Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Years Day

Associated Press, 12/31/05: "Bono Says Campaigning Caused Tension in U2"
The Onion, 12/7/05: "Rest of U2 Perfectly Fine With Africans Starving"

Looks like The Onion has shown its prescience again, three weeks ahead of the curve as compared to the MSM. Can you guess which excerpts come from which source without peeking?

1) Rock star Bono said Saturday that his commitment to campaigning against poverty caused tensions within U2. The musician said that at one point he feared his commitment to the anti-poverty cause might force him out of the band.

2) Bassist Adam Clayton, while "not opposed" to Bono's tireless efforts to improve the quality of life for impoverished Third World citizens, is apparently too busy to spearhead an anti-poverty initiative of his own.

3) "When Bono starts telling the audience how messed up the world can be and how we should work together to make things better, I usually just zone out," Mullen said.

4) Bono acknowledged that his campaigning had sometimes "raised eyebrows" among his fellow band members. "When I do my rant on making poverty history, I have got Larry Mullen, our drummer, behind me looking at his watch, timing me," he said.

5) "If I could wave a magic wand and cure Africa's problems, I would do that," drummer Larry Mullen Jr. said. "But someone has to take care of the more practical, day-to-day stuff that Bono doesn't really bother with. Like, for example, how's the next album going to sound? How're we going to keep our live act fresh? I can't tell you how many millions of decisions go into making one Elevation tour."

6) "So we have to be very careful about just letting me [Bono] go too far."

7) Clayton added: "I don't have a problem with [Bono] trying to save Africa... ...[b]ut just as long as it doesn't interfere with the band."

What I Did Instead of Cleaning the Junk Room Today

So I had a day off work today, and instead of cleaning out the junk room as I have been meaning to (and will start on tomorrow!) I spent a couple of hours fixing up an Excel template that helps you do Sudoku puzzles. Then I spent another hour or so looking online to see if there is any way to upload an Excel doc onto Blogspot, so that if someone clicks on a certain link, that Excel template will open on their browser. No luck. Anybody know anything about this?? The template doesn't actually do the Sudoko for you, of course; It's just supposed to be an alternative to pencilling in teensy numerals on the grid and then trying to erase errors w/o ripping the paper and making a big mess. Plus, it totals up your lines so you don't inadvertently put two of the same number on one line, etc.

But tomorrow I'm going to start in on the junk room! Really! I've been inspired by this Communicatrix post.

Thanks to my friend SSMW for linking to Answer Girl, whom I have added to my blogroll.

Got a spare copy of Orwell's 1984 sitting around? (Actually, I probably do in the junk room...) Why not send it to the Oakland Tribune? Excerpt: Turns out the truth is no stranger than fiction. We think it's time for Congress to heed the warning of George Orwell. To that end, The Oakland Tribune, a sister paper of The Argus, is asking for your help: Mail them or drop off your tattered copies of "1984." When they get 537 of them, they'll send them off to every member of the House of Representatives and Senate, and to President Bush and Vice President Cheney, as well. Feel free to inscribe the book with a note, reminding these fine people that we Americans take the threat to our liberties seriously. Remind Congress that it makes no sense to fight a war for democracy in a foreign land while allowing our democratic principles to erode at home.

Mailing Address:

Oakland Tribune

401 13th St.

Oakland CA 94612

Here's an article about what sucky bullshit the whole music-rights-clearance industry is, specifically as it applies to the wonderful documentary Mad Hot Ballroom (which you should see if you haven't already).

Tired now. Must... go... to... bed... zzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Few Things, Nothing Earth-Shattering

Looks like the TTLB Ecosystem is evolving again. I've been happy as a Crusty Crustacean for some while now; A few hours ago I was a Mollusc ranked at 8000-something, and now I'm a Flippery Fish at 10,000-something with only 7 links when I know I have more than that. I'm going to leave the Dr. Zoidberg illustration as it is, but I'll have this ready just in case:

This is a real good Chris Anderson post on how probability and the marketplace of ideas (and "letting 1000 flowers bloom") keeps things like search engines, Wikipedia and the Blogosphere running smoothly adequately. Excerpt: Probability-based systems are, to use Kevin Kelly's term, "out of control". His seminal book by that name looks at example after example, from democracy to bird-flocking, where order arises from what appears to be chaos, seemingly reversing entropy's arrow. The book is more than a dozen years old and decades from now we'll still find the insight surprising. But it's right.

Annalee Newitz digs the new King Kong movie too. Excerpt: I saw King Kong during its opening week, one night after rewatching the 1933 original. Although the nerds I saw it with were unimpressed -- something about dialogue or whatever -- I was blown away. Kong fights three T.rexes! There's a brontosaurus stampede followed by a bronto pileup that verges on giant monster slapstick.

p.s. - Chris and Annalee, I think you're both great... No offense when I said "nothing earth-shattering."

Monday, December 26, 2005

Post-X-mas Stuff

Here are comments from Slate on Hollywood's remake mills. As I have said before, I am not opposed to the remake as such. But, this is the sort of thing we usually seem to end up with -- "Fun With Dick and Jane" is in many ways the most common kind of remake: remade simply because it's there. Freshening up an old movie is, well, easier and faster than coming up with an original idea. If all a studio executive needs to fill out next year's slate is a family comedy or a horror film, the quickest way to get one is to recycle content from the studio's own film library. Much of the heavy lifting to shape a three-act story has already been done.

Five bonus points to anyone who can guess who this young lady is:

I finished up John Battelle's book The Search over the weekend, and I have to recommend it highly to anyone interested in that sort of thing. I had put William Safire's No Uncertain Terms on the back burner for a while, and now that is almost done too. I think the next one I want to start is Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club.

I see that Crispin Sartwell is going to be on Washington Journal tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. This guy is far out -- check out the segment if you get a chance. Here's Prof. Sartwell's blog.

You know how in Freakonomics they explain all those studies of baby names and how they relate to race and socio-economic status? Well, these parents-to-be want to make practical use of those studies.

Here's The Hitchiker's Guide to the Blogosphere. I might have to add that one to the sidebar. Same thing for This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics, which I found via THGTTB.

Happy Boxing Day, etc.

Well, first of all, a happy Boxing Day to everyone.

I got a few goodies over the weekend. Among them: A raspberry pie, some Muppet Show stamps, and a Rubik's Cube I used to play with when I was about 12. (In our family, sometimes we regift to the people we originally gave the gift to.) I also got in a few games of Super Scrabble (with twice the tiles, and quadruple-word-score tiles!)

My Sirius radio works better in the car than it does in the house and I listened to it for most of my road trip today. I'm trying to decide what my favorite channels are. So far, I really like Channels 22 (First Wave), 08 (The Big 80s), 16 (The Vault), and 72 (Pure Jazz). Also, they have a channel (118) for old-time radio shows (a genre of which I have always been fond), that I want to check out more thoroughly later.

Back to work tomorrow. Comments on regular old stuff to follow.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas, etc.!

Merry Christmas to all -- Back to posting sometime Monday.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Further Monday Notes

A few other things:

  • Speaking of movies, another one I saw last week was a French film from the early 30s, À Nous la Liberté. I liked it quite well. Lots of good avant-garde design, and kind of a mixed message about the costs and benefits of capitalism and technology. I had not seen it before, and my first thought was, "Man, this is a lot like Modern Times" and sure enough, in one of the extras they described how the owners of ANLL eventually sued Chaplin for supposedly ripping off their idea, even though he said that he had never seen the film. Note that it was the copyright owners, not director René Clair, who sued. Clair said that he had no idea whether or not it was a copy, but that even if it was, any director ought to be honored to have inspired Chaplin.
  • Via A&LD, here's an interesting L.A. Times article on the demise of mainstream mass culture. They quote John Battelle, whose book I am about 2/3 of the way done with. Excerpt: A decade into the Age of the Graphic Browser Interface, Americans seldom are focused on the same event or activity at the same moment. But they're congregating in enormous numbers on websites and other high-tech portals that function much like the institutions they've nudged aside. The culture's being boutiqued or, as the expression goes, "unbundled." Broadcast has given way to a proliferation of narrowcasts.
  • Award for cleverest use of relating pre-WWI Austria-Hungary imagery to the blogosphere goes to The Politburo Diktat.
  • Via Search Engine Watch, here is the (new) blog of this guy named Tim Berners-Lee. Here is a newsgroup post from August, 1991, that summarizes a little project he'd been working on. Excerpt: The WWW project merges the techniques of information retrieval and hypertext to make an easy but powerful global information system. The project started with the philosophy that much academic information should be freely available to anyone. It aims to allow information sharing within internationally dispersed teams, and the dissemination of information by support groups. The WWW world consists of documents, and links. Indexes are special documents which, rather than being read, may be searched. The result of such a search is another ("virtual") document containing links to the documents found. A simple protocol ("HTTP") is used to allow a browser program to request a keyword search by a remote information server. The web contains documents in many formats. Those documents which are hypertext, (real or virtual) contain links to other documents, or places within documents. All documents, whether real, virtual or indexes, look similar to the reader and are contained within the same addressing scheme. To follow a link, a reader clicks with a mouse (or types in a number if he or she has no mouse). To search and index, a reader gives keywords (or other search criteria). These are the only operations necessary to access the entire world of data.

Monday Notes

Well, I finished all of Battlestar Galactica: Season One yesterday (including commentaries and extras, of course) and it was great. Perfect timing, because Season Two street dates tomorrow. (Guess what's at the top of my Netflix queue?) It was great because (like Dawn, Shaft, and Manchurian) it was both an homage and a remake (they called it a "re-imagining") done by people who loved the original -- unlike certain remakes I could mention that seem to be done just because a studio owns the rights to some brand name and a bunch of characters and didn't have anything better to do. Here are David Anson's comments on the remake phenomenon.

Speaking of lovingly crafted remakes, my ♥GF♥ and I went and saw Peter Jackson's King Kong last night. It was awesome! Jackson is a devoted Kong fanatic, as evidenced by his loving recreation of the lost Spider Pit Scene. (More lost/censored Kong info here.) We watched the original afterwards (actually, she watched it all, I watched parts and offered comments). Things to look for, large and small, to compare and contrast between '33 and '05:
  1. Roger Ebert observes that the Jack Black portrayal of Carl Denham is modeled on Orson Welles, and I agree.
  2. They must not have had Stockholm Syndrome back in 1933.
  3. It's impossible to see military planes on a sudden, unforseen, crucial mission over New York's skyline without thinking about having at least a brief flashback to the emotions you felt watching you-know-what unfold.
  4. The similarity of the billboards/neon signs in Times Square.
  5. The self-referential comment in Jackson's version about Denham "killing off the first mate."
  6. The yellow taxicabs.
  7. The hats the sailors wear on Skull Island.

Years ago I was at a screening / discussion of the original Kong film, and in the discussion afterwards, they started talking about Kong as Christ-figure. This prompted me to think of the best line I've never used (until now). I should have said, "Well, Kong was killed by Army pilots..." (wait a beat) "...and Christ was killed by Pilate's Army."

How did it come to be that Kong was finally felled by the biplanes? (I know, I know, 'twas Beauty, etc. -- Beauty didn't have any machine guns, though.) It's a safe bet that it's because producer Merian C. Cooper was a combat pilot himself, both before and after he made the 1933 King Kong. I might have to check out this Cooper biography by Mark Vaz sometime soon, and also see if I can catch this Turner Classic Movies documentary.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Daniel J. Boorstin Round-Up

I mentioned Daniel J. Boorstin the other day, and wanted to post some links about him and his work. Boorstin, who passed away last year, taught at the University of Chicago for 25 years, was Librarian of Congress for 12 years, and was one of the greatest American historians of the second half of the 20th Century.

The Main Man.

He's best known (IMHO) for three works:

1) The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, which is probably his best-known single book. Though written in 1962, it foresaw events such as the Manchester, NH Bisquick Pancake Flipping Contest in which potential leaders of the Free World are invited to display their breakfast-preparation skills. Chapter One (or at least most of it, anyway) can be read here. This is the book that made famous the quote "A celebrity is a person who is well-known for their well-knownness" and which opens with this clever exchange:

ADMIRING FRIEND: "My, that's a beautiful baby you have there"

MOTHER: "Oh, that's nothin--you should see his photograph!"

Even though Boorstin was talking about the early days of television and things like the Kennedy-Nixon Debate, his ideas here have proven quite prescient and continue to stand the test of time. (Note: For a more recent examination of the Kennedy-Nixon Debate and other aspects of the JFK/RMN relationship, see this excellent book by Chris Matthews.)

2. The Americans: The Colonial Experience, The National Experience, and The Democratic Experience. This is a great trilogy. Here's what the NYT had to say in 1958 about "Colonial": He makes no attempt to tell the full stories of the colonies. Instead, he discusses a variety of topics that are grouped under four main headings: The vision and the reality, viewpoints and institutions, language and the printed word, and finally warfare and diplomacy. In all three, he captures all sorts of details about agriculture, business, education, freedoms, opinions, and so on as they were manifested in the era and fits them into a larger framework, as opposed to saying "first this happened, then this happened, then this, then this..." ad infinitum. BTW, here's a great collection of New York Times book reviews and articles connected to Boorstin and his writings.

3. The Discoverers, The Creators, The Seekers. This trilogy addresses topics in world history, and each examines a major theme (kind of) chronologically.

The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself deals with people in history who wanted to know what and how -- scientists, philosophers, economists, explorers, inventors -- people (some well-known, some almost forgotten) who spent their lives devising models and schemata with which to understand the phenomena around them, or who tested the hypotheses of others, or who organized the discoveries of others into coherent frameworks. Figures written about here include Galileo, Columbus, and Darwin (what world history book wouldn't?), but also such fascinating but less-known characters as Sir Anthony Panizzi, Heinrich Schliemann, and Marcello Malpighi. They made an IMAX movie based on this book.

The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination was the next in the series and studies (as you might guess) creative people -- artists, writers, musicians, and so on. Figures studied range from Homer and Dante to Dr. Johnson, Proust, and Wagner.

The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World is the slimmest of the three (my version is 259 pages of text) and deals with people who asked the big "Why?" questions -- some philosophical, some religious, some humanistic, some a mixture. It looks at the lives, works, and ideas of people such as Job, Socrates, St. Benedict, John Locke, the Marquis de Condorcet, Oswald Spengler, and William James.

Boorstin wrote a number of other stand-alone books, most of which I have not (yet) read. I'm pretty sure that his first was One of his first was 1948's The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson, which I have an unread copy of, and his last was the above-mentioned The Seekers, 50 years later. If you are even a casual armchair historian and have not yet tried Boorstin, you are cheating yourself.

Saturday Stuff

A few things:
  • Here's a good example of why protectionism is a terrible idea to put into practice. It's like the greedy kid who wants all the cookies in the narrow-necked cookie jar, grabs a bunch, and then can't get his hand out of the jar until he unclenches his fist and takes one cookie at a time.
  • Props to Russ Feingold and company for fighting the renewal of the lamely acronymized USA Patriot Act in the Senate. Here's Senator Feingold's blog.
  • This piece is over a year old now, but I just came across it recently. Who might we have to thank for the first use of the word "blog" in print? Lois Lane, that's who.
  • Here's a good article about someone with whom I had not been familiar: Golden-Age Animator John Hubley.
  • I'm hoping to see the new King Kong movie soon, so I've been checking out some Double-K articles and sites, such as this one, this one, this one, and this one.
  • Please welcome Chicago Bloggers and Yes But No But Yes to the blogroll.
  • This book might be clever -- The Lost Blogs: From Jesus to Jim Morrisson, by Paul Davidson.
  • Are you female? Are you a geek? Do you relish your geekdom? If so, and you want to share it in print with the world, you only have about a month to submit your essay to Details here. Summary -- Book Title: She's Such a Geek: An Anthology by and for Women Obsessed with Computers, Science, Comic Books, Gaming, Spaceships, and Revolution. Editors: Annalee Newitz and Charlie Anders. Publisher: Seal Press / Avalon Publishing Group. Deadline: January 15, 2006. Length: 3,000-6,000 words. Format: Essays must be typed, double-spaced, and paginated. Please include your address, phone number, email address, and a short bio on the last page. Essays will not be returned. Payment: $100 plus two books.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Should I Say It? Should I Say It?

It's dangerous to be a Christian these days. There's no doubt you have to worry constantly about being persecuted, or arrested, or killed for your beliefs... that is, you have to worry if you're a Christian in North Korea, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Burma, or numerous other countries around the world. But here in the U.S. of A., you really don't see too much of that sort of thing. Unless of course your first name is "John" and your last name is "Gibson."

Note the subtitle: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought

Intended outcome of liberal plot.

I guess that doesn't have to be your first and last name. It could be "Bill" and "O'Reilly," etc. Anyhow, the boys at Fox have been going on and on about the War on Christmas. (Here's a good Israpundit post on the topic.) They've even got Jackie Mason (!) in on the act. And wherever Jackie Mason leads, the House of Representatives will follow. My view on this is not that this phenomenon is an outgrowth of Christian thought (or any other kind of actual thought for that matter), but of us-vs.-them populism, plain and simple, of the sort that Huey Long fantasized about. You don't see Martin Marty or Stanley Hauerwas or Carl F.H. Henry bitching about any of this. (OK, CFHH died in 2003, but still...) I remember when conservatives used to rightly lambaste the lefties for their whiny embraces of victimization. In recent years, the social right has co-opted the leftists' "I'm a victim, wah wah waaaaaah" strategy and taken it to new heights.

One of the ideas here is that combatants in the WfC (War for Christmas) are supposed to go into retail outlets and do their Christmas shopping only at stores where they say things like "Merry Christmas" instead of the generic "Happy Holidays." So, let's see how this might go...

  1. Minimum-wage single mom (MWSM) got laid off this summer and is trying to make ends meet at crappy December retail job.
  2. Crappy December retail job multiplies her normal stress tenfold.
  3. One-size-fits-all corporate consultants decree that "Happy Holidays" is part of the pre-arranged script for dealing with customers.
  4. Single mom's Christian friend (SMCF) offers to help with watching kid, maybe invites them over for Christmas Eve, etc.
  5. Bigmouth WfC Christian (or maybe just a social conservative who has no real interest in Christianity) walks into retail outlet, is greeted with approved script by MWSM, who is masking tremendous stress from the hand she has been dealt, but is also grateful for SMCF's kindness and is thinking about further investigating her worldview.
  6. WfC bigmouth responds to retail script with O'Reilly/Gibson script and makes a BFD over the percieved slight of the "Happy Holidays" greeting in earshot of MWSM's supervisor. Weasel supervisor chews out MWSM for "making" the customer leave the store.
  7. WfC bigmouth feels smug; Sobbing MWSM decides to never have anything to do with Christianity again.
  8. Law of unintended consequences reigns supreme.

I say all of this to lead into the following. Ready? FuckChristmas dot org has one of the best responses to Fox-style silliness as I have read in quite some while. NSFW for language, as you might guess. Excerpt: But you boys at FOX still freak out every year about how everyone's out to get your special trees. This is really the most important thing you have to talk about? Whether Target says Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas? Here’s a brainstorm: there’s a fucking war on. Our soldiers are out there dying while you guys do your 14th live feed of the day from WalMart to show us what good little consumers we are. What Would Jesus Do? He’d jump over that newsdesk and kick your ass for that shit. Are you sure you want to hang your journalism credentials on a story about what some guy calls a tree?

Comments welcome. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Few Things

A few items of note:

  • Here are some observations on ACBC from Unlocked Wordhoard, and comments on that and other Christmas specials from The Shelf.
  • Only one more day to vote in the 2005 Weblog Awards.
  • With all the hubbub over Wikipedia lately, I thought that this was an interesting piece of Boing: A Nature article comparing Wikipedia to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Excerpt: The exercise revealed numerous errors in both encyclopaedias, but among 42 entries tested, the difference in accuracy was not particularly great: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.
  • LBNL, Here's the new Seed Magazine that's supposed to be the next big thing. Comments on / Excerpts from articles to follow. A blogpost about the new magazine's design can be found here.

Update: 12/15/05, 9:51 PM -- Looks like Wikipedia is getting pwnd by Web pranksters. Excerpt: This is despite a surge in the number of spoof articles and vandal attacks which have followed the furore over a biographical Wikipedia article linking John Seigenthaler, a respected retired journalist, with the assassinations of both John F and Robert Kennedy. In one such fake article, it was suggested today that Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's creator, was shot dead at his home by Siegenthaler's wife.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Following up on a few things from earlier this summer and fall...

I removed Underneath Their Robes from the blogroll the other day, even though it's been password-protected and unavailable to the blogosphere at large for several weeks. As you may or may not know, Article 3 Junkie was outed (As being a guy, by the way! An assistant U.S. Attorney in NJ.) in New Yorker Magazine.

Also, here's Newsweek on recently resigned-and-indicted Congressman Randy 'Duke' Cunningham, about whom I wrote the following back on 7/3/05:

It looks like previously blogged-about flag sophist Randy "Duke" Cunningham got a friendly visit from the FBI the other day. At my work, I recently declined the gift of a shirt from one of our vendors due to the possible conflict of interests (or actually, the appearance thereof) that might ensue. However, Cunningham has been living part-time on the luxury yacht of one of his vendors (i.e. a defense contractor). But, I bet the yacht at least has a nice big flag on it. More on Congressman Cunningham here. (p.s. - Even if you usually skip links, click that last one.)

OK, so now, what is up with this? (Excerpt from Newsweek, props to Majikthise):

Two women quoted by the Copley News Service depicted Cunningham, a self-described family man, as offering them champagne after changing into pajama bottoms and a turtleneck sweater "to entertain them by the light of his favorite lava lamp."

Keep in mind, this is the guy who was supposed to have been the basis for Tom Cruise's character in Top Gun. I'm sure he was looking for a Hefnerian effect; Can't blame him for trying.

Likely Cunningham's intended outcome; Still needed some work.

Now Showing

Apart from the Battlestar Galactica festival I've been having, there are a couple of other things I've watched in the last little while:

Tanner '88. I mentioned this a little while ago; It's the Robert Altman / Garry Trudeau project that aired on Showtime back in the political season of 1988. I'm glad I watched it once and have it to refer back to, but I wasn't mega-thrilled by it. It was a good idea -- Cinéma vérité on video, using real-life politicians and pundits. (An idea done to death by now, but still fresh when Altman did it almost 20 years ago.) But Jeez Louieez, talk about your knee-jerk lefties... The "poisoning the earth" stuff seems so 80s, and picking Ralph Nader for Attorney General -- Yikes. Still, 9/11 Comission Vice Chair Lee Hamilton, whom I respect quite a bit, was to be the Tanner Administration Defense Secretary, so I guess every cloud... At one point, Tanner referred to "Daniel Boorstin's book," meaning his early-60s study "The Image" which was quite a prescient work. I'm going to try to do a round-up of Boorstin links later. They did a follow-up last year, Tanner on Tanner, which I am going to add to my Netflix queue.

I have an old tape of Gerald McBoing Boing that I watched again this week. GMcBB is a Dr. Seuss story about a boy named Gerald McCloy who talks in sound effects. Long-awaited DVD compilation coming out in January. If hipster retro is your thing, this is for you.

A couple of months ago was in a town a couple of counties over and passed an old video store that was having a going-out-of-business sale. I went in and saw they were selling VHS tapes for like $2.50 each. This store had been in business since back in the day, and still had a lot of its original stock. So, I scooped up a bunch of VHS of movies that are unlikely to be on DVD any time soon -- Mostly early-70s/late-80s teen sex farces and low-budget horror or sci-fi flicks.

The other day I turned to this stack and picked Future-Kill, which came out sometime in the early 1980s, and mixed up aspects of The Warriors and Revenge of the Nerds. In some not-too-distant future, a bunch of frat boys get dared to go down to an unpolicable urban area taken over not by ethnic gangs or blue-collar thugs, but by punk rock anti-nuke protesters, one of whom went a little beserk and ended up with retractable claws à la Logan or Freddy K. Events unfold accordingly. Btw, I only found one review of any length, and it's well worth reading. Excerpt: Despite the fact that this has been called "the worst movie with the best cover art" (true story: A friend of mine in high school had a poster of this cover up in his bedroom -- never saw the movie, never intended to), it's really not an extremely lousy movie.

Next? A change of pace. René Clair's À Nous la Liberté. Why? It was on the NYT Best 1000 Movies list, and it starts with "A."

What I'm Doing Instead of Shoveling

A few observations on this brisk Saturday morning before I get the walk and driveway cleaned off:
  • First, a belated happy 85th birthday to the great Dave Brubeck, whom my ♥GF♥ and I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of years ago. What a cool guy! He and Thelonious Monk tie for second place in my ranking of favorite jazz musicians. Duke Ellington comes in first.
  • Looks like I have at least one thing in common with Jake Gyllenhaal.
  • Thanks to Polyglot, here's the official blog of the Ig Nobel Prizes and of the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). Here's the AIR main site. The thing that caught my attention was the following: Today marks the beginning of a new undertaking: Project Professor-Professor. Project Professor Professor is a prodigious international effort to identify and list all active research professors whose first and last names are identical. The first two professors celebrated by Project Professor-Professor are Abraham Abraham and Warren Warren.
  • In the Chicago area this weekend or next? You'll want to make sure to stop at the Facets Multimedia Clearance Sale. Every obscure indie, foreign, art-house, silent, drive-in, you-name-it movie you've always wanted but could never find will be there.
  • Here's the new blog of As If! (Young Adult Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom). (As long as they were going for acronymic conveyance of adolescent attitude, they should have called it "Ya... As If!")
  • I'm almost halfway through John Battelle's book and it's really good; I recommend it to anyone who is interested in that sort of thing. It's interesting to reflect back just a few years to see the way the geography and culture of the Internet has evolved. It's funny to read about people who threatened lawsuits against early search engines because they didn't want to be involved in any of these new-fangled "page-rankings."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Memo to Number One:

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Various Items

A few items of note on this brisk Midwestern night:

"So You're the Little Woman Who Wrote the Blogpost That Started This Great War."

I'm going to have to post something soon about the tremendous benefits of letting free markets thrive and the dangers of the expanding federal government, otherwise I'm worried that I'll start to sound like some pink-to-my-underwear leftie. But until then, I need to share this, just in case you hadn't realized what a slimy bitch Ann Coulter is:

Indeed it's been nearly a full week since the cowardly hate-mongering "satirist" Coulter posted Cornell's private information on the front page of her website in petulant retaliation for an article Cornell wrote here on BRAD BLOG. Coulter has refused to take it down despite Cornell's polite requests to do so. The Ivy League educated Republican mouthpiece also regaled her readers by adding "Death is sexier than Lydia Cornell" to a post which included a polite private email from the actress/author. In the bargain Cornell and her family continue to receive harassment and threats via her personal email and phone number which Coulter supplied to her millions of her uncompassionate attack dog sycophants who (predictably) refuse to condemn Coulter's indefensable lapse of simple "netiquette" and common decency.

I thought I was up on my pop culture, but Lydia Cornell had escaped my attention until now. She is notable for her appearances on early-80s TV shows (she co-starred in Too Close for Comfort with Ted Knight) and for being the great-great-granddaughter of Harriet Beecher Stowe. From Ms. Cornell's blog:

I don't want to live in fear, but I got my second death threat today, and also a strange man came to my door. My kids were home from school and almost opened the door. For Coulter to put my FAMILY'S home phone number on her front page, knowing it would incite her fans, is unconscionable, and it continues to get worse. I have run the gamut from feeling horribly guilty, stupid for putting our home phone number on a private letter to Coulter, (but I wrongly assumed she was a normal person with the class to realize this was a private communication) and now -- very frightened for my children -- for writing what I thought was a comedic article about my frustration with this war & utter bewilderment over this new militant form of Christianity.

I think if I correspond with Ann C. I'll just use the contact information for the Detroit Red Wings' locker room and let any Coulterites who go looking for me straighten it out with whomever opens the door at the Joe Louis Arena.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Polls Are Open

OK, voting is open for the 2005 Weblog Awards. I nominated some of my faves a couple of weeks ago, usually one per category. Not all made it through the nomination process, but some did. So, make sure to vote for:

Boing Boing didn't get onto the Best Technology Blog ballot (I'm torn between John Battelle, whose book I am reading, and Search Engine Watch), but is up for Best Blog, and that's how I cast my vote in that category (w/apologies to Glenn Reynolds).

Of course, what usually happens in things like this (especially since you can vote once every 24 hours) is that True Believers of all stripes will turn out in droves. Before you know it, Stop the ACLU will have more votes than there are computer keyboards in the world. (And no, I didn't link to them, because they suck. But I will link to this Agitator post titled "Stop Stop the ACLU.")

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Items on the Agenda

A few things to mention:

My ♥wonderful♥ ♥GF♥ got me a Sirius radio for my car for my birthday this week. She says that even though she doesn't like Howard Stern, she likes the fact that I like him.

I can't believe I've gone this long never having found the blog of The Incredible Hulk. Excerpt: Do you know what Hulk really, really likes to eat for breakfast when he knows he's going to be smashing stupid bad guys all day? He likes to eat Cream of Rice! Thor is all about Cream Of Wheat, but if there's one thing Hulk has learned from his years of smashing bad guys (yes, Juggernaut, Hulk knows you're out there just wait a minute while Hulk writes in his diary that is on the internet, ok?!?) it's that you need to have good rice energy and not heavy wheat energy because rice energy is what Shang-Chi and Iron Fist use and have you seen those people fight? They are unstoppable when they are flying around and flipping and kicking stuff in the air.

Unlocked Wordhoard has a good post about Hitchcock. I left a comment with an medium-sized quote from Donald Spoto's Hitch biography. This is one of my favorite Hitchcock theories.

With Vertigo and North by Northwest, Hitchcock concluded two quartets of films – four with James Stewart, four with Cary Grant. From Rope to Vertigo, Stewart was closer to a representation of Hitchcock himself than any presence until Sean Connery's in Marnie. Elsewhere one of Hollywood's clearest exponents of the ordinary man as hero, Stewart's image was reshaped by Hitchcock to conform to much in his own psyche. He is in important ways what Alfred Hitchcock considered himself: the theorist of murder (in Rope); the chair-bound voyeur (in Rear Window); the protective but decidedly manipulative husband and father (in The Man Who Knew Too Much); the obsessed, guilt-ridden romantic pursuer (in Vertigo). These four roles provided James Stewart with the most substantial roles of his career and Hitchcock with an alter ego attractive enough to engage the sympathies of his audience.

Cary Grant, on the other hand, represents what Hitchcock would like to have been: the suave, irresponsible playboy (in Suspicion); the ultimate savior of a blond he nearly destroys (in Notorious); the wrongly accused hero who wins the glamorous Grace Kelly (in To Catch a Thief); and finally (in North by Northwest) the theatergoing executive whose frantic, perilous journey ends with the blond lifted up from espionage to bed.

Charles Darwin stories popping up everywhere lately. Here's the 11/28 cover story of Newsweek, and a featured article from Smithsonian Magazine. Mother Jones contrasts Darwin with Adam Smith and presents Smith as proponent of Intelligent-Design economics-- a view I do not embrace (MJ's, that is -- not Smith's), but then MJ never saw an invisible hand it didn't despise.

This sounds like a great movie, via Language Log. Excerpt: What Spellbound did for spelling bees and Word Wars did for Scrabble, a new documentary hopes to do for the world of crossword puzzling. The Sundance Film Festival has announced its 2006 lineup, and among the 16 entries in the documentary competition is a film called Wordplay, directed by Patrick Creadon. This should be of even greater interest to word buffs than Spellbound or Word Wars, since as Lauren Squires recently pointed out on Polyglot Conspiracy, national spelling bees and Scrabble tournaments are "not really about the words."