficult to research, as searching Google for "Hayden Christensen shirtless" returned about 218,000 websites aimed at teenage girls and gay men. Switching to Google Images verified that Christensen is a pretty buff guy, though. One thing id for certain: if he had devoted the time he spent doing sit-ups to acting classes, these last two films woulda been a lot more bearable.
Okay, these movies weren't so great, but did get me marginally excited about Star Wars again. Are there any good books in the series? I trolled through a bunch of Amazon reviews and lists, and consensus seems to be that the creme de la Star Wars creme is: The Thrawn Trilogy (Heir To The Throne, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command), set five years after Return of the Jedi (and the very first non-novelizations Star Wars books ever written); the Han Solo Trilogy (The Paradise Snare, The Hutt Gambit, and Rebel Dawn), set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope; and Shatterpoint, a Mace Windu novel set during the Clone Wars.
December 16, 2005
Desperately Seeking Stupid
Yes, it's that time of year again -- time to send me your suggestion for the stupidest items available for sale on Internets 3-7 for my annual Holiday Survival Guide for Slackers. See previous Slacker Guides here: 2002, 2003, & 2004. If you've found something so stuplime that it merits inclusion, send me an email at email@example.com, or mention it in the comments to this post. Thanks!
December 15, 2005
I'm A-Start Some Drama
I walked into the kitchen this morning to find The Queen groggily gathering coffee-making accoutrements.
"Wha'cha gonna do wit all dat junk?" I asked her. "All dat junk inside yo trunk?"
She scowled at me as a reminder of the household's "no conversation before caffeine" rule, but then asked, "What are you saying?"
"No no, that was all wrong" I said, disappointed. "You are supposed to reply ..." -- I switched to falsetto -- "... Iím a-gi gi gi git you drunk, git you love drunk off my hump."
She looked confused. "I'm going to get you drunk?"
"Right," I confirmed. "Love drunk. You know, off your hump."
The Queen stared at me blearily.
"And then," I continued, "you emphasize this final point by saying: My hump, my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump. My --"
The Queen interrupted. "Is this that song you've been talking about on your blog?"
"Hang on," I said. "We've coming up on the best part."
"Okay," she said, resigned.
"Are you ready?"
I cleared my throat, took a deep breath, and began again. "My hump, my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump. My lovely lady lumps."
There was a long, stunned silence.
"Check it out," I added.
"That's awful," said The Queen in horror.
"Now you understand," I said, nodding somberly. "And it's knowledge that can never be unlearned."
"Why?" asked the Queen. "Why did you do that?"
I shrugged. "That song is like The Ring," I explained. "You have to pass it on, or you die."
December 14, 2005
Hello Canucks! There's a rumor going around that I might be on CBC's Morning Edition tomorrow morning doing my boardgame spiel. They'll be calling me at the unholy hour of 5:30 AM for a phone interview, so it's likely that, at this time tomorrow, I'll have no recollection whatsoever as to whether or not this actually happened. If someone in a more Northerly nation and Easterly time zone could listen and let me know, that would be swell.
This marks the third form of media that The Good Gift Games Guide has appeared in this year (hypertext, radio, Canadian). Is there any doubt that I will be on The O'Reilly Factor by next Tuesday? "No Bill, you shut up," I shall say. "I sank your battleship fair and square!"
If you happen to work for a major media outlet and are wondering whether or not to book me for your talk show / news program / Ab-alizer 1200 infomercial / public service annoucement about the dangers of ferret-taunting ("... for more information, please visit slenderfury.org ..."), allow me to cite credentials:
Update: Canadian and awesome (but I repeat myself) reader Kyle actually heard me this morning, and sent me the link to the segment. I just listened to it, and I think it went pretty well. My favorite part is where I run roughshod over the host, like, three times in a row, not allowing her to get a word in edgewise. Typical American / Canadian interaction. On a scale of 1 to jerk, I reckon I scored about a seven.
On the upside, that does allow me to add another item to my list of credentials: "Fluent in bullying, boorish discourse, perfect for political programs."
December 13, 2005
At 7:30 this morning, there was a knock at our front door. No one ever knocks on our door at 7:30 in the morning.
I opened it to find a scruffy looking young man, perhaps 18, clad in sweatshirt, a black stretch cap, and what was presumably going to be a mustache when it grew up. My first thought was: Jim Anchower.
"Hey do you guys have a gas can I can borrow or a lift to the gas station I could maybe give you a few bucks," he muttered without preamble.
I looked over his shoulder. We live on a narrow street with no shoulders, and an late-80s vehicle was stopped in the middle of it, completely blocking the far lane. Already traffic was backing up as drivers coming from either direction adopted a first-you-go-and-then-I'll-go stratagem for navigating what had abruptly become a single-lane road.
"Sure," I said. "I have a can full of gas for my lawnmower out in the garage -- you can have that. Why don't you come in and I'll go grab it."
Jim stepped inside. For the first time I noticed he was wearing slippers and pajama bottoms covered with candy canes.
I returned a moment later with the gas can. "All right," he said as he took it, and left. A few moments later he brought it back and, handing it to me, said "here ya go do you want me to maybe pay a few bucks?" I told him no, that was fine, and shut the door.
At 7:45 there was a second knock on our front door. "Hey do you think I could get a lift to the gas station?" Jim muttered when I opened it.
"What happened to the gas I just gave you?" I asked, craning my neck to see if the car was still there. It was.
"I put it in the car but is still won't start I guess it wasn't enough," he murmured with a shrug.
"There was, like, a gallon and a half in the can," said I. "If you're car's still not starting, you might have a bigger problem."
"The needle was way below E," explained Jim, as if he had run the vehicle beyond "empty" and actually managed to create a quantity of anti-gasoline in the tank, which my fuel had only served to negate.
"Well, I got this kid, so I can't really ..." I began. But, against all odds, I was starting to feel sorry for the dope. So I said, "all right, let's go."
I threw The Squirrelly in his car seat and the two of us piled in the car. As we started to pull out of the driveway a kid of about seven rode by, slowing down and looking at the stopped car in curiosity. Jim suddenly mumbled "Hang on I should lock my car that kid looks like a punk." I stopped. Jim clambered out and made a big show of opening and locking all his car doors, scowling at the kid on the bike all the while.
While he was doing that I realized the obvious. It was as if Jim was enveloped in a cloud of Dumb, and as soon as he was out of his presence I was able to think clearly again. I reparked the car in the driveway, got out, and told the returning Jim, "Look: why don't you put your cart in neutral and we'll push it into my driveway, get it out of the road. That way it won't be blocking traffic while we're at the gas station."
"Oh hey yeah," said Jim. "That's a good idea I'll go and ..."
There was a pause.
"Fuck," Jim added.
I knew even before he told me.
"I just locked my keys in my car," he said.
"You're screwed now," I announced. "Come on inside."
The three of us reentered the house. "Okay," I said. "Do you have a spare key?"
He looked confused and said "no," clearly thinking, "under what bizarre circumstances would I ever need a spare key to my car?"
"Well, then I think we should just call the cops," I said. "They'll probably hassle you a bit, but they are going to want to get this car out of the road as much as you do, and will probably pop the lock for free."
"Yeah .." Jim said, but I could tell that he wasn't really enthused about this plan. "Except the other thing is that I don't really have a you know drivers license."
"Of course you don't," I sighed. "So, you can call a tow truck company -- they'll come and get your car open."
"Is that going to cost like a lot of money?"
"In my experience, yes."
"Yeah ..." he said, noncommittally.
"But unless you know anyone else with a key to the car, it's pretty much your only option."
"Well, why don't you call Gary, and see if he can come by with the key," I suggested.
He sagged. "I would but I left my cell phone at home," he said sadly, as if it were a million-to-one longshot that I might have a telephone inside my house.
I brought him our cordless phone. Incredibly, he remembered his own phone number and dialed it. "Yeah I ran out of gas and then my dumbass self locked the keys in the car could you bring me the spare?" he mumbled into the receiver. He handed the phone back to me when he was done and said, "all right."
He took up station next to the window, waiting for Gary. I went about my business. The soundtrack to "Piglet's Big Adventure" played in the background, which seemed appropiate. "He should be here any sec I live right around the corner," Jim said after about 10 minutes; I said fine, whatever.
At one point Jim got tired of looking out the window and looked at The Squirrelly doing a puzzle instead. "Is that your kid?" He asked. I averred that yes, the child in my living room playing with the Elmo Rockin' Guitar at eight o'clock in the morning was, in fact, mine. "How old is he?"
"Almost two," I replied.
Jim sized The Squirrelly up for a moment and then rendered his verdict. "He's tall," he said, and went back to looking out the window. Here endeth the chit-chat.
After another 10 minutes Gary showed up in a mammoth truck and parked it right behind Jim's car, thereby occluding even more of the road. Jim left without saying a word to me. Through the window I could see Gary giving Jim some grief, and then finally handing over a car key. Jim tried it on all the doors of his vehicle without success and handed it back to Gary, who scratched his head, climbed back into his Ford Kraken, and departed.
Jim stood forlornly by his car. I went out and asked him what had happened. "Wrong key," he told me.
"Well, feel free to come back inside," I said.
"Nah its okay I live right around the corner he'll be right back," Jim said. After having listened to me read "Go, Dog. Go!" to The Squirrelly in its entirely, I guess he'd decided that standing around in the 35-degree weather in his PJs wasn't so bad.
"Suit yourself," I said, and retreated indoors.
Everytime I looked out the window for the next 15 minutes I could see Jim glumly trying to open one of his doors, perhaps in the hope that he's just neglected to try this particular one the previous 400 times he had attempted to gain entry to his vehicle. Eventually Gary returned, but apparently there was no spare key, because after a brief discussion they both climbed into the monster truck -- still parked behind Jim's car, still blocking more than half the road -- closed the doors, and just started shooting the shit.
When it came time to take The Squirrelly to daycare half an hour later, they were still there. I walked up to the truck and Gary rolled down his window. I could feel warm air roll out of the vehicle and hear rock music blaring. "Everything under control?" I asked.
"Oh hey, totally, man," said Gary. "We got a lock popper on the way. Thanks, bro!"
When I got to work, I called up The Queen and related the whole, sordid tale. "So," I said in summary, "he ran out of gas, he didn't have a gas can, he forgot his cell phone, he locked his keys in his car, he didn't have a spare, he didn't know anyone with another key, he didn't have a driver's license, and he wasn't wearing any pants."
"Oh my God," gasped The Queen. "These knuckleheads live around the corner from us?!"
December 12, 2005
Good Gift Games On The Beat
Update: You can now listen to the show online at http://www.kuow.org/thebeat.asp?Archive=12-13. Here are the games I mention by name:
Twinkle Twinkle Stars Are Right
Action shot of the Squirrelly in the bathtub yesterday evening.
"It represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers ..."
Iš! Iš! Squirrelly fhtagn!
December 07, 2005
I Woulda Come Up With A Funny Title If I Wasn't Ill
NyCap -- a winter time drink for the parents of small childrenToday I am sick, so that's as funny as I get, folks. Here's some links instead:
December 06, 2005
The 2005 Good Gift Game Guide
People from all over the globe (by which I mean two people who are not housemates) have written to ask if I am doing my annual overview of the year's best boardgames for non-gamers.
And now, supplimental material just for you, my loyal yeti readers.
I didn't write a whole lot about games this year ("more blogging about games in 2006" sounds like a good candidate for a resolution), but, of the games on TMN list, I did review Shadows Over Camelot and Jambo. You can also see previous G3 Guides for the years 2002 - 2004, 2001, and 2000.
Here are some games that, for one reason or another, just missed the cut for The Morning News piece.
There are hundreds of great G3s from year's past. Here a sampling from the Canonical G3 List:
Family Board Games
Family Card Games
Don't trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other "2005 best game of the year" lists:
Spiel des Jahres (a.k.a. "The German Game Of The Year"):
Gamerdad's Unplugged 2005 Game Guide.
If you live in Seattle, check out the stores page of SeattleSpiel, which lists all the outlets for these games in Puget Sound. Online stores are listed there as well, for those readers who live elsewhere.
December 02, 2005
Friday Cat Nickname Blogging
The Final Word
In my post about The Squirrelly's burgeoning language skills, I neglected to mention that The Queen and I recently established his first word. It happened during a conversation with a friend of ours.
Friend: What was The Squirrelly's first word?And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how facts are made.
This wasn't the first time she'd used The Force on me. About a year before The Squirrelly was born we got a second cat to keep Louie, our first, company.
Q: What should we name him?
December 01, 2005
Attention citizens the Greater Seattle Metropolitan Area. As we have now received 1/16th of an inch of snow, municipal code N-774290.4.c is in effect, requiring all drivers currently on the roads to drive their vehicle into a ditch at the earliest convenient moment. If you are unable to do so, because your nearest ditch is already filled with vehicles, you may instead precipitate either a rear-ender or a fender-bender. Your compliance will ensure that local news stations have no difficulty obtaining footage for their "BlizzardWatch '05!!" coverage, which began three days ago and will continue until the last sludgy lump of ice has melted from the median of I-5.
Residents should also be aware that all chit-chat, small talk, and informal shit shooting must, by law, be confined exclusively to weather-related topics for the next 48 hours. We thank you for your cooperation.