Saturday, July 31, 2010


Awesome movie. 10*/10. Review to follow in a couple days, once I get my superlatives under control.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vanna visits

Our friend, Vanna, came all the way from Paris for a job interview this week. If he gets the job, he and his family (Hi, Rosa!) will be moving here, so we decided to start "acclimating" him to Arizona by taking him out to a local Mexican restaurant last Sunday. .
We ate at a place Jason and Ryan were familiar with - Asi Es La Vida. Liz, the Mexican food junkie, gives it two thumbs up. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A typical day at work

Really. This is how my day usually goes. The distillation apparatus gets sucked dry while I'm eating lunch and .... KABOOOMM!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

2005; 644 pages. New Author?: Yes. Genre : Crime Mystery. Awards : 2006 Glass Key Award; 2008 Boeke Prize; 2009 Galaxy British Book Award; 2009 Anthony Award (Best First Novel). Overall Rating : 8*/10.
I love Swedish crime novelists. Henning Mankell, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo, and now the late Stieg Larsson. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the first book in his "Millenium" trilogy, and I know I'm way behind the times. The first two books have already been made into movies.
My review in 50 words or less...
A wealthy octagenarian asks Mikhael Blomkvist to re-examine the 36-year-old investigation into his niece's murder to see who did it and what happened to the body. A semi-autistic dragon-tattooed hacker girl joins in the effort. A complex page-turner. Good reading.
Have yourself some Christmas glogg, then read the full review here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

More Benson...

Steve Benson : how he gets these cartoons by the editors at the Arizona Republic is beyond me. Then again, his wit is above the IQ level of dittoheads.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Copperfield Defense

I had a defense similar to this played against me once in a chess tournament. The much-higher rated player simply wiped all the pieces off the board. That was his way of resigning. . I also had this defense played in a Risk game one time in college. Five of us freshmen were ganging up on an upperclassman, and his armies were about to be annihilated. I have to confess we were mouthy about his impending demise. He simply stood up, picked up the entire Risk board, and folded it exactly as you see in the third panel above. End of the game; end of the world.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen

1963; 184 pages. Edited by C. Day Lewis. Genre : Poetry. New Author?: Yes. Overall Rating : 8½*/10.
I average about one book of poetry a year (Bukowski doesn't count), so this is my quota for 2010. Wilfred Owen was a WW1 British officer and blossoming poet, who died too soon at age 25, one week before the end of the war. His fame was posthumous - only four of his poems were published during his lifetime.
My review in 50 words or less...
Powerful poetry about the horrors of war - poison gas, pointless offensives, SIW (self-inflicted wounds), and death. A variety of styles, structures, meter, and rhyming schemes; including the ultra-kewl consonantal end-rhyming. Also includes fragments of unfinished poems, and ones he wrote in his youth.
My oblation of the full review is here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs...

Here's a couple pics of of what Jason and I were doing last night - putting up campaign signs for our favorite State Representative, Rae Waters. The good news was - it was relatively cool and windy. The bad news was - it was windy. . The top pic shows Jason in action. First, you drive a piece of rebar into the hard, granite-like Arizona ground. Next, you attach one side of the sign via four plastic ties. Then you repeat the process for the other side of the sign. .
And here's the finished project. We did ten of these, plus one smaller sign, over the course of three hours. That's a generic "we". Jason did all the real work - hammering and tying. All I did was drive the truck and carry the signs and rebar.
This was volunteer work. I encourage everyone to get involved in their local political process. You might think you bring no skills or experience to someone's campaign. And that may be true, but there are a lot of jobs, like this one, that don't require any great talent. Just your time and physical effort. Putting up signs is low-tech, yet vital for name-recognition. Your local candidate thanks you in advance for volunteering.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Motivational Thursday

For the record, I never had Fonzie socks, mostly cuz I was in my 20's when Happy Days was on TV and (presumably) they were strictly a girl thing. . But in my salad days, I did have my Davy Crockett coonskin hat and my Zorro sword. Which, now that I think about it, must've been just a horrible combination of tasteless kitsch.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why oh why...

...would anyone take this dittohead douchebag's spliced-together video seriously? If Rush or Beck or Newt or O'Really or Not-so-Breitbart say the sun is shining, I get out my umbrella. If they say it's raining, I put on some sunscreen. Since when has any of them cared about telling the truth? . In the age of Photoshop and MovieMaker programs, why did both the NAACP and the White House have a kneejerk reaction to Breitbart's little piece of video slander and fire Sherrod? . Wake up, folks. These lying sacks-of-sh*t haven't even begun to get serious with image manipulation antics yet. Ignore them. They won't go away - the TeaBaggers will see to that. But rational people don't have to give their efforts the time of day. . To read more about this snookering, go here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome

1889; 195 pages. New Author?: Yes. Full Title : Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog!). Genre : Classical Literature; Comedy. Overall Rating : 9*/10.
His contemporary highbrow critics panned it, but Three Men in a Boat was a ground-breaking work of humor that was an instant hit among the late-Victorian reading crowd. Jerome K. Jerome attained instant fame, and TMIAB went on to be a sustained best-seller.
My review in 50 words or less...
Three hypochondirac chums decide to spend a fortnight boating on the Thames to improve their health. A terrier named Monmorency joins them, and pratfalls and hilarious discourses ensue. A wonderful depiction of life in 19th-century England; it also provides great insight into the foibles of mankind.
For a bally good review, see here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Swan Upping

It's the third week of July, and we all know what that means - SWAN UPPING ON THE THAMES!! What? You haven't heard of it? Or worse yet, you think I'm pulling your leg? You can read the Wikipedia article on it here. . It seems the queen owns all the mute swans in England. Who owns the ones that can honk is anybody's guess. Apparently, she only lays claim to the ones on the Thames River, and this is the week they all go out and do a cygnet count to make sure no one has absconded with Her Majesty's mallards. .
It looks like bally fun. Not quite up to the entertainment level of conkers, but amusing nevertheless. It will take the swan marker (now there's a job I want) all week to complete the census, so feel free to celebrate the occasion (however one does that) any day this week.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Congratulations, Argentina

They legalized same-sex marriages yesterday and gave those couples the same rights and protection that hetero couples have. You can read about it here. . This is amazing, given that Argentina is a predominantly Roman Catholic country. Perhaps they studied the above pie chart.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sunrise In The West - Edith Pargeter

1974; 340 pages. Book #1 of the "Brothers of Gwynned" series. Genre : Historical Fiction. New Author: Yes. Overall Rating : 6½*/10.
I've always been interested in Welsh history (they have the coolest national flag, hands down), and I'm developing a taste for historical fiction. Edith Pargeter wrote a bunch of novels set in medieval Wales, as well as a bunch of murder-mysteries (under the pen-name Ellis Peters) set in 12th-century England, and featuring a sleuthing monk named Brother Cadfael. My library has about a dozen of these, and one of them will probably be the next book I borrow.
My review in 50 words or less...
SITW is the first in a 4-book series telling the story of Llewelyn The Last, followng him through his 20's as he unites the obstinate Welsh against the army of King Henry III of England. Initially slow-moving; it picks up nicely with time. For history-lovers only.
I would as lief show you the full review of Sunrise in the West here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day !!

"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government." (Edward Abbey, 1927-1989)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Burqa Ban

France took the first step towards banning face veils and burqas today, when a bill to that effect passed resoundingly in their National Assembly (think "House of Representatives"). You can read about it here. It still has a long way to go. Their Senate needs to pass it, and then France's Council of State has to determine if it is constitutional. . Although I am a firm believer in individual rights, I fully support this measure. France is a self-proclaimed secular republic, and the wearing of a burqa is a blatant piece of religious luddism, and goes against the principle of gender equality. In this case, that's enough to trump individual expression. . It would be interesting to see how such an initiative would fare in the US. It does have precedent. In the early 20th Century, a number of states passed "Anti Mask" laws. This was a (successful) response to the Ku Klux Klan. Forcing them to show their faces severely crippled their movement, and no one cared whether this infringed upon the rights of these hate-mongering, murderous terrorists. .

It should also be noted that when one moves to a place like Saudi Arabia, one is expected to conform to their theocratic norms. That means no booze, no Bibles, and no enticing the righteous Saudi Arabian males to lustful thoughts by wearing western fashion.

. OTOH, fair is fair. If western nations have the right to impose their value systems on Muslim immigrants, then so do Islamic countries. I find the burqa reprehensible, but if, say, the governing body of Afghanistan holds the opposite view, then we need to stop trying to enlighten them by attempting to convert them to our western values.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spain 1 - Netherlands 0

Okay, this is my last World Cup post for four years. It was a fitting championship game between the two best teams in the tournament. But frankly, Spain was the best there was, and the final score - Spain 1 - Netherlands 0 - was no fluke. . The Dutch team was being outhustled and eventually resorted to a thuggery style of play. Their yellow cards kept piling up, and eventually one of their players got a second yellow, which equals a red card, and an ejection. Spain took advantage of the Netherlands playing a man short, and won it in the second overtime. It was a just result. .
The 3rd-4th place game took place on Saturday, and was perhaps the most entertaining game of the tournament. Wide open attacks and counter attacks, with the final score being Germany 3 - Uruguay 2.
Now it's time to put away the soccer balls, and turn off the ESPN gamecast. The 2014 World Cup will be held in Brazil, which is bad news for the European teams, but good news for us American spectators, as the early-in-the-day games won't be starting at 4:30 AM (Arizona time) like they did in South Africa.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

King Rat - China Miéville

1998; 318 pages. New Author?: No. Genre : Horror Fiction; "New Weird". Awards : Nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and the Int'l Horror Guild Award. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
My second China Miéville book, and totally different from the fantastic Un Lun Dun, which is reviewed here. Horror is not one of my pet genres, but when it is well-done, then I can enjoy it as a change of pace. King Rat is definitely worth one's while.
My review in 50 words or less...
Someone killed Saul Garamond's father, and the police think it might be him. They lock him up, but a strange creature (King Rat) appears and teaches him to squeeze through the impossibly-small gap in the jail door. But King Rat has his reasons, and the adventure is only beginning.
Don't kip. Read the complete review here.

Friday, July 09, 2010

World Cup - Final Weekend

The month-long World Cup finally draws to a close this weekend. Uruguay plays Germany tomorrow to determine 3rd and 4th places; and Netherlands and Spain play in the championship game on Sunday. . It's been a fantastic tournament. South Africa is to be commended for putting on the tournament without a hitch. Some favorites stumbled (France and Italy); some dark horses excelled (Ghana and Uruguay); only the officiating stank. So on to our as-reliable-as-always predictions... .
3rd-4th Place Game : Uruguay 1 - Germany 0
This is a mild upset. On paper, Germany is the better team. But Klose is hurting, and the Deutschlanders are bummed that they're not playing for the championship.
OTOH, Uruguay has gone a lot farther than anyone expected, and Suarez is back from his 1-game suspension for his brilliant "Hand of God" penalty against Ghana. They're on a mission to reclaim their former glory (they've twice won the World Cup, albeit a long time ago). So they roll against Germany, who just goes through the motions.
Championship Game : Spain 2 - Netherlands 0
One of these teams will win their first-ever World Cup. Netherlands beat Brazil, which is always an amazing feat. But the way Spain just shut down the German attack in the semi-final impressed the daylights out of me. To boot, Paul the Octopus claims Spain will win, and he's been perfect so far. You can read about this 8-limbed prognosticator here.
Who am I to argue with a cephalopod? Spain, I apologize for questioning your pedigree. All hail the Spanish Conquistadors!

Thursday, July 08, 2010


162 minutes; PG-13
Theater Release Date : 18 December 2009
DVD Release Date : 22 April 2010
Overall Rating : 9½*/10
. Director James Cameron's high budget hit from last Christmas; you know it's a good movie when it ends after 2½ hours and you go, "Is it over already?" . The film felt like a mix of Dances With Wolves, Star Wars, The Matrix, and one of my personal favorites, Starship Troopers. Corporal Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), although wheelchair-bound, takes the place of his brother who died on the way to the planet Pandora. The humans are there to mine something more valuable than spice on Dune - Unobtainium. Unfortunately, the ore lies on land held sacred by the native Na'Vi, so we have to use one of two things to convince them to move - charm or napalm. Sigurney Weaver also stars as Dr. Grace Augustine. After battling Aliens for three films, the Na'Vi are childsplay. . What's To Like... We watched this on our big-screen at home, and the visual effects were absolutely stunning. I can only dream of what this was like in 3-D in the theaters. The storyline was straightforward and has been done many times before, but that doesn't matter, because it was convincingly done. The UE (Col. Miles Quaritch, played by Stephen Lang) isn't completely "black", and Sully's main Na'Vi squeeze (Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana) is way cooler than Princess Leia and any of the green alien vixens that James T. Kirk ever bedded. . My quibbles are small. I can't see why it took everyone so long to figure out a way for Jake to overcome his handicap. And why the scriptwriters couldn't come up with a better name for the ore than Unobtainium. Geez, guys. . I thoroughly enjoyed Avatar, despite its predictability. It may well turn out to be the best film I watch this year. 9½ Stars.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Twitter Subsets

Thank goodness blogging doesn't show up in the diagram.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Art Appreciation Tuesday

We haven't done an Art Appreciation posting in a long time. I don't know why. So here's a pair of images to start catching up. .
We've also been very remiss about making fun of Sarah Palin and Twitterers. I blame the World Cup.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Wordy Shipmates - Sarah Vowell

2008; 248 pages. New Author?: Yes. Genre : Non-Fiction; American History. Overall Rating : 8½*/10.
I only read about one non-fiction book per year, which is my same rate for (non-Bukowski) poetry books. My sole 2009 non-fiction review, of How The Irish Saved Civilization, is here. And now I've met my 2010 NF quota.
My review in 50 words or less...
Who first proposed that America is God's gift to the rest of the world? Sarah Vowell makes a case for the Puritans of 1630. With great depth, catchy wit, and lots of present-day tie-ins, she examines the characters and theology of the settlement that became Boston. Highly recommended.
For a cathartic experience, read the full-blown review here.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Alice In Wonderland (2010 Movie)

Movie Release Date : 05 March 2010
DVD Release Date : 01 June 2010
Length : 108 minutes
MPAA Rating : PG
Overall Rating : 6½*/10
. This film probably should have been called something different. It isn't a remake of the 1950's Disney animated film; nor does it follow Lewis Carroll's story. Similar to the movie relationship of Hook and Peter Pan, this Tim Burton opus finds Alice, now 19 years old and about to be coaxed into an unappetizing betrothal, falling down the rabbit hole and into a whole new plotline, peppered with characters out of both Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. . The storyline is good, but not compelling. Mia Wasikowski is not impressive as Alice. Johnny Depp does an admirable job, but his Mad Hatter character is too surreal for anyone to call this his finest role. The visual effects are excellent, but we're not talking Avatar here. (More on that in a few days) The ending is a bit weak, although it makes more sense if Burton intends to do a sequel. . Overall, I liked this movie. It's good, escapist fun with some interesting characters, especially the Cheshire Cat, the Blue Caterpillar, and Bayard the Bloodhound. The underlying theme -controlling your own life - is a laudable one. It's a worthwhile watch, but you'd do best to rent it first. 6½ stars.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


The big movie news of the week was the Tuesday midnight opening of Eclipse. They had a special deal here - for $20 you could go at 7:30 PM and watch all the movies in the series so far. I think there's three of 'em now. . I'm happy to say I have yet to read a page of any of the Twilight books. I am utterly not the target audience. If I had to read them, I'd be forced to do what is shown in the above cartoon. And I'm really not a fan of speed-reading. Read a book in a day; forget it in a month.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Lamb - Christopher Moore

2002; 444 pages. Genre : Fiction; Humor. New Author?: No, fourth book. Overall Rating : 7½*/10.
A lot of people feel this is Christopher Moore's best book. I found it to be uneven. I liked his Vampire and Death books better. OTOH, this is way superior to George Carlin's Christianity rants.
My review in 50 words or less...
The gospel of Biff, Jesus' lifelong pal, tells what transpired during the 30 years between Bethlehem and Jesus' ministry. They journey to the East, visit the three Magi and learn about various Eastern religions. Wacky Moore humor, with a storyline that shouldn't offend most people.
You can eat your falafel and read the full-blown review here.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Just Wrong - Google

We wouldn't have this problem if there were no double-O's in "Google". ,