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May 28, 2008

Daily Tweets
  • You have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool Matthew Baldwin. Seriously, it gets me every time. I'm all "Why are you up so early?" 16:30 PM
  • Have been smelling anise all morning. Someone remind me: does that indicate the presence of Satan or the onset of a stroke? 11:58 AM
  • Bliss and Tell: Only Googling a neologism or joke AFTER you've used it because you suspect 75,000 people came up with it first. 11:37 AM
  • Pint of No Return: The beer after which you will drink until drunk. For me it is number four. 10:21 AM
  • Scott McClellan's new book, summarized: "I totally didn't know I was lying those 630,000 times." 09:16 AM
  • "Pornography" comes from the root words "porn," which means "pornography," and "ography," which means nothing whatsoever. 09:01 AM

May 14, 2008

My Microwave Has a Setting for Everything

 

I hit some secret combination of buttons and unlocked Witch Mode.

May 13, 2008

Bureaucracy

 

Squiggle & I

So lemmie tell you about the (mostly healed, in this photograph) wound on my forehead. Kind of a funny story.

Last week The Queen and I rearranged the furniture in our bedroom, to make space for my new Craftsman 1470 pc. Professional Tool Set. (I like to store it all laid out like that, so I can easily find things.) As part of Operation Squabble (we cleverly embarked upon this plan when we were already tired and cranky, like at midnight), we decided to put a dresser into the walk-in closet. We're talking a full-sized bureau here, about five feet high.

I grab one side, The Queen grabs the other, and we hoist it across the room. Between the lifting and my slightly hunched-over posture, the top edge of the dresser is level with my eyeline. Also, the corners of the thing are incredibly sharp. That's a little thing we in the literary business like to call "Foreshadowing".

So I'm backing into the closet. As I do so, the back of my head makes contact with the ... you know, the thing. The rod. The hollow, wooden tube that runs below the shelf, on which you place the clothes hangers? That thing. I touch it with the back of my head. But I am so startled that I jerk forward, slamming my forehead into the corner of the dresser.

"Ohh god!" I howl, hastily setting my end of the dresser down and clutching my forehead. "Oh man. God, that hurts. Jeeze, I really got myself. I'm going to have a splitting headache within five minutes, I bet. Probably have a huge bump tomorrow, too. Wow, that was pretty bad. Yeah, that's gonna be a goose egg."

I look up at The Queen, and she's completely stony-faced. Not a trace of sympathy. "Can we finish this?" she says. So I mutter under my breath a bit, and we finish putting the dresser into the closet.

About an hour later The Queen is in bed reading, and, as I climb in, she glances my direction. "Holy smokes," she cries, "what happened?!"

"What?"

"Your forehead! There's a huge red mark on it."

I do a slow burn for a moment. "That's where I hit it. On the corner of the dresser."

"When did that happen?"

"When did ...?!" I splutter a bit. "Did you miss the part where I was clutching my head and yowling?"

"Ohhhhhh ...." Realization sets in. "I didn't see you hit your head on the dresser. I though you were reacting to having backed into the closet rod at, like, one mile an hour."

"I had my hand on the front of my head!" I point out.

"Yes," she says, "That's how I knew you were faking."

May 12, 2008

Falsebook

On the one hand, I am pleased to have received so many birthday greetings today, based on the random numbers I plugged into the "date of birth" fields when signing up for my Facebook account. On the other, it's unnerving how many people I know in real-life looked at those numbers and concluded that "46" was plausible as my age.


Happy People Like You

One of the greatest things about having children--aside from the perpetuation of your genetic material and the necessity of having sex to do so--is that you again have an excuse to listen to Sesame Street albums.

It's not just that the songs are catchy and clever and rife with jokes that only an adult would get, but that everyone involved in their creation clearly had a blast doing so. Where the Disney songs are pitch-perfect and saccharine-sweet, most of the Muppet tunage is a sloppy, silly, hilarious mess. And you totally know those 70's-era guys wrote this stuff on some high-quality spleef.

You can find five of my favorites over on muxtape:

I Like You: The classic Sesame Street song, sung by a major character (or two major characters in this case, Ernie & Bert), neatly encapsulating a positive message, and scintillating as all get-out.

For The Birds: I defy you to not laugh during this song. Defy! If you listen to your music over speakers at the office, player this sucker on volume 11.

The Letter U: Some of the funniest songs are performed by major artists parodying their own work. This sounds like a standard, high-energy Melissa Etheridge song, until you really pay attention to the lyrics.

Bein' Green: Sure you know it, but have you listened to it as an adult? Do so, and you'll see why it's been covered by everyone from Ray Charles to Van Morrison to the Boston Pops Orchestra.

I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along: Okay, totally cheating with this one, as it is actually drawn from The Muppet Movie. But it would be unforgivable to omit it (as they did on the Muppet Show 25th Anniversary Collection ... which is why we are now raising a generation of boys blissfully unaware that, someday soon, the girls toward whom they are currently indifferent will be driving them bananas). Fun fact: Jim Henson does both Kermit's and Rolf's voice in this track.

May 09, 2008

AFI 100: The Bridge On the River Kwai & Nashville

Though The TV Show That Shall Remain Unnamed threatened to derail it for a few weeks, the AFI 100 Project continues apace.

The Bridge On the River Kwai: Ah man, this movie has everything: war and valor and girls and adventure and crazy plans and Obi Wan Kenobi. I thought it was good-but-not-great until the midway point, when our plucky band of heroes bifurcates into two groups, who spend the remainder of the film striving for diametrically opposed goals (one wants to build the titular bridge, the other endeavors to blow the mofo up). Modern Hollywood could never make a movie like Kwai, one in which the audience has absolutely no idea who the hell to root for. I had my doubts that any ending could live up to the fantastic premise, and was pleasantly surprised when they pulled it off. Hornswoggling myself into watching movies like this is why I started the AFI 100 Project in the first place. 9/10.

Nashville: I'm a big fan of a number of Robert Altman movies (Short Cuts and The Player foremost among them), and always defended the director against accusation that his films were unnecessarily long, rambling, and as uneven as the horizon of a Lunar Lander game. And do you know why I stuck up for Altman? Because I'd never seen Nashville. Now, having done so ... yeah, okay, I guess I can see their point. In the hands of a good film editor, Nashville could have been a fantastic 100 minute flick, but the other 60 minutes is something of a drag. Protip: the point of having your actors ad lib their scenes to to keep the great, spontaneous, authentic moments and shitcan the rest, not to just spice the whole kit and caboodle into your already overlong opus. Not bad, and Altman's genius is apparent throughout, but a pair of lopping shears short of greatness. 7/10

May 08, 2008

Political Roundup Addendum

A new poll was taken during Tuesday's primaries, in which half of all Democratic voters said that, if their preferred candidate does not win the nomination, they will vote for McCain in the general election instead.

Honestly, I don't find those results surprising at all. I've long suspected that 50% of Democrats, if not more, are liars.


Games: Twilight Struggle Back In Stock

I haven't reviewed many new board games recently because ... well, becauseI haven't played many new board games recently. I have a To Buy list of titles I hope to pick up soon, but I am currently unable to obtain any of them for one reason (Pandemic is out of stock) or another (Agricola is on preorder) or another (Age of Steam keeps getting postponed) or another (Conan isn't slated until late summer?! Throw me a frickin bone, here!!).

In the meantime, I have been playing plenty of Twilight Struggle, and I am ready to declare it as my Favorite Game, usurping the title formerly held by Power Grid.

At the time of my initial review Twilight Struggle was out of print, and has been for some time; I just discovered, however, that a third printing has been released, and the game is again available. So if you considered picking up a copy, now's the time to do so.

May 07, 2008

Political Roundup

B., loyal reader and master of reverse psychology, recently urged me to "Please please please stop writing about politics," adding "you don't have any insight I couldn't get from any other other blog equipped 30 something urban liberal guy."

True, true enough. But B., you are not thinking this all the way through. Since you already read this site, isn't it convenient that I summarize the insights of all 30-something urban liberal guy blogs, freeing you from having to read them in addition to my own?

Once I integrate celebrity gossip, LOLCATS, and fawning reviews of Apple products into my posting schedule, this will become the only pitstop you ever need take in the blogosphere. That's a little something we call "value-added service."


Don't Think Of An Elephant

The whole Elliot Spitzer debacle happened during my blogging hiatus, but someone wanted to know my opinion of it. Well, my opinion on scandals of this nature has remained fairly consistent throughout my adult, political life: I DO NOT WANT TO THINK ABOUT OLD WHITE GUYS HAVING SEX SO STOP TRICKING ME INTO DOING SO! I don't want to think about Spitzer having sex, or Larry Craig having sex, or Gray Davis having sex, or Jerry Falwell having sex, or Bill Clinton having something that was not strictly sex pursuant to the legal definition provided in statute ยงยง21050, etc. I don't care who or what they are having sex with because thinking about this aspect of the sex would involve thinking about the sex, which, as I have stated previously, I do not wish to do. Please, can we just assign a taxpayer-funded hooker to every member of congress to ensure that these liaisons become so routine that they are no longer newsworthy?


Stop! Grammar Time!

In a speech recently, Obama said the following:

We cannot prevail until we reduce our commitment in Iraq, which will allow us to do what I called for last August: providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our efforts in Afghanistan. This increased commitment in turn can be used to leverage greater assistance--with less, uh, fewer restrictions--from our NATO allies.
Whoa, nice on-the-fly less/fewer correction there, smart guy. Possibly staged to sew up the grammarian vote, I concede, but even that possibility is kind of endearing.

Hell, he ought to just adopt that as his bumper sticker slogan.

If I catch him correctly referring to "data" as a plural, I may well swoon.


The Neverending Story

Listening to NPR the other evening, they had a story about how the Bush administration desperately needed to, I dunno, read some eight year-old girl's diary or something, to protect us all from TERRORISM and TERROR and possibly also TERRARIUMS. And they had some Bush flunky on there going on and on about how terrorists were RIGHT THIS SECOND planning to poison the nation's supply of fillet-o-fishes, and the only thing we, as a nation, could do to stop them to give Bush the authority to do whatever he wants, up to and including drilling in ANWR and abandonment of the longstanding tradition of US Presidents wearing pants.

At some point it occurred to me that the White House's depiction of terrorism has now become so at odds with reality that they might as well be warning us about gelatinous cubes. And, having thought this, I could no longer not hear the phrase "gelatinous cube" whenever this guy spoke, e.g., "The NSA's Gelatinous Cube Surveillance Program is a vital tool for preventing gelatinous cube attacks here at home and preventing the spread of gelatinous cubism worldwide." And you know they'll be hyping the threat of owlbears again before the 2008 election.


Going For A Dip

Speaking of which ...

At the aquatics center Squiggle and I frequent they have a bulletin board near the pool, on which they often post news articles relating to swimming. Yesterday it featured a page from the local paper's recent "Living" section, with the 36-point headline "WATERPROOFING YOUR CHILDREN." Except, for one crazy moment when I first glanced at it, I thought it said "WATERBOARDING YOUR CHILDREN" and was all like "Really? It's come to this?"


Headline News, January 20, 2009

BARACK OBAMA SWORN IN AS FORTY-FOURTH PRESIDENT

Inauguration of African-American Heralds New Era of America Politics

Clinton continues to pursue nomination, dismisses Obama as "unelectable"


May 06, 2008

With Tuppence for Paper and Strings

Last Sunday was beautiful, here in Seattle. So I purchased a cheap kite at the local drugstore and went to a nearby field to fly it.

It was the first time I'd done so since childhood, and had forgotten the intensity and purity of emotions a $5 kite can evoke. Foremost amongst them: FRUSTRATION and RAGE.

May 05, 2008

Superhero Movie Pet Peeves

This post contains massive spoilers for Iron Man, and pretty much every other superhero movie of the last two decades.


Reverse-Flash
Harnessing the power of dumb
As I mentioned in my review, I thought the new Iron Man movie was fantastic ... except for the parts that involved Iron Man, which lacked a certain je ne sais quoi (French for "Robert Downey Jr.").

I was particularly unimpressed with the Big Climatic Fight Scene, and a little irritated that it fully embraced one of my Superhero Movie Pet Peeves and flirted with a second. To wit:

Pet Peeve #1: The bad guy has exactly the same powers and abilities as the good guy Honestly, this drives me nuts. Who thinks this is a good idea?

Lots of comic book writers apparently. Back in the day when I routinely read comic books (late 80's), it seemed that every hero had his evil twin as his archnemesis. Flash fought Reverse-Flash, who was as fast as The Flash but bad!. (I previously ranted about Reverse-Flash here). Green Lantern fought Sinestro, an ex-Corps member who also possessed a Power Ring. Wolverine fought Sabertooth, Spider-Man fought Venom, Superman fought Bizarro, and so forth.

Of course when the two people fighting are of exactly equal power and ability, it kind of doesn't matter how "super" they are--Captain Marvel scraping with Black Adam is really no different from two five year-olds trading blows over a package of Necco wafers, two grandmasters playing chess for 17 hours before ending the game in a draw, or a couple of pissed off roosters in a cockpit.

Much more interesting, to my mind, are the asymmetrical rivalries. Batman is in peak physical form; The Joker is frail (in the hands of most writers), but utterly unpredictable, even to a master strategist such as Bruce Wayne. Superman v. Luthor is another good one, with the discrepancy between their (physical) power and adherence to morality even wider. Perhaps the greatest asymmetrical skirmish in literature is also one of the most engrossing: J. R. R. Tolken managed to squeeze over a thousand pages out of the Frodo vs. Sauron cagematch.

But in Iron Man, the movie (this is where the spoilers start), Stark winds up battling: another Iron Man. A bigger one, sure, but the whole thing pretty much degenerates into Robot Slugfest '08. People, if I'd wanted to watch Transformers, I woulda downloaded it from Mininova like everyone else.

Worse, it looks as if the upcoming Hulk film is going to follow exactly the same pattern.: from what I glean from the trailer (which was pretty much everything), the climactic battle in that film is Hulk Vs. Reverse-Hul- I mean "Abomination". I know Marvel Studios also has "Captain America" and "Thor" films slated for next year--are we just going to see the same formula played out four times in a row, followed by "Avengers Vs. Vengers" in 2010?

Pet Peeve #2: The whole story is self-contained This is when the hero causes the very problem he is fighting to solve, or is just struggling to save his own miserable skin. In Iron Man, the power source and armor that Tony Stark creates while in captivity fall into the hands of his bad-guy business partner, and his heroics revolve around his attempts to destroy them. Fortunately there's a bigger issue at stake (Stark's desire to turn his company around), because, without it, the audience might think, "well, hell: if Stark had just been killed in the first 10 minutes of the film, there'd be no need for an Iron Man, as his own designs wouldn't have become a threat to world peace."

I understand the point of making the final battle personal for the protagonist, but these circular plots often seem like the hero is more motivated by a desire to undo his mistakes or avenge his dead parents (see 1989's Batman) than do anything, you know, heroic. I get enough frantic ass coverage and settlement of petty grudges at the office, thanks.

May 02, 2008

Movies: Iron Man

Spoiler disclaimer: This post does not contain specific details about the Iron Man movie beyond those available in the trailer. It does kinda ruin the ending to Elf, though.

I was never an Iron Man fan--even 20 years ago when my appetite for superheroes was voracious. To my mind, the whole concept behind the character was like an extended issue of What If?: what if Batman was a big pussy who needed a suit of armor every time he fought crime?! (I was pretty passionate about stuff like this, back in the day.) Plus, Tony Stark was always battling alcoholism or depression, and what fun was that? I wanted heroes who fought HIVE or ULTIMATUM, not the DSM.

But I'd heard good things about the film, and it was playing at the Cinerama, so what could I do? My 15 year-old-self would have traveled forward in time and kicked my ass if I missed the opportunity to see it. (Come to think of it, though, I still owe that kid a beatdown for The Phantom Menace.)

Iron Man wastes no time getting to the origin story. After opening with a few moments of Tony Stark wisecrackery (all of which was featured in the trailer), the industrialist is taken hostage by a gang of terrorists, confined to a cave, and given to understand that his days are numbered. "Wow, what a rip," though I, sitting in the theater. Even someone with as scant knowledge of the Iron Man mythos as I understood that giving Robert Downey Jr. the role of Tony Stark was a bit of superhero-movie-casting genius unrivaled since Nicholson portrayed The Joker; and yet here we were, 10 minutes into the film, and already Stark had had his Pivotal Moment, having transformed from hedonistic sybarite to somber hero.

We'll, I needn't have worried. The next set of scenes are set 36 hours earlier, and show Stark in all of his bad-boy glory. Robert Downey Jr. is truly a joy to watch, and the audience in my theater was in stitches throughout the extended exposition. And though Stark is Irrevocably Changed For The Better by his experience with the terrorists, Downey continues to play his part with a rakish charm throughout.

Indeed, watching Tony Stark is so enjoyable that, when the third act arrives--devoted almost exclusively to the modern day Iron Man--it's something of a disappointment, like a headliner who fails to live up to the opening act. "But Iron Man is Tony Stark," you might argue. Well, yes, that's true--according to narrative. But the Iron Man suit covers Stark completely, and, thanks to the miracle of CGI, is digitally rendered in most scenes. So, to me at least, there was no real sense of Robert Downey Jr. being "in" the suit. It was as if, after spending 90 minutes with one character as the protagonist, they abruptly decided to switch the focus to a different character entirely for the finale. In fact, I found myself improbably comparing Iron Man to Elf, the 2003 comedy that devotes itself to the story of Buddy (Will Ferrell) until the last 20 minutes, when suddenly it's all about Santa Claus. (Only later did I discover that Iron Man and Elf have the same director, Jon Favreau.)

Which isn't to say that the climax of Iron Man is bad (though it did evoke two of my Superhero Movie pet peeves, which I will detail in another post to keep this review spoiler-free). It's perfectly serviceable, but something of a letdown given all that had come before. I guess they couldn't have just omitted the eponymous superhero from his own movie, but if they make a prequel called Stark and just let Downey Jr. do his playboy act for two straight hours, I will be the first in line.


The Bright Side

The Queen, observing the crowd demographics as we arrived at the Seattle Cinerama for the premiere of Iron Man: "Well, at least there won't be a line for the ladies room ..."

May 01, 2008

Journey of a Thousand Miles

Sorry about the irregular posting schedule around here recently, but National Start! Walking Day was on April 16th and that's been keeping me pretty busy.

Speaking of which, if anyone knows when National Stop! Walking Day is, could you let me know? I probably should have checked before I left. Right now I'm about 7 miles outside of Spokane, heading east on I-90--just drive around until you find me. I'm covering about 30-35 miles a day, so keep take that into account. Also, if you could bring some power bars and water, that would be awesome, thanks.

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