Monday, November 30, 2009


Meet Maurice Clemmons. Actually, you don't want to meet Maurice, as he's the pyschopathic nutcase that gunned down four Washington state police officers in cold blood in a coffeehouse Sunday morning. He also apparently is a dimension-hopper, as he seems to have skipped out of a house during an all-night stand-off with SWAT teams that had surrounded him. You can read the latest updates about him here. . Maurice is an embarrassment to Mike Huckabee, who pardoned him (along with over a thousand others) ten years ago, when Maurice was serving a 90+-year sentence. Oops. Shades of Michael Dukakis and Willie Horton. . It will be interesting to see how the dittohead power-brokers spin this. A lot depends on whether they want Huckabee to be the GOP candidate in 2012. If they do, this will be spun as the fault of bleeding-heart liberals on the Arkansas parole board. . OTOH, if they're pinning their hopes on Sarah Failin' Palin, then this is a chance to eliminate a rival and you can expect them to tear Hucka-booboo to pieces. . Personally, I think Huckabee poses the biggest threat to Obama being re-elected next time. He's got name-recognition, and can probably pull the whole midwest and south into the GOP camp. So I'm all in favor of Rush and the rest of the wingnuts going into feeding frenzy mode. . In truth, Huckabee did nothing wrong. Giving 1000+ criminals a chance to redeem themselves is well-intended. It doesn't make Huckabee "soft on crime". But it does carry an inherent risk should one of those convicts decide to try to eliminate every police officer in the entire country. Welcome to reality, Hucky. Life's a b*tch at times.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Roger Waters - The Wall - Live In Berlin

115 minutes
Genre : Concert
MPAA Rating : n.a. (documentary)
My Rating : A-
. This was a benefit concert, given on 21 July 1990, just 8 months after the Berlin Wall was demolished. Ex-Pink Floyd guitarist Roger Waters assembles a star-studded list of guest musicians and stages a live version of The Wall, overcoming tremendous technical difficulties to do so. The audience is estimated to be between 200,000 and 300,000. . Some of the stars... The Scorpions were an impressive opening act, even if they did milli-vanilli it. Bryan Adams was still young enough to come off as a stud. Van Morrison and The Band were cool to see, although they didn't have big enough parts in the show. James Galway played a b*thchin' flute. Waters' in-house lead guitarist, Rick Difonzo, was awesome. Cyndi Lauper and Sinead O'Connor were still relevant back then. And Mick Jagger's ex, Jerry Hall, got to prance-&-pout. . What's To Like... It's Floydian music, so naturally it's great. But it's the technical aspect of the stage show itself that really makes this a worthwhile concert/DVD. Waters puts his soul into the work, and the result is a more like a musical than a concert. The building of the wall, and its subsequent crumbling down - all done while the musicians are doing their thing - is fabulous. So if there was some miming going on, and if some of the DVD scenes are re-takes and pre-takes, that's okay. . The quibbles are few. Joni Mitchell seems to be stuck in the 60's - no visual effort on her part - just stand-&-sing. Cyndi Lauper seems overly-happy, and Sinead O'Connor seems underly-so. As always, the list of musicians who declined to play is mind-numbing : Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, and of course, the rest of Pink Floyd. . Tear Down The Wall! In the end, this is as much a historical happening as a well-staged musical. Germany was in the process of reunifying, and 45 years of French, Russian, British, and American occupation was coming to an end. The German people, especially the young, needed a focal event to remember the long, gradual reunification by. Roger Waters supplied it. . It is said the original concert audio was rather wretched. This 2003 version had the sound tracks re-mastered, and they certainly sounded good to me. We'll give it an "A-", and recommend it to fans of both Pink Floyd and History.

Friday, November 27, 2009


...we had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, went to bed, and didn't wake up until the next morning. (and I got to hear this song to boot)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

We'll be having some of the above, along with the usual fare. Including Liz's specialty - turkey-ham roll-ups. A long nap is planned for the afternoon, somewhere about the time the Plowboys go up by more than three touchdowns on the hapless Raiders.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Roseanna - Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

1965 (Swedish); 1967 (English). 212 pages. Genre : Crime Fiction. Book #1 in the Martin Beck detective series. Overall Rating : B. . The nude body of a young woman is pulled out of Sweden's Lake Vattern. There are no identifying marks or any other clue as to her identity. Detective Martin Beck checks on all the Missing Person reports throughout Sweden, but none of them match the victim's description; even after a couple months have gone by. There's not a lot for him to go on. . What's To Like... It's cool to see how the detectives go about trying to solve a case so devoid of clues. The plot moves along nicely, and if anything, the book was over too soon. This is a "police procedural" story, so the emphasis is on perseverence and dogged detective work. There are a couple lucky breaks, but they make the story work, so that's okay. . It's also neat to read a story based on 1960's technology. There are no e-mails or cell-phones. Long-distance phone conversations have poor reception and tenuous connections, and snail-mail is the only way to send written communication. And when the snail-mail is coming from overseas, the delays are significant. . There are a couple "holes" in the story. Most notably, nobody seems too concerned about where the girl's clothing and personal effects might have ended up. And the ploy used to catch the killer smacks of Police Entrapment, although maybe this was allowed in Sweden way back then. . Martin Beck is to a certain degree, the stereotypical p0lice detective. He smokes too much, his marriage is on the rocks, and he doesn't sleep well. Oh well, at least he 's not an alcoholic. Yet. . Cool new words in the book... Only one - décolleté. Meaning (in fashion) : leaving the neck and shoulders uncovered. . Excerpt. "Don't think so much about that case. It isn't the first time we have failed. It won't be the last either. You know that just as well as I do. We won't be any the better or the worse for it." "It isn't just the case I'm thinking about." "Don't brood. It isn't good for the morale." "The morale?" "Yes, think what a lot of nonsense one can figure out with plenty of time. Brooding is the mother of ineffectiveness." (pg. 42) . Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo Roseanna is the first of the 10-book Martin Beck series. Sjowall and Wahloo were a husband-&-wife team, who wrote alternating chapters of each book. Bizarre. . Sjowall and Wahloo blazed the trail for Swedish noir police procedurals. Their influence on Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson is profound. FWIW, the most famous book in the Martin Beck series is probably The Laughing Policeman, which was made into a Hollywood movie, starring Walter Matthau. I enjoyed Roseanna, and will probably end up reading a couple more of the series.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In case of revolution...

We'll ignore the fact that the picture-taker managed to get his reflection included in the photo. Gotta think of the camera-angle, dude.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The heck with your soul...

... it's your brain we want control of. . The Roman Catholic Church has decided it doesn't like the political views of Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy (a lifelong Catholic), so they're denying him Communion. You can read about it here. . These are the same folks who condemned Galileo for teaching that the earth revolved around the sun, and not vice versa. They're also the folks who decided Hitler slaughtering six million Jews was just too hot of a topic to take a stand on. . This is not an anti-Catholic rant. This is an anti-Organized Religion rant. The Protestant denominations are just as bad; and the Islamic fundies are the worst of all. Frankly, it seems most religions are more concerned about your vote and your money than about your soul. . There is one exception to this. The UU's. Alas, they're the other extreme. Tell them it's raining outside, and they'll spend the next three hours discussing the philosophical ramifications of making such an absolute pronouncement.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Philosophy Majors

I knew somebody once - a long time ago - who chose Philosophy as his major. He never came close to graduating, so I didn't get to find an answer to that great cosmological question - exactly what does one do with a degree in Philosophy? . He was convinced that major corporations would pay him mucho dollars to sit around and philosophize to them. I thought he was full of sh*t. But hey, people with that major do graduate and presumably do find jobs that make use of their degree. . So someone tell me a job that gives preference to a degree in Philosophy. Besides, of course, being a professor teaching it at college.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Fourth Bear - Jasper Fforde

2006; 378 pages. Book #2 of the Nursery Crime series. Genre : Umm... Nursery Crime. Overall Rating : A. . Golidlocks is dead, but was it an accident or murder? Jack Spratt is on the case, and there's a lot more on his plate than that. The Scissor-man is afoot, trying to separate thumb-sucking children from their digits. The homicidal Gingerbreadman is running as fast as he can. Punch & Judy have moved next door to Spratt, and the noise they make while fighting would keep the dead awake. Jack's sanity is in question, since he claims he has a self-repairing car, sold to him by Dorian Gray. 50-kilgoram cucumbers are being blown up, and someone is supplying illicit porridge to the bear community. . What's to Like... TFB is punnier and funnier than the first book in the series, The Big Over Easy. Every cliché and plot deivce imaginable is deliberately used. There's a multitude of plots, and part of the fun is figuring out if and how Fforde intends to wrap them all up. . The prologues that start each chapter are great. And as usual, Chapter 13 is a study in efficiency. There's a fun-filled theme park called Somme World, where visitors can relive the horrors of World War One trench warfare. The bear society is a hoot. . There aren't many negatives. It does take a while for the story to get around to The Three Bears tale. But you're rewarded by learning how three bowls of porridge, all poured at the same time, can have three different temperatures, and why Mr. and Mrs. Bruin sleep in separate beds. . Cool words in The Fourth Bear... Pedantic (ostentatious concern for details). Probity (complete, utter integrity). Moggy (a domestic cat). Sparrow's Fart (dawn). The latter two are Britishisms. I simply have to incorporate Sparrow's Fart into my daily vocabulary somehow. . Excerpts. "I was one of the first," (Hoffman) muttered sadly, following her gaze. "A life lived in fear is a life half lived. A life half lived is fear lived in half. A life half feared is a fear half lived." Some people have a way wth words, but Hoffman wasn't one of them. (pg. 14) . "When did (the Gingerbreadman) escape?" "Ninety-seven minutes ago," replied Copperfield. "Killed two male nurses and his doctor with his bare hands. The other three orderlies who accompanied him are critical in the hospital." "Critical?" "Yes. Don't like the food, beds uncomfortable, waiting lists too long - usual crap. Other than that they're fine." (pg. 54) . The Fourth Bear is another ffine efffort by Fforde. I liked it a bit better than The Big Over Easy (reviewed here). He seems to be hitting his stride in this series, and it's a bit of a shame that it is planned to be only a trilogy. But Jack Spratt's loss is hopefully Thursday Next's gain.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Speaking of movies...

2012 is also out. And garnering all sorts of bad reviews. But there's a Star Trek movie just now available on DVD. Reportedly about how the young Kirk, Spock, Scotty, etc. all ended up together on the Enterprise. Now that might be worth watching. How did I miss it when it was in the movies?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The sequel

The premiere is midnight tonight. With lots of teenage girls lining up hours in advance to see it, after solemnly promising their parents that they'll be up and ready to go to school on time just fine tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

RIP - Shaniya Davis

Shaniya was the 5-year-old North Carolina girl whose mom allegedly rented her out for prostitution. If there's a more heinous crime than this, I'm at a loss to think of it. . We will allow justice to run its course. After all, the first thing the police did when the girl went missing was to throw mom's boyfriend in jail. It's always the BF that did it, don't you know? Especially when we're talking about blacks. Until a motel employee came up with a videotape showing a completely different guy carrying Shaniya to a motel room. So Bro #2 is now in jail, and the authorities had to reluctantly let the BF walk. For now. . I don't know what drives a mom to do this to her own daughter. Drug addiction? A controlling man in her life? A desperate need for money? No matter what the reason, why didn't the mom turn the tricks herself? . I do know this is why I support the very un-liberal institution of Capital Punishment. Yeah I hear you. Executing the mom and the guy that (presumably) raped and killed Shaniya won't bring her back. But hopefully it will deter the next hard-up mom and child-molesting dude(s) from engaging in this kind of perversion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

RIP - Edward Woodward

Edward Woodward
b. : 01 June 1930
d. : 16 November 2009
. Edward Woodward was the star of an action series called The Equalizer, which ran from 1985 to 1989. He played an ex-agent who ordinary people could come to (via an ad in the newspaper) when they needed help - be it sleuthing or plain old muscle. Think "one man A-Team", or "Baretta freelances". . He played the role of Robert McCall. He had a charming British accent, a way-cool black Jaguar, and a bunch of techno-gadgets that The Joker would kill for. McCall was middle-aged (and that's being tactful) but could kick a$$ if the situation required it. . The Equalizer was one of the better action-dramas of the 80's, and Woodward won a Golden Globe Award for the Best TV Drama Actor in 1986. McCall's boss was played by Robert Lansing, whom some of us remember as the star of the 60's TV series, 12 O'Clock High. .

Monday, November 16, 2009

A lethal combination

Twitter and Swine Flu. Almost as dangerous as Faux News and Sarah Palin.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Prisoner

Starting tonight, the TV channel AMC is airing a remake of The Prisoner. Alas, it's only six episodes long; 1 hour per episode. Alas and alack, AMC has decided that the shows should start tonight here in Arizona at 9:00 PM; and to run a two-pack of them back-to-back for three nights. That means staying up till 11:00 PM on three consecutive worknights. . Are you AMC folks #%$^$ nuts?!?! I loved the original series when it aired some 40-odd years ago. But staying up even one night until 11:00 turns me into a zombie the next day. There's no way I'd survive three nights in a row keeping those kind of hours. . And FWIW, I predict Ian McKellen, the new "Number Two" is going to steal the show. He looked diabolically awesome in a trailer that AMC ran this morning.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Best Cartoons for the Past Week

Steve Benson (top cartoon) is fantastic, as usual.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Gathering Storm - Robert Jordan

2009; 766 pages. Genres : Epic Fantasy; Neverending Series. Book 12 in the "Wheel Of Time". Overall Rating : A. . The series-ending trilogy begins. Brandon Sanderson takes over for the late Robert Jordan, reportedly using RJ's copious notes and emulating Jordan's style. . TGS focuses on the two main characters in WoT. Rand tries to rally the kingdoms he's conquered and forge alliances with those he hasn't, all in order to resist the looming invasion by the Dark Lord. . Egwene continues undermining the The Amyrlin Seat (Elaida) in the White Tower, while also trying to heal the deep divisions within Ajahs of the White Towers. . What's To Like... For a long-awaited change, there's great action and plot advancement. The other two ta'veren, Mat and Perrin, are being drawn towards The Dragon Reborn. Some loose ends (such as Sheriam and the Prophet Masema) are tidily wrapped up. There are a number of MIA's - Moiraine, Morgase, Elayne, and Loial - that presumably will get their due in the remaining two books. The ending of TGS is quite good. . And if you're one of those readers who liked the plodding aimlessness of the last half-dozen books in this series, then some of the chapters here will make you happy too. A lot of pages are expended on Aviendha's recurring "punishments" and her incessant musings about their cause; and Rand traipses from one kingdom to another, brooding, b*tching, and generally being a PITA to be around. . There are some minor drawbacks. The Gathering Storm is not a stand-alone book, and the Glossary won't help you much make sense of who's who and what the various fantasy world phrases mean. So newcomers are looking at 10,000 pages (2½ million words) as background reading before they can hope to make sense out of TGS. . There is also some Jordanesque repetitiveness. There are umpteen "smoothing of the dress", "arms folded beneath the breasts", and "skirts divided for riding". Further, you are reminded a couple thousand times of the allegorical "coming storm". . Excerpt - The bad guys' viewpoint. "He has failed before and will fail again," Rand said. I will defeat him." . Moridin laughed again, the same heartless laugh as before. "Perhaps you will," he said. "But do you think that matters? Consider it. The Wheel turns, time and time again. Over and over the Ages turn, and men fight the Great Lord. But someday, he will win, and when he does, the Wheel will stop. . "That is why his victory is assured... When you are victorious, it only leads to another battle. When he is victorious, all things will end." (pg. 238) . Excerpt - The good guys' viewpoint. Thom chuckled. "We can't go back, Mat. The Wheel has turned, for better or for worse. And it will keep on turning, as lights die and forests dim, storms call and skies break. Turn it will. The Wheel is not hope, and the Wheel does not care, the Wheel simply is. But so long as it turns, folk may hope, folk may care. For with light that fades, another will eventually grow, and each storm that rages must eventually die. As long as the Wheel turns." (pg. 404) . There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time... For me, The Gathering Storm was a great read. Sanderson has continued, as he should, to pay homage to Jordan every chance he gets. But personally, I think RJ had lost control of WoT. The plotlines just continued to spread out further and further, and whenever RJ did try to rein them in, the result was stagnation. A fresh touch was needed, and Sanderson supplies it. . So we'll give TGS a solid "A", and give Sanderson a heartfelt "Thank You" for his efforts. It will still take all his resources to bring everything together for the final showdown ("Tarmon Gai'don"), but Sanderson has two books to do it in, and a fair chance of pulling it off.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gaiman tribute

Neil Gaiman roolz. And any comic strip that gives a nod to him roolz too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The answer isn't "42" ??

Question : If three astronauts are in a canoe flying over the Gobi desert and they crash, how many pancakes does it take to shingle a dog house? . Answer : Purple, because ice cream has no bones. . For an explanation of "ice cream has no bones" (and some other great answers) see here. I had never heard of this phrase, but apparently it is a well-known technical concept within the realm of logic.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Real or Photoshopped?

I'm still not sure whether this is clever placement or a bit of fairly simple Photoshop retouching. I'm leaning towards the latter. Spoiler : to me, the crack extends too far up the shoulder.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Back from Sedona

We're back from two relaxing days in Sedona. That's Liz looking out from the balcony of our room. More pics to follow.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Valley Fever

Time to get out of this 90°F weather for a couple days. Take a train ride; visit a ghost town; enjoy scenery like this.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Apparently not

Actually it was a great series, even if my Phillies didn't win. In the end, it came down to the bats. The Yankees' hitters came through; the Phillie hitters (with the exception of Werth and Utley) didn't. Pedro Martinez pitched good, even if he took two losses. But Hamels hasn't been dominant all year, and that continued into the post-season. . So Congratulations to the Yankees; the better team won. There is nevertheless plenty of cause for optimism for Philadelphia in 2010.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Our 30th Anniversary

As of yesterday, 03 November.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bye Bye, Bardwell

Keith Bardwell is the clueless racist who, as a Justice of the Peace in Louisiana, refused to marry an interracial couple a couple weeks ago. His actions were so outrageous that even the dittoheads refused to come to his support. He finally got the message, and resigned today. You can read about it here. . Keith doesn't think he's prejudiced; he's only concerned about the children of mixed marriages. Right, Keith-o. Perhaps the federal civil rights lawsuit that the couple have filed against you will get through your thick skull. . My question is - how does a cretin this stupid and this bigoted get appointed JOTP in the first place? Didn't someone interview him or do a background check on him? . Dear Louisiana. When you go looking for Bardwell's replacement, just ask the applicant(s), "Do you think Abraham Lincoln was a liberal commie for freeing the slaves?" If they answer "yes", you probably want to move on to the next candidate.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Link Station Quad

Thanks to the wizardry of Ryan, 110 gigs of photos, music, videos, etc. have been successfully rescued from my now-defunct Maxtor external hard drive. . I now have me something called a Buffalo Link Station Quad. 4 terabytes of memory that is actually "only" 2.7 terabytes because it has parody drives. Much better than mirror drives, I am told. It has "raid" functionality. It can turn my house (and iPhone, and work PC, and TV's, and anybody else's laptops) into my own little network. I think it can even wash my truck on weekends. . Do I understand that last paragraph? Not one bit. Indeed, I've undoubtedly mangled all the technical mumbo-jumbo. All I know is that I have one huge freakin' data-storage unit which, if one of the drives fails, can retrieve everything that drive held.