Wednesday, June 30, 2010

District 9 (Movie)

Movie Release Date : August 2009
DVD Release Date : December 2009
Genre : Sci-Fi
Length : 112 minutes
MPAA Rating : R Overall Rating : 6*/10
. The "sleeper" movie of 2009, District 9 was a low-budget movie with a largely unknown cast, that ended up being nominated for four Academy Awards. . The film is set in Johannesburg, South Africa, where an immobilized alien mother ship is found to contain a couple million emaciated insectoid aliens. They are brought to earth, resettled in a slum, but years later, our humanitarian attitude has soured, and it is decided to evict them and resettle them out in the boonies. A dimwitted bureaucrat named Wikus (Sharlto Copley) is put in charge, but he becomes contaminated with an alien elixir, and begins to transform into one of "them". . What's To Like... It's a novel twist to depict bug-like beings (perjoratively called "prawns") as the oppressed, and we humans as the inhumane oppressors. It's no coincidence that this was set in South Africa, where apartheid was practiced until very recently. Indeed, the forced eviction is based on a historical event, where white South African forces tried in the 1970's to move tens-of-thousands of Blacks out of District 6 in Johannesburg. . The first part of the film is shot is "documentary" style, which presented the story effectively, but was a little bit too "Blair Witch Projecty" for me. And although the central theme (Xenophobia) is a worthy one (especially here in Arizona, with our hate-filled anti-immigration laws), the film seemed to have tunnel-vision about it. Finally, there's no getting around it, despite oodles of special effects, this was a low-budget film. . Nevertheless, I liked it. It won't take the place of a sci-fi epic like, say, Starship Troopers, but it had a good message. My big wish would be for someone like Spielberg to wait five years, then do a re-make with big money thrown at the special effects. Six stars. .
- 2nd Opinion -
Liz thought this was a wretched movie. Halfway through, she gave up and read a book instead. So this probably isn't the DVD to buy the missus for Valentine's Day or your Anniversary.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Three new breeds

One of my alter-egos, Rex the Sheepdog, has been whining all day for me to post this bit of news. The American Kennel Club today announced that they are recognizing three new breeds. You can read about it here. Top-to-bottom, they are the Cane Corso, the Icelandic Sheepdog, and the Leonberger. . .
Personally, I think Rex is just gaga because one of the three is a sheepdog. Rex is too (he works in Wyoming), but he's got more breeds in him than a cat has fleas.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Arizona Mules

Our cretin for a governor, Jan Brewer, has blessed us with a new revelation : Most of the illegal immigrants are drug mules. Think I'm kidding? Read the CNN article about it here. . Is there some sort of dittohead contest to see who can say the stupidest thing? If so, I propose it should be called the Ev Meacham Award, in honor of the former Arizona governor who kinda set the standard for Idiocy. He was such a moron, even the Republicans were embarrassed of him. They impeached Ev eventually. . So here's to you, Brewer. For at least trying to lower the gubanatorial IQ bar. You putz. May you wake up tomorrow as a giant cockroach.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In The Garden of Iden - Kage Baker

1997; 294 pages. Genre : a mixed bag (see next section). Book #1 (out of 8) of Baker's "Company" series. New author?: Yes. Overall Rating : 7½*/10.
I've been looking for this book for a while now. Borders and the used-book store didn't have much of a Kage Baker selection, but my local library did. In The Garden of Iden is a combination of sci-fi time-travel, historical fiction, and icky-ooey romance. Somehow it works.
My review in 50 words or less...
Mendoza is a cyborg immortal, in 16th-century England, collecting soon-to-be-extinct plants. She copes with religious fanaticism, primitive mortals, and hormonal romance. But it's the historical realism that really stands out. With good themes and subtle humor, this is an excellent "intro" book to the series.
Only a caitiff would fail to read the full-blown version of the review here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup - into the second round

The first round of the World Cup is over. 16 teams have gone home; 16 teams remain. The USA is still playing. the next round starts tomorrow, so it's time to check our pre-tournament predictions, which you can see here. .. Championship Game : Brazil vs. Germany Germany lost a game, but they were playing a man short. They still finished first in their section. They have to play England next, and to get to the finals, they'd have to beat Argentina. That's a tough road, but hey, it could happen. I'm sticking with this one. . . 3rd-4th Place Game : Spain vs. Portugal This game will happen, but not for 3rd/4th. They play each other next, so I have to replace one of them in my prediction. Spain still hasn't impressed me, but they won their group. Portugal tied Brazil today, but neither team was making an effort. They also smashed North Korea 7-0. In browsing the brackets, I'm going to revise this to be Portugal vs. Uruguay. . USA's Performance & USA vs. England. I predicted the USA would still be in it and they are. I predicted they'd lose to England, and they tied, thanks mainly to a horrible gaffe by the English goalkeeper. My updated prediction for our next game is : USA 2 - Ghana 1. After that, we'll face Uruguay and lose, maybe 2-0. We'll be bummed, but actually, it will be quite a successful showing if we get that far. . Best Never-to-Happen Match-Up & Upset African Victory South Korea surprisingly made it to the second round, but North Korea is gone. It was not meant to be. I predicted Cameroon 2 - Netherlands 1; it turned out just the opposite. The game was tied for while, but Cameroon was never really in the game, and ended up losing all three of their matches. African teams did horribly here; the closest thing you could call an upset was South Africa tying Mexico. .Two Over-Performing Teams : Uruguay and Mexico. Right as rain on this one. They both are still in the tournament. The only thing I'm changing here is for Uruguay to go further than Mexico. BTW, most over-performing Continent is South America. Five teams; fifteen games so far. Overall record : 10 wins, 4 draws, 1 loss. All five teams advanced. Fab-u-loso!

Two Under-Performing Teams : France & Argentina

Dead right about France; dead wrong about Argentina. Maradona is awesome. I'll be cheering for the USA tomorrow, of course. But overall I cheer for every team. It's been a great tournament so far, and it's only gonna get better.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just Wrong - Ice Hockey Edition

Dude, it's cold enough at an ice hockey game without resorting to this. . And maybe it's just me, but it seems like half the women in the picture look like either Hillary or Chelsea Clinton.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

USA 1 - Algeria 0

Hey, the United States finally won a World Cup soccer game today! And in the 91st minute of a 90-minute game no less. . By doing so, they won their section, and so play Ghana next. England, by placing second, gets to play Germany next, a much more formidable opponent than we have. Slovenia, who was within a whisker of advancing (in place of the USA), gets to go home. .
I've been saving the MSNBC headline (below) for about six months now. It seemed like bulletin board material at the time it came out, but I guess the USA knew what they were talking about.
We shall see how they do against Ghana and beyond. They certainly haven't scared anybody yet. Barely beating Algeria is not a signature victory, and Brazil (probably) waits in the wings. Tomorrow is another day, but for now we can bask in glow of two miraculous finishes (against Slovenia and Ghana), as well as the knowledge that other teams may be better than us, but none are more resilient.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I agree with Batman...

... the World Cup, so far, has been fantastic. I watch it on the weekends, and whenever I get a chance to sneak into the company lunch room. And at my desk, I "watch" the games via ESPN's gamecast, which our filtering system graciously allows through.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Florida Roadkill - Tim Dorsey

1999; 362 pages. Book #1 of Dorsey's "Serge Storms" series. New Author?: No. Genre : Florida Crime Fiction. Overall Rating : 5½*/10.
Slowly, very slowy, Tim Dorsey books are showing up at the two used-book stores I frequent. I've found three now, and read two : this one and Hurricane Punch, with Cadillac Beach on the TBR shelf.
My review in 50 words or less...
Who would kill for five million dollars in stolen drug money? Just about everyone, including Serge and Coleman, psychopathic Sharon, and Satan-worshipping Dar-Dar. Lots of laughs; lots of bodies. Learn the meaning of "Death by Levi 501's". Not Dorsey's best, but good nevertheless.
The expanded review, so hot it needs a trivet, is here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2008) Genre : Fantasy MPAA Rating : PG-13 (123 minutes) DVD Release Date : April 2010 Overall Rating : 5*/10 (maybe 6)
This was Heath Ledger's swan song, and has all the ingredients for the making of an epic movie. Terry Gilliam (12 Monkeys, Time Bandits) directs an all-star cast consisting of Christopher Plummer, Jude Law, Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp, Tom Waits, Verne Troyer ("Mini-Me"), and the delectable Lily Cole. The London setting is great, and the cinematography (especially the surreal "imagination" scenes) is fantastic. The film received two Academy Award Nominations - Best costumes; Best Art Direction.
So why the low mark? Because the storyline was both confusing and devoid of tension. Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is engaged in a Faustian series of bets with The Devil (Tom Waits), seemingly winning them all (so far), yet finding himself in desperate straits. The soul of his daughter (Lily Cole) hangs in the balance, and all will be lost unless he can "win" 5 souls before Old Scratch does.
That ought to make for a great plot, but instead we get lots of sparkle and very little substance. The acting is good, but there's little drama. I knew who was going to win in the end, but frankly, I didn't care. The surreal scenes were psychedelically stunning, but didn't really contribute much to the story's resolution. Objectively, this is a 5 Stars (out of 10) movie, although you could add one star more in tribute to Heath.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jedi Bedi White Knight

RIP, Rue McClanahan.

Friday, June 18, 2010

USA 2 - Slovenia 2

The good news? The USA is still undefeated after two rounds in the World Cup. (Two draws) The bad news? We waltzed into this morning's game against Slovenia (who?) thinking they would just roll over and concede to wonderful little old us. And promptly got our butts spanked.
By halftime, we were down 0-2, and our defense was being taken to school again. But we came back. And what a comeback it was, too! The adrenaline (or was it panic?) kicked in, and with ten minutes to go, we had fought back to a 2-2 tie. We even appeared to score a third time, only to have it waved off by a referee who seemed on the take from Slovenia.
We will now whine about being robbed (which we were), conveniently forgetting that the only reason we still have a chance of advancing to the next round is because England muffed that weenie shot on goal in our opening game.
Which cost that English goaltender his starting job, BTW. His back-up performed admirably today, but the English offense looked pathetic, and they could only tie lowly Algeria 0-0. So Group C, which is comprised of the four aforementioned teams, is up for grabs. The top two teams advance, and all four are still in the running. Wouldn't it be a jaw-dropper if the two advancers turned out to be Algeria and Slovenia?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Dark Side of the Moon

Every Friday is Pink Floyd day. I hereby declare it. Band t-shirts (preferably concert ones) are mandatory attire. If you don't have one for PF (I have four in my wardrobe), a t-shirt of some metal band is an appropriate substitute.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Orphan's Tales - In the Night Garden - Catherynne Valente

2006; 483 pages. Genre : Fantasy Mythpunk (huh?). Awards : 2008 Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature; nominated for the 2006 James Tiptree Jr. Award; nominated for the 2007 World Fantasy Award. New author?: Yes. Overall Rating : 8½*/10.
It's always a treat to go to my local library. Their selection of books is different from what you find at Borders or even at a used-book store. I've been looking for something by Catherynne Valente for quite some time. Turns out, the library has three or four of her works.
My review in 50 words or less...
Told in 1001 Arabian Nights/Chaucerian style, Ms. Valente invents a whole new mythical world. But it's the tales themselves that star here. Consisting of two overall adventures, they are intricate and labyrinthine, yet they wrap up nicely. Rich in imagery; a captivating book. First of a duology.
The liminal link to the full-blown review is here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

this is me...

...whenever the waiter or waitress asks me, "How is everything?" Unless I have my mouth stuffed with food, in which case i say, "Mmmgfffinefffffmmgghhmp."

Monday, June 14, 2010

1 Terabyte = ??

An excerpt from an otherwise interesting article here. Just two days' worth of music requires one terabyte?? That's one hellacious bitrate.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

England 1 - USA 1 (World Cup)

What a great game to watch! After 5 minutes, the USA was already down a goal, and things looked grim. But just before half, the English goalkeeper pulled a "Bill Buckner", and things were even again. The second half was tension-packed, but there was no scoring, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie. To grade the teams... . USA Offense : B- The footwork was good, the conditioning program showed, and we have some speedy strikers that caused all sorts of match-up problems for England. But the passing game sucked, and our shots were really wimpy. . England Offense : B+ Gerrard and Rooney both impressed me. The footwork was even better than the USA's, the passing was crisp, and their set plays were opening up shots the whole game. Still, only one shot went in, and that really had more to do with... . USA Defense : C- They were questionable before the World Cup even started, and they looked pathetic on the first goal. At that point, they could've folded, but instead they tightened up. They did a nice job on Rooney the whole game. Yet the questions remain. . England Defense : A- They never broke down and made the USA offense look sickly throughout. I was especially impressed with their tackling and getting to the loose balls first. . USA Goal-Keeping : A What a gritty performance by Tim Howard. No question about it - he was the MVP of the match. Good saves, great leadership, and he played hurt for the majority of the game. He was a little shaky on a couple of the saves, but I have the feeling that the ball and grass were slick. . England Goal-Keeping : D It's not just a matter of blowing that goal. There was fear in Robert Green's eyes. Yeah, he only allowed one score. But the Americans were hitting lobs at him. What will happen when he faces a top-notch offense like Brazil or Spain? .

In the end, it was a just outcome. Both goals were due more to luck than skill. Both teams are still positioned nicely to make it into the second round, even though ATM Slovenia is in first place after beating Algeria. Big hoop-de-doo.

Let's not kid ourselves - England is still the better of the two teams. Don't believe me? Look at who was rejoicing and who was bummed after the game was over. But the gap between the two countries' soccer programs has narrowed. Long-term, this bodes well for us Yanks.

Oh yeah, one last thing. Germany looked super-good today against Australia. And we haven't even seen Spain, Brazil, Portugal, and the Netherlands yet. The best is yet to come.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The House of Thunder - Dean Koontz

1982; 416 pages. Nom de plume used when it was originally published : Leigh Nichols. Genre : I ain't telling. New Author? : No; two others. Overall Rating : 7.75*/10.
I don't read a lot of Dean Koontz, but Santa brought me this book, and he is known to have good literary tastes. They say eventually all DK stories start to sound alike, but I haven't got to that point yet.
My review in 50 words or less...
Susan Thorton awakes from a coma to find that four menacing killers, against whom she testified 13 years ago, are in the hospital and threatening to kill her. They haven't aged a bit, and no one else sees them. A tense, twist-filled page-turner from Koontz.
The tremulous version of this review can be found here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup Openers

The World Cup began today, with both of my predicted "over-performers" seeing action. Neither lost, but neither was overly impressive. Still, we can rationalize. .
Mexico 1 - South Africa 1 South Africa is here only because they are the host country, but host countries historically play over their head. National pride and all that. Mexico did everything well in the first half, except score any goals. Thus it was disconcerting when, early in the second half, South Africa scored the first goal. But Mexico tied it late in the game. All in all, a missed opportunity for Mexico, and a confidence-booster for South Africa.
Uruguay 0 - France 0
Just the opposite here - France did everything better, except score a goal. To boot, Uruguay had to play the last dozen minutes or so a man down, thanks to one of their players getting red-carded and sent off. Still, France is the higher-rated team, so a draw is entirely acceptable for Uruguay. It looks like they play defense first, and only look to score via counter-attacks.
Tomorrow is USA-England. The two teams haven't met in the World Cup for sixty years, and everyone is still calling this a Grudge Match. Should be fun to watch.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Stepford Wives - (2004 Movie)

The Stepford Wives (2004 Re-Make)
Genre : Comedy
MPAA Rating : PG-13 (93 minutes)
My Rating : 4½*/10
. Want to get away from the stress of city life? Want to live happily forever-and-ever? Want your wife to be June Cleaver with playmate boobs? Then the quiet 'burb of Stepford, Connecticut may be just what you're looking for. But tranquility and docility come at a cost... . What's To Like... If you're going to do a remake of a classic, then at least do something different. The 1975 movie based on an Ira Levin novel was positively spooky. This 2004 version tells the tale via a whole new genre - comedy. . You get an all-star cast - Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick are the headliners. Bette Midler and John Lovitz are a great supporting duo, and Glenn Close and Christopher Walken threaten to steal the scenes, they're that good. . The one-liners are great. The make-up artists show how big of an effect they have by doing makeovers on Bette and Nicole. And you even have a gay couple living openly in Stepford; a sure sign that this isn't the 70's anymore. . Alas, the script and plot resolution are positively atrocious. Are the Stepford Wives robots? Zombies? Aliens? Brain-Washed? Tagged and Chipped? ATM machines? Hypnotized? At various times, any and all of the above seems to be the answer. The movie never resolves that. This is a flick where simply checking your brain at the door before you watch it may not be sufficient. A full-scale lobotomy may be in order. . There is a nice plot twist at the end, but it gets cancelled out by Kidman's mucho lame-o climactic moralizing speech. Don't blame her though. Shoot the scriptwriter. . This movie bombed in the theaters, and according to the Wikipedia article on it (see here) just about the entire cast ended up hating the finished version. I give it 4½ stars. Watch it for the laughs, and try not to scratch those itchy lobotomy sutures.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

World Cup Predictions

The premiere soccer event - The World Cup - begins in two days. South Africa is the host country, which means neither the European nor the South american teams have an inherent "home-soil" edge over each other. And yes, the champion will be from one of those two continents. . Even if you have little interest in soccer (or "football" to anyone who isn't from the USA), you owe it to yourself to watch some of these games. The level-of-play is truly unparalleled. Without further ado, here are my predictions... . Championship Game : Brazil vs. Germany The two favorites (both at 9:2 odds) are Brazil and Spain, and the latter certainly is on a roll. But Spain doesn't have the pedigree for World Cup finals. My head says it really should be Italy instead of Germany in the final, but my heart says that's a boring match-up. FWIW, Brazil is scary good. . Third-Fourth Place Game : Spain vs. Portugal I haven't looked beyond the first-round pairings, so this may not even be possible. Both of these teams are good, and this would be a treat to watch. . USA's Performance They'll make it into the second round, but lose there. Word is they're in great shape. But there's more to soccer than stamina. Someday the US will win a World Cup. Alas, not this time. . USA - England Score : 1:3 (first game for both squads) We've been giving England bulletin board material since the pairings were announced. England has the third-best odds to win it all (6:1), but somehow I see injuries hurting them. They are good, and those injuries won't be there in the opening game. We have the stamina, but they have the skill. . Best Match-Up that will never happen North Korea vs. South Korea. Simply cuz neither one will make it out of the first round. But wouldn't that be kewl? . Upset African Victory : Cameroons 2 - Netherlands 1 Why not? Other possibilities are Ghana tying Germany, and Ivory Coast beating Portugal. . Two teams that will under-perform France and Argentina. The former shouldn't even be here (sorry, Ireland) and the latter has psycho-druggy Maradona as their coach. I'd also pick Netherlands (ranked 4th in the world, and at 14:1 odds), but they always under-perform. . Two teams that will over-perform Mexico and Uruguay. Both make it into the second round (sorry, France and South Africa), and Mexico goes even further. . Teams I will be cheering for (other than the USA) I habitually root for the underdog, but some teams are simply more fun to watch. So my "pets" are Netherlands, Portugal, Paraguay, Switzerland, and all the African nations. .
That's about it. Missing in action are Turkey and Russia, both of which I expected to be here. For the record, my sports predictions are always potential money-makers for you. Just carefully read what I say, then place your bets in the exact opposite way.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Jingo - Terry Pratchett

1997; 437 pages. Book #21 in the Discworld series; Book #4 in the City Watch sub-series. Genre : Comedic fantasy; New author?: Heavens, no. Overall Rating : 9*/10.
My 14th Discworld book, and they're still a blast to read. At 437 pages, this may be the longest book in the series. I've also managed to find two of Pratchett's non-Discworld books : Nation and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. I'll probably read one of those in the near future.
My review in 50 words or less...
An island appears in the sea midway between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch (think Arabs/Muslims), and although neither country has any use for it, they both will fight to keep the other from occupying it. It's war, by jingo! Great humor, great themes, and well-written. Pratchett roolz!
You don't need a scryer to know that the larger version of this review is here.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Far Side reborn !!

Actually, it's more like a blend of Far Side humor and (the liberal-leaning) Dependable Renegade political commentary. Which, come to think of it, is another great site that I haven't touted nearly enough, and which you can find here. . You will find the Far Left Side webcomic at, aptly enough, and it is always hilarious. A small warning. Dittoheads should stay away.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Letters to Gaza (part 1)

Dear Israel, . I see you've managed to stop an unarmed Humantiarian Aid ship without killing anyone. Do you seek praise? I praise you not. . Your blockade against Gaza is nothing short of a slow, sure genocide. I hear you allow no cement to enter Gaza because "it might be used to build bunkers". True. But it will also be used to rebuild homes and businesses and roads. All of which you blew up with your air strikes. Is your ultimate aim for everyone there to live in tents? To travel on roads of rubble? To have no jobs because there are no businesses? If so, you are succeeding fiendishly. . Why ban paper from going into Gaza? Are you afraid it will be used as kindling for fires? And why are books banned as well? Do you think illiterate Gazans will be easier to control? You are wrong. . Israel, your heart is hardened and black. What do you think will go through the minds of Gazans as they watch their children and loved ones starve to death? Will their thoughts go to changing who they vote for in the next election? No. Instead, when all hope is gone, they will think only to strike one final blow against those who caused the destruction of their family. And that involves a vest of explosives and a bus ticket in Jerusalem. . Yet you are right. When the last Gazan has starved to death, no more rockets will rain down on you from there. Alas, your soul will have starved to death as well.

Letters to Gaza (part 2)

Dear Hamas, . Did you think this was going to be a one-sided rant? You are as much to blame for the blood that has been shed as Israel. . If you want to be a terrorist group, so be it. But when you became the government of Gaza, things changed. You are like a gang-banger who marries and has children. There are responsibilities now. You are now the father, protector, and provider for 1½ million dependents. You forfeited your former, reckless ways when you ousted Fatah. . Why are you shooting rockets into Israel? You know they will retaliate. Before, you could climb back into your black holes, and let Fatah face the wrath of Israel. Now you have no one to hide behind. Grow up. Or abdicate. You are killing your children.

Letters to Gaza (part 3)

Dear Humanitarian Aid Organizations, . Congratulations on achieving your initial objective. The world has been made aware of the plight of the Gazans and the atrocities that Israel is carrying out. Now what? . Do you think we are naive? Do you think Israel is stupid? I know there were no weapons on those first seven ships. We all knew Israel would stop them, hijack them, tow them to Israel, and open every last crate in search of rockets and bombs. Everybody knew no weapons would be found. A hammer, a wrench, and a piece of pipe do not qualify as weapons, even of not-so-mass destruction. . We also know that, as soon as the first Humanitarian Aid ship is allowed to go uninspected through the sea blockade, the next Humanitarian Aid ship will have AK-47's, C-4 explosives, and all sorts of other lethal cargo. . So what is your aim now? Do you really want to help the Gazans, or are you merely a propaganda pawn for militants? . If you truly want to help, you will allow Israel to board, inspect, and travel on all ships heading to Gaza. I propose Malta as a staging point. You had a diverse group of activists on the first flotilla of ships. Please diversify just a bit more, and allow Israelis to accompany you from now on. . In exchange, Israel is ordered to issue a comprehensive list of banned substances. And to have to justify why they are disallowing each one. So far, we know that books, paper, and cement are on the list. And money too, I suppose. They confiscated "envelopes stuffed with money" from that flotilla. Personally, I think this makes them common thieves. But I digress. . Let each item on the banned list be negotiable. Do you truly want cement to be allowed into Gaza? Perhaps Israel should be allowed some oversight as to how it will be used. Search your hearts, oh Humanitarian Aid workers. What are you truly working for? Who are you truly working for?

Letters to Gaza (part 4)

Dear Gazans, . The heart of the world goes out to you. I won't belittle you by saying I can feel your pain, your despair, your anger, and your hopes. Nor will I say that I can do much about your plight, other than pen a few words of outrage on a Sunday morning. . Still, the world now has a greater awareness of the injustices being wreaked upon you. We have examined the motives of the Israelis, and Hamas, and the various Aid Organizations. All of their hearts have been found wanting. Yours have not. . So we will continue to do what little we can. Mostly, it will be to make sure people do not forget you and do not dehumanize you. Palestinians have been the "Nobody's Child" of the world for more than 60 years now. Everyone in the Middle East hopes you will just disappear, so they don't have to think about you anymore. . There are still a few among us common folk who see you as human beings, deserving of the same opportunities in life as anyone else. Worthy of being something more than pawns for others' political agendas. Entitled to compensation for being ousted from your ancestral homes to make room for a Jewish homeland. . The situation is intolerable, and seemingly unsolvable. Yet some of us will persist in trying. We are stubborn, foolish, simple-minded optimists. We will keep on keeping on. Because the reality is, ignoring the Palestinian issue does not make it disappear.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Just Wrong - Star Wars Edition

A half a dozen Leias engaged in a pillow fight. . This is either a terrible desecration of the Star Wars series, or one of my deep-down fantasies coming to light. Hmmm.

Friday, June 04, 2010

For chemists only...

For the record, his number is (6.02 x 10 to the 23rd). It's the number of atoms (or molecules) in a mole of anything. We chemists are geekily good at remembering this sort of stuff. We also celebrate something called "Mole Day" at exactly 6:02 PM (or AM, if you're a morning person) on October 23. We are just loads of fun.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

RIP - Miss Ellie

Miss Ellie, famed for winning the 2009 World's Ugliest Dog contest, passed away at the ripe old age of 17. She was a Chinese Crested Hairless, which apparently is a breed that quite often wins this competition. . With a lolling tongue (it hangs out because she no longer has any teeth), and a vacant stare (due to cataracts and then blindness), she is a darling of a dog. . One of her prizes reportedly was a makeover. Given her "after" picture above, and her "before" picture below (from a couple of years ago IIRC), it is obvious that the groomers did a marvelous job. .
Her ribbon is technically in the "pedigree" category. Overall, she lost out to a to a boxer-mix named "Pabst", shown below. While I admit that Pabst probably sets the record for "worst underbite ever", he is not a particularly ugly dog. Methinks Miss Ellie wuz robbed of the grand title.
The MSNBC article is here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Gentlemen Of The Road - Michael Chabon

2007; 206 pages (including an "Afterword" and "A Note on the Khazars"). Genre : Historical Fiction; Action. New Author?: Yes. Overall Rating : 9*/10.
Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon tackles a new genre : a serialized adventure story. Can an author really jump from one genre to the next without sacrificing his high-quality writing skills? In Chabon's case, the answer is : Yes!
My review in 50 words or less...
A pair of mercenary con-men travel the roads of 10th-Century Khazaria just wanting to stay alive and earn a few dirhams. When they agree to safeguard a strong-headed prince as he tries to avenge his slain family, swashbuckling action erupts! Thrills and humor. A delightful read.
The caparisoned version of this reveiw is here.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

So that's what a sinkhole looks like

Wow! This is a giant sinkhole that formed in Guatemala City over the weekend due to torrential rains from Tropical Storm Agatha. It's approximately 65 feet deep and swallowed a three-story factory as it formed. MSNBC's report on it is here. Wikipedia's entry on sinkholes is here. . For some reason, I always thought the walls of a sinkhole would be more sloped. Yeah I know, thet're called sinkholes cuz they sink. But I'd expect the surrounding ground (which here from the storm must have been soaking wet mud) to do some sliding as well. .
This apparently is Mother Nature's catastrophic weapon of choice lately. A couple weeks ago, a house in Quebec got swallowed up by a sinkhole. The whole family (mom, dad, two daughters) was killed while watching a hockey game on TV, although ironically, the family dog survived. There was a spirited theological discussion in the comments to that CNN article (re the cosmic question "Why"), but that's a topic for another time.