Friday, December 16, 2005

Our Long National Nightmare May Be Over

Well, actually, it isn't a national nightmare; it is more like my personal pain in the neck. After almost two months, three routers, a network expander, and having the cable company come out and move the modem to a different location in futile attempts to have Internet service that didn't just decide it wanted to stop working whenever it wanted, we've had a stable signal for over twenty-four hours. None of our computers have been dropped from the Internet and things are coasting along with a problem. Hopefully, this is the harbinger of better things (on that front).

The problem, for those who care--and if you don't you can skip down to the nest paragraph--appears to have been the modem. Since the beginning of this mess, I've always suspected that the modem was at fault, but because the provider can remotely check it, they never saw a problem. After we had the modem moved, I was able to connect my Xbox directly to the new wireless router and I found that I was still not always able to connect to my Xbox Live account. I used the Xbox troubleshooter and found that the Xbox (and by extension all of our computers) was unable to connect to the DNS server. Calling customer support, the person on the phone started walking me down the merry path of rebooting the modem and router; I just cut him off, told him I've done this far too many times to do it again, and that I shouldn't have to do reboot the modem every other day. He transferred me to the "local" office (good bye, India) where the person there started the ritual of telling me how to reboot the modem. I cut her off and plainly told her the problem and that I want a new modem. I installed it Tuesday and no problems. Here's hoping things stay this way and I can try posting more regularly.

As a gift for reading this after all this time, may I offer this site and/or this site as today's time wasters. Enjoy, but if you don't get enough work done today, I'm sorry.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Forbes Fictional 15 -

Anyone who knows me knows Forbes isn't even on my list of magazines I would consider reading. However, you can't beat the conversation starter that this presents. For instance, I would have put Richie Rich in second place, moved Scrooge McDuck to third, while placing Scrooge'e nemesis, Flintheart Glomgold, in fourth. slid Daddy Warbucks in the fifth spot, removed Arthur from the list altogether, and then moved the rest down appropriately.

The Forbes Fictional 15 -

Thursday, December 01, 2005

DC Comics Characters to be Featured On U.S. Stamps in 2006

Still having Internet connection problems, but I would be remiss if I didn't post a link to the story.

I don't talk enough about comic books here even though they are my first great obsession. If I ever get reliable Internet service again and I am doing something where I'll feel less guilty about avoiding work, I'll post my thoughts on which characters and the art of which artists should have been used.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Yeah, I Know What I Said

I didn't mean to not post, but life in the form of the patent bar exam got in the way as I began studying full blast for it almost right after my last post. For all that work, I didn't pass it, but the results weren't so bad as to be disheartening; a few more correct guesses and I'd have passed. It is disappointing, and I hate having to spend the money to register again, but I know now more what to expect, so I'm sure I'll pass next time. The next time I hope that my new brain doctor will actually be able to help me work better when I'm on the medicine. I don't care who you are, I just don't think anyone is going to pass a test that consists of 100 questions over six hours and it takes an hour and a half to answer the first six questions.

The other problem we've been having is that our wireless network that has become incredibly unstable over the last month or so. As long as we’ve had the network (“home”), there's been a competing network (“Olivetti”) that our wireless devices saw, but it was more a thing of interest, not a nuisance. At the start, the cable modem and wireless router has been in the basement and we had coverage throughout the house and into the backyard; within the last month, though, something has happened. You have to be almost directly above the router for a stable signal. If you take your computer into the back of the house, well, you can forget being able to do anything. If a wireless network is even detected, all too often the computer sees Olivetti only. If home is detected and an IP address it assigned (neither assured these days), the speed of the connection can jump all over the place and/or the computer will start looking for an IP address again and/or the connection will break.

I’ve put a lot of time and money into trying to correct this problem, but nothing has worked. Last week, support finally agreed that moving the cable modem might be the best bet, but when the cable guy came out the bastard wouldn’t move it. In fairness, it worked relatively fine again for a few days, which I used to actually look for work, but come Thanksgiving, the problem returned. The cable guy comes back on Wednesday and this time he either finds the problem or he moves the modem.

Updates as my connection permits.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Crony Jobs - Choice government careers for the taking. No experience necessary.

Recent graduate looking for work? Maybe you'll find something here that you might like.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Movies In Your Future

I love movie trailers. I know that that love comes from that time when there was no Internet or Entertainment Weekly, when the only news a person could get about movies was on the streets or movie trailers. Somewhere along the line, I'd come to believe that movie trailers were actually that, "trailers," something run after the movie to clear the theater between showings. While I've found nothing that disagrees with that believe I did find this little bit of expansion on the subject at Chasing the Frog, which, despite the name is a site devoted to "research[ing] the origins of some of the most popular (and not so popular) Hollywood films."
History of the Movie Trailer: The first movie preview played in 1912 at Rye Beach, New York. "One of the concessions hung up a white sheet and showed the serial The Adventures of Kathlyn. At the end of the reel Kathlyn was thrown in the lion's den. After this 'trailed' a piece of film asking Does she escape the lion's pit? See next week's thrilling chapter!" (Los Angeles Times, 1966).
The first studio to officially release movie trailers was Paramount in 1916, but initially only for their most anticipated films.
From Classic Movie Trailers at CTF. (That link will also allow you access to a number of movie trailers from 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Wizard of Oz.)

All that serves as introduction to a couple of previews for movies to be on the look out for. First, is Good Night, and Good Luck. I'm looking forward to this movie if only because it might introduce people under the age of forty (or those older who have no idea of where television news came from and how far it has fallen) to Edward R. Murrow. The only interaction I've ever had with a Murrow broadcast was third-hand: Seeing clips of "Harvest of Shame"; hearing about "Murrow's Boys"; and, to me most importantly, as Joseph Wershba wrote, "When this nation was drowning in cowardice and demagoguery, it was Murrow who hurled the spear at the terror," by showing the nation Joseph McCarthy tactics for the bullying they were.

The second trailer is for The Producers. I really enjoyed this show when I saw it on stage and I'm hoping that it transfers just as famously to film. Mel Brooks won the Oscar in 1968 for his screenplay for the original, non-musical version of The Producers and there would be some nice symmetry if the musical version became this generation's My Fair Lady with regards to Oscar wins. One interesting thing about the trailer for the musical version is that it feels a lot like the trailer for the original for the 1968 film (albeit with a little naughtier language). I don't know if that is good or bad, just interesting and I wonder if the trailer for the United States (the link is for the British trailer) will be the same.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Wal-Mart Turns in Student’s Anti-Bush Photo, Secret Service Investigates Him |

Maybe Prison Break is on to something with the Sevcret Service.

I'm not saying anything, but given a choice between freedom of expression and the right to bear arms, which do you think the framers would have put more stock in? Considering that they fought a revolution against an armed enemy, I would say freedom of expression, myself.

What was the last thing of any value to come out of the southeastern United States?

Wal-Mart Turns in Student’s Anti-Bush Photo, Secret Service Investigates Him |

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Trying to Catch Up

Yeah, I know I promised to post more often. Trust me, I want to post more often for myself, to help me get on something that vaguely resembles a schedule and to get over this incredible writer's block that I've come up against since January. However, between looking for a job and studying for the patent bar (which I still haven't started doing with any depth yet; it isn't like the exam isn't five weeks away or anything).

(1) I don't think I can make suggestions as to what to watch for the new season like I semi-promised. One show, Head Cases, has already been cancelled, so who knows what can happen between typing each "e" in "between." However, now that most shows have premiered, I can, at least, tell you what I have made an effort to watch:

Prison Break. To be honest, I don't care that much about the characters, the sub-plots, or the caper itself. However, I am curious to see how the show can continue after this season, so I hang around semi-watching it, so that I'll basically know who's who come the final episode.

Invasion. I was incredibly underwhelmed by the first episode; it had too much of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers feel for me to find it interesting. However, I'm hearing good things about the show, so I'll give the episode tonight a chance. If the sheriff telegraphs his alliance at any moment as he did in the first episode, I'm done.

Everyone Hates Chris. Enjoyable enough, but I just find it difficult to find a half hour for sitcoms.

I don't watch it, but I need to chime and spread the word that no one should watch Night Stalker. This has as little to do with the original Night Stalker as the Will Smith abomination Wild, Wild West had to do with Robert Conrad's The Wild, Wild West. Had ABC and the person it tapped to bring back Night Stalker actually thought about it, they would have seen that the best way to present this show to a modern audience, would have been to present a mystery that draws in the audience. Start the series off almost like a newspaper drama, with little suggestion of the supernatural. Like in the original movie, start the first episode off with the audience seeing the first victim being killed, but Kolchak doesn't know about that. Once a bigger name, Kolchak is now covering city council meetings and house fires, often without a by-line. He longs to be back on top again, but is his own worst enemy. Finally, the third or fourth episode, Kolchak notices that girls have been disappearing, girls have been dying, but no one sees a connection: In Las Vegas, women come and go and die. Finally, at about episode eleven, Kolchak admits that the killer may be a vampire and that leads into the second half of the season when Kolchak finds he is going to have to do some awful things to stop a monster no one else believes could exist.

For this to work, a truer Kolchak should have been cast. I've read suggestions of William H. Macy in the part and I can't disagree. You need someone haggard and kind of worn down by life, not someone who poses well. Avoid Night Stalker, though the first chance you get, rent the original The Night Stalker, turn off the lights, and be pleasantly surprised to find that you will be scared.

Threshold has not been treated kindly by the critics, though not as harshly as Surface. I kind of enjoy Threshold and I like the characters. In some ways, it is more like The Invaders than Invasion is and it is a lot more fun in its melodramatic way. Besides, where else can you get to see Roc, the mother for Spy Kids, and Data all in the same scene?

(2) The Muppets and Jim Henson have been in the news more than you may have realized. Jerry Juhl, head writer of many a Muppet project for twenty-six years, just died on Sept. 28. Jim Henson died fifteen years ago and over at the all-things-Disney-news-and-opinon site,, Chris Barry writes, in a two-part article, here and here about public memorial service for Jim Henson and the television retrospective that Henson Productions put together. I have always liked the Muppets, but I never liked the Muppets in the way that I like comic books or sloppy joes (or the way I used to like candy corn until the ten pounds of candy corn incident). However, I there are places in both articles that choke me up and I think that speaks to the love people did have for Jim Henson.

(3) More happily, 2005 is the fiftieth anniversary of the presentation of the Muppets to the world and as part of the celebration, the U.S. Post Office have issued a set of Muppet Stamps. Go by some today and make paying bills easier.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Television: What I Watch

Admitting that in my description of this blog, I leave some wiggle room regarding what I write about, I still haven't written about popular culture lately.  The other day, the Fishmonger asked for guidance regarding the new television season, so I'm going to use that as my excuse to get back to the things I want to write about and, right now, need to write about (mainly to avoid doing things that would help my professional life get out of its stagnant condition).  

Returning to the Monger's request, I will admit to having some talent in predicting what my wife will like, even if she is hesitant to listen to my suggestions.  Last season, my suggestions to her were Desperate Housewives and Lost and she liked them a lot, though I think she enjoys Lost more.  What was different compared to other years is that in the past the shows I suggest don’t last past the first year.  That those two became the hits of last season was as much as surprise to me as it was to ABC.  (With Housewives, for instance, the initial order was only for thirteen episodes.  Apparently, ABC intended to return Alias to its Sunday night timeslot in January, assuming that Housewives would have sunk by its final episode.  However, it exploded in its slot and by October, ABC was putting in an order for the full season.)

Here's how I want to work this.  To get a better understanding of my tastes, I'm going to list the television shows that I make a special effort to watch.  Along the way, I’ll also have some comments about each.  After seeing what I enjoy is on common ground with the programs you like, then proceed to the next post where I'll be talking about the new television season and the shows I’m willing to take a chance on.

G4 ProgrammingEntourage
24The American Experience
Gilmore GirlsLost
Veronica MarsMaverick
Celebrity PokerFirefly
Stargate SG-1Battlestar Galactica
Justice Leage UnlimitedThe Simpsons
Family GuyAmerican Dad
South ParkRobot Chicken

I.     Daily Programs.

Where I live it is possible to watch reruns of The Simpsons seven days a week.  And I do.  I don’t watch them slavishly; considering I don’t go to work, I miss them more times than not; but if the show and I are in the same place at the same time, I’ll watch it.

If I just want “background television,” that is, something that I find generally non-offensive that I don’t need to give my full attention to or that won’t be forced to have change the channel in a few minutes, by default choice is G4.  I know that I am out of its key demographic, which I gather to be males between the ages of 12 and 25, but I find the video-game related shows like X-Play, Filter, and Electric Playground to be the video equivalent of comfort food.  The channel that is G4 grew from a merger between it and what used to be TechTV which focused on computers and technology in general.  Within a year, almost all the TechTV shows were cancelled or transformed, except for X-Play.  Within the last few weeks, however, one of the TechTV shows has returned, albeit via Canada, Call for Help.  The purpose of the show is to help people with computer problems, provide quick lessons on topics from creating web pages or choosing a HDTV, and to present the semi-latest cutting edge technology news or innovation.  G4 even has a show that presents the history or biography of certain video games, game developers, game consoles, etc. titled Icons.

We recently took the plunge and got the premium package for our cable; through some magic that only cable providers can work, our cable bill decreased by over thirty dollars (as part of a limited time promotion) while we gained forty-four channels (none of them IFC).  Since then, I’ve tried to catch up on two HBO series that have been praised since they went on the air, Entourage and Deadwood.  Entourage has been called a male Sex and the City, which isn’t a bad description, though where New York was the fifth member of Sex’s clique, Hollywood and its unique lifestyle is the fifth member here.  One of the four is in his first major motion and he has brought his two closest friends and his brother with him from the east coast, creating the title grouping.

Deadwood is not the kind of Western I would choose to watch just because it is a Western.  I don’t want realism in my Westerns, I want Maverick, The Wild, Wild West (the good television version), or The Magnificent Seven.  Watching the dead be fed to the hogs; looking and listening to a Calamity Jane who the inverse of Doris Day’s interpretation of the character; seeing mud so thick that it covers the tops of boots are not what I want.  Despite all that and more (the language of the show is probably as coarse as any in The Aristocrats), I like this show.  It is neither overbearing in its attempt toward realism nor overbearing depressing about the situations the characters find themselves in.  Credit goes to the creator, David Milch, who learned his craft with shows like Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue; even though he now a venue to pushes the boundaries, he never forgets he is producing television.  Deadwood is always accessible.

II.     Monday.

I’ll admit that I enjoy 24.  If you pay too much attention to it, 24 can break down logically, but as a contained unit, most any individual episode presents some of the tensest television I’ve ever seen.  You just never know what the hell Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is going to do in service of his country.  Off the top of my head, he has decapitated a captive enemy agent, broken into the Chinese embassy to kidnap a Chinese national who had given U.S. secrets to terrorists, and chopped off the hand of his partner to save the man’s life.  In the real world, there are things Bauer has done that are over the edge and deserving of punishment, but in the context of the show and its universe, I’ll give him pass, if only because he is being cosmically punished; I don’t think he’ll ever know real happiness.  Still, a damn fine popcorn show.

One of my favorite shows is The American Experience.  It is a rare episode that I won’t watch and even if I choose not to watch one when it is first run, I’ll eventually give in and watch it when it is re-run.  A series of documentaries, the range of topics covered has been incredible.  Sample topics include the Trial of the Scotsboro Boys; a seven-part, fourteen-hour history of New York City; the birth, life, and decline of Coney Island; the carving of the Mt. Rushmore Memorial; the building of the Golden Gate Bridge; the Scopes monkey trial; and an examination of game show scandal of the 1950s.  The biographies the show has presented include Houdini, John Nash, Seabiscuit, Hawaii’s last queen, Duke Ellington, Malcolm X, and every president from F.D.R. to Reagan.  PBS will also present documentaries under “The American Experience” umbrella that were created independently like the works of Ken Burns.

The American Experience returns this week with a special Wednesday episode, “Fatal Flood.”  At first thought, it would appear that it episode deals with the events of Katrina, however, it will tell the story of an earlier flood yet still speaks to issues we are now confronting today.  As described: <blockquote> In the spring of 1927, after weeks of incessant rains, the Mississippi River went on a rampage from Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans, inundating hundreds of towns, killing as many as a thousand people and leaving a million homeless.  In Greenville, Mississippi, efforts to contain the river pitted the majority black population against an aristocratic plantation family, the Percys—and the Percys against themselves.  A dramatic story of greed, power and race during one of America's greatest natural disasters.</blockquote>  And it is for exactly that reason that I love history in general and the stories that The American Experience tells in general.

III.     Tuesday.

Gilmore Girls.  Do I have to say more?

III.     Wednesday.

I didn’t know what to expect when I watched Lost for the first time and after we saw that one guy get sucked into the still spinning turbine, I didn’t myself have any.  To be honest, I’m not too hooked into the individual characters as individuals, I’m not necessarily championing for the death of any.  My hook into the show has been the mystery of the island.  However, I have enjoyed the flashback sequences wherein the back stories of the primary characters are fleshed out.  The flashbacks were a smart move on J.J. Abrams part because it allows the audience a break from the exteriors of the island, it slowly adds subtext to the actions and motivations of the characters, and, maybe most importantly, throws off the audience’s time sense.  Each episode takes place in one day, so we’ve only seen twenty-four days in their lives since the crash, so things like Hurley not appearing to lose weight aren’t that big a deal yet.

I watched most of the episodes of Veronica Mars last year.  I liked it, but I didn’t like it as if it were the resurrected Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, which is how UPN wanted me to like it.  Despite the horrible things Buffy has to go through as the Slayer, she still found time to experience high school and I could sympathize with what she and the Scoobies were going through.  To me, Veronica always came off less a teen-age girl and more of an adult.  The season-long mystery was relatively tight and the episodes dealing primarily with it were the more enjoyable ones for me.  Maybe this year either Veronica will occasionally act like a teenager or the show will have magically jumped three years so that the character will be at the right level of maturity for her actions.

IV.     Thursday.

Maverick was one of those legendary shows that I never thought I’d see.  It was on a local channel in Milwaukee in the early 1980s, but between work and school I never had a chance to watch it.  In the move that lost me access to the Independent Film Channel, our cable company gave us Goodlife TV, which soon transformed itself into American Life Television.  The channel is really like Nick at Nite for senior citizens as its evening schedule is stocked completely with once popular television shows from the Time Warner library that I don’t think have been in broad syndication for maybe fifteen years.  Among Girl from U.N.C.L.E, F Troop, Surfside Six, and My Favorite Martian reruns, every Thursday, Maverick is rerun.  I have to admit that the show deserves all the praise that has been heaped upon over the years and well deserved to win the only Emmy Award presented in the category of "Best Western",

Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown.  I don’t like to gamble, I am not to keen on playing cards, occasionally a celebrity is too needy for attention for my taste, yet, I like this show.  Go figure.

V.     Friday.

Basically, a full genre night with SciFi Channel.  In preparation for Serenity, I start the night off by watching Firefly, the show I still wish Enterprise had been.  Next, Stargate SG-1, a show I passed by when it was in syndication, but last year I started watching and wished I’d started years ago.  Finally, Battlestar Galactica, which, damn it, is really, really good.  The first episode of the first full season just won a Hugo Award; did anyone ever think the sentence “Battlestar Galactica was nominated for and won a Hugo Award” would be a honest statement?  In fact, I think it may have done itself a disservice by using the “Battlestar” name; while the basic premise of the series is the same as the original 1978-79 series, in execution the show is so different from the original, that I didn’t watch the mini-series when it aired.  However, the buzz was so positive for the mini that when the show went to full series, I started watching.

It took a little bit of work to get into the universe the producers had created, as it was much deeper than the one of the original.  For instance, the humans are polytheistic, while the Cylons are monotheistic.  Ron Moore, the producer behind the series, has equated the his Galactica to the film, Das Boot and it has the same claustrophobic intensity.  Unlike the original, where you knew the humans were going to survive, the feeling I have is that their complete extermination is a foregone conclusion and that the survivors are going through the motions of trying survive even as death approaches because that is what humans do.  In that respect, the series reminds me of Nevil Shute’s excellent novel, On the Beach, in which the last surviving humans in Australia live out their days as normally as possible even as the radioactive fallout from a decimated atomic war in the northern hemisphere slowly moves into the southern where it will kill them.  

If you are considering getting into the show, don’t worry about joining late.  If you feel a need to catch up before you join in watching, SciFi has very complete synopses for aired episodes on its Website and makes episodes available for streaming.  There are also podcasts for each episode recorded by Ron Moore available that are DVD commentary tracks without the DVD or studio production.  However, a recent episode, “Final Cut,” might be an easier way to go.  In the episode, a reporter is given unlimited access to the Galactica’s crew for a story on what is going on in the wake of the fleet’s problems.  As we follow the reporter filming the story, we are re/introduced the Galactica’s crew and their dynamics.  However, best of all, when the final product is shown, the freaking incredible theme from the original series plays in the background.  Choked me up.

VI.     Saturday.

Justice League Unlimited (Cartoon Network).  For my money, possibly the single-best translation of a comic book property to another medium that doesn’t feature Tobey Maguire.  The show is probably the last one we’ll see that connects to the DC animated universe begun in 1992 with Batman:  The Animated Series.  In fact, in the final episode of season recently concluded this past spring, the producers thought it was the end and created a Batman-centric episode that tied up lose ends from JLU, Batman, and the Batman spin-off, Batman Beyond.  To complete truly the circle, the final shot showed the protagonist flying off duplicated the first shot of Batman.  But I digress.

Apart from the generally excellent writing and character design, the latter based on Bruce Timm’s work (an example of the style art these shows can be seen in the picture of the JL), the key element that makes JLU great is that it can, and often has, use every available super-hero character in the DC Universe.  Oh, and the heroes are actually heroic, a rare occurrence in many of DC’s super-hero comic books.  Oh, and this season, which starts on September 17, three words describe the Big Bad:  “Legion.”  “Of.”  “Doom.”

VI.     Sunday.

Simple enough night:  The Simpsons, Family Guy, and American Dad.  The first is still among the funniest shows around and I’ll never understand the hatred and disdain people have for the second.  I can’t think of any funnier sentence I heard all summer than, “And now we play the waiting game.”  I can explain if asked, but if might lose something in context.  The episode, “A Fish Out of Water,” will be rerun soon enough either on FOX or Cartoon Network.  When it does, watch it, and see if you don’t agree.  As for American Dad, it is improving, but I think that no matter how good it may become, it will never be given its proper credit, as it will always be perceived as nothing more than a reworking of Family Guy.

Rome airs on HBO  I like it, but I am not wild about it and that is more my fault than the show’s.  Since the early nineties, I’ve been a fan author Lindsay Davis’s creation, “finder” Marcus Didio Falco, who has appeared in a number of mystery novels set in Rome during the first century A.D.  Because Davis has done her research so well, the life of the common Roman is less of an eye-opener to me.  Still, I always enjoy the melodrama of politicians scheming for power (too Lucas just never understood that, but I digress) and even though you know the eventual fate of Julius Caesar, Pompey, Mark Antony, Cato, et al., going along for this ride is less strenuous than reading Suetonius.  Rome has already been renewed for a second season and I’ll be back for it.

After all these years, South Park, too, is still funny and still doing well.  Trey Parker and Matt Stone just signed a contract to produce shows through 2008.  South Park is was another show that I avoided at first, but I started watching it after South Park:  Bigger, Longer & Uncut was released.  I think it was the simple message, “What Would Brian Boitano Do?”, that made me reconsider my opinion of the television show.

A show that I think has snuck past the radar of the general public is Robot Chicken on Cartoon Network’s [adult swim] Sunday block.  Created by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, the fifteen-minute show is nothing more than two or three satirical skits interspersed with black-out gags.  What separates this show from others is that it uses stop-motion animated action figures as actors, so there are many riffs on popular culture and its icons.  For instance, “Two Kirks, a Khan, and a Pizza Place”; Optimus Prime develops prostate cancer; “Behind the Music:  Electric Mayhem”; In “You Got Robo-Served,” Voltron finds himself having to save his cred in an old-school dance off; and the gang from Scooby-Doo stops at a “haunted camp” and meets Don Knotts, and find the “ghost” to really be one Jason Voorhies.

Also, as Seth Green is the new Kevin Bacon, each episode has voice work done by his friends, famous and semi-famous.  In the Scooby-Doo parody, for instance, the cast of the live action movies did the voices for the gang; Sarah Michelle Gellar has done the show five times, once reprising her role of Buffy.  Others who have provided voices include Phyllis Diller, Mark Hamill (once as Luke Skywalker), Burt Reynolds, and Scarlett Johansson.  If you aren’t in the age demographic of 12-24 to whom this show appeals, you are missing out a real buried treasure and should give it a chance.

Next up, the new season.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Little Levity, As Such

On the Al Franken Show blog, the "Finding or Looting" game was posted by Eric Hananoki. The questions are based on photos posted on Wikipedia, so if you need help answering, click on this link. If you take the
quiz, the answers may be found here.

1. When Oprah Winfrey ____ a dollar lying on the street, she gave it to a homeless man.

2. Of the 10,000 people arrested in conjunction with the 1992 Los Angeles riots, about 44% were Hispanic. 42% were African-American ____-ers, while 9% were white ____-ers.

3. Following the death of Emperor Valentinian III in 455, the Vandals invaded and extensively ____ the city of Rome.

4. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, chair of the Appropriations Committee, ____ $230 million in taxpayer money to pay for a bridge to an essentially uninhabited island in Alaska.

5. Tiger Woods ____ four golf balls from the rough at St. Andrews.

6. In his novel The Human Stain, Phillip Roth writes about a classics professor who passes as a white man but turns out to be black. Some have said Roth ____ the novel on the real-life story of New York Times book critic Anatole Broyard.

7. On its way into Baghdad in the spring of 2003, Achmed Chalabi’s militia indulged in some ____-ing.

8. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell through a brick through the window of a Circuit City and ____ a sixty-inch plasma TV.

As Long as I'm Still Talking about Katrina

(1) The Daily Show came back swinging from vacation on September 6. Click here to watch Jon Stewart's opinions on the Katrina response and here to watch "Beleaguered Bush," as TDS correspondent Ed Helms provides a report on how the Bush Administration swung into action to save the most important think of all, their reputation. (Thanks to Mark Evanier and his consistently excellent site, News from Me, for TDS links.)

(2) One of the things Jon Stewart mentions is something that I think we've all been seeing this last week: Reporters have found a use for their backbones again. When reporters on the scene on FOX News are shouting down O'Reilly and Hannity, preventing them from spinning the situation into a less-than-complete representation, you have to believe that the truth can't be hidden as easily as it was with regard to weapons of mass destruction, Iraq, and Osama Ben Laden. There's no chance to "guide" public opinion by putting out messages of fear, wrapping the U.S. flag around themselves while holding crosses, isn't going to placate any but the simple, the core of Bush followers who see the world in black and white. There is no enemy, real or imagined, that can be used to create divisions within the populace thereby distracting us from the real problems created by the Administration. Well, technically, that pesky old Mother Nature is the enemy, but apart from relaxing and/or not renewing EPA regulations, the Administration can't do much more to beat her down than they are.

However, you have to give Bush credit, because he's trying his best to use the ritual that served him well in 2001 and declaring a national day of prayer and rememberance on September 16. In this story, you'll read that Dick Cheney was released from his hermetically sealed chamber and went to visit the region (not New Orleans itself, because a person with a heart condition has to avoid infection); God bless him, he stayed on message and promised that taxes wouldn't be raised. Makes sense, considering this is the only time in all of history that taxes have ever been cut when a nation is at war.

(3) Of all the reporters and commentators finding it within themselves to present the story that is happening as opposed to the story the government wants to be presented, the comments of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann have been found to be the most pointed. He is sarcastic and angry and makes no pretense of hiding his emotions with regard to the loss of life. Here's commentary Olbermann made on September 5 after Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security referred to the "city of Louisiana." Where others would use such a mistake as fodder for mockery, Olbermann uses it as a starting point for exposing the attitude of the Administration. If you don't want to watch the video, a transcript can be here found at Olbermann's "Bloggermann" blog. You may have to scroll down to the September 5 entry, but read the September 8 entry before you do as Olbermann presents further examples of fracturing within the party line over the response from Washington.

(4) Continuing with Olbermann for a little more, Boing Boing, of which my friend, the Fishmonger recently said, "More and more, all good things, if not from [G]oogle, are from boingboing," offered this comment from Olbermann:
[M]ost chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection — or at least amelioration — against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological. It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.
All that was just to lead in to this piece from September 1 edition of The Washington Post, "Extraordinary Problems, Difficult Solutions." Congress authorized 51.8 billion dollars (at this point, it would have killed them just round it to fifty-nine billion), but keep in mind this statement, buried five paragraphs into the article, from a senior policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency:
"There is not enough money in the gross national product of the United States to dispose of the amount of hazardous material in the area."
This article, from the British newspaper, The Independent describes the kind of hazards the standing water is going to create. Keep all of that in mind when you hear statements about rapid rebuilding of New Orleans.

(5) Something that isn't being discussed yet, is the long-term affect Katrina will have on the national economy. Forget about the increase in gas prices, the people displaced by the storm will have to work eventually. I've heard rumbles, but nothing from someone in government, of the federal government funding a modern version of the Works Progress Administration that would allow the people displaced to help rebuild the destroyed areas themselves; think of Katrina as an inverse of the dust bowl during the Depression. Roosevelt helped people regain their self-worth by creating jobs through the WPA were none existed; there is an obvious need for a workforce to eventually rebuild the area, so why not recruit from within so to speak? It worked before, so why not again. As long as Haliburton isn't involved; they've already have the contract to repair military bases hit by the storm, so they have their share. Let the people have some, too.

(6) And these people will need as much help as possible. As this story explains, the new bankruptcy laws that will take effect under Bush will not allow them to declare bankruptcy as easily, something hurricane victims almost always need to do if they are going to reclaim their lives. There is some hope for these people, though. In the House of Representatives, John Conyers (D-WI) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY) are introducing a bill to exempt the people affected by Katrina from the new law. If you believe that these people need some kind of a break, call your Congressperson at 1-800-959-2780 and him/her that you support the Conyers-Nadler bill.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Response to a Response

Anonymous posted in reponse to my earlier post on the lack of response by the federal government in wake of Katrina:

Remenber the great words of Kanye West Greg, "George Bush doesn't like black people." Is he on to something, perhaps he is, or perhaps Bush just likes white people with money more then poor black people. After all he is the first president to never go to a NAACP convention.

Of course, Bush didn't go to the NAACP convention, because Karl Rove couldn't control the message. He couldn't fill the hall with just Bush supporters nor prevent the drowning out of his candidate's speech by catcalls and boos. It is safer to trot out Black faces to the podium at the Republican Convention, which also allows for a connection to be made to the kind of person the people running the Republician party want to associate with: People with money and education no matter the color of their skin. If the neocons (I don't want to use "Republican" because not all Republicans believe the extreme Christian agenda being put forth by the people running the party and especially don't think the government's place is pushing such an agenda forward) win some of the Black vote because there are some Blacks who believe the religous, patriotic, moralistic fast talk the neocons use to win the vote of the White hillbilly (either in Appalachia or a working-class suburb), they won't be denied (except maybe in Ohio) because everh vote counts, but push comes to shove, neither White hillbilly nor poor innercity Black is someone these people really want to associate with.

In honesty, I think that saying "George W. Bush doesn't like Black people" makes the situation too simple. Using my mutant ability to take over the thoughts of others, from just his view, I believe that the only people that matter are those that have been saved and in that case, the color of their skin doesn't matter. Besides, I'm sure that the Archangel Michael or St. Peter or whichever angel is assigned the task will make sure people who have nothing in common won't have to rub elbows. Bush doesn't dislike black people as much he is incapable of empathsizing with people who don't travel in his circles or come from the world he does. As Bill Maher said, and I am paraphrasing, "This Administration just couldn't understand why the people stranded in New Orleans just didn't load up their Explorers and drive to their winter homes."

(Maybe if Bush did get an occasional blowjob under his desk, he'd be more willing to look past his provincial world and be less willing to anticipating Judgment Day, but I digress.)

However, that doesn't excuse the people who do the actual work from not leaping to help. Despite the message the Administration is trying to put out, Louisiana's governor did declare a state of emergency on August 26. On the 27th, the governor requested the president to declare a federal state of emergency, he he did that same day. (For a timeline of events, go here.) There are also two elephants in the room that people aren't discussing: (1) The National Security Agency held FEMA back from responding based on "national security fears"; and (2) Because of the war in Iraq, National Guard forces nationwide did not have the material or troops to respond adequately.

Bush has said he will head the investigation into the lack of response; right now, we should all be rattling the cages of our senators and people in the House decrying this and force it to be an independent investigation. Even if there is a report before the 2006 elections, will these issues even be addressed if Bush leads the investigation? How could anyone even think they would be addressed? Would we, even his supporters, allowed Bill Clinton to head an investigation into Whitewater? Of course not, even though the facts of Whitewater occurred before Clinton became president and, save for Vince Foster, no one related to it died. Bush doesn't deserve a pass for an investigation into an event that did occur while he was president and did kill people.

Now, I wouldn't disagree if you wanted to say, "the people in power don't like Black people" because I think that there are people in top positions in the Administration who have used Bush's lack of empathy or lack of concern with day-to-day procedure, to push forward thier own agendas be they racist, religous, or wallet-based. I also wouldn't disagree if you wanted to say "that the people in power see no profit to be made by actively trying to win Black support," especially as the Hispanic population in the United States, which historically votes Conservative, is projected to surpass the Black population by 2010. The last election, if nothing else, with the U.S. map a sea of red, gives them confidence now that they have found the message that will appeal to their constituency forever. But, hopefullty, their arrogance will be their downfall.

I offer this: There will be an election in three years; this coming January the politicking will begin. Screw Bush (and you can insert your own dirty joke here) and what he thinks regarding the Apocalypse, if the neocons actually had a grasp of the fragility of their status, they would have sent barges loaded with food and water on the Tuesday after the Hurricane and add it delivered by prominant Republicans. That could have easily won them Black votes come the mid-term elections and in 2008, it could have caused a huge swell of Black voters consistently voting Republican because the image of poor Black people being helped would have spoken to generations of Black voters who see the Republican Party as nothing more than an institution of repression. Also, though the faces predominantly seen are Black ones, let us not forget that there were White people there, too, and their description of the situation to other White people in the days to come won't necessarily assure the neocons their full support come election time.

In the end, I wish that this whole ugly affair could be blamed on George Bush hating Black people; that can be easily explained. However, as I've tried to explain, the reasons, as I see them, are more complicated and representative of this neocon administration's devaluing of all people not within their narrow world view of importance.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hurricane Relief Donations

One last quick post. These three charities are giving 100 percent of all targeted donations to hurricane Katrina victims:

America's Second Harvest

Salvation Army

Christian Relief Fund

Make sure to check off or click on the Katrina-specific donations boxes and links.

Katrina, G.W., and the Jesus Factor

One of the disappointments in my life has been how much Wisconsin changed in the fourteen years I was gone. Wisconsin was a notoriously progressive state, the home of Fighting Bob LoFollette for God's sake, where helping others was never that much of an issue. It was only in 1960 when Milwaukee's last Socialist mayor, Frank Ziedler, left office (and Henry Maier, the next mayor, wasn't that far removed from Ziedler's ideology). When I returned, Wisconsin was a different place, changes caused by changes in the economy. As factories closed and jobs became scarce, people in Wisconsin became less willing to put others before their own pocketbook. Most disheartening of all is that the state becomes closer every four years to becoming a "traditional" red state; if that happens, despite my great desire otherwise, I think we would have to move.

However, ironically, because of Katrina, the clouds may be breaking over Wisconsin and its conservative shift. Non-scientific, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has a poll on its Internet site asking "How well do you think the government has responded to Hurricane Katrina?" As of this posting, 70.7% responding believe the response has been "not well." God willing, this is going to be the crack that starts the removal of the hard-right conservatives from power.

The anger I'm seeing on television is palatable. Though I have memories of seeing Vietnam footage on television news, I don't remember the turning point, the point when Walter Cronkite ended his newscast saying that Vietnam was a war we could not win, I'm seeing that kind of response among the non-Fox News correspondants. Disbelief and anger at the lack of response during this crisis. Mark Evanier posts one such commentary from Anderson Cooper, under the title "Friday Morning."

The mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, is a black man and a Republican, and it is pretty obvious that he is done toeing the company line regarding the federal response. He called radio station WLW and gave his side of the supposed "wonderful response." Listen to it here and try not to get angry.

So, why has the response been so lax? On one hand, you would think that a city built below sea level would have had a plan in place in case of something like Katrina; on the other hand, weren't FEMA and Homeland Security in place for events like Katrina and wouldn't they have some kind of plans? Those, however, are issues to be examined in the years to come, when emotions are cooler.

So, why has the response been so lax? My wife, a black woman, echoes the sentiments of others, that if the faces on camera were white, the response would have been faster. I think that the statement could be made broader, if the faces were wealthier, the response would have been faster. Indeed, as I've thought about it, as a purely political move, I would think that the current administration would have moved in rapidly because it is black faces on television and the Republicans are actively courting that vote away from the Democrats.

So, why has the response been so lax? I wrote about it previously: "The Jesus Factor." George W. Bush is a born again, evangelical Christian. He believes that Judgment Day is nigh and, as a saved Christian, has an obligation to leave the Earth in a state of ruin for the Anti-Christ and those left behind. Apart from Las Vegas, is there a city in the United States closer to Sodom & Gomorrah, in the view of an evangelical, that would deserve destruction of Biblical proportion than New Orleans? It scares me to write it, but I don't think so. I think given his druthers, Bush would not allow any aid go to New Orleans; even now he is touring Biloxi, Mississippi, which, by comparison, is like touring Milwaukee with three feet of snow though fifteen has fallen in Green Bay.

Finally, just to kick the man a little more, I do remember Presidents Ford and Carter requesting people conserve gasoline during the years of the Energy Crisis. I've been waiting for Bush to make a similar statement, to suggest carpooling, to work from home whenever possible. Like potable water to New Orleans, such a statement hasn't been delivered by the federal government. I wouldn't want to suggest that Bush is making sure his friends and family in the oil business aren't hurt in their bank accounts; I'm just making a comment.

More on Intelligent Design

Here, I posted one of the first mentions that Bush wants to have an alternate to Darwinian evolution, intelligent design, taught in public schools. I am one of those people that think if you have an honest faith in your religion, nothing can shake it, nay, you would want something like evolution taught because if it is wrong, it would bolster your views and the reasons for such, before your children.

However, faith among evangelicals, it seems, is not that strong, so they battle to have evolution removed as a viable explanantion for the creation of life. Boing Boing, countering an offer made by a supporter of Intelligent Design who will pay $250,000 to anyone who has empirical evidence supporting evolution, has collected one million dollars to anyone who can prove that Jesus is not the son of the spaghetti monster.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Long Time, No Blog

To the legions (if "legions" is defined as "four or five") who read this blog, I apologize for not posting for the last few weeks. I've thought about posting, and have been bookmoarking things of interest, but my heart just hasn't been in it.

I really can't pinpoint what happened to my enthusiasm (not that I am the most ethusiastic person around in the first place). I think there are multiple causes, none really germane yet probably all helped to make me not have the excitement about posting like I had. Most of those problems are still around, but it is time to move past them and make attempts to post more regularly, out of principle if nothing else.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Movies In Your Future

Upcoming movies on TCM (all time Central):

13 Saturday
1:00 PM Cimarron (1960) A pioneer couple plays a major role in the settling of Oklahoma. Glenn Ford, Maria Schell, Anne Baxter. D: Anthony Mann.

Edna Ferber is a name that comes up with more movies than you'd expect for someone whose work I think few people have read anymore.

I know nothing of Ferber's work except when it comes up in conjunction with a movie made from one of her novels. I probably first read her name in conjunction with Show Boat, published in 1926 (Show Boat for what it did for musical theatre deserves its own discussion at a later time), but Ferber won the Pulitzer Prize in 1925 for So Big, which was made into a movie three times. In 1952, she Giant the novel Giant from which the classic James Dean movie was based. From what I gather, "sprawling" and "generational" are often used to describe her novels. (For the stage, she wrote "The Royal Family" (1927), "Dinner at Eight" (1932), and "Stage Door" (1936) all of which were made into movies.)

Ferber's novel Cimarron was published in 1929. It is a Western and I can attest that, at least, the two film versions based on that work are sprawling and generational. The story moves from the opening of the Oklahoma territory in 1889 to its admission as a state in 1907. During those years we follow Yancey Cravat, one of those people who yearn for what is over the hill, from his staking his claim during the land rush to reconciliation with his family. The first version, released in 1931, was awarded the Oscar for Best Picture. The second version, airing today, is better just because there had been almost thirty years of advancement in moviemaking and audience expectiations, but on a continuum of movies neither, in my opinion, are that good.

However, it is rare that two versions of the same story are airing this close together and by watching both, I think you'll appreciate how far movies had developed. Glenn Ford is actually capable of subtilty, especially when compared to Richard Dix, while Anthony Mann, whose Winchester '73 may be considered the beginning of the maturation of the Western, shows an appreciation for the subject matter that Wesley Ruggles, director of the first doesn't really have. In the end, though, this version of Cimarron, while better constructed than the first, is best viewed on a lazy weekend afternoon.

16 Tuesday
11:00 AM The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) A man remains young and handsome while his portrait shows the ravages of age and sin. Hurd Hatfield, Angela Lansbury, Donna Reed. D: Albert Lewin.

Then there are movies that I like that I really can't explain why. This is one of those movies. It is based on the Oscar Wilde story of the same name and Wilde gets a shout out in the movie when his trial is mentioned. Personally, I've always seen Lord Wotton, the character played by George Sanders, as standing in for Wilde, but that is just me.

Dorian Gray could be considered a psychological horror movie or a retelling of the Faust legend without the overt appearace of Mephistopheles, it depends on what you see when you watch the film. Is there anyone who doesn't know the basics of Dorian Gray's plot? This is one of those movies that draws you in as you find yourself hating and pitying Dorian; you hope for some kind of happy resolution. You start watching it and before you know it an hour has passed. It also makes some of the best use of color ever to create a shock for the audience.

Beyond the story itself, you get to see George Sanders playing another cad, always enjoyable. Dorian Gray was also Angela Lansbury's third movie and her performance would result in her second Oscar nomination. Hurd Hatfield, in his second film, plays Dorian Gray and I get the feeling he spent the rest of his career trying to either find a role as good again or escape the typecasting of this role. Of course, by 1966, it all became moot when Hatfield appeared on The Wild, Wild West in the episode "The Night of the Man-Eating House." His character, in the custody of James West and Artemus Gordon, escapes into a house where his youth is restored.

18 Thursday
5:00 AM Cimarron (1931) A husband and wife fight to survive in the early days of the Oklahoma Territory. Richard Dix, Irene Dunne, Edna May Oliver. D: Wesley Ruggles.

This is one of those movies where the parts are greater than the whole. The scene of the Oklahoma land rush is exciting and may be the reason that the movie did win the Best Picture Oscar. Also good is Edna May Oliver playing the sort of tough character role she is best known; I've looked for a good picture, but could not find one, though you would know her if you saw her. She was called "horse faced," her face was long, and her voice had a kind of quiver to it that I associate with middle-aged New England school marms.

Oliver is an actress that I've learned to appreciate over the years; her role in the 1935 David Copperfield is particularly well played and is where I began watching her in movies differently. However, I admit that for many years her voice and face scared me, probably because those were the attributes that Friz Freleng chose to accentuate in The Hardship of Miles Standish, a 1940 Warner Bros. cartoon that found the caricature of the actress cast in the role of Priscilla.

In the lead role, Richard Dix does not come off as well, though, in fairness, he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role. Dix also started on the stage, but unlike Oliver didn't appear to know how to tone down his acting. In Cimarron it often feels like he is striking a pose and that he is projecting to balcony in movement, if not voice. I'm not saying that Dix couldn't act, but may have had a problem knowing how to control a performance unless given proper direction. Compare Glenn Ford's work in the second version to Dix and I think you'll see what I mean.

21 Sunday
1:15 AM Shenandoah (1965) A Virginia farmer fights to keep his family together during the Civil War. James Stewart, Rosemary Forsyth, Doug McClure. D: Andrew V. McLaglen.

This movie at this time is particularly worth watching. The synopsis provided describes the movie at its most basic, but the reason Charlie Anderson (James Stewart) is fighting to keep his family together is that he believes the Civil War is not his war. At one point Anderson says to his wife,
"There's nothing much I can tell you about this war. It's like all wars, I suppose. The undertakers are winning it. Politicians talk a lot about the glory of it. The soldiers, they just want to go home."
(In the atmosphere today, could as politically conservative an actor as Stewart, who retired from the U.S. Air Forces Reserves as a Brigadier General, his final mission a bombing run over North Vietnam, even dare to say those words?)

His sons get involved, though, and when one is captured by Union soldiers believing him to be in the service of the Confederacy, Anderson finds himself involved as he goes to rescue the boy. Like most of James Stewart's movies after World War II, there are shades of gray in the beliefs of the characters and is not as absolute as John Wayne's The Green Berets, for instance. Unpopular wars are not new to the United States or this century and often the bravest people are those who see a confrontation for what it is and refuse to get involved.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Quick Comic Convention Comments

Compared to previous years, Chicago felt unimpressive this year. There just didn't seem to be any real energy or excitement (though more about that below) among the hardcore fans or the people working the show. I thought maybe I was just seeing my current mood reflected, post-graduation unemployment kind of dampens enthusiasm. However, something I didn't appreciate until I read The Beat this weekend is that Chicago came only three weeks after San Diego. I think that that may have played a part in the overall lack of [i]real[/i] comic or comic-related news this past weekend.

(I guess, for some, Jeph Loeb going exclusive with Marvel is "news," but I am of the generation of comic book readers who put the characters ahead of creators. Not that I wouldn't give a mainstream comic a try because Alan Moore or Robert Kirkman is writing it, but I think for the mainstream comics that feature iconic characters, the character should never be doing service for the creator. In other words, I want to read "Spider-Man by Irving Forbush" rather than "Irving Forbush's Spider-Man." A subtle difference but an important one, I think. Anyway, to quote Peter David, "But I digress . . . .")

To better illustrate the lack of enthusiasm I was talking about, the Wizard didn't post a list of panels until Tuesday, I believe, though I didn't see it for myself. When I looked at the program on Thursday, though, there were lots of blocks labeled "to be determined." It was as if no one had any energy to even put together panels.

I volunteered this year to work the convention (unemployed graduate and all), so I didn't get a chance to go to any panels as it is, using my free time to walk around and shop. I hit the preview night and Friday; Friday felt really empty. I don't know how conventions others go to are organized, but at Chicago, the pre-order ticket window is broken into two parts, the short line to the windows and the longer "corral" where people stand until the next group is allowed over to the short line. I've seen the corral area filled past noon; this last Friday it was cleared by 11:30 A.M.

The floor itself felt less crowded, too. Of course, that may be because the convention center prohibted people from using those wheeled suitcases that people pull and those dolly things the hardcare uses to drag around a short box or two. It is amazing how much more room there is when those things aren't in the way. Again, I digress.

I heard a couple of dealers complaining about the lack of sales, but to me, those fell into one particular group of dealers: Old-school. The dealers who had traffic were those who had their comics pre-priced and had signs declaring their comics were some percentage off (anywhere from thirty to fifty percent). People don't, at least I don't, want to stand around while a dealer removes the comic from the bag, examines it, looks in Overstreet, examines it some more, and then pronounces from the heavens, "Eighty dollars." Who wants to go through that, especially at a large convention while every minute that guy is measuring the degree of whiteness of a page, I'm losing walking around time.

As an aside, the best thing I saw were the little kids wearing things like full Captain America and Wolverine costumes or the little boy wearing the top from his Batman pajamas (complete with the cape), who was all excited coming down the escalator. (Well, actually, the best thing I saw regarding people who were in costume was the woman dressed like Red Sonja who actually had the body for a chainmail bikini, but I'm going in another direction here.) There was one little girl, maybe four, wearing a pink Supergirl "S" shirt with her father at around 10; at the end of the day while I was waiting for my wife to come get me, I saw her with her father looking and she looked a lot less tired than I felt.

Of course, and this is my opinion (I am sure there will be hardcare s who will feel the convention meets their needs and thats all that matters), for all the excitement those kids had for being at a comic convention, it is a damned shamed there really wasn't anything for them to see or do. Sure, there was the kind of flabby woman dressed like Emma Frost; or the guy with a beard and Darth Maul face paint; or the fat TIE-Fighter pilot, i.e. Porkins evil twin (though in fairness, the rest of the Star Wars costumes looked, including the old guy with beard dressed as Obi-Wan, but by the time the kids see four girls who are dressed either like school girls from some manga (or they hit a local Hot Topic just before arriving), they have to be thinking, "Where's Batman?"

God knows, people in the industry play lip service to getting kids into comic books again, but would it hurt someone to have something that would really excite a kid? Maybe an official Spider-Man at the Marvel booth or Batman at the DC booth. The people at the DCD display used to pass out a Pocket Hero to just little kids; I've seen adults turned down when they asked for one and there were no kids in tow; though I didn't see any evidence of the freebie this year. With what it costs to put together and maintain a booth, would it kill the Big 2, at least, to give the kids a little of what they expect to see? Of course kids are more interested in video games these days; if kids were allowed onto the floor at E3, for instance, they'd be bombarded with constant visual and audio stimulation that would just make the event feel exciting even if nothing on the floor was meant for them. I don't expect comic book companies to put together audiovisual displays, that isn't their business, but I think it a kid could shake the "real" Batman's, Superman's, or Captain America's hand, that would be a memory that would stay forever.but where's the things that would make a kid feel the day was exciting at a comic convention (San Diego excluded since movies and video games so dominate that convention).


Thursday, August 04, 2005 / World / US - Bush wants alternatives to Darwinism taught in school / World / US - Bush wants alternatives to Darwinism taught in school: "Intelligent Design "

A couple of days ago, I talked about Born-Again Bush. I'm sorry, but for the president to (a) get involved in a States issue and (b) overtly push an agenda based upon a particular sect of a particular religion is contrary to the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Why is it that people with beliefs like Bush who call themselves "Republican" insist on trying to involve the federal government into areas it doesn't belong? I thought part of the Republican agenda, apart from hiding the poor, was to decrease government intrusion into the average American's life? Or is government intrusion expected to push forward the particular vision of the world of a particular sect of a particular religion?

Intelligent Design and President G.W. Bush: Oxymoron?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Upcoming movies on TCM

Ok, so it is now, and has been for awhile, known as "Wizard World Chicago," but it will always be referred as the "Chicago Comic Convention" around here. I'm volunteering to work half the day for the first two days, thereby getting free admission. Hopefully, that will give me enough time to get to everything, but if not, I'll go back on Saturday. I'll post pictures if there is anything of interest and/or said pictures are actually postable.

Even though I'll be gone for only a couple of days, I'm posting a list of movies, taken from TCM's schedule that I think are worth watching. (All times are Central.)

4 Thursday
12:15 AM Dead End (1937) A killer returns to his childhood home to
plot his escape from the law. Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea, Humphrey Bogart. D: William Wyler. BW
92m. CC

Dead End should be watched for a variety of reasons. It is stagy,basically a one set play and it isn't that hard to see how it was done on the stage. Still, I think it is an interesting movie for the staginess. Watch it for Bogart, if nothing else, but also remember that this is the film that gave the world "The Dead-End Kids," back when they were really kids in a rather tragic place in the world, and before they were doughy adults passing themselves off as "The Bowery Boys."

3:00 PM Lawrence of Arabia (1962) A British military officer
enlists the Arabs for desert warfare in World War I. Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness.
D: David Lean. C 227m. LBX CC

The first time I watched this, I felt more a sense of obligation than desire; Lawrence of Arabia is one of the "classic" movies and those aren't always audience pleasers. Well, I was wrong. Even on a small television set, I was blown away by the force of this movie's images (and the story and music aren't bad either). Something will be lost watching it at home on a small screen with distractions, but if you can actually watch it for the full time, it is worth every moment.

5 Friday
9:00 PM The Philadelphia Story (1940) Tabloid reporters crash a
society marriage. Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart. D: George Cukor. BW 112m. CC
11:00 PM Holiday (1938) An unhappy heiress falls in love with her
stodgy sister's freethinking fiancé. Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Edward Everett Horton. D:
George Cukor. BW 96m. CC

I've loved The Philadelphia Story since the first time I saw it and I don't know why. Some of this movie is foreign to me still, but there is something in the interaction between the four leads (add Ruth Hussey to the cast list), that makes me watch and enjoy it every time. Watch the scene between when a drunk Stewart visits Grant at his home. Sitting across from each other, Grant ad libs a line and you can see both men trying not to laugh.

In many ways, Holiday feels like a trial run for The Philadelphia Story. Both were written by Philip Barry and both starred Hepburn in the original stage versions. I think this movie works less well because Barry was writing a fantasy of the wealthy for the wealthy.

6 Saturday
7:00 AM How the West Was Won (1962) Three generations of
pioneers take part in the forging of the American West. James Stewart, Henry Fonda, John
Wayne. D: John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall. C 165m. LBX CC DVS

Three directors and it is still a great movie. Filmed in VistaVision or Panavision, no matter how large a screen you have none of will ever be able to appreciate the vision of watching this movie on a screen that required three projectors; if you look closely, you can see where the negatives overlap to create the print being shown. Still, thank God for letterboxing; I've seen this movie cropped for television and it wasn't pretty.

5:00 PM She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) An aging Cavalry officer
tries to prevent an Indian war in the last days before his retirement. John Wayne, Joanne Dru,
Ben Johnson. D: John Ford. C 104m. CC DVS
7:00 PM Fort Apache (1948) An experienced cavalry officer tries to
keep his new, by-the-books commander from triggering an Indian war. John Wayne, Henry Fonda,
Shirley Temple. D: John Ford. BW 128m. CC DVS

Two of John Ford's "calvary trilogy" (Rio Grande (1950) was the third). Henry Fonda may be showing his true character playing the jerk commander in Fort Apache.

10 Wednesday
11:00 PM Words And Music (1948) Songwriters Richard Rodgers and
Lorenz Hart search for love while rising to the top. Mickey Rooney, Janet Leigh, Tom Drake. D:
Norman Taurog. C 121m. CC

Through this movie, I gained an appreciation for the songs created by Rodgers and Hart. A partial list of those songs include "Where or When," "I Wish I Were In Love Again," "My Funny Valentine," "Johnny One-Note," "The Lady is a Tramp" (for Babes in Arms); "Blue Moon"; "Falling In Love with Love," "This Can't Be Love," "Sing for Your Supper" (The Boys from Syracuse); "Thou Swell" (A Connecticut Yankee; "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" (Jumbo); "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" (Pal Joey); "Mountain Greenery" (the second edition of The Garrick Gaieties). I'd list more, but I wouldn't want to go overboard. The story of the movie is pure Hollywood circa 1948; Hart's homosexuality is played as more an inability to find a woman to really love him, for instance, and his death when it happened has no connection to reality, but I dare you to watch this movie and not like just because of the music.

11 Thursday
9:30 AM The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) An unscrupulous movie
producer uses everyone around him in his climb to the top. Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell.
D: Vincente Minnelli. 78m. CC DVS

I was hooked on this movie during the title music and things only get better. This is actually a very mature movie, considering when it was made, in both character development and story construction. Much like , you watch Douglas's character rise to the top through the eyes of three people who know him at various points in his life. When the movie is over ask yourself if Kirk Douglas's character is really unscrupulous. Gloria Grahame won her Oscar, and a well-deserved one, for her supporting role as Dick Powell's wife. If you can't record this one, stay home from work and watch it.

Odds & Ends

Aint It Cool News provided the first two bits.

1. The trailer for the film version of Rent is online. I saw the trailer this weekend in front of Must Love Dogs and I think that it was well done. The cast stands on a dark stage, each member in his or her own spotlight. While the cast is singing what is arguably the musical's best know song, "Seasons of Love," we see scenes from the film but no dialogue. I think it is a well-done trailer; it may be the first in a long time that doesn't explicitly give away key moments of the story. On the other hand it might, but because I've never seen Rent, I couldn't point to any of the silent moments and say, "Well, now I've no reason to see this." I think it sells the movie: From what we see and hear, we know it is a musical, that guy from Law & Order (Jesse L. Martin) is in it, and it is about relationships. It makes the movie appealing to the core audience that would be attracted to Must Love Dogs, without bringing up the "dreaded" AIDS anacronym that could kill the box office.

There has been some grumbling that Chris Columbus is directing the film version Rent, which, by the way, is still running on Broadway. Of course, people are also complaining that Columbus brought in most of the opening night cast to reprise their roles because they are too old. Personally, I think Columbus should be congratulated because the original cast of a play of musical are a part of why a work is popular enough to be made into a film in the first place; I don't think that Chicago, for instance, would have been any less of a movie had Bebe Neuwirth and James Naughton performed the roles they originated in the revival, for which they won Tony Awards, rather than Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.

I can't say for better or worse how Columbus's direction will be one way or the other. He has always been a serviceable director of movies like Adventures in Babysitting, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the first two Harry Potter movies. I am of the mind that directors, maybe even more than actors, should not be pigeonholed. That is the sort of thinking that would lead to Speilberg directing only popcorn movies and Scorsese only gritty movies set in New York. Sometimes a less obtrusive director helps a project; because Columbus isn't a showy director, his "vision" won't supersede the story. The Phantom of the Opera should have done great last Christmas, but I think the exclusion of Michael Crawford, the original Phantom, and the use of Joel Schumacher as director was a one-two punch from which the film couldn't survive.

2. A very brief snippet of the new video game, From Russia with Love, based on the movie of the same name, is up on IGN. There's some excitement about this game because it has Sean Connery reprising his most famous role, albeit in voice only. A similar game featuring Pierce Brosnan, Everything or Nothing, was released a year ago. If Russia is anything like the Brosnan game, it should be great.

Everything or Nothing was a James Bond movie literally brought to the video game. There was a teaser, a Bond-esque title sequence featuring a new song by Mya, and lots of "Bond moments." In addition to Brosnan, Heidi Klum and Shannon Elizabeth provided voice and model as Bond girls, Willem Dafoe was the villain, John Cleese voiced Q, and upholding the British actor philosophy that any job is work, Dame Judi Densch returned to voice, and admonish Bond when screwed up, M. I am more of a first-person shooter player myself, I have problems with perspective with third-person/behind the back games, but I have enjoyed what I have played of the game so. Besides, as I think any guy since the release of Dr. No in 1962, there are few better matches of moment with music than when Bond does something amazing and the "Bond Theme" swells up. There are a thousand moments like that in Everything or Nothing; hopefully the people working on From Russia with Love will be able to include more than a few similar moments for gamers to be Bond through Connery.

3. According to this post, the number of blogs has doubled, from 7.8 million in March 2005 to 14.2 million in July 2005. I apologize for playing a part in that.

4. Last week, TV Guide announced it was basically getting out of the weekly schedule business, moving from its fifty-some-year-old digest format to a magazine that would feature twenty-five percent schedules, seventy-five percent stories. May I join the vast people shrugging their shoulders and saying, "So?"

The article quotes a media analyst who states that the traditional TV Guide
[H]as no relevance. It's an antiquated brand that resonates primarily with an audience of people 50-plus who grew up with the publication. It has virtually no relevance to the general population mainly comprised of adults 18 to 49.

Speaking for myself, I have to admit that I didn't leave TV Guide, it left me. I was one of those kids, rare as we were they still existed, who would get the Fall Preview issue and be excited about the television season to come (though I never has a pennant like the one Homer Simpson was holding when he was celebrating mid-season replacement time). As I got older and free time became scarcer, I actually used TV Guide to plan out my viewing; I've never been a person to sit and watch television, as I always do something else, but television was my entry to old movies and TV Guide used to actually "guide" me, informing me if Them! or Our Man Flint was going to be playing on the channel 18, eight o'clock movie.

As an aside, TV Guide is responsible for my love of movies. It was a Friday night when I was in somewhere between eight and ten years old. My parents and the rest of my family had gone to bed, but I was allowed to stay up to watch a movie on the 10:30 movie about the Blue Angel airplanes that I'd seen in TV Guide. The movie I was actually going to be watching was The Blue Angel (and not even the original version, but the remake). For those who don't know, the movie I watched that night was as far removed from blue jets as humanly possible: A college professor in Germany is brought to destruction by a prostitute. It didn't take me long, short attention span and all, to figure out that it wasn't about airplaines, but I didn't want to turn the television off because that would mean I'd have to go to bed and I was also playing with Captain Action.

My hand to God, I know I didn't understand some of the movie, but I knew I liked it. There was something about the story that made me care, even at that young age. It was at that age, before VCRs, DVRs, and rental, that I vowed to always watch a movie all the way through; if I had just turned it off, I would not have seen how movies could make the most boring story, to a kid at least, interesting to a kid and I have TV Guide to thank.

I had subscribed to TV Guide for years, but last year I just had my fill of its direction. There was a time when a show on the cover of TV Guide was an important statment about the popularity of that show, but for the last few years, current movies usurped the cover or a single issue would have five "collector" covers. The articles were becoming less informative and more outright P.R. pieces. The final straw for me was when the decision was made to eliminate complete day-by-day schedule listing except for prime time. As I said, I used TV Guide to find out what movies would be on the week to come. When TV Guide removed that much of the schedules, there was no reason for me to even bother anymore. Little did I know that I was the vanguard for a mass exodus. Well, we do what we can, so so long to a badly changed periodical that bears as much semblance to the digest known as "TV Guide" as a compost to the original food product.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

More on Iraq (Now with Added Bush)

As long as I'm in this mood, there are a few other things about the Iraq War on the Internet of interest.

1. As it must come to all U.S. Presidents, except Bill Clinton it seems, George W. Bush's popularity has taken a downturn. At fifty-three percent, it appears that Bush has hit the "magic" point where at least half the country admits that they disapprove of the job the president is doing. In and of itself, that's pretty gutsy considering the Patriot Act was renewed. During the last election, I believed Bush was beatable; heck, let's face it and admit that he lost the election to Gore; so it is no surprise to me that things have gone down for the man. Calling on the Lord and demeaning people who actually think really can only get you so far when a person is losing friends and relatives in a war in the wrong country declared for the wrong reasons. However, I'll bet the slow recovery of the economy and his continual push of a revamped Social Security can't be helping. As a wiser person said, "All politics is local."

2. On the same note, according to another CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll from last week, fifty-one percent of the people asked doubt the United States will succeed in Iraq. (Poll: USA doubts Iraq success, but not ready to give up.) As the headline shows, we still seem to have a schizophrenc vision, admitting we succeed, but not ready to admit defeat. Not wanting to bring it up again, I still feel that those too young or too old to remember need to research the mood of the country during Vietnam. We stayed much longer than we should have there, I think, out of pride and we need to avoid doing that again.

Of course, I know that we are stuck there now. You can't do what we did and then leave the country without some sort of stability. Carlin said it years ago, that's what we, we go into a country "and throw a little democracy on them." Unfortunately, this time it looks like it isn't going to stick, so we're stuck.

3. But are we? There was talk last week that we might actually have a plan to withdraw from Iraq in the works, but that has been denied this week. While I would like a withdrawal of troops, I don't think it'll happen until we are closer to the 2008 elections. Am I too cynical.

4. Speaking of cost, common thought has it that a war leads to a booming economy. This article, provides a different view. For this site provides a running total for the war, while this one provides how much it has cost your particular area of the country 6 and if your area isn't specifically listed, a by-state view may be found here. (Thanks to Mark Evanier and his always interesting blog, News From Me, found on his information packed site, POV Online.

5. Speaking of cost, whenever you or someone you know starts talking about "acceptable losses," go to The Washington Post's Faces of the Fallen site. As of this post, 1801 people in the military have died in Iraq, though the Post site only goes through July 19, 2005, so it only records 1770.

6. To see the true character of this administration, I think Bush's behind-the-Senate's-back appointment of John Bolton yesterday sums it up: If it can't get its way openly, it'll do it behind closed doors. I don't think Bush supporters can ever really bring up Clinton's last-minute executive orders anymore. When you point at someone, three point back toward you and all that.

7. Speaking of character, the PBS show Frontline ran an episode dealing with Bush's Christian agenda entitled "The Jesus Factor." If you haven't watched it yet, it is available at the previous link for streaming. In all honesty, I generally have little opinion as to who is president because I believe that whoever is in office is going to bring his own personal harm to the country one way or the other. With Clinton, it was pushing through NAFTA; with Bush . . . well, with Bush, I wish it was only something like NAFTA. However, even without the war and the lying to go to war and the misdirection of blame for the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush's overt born-again ideals would be of concern for me.

Mind you, I don't necessarily believe it when a politician discusses religion he or she believes it; he's playing to the perceived rubes in many cases. Bush, however, really does appear to believe it and this show presents how that is affecting his administration. Worst, I think, are the people in the administration who are playing to the rubes for they are the ones doing the worst damage, gutting programs that help the underprivileged and the enviroment. Playing to the people who believe that the Rapture is so close that Gabriel is tuning his trumpet, and that those people will be "going home," Bush officials allow natural resources to be wasted or protective enviromental measures to be rolled back under a veil of obligation as Christians to leave nothing of use behind for the Anti-Christ and those LEFT BEHIND. That many of those officials are also making money with these policies highlights scripture also: "God helps those who help themselves."

8. Finally, and the think I really hate because so many of the things I enjoy are potentially affected by it, the Congress voted to make permanent much of the Patriot Act. While I understand that in times of war or dangerous conditions this country loves the knee-jerk reaction, from the Sedition Act to the federal interment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II, one still would hope that as this nation becomes more mature, the people and the people in charge would see that it is important to have faith in the Constitution and its principles especially during times of crisis, but I guess the Constitution only comes to play when it supports your position. It is a cliche, but Benjamin Franklin's quote, "Any society that gives up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," stays with me a lot.

By the way, for as long as I live in Wisconsin, Senator Russ Feingold, the only person in the Senate to vote against the Patriot Act the first time, will always have my vote.