Being the Ongoing Chronicle of the Anticks, Misadventures, and Odd Deeds of an Overalls-clad Wanderer.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Wake me when the serial killer gets here

I used to actually enjoy For Better or For Worse, but like everybody else, I read it daily now out of the same compulsion that impels me to crane my neck for a better glimpse when I drive by a particularly nasty car wreck. It started going south in a big way when Lynn Johnston decided that Elizabeth needed to ditch her teaching job in that Inuit town in the wild northern Canadian country and return home so she could re-shack up with Anthony, a character so bland that if you distilled his essence to that of a food item, he'd be a rice cake that's been left under your couch for a year.

FOOB used to be an endearing strip about a family of individuals who lived their own lives, but over the last year or two, in the wake of Johnston's announcement that she'll be retiring the strip, she's been steadily pushing her characters toward a rather creepy denouement in which all of the Patterson children will marry their childhood sweethearts and live within a mile or two of the ancestral Patterson home. The characters have stopped being characters, and are now nothing more than plot-devices. It's like we're watching the final season of Happy Days again, still knowing that yeah, Joanie's gonna marry Chachi and at the end, Howard Cunningham will make a tearful speech about his two wonderful children, forgetting his oldest son, Chuck.

But as creepy as FOOB has been, today's installment is the creepiest yet:



First, there's the whole nauseating "My son could get married but it won't be the same" crap. Uh...yeah, it would, because it would be a wedding. That entire exchange is disgusting. It's like Lynn Johnston is saying "Yeah, you gays out there can say you're 'married', but it's all about the ceremony and it's not the real thing without that."

But even more disturbing is Ellie's describing her child's impending marriage in the words "The circle is complete". Is Ellie really trying to channel Darth Vader here? Is Lynn Johnston really maintaining that parenthood is about relentlessly steering your children toward a predetermined destination, and only by successfully reaching that goal can one really look back on one's years of parenting with satisfaction? And that isn't even bringing up Ellie's admission in the last panel that she has no intention whatsoever to stop controlling and pushing.

Just a few weeks ago, Ellie's oldest child, Michael, discovered his grandmother's wedding dress packed in a crawlspace in the Patterson ancestral home. Wow, wasn't that a bit of convenient timing! Guess who now gets to wear the dress to her marriage ceremony when she, too, weds her childhood sweetheart! But don't stop reading, because what if Grandpa doesn't live that long!

FOOB has become a soap opera, and not even that good a soap opera, either. Oh well, but there's still time for Lynn Johnston to rectify matters. For instance, she can take her cue from that wonderful 1980s prime-time soap Dynasty, and have the Elizabeth-and-Anthony wedding end the way this Dynasty wedding did:


Yup, that's the only thing that can save FOOB now: armed commandoes seizing the throne of Moldavia!

Sentential Links #134

Here we go!

:: As I said, as long as I work on the taxpayers' dime, I don't feel I should be wasting that time on Internet sports. (For those of you who think that your public servants are a bunch of time-wasting miscreants!)

:: My gramma died March 10th. (I've been remiss in not offering Sean my condolences on the loss of his grandmother.)

:: Suddenly, I'm not all that hungry. (Me either. Yeesh, I'm glad I already ate!)

:: Solution: Just get Craig and Connery in a room and do a dual interview and forget muddling an already promising reboot. (I agree, Connery wouldn't work -- but George Lazenby could do it! Nobody would recognize him, I suspect. And note the relative blogging explosion that Sir Matthew the Indestructible has going at the moment. How long can it last???)

:: I have no more proof than my own well-cultivated cynicism, but for now I’m assuming the new system (which they plan to incorporate into all future titles, yikes) is going to be just like the last fifty copy restriction systems: A system which creates headaches for legitimate users, prohibits fair use, but which will be quickly and easily obliterated by kids sailing under the jolly roger. It will be yet another system of punishing all the wrong people.

:: I don't think it's too much of a stretch to compare a composer like Mozart with someone like Prince. (Hmmmmm....)

:: Can it be that after 30 years of having one book following a few paces behind any discussion of Joan Crawford, it is finally time for a revival?

:: The novelty of these sequences lies in their ability to set a tone, create a visual and sonic signature, and synthesize the iconographic elements of a given film. The best ones can emerge as standalone set pieces, while others simply serve as introductory “warm ups.” It’s not surprising, then, that the Superman sequence began with a ritual that has also faded from our movie-going habit: the grand theater with a proscenium and curtains that reveal the screen.

Instead, we now get more commercials in front of the feature, smaller screens, and movies that are all too willing to cut to the chase.
(A relatively new blog about matters cinematic. Discovered via the FSM message boards.)

And that's all. Cheerio, until next week!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

I didn't see a whole lot of outright weirdness this week, but there were some choice bits....

:: Jason has a fun post that culminates in a lo-tech version of the lightcycle sequence from TRON. Do check it out. (I've always considered it a badge of geek pride that I loved TRON right from its initial theatrical release, when I saw it twice.)

:: Oh, those crazy kids and their keggers...with kegs of root beer. (I once got carded when I bought a six-pack of IBC root beer. That cashier, at the grocery store in my college town, was legendary for being dumb; everybody I told this story to responded "Oh, that was Brandi, right?" Wow.)

:: Not the standard kind of weirdness for this series, but it's definitely weird in the "out of the ordinary" sense: All four Number One seeds in the NCAA tournament have made the Final Four, which has never happened before. Once again I find myself wishing I liked watching basketball (it tends to bore me to tears), because the NCAA Tourney yields more great sports stories each year than any other major sporting event. (Of course, in the "great stories" department it pales next to the Olympics, but those aren't annual events.)

Unidentified Earth 32

So here we go again. I suppose I should just give up the game as to Unidentified Earth 29, which has stubbornly defied Identification. However, upon checking out the same location on another aerial image site, I'm wondering if my original image was taken before the monument in question was even constructed, because it now looks to me like the thing wasn't even there. I'm talking about the major attraction of Monroe, OH: the Giant Jesus Statue. Here, for comparison, is the new photo I found:



So I may have inadvertently played unfair on that one.

However, I'm not giving up the game yet on Installment 30. Somebody's got to be a fan of the teevee show that (supposedly) takes place in that building!

But all is not lost! Last week's installment was identified with no hints from me whatsoever! Steph Waller nailed it: we're looking at Tintagel Castle, the legendary home of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall, and birthplace of Arthur Pendragon, and a key location in The Promised King. Hooray!

And now for the newest entry.



Where are we? Rot-13 your guesses, folks!

Go away, or I shall quiz you a second time!

I saw this at Paul's place, and of course I made no effort to resist it. Because resistance is futile.

Your best friend tells you she is pregnant. What is your reaction?

"Congratulations", I suppose, although I'd have to work hard to conceal my astonishment, given what I know of her life situation. Actually, it would take me a few minutes to get to "Congratulations". My immediate reaction would more likely be, "Gwaaahhh?!"

When is the last time you wanted to punch someone in their face?

With my fists? Not in a great long while, years, in fact; I don't like fighting. With something else, though? and not in anger? Well, I'm always open to possibilities.

What is the last thing you spent money on?

My lunch today [Explanatory aside: I wrote this post on Thursday night and saved it until today.]: a piece of pizza, a couple of chicken fritters, and a medium Sierra Mist. I almost always drink water with my meals, but for some reason I was in the mood for some sweet, sweet carbonation today.

Do you think you gained or lost weight this past month?

I lost, you'd better believe it. I haven't checked the overalls straps lately, but I discovered the other day that I have officially dropped a pants size.

Crunchy or Puffy Cheetos?

Puffy, although I do like the Crunchy once in a while. One of my great, great vices is Cheetos. Hand me a bag, and you won't get the bag back until it contains naught but a few grains of Cheeto dust.

(BTW, it will forever break my heart that Planters Cheez Balls no longer exist. My God, I loved those things.)

Congratulations! You just had a son. What's his name?

Quinn Jacob.

Congratulations! You just had a daughter. What's her name?

Fiona Quinn. (Our plan was always to have Fiona carry her lost older brother's name with her. Little did we know what her own destiny would turn out to be.)

What are you craving right now?

Pie.

What was the last thing you cried about?

The end of Juno. I'm not sure why.

When you buy something and your change is 2 cents, do you keep it or tell the cashier to keep it?

I almost always take my change. When I get home it goes into a jar, and when the jar gets to be a certain degree of fullness, I empty the change into the CoinStar machine at The Store. (I know, CoinStar keeps a small percentage of my money, but to me that's worth it to avoid the drudgery of rolling my own change. I hate rolling change.)

What color is your tissue box?

Umm...er...it's a Pirates of the Caribbean tie-in box of Kleenex, with photos of the lead characters.

Do you have a ceiling fan in your room, and if so, is there dust on that fan?

No ceiling fans in the current incarnation of Casa Jaquandor, which I find a bummer. I love ceiling fans.

Scariest thing you've experienced in the last year?

The Wife's hospitalization, the loss of Baby Fiona, and the aftermath of all that, which went far longer and deeper than I had thought possible even at the time. In fact, it's still going on.

Do you wear a name tag at work?

Yes, and it has my name on it. Cool, eh? (I tend to be pretty bad with names, and I'm constantly forgetting the names of people who introduce themselves to me. It's really for the best that I work in a place where nametags are worn.)

Have you ever had a garage sale?

When I was living with my parents, yes. Since then, no, although I've moved some old stuff of mine on eBay, which is nothing more than a garage sale writ large.

What color is your iPod?

Clear, so I can't find the damn thing. Oh wait, I can't find it because I don't own one. Crud. (I would like to get some kind of digital music player sometime, obviously; it doesn't necessarily have to be an iPod.)

What is the last alcoholic beverage you had?

Caffeine-free Pepsi with Southern Comfort. [Updating note: I bought a case of Labatt's yesterday. I haven't sipped a Labatt's in years, but for a long time it was my favorite beer.]

Are you happy right now?

I'm sitting in my armchair (which is quite old and in need of replacing, but still, it's my armchair), writing answers to a blog quiz on my laptop while watching The Celebrity Apprentice (yeah, I'm still hooked on this show). I'm decked out in overalls and a favorite old sweatshirt, I've had a yummy salad for dinner with a glass of red wine, and I've just finished the afore-mentioned Pepsi and Southern Comfort. So yeah, right now I'm happy.

Who came over last?

Well, my sister visited last week, although we just met for dinner and she didn't see Casa Jaquandor, but that's who. At that time I gave her her much-belated Christmas presents (books by Guy Gavriel Kay and Christopher Moore, copies of the LOTR complete scores, and a few other knickknacks).

Do you drink beer?

Certainly. Beer is a wonderful thing. (When it comes to drinking, I'm pretty much of a lightweight. An eighteen year old girl in October of her freshman year at Ohio State could drink me under the table within an hour.)

Have your brothers or sisters ever told you that you were adopted?

I'm sure that something of that nature was said at one point or another; we expended the typical amount of energy that siblings expend in saying mean stuff to one another over the years. I don't remember it specifically, though.

What is your favorite key on your key chain?

My favorite key? Huh? That's pretty odd, innit?

What was the last movie you watched at home?

We all watched The Living Daylights.

What is in your pocket?

Right now? Nothing. But I had my cell phone in my pocket a while back.

(Not that anyone asked or anything, but here's something a bit odd: Despite my love of overalls, I never carry stuff in the bib pocket. I hate having stuff up there. Makes me feel top-heavy.)

Where do you hurt?

My feet are always a bit sore toward the end of my work week.

Has someone ever made you a Build-A-Bear?

For me? No, but we took The Daughter there once. She didn't quite grasp the concept at first, and became freaked out when she picked up the unstuffed carcass of a unicorn.

What's something fun you did today?

I read some of Alice in Sunderland (review forthcoming after I finish it, but if the remaining three-fourths of the book are as brilliant as the first quarter, wow). I went with The Family to the library and to 7-11 for drinks (where I also sprang for a SlimJim for each of us). And then I read some of my favorite blogs.

What is your favorite aisle at Wal-Mart?

I never shop at Wal-Mart unless I am looking for something I literally can't find anyplace else, and that never happens. I can't stand Wal-Mart. I don't like them as a company to begin with, and the Wal-Marts in this area (except two that are too far away to be of any use on a regular basis) are too dirty for pleasant shopping.

When is your birthday?

September. I share my birthday with George Gershwin, which makes me happy. You may all start saving for my presents now. I'll be 37 this year.

Is there anything hanging from your rear view mirror?

No.

What kind of milk do you drink?

Skim, which I rarely drink anymore, since I prefer water. I put milk on my cereal every morning, though. My current cereal obsession? Berry Burst Cheerios. Those are good, and I say that as someone who has never much liked Cheerios.

(Speaking of Cheerios, the silliest bit of product placement I have ever seen in a movie involved that cereal. In Superman, after Pa Kent's funeral and Clark has found the green crystal, we cut to the kitchen table of the Kent farmhouse at sunrise, and Ma Kent's arm swoops in and plunks a big old box of Cheerios on the table, right in the middle of the sunbeam that is streaming through the window. And if one sits through the film's end credits all the way to the end, one will see the following: "Cheerios by General Mills". That has always made me laugh.)

What is something you need to go shopping for?

Pie. That craving just isn't going away, darn it all.

But this is the point in the week when we start putting together the weekly shopping list for my Saturday excursion to The Store. This week's items include sandwich bags, a jug of spring water, milk, ice cream, some lunchmeat, bread, crackers, Colbyjack cheese, eggs, apples, bananas, a jar of garlic (I think), some pistachio nuts (how I love me some pistachio nuts!), and maybe some red wine. (There's other stuff, but I can't remember offhand, and the pad with the list is on the fridge door.)

On the "frivolous item" front, a couple of recent film music CD releases have tripped my "Gotta get that!" circuit breaker: the FilmScoreMonthly label has come up with an official re-issue of the wonderful music Elmer Bernstein wrote for the classically goofy animated flick Heavy Metal (Oh Taarna!), so now I can stop listening to the bootleg CD I have with its crappy sound quality, and Intrada has re-issued the campy, but fun, Stu Philips score to the 1979 movie Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I know, I know, but I had the LP as a kid and played it to death, and there's some powerful nostalgia at work for me with this one.

As usual, this quiz has no provisions for tagging people, so here it is if you want it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Moments that depress the hell out of me

A few nights ago I'm working out at the Y, when 97-Rock, a "classic rock" station in Buffalo, comes over the speakers with a song that sends a teenage girl on the machine next to me into a certain level of excitement. She begins babbling to the friend with her: "Oh wow, I know this song! My dad loves this song! He said they played it at my parents' wedding!"

The song? "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", by Poison. Which came out in 1988. When I was already older than that girl is now.

Ugh.

(Apropos of nothing, despite my love of 80s hair-band metal music, I never liked Poison. They were pretty much the Wonder Bread of 80s hair-bands, which is probably why crap like "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" still gets airplay.)

Cut-rate parasites

In the comments to my final post in my Top 100 movies list, an anonymous reader objects to my statement, regarding Casablanca, that Letters of Transit signed by General de Gaulle wouldn't hold much weight in Vichy France, or a Vichy-governed territory like Morocco:

In Cssablanca, the letters of transit were signed by Vichy General Weygand, not Free French General de Gaulle. Listen to the soundtrack carefully.


Well, I've just listened to the soundtrack carefully, and I have to say, I still hear Peter Lorre saying "General de Gaulle", not "General Weygand". Now, both names will sound somewhat similar in the proper French pronunciation, but not exactly alike, and after replaying that sequence about eight times, I'm still hearing a distinct 'D' sound from Lorre (the 'de' in 'de Gaulle'), as opposed to a 'W' for 'Weygand'. This is a bit more tenuous, but I also don't see Lorre's lips moving in a way that suggests a 'W'. The lips don't need to move at all from the last syllable of 'General' to 'de', where they would have to purse slightly to form the 'W' sound in moving from 'General' to 'Weygand'. I don't see his lips move at all, which also suggests to me that he's really saying 'de Gaulle'.

Searching out the film's shooting script isn't terribly helpful, since the film's script wasn't even finished when the film started shooting and hasty rewrites were the order of the day, right up until the shooting of the final scene. I will note that Casablanca's Wikipedia entry indicates that Lorre says 'de Gaulle' and is subtitled in English on the DVD in the same way, while the French DVD subtitles say 'Weygand'. (I haven't checked this.) Also, the book Casablanca: Behind the Scenes indicates that the line references de Gaulle and makes no mention at all of Weygand.

So, absent more conclusive evidence, I'm sticking with my original hearing of the line. But hey, why take my word for it? You be the judge! Here's the scene from the movie; the specific line of dialogue in question comes at about the 1:45 mark.


Next week, we'll discuss whether or not Mark Hamill accidentally shouts "Carrie!" at the end of A New Hope. (Personally, I've always heard his shout as a meld of "Hey!" and "Yeah!". But we can hash that apart another time. Yay, obsessive movie geekery!)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mad Cooking Skills: I have 'em

Our Easter dinner this year was slightly untraditional, but it's the best thing I make, and it's been a long time since I posted the recipe here (way back when), so here it is: Pastitsio, the Greek fore-runner of lasagna. (Not that my recipe is somehow authentic Greek.)


The Noodles

Cook 1.5 cups of elbow macaroni, and drain. Toss with a mixture of 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup milk, and 1 beaten egg. Set aside until ready for assembly of the dish.

The Meat Mixture

Beat one egg; set aside. In a heavy stovetop pan (Dutch oven or something similar), 1 lb ground meat (I usually use beef or pork, but I have used bulk pork sausage before -- if you use a seasoned meat, go easy on the salt later on), 1 onion and a couple tablespoons chopped garlic (to taste, really) until the meat is browned. Add 1 small can tomato sauce, 1/4 cup red wine (whatever's on hand -- I've made this dish using red wine from Cabernet to Port), salt & pepper (1 tsp each), 1 tbs parsley flakes, 1 tbs oregano, and 1 tbs ground cinnamon. (Generally I put in a bit more oregano and cinnamon; these are to taste.) Stir, bring to boil, and then simmer for ten minutes or so, until the meat mixture is quite thick. At that time, remove from heat and slowly stir the beaten egg into the meat mixture. This will thicken it even more.

White Sauce for the Top

Beat two eggs, set aside. In a saucepan, melt 3 tbs butter or margarine; add 3 tbs flour to make a roux. Then add 1 1/2 cups of milk, all at once, and ground pepper to taste. (I use quite a bit.) Stir constantly, breaking up any lumps in the roux, over fairly high heat. You want this to come just about to a boil, because a roux thickens best at a boil. When the mixture is pretty thick, temper the eggs by spooning 1/4 cup or so of the sauce into them; then slowly pour the egg-and-sauce mixture back into the pan with the rest of the sauce, stirring along the way. This will thicken it even more. Then stir in 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese.

Final Assembly

Lightly grease, butter, or spray with cooking spray a 1.5 qt casserole dish. Assemble the layers as follows: 1/2 of the macaroni mixture, then all of the meat mixture, then the remaining macaroni mixture, and finally top with the white sauce. Sprinkle the sauce with more ground cinnamon to taste (I absolutely blanket the thing, because we adore cinnamon) and then bake in a 375 degree oven until the top is nicely browned. Remove from oven and let stand for several minutes before cutting and serving.


How it looks in the serving:


It's not hard to make, although it is time-consuming. So start cooking, folks!

An Easter Tale

I suspect this isn't uncommon, but we have a logistical problem here at Casa Jaquandor on holidays which involve the visitation of our home by, shall we say, mythical beings who impart gifts and/or sweet edible items upon The Daughter. The problem is this: on such holidays, The Daughter tends to get up ridiculously early, which means that she inevitably discovers what Santa or the Easter Bunny have been up to.

Now, on Christmas morning, this isn't that big a deal, since we get the gifts out on Christmas Eve after she has finally fallen asleep. But our Easter ritual is a bit more involved, owing to the existence of the Easter eggs. See, in addition to leaving a basket of goodies and a gift or two (this year, a stuffed animal and a jigsaw puzzle of Captain Jack Sparrow), our Easter bunny takes our colored eggs out of the fridge and hides them throughout Casa Jaquandor, requiring The Daughter to hide them.

Obviously we can't hide eggs at night, because you can't leave food out at non-refrigerated temperatures for that many consecutive hours. So the plan is always for us to get up before The Daughter gets up, and hide the eggs before she rises. Clearly, this plan tends to usually result in failure because she's always up first, so our notion has been to posit that our Easter bunny comes while we're attending our Easter morning church services. How does this work? Well, The Wife comes up with a rationale for lollygagging behind while The Daughter and I head out to the car: usually something like "Oh, I forgot that bag of stuff we're donating, I'll be right down." Leaving the eggs out for two hours isn't disastrous, even if it's not the best food handling practice under the sun. OK then...

...except that this morning, I had forgotten to re-hide the jigsaw puzzle, so The Daughter found it and realized that the Easter bunny had been here, but also had not hidden the eggs as he was supposed to do. After a hasty conference with The Wife, we decided that our cover story would be that The Daughter had, in getting up early, startled the Easter Bunny before he could complete his task of hiding the eggs. Luckily, she bought this idea, and we executed things as we usually do: The Daughter and I headed for the car while The Wife lagged behind because she'd forgotten something. The Daughter never suspected. Heh, heh heh! And thus we went off to church, leaving the eggs safely scattered 'round the apartment for searching two hours later.

But.

On the way to church, The Wife whispered something fateful in my ear: "I hope the cats don't play with the eggs."

Uh-oh.

"You mean," whispers I in return, "you didn't place the eggs in such a way that they couldn't get at them?"

"We colored twenty-eight eggs, dear!"

"You hid all of them?!"

"I only had three minutes to think this whole thing through!"

"Crap."

So, two hours later, we get home, and show The Daughter that the Easter Bunny has, in fact, come back and hid eggs all over the place. She gleefully starts searching them out. At one point, she's in another room, when The Wife, standing over the recliner, mutters, "Yeah...there was an egg here."

That egg turned up on the floor by the computer table, intact but clearly not in its original spot. Now, not every egg fell beneath the claws of the mischievous felines, but about eight or nine of them were a bit harder to find than they should have been, and one of them almost completely eluded us. We couldn't find that one egg anywhere. The Daughter looked everywhere, and we even used this as an excuse to get her to clean up a large pile of Daughter-related detritus that occupies a semi-permanent spot in our apartment, under the guise of "searching for the lost egg". But still, no egg.

Until, half an hour later, The Daughter spots the egg, right here:



That's the garbage can and the big bag of charcoal in our kitchen; note the blue egg on the floor. And upon picking up the egg, we discover that it's not nicely intact as were its brethren. No, this egg was wickedly cracked, and covered with cat hair and dust. Clearly this egg bore the brunt of the kitties' hours of fun. Here's the poor egg, at the end of its eggly journey:



The moral of the story is clear: Cats are the embodiment of destructive evil.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

You can't do that!!!

So I'm watching an unnamed teevee show on one of the stations we get from Canada, and a commercial airs for Kelsey's, which is a Canadian chain that's roughly analogous to Applebee's or TGI Fridays or Chilis. Basically, casual dining and drink. Big whoop. The commercial used the standard clips of people meeting with their friends and just having a happy old time at this restaurant, which is the typical thing for an ad for a joint like Kelsey's. But what really bugged me was the music they used: the theme song from Cheers.

Folks, you cannot do that! You can't take an iconic theme song from a show about an iconic fictional bar and use it to advertise a chain joint! This was wrong on so many levels. Cheers is a neighborhood bar with one location. Kelsey's is Canada's Applebees. UGH!

One Hundred Movies!!! (1-10)

Top Ten! Top Ten! Top Ten! That's right, it's time to tick off my favorite ten movies of all time. Because all of Blogistan has been waiting, over a month for this concluding post in this thrilling series. Hooray! I imagine that none of these titles will come as a surprise to anyone who's read this blog for any length of time, but hey, that's the way it goes.

10. Princess Mononoke

This was the first Hayao Miyazaki film I ever saw, and I didn't see it until more than a year after I'd bought – and fallen in love with – the film's score by Joe Hisaishi. Many times when I've loved a score before I saw the film from which it came, the film has failed to live up to the imagery my mind creates while listening to the music, but in the case of Princess Mononoke, that was no worry whatsoever. I was astonished at the depth and scope of Miyazaki's visuals: mountain ranges shrouded in mist, cloud-filled skies, wild boars possessed by demons, forest gods, and most charmingly, the forest sprites with the heads that wind like watches. (You have to see them to understand.) The story is a parable about environmental destruction, but it's neither heavy-handed nor simplistic in its thrust. The film's love story is touching and mature. Simply put, this is, in my view, the best thing Miyazaki has done yet.

Signature moment: Ashitaka steps forward in Irontown to save San.

9. Schindler's List

It bothers me that this film seems to have been eclipsed, in cultural esteem, by Steven Spielberg's later, and significantly inferior, Saving Private Ryan. Maybe that's because the latter film capitalized on the whole "Greatest Generation" craze, with its straightforward tale of American wartime heroism, but Schindler's List is based on actual history, and it doesn't make things nearly as black-and-white as SPR does; Oskar Schindler has no big "epiphany" moment, and his motives are driven by money. Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth creates a stunning portrayal of pure malevolence, and Ben Kingsley's Itzhak Stern perfectly walks the thin line between principle and practicality.

I watched the film again a couple of months ago, and I was amazed anew by its craft. The introduction of Oskar Schindler is a good example: he first appears in a series of shots as he's getting dressed to go to an exclusive nightclub, choosing his best suit and tie and cufflinks and filling his wallet with money. A tracking shot follows him as he approachs the maitre d' and bribes his way to a table, and we don't see his face until he has been seated. Before Schindler ever says a word, before we ever even see his eyes, we know that he's an opportunist who will brashly bribe his way through life.

The film is sometimes criticized for being occasionally too manipulative, but with the three-hour running time, I've always found those elements less than bothersome. Schindler's List is, thus far, the crown jewel of Steven Spielberg's career.

Signature moment: When Schindler is making the final arrangements to get "his Jews" away from Amon Goeth, it basically amounts to him "buying" each individual Jew. Goeth knows that Schindler is losing money on the deal, but he so reveres Schindler as a businessman that he convinces himself that somehow Schindler is making huge money on the deal. The scene wouldn't work if not for the meticulous way the two characters are created throughout the film.

8. The Shawshank Redemption

I've always wondered how it is that word-of-mouth basically drove this movie to classic status once it hit home video, but did nothing at all for the movie when it was in the theaters. (Shawshank was a box-office flop.) I didn't see it in the theaters, either; I knew nothing at all about it, and the title didn't make a ton of sense, either. There was no word of mouth about the movie at all; I don't even recall any significant critical buzz surrounding the movie at the time of release.

So when I rented it one Saturday night in 1995 or thereabouts, all I knew was that it was set in a prison and was said to be pretty uplifting. When it opened with the immediate aftermath and trial of Andy Dufresne for violent murder, I figured the film would be a "Did he do it or not?" kind of thing, but it wasn't. Then I figured it was a prison escape type of thing, but it wasn't. (At least not at first.) Every time I thought I had the movie pegged, it went into another direction entirely. Villains become good guys and become villains again. The film's final act is among the most satisfying I can remember in a movie; I still remember the sheer sense of delight I felt in watching it all unfold, in seeing how Andy pulled it off, and realizing how Frank Darabont hid all of the key details in plain sight (the way the possibility of Andy tunneling out of his cell with the rock hammer is ridiculed at first only to be later revealed as exactly what he did, for instance). Add to this a terrific score by Thomas Newman (the "Stoic Theme" is a miniature masterpiece, and the final fifteen minutes or so of the score is as magical a piece of tone-painting as you'll ever hear, right down to the piano chords depicting the lapping waves of the Pacific), and it's just a truly great film.

Signature moment: Morgan Freeman's final voiceover, one of the finest closing lines in movie history. (I do think that the film should have rolled the credits as Red's bus disappeared down the road, and not actually shown the beach in Mexico. It doesn't matter if Red finds Andy, because the whole point is that Red has learned again to hope. But as flaws in movies go, this one is totally forgiveable.)

7. On Her Majesty's Secret Service

It may seem weird that I'm putting this as high as I am, but really, the James Bond films are pretty iconic at this point, and this is simply the best of them. The story of how Sean Connery left the series after You Only Live Twice, and was then replaced by this neophyte actor, George Lazenby, who got the part by buying a suit in the brand that Connery liked and asking his barber for a "James Bond haircut" before his audition, is well-known, as is Lazenby's unfortunate heeding of bad advice from his agent that resulted in him being dumped from the series after this one appearance. Lazenby's performance as Bond is often criticized, but not by me; in my ears, only a couple of his line-readings sound stiff, and these come early in the film. I don't know in what sequence the film was shot, but I swear you can see Lazenby's confidence grow as the film goes on. I reject the notion that this film would have been better with Connery as Bond; in fact, I'm not sure that Connery could have pulled off the scene with Diana Rigg in the barn as well as Lazenby did.

And ahh, Diana Rigg, the most beautiful and capable of all the Bond girls. (I really don't like the phrase "Bond girls", and only use it here as shorthand.) Rigg's Tracy Vicenzo is a full partner to Bond, a heroine pretty much unmatched and only a few times approached in all the other films. I think that Rigg's task in this film was even harder than Lazenby's, in a way; she had to play the one woman who captures Bond's heart. She has to stand above every other Bond girl, and become a true Bond heroine.

I also like the film's unconventional storyline, which is actually quite faithful to Ian Fleming's book. There's no briefing scene in M's office, only a couple of bitter confrontations pertaining to Bond's quest to capture or kill Blofeld. There's even a rather cheesy, but forgiveable, love montage with Louis Armstrong crooning "We Have All the Time In the World" (my favorite Bond song) in the background. And there's a nicely epic story, with the best ski chases of the entire Bond series. (Blofeld's "All right, we'll head him off at the precipice" is one of my favorite lines in any movie, ever.) And I like Telly Savalas's understated malevolence as Blofeld much more than Donald Pleasance's whiny mania from YOLT (the basis for Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers flicks).

And yeah, the score. John Barry never wrote finer music for the Bond series. Not even in Goldfinger.

Signature moment: Bond returns Draco's dowry. "Her price is above rubies...or even your million pounds."

6. The Lord of the Rings

Yes, I separated out each of the Star Wars films for this series, because while together they tell a single story, they each have a distinct rhythm and feel. Not so the Lord of the Rings movies; this is truly best thought of as a single movie divided into three parts, which is also the way the LOTR books are thought of, as well. Now, it's not quite the case that the movies simply start and then stop at some point three or four hours later (depending on which version you're watching); Peter Jackson found a way to end The Two Towers on a satisfying note and gave The Return of the King a suitable starting point as well. But these films really do form a very tight, singular unit.

And what a unit it is. It's huge and vast, a tale of war that rages across an entire Europe-sized continent, and it's a small drama about a single hobbit and the task entrusted to him. It's a trio of films that have quiet moments between characters one minute, and the next has us sweeping across the mountains of Middle Earth. Do I think the movies have flaws? Of course. (Here, here and here are some reactions to the movies as I posted at the time that The Two Towers and The Return of the King came out.) Ultimately, do I care? Absolutely not. I'm still in awe of these films and the way they make Middle Earth almost as real a place as Tolkien did.

Signature moment: Crikey, if ever there was a futile task, picking one moment out of this series would be it. But I guess I'll name one anyway: Sam's speech at the end of TTT about the old stories and how the people in them kept going when they could have given up.

5. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

It's just such a good movie. It really, truly is. There's only one major flaw in it (the scene where Luke's recovering from his injuries on Hoth is, to me, as painful as the worst scenes in the Prequel Trilogy). What's so amazing about it is the way it doesn't just tell the same basic story of the first movie, as sequels so often do. The good guys get the stuffing knocked out of them. The big battle scene takes place in the first forty-five minutes. One character's fate is left unresolved, and another learns a stunning secret of his past that leaves him in doubt of his future.

I don't really have much more to say about TESB, except to note that it didn't really become accepted as being as good as it is (although I, for one, don't claim it as the best in the series – read on!) until after Return of the Jedi came out. Most probably think this is because ROTJ isn't very good, although I don't share that opinion; I think it's because of the "middle chapter" syndrome, where the middle can't really be appreciated for what it is until the resolution is known. But anyway, TESB rules. And the score? It's John Williams's finest effort, and that's saying something. It's one of the greatest of all film scores.

Signature moment: Yoda gives Luke his most important lesson: "Try not. Do, or do not. There is no 'try'." The underscoring to this scene is sublime, as is the puppetry behind Yoda. Frank Oz makes us genuinely see Yoda's frustration with his student, and his wisdom when he lowers the X-wing onto the ground and gazes calmly at Luke, as if to say, "This is what I'm telling you."

4. Singin' in the Rain

Almost my favorite musical of all time, Singin' in the Rain is pure joy from beginning to end, a virtual love letter from 1953 to the movies of twenty years before when the industry made the shift from the silents to the talkies. The movie is full of wit, good cheer, and sophistication. I don't know that a better "backstage" film has ever been made.

Gene Kelly plays Don Lockwood, the male half of the beloved silent movie duo Lockwood and Lamont. Lina Lamont, played by Jean Hagen, is a sultry goddess in her pictures, but in real life she is shrill, dense ("Whaddaya think I am, dumb or something?"), and just plain stupid ("Why, I make more money than...than...than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!"). She is also convinced that Lockwood is her fiancee because that's what she reads in the fan magazines about herself, which gives Don no small amount of annoyance, until he meets a struggling actress named Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) and falls in love with her after one of the most memorable "Meet cute" moments ever in a movie. Stoking all the fires throughout all this is Don Lockwood's best friend, Cosmo Brown (), who has that honored "best friend" tradition in the movies of having all the best lines ("That means I'm out of a job! At last, I can start suffering and write that symphony!").

A particular stroke of genius in the movie is the way all of the songs in the film (with the exception of "Make 'Em Laugh") come from the films of the period the movie is depicting in the first place. At first glance this probably seemed at the time like an excuse to make a movie without exerting a lot of effort to come up with new songs, but each song is folded into the nearly perfect screenplay so organically that it actually comes as a surprise to learn that the songs had been around for years before Arthur Freed ever decided to make a movie called Singin' in the Rain in the first place.

I'm trying to think of a significant flaw in the movie, and I'm just not coming up with one. I even love the extended ballet sequence toward the picture's end; "Broadway Melody" works better as a ballet sequence, for me, than the ballet sequence in An American in Paris (a film I've never much liked). This is almost my favorite musical of all time.

Signature moment: I might as well pick the obvious one. Gene Kelly's title number, which is as perfect a bit of cinematic artifice as you'll ever see. It was filmed on a soundstage, on a sunny afternoon, when Gene Kelly was suffering a fever.

3. My Fair Lady

This actually is my favorite musical of all time. There isn't a single frame of this movie that I don't love dearly, right from the opening credits with that gorgeous Edwardian script font slowly fading in and out over a sequence of shots of beautiful arrangements of flowers.

Most of the script springs directly from George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, with musical numbers inserted into the proceedings by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. And what a job they do with those songs! If Singin' in the Rain perfectly employed pre-existing songs in its story, My Fair Lady does the exact reverse: it perfectly incorporates new songs into a pre-existing story, a task made all the harder by the fact that the pre-existing story was written by one of the greatest playwrights of all time. All of the songs fit so seamlessly into Shaw's original script that it's almost as if Shaw wrote the songs himself.

Story-wise, the tale of My Fair Lady is one of the most familiar stories in our lexicon: Cockney girl and flower-seller Eliza Doolittle goes to Professor Henry Higgins in hopes of learning to speak in a more refined way, the assumption being that social status is largely defined by the way one speaks instead of the other way around. Higgins is a taskmaster, cruel even, but Eliza gradually falls for him and he for her as she realizes that his harshness is a front and as he realizes how intelligent she actually is. Most wonderfully is the way the film allows its characters to behave as if they actually are intelligent. These aren't characters whom we're told are smart going through a bunch of machinations of plot; these are characters who are smart whose smart actions drive the plot forward.

A lesser movie would have the scene at the Embassy Ball at the end of the story; here it happens halfway through, with the most emotional moments to come after.

And, of course, those songs, so full of amazing wordplay; here we have Lerner and Loewe at their very best. "I Could Have Danced All Night" makes me melt every time I hear it; "Why Can't the English?" and "I'm an Ordinary Man" showcase Henry Higgins at his most arrogant and narcissistic; "On the Street Where You Live" is just gorgeous (never mind that Freddy's basically pledging to stalk Eliza in that song); and of course, the witty showstoppers "With a Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me To the Church On Time".

The ultimate compliment I can pay My Fair Lady is that it's nearly three hours long, and every time I watch it, I feel like it's over in twenty minutes. Oh, and yeah, I really really really really love Audrey Hepburn.

Signature moment: The morning scene outside Covent Garden, with people freezing in place while others move into position before the whole place becomes a thriving bustle. Visually, My Fair Lady is amazing.

2. Casablanca

Don't try to figure out just why General de Gaulle's signature on the letters of transit would be of any authority in a territory governed by France's Vichy government. Other than that, well, I can't pick out a flaw in Casablanca. The dialogue is great, the film's look is great, the music (by Max Steiner, who hated "As Time Goes By" and very nearly got the song axed from the film) is great, the acting is great. The movie has intrigue, humor, noble sacrifices, a love story, a bitter man who returns to the side of good, a cynical police officer who also returns to the side of good. Oh, and Ingrid Bergman doing my favorite closeup of all time (when she remembers her relationship with Rick as she listens to Sam playing "As Time Goes By").

I think that I'll just leave it at that. What a great, great movie.

Signature moment: The first scene between Rick and Louis, which is chock full of amazing dialogue. "I came to Casablanca for the waters." "What waters? We're in the desert." "I was misinformed."

And my favorite movie of all time? Can it really be any surprise at all?

1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

No matter how many times I see it, I am always drawn into its story: its mythic structure, its excitement. I used to try and watch it "objectively" once in a while, to try to see the oft-cited massive faults in its pacing and its acting and its dialogue, but frankly, I never get far into the film (maybe five minutes in, tops) before I'm right back in that galaxy far, far away myself. I very much doubt that a movie will ever come along that means as much to me as the original Star Wars.

Signature moment: When Luke listens to Obi Wan and turns off his targeting computer. My heart still races every time I watch that part of the final battle. Each and every time.

And there they are, folks: the Jaquandor 100. (But I probably need to come up with some Honorable Mentions: movies that I'd forgotten about and thus didn't include, or movies that came this close to making the 100. We'll save that for a future "addendum" post.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bask in my brillaince, Mere Mortals!!!

[Ranting]

OK, folks, everybody I've met who owns one of the things says that those Dyson vacuum cleaners are the greatest things since sliced bread and that their immense suction is really immense and stuff, so I won't doubt that this Dyson fellow is doing the world some good with his vacuums. But when I watch commercials like this:


Why do I hear nothing but a Brit saying "I'm smarter than you! I'm smarter than you! I'm a genius and you're a peon! Neener neener!"

I know, I know -- "Genius is also an insufferable prick! Film at eleven!" But yeesh, this guy bugs me.

[/ranting]

Sentential Links #133

I know I'm a day late with Sentential Links; sorry, folks. I just didn't get to blogging yesterday ('tis been a busy week). At least I didn't think I'd done it already, like I did with the Burst of Weirdness. Aieee!

Anyhow:

:: There are six different classes of tea, but don't ask me to name them now...I'm not that advanced in the art of tea yet! (Written in response to this post of mine from last week.)

:: Which state is the most aggressively and self-consciously themed, Texas or Florida?

:: Have you ever stopped to realize just how unhealthy Buffalo wings are? (No. Shut it, you!)

(By the way, those wings in his picture or close, but they're obviously not authentic Buffalo wings. Any true Buffalonian can tell you why.)

:: Aren’t you so thankful that so many of the wonderful things in life do not have to be experienced just once? (New blog to me.)

:: So would you take the red pill or the blue pill? (Since purple's my favorite color, I mash 'em both together. Yum! Another new blog to me.)

:: Deanna Troi knows how to annoy the crew. (Another new blog to me.)

:: I love it when people who have it made tell me what life is like.

:: I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong:

Everything.


:: As a nation, we stand atop a pedestal of bones and ruined lives. The disruption of families is ongoing, and our honor has been thrown away by the greed and ignorance of our leaders. And yet we carry on as if nothing is happening, nothing is wrong, no action need be taken. We will have an election, and one of the candidates stands for amplifying our involvement in this evil chaos … and he stands a chance of winning.

:: This is a really long rant about Joss Whedon's Firefly. (A post that makes you say "Wow"...and maybe not in the good way.)

More next week!

I'm a bad baseball fan.

In fact, I am such a bad baseball fan that I think I should stop claiming to be one. I've almost completely stopped paying attention to the game, since without cable, it's nearly impossible to watch games until October, and since my favorite team, the Pirates, is one giant heap of suck. I don't even know who the really good players are these days, and my once useful stash of baseball knowledge in my head is starting to erode. Case in point:

The Scene: The Store. The Players: Me, and a Co-worker who is a Mets fan.

COWORKER: Hey, I've got a chance this week to get the autograph of a former Met.

ME: Oh yeah? Who?

COWORKER: Our former closer.

ME: Oh wow! Julio Franco!

[beat]

COWORKER: John Franco. Julio Franco is a first baseman.

ME: Wow. I suck.

COWORKER: There there....


So yeah. It was nice being a baseball fan, back in the day....

Sunday Burst of Weirdness (Tuesday Edition)

Aieee! Somehow I got the idea that I'd done the Burst this week, but then I looked and saw that I hadn't. And somehow I managed to miss the thundering outcry that resulted from my omission of this feature, so eagerly is it awaited throughout Blogistan.

Ahem.

Anyway:

:: A friend of mine sent me this video, which is the type of thing you often see on Funniest Home Video shows: it's a reporter who gets knocked off his feet by a marauding snow-tube. But it's one of the more impressive feats of knocking a reporter off his feet that you're likely to see.

:: Scotty e-mailed me this article about how, um, thin-skinned Apple fans tend to be (hot on the heels of last week's adventures in Apple satire).

“Last year,” Mr. Manjoo writes, “I praised the iPhone in something of the way Romeo once praised Juliet: The device, I said, is revolutionary — ‘it marks a new way of life. One day we’ll all have iPhones, or things that aim to do what this first one does, and your life will be better for it.’ ”

But because he mentioned that the phone was a bit pricey, “several readers alleged that I was an Apple-hater.” One wrote him to ask, “Does Salon actually pay you or are you being paid under the table by rival companies?”

Anybody who has ever written about Apple products will tell the same story — introducing even a hint of negativity into a review or article will bring down the wrath of Apple’s most fanatical fans.


Hmmmm...fans reacting harshly to the slightest criticism? Fans demanding unflagging admiration for their pet love? Are we talking about Apple fans here, or...New England Patriots fans! Har har har!

(No one is allowed to point out my tendency to fly off the handle at people who say anything mean about George Lucas.)

:: Had this been around twenty years ago, surely New Coke would not have failed. (Embedded sound at the site; be warned.)

OK. Next week I'll try to have the Burst of Weirdness up on Sunday.

Wrapping the Littlest Angels


Angel Wraps III, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

The Wife has always counted sewing as one of her passions, and she is damned good at it; she manages to create articles of clothing for herself and The Daughter that are frankly often better than store-bought stuff. I've always been impressed by this skill of hers; a few hours of fabric cutting and the whirring of the Bernina and out comes a blouse or a pair of pants.

Lately she's adopted a new project, which she is donating to several local hospitals. She calls them "Angel Wraps", and they are meant for premature infants who die. When we lost Baby Fiona last year, they wrapped her in a generic blanket that was too large for her tiny (22 weeks) body; how much nicer if she could have been in something like this. It may seem odd, but this kind of thing is meaningful to those of us who have been through something like this.

I have a couple more photos of these on my Flickr photostream.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ask HIM anything! (and some other lazy linkage)

Some things:

:: Roger is doing his own Ask Me Anything!. So go and ask him stuff. I've just done my duty (especially since he posed the majority of the questions in my own recently-completed Ask Me Anything!).

:: John McCain: a foreign policy disaster in the making.

:: Lynn links an interview with SF author John C. Wright, a guy who has the best ability to say things well despite being completely wrong since William F. Buckley. I finally lost it when Wright identified Apollo 13 as a "hard SF movie". I guess being set in space makes it SF, despite the fact that it's a true story? Huh?! Anyway, whenever I read Wright, I get the sense that he's a more eloquent version of Orson Scott Card. (And I came to that comparison before I read this post of Wright's. Note also this one, where he pontificates against movies for being anti-American or whatever, including at least one movie he didn't even see.)

:: I really really really really wanna go to Norway. Here's another reason why.

Department of Technical Annoyances

Earlier today I downloaded and installed the newest version of my Internet security program (Norton 360, for those who care), which seems to be working fine. But now Firefox seems to be in the habit of clearing my "personal data" each and every time I close the program, which wouldn't be annoying in itself if it wasn't also clearing my entire browsing history with it, no matter how many times I go under "Tools" and un-check the "Clear Personal Data at the end of every session" box or change the settings so the browsing history is left alone.

That could get annoying.

Unidentified Earth 31

It seems we're still falling behind! While Aaron has placed Unidentified Earth 28 as Granddad's Bluff in La Crosse, Wisconsin (a place with as stunning a view of the Mississippi River Valley as you'll find anywhere), the last two installments, 29 and 30, are still Unidentified. Now, granted, it's very hard to make out in #29, but that there is a monument to a person in whose honor we celebrate not one but two major holidays on the Western calendar. The monument is specifically situated to loom over a major highway that runs just outside the image. As for #30, well, its failure to be Identified after a week has me reaching for the Vicodin.

OK, all that aside, time for the new one. This one may be easier:



Where are we? Rot-13 your guesses, folks!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My God, it's full of stars

UPDATE: I'll update this post with links to other blog posts on Clarke's passing that strike my eye.



Arthur C. Clarke is dead.

This is really no surprise, as Clarke was very old, and though I haven't read any of his new work since I was disappointed by 3001, I am saddened by his passing. Clarke was the first science fiction author whose work I really loved, going way back to when I was in high school and read 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke was just awfully good at capturing that good old "sense of wonder" without getting too wordy, in my view; he would simply describe things with none of the "You will be amazed by this!" subtext that I can often detect in other SF writers. That, his ability to keep the story moving, and the way he could relate the futuristic stuff to the concerns of contemporary readers was always impressive.

I don't think I even own a copy of 2001 at the moment, so I can't even quote my favorite Clarke passage. For those of you who own the book, you can look it up: it's the part where David Bowman is settling in for the long lonely journey to Saturn (what remains of the journey, anyway) after HAL has killed Frank Poole and the hibernating crew members, and he tries to take his mind off his loneliness by listening to music; but over time he finds that the constant parade of human voices actually increases his loneliness rather than decreasing it, and his search for musical companionship finally leads him to the abstract counterpoint of Johann Sebastian Bach. I always thought that this passage represented a particularly keen bit of human insight for a science fiction author, given the stereotype of SF writers as being concerned with the Gosh WOW! stuff and less with the human concerns.

Clarke was a part of my reading landscape fairly early on; I remember reading Dolphin Island (although I don't so much remember Dolphin Island itself), and a frankly wonderful true-life tale of discovering a sunken wreck in Indian Ocean Treasure. I've never had any desire to read the follow-ups, but I did admire Rendezvous with Rama greatly. And his short fiction was also amazing; "The Star" and "The Nine Billion Names of God" particularly haunt my imagination. I even remember some road trip or other with my family when I was six or seven years old; my sister was reading a book whose title stuck in my head even then as being pretty provocative and intriguing. The book? Childhood's End.

I truly believe that Arthur C. Clarke is one of the more important figures of the 20th century, and I honor his life now.



(Here's a good article on Clarke's life.)

UPDATE I: Steven Den Beste: "Clarke didn't write as much as the others, I think, and it's also not really correct to say his stuff was more imaginative. But I think that there was a quality to his work that made it stand apart. His stories were, how to put this, further away than Heinlein and Asimov."

Charlie Stross.

UPDATE II: SamuraiFrog: "Thank you, Arthur, for believing that we were worth the trouble and that we might, one day, snap out of this. Thank you for showing us it was full stars."

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who apparently was on NPR to discuss Clarke. I'll look for an audio link later today.

Lou Anders.

Lots of good linkage (as usual) at SFSignal.

Cute Kitchen Gadgets


Teapot II, originally uploaded by Jaquandor.

I posted a series of photos of this item to my Flickr stream, but I wanted to mention it here as well: a nifty single-serving teacup for brewing loose tea. I love this thing. It's made by the folks at Rishi Tea, and it works wonderfully well; there's a pleasing quality to loose tea that is somehow lost in the whole teabag thing.

I don't have a point here; I just think this little teapot is nifty as hell.

Oh noes!!!

It appears that I've annoyed a fan of Apple products. Oh well, that's how things go, I guess, although I'm a tad baffled as to why the author over there seems to think there's something faulty with my "sense of satire". Did I miss some satire somewhere? Is there a dollop of satire on my shoe?

Anyway, back to my nice PC.

UPDATE: Apparently that site is devoted to satirizing the Apple cult, I guess. Based on just the post that linked me -- which is all I read over there -- the satire is pretty hard to detect, but there you go.

And again, back to my nice PC.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Immanentizing the Eschaton

[Political rant here. Proceed with caution.]

Via John Scalzi I see that the White House is "on top of the situation" with regard to the economy. Well, given the way this White House was "on top" of Iraq, Afghanistan, the post-Katrina debacle, making sure we're torturing people, deficits as far as the eye can see, and everything else it's touched since January 20, 2001, I'd breathe a lot easier if they just said, "You know, folks, we're actually going to let this one work itself out on its own."

Mr. Scalzi recently ranked his list of the worst Presidents of all time, awarding the Number One spot to James Buchanan on the basis that Buchanan "broke the country". I can see the point, although there are different ways to break a country -- if a country's a car, you can break it by driving it into the ditch outright (Buchanan), or you can drain its engine of oil and the radiator of fluid, cut the brakelines, deflate the tires to just ten percent of the recommended PSI, remove the wiper blades, and then drive the vehicle at a high rate of speed on a twisty mountain highway on a rainy day through a cloud of marauding locusts (George W. Bush).

OK, that's out of my system. Moving on.

Sentential Links #132

Time for this week's linkage:

:: Apparently, among this crowd, Sister Souljah Moments are only for white people. Bush I parties with Sun Myung Moon, Bush II goes to Bob Jones University, John McCain accepts the endorsement of John Hagee, and it slides. Barack Obama renounces Rev. Wright, and we are told that the taint is indelible.

:: I don't necessarily have a problem with the government intervening to bail a bunch of rich guys out when their own bad decisions blow up in their faces if that's what's needed for the health of the overall economy, but this sort of thing is one of several reasons why I think the very rich should pay high tax rates and we shouldn't be happy about the prospect of ever-growing inequality.

:: Use humans in space when only humans will do. Use machines whenever possible: it's safer and cheaper and more effective. By separating cargo shipment from manned flights, the Orion system advances that philosophy, and that's all to the good.

:: We had to pitch a pilot the day after 9-11. The VP cried. (We sold it)


:: I can actually hear the words coming from the mouth 24 Hour Fitness rep I created in my imagining of how this would have gone down in real life. "Oh, I take it you're no longer interested in fitness?" he'd scoff, casting a long glance at my Eddie Spaghetti arms. "Yes," I'd reply. "I no longer have any regard for my physical well-being. I have, in fact, lost any interest in fitness. I'm also smoking a pack a day, chewing on fiberglass instead of gum, and driving to the bad part of town so I can flip off gang members."

:: I once had a call from an 80 year old woman who was shivering. She was keeping her heat at 55 so she could pay for her prescriptions.

:: I love the Irish part of me, of what the Clarks and the Elys passed down through the family gene pool, but The celebration of St. Patrick converting us heathens will always baffle me. (Speaking of which, I need to re-read How the Irish Saved Civilization one of these days.)

:: The flowers are already opening by the window, and their delicate scent fills the house, and all is well with the world.

And there we have it. Link responsibly, folks!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ewwwww....

I'd long thought that there was no possible circumstance under which chocolate could taste like crap, but I have just been proven wrong by the person who put a single red M&M into the Skittles at the Bulk section. Lord, that was one nasty flavor combo. Time to rinse it out with some rum.

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

Here's some odd stuff:

:: John Scalzi cites the worst invention of all time. Sure, but if you consider making something similar for small children....

:: I just figured out a big reason why I don't watch LOST: it lacks a funky theme song. Oy!

:: Rejected Star Wars tie-in merchandise. Yes, some of it's incredibly goofy, but damned if I don't find myself really wanting that Cloud City desk lamp! (Incidentally, the Star Wars ramp-up of the late 1990s, especially the release in 1997 of the Special Editions, coincided in part with my tenure with Pizza Hut, then a PepsiCo franchise. When the SEs came out, our big tie-in thingie was...posters for the movies. Yup: buy a Kid's Meal, get a poster. That was pretty lame, I have to admit. But then, Pizza Hut is pretty lame. I'm glad I've held on at The Store for more than four years now, because I've hated the fact that Pizza Hut is the place where I've worked the longest.)

:: Line Rider. First noted via Shamus. Wow, what a time-waster. I love it.

Marching....

I was listening to this week's edition of A Prairie Home Companion last night, and I heard Garrison Keillor describe March in Minnesota in a way that also applies perfectly to March in Buffalo: "It is a month designed by God to make people who don't drink learn what a hangover is like."

Heh.

(By the way, f*** Daylight Savings Time in March. What the hell is that about? In Buffalo, that means that we get another hour of gray every day. Thanks, Congress!)

Unidentified Earth 30

OK, folks, I know I slacked last week, forgetting to put up an installment, but seeing as how the last two entries have gone unguessed at, much less identified, I don't feel so bad. I'll probably have to start giving out hints on those -- such as to note that the earlier one is a regional attraction that no one would probably know unless they were familiar with, say, the upper reaches of the Mississippi River valley, or monuments to people who are honored with upcoming holidays. Yeesh.

Anyhow, here's the new installment:



Where are we? Rot-13 your guesses, please!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Photobucket Quiz-thing

UPDATE 3-16-08: Some of the image sizes were screwing up the appearance of the blog, so I fixed the HTML to shrink 'em down a bit. Sorry things got ugly there for a few days.

Yes, it's another quiz-thing! I've seen this in a bunch of places, most recently at Jason's blog. Maybe I should rename this blog "Quiz things". Anyway, this one looks fun, because it's got the normal run of questions, but with a twist. The rules:

1. Go to photobucket.com
2. Type in your answer for each question into the PhotoBucket search bar.
3. Choose your favorite photo to represent your answer.
4. Copy the HTML and paste it here.
5. Answer only in picture form.

Got all that? Here we go!

1. What is your first name?

Kelly

(No idea whose picture this is supposed to be, but putting my first name returns a whole bunch of pretty women.)

2. When is your birthday?

september

3. What kind of car do you want?

landspeeder

4. Where did/do you go to school?

wartburg stadium

5. What is your favorite season?

Fall

6. What is your favorite type of shoe?

birkenstock

(Haven't owned a pair in years, though.)

7. What is your status?

yawning

8. What is your favorite movie?

star wars

9. What is your favorite song?

On The Street Where You Live

(I can't name a single favorite song, so here's just one of my favorites, apparently used as the title for a mystery novel.)

10. Who is your favorite Disney character?

Kronk

11. What is your favorite clothing line?

dickies

12. What is your favorite vacation destination?

Bluff

13. What is your favorite dessert?

Ben And Jerry

or

Chocolate

or

Peach

or

Lemon cream pie

or

French carrot cake

or...I'll stop there.

14. What is your favorite letter?

Q

15. What are you most afraid of?

loneliness

16. What is your favorite TV show?

Photobucket

17. What annoys you the most?

Republicans rock

and

clowns

and

For Better Or Worse Bedtime

and, of course, most of all:

Patriots

18. What is your job?

Maintenance

19. What's your favorite animal?

cat

20. How old are you?

1971

(Couldn't find any cool pics for '36', so I went with the year of my birth.)

No tagging, but this one was fun to do, so I recommend it.

Peetsa

Ah, geez, it turns out that Matthew Yglesias is one of those people. You really have to feel sorry for New York pizza fanatics, living in a country with so many great styles of pizza and being able to enjoy none of it because they so obstinately cling to a faulty notion of "real pizza".

Oh well, that leaves more pizza for me!

Loving the Library

I happened upon this library quiz-thing, and given my love of libraries and quiz-things, I just had to do it. Sadly, I had no idea that February was "Library Lovers Month" until three days into March, when I found this. Alas.

How do you plan on celebrating Library Lovers month?

Well, by doing this quiz, I suppose, since I missed the actual Library Lovers Month. Whoops!

How often do you accidentally spell library as 'libary' when you're in a hurry?

Never, I think. Let me try: Library library library library library library lobrary librayr librayr library library library. Nope, just a couple of typoes, and neither was the one specified. When I make a typo, it's almost always because in my haste I hit the keys in the wrong order, so there end up being the correct number of letters, but either an incorrect letter or two or all the correct letters in the incorrect sequence.

What is the largest amount of books you've ever had checked out at one time?

Probably around twenty or so, on a day when I'm grabbing a lot of stuff and The Wife grabs a lot of stuff and so does The Daughter. Usually it's around ten items or so.

What is the longest you've ever gone without visiting the library?

Six months or so, from roughly July 2005 to the end of that year. It just got to the point where going out with Little Quinn for a jaunt to the library was too much work, and also, I had a fairly large fine to pay at that time, and I never had the cash for it. Which leads to the next question:

What is the biggest fine you've ever had?

I don't remember the amount, but it was close to $30, after I forgot to return a couple of DVDs before we went on a trip across the country, which ended up being the last trip for 2005 until after Little Quinn died. The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library charges $2.00 a day for late DVDs, so by having two of them overdue by over a week, the fines racked up very quickly.

When you go to the library, do you plan ahead and make a list? Or do you browse?

Occasionally I'll make a mental note of a title or two, but usually I just browse. I love to go online and request titles when I know there's something specific I want; the great thing about having a large library system at my disposal is that I can request a book and have it delivered from another branch to my own local branch, where I then check it out. I always look at the New Nonfiction shelf first, and then wander the older nonfiction shelves. (I don't much go into the fiction section unless I'm looking for something specific that I think I might want to read, since my personal book-buying is almost exclusively fiction.)

Have you ever been shushed by a librarian?

I'm sure I was in school a few times, but never at the public library, where the rule seems to be for people to use normal conversational voices.

What is the worst (against-the-rules) thing you've ever done in the library?

I'm assuming this doesn't mean things like "Hey, baby, let's go up to the third floor and join the Government Documents club!" (No, I've never done that.) Truthly speaking, I can't think of anything I've ever done as a library patron that was against the rules. Now, as a library employee at the university where my father teaches, I must admit that there were times when being in the presence of all those books led to "reading on the clock", but that's most definitely the worst thing. Oh, and there was the time they had me doing some work in the A/V room all by myself, with the door shut. I found a set of tapes of historical speeches, and then I sat down and listened to several of them, all the way through. Man, that JFK delivered a heck of an Inaugural, eh? And Jimmy Carter's acceptance speech in 1980? "Hubert Horatio Hornblower! Er, Humphrey!" Wow.

What's the worst thing you've ever done to a library book?

Not returned one. When we moved from West Seneca, NY to Syracuse back in 2002, I thought I returned all the books to the West Seneca library. Not so much: I missed one, and didn't discover it until we got unpacked in Syracuse. One of the first things I did when we moved back to Buffalo (Orchard Park, current location of Casa Jaquandor) was to return that book and settle up my fines for it.

Have you ever had a "favorite" librarian?

My mother. Duh. (Wow, that was too easy.) And there's one at the current library who always comments when I have a piece of writing in the paper, which is cool.

If you could change one thing about your library it would be...

More books, obviously. More periodicals. The building itself could use some sprucing up. But by and large, my library is a terrific place. It's next to an old train station that has been restored, and it's across the street from my church. (If we're talking about the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library as a whole, though, I'd increase its budget substantially, so long as there was money to do so.)

Let me close by once again voicing my general befuddlement at people who claim to love reading and yet don't use their libraries. Limiting one's reading to the books one can afford to buy makes absolutely no sense to me, and I say that as someone who already owns more books than I'm likely to be able to read in my lifetime and who has little intention of stopping. On the flip side, a Buffalo News columnist (Charity Vogel, I think) recently wrote an article about our libraries, citing a friend of hers who had moved to Hamburg, NY from Orlando, and had to start buying books because the Hamburg library doesn't get the "newest, hottest reads" as quickly as the Orlando library had. This just struck me as terribly silly: judging one's public library by one's ability to walk in and check out the very latest by Nora Steele or Danielle Patterson or James Roberts or whomever is to miss the entire point of a public library by a huge margin.

And whenever I hear some libertarian or conservative type opine that maybe in the days of Amazon.com it's time to let libraries slip into the past, I want to scream. I can't think of a more misplaced set of priorities than that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Play that funky music, whiteboy!

I've seen this Stuff White People Like blog linked in a number of places, but Tosy and Cosh helpfully reduce it to a list, with commentary. Which means, you know, I'll go all listy now as well. Basically I'll do as he did and give a "yes" or "no" answer to each entry, with comment. I'm not so much doing this because I'm white (really, who cares) but because it's a list. Note that this is not a "Bold the ones I like" list; I bolded them all to make the post easier to read.

(The original blog, by the way, has updated since I grabbed this from Tosy, so I'll update this in a post down the line sometime.)

Anyway:

Graduate School

I never went, but that doesn't mean that I'm not a fan. I figured that the world might not have needed another Ph.D in philosophy. Or something like that.

The Idea of Soccer

What is the "idea of soccer"? The notion of the world's most popular spectator sport being a fairly boring game that has very little nuance? Bleeccchhh! You could pay me to watch soccer, since I'd do nearly anything for money, but I sure wouldn't enjoy it. (Now, playing soccer is another story, since it's a lot of running and kicking stuff. But things that are fun to do aren't always fun to watch.)

Modern Furniture

Depends. Some modern-type furniture I find appealingly trippy, and a lot of actually is downright comfortable when you figure out how to sit in it. The library at my college (at the time – the library has since been rebuilt) had lots of sixties-era furniture, stuff that you might see lurking in the background of a scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I loved sitting in those chairs, reading.

Multilingual Children

I can't really say as I have a tremendously strong opinion here. If we're going to decide that our children should be multilingual, obviously it's best to do that early, but I don't really know.

Musical Comedy

You'd better believe it! I love a good musical comedy. And even some not-so-good musical comedies.

Bottles of Water

I drink tons of water, so bottles are cool. We buy bottles by the case at The Store, and then after drinking the water that comes in them, we re-fill them and re-use them until they become too worn out to be useful, and then we break out a few new bottles from the case. Few things refresh like good old water.

Threatening to move to Canada

This is what pansy, pseudo-leftie nitwits do. Stay here and fight to make your country better, you bunch of doofuses! (Until the Bills move there, and then I'm outta here!)

Oscar Parties

Not really; I don't take the Oscars that seriously anymore. But to attend one of the "official" parties, when you win one? Sure, I'd love to be at one of those.

When I eventually win the Oscar for Best Screenplay (note to self: start writing a screenplay), my speech will begin with this joke: "We writers aren't Governors' Ball types, so as the winning writer, it's my responsibility to host the Writers' Oscar Party. That'll be at my hotel, Room 337 of the Hampton Inn by LAX. It's BYOB, but we're writers, so we've all got our own B." You read it here first. [Cut to tight shot of Jack Nicholson, grinning tightly because he doesn't get it or doesn't care.]

Gentrification

You know, I hear this word a lot, and I still have no idea what it means. Something to do with city neighborhoods becoming lame, I think. I dunno.

Study Abroad

Never did it, myself. I suppose it makes sense for certain fields of study, like foreign languages or clandestine military activity.

Being the only white person around

I'm not sure exactly what's so great about this. I generally don't care who's around me. Of course, this probably refers to traveling to entirely different cultures, which is a cool idea that I've never done before.

Difficult Breakups

They make for good fodder in romantic comedies and such, but to go through one? Who in their right mind would enjoy a difficult breakup? Especially since as you get older, your breakups can only increase in difficulty as they tend to involve kids and lawyers?

Mos Def

I don't know who he is.

Michel Gondry

I don't know who he is, either.

Standing Still at Concerts

Nah. I prefer to listen to my Berlioz and Rachmaninov sitting down. (I have never once attended a rock concert of any type. I'd love to hear some live Celtic music one of these years, but the proper setting for such is a pub, and those have seats.)

Divorce

See above on breakups. This is one road I have absolutely no desire to travel down, whatsoever, nosiree Bob. I know plenty of divorced people, and they've all (mostly) moved on to happiness in their post-divorce lives, but still, one of these friends described the experience to me in these words: "If you want to feel like throwing up for six months straight, get a divorce, 'cause that's what it feels like." I have no use for that.

Co-Ed Sports

Sure, what's not to like?

Recycling

I do it, but I'm not sold on it as a major part of the solution to our environmental problems.

Expensive Sandwiches

Oh yes! I love a good sandwich, made with good ingredients. I'm not sure about the "expensive" part; I wouldn't be terribly interested in spending $50 for a burger made of Kobe beef. But ten bucks for a sandwich on artisan bread? Sure.

Knowing what's best for poor people

Well, depends, I suppose. I seriously dislike the condescension and judgmental nonsense thrown at the poor in this country, and the constant refrain that it's their fault, the lazy freeloaders. And I seriously dislike the notion that because we aren't in their position, we somehow know what's best for them. Nothing illustrated this to me more than the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when Barbara Bush opined that the thousands of displaced persons living in the Astrodome in Houston had it pretty good.

All that said, however, there's an extent to which any policy discussion over how to help the poor involves a discussion of what's best for the poor. This kind of thing I find helpful.

Bicycles

Bikes rule. I need to get mine up and running this year.

Toyota Prius

I like the idea of the car, but I'm unlikely to be able to get one any time soon, so I'm personally ambivalent. What I really like is what the Prius represents: the notion that it's our technological advancement that will be the largest factor in our solving our environmental problems. People who think that environmentalism translates to returning the world to some kind of medieval lifestyle annoy me.

Natural Medicine

There's some good stuff there, but it does get difficult to separate out the complete nonsense from the stuff that actually works.

Japan

If only they'd ditch their creepy and disgusting addiction to whaling, Japan would be extremely cool. I would love to go to Japan someday.

Juno

Haven't seen it yet, but soon will, and then I will report. I think that Diablo Cody is gorgeous, though.

Lawyers

Necessary and underappreciated, I suppose. The ones that I've met are usually decent people. But yeah, Shakespeare says to kill them all, so off they go!

Apologies

These seem terribly underrated. We really need to see a whole-hearted embrace in our society of the "Ahso Defense".

Kitchen Gadgets

I love good quality cookware, but I find the vast majority of kitchen gadgets useless and stupid wastes of space. Why buy, for instance, a rice cooker when you can just learn to cook rice in a heavy saucepan that will have many other uses besides? Why buy an electric gizmo to grill a sandwich? All I need is some good pans, some good knives, and a few other items and I'm good.

Dogs

Meh. I'm a cat person. A dog can be OK if I get to know it. But it's gotta be a dog. A Pomeranian is not a dog. It's a yipping creature of ill breeding.

Sarah Silverman

I don't know the first thing about her.

Living by the water

I'd love to live by water one day: a lake, a river, even a stream. Water is mythic. As it is, I live a few miles from one of the Great Lakes, which is good enough for now.

Irony

A powerful tool when used as that: a tool. I got very tired of the whole "Irony as overriding tone" thing that dominated everything in the 1990s.

Vintage

As you might expect, I own several pairs of vintage overalls, and I like to troll eBay for more, although the prices are often a bit out of reach for me. (A good pair of overalls will last forever if you use them for casual wear, as I do. No long days out in the fields for me!) It's fun to look at brands that no longer exist with names like "PayDay". I don't have much interest for anything else vintage, though.

Whole Foods and grocery co-ops

Well, this is awkward. Given my occupation, Whole Foods is the enemy and must be destroyed. But that's just a philosophical position, as Whole Foods does not exist in Buffalo, and I've heard no plans to attract them here. The big Buffalo co-op is the Lexington Co-op which I believe is in the Elmwood area somewhere. That's a bit out of the way for me, so I've never been there. I do like the concept of local ownership of such businesses, and I'd probably shop at one at least occasionally if one was a bit closer to Casa Jaquandor. Price isn't the biggest determining factor for me as to where I shop, as a rule, although it's definitely a factor.

You know what I really love, though? Public markets like the famous one in Seattle and the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Places like that are just wonderful.

Arts Degrees

I've got one: a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy with a minor in music.

The Sunday New York Times

I used to be a big fan, but nowadays I generally don't have time.

Asian Fusion Food

I don't know anything about it, but when I hear the term, I think of those stereotypical pretentious restaurants where an entree consists of a plate with three bite-size morsels of something upon it. Not a fan of that kind of thing: when I order food, I want a plate full of food. And my favorite Asian food is the stuff that you'll find in Chinatowns like Torontos, something that an Asian person might actually eat as a part of their daily life.

Public Radio

Longtime readers will know that I am a huge fan of public radio. You just have to find your right show. I love Prairie Home Companion, Thistle and Shamrock, Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, Car Talk, and others. (I'm not a big fan of This American Life, however; something about Ira Glass's voice makes me want to lapse into a deep coma.)

Plays

Yup! Especially the flea-flicker and the Old Statue of Liberty. Those are great plays!

Oh, that's not what this means. I've enjoyed live theater when I've gone, and yet, I haven't gone in many years, which seems a pity given Buffalo's unusually vibrant theater scene (for a city this size facing the economic challenges it does).

Sushi

Yes! I love it. I've never had the "raw fish" stuff, but I find a nice meal of sushi pleasantly nourishing.

Indie Music

If it's good music, great. If not, forget it. Being "Indie" is no guarantee against sucking.

Apple Products

I like apple butter, apple-pie flavor ice cream, and I miss apple-flavored Slice pop.

The Steve Jobs cult creeps me out, though. I'm not in love with the whole "design is everything" ethos, nor do I buy the notion that Apple stuff is that much more robust than anything else. I find the idea of watching movies on an iPhone or an iPod terribly silly; I loved the bit at the Oscars the other week when Jon Stewart was watching Lawrence of Arabia on an iPhone and says, "Wow, the cinematography of this movie is amazing! I should watch in in widescreen! [turns phone sideways] Ohhh! Those are camels!"

And the whole "iBricking" thing really turns me off.

Netflix

Neat idea. We were in Blockbuster's knockoff program for a while, but we don't watch movies frequently enough to make it really worth our while, especially with the public library's movie collection constantly improving, and the access to that collection is free, which stomps all over Blockbuster and Netflix.

Arrested Development

Never watched it.

Renovations

Well, of what? Taking an old building and making it better, whether for a home or a business? Sure, that's great. In fact, I wish more old buildings would get renovated than either torn down for new buildings or, worse, allowed to rot while new buildings are built across the street. But not everything needs to be renovated, of course. And renovations poorly done can be disastrous.

Breakfast places

You'd better believe it. My favorite breakfast places are always the ones that are owned and run by locals in any given town, such as the wonderful Charlie's Diner in East Aurora, NY (I can't recommend this place highly enough, and if you go in late spring, be sure to sit on the porch and eat). And we're rapidly coming up on one of New York State's best traditions, Maple Weekend. We'll be going to Moore's Sugar Shack, which is a fabulous little place in the hills south of Arcade, for all the pancakes with fresh maple syrup we can eat. Oh Mama!

The Daily Show / The Colbert Report

I don't get to watch them very often, because they're on very late where we live (but they're nicely broadcast on a Canadian channel out of Hamilton, ON). I love Jon Stewart. I've never seen Colbert's show, unfortunately, but I did love his speech at the Correspondents' Dinner from a couple of years back, so assuming that's what his show is like, I'd probably love it.


Architecture

Well, I don't know much about it, to be honest. But Buffalo's architecture is wonderful, so I love it on that basis.

Marijuana

I've never tried it, so I don't know. I think it should be legal, though.

Vegan/Vegetarianism

Nope. I eat meat. Nothing ever eats that something else doesn't die, and anyway, if God didn't want us eating animals, he wouldn't have made them out of meat! (I do think that we eat too much meat in this country, but that's not the same thing as saying nobody should eat meat.)

Snowboarding

I've never done it, but it does look like fun.

Wrigley Field

I'm not a Cubs fan. Wrigley looks like a neat place on teevee, and I'm sure it's a great place to take in a game. But to have to do so watching the Cubs seems like too high a price to pay, especially with Harry Caray dead.

80s Night

Where? At a bar? A dance club? A roller rink? I love the cheesy 80s pop music, myself, so I'd probably enjoy the occasional 80s night.

Not having a teevee

Nah. I watch significantly less teevee now than I ever have before, but still, we have to be able to watch movies and stuff as a family. It's not like we can crowd around the computer or the laptop.

Marathons

Gahhh! I hate running. Never liked running and never will. For cardio, at the Y, I use the stationary recumbent bikes, and I love biking in general. But running? Ugh. I don't like running 26 feet, so why would I want to run 26 miles?!

Manhattan (and now Brooklyn too!)

I haven't been to New York City since I was twelve or thirteen. I really want to go back someday; we'd love to be on the street during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Hayden Planetarium seems right up my alley, as does that bookstore that apparently has eighteen miles of books. But that's all provisional, so I can't say that I love Manhattan.

David Sedaris

Meh. I read through a collection of his essays once and while I didn't hate him, I didn't grok him either. I don't understand the fuss over the guy.

Wine

I love wine, and I don't drink enough of it. Port, sherry, Asti, Cava, Sauternes, Canadian ice wine, rieslings from New York, Valpolicella with pasta. Wine is wonderful and fascinating. (I'm a pretty non-sophisticated wine drinker, picking my bottles on the basis of price and on that of how pretty the label is. I also try to buy New York wines when I'm in the mood.)

Microbreweries

If the beer they make tastes good, then sure. If not, then no. I'm not of the view that microbreweries are inherently better than larger operations, but they have over the last couple of decades led to a more vibrant beer market, so that's a good thing.

Having Two Last Names

With all due respect, who cares?! This is just silly.

Writers' Workshops

I have no desire at all to attend one of these.

Being an expert on YOUR culture

I'm not, unless we restrict the concept of "MY culture" to those topics I write about on this blog, and even then I wouldn't consider myself an expert on many of those topics, since blogging is in large part opining about that on which we know little.

Traveling

In the sense of "going other places", absolutely. In the sense of the actual physical act of traveling, then maybe; it depends on the mode of travel. I don't like flying; I find it unpleasant to begin with, and our air travel industry has made it a genuine pain in the arse. My favorite mode of travel is to pack some clothes and stuff, get in the car, and drive with one and only one rule: no Interstate highways. There's magic to be found in this country that way.

Awareness

Too often "awareness" can seem an end in itself, but the way I figure it, if you can get one hundred people aware of something they might not have otherwise been aware at all, then maybe a few of them, or even just one, will go beyond awareness to activism, and that's where change can happen.

Hating their Parents

Let me get this straight: we're supposed to like divorce, messy breakups to our non-marriage relationships, and harboring negative feelings toward our parents? Wow, we're quite the prize, aren't we? I can't believe we're still single; who wouldn't want to be around all this emotional angst and dysfunction?

Gifted Children

But it's all good, because we like our children, as long as they read at a sixth-grade level when they're in kindergarten or can speak two languages when they're four.

Yoga

I've never tried it, but it can't hurt, I suppose.

Having black friends

Why? So I can say "Some of my best friends are black!"? I like having friends.

Tea

Yup, I love tea. I recently acquired a nifty little device for brewing single servings of tea which I'll post about some time. I don't drink enough tea, actually; it's really wonderful stuff. I love green tea and mint tea.

Non-profit organizations

This is too broad a category of things to like. The Discovery Institute is a NPO, and I find their existence embarrassing and annoying.

Asian Girls

"Girls"? Can't we call them what we call them in this country: women? But yeah, Asian women tend to be really beautiful.

Wes Anderson movies

I've never seen one.

Making you feel bad about not going outside

What's wrong with inside? Nothing. Outside's cool, but does it need to be the subject of guilt? Not that I can see.

Barack Obama

If he wins the nomination, then you'd better believe it. If not, then thanks for playing and we'll see you in 2012 or (to be hoped) 2016. In truth, I think that either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would be infinitely preferable to John "The only solution to the colossal mess we're in is to ratchet up George Bush's awful policies to 11!" McCain.

Diversity

Again, it depends, doesn't it? But on balance, I think that diversity tends to be a better thing than the lack of it.

Organic Food

I don't know, really. I do know that organic stuff tends to cost more, so I avoid it pretty much on that basis alone.

Farmers' Markets

Ach, I love farmers' markets. The freshness you get is amazing. Here's an example of a place where I find it worthwhile to spend a little more than usual on food. Corn on the cob from a farmers' market, at the height of summer? Or blueberries picked that morning from a group of bushes less than ten miles from where you're forking over your cash? Wonderful.

Assists

Ummm...not knowing much about basketball or hockey, I can't say. But I do like the sentiment expressed by Crash Davis in Bull Durham on strikeouts versus groundballs: "Groundballs are democratic. Strikeouts are fascist."

Film Festivals

I've never been to one.

Religions their parents don't belong to

Does this mean my admiring Buddhism or Taoism is because my parents are neither Buddhists or Taoists? That seems a bit silly. Or is it, say, if I were to become an Anglican if my parents were Catholics (just to make up an example)? I don't know, that seems silly to me.

Coffee

Otherwise known as "the magical elixir without which I become a complete jerk". I love coffee. I adore coffee. I roll on the floor with coffee and massage its...oh yeah, sorry. (This year I'm trying to wean myself off sweetening my coffee. I've already cut in half the amount of sugar I put in it. I love sweet coffee, but I suspect that I don't need that much sugar with my daily caffeine fix.)

And there we have it. I don't like a lot of the stuff our "prototypical white guy" likes, and some of it, I really dislike. Am I still white?